The wolf at the door – Ben Jewell

Ben Jewell gives us a guest blog on the theme of our next cabaret event: First Draft’s Fright Night.

Ben is an actor, teacher, cyclist, fiction and poetry writer, and he thinks too much. He had never dared to perform his own work until he came to First Draft. He enjoys films, food, and long walks. LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

What are you afraid of?

As the longer nights draw in, First Draft is looking ahead to Hallowe’en, and all things spooky, or possibly even eldritch, if we’re feeling really ambitious, and we’ve fetched a thesaurus. However, I’ve always been a contrary so-and-so. Rather than thinking about ghost stories per se, I found myself thinking about the nature of fear.

An evil clown, yesterday. Our completely made-up survey said that 83% of people find clowns scary.

An evil clown, yesterday. Our completely made-up survey said that 83% of people find clowns scary.

My wife and I, like most people, love going to the movies. The magic of cinema, bewilderingly overpriced popcorn, the whole shebang. But our tastes differ somewhat. I’ve never had a big thing for horror movies. My wife, on the other hand, loves them. Incidentally, according to Harvard researchers, that means we should be divorced by now. But then again, the research was funded by an online dating site, and reported in the Telegraph, so, hey, take it with a pinch of salt.

I have tried. Honestly I have. I’ve sat through some pretty trashy horror, but I’ve also sought out the best the genre has to offer (recommendations, anyone?). Yet I continue to struggle. It’s not just me being a scaredy-cat, although I confess to such tendencies. What I have always found difficult to comprehend is the desire to be scared by the fantastical, the unreal. There is more than enough to fear in the real world, without constructing fake demons. My wife, I think, would argue that that’s precisely the point. We achieve catharsis by exorcising imagined enemies, much more enjoyable than docudrama. Nevertheless, there is a fine line here, and if we’re not careful, the balance tips over into escapism, and we lose any sight of the true problems.

What are you afraid of? What scares me most, honestly, is climate change. The prospect of our paper-thin veneer of civilisation being torn away by drought, famine, and our oh-so-precious oil when it finally runs out. We are destroying the Earth, and there is no sign of any progress. We don’t even dare to discuss it with one another. Of course, I know that not everyone shares this fear. It is far future, perhaps beyond our lifetimes, and we are not a species blessed with the long view. Furthermore, when confronted with really big, insurmountable problems, we can all shelve the crippling self-doubt, and go back to our humdrum existence. Climate change is not an immediate threat, or a clearly identifiable enemy. It is not the wolf at the door, or the vampire at the window. It is much quieter than that, and far more dangerous.

Warning – the polar bears are getting angry.

Warning – the polar bears are getting angry.

It is particularly interesting in terms of narrative. The green movement has recently got concerned that it has spread too much of an apocalyptic/depressing message about climate change. The consensus is that we need more positivity, but again, we have yet to see this truly capture the public’s imagination. This, surely, trumps any other struggle, any other fear. But it doesn’t feel that way. Perhaps we need to tell new stories.

As ever, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun. So come October 31st, I shall probably be portraying a mummy, or Angel off of Buffy, or something, rather than dressing up as, say, impending global apocalypse. To be honest, my seamstress skills aren’t up to it. But in those moments of enjoying ourselves with the cosy fears, I hope we also have the courage to face up to the bigger, more real ones too.

Oh, and if you read this quick enough, there’s a climate march this Sunday, setting off from Piccadilly Gardens at 11am. Hope to see some of you there.

Ben blog - climate change

I’m scared of the dark! Leave the light on! (we’re having to get a bit creative with these…)

Well, ok. Just a little bit more before bedtime…

You can catch Ben performing at our Fright Night on Monday 20th October (a bit early for Hallowe’en, but there you go…)

If you can’t wait that long, he’ll also be flexing his poetry muscles a week earlier at First Draft’s Poetry Special

Follow Ben and First Draft on Twitter

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