Read by Tony Bell and Lin Sagovsky
Alison Fish, Midwife
He were a funny wee babby, that one. Came out of his mam with a head full of blonde curls and a big beaming smile on his face. Nary a scream nor a whimper: nothing. He just looked at me with them big round eyes, smiling. And y’know, I think all of us in the delivery room just stopped and stared at him for a moment. Then we caught each other and sniggered like we was kind of embarrassed.
It weren’t a creepy sort of smile, though. It were a good little smile. It made you glow inside. Made you feel the world wasn’t such a bad place after all. Made you think there was hope. I wonder what ever happened to the little bugger.
Jack Hopkins, Neighbour
I tell you what, as soon as I saw them move in I said to Doreen – remember, Doreen? – I said there goes our peace and quiet. Bloody thing’ll keep us awake the whole time with its screaming and wailing because that’s what they’re like – aren’t they Doreen? – waking up and wanting its feed and whatever else they do.
the odd thing was we never heard a peep out of him. Quiet as a mouse
he was, wasn’t he Doreen? They only stayed for a year or two and
then them foreigners moved in. We could tell you a thing or two about
that lot, couldn’t we? Oh yes.
Miss Jemima Philips, Primary School Teacher
Well, of course I remember him. Who wouldn’t? He wasn’t what you’d call an ordinary pupil. When his mum brought him in and introduced him, he looked me firmly in the eye and slowly shook my hand. Then he smiled and I was taken aback by the sheer – I know this sounds really odd – by the sheer intensity of it. Does that make sense?
His mum took me to one side and explained he hadn’t spoken a single word or tried to write anything during his entire life. They’d obviously had him checked out and he wasn’t deaf or anything. He just didn’t seem to want to say anything. He understood instructions perfectly and he was a very obedient child. But he was completely mute. I told her that we got all sorts there, and most of them turned out all right in the end, so not to worry.
she gave me this odd look, as if to say, you don’t know the half of
it. It took a few weeks of trying to get him to communicate with me
before I realised what she meant. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t
want to say anything. It was more that he didn’t feel the need to.
Harry Philpott, Schoolteacher (retd.)
Oh, I remember him all right. Bloody nuisance. Well, can you imagine it? A whole classroom full of kids, with me trying to get them to focus on getting their sodding GCSE coursework done, and there’s moonface in the middle of them all just smiling beatifically like he’s fucking Jesus.
I’d been allowed to, you know what I’d have done? I’d have
thrashed the little bugger senseless. Never did me any harm. But you
can’t do that sort of thing any more, can you? Political
correctness gone mad, that’s what it is. World’s gone bonkers, if
you ask me.
Polly Wilson, classmate
all thought he was a bit of a freak, to be honest. I mean, we’d
flick things at him and he’d just turn around and smile at us.
Weird or what? But it was odd, because after a while we all sort of
accepted him, and there was always a gang of kids around him. He was
just a good guy to be around, I suppose. And he didn’t half wind up
that bastard Philpott. Drove the old git to a breakdown, apparently.
That was just so cool. Yeah, Prettyface was good value just for that.
Simon Hornchurch, headmaster
Well, he didn’t exactly add to the school’s exam rating, did he? Although he did manage a GCSE in art. It was old whatsisname the head of English who had the idea, although it started off as a joke. We put his whole life up as a sort of conceptual art project. Got him an A*. I wonder if he realised what was going on. Strange boy. I often wondered if there was some kind of abuse going on at home, although he always seemed happy enough.
Of course, he didn’t stay after his GCSEs, because there wasn’t much he could really do, and we did wonder what was going to happen to him. So it was all quite a surprise when things turned out the way they did.
Statement of Edwina Prettyjohn (mother)
loved our son Emanuel deeply and I am as devastated by recent events
as much as my late husband would have been. I would ask, however,
that my request to be left in peace is respected.
Eric Jones, self-styled cult survivor and webmaster of silentgabrielisanevilbastard.com
Those swine wrecked my life. Before I joined them, I had a job. I had a wife. I had access to my kids. More than that, I had self-respect. But a year with them and I was a raving nutter, reduced to living on the streets. You would not believe some of the things I saw.
that Silent Gabriel, he should be strung up for some of the things he
done. Just ask him how much he’s making out of this, next time you
see him. But you won’t get an answer. I guarantee you that.
Extract from interview with Stella Crumshaw, author of Cult of Silence: Emanuel Prettyjohn and the Quietness Phenomenon
It wasn’t Prettyjohn himself who set up the Quietness Movement; obviously, that would have been impossible. He was just the figurehead. The guy behind it all was Alex Templeman – or “Silent Gabriel” as he would later style himself. Templeman was standing behind Prettyjohn in the queue at the dole office when they met. Prettyjohn was standing there just smiling at everyone and Templeman noticed that, instead of getting angry and frustrated with him, the people there rushed around trying to help. I’m pretty sure Templeman must have felt the power of the famous smile as well, because he wrote about the incident in a brief memoir shortly afterwards.
In this document, Templeman states that the meeting with Prettyjohn was the turning point in his life. He realised what was wrong with the world was not that we didn’t talk to each other enough, but that we talked to each other too much. There was just too much pointless connectivity. At that point, he writes, I resolved never to say or write another word ever again. From then on, he says, I decided to Become Quiet.
When this memoir was posted on the internet, it had an extraordinary effect. The tired, the lonely and the needy all came to seek them out: Prettyjohn the new Messiah and Templeman his Evangelist. I don’t doubt many of them got something out of it, some kind of comfort, because there certainly was something about the man. I know the one time I met Prettyjohn, I did feel some kind of inner glow, and I went away with a spring in my step that I couldn’t really understand at all.
wasn’t long before they had to find accommodation for all the new
members of the Cult – for that is what it had become. So it became
necessary to raise funds, and this is where things began to get a
little murkier. The easiest way to raise money was simply to ask all
the members of the Cult to pledge a percentage of their earnings, and
this is what originally happened; one assumes Silent Gabriel
suspended his vow long enough to get the message across. The precise
point at which this changed from being a percentage of all earnings
to all their worldly goods isn’t clear, but there were soon rumours
of curious extravagances, Swiss bank accounts, money laundering and
Harry Stump, proprietor of Southside Limousines, Ltd.
guy, Mr Gabriel. One of our best customers. Always went for the full
pimped-out spec, never cut any corners. Always paid on the nail.
Never demanded credit, never asked for discount. The perfect
customer. Terrific guy. Great sense of humour, too.
Jodie Wellbeloved, former cult member
Well, it was a kind of weird time for me, y’know? I mean my life was, like, well, totally fucked, y’know? But those Quiet guys like turned it around for me, made me respect myself? Sure, I had to give them everything I owned, but like they said, money’s just all about banks talking to each other, and when we’re Quiet, we don’t like need them to talk any more? I mean, like, I didn’t really understand what they were saying, but, like, whatever?
every day we just spent, like, hours in the meeting hall just being
Quiet and it was like really cool and sometimes Emanuel would come in
and smile at us and everything would be like really groovy and we’d
all smile at each other and feel really peaceful, like? And then
sometimes Silent Gabriel would invite one of us into his room for
some one-to-one tuition, which was all a bit weird. He had a rough
beard, and I found him a bit gross, like? So I’m, like, doing
Boo-dism now. It’s cool.
Alex Templeman a.k.a. Silent Gabriel
Briony Fairchild, mother of cult member
I’m not saying that everything Eric Jones says is true. We have certainly had our disagreements, mainly in the area of presentation. I mean to say, some of the stuff on that website of his is completely beyond the pale. I don’t know how he gets away with it sometimes. But let’s just say that when all this blew up, I wasn’t a bit surprised. Fortunately, when she joined, Tamara didn’t have access to her trust fund and so the blighters haven’t got their stinking mitts on that. Yet.
I just hope that Tam’s got enough nous to work out which way the wind is blowing. Apparently the bust up between Mr Prettyjohn and Silent Gabriel or whatever he calls himself was quite public. From what I’ve heard, he just sort of glowered at him. I didn’t know he could glower. I thought all he ever did was smile, so it must have meant something pretty bad.
tried calling Tam on her mobile if only to say I told you so, but of
course she hasn’t got it any more, and she probably wouldn’t
answer me anyway. I do miss her awfully.
Inspector Frobisher, Northants CID
have been trying to get a statement from any existing members of the
religious organisation known as the Quiet Movement to cover the
period on or around the 17th of June, 2011. I would,
however, go so far as to say that there is, quite literally, a
conspiracy of silence surrounding the place, and that all attempts so
far to obtain said statement have been completely unproductive.
Inquiries are continuing.
Mitzi Fantoni, Emergency call centre operative
I was the one who took the call. It was a really strange voice. I said, “Fire, Police or Ambulance?” as usual, but all I could get out of the man was a sort of “Flthggggh” noise. I repeated the question, but the answer didn’t make any more sense than the first one. So I said, “Is there something wrong with you?” and he just said “Ithkggggh poisggggggggh”. Of course, now I realise he was probably trying to say he’d been poisoned but I suppose if you’ve never said a word in your life before it’s a bit hard to start with that.
yeah, I’m the one who heard the last words of Emanuel Prettyjohn.
And I guess it was me that heard the first ones as well. Funny that.
Jonathan Pinnock, 2012
Jonathan Pinnock has written all sorts of stuff and has been published all over the place, including the BBC. His novel Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens was published by Proxima in September 2011 and was followed in November 2012 by his Salt short story collection Dot Dash. He blogs at www.jonathanpinnock.com and tweets as @jonpinnock.
Lin Sagovsky’s credits include talking books, TV narrations and BBC R4/World Service programmes aplenty. She’s equally passionate about taking her actor/playwright background to all corners of the business world via her consultancy Play4Real, helping businesspeople use voice and body to create presence and fun in their working lives.
Tony Bell has been an actor for over 20 years, appearing in West End shows including A Man for all Seasons, for which he was nominated for an Evening Standard Award, and Rose Rage (based on Shakespeare’s Henry VI). He has performed all over the world with award-winning all-male Shakespeare company, Propeller, playing many of the leading clowns and fools including Bottom, Feste, Autolyclus and Tranio. TV credits include Coronation Street, Holby City, Midsomer Murders, EastEnders & The Bill. He is also a radio and voiceover artist.