I am very pleased to announced that Stay Alive Till ’75 is published today at Ration Books. The pocket-sized edition features ‘The Humber Star’, a poem commissioned by John Grant for Hull City of Culture 2017, a memoir in make-up called ‘4 Ombres Dior’, and an extended essay of creative non-fiction set on the fringes of a religious cult in a fading East Yorkshire seaside town.
The book is available to buy direct from Ration Books, alongside new writing by Bill Drummond and Benjamin Myers.
Back in 2015, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the BBC broadcast of Delia Derbyshire and Barry Bermange’s Inventions For Radio: The Dreams, Sheffield’s Eccentronic Research Council released their own super-limited edition cassette soundtracking the recalled dreams (and nightmares) of friends, artists, actors, musicians, scientists, poets and filmmakers. The release was called The Dreamcatcher Tapes Volume 1. Five years on, and with a large part of the planet under lockdown and with nowhere to go but within their imagination, the ERC put a call out once again to music collaborators, nurses, teachers, truck drivers, writers, journalists and shop workers to upon waking, record their dreams straight into their phones and to then send them to the ERC to soundtrack. And thus, Volume 2 of The Dreamcatcher Tapes was born!
Across the two volumes there’s film maker Carol Morley, Andy Votel from Finders Keepers records, John Doran from The Quietus (who also wrote the albums brilliant sleeve notes), acclaimed writer Benjamin Myers, musicians such as Evangeline Ling from the group Audiobooks, Lias Saoudi from Fat White Family, Sidonie from The Orielles, journalists /writers Wyndham Wallace and Daniel Dylan Wray amongst a whole array of musician friends, eccentrics and people with actual proper jobs.
I was delighted to be asked to contribute a lockdown dream to this collection.
I have written a feature on the literary culture of Hebden Bridge in this weekend’s Yorkshire Post: ‘Aside from the proliferation of alternative lifestyles, its hordes of tourists, flooding incidents, or the title of ‘UK’s lesbian capital’, the small market town of Hebden Bridge has become renowned as an unlikely centre for literary culture in the North of England…’
It’s time for the annual end-of-year musings at Caught by the River, known as Shadows and Reflections. Since so many of our lives have been lived in thematic overlap this year, they’ve asked their contributors and friends to focus on the small, strange and specific as they look back over the last 12 months. Today it’s my turn to discuss a thwarted Algerian trip and the discovery of this beautiful country’s extraordinary musical heritage…
“As ‘Algeria’ had become my Mastermind subject this year, I devoted each spare hour to reading books on its history, the war of independence, or watching films, and reading its translated literature. When I wandered through Hathershelf woods in my hometown of Mytholmroyd each day, sheltering from pouring rain in wellington boots and fingerless gloves, my mind constantly wandered to that place I was supposed to be heading, rather than the one I was currently standing in, with its rotting leaves, knee-high bogs and vicious westerly winds that emptied their sodden contents above my head.”
Bookshop is a new online store for independent bookshops in the UK that allows readers to order directly through them and for booksellers to keep a healthy percentage of the sale. Please support your local bookshop by searching for them on the website, then selecting your lockdown/xmas books through the search engine. You can read more about it here.
In the first of their subscriber-exclusive Low Culture essays, I have opened up my battered copy of Julian Cope’s The Modern Antiquarian for The Quietus to argue how this classic guide to Britain’s neolithic remains has a strikingly modern relevance. An extract of ‘A Glimmer of Cope’ is available to read here.
Subscribers get perks including music, podcasts and bonus long read features penned by special guest writers such as Darran Anderson on the occulted history of kids TV show Knightmare; Megan Nolan on the unadulterated joy of loving Billy Joel; Joy White on grime as a contemporary Black British genre; Daniel Dylan Wray on John Cale and Oobah Butler on the anarchic artist Christian Jankowski. Plus, editors John and Luke are clambering into a clapped out old motor to drive round the UK to interview a wealth of guests such as legendary folk singer Shirley Collins, Repeater Books supremo Tariq Goddard and writer John Higgs about the culture that has shaped them for a brand new series of podcasts exclusively for subscribers – get the first episode as soon as you sign up today. Support on the last bastions of quality music journalism and sign up today!
I have written a feature on the extraordinary lives of Dennis and Lois, two unsung heroes of the trans-Atlantic alternative underground. A new documentary based on these legendary superfans of rock ‘n roll, and directed by Chris Cassidy, is out this week. Visit The Quietus to hear more about this New York couple and their shrine to 20th century pop culture.
Anita Sethi has interviewed six shortlisted writers (including myself) for this year’s Portico Prize for the Observer New Review… with portrait photographs by Richard Saker (this one was taken in Mytholmroyd on a cold, blustery December afternoon)
One of my poems, Sacred Heart, makes an appearance on Smagghe & Cross’s new LP, 1819, via Offen Music later this month. It is taken from Cigarettes in Bed (Blackheath Books, 2008), and was recorded at Air Edel studio with Ivan and Rupert. The first installment, Cock of the North, featured on their previous album release, MA. This new spoken word track, From Sacred Heart, is available to purchase from 27/01 as a download or on vinyl through Offen Music, and Rough Trade etc.
You can listen to a preview on Juno. It sounds nothing like me at all; which is just perfect. It’s a dark, drone-like excursion into the mind’s swampy sewer. Beelzebub in Pigalle.
Here’s the official blurb…
“This second LP on Offen is an ajar window overlooking a phantasmagoric world; a remembrance of days that never were. The music is sparse, the past is forever: ghosts of industries are conjured through the English countryside, fading memories play static with an idea of romance, the sun breaks through the iron clouds. A record free of uncouth nostalgia but laced with ethereal melancholia…”