Features


…being a quick introduction to three sites that have become important links on the Old Weird Albion reading list during my hiatus, each of which looks at folk music and folk tale in an interesting new light….

Cover of "What I Did This Summer" by Coventry painter George Shaw

Hey! Let’s take a trip to Folk Suburb! is an extremely odd creation: the reification of English folk songs as modern folk tales of suburban English life. Both on the blog and in the first issue of This Roaring Peace – a new .pdf-based zine of these materials created by the sister site Jack’s Tray – Folk Suburb imagines lyrics such as “Lovely Joan” set in today’s suburban netherworlds; a Martin Carthy reared on J.G. Ballard. (more…)

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The 2010 crop-circle season opened last week with a military-badge-like piece near Old Sarum, and a piece just this past weekend about as close to Stonehenge as the makers might get. Obviously, that has sent many’s a heart a flitter, and the talk of ley-line connections between the two, etc., has already begun in earnest.

Below, I’ve tried to write a piece offering the Old Weird Albion point of view on the phenomena. The OWA stance is that man-made circles are far more interesting than any alien-made phenomena; that contemporary art criticism and ethnological folklore studies give us the appropriate tools to not only view crop circle’s through a more fascinating prism, but to appreciate the aesthetic and conceptual beauty of what must be the art world’s most radical practice.

This piece is, however, a  work-in-progress – comments and suggestions are beyond welcome!

(more…)

Attila RantingMy interview/profile piece on Brighton-based ranting poet and legendary punk-rock skeptic Attila the Stockbroker is up at the Poetry Foundation’s website.

Attila is, of course, the never-say-die torchbearer of Ranting Poetry, and the champion of two things I hold dear: Brighton & Hove Albion, and decent beer.

But more importantly for our purposes, he’s the self-described inheritor of a rich tradition of English rebel bards – the information superhighway hikers of the old oral tradition, and the talking-head partisan philosophers of a time when a well-turned phrase was more feared than a hefty pocketbook. The tradition, in other words, that provided a kind of CNN to the Old Weird Albion.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of an extended phone interview with Boff Whalley of Chumbawamba for a piece I was writing about musicians’ contributions to the miner’s strike of 1984-85. Unfortunately, most of that interview was never used – the scope of the story, and the space I was afforded in the magazine, meant some nasty cuts. (“Fight the Cuts!”)

Ever since, I’ve planned on someday arranging the whole interview into an “as-told-by” style piece, and posting it here online. Reminded by the affably dangerous old red, Norman Strike, that this strike anniversary year is ticking away, and by an e-list update from the Chumbies that they’re partaking in a lovely-looking theater performance this December, it seemed like it sure-as-hell was time to get moving. (more…)

Alchemical Reaction

“The continental cold air spills out / towards these islands in time of quiet,” Chris Torrance says in the second page of his endless long-form poem sequence, The Magic Door: a lyrical establishing shot for a career as hot-to-the-touch and as full of ruptures in the cultural continuum as it is quiet and given to Thoreau-like servitude to its natural environment.Chris Torrance’s Magic Door acts as a shibboleth to the understanding of a Britain that’s as post-Druidic as it is post-hippie; quite literally a door into a British poetic life that spurns all manner of “success” in favor of the quiet continuity of the poetic act.

For almost as long as I’ve lived, Chris Torrance has written The Magic Door, momentarily erupting like tiny tors of the South Wales Basal Grit in long-awaited published chapters – 1975, 1977, 1980, ’82, ’86, 2008 (nearly). Paper-bound chapbooks done in runs of 300 as long as 35 years ago, as soon as I began to read of Torrance, I began the process of trying to read Torrance, knowing it might long be a futile search.

So it was with great excitement that I unbundled my packet from Cotswold Books recently, (more…)