It was hard to ignore the Royal Family last year. The coverage of the biggest ‘news’ story of 2013, “Woman Has Baby” was accurately surmised by one BBC reporter live outside the hospital: “plenty more to come from here of course. None of it news…”
There has been much recent effort by the Royals to ingratiate themselves as a cosy fixture in the British home. Jubilant throngs waving Union Jacks (made in China?) to celebrate 60 years of unelected rule; the Queen styling it out at the 2012 Olympics with James Bond, Britain’s best loved imperialist, misogynist sociopath assassin; as well as street parties in honour of the fairytale marriage between an everyday ‘commoner’ privileged rich woman and an inbred richer man… dance, sing, wave, cheer, and laugh along all the way to the food bank.
It was refreshing therefore to witness another marriage – the successful pairing of arts and politics that was Jonzi D’s creative response to receiving a letter from the Queen. The Letter, a hip hop dance theatre piece depicts the various reactions Jonzi received to being offered an MBE. The Letter features a phone call with Benjamin Zephaniah and in light of the recent Royal Celebration of Contemporary British Poetry it is worth revisiting Zephaniah’s own eloquent rejection of joining, as he terms it, “the oppressors’ club”. In light of the Mark Duggan verdict and whistle-blowing revelations he comments: “you will never see someone getting an OBE, MBE or any gong for exposing political corruption. Those that expose violations of the law are violated by the law.”
Let us not fool ourselves, the Queen is not just a dear old lady figurehead. As Mark Curtis recently highlighted on PJ Harvey’s shake up of the Today programme – the Royal family play key roles as high profile arms dealers as well as intervening frequently to shape our domestic and foreign policy. Further, the Queen remains the largest landowner on the planet.
With land comes power and the ability to determine how and whether whole swathes of people live or die. Attending a No Borders benefit event late last year, the legacy of Empire and borders was brought home in stark resonance by another received letter. A poet (for safety reasons, only to be known as Margaret) recited a harrowing poem describing the trauma of a seven year wait for the brown envelope which would literally determine her fate as a refugee and human being.
As Jonzi D says in The Letter:
There’s nuff to stand up for.
You have seen the shit on Telly
This governments foreign policy,
The 99% occupy movement,
the murder of innocents in police custody,
Smiley Culture, Mark Duggan,
I could go on and on and on,
but I will stop. At John Terry.
Following this monologue Jonzi’s character launches into a two-word rendition of the National Anthem using the profanity that the England football team captain directed at Anton Ferdinand. One of the funniest, cutting and uncomfortable summations of the British malaise you’re ever likely to hear.
Jonzi D’s The Letter is still on tour, click here for details.
Link with your local No Borders group here.