After the Residency. Michael Harding

What happened, what did I learn, what will I do next?

I got the residency on Christmas Day when I sent Anatum a text message saying “yes sounds interesting” – this appeals to me because of a concern about the effects of rendering my ‘practice’ into constant application forms, a concern which I am making a musical about, called Removal Men. When I met up with her for the interview, I said I would use the fortnight to interview people and turn the result into lyrics, which I would then perform for an audience.

The residency had some beautiful qualities – the option to train in brutal Systema methods, the sauna which gets the fire-brigade over when it’s lit, the greasy dildo which had multiple applications, not least supporting the projector during the final presentation I gave on Thursday night, in the old meat freezing room next to the kitchen (did you know Anatum’s was a butcher once?)

Lyrics. Lyric poetry focuses on the first person, on the experiences of the I in an emotional storm. In the Removal Men, the security officer Moses has his I gouged out by various workshop leaders, and sings of his transformation over live house music. What I needed to find was how lyrics can work over house music – not rap or song lyrics, but words in rhythms of speaking so the audience understand what is going on. I ended up researching methods of melodic talking.

Because some people had been to hospital or were feeling shaky I ended up doing some interviews off-site; because they weren’t ready for an audience I saved some of the lyrics for later; and I gave a talk rather than a performance. The talk was about how tick-box forms fail to document what happens in detention centres; how poetry does capture reality but doesn’t make sense without hard work; how to escape from the limitations of two-handed plays and also some recordings of lyrical improvisations I recorded with Nick Owen and his drum machine.

Thank you Anatum for being so warm, so open – it felt so rustic in the kitchen with the peeling walls, the jam jar cups, the garden; a pastoral escape just off the A13. It’s important that the work I’m doing has its roots in a culture of defiance, and what I found at Anatum’s was defiance as an act of love.

Michael Harding