ANTIMACASSAR TO KURDISTAN

July 31, 2020

Brylcreem – a little dab will do ya! 
Use only if you dare; 
But watch out! 
The gals will all pursue ya!
They’ll love to run their fingers through your hair!

My father died eleven years ago. He was 96 years old. I was 56 years old. On the day he died he had more hair on his head than me, and less grey hair than me.

My father used Brylcreem on his hair every day of his adult life. And there was always the same sharp parting. It never shifted. It was there on a photo I have of him at 16. It was there the morning he died.

If this Covid-19 had not happened I should be driving across Europe right now, in a white Ford Transit van with my colleague Tracey Moberly. In the back of the van would be The 25 Paintings. I would have been heading for Kurdistan in Eastern Turkey. To be more precise – to the city of Bingöl.

This is where I was to be doing this year’s leg of The 25 Paintings twelve year world tour. It was to be in Bingöl because that is the home town of Metin my barber. He has his barber’s shop on Albion Parade within 50 strides from the front door of my flat in north London. Brylcreem is not an option at Metin’s barber shop. But of course, Metin’s is also on lockdown.

When Beatlemania swept the nation, in the Autumn of 1963, the sale of Brylcreem plummeted. And it never recovered. For the previous one hundred and sixty years men in this country had used oil on their hair, to hold it in place. Brylcreem was not introduced to the men of the land until 1928, which was just a few months before my dad turned 16, and that photo of him that I refer to was taken.

But back in 1803 when the craze for men oiling their hair was first sweeping the nation, it was an oil called Macassar that they used to keep their hair neatly in place.

It might have looked fabulous, the gals might have pursued them, but there was a downside – this Macassar oil soiled the headrests of upholstered armchairs and sofas.

This was not so nice.

Something had to be done.

So, our Victorian relatives came up with the idea of draping the headrests of these upholstered armchairs and sofas with pieces of cloth. Pieces of cloth that could be removed and washed at ease and then replaced back on the headrests.

Over the years, these pieces of cloth became refined fashion accessories for the house-proud. They were crocheted and embroidered to the highest level.

They no longer looked like something that just existed to stop the headrests of armchairs and sofas, becoming soiled and stained by bi-products of man’s vanity.

But…

They had already been given the name of antimacassar. And the name stuck long after the men of the land had moved on from grooming their hair with Macassar.

Macassar was made from coconut oil and Ylang Ylang oil and maybe a couple of other oils.

And while we are at it Brylcreem is made from water, petroleum and beeswax.

When I was a boy in Newton Stewart, everybody had antimacassars on the headrests of their armchairs and sofas, like everybody had ashtrays on their coffee tables.

But then…

Yesterday, my almost mother-in-law, who is being shielded from Covid-19, temporarily moved into the furnished flat downstairs from where I’m doing lockdown.

She brought with her a couple of throws to cover the sofa and armchair in this furnished flat. They were of a very light cotton with hand dyed Indian designs. They weren’t actual antimacassars, but something clicked.

The first handwritten draft of the book I’ve been working on is nearly done. Lockdown has some time to go. The only physical aspect to my work that I have access to here are my knitting needles and a box of balls of wool. These being for The Million Stitch Blanket that I am working on over The 25 Paintings twelve year world tour.

Maybe I should knit an antimacassar using the wool I have access to. This antimacassar would be made up of 25 A5 sized knitted rectangles. Each of the 25 rectangles representing each of The 25 Paintings – as in each of the 25 A5 sized rectangles knitted in the colours of the painting they represent.

I reckon I could knit one of these rectangles a day, between my home-schooling and domestic responsibilities. And after all 25 are knitted I will sew them together to make an A1 sized antimacassar ready for work.

And ready for me to take on a budget airline later in the year to Kurdistan, where I will find an armchair in Bingöl, in need of an antimacassar. And while there I might not be able to do all the things that I usually do on each leg of The 25 Paintings twelve year world tour. But I could write a very short play, where this hand knitted antimacassar is not only the prime prop in the play but could be the male lead. The female lead of course being another antimacassar, but one that is Kurdish and been there on the headrest of an armchair for the past 100 years.

She would have observed the vanities of men, expressed through their hair grooming, over those hundred years. Whereas my hand-knitted one would be young, arrogant and brash.

The stage set would be just two armchairs facing the audience each with…

Look anyway I can get to all that later when I actually write the play.

For now, all you need to know is – up until I was ten years old, I could have occasionally been witnessed helping myself to a dab of my father’s Brylcreem. This was to help coiffure my hair before heading off to one of those loathed birthday or Christmas parties I was made to go to.

But after the summer of ’63, and the Beatlemania that swept the nation, my father’s jar of Brylcreem, never again had its lid surreptitiously un-screwed by my fingers.

And Elvis Presley’s hair looked ridiculous from then on.  

Time to get knitting.

Antimacassar waiting on the beach at Sizewell B.

A FORD TRANSIT VAN

April 29, 2020
A Journey Through Gypsy Britain – exterior

Romani was one of nine languages that were spoken on these islands two hundred years ago.

Romani was the language of the Gypsies.

It still is.

These islands are the Atlantic Archipelago sometimes known as the British Isles.

Between the 29th of April 2018 and the 29th April 2026, Bill Drummond is screening the film Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow And All Music Has Disappeared, nine times.

And each of those nine individual screenings will take place on a date close to the end of April each year.

And each of those screenings is to be at a location where one of those nine languages were spoken 200 years ago.

In April 2018 the film was screened in Cornwall to celebrate Cornish.

In April 2019 it was screened on the Shetland island of Unst to celebrate Norn.

Today (29th of April 2020), it is to be screened in a Ford Transit van, parked up in a ‘stopping place’, somewhere in England. This screening is to celebrate the Romani language.

The audience will comprise of one Gypsy who is on lockdown. His name is Damian Le Bas.

The Stopping Places – A Journey Through Gypsy Britain is a book that was published in 2018. It was written by Damian Le Bas. The journey was done in the same Ford Transit van the film is to be screened in.

Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow And All Music Has Disappeared was made by the Swiss director Stefan Schwietert. The protagonist in the film is Bill Drummond. The subject matter of the film is contained within the title. It was filmed in 2013. It was released in the German speaking countries in 2015.

Also…

Each year of this nine year tour, Bill Drummond will record a different female singer, singing a song in the language being celebrated that year. They will be singing the song un-accompanied, thus uncluttered by instrumentation.

A Journey Through Gypsy Britain – interior

STEP SIX

February 12, 2020
Photograph taken by Tracey Moberly

The Twelve Steps continue.

The title of Step Six has now been written on the wall under Spaghetti Junction.


BAD WISDOM

February 4, 2020

BAD WISDOM is an imaginary film.
Partially imagined by Tenzing Scott Brown.
It is set in the present day, whenever the present day is.
And it tells the story of three young women.
And their quest to save the world. 
Or at least saving themselves.

These three young women are Sakura, Miriam and Destinee.
Sakura, Miriam and Destinee live off the Holloway Road in London.
And when we say young, we mean in their late 20s.
The first flush is over.

Sakura is Japanese, she moved to London at the age of 18.
Miriam is north London Jewish.
Destinee is south London second generation Afro Caribbean.

Sakura is mainly into the history of Britpop.
Miriam is mainly into contemporary R&B.
Destinee is mainly into her grandmother’s collection of modern jazz records.
All three like a bit of all sorts of other things.
These others things include The Combahee River Collective.
And bringing down the patriarchy.

All three were at Camberwell College of Art.
It is were they met.
And became best friends.
But that was sometime ago.
The years have begun to drift past.
The focus lost.
There are younger and more vibrant ex-art students on the prowl.

Scene One:

It’s a Tuesday evening, they are in the Good Mixer, sharing wine and stories for old times sake.
The Good Mixer is a bar in Camden Town.

Destinee:
So why are we here?

Sakura:
Because this is where all the Brit Pop gang used to hang out.
Where it all happened.
Where it all went down.
On a miserable Tuesday evening in November like tonight back in 1992 you would have the likes of Brett from Suede, Johnny Dean from…

Destinee: 
Who?

Sakura:
Johnny Dean from Menswear.

Destinee:
Never heard of them.

Sakura:
Even Justine from Elastica.

Destinee:
Well at least I have heard of her.
Love her paintings.
Love her attitude.
Love her.

Miriam:
I remember my uncle always going on about this book about these three failed rocks stars or something. And how they decided to set about saving the world, like failed rock stars used to do back in the 80s…

Miriam has not been part of this conversation. She has just been taking the odd sip from her glass of red and staring out into the middle distance of her imagination. But then she turns to the other two..

Destinee: 
Is this just another of your rambling stories that go nowhere slowly?

Sakura is not listening, she is checking out if anyone ‘famous’ is in the bar..

Miriam:
Maybe, but that is not the point. The point is these three failed rock stars decided the world needed saving. And the way they way were going to save it was by taking a painting of Elvis Presley to the top of the world and leave it there and…

Sakura:
Elvis?
Where?

Destinee:
Hang on a sec Sakura, I wanna hear this.
You can tell us about your exploits with Alex from Blur in a minute.
Carry on Miriam, we’re listening.

Miriam:
Actually maybe one wasn’t a failed rock star, maybe a veteran of some war or other. Afghanistan I think. Or was he a roadie?
Anyway this painting of Elvis left at the North Pole was going to leak love, peace and happiness down the longitudes and out across the latitudes and world peace would surely break out.
And this is what they believed.
And one of the failed rock stars did the painting and they set off.

Destinee:
What?
And they did that?

Miriam:
Well they got as far as a lighthouse on an island off the top of Norway.
The most northerly lighthouse in the world.
And they left the painting of Elvis with the lighthouse keeper.
And he told them he would hang it on the wall of the galley in the lighthouse and…

Destinee:
Well it does not seem to be working.
I mean there does not seem to be anymore love, peace and happiness in the world compared to back then, whenever back then was.
As for the patriarchy, they still need to be brought down.

Sakura has not been listening, she has been checking her phone.
But then she turns to her comrades.

Sakura:
Then I suggest it is down to us.

Miriam:
What?

Sakura:
I will paint a painting of Amy Winehouse and we can take that to this Lighthouse.

Miriam:
Fuck Amy Winehouse, no good vibes are ever going to leak from her.

Destinee:
Then I suggest Nina Simone. She is proper Diva. With all the proper powers.

Miriam:
Yeah, but who the fuck cares about Nina Simone in the here and now real world?
It should be Beyoncé.
Beyoncé is the only living breathing Diva with the power to change things on this world right now.

Sakura:
What say we all each paint our own chosen Divas tonight and tomorrow morning we head for Heathrow and get the first flight to the nearest city to the North Pole.
Or at least the nearest to that lighthouse.
And Destinee bring that credit card you found.

Destinee:
It’s a deal.
Miriam can you get that book your uncle had, so we can check some of the facts?

Miriam:
I don’t think the book was that strong on facts, but I will get it.

The three young women order another bottle of red and make a toast.

Meanwhile in a dark corner of the same bar, three ageing, battered and worn men are sitting around a table nursing their pints and discussing the long un-awaited third part of their trilogy of books. This one is to be called The Fountain of Youth. This will be the last we hear about them, and their Fountain of Youth, in this story.

This opening scene to the film ends with Sonya Madan walking through the doors of Good Mixer. Sakura is overcome. Miriam and Destinee do not know who the fuck she is.

Scene Two:

Scene Two is set in Heathrow Airport.
Destinee, Sakura and Miriam are trying to find a flight to the North Pole.
Destinee, Sakura and Miriam are freshening up in the ladies when they come across a poster of Angela Davis blu-tacked to the inside of a cubical.
Destinee, Sakura and Miriam have no idea who Angela Davis is.
Angela Davis will make a profound influence on this film.
Angela Davis will replace Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Beyoncé.
The patriarchy will fall.

For the foreseeable future – you can imagine the rest.

The End

ICH BIN EIN EUROPEAN

January 31, 2020
Photograph by Tracey Moberly

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow was the title of a piece that Bill Drummond wrote on the 24th of June 2016.

The 24th of June 2016 was the day after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Also on the 24th of June 2016, Bill Drummond invited a Romanian Gypsy band to play Beethoven’s Ode To Joy under Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham. This performance was recorded and filmed.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and the film of the band playing Ode To Joy were made public via the online magazine The Quietus.

Click HERE to read the piece and to listen and watch the band play.

Photograph by Tracey Moberly

NO SPARE TYRE

January 31, 2020

NO SPARE TYRE is a forty second play by Tenzing Scott Brown.

It was first published by The National on Friday the 31st of January 2020.

NO SPARE TYRE starts now:

It is 6:48 on a Thursday morning. 
It is the day before the UK leaves the EU.
Bill Drummond is attempting to change a tyre on a car.
He is approached by The Woman.

The Woman: Do you mind me asking?

Bill Drummond: Depends.

The Woman: I just wanted to know if you thought…

Bill Drummond: Look – I’m for less borders not more.

The Woman: Aren’t we all but…

Bill Drummond: I know, it is more complicated than that but…

The Woman: But what?

Bill Drummond: I’ve always had an issue with identity politics.

The Woman: What about the The Combahee River Collective Statement”?

Bill Drummond: I better go and read it then?

The Woman: You better had. 
Hope you get your wheel changed before you get run down.

The Woman moves on.
Bill Drummond realises the car has no spare tyre.

The End

Post Script:
Tenzing Scott Brown is one of Bill Drummond’s other selves.
Tenzing Scott Brown does and writes about the things that Bill Drummond would never dare.

And if you need to know more about The Combahee River Collective Statement click HERE

THE REPUBLIC OF UŽUPIS

January 14, 2020

The Republic of Užupis is a micro nation.

The Republic of Užupis has three mottos.

They are:

DON’T FIGHT

DON’T WIN

DON’T SURRENDER

But…

translated into twenty three languages.

To know more about The Republic of Užupis click HERE

For the year of 2020 the artist’s residency in The Curfew Tower is being curated by The Republic of Užupis. The weight of these curatorial duties will fall mainly on the shoulders of Gleb Divov.

Gleb Divov is a citizen of The Republic of Užupis and an inventor.

Gleb Divov is also the Minister for Sound, Events and Innovations for The Republic of Užupis.

Republic of Užupis is also currently situated in the country known as Lithuania.

The Curfew Tower has acted as an artist’s residency since 2003.

The Curfew Tower is also currently situated in County Antrim, Ireland.

Since 2009 each year The Curfew Tower has been curated by a different set up.

These include:

2009: Void in Derry
2010: Catalyst Arts in Belfast
2011: Eastside Projects in Birmingham
2012: Static in Liverpool
2013: Spike Island in Bristol
2014: The Seamus Heaney Centre in Belfast
2015 / 2016: Nothing but Longing in Jerusalem
2017: Penthouse in Manchester
2018: Neu! Reekie! in Edinburgh
2019: Searching for the Miraculous in Miami

On the 1st of January 2020, Zippy Kearney raised the winter flag of The Republic of Užupis, on a makeshift flagpole, on the top of The Curfew Tower. The flag will remain flying there until winter passes, when Zippy Kearney will ceremonially lower the flag and hoist the Spring flag of The Republic of Užupis – acts of God aside.

The winter flag of the Republic of Užupis

WHAT IS POETRY?

December 2, 2019

Fate willing…

What is Poetry? is the first of 40 Forty Minute Interviews that Bill Drummond will be conducting with forty different individuals.

Each of the Forty Minute Interviews will focus on one subject.

The first subject is Poetry.

The first interviewee is Kevin Williamson.

The first question is contained within the title.

The second question is ‘What is Poetry for?’

Kevin Williamson is a poet from the far north of Scotland.

Kevin Williamson was also the founder of Rebel Inc and…

Is one half of Neu! Reekie!

This is a link to his official blurb at the Scottish Poetry Library.

Throughout 2019, Kevin Williamson has been posting on Twitter one poem a day, each one by a different poet. This is the hash-tag: #365poems365poets

Bill Drummond and Kevin Williamson have worked together in various capacities over the past few years.

WARNING: This first Forty Minute Interview is considerably longer than 40 minutes. The remaining 39 will not be.

The next Forty Minute Interview will have the title ‘What is Bass?’

RAGWORT WEEK – 2019

November 4, 2019
Photograph taken under Spaghetti Junction by Tracey Moberly

Ragwort Week 2019 lies between Monday the 4th of November and Sunday the 11th of November.

Ragwort Week 2019 celebrates those late flowering Ragworts in your life – in all our lives.

Ragwort Week exists to celebrate those who are the unloved, the unwanted, the spat upon but… those who are still able to shove all that to one side and push their way up through the cracks and burst into blossom, even in the dankest of locations at this, the arse end of the year.

Ragwort Week has existed for millennia.

But…

Ragwort Week was first acknowledged by humans in the year 2011.

To mark this acknowledgement Bill Drummond wrote a book called RAGWORTS.

And Penkiln Burn Books published it in an edition of 1,000 copies.

As of 2012, and for a period of ten years, 100 copies of these books are being made available for sale during Ragwort Week each year.

And each year they sell for ten quid plus post and packaging.

But only via Alimentation.

These are some of the words that the book contains:

I loathe the word ‘regeneration’. Anytime I hear an area is up for regeneration my heart begins to sink. I like the opposite. I like things falling to bits, crumbling and corroding. I want more degeneration, not regeneration.

Great bands, music and art in general, are never sanctioned from above, they are never born out of Arts Council Funding, or their equivalent. And they definitely never, ever blossom in the safety of designated cultural quarters. This is a sweeping statement on my part, a simple over generalisation, but nonetheless true. The only art ever worth having is art that has not been state subsidised. As soon as it is state subsidised it becomes state propaganda. However subtle that propaganda is, it is still doing the states bidding. I am also aware that this kind of reductionist talk, is bordering on the rhetoric of the American right. This is something I have yet to square…

The flowering of a great pop practitioner is all too brief. It is usually only months between their first public stirring and their greatest work. But that is the way it should be. Their later careers, spent trying to squeeze a living out of people’s hunger for anything that triggers nostalgia for their lost youth, should be ignored…

I would also argue, the survival instincts of any society only permit that, which will not bring it down. We in the free market loving, democratically governed west, allow for political art, because it not only bolsters but strengthens the system that controls our culture. By allowing for it the system we live under, can demonstrate to the rest of the world how inclusive and attractive a system we have. Looking back at what I’ve been involved with over the years, I’m probably as guilty as anyone…

THE TRAVELLING SALESMAN

October 17, 2019
Books in a box in the back of a van.

Bill Drummond is driving a van 415 miles from Sizewell B to Scotland.

In the back of the van will be boxes of the book After Curfew

Bill Drummond will be selling copies of the book After Curfew at Leith Theatre on the evening of Friday the 18th of October 2019.

And…

At Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh between 11:00am and 11:30am on Saturday the 19th of October 2019.

And…

Aye Aye Books in Glasgow, between 1:00pm and 1:30pm on Saturday the 19th of October 2019.

Then…

Bill Drummond will drive the van the 415 miles back to Sizewell B.