Audience question time at festivals can create some truly cringe-making moments. Turns out it is not that easy to ask an intelligent, succinct question. Most of the time what we really want to do is make a statement and leave the onus up to the other person to decode that into a question. Bit of a cheek really, expecting presenters/authors to both create and answer the questions that we have lurking somewhere in our subterranean minds.
The Art Gallery on a Saturday morning was where we all went for a bit of help with our ideas generation from four bright and beautiful young things: playwright and actress (Alice Canton), National Poetry Slam champ Mohamed Hassan, songwriter Hollie Fullbrook and cartoonist Toby Morris. Actually make that five beautiful young things – Poet Steven Toussaint asks the hard questions and he’s not that ancient himself.
Prize for worst question ever goes to Where do you get your ideas from? Steve asked them to explain
Why do you hate that question so much?
I steal ideas from everybody and I don’t really want people to know that. Although now you all do! I also hate the question because I fear some of my ideas will be considered superficial. Then I just want to wet myself and melt onto the floor to force the interviewer to move on to someone else.
The question is just too broad. I don’t have a secret stash of ideas, it’s not like I’m hiding my ideas in a place where they all have some sort of private life.
I fear I will jinx my ideas if I reveal how I get them. It’s like the Sufi Centipede story. The centipede could dance beautifully until someone said: ‘How do you do that?’ And the centipede tried to explain. And could never again dance after that.
I take big topics that resonate with me and make them more accessible by connecting them to my personal life. What I hate is when people ask me What pen do you use? Like it’s the pen that is being creative!
What do you do when inspiration is scarce?
I go to other shows and I steal ideas!
I can’t write when I am comfortable, I suppose I have to get out of my comfort zone. I explore.
I try to associate with people who believe in me.
Are there ideas that are too explicit or personal and you will never explore?
Ideas that are too explicit just don’t interest me.
I hide in my songs – I give the difficult, personal, explicit, political, awkward stuff to other characters! In this way I shroud the real situation.
I don’t like it when things become aggressively confessional. There are some things I will never write about. Sometimes I think people reveal too much.
At what point do you decide to let go of an idea because it really just isn’t up to much?
I cling on for way too long, I take bad ideas to full term. That seems to be how I learn.
I abort bad ideas very quickly. I know they are bad when I start having to try too hard.
Looming deadlines make me give up on them.
So there you have it – out of the mouths of babes. And let it not be said that we weren’t fast learners, because the quality of the questions from the floor at the end of the event was of a very high standard!