Archive for the ‘paul arden’ Tag

Other Halves (Day 48 and 49)

Mozartkugel Mozartkugeln Austrian sweets

Austria’s greatest contribution to civilisation – Mozartkugeln from Kipferl, Islington

Off to the Angel at the start of Day 48 to catch up with Nicole Yershon of Ogilvy Labs and interview her about creative networking. We caught up at The Breakfast Club (which  I was originally introduced to in D’Arblay Street by Garret Keogh of Telegraph Hill) and did the interview at Kipferl for the quiet (and to pick up a bag of Mozartkugeln). While there we bumped into Neville Brody, whose studio is round the corner. Hooked him and Nicole up so she could arrange for him to visit the 3D Printing show she was working at over in the Business Design Centre opposite, the event a direct, concrete result of her own networking and talent nurturing activities with all kinds of benefits to her organisation (from commissioned creative executions to specialist organisational expertise).

Concluded the week by interviewing Hettie Jones, poet and publisher of the Beat generation, over the phone in New York. We had a good chat and she said she enjoyed the interview as it was different from most and didn’t fixate on parties and sex. She told me a great story of an early meeting with Allen Ginsberg (whose poems appeared in her magazine Yugen) where she helped him, for his major poem Kaddish, get under the skin of the titular prayer by singing it to him – he was from a non-practicing Jewish family and she had childhood ambitions to be a cantor (not technically possible til 1987). We had a good few things in common – from a mixed marriage (she married black writer/dramatist LeRoi Jones [Amiri Baraka], an early American interracial marriage) to a mother of exemplary charitableness – so there was a real connection.

Unusually worked on Day 49 (a Saturday – I’m on a 9 to 5, Mon to Fri regime) as I was in Brighton (with Enfant Terrible No. 2, no Mrs, and three Albanian teenagers, the pals of aforementioned Enfant Terrible) so not far away from Paul Arden’s West Sussex cottage, now home to his widow Toni. As I drove West and slightly North across the county the roads gradually narrowed until I was on a track through beautiful old woodland near the height of its autumn colour. Interviewed Toni, who is originally from Copenhagen (she gave me some tips of what to see of an arty nature for my trip next week), seated beside Paul’s art/photography book collection in elegant grey cabinets and across from his photograph collection, including the Richard Avedon African woman mentioned in It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be . After the interview Toni kindly showed me some highlights from the collection including a large format monochrome contact sheet of Michael Josephs’ shoot for the cover of The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet LP; work by Norman Parkinson, David Bailey and Robert Mapplethorpe; and an amazing black & white shot of a dying horse by Colin Barker where the beast is actually not touching the ground as it crumples after being put down with a bullet. She then gave me a tour of the beautiful 17C cottage behind the gallery/barn where we had been speaking. By the front door was a drawing by Paul’s father, a commercial artist/early advertising creative, drawn in his late 90s. Below the pink and pale green former charcoal burner’s dwelling was a pond Paul had created at the foot of a slope, so an impractical location used to fine aesthetic effect.

On my return to Brighton I was delighted to have a note in direct response to this very blog from a reader based in Dublin who had first-hand experience of one of my other protagonists and who kindly offered to give me an interview. That kind of loop of connection is what the Web – and When Sparks Fly – is all about.

In the depths of West Sussex

In the depths of West Sussex

A River Runs Through It (Day 44)

The Thames at Richmond Bridge

Started the new week with a sunlit trip round the civilised (off-peak) North London line to Richmond where I interviewed Alexandra Taylor, one-time protegee of Paul Arden at Saatchi & Saatchi, a very accomplished Art Director, who, alongside Charles Saatchi, was one of the only two people Arden cited as having inspired him during his career (on receiving his Lifetime Achievement  Award from Creative Circle in 2007). Alex is currently putting together a book of Arden’s photograph collection, making use of his diaries.

From Richmond High Street (well off my manor, little known to me other than as a transit point for getting to the rugby at Twickenham) I jumped on a bus to get to the river. Found myself a perfect spot below Richmond Bridge at which to work, a bench facing into the lowering autumn sun across the Thames just above a path which suddenly disappeared in the high tide, in just a matter of seconds. Boatmen, geese and other passers-by punctuated a mild afternoon of writing more of the Advertising/Arden chapter and reading Hettie Jones’ book How I Became Hettie Jones. Hettie is a magazine publisher and poet who knew Allen Ginsberg and was married to Leroi Jones, the writer/dramatist, author of Dutchman (which I came across and read in a teenage burst of play-reading). He became Amiri Baraka who plays an important role in one of my favourite movies, Bulworth.

I gradually made my way to the BBC in White City, via more Hettie Jones in a caff in Acton Central, for the process of dropping the live interactive insert into tonight’s Health Freaks.

Hettie Jones Portrait

Amiri Baraka in Bulworth movie

Share dealing (Day 36)


Just tapping away really. Carried on with the Paul Arden chapter, inserting points from my web research. It’s just a bit laborious really, not boring but you have to work your way systematically through. So I was sitting in the back room, door open onto the garden, cat asleep under the coffee table, a bit of David Gilmour on the old music system (and I mean old), autumn sun streaming in, Turkish coffee steaming beside me. Uneventful. Enjoyable.

On the research front was reading up about Craig Venter so see if the Human Genome story can be told in an unexpected, less received-wisdom way.

Had to call operations to a halt just before 5 to make my first visit to Google Campus near Old Street and my second visit to The Fox Pub round the corner (first visit was on the evening of a benefit exhibition for street artist Robbo a couple of years ago). I was there at the kind invitation of Moray Coulter, creator of ProductionBase [media recruitment website] and new start-up We Can Go Dutch (Do things you couldn’t do on your own by aggregating your buying power and splitting the cost). The event was a gathering of TableCrowd focused on the Sharing Economy. The start-ups represented ranged from house-sharing to lift-sharing, no waste veg-buying to integrated online home-renting. It resonated for me on a number of levels – my Landshare commission with Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall in 2009, FruitShare last week (104,359 UK children involved so far), the pilot on collaborative consumption I worked on last year with Rachel Botsman (w/t the Big Share). But beside all that, as I described the book I’m working on to fellow guests, it became increasingly clear that the spirit of this strand of online/start-up activity is closely allied to that of the central figures in When Sparks Fly.

The event was held in a space run in the Google Campus basement by Centralworking. This shared work-space operation was set up by James Layfield. He’s the fella I’m going to talk to about the Business section. According to one of the start-ups at the gathering to whom I was chatting after dinner, James regularly sits down with the businesses in his premises and listens to their plans and shares his experience, simply as a good-will/out-of-genuine-interest bonus.

Spirit of SEX (Day 34)

Dr Pixie in run up to Health Freaks TX

Dr Pixie in run up to Health Freaks TX

I’m writing this one from BBC Media Centre while getting ready for tonight’s broadcast of Health Freaks, a new series I have been working on, the only Channel 4 work I have carried in to my sabbatical.

Malcolm McLaren hanging out on the King's Road

Malcolm McLaren hanging out on the King’s Road

I have spent most of the afternoon writing happily away outside a cafe on the King’s Road, Chelsea within spitting distance of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX shop. May the spirit of Punk rub off on me. I’m writing away at the Paul Arden chapter and in his contrariness is at least something of punk appeal. In a distinctly non- punk vein, for mid-October a remarkably mild afternoon which I thoroughly enjoyed sitting out in.

Prior to my writing burst, I was round the corner at The Chelsea Arts Club interviewing an advertising photographers’ agent, David Lambert, who worked with Paul Arden from 1974. As I walked into the club I saw a notice on the board announcing the death of Carolyn Cassady, who had been a member – reminding me of my lesson from Carolyn: strike while the iron’s hot when it comes to interviews.

While sitting outside the cafe at the Bluebird I organised a meeting with actress Gaye Brown who, apart from working with Joan Littlewood, was in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (in that magical year, 1971).

David was very generous with his time and stories, and seemed to be enjoying recalling these tales which linked one to another as he hauled them up from the 70s and 80s. He stars in my opening emblematic scene in the Advertising chapter so it was good to get the story direct from him. The version I’ve already written is very accurate it turns out, I just got one extra telling detail from the from-the-horse’s mouth version as well as the chance to compare notes on what it actually means.

The Chelsea Arts Club was a strange affair on a weekday afternoon. Some ladies who lunch, some ageing types with no pressing need to work, the ubiquitous newspaper reader. It felt full of heritage with people on the past chairmen list like Whistler, Philip Wilson Steer and John Lavery but I didn’t recognise any of the last decade’s lot and only Sir Chris Powell was known to me on the current officials photo- board. Not the friendliest place I’ve ever been – CAC? we’ll leave the jury out on that.

As I walked back down Old Church Street Adrian Dunbar rang to confirm arrangements for tomorrow’s trip back to the Littlewood archives. He wanted to bring Janet Behan with, Brendan’s niece (author of Brendan at the Chelsea), but the times wouldn’t work out so that will have to be a separate visit. These little chains of connection are fascinating and the root of the excitement of the project – as well as the very essence of Creativity.

Chelsea Arts Club (aka CAC) in more colourful times

Chelsea Arts Club (aka CAC) in more colourful times

Not a lot (Day 33)

A note-shuffling day, uneventful. The highlight was making contact with Paul Arden’s wife, Toni, and arranging a visit to interview her at their Sussex home. As something of a quid-pro-quo I’m going to clear the spam off Paul’s memorial site, as it disrupts the general  feelings of inspiration from the later posters who are predominantly his readers expressing the impact of his thinking on theirs.

I spent a bit of time trying to marshall my notes which is surprisingly tricky. I’m using Evernote as a way of working between desktop(s), phone and laptop which broadly works well but the occasional sync clash dose throw a spanner in the works and wastes time. A big part of this book-writing game (certainly for this sort of factual book which has a good deal of underlying research) does seem to revolve around self-organisation, systems, and the like.

Between note wrangling and sorting diary syncing issues on my phone, the bit of writing and video research I’d planned for the rest of the afternoon never happened and I trotted off to watch Saracens at Wembley Stadium to round off the week.

saracens v toulouse



Reveries of a Solitary Walker (Day 21)


Walking and thinking definitely go together well. I’ve always wanted my own personal cloisters – alongside a powder blue Mark 2 Jag, they (or is it an “it”)? are my main ‘If I were a rich man…’ fantasy. This morning I figured out, walking down to the Phoenix Cinema, where to go from the opening paragraph of the Paul Arden chapter I wrote a couple of nights ago to get into the meat of it. When I got back I put the plan into action and got momentum up which I can pick up from tomorrow. By the end of the week I should have broken the back of the Advertising chapter, ready to weave in some interview material.

A famous walker-thinker was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Swiss (or was he technically French?) philosopher who lived in Chambery where I went to university for a year (Universite de Savoie). He wrote Reveries of a Solitary Walker   between 1776 and 1778 which had Walks instead of Chapters. The walk out to his house, Les Charmettes, on the outskirts of Chambery has assumed semi-mythic status in my memory after all these years.

As a reward for the writing I treated myself to some film research – a documentary about Joe Papp and the Public Theatre in New York, lent to me by Jan Younghusband of BBC Music and Arts, to see if he’d make a good pairing with Joan Littlewood for the Theatre chapter – both poor working class roots, both radical socialist, only seven years between them in age – it could work… I’ll finish watching in the morning and make a decision.

les charmettes

Les Charmettes

Fantasy No. 1

Fantasy No. 1

Fantasy No. 2

Fantasy No. 2


WBWA: Writing by wandering around (Day 20)

All Greek to me

All Greek to me

Not my most productive day given a range of distractions from the execrable TalkTalk to the admirable Save the Children. The former got me to the point of wanting to gnaw my own leg off in the quest to get my broadband to an acceptable level of service with the aid of an engineer of some kind (who, predictably enough, never materialised after a three week wait). I started by writing some British perspectives on the Beats into the Ginsberg chapter. Then had to write a draft agenda for a meeting at Arte in Paris next month with Channel 4 colleagues. Then back to the job at hand by working through the best part of 400 tributes to Paul Arden from the time of his death. I’d written the first paragraph of the Arden chapter the night before in a moment of inspiration after walking home from the Phoenix Cinema. Then it was up to town to see an old friend from NRK in Norway. Have Air, will travel – the Tube as office. Then Maison Bertaux, Greek Street as Bacon-inspired terrace office. Wander around Soho for some Shelley and Mod inspiration, past the site of Blake’s home, Ginsberg’s own big inspiration. Next up to Charlotte Street, by old Channel 4 at No. 60, with a quick look at the Saatchi & Saatchi offices which one online tribute saw as “Arden’s company with their name over the door”. Some more Air time (subject: Arden of Charlotte St) on an Italian cafe terrace opposite before heading  up through St Giles’s to The Hospital for an advisory board meeting with Save the Children. A pretty creative performance then a quick chat in a mild autumnal Endell Street with fellow member from Discovery who is linking me up with a Creative Leadership MBA outfit in Berlin. Rounding things off with Joan Littlewood research on the way home tube.

So a fractured day, but maybe more productive than I thought.

Their name over his joint

Their name over his joint

Web of intrigue (Day 19)

independent slogan

Started the new week by focusing on the Advertising chapter. Wrote up a few notes from the last of Paul Arden’s three books that I read, Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite. Increasingly I can see a real value in these peculiar volumes for the young in particular, to help them be bolder and less fearful.

I then dived into my first bit of full-on web research, including ploughing through the condolence book messages people left online in 2008 when Arden took the taxi ride to God. They are very varied so I really feel I now have the measure of the man, clearly complex and extraordinary, so well worthy of being the primary subject of a chapter.

Most of my research to date has been book based and I was deliberately hanging back a bit from getting engulfed in web trawling too early.

I’ll need to start setting up the Advertising interviews tomorrow. I’ve already done some pre-meets/calls. For this chapter the interviews will be the main source of the stories which serve to propel the reader through.

I rounded off the day absorbing the material I received at the tail-end of last week from a 60s poet for the Ginsberg Literature chapter.

I didn’t get through everything I planned for today but made OK progress and knocking off on the dot of 5 with unseemly haste means I can write this on my phone sitting outside Amici nursing my cappy in the golden autumnal evening light, before trotting twenty yards down the hill to the Phoenix Cinema to see the Hannah Arendt movie with a Q&A with the director Margarethe Von Trotta.

Chapter 7 (Day 18)


A Paul Arden classic

Decided to take a break from Chapter One by broaching a second chapter (which is actually Chapter Seven), the one about Advertising. Using the same method I used to kick off the first one, I lifted a broad structure out of my overall structure document and began filling it in with my main thoughts, especially the principles illustrated by the primary case study, in this case Paul Arden, Creative Director and Author. I spent the day focusing on the three illustration/typographically lead books he published through art publisher Phaidon, as well as gathering a few other bits and pieces I’d gathered through speaking to his erstwhile colleagues.

Took a break to do a script meeting for Channel 4’s Health Freaks in Kentish Town where the indie, Outline, is based. Enjoyable contrast.

Then back to base for a chat with Michael Morris of Artangel to confirm my Art case study which will be a pairing, Jeremy Deller and (probably) Laurie Anderson. The whole matter of getting enough women into the book is tricky, illuminating in itself of both historic gender issues and on-going ones.

I knocked off a bit early for a trip to Crouch End with the other half. I’m my own boss and nothing if not sympathetic.

Suits You, Sir (Day 17)

After a bruising day yesterday I felt less keen to don my Writing Suit this morning. So I started the day in the sunny corner of the garden doing a meditation. I learnt a way of meditating through Headspace by chance via a Channel 4 encounter. Christian O’Connell swears by it. And it works for me too, Got me on a bit more of an even keel – should start more of my writing days like this rather than heading straight for the computer.

Refreshed I donned this Writing Suit – half Michael Franti / half London 2012.

writing suit

I repaired to the outdoor office with my trusty furry Research Assistant and a pile of books. Finished off a Beatles book, ploughed on with a Beat one and broached a Joan Littlewood. Chased a research call at ArtAngel and a university link-up in Northern Ireland. And then a note came in from my unpromising poet interviewee from yesterday which had some really useful material in it. In other words, things were looking up.

I wrote a possible ending for Chapter 1 as well, inspired by the reading. Tomorrow I’ll treat myself to a change of scene by focusing half on Theatre/Littlewood and half on Advertising/Arden. Oh yes, a colleague of Paul Arden’s also got in touch today through Facebook and gave a hook to hang that chapter on – namely Arden’s belief that once you have an idea and bring it into the world, it’s no longer simply yours…


Today’s words of wisdom from WordPress (which brings up random quotes as you publish the post):

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

Gustave Flaubert

‘Discovery’ is bang on – Stella Duffy shared much the same in her own words yesterday

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