Tyne View by Port of Tyne Writer in Residence
Greetings to my own bit!
This page is specifically for pieces of prose written during the residency which reflect what I've seen, heard and reflected upon over the last few months.
I hope you enjoy them. If you do - or even if you don't! - write and tell me, even better write something of your own.
Send it to me at email@example.com or by letter to Port of Tyne, Tyne Dock, South Shields NE34 9PT.
Back in the mists of time of the last century, Live Theatre asked a number of writers to collaborate on a series of short plays that reflected on the history of Tyneside. It was called The Tyneside Mysteries, and the 12 plays were performed over two evenings and were later broadcast on Radio 4. My play was the last in the cycle and looked forward rather than back - to the night of the Millennium, and a conversation on the Tyne Bridge between a young woman and an old man as midnight approaches and the 20th century comes to an end.
It's called (what else?) The Tyne Bridge Play...Cick here to read this play
Alan Plater, the distinguished playwright and screenwriter, died very recently at the age of 75. Alan was born in Jarrow and moved to Hull when he was a boy, but Tyneside - and the Tyne - remained central to him. He wrote about his birthplace many times, including a play about his grandparents for Live Theatre in Newcastle called 'Tales From The Backyard' and his last film (to be screened on ITV this autumn) about his family's adventures in wartime called 'Joe Maddison's War'. He also wrote a very funny short play about a mythical beast which swam up the Tyne. It was called 'Wor Tony and the Great White Shark'.
Alan was an old friend of my family and a valued mentor of mine - and in tribute to him, I'd like to publish the address I gave at his funeral in London on July 5 2010.
He will be much missed.
In 2008 I was asked by Live Theatre to write a short play on the theme of 'Docks' for a project at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre held during the city's Capital of Culture celebrations. There were nine such plays from all over the country.
I wrote about the Tyne - of course - and focused on its long connections with coal.
The experience of writing it gave me the idea for spending more time on the river as a writer-in-residence.
So this was the seed - and here it is...Coaly Tyne click here to read this play
In May 2010 the Port of Tyne published 'Tyne People', a series of 12 portraits of Tynesiders whose lives revolve in one way
or another around the river, illustrated with photographs by former Reflect award winner David Tiernan.
To pursue a photographic metaphor, it's like a snapshot in time, recording a moment in the Tyne's long history, at least my idea of it.
Go on, ask for my over-riding impression of these 12 people? Good question!
They all seem such happy, contented people.
Read on and meet them...
Recently I was asked by the London-based theatre company Paines Plough to take part in a project called 'Come To Where I'm From'. They asked 61 writers in cities around the UK to write short monologues about their home town and then perform them in a local theatre. I was one of the Newcastle contingent, along with Alison Carr, Dick Curran and Tracy Whitwell, and we did our thing at Live Theatre in Newcastle on June 19 2010.
I wrote something about the Tyne. Now there's a thing! Hope you like it and it strums a few chords...
Come to Where I'm From - by Michael Chaplin
For Live Theatre and Paines Plough
I came to Newcastle in 1957, originally from a Durham mining village via a London County Council housing estate in Essex. I was five years old. Our new house was in the middle of an Edwardian terrace on a hillside one mile from the city centre. At the bottom of our street, the houses gave way to open ground. This bore a name suggestive of bucolic idyll, a place where shepherdesses tended lambs and gave inspiration to passing poets. In fact Jesmond Vale was then quite literally a tip, but it became the centre of my world until I went to secondary school.
On the western slope was a jungle of tall weed we called for some strange reason ‘German rhubarb', where slashing toy machetes in hand, we recreated the battle scenes from the recent film Bridge Over the River Kwai. Shortly after we moved in, the valley floor became a dumping ground. Day after day, fleets of lorries upended piles of bricks, plaster and dust from the clearing of the city's slums in neat little mounds, so that the burn, as we called it, resembled a kind of dune field, an urban desert perfect for recreating the street-fighting strips featured in the comic Commando which my friend Brian Pearce was allowed to buy with his pocket-money but I was not. Two things occurred to me recently about this landscape and the games we played on it: the first, the fervent hope that the materials we played amongst day after day didn't include asbestos; the second, the curious fact that the clearance programme, pushed through by ‘Mr Newcastle' T. Dan Smith, happened to be the subject of the first of my father's Newcastle novels, a so-called ‘social thriller' called The Day of the Sardine about the break-up of the city's old working-class culture. I suppose then you could say that in a funny way these piles of old Newcastle bricks gave us both something to play with.