Using Multi-Voice Poetry and a Play to promote Peace

January 25, 2018 OTHER , Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Chris Barber photo

 

By

Ashby McGowan

 

I am a Peace campaigner. I am based in Scotland but the techniques used can be copied anywhere. I also write single voice and multi-voice poetry that deals with human rights. Much of it deals with Peace issues. And I have written (after many years of research) an audience participation play that gets actors and audience involved in the negotiations that make up a “real” Peace Treaty.

Please research whatever it is you are writing about. And research it in the right places. It is hard in mainstream media to find unbiased truth. So find a range of alternative sources. And research deeply. Look with a critical eye at everything you read.

In this troubled world of lies you have to know what you are talking about. To teach yourself. And to teach others.

I enclose some material for you as activists to use. And to inspire you to write some material of your own. Each person can do so much on their own. Amazing things. Don’t rely on others doing things for you. But you also need to deal with others. Dealing with others lets you find empathy. Find out if you are wrong.

When you have researched material on new ways of protest, please make yourself dispensable. By that I mean teach others what you can do so that if you move home or are “forced” out of campaigning, your skills will not die. I do know it is hard to campaign. However, it also gives me much joy. It makes me feel that what I do really helps. Gives me a purpose. I am 62 and consider myself still an activist.

 

 

Forced

 

Perhaps I should explain what I mean by “forced” above. I think it is not uncommon for activists to be forced out of groups. There are a couple of reasons for this and I think we should discuss them openly. The first is that people are people and strong personalities will often try to push others out of the group. To gain the limelight and the attention of the other sex (or the same sex). The other cause is pressure from Police. If you are an activist you can face visits from the police when you have no Police record (as I did). I believe my mail was read. I once made a complaint against the Police alleging that one of them beat me for information. I lost this complaint.

 

 

Some Safety Tips

 

And you all know how easy it is to hack into a conversation-online or on a phone. I believe that anything I write on a laptop or on Facebook can be read by others (Police, etc). When using Facebook watch out for the “clickjacking scam”. These are shocking or racy videos that “may” install malware. To avoid these scams sign up to: facecooks.com. I did.

I spend a lot of time researching security. I have a good book called, How to stay anonymous online. I am no expert but Tor (www.torproject.org) would seem to be one “safe” way to use the web. To completely erase files, use: eraser.heidi.ie. And use encryption when you need to (e.g. on your USB). To stop hackers using your webcam, tape over the lens when not in use.

In Orkney, many years ago, I was interviewed by a photographer while I was in jail. I had been arrested for pushing a rifle away from a seal. The “photographer” asked me lots of questions about my view of the Prime Minister. And at that time I was non-political.

Afterwards outside my cell, I heard the “photographer” saying that it was his duty to speak to people like me but he hated scum like me. I presume he was Special Branch.

Special Branch investigated political groups and animal rights groups. They were part of the Police. Later the Government put MI5 (secret service) onto animal rights activists. Many authors claim that the pressure from secret groups destroyed the animal rights movement in the UK in the eighties and nineties. I do not disagree.

All activist groups are infiltrated. If you can make a difference you will be investigated. In every country such things happen. Sometimes officers infiltrate groups themselves. A Police Sergeant joined one of the animal rights groups I was in under a false name. Activists are sometimes paid to inform by the Police. I do not know if agent provocateurs have been used by the police. (From my experience I think perhaps they have.) They have been used by anti-animal rights groups in the UK. I knew one person who was a student campaigner. He claimed to have been offered money (by Police) to spy on the group he was in. I believed him.

My first girlfriend in animal rights later fell in love with a nice guy. He then disappeared. She found out years later that he was part of a secret Police infiltration group. Women have had babies to these undercover people.  I know that she now campaigns against this. Private Investigators have also been used against animal rights groups.

On a couple of occasions, individuals who I had once been friendly with accused me at open meetings of outrageous things. Like taking secret files from one group and passing them onto a Newspaper. These accusations were utter nonsense. However, some people believe, “No smoke without fire”. I ended up trusting no one and left the campaign. I returned 20 years later.

I should say that I too once did one thing that was for the good of no one and out of anger. A small mindless thing but I still regret it.

As a Buddhist I had not used my name (on articles) when I was researching campaigns. I thought it too egotistical. However, others often claimed work I had carried out (e.g. into the work of vivisection laboratories), that they had done.

I can assure you that activists have to be on their guard. Please protect yourself and your group. I personally believe that groups should be open to talk about such things e.g. infiltration.

 

 

Poetry

 

Twelve years ago I started writing a new type of multi-voice Poetry (originally for the pupils in the Amnesty UK Youth Group that I organised in the School I worked in).

My own variant of multi-voice Poetry has since then been featured on National Radio and the Group I originally performed with (Chromatic Voices) have appeared at numerous Human Rights Festivals; at theatres and at the Scottish Parliament. And we have Toured Scotland with a multi-voice multi-language project that I instigated. conFAB organised the Tour and found Funding-from various sources.

The variant of multi-voice Poetry that I am developing allows subtle rhythms to be built up between the performers words. It also allows effects which can amplify the emotions that accompany the words. It is not a strange experimental effect. It is something that affects audiences enormously. It does work. I have seen the effect work with audiences for ten years. The technique has enormous potential. I have been featured on National Radio talking about my multi-voice work.

 

 

Play

 

For six long years (on and off) I worked on a Play that would allow ordinary members of the public to take part in a realistic Peace Treaty. I believed that this process would be of great benefit to those involved (actors and audience).

As a Human and Animal Rights campaigner, this Play was/is important to me. I am a Buddhist and many of the techniques used in Conflict Resolution are similar to techniques used in Buddhist moral training.

Also, for many years, I have researched the different ways in which Conflict Resolution techniques are used around the world (in Peace Treaties).

I sent this Play (Peace Treaty) out to a few Conflict Resolution Groups to try and get input from people who used the techniques in post-combat zones. I wanted the Play to be as realistic as possible. No replies.

There has been a script in hand performance of the first part of Peace Treaty at the Tron Theatre. This was organised by the Newsboy Project in Glasgow. Shown 27/3/14 at the Tron Theatre’s Victoria Bar. It had an amazing reception.

On 30th December 2014, Newsboy performed a shortened version of a scene from my play, Peace Treaty. This was as part of (the Charity Group) Philanthrobeats’ The Christmas Truce event. This was held in the Flying Duck in Glasgow.

The play was then scheduled to appear in a human rights event at the Scottish Parliament. But because of events in Palestine at the time of the scheduled showing it was cancelled (not by me) as being too controversial. Peace is a controversial topic?!

The thing that worked best in the excellent Newsboy performance was when the actors ask the audience to shout out (from a list of six printed requirements that they are given) their own fundamental requirement for Peace. And everyone shouted something different and chaos resulted. Showing that they all wanted Peace but all had different ideas about what is essential to achieve it. This Play is unique and I believe would help actors and audience understand the trials and tribulations of a “real” Peace Treaty. I am genuinely looking for groups to perform the whole one hour (a minimum of one hour) long play. As many as possible and from anywhere in the World.

The play starts by trying to get the audience to emphasise with both sides in the dispute. It also gives facts relating to the dispute. Another part deals with ideas relating to Truth (e.g. how do we trust a reported incident).

At the end of the play the audience have to vote on the Peace Treaty that has been negotiated with their help. Simply: do they accept it or not. In the real world (as in the Theatre) not all Peace Treaties reach agreement. Sometimes a Peace Treaty has been fair and well worked out yet resulted in War. A Peace Treaty has to work on the ground and for decades.

The Play is able to be rewritten to deal with any dispute, i.e. anything from “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, to a Marriage disagreement.

I am looking for Theatres to use this Play (this tool) to teach themselves and audiences about the difficulties you get in a “Real” Peace Treaty.

 

The entire play is online at:

http://multi-voicepoetry.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/peace-treaty-audience-participation-play.html

 

Looking back now at the play (from 2018), I think in today’s world that it is biased too much to the Israeli side. But in practical terms in a Peace Treaty there will always be two sides very far removed from each other that have to reach a deal. I think it is still a very useful tool. It was written at the time of the second intifada (in 2000) when to outsiders it looked like there were two sides involved in a small war. But looking back now, I think it is more one side abusing the human rights of another. However, a Peace Treaty still has to be used.

As a solo performer much of my work is meant to be used by performers at Demos and Events. Protest groups can use my material if they: 1. Talk to me first about it. And 2. Give me credit when the piece is performed. Also, I am not looking for money for the material if it is used at an event that does not exploit animals or humans.

I have performed at the Scottish Parliament, on National radio, and at an Alternative Remembrance service.

I will perform for free at any animal rights or human rights event in Central Scotland.

I believe that my Play Peace Treaty is important and I am not looking for money for the use of it. I just want a group of actors to put the whole play on the stage. I will help all I can. Just give me due credit when you use it. Glad to work with any group promoting peace.

 

My multi-voice website is:

https://multivoicepoetry.wordpress.com/

I also have a human rights poetry website at: https://humanrightspoetryashbymcgowan.wordpress.com/

And some Poems Against War:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfmbDEZPWjQ

I don’t just write about Peace, an audience participation short play about domestic violence.

My Mate Paul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8snv6v_yqw

 

 

Below I enclose the first scene from my play:

 

Peace Treaty [written at the time of the Second Intifada]

(An audience participation Play which gets the Audience involved in formulating a Peace Treaty)

 

 

STAGE SETTINGS.

It may be a good idea to have photographs all around the stage area – at different heights – that show scenes of Israeli and Palestinian suffering-showing why a Peace Deal is necessary. It might even be possible to have bright flashes of light and sounds of gunfire for four minutes before the Play starts.

 

Looking for The Truth

[One male actor and one female actor who change costume on stage in front of the audience]

 

Dr. James [woman]:                      Good Evening. I am Dr. James. As a high flying Dentist I know all there is to know about the Tooth. The Tooth is white, and hard, and… Oh, the Truth!  Sorry. Bit of a misunderstanding. I thought I was to speak about the Tooth. I studied the Tooth for seven years. Never attended any lectures on the Truth. However, in my opinion, the truth is, that you must always eat lots of fruit and visit your Dentist regularly. Or you will have a decayed truth, Oops. I mean Tooth!

 

Fast Eddy:              Hi. I’m Fast Eddy. I’m a cynical, tough journalist. The Truth is something that I have to interpret for the readership of the Newspaper that I work for. I have a rough idea of what my editor expects me to write, so I may need to nudge the Truth in a certain direction. And I try to tell stories that invigorate the news and make it easy to see who are the bad guys and who are the victims. People reading the news don’t have the time or the background knowledge necessary to digest all the material that I sift through. But things are easy if I am dealing with an African war of course. It’s always the same scenario. It’s always just a case of, “two tribes who are untouched by civilisation carrying on with an ages old ethnic war”. There, that’s easy to understand.

 

Denise:                  Hello. I am Denise. The only truth I know is that I love George. Love him truly, for ever and ever. Till the seas dry up and stars fall from the sky. Or, until he meets another woman who is prettier than me. Unlikely though that is!

 

Arthur Schopenhauer:       My name is Arthur Schopenhauer. I am a bad tempered European philosopher who sees pain and misery suffused throughout all existence. For me, Truth has to pass through the stages of ridicule, and then violent opposition, before it is finally accepted as being self-evident.

 

Svetambara Jain Nun:       As a Jain Nun, I perceive reality as being multi faceted. This knowledge is a tool for me in my attempts to live a life without violence: if no one can claim to know the ultimate Truth, why then should we quarrel about differences of opinion? Words cannot express ultimate Truth.

 

Alfred Adler:                     Hi folks. I am Alfred Adler. I am, or rather was, an Austrian Psychologist who believes that, we are not blessed with the possession of absolute truth; on that account we are compelled to form theories for ourselves about our future, about the results of our actions, etc.

 

Female Lay Buddhist:        I am a Buddhist and I believe that our understanding of the Truth is dependant upon the state of our Mind. If my Mind is tainted by Ignorance and under the control of Desire, then I cannot see things as they really are. Logic is not enough; I have to first free my Mind before I can attempt to understand reality. The Truth can even be used inappropriately. For instance, if I tell someone who has a big nose that they have a big nose, and I tell them this once a day: then it’s not useful, it’s an insult.

 

Mohandas K. Gandhi:        I am Mohandas K. Gandhi. I believe that, truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth.

 

 

 

 

Ashby McGowan

I live in Glasgow, Scotland and love poetry and short stories. I have a website for each https://humanrightspoetryashbymcgowan.wordpress.com/ and a short story website https://ashbyshortstories.wordpress.com/.

My multi-voice poetry can be found at: https://multivoicepoetry.wordpress.com/I have details here on how to write multi-voice poetry and I also have interactive poems and a play that you can really take part in!

I am a Buddhist and a vegan. I campaign for human and animal rights. I am also on Twitter and Facebook. Please say, “Hi” to me there.

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