Blog 1 will be a report from the basement of the Hope and anchor in Islington, London, where we had a fantastic night yesterday evening. Some truly captivating, thrilling stuff was played... I still have to download the pictures, so bear with me!
Blog 2 will be a preview for a famous cinema festival about to kick off soon in the capital. Of course, it will be related to literature.
I will start work on these tomorrow and hope to post the articles online over the weekend.
So come back in a few days to check this very blog!
A weekend away...
So last weekend was supposed to be a very rock'n'roll weekend indeed, that of the awesome Alt-Fest festival. We were getting ready to enjoy three full days of art and music, with the most fabulous line-up. We were looking forward to seeing some of our favourite artists play there and to checking out some exciting new acts.
After a two-year wait, we were absolutely gutted when the event was cancelled barely two weeks before the festival was due to take place. [for anyone interested in the ins and outs of what has gone wrong, go HERE].
We had booked a gorgeous hotel called Hawthorn House Hotel in the town of Kettering (the festival was supposed to take place at the nearby Boughton estate).
We needed a break anyway; we are very versatile people with a wide range of interests, and so instead of cancelling the hotel, we kept the booking and spent a lovely resting weekend visiting the area. Read Matt ArtPix's blog about it HERE (and there are some great pictures too!).
We did go and have a look at Boughton House (from the road).
It was a fabulous spot for a festival, trust me...
It is so very sad to think about what could have been if things had been handled better...
Here's the official poster for the next event Arcane Publishing will be attending: The Southend Book and Arts fair at the wonderful Forum, which is Southend award-winning shiny new library and art gallery.
Arcane Publishing will have a stall next to their designer Matt ArtPix, and will be concentrating on entertainment, young readers, fantasy and sci-fi (more details about our stock will be revealed before the event!)
I will be there, selling copies of my first novel I Am a Muse at the special event price of £6 (instead of RRP of £7.99) and I will be promoting my next novel, The Book of Thoth, to be published later this autumn (unfortunately, it will be not printed on time for the fair!). I am really looking forward to it!
In September, I will read an extract of my second novel, The Book of Thoth, at a gathering of local artists and writers.
This would be the third reading I've ever done.
I have an issue with public speaking. Hell, I am a writer, after all, happy being alone in my corner. I could spend days on end not talking to anyone and it wouldn't bother me.
But these days, if you are a writer, readings are an integral part of the job, so I cannot get out of it. I will get used to it, I guess.
I always tell myself that it cannot be worse than trying to teach a class of 35 brats as I did when I was a teacher. Still. It hasn't cured me from my loathing of public speaking!
I have now selected six extracts of the book, and I will ask Matt ArtPix to help me get down to THE ONE.
Dickens was famously excellent at giving readings. I could try and emulate him, I guess...
More Dragnet pictures by Fenris Oswin!
You will find loads of fabulous Dragnet pictures on freelance photographer Fenris Oswin's website HERE. He has also written a lovely blog about the day, read it HERE.
Check out his Project Steampunk page too, it's great!
Dragnet at Village Green
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!
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.
Dragnet at Village Green 2014: update
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...
Adder Stone by Jo Quail
People reading this blog regularly (if there's any?) know that one of my current musical obsessions is the unique cellist Jo Quail.
She has just released a bewitching new video, Adder Stone. This is what the soundtrack to my forthcoming novel The Book of Thoth would sound like, and it gives me goose bumps.
Jo is launching her new album, Caldera, with a very special evening at The Islington (in... Islington!) on June 28th. I will be there...
WARNING: VERY LONG BLOG!
Well, this was a hell of a week! After a relatively quiet winter, things have picked up on the culture front.
Last Tuesday, we were off to the lovely Theatre Royal Stratford East to see the new version of Oh! What a Lovely War. I do hate musicals with a passion and would have to be dragged to one kicking and screaming, but I knew that this one would be different.
Highly satirical and poignant, it highlights the absurdity of the "war game(s)" and that of the military - not forgetting how naive the civilian population can sometimes be. The play has been visually freshened up and you have to admire the cast's energy and hard work. Note to Michael Gove: maybe you should have shut up before you criticised the play as you now appear at the beginning of it paired up with a donkey... Just sayin'...
For a more comprehensive review of the show, go to my partner's Matt ArtPix's BLOG - he has been studying WW1 for years and is better placed than me to give his opinion about the show.
On Wednesday, we were off to a venue we had never been to, Village Underground in Shoreditch, to see the infamous Laibach - whom we have seen before on numerous occasions! The Slovakian "avant-garde" art collective - whose main body of work concentrates on the links and interaction between ideology and culture - keep reinventing themselves with each project; their latest one, Spectre, is a brilliant, addictive collection of multi-layered tracks sung in English - a bit less industrial, a little bit more electro, with "quasi-pop" moments...
Laibach have always been exceptional live and tonight's sold out gig didn't disappoint: the background visuals were striking; the live drums added impact to each and every track; Milan's presence was as impressive and authoritative as ever, his deep-seated, sonorous voice counter-balanced by the mysterious and charismatic Mina Spiler's clear, pitch-perfect vocals. Mina's place within the band has really grown; she now fully shares vocal duties with Milan (she is also given writing credits in Spectre) and exudes the confidence and attitude necessary for such a performance (she fronts her own band, Melodrom).
The first 45 minutes saw the band play the whole of Spectre, revealing the genius of the new songs to their attentive audience. Then after a 15 mn interval, we got something completely different: a few tracks from their Iron Sky soundtrack with the movie's stunning visuals playing on the screens behind; we were also treated to everyone's favourite, "Tanz Mit Laibach", and of course to a few deconstructed covers, including Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" and Serge Gainsbourg's "Love On The Beat". As someone who absolutely loathe both individuals and their work, I was first taken aback by the choice of songs, but then I remembered that this is what Laibach do: they take the most absurd popular songs and give them the Laibach treatment: they redefine them entirely by reshaping and remodelling them through the industrial filter, injecting them with the harshness and the edge they never had and pumping a little bit of life into them. Fabulous.
Saturday, we were in London for the Classic car boot sale at Southbank, organised by Vintage By Hemingway. The weather was glorious and the place was packed with loads of cool and happy people, wonderful cars and jam-packed stalls; the atmosphere was lovely and the location iconic... What else is there to say?
Here are a few pictures!
We made a detour via The British Museum to get tickets for The Vikings exhibition... Yesss!
Then we ended up at The Barbican cinema to see Under The Skin...
I have been waiting to see this movie for MONTHS.
Michel Faber is my favourite author, and I really wondered how on earth his unforgettable novel could be turned into a movie.
I am still thinking about it; as my partner said when the lights went back up after the film: "I didn't want it to end".
And I felt the same: it is truly mesmerising and gripping. It's bleak and unforgiving. There is very little dialogue; the music is brooding, distorted, haunting, basically: perfect... (soundtrack by Mica Levi). Scarlett Johansson, whom I have always thought of as being interesting as well as stunning, is deeply touching; a naturally fatale femme... (I have always been interested in the Femme Fatale concept; they are always the most interesting ones, remember Louise Brooks's Lulu?).
Director Jonathan Glazer has removed a lot of the original story and changed quite a few things around; he has - dare I say it in the context of the novel? - removed the meat and kept only the skeleton of the story - but said skeleton is what keeps the body upright, isn't it? - Same here. Spared down to the minimum - namely, the alien and her reaction to the world around her, with a setting transported from the rural A9 road in the book to the decaying urban landscape of Glasgow.
I was fascinated by the sequences in which the alien observes the strange behaviour of the humans around her - how many times have I found myself in the streets, in a venue, or simply in the same room as other people and thought that I didn't belong to the same world or species? My strong misanthropic streak made me feel completely at ease watching Under The Skin. It looked like the landscape in my head...
I couldn't say whether Under The Skin is technically a good movie; I go for gut instinct, and I loved it.
Tonight, I'm off to see the bonkers The Grand Budapest Hotel. This should be a fun evening!
Pictures by Carya Gish and Matt ArtPix.
I think therefore I write.
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