Saturday, December 31, 2011


The end of a rather wonderful year for us at Border Crossings. The highlight, of course, was the Origins Festival back in the summer, with the amazing theatre of Noel Tovey and Robert Greygrass, great concerts at Rich Mix and on Hampstead Heath (with Pacific Curls a particular highlight of both), and a film programme which earned two Critics' Choice mentions in Time Out, plus one in the Guardian. The legacy of the Festival is still continuing into 2012, with our Māori Heritage Project developing further into oral histories and a new website. So watch this space....

It's also been a year in which we've been able to grow and develop our organisational base, thanks to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation's support, with Lance Bourne, Carissa Lynch and Sheelah Sloane as core team members at various points through the year, plus a really exciting selection of international interns. There are a great many new initiatives underway for 2012 - the first of which will be a devising workshop in Shanghai, with our old friends at SDAC, developing a new production. The work we did in Botswana during 2011 will be built on as well, with some exciting plans to help develop the theatre scene there.

Looking at the arts elsewhere, the most inspiring theatre I've seen during the year has been in the form of pieces dealing, in some way or other, with the processes of healing we need to undertake in today's world. Peter's new piece with Toni Morrison and Rokia Traoré, Desdemona, is one really powerful example, and debbie tucker green's brilliant new play, Truth and Reconciliation, is another. My other theatrical highlights also followed the theme, though perhaps in more oblique ways: Marc Bathuni Joseph's Red, Black & Green: A Blues, which I saw in San Francisco, and ATC's production of The Golden Dragon.

San Francisco also gave me the chance to see my film highlight of the year - If Not Us, Who? - which I very much hope will get a UK release in 2012. Among mainstream films, the best by far was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

This morning's Guardian includes my books of the year - but rather heavily edited - so here's the full version:
I read Amy Waldman’s The Submission (Heinemann) in the USA around the time of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. In the midst of uncritical collective self-pity, it was refreshing and invigorating to encounter this penetrating and complex novel. There are no heroes and (more importantly) no villains here – but a Dickensian nexus of interconnected characters, each striving to achieve and express some kind of identity in a world that militates against the creative impulse. The Raw Man by George Makana Clark (Jonathan Cape) brings a powerful and unique new voice to the African novel. The narrative moves beautifully between mythic and realistic dimensions, denying, as African thought does, any distinction between the two. Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism (Zero Books) is a brilliant, succinct and brief analysis of the social, political and psychological structures at work today. It’s the best, and most deeply disturbing account I’ve read of the appalling state we are in.

Moving away from the arts to wider questions: the last month of the year has given me the chance to think a bit more about identity politics in relation to two small, comparatively new countries. The Platform for Intercultural Europe held its 2011 Practice Exchange in Slovenia - an interesting contrast to the one we hosted in London in 2010. In this small state, which emerged from the former Yugoslavia, the impulse towards generating a national identity seemed to be a negative factor - one which was causing a lot of concerns for minority groups like the Roma and the Muslims (although the latter are themselves predominantly Slovene). I was left feeling that we need to move away from the nation as the means to self-definition, indeed that we should be moving away from identity politics altogether, since identities are by their nature forms of closure, which prohibit fluidity and undermine the possibility of change and flux. And then, I went to Mauritius for Christmas with our family there (hence the picture). And, in this emerging multicultural nation, the converse seemed to be the case. Because everything was provisional, developing, unfinished, nothing was really being achieved. Because culture was perceived as being outside the space, there was an inherent alienation. Because nationhood and the defining force of national identity, the language, was being denied, there was division and communalism rather than the true intercultural space which Mauritius could become.

It's a complex set of questions. Hopefully the new initiatives for a drama course at the University of Mauritius will allow us to engage more in this during 2012 and beyond.

Happy New Year, everyone.