Interview: Stephen M. Hornby

  • 21
  • Jul

We managed to pin down Stephen M. Hornby, writer of the play ‘The No History of the Near Not Now’, for a cuppa and a chat. We grilled him on all things to do with his play, Islington, history, and what’s next! Don’t forget – there are *FREE* tickets to a staged reading of the play available at islingtonspride.com on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 March, at 8pm. The play is one hour long. Follow along on social media: #NoHistory

Tell us about The No History of the Near Not Now, and why should we go and see it?

‘The No History of the Near Not Now’ is a time-travelling adventure from the near future back to different episodes in the rich past of Islington. In the near future, the First Great Data Rebellion has happened. People have taken control of and destroyed their digital pasts. They’ve developed a taste for the anonymity that having no past offers, and now they want to destroy history itself. Counting out the past in years is banned. All that is left is ‘the not now’ and ‘the far not now’. There is a small resistance group, lead by museum curators who’ve been thrown out of their museums as they have been closed down. There is a magical energy in the artifacts of the past that move people back in time. There they can learn lessons that they bring with them back to present to strengthen the resistance movement. What’s more – it all take places in Islington Museum!

Could you briefly tell us about the background of the play?

The play was written using the LGBT+ archive that’s been created by Islington Museum in the Islington Pride project. It really is an embarrassment of riches. I’m a North London boy – I was born in Barnet – but I didn’t know the depth and range of LGBT+ firsts that were part of Islington. I knew about Joe Orton (playwright who lived on Noel Road) and Chris Smith (the first out, gay MP), but I knew nothing about Bob Crossman (the first out mayor), Sisterwrite (the first out lesbian owned and run bookshop), and the wonderful Yvonne Sinclair (who ran the first public support service for trans people).  There was so much to fall in love with.  My commission was only for a 30 minute piece. We ended up with a 60 minute piece. I’ve had to be highly selective and offer glimpses of people that convey an essence, but hopefully enough to give the flavour of their past.

I spent a couple of research days physically going through the archive and photographing everything.  Then I worked with a group of young people from YATI (Young Actors Theatre Islington) and we workshopped ideas about LGBT+ people in the past and materials, people and situations that are represented in the collection. Then I took my research and the ideas from the workshops and spent some weeks writing to get to a first draft. The young people from the workshops then met up and read it through along with our wonderful director, Matt Hassall. I got a bunch of notes from that and then went away to write the second draft. That’s gone into rehearsal. Matt suggested some cuts to tidy up the story and keep the pace moving along and that’s pretty much where we’ve got to. On Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 March, the actors will be presenting a ‘staged reading’.  That means they’ll still be using scripts, but they will be acting and there will be movement and so it will feel like a dynamic piece. We’re looking forward to getting the audience responses and then hope to take the show into a final stage of development next year.


The young actors from YATI

How did you celebrate LGBT History Month this year?

I’m the National Playwright in Residence to LGBT History Month.  So, it’s one of my busiest times of year.  In addition to this piece is Islington, I’ve written and had a rehearsed reading of a play about Peter Tatchell in 1983, when he stood as Labour candidate in Bermondsey, called ‘First Rumours’ at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.  And I’ve been touring a full production of “The Adhesion of Love” my play about a group of Victorian men from Bolton and their connection with one of America’s greatest poets, Walt Whitman.  So, I celebrated it with a lot of lovely plays…

What do you love most about Islington?

The Museum, of course!

Can you give us a sneak preview of anything coming up next?

I’m finishing off a PhD in playwriting from archive.  I’m also writing another full-length period play, this time set in early Georgian Edinburgh and London.  And to top it all off, I’m recording the second season of the WFTS Podcast, which I co-present, on playwriting and theatre.

Thank you, Stephen for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to seeing the play! For more information on the Islington’s Pride project visit www.islingtonspride.com

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