Coincidences No.s 288, 289 & 290

No. 288 Black Lives Matter

I finish a documentary entitled ‘Black Rainbow‘. All through the production it has reminded me of a film I worked on a couple of years ago entitled ‘Black Star‘. The former is about black and trans rights. The latter about voluntary repatriation of an Afro-American musician from California to Ghana. They both are firmly in the realm of Black Lives Matter.

I am scrolling through Instagram the same day and I come across a post by the main contributor to ‘Black Star’, Sunru. His Insta name (unbeknownst to me) is blackrainbow333.

(2018)

No. 289 Friedlander

I am talking to my nephew about his Photography GCSE. He has been inspired on his main project by Lee Friedlander, American photographer and artist (b. 1934).

I am moving my whole library and in the process there is one picture book I decide to chuck. It’s because it is so big it doesn’t really fit in the bookcase. It was given to me a few years ago by an old friend who now lives in California. I helped her with a documentary she was working on – the book was my reward. It is a lovely copy – a signed, numbered, limited edition. It is of photographs by a photographer I had never heard of before receiving the book. A certain Lee Friedlander.

No. 290 Olympic Park

I am moving house and the new place is a new build constructed by Barratt Homes. I noticed in the contract that the sales operation was based somewhere in East London. Today, to distract myself from the drawn-out process of purchasing the place I go for a walk along the canal in Hackney. 

At the end of the walk I get to the old Broadcast Centre from London 2012 Olympics. I worked as a volunteer (Games Maker) in the summer of 2012 in the Press Centre. I cycled along that canal in the early morning to get to work there. I decide to go look at the Press Centre for old times’ sake – it was the best summer of my adult life. I look to see what businesses have moved into the building in its new phase. Barratt Homes have.

 

Looking down on Stars of Brighton by the gutter

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

― Oscar Wilde, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’

 

“…he happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a seaside resort.”

― Oscar Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’

East of Worthing, east of Hove, at the eastern end of Brighton, just below Kemptown, sits Brighton Marina (site of ArkAngel Productions’ regional office). It was built from 1971 to 1978 and opened in 1979 with the age of Thatcherism. Rumour had it that it was some kind of scam to secure European (EEC) money.  In 1985 it was taken over by Brent Walker, nicknamed ‘Bent Walker’, a property and leisure business run by the former boxer and Soho gangster George Walker. Earlier in his career he was jailed for stealing nylon stockings in Victoria Docks, London.  

Among the shops Walker established in the Marina is a rather incongruous Walk of Fame, a set of stars built into the pavement Hollywood-style. I’ve walked over them often over the years, frequently asking myself the question what have they got to do with Brighton? Like Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s Midnight Runners – he’s a Brummy as far as I know (Wolverhampton?), of Irish descent (Co. Mayo) and he has lived in London a fair bit, but what’s Brighton got to do with him?

Young soul rebel in 1980 (front left)

Whilst tramping over them during the summer I decided to use the stars as the basis of an occasional series on Simple Pleasures Part 4, of which this is the introduction.

So Brighton Marina’s Walk of Fame is the first such one in the UK. It was the brainchild of David Courtney, a Brighton-born songwriter/music producer who had an internationally successful partnership with Leo Sayer in the 70s which brought him to L.A., spiritual home of Walks of Fame. That prompted him to bring the concept back to his home town and to the Marina his uncle, Henry Cohen, helped conceive and realise.

So the first star in this series, given the business of ArkAngel Productions, will be Ray Brooks.

Ray Brooks is the voice of Mr Benn, the sober suited businessman from Festive Road who made regular visits on the sly to a certain dressing up shop. There The Shopkeeper offered him outfits to try on and when he went into the changing room there his magical adventures began. From knight in armour to cowboy, he lived a more colourful, adventurous life for a brief while until the Shopkeeper fetched him back to the changing room. The character was conceived by David McKee originally for children’s books but became the star of a much-loved BBC animated series in 1971/72 (the year the Marina was born).

I worked with Ray Brooks only once – he did the voice-over for a film I directed for Barnardos about whistleblowing, ‘Sounding the Alarm‘. 

His Brighton connection is simple: he was born there just before the Second World War. His career as an actor started in ‘Coronation Street’ in the early 60s. A breakthrough came in 1965 when he joined Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham in Richard Lester’s comedy ‘The Knack …and how to get it’ which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes that year. 

Interlude: Coincidence No. 266

That’s the second time ‘The Knack’ has come up in the last couple of days. Someone in my circle posted a picture of the LP sleeve of the soundtrack by John Barry because they’d dusted it off and were giving it a Lockdown2 listen.

The following year Ray appeared in the landmark ‘Cathy Come Home’. Throughout the 60s he got parts in cult classics from ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Danger Man’ through to ‘Dr Who’. 

He was the voice of the storyteller in ‘Jackanory’ throughout the 70s. At the turn of the millennium he starred in ‘Two Thousand Acres of Sky’ with Paul Kaye and did a spell in ‘Eastenders’ in the mid-noughties. 

He lives in London but still goes to Brighton to write. He clearly remains attached to the place as his final blog post (17th March 2019) ends with a reference to it as the place he’d go to get rid of his ego:

But what could I expect.? The old ego was popping up again. I’ll put it into a box and chuck [it] off the Brighton Pier I’m sure David Attenborough  wouldn’t complain ‘cos fish with egos wouldn’t eat plastic bags any more they’d be too full of themselves.

Jane Birkin (uncredited) & Ray Brooks in ‘The Knack …and How To Get It ‘ (1965)

Jane Birkin was married to John Barry, composer on ‘The Knack …and How To Get It ‘ before moving on to hook up with Serge Gainsbourg at the end of the decade. This is a CD cover my old friend Marcelino Truong drew and designed for Gainsbourg. Marcelino has stayed at ArkAngel South-East in Brighton Marina.

Gainsbourg ‎– Mon Légionnaire (1988) by Marcelino Truong

Quote: Jung at heart

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

― Carl Jung

“Action is everything! It really doesn’t matter what you say or even what you think; it’s what you do that matters.”

Action Girl’s Guide to LivingSarah Dyer


“Action is character.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this in his notes while working on his final (unfinished) novel, The Last Tycoon. He wrote it in caps: ACTION IS CHARACTER.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1890-1940)

Projects

Moving the office archive recently I crossed paths again with numerous projects I’ve commissioned and worked on which are fading in my memory so I’ve decided to build a list here for posterity…

  • My Healthchecker
  • My Mindchecker
  • My Molechecker
  • Bedtime Live (2012)
  • Healthfreaks (2013) 
  • Every Object Tells a Story (2004)
  • ORIGINATION (10/04)
  • Origination: Insite (Culture Online) (Q1 2005)
  • Lost Generation
  • My Movie Mashup
  • Germ (viral videos incl. ICA exhibition)
  • The Human Footprint – a life in numbers (interactive module)
  • PIXnMIX (Nov 2004) The Candy Jar
  • TexTips 4Lovers, 4Karma, 4Mates, Islamic Inspiration, 4Change etc.
  • Lust4Life / Ten Years Younger
  • (Chancers) (urban talent search, Ras Kwame 12/04)
  • Ideasfactory
  • Omagh
  • Digital Africa
  • Time Team Big Dig
  • (Big Roman Dig) (2005)
  • (Jamie’s School Dinners)
  • Jamie’s Dreamschool
  • (New Shoots)
  • Famelab
  • Rolling Stock
  • My Shakespeare (RADA)
  • X (Q1 2005)
  • Breaking the News
  • Make Tracks
  • Webit (Ideasfactory website competition for 13-19s 12/04)
  • Interactive Christmas card (tangerine)
  • The Unteachables
  • 121 (2006)
  • The Play’s The Thing
  • Drugs SFV pilot (which came first)
  • Sexperience
  • The Sexperience 1000
  • The Showbiz Baby Name Generator (10/04)
  • Parents Screw You Up 
  • Stephen Fry’s 100 Greatest Gadgets (6/11)
  • Poll Vault pilot
  • Bollywood Star (9/04)
  • Big Art Project
  • [Creative Archive Licence]
  • Britain’s Big Share (pilot)
 

East Street Band

East Finchley has done pretty well on the music front in recent years with Feargal Sharkey of The Undertones, Ray Davies of the Kinks and Jon King of the Gang of Four among the local residents, as well as having the house called Fairport just down the road which gave its name to Fairport Convention. But the crowning glory is the little known fact that David Bowie played one of his first gigs, aged 17, in this (not very large) building in East Finchley High Street…

 

Finchley Youth Theatre

Here’s how the two shilling event was billed:

Sunday 26th June 1964

This was Bowie’s – or as he was then Davie (not Davy) Jones – second band. They mainly did RnB covers but had nevertheless attracted the attention of TV (BBC’s Juke Box Jury, ITV’s Ready Steady Go!, and The Beat Room on BBC2 [the third British TV station,  which had just launched in April 1964]). Their first and only single, Liza Jane, had just been released (5th June 1964), Bowie’s first ever record. It was recorded not far away at Decca Studios in West Hampstead.

Bowie left the King Bees shortly after the gig to form The Mannish Boys. Five years later, after struggling to break through, he released Space Oddity under the name David Bowie.

J.Y.C. stands for Jewish Youth Club. Beatles manager Brian Epstein was Vice-President of the club from 1964 to his death in 1967, and visited it at least once a year to meet the young members. The club was sent copies of all Epstein’s record releases the day they came out.

Davie Jones and the King Bees
jewish Chronicle 15th September 1967
 Brian Epstein signing autographs at the Youth Club in September 1965

Coincidence No. 202 – Kane

I finish watching ‘Citizen Kane’ for the first time in years, showing Enfant Terrible No. 1. I notice how the final scene in Xanadu with all his art and possessions boxed up must have inspired the final warehouse scene in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. 

Two minutes after the film finishes a message comes in to me from an old school friend commenting on the stuff I’ve been finding today as I sort out the attic and sharing with our Whatsapp group of schoolmates:

Ad – I’m thinking of that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark gets stored in a vast warehouse. Based on what’s emerging recently, I’m assuming your attic is something like that.

Final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark
Final scene of Citizen Kane

Coincidences No. 114 & 115

WordPress is telling me I registered with it 14 years ago – digital time flies. To mark the occasion here’s one of those word coincidences we all have. The word is ‘helpmeet’ – “A helpful partner, particularly a spouse.” It comes from the Bible, in the King James’ version: “an helpe meet” for Adam i.e. Eve (Genesis 2:18). So this also marks the occasion of my Silver Wedding Anniversary this week. I always associate “helpmeet” with Eve in the Old Testament.

Now I haven’t thought about the word ‘helpmeet’, or even the more common ‘helpmate’, in many a year. But it cropped up twice today before 8.00am.

I am writing in my Faber & Faber Poetry Diary 2020. Opposite today’s date is a poem by Julia Copus, ‘Lacan Appeals to the Patient’. It has the line:

Beyond the clayey dark your helpmeet is waiting. 

It is clear this particular helpmeet is masculine and I think it refers to the sculptor in the poem which I understand to be the Creator, perhaps God, perhaps some other kind of artist or higher being. The name Adam means ‘red earth’ or perhaps ‘red clay’. It is the substance God moulded the First Man from in the Bible and this poem is about the shaping of “one’s selfhood”.

Started during lockdown, I am now up to page 242 of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Today’s page contains this line:

Helpmeat too, contrasta toga, his fiery goosemother, laotsey taotsey, woman who did, he tell princes of the age about.

To be honest I’m a bit lost in this chapter – it’s about the three children in the story, two brothers (a bit like Cain and Abel from Genesis) and a sister. It has a lot of references to fairy tales and nursery rhymes, hence “fiery goosemother” = fairy godmother meets goosey goosey gander. “laotsey taotsey” may echo ‘goosey goosey’. “Fiery” may relate to the fact that one of the brothers (the one this sentence is about, I think) is associated with the devil. “Helpmeat” will be a deliberate pun/misspelling as that is the nature of the novel. I’m fairly sure it is referencing biblical Eve. Joyce had a strong Eve character in his own life – his wife Nora Barnacle from Galway. What the woman “did” I’m not sure, but it might include eating the forbidden fruit. The man might well find that something to tell princes and others about. 

“laotsey” is a reference to Lao-tse, the ancient Chinese philosopher and central figure in Taoism. The Woman Who Did is a Victorian novel (1895) by Grant Allen. “taotsey” may be related to ‘tutti’ type words i.e. ‘all’. Finnegans Wake is constructed from such layers of meaning and reference. The trick with both Finnegans Wake and Ulysses is not to get too hung up on understanding every word. 

1st (trade) edition, Faber & Faber, London, 1939

My edition of Finnegans Wake is a Penguin Modern Classic. But of course the original publication was by the bold, Modernist Faber & Faber. So that is Coincidence No. 115.

Laughter

With Canadian sit-com Schitt’s Creek picking up all 7 of the comedy awards last night at the Emmys in LA, dubbed the ‘Phantemmys’ due to having to go online and virtual due to the pandemic, it is a perfect moment for this Byron quote:

“Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.”

Byron in 1815
The Rose family from Schitt’s Creek. The sixth and final series has just aired in the US.

On the subject of Byron, the BBC’s new 3-part series on Romanticism fronted by Simon Schama is well worth a watch. The Romantics and Us plays out on BBC2 and was made by Oxford Films

Coincidence No. 101

I wake up in a pleasant hotel in Bristol and decide to treat myself to some pleasant TV (‘Strike: Lethal White’ BBC1), finishing off an episode from last night. There’s these lines in the bit I got to:

No, wait, I’ve seen Blanc de Blanc before. Matt’s Instagram. Where we went on our anniversary. It’s only an hour from Chisel House.

The character (Robyn) is referring to a hotel where she went with her husband. Blanc de Blanc was the room name.

I am writing this in Casa Lapostolle, a room in the Hotel du Vin. It is named after a wine as is their way. The bottle is sitting in a cabinet just outside the door.

Watching Hotel du Vin in Hotel du Vin

%d bloggers like this: