A response to ‘Cliff McLucas in the C21st’

The text below is a response to my previous text from Margaret Ames, a lecturer in the Department of Theatre Film & Television Studies at Aberystwyth who knew Cliff McLucas and attended the event to which that post refers. Her research includes: Devising Theatre, particularly in a Welsh cultural context, and disability and performance. She is director/producer for Cyrff Ystwyth Dance Company, who participate in long term practice based research projects, and is co-Investigator with Central School of Speech and Drama University of London on an AHRC funded project. ‘Challenging ‘Liquid’ Place’.

I am putting her response up here – with her permission – because it seems to me to exemplify and clarify, in a highly specific instance, our collective need to keep in mind Paul Ricoeur’s insistence on the importance of what he calls “the model of translation”. This can be found in a short paper titled Reflections on a new ethos for Europe (in Richard Kearney (ed) Paul Ricoeur The Hermeneutics of Action (SAGE 1996). (I should perhaps add that I understand ‘translation’ in relation to different languages – that is literally – but also in the sense of mediating between mentalities and lifeworlds).

Margaret writes:

“First. Thank you. I do not feel let down in any way and I was left with a profound sense of gratitude for all the careful presentations and offerings throughout the day. What you said at the end hit the nail on the head and as everyone agreed – it was a kind of mission impossible in any case, to sum up after the panel. What you have written in your blog extends my thinking further and reminds me of the necessity to ‘let go’ and to develop more nuanced understandings of how others come to these debates/places. None of this is mine, all of it we share. I use the forward slash here as an awkward attempt to refer to the lived experience of contestation within location.”

“For me the entire event was moving as I understood the intellectual endeavour being engaged by all concerned. Future possibilities seemed to abound and I carry the energy of that right now as I write this.”

“I want though to pick up on a couple of points you make – partly from a personal view as ‘I was there’ in the 80s and partly because, although Rhys is a fantastic simultaneous translator, I don’t know how he really coped with the speed and  passion of the discussion!!”

“So….for me the panel discussion took me right back to my very early twenties for as Catrin said, in the house where we lived and the Barn centre, such arguments happened morning noon and night. This was my political context and was profoundly formational. Clifford was always contributing/central to the debates and he challenged me to step up, to be part of the solution and not part of the problem as he phrased it one evening. I was aware of the generation gap as well as the perceptual and experiential gaps, but I was excited to hear the debates again in public.”

“But the main thing I want to pick up is that I don’t think the marginality is rural alone, I think it is more specific and more wide ranging in terms of identity. I take Euros’ position here and understand his insistence on the word for ‘culture’ – diwylliant as absolutely key. Somewhere in the root of this word is the notion of de-wilding which is there in the English word too I think. But within the definition of the word there is an implicit set of practices. These are about inclusion, sharing, dependency and definitely not about exclusivity, an ‘us and them’ arrangement. And most importantly – it is not about cultural product, of theatre, art, anything at all except the practice of living together here. There are other words he could have used which explain this more clearly – such as the word that I think translates as ‘colleague’ – cydymaith means the one who travels with me. Rural or urban, for there is a Welsh urban context too, the prefix ‘Cym’ and ‘cyd’ signals togetherness – negotiated and contested but together.”

“However….if you travel all the time with people who resist your vocabularies, structures and descriptions as you go along – in order to stay in step with them, to keep up….you cease to speak…..for fear… of loss…how can you cope with this journey alone? You change your language because you know they never will.”

“So… the language is of critical importance and is a means of inclusion rather than exclusivity. It is this I think that many people cannot accommodate. I don’t see the panel expressing nostalgia – I do see them struggling to understand Euros’ radical proposal that the ‘culture’ is more important and that the culture is the people – us – all of us. I have never felt any parochialism in these debates about identity – more a kind of desperate terror of the silence of finding yourself alone. I will always remember Clifford and Catrin talking about the horror of being the last surviving speaker of your language – who would you tell that to in a way that could be felt/understood? Who would you tell your dreams to?”

“And this leads me back to a notion of utopia. Yes – I think that this notion of travelling together is a utopia – but this morning the shop 2 miles down from me opened again – its been closed for over a year. It was decorated with flags and daffodils. They had made cakes and welsh cakes and tea and coffee for anyone who wanted. Mary-Anne bought duck eggs for no reason other than they were there!! Welsh was the language this morning, some without it did the swim in the rhythms and the expletives and the cadences  – we gathered before going on our way for the day. A tiny moment of a utopia  – inclusions and beginnings”.