CURRY BONFIRE WINE

August 10, 2022

Or…
HOW TO CROSS THINGS OUT

The Morning of Wednesday the 10th of August 2022 

Dear Reader,

I like to cross things out.

Sometimes it is just with a pencil in my notebook.

Sometimes it is with tape across my posters.

Other times with a paint brush across billboards.

Today I crossed out a couple of my posters in The Curfew Tower, using black tape.

These were poster from the early years of this century, when The Curfew Tower was in the early stages of being an artists’ residency. Back then I was wanting the artists to leave some of their work behind. But now my mind set has changed. As much as I still want it to continue as an Artist (as in writer, songsmith, painter or whatever) Residency, I can’t be arsed with them leaving some bit of what they were doing in The Curfew Tower so it can gather dust.

For me, the most important thing they get out of the place is the process of being there in this corner of Ireland, maybe several thousand miles from where they come from – or just down the road in Belfast. And then the stories they tell people back home about the time they spent in The Curfew Tower. That for me now is the “work”.

Those several hundred artists from everywhere and nowhere that have tried to fall asleep in the very room that I am in now writing these words to you, and the lives they have lived, and their memories of being in this room in this Curfew Tower.

It was after doing this crossing out of poster and on cards advertising tonight’s event that I started having the following words in my head – NO ART LEFT IN THIS TOWER OVER NIGHT – OR AT ANY OTHER TIME. But I didn’t know if these words should be put on a poster or should I graffiti the whole of the outside walls of The Curfew Tower with these words. Or maybe on the wall inside the cell of The Tower.

Maybe now The Curfew Tower should be a place that people, be they proclaimed as artists or not, do nothing, other than empty their heads and then confront the emptiness inside their heads.  And then they can do whatever it was they were going to do, when they get home. And The Curfew Tower become like a voluntary prison where you come and do time. Maybe there should be other Voluntary Prisons around the world where you can sentence yourself to. The Curfew Tower just being the first of many.

I mean the world is now littered with Artists’ Residencies. 

What we need is more Voluntary Prisons.

Maybe all prisons should become voluntary.

Anyway…

Enough of that for the time being.

And if you can get down to The Curfew Tower this evening for CURRY BONFIRE WINE. 

And to celebrate Bas Jan Ader’s search for the miraculous, and the artists, from Egypt ot LA who did time in The Curfew Tower back in 2019, who were also searching for the miraculous, some of whom will be there this evening, along with Elizabeth Withstandley and Westen Charles & Me. I was supposed to be doing a reading of Tenzing Scott Brown’s play FIRE VERSUS TOWER, but it got lost somewhere, so I will just try and explain it in less than two minutes and then get back to crossing things out.

As to how to cross things out, just get a pencil and start. But you should only cross out what you have already written or done. It is for others to cross out what they have done.

See you tonight, I hope.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

When you get the first of your Voluntary Prisons set up can I be the first in the queue to be an inmate?

The WE LOVE YOU Wall

August 6, 2022
Screenshot of Chuck the Poet performing in front of The freshly curated WE LOVE YOU Wall

Saturday the 6th of August 2022

Dear Reader,

The People have spoken.

History has…
And…
HerStory…
And of course…
The TheyStory…
Have all decided that…

The wall that was first vandalised / anointed with the words WE LOVE YOU in Corby in early June 2022, is to become the world’s first public WE LOVE YOU wall.

This position entitles anyone from anywhere in the world to visit this wall and repaint all three of the words or just one of the letters, in whatever colours they choose. 

And in time, layer upon layer of these three words, will be over-painted on this wall, in the post industrial, former new town of Corby, and WE LOVE YOU will echo out around the globe.

Practical Advice: To do this you will need a small paint roller fitted to an extension pole and a pot of emulsion paint of a colour of your choice. These can be bought from Wilko’s just down the steps and around the corner from The WE LOVE YOU Wall.

And Daniel Pickard has been elected to be the first honorary curator of The WE LOVE YOU Wall.   

And Chuck the Poet has been elected to be the first honorary bard of The WE LOVE YOU Wall. In that role he might document the life and times of The WE LOVE YOU Wall in the words of his own choosing.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

As yet we do not know who is going to be the first honorary artistic director of Corby’s The WE LOVE YOU Wall open-air theatre.

IT HAS BEGUN

August 4, 2022
Dear Reader & Tribute paintings hanging in PRIMEYARK now

The Morning of Wednesday the 3rd of August 2022

Dear Reader,

Well in fact it began at a fraction of a second after midnight on Tuesday morning.

As in the BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE has begun.

As in an individual who has currently chosen to remain nameless, has begun their 25 Days of Silence.

And for those 25 Days of Silence, The 25 Tribute Paintings of Silence will hang in the window of PRIMEYARC in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, along with a letter that I painted to you on the 7th of March this year.  

And at the beginning of September, if this person delivers the price of 25 days of silence, thus becoming the first Custodian of the BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE, I will endeavour to deliver The 25 Tribute Paintings of Silence and accompanying painted letter, to his address somewhere in The Atlantic Archipelago.

I will let you know when the job has been done.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

What follows is The Contract that the proposed buyer of THE BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE has drawn up with himself. Although we are making this public, he has asked for his name to be redacted from it.  The Contract is followed by another photo of the same subject but from a different angle. 


HOW TO OWN ART

August 2, 2022
All photographs of WE LOVE YOU with The 25 Paintings taken by Tracey Moberly

From: Daniel Pickard <daniel@willowplace.co.uk>
Date: 25 July 2022 at 2:14:49 pm BST
To: Dinah Kazakoff <dinah.kazakoff@gmail.com>
Cc: Martin Davis <martin@willowplace.co.uk>, Kay McGinley <kay@willowplace.co.uk>
Subject: Bill Drummond Graffiti & Posters

Good afternoon Dinah,

Please can you arrange for the graffiti and posters stuck to the side of Boots staff Room outside the former Rooftop Gallery to be removed at your earliest convenience. This painting and poster installation was carried out without our consent.

Regards,

Dan

Daniel Pickard
Centre Director

Centre Management Office
Allied House
Spencer Court
Corby
Northamptonshire
NN17 1NU

T: 01536 200073
M: 07808 908139
E: daniel@willowplace.co.uk
E: Daniel.pickard@savillspm.co.uk
W: www.willowplace.co.uk

 

YOUR JOB

Wednesday the 27th of July 2022

Dear Daniel Pickard,

Dinah Kazakoff from Rooftop Arts Centre, Corby has forwarded your email to her, to me, as it is me that is responsible for the artwork, WE LOVE YOU that was created in the airspace immediately next to the property you manage.

As you are probably aware… 

You being an employee of Savills, thus in the shopping centre management trade, it is your job to make as much of a profit as you can for the owners of the properties you manage. And that skill, your skill, requires creative thinking.

As you are probably aware… 

WE LOVE YOU is one of the most significant public art works in Corby, that has been created by an artist from Corby, in the past one hundred years.

As you are probably aware… 

I fell in love with the brutalist architecture of the buildings surrounding the Rooftop Arts Centre, that you manage, for the owners of this property. It was this love that inspired me to create and present this public artwork within the adjacent air space.

As you are probably aware… 

Love can make one do, irrational things. One of those irrational things would be me making you and in turn Savills an offer. That offer being to sell you, as in Savills, the public artwork WE LOVE YOU for the “Poundland Price” of £10,000. And for me to then donate this £10,000 to a charity chosen by the people of Corby. The people of Corby can choose via the Corby edition of The Northants Telegraph. This would mean that WE LOVE YOU would become part of your / Savill’s portfolio of public artworks. Thus, enabling you to sell on the artwork, at a later date, for considerably more than what you have paid for it. Thus, you have both been seen to help a local charity and at the same time made a considerable profit for yourself and Savills.

As you are probably aware… 

The presence of contemporary culture, be it physical, conceptual or performative, in an area, is one of the most guaranteed ways around the world for property values, in an area, to gain fiscal value. 

As you are probably aware…

Or maybe not…

I was one of the three licensees of a bar in Hoxton, London called the FOUNDRY. This was in the 1990s. And that this building itself was owned by the international property developers the Reuben Brothers. Me and my two fellow licensees encouraged a then unknown street artist to use the exterior and interior walls of the FOUNDRY to present his work. Once me and my fellow licensees of the FOUNDRY had moved on, The Reuben Brothers and their partners were able to use the infamy surrounding the work of the now known street artist, to develop the property into becoming one of their international chain of Art’otels.  That said, the Reuben Brothers have recently sold their share in this property for this proposed hotel for £35,000,000.

Please click on the following links for further information on this subject…

https://www.thecaterer.com/news/hotel/pphe-to-buy-reuben-brothers-stake-in-artotel-hoxton-for-35m

https://hoteldesigns.net/2022/introducing-artotel-london-hoxton/

https://www.building.co.uk/news/banksy-graffiti-saved-as-work-starts-on-shoreditch-hotel/5095825.article

As you are probably aware… 

There are a number of vacant retail units in Corby town centre.

As you are probably aware…

“Vacant retail units” means and area is a prime location to become a new creative hub. Especially for those in London seeking that much sought after out-of-town new creative hub, now that the retail property rents in Shoreditch and Hoxton have become exorbitant. And as I was jointly responsible for that happening in Shoreditch and Hoxton, see example above, I know what I am talking about.  

Or…

As you are probably aware…

Allowing an area with a growing number of vacant retail outlets to drop their rents in an attempt to attract future discount stores etc…  is the route of diminishing returns. Thus, devaluing the property in your management’s portfolio even further.

Or…

If you prefer not to be aware of none of the above…

Or…

None of the above appeals to your better self, both creatively and business wise…

Please remove your wall from the airspace next to my artwork, so I can donate it to the people of Corby.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

As it happens, I am writing this letter to you from the Watford Gap Service Station, as I take a short break on the drive to North Wales to be at the wedding of my daughter. 

And… 

As it happens, another man from Corby, who was not able to attend the marriage of his daughter in Hull some weeks ago, as he was having to go in for his much waited for first session of chemotherapy, chose to recreate his daughter’s wedding within my exhibition at the Rooftop Arts Centre, then have his daughter’s wedding photographs taken in front of the WE LOVE YOU public artwork. See attached photograph from the story covering the wedding in the Northants Telegraph.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any further advice on being able to raise the rentable value of the properties you are responsible for.

Photograph of Northants Telegraph wedding story and wedding photograph

 

I WILL REMOVE

Later that same evening on Wednesday the 27th of July 2022

Dear Daniel Pickard,

Of course, if none of my suggested options work for you, I will remove the public artwork WE LOVE YOU and position it somewhere else in Corby. 

Might you have any suggestions where that might be?

The CUBE?

Yours Sincerely 

The Elderly Gentleman

 

THREE WEDDINGS AND A ROAD RAGE INCIDENT

Early in the morning of Thursday the 28th of July 2022

Dear Daniel Pickard,

Further thoughts…

It is so often the story that surrounds a work of art that lifts it from the local to the international or from the transient to the canon.

It is your crucial part in the story of WE LOVE YOU that does the lifting.

But first some back story…

All great art needs a back story.

It was my fellow licensee to the FOUNDRY, Tracey Moberly, who took the photographs of me painting my head that were then used as the images, that then became the posters that were then hung in the airspace next to the wall that you are responsible for. It was also Tracey Moberly that took the photograph of The 25 Paintings and WE LOVE YOU. Tracey Moberly took this photograph illegally from the top of the building that you are responsible for.  It was at Tracey Moberly’s wedding (which I had made the cake for) that I met the street artist who did the graffiti on the walls of the FOUNDRY, that then made the Reuben Brother’s share in the development of the building worth £35,000,000.

And…

It was one of my other fellow licensees to the FOUNDRY, Gimpo, who actually did the fly posting of the poster in question in the airspace next to the wall that you are responsible for. It was also Gimpo that phoned me yesterday when I was driving up to North Wales for my daughter’s wedding. Gimpo was phoning me to tell me that he was just being released from hospital after the road rage incident that had caused him to have his leg broken. It was Gimpo phoning me that made me pull up for a coffee break at the Watford Gap Services.  Which was where I first read your email to Dinah Kazakoff and then responded to you.

Which brings me to the subject of airspace, and who owns it…

This is a difficult one in the law of this land.

Does one own the small cloud as it drifts across the sky above your garden on a Spring morning?

Or does one only the mist in your garden on an Autumn morning?

Could one charge Richard Branson rent for him flying one of his Virgin Transatlantic flights in the airspace above one’s garden?

Or could one only charge a future drone delivery company for using the immediate airspace above one’s garden, for them delivering a takeaway to your neighbour’s back door?

Or could one claim copyright ownership of the song being sung by a Blackbird as he welcomes in the dawn in your back garden?

Or could you take to court the midnight driver driving past your house in his car tuned to backfire, and the sound of his backfiring engine enters the airspace not only above your back garden but into your bedroom as well?

Thus…

In the law of this land…

Who owns the airspace surrounding the buildings you are responsible for?

And I created the work of art with the title WE LOVE YOU.

Which brings as to the subject of who created it?

As stated above, it was Tracey Moberly who took the photos of me painting my head. 

It was Gimpo that put up the posters in the airspace next to the wall that you are responsible for.

But…

And this is a major one…

It was the “local teenagers”, who hang out at night to smoke dope, around the buildings you are responsible for, that actually attempted to rip down the poster.

It was the beauty contained in the attitude of these half ripped down posters, that inspired me to respond by graffitiing the words WE LOVE YOU in the airspace very close the wall that you are responsible for. As so often, it is the youth of the day, that brings new inspiration to the dullness of life.  

But…

It was you, that I have to be most grateful for, it was your email to Dinah Kazakoff, that she then forwarded to me, that was and still is the trigger that has lifted this from being a transient work of art, limited to the history of art in Corby, to a work of art that will exist in the international canon of art of our times. Or at least until the end of next week.

Also…

I should let you know I have history.

Or…

At least a criminal record.

My criminal record includes the crime of painting the words DEAD WHITE MAN in the airspace next to a wall in Liverpool. For this crime I was fined £1,000. The painting of these three words in the airspace next to a wall in Liverpool has now become part of the cultural history of the city. A cultural history that draws in millions upon millions of pounds every year into the now major tourist industry of the city.

Thus…

I would like to thank you for your part in attempting to lift the cultural history of Corby by sending your email to Dinah Kazakoff.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

 

DOPE VERSUS DOPE

The Evening of Thursday the 28th of July 2022

Dear Daniel Pickard,

I assume that your lack of response to my previous three emails is down to you being on annual leave and not down to lack of work ethic on your part.

Either way…

I feel I should draw your attention to something that should be a concern for both of us.

In a previous email to you I mention the “local teenagers” smoking dope while hanging about property that you are responsible for.  I am going to sidestep the moral issue as to whether you should be held responsible for providing a drug den in Corby town centre, where the “local teenagers” can take the first steps in throwing themselves onto what some might call “the post-industrial scrap heap of life”, to a the situation that is more legally threatening to the both of us. 

Which is…

The very fact that they are smoking dope up there, means that the concrete of the building you are responsible for and the public artwork WE LOVE YOU, that I am responsible for, are both absorbing the smoke of the dope. This means that technically we are both in possession of illegal substances. However small the amounts of this illegal substances are.

Do you think we should turn ourselves into the local police drug squad, before we become more drawn into, consciously or not, the local drug scene?

I will leave it to you to decide.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman.

 

URGENT RESPONSE

Friday the 29th of July @ 10:44am

Daniel Pickard via savillscsp.onmocrosoft.com

to me

I am away from my office until 2nd August 2022 without access to email. If your enquiry requires an urgent response, please call my office 01536 200073 or email kay@willowplace.co.uk

 

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Early Morning of Saturday the 30th of July 2022

Dear Daniel Pickard,

A work of art can be viewed from many angles and be interpreted from even more.

The Bigger Picture is a work of art that has and is being created by several generations of the citizens of Corby.

All works of art have a moment of inception. The Bigger Picture’s moment of inception took place inside the head of a young soldier, Private Silent*, in 1943.

Private Silent was a prisoner of war in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in Burma. He was working on the Burma Railway – you have heard of the Burma Railway? Or at least watched the film Bridge on The River Kwai?  

Private Silent had witnessed the worst that war can offer. Once in captivity he had watched as numerous of his comrades in arms were shot by the firing squad or flogged to death while working on building the railway.

The war ended, all wars end.

As all art becomes redundant.

Private Silent was freed and returned to Blighty.

But…

Private Silent was never the same again.

How could he?

In 1950 the government of the day created the Corby Development Corporation.

And about the same time Private Silent trained as a teacher and found himself in Corby, teaching secondary school pupils who did not give a shit about the Second World War, or all that boring stuff their dads were always going on about. 

By now these pupils had the Swinging Sixties and everything that went with it. Back then we did not know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was – we just thought those “old” men should get over it and shut the fuck up – or get with it. But Private Silent would not let it go, nor get over it, let alone get with it. How could he?

In 1966 the government of the day closed the Corby railway station down without asking the consent of the people of Corby first. It almost felt like we were locked in. Especially as most families did not have cars then.

Private Silent did not go through what he went through so that we could sing along to Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks or Itchycoo Park by The Small Faces, instead of listening to him. 

But…

Private Silent voice was heard. His influence spread not just to his pupils, but from those pupils to their friends and families across Corby. It wove itself in and out and up and down the streets and avenues and into the web of what Corby was and maybe still is. It became part of what the town was. We all knew, even if we didn’t even know who Private Silent was. Maybe there was a Private Silent in your town.

And Art works in mysterious ways.

In those post second world war years, Japan as a nation turned its back on the military might of its Imperial past and turned its back on violence of any sort. They got on with doing other things. Better things. Things that we, as in the United Kingdom, didn’t bother doing because we still thought we were something important. We still thought we mattered.

In 1980 the government of the day closed the Corby Steel Works down making the vast majority of the working population of Corby unemployed. This was done without asking for the consent of the people of Corby.

In 1981 the government of the day closed the Corby Development Corporation down and opened Corby District Council. Again, without asking for the consent of the people of Corby.

In 1992 the government of the day closed Corby District Council down and opened Corby Borough Council.

In 2011 Corby Borough Council sold off the buildings in Corby town centre to pay off debts. Debts incurred by the Corby Borough Council, not the people of Corby. They sold it to a property company called Helical Bar. No one asked for the consent of the people of Corby if this deal could or should be done. We, the people of Corby had been brought up to understand that the buildings in Corby town centre had been owned by us the people. 

Helical Bar sold off Corby Town Centre in 2015 for £71,700,000 to pay off its debts, as in again not the debts of the people of Corby. They sold it to Europa Capital Partners and Sovereign Land. No one asked for the consent of the people of Corby if this deal could or should be done.

Europa Capital Partners and Sovereign Land, not as their name would imply, was by then owned by the Rockefeller Group in New York.

Did the Rockefeller Group in New York give a fuck about the people in Corby?

But anyway back 1990, Rockefeller Group had been bought out by the Japanese corporation Mitsubishi Estate Company.

Did the Mitsubishi Estate Company even know where Corby was?

Mitsubishi are the largest real-estate company in Japan and one of the largest in the world. 

Mitsubishi have history…

Mitsubishi manufactured the Mitsubishi A6M fighter planes in the World War Two. The Mitsubishi A6M fighter planes shot down hundreds upon hundreds of enemy fighter planes without asking the enemy fighter pilots their consent first.

It is estimated that over 6,000,000 people were killed by the Japanese in the Second World War. Of those, over 500,000 were killed in Prisoner of War camps. None of those that were killed were asked consent first. Mitsubishi made a considerable profit from those 6,000,000 people being killed without giving their consent first. This is the sort of thing that Private Silent would know and let the pupils in his class know about. 

Currently there are approximately 340 Mitsubishi cars being driven on the roads of Corby. Do the drivers of these cars know that their town centre is owned by the same company that made the car they are driving? Does this matter to the people of Corby? Does this matter to Art?

Mitsubishi own the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo. 

The Ichigokan Museum, owns the largest collection of European Art outside of Europe as well as owning the largest collection of classical Japanese art in the world. The European Art includes work by Renoir, Monet, Cezanne and Toulouse-Lautrec and the rest. They also own the largest collection of world-wide contemporary art in Japan. This collection is growing all the time.

There is a hidden art theory that Corby Shopping Centre is now a performance art project by a Tokyo based artist who has been commissioned by Mitsubishi. The project involves exploring the idea of how far you let the shopping centre of a former new town, a former industrial town, slide and collide and collapse before it is taken over by eager, aspiring but totally unaware Artists, who then in turn unwittingly raise the cultural status, thus property value of the said shopping centre of a former new town, a former industrial town.

The reason why Mitsubishi are backing this performance art project is, to finally get an answer to the age-old question, as to whether cultural regeneration comes from the top down or the bottom up. 

One of the reasons why Corby was chosen for this performance art experiment was because of the total failure of the Corby Cube to raise the cultural status of Corby.

You do know what the Corby Cube is?

Of course you do.

Everybody knows what the Corby Cube is.

But if you didn’t know already the Corby Cube finally opened in 2010, but then there were those problems with its water pipes, so it did not open properly until 2015. And by then it was £12,000,000 over budget. And by then the whole thing cost £47,000,000. That is near enough eight hundred quid a head for every woman, man, girl, boy and new-born baby in Corby.

And since 2015, the Corby Cube has not developed any new culture from this town of almost 60,000 folk. Nothing. Fuck all. Less than zero. Has anybody been arrested for this? Has anybody been brought to trial?

All that the Corby Cube delivers is a sweep of low rent Tribute Acts, a smattering of fourth division Heritage Acts and comedians on the slide. 

And as any cultural observer knows, Tribute Acts along with Heritage Acts in their subtly different ways exist to keep the people down. Heritage Acts may aspire to being the opiate of the masses who think they have taste, while Tribute Acts are hardly even the crack cocaine of the post-industrial masses. Heritage Acts exist to lie about the past. Tribute Acts exist to keep disenfranchised locked in their nostalgia for what they never experienced in the first place. 

And then Corby Borough Council get abolished on the 21st of April 2021. It was replaced with North Northamptonshire. And doing so was merged with Kettering and Wellingborough. And again, the people of Corby were not asked for their consent. I mean who gives a shit?

But lastly…

Art works in the long term not in the short term.

And…

As you will undoubtably know, in Art as in War, consent is the last thing that needs to be asked. As in any art that is either Arts Council subsidised or government sponsored in anyway, or seeks consent first to exist, is not worth having the name Art.

It is because of all of the above feral thinking; I very much look forward to seeing how an artwork like The Bigger Picture evolves over the coming years in the shopping centre of Corby. 

And…

When the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in Tokyo lays claim to The Bigger Picture as one of their collection of art works, will you and I get any sort of credit for our part in it? I doubt it, for we are only two of the donkeys carrying the rubble.

I mean…

The Bigger Picture is always so much bigger than we could ever imagine.

And because of that, I love it. 

I love it all.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

*Private Silent is not his real name. Private Silent died back in the 1990s and I didn’t want to implicate any of his family in this.  

 

THE AGE OF CONSENT

Evening of the 31st of July 2022

Dear Daniel Pickard,

As we both seem to share an interest in the concept of “consent”, I thought I would share the following thoughts and observations…

When I was a teenager in Corby back in 1969, a group called The 5th Dimension had a global hit with a song called The Age of Aquarius. Although I knew this Age of Aquarius song was from the hippy musical Hair, I had no idea what this Aquarius was, and we had no Google to look it up. I thought it must be something like the Age of Consent, which we all knew to be 16. And seeing as this was also The Age of Free Love, it would only make sense that in a teenager’s head The Age of Aquarius and The Age of Consent might be connected if not interchangeable. 

And the fact I was just about to turn 16 in the late Spring of 1969, I had a vested interest in all of the above

Since a very young age, I have been drawn to doing surveys. I have never sought consent to do these surveys. They have often been done undercover. These surveys have now woven their way into becoming part of what some people term as “My practice as an Artist.”

In the Spring of 1969, just before I turned 16, I carried out a survey of the fatness of the people in Corby Town Centre. Less than 1% of the people of Corby Town Centre in the Spring of 1969 were fat. 

Back in 1969, fatness was a sign of wealth. As in Fat Cats. The word Obesity did not exist in our world then. Neither did the word Diversity.

But now both of those words do.

On a survey that I carried out in Corby Town Centre during June of 2022, 87% of the advertisements in shop windows in Coby Town Centre include Diversity, as in a mixture of the ethnic origins of the models used in the advertisement. 

But…

I also carried out a survey of the people in Corby Town Centre during June of 2022. This survey was not about the ethnic Diversity but about Obesity. Over 33% of the people in Corby Town Centre during June 2022, showed the overt displays of Obesity.  But they did not display signs of wealth. A side observation of this survey was that 3% of the people in Corby Town Centre during June of 2022, who were overtly skinny showed displays of what is commonly termed as being a crackhead.

But…

None of the advertisements, in the shops of Corby Town Centre during June 2022, however ethnically diverse, displayed any overt signs of Obesity. Or come to that, the overt signs of what is commonly termed as being a crackhead.

These surveys have led me to ask certain questions regarding consent.

They are as follows:

Did the 33% of the people showing signs of Obesity, give consent not to be represented in the advertisements that did not represent them in Corby Town Centre?

Did the 33% of the people showing signs of Obesity, give consent to showing signs of Obesity? 

Or… 

Was this something handed down to them from above by The Department of The Culture of Our Times, without the consent of the Obese of Corby Town Centre? 

Did the 3% of people of Corby Town Centre showing the outward signs of Crackheadedness give consent to becoming the Crackheads of Corby Town Centre when they turned 16?

Or… 

Was the consent to become a crackhead something handed to them on a plate because they were at The Very Bottom of The Pile of Shite of Our Times*. 

Should we join forces in giving consent to giving the Obese of Corby and the Corby Crackheads that chose to visit Corby Town Centre, to rise up and demand better from The Department of The Culture of Our Times?

Or…

And this is my fear…

This 33% of Obese and 3% of Crackheads of the 100% of the people in Corby Town Centre, and the adverts celebrating ethnic diversity but to not celebrating the Obese or the Crackheads of Corby Town Centre, are all in some way part of performance artwork by the undercover artist in Tokyo, who has been given consent (and a commission) by the Empire of Mitsubishi.

I now give you consent to respond to my emails to you over the past week. But in giving this consent I expect your response to be considered and take into account all the information that I have presented you with.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

*The Very Bottom of The Pile of Shite of Our Times is an artwork produced by an artist who goes by the tag The Unknown Artist.

 

AWAITING YOUR RESPONSE

 

THE HONORARY CURATOR

The Very Early Morning on Saturday the 6th of August 2022

Dear Daniel Pickard,

Thank you very much for stepping up to the plate, to becoming the honorary curator of The WE LOVE YOU Wall.

As you are probably already aware, this wall has become the first ever WE LOVE YOU wall in the world.

Let me know if you want to be kept updated with events in The WE LOVE YOU Wall open air theatre.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

THE BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE

July 28, 2022

Thursday the 28th of July 2022

Dear Reader,

It’s vague…

Unfocused…

But its brewing…

It’s been brewing sometime since the Autumn of 2021, when Tenzing Scott Brown was in his final days…

This is the idea…

I am selling You a block chain of silence.

As in…

THE BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE

The asking price is Twenty Five Days of Your Life.

And on those Twenty Five Days of Your Life you must not utter one word from your mouth, you must not write one word either on a screen or piece of paper or anything else that words can be written on or communicated. 

And no sign language. 

Or semaphore signals. 

Or Morse Code.  

You can do all the contemplating you want to do… 

But… 

Just don’t share it with anyone else. 

Total silence.

These Twenty Five Days of Silence has to be between the 2nd and 26th of August 2022. 

To signal Your purchase of THE BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE you will become the custodian of Bill Drummond’s The 25 Tribute Paintings of Silence

The 25 Tribute Paintings of Silence have been painted and framed precisely for this job in hand. And done in the same way as all his other tribute paintings have been done. 

But… 

The 25 Tribute Paintings of Silence will have no words on them – thus just symbolic silence.

The 25 Tribute Paintings of Silence exist in the material world to represent THE BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE existence in whatever other worlds You might imagine to exist.

After you have been the owner of THE BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE for twelve months you will be entitled to sell it. Your minimum asking price must be Twenty Five Days of Silence from whoever wants to purchase it. And whoever purchases it becomes the Custodian of The 25 Tribute Paintings of Silence.

Silence is the Currency. 

Contemplation is the Reward. 

Contact Jules & Kaavous at info@originalprojects.co.uk it is them that will do the deal with you.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

I wrote / painted the original draft of this letter in the early months of this year, this second draft of the letter differs in some small ways. 

CURFEW TOWER CURRY

July 26, 2022

Tuesday the 26th of July 2022

Dear Reader,

Two years late… 

But not two years too late.

On the evening of Wednesday the 10th of August, we will be celebrating the work done by artists who did residencies in The Curfew Tower back in 2019.

This celebration will take the form of… 

Their work being exhibited and documented throughout the five floors of The Curfew Tower, Cushendall, County Antrim, Ireland.

A bonfire in the back garden.

A reading of the Tenzing Scott Brown’s very short play FIRE VERSUS TOWER.

Bottles of wine.

Conversation.

And of course…

A vat of the freshly made and world-famous Curfew Tower Curry.

If you want to come, just come.

But to help us know how much Curfew Tower Curry should be made, let us know you are coming by emailing admin@penkilnburn.com

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

We are also pleased to announce that the first artists from the Artists’ Republic of Užupis in Lithuania have finally been able to make it to The Curfew Tower to do their time there.

SEARCHING FOR THE MIRACULOUS

Monday 25th of July 2022

Dear Reader,

I have just received the following statement from Elizabeth Withstandley and Westen Charles. They being the two people responsible for curating The Crufew Tower in 2019

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

The Statement

In July 1975… 

The Dutch American artist, Bas Jan Ader left Cape Cod, Massachusetts in a small sailboat called the Ocean Wave, in search of the miraculous. He left on a solo voyage, a transatlantic journey, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Falmouth, England. Nearly a year later, on April 18th,1976 approximately 150 nautical miles from the southwest coast of Ireland his boat was discovered and he was nowhere to be found. He disappeared from the face of the earth…

Bas Jan Ader was searching for something. 

Reflecting on the mystery of Bas Jan Ader’s voyage in 2019, twelve artists were invited to The Curfew Tower to build upon the theme “Searching for the Miraculous” 

The residency was put together by Elizabeth Withstandley and Westen Charles, two of the founders of the not-for-profit exhibition space, Locust Projects in Miami, Florida. 

The theme stemmed from a project that Elizabeth Withstandley had been working on since 2018 that included a transatlantic crossing that she had planned for 2019 responding to Bas Jan Ader’s project “In Search of the Miraculous”.

Withstandley and Charles found a variety of artists that were all interested in exploring the theme in their own way. The works encompasses video, audio, and sculptural pieces that present a holistic interpretation of “Searching for the Miraculous”. 

During this residency Withstandley and Charles discovered that the theme was also directly tied to Francis Turnly, the man who built the Curfew Tower in the early 1800’s. Referring to the area, in 1815 Turnly wrote: “No other place ever connected itself in my mind with so grand a scope of the future as this and its neighborhood”. Turnly had a grand vision of making Cushendall into a utopia, unfortunately his plan encountered unforeseen circumstances that were beyond his control, much like what we presume of Ader’s fateful voyage.

The artists included in the 2019 residency were:

MATT HAWTHORN, UK
SCOTT ROBERTSON, UK
ESLAM ABD EL SALAM, Egypt
BETTINA KHANO, Germany
GIOJ DE MARCO, USA/Italy
WESTEN CHARLES, USA
ELIZABETH WITHSTANDLEY, USA
BILL DRUMOUND, UK
CATHY WARD, UK
ADRIAN PIJOAN, USA
KERRY GUINAN, Ireland
LUCAS CHIH-PENG KAO, UK/Taiwan

Now three years later Withstandley and Charles and some of the artists will return to Cushendall to celebrate their continued search for the miraculous and exhibit some of the work they did during their residencies back in 2019. 

FLAG VERSUS FLAG

On 6 Jul 2022, at 00:57, Elizabeth Withstandley wrote:

Hi Bill,

I sent an email out to the whole group regarding the church space, although interesting it didn’t seem that anyone had any grand ideas within the constraints of the space that would warrant us using it. So that leaves everything to centre around The Tower which we are excited about…

Not having been to one of The Tower events we were curious to know the format that has worked int he past. 

Are there times when The Tower is open to the public where people can wander in and out and experience the works? Is there anyone staying in The Tower during that week? We have a rough idea of the artists that will be in town and the works they would like to present. Are you going to be presenting the play you discussed with us?

Elizabeth

On Thursday, July 14, 2022, 04:46, Bill Drummond wrote:

Elizabeth,

Again, sorry for delay in getting back to you. 

As stated earlier, I was fully focused on an exhibition of my own and then as soon as that closed, I was hit sideways with Covid. Although still testing positive, I seem to be getting through it. 

Anyway, enough of the “poor me” stuff. 

In the past the “exhibition”, if one can call it that has been limited to the confines of the prison cell of The Tower. And it is only open for the Wednesday of the week of the festival. Thus, it is a highly concentrated affair.  It is open from early until late. 

And in the past, I have always been on hand to make whatever this “highly concentrated affair” happen. As I will be this time. 

Myself and my colleague Tracey Moberly (with her partner Tim) arrive into Cushendall on sometime after 9:30pm on the Sunday the 7th. We will have driven from Belfast Int Airport. 

For Monday and Tuesday, I will be at your disposal on the practical side of things. As in hanging things up. Helping making things look as good as they can considering the restrictions of time and space. And getting stuff that needs to be got. Etc. 

On the Wednesday a number of things will be happening. 

They are:

1: The “highly concentrated affair” is open to whoever wanders in. In the past myself and family and Tracey have been staying in The Tower for the week, thus we have to make the upstairs of the Tower off limits. Some of the local children find this a difficult restraint, as they have historically little interest in the art and a lot of interest of seeing their world from the top of The Tower. This year we will not be staying in the Tower but maybe one of Gleb’s artists might be, that is yet to be confirmed. 

Aspects of the “highly concentrated affair” can seep down the passage from the cell into the kitchen and out of the back door and around the outside walls of the garden and The Tower. And even up the hill. 

2: Through the day, Tracey will be making a large vat of chicken curry in the kitchen of the Tower. Zippy will come in to see if everything is in order. 

3: I will be collecting firewood to build a bonfire in the back garden of the Tower. I will also be chopping onions for the curry. 

4: Other members of my family will turn up. 

I will have other issues that will not get resolved. 

5: In the evening the bonfire will be lit, and the people will come, and bowls will be filled with curry. And the people will drink wine. And they will have access to the bathroom on the first floor of the Tower. And we will hope it will not rain. 

And in the back garden around the bonfire, I will introduce you to the people who have come. And you can say to the people who have come, how it is you are here and whatever else there is that you want to say or not say. And about Brian Wilson. And about the search for the miraculous. And people will talk about the changing faces of art. And the evening will last as long as it does. And after everyone has gone the embers in the fire will still be there. 

Then…

On Thursday morning I will be in the kitchen washing up all the bowls and the pans and Zippy will come in. And we will chat about this and that. And what we should have done. And all those other things. 

On Friday Tracey and Tim leave, I will have to drive them back to Belfast Int Airport. 

On Sunday, late afternoon, I will leave with the various members of my family. 

But right now, I should try and find the post Covid failing strength to respond to Gleb’s need for some words from me to make sure he gets his Visa. 

And don’t hesitate to get back to me for whatever other information you might need. 

Yours,

Bill

On 14 Jul 2022, at 16:33, Elizabeth Withstandley wrote:

Hi Bill,

Thank you for the information, it is helpful to understand the flow of things. I have a few questions and comments:

1. One of the artists is making a flag (a new Northern Ireland flag) and would like to put it on the top of the tower. She also has a petition to change the existing Northern Ireland flag to a new one. She was interested in people seeing some of the detail on the flag. Is it possible to allow access (in a controlled way) to the roof, maybe people are brought up at certain times? 

2. Will you present the short play that you sent Wes and I that evening? (We really enjoyed it)

3. There is a sound piece that one of the artists would like to install which would be nice if it was present for a few days that week.

4. I’m trying to figure out best how to present some of the video works (I think there’s 4 or so…including mine which has a scene with some of the people from Cushendall and surrounding area). I have a few small portable projectors that probably make sense for me to bring with me. It also may be nice to show them outside that night if it’s dark enough. (These are just thoughts, no question here)

I’m sorry to hear you got Covid, I hope you are feeling better.  I was sick for about 7 days back in late January/early February with it.

If no one is at The Tower it would be nice to utilize the various floors for works, but I understand this may not be possible.

Elizabeth

 

On 14 Jul 2022, at 18:43, Bill Drummond wrote:

Evening Elizabeth,

Thanks for your response. 

And as Gleb has confirmed no one is actually staying in The Tower, the whole Tower can be used but…

And this is a major but…

1:

In my head Cushendall is a flag free zone. Whatever the flag is and whatever claims the flyer of the flag may make for it, others will have every right to put their own meaning onto whatever the flag is. One thing that can be said for certain about what we might have learnt from this corner of the world in the past fifty years is that flying of whatever flag you choose, encourages an us and them. And even if that flag has been created by an artist who has no history with this corner of the world it does not stop it from being a flag and all the history the very fact it is a flag, brings with it. Especially a flag flying on a tower. A tower drenched with history. Even the rainbow flag is not free from that, however much we might like it to be. 

If I had my way, we would live in a flag free world. 

My sermon is now over. 

2:

You will have to remind me what the play is. But yes, it can be performed. Or at least a reading if it. I am sure it must be one of my very short ones. 

3:

Yes, to sound piece over a few days. 

4:

And look forward to video works and various locations and time and after dark. 

5:

I can’t remember when you arrive. But if it is before me (late on the Sunday evening). I am sure Zippy could be charmed into handing over the keys for you to starting plotting and hatching. 

Yours,

Bill Drummond 

Sent from my iPhone

On 14 Jul 2022, at 22:38, Elizabeth Withstandley wrote:

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your responses …here are a few more questions/comments.

1: The artist, Kerry Guinan, is from the Republic of Ireland, she is very familiar with the identify struggles of NI so she does have history and knowledge of the significance of flags to the country and to the area. Are you saying that she should not present this project at the tower? 

I understand your sensitivity to the area, I believe that one of the purposes of art to raise questions and get people to think and talk about issues. Flags are really intriguing, I can say I was really curious about how Kerry wanted to raise the question about flags and also the identity of the north with this project, it feels very relevant especially with Brexit.

2. The play you sent was called “Fire Versus Tower” it used the Tower as a character within it. I was looking for the copy you sent over but recently updated my computer and can’t locate the file at this moment.

5. Wes, myself and Gioj all arrive on Saturday August 6th. I’m spending my first few days down south going to Skelllig Michael and Newgrange, Wes and his wife (Alisa) and son (Wrenick) are flying into Dublin on the 6th and driving up to Cushendall. We’ll check in with Zippy. We all head out of the area on Friday the 12th down to Dublin before returning to the States.

Elizabeth

On Friday, July 15, 2022, 07:29, Bill Drummond  wrote:

Afternoon Elizabeth,

Thank you for your responses and questions. 

On a personal level, I hope and believe that the island of Ireland will become again a united state. I also believe that if Scotland were ever to choose and gain independence from the UK and become part of the EU, I would apply for Scottish citizenship. 

But…

I distrust any politics based on nationalism whatever it’s colours and however large or small that nation state might be. It is our seemingly never-ending hunger for identity that allows us to be seduced by flags. And yes, if it were not flags it would be something else. I have grown up accepting that every American president has to be seen standing in front of as many Stars and Stripes as he can. But it is only comparatively recently that in the UK, politicians of every shade have to be seen having a UK flag somewhere hovering behind them when they are attempting to get us to listen to what they have to say. 

For me every flag incites and brings out the worst in us as a species of animal. That rotten weakness in us that craves identity. 

And especially right now this year, where almost every one of us has been wanting to be seen flying the Ukrainian flag. For me the flying of those flags is an insult to the reality of what is going on. 

Anyway…

So, to Kerry Guinan I think she should present her flag, but as THE FLAG THAT WILL NEVER FLY. It can be there folded on a table with an explanation of what it is and why. 

So much of what us men do, be it the motorbike we drive, the hat we wear, the weapon of war we choose, the musical instrument we play, the size of steak we are about to eat, are merely phallic symbols of some sort. All of them standing erect, or pumping hard but fooling no one. Or they shouldn’t be. Flag poles are about the worst of those pathetic phallic symbols. 

And yes, I am afraid The Curfew Tower is no more than one of those phallic symbols. And there are plenty of nights that I think it should be taken down, stone by stone and the stones used for something on the beach at Cushendall. But then I wake up in the morning and realise that would be no better than me playing an endless guitar solo hoping a sea of worshipping fans would notice. 

Thank you for reminding me what the play was. I will find it and dust it down. 

I will be wanting to do a Penkiln Burn Newsletter in the next week or so to let people know about the event. Can you send me a statement about Searching for the Miraculous that you would like used? This could be from your original call out statement or something written now in these Post Covid times. 

Yours,

Bill

On 15 Jul 2022, at 16:27, Elizabeth Withstandley wrote:

Hi Bill,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue of flags, it’s always interesting to hear other peoples’ perspectives. I will pass along your notes to Kerry regarding her project.

We are looking forward to this event as there’s a really interesting connection to the theme of this residency and The Tower, it’s creator and his visions of the town… Which I really wouldn’t have known without Wes’ extensive research on the topic.

I’ll pull up that original text about the residency and bring it up to date and share it with you sometime in the next week.

Elizabeth

All photographs taken over several years by Tracey Moberly

THE HALF MOON

July 8, 2022
Buttercup and book
Buttercup & The Book

Thursday the 7th of July 2022

Dear Reader,

Late last night as I drove a hired White Ford Transit van from The Social, Little Portland Street in Central London to my now home in Southgate in Suburban North London, I became more and more aware of the half-moon following me street by street all the way.

And…

After I had changed into my pyjamas and looked out of the window at the night sky one last time, as in before climbing into bed with the hope of being welcomed by much needed sleep… 

There was the half-moon looking back at me. 

The night passed; it is dawn. I have looked out of the window; the dawn is grey. The Half Moon is no longer there looking at me. But I love a grey dawn.

The Killing Moon is a song by a band called Echo & The Bunnymen. It was written, recorded and released almost forty years ago in late ’83 early ’84. It is probably the song that Echo & The Bunnymen are best known for. It has been used in numerous films including the teen classic Donnie Darko.

The Killing Moon is credited to have been written by all four members of Echo & The Bunnymen. Thus, all four members of the band earn an equal share of its publishing royalties. These publishing royalties provide an un-planned pension plan of sorts for the members of the band. 

I know these things because I worked closely with Echo & The Bunnymen at the time, and I also continue to earn a modest amount of money from that song as I am its’ co-publisher.

In the very early hours of 15th of June 1989 I was woken by my bedside phone ringing. It was Ian McCulloch the singer of Echo & The Bunnymen. He was crying, he could hardly speak. But what he was telling me was that Pete De Freitas the drummer with Echo & The Bunnymen had been killed earlier that night in a motor bike accident. Pete De Freitas was 27 years old; he had just become the father for the first time – a baby girl.

For the next thirty something years, Pete De Freitas has come to me in dreams, we chat about this and that. Sometimes Pete takes the form of a half moon, but I always know the half moon is Pete. But about five years ago Pete came to me in a dream to tell me that it was time for him to go, and he would not be coming back and that he was okay.

I never got to know Pete’s daughter, but more importantly Pete’s daughter never got to know her dad.

All bands that have had any sort of success then spend the rest of their life having issues with each other over who did what, where and when. The fact that a baby girl, who is now a fully grown woman, who had no part in the writing or recording of a song because it was written and recorded before she was born, earns as much from this song as any of the two still living members and one ex member of this band, causes issues. “I mean Pete was only the drummer. Not even Ringo gets a share in The Beatles publishing for She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.”

And most days I think about that moment when Pete knew there was nothing he could do to not hit that car coming around the bend and knew his death was inevitable.

A few years back – not many – I got a phone call from my brother in the middle of the night. He was phoning to tell me his son, my nephew, my children’s cousins, our Lucas, had been killed in a climbing accident on a school trip, somewhere in Central America. Over the combing months my brother hit the bottle and his marriage of twenty odd years crumbled. And most days I think about that moment when Lucas knew his hand was slipping and the fall was beginning and the inevitability of his own death. This week my brother and his other son, my other nephew, the other cousin, our Hugo, had taken Lucas’s ashes up to Melrose in Scotland to scatter.

Back in early 2020, I got a phone call from my eldest daughter, the first three words she said were “Mum is dead.” Mum is Julia. Julia and I had been teenage sweethearts, we had married foolishly young, we had two wonderful children, but then I had a midlife crisis, and our lives went in different directions. Julia died by tripping on the kitchen floor and banging her head. And most days I think about that moment that Julia knew she was falling and as she lay on the kitchen floor alone in what had been our family home, and she knew she was dying. Between Julia dying and her funeral, I ended up in hospital with the first of my brain seizures. Over the coming months, I filled nine Black ‘n’ Red notebooks with handwritten words. I have never gone back and read those words. But I think they must have been some sort of memoir. I hate the whole notion of memoirs on principle. For me they are the books written by those that have shot their load, to be read by those that never had any load to shoot. Books written in the hope the writer might gain some legacy for a readership that have given up on having a legacy. An arrogant way of thinking on my part I know, but I cannot seem to be able to shake it off. Like those that are unable to shake off their racism or homophobia even though they know it is wrong.

Yesterday, while driving a White Ford Transit Van to pick up the canvas that is to have the words THE BOY FRIENDS’ PAINTING painted on it, and I am waiting at a junction for the lights to change. And as the lights change a scooter overtakes me on the inside lane. At the same time an oncoming four-by-four turns to his right in front of me. A crash between the scooter and the four-by-four is inevitable. In that fraction of a second, the driver of the scooter and I catch each other’s eyes. He knows what is going to happen. I know what is going to happen. And it happens. The scooter is smashed to bits. But the driver of the scooter is not dead. In fact, he is hardly hurt. But in that fraction of a second that we caught each other’s eyes, I thought I was looking into the eyes of someone who knew he was going to die. For that moment I thought I was looking into Pete’s eyes, Lucas’s eyes, Julia’s eyes.

I don’t understand grief. I don’t know what grief is for. The vast majority of life forms on this planet do not experience grief. When one of their children, family or friends die they just move on. Grief serves no purpose in their lives. There is nothing to be gained from it. You can’t eat grief and you can’t fuck grief. It is as pointless as the search for meaning. But there it is lurking in us all waiting to pounce. And when it does, you don’t even know what it is.

A few months ago, friend and colleague, Michael Pedersen had asked me for a quote for his book. His book was called Boy Friends and was a celebration of male friendship but more importantly a book that celebrates the relationship with his best friend Scott Hutchison. Michael and Scott had been best friends from 2012 to 2018 when Scott killed himself by jumping off the Forth Road Bridge. I read the book. I thought it was moving in all sorts of ways. I came up with a quote, one that I thought was clever and to the point. I was pleased with myself for coming up with it. It was “The world needs more of Michael Pedersen – lots more”. My vanity was looking forward to seeing it with my name somewhere on or in the cover of Michael’s book. 

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my friend and colleague in the undertaking business, Ru Callender. Ru had a memoir coming out about his life as an undertaker and why his chosen profession had chosen him. I thought the book was great. It was a book that had to be written and should be read by everyone that will have a funeral one day but…

Ru was wanting me to write a few words about the book, so that they could be stuck on the cover. There were plenty of “few words” I could say, all positive, but I was procrastinating. And the book was about to go to press. It was only in writing back to Ru, with those “few words” on the last day possible, that I came to the realisation of how much I hated the whole business of books having quotes and kind words and “further praise” from the famous and not so famous, on their covers. I told Ru that this was the last time I ever wanted to do this. So often these quotes and kind words and “further praise” say more about the vanity of those giving the quote than it actually says about the content of the book.

A few days ago, I got sent a copy of the ready for publication, hard back copy of Michael’s book, which is out today. It was then that my fully fledged disgust at the whole quote business came into focus. The cover and introductory pages of this book of celebration and grief for Michael’s best friend were smeared in over thirty-three quotes, including mine. This must be a new world record. And all of these quotes clamouring for your attention. All of them drowning out the purity and pain and joy of the words contained in the book. 

Yesterday, as I re-read the last few words in Michael’s book, but before climbing into the White Ford Transit Van, I found myself tearing off the cover and ripping out the introductory pages of the book. This was done without thinking. What was left was something beautiful. Something that I felt Michael’s grief for his best friend could be proud of, a plain and simple purple front and back cover. And the only words being on the spine “BOY FRIENDS MICHAEL PEDERSEN ff”. It was all that needs to be said.   

Last night, before The Half Moon followed me home, I was part of an event at The Social. This event was to celebrate the publication of Boy Friends. Michael had asked me if I would do one of my text paintings for the event with the words BOY FRIENDS boldly painted on it. I had suggested to Michael that I would sketch the words THE BOY FRIENDS’ PAINTING on it. And then ask all those attending the event that had a boy friend of any sort that had died too soon, to be volunteers in the painting in of the words, like you do in a colouring book, with the black or yellow paint that I was willing to provide. Black and yellow being the colour for Melrose where my brother and nephew would be scattering Lucas’s ashes. And anyway, for the painting in volunteers, then to write the name of their boy friend on the back of the canvas and sign and date it. And this canvas can then go on to have a life of its own, being added as time unravels and more boy friends die before their time. Michael embraced the idea. 

And that all happened last night before The Half Moon followed me home. But it was before all that happening last night that the driver on the scooter had looked into my eyes and I had looked into his an that triggering all these other feeling and thoughts and emotions that lie just under the surface as we try and make our way through what is left of our lives. 

And all those feelings I have had over the past 48 hours as I have re-read Boy Friends for the second time over the past 48 hours… 

And as I kept getting those glimpses into Pete’s eyes and Lucas’s eyes and Julia’s eyes as they each fell. That final fall. The fall from which there is no return. And then the grief that follows. The grief for a father you never knew, or a son’s whose wedding you will never attend. And then last week my daughter, the same daughter who phoned me before, phoned me again, but this time to tell me she is four months pregnant. And on it goes…

As humans, it seems we like to feast on the pain of others. Maybe without any one individual cynically setting out to do so, from a certain angle, on certain days, as in a day like today, this book, Michael’s book, is the commodification of grief to make nothing but mere cash for those that own the publishing company. 

The stench of the smug publishing PR system fills my head. A system that doesn’t give a real shit about whatever it is they are trying to get their, and in turn our world to notice, whatever it is they are actually saying. The fact that it is coming from Faber & Faber with all their historical literary credibility to hide behind makes no difference. It stinks of shit, and it is an insult to the words of Michael Pedersen and the life of best mate Scott Hutchison.

After I have re-read what I have written above, I plan to go up to the local printers and have forty copies of this printed. Tonight, I will be back down to The Social for Day Two of my part in the launch of the book Boy Friends and me overseeing the continued colouring in with paint of THE BOY FRIENDS’ PAINTING. And the first forty folk that take part in this colouring in with paint of THE BOYFRIENDS’ PAINTING, can either except or not one of the forty copies of this letter to you. 

After that I don’t know, but… 

In my head right now, I imagine driving back from The Social in Little Portland Street in Central London to my place in Southgate in Suburban North London in the rented white Ford Transit Van, followed by The Half Moon, and on the way stopping somewhere and…

Getting my white paint and roller from the back of the van and painting on a beckoning wall the words THE KILLING MOON WILL COME TOO SOON.

Why?

Because these things have to be done. It is all part of the process of grief that we as a species seem to be locked into.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman 

People Painting
And The People Paint

Post Script:

This Post Script is being written 24 hours after what has been written above. This morning the sky is an endless blue. I love blue sky mornings. Don’t we all love blue sky mornings. My mind is in a totally different place than it was this time yesterday morning. 

Last night at The Social, much of THE BOY FRIENDS’ PAINTING got painted. It seemed to hit a nerve that people could engage with. I even felt comfortable enough to take a photograph on my phone of three people while they painted. And then before loading it into the back of the hired White Ford Transit Van, I took a photo of the painting in the street outside The Social. Then I started the forty minute drive back to my bed in Suburban North London. Beside me on the passenger seat was the pot of white paint and the paint roller that I was to graffiti the words THE KILLING MOON WILL COME TOO SOON. But it was gone midnight, I was done in both physically and emotionally, and I still had to get the van unloaded and then back to the van higher company by Oakwood Station by 8am. And the battery in my phone was nearly flat. And the moon was not following me street by street as I drove north to my bed. Excuses I know, but those words on a wall were going to have to wait.

I got the van unloaded and back before 8 o’clock. And now I’m sitting in a café, that I have never sat in before, looking out at the world. Children are making their way to school. And the radio in the café is playing Gilbert O’Sullivan singing Alone Again.

My mind is in a different place than it was yesterday morning – all that negative stuff I was saying about memoirs, seems to have evaporated. The world needs those memoirs as much as it needs whatever those school kids are putting up on their phones on the way to school. All part of the conversation. The one that I am sitting here having by myself.

And I seem to have changed the title of this letter to you Dear Reader from The Killing Moon to The Half Moon.

And the world needs publishing houses like Faber & Faber taking risks and trying whatever way they can to get the world to know about great books like the one that Michael Pedersen has written.

And I am waiting.

Waiting for it to turn 9am so I can use my Senior Citizens Freedom Pass on the tube after 9am. And when I get back to that place that is now called home, I will get out the bowl cancer testing kit that we all get sent when you get to this age, and provide the requested sample and parcel it up and drop it in the pillar box at the end of my street. 

The Boy Friends' Painting In Street
Painting in The Street by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas

BOY FRIENDS

July 6, 2022
The Boy Friends' Painting

Wednesday the 29th of June 2022

Dear Reader,

A friendly missive arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago. It was from friend and poet, Michael Pedersen. 

Michael Pedersen and I have history. 

Michael Pedersen has a book coming out. It has the title Boy Friends

Boy Friends was written in response to the death of Michael Pedersen’s best friend Scott Hutchison. Much of Boy Friends was written while Michael Pedersen was doing time in The Curfew Tower, back in 2018. 

I also have history with The Curfew Tower.

But…

Deeper in the strata of the book there are many other connections. Ones I think you might connect with.

In the friendly missive, Michael Pedersen asked me if I could paint one of my text paintings with just the words BOY and FRIENDS on the canvas. And he asked me if it could be painted in time for us meeting and talking at The Social in London on Wednesday the 6th of July 2022, as in a week today.  It was a Yes Day* so I said “yes”.

But then I changed my mind.

We all change our mind sometimes.

What I changed my mind to was…

It should be you Dear Reader and not just me holding the brush and applying the paint to this planned text painting. That is, you and everyone else that has had a boy friend that has died before their time. And to be clear, when the words ‘boy’ and ‘friends’ are used here, it does not specifically mean a boyfriend in a holding hand sort of way, but a friend who was a boy – of any age and of any gender.

What I will have with me at The Social on the evening of the 6th of July 2022 is a brand-new canvas, freshly stretched and primed and ready to be painted on. Thus not one of The 25 Paintings that have had on-going issues in my life over the past decade or so. On this freshly stretched and primed canvas I will have outlined in pencil the words BOY and FRIENDS. I will be on hand with a pot of yellow paint and a pot of black paint. And I will invite anyone else in The Social that evening who has had a boy friend that has died before their time, to paint a bit of the freshly stretched and primed canvas.

And…

After that night at The Social, the BOY FRIENDS painting can progress through its’ life and be added to by all those that come across it. And everyone who does can, using a paint brush and pot of black paint provided, add the name of their boy friend on the back of the canvas followed by their name and the date they added their bit to the painting.  And this can go on for years. Maybe even hundreds of years until there are no more boy friends left on earth to die before their time.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

I have just read through what I have written and found myself changing my mind again. Instead of it just having the two words BOY FRIENDS on the painting, it should have four words – THE BOY FRIENDS’ PAINTING. 

*I am trying out having Yes Days and No Days. I wake up in the morning and toss a coin. If it is heads, it is a Yes Day and if it is tails, it is a No Day. On Yes Days, I say yes to things and on No Days, I say no to things. But most days I leave the coin un-tossed and make a pot of tea instead.

A LIGHT SHINING BRIGHT

July 4, 2022
One End of The Tunnel

Monday the 4th of July 2022

Dear Members of The Seventeen,

As the 9:15 train to Corby is pulling out of Saint Pancras…

I am once again confronted with the oh so entitled London-centric world that I am part of. The billions of pounds that have been spent on this less than square mile that Saint Pancras and King’s Cross are part of. But in moments we are clear of Granary Square world and into the Somers Town world you might know via Shane Meadows’ depiction, and I cannot stop myself celebrating the work of fellow vandalisers of walls with crude and less crude tags and scrawls. And then of course are the Buddleia growing out of the cracks in man’s crumbling dominion. Can’t be long now before Her work is done. 

But before She does, and it is done, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, the members of The Seventeen, for taking the risk and your outstanding inaugural performance of the tribute version of the score SURROUND.

And the suburbs give way to Duncan Sandys’ pleasant fields of the Green Belt.

And in minutes, as the train is rolling into Luton… 

I can see the home ground of the first English football team I ever followed – Kenilworth Road. My Uncle Bill had moved down from Scotland after the war. He set up home in Luton. I couldn’t understand a word my Cousin Kathleen said, and she couldn’t understand a word I said.  My Uncle Bill was a regular at Kenilworth Road. This was decades before Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon got his season ticket. And I imagine The Seventeen chanting “Come on You Hatters” on the terraces of Kenilworth Road in some sort of rage at everything Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon might stand for.

And as the train pulls out of Luton, I am thinking about The Luton Girls’ Choir (1936 – 1977) and I am wondering if they ever had a tribute version of themselves. They were always one of my favourite choirs. Far better than the Vienna Boys.

I will grab the next passing moments of this Monday morning and attempt not to be distracted by the vanishing world outside the carriage window, so I can list all your names, as in the names of those who of were passing members of The Seventeen this vanished Saturday evening…

1: Gordon
2: Sam
3: Andy Gell
4: Simone Stokes
5: Paul Locker
6: Tim Widdows
7: Liz Widdows
8: Ailsa Charter
9: Lon McCall
10: Stephen Dorphin
12: 11: Richard Groves
13: Philip G Paterson
14: Lizzie Paterson
15: Kay McGinley
16: 
17: Sam Lunnon
18: 
19: Karen Rust
20: 
21: 
22: 
23: Charlie Davies
24: 
25: 
26: El Clayton
27:
28:
29: 
30: Annie Tappenden
31: Agris Krumins
32: Dinah Kazakoff
33: 
34: 
35: 
36: 
37: Donna Canale
38: Ade Cartwright
39: Amanda Cartwright
40: Bill Drummond

Due to the latest wave in the Global Pandemic, not all forty of those who had booked a place to be a member of The Seventeen made it to Corby. Other names are missing from this list that should not be. If your name is one of the missing names, please let me know in whatever way you can, and your name will be added. Thank you and sorry for the oversight on my part.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Lizzie & Philip Paterson for baking and bringing the bread to have with the soup. I had some that was left over toasted with Marmite on it this morning.

I had planned to take a photograph of all these Day One members of The Seventeen in front of the WE LOVE YOU WALL, but I forgot. My mind by then was too concerned about the possibility of soup burning in the pan. So instead, I have used a photograph of the cover of The Luton Girls Choir’s ground-breaking album A LIGHT SHINING BRIGHT IN THOSE DARK WAR YEARS.

A Light Shining Bright In Those Dark War Years

And as the train rolls into Bedford… 

My mind shifts back to almost four hundred years. And I am thinking about The Ranters across the land, unfocused, unorganised, chaos meets crusty, but challenging those whose hands were on the levers of power back in the days. And then that tinker by trade but revolutionary by nature, John Bunyan imprisoned here in the town jail for twelve years (1660 – 1672) for being part of the Nonconformists spreading The Ranters words across the land… 

And him in there behind the bars writing his Pilgrim’s Progress, and the influence those words have had on several centuries of life, but I guess that was before your time. John Bunyan makes Johnny Rotten seem like the pampered son of the more equal than others, that he may have been.

John Bunyan
Dark clouds bring waters, when the bright bring none

And as the train pulls out of Bedford…

I can hear in my head The Bedford Messiah Choir performing Handel as the Rose Bay Willow Herb are bursting into bloom all along these rail embankments.

And as the train rolls into Wellingborough… 

I think about the rise and fall of The Doughboys and less than a stone’s throw away The Nag’s Head, Woolaston. It was there after climbing the single file and ramshackle wrought iron staircase on the outside, John Peel would stamp our tickets as we entered, before he manned the decks. It was there we witnessed The Liverpool Scene sometime in 1970, with Adrian Henri performing The Entry of Christ into Liverpool – which was enough for me to think if Liverpool is good enough for Christ to enter, then it is good enough for me to apply to do painting at the Liverpool School of Art (yeah, that and input from The Plastic Ono Band).

City morning dandelion seeds blowing in from wastelands

And then its Kettering. And if you come from Corby, it is always difficult being in Kettering as soon as they hear your accent. 

And again, as the train is now pulling out of Kettering, where the home of The Poppies once was, I can almost see The Tin Hat, where all the greatest R&B bands of land and beyond played during my teenage years.

And on over the River Ise, where in a hedge row by its’ banks I first discovered one of the most beautiful things in all of Creation – the nest of a Wren with thirteen tiny eggs waiting to hatch. Those that might know how a Wren’s nest is constructed might doubt how I knew there were thirteen eggs in the nest. I embrace your doubt, and I feel shamed in letting you know that I pushed my middle finger into the entry hole and touched and counted each-and-every-one of those thirteen eggs. 

And on as the train pulls into Corby Station where I caught my last steam strain in the January of ’66. That was just before Beeching closed the station down on the 18th of April that same most swinging of years. The very month that Somebody Help Me by The Spencer Davis Group was at number one in the singles charts. 

And I step down from the train…

And I begin my walk from Corby Station to the Rooftop Arts Centre, maybe for the last time ever. There is always a last time. And I don’t just mean maybe the last time, I don’t know… But a Green, green grass sort of last time.

I stand looking through the tunnel under the rail tracks – l love this tunnel. Don’t we all love a tunnel. The second time I walked through this tunnel back in March or April, I sort of imagined The 25 Paintings being exhibited in there. And as people walked through this tunneI into town, they would have had to squeeze past all 25 of them. 

But… 

This morning I am not thinking about what a missed opportunity that was. What I am thinking is, what a missed opportunity that I did not do a different score with The Seventeen and whatever that score was should have been performed down here in this tunnel, with its concrete reverb and unwanted smells and unseen threats and “What the fuck are those people doing in the tunnel making all that noise?” of it.

So, instead, I just take out my phone and take a photograph looking down the tunnel that I might never walk through again. And while I do so I imagine a future version of The Seventeen doing a performance here. You got to imagine these things, or maybe nobody else will ever do it. It is what imagining is for.

And when I get through to the other end of the tunnel, I take another photograph looking the other way. Then I celebrate by picking some of the Feral Raspberries that are growing there in the unkept hedge. This is where the Elder Trees had been in bloom only two weeks ago, willing me to pick their fronds for my Corby’s Finest Elderflower Cordial (blended from five different Corby Elder Trees).

I would also like to take this further opportunity to thank The Corby Latvian Choral Society for their influence on me in my early choral years in the mid-to-late-sixties. 

Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

The station in Corby re-opened in April 1987, and closed again in June 1990, and re-opened again in February 2009.


The Other End of The Tunnel
The Other End of The Tunnel


THE TENZING

July 3, 2022
Painted by Chris Denston in late June 2022

Sunday the 3rd of July 2022

Dear Reader,

The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre first came into existence yesterday on the 2nd of July 2022.

The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre exists to celebrate the plays written by Tenzing Scott Brown. 

Tenzing Scott Brown wrote forty plays; from 2015 until he was killed in early January this year.

The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre exists at night within The 25 Paintings, after The 25 Paintings have closed their Tea Rooms for the day.

The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms exists wherever a Cosy serves you tea, while The 25 Paintings display themselves for your admiration.

A Cosy is the name used to describe a person serving tables at The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms. You will recognise them as they will be wearing a tea cosy on their head. Thus, the word Nippy has been dispensed with.

The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre is commonly known as The Tenzing.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman