Opportunity knocks...



Recently, I got an email out of the blue from a friend I haven’t spoken to in years. I literally had no idea where he was or what he was doing. He told me that a film that he made that I was in was finally ready to be shown to the public, and that it was being shown in a cinema in Islington, London and asked if I'd like to come and watch it. It took me a while to even recall the film he was talking about because it had been so long ago. It transpired that he has been living on the streets of London for over four years but thanks to homeless charity C4WS had been given access to computers, Wi-Fi,  everything he needed to complete his project. Vice Media UK heard about his story and decided to make a documentary about Dave's journey, topping it off with the red carpet London premiere of Mystic Demon Killer.

It was an emotional experience to hear what had happened to Dave, but the fact that he had finished his project made me overjoyed and I was determined to go and offer my support. The night was spectacular, the beautiful cinema packed to the rafters. Catching up with good friends, reminiscing about old times, mocking my laughable performance on camera, and marveling at Dave’s determination at finishing a film over 12 years in the making. It filled me with admiration and respect for his positivity throughout it all, when it would have been so easy to give up on his dreams. The overwhelming joy on his face said it all.

It has reminded me to keep at it, no matter how hard it gets. Being creative can be difficult. You may come up with ideas easily but persevering is no mean feat. It also reminded me to say yes more often. Had I not said yes to giving up my time to star in a film for nothing, I wouldn’t have got to be part of such a beautiful story.

I’ve always said yes to things. If something sounds interesting and I truly have no valid reason to say no I’ll do it. It’s easy to create reasons to say no- I have to watch this TV program before I see spoilers, I’m preparing for a holiday in three months time, I’m boiling a big egg etc, but they are just excuses. When you say yes to things, even things that you’re unsure of, you’ll get something out of it, even if it’s only a story to tell your friends in the pub. Thanks to me saying yes I have had so many unique experiences, each offering a perspective that I may not have had had I said no. I’ve been an undertaker, I’ve been Father Christmas, I’ve been a Mountie in a programme about serial killers, I’ve performed at the Apollo, had a Chinese meal with Eddie Izzard, Alistair Darling and JK Rowling, and done countless TV and radio appearances. On the downside, I’ve slept on park benches, been threatened, died on my backside more times than I can remember, been unable to pay the rent on time and many more things that made me think I should give this up and get a 9-5. And I don’t regret a single thing, because each and  every one of those experiences has given me a story to tell, either on stage or on paper.

So I will continue to say yes to things if I can, and I will finish things that I start. If it doesn’t work out, then meet me in the pub and I’ll tell you one hell of a story about it.

And I've already said yes to Mystic Demon Killer 2.

The c4ws homeless project are available here http://c4wshomelessproject.org/

Vice Media UK are here https://www.vice.com/en_uk

Mystic Demon Killer can be bought or hired here, with all proceeds going to help David off the streets https://vimeo.com/ondemand/mysticdemonkiller

National Storytelling week...everyone has a tale to tell


As National Storytelling week draws to a close, I’d like to reflect on the importance of telling stories to help understand others, and yourself.


My fascination with stories began, like many other peoples, in childhood. Myths and legends were always my favorites, stories with gods and monsters and their dealings with every day folk. I was particularly fond of the ones where the hero was a seemingly ordinary person who, when trouble arose, discovered they were special, and capable of extraordinarily heroic deeds. If he was revealed to be special, then so could I!

As a storyteller for adults and children, I find the best stories are the ones that not only fuel the imagination but that the audience can identify with. When storytelling with children I get them to name characters, choose where we go next, give them the options of what we do and create magical worlds with them. They get so animated as their brains fizz with ideas faster than their mouths can articulate. It is all creativity with very little logic and it is a joy.

Adults often lose that spontaneity. They lose confidence in themselves, in their ideas. When asked, most people will tell you there’s nothing interesting about them, that they haven’t got any stories. If pressed though, everyone will recall something, everyone will think back and say “Well, there was this one time…” and out will flow a memory filled with half-truths, exaggerations but genuine emotion. Watch a person’s face when they tell you a story about their life. It lights up as they get lost in the memory, the feelings of the past showing in their eyes. It’s a wonderful thing to see. All it takes is the time to listen.

Most people won’t tell you their stories, because they don’t have a legitimate reason, an excuse. It’s one of the reasons a lot of peoples stories are saved for the pub, with alcohol being used as an excuse for “talking nonsense” and showing genuine emotion. That’s why I love my current work teaching creative writing in Bargoed, in the Welsh Valleys. I’ve got to meet a wide range of people of various ages,  many of whom are unemployed or disenfranchised. They all have stories to tell and just needed someone to listen. By giving them pen and paper, giving them simple exercises, encouraging them to tell me the truth, their confidence is growing week by week. In three weeks they will get to tell their stories to an audience, something some of them wouldn’t even have thought about a month ago.

If you have an idea for a story, write it down. Write it, read it out loud, tell people about it, because it’s in the telling that it becomes real. Other people will feel what you feel, other people will understand. And never say I don’t have a story, or mine isn’t good enough. Everyone has a story. Some are comedies, some are tragedies, most are a mixture of both. It all depends on where you start and end.