Saturday, 9 November 2013

I went to this gig last night.

I went to this gig last night. 

I've been to a few recently - (Please at the Star & Shadow, Gnod in Shipley, Sambalifax in Boothtown at the memorial to Dan) - and they've been great. Even though recent gigs have often been poorly attended, the live gig culture of Newcastle is one of the most rewarding things about living in this city. It's been a constant source of revival and edification since I first arrived in 'ninety four.

So I went to this gig last night, and it was after a work meal where all the booze was paid for, and I was in good spirits although it'd been a long day (we'd gone out walking near Wooler, and it was a long drive back). These kind of things - mental pressures, tiredness, diet and company - are major factors in what I get out of a gig. Sometimes I get very little, and it's almost always my own fault - I'm too sober, too preoccupied, too fed up or inalert, etc.

This particular gig was at the Head of Steam, which I love, and it was packed and buzzing like I expected it to be. It was pigspigspigspigspigspigspigs supporting the cosmic dead, both decent bands and for a cheap entry price too. I took a friend (who's a colleague) with me after the work meal, so I had ongoing good interaction that meant I didn't get remotely down when I saw a couple of faces in the crowd who I don't have good vibes about. I was on an up, I got a drink, I watched the band, I hallo'd those folk I knew who were stood nearby and it was a good enough set. Not the best experience I've had of seeing pigs play but that's because there's been some amazing shows before, which it would be hard to beat.

But what happened was this, and it's something that I want to get out. I had moments of flashback this morning - the ones that make you groan inside (there's also some blank periods that my housemates have told me about). I didn't actually do anything major, I don't think I've lost a friend or made anyone's life worse. In general I am a very easygoing drunk, and I'm happily not one of those who're filled with frustration and who give off aggressive or destructive vibes the whole time. The first thing that goes is my slurring speech and the second things are usually sleepiness and an over-confiding tongue. And I should say, too, that this little tale from last night doesn't fill me with real shame exactly - well it does, but just a kind of shame that I'm not too ashamed of. A bit of 'hang your head in shame' is an essential part of a healthy life story, I think.

I must've got a bit cocky somehow, inside. Outwardly I was just nodding along and enjoying stuff, but I must've had some belligerence stored up in me, because I was noticing in annoyance when some folk were walking in without paying. And the doorman chap was lovely, and why should I care if some people see the last band for free, and when did it get to be any of my business anyway? One particular guy came in, rolling a bit, and I picked up on someone else's conversation about him, maybe even misheard it, about him being trouble or something. And a bit later I saw him at the front and was he doing anything wrong? I don't remember, I don't think I really saw, it was more a thing internal to me than something pressed on me by events. But I got it in my head that he was being an arse/in the way/pushing people around at the front and I said to a friend 'is that guy being a dick?' to which I got some fairly noncommital 'probably' response. And then I think I kind've stared this guy out and when he tried to get back to the front I think I blocked him with my back and then I essentially pushed him out of the middle bit of the crowd, with my back to him. And don't expect any drama to follow this because there was none. It's the internal sequence of events that I'm trying to place into words. 

I don't normally do that kind of thing - I'm timid and beta and generally full of good will & acceptance. So what makes me start thinking like a gig policeman? Who am I to judge, act aggressively or whatever against some unknown bloke? And what does it say about my sense of who I am?

There's a notorious man on my street, his name begins with G and he's a tosser. Everyone knows he's a tosser. He shows us he's a tosser all the time. He used to be the neighbourhood watch man and when he was in a bad mood he'd give people grief. He threw his weight around, stared you out when you walked past, and when a housemate of mine had a little birthday gathering (no sound system, no trouble), he banged on the door at 10.30pm to tell them off for talking loudly. Then he 'patrolled' the street, staring in at the window and hassling anyone else arriving. What a cock. He's since been chucked off the neighbourhood watch and gone a bit invisible, but he still looms large in my head for being such an obvious, easily-identified dickhead.

And it was like him, that I guess I was acting, thinking, and developing last night. When I came downstairs from the bar and that guy who I'd blocked was leaving, I had a go at the lovely doorman, saying 'he's a wanker, don't let him in' or something. In fact I think I was sufficiently drunk in the mouth that I actually would've said "he's wanker, shouldna leddim trouble nn".
But who did I think I was? 

I am so sorry you lovely doorguy. You were so into the band and you shouldn't have to put up with arseholes like me. I was the one who was drunk and aggro (even though it was mainly in my head), and thank god that it's hardly ever happened before. I did get into a street scrap last year on a drunken wander home, but that was equally safe really. I was telling some lads off for being rude! It's been a good fifteen years since I last got punched, and then it was from behind, by strangers. And I have never in my life thrown a punch.

But even me too - in that little way that my thoughts and emotions and sense-of-self developed last night - I became the kind of man who I wish I never meet. But we do meet them. They can ruin a good crowd, can self-righteous belligerent or bilious cocks. And it had nothing really to do with being a superhero crowd-saving persona, either (although I did stop a fight once when I was drunk, by grabbing two lads by the shoulders and telling them to 'stop being so childish and sort it out, we're trying to hear the act' - many years ago now). It was to do with creating a scenario in my head (possibly underscored by that particular kind of rock-ish music and of course the booze): a scenario in which you've identified a person who deserves your aggro : ie. one of your fellow crowd members is a legitimate target, who has made themselves the bad guy who therefore deserves a 'justice reckoning' storyline landing on their head, like in a marvel comicbook. And you yourself are in the mood to flex your manhood and have em. This is fascist thinking, and is not the way I normally see things. It is bullshit and I was bullshitting to go even some little way along with it. 

That's all. 

[ update after conversation with others :

From pal 1 who was at gig. Good news is the bloke WAS being a tosser and pushing people around drunk, alarming news is apparently I took him by the shoulders and steered him out, as opposed to memory of backing him out. But in general, this pal confirmed it was all okay, not so much to worry about.

From pal 2, who I didn't even see in the gig. Also alarming news, that the said bloke later appeared outside/returning to gig with his face all bloodied, so he'd either been punched or walked into the floor. It wasn't me anyway.]

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Not a poem

Scotrail Newcastle to Bardon Mill

The high bridges, viking gorge, Fig5.
Bright new graffiti on weathered-in concrete.
Poplar trees shimmer, we drift through trees
then curve, a green signal ahead.

All men wear charcoal grey coats, jackets.

Doctors have made sure their practices
end their day in time for the 5 o'clock train
out to rural, pastoral Tynedale.

A gliding cut, sunken leafed tunnel, 
takes us to the caravans, carpark scrub and 
nasty buildings of Metrocentre.

Distinctive steely green of the Glasgow train.
Scotrail plaid, trimmed in metal
pleasantly scratched, which shows its solidity.
A contrast to the nonfunctional sleek plasticness of my workplace.
I prefer these materials.

We set off a metre or two, then stop.
Conductors check + scuffle outside the door.
Aha, a wheelchair user & her man.
The ramp was deployed.
7beep signal. Off.

Buildings of nowhere,
desultory efforts
till a green curtain opens up: then a 
mercury sheen by the staithes :
wide river, uplifting, our constant companion to the right

{I pay my fare: three pounds makes twenty.}

then golf course:
Artificial smooth colour green reflects cut grass,
& trees all the wrong size. No gradation
down to the floor. An outdoor mall.

Wylam, alighting from the train.
Those pastoral english fields to the left, &
suburban fence holding in the cars parked, for their drivers to collect, now.

"There's two seats" says son to mother, & after
discussion they move, clutching metrocentre bags.

That young woman fills their seats with her things, now they've gone.

A vague stale human smell, & metallic or burnt pastry undertones.

Beautiful Bywell bridge, a delight sliding toward you.

Then the same leafy tunnels of a cutting,
people rise, sway left into the aisle, look round & to the corridors' end,
swing upright on one end, the other holding coats, & they gather. Prudhoe.

Curiously mispronounced prood hoe, on the tannoy,
the next stop is Hexham.
'The badger', so fittingly humble, not even visible today.

Mist sticks to the windows like gloopy corn syrup,
& the river's now dark in its browntree reflection.

A sudden vast cropfield, specked with gulls, new green layered on brown.
Then sheep appear up on our left, & the train gains pace.
The pond, the flight of jackdaws, a view of orangebibbed figures jogging together on the rugby field.

The reassuring movement of our names across that little black strip of screen:
Hexham, Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, Haltwhistle, Brampton, Wetheral, Carlisle
and onwards to Stewarton, Barrhead and Glasgow.

Indoors, electrically lit, now standing out from the dimming world outside.
Our own reflections bouncing back from the windows
and no view of the river, or of anything light.

Gradual slopes, undramatic, rolling up to trees on the left. Telegraph poles.

My neighbour glances through the slides of a powerpoint (or similar) on cars. 
A man who must have money. Not one of mine.

The world stops in dark whiteness at the middle distance.

I look forward to the coal fire.

White headphones, a wart on ear.
The distinctive, characterful crease on shiny leather that is held in a suited man's shoe.

The chimney: sight of this valley.
Everyone knows where they are when they see the chimney, and the exits start to fill up with bodies.
Men who are in full time work, & ending the week. Relaxed & tired, with kids at home & wives.

Hexham's slender white arches, a superficial flimsy-seeming glassroof, awnings, pleasing footbridge.

There's a circus all folded up in the field.
Only a very brief stop.

Sodium lights on factory sheds.
Those houses on the floodable green & then no,
trees are black now.

Faces illuminated by blue screenlight, or slightly sweating
with the reluctance of an english person to take off their layers.

Glint of wedding ring on creasy fingered hand.
Mid-aged couple, passive & possibly/probably content,
they face each other as their eyes follow the views.

'Any tickets from Brampton?' he repeats,
saying the wrong placename. 
Everyone knows what he means.

Some of us read, a couple of us write, one types.
You close the laptop & place the shopping bag on top.

Silhouettes pass, they look like hornby model landscapes.

The line of top windows is steamed up.
None of us will open them: stuffy air is ok.

My thoughts move to coffee when I get in.

And opening crisps works like yawning: 
it spreads from one to another.
Never for me the discipline of holding onto your pack this long
- I'd have had it by Prudhoe.

Drop in tone & heaviness when 
'we are now approaching Haydon Bridge' shifts to 
'Take care when alighting'.

The greenhouses, productive & calm, in their flat (ancient) field.
Firemen's tower & the halfpipe shelter.

No real glimpse of the town or its bridges.
Just the council housing, then you leave.

Home stretch now.
My alertness startles when 'Bardon Mill' is announced early.

Still some light grey in the sky,
but as if behind a filter 
: our carriage lights glare,
& this well-lit page shrinks my pupils.

Darkness (trees).
The smell of cheese + onion flavour.
Back in my mind a remembered anxiety not to miss the stop.

So I rise, before the bends & the crossings of the river,
to put on my coat
& my bag and be ready.

"We are approaching" spoken loud,
with the soft low horn pillowing behind it.

Into Bardon Mill, with rain, & coalsmoke, & the last singing birds in the hedges.

Hi, here's not a poem, but a rushed write-down of words as I travelled on my regular Newcastle - Bardon Mill route. 
I have a one-line-per-station poem in mind, but this was the faster train that didn't stop anywhere, so I just wrote down everything I noticed, according to my state of mind at the time. I intend to do more exercises like this, to test the limits that I'm currently sticking within (ie. which words I use repeatedly, which things I always record first, even which rhythms etc..)

I have another poetry exercise I'm going to attempt over the next few weeks also, as I have mentioned to some people, but this is not it!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Full list of bands reviewed in the Opinionated Geordie Monsters Review the Local Band Scene Fanzine

Issue 1  (Oct - Dec 2010)

Diane Cluck
Tom James Scott/Richard Dawson/Hapsburg Braganza
Let's Buy Happiness
Paul Metzger x 2/Hapsburg Braganza/Phil Tyler
Tim & other people
Dieter Moebius
Daniel vs the World/ONSIND/Casual Terrorist
No Fit State/Chronicity/NWKS/ONSIND
Casiotone for the Painfully Alonex 2/Withered Hand x 2/John Egdell
Els Pets
Arockalypse Now
No Fit State/Cowtown/Milky Wimpshake
Titus Andronicus

Issue 2  (Dec 2010 - Feb 2011)

Maybe Myrtle Turtle
Spokes/Vinyle Jacket/Holy Mammoth/Young Liar/Withered Hand/O'Messy Life
John Egdell/Richard Dawson/Jimmy Parkins/Marc Oliver
Hugh Sillitoe
Child Abuse/Divorce/Tide of Iron/Khunnt
Smoke Fairies/Johnny Kearney & Lucy Farrell/Sea of Bees
The Wilders/Kentucky Cowtippers
Peter Stampfel & Jeffrey Lewis
Ben McVinnie
Steve Wynne, Danny Wilson & Martin Stephenson
The Go! Team
Everything Everything/Magnetic Man/Crystal Castles
The Hold Steady/Wintersleep
British Sea Power
Grandfather Birds/Lake Poets/Prison Library
Bonestorm/Tide of Iron/GWC/Rip it Up
Billy Brewster
Sea of Bees x 2
Unknown Musicians
That Happy Busker on Northumberland Street
Little Comets
Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Morris Ford & the Sorry Kisses
Daniel vs the World
Ben Watson/Honest Thief/Is Shepherd
Mogwai/The Twilight Sad

Issue 3  (March - May 2011)

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  (June - Aug 2011)

'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, Littlemores, The Fear. The Summits)
Willy Mason

Issue 5

There is no trace of issue 5.

Issue 6  (Dec 2011 - Feb 2012)

Louis Barabbas & the Bedlam Six/Bridie Jackson/Rob Heron
Bong]Haar/Old Corpse Road/cnoc an tursa
Allo Darlin
Nately's Whore's Kid Sister
Backyard Riddim Orchestra/Side Cafe Orchestra/Geezer/Newcastle Kingsmen
We are knuckledragger/Young Property Developers/Dead like Wolves
Explosions in the Sky
King Creosote & John Hopkins
Malcolm Middleton
Mat from Dugong/Slow Science/Matadors/Coal Train/Saturdays Kids/Homebrew/The Amistad/Caves
Go West
George Welch
Weird Shapes
Allo Darlin/Milky Wimpshake/Rexine
Matt Stalker
Bridie Jackson
Smashing Pumpkins
Ludo Mich
Let's Buy Happiness/Fantasy Rainbow/Crooked Hands

Issue 7  (March - May 2012)

Let's Buy Happiness/Fantasy Rainbow
Crooked Hands
Sexual Objects/Milky Wimpshake/Beauty Pageant
ONSIND/Eric Ayotte/The Amistad
The Staves
Gem Andrews/Martha/Ladies of Midnight Blue/No Fit State
Attila Csihar
Blood Red Shoes/The Cast of Cheers
Two Wings/Doug Tielli
Willy Mason
Tonstartsbandht/Lobster Priest
Shit and Shine
Russel T.Jonas/Moon/Shit & Shine
Trio VD/Black Moth/Gum Take Tooth
Ithaca Trio/Richard Dawson/Petals

Issue 8  [mislabelled 7]  (June - Sept 2012)

Aztek Bangles/Jesters of the End Times/Backyard Riddim Orchestra
Willowman Festival (zubzub/Utah Saints/Bluebuds/Buffalo skinners
Bilge Pump/Unit Ama/No Fit State/Beauty Pageant
Sea Lions/Golden Grrrls
Night of Tyneside dialect song
Gabriel Minnikin/Gem Andrews/John Egdell/Andy Neil
Stagger Lee & Nev Clay (Summertyne Americana)
Honeybop Trio
Waskerley Way/Rexine
Queer'd Science
The Cumberland Reel (Peruvian panpipes, the wind, Iceni)
Lush Acoustic (David Ainsworth/Willie Reed/Phil Ogg)
Redefest (Honeyfungus)
King Bee
The Evans Brothers(& others at SIRF)
Beacons Festival (Tibetan Youth/Stuart McCallum/Patrick Wolf/Fawn Eyes/Wild Beasts/Jacuzzi Boys)
The Blitz Sisters
Divorce/Nately's Whore's Kid Sister/Tide of Iron
The Casual Terrorist/Rexine/Milky Wimpshake/Silver Fox/No Fit State
Richard Dawson
Meg Baird
The Cult/The Mission
Wilt Wagner/The Fenestration/Stuart Moxham

Issue 9  (Oct - Dec 2012)

Tusk Festival (Sylvester Anfang/Pelt/Cian Nugent/Hild Sofie Tafjord/Meitheral/The Unit Ama
Goat/Pigspigspigspigspigspigspigs/Beauty Pageant (x 2)
Euros Childs
Nev Clay/St.James Infirmary
Josephine Foster
Viking Moses
The Dauntless Elite
That Fucking Tank
Spokes/Richard Dawson/Grandfather Birds/Blank Maps
Transylvanian Sex Pest/Tide of Iron/Jackal-headed Guard of the Dead
Noize Choir
Our Imaginary Friends
The Cornshed Sisters
Out of the Trees (Paul Fletcher/Nat Johnson/Agesrskow/Rexine/Grandfather Birds/Lake Poets/Natasha Haws/Sooty Tern)
Unnamed, unpaid folk musicians

Issue 10  (Feb - July 2013)

Northumberland st. buskers
Cinemusique : Girl Sweat/By Toutatis/Year of Birds
Cath & Phil Tyler
Nately's Whore's Kid Sister/Jazzfinger
Viv Albertine/Rachel Lancaster/Wilt Wagner
Louis Barabbas & the Bedlam Six
Basic House/The Cankles
AOS3/Firepit Collective/Backyard Rhythm Orchestra
Casual Sex
The Ordsall Acapella Choir
Holy Moly & the Crackers
Howie Reeve/Cian Nugent & the Cosmos
Evolution Emerging - Lionhall/Big Beat Bronson/Faith Elliott/Nadine shah
Threadfest - The Family Elan/Luke Hirst/Soulmates Never Die
Upload - Uberloon/George Welch/Ladies of the Midnight Blue/Chloe Abbot & Kazza M/The Rock Garden/Jazzy B/Eddy Elvis
Holy Moly & the Crackers
Richard Dawson/Ichi/Rachael Dadd/David Thomas Broughton
Nev Clay
Narcfest - This Little Bird/Agesrskow/Hannah D'Arcy/Retriever/Witch Hands
Northumberland st. busker
The Wharves
Richard Dawson/The Unit Ama
Let's Buy Happiness/Nev Clay/Skylark Song

And that is all.
If you find a copy of issue 5, please share it!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Yourself, Ourselves?

If you have thoughts but don't write them down or record them in some way, have they really taken place? 

I have gone through quite a few things this summer, which are partially recorded in certain places, although under other names. The thoughts, critique, poetic journeyings and potential avenues of further thought that emerge alongside with our experiences, however, these have not been recorded : I've flitted off and left them. They were not written down, were not worked upon, were not fully lived within and fleshed out and tested to turn into something. There were of course conversations, some photos and videos taken, and I posted bon mots and links online. And I did scribble down one or two fragments, which I will stick into my scrapbook, so I will have a small trace of personal documentation too.

But if you don't turn a diary entry into a zine, a thought into a letter, then it is not shared, and remains only in your private world : it is not an encounter with people and it is not a way of testing who you are or weighing up an avenue of thought that intrigues you. It is less. And when I turned to zines a few years ago it was for a very determined reason, in fact two. 

(One) was to stop losing my thoughts in just this way: to stop them drifting from memory, to test them and to have a good look at them. The fleeting 'maybes' that pass through your head and disappear, particularly when you are faced with an emotional or dramatic experience, do not fully grow unless they are given a certain amount of attention, and work. You never know if you're full of shit until you put your ideas down and see them run. I've learnt a lot about my current limitations by pushing up against them, and I hope I've grown through doing this. After all, if we just sit back having wise and ironic thoughts then we feel psychologically superior to everyone else - and yet we are nothing because we don't open our goddamn mouths, don't dare to stutter in front of listening ears, and actually try to 'construct'. Telly watching is a highly achievable skill. Making programmes is a bit harder. 

So my zines, which arise from diaries and travel or from my doodles and research about things that I feel part of, encounter and find interesting : they have been in some ways an attempt to launch out there with my otherwise idle inklings. And they have been deeply satisfying and I hope they've given some strangers something, purely through the effort of sharing them (sharing is not effortless). They have also shown me what I was thinking, and will stay with me to show me who I was, where and with whom and what that meant at the time.

(Two) the second reason for my zines was to escape from isolation. Isolation is different than the calming freedom of solitude: it is disempowering, destructive, mind-rotting and shit. There are a thousand myriad ways to escape it, we all manage to do so on a daily basis, and some of you out there are really wonderful in the sociable, sharing, collective and high-five moment-making ways you do this. I am more introvert than extrovert, so actually I find the mainstream kind of physical sociality a rather limited and sometimes hard way to express myself freely and bond with others. I need it and love it, of course, but the idea of, say, going to a dinner party in order to meet people, is horrific. I would love to eat with people I know, or with people I have just done something worthwhile with, but just for the sake of making up conversation? Nope. Not me. Hence zines. 

The kind of person who bends their head and focuses on cutting, writing, drawing, messing about on a piece of paper: this is the kind of person who feels free when they can express themselves alone (mind via hand to paper). But then there is the urge to share, and it is just as strong - if not stronger - than for those whose first urge is to talk and buzz off the things around them. You have a moment to yourself, test a thought or idea or just doodle, and then you want to show someone, or you want to see what they have done, or you want a rest from it and immerse yourself in company. 

By doing zines, on a pretty regular basis for the last 5 years, I found a pretty comfortable niche in which, when time was available and felt right, I could sit and achieve this. It was obviously only a tiny part of my life and interactions. Not everything gets documented or turned into a 'project'. But it was a very crucial and life-affirming part of my life. In some ways, I think it took the space that I used to have more filled with an activist intent at opposing shit and realising my ideals - that way of acting involves thought, reflection and creative expression too. An attempt to turn ideas / ideals into something real on planet earth. I did a Phd then and had ample scope for reflection about that (although academic styles of thought are not the most insightful, and actually can get terminally in the way of deep understandings - or at least I felt by the end of my rather disappointing time on a thesis). Although this is really just an aside, my conclusion then and my belief still now is that those who stand up and try to act are the ones who really have to think on their feet : their beliefs and the way they frame, relate, formulate and adapt them are the place where you find the most vital parts of human thought.

Now, I have taken a step away from some things, and zines may have been one of them (I'm as yet undecided). I have, however, really enjoyed joining in with some collaborative zine making and similar events: they stand out as highlights of my British summer and while one of them is beautifully documented here by Matt from Loosely Bound, one or two are as yet waiting for me to get my arse in gear. I rode on other people's effort, my own energy and ability to concentrate being sapped. It was great, I want to do more, but I can't claim it as my own.

My own efforts are around me now in this bedroom where I store my books and memories. With news now of the death of a friend, someone who seemed so solid and inspiring and sure, I am going through old albums to find (not finding) photos of her. I am unsure how to process the emotions. I want to fight her enemies, to hide, to take up a lust for life and to achieve more. I want to not process the emotions but to let them go, to leave them alone. Realising those others who I miss, and with whom I have not kept up the right contact, I have written to some to hope to reach them. Things around me and things that I do take on a different shade of meaning. I crave meaningful contact with my friends the more, but feel I might be less able to be fun company. And I feel guilty at any attempt to condense or summarise these feelings, by for example writing them into this blog here, because writing can cheapen things and dismiss them. I know this because it is the other side of the coin for when I write a diary entry, or make a zine about something : sure it captures a bit of the memory - it is better, normally, than letting the moments pass unaccounted. But it also lets me move on, with a satisfying 'there, it's recorded, I've turned it into a paragraph or a three panel comic and that will be its little legacy'. So the satisfaction it gives me can actually be a displacement of the emotional ambiguity that relates to the original episode. I don't want to do that here. I want to do something else, and I'm not sure what just yet and I doubt this blog will be the place to tell you what it turns out to be.

There is one element of all this that I do want to write down. Old photos are profoundly effective at making you sad and emotional. My old girlfriend, who I still love and who is no longer a real part of my life, features in focus in almost every social scene from the last ten years. The other photos: friends of course but also lots alone. Views, walks, escapes to the beach with no-one but my camping stove and the wild birds. It is a lonely life that I have been living. It is almost entirely due to other people that I have been roped into social, rewarding experiences. By my own choice alone, I would be here in my room with my papers and scissors, out in the country with a tent or a typewriter or something, or travelling alone across wild countryside. 

And I look at the title of my blog, which at its inception was meant to be such a right, life-affirming thing. The DIY ethic. And the title is 'zine it yourself'. Yourself, alone. Isolated. I do not want this right now. I want to zine it with you, do it together, and spare more time from now being 'ourselves', not separate. Zine it Ourselves?

Do me a favour, and make sure I see this through.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Geordie Monsters Say Goodbye!

There's Geordie Monsters on the walls, there's Geordie Monsters printed and bound, there's Geordie Monsters on original paper, envelopes, newspaper pages in pen, sharpies, biro and pencil.

I'm done with Geordie Monsters - the open fanzine about local bands - and to say goodbye I've stuck em up in an exhibition at the Star & Shadow, just in time for its closing time in August, hah!

Except the Star & Shadow isn't quite closed for August - there's something or other on each week so if you walk through the doors (for storytelling on Friday, a party or a vintage fair later in the month), have a look in the lobby area and as you play table football or pingpong, scan the drawings of monsters.

They're up until they're in the way, and then they're gone. But it's been good to stick em all up in one place and see them again. A few folk have also had the heart to say very nice things about them. Even a bit of nostalgia & a perhaps ill-judged whiff of regret.

The crayon and paint monsters were made by Hotspur schoolchildren, myself, and some original inspiration left by Turps Zine. For the offcuts and mistakes wallpaper-pasted onto one wall I used the same bucket to re-cover a bit of the boys' toilets too.

If you're out & about in town, look for the final issue of Geordie Monsters in the Head of Steam, Star & Shadow, Cluny, Details, Cumberland, Tanners, Small Change, random pubs, who knows where the stack of 250'll get left.


Sunday, 30 June 2013

Last day of June, last day of Absence

i n t r o

Over the last month I have neglected zines, the blog, and other forms of public encounter. I didn't realise it at the time, but this was a sensible choice as my life had become hectic and my mind consequently frayed. Now on the last day of June I find myself in a quite serene place again, so I can make time to share my thoughts and words and pictures. This is good timing, in that serendipitous sense that always gives me a feeling of joy & connection to the world. Because July is Zine Month (allegedly) with a different zine-like activity to do each day. The allegation and prompts to activity both come from 'Spill the Zines' and are put like this :

So July should feature blog updates from me in line with those prompts, and in line also with my desire to re-engage with things in Newcastle before I take some considerable time away in August & September.

Before June is gone, however, I wish to record a few things I HAVE noticed, have taken part in & have appreciated.

a p r i l

April was all about the travels and the birds again, as migration season returned & I did my usual volunteer shift on Malta. And the late Spring this year (everything 3 weeks delayed, from spawning to nesting to returning from warm climes) allowed me to actually see the British Spring, for the first time in a few years.

I loved it! -I took photos of flowers as they appeared and looked them up in my id book; I listened to the dawn chorus & got closer up to little mammals than ever before. The world is glorious, you know, and it scrapes its antlers off on bouncy birch stands (I've seen them), it has furry brown fur and shiny eyes, and if we stop fucking massacring it, it will constantly return each Spring.

m a y

May included a wonderfully drunken holiday in Manchester, and also some 'After Dark' Zine-making at Gateshead Library as part of the Late Shows. This was a very quiet event, perhaps due to rotten weather, but it was great fun to play with a photocopier, to learn verbatim some youtube rhymes about Harry Potter from 'the youth', and to be with some familiar faces in an unfamiliar (grand & friendly) setting.

My attraction to calm, reassuring and professional library staff continues unabated. I still believe Libraries to be the temples of thought in our culture, and the fact our current so-called government is intent on attacking & demolishing them is merely one sign of its vicious ignorance. (I find that some creatures are so contemptible we need to pretend they don't exist to regain our respect for human society. Luckily, none of them were present).

My participants made about a dozen zines of a dozen pages each. Lovely old Pete contributed a watercolour of the view outside the staffroom window; an unfocussed lad created beauty by repeatedly stamping my rubber stamp; and I had great fun moving library books along the photocopier to create multiple wobbly copies of faces repeating. I am thankful to those friendly contacts who occasionally fetch me out of my inward swamp and get me out onto these public platforms. They are not part of my main trajectory, but they're valuable moments when I get to stick my neck up above the dirty water and see what the rest of this living city looks like.

I turned up to that event fresh off a megabus from Bradford. Bradford is better than Newcastle at the moment - not financially or careeristically or anything like that (the kinds of things that 'matter' to mainstream society) - but in a DIY creative hunkering down and making cool shit happen. I have found there such welcoming spaces, such fresh optimism and faith in zine culture, such obvious little ideas made to happen that for some reason do not in Newcastle.


Perhaps it is because Bradford has had such a hard recent history, every cultural landmark under threat, every commercial edifice abandoned or demolished. There are so many gaps created in the skyline of the city that the remaining streets are starting to look like an archipelago in a gathering white space of sky.

This in fact is how I see the city centre now, and its occupation by DIY initiatives (photography, weaving, exhibitions, 'made in Bradford' handmade selling etc..) : as a beautiful wet grey archipelago, all sculpted with ancient carvings of forgotten industrial gods, dragons and motifs of the moneyed woollen class that built them up.


Now there are clusters of village-ports and the daytrippers arrive at the Interchange or Foster Square docks, sail through these blocks of stone, perhaps to bathe at the fountains for the day and then disappear home at night. Grand coffeeroom balconies at Waterstones (once the Wool Exchange) or Costa feel like the decks of galleons - all they miss are the rigging and the sound of shanties from below. 

But still, despite the demolitions and despite the constantly false promises of commerce and city-wide grand-plans-that-never-happen, there is also more of a nightlife there than in recent years. Pubs seem to be opening, and their little yards are full of drinkers' chatter. The Shoulder of Mutton has not changed, nor the Exchange or the 1in12. And while the Sparrow and other little occupations of the fabric of the old town are still a little dubious in my view, the kind of music and poetic print culture that their inhabitants are producing is wonderful. And better than what Newcastle produces.

The New Beehive is all polished glass and brass and I saw my favourite live performance of the last year in there - and it was free, of course, as were amazing music acts in a half dozen other venues that weekend. Meanwhile that same weekend all that Newcastle (sorry, NewcastleGateshead) could produce was one evening of free (good) music in the Ouseburn, the tokenistic Evolution 'Emerging' evening before the desolate shame of our Evolution Festival. Does anyone remember any more when there was a free music festival every year on Tyneside, before Orange sponsored it and stole it and then turned it round and made us pay to go to it? Is there anywhere less fitting to see a decent band than at their fuckingly horrendous massified dead-atmosphere quayside arena? Or anywhere that shows such disrespect to the human culture (the crowd, the fellow-bands, the followers and the neighbourhood) of that music culture?

Honestly, you need no political education to learn to hate the Corporate effect on the world. All you need is a sensitivity to what makes a gig special and makes you keep going back and yearning for and feeling a part of gig culture. And then you smell the bleach as distant money comes in and trumps your commitment, takes it away, cherry picks the boys n babes of the day and sticks them in a Rod Stewart jacket or whatever the fuck they do to make it all fake and empty.

It makes me angry and I feel no shame in expressing that. And this year Bradford's Threadfest (and its Bradford Baked Zines shop and its alt theatre happenings and its free jazz noodlings and its open art meetings and Jean and Simon and Andy and Howdo?) trumped Newcastle easily. Perhaps those who have moved up here to follow the arts funding stream and pursue that career channel are the poison that kills our creative enterprises? What is it that causes so much ego and possessiveness and branding and fakeness in Newcastle's scene?

j u n e

I've ranted for so long about May that June shall be short : the peak was an amazing week away in Wester Ross - I saw otters, dolphins, eagles, divers, mergansers, ducks and migrating birds and it does not belong to this blog. Work was also marvellous, albeit tainted like the rest of life by some individuals being big old disappointments, projecting their failings too strongly onto the others (always their betters, kinder, more caring, less well-earning).

I failed to attend two great events that I wished to - 'Art, Politics and the Pamphleteer' in Manchester, and 'The Politics of DIY and Self-Organised Culture' in Bradford. I missed out on smaller things too and the sense that I was failing to honour my commitments to projects that others cared about made me hunker down and fulfil those things. Now I can write most of them off. But I do regret that my hope to re-engage with the political and academic understanding of our world remains unfulfilled (I'd also intended to go the 'People's Assembly' leftyfest in London, to critically respond to its speechifyers and platform-builders). The EDL march was also, of course, for so many of us a dismal low-point in the history of Newcastle. Too many things were wrong about it to summarise here, but the grotty act of political policing recorded here should not be forgotten. Though I still have inklings for that side of thought and action, for now I think I've moved on.

Also in June there was the Green Festival. We take it for granted, that it is put on despite the council and the police and all that government infrastructure (never due to it). Those who organise it (I once was one, but haven't the muscle for it these days) have kept it happening despite all that shit. They put their lives through the hoops, waste their time filling in those forms, placating those faceless well-paid bodies, and they wriggle around to alleviate the fears of the modern day - and then they often have to put up with the self-centred disrespect of folk like me who attend. So well done, and thankyou, it was excellent.

The sun shone and by quite simply contributing a bucket of chalk and letting people play, I allowed the people around me create, play, and turn that swathe of tarmac into a temporary imprint of collective energy. Hippy dippy? You bet!
(I took my photo with some of my favourites here).
Hippies often are the ones who make the little things of beauty happen, and we could do with more of them and a gallon-load less of the snobs and hipsters and brandmakers that drift around our world, looking for bits to diss and bits to steal.

f i n a l l y

In this blog post I hope my ire, never short of supply, has not come over as overwhelming. I am as much in love with the world as ever, but the city has disappointed this Spring, when I found my nutrition and the vigour of life elsewhere. So to the survivors who live free of domesticity, I salute you as always. But most of all right now, a hug is owed to those who stay committed to our community and make it better. I am one of your dependents and your neighbour and I thank you.

And remember - July is Zine Month.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

In Defence of Good Ideas : Drink & Draw

A good and supportive friend told me last night (this morning) that I should write down a rant that I delivered (briefly and with precision) as we waited for a taxi. 

I at first thought 'Surely everyone knows this stuff already? And I'm hardly in the first circle - I'm just an eavesdropper and an interested fanboy. The people who were in at the beginning must have already vented their disappointments, and pointed out the true facts, surely?'

But maybe not. People can be too polite to say. And the point was made to me that, increasingly, people just accept every change that happens without criticism & without memory: without choosing to care that something's shifted.

Me, I think it is SHOCKING when good ideas - good, creative, DIY ideas - get rebranded, get claimed and marketed, get the goodness of the idea taken out and get turned into a brand-echo. When the brand is then recirculated aggressively, widely, successfully, it covers up the original good idea. So that people like me who liked the good idea ( & who sometimes originate the good idea), get turned into outsiders who are just critical of reality. So if we want to join in we have to forget our criticisms? How wrong is that?

Sometimes I hate being a radical, being a moaner and a stubborn idealist. I just wanna ride the stream like the rest: join in with some nice creative endeavours, meet some good people to share some time with, experience some music and some moments of magic.

But then if you're 'serious' about being part of a scene, or if you really do love an artform and take it to your heart ... 

If you join an event and talk to people about doing something similar again, then you become the kind of person who can make a good idea happen. And if there are repetitive cycles of cynicism or of mercantile thieving-and-destroying out there, as I believe, then I think those who care about those good ideas need to start putting up a bit of defence. 

So, Drink And Draw.

I am going to write this first, and THEN check on the internet. It will be a nice experiment to test my memory against the recorded facts. But it can also be disempowering to be constantly in thrall to the 'right answer' already being out there on the internet. It stops us having a conversation, of putting our thoughts into words, and of modulating them. So apologies if this IS inaccurate, but here it is nonetheless:

Drink and Draw is a good idea. It is a get-together of people who like drawing comics, and it began in a particular US city at a particular US time. The aim was to create something sociable and inclusive, open and friendly. There were no profit motives and no one was using it as a move up the career ladder (the way that arts graduates in Newcastle are now encouraged to do). It was advertised, all welcome (so long as you were old enough to drink alcohol). The venue was a public space, easy to find, and you paid a small entry fee. The entry fee went on buying a crate or two of beer. And once you had entered, you could help yourself to that beer. No extra costs, no exclusivity, nothing more complicated than getting some fellow drawers and comics fans into a convivial space together. And then some creative stuff happened, according to the interests of those who went. It might have been hosted by a comic shop, or some such hub that the likely people knew.

Fast forward to Newcastle the last couple of years, and the Drink and Draw idea has become an international phrase, much beloved of comics fans and similar folk who like the idea of sharing their art, drawing with friends, and being part of that sort of community of interest. And who like a beer.

The venues: Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle Arts Centre, similar. 

The promoters: not sure, nice people most likely, but in a deal with the venue and maybe also with an 'arts organisation'. 

The door fee:   where does it go? 

The crates of beer:   not present. 

The bar:   charging money. 

The comics artists and drawing people:   only those with spare cash to waste on an entry fee and a charging bar, who don't feel upset or exploited by such a parasitical event drawing on their enthusiasm and their desire to share that convivial creativity together. Punters.

What was a good idea was a DIY, an open, a community-led, a sensible, no strings thing. Something that made sense on its own terms to bring people together and strengthen the community of interest that drew them together. It was given a name to describe it, and thus it spread.

What is now a marketable branding rip-off is deeply depressing in its mundanity. Sometimes it seems like every advertised event is another rip-off: another misuse of words, ideas and interests that we (the community) want to identify with. So we give it a punt and allow a little more exploitation for the sake of being with our fellows (this could be for music, for fanzines, for the environment, for anything, it's certainly not just comics). And maybe we have a good time. But it's a disappointing world, isn't it, that has turned every good idea into another situation like that?

We leave knowing we were there cos we were the punters with some cash in our pockets. And where was that community? I hope it was there somewhere. I always hope it rises above. But it was under attack and it shouldn't be.

Alright, rant done, I'll check the internet later today and add any facts to the comments. See you in a bit.