Jacob Jackson is a final year student of Performance for Stage and Screen at Sheffield Hallam University. When he’s not obsessed with FXXXKING TREES, you can find Jacob studying at Sheffield Hallam. He’s a passionate actor and writer. HOWEVER If you see him near a forest or park please dial 999 and call the police immediately for indecent acts to plant life…
DIARY #3 | DEVISING POETRY
My beginnings into learning about the Sheffield street tree controversy, started through my inclusion in Performance Lab Company 18. This experimental project, encouraged students to collaborate with internationally renowned theatre company – Dopplegangster – in order to generate a new theatre production: TREEFXXXERS.
I was tasked (with a number of other company members) to research stories regarding trees, the environment, as well the issues related to the Sheffield Street Trees; the protests, and the organisation known as AMEY. Whilst working on the production we were also invited to write and develop our own creative responses, which could contribute to the performance itself or our own creative portfolios.
As someone who both enjoys and writes performance poetry, I set about creating a series of poems about the controversy. My primary investigation was into the possibilities of the form as a way to explore, protest, and promote the damage being done in tearing down the trees, the arrests and misuse of the police by Sheffield City Council. Upon learning about the money going to Amey and the excessive removal of 17,500 trees, I created this performance poem: Little Ladybird. It’s one of three and here is the text from the process:
I saw a ladybird,
Scuttling across a metal fence,
As its home is ripped from the soil,
Birds fly, as builders cry out “be careful”
As police stay on guard,
The protestors contemplate how “thirty officers is a crowd”
But Amey keeps working, 17,500 trees to mow down,
When only a few are uprooting,
Council members flee,
Like birds flying from falling trees,
As people are sitting down, protesting about the devastation this is causing their community,
Sheffield, the city of steel, the city of green,
Its botanical gardens make a haven for tropical life,
Whilst a confident squirrel shocks you by how close it is, as it takes your food and runs up a tree,
The peace Gardens, the winter Gardens,
How I wandered through there in first year,
Got my coffee, and headed for my radio seminar,
The council takes pride in these tourist attractions, a pretty place to hide a dire distraction,
yet this same pride won’t go down their throat,
as Amy takes her £2 Billion and walks away with half our trees, like a whole city, just got divorced by the biggest gold digger in the Western hemisphere,
As nature bears the brunt of it,
But it doesn’t matter to Amy, she keeps going, more money to make, more green to take,
As if she’s entitled to take from a planet that needs to breathe as much as we do.
We do what we can, but companies like this rip out mother nature’s bronchi faster than the blue Macaws could escape,
The lung cancer of mother nature, are the humans who close their hearts to life, who look not with compassion as squirrels approach them in Britain,
Or howler monkeys swing from branches of Costa Rica,
If Nature could weep Gaia’s cries would be unending as another group of her children has died, as man’s forests begin to spread, giant cities where foxes scavenge, and stars hide behind the smog at night.
Our world is living, breathing entity, but right now she is choking, and police do nothing but arrest those who say, “enough is enough” Well enough is enough!
Mother Nature is clinging to life, because we neglect our stewardship.
I saw a ladybird, but there were no leaves for it to eat, no place for it to sleep.
It starved because there were no trees.
In developing this poem for performance, I drew inspiration from Walt Whitman, the later works of Harold Pinter, and the polemic political poetry of Denise Levertov. And as part of a workshop experiment, on the 20th of November, I used my poem to explore the performance potential of Doppelgangster’s signature ‘in ear’ post-verbatim technique. This technique involves the performer listening to their own lines – and their own voice – through a headset and then speaking them as they hear them. We have been using this technique in preparing TREEFXXXERS, and it has been really exciting to be able to road test this way of working, and to contribute to the company’s exploration of an issue of real local and national significance.
– Jacob Jackson, Sheffield.