William Blake, Now!

This year has seen two books from John Higgs. The major one was The Future Starts Here, an optimistic response to the world’s daunting problems. But Autumn has brought a second, smaller book, William Blake Now. This is a sort of pop-single in advance of a larger-book-as-album, due in 2021. Although, like the best singles/EPs, the material here is apparently not appearing in the upcoming release.

Blake is an interesting figure, claimed by both establishment and counter-culture. He’s been gentrified over the years too. In his review of the Blake show at the Tate, writer CJ Stone pointed out that Blake might well have found the current show too expensive to attend.

I’ve not engaged with Blake much. Obviously, I’ve seen his work referred to in pop culture, some of which Higgs refers to here. His work turns up too in El Sandifer’s books, and the poem London is the basis for the Verve’s premature farewell single, History. But like most people my closest relationship with him is through the hymn Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was sung in the itinerarium service at the end of every term in my school. It’s easy to love a song when you it is so connected with imminent freedom. It’s been suggested that it should be an English national anthem, which makes sense. It’s an uplifting and idealistic song compared to the dirge of God Save the Queen.

Blake is both the establishment figure who wrote Jerusalem and a hero to countercultural figures like Allen Ginsburg and Patti Smith. Higgs points out that Blake wrote several nationalist poems too, and sees his love of opposites as presenting a way forward in divided times: “For Blake, the deep connection to the place around him was the soil in which a larger spiritual love put down roots and grew to encompass the world… A sense of connection to your land… is necessary for… a deep respect for people of all cultures and creeds.” (P23) Higgs suggests this goes beyond being national/international or leave/remain as a “primary duality”.

The thing that remains with me most from this book is a discussion of the real goal of artists. Higgs talks about different needs of the artist’s ego (by which he means the “opinions, ideas, experiences and perspectives that make them who they are”) and the ideas that they work on, and the need for the latter to dissolve into wider culture. “The real goal of an artist is to dissipate into nothing and be forgotten.”

It’s a lovely book, and I can’t wait for the album.

hexit day

It’s Halloween 2019, and we’re about five hours from the time when we were supposed to leave the EU. And we’re still here.

To mark the deadline, I’ve been organising hexit with Cat Vincent, the Indelicates and Sooxanne. Hexit is a group of artists, musicians and magicians coming together in a creative ritual to curse Brexit. This ritual will be broadcast on Internet radio station Radio23, and will culminate shortly after 11pm tonight, the time scheduled for leaving the EU. People are invited to join us, listen to the contributions, and to add their energy to that of the ritual. Among the works involved are songs, poems, sound sigils, mixtapes.

The hexit player and full instructions are at https://radio23.co.uk/hexit.html

Putting this all together has been hard work. (“Let’s do something online rather than doing an event. It will be easier to organise…”). Still, helping to run Pilgrim Radio in April was good training for this: precision discordianism! And it’s been amazing to see all the different pieces come together. I didn’t manage to get my own piece in, but that can wait for another day.

The exact lineup is subject to change (just like the deadline for Brexit, amiright?) but the schedule currently is:

  • Throughout: Deity Galaxies by Dan Sumption.
  • 2031 – EVP by the Indelicates
  • 2033 – Everything English is the Enemy by the Indelicates
  • 2038 – Juniverbrecher by the Indelicates
  • 2041 – Hexit Jingle by Ryder
  • 2042 – THE UNREVERSING – a Magickal Musickal Spell to Dispel the Mean Spirited Conjurings of the Brexitassembled by Pilgrim and printer Graham Evans on behalf of the Kokopelli Foundation and Bridge Construction Enterprises Unlimited
  • 2105 – Hexit by Chris Parkinson
  • 2109 – Amorphous Albion (excerpt) by Ben Graham
  • 2113 – Hexamaton Mix 001
  • 2117 – Ash, Cadbury Castle: A Lament by Michael James Parker
  • 2118 – HEXIT by Texture
  • 2122 – The Weatherman (He got it wrong) by David Devant & his Spirit Wife
  • 2127 – Tractors Turning by Alexander Velky
  • 2137 – Mr Larceny
  • 2141 – Hopelessness Figure by Verity Spott
  • 2148 – A Brexit report by the other 27 countries in the European Union
  • 2154 – Changing the Guard by Adrian Reynolds
  • 2157 – Devil’s Fairground by Foz Foster
  • 2201 – brexitmeansbrexit
  • 2205 – So long, Professor Bloom by Campbell Edinborough
  • 2218 – ‘The Deadends (in search of truth)’ – A documentary by Dr Mikey B Georgeson
  • 2220 – Hexit Jingle
  • 2221 – Maypitt by Kemper Norton
  • 2229 – Nick Hudson with The Academy Of Sun
  • 2238 – Rise Up from Armageddon Gospels
  • 2241 – You Army by Sombras
  • 2243 – Sea Sings to Stone by Craig ‘VI’ Slee
  • 2253 – John Higgs reads Deborah Turnbull’s poem Impact
  • 2253 – A Sigil of Hexit: Composed and expelled by Sue Bradley and Sooxanne
  • 2300 – Cat Vincent and the Indelicates: A Banishing

hexit night

I’m currently involved in hexit, an online distributed magic ritual against Brexit that will be broadcast on radio23.

Back in October 2016, I teamed up with Cat Vincent and the Indelicates to organise the October Ritual. Rather than hold a simple launch party for the new Indelicates album Juniverbrecher, we held an exorcism ritual, a banishing for the entity “responsible in large part for the re-emergence of nationalism, petty-mindedness, misery and fruitless discord; for the black mass marketed as ‘Brexit’

It was a great night, with an exciting range of performers. It’s probably the best event I’ve been involved in. A further ritual was held in March this year, at what should have been the point where the UK left the european union. It was very emotional to see Cat Vincent on stage with the Indelicates, declaring that the deadline had passed and we were still in the EU.

The next deadline was auspiciously set for October 31st, Halloween, and we’re  gathering collaborators for the third ritual. This time, we wanted to go something even bigger. We decided not to book a venue in Sussex, thereby restricting the people who could participate. Instead, we are curating an online, distributed ritual via Radio23.

The first submissions are coming in, and I’m getting excited about what we’re putting on. Doing this online has allowed us to include people who it would be very difficult to get down to Brighton. Whatever happens as the deadline passes, hexit will bring together a range of voices in resistance.

More news to follow: full details will be kept up to date on the hexit page, and via twitter (@orbific, @theindelicates, @catvincent).

Theresa May’s return to Wales

The news broke on Thursday 29th March (the date exactly a year before Brexit): Theresa May was planning an Easter break in Wales. This was notable because of what happened last time the PM went hiking in Wales. Given time to think and relax in the glorious scenery, May was inspired to hold a snap general election.

A year later, she returned to Wales. Who knows what brave and bizarre plan will emerge from this trip? The newspapers have responded to this with headlines implying a time of national crisis. I liked the Sun’s lead:

Apparently when May joked that she was not planning to hold another election, Iain Duncan-Smith responded: “The PM assured us she won’t do the same as she did last year, but I will wait until she gets back just to make sure”. And, to be fair, Theresa May has a record of committing to something and making a sudden U-turn.

I’m fascinated by Theresa May’s previous trip to Wales and recently booked a visit to Dolgellau to follow in her footsteps. Partly it’s a good excuse for a holiday – I’ve been meaning to visit Powis Castle and Portmerion for years, and fancy some hiking. But it’s also part of a longer project.

Back in October, I joined with the Indelicates in organising the October Ritual. Rather than a straightforward album launch, we organised out a magic ritual to banish the demons of Brexit. It was quite an event – Cat Vincent’s incantation during the final song was spine-tingling. It was easy to believe in magic at that moment.

I gave a talk at the event on hiking and Brexit, subjects that have overlapped in small ways for me. I’ve hiked through the fruit fields of Kent, which rely on foreign labour; I’ve had racist B&B owners tell me the appalling lies that led them to vote leave; I’ve walked the fringes of the estates owned by the figures bank-rolling Brexit. The more I’ve read, the more things that have connected with the subject – Tolkien, folk horror, the British Empire and Glastonbury. These have implied other hikes, some of which are already arranged. And, tied into it all is the concept of magic and Brexit.

A 600,000 majority has been transformed into a mandate for the hardest of Brexits, and there seems to be no coherent opposition. Under these conditions, writing and hiking seem as constructive as anything else I could be doing. So, I am off to Wales to do some hiking, and to visit an interesting part of the country. But I will be writing a story too.