‘Two jugs Biro’ and the recession-busting Hirst skull

Saturday 23rd saw Scribal Gathering put on a 3.5hr long literature special at the Nottingham Contemporary as part of the weekend-long Hockley Hustle celebrations. It was also the opening of the British Art Show, so we explored the relationship between art and literature in as many of the themed panels as we could. This included an Alt Fiction panel, organised by that most consummate of professionals, Alex Davis. He was joined by Damien Walter, Darius Hinks and Neil Roberts, aka SkinnyElbows, the cover artist on the New York Times best-selling Horus Heresy series. The panel discussed a variety of issues relating to this most visual of literary forms. With other Alt Fiction events planned for November, I hoped the event would also serve as a gentle teaser in the direction of this genre that dare not speak its name.

Staple 24 saw Eireann Lorsung and Russian artist Yelena Popova discussing their collaboration for Wayne Burrows forthcoming publication about wordy interpretations of art. They were meant to be joined by CJ Allen but unfortunately he had to pull out on the day due to flu. When someone pulling out is your first text of the day, it’s usually a taster of what’s to come…

People pulling out is stressful, Bali Rai was also to join the casualties later on, but it is nothing in comparison to finding out a day before the event you can’t have your massive projector screen because it will take up too much room. This was an absolute nightmare as I’d commissioned Rob White and Riki Marr to do illustrations for some of our acts, which generally all needed specific visuals to accompany their talks. After many phone calls we were given permission to show visuals on the small TV screen on the wall. This meant legging it around town for a 10m VGA cable five minutes before shops shut to hook up to the laptop. Sorted. Kind of. Imagine my delight when I walked into the Contemporary Cafe on Saturday morning only to find the stage at the opposite side of the room to the miniature TV screen! I had no choice but to request the audience partake in a kind of visual tennis.

I hope people reading this blog get an indication into what it is like trying to organise an event like this and I’ve not even got onto my Friday morning search for a ‘skull’ which relates to the picture in this article of myself and ‘Two jugs Biro’. Lord Biro was reading five poems and discussing five of his satirical cartoons about artists. For the Damien Hirst one we decided to make a recession-busting value-own Damien Hirst skull ‘for the love of no money’. I spent the morning running into shops screaming ‘have you got a skull, do you know anyone with a skull’ before finding a plastic one in a kids toyshop in the Viccy. Aly then stayed up till four am covering it in sweets as we couldn’t afford diamonds. You don’t learn about that when you do your BA in Event Management.

Biro has a problem with large art and derided Anthony Gormless’s egotistical ‘Another Place’ statues. I countered his arguments by imagining a worse dystopia in which there are Kerry Katona statues outside every Wilkos in the country. Ricki Marr illustrated this fear, saying ‘I’ve been asked to draw some weird shit in my life. But this is sick. Sick. The worst ever.’ Biro stood in the Kettering elections in 2010. His Bus-Pass Elvis Party Manifesto was ‘save the burqa’ and if elected he would kindly ask Jordan  and KK to wear it, as he’s sick of seeing their mug plastered all over the tabloids.

Other panels on the day included Match of the Day, whereby Graham Joyce, Dan Tunstall and Paul Reaney discussed how football is used as a wider metaphor for society, Jon McGregor read from Even the Dogs and MulletProofPoet, our local cross between Rodney out of Only fools and Horses and Paul Weller, gave themed poems to introduce the panels. Maria Allen joined me in a game of Literature Room 101, an attempt at making author interviews a little more entertaining by getting them to nominate elements of the publishing industry they’d like to consign to Orwell’s void rather than a dry Q&A. The audience seemed to enjoy it and we gave out free books to those who joined in. Only downside to this was not using a roving mic which meant some people couldn’t hear the audience’s observations.

It’s all a big learning curve. Now on to my next problem. A ‘Scribal Gathering’ night already exists in Milton Keynes, the land of the concrete cattle, and they want us to change it. Things are never simple.

Our Scribal Gathering line-up at the Nottingham Contemporary Cafe.

This entry was posted in Just James by James. Bookmark the permalink.

About James

James is the Literature Editor of LeftLion magazine. He is also an academic and a writer who has been published in various magazines and books. This means he spends most of his time in front of a computer screen writing about life instead of living it. Therefore, do not trust a word he says.