THE SALVATION ARTISTS AT YE OLD SMITHY.
extract from Kill Devil Delta by Johnny Navarro
Last Saturday in Leigh-on-Sea, the characters, the songs and the locations of Johnny Navarro's first published novel, Kill Devil Delta (officially launched on the day), came to life in an event celebrating DIY art and culture, resilience in the face of adversity and, yes, bloody hard work.
This event was a one-off pop-up shop, art exhibition and performance venue rolled into one and was hosted in the lovely White Wall Space gallery owned by photographer and designer Simon Fowler.
Organisers and Leigh residents Jacqui and Johnny (of cult band Devilish Presley and also now of Crowstone) had put a huge amount of work into the event.
Matt ArtPix and Arcane Publishing had a small table showing our wares: Matt's colourful vintage-inspired designs and Arcane's publications: my novels I Am a Muse and The Book of Thoth.
Biba Fox's atmospheric paintings of the area lined the wall (thirteen of them feature in the Kill Devil Delta book); antique items were scattered around the space, reminding punters of the historical inspiration and references in the book and in Crowstone's songs.
Not only did the venue look beautiful, but the talent on show on the day was really impressive and the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed. There were some serious and fun moments, but not one single boring one...
It is amazing to think that there are still so many people producing so much art, music and literature, and all this unfortunately mostly under the radar (I should know!).
Here are Bob's Barbershop Boys - a male vocal harmony group from Leigh - in front of the venue!
Adrian Green is an experienced local poet and a member of the Southend Poetry Group whose set was about jazz, art and Dylan Thomas...
Mod-inspired newcomer Gary Bynorth gave a really passionate and impressive performance at The Salvation Artists, mixing covers and original compositions!
We wish him good luck with the recording of his first album!
Brad James's poetry is really hard-hitting, socially aware and powerful. His poetry collection, Reality Bytes, about the harsh realities of modern life is available to buy HERE.
He also writes prose and makes films...
Read an interview Brad has recently done with the local newspaper HERE.
I was there as well, and read from my third novel and VERY-slow-work-in-progress The Right Place. Beforehand, I talked about Dorset, where the book is set; I read an extract from Robert MacFarlane's superb essay The eeriness of the English countryside in which he defines some kind of fringe cultural movement, an "occulture" which really sums up what I am trying to do in my novels - especially with The Right Place... And of course, I talked about PJ Harvey's song The Wind which is the inspiration behind the book...
Local writer, poet and philosopher Chris Port popped in and did a great reading; special mention to his short ghost story which really grabbed your attention!
Crowstone gave a fantastic performance in the venue they had so painstakingly created and which proved to be the perfect backdrop for their gorgeous, heartfelt estuary blues songs. If you purchase a copy of Kill Devil Delta, you also get a 15-track CD. The songs on the CD are acoustic ones...
But then, for The Salvation Artists, Johnny and Jacqui, as Crowstone's Henry and Biba, plugged the guitar in, got the drum machine out and unleashed their inner Devilish Presley; the Crowstone songs were transformed, with an added layer of dirty rock'n'roll and a certain swagger... Glorious!
David Woodcock dropped his piano and his band to run up the hill from Old Leigh where he was performing at the Leigh Folk Festival, guitar in one hand and cute puppy on a lead in the other. Described as a pop genius (and looking very much like Jarvis Cocker), "his pub-piano-led songs are small town vignettes which are quintessentially English in the Ray Davies and Blur tradition".
Tombola Pictures ( Bradley James Yellop and Jay Laker) concluded the day with two very poignant short films, Shelter By The Sea (which you can watch below) about a homeless man sheltering in a Southend seafront landmark which has now been turned into a luxury restaurant, and Benchmarks, about an NHS professional who attempts to come to terms with losing her job due to the budget cuts being implemented throughout the health service and beyond. TP have produced five short films to date; Shelter By the Sea was exhibited at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in the Short Film Corner and Benchmarks at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
The Salvation Artists was a genuine lesson in how to organise a high-quality, varied and intimate event; this is proof that such things are possible if you put your mind to it! Matt ArtPix and I are very proud to have been part of this one-off and very special event!
The following day, Crowstone were playing a short set at Ye Olde Smack in Old Leigh as part of the official Leigh Folk Festival programme... The light was too low for me to get good pictures out of the little camera!
As electronic and industrial music fans, we were thrilled to be invited to this free and impromptu evening with US duo Matmos in the intimate surroundings of the lovely Chalkwell Hall in Westcliff-on-Sea.
Baltimore-based Matmos (M.C Schmidt and Drew Daniel) were in residence at arts organisation Metal for a week to work on the organisation's latest project: NetPark, the world's first digital art park, which will be launched on 26th September 2015. During their time in Chalkwell, Matmos produced site-specific music and audio to be included in the NetPark project. The aim of NetPark is to create digital artworks showing artistic responses to the landscape, the history and the people of the park. Visitors will be able to walk around whilst accessing the artworks via apps, ipads and iphones. There will also be a fully equipped educational centre at the heart of the project.
Matmos inhabit a world of avant-garde and intellectual creativity; they are used to working with artists from other disciplines: visual artists, playwrights, choreographers, performance artists...
They have also collaborated with numerous musicians including Bjork (whose Biophilia Educational project could have been an inspiration for NetPark). Improvisation and experimentation are two words intrinsically part of the Matmos vocabulary and they have been known for using unusual sources of sound such as "amplified crayfish nerve tissue, the pages of bibles turning, water hitting copper plates, liposuction surgery, cameras and VCRs, chin implant surgery, contact microphones on human hair, rat cages, tanks of helium, a cow uterus, human skulls, snails, cigarettes, card shuffling, laser eye surgery, whoopee cushions, balloons, latex fetish clothing, rhinestones, Polish trains, insects, life support systems, inflatable blankets, rock salt, solid gold coins, the sound of a frozen stream thawing in the sun, a five gallon bucket of oatmeal."
There is a pop sensibility there and a lot of humour and playfulness; they can also reverse to a more post-industrial environment and create darker, harsher soundscapes. You can perceive that their influences are numerous and varied: electro, synth, industrial, techno, ambient and they shape-shift at will between all of them.
The first track of the evening was inspired by the recent Baltimore riots and the rather surreal curfew imposed on the city's inhabitants; M.C Schmidt also read a text he had written that very week, inspired by a stroll around Chalkwell Park surrounded by flowers in bloom and arguing couples.
The event coincided with the anniversary of Alan Turing's birth, and one track was inspired by him and his work, featuring words from a postcard he had written just before his death and the noises and rhythm produced by the Enigma machine (more about the track HERE).
We want more!
Here's what you can do with a balloon. Someone should tell Einsturzende Neubauten, they might want to try it!
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...
There is a (in my opinion) brilliant programme on TV at the moment called "How To Be a Bohemian", presented by Victoria Coren Mitchell. The last episode is tonight and apparently, after tackling the "original" Bohemians (my personal favourites Aubrey Beardsley, William Morris, Oscar Wilde and the Pre-Raphaelites) and their post-WW1 "heirs" (like the Bloomsbury group and the controversial Eric Gill), Ms Coren Mitchell will be wondering whether hispters are the modern version of Bohemians.
I don't know about you, but I think she is making a mistake here: she is looking at the most obvious, in-your-face, and ultimately, fake version of the Bohemians (but have they ever been real anyway?).
I really do believe that she should be looking at alternative cultures in order to find what she is looking for. I have a whole list of people I would say are GENUINE Bohemians - if you define them as artistically-minded, uncompromising, curious, adventurous, creative people who question the status quo, reject conventions and accepted versions of what your journey through life should be like.
Jaz Coleman is one of those people: thinker, writer, traveller, nomad, occultist, in-demand classical music composer, founder and frontman of legendary post-punk band Killing Joke, Coleman is the epitome of the Renaissance Man, always searching for new things to learn, always questioning; he lives his life as a free man and is a fierce defender of the importance of culture and the arts in education. It was a real privilege to be sitting in the venue with him sharing his thoughts and experiences in such a simple and generous way.
For more pictures and more details about the electrifying lecture Jaz gave at St Pancras Old Church, read MATT ARTPIX'S BLOG;
You can catch Jaz on his spoken word tour on those dates:
Sun, July 19 – Southwold UK @ Latitude Festival
Tues, July 21 – Brooklyn NY @ St Vitus
Wed, July 22 – Cambridge MA @ The Middle East
Fri, July 24 – Baltimore MD @ Metro Gallery
Sat, July 25 – Cleveland OH @ Agora Ballroom
Sun, July 26 – Chicago IL @ Empty Bottle
Mon, July 27 – San Diego CA @ The Casbah
Wed, July 29 – Los Angeles CA @ The Regent Theater
Thu, July 30 – San Francisco CA @ The Chapel
Sat, Aug 1 – Seattle WA @ The Funhouse (El Corazon Lounge)
Sun, Aug 2 – Portland OR @ Dante’s
Killing Joke are touring this autumn! Unfortunately, I will be on my writing residency in Dorset and won't be able to go, so Matt ArtPix will enjoy himself for two at the London gig!
I am thrilled to be part of The Salvation Artists event in Leigh-on-Sea on Saturday 27th June 2015, 11am-9pm. It is the weekend of the famed Leigh Folk Festival so it is well worth coming down for the day! Free entry!
11am to 3pm: the space will be ran as a shop, with Henry Douanier curating. Live acts will start at 4pm.
This is the official launch of Johnny Navarro's debut novel, the superb Kill Devil Delta (Arcane's designer Matt ArtPix and Carya Gish have helped Johnny publish the book!)
I will read from The Right Place, my work in progress, and there will be copies of I Am a Muse, The Book of Thoth and Kill Devil Delta to buy on the day!
OFFICIAL PR BLURB!
Founded in Leigh-on-Sea in 1979, Crowstone were one of the most criminally underrated bands of the 1980s. So obscure were they that many journalists claimed they “couldn’t even get arrested in their home town”. They set out to prove the world wrong, and one of them actually ended up in prison! They will be singing punky-blues songs inspired by poverty, magic, the sea and the Old Town.
Crowstone are part of the official line-up of the Leigh Folk Festival and will also play at the Smack in Leigh on the Sunday.
HENRY DOUANIER (Performer)
Throughout the day founder member of Crowstone, the carnival huckster Henry, will be presenting several of his ‘strange attractions’. Will you dare peek behind the curtain at his Man Eating Fish? Have you the courage to cross the Great Galatia’s palm with silver and let him gaze into your future using his crystal ball? Will you allow his Human Jukebox to make up a song about you on the spot (for a small donation)?
ADRIAN GREEN (Poet)
Adrian says: “In a letter to his friend Dan Jones written in 1935, Dylan Thomas wrote that ‘the only politics for a conscientious artist – that’s you and me – must be left-wing under a right-wing government, communist under capitalism…’ Well, we’ve got the government, let’s get on with being the artists for the next few years and get it right (or rather left) next time!”
DAVID WOODCOCK (Music)
A Southend legend and a unique performer, Leigh Hillbilly David will be playing a selection of his music during the day. His pub-piano-led songs are small town vignettes which are ‘quintessentially English’ in the Ray Davies and Blur tradition. Joe Lamb from the David Woodcock Band will also be appearing with David (and Crowstone) and David’s albums will be available to purchase at the event.
BRADLEY JAMES YELLOP & JAY LAKER (Film)
Tombola Pictures is comprised of two filmmakers and co-founders Bradley James Yellop & Jay Laker from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England. TP have produced five short films to date, one of which was exhibited at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in the Short Film Corner. The company have a number of other shorts in the pipeline. Brad & Jay have had a new short, Bench Marks, entered into the short film competition to be considered for Cannes Film Festival 2015.
BRAD JAMES (Poet)
Author of Reality Bytes, a heartfelt, funny, insightful, and earnest look into the heart of the modern-day middle class. Brad says: “To the people of England (and most of Wales too), you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves for voting in Old Etonian toff eugenicists whose social engineering is designed to obliterate the lower classes!”
GARY BYNORTH (Music)
Newcomer Gary Bynorth will be ‘singing his little heart out’ at The Salvation Artists event and his Mod-inspired look and excellent songs will give hope to those living in these difficult times.
BIBA FOX (Artist)
Biba Fox is also a member of Crowstone and has recently illustrated the book Kill Devil Delta for musician Johnny Navarro. The book is being launched at The Salvation Artists event and Biba’s artworks will be on display. As a Beaumatique (New Bohemian), Biba does not sell her work, saying: “Paid work is not the source of my self-esteem’.
JOHNNY NAVARRO (Author and musician)
Johnny will be launching his debut novel, Kill Devil Delta, partly set in Leigh-on-Sea. Kill Devil Delta is an epic mish-mash of genres: memoirs, history, politics, social issues, music, sci-fi, dystopian… all combine to create an uncompromising, thrilling read!
(Read Miss Gish's interview with Johnny HERE)
CARYA GISH (Author and publisher)
Carya Gish founded her imprint Arcane Publishing in 2012. Since then, together with designer Matt ArtPix who is responsible for all the visual input of the imprint, she has published two novels, I Am a Muse and The Book of Thoth (copies of both books will be available to purchase at the event). She is currently working on her third book, the Dorset-based The Right Place, inspired by a PJ Harvey song and the landscape of the county. She has firmly positioned herself within the ‘occulture’ coined by writer and academic Robert McFarlane in his article “The eeriness of the English countryside”.
MATT ARTPIX (designer)
Matt is a professional designer who also runs his own small venture, producing vintage-inspired art. He is responsible for all the visual imput of the independent imprint Arcane Publishing, having designed the covers of I Am a Muse and The Book of Thoth (which he has also typeset).
Matt has recently finished work on Johnny Navarro's debut novel Kill Devil Delta. He has designed the cover and typeset the book. Matt has also designed The Salvation Artists flyer and posters!
SPEAKERS’ CORNER (THE SPEAKERS IN THE CORNER)
Got something to say? Disagree with us, agree with us, want to sing a song or try and sell something? Every half an hour we will hand over a microphone and speaker to YOU the public. Please note: Like everyone else Tories won’t have to pay to get in but they may have to pray to get out!
***PLEASE NOTE. WE WILL BE FILMING DURING THE DAY FOR USE IN IN THE FORTHCOMING DEVILISH PRESLEY VIDEO ‘DEVIL GATE DRIVE’
LET US KNOW IF YOU ARE SHY AND CAMERA PHOBIC!***
Last weekend, Matt ArtPix and I worked really hard on our stock for The Unit at The Customs House in West Bay, Dorset, that we will be opening on August 1st!
For the opening, I have over 70 superb second-hand books all labelled and coded, ready to be put on the shelves of their new home!
In the forthcoming days, I will be concentrating on the "independent publishers and authors" shelves of the unit. I am putting together some panels featuring info about the imprints and authors whose books will be for sale in the unit; the panels will be fixed to the shelves so visiting book lovers can make an educated choice about which volumes they'd like to give a go to!
The information will also be put up on The Unit's blog/social media pages we will create in late August once The Unit is up and running!
But I can already tell you that we will have fantastic reads from Ignite Books (Steve Pottinger, Joolz Denby, Carl Stanley, Ross Lomas); Estuary Publishing (Una Rose, Robert Hallman); November 10th Records (Kill Devil Delta by Johnny Navarro) and of course, my own novels out on Arcane Publishing!
We are extremely excited by this new venture as it will kick start our move to the South West; we hope to be residents of the SW by this time next year...
When we are back from setting up The Unit in early August, I will write a blog with loads of pictures...
In the meantime, I will post some more info about the fabulous event we will be taking part in at the end of June...
On Saturday, we headed off to South Record Shop in Southend to see John Doran, music journalist and editor of the excellent online magazine The Quietus, read extracts from his new book, Jolly Lad, published by Strange Attractor, "... a memoir about recovery from alcoholism, mental illness, and substance abuse, [the book] is also concerned with the healing power of music, how memory defines us, the redemption offered by fatherhood and what it means to be working class."
This Southend date was one of 31 on a reading tour entitled: An English Trip. This "trip" ended yesterday in Salford.
This venture was some kind of experiment and voyage of discovery - taking the author and his collaborators to unusual venues.
When people asked incredulously why I was doing the tour, I stammered that it was important for me as a music writer to have a clearer understanding of the lot of an independent musician in 2015. I wanted to know how difficult it was to book gigs where I didn't live, to find the money, to plan the route, to come up with merch to sell on the way, to find suitable support acts.
An English trip featured readings by John accompanied by his friend Kjetil Nernes from Norwegian band Arabrot.
As an author and ex-music journalist who is really interested in the interaction of music and words - I have created a playlist for my third novel, which is itself inspired by a PJ Harvey song - I was really looking forward to witnessing the coming together of John's prose and Arabrot's dark noise... but it wasn't meant to be.
The author arrived on his own carrying his box of books and CDs... No Arabrot in sight!
Still, even without the music, it was a very enjoyable event.
We were first entertained by the fantastic "Wild Man of Wivenhoe", poet and rock musician (with his band Cleaners From Venus) Martin Newell. Charismatic and extremely dynamic, he read some of his poems full of wit and sharp social observation. A real treat!
Listen to an interview with Martin Newell HERE.
John Doran read several extracts from Jolly Lad, including his serious run-in - whilst a Metal Hammer journo - with a guy releasing music under the moniker "Madame Guillotine". The author has an incredible way with words: his prose is lyrical, witty, cutting; the scenes he describes so vividly come to life in front of your eyes, and you find yourself wondering whether the guy in front of you really is the protagonist of such surreal adventures...
I very much look forward to getting started on Jolly Lad, which I'll do whilst I continue reading Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders.
That should be interesting.
An interview with John Doran on The Louder Than War website HERE.
Some notes from An English Trip HERE and HERE (as well as an extract from the book).
A great review of Jolly Lad HERE.
In other news, also last weekend, Matt ArtPix and I finally held a copy of author and musician Johnny Navarro's debut novel Kill Devil Delta in our hands!
It is a thrilling read (I have done some proofreading work on it) and it looks superb (Matt has designed the cover and typeset the content of the book!).
Read Matt's blog about it HERE.
Read my interview with Johnny about the book HERE.
The book/music theme will continue in June with two events I will be attending: Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke) at St Pancreas Church, London (spoken word tour, Letters from Cythera) on June 17th and the launch of Carl Stanley's book, Kiss and Make Up, published by our friends Ignite Books, on 21st June in London!
I think therefore I write.
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