Sunday, March 30, 2008

A thousand trees...

More press clippings sort of sorted, cut out, transferred to plastic transparent wallets and snapped inside ring binders, in no particular order, original publications sliced to smithereens and hurled into a box for later disposal. Obscure, defunct publications, far-flung newspapers, dodgy trade magazine, print outs of long-since collapsed websites, even bizarre pitches to magazine editors sneaking in here and there (one to Total Football: "Let me write a feature for you about what it is to follow a perennial loser - Hull City - instead of you wasting more print on those top flight bastards that fill your pages." I don't recall ever having read Total Football, don't really feel strongly about Premiership sides getting coverage in what is, after all, a wholly appropriate publication, and hadn't followed City closely since 1982). Some memories revived and stirred along the way and a lot of newsprint on the hands. Catherine Cooper from The Stage welcomed me to the fold by telling me that the said publication rarely published a review that dared to damn a show. I got in there because my predecessor in the region, Barbara Theakston, had gone deaf but also, bizarrely, was increasingly complaining that the productions she was watching were too 'loud'.

I realised, as I got busy with my craft knife, that I miss writing for newspapers and magazines, although I'm happy to no longer be a critic and reviewer. I enjoyed working for Artscene and its editor, Vic Allen, who had, maybe even still has, the finest head of hair in journalism. Vic's briefs (no, I don't mean his pants) were truly great - if they had been written down they would have been several thousand words over the required word count. I didn't do that much for Artscene over the course of eight-ish years - little bits here, little bits there - but I always felt that the mag was important and I was honoured to be a part of it right up to its untimely demise, a victim of some brave new electronic, interactive world perceived by Arts Council England that hasn't really materialised. The Big Issue In The North, first place that paid me for the privilege of publishing my words. I remember buying a copy and running around town, bumping into people I knew and showing them the piece I'd written, with a great big grin on my face, as if I'd won the Booker prize or something. But I had always remained so excited about seeing my name between front and back covers and hadn't got so cynical and weary. The HDM, bless it. I haven't salvaged a lot from five years of hack work. But there were three columns that I'm proud of and several little bits of me that sneaked through that should have been stopped in their tracks. I loved the Mail when I turned up there, all excited to have bagged a job that meant I'd get paid for writing full-time. Then I spent all my time shunning and running from responsibility. I could have done a lot more for them if they'd let me but, well, sometimes it doesn't work out like that, does it? And the end might, when it came, not have been for such exciting reasons.

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