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!
I think therefore I write.
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