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

Residency by Michael Harding

Michael Harding (b.1985) is a London dramatist with a background in hardcore underground music and anthropology. He is making a musical called Removal Men about a security officer from an immigration removal centre who has his life transformed through taking part in therapeutic art workshops after a riot. The musical is set to live house and techno. Below this post you will find a test shot, filmed last November with Jonah Brody of Super Best Friends Club.

For his residency at Anatum’s Abode, Michael is inviting specialists in musical theatre, dramaturgy, radical politics and electronic music to sit down for interviews and improvisation sessions. The purpose is to find out what kind of dramatic expression works over a backdrop of house music – particular rhythms of speech, melodies, lyrics and passages of dialogue. At the same time, he is developing the story – the encounter between a musician and a security officer in a maximum security I.R.C.

On Thursday 15th January, Michael will share some of this research with an audience at Anatum’s, starting at 19.00.