THE LONG BIOG
This is it, this is who I am. I am very glad to be me. I fit perfectly into the hole in the Universe which has my name written on it.
This website is an attempt to create an archive of my practice, my legacy. Since I left school, I have thrown myself into so many different endeavours it can be quite difficult to grasp.
1956 Born in Barnet
The back of the class
‘It’s you again, it’s that stupid boy again.’ My teacher didn’t like me, and so she stuck me at the back of the class, I was put out to grass, abandoned. I found my place in the scheme of things, on the outside, a maverick, a contemplator of the ridiculous. We, at the back of the class, were a brethren of the dysfunctional, we were beautiful, but told otherwise. We were repeatedly referred to by the teachers and our peers as the ugly, the fat, the crippled, the spiteful, the introverted, the psychopathic. My title was simple ‘the stupid’. I swallowed the pill, the poison tablet she and others were offering me, ‘you will never make anything of your life.’ My parents and brother agreed. Why disappoint them?
Pass the O-level from the left-hand side 1972
It was a bright sunny day. We had to walk from the school to a hall in which the exam was to be taken. My friend and I slowly ambled our way in the delicious warm air, taking our time, enjoying the journey, and dreading the destination. Maths O Level. On the way we decided to roll a joint, both of us had recently discovered ‘dope’, and we made a small reefer with grass and lit it. We knew this was a futile journey. There was no way either of us was going to pass the exam, so we might as well enjoy it.
I quickly flicked through the paper and completed those equations and questions I could easily accomplish, and then the paper started to float and swirl, I gripped the table, I was sweating profusely, I threw up onto the floor, I was lead out of the exam. Weeks later I was told I’d passed, my exam paper could only be marked on those questions I’d answered. ‘Who’s stupid now?’
Living in former West Germany, in a squat, a minor drug dealer, a hero to many, unknown to me, my life was about to change forever. My girlfriend got me a job as a teaching assistant in a Children’s Home. A homeless squatter, part-time drug dealer, who couldn’t speak the language gets a job with vulnerable young children. The 1970’s really were a law unto themselves!!”
Kinderheim (Children’s Home) Isernhagen, Hannover, Germany
I worked at the home for three years. It represented a social experiment in the creation and provision of ‘family-group’ community building. This is an extract from the book I wrote about my experiences.
‘Two women workers were leaving. They arranged a barbecue on the back terrace, and everyone was eating and drinking merrily. As the evening progressed it became apparent that group of the elder girls were very unhappy. The girls, six of them, hung a sheet full of flowers across the exit, and as the two workers drove out for the last time the flowers fell onto the bonnet of the car.
At about 11 o’clock we heard a very strange, almost supernatural wailing from the back terrace. We went to investigate and found the six girls sitting on the back wall. We joined them, theirs were genuine tears of grief, we were all moved. After several minutes we ran as one into the inky darkness beyond. There we came to the shallow swimming pool. The eight of us were up to our knees in the cold water. The girls threw themselves at anything: tearing, scratching and screaming. After ten minutes of chaos we emerged bedraggled but warm right through. The girls ran back into the house as we sat on the terrace wall, they came back carrying towels and hair brushes. We talked deeply into the night. The girls were distraught because people they loved were leaving them. They were so familiar with this, no solidity and permanence in their lives, always moving, always changing.
All our work was based around trying to fill these voids, distracting them with play, joy and excitement. However, here we were confronting the real depth of despair. Workers and volunteers always eventually left, the children desperately wanting more.’
In 1977 I did exactly what the children didn’t want, I was sacked, the local government wanted to change the way they worked with children services, and our ‘happy hippy’ approach was no longer trusted. Despite all this I am still in contact with some people.
1978 to 1981 B.A. (Hons) Fine Art, Cardiff Art College. Remarkably, with the reputation of being a ‘mature’ student, I rampaged and roared through College trying everything, making a huge mess, films, performances, silk screen printing, ceramics, and so much more.
In 1982 I set up ‘Pioneers Art Group’ A loose confabulation of rebels with and without causes. Set free from the College I once again took to the road, without a clue as to where I was going.
Fame is your head in a bucket
I joined with several friends, and we quite literally jumped into the completely unknown. I include an article from the book ‘Call Yourselves Artists – A Book About The Pioneers Arts Group’ written by Mike Ormsby in 1984.
‘One evening in 1982 they came for some live entertainment. The event was billed as a one-off sequence of drama and music – ‘Civilisation Bongo Bongo Bongo’. It had been well-publicised and drew a capacity audience who sensed perhaps that something special might be on the cards, For The Pioneers it was exactly the sort of showcase needed for their latest contribution to Fine Art: Performance.
On the bill from the City Road clowns were ‘Bum Of The Year’, ‘Reggie and Ronnie’, ‘Reverend Death’, and a few other short comic sketches. But by far the most successful of these was ‘The Spinetti Brothers.’
This was a troupe of nonsensical dare-devils. By the time the Drums of Civilisation Bongo Bongo Bongo summoned them forth, they came fifth with an act honed to nutty perfection. The auditorium was packed in anticipation, the evening had ben going well, the stage was now ready and waiting. The Spinetti Brothers fuelled by all manner of noxious substances, and fear, waited in the wings; fame was there too.
Wearing woollen vests, long johns and swimming trunks, with hair greased and centre-parted, Victorian moustaches curling up at the ends, they bound out under the spotlights, taking the stage amidst deafening roars and catcalls. Specialities consisted of weak-man acts and unstable human pyramids, made to seem impossibly daring by an endless babble of shouts and screams as well as lots of dramatic poses. The climax of the show was Mike Linnell’s spontaneous decision to dive head-first from a chair into a bucket.
The evening ended with the group as instant superstars in the face of delirium. The staggered about the stage to thunder applause. Mike Linnell struggling to free his head from both helmet and bucket to share the glory. Chapter had seen nothing like it. Neither had The Pioneers.
Such fame was by it’s nature very transient and hard work. We decided to pursued a different tack. We, together with a small number of other artists and organisations, created community art. An attempt to make the arts accessible to people in areas of high social need.
I include a very small percentage of the vast number of projects we developed and delivered, and also a few photos. From 1982 to 2004 At least ten arts projects, often more than twenty, each year.
1983 Exhibition at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
1984 Exhibition at Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea
1985 Arts workshops in waste material at Llandysul, Ceredigion
THE LOVES OF MY LIFE – TOM AND ANNA – ARE BORN. Their arrival makes it all worthwhile
1987 Life sized concrete Blue Whale at Aberafan Seafront, Port Talbot
USDAW mural commission in city centre, Cardiff
1988 ‘Percent for Art’ ceramic tile mural South Glamorgan County Hall
1989 Wales Philadelphia Exchange murals in Cardiff and Philadelphia
1990 Floor mosaic at Barry Island Crazy Golf Course
1991 Ceramic tile mural at Blaengarw Hall in the Ogwr Valley
1992 Painted mural in Philadelphia, USA
1993 Documentary on Pioneers Arts Group film by BBC
1994 Awarded prestigious British Gas Award for Community Arts in the UK
And on and on it went…moving from being a loose collective of friends…to a major company employing 10 people full-time…working from America to India, but mainly in Wales…enabling thousands of people to tell their stories, and have an impact in their local community.
Whilst this was all going on, I was also exploring and initiating the Men’s Movement. I attended the first all male ‘Community Building Programme’ in Milton Keynes, and this became one of the pivotal events in the evolution of such initiatives. As ever, there is always a story to tell.
Forming, norming and performing Written in 2002
I reluctantly attended the ‘Community Building’ Process, it came from the work of Scott Peck, and this was the first all men gathering in the UK, in Milton Keynes. My resistance came from my belief iIf I want to do all that spiritual stuff, spill my emotions, I would do it with my women friends, not men.
My bristles rise as I realise most of the fifty men were social workers and assorted psycho-experts. Fifty men in a wide circle, two facilitators. They both stand up and explained the form. Three days, two hour sessions, food provided, ‘I’ statements only, no physical violence. They sit. Silence. More silence. I look expectantly at the facilitators, no response. Silence and more silence. Internal dialogue ‘This is going to be a long three days.’ Eventually, individuals stand up, and are often shouted down by the group ‘I not We’. They stand trying to analyse and make things better by what they say, they fail. It goes on for hours, days, forming, storming, norming. ‘I did this process in America, it was mostly women, and by this time we were all crying.’ ‘Fuck Off, you judgemental bastard.’ the communal response.
Andy is standing in the middle of the circle, he says ‘last night round the fire, you were talking all the time, you weren’t allowing others to express their views, I felt you were being a bully.’ He is addressing the largest man, a Glaswegian bruiser, who springs to his feet and strides up to Andy grabbing him by the throat. All of us are looking at the scene or the facilitators, the room is electric, there is a long collective in-breath, what is about to happen? The giant loosens his grip ‘I hear what you are saying, you’re a brave man, you’re a very brave man, thank you.’ They both embrace.
Inspired by this, I realise what is going on. Risk is being taken. Right in front of me men are taking themselves apart, and we are supporting them. It is beautiful, unbelievably moving, filling me in a way I had never been filled before. For the first time in my life, I can see what it takes to be a man.
A shy man addresses us. ‘When I was four my parents gave me to the nuns. They were obsessed with sin, guilt and violence. At that young age I was beaten every day…’ Tears fill his eyes, tears fill all of our eyes. he continues to talk, talking through the flooding tears as they roll down his face. The room is ankle deep in tears, not one of us can resist grief. At some point in his story, he stops and looks up. He looks up as an equal, no longer unheard and ignored. A smile lights his lips and we all know what he is thinking. Every single man is thinking the same thought. We have reached community. Just for a brief moment, it doesn’t last long, but I am there, I am part of such a monumental experience, it makes us all euphoric. I seek that feeling. Months later I finally realise what the facilitators did, they trusted the process. They allowed us to act out, to scream and cry, without trying to fix us, without offering a point of view. Many years later I am employed to run Person Centred Creativity workshops, and that is the quality of leadership we attempt to impart.
Meanwhile the Pioneers continue pioneering
93 International Street Chalking Competition, Cardiff
Floor mosaic Karamba Basta Youth Project, Stuttgart
94 Retrospective exhibition in Old Library, Cardiff
95 Boards mural for Barnardos Multicultural Resource Centre, Cardiff
Mosaic mural at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun, Aberdare
NSEAD publish ‘Pioneers Improving Your School Environment’
practical guide to creativity
96 Boards mural at Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre, Cardiff
Mosaic mural at Sikh Temple, Cardiff
Ceramic fish sculpture at Penlan Community Centre, Swansea
97 Children’s workshops at Hay Children’s Festival, Hay-on-Wye
98 Won UK wide British Gas award for outstanding contribution to art in the community
99 Mosaic mural at Vatsalya Child Guidance Centre, Jaipur, India
Boards mural at Habitat Centre, Delhi, India
Concurrent, is the men’s stuff, and this leads inevitably to ritual and ceremony.
Sweat lodges with Grandfather Wallace Black Elk, Oglala elder
00 Move to West Wales
Major commission for stained glass for Merthyr Council Offices
01 Exhibition on creativity with mosaics workshops at Kunst Am Bau, Berlin, Germany
This ushered in such a radical period in my life, and I made huge significant changes in every aspect.
02 I left The Pioneers, I literally gave it away. I knew I could have continued making murals for the rest of my working life. But, it no longer tugged at my heart, I had proved a point, I didn’t want to go into cruise mode. I am not called The Beloved Outlaw’ for nothing. I wanted to move on again, and that meant leaving The Pioneers, leaving my 28 year relationship, moving out of the family home, I wanted to find my passion, my chance to express myself, to rediscover who I am.
02 to 03 Organised UK men’s workshops for Martin Prechtel
Who am I?
Malcolm phones me, he and Leighton are going to London for a weekend workshop with a Shaman from Guatemala, do I want to come? Not particularly, but for some reason I say ‘yes’. The three of us huddle together in the far corner of a windy cold Scout Hut in South London. The main body of the building is occupied by over 40 actors, heartily greeting each other, slapping backs, clearing throats, preening, ready to perform. And we are all waiting for the Shaman to arrive. We all wait and wait again. Some disgruntled voices, mutterings, long looks at watches. Leighton winks at me ‘ah, red time, this chap is on red time, he’ll be good.’ We wait.
Finally, there is movement and commotion, people are arriving, the room is filled with expectant silence. There in front of us sits the Shaman, he has bags, containers, baggage. he is dressed like a pirate, multiple belts, large knives tucked into them, buckskin, turquoise beads, bird feathers, curly blond hair, blue eyes. Everything you could ask for from a Shaman.
He shuffles on the chair and very slowly takes off his boots. Silence. he searches through his baggage, looking for something. Every eye keenly watching his every movement, trying to interpret it. He pulls things out and apart. Silence. he find two large leather boots. He starts to pull on a boot, it takes a long time, and the silence is now edged with frustration and murmurs. He deliberately slows down, and the anxiety and frustration increases. The second boot takes a long time. He looks around at the angry confused faces, and stands.
‘You are frustrated, you are annoyed. How dare you be so on this day. Where are your altars? Where are your tears on this terrible day?’ He stares defiantly at our blank faces. ‘Today many people have lost their lives and still you concern yourselves with such trivial things.’
Columbine has just happened, he has all our attention now.
‘We need to pray and offer our tears.’ He places a large candle in the centre of the room and asks, ‘who should we dedicate this light to?’ A hopeful voice pipes up ‘For the children who have died.’ ‘A good thought but I think they will be receiving many prayers right now.’ Another man asks ‘for the families of the victims’, the room murmurs it’s approval. ‘Again, I think they will be receiving prayers today.’
Collectively we are all a little stuck. the Shaman raises himself and twirls. ‘As men, as grown and mature men, we should offer our prayers and grief to the two kids who did this atrocity. Who is lighting lights for them? Who is considering what kind of hell they went through to do such an act.’
We prayed for them, we cried tears, we struck a deep vein of grief in our bodies most of us didn’t know existed. I was hooked and in awe. There are many people calling themselves Shaman, and so few real ones left. I organised his mens’ groups and he came and stayed with us in West Wales, such a privilege.
‘For Nick, Manda, Tom and Anna, may all the fine flowers of the holy spoken be as that which calls all good circles toward your family.’ He said ‘I am Che Guevara to Nick Clements’ Fidel Castro’. It doesn’t get much better than that!
03 Start writing trilogy of books on creativity
04 Pioneers Art Group finishes
Publish ‘Creative Collaboration’, book on the theory of community arts. Vision quest with Jeremy Thres on Dartmoor.
Sweat that lodge, 2005
I was asked to teach a group of people how to create and use a sweat lodge, I am always happy to do such work, although I was a little perturbed by it being in the teepee field at Glastonbury Festival. I have never felt the urge to go to the Festival, despite many of my friends having been there every year for over 20 years. The day of the sweat lodge broke dark grey, scudding clouds, and a chill wind. I taught how to construct and build, how to pray, how to behave, and then sent the group away from the space to prepare themselves with a little tranquility in amongst the wild party surrounding us. Whilst they did this, I was to set the fire and start heating the rocks. The fire pit was damp, cold and inactive. After an interminable half an hour, I was struggling to light a match let alone the huge logs. I felt miserable, dejected, wanting to go home. My face creased against the freezing drizzle, my headache- a sharp reminder of my inability to get a moments sleep the previous night. I resolved to spark the fire, to make it happen despite the downpour. I hunkered down with my back to the wind. In that moment, I became aware of two people sitting on a log watching me. I turned and glowered at them, presuming they were part of the group, thinking they had returned far too early. But, then I felt a cold shiver pass down my neck.
They were Native American men. I instantly realised they were Lakota elders. Sun Lodge pierced, the real deal. Both sat silently watching me. A cold, exhausted and miserable white man fumbling with wet matches, in a damp muddy field, full of drunken uninitiated hedonists. I hoped they were a temporary illusion brought about by my lack of sleep. Unfortunately, they weren’t. They silently nodded to me. Their attitude was clear, they were going to watch me. I just wished the earth would open up and swallow me.
In a desperate attempt to seem competent and able to do the work, I pulled out my flint and dried bullrush. I desperately sparked the flint in the general direction of the tinder, which was now soaked. After just a moment or two, I knew it was a futile act. I struck several more damp squibs, the elders sat watching…something had to give. One of the elders lent forwards and gently said ‘Hey, Wasichu, why are you trying to light mother fire with a flint in all this rain?’ I looked at my feet. ‘I dunno, I was trying to impress you.’ A gentle creased smile passed over their faces. ‘Hey, grandfather white man, don’t try to impress us, just get the fire started. We would suggest you use gasoline.’
At that moment my friend Shining Bear arrived. It had been at his instigation that the sweat was happening. He looked at me and then the two elders, and he looked again. He recognised their innate eldership instantly. He was bewildered, astonished. ’Wooooweee, what is happening here?’ He cried. At that moment the two elders poured petrol on the raw wood and I set it ablaze, a plume of dark smoke and ashen flames in the dark morning light.
‘Sacred Inepe, help me cleanse myself, help me speak my truth, help me become who my people need me to be.’
05 Start to create bespoke rites of passage for young men (Ongoing)
Publish ‘The Pioneers: Murals, mosaics, madness and myths’ book on the Pioneers Art Group
06 Film the male circumcision ritual of the Samburu tribe in northern Kenya
‘Muratare’, male circumcision 2006
I was approached by a charity who worked with the Samburu, a nomadic tribe from the north of Kenya. They wanted me to make a documentary film about a ritual ‘Muratare’, which occurred every twenty years. I had seen similar films with Ray Mears, Bruce Parry, and others, it looked great. Go and live with indigenous people, make a film, then get to show it all over the world. I was intrigued and set about making it happen.
After many months of negotiation I realised the charity had no money, and I had to finance all of my trip. It also emerged the Director would not be coming out with me and the photographer, but would arrive some six or more weeks into the 15 week trip. It emerged the Director had no written permission to film or photograph the ritual, and, oh yes…what was the name of the ritual? ‘Muratare’- male circumcision.
Suddenly, I was no longer euphorically enthusiastic, I was feeling rather ill. I was starting to have many doubts, it seemed to me that I was getting into deep water. Just when I wanted to raise any number of issues, time sped up.
I found myself waiting in Heathrow, to join with the photographer Toni Greaves, to whom I owe my life and much more.
We arrived in Nairobi airport and were met by a pack of men who bundled us into a white van. We drove out of the artificially lit city, towards the emerging dawn beauty. Out into the bright sun, into the glare and onwards into the desert. For two days we joined with the wonderful red soil of Kenya. We chatted, laughed and exchanged experiences as it emerged many of the elders could speak English, and Richard, who spoke very good English, would be our translator. Both Toni and I felt better. We were to overnight in the last ramshackle hotel in the middle of nowhere. The next day we would be driven the last three hours of our journey to live in the ceremonial village. We arrived in plumes of dust, surrounded by wildly chattering and screaming youngsters, cautious and inquisitive women, and serious faced men. The men led us into the elders’ fire, a circle of chairs and off cut trees boundarying a fire never to be allowed to exhaust itself. The elders circle was packed with humanity, cows, dogs, cats, even more people and children watching from outside the circle. Anticipation and nervous energy were present, it was as if everyone and everything knew something significant was about to happen.
We were welcomed by one of the elders, and despite the obvious gravitas which he wore and transmitted, other elders cut across him, interjecting. We asked Richard, to explain, as it was obvious something was wrong. Richard blushed, he said he was very sorry, but some of the elders were arguing. ‘What are they arguing about?’ I enquired. Richard, head down, quietly spoke. ‘The elders are saying you are not welcome. You don’t have permission to be here…they want you to go back home.’ The disagreements continued, and it become obvious there were other worries. ‘Who are you going to show the film to?’ ‘What is your interest in our people?’ I realised in the first minutes of our arrival all my worst fears about the trip were now made concrete. The Charity had only informed a few individuals, the village as whole didn’t know about the film, they didn’t know us, and as far they knew we were going to exploit them.
Toni and I thought about how much it had cost to make the trip, all that time and effort, wasted. The general tone of voices around us was low, conspiratorial, and secretive. I realised it was time to take action. I stood in the middle of the circle, and the Shakespearian actor in me came booming out. I showered them with praise, made them laugh, held sway, and the elders smiled their approval of my eloquence. They resolved to let us stay and make the film if we paid a small fee, so long as I answered the one remaining question to their satisfaction.
‘Can you prove you are an elder?’
In their culture a man became an elder by passing through their ritual ‘Muratare’, male circumcision. I am not circumcised! I was momentarily stumped. I had a nightmare vision of them circumcising me there and then. I am nothing if not resourceful, and also have a number of tattoos on my back. I smiled at the assembly.
‘In our culture we do the same as you. In order for a man to become an elder he has to shed blood. He needs to be initiated and made safe, and he does this by bleeding for us all. In Wales we do this by tattooing the man. The tattoos reflect his journey from being a boy, to being a man, and then his aspiration to eldership. Richard was rapidly translating my flowing words, and he urgently mimed taking off your shirt. I did so. The elders put their hands on my tattoo’s and felt them. The silence was broken…’Welcome Welsh Visitors.’
There are so many stories to be told about the time Toni and I lived with the Samburu. They have become woven into the fabric of who I am, and I am aware it was a unique and privileged time. The elders of the village took great pleasure in teasing me. Their favourite chastisement was to remind me that I would die very quickly if left alone in the desert. They chuckled about my complete lack of survival skills, and were amazed that I had survived so long in the world. They would shake their heads and ask ‘What are you good for?’ In their terms, and in their culture, very little.
One skill I have is to make films. I soon realised the film I was making needed to be just their voices. Those documentaries about indigenous people were always mediated and explained by white men. I wanted as little interpretation as possible. The film is scripted by the elders, is in their words, it is the only film ever to be made in the Samburu language, and as such is unique.
I celebrated my fiftieth birthday whilst with them, and that day I was taught how to suffocate a goat before drinking it’s blood…as you do! I gently felt the last breaths slip away one of the elders lent down and whispered in my ear. ‘Nick, did you remember not to drink any water this morning?’ I was puzzled, nothing had been said to me. ‘If you drink water it will sit in the stomach and when you add the blood it coagulates. This will eventually fill your stomach and kill you.’ The elder looked into my eyes closely, as I desperately tried to remember how much water I had drunk. ‘Ah, well, don’t worry, drink the blood anyway.’ I did.
Over the months of our visit I slowly gained their trust and respect, and eventually we made a film of great empathy and compassion. At a special meeting just before I was due to return to Wales, the elders invited me into the elders circle, and with great ceremony, ‘named’ me. When I was in the village I would always be recognised as ‘Lolkishami’. ‘The Father Of The Beloved.’
06 Met and started working with Katja Stiller and Rhys Hughes from Valley and Vale community arts on Person Centred Creativity (PCC)
07 Started to deliver training courses in PCC for practicing artists and craftspeople wanting to work in the community (Ongoing)
07 Publish ‘An Introduction to Working With Fathers’ a guide for social and care workers
07 Started an on-going commitment to giving talks and running conferences on masculinity and rites of passage. Using the one- man performances as a way of seeing the public’s reaction to the subjects. (ongoing)
08 Publish ‘Using the Ugly Duckling: To find the missing link between boys and men’ a book about male teenage rites based on my work with teenagers
Trust the process
His father came to the men’s group, and asked if we would help in the creation of a rite of passage. He was just turned 18 and wanted an adventure, a challenge, a vision quest. We sat as elders and talked about how many nights in the wilderness we’d spent, lonely vigils on moors. he listened politely, but wasn’t very impressed, in the end he said ‘it all sounds very anal.’ He explained, he was a loner, so the challenge of spending days and nights on his own was not really attractive or different. We agreed, and created a vision quest titled ‘The Kindness of Strangers.’He was celebrated and honoured by the men as they sat round a fire on the allotments. he was then honoured by the women led by his mother who cut the symbolic ties. The house was filled with parents and children, it was time, otherwise the ceremony would take over. I grabbed him by the throat, and led him to my car. John and I bundled him in, blindfolded him, and drove off, leaving a trail of anxious faces.
We drove for about seventy miles and I found a tiny leafy narrow road with no signposts, and stopped. he was taken out of the car, and he stood in a circle of corn I’d created on the floor. He had no money, no phone, a sleeping bag. I took off the blindfold ‘you have three days and nights, walk home, no hitch-hiking, speak to people, let them help you find your way home.’ I moved to the car, ‘once you step out of the circle you are invisible to me until you return home.’ We drove off, and stopped for a hearty meal in the next town. Both of us were nervous, I kept thinking I should have put a tenner in his back pocket. ‘he’ll be fine’, we kept reassuring each other. I returned to work, but he was in my mind. How far had he got? Was he OK? It rained and rained and days turned to nights and returned to days. On the final night his parents phoned me urgently, they were desperate and wanted to drive out and look for him. I calmly repeated to them the thought which reassured me, trust the process. All of us had dread images of him in an accident, being beaten up, who knows what. Have faith.
The next day I received a phone call from him, he was home. John and I jumped in the car, and then sat for 6 hours listening to his story, and what a story it was. He’d never had such a great time; his stomach was full; on occasions he’d had to turn down the offer of meals; he had £20 in his pocket; he’d slept on beds in strangers houses. He’d walked and then talked. He’d relied on the kindness of strangers. He said the people who gave him the most were the ones who wanted the least in return, and this had bothered him, until he realised, he was giving them the opportunity to be generous and help someone else, and this was something they wanted in their lives, an opportunity they didn’t often receive.
Many, many stories. The one I like the most was him in really heavy rain as the day waned, head down, walking. Then out of the gloom the police car slowly cruising up and stopping. Suddenly, he is afraid and uncertain. The policeman wound down his window ‘what are you doing?’ ‘I’m walking.’ ‘Don’t be silly, get in.’ He got in and told his story to the policeman, who listened attentively. They drove on, reached the next town and the policeman gave him a five pound note as he set off again. ‘Have a great time.’
08 Started to deliver training courses in PCC for health and care workers, as well as social workers (Ongoing)
09 Made Honorary Professor in Community Arts by Staffordshire University in recognition of contribution to Community Art In UK Talks and workshops for Men’s Gatherings in Brighton
10 Workshop and talk for Mind, Body, Spirit Festival in London
Started to deliver workshops on creativity and wellbeing for vulnerable people (Ongoing)
Turned down OBE for the contribution of The Pioneers to the South Wales valleys redevelopment.
11 Talk and workshops on creativity at Stadslandgoed De Kemphann, Almere, Holland
11 Publish ‘The New Ages of Men’ a book about male initiation and rites of passage from conception to death
12 Roundfire Books publish ‘The Alpha Wolf: A tale about the modern male’ a novel about the maturation of men
Move to Stroud
Visiting Professor in Creative Animation MA, at Warsaw University, Poland
13 Right Here Right Now, workshops and film in Teenage Cancer Ward, Cardiff
13 to14 Asked to write blogs on masculinity for Huffington Post
14 to 15 Residential weekend workshops for male staff at ‘Kids Company’ on positive male role models
14 PCC training for managers and staff at Bryn Glas Adult Centre, Newport in using creativity to develop care plans for adults
15 Valley and Vale publish ‘Person Centred Creativity’ book on the theory and practice of PCC
15 to 16 Organise series of conferences on masculinity in Stroud, Bath, London and Malvern
16 Working with people with Parkinsons Disease and others recovering from strokes, training for them in creative practices
I was employed to encourage self expression in Bridgend General Hospital. I started working one day a week with the Parkinsons group. Normally, about ten to twelve clients, it was a gentle and supportive class. June would enable them to stretch and physically express themselves. Once they had done this for a while, they were then invited to draw or write creatively. The work was progressing well, we were about half way through the project, when I was told by my GP that I had Parkinsons. Apart from the shock of the diagnosis I was left with a dilemma, whether I shared this news with the group. I did, and it enables us to bond quite deeply. In response to the opportunity to make some creative writing three of them worked intensely on their own pieces, which I include here.
Writing number one – a man and his wife.
Chapter 1 – Frustration
He walks slow; she walks fast
He is weak; she is strong
He is pissed off; she is incorrigibly cheerful
Chapter 2 – Anger
‘Bollocks” he said; ‘Sssh, people are listening’ she said
‘Why me?’ he said; ‘Arthur Ash got aids’ she said
‘Sod it; he said; ‘I agree’ she said
Chapter 3 – Acceptance
He says ‘I love you’; she smiles
He says ‘ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE’; ‘Beatles’ she says laughing
he thinks, don’t spoil the day; she says ‘Let’s have a beautiful day’
Writing number two – someone else’s disease
Nobody told me it would hurt.
I’m tired and this is something that happens to others.
I can win prizes when I drop things, and struggle and shake for Wales.
Lessons and stories I heard in church about a man sick of the palsy were always about someone else.
Writing number three – Parkinsons is strange
I have no ego, it was smashed by Parkinsons.
I had to change.
I am surviving.
But in some strange way
Parkinsons saved my life.
I am happy.</strong
17 ‘The Butterfly Garden’ Bettws, Bridgend PCC course for victims of domestic violence, enabling them to gain more control of their lives using creativity and listening skills (Ongoing)
18 Grandson, Toren, born
Residential workshop for men, facilitated with Jay Ramsay, at Hawkwood
Touring talk on ‘The Four Genders’
Commissioned to write about history of Welsh Community Arts in ‘Culture, Democracy, and the right to make art:The British Community Arts Movement’ by Alison Jeffers and Gerri Moriarty, Methuen.
19 ‘Breathing Space’ Pontypridd PCC course for people with depression and anxiety, GP referrals for creativity wellbeing (Ongoing)
‘Rewilding and Reconciliation for Men and Women’, Workshop with Shakti Sundari (Ongoing)