Psychogeography at play

Posted: May 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: events, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

At the Coventry Literary Festival event at Coventry Central Library on Saturday May 9th I was the warm-up act before Iain Sinclair. He read from his new book Hackney: That Rose Red Empire and spoke about his life and influences.

There weren’t many people for my bit – but those that came were interested in Coventry and how Among Thieves came to be set in the city. One of the women in the small audience (more an intimate group) turned out to be the mother of Roddy Byers – guitarist from The Specials. She and her friend, keen writers themselves, were particularly interested in how a place and a time can be woven into a narrative.

This discussion preceded Iain’s event (much better attended) and I have to admit I’d never read any of his work before Saturday. I’d looked him up on Google and got the gen on his influences and “history”, but as soon as he started speaking I realised I was listening to someone important – at least important to me.

He began by creating an image of the library we were in, the sights and sounds of it, the history of it, us and the setting and how it and we were all interacting – he took our (or my) linear, event-driven mentality (certainly of that moment) onto another level – and this set the tone for the whole reading. He has links to a past (cultural/literary) that has always fascinated me – Burroughs, LaingGinsberg, Carmichael – Iain documented the era of these men. There were so many things that resonated. I recall the hours spent at Heather’s knee (literally) listening to her stories of the 60s and 100 Club and happenings and “hanging out with Ronnie”  (Laing) and “working for Bertie” (Russell) and how it had changed the world for a moment – perhaps forever – just like everything does I suppose – but the 60s must have felt seismic.

As Iain spoke, the whole psychogeography thing made  perfect sense in a really moving way.  I had flashbacks to my childhood – running the alleyways at the backs of the houses, knowing every derelict building, every tree that could be climbed or scrumped, every bit of broken fence that could be crawled through so you didn’t have to use the roads. I could get from Benfleet to Southend through woods and gardens, along the creeks and downs and only have to cross one road. This map was everything to me. It was mine – just mine, and it continues to make a huge impression on me – those alleys of my childhood. The freedom I felt navigating this map. Do children now have the same freedom? Different freedoms perhaps. They navigate virtual maps.

And I saw layers on layers of different maps – historical, cultural, physical, anecdotal, subjective… on and on, a whole stratum like a geological cross-section.

Anyway – ramble ramble – so I met all the people from Heaventree Press after Iain’s talk (could have talked to him for longer but there’s little chance at these things) and Kevin Ring, the guy that runs Beatscene (there’s a piece on his site about Saturday’s event too).

An interesting afternoon in good company.


Coventry Literature Festival

Posted: April 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: events, writing | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Saturday 9 May

The Coventry Literature Festival: Reading by local author Mez Packer
Central Library 1pm

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Reading by local author Mez Packer, author of Among Thieves: a countercultural thriller based in 2 Tone Coventry in the early 1980s. A new novelist showcases her gripping tale of drug-smuggling, racism, friendship and revenge, written with great energy and sharp humour.
“Coventry 1983. As the city skanks to the 2 Tone beat, wildly divergent characters look to smash the system and get rich quick on the music’s narcotic spur: hashish… an often comical, sometimes profound journey across continents, psyches and the minutiae of the drugs trade” (The Guardian).

The Coventry Literature Festival: Poetry reading by Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair

Iain Sinclair


Central Library 2pm
Sinclair has lived in (and written about) Hackney, East London, since 1969. His novels include Downriver (Winner of the James Tait Black Prize & the Encore Prize for the Year’s Best Second Novel), Radon Daughters, Landor’s Tower and, most recently, Dining on Stones (which was shortlisted for the Ondaatje prize). Non-fiction books include Lights Out for the Territory, London Orbital and Edge of the Orison. In the ’90s, Iain wrote and presented a number of films for BBC2’s Late Show and has, subsequently, co-directed with Chris Petit four documentaries for Channel 4; one of which, Asylum, won the short film prize at the Montreal Festival. He edited London, City of Disappearances, which was published in October 2006. His most recent book is Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire, published in February 2009.

“ORBITAL will be read 50 years from now. This account of his walk around the M25 is on one level a journey into the heart of darkness, that terrain of golf courses, retail parks and industrial estates which is Blair’s Britain. It’s a fascinating snapshot of who we are, lit by Sinclair’s vivid prose, and on another level a warning that the mythological England of village greens and cycling aunts has been buried under the rush of a million radial tyres” – J. G. Ballard.