Your Culture is Ailing – fighting flames and Dettol

Looking back, would The Better Failures have been better as a club name than Your Culture is Ailing, Your Art is Dead?


Good, that’s that sorted.

The new night has begun, and once it has begun, it cannot be killed until either, no one turns up, acts or audience, or it gets so popular I fear success has ruined it and crush it before it starts to effect my bank account. 

Much like The Book Club in its early days, I revel in not really knowing what performers are going to do or how audiences might react. So much entertainment is treated with flame and Dettol now that its safety in being entertaining is the very thing that will kill it. 

The problem with experiments is that they can often end up in failure, smoke damage, and sometimes death. Though experiments in the arts have rarely ended up in death, just the dying gasps of egos. 

Tonight’s show began with me waffling away about a man at Marylebone Station’s escalators talking to himself about Jude the Obscure, being angry with Jeff Koons’ erections of broken dreams, and how easy access to toilets and airing cupboards can cause artistic vision to fade. I think I also did a dance representing how Lenny Bruce’s damp towels led to his blah blah/cocksucker routine.

All well and mainstream so far.

Sabrina Mahfouz, a poet I met near a lecture on Molluscs at the Edinburgh Botanic Garden opened the show with poems on weight loss, No More Page 3 and an index of words required for her new novel that spellcheck denies exist. 

Nathaniel Metcalfe gave the audience a lecture on the films of Michael Armstrong, enlightening them on his work as a screenwriter for the Adventures series of sex caper movies, designed for those who found the Confessions films too intellectually taxing. You may no him best for directing Mark of the Devil with Herbert Lom, you are more likely not to know him at all. By dint of Nathaniel and I being in the same room together, this marked a rare occasion where 3% of the people in a room had seen The Haunted House of Horror with Frankie Avalon and No Secrets, an Oliver Reed vehicle which includes Melvyn Hayes as a gay Tarzan. Remarkably, it has 7.3/10 on IMDB, which is higher than some Costa Gavras movies. 

Lou Ashcroft took us through her artistic tests of personal space, reverse shoplifting (shopgiving) in Marks and Spencer, before getting the audience to wrap Police Incident tape around their eyes and reading a story of found objects. This resulted in this

Joanna Neary then performed a Laurie Anderson song about a visit to a fish and chip shop, before reading a poem about danicing to Suzanne Vega’s Luka. The half ended with the mentioned dance, a lesson in expression and chutzpah. 

Part two saw Liam Mullone explaining mortality and reality in Eastenders and Dan Oliver creating a plague of contemporary dance that was forcibly spread through the audience, then arming them with the weapons to avoid such a situation again. 

Neil Edmond portrayed a Doner Kebab made flesh and lettuce and delivered a beautiful (it really was) speech on real love, media ideals, and pornography. 

Charlotte Young, via slides and spleen, explained her hatred of Anthony Gormley, then Nick Revell closed the night with a tale of why he now believes the arroagnt can be left to die, and he also discussed Guy Debord, financial institutions and media myths. At times, he made me look like the master of linear narrative.

The night was far from perfect. Hopefully, it’s distance to perfection will change, getting closer and further away, night by night, minute by minute. One thing it will never be is perfect. That is not the aim. Much like Butlins, “our true intent is all for your delight”. I hope the show delights, sometimes it may mystify both you and me, and at times it might crumble. And so begins another imperfect project.


Your Culture is Ailing is coming to Northampton and Brighton next month, and back in London in April. 

My new solo tour on human minds, social animals and tooth fairies is off to Falmouth, Bristol, Sheffield, Nottingham and Birmingham in a week or so. Details HERE

Cosmic Genome app has new update including more Prof Brian Cox, Alice Roberts and plenty (130 scientists or so) more HERE

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