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My Creative Hero: Harold Pinter

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Jamie Elliott, CEO of MSQ's creative agency The Gate London, reveals why a British Playwright leads his list of creative icons

My Creative Hero: Harold Pinter

Jamie has led The Gate London since January 2017, helping the agency be named ‘Small Agency of the Year’ by Oystercatchers within 18 months of his arrival. He has a strong track record in delivering highly effective campaigns for clients, including the ‘ACT FAST’ Stroke Awareness campaign and IPA Effectiveness-winning Trainline work. Here, Jamie explains why Harold Pinter is his creative hero. 

Who would you say is your creative hero? 

Harold Pinter. 

How long has he been important to you and what are your first memories of meeting him or coming across his work?

Our A-Level English teacher, Geoff Lee, introduced us to his play The Caretaker in a freezing classroom overlooking the Irish Sea between Blackpool and Fleetwood. I had never read anything like it before, it felt fresh and made me laugh, a lot. The world it evoked, grittily urban and full of the menace and desperation of characters at the edge of society, and on the edge psychologically, felt a far cry from small town Lancashire.

I then became obsessed. We put on a production of his two-hander The Dumb Waiter in my last year at school, I wrote my university dissertation on the role of women in his plays – contentious even then – and taught his play The Homecoming to a bunch of slightly bemused 6th formers in a brief teaching stint before advertising called. 

If it’s someone you personally know, how did you get to know him and how has your relationship evolved over the years? If you don’t know him, how did you go about finding to learn more about him and his work?

My other obsession is cricket and quite by chance a friend was playing for The Gaieties CC, the wandering team that Harold was a big part of. I was fortunate enough to be invited to play for them. He was always extremely generous with his time and wrote us notes or called us if we had performed well. The team at that time played in a style becoming of one of his characters; we definitely brought a bit of Pinteresque edge to the Sunday afternoon ‘friendly’. 

How does he influence you in your approach to your creative work? 

His work is a good reminder to be yourself. To not take a backward step. To have courage. To use words extremely carefully … and sparingly. To use the bits between the words well too.

What piece or pieces of his work do you keep coming back to and why?

I go to every production I can and am a particular fan of The Caretaker – there’s a black and white film with Jonathan Pryce (I think) that is worth seeking out.

And every cricket season I’m reminded of two things. Firstly, the shortest poem he wrote was a poem about his cricketing hero: ‘I saw Len Hutton in his prime/ Another time, another time.’ Neatly captures the rhythm of batting and the passing of time. 

Secondly, after the last game of the season as the light faded he would take the team out from the bar back onto the field, gather us in a circle and recite from memory a verse from EP Thompson’s poem ‘At Lords’:​

For the field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast, 

And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost, 

And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host

As the run-stealers flicker to and fro, 

To and fro:-

O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!

It was a beautiful, theatrical end to the season. In life and in his work, Harold knew how to build tension and drama incredibly efficiently – also, of course, an imperative in advertising.  

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MSQ Partners, Wed, 26 May 2021 13:03:54 GMT