London, Libraries, Fanzines…. Soundtracks

Yesterday I took part in an evening of talks to celebrate the launch of the zine archive at the Stuart Hall Library in London. I wouldn’t normally post about this, but thought some of my readers might be interested, if only in case they were wondering why this weeks chapter was late.

Anyway, I got up at 5am yesterday in order to leave at 6:30 and be at the coach station in Manchester for 8am, but I clearly overestimated the traffic on the A6 at that hour because I was at Chorlton Street for 7am. I texted David, who was coming along for moral support, and to give out handouts, to see if he was on his train yet, and he texted back to say he wasn’t – his wasn’t until 8:30.

The coach came at 8am, and took us on a prolonged (but not too much) trip across the Mancunian Way and through Whalley Range (where someone had painstakingly daubed ‘Vote Labour’ on a wall in gloss paint) and Chorlton (where they hadn’t) before getting on the motorway. An hour later we were travelling through an atmosphericly fog drenched Stoke-On-Trent to the bus station, one of the highlights in what turned out to be a very stop-start journey, compared to the Colne route that is anyway.

Still, we made the North Circular on time, and whilst shuffling through Hampstead I had cause to notice Arkwright Road, home of the Sely’s and the Gaunt’s in Stella Gibbons’ 1956 novel ‘Here Be Dragons’, and the offices of the Hampstead and Highgate Gazette, mentioned in the same novel. I imagine the Hampstead of 1956 may exist in some of the remaining architecture, but not in any other sense. (Actually, I’ve just checked, and it’s Arkwood Road in the novel, but I bet that was artistic licence….)

Got to Victoria at 1:15pm – early, and took until about 2 to get to my hotel. I was glad to be staying somewhere I’d stayed a lot of times before because I only really started to wake up after I’d checked in.

I met David over at Old Street around 4ish, and we headed over to Brick Lane and Rough Trade East, suitably near to Iniva, and suitably diverting for us. We spotted a lot of what he’s started to call ‘Biffy’ people, and what Sara terms ‘Hot Chip people’, both on our way to Rough Trade and in Rough Trade. I’ve never been to Rough Trade East. I went to the old Rough Trade West in Neal’s Yard once when I was fifteen and staying with friends, but otherwise am pretty much a Rough Trade novice. After much agonising over CD’s we can’t afford, but should buy, we left with the third Raincoats album (me) and a Shirley Collins Cd (David) and trundled over to Iniva.

The Stuart Hall Library was upstairs, and turned out to be a strangely comforting venue for the evenings event. We said hello to Librarian’s Sonia Hope and Holly Callaghan, who made us feel very welcome and let us use the photocopier to xerox more copies of my handout. I’d done 15 before I left Manchester, but 35 people were expected, so I printed 20 more. Unfortunately, when it came to putting them together I ran out of  time, and was becoming increasingly tired, so didn’t get very far. We left the remaining piles of pages with Sonia and Holly, who had very kindly offered to put them together and give them out from the library info desk in the coming days and weeks.

Next I was mic’d up, and the sound and powerpoint files were checked by a very understanding and kind techie gentleman, who must have been incredibly patient, given he had three of us to do.

I was first on, which I actually feel very relieved about in retrospect because it meant I couldn’t measure myself against the other speakers – Storm in a teacup, and Hamja Ahsan from the Other Asias collective. As it was, I didn’t feel that the talk itself went down that well – I thought the crowd looked mainly bored – but David, Sonia and Holly reckoned it went down well, and the very nice man next to me said he liked it. I felt people weren’t very interested, though I did feel I delivered it fine, and that it fitted the remit I’d been given. The presentation was fine once I’d got it started. I’d been advised to just start the mp3 off then press F5 to start the presentation, but when I pressed F5 nothing happened, so there was a brief moment of panic as I got it open and playing. Having done the rehearsal for David and Sara (who has PHD deadlines so couldn’t make the actual event) in David’s bedroom in Fallowfield the other week, I had more of an idea of how long it would take people to read each page, so I think I judged it right. It helped that the soundtrack was two songs, so I knew not to let too many pages go through to the first song, as that would mean I was going too fast. David got weaving with the handouts as I put the last page up, and then it was done.

Storm In A Teacup, a London based collective set up to help promote and encourage women in the arts, were up next. They seemed nice, and they talked about their various projects, the biggest of which is Ladyfest ten. They also do a life drawing project, called Swallows and Amazons, centred around the idea of unconventional life drawing models, in unconventional poses.

Hamja from Other Asias  was next, and – as I thought he might be from his blurb – he was very academicky. I think he gets away with it though because he does it in a very irreverent, humourous way. He was good, but I think he may have overrun his time. His projects are art and zine based, and are – as the name suggests – global and radical, mostly around representations of Asia, and Asians, particularly Bangladeshi and Pakistani. He is British Bangladeshi, and runs Other Asias with a Pakistani woman in Lahore.

I think both Storm in a teacup and Other Asias were very London reference-y, and that this went down much better than my Cheshire, Stockport, Manc, Salford refs: It was a young, hip, London crowd at the end of the day, and you win some, you lose some.

The Q&A went O.K. I let the others lead, as I felt that they were of more interest to people (plus more of their friends were there) but if I had something to say, I did say it, I just thought about it very carefully before I said it.

I had some nice conversations with people afterwards, but me and David were utterly exhausted, so we wearily trundled back to Old Street and got the tube to Euston.

We went to the late night M&S at Euston for our tea, and sat slumped in the forecourt of the station (all benches were taken) whilst David wearily ate his sandwich (I took my food back to the hotel as it was too messy for the forecourt) and we waited for the pendolino to decide which platform it was going from. When he was queueing for admittance to said pendolino, I left him and trundled – increasingly weary and laden – to the underground to catch the northern line to Tottenham Court Road and change to the Central line to Lancaster Gate. It’s lucky I know all three stations well, as I was barely functioning by then – I’d been up and on the go for 17 hours by the time I got back to my hotel.

The coach home this dinnertime was the Colne coach, and it was a journey with a fairly farcical beginning (for me personally I mean) and somewhere around the second hour in Cheshire, it descended into a a Kafka esque dark farce. Apparently there was a car overturned in a ditch, but I missed it because I had my walkman on and my eyes closed. It took 6 and a half hours instead of 5 and a half (I got off at Stockport: It would have taken at least 30 minutes more to get to Manchester)but it’s not as bad as last year when I was coming back from London in October and the engine in the coach conked out, leaving us stranded by Bowden Roundabout for ages. Think it was 8 hours on that occasion.

Before travelling, I’d made myself a CD to take with me, as I felt I’d need something to keep me going on the coach on the way down. It’s a mixture of songs that I downloaded for possible use in the presentation, stuff I was listening to anyway, stuff that was more Screaming in Public soundtrack, some punk series soundtrack stuff, and what I like to think of as general courage build up songs…

Clanned – Theme From Harry’s Game

(Acquired from my mum and dad. They always have a lot of Clanned CD’s. They buy a couple and they breed, so every now and then they have a sort out and get rid of the surplus Clanned’s… My aunt and uncle had a similar problem many years ago when they moved to North Wales, only in their case it was LP’s and the songs from ‘Hair’)

Hayley Westenra – She moves through the fair

(A few years ago I was obsessed with ‘Scarborough Fayre’, at the moment it’s ‘She moves through the fair’)

Jesca Hoop – Hunting My Dress

Laura Marling – Rambling Man

Go-Betweens – Streets Of Your Town

Kenickie – Robot Song

Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

Duke Spirit – Love is an unfamiliar name

Rip, Rig and Panic – Go, go, go

Bratmobile – Cherry Bomb

Delta 5 – Anticipation

Carmel – More, more, more

(Obviously…)

Neko Case and her boyfriends – Bowling Green

Pauline Murrey and the Invisible Girls – Dream Sequence (One)

(This was the second song I used to soundtrack my presentation)

Heavenly – PUNK girl

(This was the first song I used to soundtrack my presentation)

Metric – Hustle Rose

Rasputina – Brand New Key

Laura Nyro – Eli’s Comin

Florence + The Machine – Howl

Joseph Lo Duca – Tara’s Dance

People reading may wonder why I didn’t get the Pendolino to and from London with David. This is mainly because he is a student, and as such has a young persons railcard that gets him a third off rail fares, and I am not. If he finds a cheap discount ticket online and uses his student card as well, he can afford the Pendolino. Alas, I cannot.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

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