Star turn…

Star Turn Image

Heady Lamar

My work as creative counsellor recently drew the attention of a couple of national newspapers, magazines and BBC radio, which was nice and flattering. In my mid-thirties I am just old enough to feel a smidgeon of awe around the dying dinosaurs of pre-digital media.

The youth of today would think I’m weird, because I got a little apprehensive: LMFAO etc… Nowadays, on Facebook we are all visible brands, even if we are mostly just marketing ourselves to people who know us. It’s fun and most of us know not to take it too seriously. Similarly, everyone who pines for a molecule of fame can at least upload an effort to Youtube, and be accessible to the entire world via an electronic screen. Of course they should do so with a knowing sense of irony; because that big world out there will mostly ignore them. However, I recall that fast fading age wherein appearing in the media was wow! Gosh, it meant you were sort of famous…

Perhaps that is why I got slightly nervous, which was silly of me… The newspaper journalists were respectful and interested in creative counselling. They grasped that modern life is all earnest hurley-burley, concerning stuff that’s generally more ‘urgent’ than actually important. And they completely agreed that adults don’t play enough. Thus they saw the point of my work and even embraced the life-enhancing potential of play; meaning play which is not just passive entertainment or getting drunk – the two main leisure pursuits of Twenty-first Century adults. Job done and thank you to those thoughtful, decent ‘hacks’.

The difference between them and the radio journalists was striking. I suspect it is the eternal difference between frivolous, fast-flying chat and the contemplative power of the written word. This latter makes journalists pause and think – it opens them up, they like that and they feel good when they pen a well-researched, thoughtfully distilled feature about a subject they previously knew zip about. The live tension and unrefined fun of radio does not always have this depth…

First and foremost, I discovered radio is all about staying on your toes, filling airtime and trading in clever sound-bites, regardless of their superficiality. The intimacy of the live voices lends weight to proceedings but in truth I got a strong sense that everyone is winging it on the airwaves… I know I was…

When put on the spot, I wanted to talk about the link between creativity and spiritual well-being, the specialness of the space of play, which is fundamental to our existence and which we ignore at our peril, and so on and so forth. But I didn’t want to sound like a sober-sided bore who didn’t even understand the rules of the radio game in which she was partaking.

Consequently, I alternated between managing to give good radio, meaning snappy sound-bites which may or may not stand up to scrutiny, and humming and hawing – which is a sort of hate-crime on radio. Listening to the interviews afterwards, I found it hilarious how casual, everyday humming and hawing – which I don’t normally do much; I’m fairly fluid and like talking – sounds remarkably ditsy on radio. So I go from sounding quite relaxed and professional with an interesting angle on life, to sounding like a schoolgirl grappling with a proposition from Schopenhauer…

The Scottish journalist/presenter Kaye Adams was great and helped me. She has one of those hard-edged no-nonsense Scottish voices which sounds like she would cheerfully take your head clean off but is nonetheless very warm. It’s a voice you cannot help trusting. She knew nothing much about counselling or ideas around play – in contrast to the print journalists who had the time to research. But she is a smart, open woman; she inquired sharply and was also receptive.

She had me on her show with Geoff Beattie, Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University, though possibly best known in the media as the on-screen psychologist in Big Brother – a role which clearly just amuses him. He was receptive too, and encouraging. I enjoyed it and hopefully the item helped people to ponder the lack of play in their lives; and perhaps even think a little about the rejuvenating miracle of creativity.

This is in stark contrast to my interview with Martin Kelner on BBC Radio Leeds. It was playful in the sense that he saw me as an amateur who had foolishly stepped into the ring with him, a professional heavyweight… Apparently he is well-known for his appearances on a sports show called Fighting Talk, and I suspect he was born for that role… That gruff voice was created to scrap… and trash people like me.

From the opening bell, he seethed with scorn and impatience about the idea of adults playing. I was wrong-footed, outwitted and south-pawed to hell and back. I could only come back at him with feeble punches which didn’t hit home and just drew more crushing blows from him – how dare I still be standing!… The masochist in me couldn’t help giggling in embarrassment when I listened to the show afterwards. Again it was undeniably good radio, even if but there were shades of the Roman Arena in there, with me as the hapless meat…

My dabbling in old school media left me with two unfashionable thoughts. Firstly, traditional media, which everyone curses – even the people who work in it – is not that bad. People now go in fear of a twitter storm about an ill-advised remark they may – or may not – have made, which can be taken out of context, granted grotesque significance and apparently merit their crucifixion. The old media is more measured; a brute might maul you and a thoughtful woman might nurture you – yip, that’s familiar enough, I can live with that…

Secondly, most of the time, fear of the media is possibly a bigger problem than the media. People take it too seriously. We see representations of ourselves in the media, nothing more, not really our actual selves. It is playful, even if some people play dirty.

The creative thread can be put in a historical context, if we consider the art of early civilisations whereby humans were not represented in their daily form at all, but only in highly idealised versions. The pattern over the centuries has been to get closer to the reality; from magnificently muscular men on Greek vases via flattering portraits to warts-and-all versions and on into deeply revealing images of ourselves. But it is still not quite us, not our flesh and bones in reality.

It is a creative version, which is slightly uncontrolled and playful, with a life of its own – as art has. But you can glimpse elements of yourself in there somewhere, perhaps distorted, perhaps exaggerated, but that’s fine and that’s what we should realistically expect.

To put it this way: It would be difficult to utter the above two paragraphs on a live radio discussion lasting mere minutes; then, frivolity is fine and pseudo-profundity is the order of the day. Kelner would knock you out flat if you dared to muse playfully. But that’s not bad, it’s his schtick, and it’s fun. Only the overly serious take the media overly seriously…

 

 

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