Mud flats and Synth Dystopias

It is late. I have a headache. There will be mistakes in the words below. I’ll correct them soon, but here’s the clumsy version.

The Laugharne Weekend is one of my favourite weekends of the year. Last year, when I couldn’t attend as I was touring Australia, I stood in the sunshine of Brisbane having just been to a damn fine David Lynch exhibition and still found myself thinking, “hmmm, I should really be in Laugharne”.
It was in Laugharne where I spent an evening talking with Peter Blake about 1970s wrestling. It was here that Graeme Garden told his favourite shark versus zombie movie scene. It was here that I saw Phill Jupitus and Kate Tempest doing a poetry off whil John Cooper Clarke looked on from the sidelines.
It is also a lot of fun to perform at.

I arrived the day before it began, allowing me to view the splendid estuary and Dylan Thomas boathouse in sunlight, an opportunity that would not occur again during the festival.

On Thursday, festival regular Adele told me about Severed Ties, an Oliver Reed film involving a severed arm going awry. I also heard a variety of stories about Harold Pinter from Keith Allen, who I still fear a bit.

On Friday, I had to do my revision for two interviews I was doing. Erwin James was convicted of two murders in 1984. His book, Redeemable, is a horrifying and upsetting autobiography that illustrates how a child’s life can fall apart due to alcohol, bullying and a loss of worth, trust and love. It does not try to justify or pass the blame, but in a world where we still see politicians and newspapers attempting to persuade us that criminals are criminals just because they are, this detailed memoir graphically illustrates a descent and then shows how someone who has committed terrible crimes can have worth.

After writing my allotted 1000 words for a book that may or may not ever exist on a bookshelf, i was allowed out for a cheese sandwich and some poetry.

I only saw three quarters of the Faber New Poets. I was most struck by Rachel Curzon and her poem of silent thoughts during an ultrasound. A poet standing near me remarked that he wished poets would remember to use mundane words too. I think i understood, sometimes the language seems too ornate, like a festooned cream pastry burdened by the terrible weight of tasty decoration.

My partner for much of this weekend was Josie Long as we continue our Harold and Maude-like partnership (I’m Maude).

We performed a live Book Shambles show with Mark Billingham and we talked of heroes, and idols that had let us down. Also, how evil must someone be for their art to lose its alluring lustre? And I did some of my five impressions.

Then, we ate chips.

I went off to see Gwenno whose album based on a Welsh language dystopian novel of the 1970s was one of my favourites of the last year. I hoped to find out a few more things about what the album was actually about, not that that would increase or decrease the amount I would listen to it.
Walking in to the venue, someone was behind a keyboard. I presumed it was Gwenno, I have only seen her avatar and record cover and just presumde she dyed her hair since then. She was superb, a beguiling mix of layered keyboard sounds (I do like a lot of noises in my music), and quite different to the sound of her album. The reason for this was that she was not Gwenno, but her support act, Accu. I was not the only one confused, a lesson in eating your chips quicker and being on time.
Gwenno and her band were also superb, and I have since found the English translation of her album Y Dadd Olaf.
Saturday began with David Hepworth being quizzed by Mark Ellen on his “scientifically accurate” book that declares 1971 was the most important in history. It was a convincing argument, and an expensive one. I now know there are even more albums I didn’t know that I must have.

Then another gig with Josie. This was mainly her gig, I was just there in case she wanted a pause to remember more of her new material. I did some shouting and she talked about why she can’t prank.

Jude Rogers interviewed Charlotte Church. She explained that when organising political events, she finds that bands decline her invitation because their labels have told them not to be political (even though they agree with the cause). Jude added that she would interview singers she knew wished to be politically active, but was instructed that this side must not be revealed in print.
a depressing state of affairs.
But there was some upbest rabble rousing too and a plug for Grace Petrie.

Mark Billingham was a very entertaining inquisitor of Ian Rankin. The only gasp of horror came when Ian Rankin opened a carrier bag to reveal the 350 page manuscript of his new novel, which he has been working on tirelessly since 16th February. Authors and prospecfive authors muttered darkly at this revelation of his speed.

Then, Josie and I talked horror. She read a little from her contribution to the Dead Funny 2 anthology (finally, it really is out soon), we showed a few horrifying clips and heard ghastly tales of Anglia’s Sale of the Century. Then, we had another drink and forced people to watch Anthony Balch’s Horror Hospital in its entirety.

Sunday has been a day where I have slowly developed a hangover for no reason.

I interviewed Erwin James, who is very enlightening on prison and how his plight did not ultimately seal his destiny.

Nathan Filer, author of the excellent Shock of the Fall started without me and read (or appeared to read, the pages were actually blank), a lovely poem of love, and explained about mental health and the process of writing.

Two White Cranes, which is Roxy from Joanna Gruesome, performed songs with aplomb and charm, including a fine cover of Springsteen’s The River. I bought her album.

Linton Kwesi Johnson was an education, both in poetry and politics.

I couldn’t decide between Martin & Eliza Carthy or Mark Thomas’s Trespass, so I went to both.
The opening song of the Carthys reminded me of how twisted and mesmeric the best folk can sound, and the cold church they performed in added to mystical quality of it all, even though the green lighting against the church’s stone architecture was a little closer to the colour of the satan spawn juice in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

Mark Thomas condensed a vast array of jokes, information, politcs and empowerment into the 60 minutes I saw. He presented a strong reminder to read up on our rights and to start to reclaim all the shared things that have been mercilessly privatised and taken from us in the last 36 years.

Things I missed included Pete Wylie singing Jean Genie and Charlotte Church’s rendition of be My Baby.

That’s what I did on my holiday.

Thanks to Richard and John for making such things possible.

I am doing a few gigs in next months, including Sheffield, Newcastle and Oxford. You can find out things like that HERE.

Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles is back soon, with a Jon Ronson interview, here are our first 13 – from Stewart Lee to Eddie Izzard via Sara Pascoe and AL Kennedy.

 

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