Magic can still happen; who would have thought?
In an era of trash and dumbed-down culture, fast-food, fast-fashion, fast-fame and digital everything in which music, words and images can be downloaded, consumed and then discarded in a few seconds at the click of a button, it is thrilling to discover artists who still have a real vision that translates into a complex, intellectually and visually stimulating body of work and beautifully crafted and thought-through "products".
Take cellist Jo Quail's new album, Caldera, which launched last Saturday at The Islington in London.
The Caldera limited edition package contains a gorgeously manufactured CD, a hand-finished DVD (with a red wax seal! I have a thing for red wax seals...) and prints by photographer Karolina Urbaniak, who is also responsible for the imagery and layout of the album. The whole album is a genuine work of art.
Last Saturday, we attended the launch of Caldera at The Islington in London, organised by up-and-coming music promoters Chaos Theory and it felt like a great privilege to be there.
For the event, Jo - who usually performs on her own with her trusty Starfish electric cello - was surrounded by an impressive group of collaborators:
Francesca Ter-Berg (cello), Rachel Jones (violin), George Mattar (violin), Al Richardson (percussion), Eilish McCracken (piano), Jim Rattigan (french horn), Ruban Byrne (guitar), Sebastian Lee (viola) and Jonathan Farey (french horn), Daemonia Nymphe and Lucie Dehli.
Adrian Ainsworth, who has written some beautiful sleeve notes for the Caldera album, has posted a review of the evening, and I don't think anyone could have done it better than him - I most certainly couldn't, especially with some awful radio blaring out of some builders' van two houses down the road as I type... welcome to the real world.
Read his report on this very special event HERE.
Live and solo, Jo can reconstruct fully layered versions of most of her material armed with her cello and fearsome control panel of loop pedals. On this occasion, however, some of Jo's tracks were going out on the town in new clothes - and as a result, we saw and heard something unique and unforgettable: like the cauldron of the album's title, a true melting pot, part the sound of the new record, part Jo's normal show, and then a whole variety of extra ingredients to savour.
So on Monday, I blogged about the fab Dragnet tent at the Village Green festival.
Yesterday, completely out of the blue, I was asked to join the team that puts it together, and I will be working the whole day at the tent on Saturday 12th July.
This is such an exciting development! It will be wonderful to be surrounded and work with so many talented people...
Matt ArtPix has been hard at work on Part I of The Book of Thoth, trying things out... It does look good... A few tweaks required but we're there, really! I am extremely pleased with the look of it!
... and another literary festival for Southend-on-Sea!
Is it C*******s already?
Back in February, I posted THIS BLOG about the press briefing I attended at Metal Southend's HQ at Chalkwell Hall about the 2014 edition of their annual Village Green festival.
Since then, Metal have been constantly adding more and more performers and artists. Head HERE if you want to know about the myriad of things happening across the festival.
I mean, there is so much going on, it's already quite an event as it is. But there is more...
And I know where all the Cool Cats will be on the day, no mistake...
There is going to be a festival-within-the-festival.
This year's Village Green will host the pilot for a new literary festival in Southend-on-Sea. Of course, we already have the fab Shorelines Festival (see here for my report of last year's edition). But it looks like in 2015, Southend's seafront might host a rather different beast of a literary festival: a Literary Noir Crime festival over a whole weekend... And what better place to try it out than Village Green?
This new exciting event is the brainchild of authors Cathi Unsworth, Travis Elborough and Syd Moore.
Travis Elborough says:
We really wanted to work within the genre of crime and mystery fiction and produce something intelligent, stylish, with a vintage vibe that reached out to new audiences who might not normally think of going to a literary festival.
This first edition promises to be a real treat. Here's a taste of the programme for the day (12pm to 8pm):
Pioneering psychogeographers Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair explore the life and work of the late great Derek Raymond (considered to be the founder of the British Noir genre) among other things.
Crime Writer's Assocation Gold Dagger Award winner, Lilian Pizzichini - reading Making a Killing at the Kursaal, about Southend’s famous landmark, from her family memoir, Music Night at the Apollo.
The Sohemian Society Players: A Drop of Tea With Acid is a murderous brew of mystery and satire inspired by the crimes of the infamous 1940s 'Acid Bath' killer and consummate spiv John George Haigh, written by Marc Glendening and starring Callum Coates, Duncan Bolt and Emma Brown.
Cathi Unsworth in conversation with Travis Elborough about the Dark Currents that run between the coast and crime fiction.
Max Décharné will trace the journey of classic pulp fiction from the dimestore to the big screen, with clips and live music performance.
Syd Moore and Mark Pilkington in discussion about local Fortean curiosities: witches, smugglers and highwaymen.
Paul Willetts talks about his book, North Soho 999, which traces a murder that took place on the streets of Soho in the 1940s and which prompted a nationwide manhunt that eventually focused on Southend.
Anna Whitwham, the author of acclaimed crime novel, Boxer Handsome, interviewed by writer Ann Scanlon about women working in the corrupt worlds of sport and popular music, where they are not always made welcome by men.
And there's going to be some music!
Sophie Loyer, a gypsy-blues-jazz violinist, and the fabulous The Cesarians (believe me, I've seen them but cannot find my live pictures to put on here!), a truly thrilling seven-piece band with incredible charisma and energy straight out of the best smoky 1920s-30s Berlin cabarets... They will probably be the best dressed band of the whole festival!
I am supposed to cover the Village Green festival for this blog and possibly for a French music website, but I know I will be tempted to spend the whole day inside the Dragnet tent...
I leave you with The Cesarians...
Chaudes-Aigues is a pretty and rather sleepy Cantal town which comes alive during the holiday season - it is a spa town. Most people come to see this:
Imagine our surprise when we found a poster for a tattoo festival!
Actually, I have found an article covering the first edition of this event in the online version of INKED MAGAZINE (it's in French, sorry). Not surprisingly, English is the official language across the whole event. I can't help trying to conjure up the image of 10,000 tattoo enthusiasts converging to this rural location!
More than the hot spring though, it is Le Valdom which has caught my eye. I have struggled to find information about it, only that it is a private garden transformed into a natural heaven for fairies, dwarves, witches and other imaginary creatures. It's blooming lovely and probably the best thing about the town!
Read my interview with poet and indie publisher Steve Pottinger HERE. It's a great read, I promise!
My first novel, I Am a Muse, features a dead painter and his muse. I will most certainly go and see Mike Leigh's Mr Turner when it is released in the UK in October, it looks fabulous. (lovely review HERE - I loved Topsy-Turvy, the Gilbert and Sullivan film mentioned in the article!).
See the trailer below!
I am absolutely thrilled to present to you the first in my interview series, "Book Talk".
And what a way to get started! an absolutely thrilling interview with the very talented Jordan Reyne, whose first novel, Remembering The Dead, is out now.
What began as a "Book talk" became something else altogether. Really, really interesting.
Subjectivity in the way we interpret history - very fitting with the current debate surrounding WW1 "celebrations" - as well as philosophy, music, the fluidity of language(s), writing, self-publishing, storytelling, surviving...
It's all in there and more.
Thank you Jordan for giving us such in-depth answers to my questions!
READ JORDAN REYNE: REMEMBERING THE DEAD
There is a review of I Am a Muse in issue 2 of V&OAK magazine, a new glossy independently put together in Colchester by a team of talented and hard-working people. V&OAK stands for "vintage and one of a kind".
I am very happy with the review, and it was a surprise to find out that the article took a whole page in the "Culture" section. The review does highlight the main topics in the book. It didn't start well, though, and I have a slight issue with the following sentence: [talking about Constance] "An elite events planner, her story begins along a similar vein to your typical chick-lit narrative of an independent woman stuck in a love triangle with two different yet disposable men."
WHAAAAT? "CHICK-LIT"? *Hits head on wall*.
Believe me, this is absolutely NOT chick-lit. I most certainly do not write for women but for everyone who loves reading. I do not tackle "women's issues", and at no point in my book do I say that the men are disposable! Constance is a single, working individual in London who has affairs, shares a house when she'd prefer not to, and tries to keep her head above water.
Constance is not an "elite events planner", but the manager of an arts and media centre inspired by the iconic Tea Building in Shoreditch where artists and start-ups hire space and units. She also runs a monthly club night inspired by the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.
But I "forgive" the reviewer, because the rest of the article is beautifully written and rather spot on (and she corrects herself about the chick-lit tag too in some way!).
OK, and seeing my picture rather big on there was a bit of a shock... You can see you're no longer in the fashion section!
My partner in crime Matt ArtPix also had a little feature in the magazine about his design work.
And both Arcane Publishing and Matt ArtPix advertised in the mag!
This weekend, we went back to lovely Whitstable to attend an event at the first WhitLit, the Whitstable Literary Festival. It is a shame that we couldn't stay over for the whole weekend, as there were quite a few interesting events. Then on the day we decided to attend, we had to choose between two events that fatefully took place at the same time in two different places in town.
So I opted for the talk on British Gothic (one of my fave subjects) with one of my favourite contemporary writers, Christopher Fowler, over the one about two of my favourite classic authors (namely Charles Dickens and most of all Wilkie Collins, whose work has inspired my second novel, The Book of Thoth).
I have written about Whitstable before on this blog, HERE and HERE. My partner Matt ArtPix also posted a lovely blog about the place two years ago, you can read it HERE.
We adore the architecture around the town, and there definitely is an atmosphere...
So yes, we are big fans and we will most certainly go back. Yesterday, there seemed to be even more interesting shops than the last time we were there. This is what a high street should look like: all the shops (or very nearly) taken up, mostly by independent businesses which have kept the uniqueness of the interior of the buildings they now occupy.
We spent a while in the fabulous Oxford Street Books, a treasure trove that had me virtually drooling. Whilst in the basement, a young couple wandered in. I didn't pay attention to them at all until the girl said - with a very bored tone of voice "Why don't you just get your books off the Internet?" (i.e Amazon); I almost SCREAMED. She did look bored. They left. The poor guy didn't even have time to browse properly! Their loss. We on the other end took our time.
In the shop, there was a signed copy of the first and only edition of The Bois Saga written by local VIP resident Peter Cushing. It was £195.00, of course... and no, I didn't buy it! There is an ebay listing for it HERE with a lovely and rather poignant write-up.
We also paid a visit to Harbour Books, the local independent bookstore and associate of the WhitLit festival. I bought a Dorothy Parker poster in there... oops.
As part of the WhitLit festival, a second-hand books event had been organised at All Saint's Church Hall. You just have to say "second-hand books" for me to come running. And there was a tea room as well, which was perfect after so much walking around! I was amazed: people literally bought PILES of books! It was so wonderful to see!
I got my hands on a wonderful little book called Gobbolino, The Witch's Cat by Ursula Moray Williams (written in 1942, this edition 1966). It's cute, and I am going to read it, because, hey, it's got witches and cats in it!
I also rescued the lady above from a charity shop. Isn't she just handsome? I can feel a book coming with her as the heroine.
In the evening, we attended a talk about British Gothic at the Horsebridge centre as part of the WhitLit festival.
The two speakers were Christopher Fowler, a favourite of mine - I encourage you to read his very entertaining and above all informative blog, which he updates daily. I try and read all his posts as I always learn so much about cinema and books! Chris was also one of the speakers at the week-long "Culture Lab: on Writing Fiction" I attended in Southend in October 2012. I have been reading his books since the late 90s, but I really struggle to catch up as he is so incredibly prolific (I am genuinely in awe of this, as I am such a slow writer...)
The second speaker was the very knowledgeable Barry Forshaw, writer and journalist and Vice Chair of the Crime Writers' association, who has a brand new book out about British Gothic cinema.
The discussion - introduced by David Sutton, editor of Fortean Times - was simply fascinating, and one hour wasn't long enough. We could have sat there until midnight without getting bored. The two entertaining speakers swapped ideas, opinions and anecdotes about Gothic cinema, literature and characters. It really was a delight to listen to these two experts describing encounters with the greats of British Gothic cinema (Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee), taking us on a journey from the beginning of the genre to the special effects-saturated movies of current times and Hammer's resurrection. At random, a few things that got mentioned: Dracula, Frankenstein, MR James, Mary Shelley, Ingrid Pitt, lesbians, The Innocents, Hammer Films, Bela Lugosi, sets being reused again and again for different films, Carry On Screaming, Mr Fowler's Bryant and May series... and so many other things!
We then had a few things signed... Of course, I had to get the latest in the Bryant and May series, I can't wait to start reading it!
Afterwards, we decided to hang around in the cafeteria for a bit with some nice hot drinks, whilst the venue was getting readied for the next talk of the evening.
Sitting by the floor to ceiling glass doors leading onto the terrace and looking down at the town outside, we admitted that we didn't really want to go home and that yes, we could see ourselves live in Whitstable...
I think therefore I write.
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