Waiting … in a Hairdressers

While You Wait

In early 2013, I was involved in a collaboration with the performance poet and writer Malika Booker, to produce a podcast for the While You Wait series commissioned by Fuel Theatre. The series is an extended meditation on the idea of waiting, and the podcasts can be downloaded and listened to, while you wait for the bus, for a friend, or for the sun to come out. Malika’s podcast is called Waiting … in a Hairdressers, and is a portrait of a Caribbean hairdressers on the Walworth Road in London (close to where I used to live, above a launderette … but that’s another collaborative story). We also made a short film about the podcast, where we talk about the collaborative process and the finished piece. I met Malika to talk about gossip and passing the time, and early modern barbers whose shops became a hive of rumours and tittle-tattle, thanks (according to Erasmus) to the idle men who hung around there. She was particularly interested in anthropological theories of gossip from the 1960s, which see gossip as a kind of grooming activity, one that cements friendships and promotes social cohesion, an idea which plays nicely with the setting she chose for the podcast. Gossiping with your hairdresser might be even better for you than the head massage before the hair cut. Malika’s exploration of a twenty-first century hairdressers reveals a place where people wait, talk, and swop stories, a place you might choose to go and spend time in, even if you weren’t getting your nails done.