Friday, 30 December 2011

"A Toast to the Luddite Martyrs" - Spen Valley Tracing

On the 28th of December I met up with a guy I'd not met before called Richard Holland, who is running the Luddite Bicentenary website and trying to organise commemorative events with various local, radical, literary & academic groups.

It was a great winter's day, which began with a visit to the site where a statue to the Luddites will be erected soon:

Next we walked down to the landmarks associated with one of the gits of the time, Hammond Roberson

Hammond Roberson is buried in the Tory Anglican church he had built with his own money. He was one of the anti-Luddite establishment figures, who interrogated the dying after their attempt on Cartwright's Mill at Rawfolds. It was believed he tortured them rather than let their wounds be treated.

Roberson's church stands out on its hill, as does his house above the poorer housing of the area. It felt symbolic that we walked past a jobcentre to get from one to the other.

Over the railway too, which was not yet built in 1811, and by 2011 has been 'unbuilt' by others who think only of money, and nothing for the social fabric.

Then onto the footsteps of the good guys:

The Shears pub, well-known Luddite haunt. With a great Yorkshire chippy over the road. From there we walked down the hillside to the Spen river where Rawfolds Mill used to stand:

This was our route.

The Mill burnt down a few years after the Luddite attack, but the Millowner's name still adorns the street on the industrial estate where it stood.

Next, to Hartshead church, where the Bronte sisters' dad used to preach (after Roberson), and where Luddites who died from their injuries in the Rawfolds attach were (legend tells us) secretly buried at night, just near the entrance:

In affectionate remembrance of the Luddite Martyrs, whose bodies may well be interred here:

We then drove down to the Three Nuns pub (by Kirklees Nunnery, where Robin Hood is reputed to be buried).

Near there, the Dumb Steeple marked the spot where hundreds of Luddites gathered on the night of 11th April with weapons and determination to attempt their biggest target yet. This was the area where they had already prevented new gear being installed, where the devastating effects of machinisation would be felt most cruelly, and where the biggest target yet to be attempted was to be found. Men came from all over, gathered here, and marched on Rawfolds Mill. We came to salute them!

Finally to Huddersfield, with this the pub that Luddites would drink, and at which Mellor was given his alibi by various people. But the 'justices' did not believe them, and had him killed in York.

We also explored some of the yards where the cloth workers used to work, and the barracks where 1000 soldiers were imposed upon the town. The Luddite movement did not fail : it was outgunned, outnumbered, outresourced, overpowered by the forces of capital and state.

There were no local history books available in Huddersfield to remember its Luddite history, but I found some on my dad's shelves, and that night I was inspired enough to look up the references to the movement in Charlotte Bronte's work:

No General but Ludd means the poor any good.

Friday, 16 December 2011

letters continue to rock!

I have had a rather rubbish December, very lazy with most days a sleep in, and a serious lack of direction. But i declare this mid-December slump over as of today! The snow's landed in Newcastle and the birds have come in off the moor (there's a crow sat in front of me now, perched above a chimney which I bet is blowing nice warm air up its bum feathers).

One thing which I cannot rate enough is the relief I've got from writing picture letters, and from receiving lovely post. It seems that every SINGLE day, I've had some fanzine or letter or bundle of something lovely sent to me. Here's one of the CD listings from Sarah Mixtapes which arrived yesterday:

As I've mentioned in a previous post, for me the use of pictures has let me get far more personal and into my thoughts than I would manage in a words-only letter. It'd be a bit much to pour your heart out to someone as if they're your teenage diary, but if it's arranged around pics, it's externalised in a more removed, comfortable way. And it's let me vent my angst.

So today I feel more alert than I have on other days, and I'm getting busy sending out zines and diaries to people, tidying my desk and getting ready for a more active engagement with the world than I managed in December.

And no matter how little I've 'achieved', I've at least spent time contemplating my days - a luxury that not everyone manages.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Pagan Survey Project

As people who know me may have noticed,
I have a lot of opinions,
not all of which I seek to generalise to the whole population.

Some of these are to do with the earth
and the meaning of existence
and how we're connected to things beyond our self.

Not the kind of opinions you can coerce other people into sharing,
so I will certainly do no ramming down of throats.

But after a mind-refreshing bath
(see previous post about free-ness)
I have an idea of how I'd like to do a zine project about it.

It will be linked to this city and its environs,
it will be structured according to the seasons,
and it will be out by Beltane / Mayday.

I already have a few pieces written,
of some of my thoughts and adventures,
but this post here is to announce:

I am going to dip my toe back
into the old practise of asking other people
what they think, and feel, and do.

So don't be surprised if you get an email from me,
and don't panic that I'm getting all religious on your ass.

Light-hearted and downbeat answers are fine,
and they will be to questions about how you
like to celebrate, or have sometimes done something
at certain times of the year.

That's kinda it
Let's share some things.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Who do you talk to about love?

I'd be interested to know. If you haven't someone, then it becomes a rather taboo subject.

I don't mean necessarily declarations of overwhelming love or the classic image of a girly heart-to-heart drowing in tissues and wine and all that shit. But there is a powerful part of our imaginations, our experiences, emotions and hopes and maybes and what-does-it-means that I'm labelling here as the things of love. Old loves and flirtations and possibles and alternatives and probably nots included. How do you share those personal thoughts or fancies without it going all heavy and weird.

Well I found a solution which I found really satisfying last week - I put it into some illustrated letters (of which the pics here are excerpts).

And it HAS seemed to have worked for me in exercising & exorcising some things, and I hope I don't weird out the people who I wittered on about it to. There's something so satisfying and relieving about putting pen to paper and writing - or in my case slowly doodling with words thrown in - about something on your mind, which you aren't yet sure how to express. By expressing something in-the-moment onto paper, you've removed that anxiety or uncertainty or whatever it was - the itch, maybe. And by being a letter - a thing shared - you avoid this becoming a lonely and an isolating experience. So thanks to the two recipients of my latest involved, self-obsessed and ultimately rather vague and indefinite ramblings. You helped me think some heart things through.

And a letter is a place where, as well as playing with statements and sentences (which itself is I think the main source of relief), you face yourself and your experiences and remember. So I remembered times from a year or so back, remembered how I felt then, and how I felt the morning before, and how I'm feeling now - something you're not always conscious of until you've written about it and you realise if the words and the pace and the definitiveness of what you've written sit well. Often there's a second stream of self-consciousness that follows on that which goes onto paper, and which you don't need to share with the letter-receiver, but you wouldn't encounter if you hadn't written to them. I am the better for that too.

Finally for this blog post, evidence from pete hindle that even short illustrated letters are FUCKING COOL. Like this postcard, which I hope he doesn't mind me transmitting to the web servers of california or wherever blogspot gets its servers hosted from:

Write postcards, people. If you're not sure who to send them to, send them to ME!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Last call for Opinionated Geordie Monsters Number 5!

Deadline for Geordie Monsters reviewing local bands, national bands touring locally, drunks singing in the pub, or the sound of the voices in your head, is December 1st!

Anyone can draw a monster, and everyone gains something from live music, so get out your pencils, give your auntie a felt-tip, and let rip with some opinion of what that band sounded like & how it made you feel. Was it a good-looking audience, did they smell fresh, were you happy to be in their company, or did you feel nauseous and that your soul was draining out through your feet? Tell us, share it, be an opinionated geordie monster!

- Email your review to oldglen at or post to 42 Curtis road, NE4 9BH

I am now tweeting, one-per-week-day, Opinionated Geordie Monster Reviews from the past year (thanks to Andy Waugh for the suggestion). So follow @mrmrduckett if you want to see what you've missed on paper.

And here's an update of the bands so far reviewed by geordie monsters, adding to the list begun here:

Issue 3

That Fucking Tank
Witches' Revenge
Lani Singers
Roma Dance Troupe
The Levellers
The Wonderstuff
No Fit State
Milky Wimpshake
The Gospel According to Jonathan Lee
Silo Portem
Design a Wave
John Maus
The Turing Test
John playing fiddle
Sea of Bees
John Grant
Sarabeth Tucek
Sufjan Stevens
Sleeping Dog
Gordon McIntryre
Withered hand
Nev Clay
The Folk Trail
Motion Tourist
Tomahawks for Targets
Lanterns on the Lake
The Mountain Goats

Issue 4

'Some dude with some toys'
Newcastle Community Green Festival
Ben Howard
The Travelling Band
Ovingham Goose Fair
Winter North Atlantic
Emily Portman
Brass band on the Carlisle-Newcastle train
Sea of Bees
Skylark Song
Jamie Ball, North Terrace acoustic night
Irish Folk Session, Cumberland Arms
Beauty Pageant
Richmond Fontaine
Josef van Wissem
Richard Dawson
Hapsburg Braganza
Blackbeard's Tea Party
Unwelcome Guests
The 255s
Milky Wimpshake
Tide of Iron
Young Liar
Jessica Lamb
Shonen Knife
Pale Man Made
Silver Fox
The Low Anthem
Here Comes Good Sailing
Galtres Festival (Eureka Machines, Littlmores, The Fear. The Summits)
Willy Mason

Monday, 21 November 2011

A rant about freeness : what the Bath does to me part 1.

The Bath:

Last night, having got back from Kielder Water and a weekend in the outdoors, I had a bath and my mind raced. I don't think it's that bathtime gives me NEW thoughts, but it can give me a rocketing new perspective on my old ones. If I could type in the bath then you might've got a 5000 word essay about my thoughts, my self-justifications, my prejudices and why I think I am what I am and why that is right. So maybe it's better that I don't type in the bath, and the sediment I'm left with now is just a fraction of what I've thought - but it's glorious because it gives me two things that I often feel malnourished for: a sparkling clear refreshedness, and confidence/backbone/certainty.
So there are 3 things that, after a good sleep like now, I feel like ranting about on a regular basis. I'm gonna rant about the first one now - free-ness - and the other two on another day, probably after another bath and another good sleep (the topics are 'why I hate artists', and 'howcome I'm so shit with money').

The Thanks:

After my last blog post, which was declaredly in a bad mood, I had a few very supportive and very kind responses, on email and even by phone. This was a happy surprise for a few reasons - our phone and internet have only just been fixed so the sound of the phone ringing is one of them, but also it's a fillip to know people read your thoughts on a blog, that they care enough to respond, and that it's people who you personally have a lot of respect for, and are much better at certain things than you are. But nonetheless, I'm gonna disagree a bit with these friends, and beyond them with 'the way that things are done', and possibly with 'how I'm gonna do things in future'. Because I am actually quite proud of the way that I've been doing things, and I have got stuff out of it that is incomparable, that is life-affirming, that I recommend, and that is probably linked to 'why I hate artists' and 'howcome I am so shit with money'.

I print my zines and things and I give them out for free.

When I was in regular work 2 years ago - regularly and reasonably paid but psychologically wearing and wearying - I worked out that I was paying £200 a month for zines and similar things (including trainfares down to fairs, postage, printing & wotnot). Having moved out of regular work, I found it hard to stop paying out on these things, so I squandered some of the money passed down by my family, to continue printing my doodles and thoughts and giving them away. I now realise I won't manage to repay this money, so the repercussions of my urges have hit home. And when I've mentioned to those near me that I'm now a bit lost and worried about money, they've given me sod-all sympathy and just don't get why I would have squandered that money. This has made me feel like I'm surrounded by less like-minded people than I used to know, and on low days it makes me think 'what have I got to show for my life', 'where is my house, my kids, my career and my cult record label?' And it makes me think, too, more bitterly, that if people really don't get the thing - that they don't share an understanding of the joy and subversive magic that I've been living off - then what makes them different from my mortgage-taxman-nuclear family-apolitical-topgear watching old schoolfriends (who I also love, by the way, but who are wrong)? Why did I branch off from the socially mandated route of life to hang out at punk gigs, sleep out on hillsides and get my teeth chipped by riot police? Are we alternative types just less successful bankers?

The glorious answer No:

To that last fatuous question we all say no together, hurrah! But why? I don't know your reasons, but I know some of mine. I don't sit, going through my productions, my creations and my voluntary efforts, thinking 'what price can i sell these for?' I don't make friends with people because they can further my career. That poison is absent from my motivations, and so I have preserved the ability to smell it in others - avoiding such people makes the air smell cleaner. I volunteer where I will be with other people on an equal basis, an equal relationship: where together we'll work out some kind of interaction and social happening that is begun from an honest, non-profit-driven, not out-for-ourselves basis. I feel human when I am there. Sometimes bored, sometimes unclear (not gonna pretend that we're ubermensch at the star and shadow), but at home. In the home that we evolved animals should be in. A little beginning of the anarchist future. It may dissipate every day, but it's constantly beginning again all around.

I also work for pay, and hang out with people who are busy converting people's good ideas into brands they can sell, and I know that we can also find nourishing relationships in that capitalist world. But deepdown we all know there's shit going on and we are just surviving in an evil structure. When I work for free, when the door is open, or when I approach somebody in a coffeeshop to tell them something that they find funny and a relief, then i am not just surviving, but I am living. And I need these moments to keep me going. I think we need these moments to remind us that we not living in Metropolis or Thatcher's dark dream, that we are not trapped in our class, that money and education have not stratified us into our correct places in this all-controlled world. We live in a green & blue rock powered by the sun, with more going on spontaneously and autonomously than any fucker will ever know, and when we do things freely, and when we connect with each other through these things, then we have shown that there is more to life than what the bosses and the fascist future-planners can control. We make our world.

Model Two

If model one is 'make something to sell', then in zine terms, and in the DIY scene, it involves time paying out (for stalls, ads, promotions) in order to make more money later. It involves you sitting at a stall hoping to sell what's in front of you. It involves a lot of time talking about product, promoting your wares, raising its profile and so on.

Model two is what I prefer to do:

- time paying out to get nothing back in monetary terms, but to open up a possibility of an email or comment or piece of post given voluntarily, out of another's good spirit, at a moment of their choosing, not yours. This possibility adds a magic tingle to my life - an unknown other being may, if they choose, reach out to connect with me at some point in the future. This increased possibility could not be paid for and it is what makes my Newcastle feel so special to me. Unpredictable, effusive, from people I simply do not know, with different backgrounds, soundtracks, home settings and eyes - thank you so much to all those of you who have got back to me over the years. In fact thank you to those who didn't as well (why should you?) - I really appreciate that you saw the zine, and so my life brushed past yours. I wonder what you thought of it, but I don't claim it.

- if I sit at a stall, it is because I want to be there. Not because it a place I might make money out of. I don't see new people as potential customers. I see them as unknown possibilities. We might draw together, we might exchange something, we may if we choose to, pay for something. But we are there because of other reasons than the desire to profit out of each other. Thank god!

- when I talk, even if it is about something I have made or drawn, it is because I am interested in it. My conversation can follow my impulses, which can be influenced by anything they want to be. I do not have to steer it towards 'and that's why this is better than that other person's thing', or 'give me money', or 'do you have connections I can exploit', or 'lie, manipulate, rip-off'.

Newspapers are adverts:

The newspapers make money from murders, from scaring their readers that terrorists are coming, that a new disease is probably right now being spread by immigrants. I think this is a misrepresentation of the world, and so I believe that newspapers are full of lies. They cannot avoid it, because they want to sell copy. They want people to pick up theirs instead of the competitors. They increase their profit by showing more tits, more blood, scaring more people, exaggerating violence and denying all the real richness of life. What horrible fuckers they really are.

Free zines, compiled from my diary or from my superfluous opinion, left out on a pub shelf. Well, they may be shit. They can be boring, irrelevant, hard to read, embarrassing. Such failings are things I can live with and get past. I put effort in to avoid them. But I do not have to if I don't want to. And when I pick up another person's free zine, if it is not primarily to promote a venue or an arts funding stream (yes, crack & narc, that is you lot, value you though i do), then I gain something BEYOND the constraints that we so much have to live through. Thankyou also to all those who have written because they CARE about something (with their own minds - I don't include evangelist promotions, because they are generally made by zombies, sorry).
Write because you have an idea you feel like writing down. Draw because the pen makes an interesting line across the page. Tell people you found something really cool. Don't try and sell it - it's probably not even yours to sell. Play with materials, join others to share stories, go to a gig because jeezus christ it's good to see people produce noises in front of you, in a crowd of other people alive right now today, and if you leave disappointed, do some introspection and share it. Finally, I would say, don't just share it with people sitting at a computer. Share it with the city you live in. Make it so that somebody who goes into the cafe can look up from their goddamn phone and see, inbetween the advert-flyers, some odd thing made by a stranger. Let them be intrigued and let their mind have some blessed relief from the constant determination of words to make them buy. Don't live in the goddamn 'creative industries' but remember who the fuck you are and just ADMIT we're all creative : then share something of that singularity - who you are, where you live, what you see, how you feel about it...

Some refutable opinions of mine:

An economic view is wrong not because there are flaws in the mechanics and the maths. An economic view is wrong because it is not where life begins, and it is not where the meaning of life will be found, and it is not where we learn and grow and give credit to all those poor old slushy dead organisms who put so much effort into evolving into us. Don't live like you're always after the main deal, don't give up because no one understands you.

Make an artefact, leave it somewhere. Post it to your old schoolfriends. Paste it to the postbox. Print it. Put it next to mine somewhere in Newcastle. I'll be honoured to have your company. And both of us will know that we've been a part of something broader than this same old shit.
And even though the day goes past and you (I) have nothing in the bank or necessarily even in our hands to show for it, we know that today we reached out beyond our bedroom and tried to let our imagination touch reality. That story, that image we liked, that memory of the night before - it is SUCH a shame to keep them in. Draw them (won't be perfect), write them (won't sound right), attach them to the city (somebody will rip em down tomorrow). It means living in the present, and even though it doesn't build up a legacy, or accumulate things to claim as your individual private property, it has given to the commons, and it has made this city's cultural(?) life that much richer and more diverse. So I know all the above is pretty easy to ridicule as juvenile self-righteous hyperbole. But I was thinking it anyway. Like I write my diary anyway. And it can be lonely to think and read such things later, and realise no-one ever knew, or ever connected with these things I thought, wrote.

By printing pages of my diary and turning my sketches into free zines, I have gained so much (unquantifiable, unsellable, unmarketable) reward. I would not have encountered this if I had put a pricetag on every thing I print, or drew only what I thought would sell, or rewrote my thoughts to fit in with what the consumer normally likes. So apologies if my voice, ego, idiosyncracies might grate. But when I read yours, I will recognise something of my own existence in them and I shall love you for your honesty. So make free zines.

Inspirations for the rant:

Alex "think that everyone is very respectful but a little bemused by your amazing dedication to giving your work away free!"

Pete on the phone: "you're sowing so much seed but hardly any of it hits the right places to be valued"

Music helping me rant:
Grace Petrie

Poster from my teens, still on my wardrobe door, and still my aspiration:

Earlier this month I wrote a related rant on
'we make zines' about why I make things on paper, not on the web:

"Pritt stick, scissors, pens and laying things out on a table is a far more satisfying way to do it, and it matches how I think - I feel at peace when I work that way. Whereas whatever I do on a computer is clunky and dependent on other machines/gadgets/online timings and ways of working. I can only use digital tools when I know (by the hands-on process, above) what I want. So yes a digital photo with the contrast exagerrated, a print-out of some text from a word document, will then get pritt-sticked on somewhere. Sometimes pictures will get scanned. But no, no publisher, photoshop or other intelligent digital process. A good example is the 'wor diary' i do with 3 dozen other people up here, which the printers (I know) would much prefer to be a digital file so it can talk to their machine in a language it understands and not have to go thru their human eyes and fingers, but instead I send them a wodge of variably sized prittstick-heavy papers. Images at I s'pose even a photocopier is digital really, though...

The web doesn't really exist. Talking to somebody at a computer is not talking to a person. Things picked up in a pub, from a bus seat, at a friend's house are actual real parts of our world. We are not evolved to sit all day staring and tapping with 2% of our muscles and coordination engaged. It's unavoidable, I know, for work and communication and everything now, but breaking out of this little rut that we've collectively chosen to imprison ourselves in is good. The more overbearing computer drudgery is, the more valuable are the things that help us break out of it. Zines help you do that, especially free ones left in public. I think it's like the case with postcards too - postcards have travelled, emails have not. And any fuckers out there who only advertise their events on facebook, they are missing the beauty and contribution and opportunity that hand-making a poster and sticking it up in a public place gives to society. Our images should be on the walls, they should not be reserved for profiteering adverts and psych-manipulation."

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Malta Zine 2 - yikes, could it be my last?

Feel the drama - I'm skint (& in a bad mood today) and doubting whether I should keep pushing my life onto other people with mass printed free zines. So as I write a post-dated cheque for Malta Zine 2 I'm telling myself "DON'T give it away for free, Mike, at least get money back for it." So it's a quid if you want it, and if not it will also be a store to reappear on stalls and suchlike for years to come. But not left on buses or in pubs this time. Not a world-shattering break, you might think, but for me, free is a part of my philosophy of life and it's a resentment-feeling that I'm left with as I think "no, pound each". (Fellow Raptorcampers will of course get them free).

If you want one, come to the Canny Comic Con on Saturday 10th December at Newcastle Central Library. Many great things will await you there (plus it's free and never happened in Newcastle before and will be a lot of fun, h'ra).

But dammit it makes you feel pleasure to give things away. It makes you feel like you're as bad as them scumsucking ad execs if you try and sell what you do...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

5 new zines and plans

1. Super Street was made with year 9 kids and other interesting people at 'A School' on Westgate Road as part of the Wunderbar Festival, on 2nd November. Haz invited me to join their afternoon lesson on making clothes and making a zine about super heroes, so I ended up spending the whole day there and we did some cool collaborative stuff. The collaborative stories in particular - about what adventures the residents of Super Street got up to - were laugh out loud funny. I printed 20 off on the photocopier at work and gave each participant their own copy the next day, hooray!

2. I also printed - after de-prioritising it for other things - my diary comic of my time at the Galtres Festival in North Yorkshire, which I went to just before Malta. I sent copies to people I met there. [picture also to follow]

3. And as I wait for Malta Zine 2 to come back from the printers, and promote Wor Diary round and about, I'm re-kicking-up-the-bum the coffee shops drawing project that I started in Spring. You are invited to join me in one of the coffee shops of Newcastle to drink some coffee and doodle. It's as simple as that, but my hope is that when all these doodles are stuck next to each other in a zine, they'll provide some kind of portrait of this city. I'm working weekends from now, so I should have midweek times to suit you!

4. The Duckett & Hay 3-panel cartoon is now, after a hiccup when we weren't consider student enough, a regular slot in the Courier. But if my writing partner considers his slide into unprintable filth, this may not last the whole academic year - we shall see!

5. After working the Christmas season at Kielder, I may disappear for a bit. I am spending too much time in the city and it's costly. I think a month or so spent mostly out in Tynedale might help me finally get my anarchist pilgrimage written up, and help me work through some unhappinesses : breaking a rhythm can sometimes help us find a new freedom. If the gods will it to be so.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Wor Diary 2012

Is made, hurrah! And launched, this weekend! At the Star and Shadow cinema, both Saturday and Sunday as part of the Wor Story celebration of people's history.

Available for £4 from that event, and afterwards from a few other places, most likely the Star & Shadow Cinema (Byker), Travelling Man Comics Shop (Grainger St), and Active Distribution (London), as well as at local DIY & upward-aiming events (such as the Dance for Peace & Solidarity at the Cluny on 9th December).

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Drawing the Cinema

I organised two events this October to link with the Big Draw. Neither was BRILLIANTLY organised, but nonetheless they had moments of great fun and some cool stuff got drawn, in a collaborative style. Here are some pics from the event in the Star & Shadow on 16th October.