Webzine Edition Issue 6

Richard Ryan’s London silkscreen print portfolio

Savile Row ©Richard Ryan

Savile Row ©Richard Ryan

By Guy Sangster Adams

In Richard Ryan’s four pop art visions of the streets of London, reality coalesces with the fantastical and romanticised, as emblematic pageantry, the iconic red profusion of buses, telephone boxes, and pillar boxes, youth culture, graffiti art, and a menagerie of animals evoking Britain’s classic children literature from Lewis Carroll, to Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl, and Dodie Smith, run wild in a predominant palette of bright reds, blues, and yellows, across halftone urban vistas.

Thus on the corner of Savile Row, the street in London’s Mayfair internationally famous for the finest bespoke tailoring, stands a top-hatted androgynous dandy, in the lea of a trio of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s classic telephone boxes and an unfurled Union Jack umbrella, paid homage to by a proliferation of Peter rabbits and Benjamin bunnies. Whilst across town, in the little known but evocatively named, London Street, close to Paddington Station, a debutante in a voluminous Union Jack ball gown, escorted by two of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, makes stately progress along the down-at-heel street, past the graffiti and stencil art—including a hot pink Winston Churchill with a Tommy Gun—daubed riveted steel of the railway bridge parapet.

London Street ©Richard Ryan

London Street ©Richard Ryan

Outside Victoria Station, a boots and braces Skinhead stalks away from a woman wearing a British policeman’s helmet, reimagined in Houndstooth check, a belted yellow Macintosh, and a parrot on her shoulder. Then, to the fore of the Houses of Parliament, a bullet belted woman on a Mod Union Jack scooter trails three Fantastic Mr Foxes on Punk collars in one hand and three Burberry shopping bags in the other, as a bowler hatted City gent walks away toward Big Ben.

Victoria Station ©Richard Ryan

London Victoria Station ©Richard Ryan

Born in Santiago, Chile, Richard Ryan began working as a photographer in Stockholm, Sweden, where he continues to live and work. With a long held passion for mixed-media prints, he quickly developed a way to combine his photography with graphic and fine art techniques to create images suitable for creating silkscreen prints. He created his first portfolio of prints, Homage á Warhol, in 2005, followed by The Manhattan Art Portfolio (2007), Homage á Klein (2009), Stamp On (2010), Nikki Beach Edition (2011).

Parliament ©Richard Ryan

Parliament ©Richard Ryan

For the London portfolio he utilised not only photographs that he had taken, such as the woman in the Victoria Station print, which originated as a shot he took of a Swedish fashionista on her lunch break, but also archive images and scrapbook items. Whilst, intriguingly, his model for the woman on the scooter in the Houses of Parliament print is French actress, Audrey Tautou; a reference, he explains to the Entente Cordiale. Joie de vivre certainly abounds in the four prints, and in exploring the multiple layers of the London’s culture ‘from afar’, and in collaging and paring down styles, moments, history, and signifiers he gets under the skin of the city in a fun, fascinating, immediate and celebratory way.

The London prints measure 480x624mm and are in a limited edition of 350. Each print is numbered and signed by the artist, and cost £400 each or £1200 for the whole portfolio, and are available from www.artnowfactory.se



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Art Now Factory:  www.artnowfactory.se

Poetry: Sam Edwards – an extract from the collection, Sodium


Wild child daughter of a 1960’s rock guitarist turned cult leader, Sam Edwards is the award-winning screenwriter & producer of crime thriller Stealing Elvis and hit indie feature documentary, The Promoter through her production company Ragged Crow.   She also writes and performs rock & roll poetry about madness and bad behaviour, of which Sodium is her first anthology.


You’re so emotionally tight,

But I’ll let you prise me open.

Face sparkles with naïveté’s light,

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.

You’ll assist me in my twisted plight,

Sick with lust at the words I’ve spoken.

We’ll indulge in a sex fun fight,

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.

Your soft inflections are so contrite,

But lucked out slickness is my only token.

Can I barter for your soul tonight?

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.

Let me set your body alight,

You’re the grate that I burn my hope on.

I can squeeze your goodness tight.

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken

Don’t scream that it wasn’t right -

The sacrifice at my crimson totem.

You felt my hook and you took a bite,

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.

O darling you’re a pitiful sight,

Now your anger has awoken.

It’s love that I can’t requite.

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.


Eyes staring wired and lipstick bright,

They stagger out in the brazen night.

They drink and swear, they wear black leathers,

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.

They’re a bunch of hell-bent bitches.

They fill you up with insatiable itches,

As you fall on your knees to cry and splutter,

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.

Wound up tight in search of easy game,

Coke buzzed head and their tongues aflame,

They prowl about, they shriek and they hover,

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.

Their throats are slick with dirt-cheap liquor.

They’ll take you on with a steel-clad liver.

Lock up your husbands and warn your brothers.

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.

The glasses fly and the knives come out.

Flesh is torn, men scream and shout,

Broken hearts bleeding, bodies bound and tethered.

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.


Once I was lean,

I would strut and I would prowl,

I would stamp my spiked boots,

Throw my head back and howl.

In the feral night,

I would prey on the weak

I’d drag them to my lair,

Smash their big clay feet.

I was wild, I was crazy,

I was free, I was mean.

I was blood-spitting drunk,

I was a prowler of the street.

I would laugh, I would rant,

I would scream and I would wail.

I’d roll my yellow eyes

And lash my fearsome tail.

Then a shaman came my way,

He spoke to me and saved me.

He fed me tender morsels,

Clipped my claws and renamed me.

They think me very tame now.

I know the things they said;

That he stoppered up my mouth,

And poured concrete in my head.

But I bide my pretty time,

Keep my secrets pitch and black.

I store up my weapons

Bare my teeth and arch my back.

So should you chance to stroll

Past these high stone walls,

And feel an ice-cold fear

Grip your heart, and squeeze your balls,

Know I sit here, vengeful.

I watch for you and wait,

I will pounce and tear and drag you

Back behind my high, spiked gate.


The lure of Death is here.

It’s awful red and gibbous,

Full to bursting.

Waxy, velvetine and taut.

I sit motionless.

Before I plunge to my knees,

Mutter ineffectual pleas,

And sink as low as I can get.

The devils are here again.

The obsessions.

The small knives of self-punishment

Which needle my flesh, my hope, my sanity.

Death importunes sadly,

And caresses with razor-blades.

There is nowhere to turn.

I am trapped in cold iron,

Rusted shut,

My eyes shriek words.

But no-one hears.

All poems in this extract from Sodium by Sam Edwards © Sam Edwards 2011

Mustered 8 flyer

SAM EDWARDS will performing a set of rock ‘n’ roll poetry about bad women, black leather and broken hearts at Plectrum-The Cultural Pick’s (P-TCP) Mustered No.8: From Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe on Thursday 26th September 2013 at The Betsey Trotwood, London EC1.

For more details please click here: http://www.theculturalpick.com/category/events/

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Sam Edwards
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RaggedCrow

Sodium Rock’n’Roll Poetry
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002352976997&ref=ts

Ragged Crow: www.raggedcrow.com

Sodium by Sam Edwards is available both as a paperback book and an ebook from Lulu.com
For details on ordering the paperback, which costs £2.99, click  here.

For details on ordering the ebook which costs £1.99, click here

Read Sam Edwards’ short story, Sorrow, in issue 12 of the print edition of P-TCP, and reviews of Ragged Crow’s films Stealing Elvis and Crossfire in issues 9 and 12 respectively of the print edition of Plectrum – The Cultural Pick, click for more details.

Absolut Blank – A Global Creative Movement

Absolut Blank: Freeman

Absolut Blank: Zac Freeman

Since it was founded in 1979, Absolut, the premium vodka brand produced in Åhus, southern Sweden, has built a great tradition of challenging convention through its highly innovative creative collaborations. Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Douglas Gordon and Louise Bourgeois are amongst the high profile artists with whom the company has worked with on limited edition bottles and attendant promotional campaigns and events. Now, with Absolut Blank, to further inspire cutting-edge creativity, the company has commissioned 18 artists from around the world, and from a variety of disciplines, from drawing, painting and sculpting to print making, film making and digital art, to take the iconic Absolut bottle as a blank canvas from which to create unique pieces of art, and in so doing a global creative movement.

Absolut Blank: Gioscia

Absolut Blank: Ludovica Gioscia

The resultant artworks include UVA’s high intensity, bright and striking light installations, Mario Wagner’s cut-out imagery, the graphic design of Robert Mars, the colourful painting of  Dave Kinsey and the detailed work of Good Wives and Warriors, best known for making labour-intensive, imaginative, intricate and large-scale drawings with titles such as ‘Giant Squids Attacking the Earth’.

Absolut Blank: Flores

Absolut Blank: Sam Flores

In the UK, the artworks will be featured across television and print advertising from 20th July 2011, and both previews of the television adverts and a behind the scenes documentary about the filming of the adverts are now available on the Absolut UK Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AbsolutUK); friends of Absolut on Facebook will be automatically entered into a prize draw which will see a lucky winner win a specially commissioned piece of Absolut Blank artwork. Viewers can see what happens when seven of the artist collaborators (David Bray, Aesthetic Apparatus, Dave Kinsey, Good Wives and Warriors, Mario Wagner, UVA and Thomas Doyle) were presented with an Absolut Blank canvas, and follow their creative processes.

Absolut Blank: Chamarelli

Absolut Blank: Fernando Chamarelli

In addition to the Facebook films and television advertising, the Absolut Blank campaign will include spectacular outdoor advertisements and events throughout London and the UK, and a digital art piece that lives and evolves on one’s mobile telephone.

The full list of participating artists in Absolut Blank:
Adhemas Batista, Aestethic Apparatus, Brett Amory, Dave Kinsey, David Bray, Eduardo Recife, Fernando Chamarelli, Good Wives & Warriors, Jeremy Fish, Ludovica Gioscia, Mario Wagner, Morning Breath, Robert Mars, Sam Flores, Thomas Doyle, UVA, Zac Freeman, Marcus Jansen

Absolut Blank: www.absolutblank.com
Absolut: www.absolut.com
Absolut Facebook: www.facebook.com/ABSOLUTUK

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Exhibition: Incubi Celesti/Heavenly Nightmares – Nicoletta Ceccoli

Until 23rd December 2010
Dorothy Circus Gallery, Rome, Italy

Olympia by Nicoletta Ceccoli, from the

Olympia by Nicoletta Ceccoli, from the exhibition Incubi Celesti/Heavenly Nightmares

To celebrate their fourth anniversary the Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome, Italy, are presenting a solo show by the artist and illustrator, Nicoletta Ceccoli. Born in the Republic of San Marino, where she is still based, Ceccoli studied animation at the renowned Academy of Fine Arts, Urbino, Italy. Her book illustrations, have won her international acclaim and many awards including an Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration, four ‘awards of excellence’ from Communication Arts, and a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators in  2006.

Her paintings are also gaining increasing renown and have equally been exhibited internationally, and she was included in the Pop Surrealism exhibition presented by the Dorothy Circus Gallery in collaboration with the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, which ran from June to October this year at the Museum Carandente, Spoleto, Italy. It was the first exhibition to provide an overview of Pop Surrealism, and the curators,  Alexandra Mazzanti and Gianluca Marziani, presented an impressive and exciting line-up of forty international artists. Amongst them two artists who have particularly influenced Ceccoli, Mark Ryden and Ray Caesar.

Castello di Cuori by Nicoletta Ceccoli from the exhibition Incubi Celesti/Heavenly Nightmares

Castello di Cuori by Nicoletta Ceccoli from the exhibition Incubi Celesti/Heavenly Nightmares

She also cites as key influences, Paolo Uccello, the 14th/15th century Italian painter and mathematician, Winsor McKay, the American cartoonist and animator, Edward St John Gorey, the American writer and artist, noted for his illustrated books, Domenico Gnoli, the Italian artist, illustrator, and stage designer. Remedios Varo Uranga, the Spanish-Mexican Surrealist, and Stasys Eidrigevicious, the Lithuanian born artist whose work includes painting, graphic design, book illustration and photography.


Incanto by Nicoletta Ceccoli from the exhibition Incubi Celesti/Heavenly Nightmares

Ceccoli’s ten new works for Incubi Celesti/Heavenly Nightmares, are a tribute to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. The paintings explore dreams, both the nature of dreams vanishing as one wakes up, but also childhood dreams that vanish as one grows up, and more particularly the rites of passage of a girl to womanhood. There is also a theme of liberation; when one awakes one is liberated from one’s dreams or nightmares, for better or worse, just as when one grows up one is liberated from the dreams and nightmares of childhood, for better or worse.

Incubi Celesti/Heavenly Nightmares –  Nicoletta Ceccoli
Runs until 23rd December 2010 at
Dorothy Circus Gallery
Via Nuoro 17
00182 Rome

Telephone: +39 06 7021179 / +39 06 70161256

Opening Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 8 pm
Admission: Free


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Nicoletta Ceccoli

Dorothy Circus Gallery

Further Reading – articles in Plectrum – The Cultural Pick with associated content to this article:

Exhibition Preview: Pop Surrealism READ ARTICLE

Exhibition Preview: Art From The New World – A Big Brash Exhibition of the New American Art Scene READ ARTICLE

Exhibition Preview: Interruption – A Retrospective of Work from 2004 -2010 by Joe Sorren and Collaborative Sculpture by Jud Bergeron and Joe Sorren READ ARTICLE

Exhibition/new work preview and interview: Amy Guidry READ ARTICLE

Book Review: Haunted Air A Collection of Anonymous Hallowe’en Photographs, America c.1875 – 1955 – Ossian Brown

With an introduction by David Lynch and an afterword by Geoff Cox
(Jonathan Cape) £25.00

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams

‘The one that scares you is Donnie,’ is the smudged, handwritten annotation on the deckle edge mount of the fading photograph of three boys, of different ages, perhaps brothers, playing on the swings in the yard of a weather-boarded, municipal looking building. From the clothes and the hairstyles it is probably the 1950s, though it might be ten, or even 20 years earlier. The youngest of the trio wears a grotesque mask which makes his head look out of proportion to his body. As do the handmade, decorated, grocery bag masks, with cut out eye- and mouth holes, over the heads of five little girls, photographed against the white weather-boarded side of a school or church or court house, wearing their best dresses and shoes, the stockings of each wrinkled at the knee. Maybe it’s these juxtapositions and the allusion to executioners’ hoods, belied or perhaps reinforced by their homemade-ness, but to appropriate the opening line of this paragraph, it is these butter wouldn’t melt girls of the scaffold that scare me.

All manner of costumes are here, from the expected witches and their black cat familiars, ghosts and skeletons, to pierrots, policemen, and a woman with dress intriguingly decorated with spoons and the legend, ‘won’t you come spoon with me’ emblazoned on her chest, all made gruesome with the addition of a mask.

Photograph from Haunted Air by Ossian Brown (Jonathan Cape)

Photograph from Haunted Air by Ossian Brown (Jonathan Cape)

Like the contradictory emotions of autumn leaves that bring fun and satisfaction when walked or run through, but also sadness that after a blaze of glory they are detached from the tree that bore, often to be thrown into the blaze of a bonfire, leafing through the pages of Haunted Air brings a mixture of fun, fascination, and melancholy. As Geoff Cox recounts in his afterword, the photographs in Ossian Brown’s collection were “torn from album pages, sold piecemeal for pennies and scattered, abandoned to melancholy chance and the hands of strangers.” These costumed portrayers  of lost souls are now lost themselves, the hands that took the photographs now as anonymous as the subjects, detached from the family trees that bore them. But in this beautifully designed, cloth bound book, Ossian Brown has restored them to an album that not only celebrates these celebrants, but also provides an invaluable record of cultural traditions and photographic history.


Jonathan Cape is an imprint of The Random House Group Ltd: www.randomhouse.co.uk

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Single Review: Marilyn Monroe (Wam Bam JFK) – The Wolfmen

the-wolfmen-wam-bam-jfk-cover-2Marilyn Monroe (Wam Bam JFK) (Radio Edit)
Marilyn Monroe (Wam Bam JFK)
Is That Earth Down There?
(Howl Records)
To be released 29th November 2010

By Guy Sangster Adams

Loaded with the danger, excitement, edge of a precipice moment of a jet plane in run-up at the airport that now bears JFK’s name, the melody of the verses swirling concentrically with Chris Constantinou’s seraphic higher register vocals  irresistibly draw one into the charged expectancy of take-off. When that moment arrives, with each chorus, it doesn’t disappoint. Marco Pirroni is in blistering form with combustible riffs that go beyond mere take-off into vertical lift-off heading super stellar, that leaves one breathless and never wanting to descend, hoping and relying on Preston Heyman’s infectious beat to keep the blood pumping at the speed one needs it, whilst Constantinou roughs up his earlier celestial choirboy with a suitably rockin’ rasp.

With some Suffragette City returned with love and panache, this is a pop art gem of beauty and tragedy, seen through Roy Lichenstein and Andy Warhol lenses, adroitly and lovingly mixed and polished by a Dandy Warhol, in the form of Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Marilyn Monroe (Wam Bam JFK) is a real blam blam!

The video for Marilyn Monroe (Wam Bam JFK) will receive its premiere screening at the Plectrum Live Edition: A Night at the Rockabilly Revuebar on 27th October 2010 at The Horse Hospital, London WC1. Videos for previous singles by The Wolfmen will also be screened. For more details click here.

To read the Plectrum – The Cultural Pick Review of The Wolfmen’s Jackie, Is it my Birthday? Click here

To watch Guy Sangster Adams, editor  of Plectrum – The Cultural Pick talking to The Wolfmen’s Marco Pirroni and Chris Constantinou go to the Plectrum Broadcast Player by clicking here.


The Wolfmen: thewolfmen.net

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Book Review: Or Glory 21st Century Rockers – Horst A. Friedrichs

(Prestel) £19.99

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams or-glory-cover

Throughout the pages of Horst A. Friedrichs’ photographic exploration of the Rocker subculture in the first decade of the new century, there are some wonderfully evocative juxtapositions created by the images on facing pages. One of which that particularly stands out for me is the pairing of the photographs of Kenneth, taken at The Pavilion in 2009, and Sammi at Rhythm Riot, the annual 1950s music, dancing and vintage lifestyle weekender at Pontin’s Holiday Camp at Camber Sands, also in 2009. Kenneth has a Marlboro Man look about him, his face weather-beaten and etched with the lines of many miles in the saddle, though his steeds have been two-wheeled and resonantly British marques – Royal Enfield, BSA, Norton, Triumph, and the hybrid Triton. His hair though grey and thining, is still quiffed, his sideburns long. From his lips hangs not a mass produced cigarette but a roll-up, over the fraying collar of his faded denim jacket. Rendered in grainy halftone, his portrait contrasts strikingly with the high colour, glossy image of Sammi. She is a beautiful pin-up girl with an edge, very much in the manner of an Angelique Houtkamp heroine. Everything about her is flawless and immaculate, from her curled under Bettie Page bangs, pencilled eyebrows, long, long eyelashes, and red, red lips, to her high waisted indigo denims, and short sleeved black and white striped top, showing off her Houtkamp-style tattoos.

Sammi at Rhythm Riot ©Horst A. Friedrichs

Sammi at Rhythm Riot ©Horst A. Friedrichs

The juxtaposition is both aesthetically striking and also encapsulates the strands that run through Or Glory. Though Friedrichs took all the photographs between 2001 and 2010, in the faces, the places, the clothes, and the motorcycles (to say nothing of the music that you’ll swear you can hear as you turn the pages), is the progression of a subculture from the Ton-Up Boys of the 1950s, to the Rockers of the 1960s, which then proliferated via a myriad of black leather rebel stances through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and now in the 2000s, as Friedrichs documents, crosses over with the wide breadth of the Rockin’, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s Vintage Lifestyle, Kustom Kulture, and Burlesque, scenes, and more besides. But be they 59 club veterans, or new converts from around the world, at the core of the Rocker subculture remain the British motorcyles, the ‘A’ road landmarks of the Ace Café (lovingly restored by Mark Willsmore, who is interviewed in the book) and Jack’s Hill Café, and the Lewis Leathers jackets, which from studded, painted, bedecked in badges, and battle worn through to pristine, the pages Or Glory inherently portray 60 years of history of this iconic 118 year old British company, the owner of which, Derek Harris, is also interviewed in the book. Or Glory presents a multi-layered visual narrative that is as fascinating as it is stunning to look at.


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Horst A. Friedrichs:  www.horstfriedrichs.com
Prestel:  www.randomhouse.de/prestel_eng/

Film Review: Lola

Mr Bongo Films
DVD on release

By Guy Sangster Adams

One year shy of half a century since its original release, Jacques Demy’s first feature film remains an enchanting cinematic experience. Starring the exquisite Anouk Aimée as the eponymous heroine, Demy dedicated the film to Max Ophüls, in whose last film, Les Amants de Montparnasse (1958), Aimée had also starred, and which is also dedicated to Ophüls as he died whilst it was being filmed. Though Lola also references Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel, in which Marlene Dietrich plays Lola Lola, a singer at the titular cabaret. In Demy’s film, Lola is the name under which Anouk’s character, Cécile, performs, primarily to audiences of sailors, in a cabaret in the French Atlantic coast city of Nantes. In a stylistic reference to Dietrich’s character, Anouk’s Lola at times crowns the corset she performs in with a top hat.

Separate from her cabaret persona, Cécile is a single mother who yearns for the return of her first love, Michel (Jacques Harden), who she first met when she was fourteen and who is also the father of her son, but who left her just before she gave birth, promising to return when he had made his fortune. Demy explores his theme of first love and love lost, love requited and unrequited, and the element of chance that is present in love stories, interweaving the characters of Roland Cassard (Marc Michel), whose chance meeting with Cécile, with whom he was close when they were teenagers, reignites his sense of purpose and also his love at first sight for her, Frankie (Alan Scott), an American sailor, and Cécile Desnoyers (Annie Dupéroux).

Anouk’s Cécile shares her bed with Frankie because in his uniform he reminds her of the first time she met Michel, who was also a sailor, at the fairground in the city. When the paths of Dupéroux’s Cécile and Frankie cross, and they two go to the fairground, it carries a wonderful timelessness, as though this could be a flash back of Cécile and Michel, the present moment with Cécile Dupéroux and Frankie, or a flash forward to the ‘first love’ that the burgeoning romantic Cécile Dupéroux is on the cusp of meeting. Wistful timelessness is key to the film as a whole and is part of the fantasy world that Demy created in his films, drawing inspiration from fairytales and musicals.

Music is also key to the film, from the opening frames of the film with the intentional old style Hollywood glamour of Michel’s return to Nantes in white Cadillac, white suit, and white Stetson juxtaposed with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, to the original music and songs composed for the film by Demy’s  lifelong collaborator, Michel Legrand.

But in honouring the beauty of this film one must also credit its superlative and legendary cinematographer, Raoul Coutard. Whose work two years earlier on the first film of another Nouvelle Vague director, Jean Luc-Godard’s À bout de souffle, was both ground breaking and has proved enduringly influential. Just as Paris became another character in Coutard and Godard’s first collaboration, Nantes and the French Atlantic coast of Demy’s childhood, become an entrancingly well observed ‘character’ in  Lola. Not least the fluted columns, openwork balustrades, and cherubs of the Passage Pommeraye, a shopping arcade built in the 1840s.

At the end of Lola, three of the characters are on their way to Cherbourg, and one, Roland Cassard (Marc Michel) would reappear in Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), which became the middle film of an informal ‘romantic trilogy’ which began with Lola and concluded with Les demoiselles de Rochefort in 1967.


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Mr Bongo: www.mrbongo.com

Film Review: Casanova ’70

Mr Bongo Films
DVD on release

By Guy Sangster Adams

Casanova ’70 is a notable entry in the lineage of Commedia all’italiana, or Italian-style comedy, the genre which its director, Mario Monicelli, initiated with his film, Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), and which draws its name from Pietro Germi’s film, Divorce Italian Style (1961). The iconic, and always wonderfully watch-able, Marcello Mastroianni, starred in the latter, as he does in Casanova ’70, which was produced by another heavy hitter of Italian cinema, Carlo Ponti.

Mastroianni plays Major Andrea Rossi-Colombotti, an Italian officer on secondment to NATO, and the film follows his picaresque and increasingly desperate attempts to triumph over his idiosyncratic libido that renders him impotent with women unless his life is in danger. Adventures which lead him from Paris to the Swiss Alps, and along the length of Italy, from the cage of a lion tamer, to posing as doctor to verify the virginity, for which read seducing, of a Sicilian bride to be, with her family just the other side of the door, to climbing into ever higher bedroom windows, culminating in his being tried for the murder of the jealous husband of one of his potential conquests. Conquests who all gather in the court and who are played by a fabulous line-up of Italian actresses including Virna Lisi, Marisa Mell, Michèle Mercier, and Liana Orfei.

The film, which was released in 1965 and earned a nomination for the following year’s Academy Award for Best Writing, Story, and Screenplay, is very much of its time, and all the more enjoyable for that; super stylish and super fun.

Mr Bongo Films: www.mrbongo.com

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Book Review: Members Only The Life and Times of Paul Raymond – Paul Willetts

(Serpent’s Tail) £14.99

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams


In 1949, whilst running a lottery machine on the pier at Clacton-on-Sea, in eastern England, the 24 year old Anthony Quinn met a man working at a nearby funfair who had once been part of a variety mind-reading double act. After paying the man £25 for a trunk full of all the prerequisites of the act, Quinn changed his name to Paul Raymond, employed a female assistant, and took the act on the road as, The Modern Man of Mystery. Though he struggled to find bookings as a mind-reader, his purchase of the act and his name change foretold the career that was to follow for Raymond, in which he demonstrated an high level of prescience in his acquisitions, in judging the zeitgeist, and in always giving, as he maintained, “the public what it wants, not what I think it should have.”

The die was further cast, when in 1951, seeking bookings for a follow up to a successful touring variety show he had produced the year before, having moved to London and moved from performer to producer, Raymond was told by the manager of the Queen’s Park Hippodrome in Manchester, that he would only book the act if  it contained a nude act. Rather than lose the booking, Raymond offered the two tap dancers he had already taken on for the show an
extra ten shillings if they agreed to pose topless.

Seven years later in London’s Soho Raymond opened the Raymond Revuebar, the strip club which, with its ‘Festival of Erotica’, was set to become internationally famous, and over the 45 years (40 of which with Raymond at the helm) it was open its famous neon sign became a London landmark. Fittingly, given Raymond’s first foray into a theatrical career, The Beatles filmed a segment of the Magical Mystery Tour at the Revuebar, and during its heyday the venue attracted a famous and infamous clientele, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Peter Sellers, and The Krays.

The success of the Revuebar quickly afforded Raymond the opportunity to not only buy the premises but also other venues, such as theatres, along the way becoming a successful theatrical impresario, and in 1971 in buying and turning around the fortunes of the ailing top shelf magazine, Men Only, adding a highly profitable pornography publishing business to his portfolio of companies. Astutely, throughout his career, Raymond used the lion’s share of his the profits he made to invest in property. Most notably buying up the freeholds to large parts of Soho when very few other people could see the worth of the area. Though his property holdings also spread to commercial properties in Chelsea, Kensington, Notting Hill, and Hampstead. The value of which was underlined three years before his death in 2008, when Forbes magazine listed him at number 13 in their list of British billionaires.

But such a placing only tells of the glitter, and unsurprisingly for a career that a large part of which was based in pushing at the boundaries of what was legal, a career which had nightlife as its epicentre, not only is ‘all human life here’ (as the News of the World advertising slogan used to have it) in Willetts’ fascinating biography, but also quite literally a lifetime of trials and tribulations. Not only as a result of his near constant monitoring in the first few decades of his career firstly by the Clubs Office of the Metropolitan Police, and then by
Obscene Publications Squad (which would itself be the subject of a widespread corruption investigation), but also via libel cases and as the target of an extraordinary extortion campaign. His personal life was similarly riven with complexities, that lead him to be largely estranged from his extended family. Save for his daughter and protégé, Debbie, whose death at the age of only 37
in 1992, engendered him to lead an increasingly reclusive life until his own death at the age of 82.

Through his assiduous research for Members Only, Willetts interviewed friends, relatives, acquaintances, and employees of Raymond, and a number of former Metropolitan police officers, amongst this roster, even now, intriguingly there  are many who would only agree to talk if Willetts undertook to preserve their anonymity. His printed sources also include many documents only just released under the Freedom of Information Act, including witness statements, police files, and the transcripts of telephone taps. All of which he has marshalled to present a very balanced, fascinating and richly evocative insight both into Raymond’s life and the changing face of a notorious square mile of London’s West End which has mirrored the nation’s changing views towards sex and pornography over the last half century.


Serpent’s Tail: www.serpentstail.com

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Exhibition/new work preview and interview: Amy Guidry

By Guy Sangster Adams

Everything's Coming Up Roses, from the Beneath the Surface series of paintings by Amy Guidry  ©Amy Guidry

Everything's Coming Up Roses, from the Beneath the Surface series of paintings by Amy Guidry ©Amy Guidry

Throughout the summer of 2010 Amy Guidry has enjoyed a very busy exhibition schedule in which her paintings have been included in a sequence of shows across the USA: from the multi-media, 2010 Art Melt at the Louisiana State  Museum, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which opened on 15th July, to the Cam Rackham curated, The Black Plague Art Show, which opened the following week at The Congregation Gallery, in Los Angeles, California, to the Wally Workman Gallery’s 30th Anniversary Exhibition in Austin, Texas, which opened on 7th August. That schedule continues from summer into autumn with her work included in two shows which both opened on 27th August in her home state of Louisiana, Where Are They Now? at the Slidell Cultural Center, Slidell, which runs until 25th September, and the 23rd September Competition, at the Alexandria Museum of Art, Alexandria, which runs until 8th October.

For Guidry, who was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, but grew up in Slidell, exhibiting at the Slidell Cultural Center carries an added resonance. Because on 29th  August 2005 Hurricane Katrina, which caused so much destruction and loss life along the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas, made its final landfall near the mouth of the Pearl River, with the eye straddling St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana and Hancock County, Mississippi, before sweeping North East, where it caused its most severe devastation in Louisiana’s largest city, New Orleans. St Tammany Parish, as Guidry explains, “consists of several cities and towns such as Slidell, Mandeville, and Covington,” and as a result of the damage caused by the inundation created by the hurricane, the Slidell Cultural Center’s original premises have been in disrepair ever since, and it is now housed within the Slidell City Hall.

All of the artists included in Where Are They Now?, which features fine art, photography, sculpture, culinary arts, animation, graphic design, and performing arts, were former students from St. Tammany Parish who have gone on to pursue careers in the arts.

“Exhibiting in Slidell is important to me for several reasons, Katrina was devastating, but Louisiana has proven to be resilient,” says Guidry, who still lives in the state, in the city of Lafayette, “I really wanted to do something positive for my hometown, for the community, and for the arts.  I would often go to the Slidell Cultural Center to see exhibits while I was in high school and I was always impressed by the gallery.  When they had closed due to Katrina, I was disappointed, but glad to know that they still had the funding to rebuild.  Though they are in a new building, it’s still nice to go back and to be a part of one of their shows.  I grew up in Slidell, I went to school there, and I was actively involved in the arts whether it was through school or local art competitions.  Coming back, I hope to serve as a good example of their arts programs as well as a positive role model for students that are interested in a career in the arts.”

Guidy’s paintings in the exhibition are taken from her series, Beneath the Surface. Working in acrylic on canvas, Guidry’s paintings stem from, as she says, “two loves: psychology and art,” and the themes she explores, “involve the human psyche, who we are and how we interact with each other, including our relationship with other animals and the natural world.” For Beneath the Surface, as she explains, “I took issues of current social as well as personal interest and portrayed them in a sometimes humorous manner.  I felt humor helped soften the political blow a bit in order to reach a broader audience.  I was more direct with the content in hopes of getting the viewer thinking and questioning, and hopefully taking action as a result.”

Adaptation, from the series of paintings New Realm by Amy Guidry  ©Amy Guidry

Adaptation, from the series of paintings New Realm by Amy Guidry ©Amy Guidry

Her entry for the 23rd September Competition is taken from, New Realm, the series of paintings with which she followed Beneath the Surface. The New Realm series is, “essentially a modern fairy tale which re-writes the role of women,” says Guidry, “I wanted to challenge the notion that women are weak and always in need of some prince to save them and whisk them away. New Realm portrays women as strong and independent.  The overall look of the series is more dreamlike: birch trees and white, wintry backgrounds.  I did incorporate a lot of imagery typically considered ‘feminine’, such as high fashion, butterflies, as well as a light color palette.  However, many of these symbols represent freedom, growth, and change.  The haute couture fashion incorporated into the series alludes to royalty, which is typically seen in fairy tales, but with a modern approach to make the series more current and relatable to the viewer.”

The Alexandria Museum of Art is housed within the former Rapides Bank Building which was built c1898 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The September Competition is held annually and is open to any artist aged 18 or over from across the USA. The sole judge and juror of this year’s competition is the artist Kelli Scott Kelley, who is also Professor of Painting and Drawing at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Kelli Scott Kelley’s involvement was an added draw to Guidry, as she says, “I’m a fan of her work, though I’ve never met her, so I was especially interested in entering.”

For me, the six canvases that Guidry has already completed of her new series, In Our Veins, make a more pronounced break from her two previous series, and represent something of a change of direction, and I am keen to find out if she agrees and if so whether this change is in response to specific stimuli. “I have to admit that “In Our Veins” is certainly a more pronounced break from my previous work,” she replies, “I’ve worked in a surrealist vein for quite some time, but I did up the ante on this series. At the time that I started In Our Veins, I felt that I needed to challenge myself technically and conceptually.  I think that once I made that realization, that’s when I stopped censoring my own ideas.”

To do this she has adopted a very different conceptual approach for In Our Veins. “Most of  the imagery has come has come from dreams and free association exercises,” she says, “which is the complete opposite of what I was doing before.  I would brainstorm and write down words or phrases and do numerous thumbnail sketches in order to come up with a concept.  Now I’m letting my subconscious lead me to the concepts.  Any dream or image that comes to mind while half-asleep, I quickly sketch it as soon as I can and make sense of it later.  I’ve never been a risk-taker, which is all the more reason why I think it’s time to take the risk with my work.”

The Wild West, from the series of paintings In Our Veins by Amy Guidry  ©Amy Guidry

The Wild West, from the series of paintings In Our Veins by Amy Guidry ©Amy Guidry

That she is now taking direct inspiration from her dreams, and given the change in direction that In Our Veins represents, leads me to ask Guidry whether her dreams were always so vivid, or has there been a motivating factor that has made them become more so of late. “I don’t think my dreams have changed, I think that it’s my approach that has changed,” counters Guidry, “by not censoring, or maybe I should say editing my creativity, I’ve noticed that images and ideas are much more abundant even if I’m sleeping.  I’ve also learned to tune out noise, whether it’s environmental or mental noise such as thinking of errands or my to-do list.  Tuning out everything else has helped my creativity, or at least I’m more aware of it now.”

In common with her two previous series, In Our Veins continues to showcase Guidry’s latent talent to create acutely detailed, beautifully realised canvases, that cleverly subvert the initial welcome, or the ‘no need to think further’ security of being within familiar territory, that a benign style may provide, such as the pop art of Beneath the Surface, or classic fashion illustration of New Realm, with surreal flourishes, darker symbolism, details that only jar on closer inspection, or a message that percolates and reaches fruition upon reflection.

But taken as a whole, this juxtaposition is more immediate and more pronounced in the canvases of In Our Veins. As across phenomenally dramatic and beautiful land- and desertscapes, the paintings meld The Searchers’ VistaVision vast panoramas with the unsettling vision of Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. Because these iconic wide open spaces are inhabited by the likes of a human skeleton surmounted with the skull of an horse, an hare atop the ravaged corpse of a man, and traversed by the disembodied heads of animals and birds that have roamed free across the lands. Forget mere high definition, the exceptionality of Guidry’s mix of photorealism and surrealism, creates a fantastic heightened definition that presents a hyperreality that forces one to address and, with hope, redress our reality.

Untitled Heads, from the series of paintings In Our Veins by Amy Guidry  ©Amy Guidry

Untitled Heads, from the series of paintings In Our Veins by Amy Guidry ©Amy Guidry

“I have never been particularly impressed by how Westerns portrayed life as good vs. bad,” says Guidry, elaborating on the themes behind In Our Veins, “in reality, the land, environment, people, and animals were all seen as a means to an end.  I wanted to portray this in my own work by using this ‘character’ that I came up with while half-asleep, the skeleton with the horse skull, as well as the desert, as symbols of cowboys and horses, all typical Western imagery. I called the painting, The Wild West, as a reference to how the United States, itself being part of the West (hemisphere), is still taking over land, resources, etc. to this day.”

In addition to the Dali-esque air to In Our Veins, there is also an element of Magritte, as there is in various paintings from her earlier series, particularly Everything’s Coming Up Roses and Complacent from Beneath the Surface. I am interested as to whether the work of these artists was a conscious inspiration on In Our Veins. “I wouldn’t say that I was consciously thinking of Magritte since I try to tune out everything else when I’m working and let my creativity take over, but I’ll gladly take the compliment!” replies Guidry. “Even with a positive influence such as Magritte, I feel that it may inhibit my ideas and lead me to something more contrived. I will say that Magritte and Dali have been two of my favorite artists since a very young age, so their initial influence occurred long ago.”

Six canvases in, In Our Veins is still ongoing, as Guidry says, “I have a ton of ideas that I’m still working out as I go. I’m letting each painting lead me to the next.  Since I was looking to challenge myself technically, these pieces are also taking much more time to complete due to the detail, complexity, and the fact that I’m now adding glazes to make my paintings more like oils.  I’ll be working on these for awhile…” It is a fascinating and exciting prospect to see where Guidry’s journey into the landscape of dreams and a nation’s collective memory will lead next.

Where Are They Now?
runs from 27th August –  25th September 2010
at the Slidell Cultural Center, first floor City Hall,
2055 Second Street,  Slidell, LA 70458-3403, USA
Telephone: +1 985 646-4375

Open: Tues-Fri, 12pm – 4pm; Sat, 9am – 12pm
Free entry

23rd September Competition exhibition
runs from 27th August to 8th October 2010
at the Alexandria Museum of Art
933 Main Street / P.O. Box 1028, Alexandria, LA 71309-1028, USA
Telephone: +1 318 443-3458

Open: Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday 10am-4pm


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Amy Guidry: www.amyguidry.com
Slidell Cultural Center: www.slidell.la.us
Alexandria Museum of Art: www.themuseum.org
Wally Workman Gallery: www.wallyworkmangallery.com
Louisiana State Museum: lsm.crt.state.la.us
The Congregation Gallery: www.congregationgallery.com

Book Review: Believe in People – The Essential Karel Capek

Selected and translated by Sárka Tobrmanová-Kühnová
With a preface by John Carey

(Faber and Faber) £12.99

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams


‘The greatest belief would be to believe in people,’ is the quote from the Czech writer, Karel Capek, which opens this collection of his journalism and letters which has been selected and translated into English for the first time by Sárka Tobrmanová-Kühnová. The line is taken from his 1922 novel, A Factory to Manufacture the Absolute, his vision of consumer society, which alongside a number of his other works, is seen as an early example of, though the terms had not then been coined, of science fiction and speculative fiction. Which include, probably his best known work internationally, RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots), the play which premiered in 1921 and gave the world the word, ‘robot’, inspired by the Czech word, ‘robota’, which relates to feudal forced labour. Though Capek was keen to point out, as an article from The People’s Paper included in Believe in People states, that it was his brother the artist, writer and poet, Josef Capek, who created the word.

Capek’s belief in people, his avowed humanism, remain undiminished throughout Believe in People, which instil the writings with both a wonderfully inspiring positivity and also an increasing poignancy, as the chronology of each section leads the reader through the all too brief life of the first, liberal democratic republic of Czechoslovakia, from it’s birth in 1918 to the Munich Agreement which sounded its death knell in 1938.

Even in the face of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s radio address infamously labelling Czechoslovakia as “a far-away country” made up of “people of whom we know nothing”, which pre-empted Britain’s signing of the pact with France, Germany, and Italy, in Czechoslovakia’s absence, Capek remained optimistic and as the final piece in the collection, Greetings, demonstrates he continued to believe in, and hold no malice towards the peoples of the signatory nations of the Munich Agreement, and counter to Chamberlains’ words, he found it all too easy bring to mind images of ordinary people in Britain, France, Germany and Italy, going about their day-to-day activities.

“Indeed,” he writes, “one is cross with many, and keeps saying to oneself , what has happened can never be forgotten: how can we possibly communicate with one another in the midst of this unprecedented distance and alienation? And then you think of, say, England, and suddenly you see the little red house in Kent before you. The old gentleman is still trimming the bushes and the girl is pedalling away swiftly and straight. And see you’d like to greet them. How do you do? How do you do? Nice weather, isn’t it? Yes, very fine. So you see, that’s it, and you feel lighter.”

Very sadly, the same day that Greetings was published Capek died from pneumonia, though his friend Dr Karel Steinbach, who was present when died, as Tobrmanová-Kühnová quotes in her introduction, wrote, “As a doctor I know that he died because in those days there were no antibiotics and sulpha drugs, but those who say that Munich killed him also have a great deal of the truth.”

Though had he lived, as a critic of both fascism and communism life would have been very difficult for Capek in the years that followed. Indeed, as Tobrmanová-Kühnová states, when the Nazis arrived in Prague on 15th March 1939, “he was said to be number three on the Gestapo list, and they arrived at his house that same day to find that he had been dead for nearly three months.” His brother, Josef, who had also criticised fascism and Hitler, was arrested, and died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

It would be another fifty years until Czechoslovakia could return to being a liberal democracy through the Velvet Revolution of November 1989, lead by Václav Havel. Karel Capek was a key inspiration on Havel, for whom, as he is to many Czechs, as Tobrmanová-Kühnová writes, “he is not only a master of the word but a moral example.” Believe in People is a wonderfully engaging collection, reflective, funny, inspiring, and philosophical. It provides a fascinating insight to the excitement and joie de vivre inherent in the birth of nation, and the devastation at its loss and betrayal, whilst also bursting with insight and wisdom that is as relevant to peoples of  all countries today as when the words were first written.


Faber and Faber: www.faber.co.uk

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Poetry: Watershed, Jim Carruth’s poem for Arria, Andy Scott’s Cumbernauld sculpture, and a selection of his other poems

by Guy Sangster Adams

The Cumbernauld Sculpture talking shape

The Cumbernauld sculpture taking shape

Watershed is a new poem written by award-winning Scottish poet, Jim Carruth, which is now being inscribed on Arria, Andy Scott’s 10 metre high steel sculpture which is due to be unveiled in late summer 2010, overlooking the A80 northbound, the road which bisects the Scottish New Town of Cumbernauld. The sculpture, which is a female form, features two, large swooping arcs, the inspiration for which came from the original Gaelic name for Cumbernauld, ‘Comar nan Allt’, which translates as ‘coming together of waters’.

The public artwork is at the heart of the Cumbernauld Positive Image Project, created by Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Ltd (CCCL), which is a North Lanarkshire Council company set up to facilitate the redevelopment of Cumbernauld. The aims of the project are to create a distinctive image of Cumbernauld, increase residents’ pride in their town, raise awareness across Scotland of Cumbernauld’s attractiveness as a destination to live, work and play, and create a sense of place and provide a positive statement about the town.

Jim Carruth (left) and Andy Scott (right) with one of the early designs for the Cumbernauld Sculpture

Jim Carruth (left) and Andy Scott (right) with one of the early designs for the Cumbernauld sculpture

Scott’s portfolio of public art covers over 60 commissions both across Scotland and internationally, including the Falkirk Helix Water Kelpies, the Heavy Horse on the M8 motorway, which has become a Glasgow landmark, and The Thanksgiving Square Beacon in Belfast which has become representative of the regeneration of the city as whole. Of his new work, Scott says, “Cumbernauld has had its detractors but we hope this sculpture will go some way to changing the outdated perception of Cumbernauld and prove something of a watershed for the town.”

Carruth was born in 1963 in the West-Central Lowlands of Scotland in the town of Johnstone in Renfrewshire, and grew up on his family’s farm close to the nearby village of Kilbarchan. After spending a number of years in Turkey he has returned to live in Renfrewshire. In 2009 Jim won The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship and the James McCash competition. In June 2010 “Grace Notes 1959″ a poetry sequence commissioned by the Glasgow Jazz Festival was launched. He has three collections of poetry published to date. His first, Bovine Pastoral, published in 2004 was runner up in the Callum MacDonald memorial award. The follow up, High Auchensale, was chosen as one of the Herald books of the year in 2006.

For Carruth it was important that his poem sought to “capture the pride local people have in their town and the importance of listening to their voice”. In taking the ‘meeting of waters’ as his start point, Carruth wanted to, “to give a voice to the statue, the tributaries and the community and create a poem that would talk of the central and national importance of Cumbernauld.” He continues, “I have been disappointed by the negative, unfair focus that Cumbernauld has attracted over the years, as the town has such a lot to offer. I have countered this in my poem by trying to capture the pride local people have for the town and the importance of listening to their voice.”

The Cumbernauld Sculpture taking a dip at Highland Galvanizers

The Cumbernauld sculpture taking a dip at Highland Galvanizers

The poem, which is included below, followed by a further selection of Carruth’s poems, will be inscribed in dynatomic font, reflecting the 1960s influence which Scott has incorporated in the sculpture’s design. Each letter will be cut individually and the poem will wrap round the base of the sculpture encouraging visitors to walk round its base and appreciate different aspects of the public artwork.

WATERSHED (Comar nan Allt)
by Jim Carruth

The first sounds spoken

from the spring’s core

are of a new beginning

of people and place

a poetry that bubbles

and gargles to the surface

to leave this watershed

flow east and west

in a rush of words

that tumble and fall

to join the conversations

of two great rivers

a voice calling out

I belong I belong

adding to the language

of sea and ocean.

A further selection of poems by Jim Carruth


i. workmanlike

Standing behind the shearers
Fleecing their moment for verse

ii. salt licks

Long tongued cattle
lick loose copper

hollow small blocks
to season their days

Should we value salt licks
less than a Henry Moore

or wonder as much
on their practical forms

as at Easter Island’s
weathered heads.

iii. RS

You drew me in
with honest detail
hardships in grim valleys

though I struggled
to free from a priest’s severe verse,
empathy for the peasant.

to balance your cold
distance from man
with a nearness to God.

iv. 300 Spartans

Another field, another stand
remnants close ranks

huddle by a hedge
strong heads bent down

their hunched backs
knuckles of clenched fists

drenched hides, russet shields
against incessant rain.

v. ploughman without honour

Aye that’s as maybe
but he wis nae fairmer

didnae mak the maist
o his faither’s place

sic a waste o
aw thit guid gruin.

He didnae hae the hairt
fir the haird win hairst.

vi. poor harvest

Seeding your verse with epigraph
will never green your barren land.


I shepherd
will not pick up a shield
or swing a sword

but because your roar
drowns the words of this land
I’ll reach out

pluck pebbles
from the throat of the stream
a small flock

each one smooth as birdsong
hard as rams’ horn
a bright clarion call

I pull back and let fly
seed my country’s voice
deep in your forehead

(A village elder’s advice on) THE WHITE CROW

Why do you search
for false auguries of hope?

Nothing followed the triple rainbow,
last winter’s one wild rose

Now this feathered messiah.
Can I speak plainly here:

a white crow is still a crow;
a lifeless sheep is still a corpse;

a bloated corpse is still a meal
for your white crow.

It still rises with its flock
flies with its flock

still falls with the black
on the weak and the dead.


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Cumbernauld Sculpture Facebook Page

Jim Carruth

Andy Scott

North Lanarkshire Council/Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Limited

Book Review: How Did You Get This Number – Sloane Crosley

(Portobello) £12.99

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams

“Imagine what it is to be rejected by the most sophisticated and casually stunning place in the world. A place filled with the highest percentage of women on the planet able to pull off chinchilla wraps with jeans. To not be welcome in the City of Love is tantamount to being rejected by love itself. Why couldn’t I have gotten thrown out of Akron, Ohio? City of Rubber.”

Though the French authorities have never “formally banished” Sloane Crosley, the sequence of adventures and misadventures that have befallen her in their capital city, as she recounts in Le Paris!, one of the nine essays in How Did You Get This Number, including out of loyalty to a Protestant friend, making a confession at the Catholic cathedral of Notre Dame, despite being Jewish and speaking little French, to a French/Japanese speaking priest, have lead her to feel that she “will not be ‘asked back’ anytime soon.”

Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley

Crosley has a magnetic attraction to, come mischievous delight in pursuing, happenstance and circumstance that often leaves her out of step with accepted mores, but in falling out of step she observes and spotlights the absurdities all too common in following the pack and the path of doing something just because that’s what everyone else does. Whilst, with the same wickedly spot on humour and terrific insight, she also navigates and highlights the complexities and perplexities facing a just-turned-thirty New Yorker, both in her home city, following on from her 2008 debut collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, and also, as above in Paris, in an SUV in Alaska with a ‘hen party’ wearing bear bells on their pony tails, and in Lisbon in an open air bar with three amateur Portuguese circus clowns…

Smart, sassy, subversive, with a Noir edge – not least in Crosley’s trip to McGurk’s Suicide Hall whilst searching for a new appartment – How Did You Get This Number is a terrific mix of funny, reflective, and revelatory.


Sloane Crosley: neverrockfila.com/crosley/

Portobello Books: www.portobellobooks.com

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Book Review: Wish You Were Here… England on Sea – Travis Elborough

(Sceptre) £14.99

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams


From the vantage point of last year’s Margate Meltdown, the Ace Café’s annual Spring Bank Holiday charity motorcycle ride-out from North London to the Kent seaside town, Travis Elborough, whilst wryly observing the promenade juxtaposition and proliferation of black leather jackets and Mr Whippy ice cream, also reflects on the contemporary, happy camaraderie and intermingling of the Ace Café Rockers and a group of Mods from the nearby Deal Scooter Club. A far cry, he notes, from the violent clashes between Mods and Rockers in the town over Whitsun 1964, which lead local magistrate, Dr George Simpson to not only hand out punitive £50 fines to all those arrested, but also infamously to decry all those involved as, “petty little saw-dust Caesars.”

A speech which served the headline writers very well in stoking moral outrage of the, young people are uncontrollable, it was never like this in my day, variety. As ever it was, as Elborough reveals, “rowdy teenagers had, in a sense, been menacing Bank Holiday festivities since their inception in the 1870s,” and in following this line of research he has uncovered a wonderful article from the Bournemouth Times in 1938, reporting events from the August Bank Holiday and “frothing at the mouth at the mere arrival of ‘groups of youths, some wearing gaudy paper hats with inscriptions such as, ‘Come Up and See Me Sometime’, parading along the Drive singing the latest dance hits.'”

The seaside allure for youth culture is only one component, Margate but one stop along the route of Elborough’s hugely enjoyable exploration of the full English – be it served up by an eccentric landlady in a B&B, dished up en masse in an holiday camp, or under cling film on a paper plate and entirely fashioned from rock – seaside experience, from Brighton to Blackpool, Skegness to Scarborough, New Brighton to Bexhill-on-Sea, and all the people, architecture, and entertainments that give it such redolence, and which has proved such a successful international export.

Travis Elborough ©David X Green www.davidxgreen.com

Travis Elborough © David X Green www.davidxgreen.com

But his Quadrophenia-tinged chapter does serve to highlight the facets that make Elborough such an engaging cultural companion, mixing astute personal observation with gems that only the most assiduous research uncovers, informed by a breadth of sources all of which he approaches with the same informed passion be they historical document, literary text, pop cultural reference, or beach hut conversation, both his erudition and enjoyment of his subject are always to the fore in Wish You Were Here, as they were in his two previous books, The Bus We Loved: London’s Affair with the Routemaster, and The Long Player Goodbye: The Album from Vinyl to iPod and Back Again.

As with the two latter titles, Wish You Were Here is not an exercise in nostalgia, Elborough is adept at choosing cultural subjects to examine and contextualise at points after periods of decline when they prove that the final words in their histories have not been written, in light of the London mayor’s competition to design a new Routemaster, the resurgence in vinyl record sales, and the renaissance that is gathering pace in even the most rundown English seaside towns, which lead Tatler to dub Hastings the ‘Notting Hill of the South Coast’ three years ago, and which makes Wish You Were Here as much a snapshot of the here and now and a penny in the slot telescope view of where we are heading, as it is a postcard of where we have been.

Read an exclusive article by Travis Elborough, A Postcard From Brighton’s Colonnade Bar, written whilst researching Wish You Were Here,  in the Brighton Focus section of issue 5 of the print edition of Plectrum – The Cultural Pick, which also includes contributions from Biba founder, Barbara Hulanicki,  and Brighton based poet, Abi Curtis. FOR MORE DETAILS


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