Of all the campaigns and issues I have been involved with over the years the Western Sahara Campaign has been one that has always dogged my activist heart, hanging around, sometimes slipping from memory but always popping back unheeded to prod away at me.
Western Sahara is one of the great forgotten causes of the world and for that fact alone it nips the heels of my conscience.
Western Sahara was occupied by Morocco from 1975 and for a short while became a cause celebre amongst the left but faded from favour as the struggle wore on to a stalemate.
There was a guerilla war to try to reclaim their land which was partially successful, Mauritania occupied the lower part of Western Sahara but were driven out – in part by Sahara fighters- only to be replaced by Morocco.
Between 1975-1976 some 250,000 Sahrawis fled to the Algerian desert where they have been living in exile for over 40 years in refugee camps, there remains approximately 165,000 refugees still there.
The more mathematical minded amongst you might well conclude that refugee camps should never be that old but they are.
A while ago I visited the camps, towns really in the middle of the desert, made of tents for the winter and mud brick huts for the summer. As is often the case it is the poor who are most hospitable and the care and kindness refugees showed to me was quite overwhelming.
So I am relieved to announce that this Monday’s show- Mayday- at the Tricycle is to be a benefit for the Western Sahara Campaign. The money will help the court case WSC are bringing, here are the details.
See you there.
Five years ago I meet a remarkable woman called Jess Thom. She got in touch saying she had Tourettes and would she be OK to come along to see my show Walking the Wall at the Tricycle Theatre. Instinctively and to be honest with little thought I said she would be welcome.
How wrong I was.
Jess does have pronounced tics and verbal outbursts, which are often funny, creative and beautifully absurd. However, some people in the audience objected to her ‘outbursts’ and complained to the theatre staff in the interval.
All of us were somewhat taken aback by this and Jess ended up in the lighting box, segregated from the rest of the audience for the second half. It was frankly awful. Here was I doing a show about separation and occupation and Jess was segregated from the rest of the community, shut away in a tech box.
Her response was as brilliant and inventive as her utterances. She wrote a show called Backstage in Biscuit Land, celebrating her condition and how people react to it. The show is imaginative, beautiful and different every time. I can not recommend it enough.
Find out more about Jess and the show here: http://www.touretteshero.com
My response has been less creative and frankly less useful but I hope is valid nonetheless.
Where possible I try and organise relaxed performances of my shows. The relaxed performances encourage people to come to the show who may have learning difficulties,behavioural issues and syndromes such as Tourettes. There is a short speech at the start of the show to explain that the performance takes a relaxed attitude to noises, interruptions and fidgets, in fact we welcome it. Lighting plans and sound cues are changed to lessen any sudden or shocking change, there is an area set aside for people to leave the auditorium but stay inside the theatre and if they want to return they are welcome to do so.
There are many things we do to try and make the show accessible and welcoming for everyone.
I was delighted that Jess came along to my last show at the Tricycle theatre and the first half became a memorable and surreal double act with her. The show was one of my favourites of that year.
I am also delighted that Trespass returns to the Tricycle with a relaxed performance on the 4th of May.
There is a surtitled performance on the 27th April for those who are hard of hearing.
Mark’s current tour is coming to a close (boo!) but a new show is starting soon (hurrah!).
The last few touring dates of the “Trespass” tour are selling out quickly as are the final season of performances at the Tricycle Theatre in London which runs from 25th April to the 7th May.
The new show “Red Shed” has work-in-progress dates booked (mainly in the southern half of the UK plus one wayward one in Selby) and further dates will be announced later in the year to hopefully cover your part of the country.
Fuck the council have a swear on us!
For the background on yet another stupid council idea check the Guardian article here.
When Mark performed at the Lowry earlier this year he organised a swear box and collected £400. Enough to pay off the first 4 fines! So if you’ve been fined for swearing drop us a line and we’ll pay it off!
We also have these badges in the merch store (stocks arriving 6th April) – yes more badges for fuck’s sake!
Is Mark appearing near you soon? The Trespass tour continues through to the 7th May including Wednesday 16th at the Dukes, Lancaster and a few others – tickets are selling out quickly so make sure you don’t miss this show before Mark starts on a new show in June – details coming soon.
There’s a video of Mark speaking here: https://youtu.be/BLb_263lqyw
Thanks to Elliot Franks for the video.
If their present lists contain any of our books, CDs, stickers, badges, tea towels or aprons then make sure you family and friends are not disappointed!
Last postage dates for the UK are 19th December for 2nd class post and 21st December for first class post. Due to an imminent move of premises shortly before those dates we may have fun tracking down the stock but we are looking at alternative shipping arrangements to reduce any delays but please order earlier than the last posting dates if you can.
Mark is one of several journalists who have found themselves unlawfully snooped on by a Scotland Yard unit dedicated to Domestic Extremists. “The fact that none of the journalists are suspected of criminality but all of them cover stories of police and corporate wrong doing hints at something more sinister,” says Mark, “The inclusion of journalists on the domestic extremist database seems to be a part of a disturbing police spying network, from the Stephen Lawrence family campaign to Hillsborough families.”
Police files released to Mark after he made an FoI request include notes of him attending demonstrations, carrying a tray of cress and “appearing confident”.
Mark and five other journalists are taking legal action against the Metropolitan Police over this political policing.
Now you can have a bit of Domestic Extremism in your very own kitchen, or get the perfect gift for the Domestic Extremist in your life. Ideal as a Christmas presents. Click here to buy online.
Tea towel – 77 x 50cm
100% ethically-sourced premium cotton, water or vegetable based ink, made in the UK.
Apron – 86 x 58cm (adult)
100% ethically-sourced premium cotton drill, water or vegetable based ink, made in the UK.
Brought to you by our friends at the Craftivists project run by HFS, with cupcake design by Gary (https://garyjbuckland.artstation.com/)
And here is one of HFS’s sultry male models showing you how to flaunt your apron without the use of an iron.
The God of Visas has smiled upon him and Mark is now in New York until 21st November performing Cuckooed at the 59e59 Theatre (near the south east corner of Central Park).
The show won the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award 2014.
So tell your American friends and comrades, and anyone lucky enough to be on holiday in the area come and say hello.
There is a discount of 20% with the code THOMASNYC – details are on the attached flyer.