Sunday, 31 March 2013

Justin Beiber Ruined My Workshop

   As anyone in the 'industry' will tell you, poetry, drinking tea and watching movies doesn't always pay that fantastically. To make ends meet, us poet types will often run writing workshops in schools/prisons/youth centres etc. Over the years I've facilitated on a fair few projects and now also deliver sexual health, substance misuse and healthy relationship workshops for a brilliant, London-based charity. I was running a workshop recently and a ubiquitous, shuffling chipmunk really stuffed it up.

he shuffles
   It was a Friday and the last session of the day. We were running substance misuse classes with Yr 7's, so mainly covering smoking, alcohol and cannabis. There aren't many 12 year olds going in on Ketamine in London, even on the mean streets of Marylebone. We keep to the essentials. We'd run the same workshop three times and it was going smooooth. Then the Beiber came up.
  We were running an exercise on peer pressure in which all the students try and persuade one student to do something. In this case it was to smoke a cigarette. It was all gravy until someone dropped the line 'Justin Bieber does it'. At which point the volunteer student collapsed in a mock faint and everyone started squealing in pubescent delight (it was a girl's school). We swiftly regained control and highlighted the ludicrousness of said persuasion. Unfortunately, the mere mention of the bequiffed weasel's name was enough to intoxicate the rest of the session, and he became a recurring theme. And each time his name came out, girls squeaked, or fake-swooned or did a little shimmy of glee.

   It's bad enough that he is a recurring theme in the world, let alone in my working life. But that's not the point.

   I'd not worked with many exclusively female classes at that age group before. I never would have thought that bright, clever young girls in the UK would be so enamoured with such a vomit-inducing string of cheese. But they are. Bummer, eh? I'd never cared what Justin Bieber did with his life. When I saw the picture of him smoking I thought that must suck. To be so intensely scrutinised that having a cheeky fag, jazz-style or otherwise, becomes 'news', must be trying to say the least. Since this workshop however, my opinions have evolved slightly. 
   That reaction; the oh god isn't he dreamy sigh, the forced squeal of delight, the Pride and Prejudice style 'back of the hand to the forehead' move, that's what makes Justin Bieber such a success. Grown-ups aren't shrieking with adoration and filling their pants at the mere mention of his name. Grown-ups aren't buying his music and his merchandise and watching his youtube videos over and over and over and over. Grown-ups (with normal brain development) don't give a dick, they have acquired their own tastes and don't just like what's served up to them by radio/internet/TV. Justin Bieber is aimed with sniper-like accuracy, and suicide-bomber subtlety, at young girls. We all know that, it's cynical and depressing and gross but that's the music industry. He is a millionaire many times over and the people around him even more so. I don't begrudge him his success. He's doing something he loves and smashing it. Go J.B. However, and I hope you read this Justin, so I'm going to address you personally, if you want to make that kind of money specifically targeting young, influential minds, you don't smoke, you don't drink, you don't get a fucking hard-on where anyone can see you. You can go S and M-kink-smash behind closed doors, you can shoot-up speedballs and have your manager feed you monkey fleas while you jerk-off into fine bone china. In fact, you probably should. Behind. Closed. Doors.
you would
   These CHILDREN are watching you. And that's what makes you more money than most folk can comprehend. You didn't ask for the responsibility, we know that, but if you want to smoke doobies out the back of the rehearsal rooms, switch up or duck out. Make some music for grown-ups and cut the kiddies off, or do it in absolute secret. And stay the hell out of my workshops.





  1. I enjoyed this, well said.

  2. Ha ha we looked you up online to thank you for creating a great workshop for our daughters on Sunday at Wonderland in Peterborough and saw this - sorry Justin Beiber made it into another one!!

    The Hamill Family

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.