Now, gods, stand up for bastards!
Edmund in King Lear
We use the word ‘bastard’ to describe something no longer in its pure original form; it is in some way debased. But to Australians, it is often a term of endearment; Lawrence Money defines an ‘amazing bastard’ as ‘a bloke who does stuff that other bastards wouldn’t try in a month of Sundays’. Our students search for, and discover a range of voices, just as we teachers do. As the world changes, so must our language and our use of it. Who would have thought that Bob Dylan would be a Nobel Laureate? The times certainly ‘are a-changing’.
In 2017 VATE celebrates those individuals who take the contrary line, who will not or cannot swim in the main stream, who view the world from a different perspective, who, with Shakespeare’s Edmund, question what is legitimate. In doing so, we also celebrate and further empower the language in which we work and live. We value the bastards, the contrarians, the iconoclasts, the dissidents and the marginalised, those for whom the status quo will not do.
When accepting the Gold Logie, actor and activist Samuel Johnson described himself as an ‘outlier’. This almost geographic term evokes a world which is capable of infinite extension, but at the same time which is capable of alienating its inhabitants. In 2017, when we as a society are excluding and punishing the innocent and deracinated, language is one of the few weapons we can wield in their defence. In his fourth year of detention, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani claims that ‘only in literary language can people understand our life and our condition’, as ‘where we are is too hard’ for the jargons and limitations of transactional language.
VATE 2017 wants to speak to and for the mavericks, we want to disrupt, challenge, experiment, innovate: we, like Oliver Twist, ask for more, as we search for space in the cracks of a rigid curriculum. After all, as Leonard Cohen says, ‘There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in’.