MOVERS SHAKERS MAKERS

Piers Harrison-Reid ⎪Performance Poet

December 15, 2020 Emma Lister Season 2 Episode 3
MOVERS SHAKERS MAKERS
Piers Harrison-Reid ⎪Performance Poet
Chapters
MOVERS SHAKERS MAKERS
Piers Harrison-Reid ⎪Performance Poet
Dec 15, 2020 Season 2 Episode 3
Emma Lister

Performance poet, Piers Harrison-Reid rose to national visibility with a poem that bridged two of the UK’s greatest institutions: The National Health Services and the BBC. The poem Love is for the Brave, an ode to the NHS was commissioned by the BBC and has garnered a million views and counting across various platforms. With roots in hip hop, dub and slam poetry Piers’ poems are often vehicle for potent political and social commentary and are therefore in demand on news media as immediate responses to world events. Like his response to the latest wave of BLM uprising More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish, which he says brought with it a surprising, disappointing amount of negative response. Did I mention he’s also an A&E nurse?

THIS EPISODE HAS BEEN AUDIO TRANSCRIBED, SEE LINK FROM YOUR PODCAST PROVIDER 

Piers' Website
piersthepoet.co.uk

Links to videos discussed in the epidose:

More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish

 Car Crash People

 Jenny

 Love is for the brave I (2018)

Love is for the brave II (2020)

The last three questions.....

PIECE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

 

PIECE THAT DIDN’T LOVE BUT HAS VALUE

Experimental Film, i.e. Richard Linklater’s Waking Life

 

NOMINATE AN ARTIST FOR US TO CHECK OUT

Musician, The Heartseas Kid

Poet, Kae Tempest 

Show Notes Transcript

Performance poet, Piers Harrison-Reid rose to national visibility with a poem that bridged two of the UK’s greatest institutions: The National Health Services and the BBC. The poem Love is for the Brave, an ode to the NHS was commissioned by the BBC and has garnered a million views and counting across various platforms. With roots in hip hop, dub and slam poetry Piers’ poems are often vehicle for potent political and social commentary and are therefore in demand on news media as immediate responses to world events. Like his response to the latest wave of BLM uprising More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish, which he says brought with it a surprising, disappointing amount of negative response. Did I mention he’s also an A&E nurse?

THIS EPISODE HAS BEEN AUDIO TRANSCRIBED, SEE LINK FROM YOUR PODCAST PROVIDER 

Piers' Website
piersthepoet.co.uk

Links to videos discussed in the epidose:

More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish

 Car Crash People

 Jenny

 Love is for the brave I (2018)

Love is for the brave II (2020)

The last three questions.....

PIECE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

 

PIECE THAT DIDN’T LOVE BUT HAS VALUE

Experimental Film, i.e. Richard Linklater’s Waking Life

 

NOMINATE AN ARTIST FOR US TO CHECK OUT

Musician, The Heartseas Kid

Poet, Kae Tempest 

PIERS HARRISON-REID INTERVIEW TRANSCIPT

MUSIC PLAYS

Movers shakers makers, what makes create people tick? And how do they find a developed their inspiration? Welcome to the podcast that draws back the curtain on the inventive mind and its artistic process. I'm Emma Lister. 

MUSIC FINISHES

Performance poet Piers Harrison-Reid rose to national visibility in the UK with his poem dedicated to the National Health Service, Love is for the Brave.  Filmed for the BBC, it has amassed a huge number of views.  Piers has a unique insight into the NHS as he is also an A&E nurse.  His writing and performing has roots in hiphop, dub and Slam poetry.  We'll link to all the poems that we discuss in the show notes of this episode, mostly as videos, as in performance poetry the art is as much in the delivery as in the content.   A quick note about Slam poetry, if you're not familiar with it I'll save you a trip to Wikipedia.  It's a competition arts event with a live audience and a panel of judges, and, essentially, the most popular poem with the audience wins.   

As with many of his influences, Piers' poems are often vehicles for potent social or political commentary, like this, an excerpt from More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish

Piers Harrison-Reid reads poem: 

Martin Luther King said white moderates are more devoted to order than justice and reason.  If you believe they can set the timetable for another man's freedom and you are constantly advised to wait for a more convenient season.  You agree with the goal, but not the methods we believe in.  But white moderates now, I know they do want peace, but to get there I think we need more than boomer memes, or when I say you need more than videos which confirm your own beliefs, I can see them drift off.   

I remember last weekend on the beach.  We are all imperfect, I'm still trying to turn into the kind of guy I trust with my life, but we must stay unashamedly human.  Stay a student.  One thing we can surely all agree on is black lives matter, truly.  The smiling eyes from under hoods, dappled with droplets of rain, rust and mud, beautiful passion, moments of bliss, and now Colston is sleeping under old Pero’s bridge.   

 We need more blacks, more dogs, more Irish. 

 

Emma Lister: How did you find the performance poetry scene, or did it find you? 

Piers Harrison-Reid: When I was quite young I was writing poetry in school, it was always quite traditional poetry, inspired with whatever we were studying.  Then I took a few years off when I went to sixth form because I got distracted by different things, girls and hormones and study....  I got back into it when I was around seventeen and at the same time I was really into hiphop, through hiphop I found the Slam poetry scene in America, and was very influenced by a guy called Buddy Wakefield.  So even though Slam isn't as big here, I actively started seeking out performance poetry and Slam in particular.  Now I kind of moved away from Slam because I think it forces people to write in very particular ways and can sometimes be quite formulaic, but I think that gave me good access into performance poetry and the incredible number of people who were doing things under the guise of performance poetry.  So I got to it through multiple steps.  From my love of hiphop, then actively seeking it once I had a few names in mind, and then I started performing when I felt like I knew what I was doing.  As with anything creative, you kind of make it up as you go along.  There is never really a way of doing it right, but I think I was lucky to have a support group around me, and in my teen years, where I grew up, in Colchester, there was a burgeoning poetry scene which I was able to become part of as a sixteen-, seventeen-year-old, with a few people who were much older, but had that same dynamic feeling about them.  They still wanted to get involved, they still wanted to create, and they didn't really have any expectation or ego about it.  So, to be honest, I think I was lucky. 

EL: Can you remember the first time you performed one of your poems?  Was it at a Slam or was it in school, or with friends? 

PHR: I’d say they first time I performed one of my page poems would have been in school, it would have been just reading it out in front of the class.  But I think the first time I performed one of my more performance-style pieces, I did it to a friend during a free period or lunch break at my sixth form college, and because my friends are quite supportive, it was just something to start my journey.  It wasn't a very good poem, I think it was about homelessness.  I'd been speaking a lot to a homeless guy, and he was on my mind, and I started trying to process our relationship and what that meant.  It was juvenile, it wasn't very complicated as a poem, but it was the first step to start trying to develop a craft and a voice.  

One of the first big performances that I did was a Slam, it is one of the only ones I've done.  That was at the Colchester Arts Centre, which isn't a particularly big venue, it maybe seats about two hundred.  I think there were probably around a hundred people there, which for somebody of sixteen, seventeen, was a big deal.  Through that I met this like-minded dynamic group.  We met weekly and did performances to each other, and every now and again put on events, or were part of other events.  Mostly open mike nights as opposed to formal Slams.  I think I've only performed in three or four Slams in my life.  The majority of times I've performed since then have been for more specific poetry events with featured artists, or open mike nights which are relatively poetry focused.  Also general open mike nights--though there is usually more of a mixed bag of people in the audience--I think that when you get on stage at an open mike night at a pub, and say ''I am going to do a poem'', a lot of people immediately turn away and don't particularly want to listen.  Some of my favourite performances have been to people who aren't expecting to enjoy it, but I come at it from wanting it to be accessible to a layman, I want to speak to universal human truth, and use words within poetry which are completely accessible, you don't have to look them up.  I hope I still do that.  I think when you've been writing for a long time you start writing in more specific ways which are your voice, which can sometimes get away from the original idea.  I still hope to write in ways that people can walk past in the street, listen to half a poem, and understand what I'm saying, instead of it being something esoteric or abstract. 

EL: I can see why the competitive aspect, or what comes over well in a Slam, might not be the best way to hone your own voice, because I presume it would may pull you in one direction or the other, but you've taken some non-elitist aspects, taken poetry into pubs, into spaces that aren't hallowed halls of learning.  Most of your poems that I've read draw from your everyday experience as an A&E nurse and what's going on in the news and headlines.    

How do you start a piece?  Does it roll around in your mind for a little bit?  Do you say it first, write it down first?  Because performance poetry is such an oral tradition, I wonder if writing it down changes what it's going to become.  How does it come out? 

PHR: Whatever process you use is always going to change the nugget of an idea that you had, it ends up being changed by the process of writing things down, by editing.  You can never quite put words to the emotions that you feel, or the ideas that you have.  So I think however you do that will always be an interpretation of whatever deeper meaning you aimed for.  My process has changed quite dramatically from when I was young.  I still kind of do the same thing; I have a notes app on my phone, I collect ideas, and snippets of ideas, on a particular theme, and combine them into a poem eventually.   I do that less now because I'm taking on more commissions, having to write for a particular thing, so I'm more likely to sit down and sketch out a piece from start to finish over the course of a day or two.  Drawing potentially from some of the initial ideas I've had on my phone, some inspiration I've had before on that theme, but much more heavily on new ideas or thoughts inspired by whatever is topical at the time.  Some of my commissions have been for the BBC or CNN about a particular thing, say race, or the NHS at the moment, and I have had to draw on very topical ideas to speak about universal truth.  So it feels less like I can use an idea I had a year or two ago. 

EL: Performance poetry seems to be the meeting of two distinct sides of the arts, one that is consumed privately and quietly, like looking at visual art or reading a novel or listening to music in headphones.  The other is the performance, and the two co-exist. 

How much does a piece change when you've performed it once?  I think the reason you've been so successful at it, and why you've reached so many people is the delivery.  For example, Car Crash People, which is probably old and you might not like it any more, but I liked it, has elements of drama, physicality, acting, singing, and I would say it is as much a piece of theatre as it is a poem or a song.  Is that something that you've honed?  Did you do drama at school? 

PHR: I wouldn't say formally honed.  I did drama when I was very young, before I chose my GCSEs, so probably up until the age of about thirteen, and haven't done much consistent acting since.   It's not something which I've ever felt I was very good at.   I think what I've really enjoyed about drama is the honesty that these stories speak to.  I've performed at a lot of gigs with poets who haven't been very experienced, and they sometimes lose the audience because they don't seem very confident, and the audience feels nervous for them and stops listening to what they're saying.   I'm quite a shy person, so I think I intentionally put on a confident face because it settles people with social interaction, and I definitely do that when performing.  I think that allows people to listen more to the words, live more through the words.  Realistically, that's all it is.  It is a kind of act to drive home the honesty behind the pieces.  Then there's embodying a space and living through the words, and my really acting out what I'm saying, and that's really just an extension of it. 

EL: Do you have a performance persona?  You can put on your Performance Piers hat and you're away? 

PHR: One of the issues that's raised consistently with Slam poetry is that people take on a 'slam voice', which is a bit contrived, and doesn't feel very honest.  You live in a culture which is all encompassing, all your friends do Slam, and you perform Slam and are doing things which fit that kind of zeitgeist.  It doesn't feel that true to life.  When I perform I never want to take on a poetry voice.  I've experimented quite a lot with poems that start as though they are a conversation with the audience, so it's like between two poems.  Then the start of the actual poem and the conversational part I've experimented with just blend, so it's never really clear where the actual formal poem starts.  Realistically it's supposed to be like a narrative of my life, as story telling it's supposed to be honest, there shouldn't be 'I am performing now'.  It feels like even that step sometimes becomes disingenuous, so I always try to use a similar voice and a similar persona, even if that persona is more confident than I sometimes am. 

EL: Most things that seem effortless, especially in the arts, belie an awful lot of work behind them.  I think it's certainly paid dividends for you. 

You call your job as an A&E nurse your 'big boy' job *both laugh*.   As a side note, about half the people I have interview for these podcasts (which, to be fair, are in their early stages) have begun or finished a medical degree.  I wonder if you think there is something complementary between medicine and the self expression of an artist?

PHR: I think it depends on the kind of art.  I think it was Rhoda, the actor, who was a pharmacist? *EL: that's right*  I'm not sure about pharmacy, even though you are dealing with people's lives, there is a level of abstraction in that it is obviously very academic.  But you are still coming into contact with people on sometimes the worst days of their lives, and that is a raw way of experiencing humanity.  I find that very inspiring, and I try to write specifically to reflect some of the emotions and stories that I hear as a way of processing them.  There is a thing that is taught in healthcare, I think across all professions, certainly in nursing and medicine, called reflective practice.  This is the idea that you need to take in any experiences that you have had and process them in a formal way, using one of the different structures that we are taught in order to make peace and learn from it.   Especially with my poetry about nursing, I see it as a more informal and reflective practice, it allows me to process some complex emotions, which I think more people should get into.  So I think it's great that so many people in healthcare have found these strands that link raw humanity to more expression.  I think more people in healthcare should be writing, so I think it's great that you've found people who are doing performance related to it.  I'm not sure how easy it is to tell those stories through different kinds of art, but it has certainly helped me in my expression and understanding of my role in A&E. 

EL: Your job must provide rich material for poems, even if it's just you processing your thoughts and not directly about people and circumstances that you encounter

PHR: You talked about Car Crash People earlier on.  I was performing quite a lot at the time I wrote it, and it was a time when I was becoming more confident on stage so I decided to sing, because I'd never sung in front of anybody before.   I wanted to push myself into the nervous side of that, so it was an interesting mix, in being one of the first pieces that I wrote about my job in A&E and the culmination of a lot of performance and trying to experiment with poetry as well.  I think it went very well, and I still love that piece.  I think it's a combination of that reflective practice and the formal act of being quite raw and vulnerable on stage.  I'm really happy it turned out as it did. 

EL: I wonder if another of your poems is connected with your job, the poem Jenny.  It paints in broad brush strokes about a man who used to be a doctor who obviously has substance abuse problems, and the ray of light in his day is when a stray cat comes by.  I found it moving, it is quite heartbreaking.  You don't need to tell me specifically, as there might be a real person behind the poem, but can you give me some insight into it. 

PHR: Yes, that one is broad brush strokes.  I think there is somebody I met when I was a student at the centre of it, who did have substance abuse problems and had come from a healthcare background, though I don't think he was a doctor.  I superimposed that with some other people I'd met from my time as a student and collected together related but disparate stories as a way of telling this guy's stories in a way that is more cinematic, like a kind of snapshot of his emotions.  As a student and also as a nurse you only really see people as their face presented to  health care, you don't see their grey days, the days where they're alone.  I'd wanted to capture some of the things he had spoken about whilst also referencing to some of the things I was experiencing, some of the people I met.  Jenny was a real cat,  but was owned by a patient I'd seen in the community, so I had a very vivid image of Jenny the cat.  She was a beautiful cat, and her owner was mentally unwell and I wanted to explore the person that I would have seemed to her owner, that's in a different piece that I haven't finished yet.  And I wanted to explore the person that I would have seemed to the cat, and I thought I would never finish that piece, but I wanted that image of Jenny in something, so I brought the two worlds together.  I'm glad you enjoyed that piece, because it is one that I really enjoyed writing.  It feels honest and real without being completely honest and real, if that makes sense.  It speaks to something which I really feel quite deeply, but without referencing one person in particular.  It's an amalgamation of ideas. 

EL: Even if it is an amalgamation of people, it is one of your poems that is more intimate.  It seems to be one person's, you know, afternoon, or whenever it takes place, when a cat comes to visit, rather than the sweeping breadth of something like Love is for the Brave. 

PHR: From my point of view, I've been influenced by quite a lot of different music.  I was bought up listening to music from my mum and my dad, a variety of things, usually with a bit of a focus on lyrics, but I got into heavy metal with my group of friends when I was quite young, which could be really simplistic. 

EL: Go on, what bands? 

PHR: When I was young it used to be System of a Down and then I moved into Kajira, and then I switched from heavy metal, because those were the two bands which actually have quite good lyrics and are quite intense, and very good musicians.  But I'd say that a lot of heavy metal is stupid, overly masculine, quite cringe-worthy stuff, which doesn't really speak to me.  Even if I like the passion behind it, the words don't necessarily resonate.  So I flipped, as did quite a few of my friends, more into the hardcore punk movement and the post hardcore punk movement, which still had that honesty, but with a slightly different delivery and usually more socially minded and poetic lyrics.  And then I got into a post hardcore band called La Dispute, who are I think from Grand Rapids in the USA.  They've  gone from kind of teen-angsty ideas with really big platitudes about the state of humanity, or focusing on one relationship breaking apart in a dramatic way; then over the course of their career they have got more focused on nuanced ideas throughout a relationship, or on a look, or the setting sun in a particular room and a particular day.  I think it is really interesting seeing that macro understanding of humanity being condensed down into nuanced ideas.   I think I tried to represent that a bit in Jenny, in comparison to Car Crash People, which is a dramatic thing, or some of the vague platitudes of the NHS pieces or the Black Lives Matter pieces.  There's a way of seeing those differences, and I am pleased you picked up on that. 

EL: Love is for the Brave is an ode to the NHS which you wrote for its seventieth birthday.  You reworked it in June this year to reflect the pressures you and your colleagues and the whole system have been under during the pandemic.  Listening to them both and comparing them, I would say you made choices specifically when you break off from the original.   I feel that in the new version there is an urgency and, dare I say, a bit more rage, that I didn't feel in the first one.  Did the Covid remix come out easily?  How did it come out differently—though obviously we are in the middle of some dystopian hell, *laughs*! 

PHR: I think it's a combination of things.   The first NHS piece was one of the first things I did with the BBC.  It was released with BBC Norfolk and the process was relatively straightforward, though I didn't know how to play it because obviously the BBC is this huge media organisation that is meant to be impartial, and I knew that I didn't want to edit my expression if I felt that it would change the underlying meaning, or detract from it, or glaze over things that I though were important.   So I wrote something which we had to edit a little bit, and I think it took some of the rage out of the first piece.   But I still managed to keep in a few references which I think are really important ones.  Discussions around Brexit are very difficult with the BBC because they have to be impartial, and everyone is quite angry about it, from different sides.   I knew that it was really going to affect the NHS, as we were so reliant on European nurses, and at the time there wasn't a good plan for recruitment of nurses post Brexit, and to some extent still people don't really talk about it.  It's a bit of an elephant in the room.   

The second time around I felt much more comfortable sending through something which was unedited rage, and we really had to step it back from a point where I was just venting, because I was very, very frustrated with the way the government had dealt with the pandemic.  I have self funded specialist training in tropical and infectious nursing, and I spent a month in Liverpool studying a very specific tropical infectious nurses diploma, so I have a special interest in infection control, and the pandemic is a really good example in this country of how not to track and trace.  We're just not doing it properly.  So I was livid, to be honest.   We had to step that quite far back, but I am quite happy that what we came up with still felt like it had that energy and urgency behind it.  That seething rage while still being able to present a point.  You don't want to get so angry that people turn off. 

EL: The BBC and CNN often commission poetry from you.  You are like the BBC poet laureate!  What is it about poetry that you think lends itself to a news outlet for observation? 

PHR: Realistically I can create quite quickly and topically, and now I have a portfolio that shows that I can do that in a way which, at the very least, resonates with people.  I think that news media need to be aware that their reach is failing a little bit with the rise of social media, and they're trying to find ways of engaging audiences that they haven't previously engaged.  So I think it has come at a time where I can talk about Black Lives Matter and about the NHS, topical things, in a way which they feel will also be accessible to people of my generation, people of the generation below me.  I think it is kind of luck, serendipity, and it is also the poetry itself because it is so personally honest.  It is a bit of a snapshot of a real human being reacting to things which everyone else at the same time is reacting to.  So I think they feel that, almost by necessity, as long as the person they speak to and commission is honest and open and engaged, it should theoretically resonate with a lot of people at the time.  Whether they agree or disagree with it, it should still speak to them in some way. 

EL: All I can say is thanks, thanks for your work.  I think the emotional load that you carry should be noted, not just as an A&E nurse, but also as a very active and outspoken person on social media and on news outlets.  I know that you get some answer back from that.  I think it is very heartening to see young people being so active and putting themselves forward.   

PHR: Thank you for having me, and thank you for saying that.   The biggest  struggle I've had during my career has been off the backs of the Black Lives Matter pieces.  I recently released pieces with the BBC and CNN and with the Radical Art Review.  They came as a triplet, but I released them with the individual agencies.  The way social media allows people the anonymity to say whatever they want without necessarily considering that there's another person at the other end can put you in a vulnerable position.  I do read comments and I do engage with people online.  There was a stark contrast between the feedback from the NHS pieces, and the feedback from the Black Lives Matter pieces.  I don't think the quality of the poems was that dissimilar, but certainly the topic was very dissimilar and got a lot of people more angry.  I think it is quite difficult to get people angry about somebody saying the NHS is good, because it is very widely loved in the UK,  but, certainly it seems strange, a lot of people would have qualms about the statement Black Lives Matter.  Sadly some of the vitriol online was frustrating and wasn't surprising.  What was surprising was the number of people who felt prepared to post something really negative.  You always expect a few people online to be unpleasant, but it was the amount of people.  I needed to take a few weeks off from social media, relax, spend time with people who I care about and realise that the people who are online have their own stories to tell and people they are interacting with.  I don't know their story and they don't know mine, and it doesn't define me and I don't define them. 

MUSIC PLAYS 

EL: Was there a piece of any kind of art, that changed everything for you? 

PHR: I've never been religious, and my family has never been religious, but I've always been quite interested in the faith that people can have and the beauty of knowing that there is something more than this.  When I was young I read The Prophet by the Lebanese author Khalil Gibran, released in the 1920s I think.  I felt pulled towards it because I think he himself wasn't a follower of any particular religion, but the book itself is framed as individual pieces on different themes, on love, on pain, on relationships,  as though they are  teachings from someone who has been stranded in a foreign place for an extended period of time and is about to leave to go back to his homeland, as a way of framing him as a prophet without it being linked to any particular religion, whether that be Islam or Christianity or any sect .  Those interesting statements and individual pieces really resonate with me as a way of living life, a way of acknowledging that there are a lot of things that we don't know about, but are lived experience, and I think that's something which I've tried to draw on throughout  my writing career.  To try to speak to things which are universal when talking about death, speak to ideas of whether there is anything after death, even outside of religious understanding.  I think there are a lot of things very interesting in that book and books similar to it.   

I've also been into music artists who also speak about faith, whether they themselves hold a particular religious belief.  I think the passion and excitement that can be found in people speaking about their faith is really infectious.  Some people don't get on with The Prophet because it feels very spiritual and flighty and it can hit people wrong.  The good thing about art is that it shouldn't take the easy path, it shouldn't be something that is just going to satiate the masses.  It should make us feel uncomfortable, it should sometimes make us question things, it should make us think about things in different ways, and it should definitely give us different perspectives, even if we don't find that resonance that we would expect. 

EL: Piers, I'm going to thank you for the perfect segway to the next question *laughs*.  Which is: a piece that you don't necessarily love, but which you think has value. 

PHR: I've struggled with this.  Exhibitions, say, when I've been to one that didn't suit me I've tried to force myself to at least understand what the aim was.  I don't think people make stereotypically bad art, or art that doesn't resonate intentionally.  I think there is always an intention there which, if you can unpick, you can usually understand more about the reason behind it.  You can usually find something to enjoy.   

That being said, I talked of discomfort before, and I've definitely watched and seen things that have made me uncomfortable, but I don't think that's a negative thing.  Some of my favourite films I've been quite uncomfortable with on my first watch, because they speak about things which should make you uncomfortable.  Things like the documentary film,  Thirteenth ,  which is about the systemic abuse of power in the prison industrial complex in America.  Things like David Lynch's films or the surrealists.   Films that you're not sure whether you are enjoying them, like, is this the expression of a mad man, or is it something genuinely beautiful?  I think it's interesting being on that knife edge:  is this incredible or is this just terrible?   Is there a right answer? When I was young I really liked an animated film called Waking Life  [EL: that's  Richard Linklater?] which is a collection of trippy scenes.  You wander through speaking to people who talked about high fallouting philosophical ideas and that was incredible for me, as a young person who hadn't read that much philosophy, because it can open you up to ideas which, by necessity, should make us feel a bit uncomfortable, and to reach for meaning.  I think that experimental style of film making resonates with me now more than it did when I was young, but I'm glad that I saw those things and tried to search for meaning, because I think  I got quite a lot out of them. 

EL: Would you like to nominate an artist for us who we may not know that you'd like us to check out? 

PHR: I think there are a lot of people who have really inspired me.  The Heartsease Kid is someone who I've worked with quite a few times, who makes really nice, relaxed, chilled out beats.  My partner likes just listening to the instrument, taking my voice out of them, because he really likes the relaxed nature of them *laughs*. They really work well as backing for poetry and story telling because they allow the poetry to breathe, they allow people who don't normally like poetry, because they find it a bit too much, to listen to parts of the piece and relax into the music.   

From my love of post hardcore and hiphop, I think there are so many people that it is difficult to mention individuals.  Buddy Wakefield, who I mentioned earlier.  There is someone in the UK called Kae Tempest who is into hiphop and transitioned into poetry which is set to music.  They were in a funk and soul band which had poetry at the forefront, and they've now turned to more electronic production to assist the poetry, and it's been incredible to see their winding career and their really resonant, very political, very angry, work, while also speaking to humanity in quite a positive and uplifting way.  Optimistic about what we could be and pessimistic about what we have been and what we will probably continue to be unless we fight for it. 

MUSIC PLAYS 

EL: We've linked all the poems we've discussed in the show notes .  Follow Piers on Facebook, and/or check out his web site: Piersthepoet.co.uk. Stay til the end for a bonus track! 

This season of Movers, Shaker, Makers is supported by the Norfolk Arts Project Fund and by the National Lottery through the Arts Council, England.  It is a Makeshift Company productio follow us on Instagram @makeshiftcompany and check out our website www.makeshiftcompany.com where there is a link to the podcast website for show notes. Please subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. Also if you rate and review the show it would be most appreciated. Thanks for listening!

MUSIC FADES 

Piers Harrison-Reid: So, this is a medley of three pieces the first, and most famous of which, was called More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish was released with the BBC. The second and third were released with CNN and the Radical Art Review respectively. So, the name of the first piece refers to in the ‘60s in England when you’d occasionally see signs, apparently, especially on bed and breakfasts and hotels, which read ‘No Blacks, no dogs no Irish’, so I want to flip that sentiment on his head and hope you enjoy: 

 

So now it seems the Brown man’s savior is viewfinder favouring the true 

Still smirk screams of context and ‘Coon’-filled comment sections and if they forget to count their blessings, who knew?  

Some closet racist now want a Brown face to call their bias justified, pretend a rich right-winger has nothing to hide, you know people lie for power and pride, right?  

But that's not England, they baulk. Though our leaders have a history of overt racism and anti-immigrant talk.  

Still twice as likely to die in custody, Grenfell Tower still stands.  

Yeah, this island is my land, but what's the true cost if I and a lot of people like me feel lost?  

The police are only doing their jobs to make us cease and desist until we’re deceased or enlist. So what? 

And I know we’re all flawed, we’re all worthy of love. Yeah, whatever you are feeling is alright. We all crave contact, cuddles, the darkening, soft summer skies, we’re all made of stars, all search for meaning. We’re all such beautiful, sore thumbs sometimes. We are all clammy handed honesty, hope pouring out with smiling eyes. 

And I remember spinning in chairs in my mum's office. Heads thrown back, reddened cheeks up to the skies. Talking to my little sister.  

She said she wanted long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She wanted to fit in.  

Now Instagram girls win by blacking up for likes.  

It's so hard to be happy in the skin we've been given...sometimes.  

My grandparents are part the Windrush generation. And I'm getting asked again where I'm really from.  

It seems like we don't know either anymore, Sheffield ain't the answer they're looking for. 

I've still been hurled the ‘N word’ out of moving car doors. And I know if this piece is heard enough times I will get racially abused online. The comments will whine with ‘whataboutery’ and crime and they’ll miss the point every single time. 

After all, Martin Luther King said white moderates are more devoted to order than justice and reason. 

Who believe they can set timetable for another man's freedom and who constantly advise to wait for a more convenient season. Who agree with the goal, but not the methods we believe in. 

White moderates now, I know they do want peace, but when I say to get there we need more than boomer memes or videos which confirm your own beliefs, I see them drift off--remember last weekend on the beach.  

We’re all imperfect. I'm still trying to turn into the kind of guy I would trust in my life, but we must all stay unashamedly human. Stay a student. 

One thing we can surely all agree on his black lives matter, truly. 

The smiling eyes from under hoods, dappled with droplets of rain, rust and mud. Beautiful passion, moments of bliss and now Colston is swimming under old Pero's Bridge.  

And I'm not saying my black life matters any more than you, but my black life matter...too. 

If we don't hurt with the knee or with a raised fist how else can we resist? I think the greatest trick racism ever played was convincing England it doesn't exist. 

I think if anything, we need more Blacks more dogs more Irish.