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!
I think therefore I write.
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