Tuesday, 29 April 2014

May Concerts

Coming up next month:

1st Fairport Convention at St Mary in the Castle Hastings

2nd to 5th  Jack in the Green my personal highlight of the Hastings year

8th Yes at the Royal Albert Hall (well, they are doing three classic lps)

28th Motorpsycho  Jazz Cafe - I do hope the guitarist from Dungen will be playing with them

Netherwood Updates

I've been meaning for a while to add any additional research and information here for the benefit of those who may have purchased the Netherwood book - still just about available I believe.

I recently wrote a letter to Julian Bream, who I idolized as a young man attempting to play the classical guitar and I saw him give recitals many times in London, especially at the Wigmore Hall.  I wasn't really expecting a reply, so I was very chuffed to receive a hand-written letter in beautiful copperplate last week.  My enquiry was principally about the online interview with 'Johnny' Symons, wife of the proprietor of Netherwood, wherein she says;

'A couple called Caplan frequently brought down a boy named Julian Bream who would play the guitar for the guests. After his recital we would pass the hat around and the money collected would pay for his next lesson. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.'

The book on Bream's early years by Stuart Button contains no mention of this and I was unable to contact the author.  I thought I'd go to the horse's mouth, so to speak.

Julian Bream's concert debut was in Cheltenham on 17 February 1947 at the age of 13, so the visits would have to have taken place during the following  couple of years, before the house was sold.  According to his written recollection he visited Netherwood in 1948 in the company of 'commercial artist' David Caplan who drove him down from London.  Interestingly, he says that he only played one recital there and that the 'small fee' he received was 'not for the next lesson...but the next meal!'  The intriguing possibility that his audience might have included Aleister Crowley can therefore be dismissed as he had died at the guest house the previous December.

The Hastings & St Leonards Observer is now available online and fully searchable for much of the period of Netherwood's existence.  As I had to spend many hours trawling through the microfilm version I intend to subscribe, hoping that I didn't miss some vital news story (looking through the headlines it doesn't look as if I did, but I will certainly check).

A couple more Hastings characters

The Professionals has been released on Blu-ray and some excellent and very funny reviews can be found here and here.  Interesting to read that Jon Finch was pencilled in for the role of Doyle, but lost the part as he said he 'couldn't possibly play a policeman'; he'd also turned down playing James Bond after Sean Connery bowed out of the lucrative series.  Finch nevertheless enjoyed an eclectic career, serving in the SAS, playing Macbeth in Polanski's famous 1971 film (also featuring a young Keith Chegwin) and bringing Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius to the screen in The Final Programme (1973) rereleased on Blu-ray in 2013.  Finch spent his final years in Hastings and it seems that he led a fairly typical Old Town life - he was found dead in his flat at the end of 2012 aged 70.

This reminded me to check where John Martyn lived during his years in Hastings in the early 1970s: it turns out to have been No.10 Coburg Place, a couple of hundred yards from our house.  Live at Leeds, the album Island didn't want to release, was sold by Martyn by mail order from his house - printing his address on the music press advert unsurprisingly resulted in many an unwanted visitor.  Apparently in the early 1990s he did an impromptu concert by the fisherman's huts, although he had moved away from the town many years before.  It's well known that his song Over the Hill, off his most critically acclaimed record Solid Air, is about Hastings West Hill.  The photo above by Brian Cooke shows Martyn at home in Hastings on 8 August 1971 and was taken from this site.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Visions of Enchantment

A couple of weeks ago I attended a two-day conference in Cambridge entitled Visions of Enchantment - Occultism, Spirituality and Visual Culture, and a very intellectually stimulating event it was.  It appears that at long last occultism and esotericism have been recognised as important areas of research within the academy - obviously some, such as Ronald Hutton, have been blazing a trail for some time.  A number of big academic names in the field were present including Profs Antoine Favre, Massimo Introvigne and Wouter Hanegraaf, as well as such important younger scholars as Dr Marco Pasi (I was very flattered to hear him praise my most recent book when I asked him to sign a copy of Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics - a much recommended study into hitherto under-researched areas of the Great Beast's life and friendships, such as those with Fernando Pessoa and Tom Driberg).

By the end of Day Two I was relieved that I wouldn't have to hear the words 'embodied', 'multivalent' and the grating 'problematize' for some time, but on the whole the lecturers steered clear of too much academic obfuscation.  High points for me were Dr Ulli Segers on Sigmar Polke and the Hermetic Tradition; Judith Noble The Wedding of Light and Matter: Alchemy in the Films of Derek Jarman; Dr Marco Pasi Western Esotericism and Artistic Creativity: Searching for a New Interpretive Model; Dr Nicholas Campion Surrealism and Astrology: The Esoteric Art of Xul Solar and Dr James Riley Pandemonium 69: Magick, Performance and The End of the Sixties.  Another highlight was the opportunity to dine at Peterhouse in the magnificent hall with its William Morris stained glass - probably the one and only time I'll enjoy such a privilege.

As an art historian you're encouraged to look for influences and borrowings, often where they simply don't exist and there were quite a few instances of this, although they were usually criticized by members of the audience.  I was glad not to be in the shoes of one particular researcher who had delivered what I thought was the weakest lecture of the lot and had committed the aforesaid spurious connections sin, only to receive a scholarly put-down from (I think) Antoine Faivre, who ended with that withering academic kiss-off, 'But, of course you are much more knowledgeable in this area than I am.'  There was plenty of material for research - if only I had the time - but maybe some will seep through into future work.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April Fools

There were some particularly impressive April Fools this year, my two favourites being this and this.  In both cases I really wished that they were true - I didn't make my way to Charing Cross.  I hope the invitation to Malmesbury wasn't another April Fool.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Philosophytown Revisited

Looks like I'll be speaking once more at the Philosophytown Festival in beautiful Malmesbury this autumn, probably on London coffee houses; previous speakers have included John Cottingham and Ray Monk.  Talking of philosophy (and related matters) the Radio 4 In Our Time archive is an amazing source of stimulating ideas - so far I've listened to talks on Neoplatonism, Schopenhauer, Existentialism and Epicurianism.