I didn’t sleep last night. It’s going to be the hottest day of the year. Sunlight spears through the bedroom curtains. It’s 9am and Saturday Live is on the radio. The inimitable Fi Glover is on and the guest poet this week is Katie Fox. The star guest is Howard Jacobson who somehow sounds pretentious. Not that he is but his most telling revelation was his early jealousy of the success of Melvin Bragg with whom he is now a friend.
I have never been jealous of anyone. Irritated, most definitely, but hardly envious. Thatthe exploration of ambition is fuelled by envy is strange to me. Ambition is a wonderful thing: I don’t see why it should ever be coupled with bullying or autocratic behaviour. What I do see are ambitious people who lack the emotional resources to further their ambition and this leads them to employ there frustration as a weapon to metre out on others as they bludgeon their way forward with a trained smile.
Jacobson is not unsurprising though. I remember seeing Jacobson in The Chelsea Arts Club, puffing a cigar by the snooker/billiards table over fifteen years ago where I was staying over night after reading at The Commonwealth Institute with the Liverpool poets. In an armchair by that bar I was asked whether I was a taxi driver no less than three times. I vowed that I would either never go there again or become a member. I noticed Roger McGough had once been the chair of The Chelsea Arts Club..
Back to Saturday Live. The Duwayne Brooks interview at the heart of the show was stop-what-you’re-doing -radio. After The duwayne brooks interview Jacobson espoused live on air “ that was the greatest interview I have ever heard”. It was one of the greatestinterviews I’d ever heard too. That it was on Saturday Live made me proud. I wanted to call Simon Hattenstone - Duwayne’s co-writer.
Four years ago at a library in Camden I read poetry before the book Launch of Duwayne Brooks. You can read the full story of Duwayne and I, here - click. I was determined when I came to this residency a year ago that Duwayne would read here at The South Bank. And so a month ago as part of the artist in residence programme, on the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence, Duwayne read from his book Steve and Me at The Spirit Level beneath the Royal Festival Hall with co writer Simon Hattenstone. Rachel Holmes the new head of literature and programming said “ it felt like history in the making”.
A week later I sat with Debbie Kilbride of Saturday Live and promoted Duwayne and his story for the guest interview slot. Debbie took this to Maria Willaimson (execprod) and the interview was on. What was incredible about the Saturday Live team was, as Debbie went on holiday, how they galvanised around getting Duwayne’s story on air. There was a lot of legal checking that had to be done to get this through: but for all that effort dedication and experience the interview was on. They got it through, Fi Glover employed her deft interview technique and Duwayne raised his game. Magic happened! And it was all worth it. That the interview should go out today on the morning before the Saturday Live poets event is plain old kismet!
This is a primary example of how the Southbank artist in residence programme in Britian can and will affect culture in Britain. This mornings programme ended with a call to Boris Johnson, th eNew Mayor of London, to contact Duwayne about policing in London. Considering that most of the Macpherson report is based on Duwayne Chambers and considering that The McPherson report changed the history of policing and race relations in Britian, it was no lame request.
On Monday evening The Saturday live team will attend The Sony Awards where they have been nominated for not one, but two Sony’s. Fi ends the radio programme plugging the evening event at The South Bank.