Wednesday, 14 January 2009


The biggest failing of any writer is to be too precious about their work, to be the superior wordsmith, in love with every semi-colon and flowery metaphor, not able to give anything up for criticism or comment. And I’m on that journey, learning anew everyday to take it, to suck it up and accept the comments and the criticism. Some will be valid, others will be down to taste. I’m learning to be grown-up enough to accept it all and filter through to the feedback that does matter, that does hold up. I won’t always agree but it will always be worth considering.

What makes me so ridiculously seething with blind anger and bile is when darlings of the mainstream publishing industry inform you they’ve sat down with your manuscript and a notebook and make extensive notes on everything- :gulp: are you ready for the onslaught? Can you handle the pain? Will you have a thick skin, porous enough to absorb the cavalcade of criticism and commentary?- and it becomes abundantly apparent they haven’t read past the first three pages. The feedback I was given yesterday involved the person in question questioning my motives for writing the book, saying that the focus was entirely wrong. I told her what I thought the focus was. She told me that she had then misread the entire thing. I told her that the focus of the book is discussed at great length on page 4 of the book. I had it in front of me. She claimed to have it in front of her. She pretended to leaf through a manuscript till admitting she didn’t have it in front of her. She told me that I was lying, that these paragraphs weren’t there and all she had read was pages and pages of a man seeing his girlfriend after 3 months apart. I told her that last for 4 pages. She accused me of lying. I wanted to accuse her of not actually reading the manuscript, of not actually making the notes she had claimed to have made. But I can’t. She’s the hand that could feed me. And when this publishing network exists on the ties between friends and lovers, an old boy’s home, prejudiced, exclusive, insular and narrow-minded, unfortunately, I have to play by their rules. I told her that she could have just told me she didn’t have time to read my manuscript. She didn’t need to show so much interest. She didn’t need to make a show of how much time she had spent with it if she hadn’t. She was hardly Ari Gold and I was hardly seduced by her bullshit. But she didn’t. She strung me along in case I was the next Martina Cole or Ken Follett. Sharks, thieves, liars and arseholes. The lot of them. I’m considering becoming a monk and freeing myself of this stupid desire of mine to do anything vaguely creative with my life. The salespeople who act as our tastemakers are nothing more than walking advertisements for illuminate biscuit games.

While we’re on the subject, the BBC closed the doors on its Asian Programming Unit, the delightful little enclave that secured me two spots on BBC2, that nurtured talent like Goodness Gracious Me, that turned down my sitcom with enough feedback for me to go back and work on it till it was better. Is it good or bad that there’s no more Asian Programming Unit? Did we sign our death knell for Asian arts with all this funding to increase diversity, with our own programming unit? Neither of these endeavours have managed to produce artists that have set the world alight. Asian Dub Foundation put together with the English National Opera, a hip-hopera on Gaddafi, only to have it panned for being an Arts Council experiment gone awry, and it disappeared quickly. The Asian Programming Unit hasn’t produced another Goodness Gracious Me ever. In fact it hasn’t produced a single sitcom or drama with an Asian focus. Why? No talent? I think it’s because having these enclaves, these ring-fenced bits of diversity funding brings artists through but only presents them in a way that segregates them further. They’re pushed into the diversity experiment box, meaning that people view their work with a certain baggage. However, the truth is, there’s no other place for them. I don’t know anyone who really watched Desi DNA, the Asian culture magazine show on BBC2 that kindly featured me twice, but it certainly pulled in the multiculturalism stats. What is the result? We end up segregating ourselves further, forming cliques within cliques and niches in niches. Through a calamity of genre-defining, I ended up the spoken word poet of the British Asian music scene, a niche within a tiny niche, neither of which with any particular fanbase other than the other artists producing the work. Also, the Asians didn’t really have any interest in Desi DNA. It was aimed at white people interested in the non-cheesy aspects of Asian culture. Unfortunately, there are hardly any white people interested in the non-cheesy aspects of Asian culture. The Asians either go to ZEE TV for their ethnic programming or stick to ratings saviours like ‘Desperate Fishwives’.

Now they’ve closed the Asian Programming Unit, is the Asian arts experiment over? I haven’t got as much knowledge of African Caribbean arts and telly funding so excuse the focus. Is it doom and gloom for Asian Network, who have now re-mainstreamed themselves after the niche/underground music on main playlists experiments ended in backlash. Did we squander our lot? Did we try and please an audience that wasn’t there instead of using the funding to bring through ethnic artists with major voices and an eye on writing something that didn’t pander to ethnic stereotypes, something that wasn’t for ethnics about ethnics, something that was for the mainstream? Cos we’re certainly not going to get those chances again. We’re out in the cold. We ballsed up our only chances. Now there’s nothing left other than heading over to ZEE TV with our ideas. What if I was sitting on a Mighty Boosh or a UK The Wire, just so written by an Asian guy starring Asian guys in a brave non-colour casting manoeuvre. What now and where next? I don’t know but all I know is that the recession may be spelling doom and gloom for the arts, but the cutbacks the arts is making is phasing out all the ethnics. Time to be DIY, self-sufficient and existing outside of the mainstream on your own terms. If Riz MC can do it, so can we all. Good luck and go forth and make things, make products, think wide and think big. Don’t go small, reach the widest audience, don’t dilute your voice, don’t change your name and be heard... if nothing else, be heard. Cos no one’s going to be knocking on our doors much anymore.

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