Monday, April 25, 2011

People have said many things about me in my time, but I don't recall anyone telling me I was possessed by a devil.

I suppose there's a first time for everything; and I set myself the exercise of trying to respond as firmly and as respectfully as i could:

"Alex: This makes me feel sad. Jo, you have a demonic possession. You cry and get emotional, and that can make many people sympathetic to what you say. But you have to make a great effort to get out of the situation you are in. God can really help you in that. There are many examples of His wonderful hand in situations like yours. But it is YOU who have to make the decision. Do not delude yourself. You are not following God's will. Get out of where you are! "

Thank you, Alex. I am sure you sincerely wish me well.

The Gospels describe people with demonic possession as tearing off their clothes, screaming, bawling, harming other people as well as themselves.

This does not describe my behaviour in any circumstances, and so you must be meaning a different kind of “demonic possession”.

I am assuming you are referring to my transsexuality.

You are suggesting that I make a great effort of will and that then, with God’s help, I will be “cured”.

I am afraid you are completely mistaken.

I know this because I followed this course of action for over forty years. It failed to help me.

What helped was learning to resist the kind of fear and shame that you seem to advocate and regard as an expression of “God’s will”.

God, by definition, is beyond the reach of our understanding and imagination and I think we need to be very careful about ascribing our own beliefs to him, or her, however sincerely and fervently we might hold them.
Jesus warned us that many people would preach in his name and told us that a good way to distinguish between them was to judge by results. “By their fruits shall you know them”, he said; and the fruits of those who ascribe their own prejudices to God are generally injustice and hatred.

We each need to think of these things within our own conscience and our own hearts. None of us have any right to tell anyone else how to live.

Meantime, dear Alex, I wish you all happiness.



Thursday, April 21, 2011

An open letter against the proposed closure of the Theatre Arts Department at Adam Smith College, Kirkcaldy

An open letter to those who care about the future of Theatre Arts in Adam Smith College.

I understand that the reason given for closing down this hugely successful department is that it is no longer considered “a viable area to support economic development in Fife”.

This statement flies in the face of every piece of current research that looks at the economic impact of the arts.

Those responsible for this decision really need to be reminded that the Arts and Creative Industries contribute £5.2 billion to the Scottish economy.

By any standards, that’s a very good return on the Scottish government’s £194 million investment in the sector.

No question about it: Adam Smith would undoubtedly approve.

What he would condemn, and condemn in the strongest possible terms, would be the folly of the College that takes his name refusing to invest in a sector where the projected employment growth rate between 2007 and 2014 is three times higher than in other sectors of the economy.

I am proud to have worked in this sector for over thirty years, during which I have had about 75 scripts performed in almost every dramatic medium in every continent of the world. Right now I have a play being produced in Serbia; another in North Carolina; and my Anna Karenina will shortly open in Dundee Rep.

I was very pleased and proud to also see that play being so excellently produced earlier this year by Theatre Arts students in this College. It was a total pleasure to meet the students involved and see for myself the positive impact this was having on their self confidence, their understanding of the world, and their capacity to work together as a team.

That is one reason why employers are so interested in drama graduates.

One reason why the Scottish Labour Party’s current manifesto states that “Scotland’s capacity for creative innovation is our ticket to economic growth. Investment in the creativity of our people is an investment in our future prosperity.”

One of the many reasons why Adam Smith College should be investing in its highly regarded Theatre Arts Department. Instead of trying to close it.

But it is not the most important reason.

Drama is one of humanity’s most ancient art forms. It is of fundamental importance, not only because it gives so much pleasure, but because it is one of the main tools we possess to help us understand our selves and our place in the world.

Every person present here today will have seen at least one piece of drama in some form at some time in the past week. And not just here; but just about everyone in Kirkcaldy. Just about everyone in Fife. Just about everyone in the country.

Because creating or witnessing drama is a fundamental part of being human.

That’s why this letter is also addressed to you, Principal Thomson, and all your colleagues involved in this decision.

All of us here unite in asking you to reverse it.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Clifford.


Sunday, April 10, 2011


Rehearsals start tomorrow and the show opens in Dundee on May 23rd.

This show is so close to my heart.

I wrote it some time in the 1990's for the Shefield Crucible, but the artistic director who commissioned it resigned before it was performed.

And then it lay untouched for years, until Muriel Romanes directed it at Queen Margaret Univeristy College and then at the Royal Lyceum in 2005.

Earlier this year, I saw a production of it by students of Adam Smith College in Kirkcaldy, and it touched me deeply.

It reminded me of how the figure of Levin represented all our early hopes to live an alternative life, one closer to nature and the earth; the figure of Anna herself expressed my fears of what would happen to me if I defied my society and lived openly as a transsexual.

And all those years when no-one would touch the play, it somehow became a symbol of all my frustrations in my professional life; and all my doubts about the value of my work.

It was an amazing vindication to see it at QMUC, then at the Lyceum. As it is to know it's happening again now.

Dundee Rep's work is fabulously good. I can't wait to see it.


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