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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

"Let the Pig Out!"

I was buying bread in my local deli here in Bath the other week. It was early and and a certain kind of parent was out with their little ones. The parents had kind, mean faces with eyes that went one way and words that went another. The meaning came through in voices like a gust of November drizzle. Everything was clipped, considered and cold, the terminator personality of pinched cheeks and muffled emotions

The kids were kids, boys gunning for the pain au chocolat and the almond croissants and with no hope of either. But you could see the weight of their duty-laden world on their four-year-old shoulders, you could see the granite freezing into their little faces as the politics of monied envy came to bite. It was always November in their house; November for them and November for everyone they came in contact with.

I wasn't in a good mood that morning. I was in a better mood two days later when I went to a poetry slam that was part of the Bath Literature Festival. The venue was the Porter, a pub which is now something different to what it used to be. Upstairs it was filled with people living the politics of envy. It was all very restrained and you could just hear the smugness ripple above the square plates and seasonal ingredients.

Downstairs it was restrained too, but in a fresh-faced, creative, trying sort of way. We tried not to be restrained. We never quite made it but we tried.

The poetry slam was great and something unrestrained and eccentric won it. But the highlight was Chris Redmond and his poems of music, parenthood and loss. He railed against the abomination of Kenny G., lamented the loss of his bohemian days of drinking, smoking and drumming in dives with sticky floors, sticky tables and sticky walls.

And he mourned the loss of childhood evident in the little boys he taught the drums to, the same boys that I'd seen in that deli two days earlier. These were boys who played for their parents and beat out a neat two by four (is that right? God knows) but with no heart or soul because that was the way their parents were making them, in their image with jeans and tweeds and accents made to break your being.

What they had to do, Redmond told us, was "Let the Pig Out!" He mourned that they couldn't get down and dirty and bash the drums and make a scene. He wondered at the lack of life, and how everything became a grade and a formula and a certificate, something outside the here and the now of the banging of the drums and the beating of the heart. What they had to do, what we all have to do, Redmond told us, was "Let the Pig Out!"

Dirty, messy, obsessive, twisted and mad, it's where life comes from, it's what life is. That was Redmond's sentiment and it's the same in photography where the leaning towards the neat and tidy and the market-driven is countered by brutal single-mindedness, the downright eccentric, and the need to tell a story. And I think that's the photography that I enthuse about, it's work that isn't done for anyone else or has too much of an eye on a publisher or a gallery or hitting the top notes of concept, but is gimlet-eyed, sometimes brutal and often odd. That might be a bit romantic, but it serves the post. Let the Pig Out!

King Bladud letting his pig out.

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