Dear Stephen…

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m due to go back to Edinburgh this afternoon.

Tomorrow morning, Piers and I will hunker down in the kitchen once the cast have left for the morning, and work out a way to distil what is normally a three hour lecture into about forty-five minutes, plus some time for questions, in order to deliver the free session on Open Book Theatre that I’ve been subtly reminding you all about in almost every blog entry since we got to the festival.

Mrs B is away this weekend, and so I’ve been left in charge of a cat who seems to think that she’s the head of the household, and a submissive dog who seems to think the same. What happens between them at the moment is what I can only describe as bullying, but with Mrs B enjoying herself for a couple of days, a slightly different way of approaching things seems to be paying dividends. It turns out that they do eat when they’re hungry, although the dog seems to be stealing the cat’s biscuits at the moment – either they taste better (the likelier explanation) or the dog is subtly getting back at the cat via a food protest vote (my preferred explanation.)

The point here is that, although they don’t know it yet, they can and will get along. It’ll take time and patience from both myself and Mrs B, but that investment of time will eventually pay off, and we will live in a house where animals and people coexist peacefully.

Frankly, coming back to Edinburgh right now is a pain in the backside. Mrs B has been away for the weekend. I love her very much, and we’ll miss each other by just a couple of hours when I leave in a bit. We’ll have totalled seeing each other for about four days across four weeks when I finally return.

And that would be okay, but bear in mind I’m not making any money out of all these Edinburgh trips – in fact, this is a drain on our resources at a point where we’ve just moved house, I have no paid work, and thus both money and time are scarce commodities. Basically, I miss her like crazy, I’ve got no money, and so why on earth should I be spending our cash going back and forth to Edinburgh just for a one hour lecture which Piers (who is already up there) could happily run on his own?

The answer to that is simple. Sometimes we get involved in things that are bigger than ourselves. That involvement brings with it an active choice. Sometimes we realise that if we don’t make the effort and go out of our way to make a difference in the world, both we and the world become the poorer for it. And that’s exactly what’s happened with Open Book Theatre.

We didn’t plan for this. We just had an idea, developed it, and then realised it had become our firm conviction that we had stumbled on something which could very well help to keep the fringe scene alive both inside and outside of the Edinburgh Festival – and do it ethically. We could help people move towards better contracts, and still aspire to Union contracts in the future. We had a methodology whereby companies and the creatives they work with could have decent working conditions and be treated fairly, even if no-one is getting paid on that gig. We believe that we now have a tool that actors, crew and companies themselves can use to make life fairer and better for everyone.

Changing the world…? I love Mrs B, and she tells me that this is one of the reasons that she loves me: I want to make things a bit better for people. It just means not being with each other for a while when we really need to be together. We’ll get over it. There’s a bigger picture out there.

So, Stephen, I’d like to quote you at the end of this blog. I know the quote has been attributed to many people, but it all seems to point to you, so we’ll go with that, if it’s OK with everyone:

“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any  kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Stephen Grellett

It’s Edinburgh 2013, the town is packed out with people who work in fringe theatre, and our industry is going through massive changes – changes in funding, contracts, Unions, more creatives chasing seemingly fewer jobs, and we are currently in a climate where we’re often thankful for jobs that cost us money, let alone earn us a living. We love what we do so much that we just want to have the opportunity to do it.

I have a little knowledge, and I want to join my brother and share it with people. Gaining that knowledge has cost us dearly over the last two and a half years, in ways I can’t even begin to explain. But we have that knowledge now – and we also have the opportunity to pass it on freely to others, in the hope of making our world a slightly better place.

You’re right in what you said, Stephen.

And because of that I shall set aside my valuable time with Mrs B and our wonderful bickering animals, and return to Edinburgh. I shall not defer or neglect the kindness that I can do in sharing my knowledge for free.

For I shall not pass this way again.


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