Jess Thom and Backstage in Biscuit Land

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.

Backstage in Biscuit Land is on at the Battersea Arts Centre

19 – 23 Jul

It’s wonderful – don’t miss it!

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.

Last chance to catch “Trespass” – time for “Red Shed”

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.

Time for “Red Shed”!

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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.

Have you been fined for Swearing in Salford?

We’ll pay your fine!

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!

SwearyBadges_Square

Gigs and Badges

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.

Also new in the merchandise store we have DOMESTIC EXTREMIST Badges for when you feel silly wearing your DOMESTIC EXTREMIST apron whilst out and about.

Last posting dates for your Mark Thomas merchandise

100 Acts of Minor Dissent book cover

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.

Domestic Extremist?

If Mark is a Domestic Extremist, there’s a good chance you are too!

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.

Domestic Extremist Set
Domestic Extremist

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/)

http://www.craftivists.org.uk/

http://www.hfs.org.uk

And here is one of HFS’s sultry male models showing you how to flaunt your apron without the use of an iron.

MT in his DE Apron
MT in his DE Apron

Cuckooed in New York

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.

59E59-CUCKOOED-EBLAST

Oxford Beggar Traps Update

This Monday morning saw the installation of ‘beggar traps’ outside Oxford City Council offices. These boxes big enough for a human, have metal grills propped open with sticks, string is attached to the stick ready to pull away the support and shut the trap. Inside is a cup of tea to lure beggars. Two young women walk past with their children and loudly proclaim,

“That is disgusting.”

“That is outrageous,” says the other, “they shouldn’t be doing that!”

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As it turned out they were the first of quite a few who believed the traps to be real, with passers-by tutting,

“Bastards,”

“Haven’t they got better things to do!” and

“Dreadful.”

That so many thought the traps real either speaks volumes of human credulity or council belligerence, quite possibly both.

The traps were made by local artist Lois Muddiman – with whom I concocted the idea after a show – and were made to highlight Oxford City Council’s plans to entrap beggars. Here is how they will do it:

The council intends to vote through a Public Space Protection Order this Thursday (15th Oct) which will make “aggressive begging” – by which they mean begging near a cash point machine  – in the designated area of the city centre an offence liable to a fine, a Fixed Penalty Notice, of £100.

 

When I posted about this last week Oxford City Council went on the offensive.

Writing on the Change.Org website in response the council claimed, “The redrafted PSPO now only targets those begging aggressively, such as those begging next to cash points, and categorically will not require them to pay a fine.”

Oxford City Council claimed instead they would be helping beggars access services by sending them to a Magistrates Court – making them automatically liable for the mandatory court charge of £150 if they plead guilty (much more if they are foolish enough to plead not guilty). And of course a likely additional fine and a criminal record. Not exactly the help most beggars need.

 

“We will not be fining homeless people.” The council tweeted at me. “We want to use PSPO to take aggressive beggars to court to require them to get help they need, ie rehab”

 

When I had the audacity to claim they were being disingenuous the council fired off another missive,

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“we will not be fining beggars. Please change your website to reflect this.”

After taking legal advice, they were today forced into admitting the truth:

Chief Exec Peter Sloman wrote, “I understand that a Council posting on Change.org last week stated the Council would not impose a Fixed Penalty Notice for aggressively begging. That is not correct.”

He lists what the council could do: “Report the offense to the police; Issue a fixed penalty notice; Prosecute in the Magistrates Court,” and notes that “Court does charge a court fee and could decide to issue a fine.”

So exactly as I had described. The Council is voting to give itself the powers to issue on the spot fines to people begging or take them to court where more punitive charges and costs will be levied at them and thus entrap beggars in debt and the criminal justice system.

“I am sorry if our statement…was misleading” Sloman went on. On Saturday I asked Oxford City Council whether they were being incompetent or disingenuous. Today’s events suggest they are both.

BEGGAR TRAPS?!

JOIN US IN INSTALLING BEGGAR TRAPS AROUND OXFORD TOWN HALL ON MONDAY 12 OCTOBER
AT 10AM

oxford2

Oxford City Council are giving themselves new powers to entrap the poor, to criminalise them, put them into debt and into prison.

This Thursday the council vote on a measure to punish people begging near cashpoint machines by making them pay an on the spot £100 fine.

The council know most beggars won’t be able to pay this.

They know beggars will be forced to a Magistrates’ court and will have to pay at least another £150 in court charges.

They know most won’t be able to pay the increasing burden of debt and fines.

They know people will be imprisoned… for the crime of begging near a cashpoint machine.

The council’s defence is as weak as it is absurd. They say:

“…the intention is not to use the fixed penalty approach as the people concerned are unlikely in many cases to have the financial resources to meet a fine.”

So why bother bringing in this measure? They say:

“Instead, the PSPO will be used as a route to the Magistrates’ Court where magistrates have the power to require them to engage with the extensive and effective drugs, alcohol or homelessness services that are available in the city”

But what this means in reality is beggars will be subject to Grayling’s mandatory court charge of at least £150 as well as facing further punishment as is happening now:

Mark Smith, 38, of no fixed address, admitted persistently begging in a public place, Cornmarket Street, Oxford, in May. Also admitted breaching an antisocial behaviour order made on December 12 prohibiting him from sitting within 10 metres of a cash machine in Cornmarket Street. Sent to prison for 30 days and ordered to pay a £150 criminal courts charge.

Matthew Dobbs, 26, of Speedwell Street, Oxford, admitted begging in Cornmarket Street, Oxford, on March 28. Also admitted failing to surrender to custody at Oxford Magistrates’ Court without good reason on April 22. Fined £50 and ordered to pay a £20 victims’ surcharge and a £150 criminal courts charge.

Oxford City Council know that as soon as a beggar is sent to a Magistrates’ court they are setting them further on a path of indebtedness and exclusion

This is not about helping people, it is about punishing people for the crime of being poor. Begging prosecutions have increased by nearly 400% in the Thames Valley area and the new powers will only allow more. This has nothing to do with offering people help. All the council care about is socially cleansing the centre of Oxford so it looks nice. Oxford City Council are the Hyacinth Bucket of the Labour movement – they are concerned only with appearances.

Come and join us in taking action against Oxford City Council’s proposed PSPO (Public Space Protection Order) on MONDAY 12 OCTOBER. Meet at 10am at Carfax Tower where we will be installing street art to protest the measure.