And this has been a year when many new experiences and projects have infused my life. And each one has added new strands to the audio tapestry of the show, new chapters to this autobiography made through other people. Because of this I can't really sum up year two of making Getting Better Acquainted without summing up my year in general.
It began with tragedy.
Stand Up Tragedy to be precise. I put on 5 nights of what had, until very late in 2011, just been a vague idea rattling around in my mind. But when you have good ideas you have to try and make them happen. Well you don't have to. But I find it very hard to stop myself from trying to. Even when the ideas are inconvenient.
The format of Stand Up Tragedy worked well and I was really pleased with the final results, despite the process being quite disruptive to me personally. It worked so well that SUT is returning in 2013, including (I hope) a run at the Edinburgh Free Fringe in August. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first few months 2012 were dark ones for me. I was in quite a deep depression. Part of this was probably because I was overwhelmed by the sudden busyness that running a monthly show, releasing a weekly podcast, lots of other projects and commitments and maintaining a day job, will throw into your life. I guess you could say I was stressed out. But I also think that a big part of it was the emotional journey I have been going through while making GBA.
Again this is an example of an idea having its own will independently of it's creator. I didn't expect when I started the process of making Getting Better Acquainted that it would lead to me learning a great deal about myself. I have literally been returning to the places from my past, re-visiting them, but I have also been dealing with relationships; my family, my lovers, my friends, often having conversations with them about themselves but also talking about them with my guests, comparing and contrasting lives and ideas. It has been a very positive force on my life and has led to many personal revelations. I feel I am learning so much about myself and about people in general through doing this show.
But therapy, even when done on oneself through a creative endeavour, isn't a simple process. Since I spent 2011 on a glorious high of self discovery and new clarities, I might have expected that I would crash. The first day of bleakness happened almost a year ago, on the day I wrote last years round up of the show, I had to force myself to type through a dark cloud which engulfed me almost completely for days afterwards, and which I wouldn't manage to fully clear my head of till much later in the year.
In a way though I think of this slump as just a bump on the road, growing pains resulting from all the emotional growth that's been occurring inside me. But it was also a very extreme version of the cycle between highs and lows that I am prone too. Which may be partly due to nature as it is something my mother also struggles with. But it is also partly nurture. In 2011 I recorded 3 conversations with my mum, the third one that hasn't gone out yet, was about this area of our lives. Whilst recording that episode I had a revelation about my relationship with my mum: That forgiving her and learning to like myself is the same process. But after the high of that had worn off I suddenly found myself able to see my childhood experiences very clearly. Dealing with the spectre of those times was a big part of the dip. But it was also the thing that helped pull me out of it, more than the 4 cognitive behavioural therapy sessions I finally managed to get much later in the year, after having "cried for help" to the doctor in late 2011. Not that those sessions weren't helpful. They were. But trying to form an understanding of my past has been even more helpful.
To do this I turned to the place I always do: making stuff. In the summer I began writing a play based around my understanding of that time. It is probably impossible to stage and it is certainly very hard to write. I actually think I may never get it to work as a piece of art. But writing it has been very helpful.
I also made an episode of GBA about it:
The Reactionaries, an alt pop duo that I am part of, recorded our first session for our second album Bouncy Poppy Songs About Death between Christmas and New Year 2011. Amazingly we have not finished the album yet, but it should be finished in 2013 (or so our producer assures us.) That said music we performed three tracks from it at the first Stand Up Tragedy on February 6th one of which is the Stand Up Tragedy Theme Tune. And we did get together another song called Talk to Your Parents which formed the backbone of the GBA Special To the Heart of It.
January was a blur of The Reactionaries rehearsals, a mad rush to promote and book acts for SUT and spending any free moments in a state of depression. With the first Stand Up Tragedy going well and the sensible decision I made to take the day after the show off things got easier going forward.
In February I was also making the first steps towards getting together A Room Full of Friends. This is a music project that I was intending to make into its own podcast. The concept is that the band plays in a room full of friends in a house. This has evolved into what will become a strand of GBA. We recorded a pilot episode as part of GBA's Residency at the Invisible Picture Palace in November and we will be releasing that (and other episodes) in 2013. It will be a monthly additional episode where we Get Better Acquainted with a Room Full of Friends and we will be performing in different rooms, with different friends and invited support acts.
On March 10th I went with some friends to see Chris Goode perform God/Head. This was a very resonant show for me. Afterwards I contacted Chris and we arranged to meet up to record this:
When contacting Chris I discovered that we had a mutual acquaintance in Karl James. And when I was programming the guests for the residency I invited them to return and do a conversation with me together. This will also come out in 2013.
Then on the 16th I went on GBA roadtrip to Oxford to record conversations with people I know who live in that city. The only one of those that has been released so far is this one:
On Monday 26th of March I recorded this conversation with Radcliffe Royds.
Radcliffe has played rather a large part in my life this year. I met him through Spark London which has also come to play a larger part in my life this year. I spent some time with him in Edinburgh and saw him doing his thing in Soho Square for the Soho Stories app, booked him twice for Stand Up Tragedy, and had a conversation with him as part of my residency. He is a man I am very glad to know and it has been a pleasure getting better acquainted with him.
At the end of March I took a trip up to North with my dad to visit family. While I was there I did a final edit and recorded new opening and closing monologue for To the Heart of It:
On April 16th I went to the Spark London Open Mic in Brixton and told this story:
In the last week of April I got in my submission to the Radio Production Awards which resulted in me being nominated for the Best Online Creator Award:
I also went to my first cognitive behavioural therapy session. This therapist promptly left the job though and it would be months before I managed to get set up with an alternative. I remember thinking it was ironic when I was travelling to that appointment that I had fully come out of my depressive state a few weeks before!
And the other thing I did that week was a GBA road trip to Tunbridge Wells to record this conversation:
Mike is another person who I invited back in November to be a part of my GBA Residency.
The first week of May was busy too!
I saw a screening of The Truth is Out There at Goldsmiths University.
I recorded a conversation with my musical hero Darren Hayman in the Rose and Crown Pub in Walthamstow:
And then the next day I recorded a conversation with Phil Leirness the director of The Truth is Out There and one of the hosts of thye Chillpak Hollywood Hour podcast. This was the first of this years conversations with other podcasters a strand I began in 2011 via skype link up to the I Like You podcast in Canada. But since Phil was in town we recorded it in his hotel near Victoria Station.
I began May by recording the most listened to GBA episode to date with Helen and Ollie from Answer Me This! Followed a few days later by the second most listened to episode to date with Martin (the soundman) from Answer Me This! Followed a few days after that by recording the conversation with Chris Goode.
June brought the final Stand Up Tragedy of the season and a less frantic schedule. A Room Full of Friends (at this point a duo) performed:
On the 7th of June I recorded a conversation with Sheila, my dads ex wife. Sheila sadly passed away this year. My older sisters listened to the unedited conversation we had and it helped them to plan the funeral. I am so glad to have been able to provide them with this resource.
On the 16th of June the first of the weddings of two different old friends of mine who both happen to be called Steve happened. Since it took place near Lancaster Jen and I decided to revisit the town where we lived for 5 years (and met). We recorded a GBA Special during this trip which will probably come out in 2013.
This article about Stand Up Tragedy (and other things) came out in June. Too late to inform audiences about the Leicester Square Theatre run of the show, but a great write up nonetheless.
In the last weekend of June I went to Bristol for my mum's birthday and combined it with recording conversation with Bristolian's of my acquaintance. This is the episode from that trip that has aired so far:
In July I didn't win the Radio Production Award but I was invited to join the Spark London Team full time, doing their social media and running the Hackey Attic Open Mic from September.
August brought the second Getting Better Acquainted Edinburgh Special as I went up to perform for Spark, record some conversations and see some shows. It was while I was at this trip that I decided that I would definitely bring Stand Up Tragedy back. The trip kicked of the Edinburgh season and there was a very fast turnaround for the episodes during that time as they were all with performers doing shows at the festival.
When I was in Edinburgh I was lucky to see some really amazing comedy, theatre and spoken word. I also managed to meet another of my heroes the comedian Eddie Peppitone whose bit was the original inspiration for my Stand Up Tragedy show. Eddie Peppitone is part of The Long Shot Podcast.
I also went away with my writing group on our second writing retreat, where I wrote a first draft of a new play and got even better acquainted with them. This is a conversation I recorded with them at our 2011 retreat:
On the 27th August I was featured in Helen and Olly's Required Listening BBC Radio 5 Live, talking about Getting Better Acquainted and Spark London.
On the 30th August I went to my first every In the Dark event, the Open Mini-Jack Night they ran were hosting in the glasshouse in front of the Wapping Project as part of their Invisible Picture Palace project.
I played them this:
In September it was back to Cardiff for the second Steve wedding of the year. Again I combined the trip with recording a second special about Cardiff and a bunch of conversations, like this one:
Then I returned to London to host the first of my monthly Spark London Open Mic at the Hackney Attic. It was really well attended and we got off to a cracking start. This is a story recorded on one of the Hackney nights:
Then it was off on a GBA roadtrip to Wokingham. But this one had taken on a mind of its own and had turned into a reunion for a group of friends from University and a chance for us to all meet my friend Richard's new baby. I recorded a few conversations during that weekend which will come out next year. Richard is a frequent guest of GBA, the first of his episodes came out at the start of the year as part of the "3 Posh Boys" season.
In October I turned 31 and happened to record a podcast on the day I did it:
I also began work recording and writing for the Cbeebies Radio show Ministry of Stories. Surprisingly this meant I spent a lot of time for the next two months at the amazing children's writing centre Ministry of Stories. The show started being broadcast on the 17th December and I am really proud of it and so impressed at the hard work of Matt Hill who really brought his A Game to the project. It was a pleasure and a joy working with the staff and volunteers at the MiS.
I'd visited the Invisible Picture Palace a few times after that first one and got to know the people who run In the Dark. They liked my audio and this resulted in me practically living in that glasshouse throughout November!
First up I did this presentation about "In Conversation" podcasting:
The next night I recorded a conversation via Skype with Kevin Allison from the storytelling podcast Risk!
The next night I performed a true story about panic attacks and sleep paralysis at Tea Fuelled Flea Circus at the Hackney Attic. That story was inspired by making this GBA Extra:
Then from the 16th - 21st November I did the 5 night residency at the glasshouse. These episodes will be released daily in the week running up to the 100th Episode of GBA.
The 21st was also the last day of recording at the MiS and on that day I got to meet one of the voices of my childhood: Jenni Murray from Woman's Hour (and our show).
On the last weekend of November I went on a GBA road trip to Colchester, followed by the only wedding that I didn't record conversations at this year.
I finished off November with a GBA road trip to Swindon where I recorded conversations with my Aunt and Uncle that will come out in 2013. I was really glad that making the show gave me the excuse to go and stay with them separately from the rest of my family grouping. Both conversations were really special to me.
In November and December I have been assembling the team to take Stand Up Tragedy into 2013. It feels good to have a wider group of people to carry the inevitable stress that bringing the show back will cause.
I spent Christmas in Prague with my mum. And I am now back in the UK about to spend 3 days with my partner, Jen, doing nothing.
2012 may have began as a very hard time for me but it slowly transformed into one of the best years of my life. So many things have happened. I've met so many new and exciting people. Listeners have increased for GBA, some of whom have reached out and contacted me, forming new connections, sharing new thoughts and experiences. And I have had so many amazing times and opportunities. Everything feels like it has been coming together. I feel I have reached a new level of openness with myself, with my loved ones and in the art I am making.