Last Saturday, I worked at Village Green, Southend's ever expanding music and arts festival in Southend. It was a rather fab and exhausting day. I admit to feeling something akin to my wristbands (below) on the Sunday: a bit crumpled and battered; but I am really pleased to have been part of it.
There are pros and cons about working at an event: you get sucked up in the intensity of it and are surrounded by talented people the whole day, BUT you do not get to see much...
I didn't mind one bit though, as I was exactly where I wanted to be anyway: the Dragnet tent, the 40s crime/mystery/literary tent curated by authors Syd Moore, Travis Elborough and Cathi Unsworth.
I feel very privileged indeed to have spent the whole day surrounded by so many inspiring, inspired and talented writers and musicians who were clearly passionate about what they were doing - and yes, my antisocial tendencies have been challenged big time, but one has to try!
Everything went smoothly and the atmosphere was really friendly and relaxed. During the breaks, we were entertained by great retro music spinned for us by Travis Elborough and Max Décharné.
As I was kept busy the whole day and could only catch one or two minutes of the talks and readings here and there - although thankfully, I managed to catch the whole of the Sohemian Society Players' play and of The Cesarians' set - this blog will be dominated by images rather than words.
Someone mentioned the inside of the beautiful tent as looking like a church with its stained-glass windows - and indeed it did! Someone else - I think it was our very efficient stage manager Jo Tyler - mentioned it as being "a little oasis of calm" in the middle of the frenzy of the big event!
An oasis of calm indeed on the surface - the Dragnet tent resonated the whole day with the tales of bygone mysteries, murderous deeds and shady characters...
Here are Cathi and Travis starting off the proceedings with a discussion about crime fiction and the seaside.
The poet Benedict Newbery went back in time in verse...
Anna Whitwham read the opening chapter of her gritty debut novel, Boxer Handsome, and talked to Ann Scanlon.
The very charismatic Max Décharné took the audience on a journey from the pages of classic pulp fiction books to Noir movies.
I purchased his book "Straight From the Fridge, Dad" from the bookshop next door and got it signed, nice!
Also from the bookshop stalls, my partner in crime Matt Artpix acquired some great pulp fiction books!
Back on stage, Lilian Puzzichini discussed outcasts and memoirs with Travis Elborough.
The Sohemian Society Players (Duncan Bolt, Emma Brown and Callum Coates) enchanted us with "A Drop of Tea with Acid", a murder mystery written by Marc-Henri Glendening and delivered with glee in perfect retro BBC accents. An extra layer of atmosphere was added by violinist Sophie Loyer.
A real delight!
At the end of the day, I rescued a worse for wear script of the play that had been abandoned in the Green Room...
I am keeping it in my archives (and I'm going to read it properly too of course!).
I love this picture! Syd Moore is sadly missing here, but she was busy doing all the press for Village Green!
Paul Willetts, in conversation with Marc Glendening, described how 1940s London was quite different to the one we imagine with our rose-tinted 21st century nostalgia - it was full of gangs!
Outside the tent, we came across Captain Blackadder - who was giving out flyers for the run of Blackadder Goes Forth at the Palace Theatre later this month!
Back inside, Mark Pilkington and Syd Moore took us to meet Essex witches and the perverse Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins.
Here are Iain Sinclair and Cathi Unsworth deep in conversation!
If you want your music to have a sense of drama, great lashings of panache, a seductive and self-destructive edge and you don't mind treading on the dark side of the human psyche, then you should see The Cesarians live.
They really gave everything they had on Saturday and absolutely rocked the Dragnet tent with their unique blend of demonic rock'n'roll cabaret - singer Charlie Finke did look possessed - creating the perfect collision between intellect, modernity, rawness and old-fashioned sophistication and decadence. I had seen them in London before, but this performance inside that Dragnet tent really was something.
This first Dragnet was a pilot for a potential weekender next year. This mixture of vintage crime, literature and music, mystery, noir references and shadowy goings-on is a winning formula; we therefore demand more!
(All pictures by Carya Gish)
I am off to carry on reading Christopher Fowler's "The Bleeding Heart", the latest in his terrific Bryant and May series. Will London's most unlikely pair of ageing detectives make an appearance at the next Dragnet? One can only speculate!
A new, very special item has now been added to the Arcane Publishing's stock.
This is the story "L'Oiseau du Nord et l'Oiseau du Sud" / "The Snow Bird and the Sun Bird" narrated by Grace Kelly of Monaco! This is a bilingual vinyl from 1970, recorded by Grace of Monaco, formerly movie star Grace Kelly in two languages, French and English. There is also the illustrated book of the story in both languages; the images are by prolific Belgian artist Nadine Forster (linked article is in French).
This comes from my personal collection.
This is a genuinely lovely item that will enchant any story-loving child and adult!
Find it on my stall at So Vintage London at Old Spitalfields market on 2nd August!
We had a great day last Saturday at So Vintage London at Old Spitalfields market...
We will be back there on 2nd August!
On the left is our I Am a Muse display!
You can read more about it and see more pictures of our stall and stock on the Arcane Publishing website HERE.
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...
I think therefore I write.
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