The Pink Sofa's guest today is truly 'Renaissance Man'. Simon is an actor,writer, musician and the only Green councillor on St Albans District Council (so far). He is also part of the St Albans Literary Festival (as am I). Simon has been hugely helpful to me in my efforts to stop our urban green space being sold off to a developer by my unscrupulous Town Council, and he has freely helped and advised HIP in our campaign to be elected to the District Council. A man of talent and generosity! I asked Simon to talk about his various roles and occupations......
''I trained as an actor and had a reasonably successful career in theatre for about 15 years. Later I moved in to writing of various sorts, and that's mostly how I earn my bread and butter now. I still do the occasional film or TV job when one comes along, and the one I dine out on most is Harry Potter. I was cast as a Deatheater in Harry Potter part seven.
Typically for these huge films, I was booked for months, then ended up working for just one day, and am on screen for about five seconds. The money they spend on these films is astonishing - I had two duplicate handmade costumes, all the props I saw were beautifully made, and there were about 200 people on set all day to produce what was a relatively small and simple scene, inside the train. All the Deatheaters had their own personal wands, and mine is now in its specially marked box near the gift shop of the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden Studios in Watford.
I studied politics at university but never thought I would end up being a politician. I joined the Green Party while a student, as I thought their manifesto was amazing - positive and radical, but also realistic. I slowly got involved in local parties when I lived in London, and when I moved back to St Albans I found that there was a substantial level of support for the party even without any local campaigning. Over the last eight years local members have worked to build focussed support in central St Albans, until the point that I got elected in 2011. Now we find ourselves able to achieve all sorts of things in the Council, partly because the ruling Conservatives are a minority. And we're looking to get more councillors in the coming years.
Being the only Green is a challenge, as I don't have the support of more experienced colleagues. And for the party to be represented in committees and in debates, it basically has to be me or no-one. But council staff are very helpful, and I've learnt a lot from members of other parties too. I also have great support from my fellow local party members, and from other Green councillors around the country.
I don't have a novel in me, I'm quite sure of that. A sitcom maybe, or a children's play adapted from a book, but not a novel. Last year I was invited me to write a Lego-themed puppet version of Cinderella, that was performed at Legoland Windsor. Which was nice. I'm lucky as a writer in that I always know I'm going to get paid for the writing I do. I admire the motivation of people who can spend all that time and effort producing a novel without knowing a. if anyone's going to read it, or b. if they're going to make any money out of it. I suppose if you get your money somewhere else that's fine, but for me writing has always been a job. A job I really like - don't get me wrong. But still a job.''
You can contact Simon via:www.greenstalbans.blogspot.com
Simon, you sound amazing! What a diverse life you have, and so much of it so inspired! If I lived in England, I'd want someone like you in my council! I know what you mean about writing, though. I also make my living out of writing, but not out of my books! Lovely to have 'met' you here, and thanks PINK SOFA for a great guest!ReplyDelete
Hi Val, thanks for your comment. It's funny how life ends up following a diverse path, isn't it. Rarely planned that way (not by me anyway!). Good luck with your writing.Delete
What an interesting man - and rare to meet a politician lacking in hubris!ReplyDelete
Thanks for your nice comment, Jo. I am proud of what we've managed to do on St Albans Council, but hopefully not excessively so! It's a tricky line to walk sometimes, as it's necessary to let people know what you've been doing on their behalf, but you don't want to show off about it!Delete
Hello Simon, you have certainly had an interesting career so far! I quite fancy writing a sitcom myself, either for radio or television. I would imagine it is quite difficult to get a foot in the door with either these days. How did you get started in writing for children's television?ReplyDelete
Hi Bodicia. Getting a sitcom on TV is indeed very difficult - radio is easier, and the Writers Room at the BBC website is a good place to start. I got started in writing for children's TV almost by accident. I was acting in a long-running children's TV show, and after a while the producers invited the cast to submit scripts. I ended up writing six episodes, and once that show ended, I applied to other production companies to write for them. It went on from there. Again, the BBC are quite good at encouraging aspiring children's writers, though it is increasingly competitive, and fewer programmes are being made - almost none outside the BBC in fact.Delete
What a lucky break you had! Yes, I have been hanging about the Writer's Room on and off for a few years now. I haven't submitted anything yet but maybe soon ;) Thank you for your reply.Delete
What a varied and interesting life you have,Simon. Your writing has done well to always be paid. I'm sure most of us hope that our novels will be read. If you must write you must, payment or not but payment is better! Good luck to you with your Green politics, Simon. We do need a change from the usual three parties. It's good to see someone daring to be in the minority but hopefully rising all the time! Thanks for this interesting blog piece. How wonderful to have been in a Harry Potter film - something your grandchild's grandchildren can watch and enjoy!ReplyDelete
Thanks Catherine. There is increasing disillusion with the major parties, whilst membership and support for the Greens (and certain other small parties!) is on the rise. We may be heading towards a more plural political scene, which I think would be healthy.Delete
Jumping in.... we have certainly found enormous disillusionment with all 3 major parties. It needs the smaller ones to come up with viable policies ...and charismatic leadership... and push for equal votingDelete
...fascinating interview... more power to you, that man,,, and well done, m’Lady Carol for having Simon visit the Pink Sofa :)ReplyDelete
Simon, you describe such an interesting, active and positive life, and must constantly walk the tightrope between stimulated and exhausted with all you fit in. So good to know there are still principled, dedicated people in politics. Really good to hear all your fascinating stories too!ReplyDelete
I enjoyed reading this Simon and must have seen some of your work on children's TV over the years. I wrote songs for children and made a CD a few years ago, mainly about animals and nature with a bit of nonsense as well. It didn't make a lot of money but was lovely to see children enjoying the songs. Do you ever incorporate green issues in your writing for kids TV?ReplyDelete
I haven't actually incorporated green issues in to my kids TV writing, Claire. I've mostly written for the pre-school age, and sometimes those programmes do have a green tinge, but it's rarely explicit. However, I have worked with some green-minded clients at Quietroom (my regular job). Everyone in the office knows about my green interests and knowledge, so I tend to get assigned to those clients when we get them - green energy providers, ethical companies and so on.Delete
I love the idea of a lego version of Cinderella. This sounds like the start of a major series! As for novel writing, I think hat a lot of people write novels because they need to write rather than to make money, don't they?ReplyDelete
I studied Politics at Hull at the same time as Simon and saw him in a University production of Look Back in Anger. To this day,it is a performance that I look back on as gripping in its intensity. Great to see Simon is still involved in theatre, TV and politics.ReplyDelete