My performance practice approaches storytelling in a way that challenges assumptions authorship, authority and normative economies of the gaze. I celebrate the Noble Savage, interrogate the myth of 'civilised man' and indulge in the cruel, seductive impossibility of being good.

A selection of short fiction from the past few years...

I am currently reading a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. My research centres around intersectionality and alterity, emancipatory politics and the end of the world within the contemporary moment.

Long March to Freedom – Documentary by Frances Legg

“This summer marked the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On that demonstration, civil rights leader Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
In ‘Long March to Freedom’, Frances Legg investigates the legacy of that day and asks how life has since changed for black Americans. Featuring interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Lewis and writer Season Butler.” Summer 2013

Part One: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mRvB0ARV1M
Part Two: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqgorVFznng&feature=youtu.be

“This summer marked the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On that demonstration, civil rights leader Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. In ‘Long March to Freedom’, Frances Legg investigates the legacy of that day […]

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Walking at Night While Black and Male: Trayvon Martin and the State of Race in America

On 26 February, 2012, a boy was fatally shot on a residential street on his way home from buying sweets, but his killing was not murder. Prisoners (the majority of whom are black men) pick cotton in the sun for pennies per hour, watched by (almost always white) guards mounted on horseback and armed with rifles, but their labour is not slavery. Four-year-old black girls are shown images of cartoon girls, identical except their range of skin colours, and asked to point to the pretty girl; they overwhelmingly point to the palest, but these children have not been abused.

On Saturday 13 July, George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on the grounds of self defence.

When I woke up this morning to the news of Zimmerman’s acquittal, I didn’t share my Facebook friends’ “WTF?!” reactions. Except one: “This is what our lives are worth.” I feel unsurprised and exhausted by a story that feels, to me, desperately old.

I’ve always known that Walking at Night While Black and Male is a crime in America, one on a long list, with a range of punishments and militias who feel tasked to enforce the subtle rules of race and mobility.

‘Racial problems are greater because we think we don’t have them.’ Toni Morrison

Read the full article here http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/articles/opinion/16565-walking-at-night-while-black-and-male-trayvon-martin-and-the-state-of-race-in-america-#sthash.FzdiUzLW.dpuf

As George Zimmerman is acquitted of murder, the myth of a ‘post-racial America’ is debunked once again – See more at www.counterfire.org/

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Book Review: Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror by Matt Kennard

News of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has come to constitute the macabre white noise of early twenty-first-century life. Matt Kennard’s recent book, Irregular Army, provides a complex insight into disturbing recruitment trends, and exposes the long-term effects of the manic drive to enlist soldiers in sufficient numbers to sustain the tragically protracted ‘War on Terror’.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq created a need for soldiers which the existing recruitment systems simply could not satisfy. The already unpopular Bush administration could not risk repealing laws which prohibit involuntary conscription, following the deeply unpopular Vietnam draft, to make up for a desperate shortfall in volunteers. Private mercenary firms like the now infamous Blackwater and Dyncorp were unleashed, and NATO forces joined the fight, but the numbers still proved insufficient.

If recruitment targets were to be met, standards regulating the kinds of volunteers who would be allowed to join up would have to be relaxed, ignored or abandoned. At the same time, a number of surreptitious tactics and insidious abuses of individuals’ rights were perpetrated in order to get enough boots on the ground in the Gulf and Afghanistan. As ever, people enter the army to secure their future and obtain transferable skills; Irregular Army points out that this is still taking place, sometimes in the most sinister and socially-corrosive ways.

See more at: http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/articles/book-reviews/16129-irregular-army-how-the-us-military-recruited-neo-nazis-gang-members-and-criminals-to-fight-the-war-on-terror#sthash.b179jYxp.dpuf

A disturbing new look at the US army during the ‘War on Terror’ reveals further horrors of the last decade of imperialist war – See more on counterfire.org

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Hearsay, Heresy

I heard that the US had discouraged all non-essential travel to Syria, but the UK Foreign Office was cool with it as of 31 March 2011, the day of my departure, so I went with that. My mother told me not to go. I told her that I’d stay far from trouble, avoid the cities where people have been shot. I told her not to worry.

I first saw President Bashar al Asaad on a street corner in Jermana, south east Damascus, just off the bus from the airport. It wasn’t really in person inasmuch as he wasn’t really there, yet somehow coming straight for me at a considerable speed was his face, huge, spread across the windshield of a truck as I crossed the street Syria-style (read: hurl your person into traffic and the cars, mostly taxis, will probably slow down a little; there is no other way). He was crew-cut and thick-necked in fatigues and aviator glasses. Most of the images are of the fearless leader in a suit, sometimes looking stoically east or west, as if towards some utopian future just out of frame, less often bending a friendly smile from underneath his Ned Flanders moustache, extending his arm in a wave that I found slightly defensive. Maybe he needn’t be. He is well-loved.

I stayed with friends who speak good Arabic. We watched the news on the state TV channel and they translated for me. One night early in my stay, an anchorwoman said something to the effect of, “Syrians all over the country are surprised and puzzled by calls for anti-government protests announced via social networking sites like Facebook.” The pictures in the background showed life going on peacefully, rivers flowing, folks out shopping, a few westerners strolling through the Old City, as if to say, “Why would anyone protest against this? I mean, that’s just weird.”

I heard that business was bad. A friend, Damascene tour guide, toyed with the idea of getting drunk. This should be the high season, he told me, but the travel advisories led to a spate of cancellations. He and another Syrian friend came out to dinner with me and three other Americans among the coloured lights and sparkling festoons of the Midan district. We ordered a spread to share but the Syrians didn’t eat anything. One said he was tired. The other, after a few beats, said he was too. Midan; it was pretty then.

I’d been in Syria for three days when I decided to take an excursion out to Krak des Chevaliers, a crusades-age castle about three hours north of Damascus. I had to take a bus to Homs and then a taxi or minibus to the site. I was told that I should try to hook up with other travellers to share the cost, and I should not pay more than 2500 lires for a taxi there. But when I arrived in Homs there wasn’t another tourist in sight. The drivers pounced on me, as I heard they would, offering to take me, deriding the others’ driving, undercutting each other’s prices. I didn’t even have to open my mouth to haggle and get a round-trip journey for 1000 lires.

The driver spoke excellent English. He narrated the landscape engagingly and seemed to know when I just wanted to stare out the window. He stopped and bought us both a coffee, wouldn’t hear of it when I tried to pay. He offered me cigarettes and called me a cowboy when I rolled my own.

A truck pulled in front of us with a picture of Bashar in the rear window. One of the fatigues and aviator glasses ones. “You know him?” the driver asked.

“Bashar?”

Got it on the first try.

“In Syria, everyone loves Bashar. But on Friday, foreigners come.” He clarified, lest I felt implicated: “From Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey. They come and try to make Syria weak. But all Syrians love Bashar.”

On our way back to Homs he indicated two skyscrapers, the only two in the distance, tended to by the only two cranes. “That is the future. In ten years, all of Homs will be like this.”

Thursday came and the police presence in back in Damascus was substantial. I wondered if the tension in the air was just my imagination. Then came Friday and the demonstrations. In Homs, where I’d just been, two people were killed and Homs went on the list of places I shouldn’t go.

On Saturday I headed to Aleppo in the north, not to avoid trouble (there had been no trouble there, not yet) but because of the food, the souk, the olive oil soap….
In the bar of the Hotel Baron (of Agatha Christie fame) with its restrained colonial décor of tan leather armchairs and antique posters, I met a group of fellow travellers. One tells me that he’d just been in Damascus as well. He’d been waiting for a friend in the Old City district when two plain-clothed officers bookended him and took him to a nearby police station. They flipped through his notebook and all the pictures in his camera. Another said something like that had happened to someone he’d met last week, a local. Back at the station the police had a print-out of all of his Facebook chats, a list of his friends, all the groups he liked.

We whispered even though we were the only ones in the bar.

My Arab Spring smelled like diesel fuel and sweat, orange blossoms and fresh Iraqi-style bread. I averted my eyes, keep moving, took photos selectively, which was difficult in a country as beautiful as Syrian. What I heard people say in public was the same as the message on the state news, or on this one Syrian television station where they seem to play patriotic songs non-stop, with a montage of Bashar being applauded by parliament, the sand dunes and ruins of Palmyra, Bashar at a school for learning disabled children, the green hills of the Orontes Valley, Bashar and his wife getting out of a car and waving that wave of his to an adoring crowd, the sunrise over minarets, Bashar in the Old City, trying to shake the hundreds, thousands of hands extended to him. But he is only one man.

I heard that the US had discouraged all non-essential travel to Syria, but the UK Foreign Office was cool with it as of 31 March 2011, the day of my departure, so I went with that. My mother told me not to go. I told her that I’d stay far from trouble, avoid the cities […]

read more