What’s the Alan Moore?

It’s been a truly mental and surreal week, with each night worthy of a blog. But I just haven’t got time to document my life with such precision so here’s just one thing that happened and it happened on the bog. Monday night I popped over to watch the footy with Jared Wilson (LeftLion Editor-in-Chief) as I haven’t got a telly. This basically entails both of us sitting on the couch with laptops perched on our knees, occasionally looking up at the screen when the commentator sounds a bit excited – which wasn’t often. Later on that evening I was sat upstairs on the toilet when I heard this booming voice coming out of a telephone on loud speaker in the other room. It was Alan Moore who had very kindly agreed to do an interview with LeftLion. This is an amazing scoop as he very rarely gives interviews to the media but agreed to this one as he respects the LeftLion ethos e.g. we do it for free because we love it and we take the piss whenever we can.

Prior to the interview, Jared asked me to have a look at his questions. I just laughed. Having seen Moore give a spellbinding talk at the Contemporary a week ago it was clear there was little point worrying about wording because the minute you asked him a question he would go off on one. At the Contemporary he made a particularly salient point about the dangers of turning art into a commodity (Saatchi). Art, he said, is there to offer an alternative view of reality, and that it should challenge the establishment to enable things to change. When art is reduced to a commodity it dilutes in purpose and reinforces the norm. He also talked about reclaiming pornography in Lost Girls so that sexuality becomes natural and beautiful again rather than the aggressive, male-oriented perspective that reduces this communion to the clichéd world of Nuts et al.

Having heard him give these long, eloquent observations at the Contemporary I knew it would be very difficult for Jared to pin him down to the punchy responses that are required of a 1,200 word mag interview.  The medium is the message after all. This is the problem with doing phone interviews over email. But there was no way you could cut Moore off in midsentence given his suspicion and contempt for the media. The role of the journalist here is to take those wonderful, lengthy provocative observations and break them down by interjecting questions in the mag piece so that the article has a natural flow and rhythm. The next issue of LeftLion will take a poke at the Olympics and it would have been great to ask Melinda Gebbie to redesign the Olympic rings in the style of Lost Girls as the shape lends itself to the curves of the human form. But we didn’t want to push our luck given Moore’s generosity in agreeing to the interview.

But back to the toilet. I knew Jared was going to speak to Moore that evening, I just didn’t realise he would start when I was in his bathroom. Joe Orton once said the toilet was the last refuge of the male, in Chapter 16 of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe described a corporal who found the toilet ‘marvellous’ and a place for gathering thoughts, but having inadvertently experienced this with Alan Moore booming his shamanic wisdom out in the distance, the toilet has taken on a whole new realm of meaning, an experience that will never be bettered. I suspect that the devilish Moore would find the whole episode amusing.

For info on future talks and lectures at the Nottingham Contemporary, please see their website


Scribal Gathering of Poetic Dissent

Our Scribal Gathering events are few and far between but when they happen, they’re special. On Friday 4 November we put on a Scribal Gathering of Poetic Dissent to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the ‘Luddite’ rebellion in Bulwell and to show respect to the ‘Occupy’ movement who are currently residing in Market Square. As is often the case with events you are organising yourself, they bring little joy on the night as you’re running around making sure things are going alright and that performers know what they’re doing.

I kicked off the event with a fifteen minute introduction with Motormouf, a young beatboxer from Nottingham who’d previously impressed with performances with Nina Smith and Maniere de Bohemiens. It’s really important when you’re dealing with political content that you don’t start lecturing on the obvious and so we went for a simple format whereby I’d discuss current events and then when I asked Motormouf what he was ‘mad as hell’ about or his opinion of Alessio Rastani – the City Trader welcoming the recession, he’d break out into beatboxing. Then, just when you expected him to continue in this vane, he freestyled a poem about Rosa Parks that was outstanding. Contrast is the key; mess with expectations. I planned this routine in one meeting with Motormouf and it’s so good to work with someone who listens and trusts your judgement. The purpose of the routine was to make him look amazing and me the talentless ‘dumb blond.’ Tis a humble life.

The Lambhorse Cabaret performance was a theatrical masterpiece, creating fake explosions courtesy of balloons and party poppers to bring down the system. They were joined by Stickman Higgins – who I wrote about in my last blog. Stickman is joy personified; he has so much energy it’s like he’s swallowed the sun. He played the part of an elderly Jamaican man and walked around greeting the audience before freestyling as the Lambhorse played on.

The key to large events is variety or else you overdose on the written word. Johnny Crump offered this by scratching on the decks with film visuals projected behind him. We also needed a variety of poets. Aly Stoneman was short and sweet, teasing the audience with her Ms Hood poem – in my opinion the perfect formula as then the audience want more. Joe Coghlan and Jonesy bounced an electric set off of each other, complimenting their differing styles. Debris Stevenson had the audience joining in which got everyone in a great mood whereas Scruffy Dave and Tokin’ John went for more traditional readings. And of course our joker in the pack was Al Needham who has not only made swearing socially acceptable but an art form in itself.

Chester P was our final act and proved that you don’t need a stage persona to perform. Simply exuding personality and being yourself is enough. But who is he? He looked like a crazy old man with autism as he nervously shuffled back and forth on stage on the tips of his toes as he delivered a stream of consciousness that washed over the audience like a tsunami. Every now and then you’d catch a phrase, a joke or a clever metaphor and before the beauty of this observation could settle, bang in came another. Wow.

Of course not everything went to plan. I’d spent ages recording Big Issue Sellers and Protestors in V for Vendetta masks and then recorded audios to be dubbed over the top which related to the film. But these weren’t edited together properly and so our hopes of having an anonymous production didn’t work. This, however, is inevitable when you’re relying on the goodwill and free time of various people to help suture everything together. The event was a collaboration with Dealmaker and LeftLion, photographs were kindly taken by Ralph Barklam with Adrian Towell filming proceedings and Stupeflix made the brilliant video to promote the event. The night was dedicated to Peter Preston who recently passed away and although a free event, we left buckets on the bar for people to donate to the Alan Sillitoe Statue Fund – or to be sick in.

Now we need a theme for the next event. I’m thinking Berlusconi’s Bitches or perhaps updating the Roald Dahl classic…the Fantastic Mr. Liam Fox. So much choice in a corrupt world. Thank goodness for villains, life would be dull.