A Guest Writes…

“Hello. My name is Freddy and I’d like to thank Maintenantman for giving me this space. At just 17 days old my keyboard skills do not quite match the sheer volume of things I’d like to say, so I have communicated this via my eyes in the accompanying photograph. I’m already an expert in the non-verbals and my body language is…errr…very fluent.”

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I am here and now. Hope you are too.

“Basically, I have a list of questions and a list of needs. Here goes.

My questions:

  • What happened to all that nice warm water I was swimming around in?
  • And linked to that, where’s the lifeline that was plugged into my belly button?
  • What is all this alternating darkness and light all about?
  • What happened to the Bo Diddley beat on the amniotic radio?
  • Who are you? Who are you?
  • Who am I? I already have a pretty good idea, but some loving, warm guidance to sources of extra knowledge would be welcome.

My needs:

  • This stuff called ‘air’ seems to be very important…I need it to be as clean as possible (and go steady on all those waves and signals pulsing around too).
  • I know that milk seems to be my priority right now, but the root of it all is apparently ‘water’. I really need that to be pure and clean too. And available.
  • Warmth when I’m cold. Coolness when I’m hot.
  • Laughter lifelong. And for now, when I crack a smile don’t tell me it’s f****** wind pains.
  • Friends<>Family<>Freddy: I need that triangle. Relationship…community, all those dimensions.
  • Sorry to have to bring this one up (projectile fashion) but I need a world full of compassion, tolerance and equality. I don’t need violence, abuse of power, greed, capitalism or superstition (a.k.a. religion). By the way, you can let me know how the world is doing on all this stuff whenever you feel ready.
  • I’ve already got a very vivid inner life…I just need the means and the wherewithal to be creative with it.
  • Music, art, poetry, dance…and stories: stories on paper, on screens, in songs, and in spoken words.
  • I’ve already shat on my father’s jeans: I need to be able to make mistakes, to have lapses…to learn how to learn.
  • I need love that is infinitely renewable and that has no conditions attached.

Hopefully you’ll all have some answers to my questions, and if you can meet my needs I will always strive to meet yours.

It’s not one-way traffic: I GIVE, THEREFORE I AM.

Thank you for the time and the space. Those are two other things I will always need.”

Ted x

Where Will You Meet Your Cinderloo?

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Press play!

The Peterloo Massacre of 1819 was one of the landmark events on the path to gradual social reform in Britain. Fifteen people were killed, and some seven hundred injured, when troops were ordered to attack a large public demonstration in Manchester.

In the wake of the costly Napoleonic Wars, and in the midst of rapid industrialisation, poverty and inequality were rampant in Britain. The authorities were genuinely fearful of public unrest and radical movements were stamped on with brutal efficiency.

In what is now Telford, just eighteen months after Peterloo, a smaller but very significant protest march was held by miners and ironworkers, supported by their families and neighbours. In the event, two men were shot dead by the Shropshire Yeomanry with many more injured. Nine men were arrested and two were sentenced to death.

This took place on slag heaps known as Cinder Hill or the Cinder Hills. Hence the name ‘Cinderloo’, after Peterloo (which in turn was an ironic play on ‘Waterloo’).

This is the area where I was born and raised, but we knew nothing of it. Until recently it has been a sadly neglected episode. History is indeed written by the winners.

Now, however, a group of local historians, artists and community activists is working towards a major commemoration on the 200th anniversary of Cinderloo in 2021. There will be various events along the way, all with the aim of establishing Cinderloo as a cornerstone of local and national pride.

Below I have placed a couple of useful links for further awareness of the story (though there is a shameful lack of detail in what was recorded at the time).

My role so far has been to write a ballad: Farewell Tom (Sam Hayward’s Blues).

Tom Palin was the man eventually hanged. Sam Hayward was initially sentenced to death as well, but his sentence was commuted to prison with hard labour. The ballad is written as if in Sam’s voice.

I am indebted to the brilliant singer and performer Mary Keith (of Mary and the Mudlarks amongst other musical fineries) for putting a tune to the poem and recording it. At the start of this post is the link to the song, with the ballad itself below. Listen and follow the words (there have been a few slight changes since Mary’s recording but nothing major)!

Farewell Tom (Sam Hayward’s Blues)

 In hard labour I sweated on the day that they hanged him,

the morning dawned dark with skies grey and coal-grim:

so different it was on the day that we marched

and stood strong together while the yeomanry watched.

Mr Eyton was there, with his magistrates’ crew,

but we held our heads high, for our cause it was true.

 

Now they’ve dandled Tom Palin from the end of a rope,

to teach us our place and abandon all hope.

 

Times had never been harder, our tables were bare,

but the ironworks owners just didn’t care;

the colliery lords too had tried every way

to warm their fine houses by cutting our pay.

Enough was enough and the word went around:

“in Dawley we’ll gather, then we’ll stand our ground

on the Cinder Hills of Old Park. We’ll make a good show,

our voice must be heard before coal and iron flow!”

 

Now they’ve dandled Tom Palin from the end of a rope,

to teach us our place and abandon all hope.

 

From all over we walked, from each yard and pit,

five hundred set out, the flame it was lit

and scores more joined in as we strode along,

with wives, grandparents, children all in the throng.

When the slag heaps by Botfield’s were ours to command

there were three thousand souls with one clear demand:

“you cannot slash our wages, we are poor but we’re proud!”

So when Eyton read the Riot Act it left us unbowed.

 

Now they’ve dandled Tom Palin from the end of a rope,

to teach us our place and abandon all hope.

 

Determined we were to have bread or blood,

we gave not a fig for old Colonel Cludde.

So he ordered his yeomen to grab Hassall and me,

but Tom Palin and pals soon set us both free.

You’ve not seen piles of clinker shifted so quick

as the stones rained on yeomen so fast and so thick!

But instead of retreating, Cludde’s voice could be heard:

“Open fire!” and the first shots killed young Billy Bird.

 

Now they’ve dandled Tom Palin from the end of a rope,

to teach us our place and abandon all hope.

 

Tom Gittins, mortally wounded, the next was to die,

with many more gunshot ‘midst wild hue and cry:

we scattered and ran from their horses and guns,

those cruel gamekeepers and fat farmers’ sons.

They rounded up nine of us, we were soon in the dock

with all pronounced guilty – now there was a shock!

“Felonious riot” hung round Tom’s neck and mine,

with a swing on the gallows at the end of the line.

 

Now they’ve dandled Tom Palin from the end of a rope,

to teach us our place and abandon all hope.

 

Some worthies came forward and pleaded compassion,

so the powers-that-be said: “this is our ration –

Hayward can labour ‘longside the other seven,

whilst Palin is bound for Hell or for Heaven”.

Word came to us soon of how Tom met his death,

jolting for minutes whilst the crowd held their breath.

“Farewell Tom!” had echoed as he waited to drop,

the bravest among us, the cream of our crop.

 

Now they’ve dandled Tom Palin from the end of a rope,

to teach us our place and abandon all hope.

 

Like Peterloo’s field, eighteen short months before,

our Cinder Hill battle was just part of a war,

a justified struggle against all that is rotten,

and Tom Palin’s name will not be forgotten:

in hope we’ll stand together to banish all fears

whether it takes two hundred or two thousand years!

 

Links to the Cinderloo story:

https://jacksonlawley.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/tom-palin-had-no-one-to-pull-his-leg/

https://wordpress.com/post/weareherehere.wordpress.com/298

http://www.dawleyheritage.co.uk/unpublished-articles/355/battle-of-cinderloo-by-p-sherry

A big thank you to Pete Jackson and to Andrew Howe for welcoming my input to the Cinderloo project.

 

Ted x

April 2nd 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Images and Words Meet

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As it says on the ‘tintype’ above, Encounters is a project set up via the Visual Arts Network (VAN) in Shropshire. Pairs of poets and artists have been producing new work in response to each other.

The resulting exhibition will thus feature at least four pieces per pairing: the original pieces responded to, plus the new ‘response’ work. Some participants have produced more than one response.

I have been in an unofficial curating role and it has been great to pick up on the creative energy generated by the whole project. A lot of excellent work will be on display on the evidence of the poems and artworks I have seen so far!

Details of the exhibition are on the flyer above. The Arts Cafe Open Event on 22nd March (6-8 at the VAN Gallery) will feature poetry readings by the writers involved, and comments on their artwork by the visual artists.

The VAN Gallery is in Shoplatch in Shrewsbury (SY1 1HS) on the street below the Market Hall.

“The interaction of words and images will make the gallery space a living 5-week collage. I can’t wait to see it!” (Hannah Hoch, The Dada Admag, March 2018).

I will post one or two examples of the work on here in future months.

Below is a collage I did for a recent WW1 Poppyfields exhibition.

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When the Poppies Bloom Again

Base image scanned and expanded…intrigued by the contrast between the exhausted grins and the haunted anger of the soldier in the foreground…surrounded with an exploded or imploded poppy jigsaw…text from a found song sheet…contrasting hope and warning meanings in the song title…Kitchener poster being trampled into the mud.

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detail

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detail

It’s all about the Encounters.

Ted x

 

“Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids…”

Fifty years ago this month The Graduate, having been released in the final days of 1967, was hitting screens and headlines around the world. Like it or not, the story and the cultural resonances have become part of the vocabulary of our times.

Now the 50th anniversary digitised edition is doing the rounds, and, what’s this…? Have they come up with a new poster…you bet they have!

The old poster was based around the image of Mrs Robinson’s shapely leg in the foreground, peeling off a nylon stocking, with young Benjamin (fully clothed) gazing on from near the doorway. The strapline was neatly sardonic: “This is Benjamin: he’s a little worried about his future”.

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The iconic cultural status of a piece of art does not mean you have to like it, and I have always hated The Graduate: a tale of rich folks’ angst pimped for perennial popularity into something of a milk-and-water Swinging Sixties sex tease.

But I’m interested in the fact that they have produced a whole new poster to advertise the anniversary edition.

In the new poster the innocent everyboy Benjamin stares at us instead of at Mrs Robinson. He is all vapid, all blank page, ripe to be written on. And sharing the full-on frontal head and shoulders shot is…wait for it…a leopard, a very big, snarly, fuck-off leopard.

Maybe they didn’t have the guts to use a picture of a cougar, the common parlance term for an older woman who likes young males. Cougar Town is the most popular example of the trope, a tv series that ran for over one hundred episodes. Anyway, it’s a leopard and not a jaguar or a cheetah (though there may be some punning link to the fact that Mrs Robinson was married and therefore…).

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Patriarchy and sexism cause all sorts of distorted notions in our shared cultural consciousness. As regards age difference, there has been a very long tradition of older men desiring and ‘getting together with’ younger women. Often this arrangement has a financial basis (she benefits from his money and social power and he is happy to buy love and sex) and can encompass all levels of relationship from feudal marriage to prostitution.

When it comes to older women desiring and ‘getting together with’ younger men, the tradition is there but is much less open and has been much more repressed. Moreover, in cultural representations, the older woman is usually punished in some way. As is Mrs Robinson in The Graduate. At the same time, the norm is increasingly for the older woman to be awarded a “good on ‘yer, go for it, lady” nudge and wink.

I really don’t think that age difference matters between two people, but the social pressures and value judgements that come with the territory cannot be denied. Is there some primal survival of the species instinct that leads to the undermining of relationships where there is a significant age difference? Does age differential undermine the best breeding stock?

So in our century Mrs Robinson is transformed from a seducer to a predator.

The “coo coo ca-choo” of Simon & Garfunkel’s inspid theme song for the film has become more like the Beatles “goo goo ga-joob”. Cue the lines about a “pornographic priestess”. The Paul Simon song has a decent tune, but there is a weird chasm between the lyrics and the film.

Mrs Robinson is Benjamin’s university. She takes him from under-graduate to post-graduate. But has he learned anything? The film’s one interestingly ambiguous image comes right at the very end. Benjamin and Mrs Robinson’s daughter have escaped from the church (ok, yes, the use of the cross to bar the doors is nicely subversive) and are sitting on the back seat of a bus to Anywhere. After a few triumphant moments they start to look pensive…then she looks at him a little apprehensively…and he just gazes ahead: is that a complacent look, a smug look, or the old blank, entitled-without-needing-to-think look? It’s a welcome hint of darkness, but it doesn’t make up for the compromised conventionality of what has gone on to that point.

The new poster is starkly eloquent. It speaks of a coarsening process, and an increasing tendency towards the blurring of the boundaries between sex and violence.

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Are we having fun yet?

P.S. It’s not directly relevant to the meaning of this post, but I can’t help but give a nod to the fact that The Graduate was the making of Dustin Hoffman, who is now entangled in the post-Weinstein outing of serial gropers. Patriarchy moves in mysterious ways, eh?

Ted x

Yearning For Yerevan

One of the hidden powers of art is to make us want to go to places evoked in the work of the loved painter, writer, composer, singer or film-maker.

This Place Lust has nothing to do with holidaying or touring. It thrives on a different kind of engagement.

Oh how I long to go to Yerevan! Thank you Sergei Paradjanov!

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Monument to Paradjanov in Tbilisi

Yerevan is the capital city of Armenia. It is one of the oldest inhabited places on earth and has persisted through many shifts of history, during which the state of Armenia has existed independently, then been ruled by Turkey, Russia and Iran before re-emerging as recently as 1991.

In the not very distant future I hope to record here an attentive walk through the time strata of Yerevan to a large house dedicated to the memory of Sergei Paradjanov, the truly extraordinary film-maker and artist who delved deep into the rich imagery of his people.

Paradjanov Museum

The Paradjanov Museum in Yerevan

Paradjanov created four of the most beautiful, resonant and original films in the history of cinema: Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1963) also known as Wild Horses of FireThe Colour of Pomegranates (1966); The Legend of the Suram Fortress (1983); and Ashik Kerib (1988).

The gap in his film-making career was the result of persecution by the Soviet authorities, who took exception to his open bisexuality and his immersion in the culture of the Armenian people. He was imprisoned in labour camps and even when ‘free’ (usually as a result of campaigns by fellow artists such as Andrei Tarkovsky) he was not allowed to make films.

In some ways his life became a metaphor for the Armenian experience. The Armenian genocide, perpetrated by the Turkish government between 1894 and 1916, saw the death of some 1.5 million Armenians. The scale of the slaughter, combined with systematic rape, torture and property theft paved the way for the later horrors of the twentieth century.

Despite all this, the core of Armenian culture survived. Similarly, despite his persecution, Paradjanov continued to produce fascinating and profound work, mainly in the form of collage. He described collage as “densely compressed film”.

Paradjanov collage

Don’t Be Fooled By Saints

Some of Paradjanov’s artworks have been lost or destroyed but many survive, thanks to the efforts of his widow and a wide range of international writers and artists. To reproduce the odd one here doesn’t do his work justice, but there are now many images on-line. And the four major films are all available on dvd, though some censoring and external cutting has proved unrestorable.

Tarkovsky still represents the peak of ‘cinema as art’ and, during an interview with John Updike, he came up with some particularly apt words on the man he risked his own life to champion: “Paradjanov is making collages, drawings and sculptures in the form of dolls, hats, anything that works…but he is not just about design and beauty. No, it’s something else. It’s much more talented and noble. It’s real art. It’s secret is in its immediacy and directness. When an idea is born he’s not planning, constructing or contemplating a way to make it better. For him there is no gap between the concept and its realisation, so he doesn’t lose anything between the cracks. Emotion that was there at the outset reaches the final product in its pristine purity, without a single drop being spilled. That’s how it is in the best sequences of his films. I’m not even referring to his spirit of independence and his originality. For us all he’s completely unreachable. We’re not capable of what he does. We’re just labourers in comparison”.

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from The Colour of Pomegranates

After the prison years Paradjanov suffered from various illnesses, and his eccentric, defiant ways did not make him an ‘easy’ individual, but the work will stand tall forever. He’s a Mount Ararat, the highest point in the Armenian region and the spiritual home of that culture (though the mountain is still in Turkish hands). Mount Ararat is where the Ark was supposed to have landed: survival once again.

When starting to write this I checked on relevant dates and was amazed to see that the day I am posting this would have been his 93rd birthday…so Happy Birthday, Sergei, see you in Yerevan!

Sergei Paradjanov

Ted x

Walking the Scratch That Itches

Some walks are dominated by one special feature: a summit; a lake; a particular building; a certain aspect of the rural or urban or wild landscape that stays in the mind.

Other walks have evenly spread events of attention and interest, a constellation of impressions rather than one stellar moment.

The first time I walked the North Wales Coastal Path westwards from Flint Castle I was expecting the latter. I was wrong.

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Approaching the bulky hulk

The walk is flat and easy underfoot, punctuated by occasional pieces of sculpture and decaying moorings, with the broadening estuary of the Dee a constant companion on your right hand side. The path hugs the river for a few miles with barely a sign of a village. The map tells you that the first community of any size will be Mostyn.

Then, a good mile short of Mostyn, you see a ship on the horizon, not out at sea but with its nose butting into the shoreline ahead. It has to be a pretty big ship to be such a dominant image from this distance.

And a pretty big ship it turns out to be. At a small dock area called Llanerch-y-Mor lies the rusting bulk of the Duke of Lancaster, one of the last passenger steamers to be built. In its day it carried 1200 passengers and over 200 vehicles, and had 400 sleeping berths. It makes a bizarre and thoroughly impressive spectacle in this bleak and featureless environment.

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Steaming down the footpath

It was abandoned here in 1979 and has been the subject of a slow grapple between the owner and the local council. About 20 years ago a move was made to turn it into a “Fun Ship”. Ambitious plans were drawn up and famous graffiti artists were brought in to decorate the sides, including internationally known names like Kiwie, Dan Kitchener, Dale Grimshaw, Snub23 and Spacehop.

A lot of excellent graffiti was completed, making for an even more fascinating visual impact. However, the wider project failed and the rust and dilapidation continued…much to the “Ruin Lust” delight of wanderers like me.

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Reaching out from the rust

There are many more details and photographs here: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/explorers-huge-abandoned-ship-welsh-11403118

The Duke of Lancaster became one of the great ‘unknown’ sights in the UK, with its own Facebook page and a small but dedicated band of admirers.

On my best visit on a sunny day I had only managed to get photos of the port side of the vessel, so I went back last month to get close to the other side. That stunning view from afar was different this time. This time a grim, grey battleship held the horizon.

In an act of officious vandalism the ship has been painted black, either by the owner or by the local authority. Apparently this was done in February 2017.

Graffiti occupies a contested place in our culture. The Duke of Lancaster gets painted over, whilst a new Banksy graffito on the wall of the Barbican (a comment on their exhibition of the New York graffiti artist Basquiat) gets preserved under an imperishable glass panel. Who is the vandal now? Is it just market value that has made Banksy part of the art establishment?

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Lichen tags by unknown algae and fungi

Humans have scratched the surface of their environment since the earliest stages of our evolution. It is one of the most fundamental means of expression open to the powerless, especially the young powerless.

Shame on the hand behind the blanking, blanding black paint brush that has tarred the Duke of Lancaster!

Ted x

Update on Cards

Just to say that all the Comicollage Christmas cards can now be viewed at

http://www.chrisgeorgecards.com/categories/comicollage

Chris George offers a wide range of cards on her website and is perhaps best known for her political, feminist and green series of cards, as well as photo cards of Shropshire. Chris also does stalls at conferences. Click on the link above or just put ‘Chris George cards’ into your search engine.

My non-Christmas Comicollages will also be available via Chris George’s website in Duke ‘orse.

Orders can be placed via me (in person at poetry events or wherever, by email, phone, Facebook or comment on the blog) £2.50 each or 10 for £20 plus £2 p/p if applicable, or via the Chris George website.

The cards will also be in the Visual Arts Network Gallery (VAN) in Shrewsbury, amongst other outlets.

Ted x