Saturday, 28 May 2016

Under Digital Rain (in photos)

Here are photographs of my exhibition ‘Under Digital Rain’,  curated by John Wright. Held at the Bowery Gallery, Headingley, Leeds, it runs until 29th July.

Gallery opening times
Monday – Saturday 10:00 – 18:00
Sunday 10:00 – 17:00

54 Otley Road
Headingley
Leeds
LS6 2AL


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The World-Wide Oneupmanship (2016, 8X4ft, mixed media on paper)
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Title of work below: £$[We]€$[Can’t]$£[Take]£€[Any]$€[More!!]$£ (2016)
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Titles of works in image below (from left to right): Gimme Shelter [Closure No1] (2015); The Self[ie] Under Siege (2015); “Sad, LONELY, Frightened” (2015); Drainage System (2016); Tired of Life/I Want to Leave Myself [Closure No2] (2016); NoteToSelf2016; The Capacity to Care (Closure No5) (2016); A Cognitive Austerity (2015); A Deep Paralysis (2016); Hunger Games Darwinism (2016); Bound up in Binary (2016); “Can We Stop now, Please?”; I am Becoming Nothing (Closure No3) (2015).
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The World-Wide Oneupmanship (2016, 8X4ft, mixed media on paper)
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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Under Digital Rain (New Show in Leeds)


So this week I am showing my work in Under Digital Rain, a show curated by John Wright, alongside artist Alexandra Gallagher’s Humanity’s Intellectual World, at Bowery Gallery in Headingley Leeds.

My part of the exhibition will feature a number of new works, including a large mural installation called The World Wide OneUpmanship.
  
Under Digital Rain is part of an ongoing project (dialogue?) between myself and John Wright called The Retro Bar at the End of Universe, and on the opening night this coming Friday we will be performing our piece Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record, inspired by an Ivor Southwood book of the same name.

Friday, 13 May 2016

A Deep Paralysis

 A Deep Paralysis (2016, A4, mixed media on paper)


This is probably the last piece of work to be finished that will feature in a joint exhibition with artist Alexandra Gallagher @ The Bowery, Headingley, Leeds, next week. Alexandra Gallagher’s section will be titled ‘Humanity’s Intellectual World’. My side of the exhibition is titled ‘Under Digital Rain’ and is curated by John Wright – as part of an ongoing project we are engaged in called The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe

 

21st May – 29 July 20-6pm each day
PERFORMANCE & PREVIEW
20th May 6-8pm
John Ledger and curator John Write presents an interactive performance to engage and enhance Ledger’s wall drawings.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

‘Rot_in_Silence_2016’


This is my latest piece of work, called Rot_in_Silence_2016. It was made in response to being asked to contribute a work to a crowdfunder for an independent film called ‘Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle’, and it will be up for grabs as an A3 original print. Here’s a link to the Crowdfunder: https://www.indiegogo.com/…/dispossession-the-g…/x/13528122…

‘Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle’



Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle is a no holds barred, explosive feature length documentary exploring the decline and deception behind the social housing crisis in Britain. It will be directed by Paul Sng, maker of the acclaimed cinema release Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain (2015) and the award winning film & television director Lee Skelly (BBC, Channel Four).

I have donated an original print of a new work I have made after filmmaker Paul Sng asked me if I’d like to be involved in helping support the crowdfunder for this project.  This will be an A3 print of my latest work Rot_in_Silence_2016.
 
https://www.indiegogo.com/project/dispossession-the-great-social-housing-swindle–3/embedded/13528122
Rot_in_Silence_2016

I am also donating a print of a drawing I did almost one year ago, in the wake of the Tory general election victory, as part of a perk for the crowdfunder that includes a selection of postcards featuring different artists supporting the project. The drawing in question is possibly one of my most pivotal to what I’ve been working on during the past year.

As part of a collective, I have embarked on a Crowdfunder project myself, in order to raise funds for an art show and documentary called ‘Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) (Please read more about it here). Very much inspired and informed by Paul Sng’s last film ‘Invisible Britain’, Paul has been very supportive in helping our project get off the ground.

Thanks: John

One YEAR Back…

On the eve of last year’s UK General Election (May 7 2015, to be specific), I embarked on a reflective ramble through the villages myself and my rambling companion, Michael Hill, grew up in. I guess, in a sense, to reflect on lost dreams, lost ways, and lost futures, with an acceptably small sprinkle of nostalgia inevitably chucked in.
 
Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles from john Ledger on Vimeo.

It was, in some sense, like testing the atmosphere. On this uncertain eve, we were using the landscapes of our childhood as a terrain to ponder upon; to think of what could be, and what might very well be, the next day – unsure if the election results would make any real difference anyway

…But they did.
Five MORE Years... (2015)
Five More Years... (ink on paper)























This specific ramble, more than any other I’d recorded, was paying massive homage to Patrick Keiller’s London, a beautiful lament through the capital of a Tory-ruled country in the spring of 1992.
I sort of based it on the same theme, as the pivotal point in Patrick Keiller’s London is the 1992 General Election outcome. One in which the Tories were expected to lose to Labour, but one in which the narrator was force to conclude that:
It seemed there was no longer anything a Conservative government could do to vote itself out of office. …[T]he middle class in England had continued to vote Conservative because in their miserable hearts they still believed it was in there interest to do so.”
As we headed towards early night time on the kind of spring day that initially sprinkles optimism onto your horizons, a sinking feeling set in, and I knew, even before one of my mates starting messaging me a series of texts, all beginning with “fucking hell”, that, yet again, the politics of pessimism had won over.

I was recently speaking to a friend about the mood on the street on Friday 8 May, and she described it as akin to a funeral procession. Nobody celebrates a Conservative victory apart from the party itself – or so it seemed, as straight away you could sense their joy in the sadism they could now systemically inflict now they’d shook the Lib Dems off their back.

The above drawing is called Five MORE Years…, and despite it behind significantly smaller than most my other works, it is one of my most cherished. I set upon it within a day or two of the 2015 General Election outcome. Never before, and not since, have I felt my work strike such an emotional chord with those around me. I almost felt part of something, as if, through the dysphoria of the following couple of weeks, common ground appeared between far more people than I expected, making our political differences seem tiny.

It occurred to me how much a political change would have to rely on a mood in society, its spirit even, for people to get involved en mass. Because in the ‘miserable old man of Europe’ (Britain), every now and then there’s a sense that it doesn’t have to be so miserable here.

I have been caught within a depressed framing of the world for most of my adult life, and although I accept that changing is something only I can do, the times when it has felt truly possible to leave this framing behind are when I’ve sensed the opening for the possibility of a social change, a two-way-process so-to-speak. I described it in Lost Bus Routes and Pre-General Election Rambles like a plant in a desert that only flowers once a generation. After a rather turbulent  beginning to 2015, I found this feeling on on the early eve of May 7.
  
I just hope it doesn’t take a generation to find it again…
 
https://www.indiegogo.com/project/fighting-for-crumbs-fundraiser/embedded/13528122

The above link is for the current exhibition I am involved in making happen. Fighting For Crumbs (Art in Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) is an attempt of artists to take an honest look at the depressed spirit of Britain. It has been informed by life in 2015, the glimmers of a different type of world, and the dampening of many of those glimmers. I guess we are looking at how the spirit could be changed, before it gets too late.

Please take a moment to check it out.

 Cheers: John

Work in Progress...

Currently working on this piece for a show, Leeds-way, in Mid-May

Monday, 25 April 2016

Upcoming…

From May 21 to July 29 I will be exhibiting in The Bowery, a gallery situated in the Headingley area of Leeds, alongside artist Alexandra Gallagher.
More details will be shared promptly…

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Friday, 22 April 2016

Fighting for Crumbs (Art in Shadow of Neoliberal Britain)

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A few of the Fighting For Crumbs artists were involved in projects with Driftmine last year. In fact, the reflections on those projects were very influential towards the plans to do this project.

Driftmine helped us transcribe our audio recording a few of us had in a bar in Barnsley, in which we put together the reasons for this show. The link to the transcription is below:

Source: Fighting for Crumbs (Art in Shadow of Neoliberal Britain)

Drainage System

Drainage System (2016, A4, mixed media on paper)
 
 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Our Crowdfunder Campaign



the imposition of conformity
The Imposition of Conformity by John Wilkinson

















So this year has begun with working together with a group of artists on an exciting project which, at least in my life, promises to be something quite special indeed.
  
Fighting For Crumbs (Art in Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) will be taking place at the Wakefield Redshed, and the Sheffield-based Gage gallery between 8-14 August 2016. A event centering around a film and an exhibition, it will also include talks and and performances at both venues.
  
We need all the support you have to make this project be as special as it promises to be!

Please find the Crowdfunder located below.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/fighting-for-crumbs-fundraiser/embedded

Here’s a little about what Fighting For Crumbs is all about…

In November of 2015, the group the Sleaford Mods starred in an independent film examining the lives and homes of the majority that were being systemically ignored in this brutally austere but paradoxically aspirational age of David Cameron. Invisible Britain’ was screened nationally, yet it seemed to focus much of its energy on towns once at the centre of the Yorkshire mining heartlands.
2016 marks the 50th birthday of The Redshed, also known as The Labour club. Situated in the heart of the Yorkshire city of Wakefield, the place is somewhat unique, and has defiantly resisted the capitalist forces that have penetrated nearly everything else around it. A year-long line-up of events are now marking this anniversary.

Sandra Hutchinson, a lifelong supporter of the club, spoke of how The Redshed began at the height of the social and political changes happening in the 1960’s. In-spite of the seismic troubles around the world, it was an age of political optimism, and there was a strong belief that things could be and would be changed.
“THERE IS A PREVAILING SENSE OF PARALYSIS AND DEFEAT ALL ACROSS EX-INDUSTRIAL BRITAIN. AND THIS PARTICULARLY EFFECTS THE YOUNG WHO HAVE NOT KNOWN ANYTHING ELSE” JD TAYLOR
The Invisible Britain documentary addresses this political climate; an age of deep political pessimism. A sense of defeat clings to the streets of our congealed conurbations. A depressed, and broken spirit hangs over us, instructing us to abandon the world we live in and find happiness in loneliness.

The huge support that propelled Jeremy Corbyn from relative obscurity to leader of the Labour Party, seemed to be more a WILLING for a return of a political optimism. Wanting it, because it’s not here.

Fighting for Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) is the stories of artists who are striving for nothing but raw artistic expression at a time when we’re all being forced to strive for ‘crumbs, where wages are low, and the market dictates creativity.

It’s not so much stories of poverty-stricken artists. It’s about artists working within the crumbling remains of the Britain’s post-settlement optimism.

Under the “keep calm and carry on” mantra of Tory rule, more and more artists are feeling pressured to head into more craft-based activities.

Although this is not a critique of the crafts itself, how can an art SAY when it’s trying so hard to SELL?

What value does the truth of artistic expression have in such times? Have we been reduced to fighting for crumbs?
BROKEN BRITAIN IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. IT’S ABSOLUTELY SMASHED TO PIECES” INVISIBLE BRITAIN, 2O15

Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Capacity to Care (Closure No5)

The Capacity to Care (Closure No5), 2016, A4, ink on paper

The Capacity to Care (1370x2000)

 At a time controversially close to the event itself, it was said that the 9/11 terror event was ‘the last shock of the new‘, as the world spent a week in perpetual shock as the media horror show was melted into our brains like napalm.

24/7 rolling news was a new thing in 2001 (well, it was to me, here in the UK, anyway), and I remember for the following weeks my heart stopping every time I saw the words ‘breaking news’ appear on a news screen on a TV in a shop window. I wasn’t aware that the whole structure of a 24/7, unending news service was to shock, or interrupt us in our ‘always on’ 24/7 lives, that lack clear boundaries between work, leisure, the physical and virtual – the life we would increasingly live in the following 15 years. 

The Internet was a chore in 2001, which required enthusiasm for Computers. But just around the corner we had Broadband and Smartphone technologies, which would soon glue our fingertips to an unending rolling news of personal, national, and international events.

I can honestly say I’ve seen news about pretty seismic terrorist attacks, and instantly forgot about them, because of the noise in my head as a stream of things grapple for my care and commitment. In fact I sometimes wonder if the draping of your Facebook profile with the colours of a country that has just endured a terror attack isn’t so much about blindly following what everyone else does, but is more about how we wished we had the capacity to care about the awful things that happen to others in our cruel world, but simply don’t. 

This isn’t also to go in the politics of the political economy that is behind this techno-structure; the rule of market individualism has strengthened in our ‘always on’ times, making life feel unbearably competitive. We want to care. Most ‘millennial’s’ (especially) have been told so much of the horrors of the 20th century, that don’t bear repeating, but being ‘always on’, the deluge of shocks has clearly desensitized us. Anxiety hasn’t been diminished by this desensitization, we remain as bored of this world as much as we are anxious within it. Nobody likes to feel numb to things that should require our humanity. It’s this desire for our own humanity, that reflects a deeper desire for different kind of world.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Not For A Long Long Time (2)

Not For a Long Long Time

Actions from another time

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If the so-called ‘age of austerity’ had begun by this point, I was only just able to taste it on my tongue. A claustrophobia (or an intensified version of what came previous) specific to this age ensued. And I hope I’ve already stressed on this blog how it feels that the gravest of issues threatening the basics needed to have a habitable planet seem to have been pushed further from grasp by a social climate that has necessitated an economically-debunked, ecologically-disastrous unhappy selfishness. What I mean is that just when all logic pointed us one way, the ruling agenda has hurtled us into a more fucking messed up take on all that came before.

And what I’m really talking about is that back in 2009, 2010, the issues that really ought to mean the most to me did mean the most to me, before I got embroiled in this day in day out self-preservation battle; one I foolishly didn’t anticipate due to a conviction that just ‘doing my own thing’ would suffice as a soul-saver – with no acclimatizing to social norms required for formulaic sexual attraction so necessary. But under all the will to help the world, I was never ‘the quiet man’ – always too easily swayed but the things I wished I wasn’t swayed by’. It caught up, and like Canute I just stood there.

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Where did all the Caring go?
 
But that doesn’t mean I won’t prise out the courage to care again; I’m still inhaling and exhaling on this planet, and I still rest my words around the argument that it isn’t inevitable for our species to fuck it up, well-and-truly.

Here are some photos of a woodland slowly emerging from the trees I planted down the banking of the A637/ as South and West Yorkshire join together. I planted them over a succession of Wednesday’s in 2009, 2010, 2011, on my way to pick up my wage from my nearby workplace. I must have planted well over 50 trees (mainly oak) that are still growing.

I’m not saying my acts of guerrilla tree planting were doing anything more than acting as a gesture that I hoped would be spotted by others. But the very impulse I had to do this in the first place proves a fidelity to a wish that we could steer this defunct, insufficient vessel of western civilisation to a reasonable safe place build anew. And I know that sounds sort of religious, but this was one of many ‘artistic’ actions that stemmed from an initially-teenage inability to deal with the nihilism of accepting a world where we couldn’t save ourselves, and where the only aternative was to ‘make sure you have a good time before you turn the lights out’ – an offensive philosophy to anyone who finds/found something of contemporary life intolerable.

But, regardless of all that, these photos here show a bunch of trees that may grow into a woodland. Something my younger self should be angry about his older self not considering enough!

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Sunday, 17 January 2016

Prisoners of Reason

I’ve received my copy of Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy Author: S. M. Amadae, which features my artwork ‘The Logic of Neoliberalism’, which I made back in 2010. I’m really pleased for my work to be part of this publication by S. M. Amadae and now look forward to reading it. The book can be found at the Cambridge University Press.

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‘Soul Searching’ – Upcoming Exhibition

I have 4 works (The Planet’s Mental Illness, Disintegration, Not Humanly Possible, and The Index For Child Wellbeing) in ‘Soul Searching’, an exhibition exploring mental health through art and poetry.
'Soul Searching' Dews Museum poster

I’ve never shied away from explaining that mental health has had a continual place in the compositions I make; never shied away from telling people about my own history with mental health issues; never shied away from saying it as I see it: that the unrelenting injuries of life under a 21st century capitalism, that sustains itself through disbelief and cynicism, work overtime against our wish for a good happy, meaningful life. Which doesn’t make it impossible – but fucking hard, that’s all.

This Land

"For there are brighter sides to life, and I should know because I’ve seen them, but not very often” (Still Ill, The Smiths)
 
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I wish the diagrams of carbon footprints and three-planets-consumption-rates would give up traveling through my mind in the form of guilt-trips right now, as I’ve only ever flown one other time in my 32 years on the planet.

Anyway, it must be said that I’m far less bothered about seeing every corner of the globe as much as I’m bothered about seeing the only bit I know well from another perspective: thousands of feet above the land as the plane flies over Northern England.

I’m seeing England for myself as I’ve seen it all way through my life on paper and on a computer screen. I’m a map obsessive, but maps of the land I live on, and the towns and cities so near to me that I can see their light pollution as the night closes in (Surely one day we can leave behind this civilisation built on competition, envy and power, driven by fossil fuel addiction, and find ways of allowing such sights without making us complicit in destruction at the same time?).

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not my image – forgot my camera

I appreciated my work friends asking me if I wanted to meet up with them in Amsterdam. I took them up on it in an instant. As I’ve said, time and time again, although I travel often, 90 percent revolves around the former heavy industry heartlands of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and 9 percent traveling to and from cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, London etc. I’m not a great planner for the far-flung, either in time or space.

The here and now seems so claustrophobic in an England too socially-fragmented to truly convince itself that the age of endless austerity can end, that the far-flung other seems to refer to another dimension rather than another place. But, granted, I seem affected by this inertia to the point where claims of self-fulfilling prophecy aren’t unjustified.

The compulsive comparisons of Amsterdam’s size to English cities made it clear to me that I have an indelible relationship to the landscape of England. The land clearly means a lot to me. This is why, even as I constantly refer to it as an unhappy and sick place, I can’t see any point in fantasising about (or even planing) running away to some scarcely populated wilderness, or somewhere lacking our horizontal winter rain. The view from the plane as we flew back over to Manchester Airport was a sight-seeing far more appealing to me than the world-famous layouts of historical European cities.

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again, not my image

A family with the wrong members in control
George Orwell famously wrote that England was a family with the wrong members in control. A seemingly somewhat reluctant but necessary text he wrote in a punch-drunk manner as England, along with other old imperial nations, had stubbornly and clumsily walked into a war with a Germany that had been turned into an insane war machine.

The text has been massively misused ever-since for jingoist aims. The English people haven’t faced anything like the threat they faced when the Luftwaffe was conducting bombing raids over towns and cities. The biggest threats we face are subjective, not objective – climate change is clearly being lived through, and the madness of Fracking is in our midst (for example), but no effective action can be taken on this until we ask ourselves what type of society we want.

But this is exactly what Orwell was arguing we needed to do in in the 1940’s, a time where all the classes had to work more closely together out of sheer necessity. In the midst of such a turbulent time Orwell was asking if 1940’s England really wanted to go back to a stuffy and backwards class system. To some extent, after the conflict ended, such alterations were attempted.

A similar coherence is demanded today. We have reached the point of the 1930’s levels of inequality; power seems unaccountable as wealth is sucked into fewer and fewer hands. I don’t think anybody actually thinks this is a good thing, but we just seem so locked in a claustrophobic here and now – compounded by the cyberspace technologies we cling to – that we don’t seem to be able to effectively communicate as a whole, and ask the necessary questions of where we would rather be. A sharing of cynical postmodern humour seems all we’re capable of.

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this image is actually my own!

The 20th century Artist Isamo Noguchi said “we are the landscape of all we have seen
. The landscape of England is what I have seen, come of age in, and wanted more from. I’m not sure about ‘the family’ notion altogether, but as 2016 begins England is most certainly a place where wrong the ideas, institutions, and people are in control.

The view from the plane brings everything together. Suddenly the coast of Lincolnshire is connected to the Ferrybridge powerstation, which is connected to the mill town of Huddersfield, which is literally a stones through away from the sprawl of Manchester, over a pennines that looks like a few small hills. Pretty much similar to how the planet as a whole must feel from space, but let’s rearrange the house of England out before we go there.

As we leave Manchester Airport our train home takes two different routes through the city , cutting through the quintessential claustrophobia of ‘Cottonopolis’. It takes us past the areas that fostered some of the best pop music albums since pop music began. I’ve only been out of England 3 days, yet feel a renewed perspective as we cut through the light-green peaks that separate Manchester and Sheffield. I can’t get away from this place – and when I’ve been elsewhere I realise that I don’t want to get away from it anyway. Perhaps when Manchester’s Morrisey sang “England is mine and it owes me a living” it wasn’t one of is odd jingoist quirks, but an recognition that the place he knew as home could be a far better, sharing, happier place to be within.

Spending time elsewhere and then seeing England from above made me realise I have never wanted to leave this land I just want all that is upon the land to be rearranged into what it could, and has always promised it could be.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Tired of Life (“I Want To Leave Myself”)

Tired of Life (“I Want To Leave Myself”) 2016, ink on paper
 
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All I need to add about this drawing is that the title isn’t necessarily referring to me, and my state of mind. It refers also to a general mood in an age where I believe our increasing dependency on the ‘matrix’ is nihilizing us, daily; draining any colour from the world, and its eroding all mystery. These are the qualities things which make our time spent in this world more than a the knowing dead-end of unit-shifting pleasure-seeking.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

A Lifetime’s Worth of Staring at Train Announcement Boards

A semi-fictional broth of occurrences over the past few days.

2015-12-30 18.19.03

A morning

I had a dream last night. Fuck knows what it was about. But to be honest, what it was about isn’t important anyway. What is important is that I had a dream, and judging my lack of anxiousness when I woke, it wasn’t a bad dream.

You henceforth feel like a balloon slowly losing air, as the components of your daily servitude to the system slide into place, like they’re literally replacing your organs and ligaments. You want to find somebody who will listen when you say “I’ve have enough:  it shouldn’t be like this”,  but most of them are too busy trying not to think of it to be enable to classify you as of this earth for suggesting such a thing. Better you forgot the dream in the first place.

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A night

 Under Invisible punches

In the waking hours before my dreaming I had failed to control my frustration again. But I was holding it together so well! Keeping The Noise in check. Channeling it onto better things. Or so I thought. Cumulative blows, that I’m all the more sensitive to because I’m constantly noticing them, especially when I see them landing on the far-less fortunate folk than myself, who meander amidst our blindspots on normally-familiar streets; who lacked my support system; who were destined to be “losers” in “The Game” before they even got started. I’d kept my cool since the new year began, but it literally took one thing, the profit-seeking hiking of rail travel prices, to start a downward spiral that put the seal on the soundtrack of this day.

It all fell back on me: the injustices and fears of a world set into a motion I cannot often see a favourable end to. Cumulative computerised images of the “Epic Fail” culture came pouring back into my head, as the woman sat across from me on the train pointed out that an abandoned water bottle I pushed off the table in front of me in frustration was leaking onto the seat opposite. The way I felt her judgmental gaze on me for my surface-level unacceptable behaviour, like I was a paint-by-numbers pathetic person, gave me aimless and hopeless empathy for the hundreds of angry people who become “Epic fail virals” because of a surface-level idiocy that I can’t help but believe is due to an unmanageable deeper stress. What can I say? I’m a humanist.

We shout “get down, mate” as their morally-wayward actions slap them in the face in front of a camera phone. We don’t question the difficulties they may also have as the world becomes an harder and more fucked up place. Because,  despite glimmers of the willing for a more compassionate world, we sense the dog eat dog nature of a lonely and competitive reality, and we respond accordingly.

Sometimes it seems as if the air around me is solidifying and compressing. An agitated persona follows suit – we can see it all around. And it is for this reason that, before I felt compelled to punch the seat, I moved from this no-doubt decent woman’s gaze, and found a seat on the next carriage.

A Day

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I want to be wherever I am not. I want what they (seem to) have but I don’t want to be them. I want to be myself but the not the self I am.

I know the railway lines between the dysfunctional conurbations of SouthWest Yorks so well that there is barely enough room left to know anything else. The trousers I own, the shoes I wear, seem to be preprogrammed to march me to these destinations.

I stare at the train destination boards, like they’ll show me a way forward, or a way out – but with a 75% chance I’ll be seeking the substitute sedative of cider via a nearby pub after this hour of exhaustive indecision. No gap year trips when my wage packet can only stretch to the day in hand…for every day of my adult life. Although it isn’t an adult life at all – let’s be straight, I’m stunted…but at least I accept it.
Wise I bring the Gap Year up, I guess.
  
The deadlock I have usually skirted around with artistic focus for ten plus years becomes unavoidable within the Christmas/New Year burnout. Maybe it’s the sight of so many young rosy-faced adults with luggage (the clear indication of having purpose and of being wanted,  by someone). It certainly helps impound a sense of lacking a life. As long as I’ve got a piece of art or exhibition on the go, I have a life. As soon as they end I become a wandering ghost on these streets I speak so much of.

Class plays a large part. It really does. I would never underplay this issue of class. You veer close to losing friends when talking ‘class’; it’s one thing many feel so uncomfortable about. I’m quite honest about where I stand, precisely because I have never known where I stood.
  
I was born into a poor family.  Mining, and mill stock. My parents were really struggling. My dad had no job, as the majority of the community, including many of my uncles, fought for theirs in the 1984 Miners strike – the year in which I was born. We had to rely on family and friends. If I’m honest I think most my clothes were second hand until the early 1990’s, by which time my dad had toiled to get a degree and a teaching job against all odds. It looked like our family were in the process of adding the generational improvement of livelihood.

Yet, esteem issues, likely formed in the days before I could speak, due to our family being reliant, and thus subservient to others, seemed to cling on, and on, until I realised they’d clung on way into an adult life where everybody seemed to be headed for some destination, high or low, except me.

My village was literally split (by one road) between a middle class commuter estate built around the same time as the motorway arrived, and the council estates built for people who worked in the local mines, and the not-too-distant sewing factories. The cul-de-sac I grew up on was neither, and I was neither. I came from one, went half-way to the other, and ended up nowhere. I felt bad around the kids from the estate, like a traitor, due to our adoption of a handful or more traditionally middle class values. I felt bad around the settled middle class kids on the other estate, because I felt too common, too clearly ‘thick’ (I was mildly illiterate for much of my teenage life). It was the mid 90’s and the carrot and stick of Blair-year aspiration had convinced us all in some way or another that the middle class lifestyle wasn’t just desirable it was compulsory. 
  
It’s taken me until my 30’s to realise how important confidence is to getting on in life. Without some self-belief you are well and truly stuck. I never knew how to get along in the world I had to get along in because I didn’t know who I was in this world – I didn’t really like who I thought I was because on each side of the fence I felt like an fraud, and imposter. But, getting to the point, this in-between place also gives you clear insight into the strong relationship between class and confidence.

I was an very detached child. Daydreams were mandatory, and I despised any interference in them. I had ideas, desires, expectations. But I came to realise that none of them were practical. Art studies seemed like the only realistic thing I could do. It ensued that my way of finding new and inventive ways of saying ‘fuck you’ (and little else to be honest) to the larger scheme of things (that was increasingly beginning to frighten after the unofficial millennium inauguration of 9/11) would be a semi-sufficient confidence-builder for my fast-approaching 20’s.

My life, and art, became so wrapped up in the ominousness of climate change, relentless capitalism and social breakdown as the first decade of the millennium passed into the second, that I completely unanticipated that I would be 30 one day, and, as the things that concerned me so much unfolded (as they clearly are doing), I’d still have to deal with life as a man in his 30’s come-what-may. I came here totally unprepared.

So here I am, in a well-known train station, on a day off from work, anxiously thinking how I can break through an aimlessness, knowing that I no longer have the time to dwell. And I’m asking any potential reader to bear all the previous text in mind when reading the apparent sweeping judgmental outlook of the following story, as I waited, waited, and watched in station terminals in the 2 Week-period around the Christmas/New Year.
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The view from the fault-line
 You go to University. You make far-flung friends. Develop a full-student life (sometimes finding yourself a misplaced target of anger from confused and angry drunk old men, once employed in the long-gone heavy industries, from a time before ‘University’ became this city’s main industry). You leave for Xmas and go back to your home town. Showering glittery sprinkles of ‘elsewhere’ upon its dying night life that usually has to rely on underage drinkers and mid-life crisis drunks. (I am neither of these, but this is where I see you all the same).
 You head back to university on the 29th/30th December for New Years’ celebrations with your new friends. Suitcases at railway stations (this is where I see you for the second time). You leave University, have a brief spell of indecision involving low pay, temp jobs, Gap Years and other temporary crutches (this is where I see you, and briefly humour you, for the 3rd time). Then you slowly evacuate ‘the building’ for the relatively-fast ascent to career-building and family life.
 Yet it doesn’t always happen this way; some of us slip between the fault-lines of the perpetual ruptures of contemporary life, and some of us can’t quite figure out how we even managed to complete a fecking degree in the first place, because we have always felt stuck in a fault-line.
 I never went to university. I’ve got a degree, yes, but I never did Uni. I mean, I tried twice, and failed twice. But I was in and out of both too fast to be remembered. I got my degree qualification in my home town. Whatever you think or say about Barnsley (of which I am qualified to do due to being umbilically tied to it), it was never a ‘university town’. Some of the tutors you have, some of people you meet, are great – but it was never a university town (nor should it have to be, I guess).
 I don’t resent you. Course I don’t resent you, as part of me wants to be like you. And I’m not assuming you haven’t got heaps of shit weighing you down on a daily basis. But from the view from the fault line you are people, and that’s what I don’t feel like much of the time.
I just lack something. 
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You’re all grown up now….
 Except you’re not. You’re like a bonsai tree, “a bud that never flowers”. I walk out of the station to a pub, cursing a pre-new year landscape that talks over your story in your head every time you justify your life, to the extent that you begin to curse everything in sight. 
 I try so hard not to be like this. Today was another day when I really wanted those avenues to open up in front of me, so that I didn’t end up staring at train destinations hoping my number would come up. 
 My truth comes back to me. I know I’m somehow in the right when I look around and see that this is a world that can now only persist through cynicism. A world where we treat the swaves of unhappy teenagers with condescending contempt, ascertaining the assertion that these mere teenage blues will die, that they will take their indie posters down and eventually find their ‘safety niche’ within the cynical superstructure.
 I’m talking of the chasm, where compassion should rest, in a Britain that’s been Tory in spirit for decades now. A miserable middlemass that suffocate the unreabilitatable vulnerables. A pessimist is resigned to such a world. Me, a pessimist? No, I’m a damaged optimist, who like many opened his heart incautiously to a cynical world, and survived by becoming lost in another life, a life that has long since had any cause, but has lead to nowhere else either.
OneNat
OneNationTory (2015)
  
The night is cold, revealing the stress scars on my face, as always. I accidently glare in at a fitness club just as its members appear to reach an endorphinated climax. I see a Guardian newspaper headline telling me to cut down my drinking to no more than a pint a day. But there’s no Guardians, or “guides to take me by the hand”; no real understanding of how helplessly walking past another casualty of the homeless epidemic, and then seeing my gaunt face stare back at me from a ‘Tory screen’ telling me how they’re helping the working person, is going to engineer a need for alcoholic comfort.
None of this will be understood until we all come to an agreement that “it is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a five a day diet in Cameron’s Britain”. Until that point this is just another blog pissing into Digital Rain. You can bunk up the tax on drink all you like, because in ToryNation we’ll always find a way to pay.
I’m smiling in the pub I enter because a barman error lands me with a free pint, and somebody plays Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive, a paint pallette for perpetual pop invention, on the jukebox. Little things make the here and now manageable. I just wish it could last…
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