Well, that was an emotional year. One of great challenge, great change and much progress. I fell off the blogging radar for much of the second half of the year due to the difficulty I was having in coming to terms with the death of my former student, Bryony Bonekyn. This led me to evaluate what was going on in my life and led me to the conclusion it was time to quit my job of over 14 years and spend 2016 doing more of what makes me happy. You’ve got one life. Thoreau summed it up perfectly, so I’m going into the woods in 2016, metaphorically and perhaps literally. Wish me luck!
In terms of travel this year, it was all about New York. I had two fantastic trips, the first a holiday with my boy, Jason, the second a chance to build relationships with my New York familia and run a certain race. Catching the match ball at the Mets game, running with the Bridge Runners, and of course completing the New York City marathon were just some of the highlights.
New York City marathon is the best I’ve run by a long way. The atmosphere is unreal. As I ran through each of the five boroughs I got goosebumps as I heard music I’d grown up with being played in the place where it was made. It was a constant battle to slow down in this race, as the crowd support practically gave me wings. It’s very hilly, and not one for PBs, but an incredible experience that will not be easily forgotten. Investigate, people.
I was in Paris in April for my first marathon of the year, where I set a PB and had a great time. The views and crowd support on this race was also stellar. Obviously, the food and general ambience in the city was fantastic, and I loved checking out the Jeff Koons exhibition with friends. France has been in our thoughts for bad reasons twice this year, but Paris has stayed strong. Here’s to a safe 2016.
Musically, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is my album of the year. A prophetic and vital commentary on American society in 2015, it’s a sonic masterwork effortlessly shifting through a range of genres. Other albums that soundtracked my year were Blur’s The Magic Whip and Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear.
I’ve seen over 30 plays this year, so picking my favourites is tough, but here goes…
Play of the year for me has been running since 2011: New York’s Sleep No More. In the absence of a proper Punchdrunk production in London, I went to the New York Macbeth/ Rebecca mashup four times. Sleep No More is an immersive experience. You wander across four floors of the fictional McKittrick Hotel, experiencing fleeting moments of magic and then piecing it all together with your friends in the bar afterwards. Thank you, Melissa, for the magical charm that helped me get more than the usual smattering of one-on-ones. The Banquo one, in particular, was mind-blowing. A dark, magical feast for the senses.
Other incredible productions this year included the finest Shakespeare performance I’ve ever scene, The Merchant of Venice at The Globe, an astonishing production of The Oresteia which juxtaposed The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows with some of the bloodiest carnage you can imagine, and Everyman at the National; it was the first time I’d seen the medieval mystery play I enjoyed so much when studying at university; and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance, married with Carol Ann Duffy’s sparky script did not disappoint; there was something grimly dark about seeing friends posting Instagram pictures of themselves posing underneath the finger pointing down outside the National Theatre; little did they know this was the finger of Death. A special mention must also go to Shelter Me at Theatre Delicatessen, a joyful immersive circus extravaganza that used mobile phone technology innovatively and genuinely built connection between audience members.
The Globe’s production of Merchant confirmed my desire to stage my own production at the school I was working at, and it gave me great joy to see our students developing a love of Shakespeare and speaking it so beautifully in performance. Of all the shows I directed this year, though, it has to be the GCSE Drama production of Moments, Dreams and Lessons, adapted from Kate Tempest’s Brand New Ancients, of which I’m most proud. It was a beautiful show about following your dreams, and I was so pleased that two of our students got 120 out of 120 for this performance, with the other three getting fantastic marks also.
I have to thank the Arcola Theatre for accepting me onto their Writer’s Programme in the summer. I learnt a great deal, and although progress on the script I was developing was limited, as I was struggling with the sadness that accompanied Bryony’s passing, I know I’m a better writer for the experience, and will return to the script in 2016 revitalised and strengthened.
More recently, I’ve been involved in Technically Speaking at the Arcola, a community theatre play exploring men’s mental health and technology. It goes up in the first week of Feb, and it’s enjoyable for me to be part of a project without having overall responsibility for it. More details to follow…
I was lucky enough to make it to the finals of The Running Awards 2015, nominated for Best Blog. It was a pleasure to be part of such a great event, and although we didn’t win, it was an endorsement of what I’m doing. Thanks to interest sparked by the Android TV advert featuring my friends Peigh and Nathaniel, my piece on Swim Dem Crew was the most read article on the blog. Thanks to all my readers for your support. My most popular new posts were And so, I take my leave, Run it Out and Has Running in London Caused me to Develop Asthma?
So, next year is going to involve travelling and developing my ability to express myself creatively and be fully who I am. Bryony’s woken me up and gotten me to listen to my inner voice. I feel more realised and true to myself as a result. Thank you, Bryony, for shaping 2015. Here’s to shaping 2016 myself.