It’s that time of year again…

And here at Guerrilla Midgie we generally try to avoid the ‘c’ word.

But to show we’re not grouches, here – direct from WIGHTWORLD are virtual gifts for all.

They cost you nothing. They cost us a bit of time, thought and effort.

To see our Card click  Christmas time  and for a free gift click here.

There’s a story behind the card. It’s all to do with Nelson Mandela.  Having spent the best part of 10 days watching all the coverage (blog on that to follow) a reflective mood was dominant.

Only having the song on that dinosaur media called ‘tape’ which when played now sounds like it’s happening in a swimming pool while one is wearing ear defenders, Cally spent hours trying to get hold of a downloadable copy of the song that was a life-changer for her.

Finally YouTube yielded it up, and here it is. PLAY LOUD.

Cally then played said song (repeatedly) to George who reasonably enough asked: so why do you like it so much?

Ah. A discussion on meaning was to ensue.  And Cally did indeed have to reflect and work out IN WORDS what it was that evoked such an EMOTIONAL response to this particular song. You’d think as a writer it would be easy enough. Not so.  However, here’s a sort of paraphrased response:

The song is basically lists – in a language I can’t understand. The lists are as I understand it names of those who suffered under apartheid, names of the places atrocities occured and names of the capitals of other countries which aided South Africa.  Following this ‘exotic’ list is one line in English ‘the children sing about the great ones who cry freedom for South Africa’

Now firstly, the fact that this is the ‘hook’ on which to get understanding was profound to me. Also, the fact that when I first heard this I’d just finished watching Cry Freedom and was literally stunned, in my seat, unable and unwilling to move out of the cinema back to the ‘real’ world and something I really cannot put into words about the melody, these are the reasons it stays in my head and moves me every time I hear it.  I suppose also there’s a hope (and irony?) in that it is CHILDREN who sing about THE GREAT ONES and that the GREAT ONES are those who suffered for the cause of freeing Africans from apartheid.

Well, this is all George got and Cally didn’t really feel it was an adequate description. Though it did seem like the beginnings of some practical personal discourse analysis which always makes her happy! But something must have been communicated because the card was George’s  ‘creative’ response to that -tailored to this particular time of year when we are all supposed to forget ‘real’ and ‘important’ things in favour of luxury and over indulgence and the like.

Together we discussed and tweaked the wording around the tree and that was good too – sharing a creative commitment. As life partners we share many things. Some of the important ones (since you ask) are a commitment to FairTrade, to equality and to advocacy.  Hopefully this ‘festive’ season we are able to share some of our commitment with you, creatively!

The card may be ‘political’ but the ebook is just for fun. Because of course, despite holding what seem to be some ‘radical’ views, we do have senses of humour as well. Well, George does at least, Cally – the jury’s still out on that one.

We’ve won an award – and it’s all about labels!

Guerrilla Midgie is proud to announce that we’ve won an award! It’s from the Scottish Fair Trade Forum

Sometimes advocacy can be a sweet label!

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In lieu of the forthcoming certificate, we bought ourselves a ‘prize’ of some fairtrade chocolate!

Here’s the detail:

Innovation Award (Special Recognition) – Cally Phillips

A special recognition in the Innovation Award category went to Cally Phillips whose advocacy in Fair Trade has taken on a different format.  Through the medium of drama, writing and publishing, Cally has been spreading the word about Fair Trade and converting people to it into the bargain. 

Cally has established an advocacy publishing company Guerrilla Midgie, which published ‘Fair Trade Fiction Volume 1’ during Fairtrade Fortnight and an e-book ‘Five Fair Play Dramas’, a collection of ‘flexible’ plays that have been used by Fair Trade groups at events all over the country since 2007. She also recently ran an online Flash Fiction Festival to encourage people to ‘get creative’ in writing about Fair Trade. 

As the above suggests this award is for our fairtrade ‘advocacy’ work in the field of drama and publishing.  Here’s a bit of background to it. The innovation started in 2006 when Cally Phillips first wrote ‘Go Bananas’ and ‘Wake up and Smell  the Coffee’ which were performed as part of a Lottery Funded project in the summer of 2006. The plays were performed by a drama group of adults labelled with learning disabilities.

For Fairtrade Fortnight 2007 Cally added a further three ‘flexible’ plays and made them available for performance as scripts via the internet.  Hundreds of people across the UK performed one or more of these plays during the fortnight to a total audience of thousands.

In 2012 when Guerrilla Midgie Press was set up, Five FairPlay Dramas was published as a Kindle ebook on Amazon allowing others to buy and perform the scripts.

For Fairtrade Fortnight 2013 Cally put a new twist on things by publishing Fairtrade Fiction (Volume 1) as an ebook and paperback.  This supported Guerrilla Midgie’s FairTrade Fortnight Flash Fiction Festival Top Ten which was held online during Fairtrade Fortnight.

fairplayDon’t forget: you can buy Five Fair Play Dramas as an ebook for Kindle HERE at the princely sum of 77pffvol1

And FairTrade Fiction (Volume 1) is available as an ebook for Kindle HERE for £1.00 and as a paperback HERE for £2.99

 

Programme 12th August

The eBook Festival is finally OPEN!

Edinburgh eBook Festival 2013

festwelcomeA warm welcome to Day 1 of the 2nd Edinburgh eBook Festival. Drum roll, twirling batons and all that virtual jazz.

In the next 14 days you’ll have the chance to ‘attend’ some 177 virtual ‘event’ slots right here – wherever you are in the world and ALL free.

Each morning at 10am we’ll post up the day’s programme.  Make sure you’ve bookmarked us or Liked our Facebook Page or Followed us on Twitter so that you won’t miss a minute of the action.  We don’t care how you find us or how you connect with us, we just want you to join in the festival fun as often as you can.

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL TIMINGS ARE BST (so adjust to suit your timezone) and that all events will be archived in their relevant CATEGORIES (see right of screen) once they are past, so you can catch up what…

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We ARE all Jock Tamson’s Bairns.

The first review is in. And thank you very much Bill Kirton for the comments – which have now been splashed all over everywhere I can think of (due to this FREE ebook not being available in the land of Amazon and thus incapable of garnering ‘reviews’ there.)

Jock Tamson's Bairns - Cally PhillipsGuerrilla Midgie Press has now published JOCK TAMSON’S BAIRNS in its entirety and it will be available FREE FOR ALL during the Edinburgh ebook festival (August 12th -25th) We host a residency there in the second week. 

Here’s Bill’s review which hopefully will encourage you to seek it out in the GOODY BAG of the ebook festival.  If you can’t wait till then, you can download it now here 

JOCK TAMSON’S BAIRNS 


When you read this book, be prepared to think; not in any heavy, academic, pretentious way, just gently, quietly, reasonably. Be prepared, too, to re-examine how you use words and how you look at (and judge) other people. That doesn’t mean it’s some worthy, ‘improving’ tome, couched in arcane philosophical or psychological terms. On the contrary, it’s a careful, uncomplicated invitation for us to take a wee step back from our assumptions, the everyday attitudes we carry, the loose way we use language. It challenges the way we create compartments, chop reality into manageable chunks, box them up and label them, even though some chunks shouldn’t be in the same box and most labels are at best inadequate and at worst wrong.

And the problem inherent in such an approach is exacerbated when what we’re dealing with is not abstract ‘chunks of reality’ but people. Cally Phillips has worked a lot with people with ‘learning difficulties’. (The need to use quotation marks around apparently familiar, ‘normal’ terms is obvious from the early pages of the book.) The expression ‘learning difficulties’ has (thankfully) evolved from ‘mental retardation’ and worse because nowadays we try to be careful of the terms we use. There’s certainly been progress, but there’s still an underlying assumption that, because most of us ‘feel normal’, those who are different must be ‘abnormal’. But, as the author points out, the people who’ve decided what ‘normal’ means are – yes, you’ve guessed it – the ‘normal’ ones. ‘Normal’ isn’t a hard scientific fact; it’s a consensus.

So, we assess ‘disadvantaged’ individuals, judge them, stick labels on them so that we can accommodate them in a specially designated bit of our reality. They are ‘other’. And now we’ve dealt with them, so we can ignore them. But that doesn’t work for the author here. She doesn’t keep quiet, doesn’t look away, doesn’t hide behind the labels and attitudes provided by others. She’s honest and says what she sees. And she chooses to use a very clearly fact-based fiction to show that the category ‘abnormal’ is as rich, varied and human as its ‘normal’ counterpart and that, however we refine the labels we stick on people, they’re still restrictive and misleading.

But everything I’ve said is outlined much more simply and accessibly in the introduction. Her style is friendly, conversational and honest and, when we move to what she describes as ‘fictional stories based on factual experience’, she continues to draw us into her revelations by creating characters and situations which, yes, underline the message but are also moving, funny and entertaining. In her own words, she’s ‘respect[ing] the real-life experience of the people whose lives [she’s] fictionalised’ in order to ‘teach insight for those of us who so badly need it’.

The first story is called Gary gets to be God and there’s a beautiful irony in the title.

Gary is blind, doesn’t talk, can’t hear very well, so communication is limited. He also shuffles along on his bottom. He drools, squeaks when he’s happy and screams when he’s unhappy. For us ‘normal’ people his behaviour is ‘challenging’, there are ‘incidents’, ‘reports’. It all fits a convenient pattern doesn’t it? Why can’t he be more like us? Why can’t he be ‘normal’? Cally Phillips answers that with her own question, one which acknowledges that Gary’s ‘normality’ is different. ‘Can you imagine having to move around shuffling through the dark on your bum,’ she asks, ‘without the ability to tell someone what you want or know what’s round the corner?’

But, in a group improvisation, with the theme of ‘where do you want to go?’, poor, powerless Gary gets to be God. It’s a beautifully orchestrated story with a poignant ending.

The other three stories work in similar ways. In Jonjo Can’t Sit Still, Jonjo has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (which we all glibly shorten to ADHD and assume that the label ‘explains’ things). The impact of this story comes from the fact that Jonjo tells it himself and so we get access to his normality, which turns out to be as legitimate as ours. Philips lets him ‘explain himself’ by using a combination of his own impulses and the language other people use about him. The writing is very clever as we see the logic, the ‘normality’ of how his mind works, of how he interprets/understands expressions. He loves to run and he’s ‘an accident waiting to happen’, so he runs, a car hits him and the accident has happened. Why did it happen? ‘There is no reason to an accident’ he says. His father uses the expression ‘you’ve hit the nail on the head’ so when he tells a doctor ‘I have low self-esteem’ and sees from her facial expression that he’s surprised her, he says ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to hit the nail on the head’.

Philips helps us to share the world as he sees it. He’s sensitive to clichés, to what others say and think. And he loves to run. So the ‘normal’ people give him Ritalin to slow him down. Then comes his first accident and he’s on crutches for a while, which allows him to share another insight. ‘Crutches slowed me down a bit,’ he says, ‘but Ritalin slows me down on the inside too and crutches only slowed me down on the outside’.

I’m doing too much story-telling, but it’s simply to illustrate how the fictions are so carefully tailored to enhance the central message with regard to the tyranny of labels. The central figures of the other two stories, Heather and Angus, have different problems again and give more examples of how badly they’re served by our preconceptions and how the differences between us and them blind us to the similarities. We are, indeed, all Jock Tamson’s Bairns – not equal, no, not by a long way, but all the same, all individuals with our idiosyncrasies and gifts, flaws and beauties. In the last part of the book, we see the fictional ‘No Labels’ drama group improvising again, interacting. All its members have ‘difficulties’, but the improvisations impose no restrictions. They can be who they are and the results show that who they are is valid. In fact, the improvisations sound like much more positive ways to pass the time than watching TV or indulging in all the other herd activities that constitute normality for the majority of ‘normals’. These are lives being lived, individuals with their own precious selves, all different, all valuable.

Labels are supposed to identify; in fact, they obscure.

Bill Kirton

Packing (and writing) for the festival.

festwelcomeGuerrilla Midgie Press are hosting an advocacy residency in week 2 of the Edinburgh ebook festival. (August 19th -23rd) The quick witted amongst you will note that this is the 2nd outing for ‘Learning Disability week’ – the one endorsed by Mencap in England (for more on that read past posts).

In advance of the residency we’ve been trying to raise awareness and garner opinion regarding some of our work. It’s a tough row to hoe getting feedback.  But recently both A Week With No Labels and Jock Tamson’s Bairns have been given thoughtful and honest appraisals by writers Bill Kirton and Lee Carrick.  The fact that both of these are fellow ‘McVoices’ writers does not escape me. McVoices is a relatively new ‘collective’ which seeks to ‘advocate’ for writers who fall outside of (or haven’t scrambled into) the publishing mainstream.

About A Week with No Labels Lee writes:

Cally Phillips has much more eloquently opened our eyes to the power that language, generalisations or stereotypical labels can have on the person or persons to which they are directed.

And

Blenchod or Gan Lin Yan will more than likely mean nothing to most of us but say these words in the wrong country and to the wrong person and you are likely to cause serious offense or possibly even a fight. (Don’t bother looking them up, just trust me they are offensive).

To the average person they are just words that have little or no meaning. Cally Phillips has much more eloquently opened our eyes to the power that language, generalisations or stereotypical labels can have on the person or persons to which they are directed.

And

Cally entices us and occasionally gives us a gentle prod to think about how we generalise people in our society who might be deemed ‘disabled’ or have ‘learning difficulties’ rather than simply seeing them as another individual in this world of 7 billion individuals.

There is no doubt that Cally is an accomplished writer who is skilled at building a wonderfully entertaining story around an infrastructure that is serious, thought provoking and of the zeitgeist.

For the full review read here

And about Jock Tamson’s Bairns Bill writes:

It challenges the way we create compartments, chop reality into manageable chunks, box them up and label them, even though some chunks shouldn’t be in the same box and most labels are at best inadequate and at worst wrong.

And in case you’re worried it’s all too worthy for this world, he adds:

Her style is friendly, conversational and honest and, when we move to what she describes as ‘fictional stories based on factual experience’, she continues to draw us into her revelations by creating characters and situations which, yes, underline the message but are also moving, funny and entertaining. In her own words, she’s ‘respect[ing] the real-life experience of the people whose lives [she’s] fictionalised’ in order to ‘teach insight for those of us who so badly need it’.

For the full review read here

Both writers pick up on the importance of ‘language’ and its use.  The hint is there that part of the way we construct our world and everything in it is through the language we use. The Guerrilla Midgie contention is that therefore we can use language as a weapon to change the world. And this will be central to the residency.  We hope to see you there.  Previews begin on 1st August so bookmark it NOW 

Answers to some (or all) of the following questions may be given. Or not.

What’s the point?

Why is no one listening?

How can you get people to listen?

How can you change things if you’re not a celebrity?

What do the Dalai Lama and Anita Roddick have in common?

How can you voice the unvoiced?

Can we use words to change the world?

It’s hard to be a foot soldier…

… especially when the sun is shining.

Guerrilla Midgie is hosting an advocacy residency at the 2nd Edinburgh ebook festival in August and at the moment busy writing and scheduling those slots. Which doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else but today’s Authors Electric blog by Julia Jones was a must read. http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/why-do-you-flap-your-hands-in-front-of.html

It gave pause for thought. It left something of a bitter aftertaste and it caused no small amount of reflection.  The conclusion of which (at least for now) is that it’s really hard to be a foot soldier.

Is it wrong to be just that eensy weensy bit pissed off when you’ve been ‘banging the drum’ for autism and learning disability related issues for well over 18 months (in print) and many years before that in person and you can’t get noticed, and then David Mitchell (because he’s well known and has a son with autism) ‘steals your thunder’?

Well, yes, of course in one way that’s got to be really bad karma hasn’t it? I mean, autism isn’t (or shouldn’t) be a fashion statement or a marketing angle or the new Fifty Shades of Grey. And on reflection the chagrin felt at Guerrilla Midgie is really only that same feeling that started us up as an advocacy publisher in the first place.

The uncomfortable reality that WHEN SOMEONE WHO HAS POWER,INFLUENCE OR ACCESS TO THE WIDE WORLD says something people listen (and buy) and when someone who is just a foot soldier says the same things no one is interested (at best) or at worst they just get SHOT.

Remember our formation/mission statement: When the Dalai Lama or Anita Roddick say that one small person can make a difference everyone listens. When one small person says it no one listens.  Conclusion. You have to be a big person to get listened to.

It’s not a personal peeve then. It’s not ‘someone likes their writing better than my writing’ or anything as childish as that. It’s just another day in the trenches where the mud comes over your boots. But the sun is shining because at least more people will become aware of autism now.  And that’s the main thing.

It’s a bit of a motivational downer though. But I’m sure I’ll bounce back. There’s something much sadder in the trenches after all. My friend John, who used to ‘flap his hands’ and  ‘love to jump’ then fell and broke his neck. If he can stay happy, then sure as hell we can keep advocating his story and those of other foot soldiers.

If you DO want to read about learning disability FOR FREE while you’re waiting for your amazon copy of Naoki’s ‘The Reason I jump…’ Here’s how you can do it.

Download the FREE sampler of Jock Tamson’s Bairns. YES it’s still free even though Learning Disability week is over.

Read the FREE story Angus isn’t interested? HERE

or Read Heather Holds my Hand HERE

And if you do read them… why not tell other people.  Spread a wee cold if not a full blown virus why don’t you? In a good way!

Free for Learning Disability Week

JOck Tamson's Bairns FREE - Cally PhillipsHere at Guerrilla Midgie Press we think you probably  already know that you can download the Jock Tamson’s Bairns sampler HERE FREE  (the stories Gary Gets to be God and Jonjo can’t sit still as well as Episode One of ‘A Week with No Labels’) but there’s even more.

You can read Heather Holds My Hand FREE here on McStorytellers and you can read Angus isn’t Interested? FREE HERE

Both these stories will make it into the paid version of Jock Tamson’s Bairns when it comes out (hopefully in August) but you can read them all NOW for free and spread the word please.  

These are little stories which we hope have a big impact. That’s our mission at Guerrilla Midgie. We hope you agree.

weeksmall.jpgAnd don’t forget once you’ve filled your boots with the free stuff, you can buy A Week With No Labels either as  Kindleepub (for ipad etc) or paperback.

Start spreading the news…

JOck Tamson's Bairns FREE - Cally Phillips

That we’re all Jock Tamson’s Bairns.

Do you know what week it is? 

In the past Learning Disability has had ‘a week’ like many things do. This year things are different. There seem to be ‘weeks’ all over the place. And if you’re confused, it’s hardly surprising.

What kind of a way is this to get a message across?

Traditionally the ‘week’ has been held in June. In Scotland where SCLD take the lead this is still the case, with Learning Disability Week being held June 17th – 23rd.  In their wisdom, Mencap ‘the voice of learning disability’ in England and Wales is running the ‘week’ in August from 19th-25th.  This is the official ‘week’ for England/Wales, but the message does not appear to have got through to local levels.  For example Leeds Learning Disability week (affiliated to Mencap) is June 17-23rd, while Sheffield City Council is holding it from 24th-28th June.  To further complicate things Enable Scotland (which is the Scottish rebrand of Mencap) will hold the week at the same time as their English counterparts in August.

Cally Phillips says:

The lack of joined up thinking here is less funny than sad. When all those dedicated to ‘giving a voice’ for those with learning disabilities who find it hard to shout for themselves, cannot present a united front, it gives one pause for thought.  In the context of Disability Living Allowance being shelved in favour of Personal Independence Payments and the rolling out of Self Directed Support in Scotland, it is particularly worrying that those tasked with standing up for some of the most vulnerable in our society don’t seem to know, or at least can’t agree, what day of the week it is! At grass roots level it makes it very hard to get the message across. 

I’ve never managed to get any personal contact or interest from any of these organisations for anything I’ve ever done in the field of advocacy drama – over the last 10 years.  However politely I approach them, it seems they are far too busy (or disorganised? or disinterested?) to respond to grass roots advocacy which comes from outwith their own organisation.  Draw your own conclusions.  I’m sure they are doing a fine job but it just makes me think that perhaps, just perhaps, they are missing a trick.  Or a chance to spread the word further?  

I have worked in advocacy drama for some ten years now.  I first encountered the Learning Disability label in 2003 while undertaking a drama residency post. As part of this three year tenure I ran and built a legacy programme from workshops funded as part of a European Year of Disability Project. One strand of this project saw a group of adults labelled with learning disability start their own advocacy drama group, adapting the work of Brazilian dramatist and provocateur Augusto Boal to suit their own needs.  The aim of the group was to cut through the complexities and simply present their views and life experiences directly to an audience.  Where service providers claim to speak ‘for’ them, the group decided the best way to get their message across was to speak for themselves. Drama provided them with this forum. 

Throughout this process I also embarked upon a ‘dramatic’ journey which was quite life changing. I ran a drama company, I won an entrepreneur award, I had a play performed at the Scottish Parliament  I obtained an MSc and I set up an advocacy publisher. All things I would never have done without meeting my labelled friends. But have I ever come into the radar of the Learning Disabilty organisations? No. There I remain firmly invisible. 

Last year for Learning Disability Week I  wrote a novel – a fictionalised account of a drama group run for and by adults who have to carry the learning disability label with them through life.  It’s funny, sad, serious and thought provoking and was described by author Julia Jones as ‘perhaps the most significant book I’ve read on my Kindle this year.’ 

Originally published in 5 ebook ‘episodes’ for Learning Disability Week 2012, with the addition of a further two days ‘A Week With No Labels’ was born and is now published both in paperback and ebook formats in the hope that it can reach the widest audiences.  

This year for Learning Disability Week #1 I’m  giving away a ‘sneak preview’ of my new work in progress ‘Jock Tamson’s Bairns’ which is a collection of short stories and vignettes about other experiences in the world of learning disability and advocacy drama.  It is available from advocacy publisher Guerrilla Midgie Press FREE online NOW.  The whole thing may be ready for the #2 Learning Disability week. 

One thing I’ve learned in advocacy in general is that you can’t make people sit up and take notice.  All you can do is put the work out there and hope for the support of people with a conscience.  Hopefully some folks here will be able to spread the word further – that labels are for tins not for people. 

You can get hold of a free copy of Jock Tamson’s Bairns sampler HERE

Or purchase A Week With No Labels as Kindleepub (for ipad etc) or paperback.

Coming soon…

JOck Tamson's Bairns FREE - Cally PhillipsOver at HoAmPresst Publishing you’ll be able to download a FREE sample of work in progress Jock Tamson’s Bairns from the beginning of June.  This is to mark Learning Disability week (although it turns out that this year there are two weeks – one in Scotland – the usual June dates (17-24th) and the other in England/Wales in August.  Why Mencap have to organise a separate date is a bit of mystery but let’s be positive and say it gives two cracks at the whip.

But anyway, for now, get your free download of Jock Tamson’s Bairns (sample) by clicking HERE and spread the word well in advance of the first Learning Disability Week of the year.  The FREE ebook contains a sample chapter from last year’s novel A Week With No Labels.  Described by author Julia Jones as ‘possibly the most significant book I’ve read on my Kindle this year’ it’s funny, moving and may even change the way you think about labels!

You can buy A Week with No Labels as ebook (£2.99) or paperback (£6.29) on Amazon for Kindle or Kobo for epub. Just go to the publications page for links. weeksmall.jpg