The Art of .. saying the unsayable


Saying the unsayable, drawing the undrawable … accomplish the impossible was the motto of the evening on Thursday, the 29th of May at the event hosted by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer in Hackney Empire.

Some months ago Neil Gaiman tweeted that there wil be an event with him and Amanda hosting. He included a link to the homepage of Hew Statesman where you could find out when and where this event will be. Immediately I subscribed to the newsletter and bought the ticket as soon as it was available.

First of all … Neil & Amanda on stage

I arrived in London the day before and I bought the actual issue of the New Statesman, I have to admit that I never heard of this magazine before. Not being from the UK hopefully helps understanding that. 😉 I read some articles and it became quite clear to me that this will not be your usual kind of “Neil and Amanda evening”.



Thursday Evening I arrived at the Hackney Empire, picked up my tickets and entered the building – a very beautiful one, it seemed to be an old building with history, the interior was done with love for details, it made it very atmospheric, I liked it immediately and thought what a perfect and fitting place for such an evening. Finding out later that people like Charlie Chaplin & Stan Laurel played there when Hackney Empire was a music hall made it even more interesting.

Soon after a short introduction Neil & Amanda entered the stage, welcomed the audience, said hello in their typical sympathic way and told the audience what this evening will be about. Neil read a poem and Amanda went to the piano and played “The Killing Type”, one of her songs.

What and why … a few words about the topic

So, I read some articles in the actual issue of New Statesman and I was glad I did – this way I understood better what Neil & Amanda are talking about, especially refering to and furthermore who some of the guests are.

It started with the poem and the song – as mentioned above – and went quite fast from one topic to the next and each of them centering on “Saying the unsayable”. Neil & Amanda told stories and refered to the actual situation and what it means in our society nowadays. The case, the terror-attacks, the killings all over around the world is still there and this is what not only bothers the people on the stage or people who work in this business and are not afraid to say their opinion.


From my point of view it is – nowadays – even more important to “say the unsayable”. We – as a society – are confronted with the fact that news, messages, tweets can reach the whole world within seconds. Everybody has an opinion he wants to share, so it should be done – suppressing the ways of living or their opinions with verbal or physical violence does not help.

I love the poem from Neil with which he opened the show, with a few words he accomplished the impossible – he brought the whole topic on one page.

I believe I have the right to think and say the wrong things. I believe your remedy for that should be to argue with me or to ignore me, and that I should have the same remedy for the wrong things that you think.

Much can be said about free speech and the sharing of opinions and there was a lot of talk during the evening. The cred makes it quite clear – what people should consder while reading and talking about issues. Everyone’s opinion counts and should be respected and ideas will hopefully prevail. This topic and how we handle it during our daily “business” is a very difficult one because we all have our beleives and I do not only want to stress out religion and politics but it refers to every little thing – when you see a discussion between a Star Trek fan and one who loves Star Wars you may understand what I mean. It takes time to listen (and I mean to listen carefully without interrupting) and why this person loves or critizises something and talk about it. Respect the love someone has for a thing – do even more – embrace it.

In days like these we see people dying in the oceans – trying to escape – most of them from places where ideas are oppressed, where dictatorship rules with brutal force. We – and I mean literally everybodey has the power to change things like that. How? By saying the unsayable, by drawing the undrawable … we have to thank people who put their service, their talent for the good of the society.

What about the guests

During the show some guests appeared, apart from Hayley Campbell I didn’t know anyone. I was kinda curious about those people, who they are and what will they bring up according to this topic.

Roz Kaveney appeared on the stage and recited a poem about Transness by heart, not reading it from any piece of paper or any notes. She brought some interesting points, she seems to be critical and kinda offensive that way. She told about incidents where she was publicly and also personally attacked (in a verbal way).

Mitch Benn, a Radio 4 satirical comedian arrived with his guitar and played a protest song (which referenced to the Charlie Hebdo killings), that was mainly his first appearance on the stage – we did hear more of him later during the show. It seemed that he didn’t get the memo for wearing black on this evening – something he mentioned at the end of the show and brought him some laughs from the the audience. Seriously? Somehow it was obvious when Neil & Amanda host an eveing – on the other hand it made him very special!

Hayley Campbell, the one who wrote “The Art of Neil Gaiman” entered, I’ve seen her the first on stage last year when Neil had his reading in the Barbican. On the stage she read a story about a possible future where every draft message – may it be tweet, mail, message or similiar – will be sent and every online secret or setting will be revealed and everyone knows what the other is thinking about him. What a future it may be.

I want to stress out here that she brought a bit calm into this scenery, every other guest was very open, very keen, very driven while on stage and she is always a bit shy and very polite – a little bit like Neil himself.

Andrew O’Neill not only appeared, he crashed the stage by taking the whole audience into cheering with him, from this point on he brought one standu comedy routine after the other. First I was kinda stunned but then I got used to it and in the end I was more then entertained by his sketches, especially during the interviews and the discussion in the end.

Each one of the guests was different in their appearance, in their opinion, their view to this topic and brought along some very interesting stories, sketches and experiences they made.


Within the discussion in the end all of them treated each other with the utmost respect – even Andrew O’Neill who seemed to be a loud, funny and driven guy stayed quiet and respectful when another member of the group was talking. I was amazed – I watched my share of discussions in my time and this was one of the finest and best ones so far. Many of them get chaotic because each one wants to tell his opinion and is not really interested in the opinion of the others. Amazing how well this worked in this case!


What did I learn

Not only did I see other artists, poets, stand-up comedians, musicians who shared their view about saying the unsayble. Most of them are present on stage in magazines and also on social media platforms.

From the very beginning they focused on telling and discussing the negative aspects of the media, which kinda came as a surprise because the media usually works in favour for them. Not one of them wouldn’t be that famous if they wouldn’t present themselves on such plattforms each day.


They brought up some stories some examples and by doing that they discussed many aspects of the actual situation – we got offensive statements and what they meant and what they lead to, what misunderstanding someone can cause, what prejudices we all have and how we handle them (or not), what politics can or cannot do to change or even influence situations like this.


Each and every discussion made me think – there were many different views of the world, the side effects of the media, especially the internet and what it may look like in the future. It toook me quite some time to collect all these impressions I took with me from this evening and I can say that it will follow me for quite some time.

Where do we go from here

Honestly – this was an evening, initiated by New Statesman, hosted by Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer with guests who have quite open-minded and very critical views about “Saying the unsayable” – the audience itself surely was sharing these opinions, maybe not everything but open-minded enough to think about that. This made make me wonder – how would a different thinking audience may have reacted on this evening. On the way to the train station I was able to hear some discussions and they were all very excited, especially in a very positive way.
This is more or less a step in huma history – people will surely continue to share opinions and ideas, they will not stop. I am still dreaming of a world where this is possible, where people will work together in a respectful way, handling ther prejudices and will listen to what the oposite person is talking about.

Some thoughts … in the end, most of it thanks

In the end I can say that this was a wonderful event – many thanks go to the people of New Statesman for bringing up the idea, to Neil & Amanda for taking the time of editing the actual issue and hosting the event and all the guests who appeared on the stage and shared their views.

Wonderful! Thanks! 🙂

Homepage New Statesman
Buy the digital edition
Neil Gaiman – Credo
What can’t you say?
Michael Sheen: The Tyranny of mere weakth is destroying our democracy
What’s wrong with political correctness?
Drawing the undrawable

Alex Ampersand about the Event
Grapesfrog about the Issue of New Statesman
Podcast Neil & Amanda

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