:: Old School People

Award-winning playwright and Guardian columnist Mark Ravenhill launched a groundbreaking new YouTube film competition on the Guardian website in October last year. After many entrants only one was triumphant. That one has just been revealed on the guardian website


The Winner


The Challenge


The Text

This is the text for the Guardian YouTube challenge titled “Old School People”. What the entrants chose to do with it in their five-minute film is was completely up to them.

He told the careers adviser that he knew exactly what he wanted to be when school was done.

“I’d like to be a sofa. In red. Retro. Maybe in a private members’ bar.”

She was a sympathetic listener. But she felt she had to warn him: “It’s a competitive market. Maybe you’d like to consider starting as something flat-pack and working your way up.”

“No. A designer sofa or nothing.”

In the end she let it go.

Behind the supermarket, some wheelie bins were kicking a can around. “Join us.” But he was in a pensive mood. Pressing against the glass, wishing he could pass through and join the display of furnishings at last.

Mum had become deflated again. He couldn’t find the pump so he blew her up himself, red and giddy until she was full. “I need you,” she said. “The air leaves me quicker every day.”

“I know,” he said, but that night he dreamed of a sharp needle in his hand and pressing hard into mum until she burst. Her screaming woke him up. She’d found another puncture. He plastered the wound and slept until lunch.

He was invited to a party that night at Donna’s. Donna was a scatter cushion and nothing special. But her parents were a suite. He wanted to be with them. He looked at the trainers and the sports bags and the lap tops, all moving to the electro clash, and he wanted to be there; but he felt too sofa tonight.

He was changing. His arms were getting redder. His upholstery was thickening. A trace of cushion. In the garden, he met a white plastic table. She was funny. He felt big. In the end, they lay out on the decking until the rain came down about one in the morning.

There were still a few people inside. One of the lap tops was playing a DVD. On the screen, old school flesh people moving around, laughing and dancing. There was a battle, some sex, an explosion, a terrible plague.

“Do you ever wish you were a person?”

“I don’t think so no. They were sort of ugly, uncomfortable, messy.”

“Yeah. I know what you mean.”

He thanked Donna and walked, avoiding leaving at the same time as the plastic table.

Mum was screaming – the air, escaping from her, wooshed around the house. But this time, he didn’t go to her. He huddled against the coffee table and listened to the screams for hours. In the morning he went into her room. Mum was a pile of plastic.

For a moment, he imagined Mum was a woman – 20 or so, all flesh and blood – and he was a baby clinging to her. That’s how they’d seemed to his young eyes. But now … He put her in a bin bag and fell asleep over the catalogue 20 minutes later.

Now 20 years have passed and he’s in an airport lounge and somehow recognises the stool at the sushi bar. Should he say something? If only he could …

“Hi. I’m Donna, you came round to my house many years ago.”

“Donna, wow, you were a – ”

“Scatter cushion. Ugh. Don’t remind me. But then the suite died in a fire.”

“I’m sorry.”

“And left me with enough to invest and now I’m a line of stools in various international terminals.”


“I heard you were – ?”

“I was a sofa for a while. Couldn’t handle it. Pressure. So now – ”

“You’re a suitcase. That’s OK. You look OK. Do you feel OK?”

He wants to scream about carousels and holds and labels, but he says: “It’s a life.”

Later that night, he will find the plastic table on the internet. She will be in the sun in Malaga, weathered but still white. He will click and watch a flickering image of her. He will send her a clip of him back: quite recent but before his lining ripped. She will message him the next day. They will marry six months later.

“We could sell sofas from a website,” she’ll say.

“Yes, let’s,” he’ll say. And then he’ll smile.

This online proves that online clips are taking over the world. Congratulations to Dominic Currie the winner



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