2016 in review and resolutions

Comedy research, Reflecting, Teaching

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2016 upon reflection…

Jan : Planned and wrote all the lectures and session plans (from scratch) for my TV Comedy and Drama module at SHU.

Feb/ Mar/ Apr: A blur of endless teaching and commuting to and from Sheffield. 2 sets of board pens ruined. It was cold and rainy. That’s all I have in terms of memories of this period.

May: The markathon. Also briefly left the house to see Penny Arcade’s Loving Lasts Longer at Contact Theatre.

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June: Having completed marking I headed off to Barcelona for the Primavera Sound Music Festival (my 3rd visit). Greatly enjoyed the line-up which included LCD Soundsystem (who were off the chart amazing – I never thought I’d have the chance to see them live) Tame Impala, Wild Nothing, Suede, AR Kane, Daughter, Air, Savages, Radiohead, Beirut, Brian Wilson doing Pet Sounds, Orchestra Baobab, Bradford Cox… and so on….. Plus there was a really cool punk exhibition in the Modern Art museum in Barcelona too (which is where I took the photo of the smashed up room above).

July: Wrote my paper (Positives and Negatives: Reclaiming the Female Body and Self-Deprecation in Stand-up Comedy) for the Mock the Weak conference.

 

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Aug: Headed up to the Edinburgh Festival – saw the following Daniel Kitson, Bridget Christie, Lolly Adefope, Tez Ilyas,  Alison Spittle, David O’Doherty, Tessa Waters, Grainne Maguire, Ellie Taylor, Elf Lyons.……Oh and I completed designing the programme for the Women in Comedy Festival.

 

Sept: Presented my paper at Mock The Week Conference at University of Teesside and subsequently had the abstract of my paper accepted as part of a special issue of Comedy Studies Journal in 2018. Saw Amy Schumer perform live at the Manchester Apollo. Commenced mentoring my Arts Emergency student.

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Oct: Moved house – will never be moving again. Watched a huge amount of comic talent as part of Women in Comedy Festival 2016! Started back at MMU working with the first year filmmakers on Contextualising Practice.

Nov: Tried to get our house into a house shape plus teaching, writing, writing, writing.

Dec: Xmased. Bunkered down for a few weeks to get a chapter of my thesis drafted.

2017 looking ahead…..

Resolutions:

1: Read more fiction by female writers – I read a huge amount of non-fiction by female academics and theorists but as an avid reader and stories I need to up my game. I have just finished Chris Kraus’ epistolary novel I Love Dick and stacked up on the bookshelf ready for deployment are a variety of novels to enjoy – including titles by Zadie Smith, Maggie Nelson, Harper Lee, Sarah Waters and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (who was responsible for one of the most admirable television moments of 2016 when she reminded the terrifyingly short-sighted, Trump supporting editor of the U.S Spectator that as a white man he doesn’t get to decide who can feel discriminated against by racism (See here). How she remained composed when faced with such unbelievable ignorance was frankly astounding.

 

2: Accept that I can’t do everything – 2016 was a tough cookie and probably the limit for me in terms of commitments I can undertake whilst studying and trying to remain a functioning human being. There was a lot of turning down social engagements/ invites and then feeling guilty about having to do so. Moving house was also an exhausting and time-consuming activity and so 2017 will be about refocusing on what matters and accepting that I can’t be all things to all people. Get the research written, write the journal articles that have been accepted, teach to the best of my ability and be nicer to myself.

3: Try and do practical things that impact positively on others. Last year was basically a series of mornings that I woke up and cried about the direction humanity is heading in. I reject the inward looking rhetoric of placing certain nationalities/ classes/ economic groups/ ethnicities/ religions above others (anything that ends with the term ‘first’ needs to seriously consider the message it is sending). I will not let this stop me being positive but nor will I shut up and let thing just happen unchallenged either. The resources I have are small (and in many cases irrelevant – I research comedy) and I might not be able to do everything (see above) but I am hoping to find ways to make practical contributions myself and to facilitate others in making small contributions of time and skills to small organisations/ charities that need help too (by revolutionising the way one of the organisations I work for makes use of its volunteering policy).

4: March – www.womensmarchlondon.com Today there is an image in the press of two rich white men giving everyone the thumbs up having successfully stirred up hatred and division. In the background of this photo is a framed cover of a Playboy cover. This image says absolutely everything about how inequality is maintained and how systems continue to discriminate and ‘other’ those who do not come from privilege. NO MORE.

Take Note(s)

Comedy research, Teaching, Volunteering

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In 2009 I managed to successfully apply for a Media Art and Design Scholarship at the University of Westminster to get on the part-time evening-only course for MA Film and TV: Theory, Culture and Industry. Without a scholarship that opportunity to have my horizons expanded and to find what I love would not have been an option for me. I completed a BA by taking out a (now comparatively small) student loan (which, like most of my generation, I am still paying off). I am reminded again of how lucky I was in the week Gideon ‘George’ Osbourne’s autumn statement reasserts the governments relentless attempts to disenfranchise and alienate our young people (see here).

A few weeks ago I participated Arts Emergency (AE) mentor training in the hope that interventions such as theirs can prevent talented young people missing out because of their economic limitations. By partnering young people up with mentors from arts and humanities areas, AE’s amazing initiative The Alternative Old Boys Network tries to redress the balance. The aim is to ensure the creative industries reflect the diversity of our society, and is not only populated by people who can afford to take a gamble on a creative career path.

I’ve been asked a few times since attending this training why, when I am really busy, did I volunteer. The answer is simply because I think its important and if I can use the education that I have been given to help others, then great. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to mentor for AE in future and it was great to meet so many others at training who felt the same. Our government is made up of people who accessed free university education and then used that education to take it away from future generations, it’s an absolute scandal.

I think the legend of Jessica Hynes (who, ever since I first saw Spaced as a teenager I have admired  – even before she proved herself an amazing human being by becoming an Arts Emergency patron and giving the best BAFTA speech I’ve ever heard) sums it up best…

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Without that scholarship to study a subject I felt passionate about there is no question: I wouldn’t be here now doing what I love and studying for my PhD.

This has been on my mind this week because I have been given the opportunity to teach a second year module in TV Comedy and Drama next year at SHU and I cannot wait. As the module has changed from a solely British focus to an international one, I have been allowed the licence to adapt the module content to include a wider range of examples … and also to give me a chance to apply some of my own research interests (Comedy, Feminism, Identity) to teaching. Excited!!

I’m making my way through the existing handbook, adding in new reading, changing up the lectures and planning what I’m going to screen.

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Choices choices

I’ve also gone back through the notes I took when I was doing a TV Comedy module for my MA.

That module was such an eye opener, not just in the way it was taught in such an engaging way (by Ian Green, a person who, in my experience, anyone who has completed the MA Film and TV at Uni of Westminster over the last few decades will happily sing the praises of, myself now included), but also in the way it forced me to question everything I thought I knew about comedy. The three little words, incongruity, superiority and relief were brought to my attention and that as they say, was that. Game over everybody, I’ve found my thing now.

The notes I made during those lectures are absolute gold dust now for planning this module. Including this mega list of words…

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I can remember this session really well: I see it written up on the whiteboard (in a room off Regent Street that was actually for people training to be translators and so had weird-looking microphones at every desk).

Like reading a childhood diary I can see in those notes exactly where ideas and concepts that I think about daily and now take for granted were introduced to me. As I watched Ian dash about with a whiteboard marker during that term I never thought I’d ever be up there teaching TV Comedy and Drama. Without that scholarship I wouldn’t be.