Saturday, July 08, 2006

And So It Is

And So It Is

Some twenty minutes into the first shift that I ever worked at the WYP I was confronted by a woman who'd fainted. We're talking ballet in full swing, lights down, woman on the floor stuff. And suddenly I realised how freakingly lucky I'd been all those nights I'd been the designated driver for plays I'd never had to deal with more than slightly tipsy students trying to sneak in. Don't worry, everyone said. This hardly ever happens. And it's kind of true. Unless of course the production is Richard III and then they're falling down in droves. I believe we were averaging one fainter a night at one point. But twenty minutes into your first performance? Bad luck. Maybe because of the karma I was spared even so much as a four year old tanked up on haribo vomitting at Christmas. And I thought I'd gotten through it. Because it has to go up from that point on.

So cue in Wednesday's training on the WYP reception. I'd already arrived slightly late as I'd had to trek back home after having gotten to the bus stop and realised I'd forgotten my phone [I'm blaming the DT photos in the Mirror that morning for distracting me]. And after twenty minutes? No fainting this time - but what's that rumble in the distance? Oh yes, that would be the sound of the police station over the road being evacuated. And that other noise? Oh yes, the road being closed. And thus this time - in one of those 'this is the procedure but don't worry we very rarely have to do it' moments - it emerged that there was the distinct possibility that we would have to evacuate the building. Brilliant. In years to come when I get my hands on a theatre somewhere you might all want to stay at home on my first night.

'Do you have bomb scares in Leeds often?' someone asked me.

I shook my head. Certainly the last one I was involved in was at York station almost a year ago.

'Right, you don't have bombs in Leeds, just bombers'.

There was that moment, that fleeting second, when I didn't compute exactly what had been said. And then all I could do was stare blankly back out. Because the face that stared back of me, it meant the words. And that pained me. It pained me that in this building which is teeming with the inhabitants of Leeds I would hear something so casually, unthinkingly, spat out. The over sixties on their weekly heydays event - a group of whom in some of the more comical offerings of the wardrobe - were swarming the building. In the courtyard theatre there's 45 young people from Chapletown and Harehills performing the energetic - and I think rather important - Fairytales From The Streets. And two days later as all of the employees of the theatre stood outside at 12:00 and we thought of the events of one year earlier - it struck me that this is Leeds. This is inner city life in England. It's not always easy, or pleasant or comfortable [I use the buses, I should know] but then point me in the direction of somewhere that is.

What there is, however, is some absolutely wonderful people; people who are trying, who are getting off of their arses, putting aside empty soundbites, and doing something. All of us - however distanced we might be - who stood and remembered, who thought about walking those steps, taking part in the daily procession of life that is so familiar and comfortable that it strikes you with its very sense of the ordinary, who thought of those for whom the stain of the 7th of July will never be removed and for those whose names echoed without answer in Regents Park - this is where our city lies.

So yes, my nameless ash blonde, we had bombers living in our midst. England had bombers in its midst. The question now is - what are you doing about it? Because I can see right in front of me what the people of Leeds are doing. And, god, I'm proud of them.

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