Ich Bin: John Constable, playwright

‘Lighten up! Do not attach! Cultivate shining emptiness…’

‘Do what you love. Walk your own crooked way. Practice makes perfect.’ John Constable
John Constable is a playwright, poet and performer, who has lived in The Borough for more than 25 years. His best known work, The Southwark Mysteries, was first performed in Shakespeare’s Globe and Southwark Cathedral on Easter Sunday 2000 and revived in 2010. John’s plays, his stage adaptation of Gormenghast, and Secret Bankside – Walks In The Outlaw Borough are all published by Oberon Books. Solo shows include I Was An Alien Sex God, and his latest work, Spare. In his John Crow persona he has performed poetry worldwide and regularly conducts ritual dramas and vigils at Crossbones, the outcasts burial ground. He also leads unusual guided walks, encouraging people to creatively connect with their inner city neighbourhoods.

When were you happiest?
At the completion of the thirteenth ‘Halloween of Crossbones’ ritual, candlelit at the gates, as a chevron of wild geese flew over the old burial ground.

Where would you like to live in south London?
Trinity Church Square, in The Borough, where I’ve lived more than 25 years,.

What is your favourite sound or smell?
The rooks making a racket.

Who is your favourite south Londoner?
Austin Osman Spare, the artist and occultist. He had a studio at the Elephant; it got bombed during the blitz. A true original. I’ve written a play about him, too.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Lighten up! Do not attach! Cultivate shining emptiness…

What makes you unhappy?
The stupid things I think, say and do.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
A Southwark Writer’s Residency, with free lodgings for the rest of my life in return for my work to creatively transform my local neighbourhood. Or any enhancement of my self-healing abilities.

Who or what do you dislike and why?
Bullies. Literalists.

Best south London gig or night out?
Best ever? The ‘Warp’ parties leading up to the millennium: 24-hour parties in 7 caverns under the London Bridge arches. Best night out this month? Has to be the Crossbones Vigil on the 23rd, or my Halloween Ghost Walks.

What has your career taught you?
Do what you love. Walk your own crooked way. Practice makes perfect.

The house I live in is…
Old, creaky, haunted, freezing in winter, beautiful in summer, inspirational.

What is your greatest life achievement?
Being the medium for The Southwark Mysteries, and the work at Crossbones Graveyard to honour the outcast.

Describe yourself as an animal
The Crow who danced with the goose.

This is box title

Your favourite…

… building or landmark?
Crossbones Shrine, Redcross Way, SE1.

… shop?
Woolfson and Tay, 39 Bear Lane SE1, a friendly independendent bookshop with a great cafe.

… bar/pub?
The Royal Oak, Lord Clyde, The Ship, The Old King’s Head (for big screen football and south London folklore upstairs), and The George a 17th century galleried coaching inn.

…place to eat?
“Damn fine coffee” at the Electric Elephant Cafe down Crampton Street, run by Louisa, who played a devil in The Southwark Mysteries. Big up Nelson’s, the family-run cafe across the road from the John Harvard Library; and top Chinese food at Hing Loong – both on Borough High Street.

Interview: Ben Benjamin

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