06 November 2002
Port: Simon Stephens interview part 2
Simon Stephens: life in Stockport writ large
writer Simon Stephens has just had his play 'Port' premièred
at the Royal Exchange.
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Growing in Stockport was a huge influence and here he talks about
how he wrote the play and what growing up in Manchester means to
spent a week back home interviewing women I knew who had lived in
Stockport all their lives. Recording the interviews. Making sense
of their stories. Being stunned by their honesty, humour, compassion,
intelligence. I interviewed close friends and complete strangers,
my twenty year old cousin and my eighty eight year old Nana. I talked
to them about their life, their aspirations, their memories, their
relationship with the town.
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" Stockport, it seems to me, like many working class or lower
middle class towns is defined by its women.
Their stories fuelled this play more than anything else. I hope I
have done their spirit justice. I wanted to write about the housing
estates of Stockport that I knew.
But I wanted to write about the hope I found there, the humour, the
honesty, the charm as well as the brutality, the irony and the despair.
Because I thought that to deny that hope was nothing short of dishonest.
And the time scale of the play seemed perculiarly resonant in my attempt
to make sense of the city that raised me.
"The play runs from 1988 to 2002. It was the time scale, pretty
much of my departure. But my absolutely the time scale throughout
which Manchester defined itself as a cultural entity in my consciousness.
From 'The Second Summer Of Love' to The Commonwealth Games.
"So many things happened there that touched how I am, even in
my absence, that they inevitably drive through this play. Drive through
it perhaps as much as anything else. To me at least, secretly, in
private, this play is all of those things.
"It is the first Stone Roses LP. It is Shaun Ryder on Top of
the Pops. It is Morrissey singing 'Moon river'. It is New Order at
Reading. Or playing pool to 'Cigarettes & Alcohol'. Or the bomb in
the Arndale. Or the failed Olympic Bids. It's Paul Morley's 'Nothing'
and Simon Armitage's poetry. It is Cantona at Wembley, Solskjaer at
the Nou Camp, Keegan at Maine Road. And the Commonwealth Games actually
being fucking brilliant.
"It's drinking outside the pubs in the Market in the summer time
and working in Gateways on Heaton Moor Road. And it's three hundred
people at my Dad's funeral. And all of my mates. And my family. I
hope I've done them all right."
What does growing up in Manchester mean to you?
Mark Stephens in Derby (Used to be Stockport)
I completely disagree with everything he said, but then being his
younger brother I would say that.