Responses to BlakeFest

Responses to BlakeFest

Responses to BlakeFest

BlakeFest 2017 Dandelion Visions Responses September 16 Day 1
1. Anon contemplates, “The beauty of the dandelion”, would like to contribute to the word collection, but is queueing to experience The Non-Bifurcated Man and would like to see it first before he speaks.

2. Debbie Kennard, Cabinet Member for Stronger and Safer Communities has just experienced The Non-Bifurcated Man installation:
“I think it made poetry more alive and intense having it in your ear, you’re sitting and you’re watching, consuming it, you’re in the whole world of it, it’s poetry with no distraction, you can’t escape from it, you had to engage with it.”
I ask, “Would you want to escape from it?”
Debbie replies, “No. No. There were parts of it that were uncomfortable. I thought that could be me, you could be lying there dying, next to the dandelion, seeing the dandelion by the road and be blown away. It made me think of the fragility of life. But I think if it doesn’t touch your soul, there’s no point, and that did. I think it’s fantastic having it [the exhibition] here in the library, it makes it accessible. Art and poetry, it’s for everyone, isn’t it. Here at the library it’s open doors, open dreams, open boxes of dreams and aspirations.”

3. Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council; Supporter of the Blake Project, after experiencing Mikey’s installation:
“The fragile beauty of the dandelion with its roots embedded in the earth, and when the seeds blow into the air we can ride with them and see all that is around, and revel in all that is here.”
Anon (as above, 1):
“It’s made me think about the spacecraft that’s self-destructed in the rings of Saturn. We are all seeds and sometimes we land where we can develop and grow, there must be thousands left by the wayside. It’s chance. Thinking of the empty dandelion head, I’m making some connection with this planet, are we going to make it like that? We destruct the planet, do we spread seed regarding looking for other life, or destroy this planet before this happens? It’s a fine line. It’s thought-provoking, makes me anxious about who we are and what we’re doing. Anxieties about – at the expense of exploration, we damage what we have – maybe we should appreciate what’s here, maybe we should go back to the dandelion.”
(Rachel Searle gives a speech in which she talks about the exhibition being a treasure box with here a sapphire, there an emerald, there a pearl, and dedicates the exhibition to Heather Howell, former resident of Blake’s Cottage and great supporter of Rachel’s work with The Big Blake Project, who, sadly, died on Monday.)
(Mikey gives a speech in which he speaks about Blake’s role as a dissident and how we need a non-bifurcated way of being, speech available online.)

4. Sedge Seymour:
“It’s clear today the seeds have spread and the natural order has succeeded once more.”

5. Mark:
“What I like about it is the fusion of science and art: two parts of the same thing. Time isn’t linear, as Mikey said, and Blake recognised, and Einstein [too] with his general theory of relativity just the way we experience it.”

6. Rosalind Faram:
“I love William Blake profoundly, he’s one of my heroes. An exhibition in a library is not usually so vibrant as this, the quality of the atmosphere impressed you straight away, the number of people attending. You felt mounting excitement passing through Felpham, felt interested, enthusiastic, feeling the sense of place. Its significance. Mikey’s song was brilliant. I’ve spent a lot of time in London and thought how I would love, as a super power, to see back in time, to see Blake. It’s quite a selfish super power, out of all of those you could wish for, powers that could help the world, but I’d love to see him walking down the road round Bermondsey, London Bridge, maybe he wasn’t there, but I picture him there, or to see him coming home to his wife, seen as a simpleton. I’d like to see Blake looking at a tree and seeing an angel.”
(I suggest that perhaps it would turn out to be a super power that could help the world: maybe Blake would have something important to tell us, in these difficult times, that Rosalind could pass on for the benefit of everybody.)

7. Sevak Gulbekian, from West Sussex, previously London:
“I’m inspired by the fact that such an exhibition has been brought to Bognor, naturally beautiful place. These seaside places have become places of poverty. It needs resurgence and rebirth and renaissance. Bringing something like this is a very inspired choice, decision.”

8. Toby, age nine:
“I thought it was really good [the exhibition] because there was loads of art and I liked the song about what his father said [Mikey’s] the tune was really nice, the ukulele thing, and I also like the experience of an ocular swift thing [Oculus Rift] on the whiteboard when you looked at it, the art, I thought it was really interesting. Loads of people showed up and I thought the best thing is that people were having fun looking at the art and listening to the song.”

9. Sue, after watching Anna Fairchild’s performative pressed blackberry drawing “And did those Feet…” in The Secret Garden:
“Walking through blackberries, what would it feel like? I might try, but not today.”

10. Alice McCabe:
“I especially liked Mikey’s speech: on the practical level, not knowing. I love the way Mikey thinks: ‘escape from the linear’. The exhibition doesn’t tie in with what’s on the sheet, didn’t match, at least, not the way I was following it, that was good, it meant constantly looking. I took a trip in Mikey’s space ship, travelling through time-continuum rather than distance. It felt like a very powerful engine. There was so much sound, you can’t catch all the words of the poem, that was good, I wasn’t aware then when it came round back to the beginning, zooming, travelling along. A great adventure.”

11. Helen Elwes, about one of the fairies in The Secret Garden:
“I walked right past her a few times, looking for her. I never expected this beautiful hole in this tree. So subtly placed. I like this cobweb, the fact the cobweb’s coming across. She’s lovely, because she’s subtle and not obvious, she’s got a secret quality. It’s definitely a fairy hole, it feels as if it’s been there forever. Little bits of inside the tree falling on her. She doesn’t mind, she’s organic. It would be great if she stayed there forever and nature did its thing all around her.”
Sue (as above, 9) who helped Toby collect conkers in The Secret Garden to make his own installation towards the exhibition:
"Today I noticed again, observed... Collecting conkers, bursting open a brand new conker, so shiny and and polished. The shell, spiky on the outside, soft and cushioned on the inside.”

13. Steve Micalef:
“I shall bumblebee on a dandelion.” (He says, then writes:)
“A vision of a sculptor, seeing Blake on the beach and a discalced lady from Hitching treading on icy blackberries as I peer at a bird box on a tree St Paul’s Dome loomin’.”

14. Richard Pierce:
“Some of the things – The Nonbifurcated Man – I’m struggling with. The music was a little bit loud, it stirs me up I suppose and I start getting into a state of anxiety, insanity. As a teacher, teaching, in a world of maths, logic, reason, I was seduced by even the magic of maths, Fibonacci, for example, and the idea of perfect numbers, Pythagory, but in a way, with experiences like this, I’m taken back to infancy, experiencing death, loss of innocence – and that’s Blakeian – and being childlike, personal development, getting back to that state. For me, it’s like before all the things came in at me – to survive as a child I had to kill my self – thinking about how to become who I was meant to be, to set my self free, the kid looked up in fear – being anxious about going in the countryside and anxious about trees that had stood there for hundreds of years since before I was born, now it’s where I feel most peaceful. I sense that about Blake. I travel geographically. I sense that’s what he was about. Life, days, blunt, deaden one, kill off hopes, days are steps to the sun, like the sunflower tracks the sun. A friend worked out and said to me a while ago, I’ve been alive twenty-five thousand days, that’s a lot of days living in a dystopian world. Media, facebook, the HORROR, but now and then wondrous beauty comes in – pushing me to see beauty in ordinariness as well, as a sunflower, or dandelion, or the blood of blackberries trodden on a sheet – part of me resists that. I think, ‘Oh yeah, yeah.’ Or, ‘For God’s sake.’ Sorry, that’s blasphemous. It’s a ‘Let go!’ PUSH-PULL MADNESS. That’s OK.”

15. Nicoletta (Nico):
“Gorgeous [Dandelion Visions] well-structured, good people, weather perfect. Also enjoyed Blake’s Cottage from the inside – Seems a very good project where music, art, poetry and beautiful people could be interested in – Very good – Well done – Thank you!”
Alice McCabe (As above, 10) who found herself journeying back to London with ‘The Vitz and The Vie’, as I put it, after their performance at Blake Fest; Michael Horovitz and Vanessa Vie; or ‘Michael and his muse’, as Alice puts it, afterwards, adding this about that train journey:
“Be you musician, muse, or not musical, the viewing of triangle players grows triangle players!”

BlakeFest 2017 Responses September 17, Day 2
16. Stevie:
“I had to have a lift we drove round and round in circles, in fact, Tymon Dogg, who I’d especially wanted to see, was setting up when I got here. I’m from The Witterings and work at Helter Skelter Records, all old vinyl there. I knew some of the names of the artists at Blake Fest from the records. I would have come yesterday but I didn’t know the venues and finished work late, and also got caught in a rainstorm, I had drawn a map of the music school for myself, but I don’t think could’ve found this place, so many little warrens. I was drawn to Blake Fest by the programme, we had them in the shop. I went to art school, Worthing Art School – I’ve always been interested in Blake – and I recognised the picture on the front of the programme. I didn’t want to be late, for the Blake.”
Richard Peirce (as above, 14):
“Sunday, back in Bognor Town, I walked west from the station not trusting entirely technology (Google Maps) and not seen a street sign, I asked a guy (in trainers and sweater) for London Road though feeling cautious as my stereotyping judgement kicked in, and not wishing to be so, literally. He stopped, paused, considered – then, in what I think was a polish accent said, ‘I think this so … yes, this is it.’ Smiled and walked on. I walked on as the cosy thirties semis gave way to post-war council estate then back again to cosy semis as I arrived at Newtown Sports and Social Club. And here I am listening to a duo, Ruby Tiger and Louise Maggs, singing John Martyn’s ‘I don’t want to know about evil’! All praise to the New Jerusalem!”
(Richard also mentions these words spoken by Stephen Micalef the day before, quoting Blake, within Stephen’s spoken poetry, as touching him:)
“‘Every mortal loss is an immortal gain.’“

17. Attila The Stockbroker
“Blake to me is ‘Jerusalem’, and that vision, first revealed to me when I’d occasionally hear my mum singing it at W.I. [Women’s Institute] meetings and then coming into its own when I was older and actually understood what it was about (I couldn’t really work out how the W.I. would actually deal with bows of burning gold and chariots of fire!). I was enthused by the basic socialism of it and have always believed it should be the national anthem of the England I would love to live in and have spent my adult life fighting for. That is the absolute extent of my knowledge of Blake. In terms of poets from my native West Sussex I have always been a partisan of Hilaire Belloc. But I knew he’d had a house round Bognor. And it’s a great excuse for a festival. Well done.”
(After writing down the above, Attila says a little more:)
“Yes, I hadn’t thought about that before, how I’d thought, ‘Jerusalem, arrows of desire, the W.I., they like making jam and stuff! Mother, swords and spears! It seemed incongruous. Mother liked to say, ‘There’s a lot more to the Women’s Institute than jam and Jerusalem, dear.’ It got more streetwise by the 2000s but in 1964, back then, it was – jam and Jerusalem.”

18. Luke Wright
“First ever tour as a poet, me and my mates in Aisle 16, age 22, we were at Mullion Cove, Cornwall, at the beginning of the Atlantic, in the rain, and the only thing to do, with our arms round each other, Ross, Joel, was to sing Jerusalem. There’s something unfailingly English about it. Summons the feelings.”

19. Clive:
“The event last night, Michael Horovitz, I was fearful of it being too highbrow, Michael Horovitz, I’d never heard of him, but I got a definite sense of connection. I went in with a sense of apprehension, helping out as well, it was really pleasing, I went out on a real high, we [Clive and his wife] were doing that together. Part of it.”

20. Lisa:
“It’s been really inspirational, seeing things I wouldn’t normally come out and see, especially today, an eclectic mix of things I wouldn’t normally see and hear, a different experience to things that would normally happen in Bognor. It’s usually Clive that goes to things, it’s been interesting to come along and enjoy. I think everyone’s heard of these people – I haven’t.”

21. Joe Butt writes:
“I was a last minute addition to the festival – Rachel had wanted to ask because I was playing another similar event (which fell apart). So I signed up, and I don’t know much about William Blake save Jerusalem. But… hearing others’ passion has nudged me into finding out more, there must be something to this other than a local connection! I’ve had a lovely day, met loads of people, so hope to do it all again next year!”

22. Philip Beckwith, co-founder of Blake Society – as was – 1985:
“Came to Felpham’s vale many years ago to knock on Blake’s door. This time the door was open and we heard of Milton descending and that the cottage used to be next to the sea. Lovely walk with Niall and Steve – who knew Rossetti and Joyce lived here too? Lovely people, warm friendship, poetic philosophy and hospitality, music and laughter. Thank you all.”

23. Lilias Rider Haggard Cheyne writes, beginning with a message to me, which I have partially transcribed:
“…thank you for making me feel welcome. I came to see Attila The Stockbroker having heard of him over so many years and never having seen him. As an attender of Bognor Greener Network, I knew about BlakeFest and know Rachel Searle and about the cottage and have learned more and more about Blake thanks to all that. Today seems like the thread of that past coming through into the present. Blake was a revolutionary artist in his time, and here we are with his present day counterparts. What a magnificent tribute to him. I am sure he will feel honoured and pleased. So glad I came and so happy to be at this event. Long may it continue!!!”
Stevie (As above, 16) writes:
“David Devant & His spirit Wife. Amazing, I’ve seen many bands & he is a little bit of everything but he is one on his own. Like lots of stars gathering… to make a Planet called David Devant… Everyone Must See & hear this Very Special band his Spirit Wife is looking on & Stella […] agrees.”
PS Since then Stevie has been Gwyneth Herbert’s cd in the record shop and has never had so many men hanging around to listen and wanting to know who it is.

BlakeFest 2017 Response Post Event
24. Olivia Stevens, Artist, Poet, Songwriter:
“Blake’s golden thread is now becoming stitched into the fabric of Bognor, each of us sew-ers experiencing a new vision, experiencing inspiration and welcoming a new creative dawn in our community. BlakeFest’s artistic seeds are travelling on a new excited air of hope! Dandelion Visions chimes with and rides on the ‘turning tide’ of the ongoing regeneration of culture in Bognor Regis. On a personal level it really resonates and has sparked a new wave of creativity for me as an artist, poet and songwriter.”