24/6/2015 0 Comments
As we prepare to open our unit in West Bay and start getting ready for flat-selling in Essex and house-hunting in the South West (fingers and toes crossed, please, everyone!), those long, culture-filled days in London I've been blogging about regularly are becoming rarer and rarer.
After attending Jaz Coleman's inspiring lecture on Wednesday, we were back in the capital last Sunday for a book launch!
But first, we visited the Imperial War Museum to see the "Fashion on The Ration" exhibition. The exhibition really celebrates people's determination and inventiveness in the face of adversity during WWII. Controversially, I personally admire the way taking care of oneself was considered as being positive (and it was even seen as patriotic!).
If you look at pictures of people at the time, they always look as if they have spent some time doing something to their hair, their clothes, and for women, their make-up, be it at home, in the street, in the office, in a field or in a factory. It was seen as an act of self-preservation and defiance. Looking good (and being creative about doing something about it whilst everything was being rationed) was proof that you had not given up and that you were resilient and still strong and proud.
This is something I genuinely believe in. I am a writer and freelancer and spend whole days indoors. I never ever sit at my desk without having sorted myself out with nice clothes, make-up and all. You know that myth about self-employed people wandering around in their PJs all day long? Not for me, thanks...
Interesting as well was the link between those times and now - with the "Make Do and Mend" slogan reappearing with the recession and times of austerity making people turn to charity shops, recycling, second-hand and vintage, and rejecting the ugly, throw-away culture of fast fashion.
We also had a look at the newly refurbished WWI permanent galleries; they are simply magnificent: superbly designed, innovative and informative, although the horrors of WWI can sometimes feel genuinely overwhelming. It is really worth spending some time in there.
"It’s the early `80s in Birmingham, and Carl – a nightclubbing, vodka-soaked, drug-fuelled, New Romantic schoolboy – is desperate for the love his manic-depressive mother has never been able to give.
Apparently, Carl Stanley's partner has described his performance on last Sunday as follows: "You were like a stream-of-consciousness New Romantic Virginia Woolf," which is actually pretty appropriate, as the venue for the launch of Carl's memoir Kiss and Make Up was The New Bloomsbury Set in, yes, Bloomsbury.
Kiss and Make Up is the new title published by our friends Ignite Books, and we were delighted to see Ignite's boss Steve Pottinger again (you can read my interview with Steve HERE). Well done him for snapping up Carl's book, quite a feat for a small independent publisher!
The event, organised by the bookshop Gay's The Word, was sold out, lively and intimate; Carl Stanley, a busy professional make-up artist, was surrounded by friends and family and he looked genuinely chuffed and proud.
Two of his old friends from Birmingham present on Sunday were the singer Maggie De Monde (Swans Way, Scarlet Fantastic) - who performed two songs at the launch - and cabaret host, DJ, singer and artist Dusty O, who interviewed Carl after his reading.
Kiss and Make Up is first in line on my "To Read" shelf (I am in the middle of Rosie Garland's Vixen at the moment) but after Carl's energetic reading - during which he barely attempted to pause and breathe (I think his pace was completely appropriate for the New Romantic antics of clubland Birmingham he writes about in his book) - I cannot wait to get started.
Kiss and Make Up promises to be hilarious, riotous, outrageous and very witty, like its author; it is full to the brim with glamorous clothes, glittery make-up and music. It also has a dark side and shadowy corners: sex and drugs and alcohol, homosexuality and cross-dressing in 80s England and a highly dysfunctional family.
There was a lot of love in the venue on Sunday and some intensely emotional moments. One of the central themes of the book is Carl's difficult relationship with his mother; they have now "kissed and made up" and enjoy a very close bond. But it seems that getting where they are now has taken a lot of effort and soul-searching, and this fact came across very well at the event.
When Janet took to the stage to read her introduction to the book, in which she described how it had made her feel, Carl just crumbled - but stayed dignified and kept teasing and joking throughout.
It was all rather touching, a really lovely event.
Carl talks about the book ...
I am happy to say that we will have some copies of Kiss and Make Up for sale in our unit at The Customs House in West Bay (we are setting up on August 1st!) alongside other titles from Ignite Books, Arcane Publishing, Estuary Publishing and November 10th Records.
We were really chuffed to hear that Carl's mum lives in the Bridport area, the setting for my third novel, The Right Place!
You never know, we might be able to organise a little literary event there later this year. Watch this space!
You can buy your copy of Kiss and Make Up from the Ignite Books website HERE.
You can also get it from Amazon, but you know what I think about it...
I think therefore I write.
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