Michael John Rose

9th September 1937 – 19th February 2020

This Monday past, the 23rd March 2020, we said our goodbyes to dad at a Service at Lodge Hill Crematorium.

The ‘Social Distancing’ in place at the time meant that all members of the congregation were sat 2 metres from one another, the Funeral Directors banned the use of a limo and we were in the strange position of trying to dissuade vulnerable, or elderly friends and family from attending the Service. It was Live-Streamed on Facebook by my niece, Anja.

Hours later Prime Minister Johnson outlined a House Lockdown, in light of the evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis which is impacting across the world.

With the shadow of this affecting everyone, we gathered at Lodge Hill in truly beautiful weather. A cloudless sky, birds singing, and colour everywhere. Through the trees to the East is where dad first came into, and finally departed this world (Selly Oak Hospital / Elizabeth Court, at either end of Oak Tree Lane). To the North-West are the hills at Warley / Ridgacre, where dad grew up, and to the South, Naunton Close – the family home for nearly 60 years.

***

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Eulogy for Dad            23rdMarch 2020

This moment, it’s fair to say, has been on my mind for a long time.

Longer than a month. Reflecting on all the things you mean to us, and the impossibility of ‘summing up’. Because, truth be told that you, Dad, resisted the idea of something being ‘completed’. For you, the interest was in the process rather than the end-product;and in the journey more than the destination.

Today, of course, is very much about our acceptance of something Final, and, painful though it is, there is a need for us to come together to say farewell to you, and to give our thanks for a life that was long, but somehow also gone in a blink.

***

Dad left us peacefully in the small hours of 19thFebruary.

Even if he had preferred a quiet slipping away from this world, how could any of us imagined ourselves a situation where we recommend people stay at home for their own safety? It’s as if a crack appeared in the universe, because whilst we have been mourning, this world seems changed irrevocably. The future seems suddenly uncertain, (and from what I gather from what friends have said over the years, our family always represented something certain, something stable.)

Michael John Rose brought sparkle, a wit, and unmistakable presence; He has cast a tall shadow but was quietly unassuming, and gentle. Attentive, happy to help, but independent, sometimes stubbornly so…

Self-sufficiency came early – 6 years younger than big sister Mary, and 12 years older than baby sister Elizabeth. With the War defining those early years, Michael grew happy with his own company, and with his own thoughts.

Dad’s earliest distinct memory was of “hearing the Moon singing.” How better to recall the strangeness of being woken in the night, and taken down the garden to the bomb shelter, while air-raid sirens filled the clear night skies over Quinton, and the factories of nearby Smethwick. In 1946, After a knock on the door of 114 Ridgacre Rd. he piped up, “Mom, there’s a Man here”. It was his own dad, unrecognised after 5 years as a POW. Little Michael was usurped as the Man of the house, at the age of 8, having to adjust to the tough times of post-war rehabilitation and the relative freedom that being a teen in the 1950’s offered.

Little sister Elizabeth recalls, of her younger years:

“Michael made the tallest of snowmen and the best igloos! He played endless Lonnie Donegan records in his bedroom and played the harmonica in the bath (and on the toilet!). He would cycle all the way from Quinton to Abererch, stopping at YHA hostels overnight. Dolgellau was his favourite…  A few days would be spent at our tent, most of the daytime he would sit in the sand dunes for hours at a time, just gazing out to sea and watching the wildlife. He hated going in the sea! He was always known as “the smasher’ by the guard at Abererch halt as he once broke the glass in a train carriage door. And then he would cycle back to Ridgacre Road again. His birthday presents to me were always the best, especially the roller skates on a snowy Christmas day!! He bought me a beautiful doll. A string puppet, Pinnochio, that he was forever having to untangle.”

Dad was a product of a Time and a Place that we thought would last forever;  James Watt Technical College; doing his apprenticeship at Chance’s Glassworks (in the Lighthouse division); then moving to Belliss & Morcom – the giant engine factory at Icknield Port Loop; becoming a lift engineer at Cadbury’s; a Field service Engineer with Lansing Bagnall, and later on working for Sears group.

Lansing was probably the job that perhaps suited him best. When we kids weren’t all rolling around in the back of his red van, he had the road before him, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the manufactories in the Midlands – which he would visit to maintain and service the fork lift trucks.

As Mom recalls of their first meeting:

“I remember I’d been out and was at the bus stop. Along comes (my brother) Rob with this guy, who turned out to be Michael. He gets on the bus with his legs in the aisle talking about this banjo. He was obsessed that day with a banjo he’d seen in a junk shop in Harborne, we were on the bus on the way home and at Prince’s Corner he gets off the bus to look at it, and then walk all the way back to Quinton.

 Next time, I went to the Jazz club with my friend, and I sat with Rob and other lads (including Mike, Clive and the Fradgleys) while the girls jived, and I had a red skirt on with white stars and Mike spent half the evening counting these stars.

 I wasn’t good at dancing, but I took him to a class and he agreed, but he absolutely hated it because when he was listening to music he like to listen to every note. Concentrating. That’s how he was.”

 Mom and dad’s courting days were interrupted by his National Service, with dad joining a radar team at Holbeach, on the Wash in Lincolnshire. It may not have been the most glamorous of postings, but dad could easily while away the days on his lonesome. Having said that he was equally happy in the company of friends, or strangers – and would strike up a conversation with anyone; especially when the conversation turned to motors, mechanics, or music – and more especially if you had an instrument in your hand.

He would often start to learn a musical instrument, but the urge to improvise was always too great, the urge to play in the words of Ken Colyer, ‘hot horn’. This was dad; wanting to do things on his terms and in his own timescale. When the mainstream was starting to jive, dad was heading to the skiffle and the folk clubs, the trad. jazz clubs. And he was still going to the Perry Hill Tavern until illness prevented him, relatively recently.

To read about his musical hero is to learn something about dad. Ken Colyer had sailed around the world with the merchant fleet and jumped ship in America. He made his way to New Orleans with his trumpet, to become the ‘real deal’ – defying the segregation laws by playing onstage with the black musicians. For this transgression he ended up in the state gaol. He made his own pact, never to sell ‘the idea’ short.  That streak of purism never left Ken, nor dad.

Although dad, and mom travelled in later years – to visit Al in Australia, or Elaine & Arne’s wedding in Germany/Denmark, for example, the adventuring was more for the mind. Dad would say, “Why travel abroad when everything you might ever want can be found in North Wales?”

He was, in some ways more of a Dodd, rather than a Rose – in the image of his maternal, Staffordshire granddad. Tall and handsome, the Clint Eastwood of Naunton Close; choosing his words sparingly and carefully; the Lone Adventurer; the Quiet Man.

He was Bicycle Repair Man – the person everyone in the Close turned to for mechanical advice. The ‘trailer-builder’ for neighbours John Lee and Weoley Hill scout group, always with an offer or suggestions of car DIY, as Jasmine at No.22 will testify.

At Lansing he was referred to by pals as ‘The Crowman’: Wild-haired, with hands thick; ingrained with engine oil. The Smell of Swarfega. I don’t think I saw the true skin tone of his hands until the late 80’s. There were always cars, and car parts, in various stages of acquisition, repair, or abandonment. They filled the garage, in sheds, over the lawn, on the kitchen table. He collected car-parts like he collected musical instruments, or his fancy pipes.

He loved technical talk. He would recall Laws of Physics at random opportunities, just as he would readily recall excerpts of Shakespeare or Victor Hugo, that he’d last read 60 years previously. And he interpreted the world, as he would his own bodily apparatus, as if through the pages of Haynes Manual. Unsentimentally.

Dads, like it or not, are such a powerful influence. They are the template, the model, the spur to action, to change. They are your DNA, and yet perhaps a mystery too. They force us to question who we are, why we act and breathe and think like we do. They are the secret of your past, but also a glimpse into the future. A future you.

Of course, he was not only a Dad but a Son; a grandson, a younger brother, older brother, uncle, cousin, a grandad. And a husband of 57 years. He was a neighbour, and a friend. He was Michael, Mike. All these, and more.

We must remind ourselves how lucky we are to have had so many opportunities to spend time together as a family over the years. Family occasions, birthdays, and holidays. For all its desperate sadness of this day, and the strangeness of it, this is also about celebrating that togetherness.

With his passing is the end of an era. The end of something that is all many of us have ever known. The journey feels like it has come to an end, but is merely the start of another, “a herald to the gaudy spring”, as Shakespeare’s Sonnet I says, because Michael John Rose will never really leave us. He’ll always be sitting in that familiar way, in a chair in the corner, snoozing. He’ll always be tinkering in a shed somewhere with a new engine part for the kit car; he’ll always be sitting there, with a pipe, musing, with the engine on, with the syncopated rhythms of the stompers, the ‘trad men’, playing in his head. And with the neighbours’ house lights going out, one by one.

 When dreams of better days to come, Are in the dust and another day is done. (Ken Colyer)

Sleep well, dad. And Dream well.

Music plays:           “Goin’ Home” – Ken Colyer and his Jazzmen.

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A Winter treat this month, working with Coventry’s own Talking Birds on a site-based performance in collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The piece, a spurious Festival re-imagining the rained-off, final day’s parade organised 250 years ago by David Garrick. At that Festival in 1769, Garrick – the pre-eminent actor of his generation – unveiled a commissioned statue of the town’s famous son and created a Festival which would evolve through time, demanding a venue and permanent company whose reputation and legacy more than any other defines the dramatic culture of our land and language. The atmospheric, soggy and chilled environs of New Place played host to these shenanigans.


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A review of last week’s performance of The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety, directed by Calixto Bieito. A Birmingham REP production with Festival d’Automne, presented at Theatre de la Ville, Espace Pierre Cardin, Paris.

https://bachtrack.com/critique-the-string-quartets-guide-to-sex-and-anxiety-bieito-heath-quartet-espace-pierre-cardin-paris-novembre-2019

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HUMANISTAN

15Oct19

C'mon! Humanity

HUMANISTAN is a programme of work, to be nurtured, curated, presented through the vision of Chris O’ Connell and Julia Negus at Theatre Absolute. As opener to the programme, and at the same time marking 10 years of the wonderful Shop Front Theatre, are two pieces created through the ‘Live Briefs’ professional practice module at Coventry University. Stephanie Ridings and myself have been working with groups of 3rd year performance practice students at the University, and the fruits of these collaborations will be presented in the Shop Front this week, 16th – 18th October 2019.

Both pieces are discursive responses to a written provocation from Chris. An invitation to reassess what it is to be human and to connect with each other as responsible citizens.   C’mon! is the piece I have been developing. It takes its cue from the idea of the Commons, and the ‘tragedy of the Commons’ which threatens to undermine our rights of access to shared resources.

 


Don Quixote

31Aug19

Creation Theatre’s ‘Don Quixote’ opened last weekend in Oxford’s vibrant Covered Market. Jonathan Holloway has written, in characteristic style, a loose adaptation of Cervantes’s novel, in which two ageing friends, and hoarders, Dom and Sam, (performed by Eric MacLennan and myself) plot an adventure westwards along the A40.

Here’s a first review from Catherine Flutsch, with some excellent images by Richard Budd:

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Life Class

30Jun19

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Images from a memorable performance of Life Class by Bodies in Flight, presented at Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham, on midsummer’s night, 21st June 2019, with support from a terrific team, Dance4 and the tea dancers of the elders group at Nottingham Mechanics.

The performance was presented in tandem with an exhibition celebrating 30 years of the company’s work. Directed by Simon Jones and Sara Giddens, who formed Bodies in Flight back in 1989, and with whom I have had the great pleasure of being associated since first collaborating in 1992.

Life Class is a remarkable project that will continue to develop into the coming year.

Here is a review of the performance at Lakeside.

 


DSC_9395_medAs our run of five shows at Birmingham REP comes to an end, I have a moment to reflect on the extraordinary journey so far, and to thank all those who have made the journey possible. I will post a full list of credits down below, but the core creative team of Steve Johnstone (director), Claire Browne (designer), Sam Frankie Fox & Ricardo Rocha (original music and sound design, with additional playing from Martin Cox), Jeanette Maggs (stage manager) and Alex Boucher (lighting design) have helped me shape and create something that I am very proud of. DSC_9067_med

The whole enterprise was initially made possible through the REP’s FURNACE scheme, a programme of community engagement – through which I was able to conduct a lot of the early research, and make connections through the Sandwell Libraries.

With additional support this time round from Black Country Touring and the Arts Council, I am able to take the REP show, and offer a tourable version to community venues around the Black Country, and in the coming month I will be bringing Fred Jeffs to Stourbridge Glasshouse (5th June), Wednesbury Library (6th June), Thimblemill Library (7th June) and Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton (8th June). I’ll be fascinated to see how the show travels.

Audiences this week at The REP have been so generous and warm, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response. Many people from Quinton and Warley have been present, and it has been a joy to share some of their memories in the post-show discussions which have accompanied the performances. For me, this is a vital part of the project, as the storytelling itself is a mere conversation starter to all the themes that get thrown up by the show.

For the time being, there are two remaining shows at The REP today, and a few tickets left. Maybe see you there?

 

List of Credits for the Theatre Show at Birmingham REP

Fred Jeffs: The Sweetshop Murder

Written and performed by Graeme Rose

Directed by                 Steve Johnstone

Designed by:               Claire Browne

Original music & Sound Design:

Sam Frankie Fox & Ricardo Rocha

Musicians:                 Sam Frankie Fox, Ricardo Rocha and Martin Cox (double bass & electric gtr)

Stage Manager:          Jeanette Maggs

Sound Technician        Clive Meldrum

Lighting Design by:      Alex Boucher

LX Assistant:               Aaron Murphy

Photos by Graeme Braidwood

 

For Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Producer                      Will Bourdillon

Dramaturg                  Tessa Walker

FURNACE programme (2018): Hannah Jones, Rosalyn Lesurf.

 

For Black Country Touring:

Natalie Kidman, Steve Johnstone, Frances Land, Deb Justice, Joanne Blunt and the rest of the team.

With additional thanks to;

James, Laura, and everyone at Stan’s Cafe,

Olivia Winteringham and Sam Fox at KILN ensemble,

Lamps originally designed / constructed by Ben Pacey, for the KILN ensemble production “A Journey Round My Skull”

Atxarte, and all at BEfestival,

Gareth & Phil, at Little Earthquake (East meets West consortium)

Paul Fox, at Fox Removals for the sampling and use of the Austin A35.

 

Interview Contributers for the Theatre version:

Tony Chew, Elizabeth Rose, Betty Rose, Roger & Pauline Philpot, Terry and Viv Wilson, Alan Dunnaker, Michael Rose, Tess Rochfort, Val Taylor, Maureen Bishop, Andrew & Carole Bowen, Alan Atkinson, Alan L Warr. Ray Jones, Denis, Eileen and ‘G’.

 

Sheila at Candies Sweetshop, the Back-to-Backs.

Jean-Luc & all at William Lench Court,

Jean Fenn and everyone at Bleakhouse Library, Warley

Old Warley Local History Group,

Julie McKirdy and everyone at Thimblemill Library, Smethwick

Chris Sutton and all at Smethwick Heritage Centre

James Hancock and all the Timmins family.

Visit the Fred Jeffs Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/fredjeffssweetshop/

for updates on the project.

 

Download the Podcasts from:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/fred-jeffs-the-sweetshop-murder/id1460283205

 


I’m pleased to announce a number of new performance dates for Fred Jeffs: The Sweetshop Murder, across the Black Country Boroughs. These are made possible thanks to the support of Black Country Touring.

 

Wednesday 5thJune, 7:30pm

Glasshouse Arts Centre, Wollaston Road, Stourbridge, DY8 4HF

Tickets: £8 / £6 Concessions

Box Office: 01384 399408

Online bookings: https://www.rmlt.org.uk/Event/the-sweetshop-murder

 

Thursday 6th June, 7pm

Wednesbury Library, Walsall St., Wednesbury, WS10 9EH.

Box Office Information: 0121 569 4945

 

Friday 7thJune, 8pm

Thimblemill Library, Thimblemill Road, Smethwick, B67 5RJ

Tickets: £4 in advance / £5 on the door

Box office: 0121 569 4943

 

Saturday 8th June, 7:30pm

Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 4AN

Tickets: £7 / £5 Concessions

Box Office: 01902 572090

Online bookings: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/booking/select/akSfjyDCThVH

 

Stay tuned for further, additional dates. My hope is to extend the reach of the show throughout the neighbourhoods that feature in the show and Podcast series. There will be a short conversational end to the evening in which I talk about the making of the project and invite anyone who has a memory of the events of Easter 1957 to add to the evolving legacy of the project.

GR.


Fred at Bath Row

Fred Jeffs was born at Bridge of Allen, near Stirling, on the 23rd April 1919, which makes today a special occasion indeed. The above photo is the earliest I can find in my family’s possession and shows him in the back-yard at Bath Row, Birmingham, in the late 1920’s.

This morning, on what would have been Fred’s 100th birthday, director Steve Johnstone and I marked the beginning of rehearsals by visiting his grave in Quinton Cemetery. IMG_9600


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Graphic Design: Sakab Bashir @darkhorse-design

Main Photograph: Graeme Braidwood

Downloadable:  FredJeffs A5 Flyer_REP

 




Flickr Photos