I am not often allowed to listen to The Best of The Jam. This is because a while back, during a particularly high peak of euphoria, I played Going Underground repeatedly, singing aloud through tears of rage and joy. Fearful of my emotions and sick of hearing it, my beloved talked me down and confiscated the CD. So I was really pleased when the director of The Enough Project, Alan Lane, agreed to my suggestion of using that particular song at the start of my play Something Right. If you know the song and watch my play, you will see that the character Robin is based on the sentiments in the lyrics.
Sometimes songs reassure me that I am part of a collective understanding of something. In the case of Going Underground, for me, it is the collective understanding that just because the majority goes along with something, it doesn’t mean that I have to – and that I/we are happiest being passionate about our feelings and staying free from hate and debt.
Today when I am writing this however- and because I was allowed the CD on as a treat during a recent car journey (and played the song for 30 minutes straight) – I am thinking about another song by The Jam, When You’re Young.
‘You’re fearless and brave, you can’t be stopped when you’re young,
You used to fall in love with everyone,
Any guitar and any bass drum.’
I let the lyrics take me back to being young. I imagine finding music for the first time and being in love with everyone and everything. And those vast feelings, that love and joy and rage and your inquisition of rules and opinions and unwrapping new found knowledge and your brilliant theories and new thoughts erupting with a momentum you think can never ease. And then tripping up, stumbling and finding out life isn’t like that.
‘It’s so hard to understand
Why the world is your oyster but your future’s a clam’
And then I think about our young – and by our young I mean everyone in Britain under 30 – and all their stumbling blocks and all the disdain toward them and their new ideas and theories and hopes. I think to myself, will our young feel confident enough and supported enough if they wish to study music? Art? Will they feel free enough – if they so wish – to waste time on frivolities such as painting, writing songs, being in a band, in a play? Or, and it makes my heart sink to think of it, will they feel it is better all round if they just work hard and get on?
The strength and fragility of our young is something Emma and I have highlighted in The Enough Project. What is our legacy for them? Where do our crumbs in the forest lead? There’s so much distrust of them and so much inexcusable debt. Pretty soon, if we’re not careful, only the privileged will be able to study the arts and I am sure they will also be dissuaded. But there is, of course, that place where knowledge of the arts is free and in abundance; there is a light and it is on the laptop. All the knowledge of the world is still at our fingertips – any guitar and any bass drum.
I use the internet in my play Something Right as a tool to show the vulnerability and power of young minds and how they can be corrupted or influenced. But I take comfort in the fact that that now and in the future, while it isn’t controlled or policed, young people can learn anything from the internet. Out of reach of bureaucracy and free from curriculum. I love the fact that in these times when you are dissuaded from a creative education you can, if you want, read every lecture T S Eliot did at Cambridge in 1926 on the internet. Amazing. People can learn how to do things – good things- that aren’t expected of them. I know this, because at the weekends I am basically a sous-chef for a nine-year-old who continuously downloads recipes. A nine-year-old who downloaded a way of speeding up the preserving process of lemons from the internet and now I have jars full of them.
In my play, something terrible happens to a young girl because she is exposed to so much information, but it could just as easily be seen as something brilliant and amazing. This is the modern world that I’ve learnt about.