Friday, 7 October 2011

Making a Scene

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be part of a scene? To be one of the movers and shakers making things happen and overturning the existing order? Can you imagine how it felt to be one of the Romantic Poets or the Bright Young Things of the 1920s? The feeling of endless possibilities and a collective creative purpose must have been so liberating. Mustn't it?

But I wonder if the people in those scenes even thought about what was happening. Perhaps they were simply meeting their friends to discuss their various creative projects. The idea of "a scene" often comes from outside the group, a label bestowed by the media in an attempt to understand cultural shift. The music industry is a particular culprit - I watched throughout the 90s as Melody Maker and NME came up with one manufactured trend after another, in an attempt to group seemingly dissimilar bands. What was Britpop, after all, except a collection of musicians who happened to be British? And as for post-punk? That could apply to any song recorded after 1979!

There's a wonderful film called Dogtown and Z-Boys that documents the birth of modern skateboarding culture. I'd recommend it even if you have no interest in skateboards, because it gives such a clear insight into what it's like to be part of a gang or a scene. The Z-Boys were a group of young men in California who surfed in the mornings but were looking for something to do later in the day. So they bought skateboards and during a drought, took over the drained, abandoned swimming pools in the area. Skating the smooth, curved sides of the pools allowed them to take to the air for the first time, inventing radical new tricks and moves. They weren't looking to change the world, they just wanted to hang out and have fun. But their style and attitude became iconic.

The Inklings were a very different group, but I'm sure they too had no idea - as they met week after week in an Oxford pub - that their members would produce some of the best-loved classics of English Literature. I find it slightly unreal to think that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis actually sat down together and discussed their fantasy worlds. Yet, how is that any different to me sitting down with my SCBWI critique group in an Oxford coffee shop? With three of us published or due to be published, aren't we, in fact, in a scene of our own making?

Let me widen that thought. I am very proud to be a part of "The SCBWI Scene." A dynamic group of young (at heart) children's writers who will profoundly affect what our children read for the next twenty years or more. A group who must navigate a massive technological shift in the world of storytelling and books. A group full of accomplished writers and illustrators who all once felt powerless, but now wield considerable influence. Make no mistake.

We are coming.



  1. I feel exactly this about SCBWI - we're the Scoobie Set :o)

  2. The Oxford Critique group gets a mention, is it?

    You are dead to me.

    (Not really).

  3. Nice one Nick.
    The Inklings met in the Bird & Baby - legend has it that at one of Tolkien's reading someone was heard to mutter 'Not another f**king elf'. Makes it all seem real somehow.
    Like us - we are very real!

  4. Maybe we are already here!
    Groups Are Great, and BI SCBWI is the best.

  5. Sorry, Mark - my metaphor didn't work so well with Bracknell (unless you know any famous scenesters in the Bracknell area). But I'm sure we're all destined for greatness!

    Philippa - It was the Eagle and Child!

  6. A pesky Scoobie kid and proud of it! (O.K. Former kid who's still pesky...)

  7. I love Dogtown and Z-Boys - I remember it being on TV a few years ago and staying up until some ridiculous hour to watch it! :D

  8. Great post NIck - let Ruling the World commence!

    Because the folks of Oxford are just sooo cool, they also call the Eagle and Child the Bird and Baby, much in the same as we also refer to SCBWI as The Awesomest Writers Who Ever Lived. Yep, *sure* I've heard that somewhere...

  9. Cooee Nick! We're writing stuff that will 'profoundly affect what our children read for the next twenty years or more'? Saying things like that will have most of us diving for cover under our desks. We're fantasists after all, not some sort of social worker come teachers. Scary!!!!!!

  10. Me too! If only SCBWI had a more easily pronounceable acronym!

  11. Reminds me of my hippie days, Maaan, being part of a Scene - psychedelic, etc etc. I'm happy to be part of the Scoooby Doo Scene.