Pass it on

by Author on March 3, 2013

Alan Bennett’s great play The History Boys is full of fantastic quotable lines. The one that has stuck with me most, and still provokes a real emotional gut reaction in me, comes from Hector near the end when he’s addressing all of the boys. I don’t know any better way to express what education, teaching – and being a parent – should be all about.

“Pass the parcel. That’s sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it, and pass it on. Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day. Pass it on, boys. That’s the game I want you to learn. Pass it on.”

That thought always lay at the heart of the threads that were drawn through The Knitter – but now the threads have been passed on to another generation, and to new media and art forms my Dad would have loved to have dabbled with.

A couple of weeks ago I went to see “Dancing with the Orange Dog”, a truly original, creative and deeply emotional melding of visual arts, theatre and songs from the 154 Collective. Catch it if you can – you won’t be disappointed.
For me it was a particularly emotional experience. Although Orange Dog is obviously the result of truly collective creativity from people like Fabric Lenny and The Housekeeping Society, the central theatre piece comes largely from the head of my nephew Dan Mallaghan. And I am more than a little proud – and hugely chuffed! – to say a lot of the inspiration that led to Dancing with the Orange Dog came from my dad, his poems and the Knitter. Expanded on for sure, as it should be, but as I sat watching the play, and listened to the songs, I was in a unique position in the audience. To hear songs that put my dad’s poems to music, or referred in some ways to them; to hear and see one of my own favorite sections of The Knitter, the birthday star, woven into a play; to recognise references to my dad, to myself, to the poems, the book…… at times a surreal experience, not knowing if I was listening to a play or was actually in it!

But one feeling, and one thought, stayed with me for the whole night. I had passed it on! From my dad and his poems through The Knitter on to Dancing With The Orange Dog, the songs from Housekeeping Society and maybe even somewhere inside the fantastic iPAD real time artworks that threaded through the performance. Pity my dad couldn’t have seen it.

Hector was right. “Pass it on, boys. That’s the game I want you to learn. Pass it on.”

I was playing with my Grandson Stanley yesterday, who has just moved into his second year. I couldn’t help thinking….. I can’t wait to talk to him about my dad, his poems, The Knitter, Dancing with Orange Dogs….. just so I can pass it on.

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