• David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 17/52

    The Stink Still Here-David Peace-Paul Myerscough-Text und Tone-cover

    In Part 1 of this post (which can be read here) I wrote about The Stink Still Here, a booklet published by Texte und Töne, which records an extended conversation between author David Peace and London Review of Books editior Paul Myerscough concerning the 1984-1985 Miner’s Strike in Britain…

    Sky-1975 TV series-A Year In The Country

    Previously at A Year In The Country I have talked about how in some ways television broadcasts etc from pre-1979, when Margaret Thatcher and her right-leaning/neo-liberal government were elected, can be seen as being somehow “imbued with an antideluvian quality, they are now broadcasts or remnants from an ‘other’ time” – essentially seeing 1979 as a tipping point in society, its directions, aims, politics, economics etc towards a more free market, individualistic stance.

    However, since then rather than such a markedly defined tipping point, I have wandered if rather it was the start of a transitional or liminal period and for a while at least rearguard actions from older, progressive/social consensus ways of thinking.

    The Miner’s Strike could be seen as part of that period of transition and the resulting conflicts or as David Peace says in The Stink Still Here:

    “…people often talk about 1979 and the election of Margaret Thatcher as a sea-change. But these things rarely take place overnight. And I still think her re-election in 1983 represents the clearest marker of how far things had changed. And of what was to come…”

    Hence “the Year is Zero” from GB84, with the Miner’s Strike being a marked tipping point or ground zero ending of the older ways in terms of history.

    Shoulder To Shoulder-Test Dept-South Wales Striking Miners Choir-vinyl LP cover art and labels

    The Stink Still Here is available in a limited edition of 100 copies and it was produced to accompany a day long series of screenings and talks that took place in New York in 2015 which were intended to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Strike, which was organised by the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture.

    The screenings included a film about industrial band Test Dept and their work around the Miner’s Strike, during which they toured and recorded and album with South Wales Striking Miner’s Choir, both of which raised funds for the Strike.

    Jeremy Deller-The Battle of Orgreave-Mike Figgis-Artangel

    The Battle of Orgreave was also shown which documented the Jeremy Deller instigated re-enactment (also mentioned in Part I of the posts about The Stink Still Here), in which miners and police who had been involved in the Strike alongside re-enaction enthusiasts recreated one of the turning point and most notorious conflicts of the Strike.

    The event also included a showing of the BFI released The Miner’s Campaign Tapes in which independent film and video makers documented the conflict, plus the also BFI released The Miners’ Hymn collage based film by Bill Morrison, with music by Jóhann Jóhannsson, which Nick Bradshaw has written the following about at the BFI’s website:

    “Bill Morrison’s archive collage film The Miners’ Hymns, an elegiac testament to the lost industrial culture of the Durham coalfields, takes in sweeping helicopter shots, lunar-esque landscapes and pitched battles with police cavalry… It features shades of action movie, industrial noir and zombie sci-fi, but true to the Decasia director’s signature work it’s also a dialogue with the ghosts of the past, those of workers and communities now permanently lain beneath Durham’s remodelled landscape, yet here exhumed on film.”

    The Miners Hymns-Bill Morrison-Jóhann Jóhannsson-The Miners Campaign Tapes-BFI

    And talking of ghosts of the past:

    Two of the defining aspects of hauntology is a collective mourning or melancholia for the times before the flood and related lost futures (in a socially progressive sense), alongside the present being haunted by spectres of its past.

    Considering the above, GB84 could be seen as an “occult” and “hauntological” take on the Miner’s Strike but rather than being more overtly a mourning or melancholic take on related potential lost futures, it is possibly more a roar of outrage, rage and memory – or as Texte und Töne themselves say at their site about the Strike, it is a view of the conflict as an “open wound”.

    The Stink Still Here-David Peace-Paul Myerscough-Text und Tone-page spread

    Elsewhere:
    Texte und Töne
    Nick Bradshaw on The Miner’s Hymns at the BFI’s site
    The Stink Still Here event and poster at Test Dept’s site
    Shoulder to Shoulder at Test Dept’s site
    The Fuel to Fight tshirt
    The archived details of The Stink Still Here: The Miner’s Strike on Film event
    GB84
    The Battle of Orgreave: at ArtangelThe film
    The Miner’s Campaign Tapes: at the BFI / Watch online

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #15/365. The Twilight Language Of Nigel Kneale
    2) Day #183/365: Steam engine time and remnants of transmissions before the flood
    3) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 7/52: In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 16/52: David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 1

     

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  • Image AA/16

    Image-AA16-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Kill List, Puffball, In the Dark Half and Butter on the Latch – Folk Horror Descendants by Way of the Kitchen Sink: Chapter 16 Book Images

    Kill List-Ben Wheatley-A Year In The Country-2Kill List

    “…folk horror is a film genre which as a cultural strand has created ever-growing reverberations and led to and/or inspired more recent work.

    One such piece of work is Ben Wheatley’s thoroughly unsettling film Kill List from 2011. As a film it is an intriguing, fascinating, inspiring piece of work. An online discussion about the film said “some pieces of culture are the thing that they purport to be about”; this is a film about evil.

    Visually, if not thematically, it shares similarities with the grittier side of social realism British cinema. For a large part the world it represents, although about the lives of somewhat shady mercenaries, is presented in an every day, social realist, kitchen sink manner.”

    Kill List-Ben Wheatley-still-2

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    “It does not feel like an esoteric otherly world, at least initially; people are shown having dinner, a couple argues about money and so forth. But something else lurks and creeps in; a symbol is scratched behind a mirror, a descent begins and the mercenaries are drawn into an arcane, hidden world and system.

    In many ways the film feels like a sequel to 1973’s The Wicker Man, or at least of its direct lineage or spirit, exploring the themes of that film but through a modern day filter of a corruption that feels total and also curiously banal; there is a sense of occult machinations and organisations but also of just doing a job, of the minutiae of it all…

    The film utilises tropes from more recent horror and possibly voyeuristic exploitational film but seems to layer and underpin this with what psychogeographic thought has called “the hidden landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters which charge environments”: occult in both the literal and root meaning of hidden.”

     Adam Scovell-Folk Horror-Hours Dreadful and Things Strange-Auteur-book coverThe Wicker Man-1973-film still-statueQueens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 6

    “Continuing on from Kill List, kitchen sink or realist folk horror is a description that could be applied to other films such as Josephine Decker’s Butter on the Latch (2013), Alastair Siddons In the Dark Half (2011) and Nicholas Roeg’s Puffball (2007).

    These films take some of the recurring themes of folk horror (precised by Adam Scovell, author of the 2017 book Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, as featuring landscape, isolation, skewed moral beliefs and a happening or summoning) but which strip away some of the more fantastical presentation and sometimes stylisation that can be found in The Wicker Man or 1970’s Queens of Evil and utilise a more “rooted in the real world” approach.”

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     Kate Bush-Aerial-A Sky of Honey-vinyl label-side aGrand Designs-television series-logo titleEnglands Hidden Reverse-David Keenan book-Coil-Current 93-Nurse With Wound-b

    “Puffball is… set in a remote part of the countryside, it is a television-esque kitchen sink folk horror film that mixes Grand Designs with the music of Kate Bush and England’s Hidden Reverse.

    (Grand Designs is a long-running British television series that documents people spending often large sums of money custom building unusual homes for themselves and their families, England’s Hidden Reverse is a 2003 book by David Keenan that focuses on the work and music of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound and posits the idea that they represent the real English cultural underground. The soundtrack to Puffball features Coil and Nurse With Wound, with the music to the film all sinister portents and drones that veers upwards and outwards, venturing into more normal climes and back again.)

    In the film new age-ish imagery intermingles with “are-they-real or not?” folkloric and witchery shenanigans, tales of fertility battles, fertility ending with ageing and the slick yuppie-like outsiders gutting and rebuilding a cottage that was previously the site for intense local loss in a possibly inappropriately modern, minimalist, over-angled style.

    In some ways it feels like the story of the old ways battling with the new: of the arrogance of money and man trying to push out the mud and nature of the land.”

    Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-Play For TodayRobin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-5Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-4

    “(Robin Redbreast) is reminiscent of the Play for Today television drama Robin Redbreast from 1970 in the sense of the entrapping of an outsider in fertility rites and rituals and the use of a slightly simple man of the land for those ends.

    Puffball adds a graphic, almost dissolute sexuality to that realism. This is not an easy film in parts: it is both unsettled and unsettling in various ways.”

     The Wicker Man and Dont Look Now-double bill adverts

    “As an aside, (Puffball) is loosely connected back to early 1970s folk horror by the appearance of Donald Sutherland, and being directed by Nicolas Roeg, it is but a hop, skip and jump from them to The Wicker Man via Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 film Don’t Look Now, in which Donald Sutherland stars and which was released cinematically as part of a double bill with The Wicker Man.”

     Puffball-Nicolas Roeg-2007-A Year In The Country-4 Puffball-Nicolas Roeg-2007-A Year In The Country-2

    Rita Tushingham-A Taste of Honey-film still

    “Further connecting Puffball to kitchen sink, the film also features the bird-like late beauty and fascinating screen presence of Rita Tushingham, who appeared in A Taste of Honey (1961), which is known as one of the classic 1960s kitchen sink/British new wave films; here she is all staring eyes and grasping country ways.”

    Kate Bush-Aerial-album cover artCloudbusting-Kate Bush-A Year In The Country

    The Red Shoes-Kate Bush-album cover artthe lines the cross & the curve-kate bush-miranda richardson-laserdisc cover 

    “Throughout the film Kate Bush’s song “Prelude” from her 2005 album Aerial, which features the angelic voice of her son accompanying her piano playing, appears and reappears, interconnecting the themes of the film and its stories of progeny to come and those lost.

    Puffball is also further connected to Kate Bush’s work through two of its actors: Donald Sutherland appeared in the video for her 1985 single “Cloudbusting”, while one of the film’s lead actors is Miranda Richardson, who was also one of the main cast members in Kate Bush’s The Line, the Cross & the Curve film which accompanied her Red Shoes album from 1994.”

     Puffball-Nicolas Roeg-2007-A Year In The Country-3

    The Company of Wolves-film still

    “(Puffball) also has the more exploitation friendly title The Devil’s Eyeball (puffballs are large round white fungi, also known by this other name). The imagery which accompanies The Devil’s Eyeball version of the DVD release makes the film look nearer to a cheap b-movie, teenage friendly take on say the 1984 gothic fantasy-horror film The Company of Wolves, which is in part an adult take on the fairy story Little Red Riding Hood and could be considered an early example of folk horror with its tales of deceitful ravenous wolves in the wood.”

     Day 18-In The Dark Half-2012 Film Poster-Alistair Siddons-A Year In The Country

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    “In the Dark Half takes some of the tropes familiar from British social realist cinema such as a rundown estate on the edge of the countryside, family loss or dysfunction and a sense of social depravation or lack of chances to escape but wanders elsewhere with them.

    It is not quite magical realism, but rather the subdued, downtrodden landscape is given a subtle sheen which creates a sense that you are looking in on a magical otherly world.

    There are folkloric, borderline folk horror elements to the film, but it is not so much those which create the sense of a world with its own rules and even magic.

    Rather via its visual presentation there is a certain lush, soft beauty to the rundown estate and the nearby countryside: a refreshing view of such things in contrast with gritty, realist and sometimes-dour cinematic presentations of similar locales.”

     butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country

    Joesphine Decker’s Butter On the Latch was discussed in the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine… with the headline “Dark Pastoral” and with “Lovely, dark and deep” written below a picture of a solitary wooden shack-like building in an isolated moorland landscape, with two female figures approaching it from the edge of the frame.

    It is an intriguing image and pair of descriptions which, while not overtly signalling such things, seemed to conjure up a dreamlike, rather classy take or variation on folk horror.

    Along with the above, a well-known online commerce site has this description of the film:

    “At a Balkan folk song and dance camp in the woods of Mendocino, California, Sarah reunites with her old friend Isolde and with a song she learned years before about dragons who entwine themselves in women’s hair and carry them off through the forest, burning it as they go.”

    …while Butter on the Latch interacts with cinematic tropes and conventions, it beats its own fragmentary path through them; the film is imbued deeply with a sense of dread and dysfunction and following those just mentioned conventions there’s a sense of waiting for something terrible to happen in a conventional thriller or slasher manner.”

    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country-4

    As a moment or two of calm amongst that dread, at points the film may just stop, pause and focus on close ups of woodland foliage. There is an entrancing beauty captured in such moments: you hope to remain ensconced in them but in this tale that is not how things are to be.

    This is a form of folk horror where “folk” could be taken as implying “being from the wild woods”; these are woods that seem both tamed and untamed, connected to civilisation and yet those within it have also crumbled away from it.” 

    Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares-album-4AD Inland-Empire-spotlight-David Lynch-film still

    “…the music that accompanies the film and which is played in the camp is to the untutored ear in part not far removed from the stately, elegiac, otherly album of Bulgarian folk songs Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares which 4AD released in the 1980s. While the film is also reminiscent here and there of the lower-fi aesthetics of David Lynch’s 2006 film Inland Empire; Hollywood but at a far, dark remove.”

    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country-2

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    The hand-held documentary feel is complimented or should that be fractured by surreal flashes of staring faces in the woods and other intriguing, hypnotic, yet terribly unsettling images and sounds, often with a more overtly folk horror/horror aspect; such split second moments, even if you pause or try to watch the film frame by frame are hard to quite fathom, explain or take in. To again quote Sight & Sound magazine:

    “Decker creates a weave of woozy camera movements and abrupt cuts that at once trouble and open up the viewer’s perception.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 16 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 16/52

    Texte und Tone-The Edge Is Where The Centre Is-Nigel Kneale-David Peace-The Stink Still Here

    I have written about the Texte und Töne releases before – they are something of a favourite around these parts: limited edition books and booklets, often accompanied by music on cassette or flexi-disc and designed by Rob Carmichael of Seen. They are printed using Risograph duplicators, which produce a tactile, very human and individual print quality that seems to exist somewhere between more conventional print reproduction finishes and screenprinting.

    Paolo Javier-Listening Center-Texte und Tone-Ur-Lyeh

    Previous publications have included two editions of The Edge Is Where The Centre Is, which focuses on David Rudkin’s television play/film Penda’s Fen, a collaboration between Paolo Javier and sometime Ghost Box Records/A Year In The Country fellow traveller Listening Center, Nothing’s Too Good For The Common People: The Films of Paul Kelly and The Twilight Language Of Nigel Kneale.

    The Stink Still Here-David Peace-Paul Myerscough-Text und Tone-cover

    The Stink Still here was published in 2014 by Texte und Töne and is a 28 page booklet which contains a conversation between author David Peace and Paul Myerscough, who is one of the editors of the London Review of Books.

    It focuses on the 1984-1985 Miner’s Strike in Britain, which David Peace’s wrote the novel GB84 about, a book which he has described as being an “occult history” of the 1984-1985 Miner’s Strike in Britain, saying that he uses “the word ‘occult’ to mean hidden – but also as a play on the more grotesque aspects of the word”:

    “The dead brood under Britain. We whisper. We echo. The emanation of Giant Albion… Awake! Awake! This is England, Your England – and the Year is Zero.”
    (From GB84 and quoted at the start of The Stink Still Here.)

    The Stink Still Here-David Peace-Paul Myerscough-Text und Tone-inside pages-Seen studios

    Within the booklet that conflict is extensively discussed in more political/theoretical terms but also it captures a sense of social and cultural history and the day-to-day effect on peoples’ lives, alongside which David Peace discusses his personal recollections from the time of the Strike, his families’ history in the mining industry and playing in a band that travelled during it to play gigs (I assume but it’s not overtly expressed that those gigs were linked to Miner’s benefits etc).

    David Peace-1974-1977-1980-1984-GB84-book covers-2

    Connected to which, some of David Peace’s earlier novels (which could loosely be described as being hidden history northern noirs) and leading up to GB84 used fragments of music lyrics for the titles of their different parts:

    “Sex Pistols and Clash songs in Nineteen Seventy Seven; post-punk classics by Throbbing Gristle, the Pop Group, Psychic TV and Siouxsie in Nineteen Eighty and Nineteen Eighty Three… giving way by the end of Nineteen Eighty Three to Bonnie Tyler and then, in GB84, displaced entirely by chartpop earworms, Band Aid and Nena and George Michael and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.” (Paul Myerscough in The Stink Still Here)

    Something that struck me from the booklet was the discussion within it about the disparity between say the more alternative or cult bands who released records and played live in support of the striking miners and the popular chart music of the time/the music that would have been heard on the jukeboxes of for example pubs where the strike took place.

    Frankie Goes To Hollywood-Two Tribes-Nena-99 Red Ballons

    Which made me think that alongside the support of such more fringe, alternative bands, what the Miner’s may well have also really needed in terms of wider support – both with regards to financial aid and winning hearts and minds – would have been for one of those commercially successful and widely broadcast “chartpop earworms” to have been overtly about and in support of their cause.

    Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Two Tribes and Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, singles released at a similar time to the strike in the UK, both had political conflict themes but they focused on the Cold War and potential nuclear conflict rather than what artist Jeremy Deller has described as “The English Civil War Part II”.

    (Which was the title of a book he curated that contained memorabilia, photographs and personal accounts etc of the Miner’s Strike and also images from a re-enactment instituted by him in 2001 of The Battle of Orgreave, an infamous conflict from the Strike, with the re-enactment being carried out by  miners and police who had been involved in the Strike alongside re-enaction enthusiasts.)

    To be continued in Part 2…

    The English Civil War Part II-book-Cornerhouse-Stuktur-Jeremy Deller

    Elsewhere:
    Texte und Töne
    SEEN graphic design studio/Rob Carmichael
    The archived details of The Stink Still Here: The Miner’s Strike on Film event
    GB84
    The English Civil War Part II at Struktur Design
    The English Civil War Part II at Cornerhouse Publications

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Day #15/365. The Twilight Language Of Nigel Kneale
    Day #78/365: Winstanley – Another Field In England
    Week #31/52: The Quietened Bunker Archives #2; Songs For The Bunker – The Once Was Ascendance Of Apocalyptic Pop
    Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 2/52: Penda’s Fen and The Edge Is Where The Centre Is – Explorations of the Occult, Otherly and Hidden Landscape
    Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 7/52: In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Sapphire & Steel and Ghosts in the Machine – Nowhere, Forever and Lost Spaces within Cultural Circuitry: Chapter 15 Book Images

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    Sapphire & Steel-intro sequence images

    “Sapphire & Steel was a British television series, broadcast from 1979 to 1982 and was created by Peter J. Hammond. It starred David McCallum and Joanna Lumley, who played the two interdimensional operatives of the title, travelling through time and place and guarding the correct and continuing flowing of time.

    In the series it is explained that Time is similar to a progressing corridor that surrounds everything but there are weak spots where Time, which is implied to be a malignant force, can break into the present and take things or people.

    Alongside this, we are told that there are also creatures from the beginnings and ends of time who roam the corridor searching for the same weak spots to break through and then wreak their own version of havoc.

    Very little is explained or revealed about Sapphire & Steel’s backgrounds and while they take on the form of and appear as human, although not overly dwelled on they are beings of another type, being described as elements (hence their names).

    They seem to be quite fond of humans and to have a sense of duty of protection towards them. but this is accompanied by a quietly superior air, almost as though they are helping slightly less evolved pets.”

    Skeletons-Nick-Whitfield-Soda-Films-poster and still-stroke

    “Their methods do not seem rooted in scientific, technical and logically conventional techniques and indeed, as with Nick Whitfield’s 2010 film Skeletons which features a duo of operatives who also operate using not all that dissimilar methods and in terms of current scientific theory the premise of the series is nearer to an alternative take on super or preternatural forces.

    If and where their techniques do have a scientific air in a contemporary sense, it is science that is beyond human knowledge at this time and seems to have an almost abstractly ad hoc aspect…”

    Sapphire & Steel-series-still

    “…the actions and effects in the series are expressed more impressionistically rather than being concerned with high-end visual realism.”

    Creatures who have broken through the corridor of Time may only be represented as moving spots of light on the floor; Steel caught in the time trap of a crashing fighter plane only has his predicament represented via his stance and audio effects.

    However, they are no less effective for this and can be positively chilling, possibly as they leave space for the viewer’s imagination to fill in and expand on what they are shown.”

     Mark Fisher-Ghosts Of My Life-Zero Books-hauntology-A Year In The CountrySapphire and Steel-final scene-ending-A Year in The Country

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    “…I had learned how the series ended as during that extended watching and rewatching I read Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of my Life book from 2014, that loosely focuses on hauntological-related themes and which opens with the ending of the series; Sapphire and Steel are left stranded in a roadside cafe that is suspended in space and their betrayers tell them:

    “This is the trap. This is nowhere, and it’s forever.”

    It is truly chilling as an ending to a series and as no further episodes of the mainstream television programme were commissioned (although it has been continued in more niche-orientated audio books), it genuinely seems as though they are trapped throughout all time.”

    Quatermass-1979-The Conclusion-Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country 16

    “As a series it contrasts with sections of modern drama in that there is not excessively kinetic movement from one location and big-bang moment to another.

    Compared to much of modern-day television it feels curiously almost soothing for not having that constant fast paced action. At the same time it does not feel as if the viewer needs to recalibrate to the rhythms of previous eras television to appreciate it, in contrast to say some of 1970s television drama.

    As with the final series of Quatermass from 1979, this is television which stands up well as entertainment, as well as being of interest due to gaining cult status and/or becoming cultural reference points.”

      Sapphire and Steel-ghosts in the machine-A Year In The Country-1

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    “Mark Fisher has also considered how we are possibly going through a period where there is a sense of loss of loss.

    This is a side effect of the contemporary endless and precise archiving and replication techniques which are available via digital technology, which is in contrast with previous eras, where sometimes for example television broadcasts were performed live and not recorded at all, recordings were wiped or due to the fragile nature of older recording media they have degraded over time.

    There has also come to be a romantic attachment to the markers of the decay, loss and degradation of recordings from earlier eras, for example the crackle of vinyl records, whether actual or applied retrospectively, as signifiers of certain atmospheres to contemporary recordings.

    In line with such considerations, one of the things which is striking when watching Sapphire & Steel is that despite it being available on the more contemporary digital technology of DVDs, it is particularly not scrubbed up and restored – there are glitches, banding, small transmission-breaking-through crackles of interference at the edges of the screen, light trails and so on…

    In these days of exact duplicatory ease, there is something intriguing about these particular “faults”, they are the ghosts in the machine, as it were. Which brings me to Ghosts in the Machine…”

     Ghosts in the Machine-Channel 4-1986-stills

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    “(Ghosts in the Machine was a) 1986-1988 late night programme on the UK’s Channel 4 television station (one of but four channels at the time) which was dedicated to showing experimental/avant-garde video work: things you would be more likely to see in a gallery setting than via the mainstream television broadcast infrastructure.

    It was non-populist television within a populist framework: a phrase that could also be used to refer to Sapphire & Steel.

    At times there would be advert breaks with no adverts. Presumably this was because of a mixture of the late hour and Channel 4’s then-still minority output remit. Advertisers probably could not see the marketing potential for fizzy sugared water after a 10-minute almost-still framed broadcast of a pond which showed reflections of people who were not there diving in.

    It all seemed quite thrilling at the time: a glimpse into obscured culture that it is difficult to imagine being seen in amongst the transmissions of one of the big broadcasters today, no matter how late the hour. Mark Fisher has also talked about:

    “…the breaking of the circuit between the avant-garde, the experimental and the popular.”

    Ghosts in the Machine was a brief moment when there was a spark generated by a few hair thin strands of connection in that circuit. And although Sapphire & Steel is not necessarily avant-garde, with its exploratory nature and the way in which it did not pander to audience expectations, along with Ghosts in the Machine it serves as a reflection of a time when there was more space within mainstream broadcast culture for such things than exists today.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 14 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields – Book Released

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-front and back cover

    Journeys in Otherly Pastoralism, the Further Reaches of Folk and the Parallel Worlds of Hauntology

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    “The first book of it’s kind to catalogue all these disparate strands, many of which cross over time and space to influence one another.” DJ Food575px by 1px line

    Released today 10th April 2018. Paperback: £15.95. Ebook: £6.95.

    Available now at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Australia etc.

    Currently out of stock at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp page.

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    A-Year-In-The-Country-Wandering-Through-Spectral-Fields-book-Stephen-Prince-6 copies-front cover575px by 1px line
    “An essential field guide to a distinct aesthetic that remains loosely defined, like a fluttering night moth that would die if pinned down.Ben Graham, Shindig!575px by 1px line

    A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields is an exploration of the undercurrents and flipside of bucolic dreams and where they meet and intertwine with the parallel worlds of hauntology; it connects layered and, at times, semi-hidden cultural pathways and signposts, journeying from acid folk to edgelands via electronic music innovators, folkloric film and photography, dreams of lost futures and misremembered televisual tales and transmissions.

    In keeping with the number of weeks in a year, the book is split into 52 chapters and includes considerations of the work of writers including Rob Young, John Wyndham, Richard Mabey and Mark Fisher, musicians and groups The Owl Service, Jane Weaver, Shirley Collins, Broadcast, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Virginia Astley and Kate Bush, the artists Edward Chell, Jeremy Deller and Barbara Jones and the record labels Trunk, Folk Police, Ghost Box and Finders Keepers.

    Also explored are television and film including Quatermass, The Moon and the Sledgehammer, Phase IV, Beyond the Black Rainbow, The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, Bagpuss, Travelling for a Living, The Duke of Burgundy, Sapphire & Steel, General Orders No. 9, Gone to Earth, The Changes, Children of the Stones, Sleep Furiously and The Wicker Man.

    The book draws together revised writings alongside new journeyings from the A Year In The Country project, which has undertaken a set of year-long journeys through spectral fields; cyclical explorations of an otherly pastoralism, the outer reaches of folk culture and the spectres of hauntology. It is a wandering amongst subculture that draws from the undergrowth of the land.

    As a project, it has included a website featuring writing, artwork and music which stems from that otherly pastoral/spectral hauntological intertwining, alongside a growing catalogue of album releases.

    A-Year-In-The-Country-Wandering-Through-Spectral-Fields-book-Stephen-Prince-6 copies-front cover and back cover

    Download two sample chapters at this web page: Contents list and sample chapters575px by 1px line
    “Author Prince has pulled together a mass of material culled not only from the website and its associated albums, but also a great deal more that was written specifically for the book. And the result is spellbinding.” Dave Thompson, Goldmine575px by 1px line

    “This incredibly well-researched book, which is obviously written by a man with an enormous passion for this subject, is probably as comprehensive as it is possible to be.

    “Stephen Prince’s densely packed tome covers everything from folkloric film and literature to electronic music to acid folk to folk horror to the dystopian fiction of John Wyndham and the classic unearthings of Nigel Kneale to the formation of under-the-furrows record labels like Trunk, Ghost Box and Finders Keepers.

    “If you’re already interested in folk culture and want to be astonished by how deeply its roots run, you’ll treasure A Year in the Country enormously.

    “Almost every one of the 52 chapters sideswiped me with a revelation that is already making me look at a genre I love with new, more appreciative eyes.

    “Books this culturally valuable don’t grow on hedgerows, so make sure you harvest it immediately.” Ian White, Starburst

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    The book has been designed/typeset by Ian Lowey of Bopcap Book Services and edited by Suzy Prince, who are the co-authors of The Graphic Art of The Underground-A Counter-Cultural History.575px by 1px line

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-introduction-page 11

    An excellent compendium of Prince’s musings and meditations on all things wyrdly bucolic, uncanny, and elegiac, spanning a spectral spectrum from Richard Mabey to Zardoz, Virginia Astley to Sapphire & Steel.Simon Reynolds, author of Retromania and Energy Flash

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-pages 12 and 13A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-pages 14 and 15

    An online “cut out and keep” set of visual accompaniments to the chapters of the book can be visited here and text extracts from the book can be visited here, both of which will build throughout 2018 to include all 52 chapters.

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 1 to 10 contents list copy

    Book Chapter List:

    1. Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music: Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of 
Enclosure, Old and New

    2. Gather in the Mushrooms: Early Signposts and Underground Acid Folk Explorations

    3. Hauntology: Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre

    4. Cuckoos in the Same Nest: Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings

    5. Ghost Box Records: Parallel Worlds, Conjuring Spectral Memories, Magic Old and New and Slipstream Trips to the
 Panda Pops Disco

    6. Folk Horror Roots: From But a Few Seedlings Did a Great Forest Grow

    7. 1973: A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures

    8. Broadcast: Recalibration, Constellation and Exploratory Pop

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-tales from the black meadow the book of the lost the equestrian vortex-imaginary soundtracks

    9. Tales From The Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost and The Equestrian Vortex: The Imagined Spaces of Imaginary Soundtracks

    10. The Wicker Man: Notes on a Cultural Behemoth

    11. Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen Red Shift and The Owl Service: Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes

    12. A Bear’s Ghosts: Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures

    13. From “Two Tribes” to War Games: The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture

    14. Christopher Priest’s A Dream of Wessex: Twentieth Century Slipstream Echoes

    15. Sapphire & Steel and Ghosts in the Machine: Nowhere, Forever and Lost Spaces within Cultural Circuitry

    16. Kill List, Puffball, In the Dark Half and Butter on the Latch: Folk Horror Descendants by Way of the Kitchen Sink

    17. The Quietened Bunker, Waiting For The End of the World, Subterranea Britannica, Bunker Archaeology and The Delaware Road: Ghosts, Havens and Curious Repurposings Beneath Our Feet

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 11 to 37 contents list

    18. From The Unofficial Countryside to Soft Estate: Edgeland Documents, Memories and Explorations

    19. The Ballad of Shirley Collins and Pastoral Noir: Tales and Intertwinings from Hidden Furrows

    20. “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased): Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth

    21. Uncommonly British Days Out and the Following of Ghosts: File under Psychogeographic/Hauntological Stocking Fillers

    22. Gone to Earth: Earlier Traces of an Otherly Albion

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-inner pages-queens of evil tam lin the touchables-psych folk horror

    23. Queens of Evil, Tam Lin and The Touchables: High Fashion Transitional Psych Folk Horror, Pastoral Fantasy and Dreamlike Isolation

    24. Luke Haines: Our Most Non-Hauntological Hauntologist

    25. Tim Hart, Maddy Prior and “The Dalesman’s Litany”: A Yearning for Imaginative Idylls and a Counterpart to Tales of Hellish Mills

    26. Katalina Varga, Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy : Arthouse Evolution and Crossing the Thresholds of the Hinterland Worlds of Peter Strickland

    27. General Orders No. 9 and By Our Selves: Cinematic Pastoral Experimentalism

    28. No Blade of Grass and Z.P.G.: A Curious Dystopian Mini-Genre

    29. The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids: John Wyndham, Dystopian Tales, Celluloid Cuckoos and the Village as Anything But Idyll

    30. Folk Archive and Unsophisticated Arts: Documenting the Overlooked and Unregulated

    31. Folkloric Photography: A Lineage of Wanderings, Documentings and Imaginings

    32. Poles and Pylons and The Telegraph Appreciation Society: A Continuum of Accidental Art

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Symptoms film-Images film-hauntological begetters-the uneasy landscape-gothic bucolia

    33. Symptoms and Images: Hauntological Begetters, the Uneasy Landscape and Gothic Bucolia

    34. The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water: Public Information Films and Lost Municipal Paternalisms

    35. Magpahi, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council: Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and Considerations of Modern Day Magic

    36. Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before: Whispering Fairy Stories until They are Real

    37. The Owl Service, Anne Briggs, The Watersons, Lutine and Audrey Copard: Folk Revisiters, Revivalists and Reinterpreters

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-chapter-The Seasons album-Jonny Trunk-the BBC Radiophonic Workshop-Howlround-OST radio show-libary music-tape loops

    38. The Seasons, Jonny Trunk, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Howlround: A Yearning for Library Music, Experiments in Educational Music and Tape Loop Tributes

    39. An Old Soul Returns: The Worlds and Interweavings of Kate Bush

    40. The Stone Tape, Quatermass, The Road and The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale: Unearthing Tales from Buried Ancient Pasts

    41 Folklore Tapes and the Wyrd Britannia Festival: Journeying to Hidden Corners of the Land/the Ferrous Reels and Explorations of an Arcane Research Project

    42. Skeletons: Pastoral Preternatural Fiction and a World, Time and Place of its Own Imagining

    43. Field Trip-England: Jean Ritchie, George Pickow and Recordings from the End of an Era

    44. Noah’s Castle: A Slightly Overlooked Artifact and Teatime Dystopias

    45. Jane Weaver Septième Soeur and The Fallen by Watch Bird: Non-Populist Pop and Cosmic Aquatic Folklore

    46. Detectorists, Bagpuss, The Wombles and The Good Life: Views from a Gentler Landscape

    47. Weirdlore, Folk Police Recordings, Sproatly Smith and Seasons They Change: Notes From the Folk Underground, Legendary Lost Focal Points and Privately Pressed Folk

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-The moon and the sledgehammer film-sleep furiously film

    48. The Moon and The Sledgehammer and Sleep Furiously: Visions of Parallel and Fading Lives

    49. From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Wintersongs, Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails: Lullabies for the Land and Gently Darkened Undercurrents

    50. Strawberry Fields and Wreckers: The Countryside and Coastal Hinterland as Emotional Edgeland

    51. Zardoz, Phase IV and Beyond the Black Rainbow: Seeking the Future in Secret Rooms from the Past and Psychedelic Cinematic Corners

    52. Winstanley, A Field in England and The English Civil War Part II: Reflections on Turning Points and Moments When Anything Could Happen

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 37 to 52 contents list

     

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  • Memory of a Free Festival and Other Arcadian Dreams – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 15/52

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-1

    In Part 1 of this post (which can be read here) I wrote about Sam Knee’s book Memory of a Free Festival – The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene, which is essentially a photographic collection of found, collected, donated and researched period photography which focuses on British free festivals from the early 1960s to around the mid-1980s.

    As mentioned in Part I, it is one of the three main photography orientated books which document British alternative/counter cultural outdoor festivals from the 1960s to 1980s, alongside Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People and Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs.

    And as also mentioned in Part I, Rob Young has written extensively about a similar era and aspect of British festivals in the Paradise Enclosed chapter in his book Electric Eden – Searching for Britain’s Visionary Music.

    Raving 89-Gavin Watson book-DJhistory-1

    In the final chapter of Sam Knee’s book he briefly mentions how “some of the ethos of the free festivals lived on in acid-house culture and various rave scenes”.

    Whereas the festivals focused on in Electric Eden and Memory of a Free Festival appear to largely have come from and be connected to what could be loosely called alternative culture, if you look at the photographs which say Gavin Watson took of the rave scene that feature in his Raving ’89 book, the styles and scene in his photographs could be seen as belonging to a more “ordinary” or at least less distinctively and overtly alternative to the mainstream area of culture and aesthetics.

    Gavin Watson-Raving 89-book-DJ History-2

    In part that may be because of the more casual fashion which was associated with rave, which was nearer aesthetically to mainstream clothing, e.g. jeans, baggy t-shirts etc but it is possible that it reflected the different demographic, cultural and philosophical/political interests of those involved in rave. Although it had elements of hippie, freedom loving or anti-authoritarian aspects and attitudes, initially and at earlier unlicensed events it could be seen more as a purely escapist, hedonistic coming together of people, one often less concerned or partially taking impetus from say wider utopian ideals.

    Also, in contrast to the photographs in Memory of a Free Festival, in Gavin Watson’s photographs of late 1980s raves the partying occurs more – although not exclusively – in enclosed, indoor spaces such as deserted industrial buildings.

    Gavin Watson-Raving 89-book-DJ History-1

    As time passed, within rave/dance music the freedom, political and anti-authoritarian aspects would become more highlighted as protest against the restrictions of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, which focused on restricting unlicensed raves, gathered pace.

    Those aspects could also be found in the likes of the activities of Spiral Tribe, a free party sound system that were originally active in the first half of the 1990s and who often organised unlicensed parties/raves. Their aesthetics and anti-authoritarian/freedom orientated stance seemed to meld and draw from a mixture of dance, hippie and crusty/traveller culture (which I discuss further in Part I of this post) and their events took place in a variety of locations which took in squatted and/or previously abandoned venues, rural and urban locations.

    Molly Macindoe-Out Of Order book-1

    Molly Macindoe-Out Of Order book-2-The-yard-Hackney-Wick-London-1999 copy copyMolly Macindoe-Out Of Order book-4

    A line could be drawn from such activities to the photographic work of Molly Macindoe whose book Out of Order: The Underground Rave Scene 1997-2006 documents more contemporary, not dissimilar culture. Her work takes in a broader British and European view and often focuses on free party dance orientated events, many of which are unlicensed and which take place amongst for example edgeland derelict industrial estates, forests and fields.

     

    Elsewhere:
    Sam Knee’s Memories of a Free Festival at Cicada Books
    Gavin Watson’s Raving ’89
    Molly Macindoe’s Out of Order

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music
    2) Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…
    3) Wanderings #37/52a: Molly Macindoe’s Out Of Order and Partying Amongst Edgeland Ghosts
    4) Chapter 1 Book Images: Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 11/52: The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed
    6) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 14/52: Memory of a Free Festival and Other Arcadian Dreams  – Part I

     

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  • Image AA/14

    Image-AA14-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Christopher Priest’s A Dream of Wessex – Twentieth Century Slipstream Echoes: Chapter 14 Book Images

    Day 25-Christopher Priest Dreams Of Wessex-A Year In The Country 4

    “Christopher Priest’s 1977 novel A Dream of Wessex came to this author’s consciousness via a trail of cultural breadcrumbs dropped by Rob Young in his book Electric Eden (2010), which explores interconnected and underlying lines of folk and rural orientated British music and culture and how it has been handed down and transformed by successive generations.

    It is featured in the later “Toward the Unknown Region” section of the book wherein the lines through an otherly Britain he has drawn and explored wander towards an almost maelstrom gathering of the more hauntological concerns and hidden landscapes of the likes of exploratory record labels/projects such as Ghost Box Records and English Heretic, public information films that have gathered layers of uncanniness over the years, Oliver Postgate’s gently off-centre animations, the unsettled televisual pastoralism of Penda’s Fen (1974), The Stone Tape (1972) and Children of the Stones (1977) and related folk horror-esque work.”

    Including A Dream of Wessex in amongst such work seems particularly apt as though it was written before the term or concept had been created, at points it reads like part of a manifesto from or description of a release by a hauntologically-inclined record label; the text talks of spectral versions of oneself, time being deposited like layers of sedimentary rock which could be excavated via imagination and the muddy remains of the twentieth century being scattered like shipwrecks across the landscape.”

    Rob Young-Electric Eden book-Towards The Unknown Region chapter-Poly-Albion-Christopher Priest-A Dream of Wessex Rob Young-Electric Eden book-Towards The Unknown Region chapter-Poly-Albion-Ghost Box Records event-Jim Jupp-Julian House

    Ghost Box Records-Wood St Galleries-Pittsburgh-Justin Hopper-A Year In The Country

    Julian-House-Intro-design-Ghost-Box-Records-A-Year-In-The-Country-5-stroke

    “…one of the main strands of the book involves time-travelling ability developed by participants whose minds have been electronically pooled but which is nearer to a visualisation via technological dream projection equipment.

    In such ways, A Dream of Wessex connects with a hauntological sense of spectral, misremembered and reinterpreted histories and culture and the related creation and exploration of parallel worlds…

    …essentially A Dream of Wessex narrates a mass dream or hallucination, which makes its inclusion in Rob Young’s book at the Ghost Box/hauntological juncture all the more fitting; such activities form part of what he has called experiments in consensual hallucination, whereby the participants willingly allow themselves to become immersed or even subsumed in the dream like atmospheres, phantasms and worlds that particular cultural activity can at times create…

    Within hauntological-related work there is also often a deliberate misremembering of the past, filtering it through your own personal vision, reimagining it in your own form – which is mirrored by the researchers in A Dream of Wessex creating and shaping their own version of the future in their mass projection.”

     Day 25-Christopher Priest Dreams Of Wessex-A Year In The Country 5Day 25-Christopher Priest Dreams Of Wessex-A Year In The Country 1Day 25-Christopher Priest Dreams Of Wessex-A Year In The Country 3

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    “The cover artwork of the earlier printed editions of A Dream of Wessex further reflect and forebear that Ghost Box/hauntological world and intertwining.

    The original hardback cover from 1977 published by Faber & Faber is quite a traditional landscape painting by Paul Nash but knowledge of the plot of the book and its appearance in the “Toward the Unknown Region” section of Electric Eden seem to infer a subtle sense of otherliness to it.

    The original softback cover from 1978 released by Pan Books features a depiction of a happy couple ensconced amongst the idyll of a rural landscape but then wanders off to more Sapphire & Steel-esque hauntological territory; they are sitting on an incongruous maroon fabric stool that would be more fitting in a gentrified parlour, their outlines glow and their featureless faces reflect only a further imagined idyll, while far off in the distance behind them a red sun hangs over what appears to be some kind of futuristic, scientific building.

    In this sense the cover’s layering of the known, even comforting with elements of the unknown and unsettling atmospheres could be seen as a prescient reflection of some of the defining aspects of what would later come to be thought of as hauntological work.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 14 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Memory of a Free Festival and Other Arcadian Dreams – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 14/52

    British festival books-Tomorrow's People-The Sun In The East-Memories of a free festival

    I recently mentioned several books which to my knowledge are the main photographic orientated books which document British alternative/counter cultural outdoor festivals from the 1960s to 1980s: Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People (1974), Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs (1983) and Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival – The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene (2017).

    As I have previously mentioned, all three document and capture a time when outdoor festivals weren’t an accepted mainstream and/or commercial orientated activity.

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-1

    Memory of a Free Festival is a beautifully produced book which is essentially a photographic collection of found, collected, donated and researched period photography which focuses on British free festivals from the early 1960s to around the mid-1980s.

    (It also sits alongside three other photography orientated books Sam Knee has curated/edited – Untypical Girls which focuses on post-punk through grunge to riot grrrl alternative female style and music, A Scene In Between which documents what could loosely be called UK indie, anorak, shoegaze and bowlhead fashion, music and culture between 1980-1988 and the more all inclusive The Bag I’m In which gathers underground British music and fashion photography from 1960-1990.)

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-2

    Memory of a Free Festival gathers images from the jazz/beatnik festivals of the early 1960s and their morphing into rock orientated events, through the psychedelic/counter cultural festivals of the later 1960s, the more overtly new age inspired and/or post/latter period hippie and at times politically radical festivals of the early to later 1970s, through into the more punk and urban orientated likes of Rock Against Racism in the later 1970s and then into more anarcho-punk/crustie/traveller orientated festivals of the 1980s.

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-6

    Something of an aside: Traveller in this instance does not refer to the traditional Romany traveller community, rather a loose grouping that grew in size during the 1980s, which is sometimes referred to as new age travellers. This variously took in often alternative, counter cultural, rural, nomadic and unconventional ways of life, coupled with an at times anti-authoritarian stance.

    Crustie I use to loosely refer to a way of life/culture connected to that of the above form of travellers, although it was often more urban than rural nomadic orientated. There was a reasonable degree of crossover between the two groups in terms of political beliefs/stance, lifestyle and population and crustie also interlinks to a degree with the likes of anarcho-punk and the squatter movement.

    As a phrase, crustie has often been used in a derogatory sense, although here I use it merely to denote a particular section of society. As phrases and notifiers of particular groupings, cultures and lifestyles both travellers and crusties are often, although not exclusively used to refer to such things in 1980s and 1990s.

    Both travellers and crusties often shared an aesthetic which could be described as a punk-y, slightly biker, almost Mad Max post apocalyptic look, with one of its frequent signifiers or marks of identification being the adoption of dreadlocks. More on that and its evolution in a moment…

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-4

    The photographs are presented in Sam Knee’s book chronologically and although to a degree it portrays the progression, intermingling and evolution of culture, there also seems to be a distinctive break between some of the pre-hippie, post-war jazz and beatnik aesthetics of the early 1960s festivals and the then upcoming more rock and hippie/psychedelic orientated festivals.

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-3

    In the later 1970s and 1980s when punks start appearing in the festival photographs it also seems to mark a distinct sea change from the previous era’s more “peace and love” utopian aspects, bringing a harder edged aesthetic to the events. Although rather than a distinct schism, this could be seen as part of that just mentioned evolution and intermingling and also leading to the earlier mentioned anarcho-punk/crustie/traveller orientated festivals and their attendees, of which Sam Knee says:

    “At this point, the punks and the hippies had become fused together in a mashup of counterculture featuring long hair, skinny jeans, activist patches, baggy knitted jumpers and army surplus gear. The two cults once considered worlds apart were in fact clearly cut from the same cloth.”

    (Along which lines, this form of travellers being sometimes referred to as new age travellers appears to make more implicit their in part possibly hippie forebears or lineage.)

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-8

    Although expressed in different ways, both the anarcho etc punk and hippy movements were at times involved in conflicts with authority, which often centred around choices, beliefs and freedoms concerning lifestyles, the right to gather and access to public land/monuments which often differed from mainstream norms, beliefs and sometimes legislation.

    This differing and the resulting antangonisms/conflict lead to what has come to be known as the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985, which occurred after a High Court injunction which prohibited Stonehenge Free Festival taking place at the ancient standing stones was ignored by a convoy of travellers, with this convoy being stopped and broken up using extreme and heavy handed tactics by the authorities.

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-10

    Legislation was then passed in 1986 which enabled the more rigorous policing/prevention of festivals and this is the point at which Sam Knee’s book draws to a close, with him considering it the sounding of the “death knell for the golden era of the great British festival scene”.

    As I have mentioned before, Rob Young also writes extensively about 1960s-1980 British festivals in the Paradise Enclosed chapter in his book Electric Eden – Searching for Britain’s Visionary Music.

    However, both Sam Knee’s book and the Paradise Enclosed chapter in Electric Eden largely draw a line at a similar point of time to mark the ending of outdoor gatherings/festivals as alternative, sometimes subversive, counter cultural, utopian etc forms of expression and experimentation.

    To be continued in Part 2…

    Sam Knee-Memory of a Free Festival-The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene-2017-book-11

    Elsewhere:
    Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival at Cicada Books

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music
    2) Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…
    3) Chapter 1 Book Images: Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 9/52: The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed

     

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  • Image AA/13

    Image-AA13-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • From “Two Tribes” to War Games – The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture: Chapter 13 Book Images

    Blondie-Atomic-Nena-99 Red Ballons-OMD-Enola Gay-single covers

    The Pirahnas-Tom Hark-Jona Lewi-Stop the Cavalry-Frankie Goes to Hollywood-single covers

    nik_kershaw-i_wont_let_the_sun_go_down_on_me-Strawberry Switchblade-Since Yesterday-Ultravox-Dancing With Tears In My Eyes-single covers-stroke

    “From around 1980 to the mid-1980s there were a fair number of music singles released which explored and/or protested against the threat of nuclear war, and which made it to the higher ends of the official national British music sales chart.

    Because of the high profile nature of the music charts in the UK at the time, this placing meant that such records were a large part of the national conversation and consciousness and also that they may have sold hundreds of thousands, or more, physical singles. The commercial success of some of these records is highlighted by the list below, which shows the UK chart positions of singles that dealt with such apocalyptic themes:

    Blondie – “Atomic” (1980): No. 1
    Nena – “99 Red Balloons” (1983): No. 1
    OMD – “Enola Gay” (1980): No. 8
    The Pirahnas – “Tom Hark” (1980): No. 6
    Jona Lewie – “Stop the Cavalry” (1982): No. 3
    Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Two Tribes” (1984): No. 1
    Nik Kershaw – “I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (1984): No. 2
    Strawberry Switchblade – “Since Yesterday” (1984): No. 5
    Ultravox – “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” (1984): No. 3

    Musically these end of days pop songs took in a variety of styles and aesthetics, including the catchy, bouncy earworm nature of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” and The Piranhas “Tom Hark”, or the equally singalong-able but slightly melancholic pop of Strawberry Switchblade’s “Since Yesterday”.”

    On The Beach-Nevil Shute-three book cover variations-film tie-in

    “The cinematically dramatic “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” was a song based on Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel On the Beach, which told the story of how people planned to live through the end of times brought about via wind carried fallout in a country that has avoided the main devastating nuclear attack.”

    Blondie-Atomic-video still

    “Blondie’s “Atomic” took a lyrically minimal almost abstract approach to the theme, one that invokes dramatic dread and glamour, accompanied by a post-apocalyptic disco video and mushroom cloud single cover…

    The background to the release of the above records in 1980-84 was that this was one of the heightened points of the Cold War and a reaction to an international defence policy that seemed to “subscribe to the point of view that the more dangerous we make the world, the safer we are”.”

    Protect and Surive-A Year In The Country 4 Protect and Surive-A Year In The Country 2 Protect and Survive-A Year In The Country

    “(In an episode of the documentary series Trailblazers) Trevor Horn, who was the producer of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes and the co-owner of their record label ZTT, talks about the Civil Defence voiceover parts of the single.

    Apparently it went something like this:

    Paul Morley (who was loosely and variously the philosophiser, organiser and provocateur behind ZTT) had a bootleg of the UK Government’s Civil Defence Protect and Survive information films.

    These were intended for television broadcast in advance of a nuclear attack on the UK.

    They utilised animation to instruct the public on how to build DIY shelters in your home, deal with fallout, identify what different warning siren patterns indicated and so forth…

    At the time of Two Tribe’s recording these films were classified, although today they are freely available on well known commercial internet video platforms and can be bought on DVD.

    With their classified status in mind, rather than steal or sample the voiceovers from them, they hired Patrick Allen who had recorded them for the actual government broadcasts.

    Around then he was a nationally-known figure as he also did well known television commercials such as for Barratt Homes, so his use in these films was possibly intended by the authorities as a way of providing a reassuring voice.

    It cost ZTT around £1000 to hire him: a figure which seems low now.

    Kate Bush-Breathing single-A Year In The CountryKate Bush-Never For Ever-album cover art

    “…the pop charts could also include the likes of Kate Bush’s single “Breathing” from 1980.

    While this did not quite reach the Top 10 (peaking at No.16, although the album it featured on went to number one) it took as its subject matter the decidedly non-mainstream theme of a mother worried about passing the fallout from a nuclear explosion to her unborn child.

    Alongside which, further breaking from the conventions of what may be expected in a commercially successful pop song, it features an extended unsettling, drifting spoken word passage that describes in a scientific or documentary manner the characteristics of a flash from a nuclear explosion.”

    Wargames-film 1983-posters-A Year In The Country-3

    Ferris Bueller's Day Off-still

    “It was not just within the realms of mainstream pop music that such apocalyptic themes were explored with resounding commercial success around the early to mid-1980s.

    The film War Games, released in 1983, focused on themes connected to worries about Cold War nuclear armament computer based control systems gone awry and was that year’s fifth highest grossing film in the USA.

    It was largely aimed at a young adult or teenage audience and it shares some aspects, tropes and archetypes with classic John Hughes and other similar teen comedies and dramas from around that time. However this is not so much about being a geek and an outsider and maybe getting the girl, this is about being a geek and an outsider and getting the girl but to a background of computer hacking and apocalyptic mutually assured destruction via superpower conflict caused in part by that hacking.

    It does not just share some aspects and tropes with those John Hughes comedies, it also shares a main actor in Matthew Broderick, who played the loveable goof-about seize-the-day-er in the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which Hughes wrote.”

    Wargames-1983 film-A Year In The Country

    “The characters played by Matthew Broderick in both films share the same resourceful computer hacking skills that enable him to outstep and outsmart the systems created by adults.

    In Ferris Bueller he changes his number of absent days on the school computer.

    While in War Games he changes his grades via the school computer but also almost instigates worldwide destruction and conflict when he hacks a defence computer, which is in charge of planning and launching a US attack against its enemies.

    Broderick’s character is looking for the new unreleased games of a home computer game company when he connects via the modem and computer in his bedroom to this defence computer.

    The computer begins playing a simulation of those possible attacks but cannot distinguish between games or reality and thinks that to win it must literally carry out and launch an attack in the real world.”

    Wargames-1983 film-A Year In The Country-2

    “Alongside worries about nuclear conflict, another period curio aspect of (Wargames) is the seeming omnipotence of the young hacker and his ability to do more or less anything and to break into any system from his normal family home.

    This ties in with a period media obsession with the hacker as part of a lineage of youthful folk devils.

    In previous eras such folk devils included the likes of the much more easily identifiable biker or hippy who generally adopted and dressed in styles which were markedly differently from the mainstream, whereas the hacker was considered threatening in part because of their potential relative visual and stylistic normality and hence anonymity.”

    The Hunger Games-film poster artworkThe Tripods-television series-John Christopher

    “There seems to be an ongoing theme of young adult fiction and films dealing with dystopian and/or apocalyptic scenarios.

    The 2008 onwards The Hunger Games book and film series is a more contemporary example of this and has been notably commercially successful, while John Christopher’s 1960s book trilogy and its accompanying 1980s television series The Tripods trod related ground.

    What is different with Wargames is that it does not imagine a future fantasy despotism or alien invasion which is brought down by resourceful teenagers but rather the apocalyptic threat it reflects on was very real and present in the world and popular consciousness.

    However, in line with those other fictions, Wargames also seems to have at its core a form of wish fulfilment or empowerment of the teenager as the one who will save the day, who will beat the evil power or who has the right-headed way of looking at things rather than the pigheaded (or sometimes more or less absent) adults.”

    WarGames-Sheedy-and-Broderick-with-Professor-film still

    “Wargames has been described as “popcorn friviolity”, which would seem to imply that it is just escapist, throwaway fun that sat alongside other such escapist, throwaway fun of the time.

    Such ways of seeing things are possibly part of cultural reviewing and consideration whereby it can be hard to admit to “worthy” work or that which deals with serious issues as also being the f(un) word.

    Wargames is fun, a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining film but it does also fundamentally deal with one of the serious issues of its day. It, along with the earlier mentioned apocalyptic pop protest songs, shows that teen or youth-orientated commercially successful entertainment and explorations of a serious controversial real world subject or debate are not necessarily mutually exclusive states.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 13 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Jeffrey Siedler’s Logic Formations – Hybrid Spectres of the Spectron Video Synthesizer: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 13/52

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-cover

    Jeffrey Siedler’s Logic Formations is something of a cultural curiosity.

    Released by Buried Treasure, it is a limited edition DVD of audio/visual work by Jeffrey Siedler which was inspired by the rare 1970s EMS Spectron video synthesizer.

    What’s a video synthesizer you may say? Well, in this instance the Spectron was an electronic hardware device which could be utilised to create moving images/abstract patterns in real time, in a not dissimilar manner to the way in which say an electronic synthesizer could be used to create and manipulate audio. It also had an input for a monochrome camera, signals from which could be used in the generation of the video.

    EMS Spectron-1974-video synthesizer-Robert Monkhouse

    The Spectron was engineered/designed by Robert Monkhouse for EMS in 1974 and very few were manufactured, with it being relatively quickly supplanted by more affordable, programmable computers in terms of creating visuals.

    EMS Spectron-1974-video synthesizer-Robert Monkhouse-video image
    (Above: image from the original video output of the Spectron.)

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-1
    (Above and below: images from Logic Formations.)

    Jeffrey Siedler’s work, which is collected on this DVD, attempts to emulate the output visuals of the Spectron, utilising digital recreations of some of the original mathematics/calculations/processes and the manual of the Spectron.

    These visuals are accompanied by electronic music created via modular synthesis – so essentially a form of digital/analogue hybrid of the past and present.

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-8b

    The resulting visuals are largely abstract in nature, although here and there the outlines of a face or what seems to be a winged human figure will appear, alongside some accompanying descriptive text which give it the characteristics of say display video at a previous era’s Expo which extolled then cutting edge technology and visions of the future…

    …or possibly a science and education television programme which was intended to inform its viewers of developments in technology.

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-4

    In advance of watching the DVD, from the few screenshots I had seen, I thought that the resulting work would put me in mind of early 1990s abstract rave video graphics (the kind you would see displayed in a club and/or which were sometimes available on video cassette for home viewing).

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-9-selection of 4

    However, although there could be seen to be some visual similarity with such things, the audio/visual work on Logic Formations seems to be more haunted/haunting; it has a hypnotic aspect which you can drift off into but also for myself contains or invokes subtly unsettling or even at points ominous atmospheres.

    In the DVD’s accompanying text Jeffrey Siedler talks about how he considers that images such as those found on Logic Formations can “instil a calm, giving the mind a focus, much as would be accomplished by focusing on a mandala”.

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-screenshot-3

    Along which lines, the images on the DVD share some similar visual and atmospheric territory with some of Julian House’s work for Ghost Box Records, particularly his use of Op-art/mandala like abstract graphics and also caused me to think of this quote about his related video work from the text which accompanied a retrospective Ghost Box event at the ICA:

    “Using a combination of new digital and old analogue techniques they conjure a world where TV station indents become occult messages and films for schools are exercises in mind control and collective hallucination.”

    The work on Logic Formations could well be accidentally recorded “We have shut down for the night” broadcasts from some out-on-the-edges-of-consciousness television station, broadcasting from who knows which year or era.

    Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD-inside cover Jeffrey Siedler-Logic Formations-Buried Treasure-DVD and booklet

    Elsewhere:
    Logic Formations at Buried Treasure’s Bandcamp site
    The Logic Formations Trailer
    The EMS Spectron Video Synthesizer: at Encyclotronic / at Audiovisualizers
    Original Spectron video footage from 1997
    LSFF: Retrospective and Q&A: Ghost Box Records

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Ether Signposts #15/52a: The Delaware Road at Kelvedon Hatch
    2) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #27/52a: The Layered Seams And Explorations Of Buried Treasure

     

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  • A Bear’s Ghosts – Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures: Chapter 12 Book Images

    Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-5 (2) Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-5

    Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-7 Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country (4)

    “There have been a number of books and photography projects which could be seen to document a form of former Soviet Union hauntology; work that often focuses on monuments and remnants of Cold War era striving, dreams and far reaching projects…

    Jan Kempemaers’ Spomenik from 2010, contains his photographs of structures that were created in Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s as memorials to the Second World War but which now apparently are largely abandoned.

    These take a largely abstract, geometric, concrete modernist form and there is a brutalist beauty and fascination to them, while they also seem to have tumbled from both the future and the past; despite the all too real history which inspired them, they now seem almost like impossible fictions or props from the fantasies of a cinematic story.”

    Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-4Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-2

    “The structures photographed in (Christopher Herwig’s Soviet Bus Stops) could also be considered in the eyes of some beholders to have gained elements of being utilitarian or pragmatic accidental art.

    As with the Spomenik photographs, in Soviet Bus Stops some of the more architecturally brutalist designs appear to be artifacts from lost futures, of a time when an empire reached for grand horizons and even the stars.”

     Danila tkachenko-Restricted Areas-Dewi Lewis Publishing-A Year In The Country-2Danila tkachenko-Restricted Areas-Dewi Lewis Publishing-collage gs-A Year In The Country-4

    “…Danila Tkachenko’s Restricted Areas book from 2016, the photographs in which focus on abandoned hardware, secret cities and installations from the Soviet Union during the Cold War period…

    Danila Tkachenko says of the places, structures, equipment, vehicles and mechanisms he has photographed:

    ‘Those places lost their significance together with the utopian ideology which is now obsolete. The perfect technocratic future that never came.’

    And as with Spomenik and Soviet Bus Stops the spirit of these photographs seem like a different time and place’s hauntology: a differing but also partly parallel strand to that which has come about in the UK and the West and its sense of reflections on, mourning and yearning for a more utopian future which did not occur.”

    abandoned-soviet-space-shuttle-hangar-buran-baikonur-cosmodrome-kazakhstan-ralph-mirebs-7 abandoned-soviet-space-shuttle-hangar-buran-baikonur-cosmodrome-kazakhstan-ralph-mirebs-20

    “Today there is a considerable amount of photography out in the world and particularly online that focuses on derelict buildings, machinery and so on and which is sometimes referred to as urban exploration or urbex photography.

    However, in amongst the masses of such photography, Ralph Mireb’s images of abandoned and incomplete Soviet era space shuttles (which are a curious simulacra of the American space shuttle in terms of design and can be found at the website Bored Panda) stand out.

    This is in part due to the sheer scale of the infrastructure and buildings that surround them which they document – the space shuttle hangar is many storeys high and dwarves the other structures nearby.”

    abandoned-buran-wooden-wind-tunnel-model

    “In photographs that act as an accompaniment to Ralph Mireb’s, Alexander Marksin has documented the discarded wooden wind-tunnel models of these space shuttles.2

    Due to the materials used, these bring to mind thoughts of a folk art project rather than an institutionally and nationally funded attempt at space exploration, which is heightened as they have been left outside to age, weather, crumble and be slowly reclaimed and covered by nature.”

     abandoned-Raketas-or-Rockets-that-once-plied-the-Volga-and-other-great-rivers-of-the-Soviet-Union-during-the-Cold-War-years

    “In terms of vehicle design, in the Soviet Union there is a cul-de-sac that could well be called “The Shape of the Future’s Past” which takes in abandoned Soviet era hydrofoils and which were known as river rockets.

    These were made from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s and viewed now with their sleek, finned, almost space vehicle like designs appear as prototypes for a mid-century modern, atomic age take on how the future was to be.

    There is a bravery, an optimism, a genuine progressive modernism and venturing onwards and outwards to designs like these that seems to have been lost somewhere along the way, surrendered to a more day-to-day practicality in design.”

     Rebecca Litchfield-Soviet Ghosts-book cover

    “Throughout this chapter a number of times (I refer) to a sense of the science fiction-esque or fantastical, often accompanied by a grand sense of an empire and its once ambitions, which many of these photographs imply.

    This is particularly captured by the cover of Rebecca Litchfield’s Soviet Ghosts, a book released in 2014 which focuses on the extent of abandonment in the former Soviet Union and its satellite states in the Eastern Bloc.

    In the book’s cover image an abandoned and derelict circular stadium has been photographed, capturing the enormous scale and futurist grandeur of this structure…

    To the Western eye, as is similar to varying degrees with much of the above photography and structures, it conjures more a vision of a Flash Gordon-esque empire and future than something grounded in 

    the reality of a still relatively recent earthbound political, economic and societal system.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 12 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 12/52

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-8-cover

    In Part 1 of this post (which can be read here) I wrote about three photography orientated books which document British alternative/counter cultural outdoor festivals from the 1960s to 1980s: Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People (1974), Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs (1983) and Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival – The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene (2017).

    Part 2 of this post focuses further on The Sun in the East, a book which via a collection of Richard Barnes’ and other photographs alongside articles, cartoons, fliers and posters, interviews, memories and reflections on the festival etc presents a snapshot of a set of smaller scale fairs or festivals including the Barsham Faires and Albion Fairs, which took place in a particular area of Britain between 1972-1982.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-2

    As referred to in Part 1 of the post, in large part the overall aesthetic and culture presented and captured in the book is what could be loosely called latter period hippie-esque and possibly proto-new age traveller (with a few punks/anarcho-punks sneaking in towards the end).

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-4

    And as also mentioned in Part 1, accompanying those aesthetics some of the fairs in The Sun in the East were medieval themed, with the entertainers and some of the attendees  costumed or dressed in that manner. This may have reflected an early 1970s folk related interest in such things, an almost Arcadian wish to return to the land and the old ways that was often interconnected with hippie-esque culture and which has been described as a form of “imaginative time travel” (to quote Rob Young).

    (As an aside, some of the posters/fliers for the festivals show the entrance fee as being 30p or 20p if in costume, which allowing for inflation is approximately £2.50 to £1.50 at contemporary prices – which seems somewhat cheap compared to the modern day festival ticket prices that can run into hundreds of pounds).

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-1

    The festivals the book features are different from most of those in Tomorrow’s People and Memories of a Free Festival in that they weren’t big name band orientated, rather they featured performers nearer to say street performers – mimes, clowns, puppeteers, stilt walkers, small scale theatre shows etc.

    In the photographs these performers seem nearer to being just another part of the festival, with them often performing literally in amongst the other attendees.

    Looked at now, the festivals and in particular their entertainments in part seem not all that dissimilar to say a new age/eco leaning contemporary family friendly festival that was possibly organised or sponsored by for example a local council or a grant funded organisation of some form – which is also possibly in part a reflection of the incorporation and acceptance by wider society, governing bodies and authorities of some elements of what was once more fringe and counter culture.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-7

    Alongside the medieval and hippie-esque aspects and those just mentioned performers, looking through The Sun in the East there are at times old time music hall, cabaret and burlesque aspects to some of the performances, which is an intriguing prefiguring of the more recent revivals in such things.

    Hare and Tabor-Albion Fair tshirt-Barsham Fair poster flier

    The Sun is in The East is now long out of print and at the point of writing not all that cheap to buy second hand but it’s worth seeking out as a document of a semi-forgotten corner of cultural history.

    I was first pointed in the direction of the book by undercurrents-of-folklore explorers and merchandisers Hare and Tabor, who as I have mentioned around these parts before have produced a t-shirt which is inspired by artwork for the Albion Fair, proceeds from which go towards funding the Fairs Archive, which is a travelling exhibition that documents the Fairs.

    Their Albion Fair t-shirt page also contains some interesting background on the fair and related links. Well worth a visit.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-3

    Elsewhere:
    The Albion Fair t-shirt at Hare and Tabor
    The Fairs Archive
    The not-so-pocket-money-friendly out of print The Sun in the East book
    Rob Young’s Electric Eden

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music
    2) Day #40/365: Electric Eden Ether Reprise… from the wild woods to broadcasts from the pylons…
    3) Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…
    4) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #46/52a: Barsham Faire 1974 and a Merry Albion Psychedelia
    5) Chapter 1 Book Images: Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New
    6) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 11/52: The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed – Part 1

     

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  • Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen, Red Shift and The Owl Service – Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes: Chapter 11 Book Images

    Redshift-Robin Redbreast-The Changes-BBC-BFI-DVD-A Year In The Country

    Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-2John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-5

    “Robin Redbreast is a 1970 television programme, which although it was originally made and broadcast in colour, now only a black and white version is known to exist. It contains a plot and atmosphere that draw you in, grip and unsettle you…

    (It is not) an as-overtly visual representation of folkloric rites as say The Wicker Man is (apart from one brief moment where the locals gather, clad in folkloric attire, which could almost be a photograph by late 19th/early 20th century documenter of folk customs Benjamin Stone or a modern day re-enactment of his photographs); it does not have the broad cinematic sweep or cult musical accompaniment of that film but this is a different creature.

    It is a more intimate, enclosed story, a television play with I expect a relatively small budget, a small cast and a quite limited number of locations but none the worse for it.”

    The Omega Factor-TV series-A Year In The CountryNoahs Castle-1979 TV series-John Rowe Townsend-A Year In The Country-6Quatermass-1979-The Conclusion-Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country 2

    “…some of the most intriguing pieces of work leading up to and during the creation of A Year In The Country have been the introduction and end title sequences to some of those television series and plays from the late 1960s to mid 1970s; this probably extends to around 1980 to take in Children of the Stones (1977), Sky (1975), The Tomorrow People (1973-1979), Noah’s Castle (1979), The Omega Factor (1979) and the final series of Quatermass (1979).

    They often seem to represent a very concise, at points quite surreal capturing of the otherly spirit of the various series, related flipside and undercurrents of bucolia, hauntological concerns and a particular era…”

    The Tomorrow People-4 intro credits stills-1970s

    Penguin Modern Poets-Julian House-Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age-A Year In The CountryJulian House-Intro design-Ghost Box Records-A Year In The Country

    “The intro sequence for The Tomorrow People is a collage of images that include geometric science fiction-esque shapes, a single eyeball, cosmological swirls, a hand opening and closing, a shadowy figure in a doorway etc.

    It could be a mixture of the stark, darkly pastoral covers of The Modern Poets series of book covers from the 1960s and 1970s and Julian House of Ghost Box Records’ design work tumbling backwards and forwards through time, filtered somehow through an almost Woolworths-esque take on such things but still having a particularly unsettling air.”

    The Owl Service-TV series titles-Alan Garner-A Year In The Country-1200

    The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 2 The Owl Service-TV series titles-Alan Garner-A Year In The CountryThe Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 3 The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country

    “The Owl Service’s intro sequence mixes and layers imagery that includes tinted largely monochromatic images of the forest, pulsating geometric circles, a candle flame flickering against a black background, hands making bird silhouettes and a mirrored illustration where the same elements can be seen as both owls and flowers.”

    Children Of The Stones-TV series-A Year In The Country The Children Of The Stones series-intro 3

    “Children of the Stones’ intro is presented in a more realist, visually conventional manner, though it still more than hints at flipside tales of the land.

    To a soundtrack of a memorable, spectral, eldritch and wordless choir, it features multiple images of ancient standing stones, variously shown as ominous looming structures, with the sun refracting over them or in a layering of the past and present as they are pictured next to local village housing.”

    Sky-1975 TV series-A Year In The Country

    Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 3 in a row

    Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 6 Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 4Sky-1975 British TV-A Year In The Country 7

    Sky is another of those “Hmmm, what was in the water at TV commissioning meetings in the seventies to think that these were quite normal programmes for children’s television?” series, which over time has grown layers of exoticism…

    It is a sort of rurally-set children’s television version of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), with a cockney alien and ecological overtones which the promotional information describes somewhat esoterically as:

    ‘Out of the sky falls a youth, not of this place or time, ‘part-angel, part-waif ’, a youth with powers he can neither control or understand… nature itself rejects him and takes on the cadaverous body of Goodchild in sinister personification of the forces of opposition… He speaks of time travellers ‘Gods you call them’ who had tried again and again to help the people of Earth… Sky must find the mysterious juganet, the cross-over point in time, that is the key to his return to his own dimension.'”

    The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country-8The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 4 The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 2

    The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The CountryThe Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 5

    “(In The Changes) black and chain-wearing louche beatnik styled robbers and brigands roam the land and at points the series wanders off into a milder version of Witchfinder General (1968) territory where those who are suspected of using machinery or even saying their names are seen as “wicked sinners” and considered to be witches…

    ..in one of the memorable phrases from the series overhead electricity (and so on) cables become known as “the bad wires” and people are not able to pass underneath them as this brings a return of The Noise and the madness which compelled people to destroy technology…

    The source of The Noise and the machine smashing/rejecting madness is eventually tracked down by Nicky and her companion to a form of sentient lodestone which has been uncovered in quarry workings.

    Although it is not explained what this stone is or how it came to be, we are told that it had given magical powers to Merlin in ancient historical times and it is now trying to take Britain back to what it considers to be a better pre-industrial time by psychically inducing the rejection of machinery…

    How on earth did this come to be made as children’s entertainment? In particular the first episode where the madness has gripped mankind and the machines are being smashed in the streets: the scenes of which have an unnerving intensity…

    …The Changes could be seen as a reflection of some of society’s fears of social breakdown at that time and the threats represented by a reliance on modern technology which needed modern fuel, which was at that time under threat due to a crisis in oil supplies.”

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 2

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 5The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 6 The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country-10

    “(The Ash Tree television play from 1975, based on a story by M.R. James) shares some themes with Witchfinder General in its dealing with folk horror and persecution.

    M.R. James’ short story was adapted for television by David Rudkin, who for a while seemed to be the go-to chap for otherly Albion-ic television and also wrote Penda’s Fen…

    In many ways The Ash Tree could sit quite comfortably amongst the not-so-salubrious fare that littered the faded cinemas of mid 1970s Britain; it has that nasty, unsettling feeling to it that a fair few cinematic releases from that period did, possibly reflecting a wider sense of corruption and malaise in society…

    There is little beauty in this landscape and its rolling fields. Bleak is a word that comes to mind; these are moors and feeding grounds full of judgement, punishment, voyeurism and unexplained carrion.”

    Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 5 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 8 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 7

    Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 3 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 2 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country

    “(Penda’s Fen) is a tale which takes in the revival of ancient pagan kings, hidden underground government facilities (cities?), left-wing truths, ranting and paranoia, substitute Mary Whitehouse-esque self-appointed moral majority figures, awakening sixth form adolescent sexuality, alternative religious histories and theological study, fancying your local milk man, demons, army cadet forces, William Blake’s Jerusalem, the threat and worry of the never stopping industrial conveyor belt, returning dead classical musicians who wish to see the silver river and verdant valleys but who are actually staring at a flaking brick wall, the battle of religion against older gods, a birthday cake, adoption, fertility, almost breaking the fourth wall self-criticism about himself in David Rudkin’s script, angelic riverside visitations and Kenneth Anger-esque phallic firework dreams…

    It could be a head spinning melange and collage of freakish, cult film making but it is not; although in its hour and a half (actually, its first half hour) it manages to have covered more topics than a whole catalogue of other films may do, this is a very cogent and coherent film which at its core deals with conformity, coming of age and mankind’s sacred covenant with the land.’

    Play-For-Today-1200-Red Shift-Alan Garner-BFI-BBC-A-Year-In-The-Country-smaller Red Shift-Alan Garner-1978-BBC-Play For Today-A Year In The Country-2 darker Mow Cop-David Byrne-Red Shift-Alan Garner-A Year In The Country

    “Red Shift from 1978 shares some similarities with Penda’s Fen: it is a visionary take on the landscape and its stories and histories, older forms of worship, tales of coming of age and a priggish not always likeable teenage protagonist…

    In part it could be seen as an exploration of the literary, intellectual and cultural idea that similar, interconnected things continue to happen in the same places over time, almost as though places become nodes or echo chambers for particular occurrences or a kind of temporal layering occurs: something which is also explored in Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape from 1972.”

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The CountryFilming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 3

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 8 Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-Dafydd Rees-A Year In The Country

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 4Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 11Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 5

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 10Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 2Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 9

    Filming the Owl Service (1970)… is long out of print and rare as hen’s teeth to find second hand, which is a shame as it is a fine companion piece to the series, full of rather lovely photographs, artifacts, anecdotes, background story, prop sheets and designs from the filming and the series itself.

    The book is split into three parts; an “Introduction” by Alan Garner in which he discusses the making of the film, some of what inspired the original book, the coincidences around it and so on, “Our Diaries” by his children who took nine weeks off school while it was being made to be on and around its filming and “Making the Film” by its director Peter Plummer.

    Some of the points of interest from the book are:

    (Please note: there are 12 such points in the A Year In The Country book.)

    5) When Peter Plummer introduced the actors to Alan Garner for the first time and asked if they looked right, Alan Garner’s recollection of it was that it was a “nasty experience”:

    “I wanted to run. They looked too right. It was like a waking dream. Here were the people I’d thought about, who’d lived in my head for so long; but now they were real. I couldn’t accept that they were only actors.”

    6) Alan Garner had based the part of Huw on Dafydd, an actual gardener from one of the locales of filming, but a Dafydd as he had imagined him being at the age of forty. When he saw them together he said that it “was like seeing father and son”. Apparently the two people in question when they saw one another said:

    Dafydd: “I wish I was young and forty again.” Raymond: “Now I know what I’ll look like at eighty.”

    The book leaves a sense that Dafydd was a very particular kind of person, one of those people who seem to have been part of the land forever, an archetype almost.

    11) Alan Garner is one of the villagers in one scene in the series and apparently he was a foot taller than all the actual local people who were in the series and they all found it hard to behave normally when the man-made storm rain hits them.

    Alan Garner: “…as soon as the solid water hit us we all gasped and yelled, and looked like anything but villagers out in a storm.” Dafydd: “We must be dumb and waterproof.”

    Alan Garner: “That scene is still odd, because I was about a foot taller than anybody else, and I look like the village freak – which may be what Peter was after all the time.”

    12) The end of Alan Garner’s section is a quote taken from a letter sent by Dafydd, referring to the time during the filming and The Stone Of Gronw, which the production had commissioned to be carved, prepared and set in place for the series:

    “It was a good time… I have been to the stone. It is lonely now.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 11 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs and Albion Unenclosed – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 11/52

    British festival books-Tomorrow's People-The Sun In The East-Memories of a free festival

    To my knowledge there are three main photography orientated books which document British alternative/counter cultural outdoor festivals from the 1960s to 1980s: Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People (1974), Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East – Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs (1983) and Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival – The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene (2017).

    These books document and capture a time when festivals weren’t an accepted mainstream and/or commercial orientated activity.

    Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid-Tomorrows People-British festival photography book-1974

    Tomorrow’s People, which I have written about previously at A Year In The Country, focuses on the 1960s and 1970s, a time when in part festivals were an experiment in alternative ways of living and thinking, often inspired by hippie, new age, utopian and later anti-authoritarian ideals and sometimes took place without charging an entrance fee – they could be seen as part of an attempt to create short-lived temporary autonomous zones where such experiments and ideals could take place and flourish.

    (In terms of further reading Rob Young covers such festivals extensively in his Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music book in the chapter Paradise Enclosed.)

    Although the above ideals and beliefs were part of festivals around this time and may well have been believed fervently and/or wholeheartedly by some of the organisers and participants, to a degree such aspects could be seen as ancillary or possibly more in part a reflection of the interest in and adoption of then fashionable beliefs and associated aesthetics and mindsets.

    Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid-Tomorrows People-British festival photography book-1974-2 copy

    Such beliefs may have been part of the impetus that lead to such festivals creations but looking through these books, what really strikes me is that these were gathering spaces for younger folk to let their hair down, party, indulge in a brewed/distilled or otherwise manufactured intoxicant, watch a band or two and so on – places outdoors for people to have fun basically.

    For myself these books are strongest when they are documenting the festival attendees rather than the “known” bands on stage. When they turn their gaze away from the main stages and onto the general public they seem to capture more of a sense of time and place, of a world and events that although a part of relatively recent history now seem quite far away from our own times.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-8-cover

    Along which lines Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East book focuses quite specifically on a set of smaller scale fairs or festivals including the Barsham Faires and Albion Fairs, which took place in a particular area of Britain between 1972-1982.

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-9-fliers and posters

    The book brings together his and other’s photographs alongside articles, fliers and posters, cartoons, interviews, reflections and memories on the festivals etc.

    Although professionally bound and produced this book has an intimate, almost small press or fanzine layout and atmosphere – something which may in part reflect both the smaller scale, home grown nature of the festivals alongside Richard Barnes’ own connection to and enthusiasm for the festivals, of which he was variously involved as an attendee, photographer, vendor and helped prepare the festival sites by literally digging a trench or two.

    It captures a very particular time in British culture, when latter period hippie culture intermingled with medieval aesthetics (some of the fairs were medieval themed) and although not overtly expressed within the book it documents such culture’s move towards a form of proto-new age traveller/crustie culture and even here and there an interrelated anarcho-punk scene.

    To be continued in Part II…

    Richard Barnes-The Sun in the East-British festival book-1983-Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs-Albion Barsham-2

    Elsewhere:
    The Fairs Archive
    The not-so-pocket-money-friendly out of print The Sun in the East book
    Rob Young’s Electric Eden

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music
    2) Day #40/365: Electric Eden Ether Reprise… from the wild woods to broadcasts from the pylons…
    3) Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…
    4) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #46/52a: Barsham Faire 1974 and a Merry Albion Psychedelia
    5) Chapter 1 Book Images: Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New

     

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