Newsletter #17

A six-and-a-bit-weekly newsletter from author John Higgs. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so here.

Imbolc 2020


I spent yesterday talking about William Blake’s 21st century relevance and legacy at Tate Britain with Brian Catling, Mr Gee and Nabihah Iqbal. This was, I think, the best way to spend Jan 31st 2020.

Thanks to Matthew Shaw for the photos.

If you’re in London and want a more unofficial way to mark the end of the Tate’s William Blake exhibition, the South London Arts Lab are organising a ‘Blake Off’ tomorrow (Feb 2nd). Billed as a day of ‘music, poetry, drones and ceremony’, the plan is to meet in the free Blake legacy room (not the exhibition) at Tate Britain at 4pm, before moving to upstairs at the Morpeth Arms from 5pm. Hope to see you there!

Now that the Tate event is done, my plan is to take a bit of a breather from doing talks this year, although I fully expect to be all over the shop in 2021. That said, I have agreed to do a talk on Blake at Sheffield Library on March 9th because (a) Sheffield, (b) libraries, (c) Blake and (d) full moon. The event is free and I’d advise registering for a ticket sooner rather than later.

I’ve also agreed to an ‘in conversation’ event with Robin Ince at Berkhamsted Book Festival on May 10th because no one can say no to Robin Ince, it is not physically possible. But that should be it for talks this year.

That said – I do have one date you might want to put in your diaries.

I’ve written a play called HG Wells & the Spiders From Mars. It’s a one-man play (well, one visible man) and it stars Oliver Senton, who played Robert Anton Wilson in the Cosmic Trigger play. It’s being directed by Daisy Campbell.

Here’s the blurb:

Geniuses collide when an invisible muse ‘Ziggy’ crash lands into the Edwardian living room reality of the ‘Godfather of Science Fiction’ HG Wells, inspiring him to write his greatest works: but can H.G. surrender to his muse and help provoke an evolutionary leap in the collective imagination? What can myth-making genius teach us about the urgent need to alter our cultural narrative. Could we be heroes?

A time-traveling one-man fusion of theatre, music-hall magic & Bowie-inspired songs, with razor sharp digital sets.

It’s still in development, but it will be presented as a work-in-progress at the Cockpit Theatre on April 3rd. This will be partly fully staged and partly a readthrough, and I’ll be doing a Q&A. More on this next time but for now, if you’re likely to be around London on Friday April 3rd, keep the date free.


Speaking of Daisy Campbell, I’m hella proud to have written the introduction to the book edition of her one-woman show Pigspurt’s Daughter. This presents as being an examination of her relationship with her late father Ken Campbell but is, of course, considerably more than that.

If you heard Conor Garrett’s terrific Radio 4 documentary on the attempts of the KLF/JAMMs to become undertakers and wondered how this came to be, then Pigspurt’s Daughter will explain a lot. You can think of it as the missing link between the story detailed in my KLF book and what’s going on now.

Here’s how my introduction begins:

There are two types of magical people. The first group are those who want to be magical. They feel drawn to the magical life and they read plenty of books to find out about it. They study hard and discuss arcane subjects with like-minded wizards and witches. Magic is a vocation and something to be nurtured, and they apply themselves.

The second type are people who just are magical and there’s not a damn thing that they can do about it. Their lives are a constant parade of unbelievable and impossible situations. Synchronicities compete for their attention. The world bends itself into unnatural positions in order to better reflect their own mental landscape. Their lives are constantly, intensely magical, and they just put up with it as best they can.

The author of this play, Daisy Campbell, is this second type of person.

For more details and how to order, visit Hilaritas Press.


Much is happening and the year, as you’ve no doubt noticed, has got off to a determined start. That strange nameless decade we’ve left behind was a vague, unsettled thing where probabilities were malleable and certainties vulnerable. We were able to imagine wonderful ways forward, but the shifting ground underneath our feet did not want to be built on.

We have landed on settled ground now. It is not an ideal world, to put it mildly, but at least we no longer fool ourselves about its true character. We know the score and there is much to do, but our decade in the mists has orientated us well. It is time – to quote Tom Waits – to get behind the mule, and plough.

Good luck! I’ll write again further down the road.
jhx

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