There’s a common question to writers: where do you get your ideas?
In January 1967, John Lennon bought a 19th century circus poster from an antique shop in Sevenoaks. Later, the content framed on Lennon’s wall became Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite. A few words – even a fact or two – were changed for purposes of rhyme and scansion, but basically, on the Sgt Pepper album, the Beatles sang the poster.
It’s an example of a particular process of inspiration that starts from a definite point – in this case, the written word. At its simplest, this is “found art” – taking something out of its original context and inviting the audience to think about it in a different way.
Roger McGough did this some time ago with a newspaper headline reading “Conservative government unemployment figures”. He turned it into
Two full stops and a question mark and the meaning has changed from the headline of a factual report into a political comment.
Inspiration is rarely gifted so easily – or perhaps the inspiration is there but the art needs more work. Jonathan Edgington’s eye fell upon an advertisement in the free paper Metro. It’s a modern phenomenon. British people don’t talk to strangers on trains, but seem quite happy to make a public announcement indicating their desire to do so. By itself, the ad is incomplete: what happened next? The only way for Jonathan to find out was to write it himself, in the play of The Slim Blonde Beauty.