A Porky Prime Cut

Last week I gave a reading from a new short story entitled ‘A Porky Prime Cut’ at the National Portrait Gallery London, with live musical accompaniment from bass player Simon Edwards. Twitter friend @Alexandra_Wall posted this excellent photo of the gig on Twitpic. Thanks Alex.

It was a very enjoyable evening and I shared the bill with old friend Tim Etchells. All of this was for the launch of Electra’s exciting new Dirty Literature series of talks and readings that runs through until June. Tim read a lovely new piece which is quite hard to describe, but felt like a kind of sit-com in fragmented monologue form that was culled (or collaged) particularly from a series of increasingly unhinged internal memos from an ever smaller group of constables who guarded the Gallery in the early years of the 20th century. There is a plan to get audio and video of the event online, so when it’s up I’ll post a link to Tim’s piece. At present it doesn’t exist as a published text, and I’m not sure if Tim has plans to perform it again, so do have a look at the video when it’s up.

Tim and I have known each other for quite a while now. We met in the late 1980s when I was at art school in Sheffield where Tim’s company Forced Entertainment are based. Here is the Streetview photo of the former Sheffield art school premises on Psalter Lane. The Googlemaps car snapped it just before the college was closed down – hence the banner above the door. I have very happy memories of being at Psalter Lane, so the thought that these buildings have all now been knocked down makes me feel slightly bereft. However, it is still possible to get an arts education in Sheffield. The courses have survived it’s just that they’ve moved out of these mainly purpose-built studio buildings down to other Sheffield Hallam University buildings in the city centre. I was there quite recently. It was good to be back.

Tim was one of the first few people that I invited to do something for Piece of Paper Press when I started the imprint in 1994. He wrote the short story ‘About Lisa: a small bad story in twelve good parts’ in response to the constraints of the format and we published it in the usual edition of 150 in 1995. Here is a slightly murky scan of the front cover!

Tim has blogged about that period in the introduction to a new German language, Swiss edition of his collection Endland Stories, which sadly is out of print in English.

My story for the NPG gig, ‘A Porky Prime Cut’, was commissioned by digital arts agency SCAN in Bournemouth as part of their Digital Transformations project. I first blogged about the project here around a year ago, when I met the two other artists involved, Simon Yuill and Kevin Carter. Then I blogged some more here, here, here, here and here! You may gather that it was a very generative project :-)

The story is kind of a culmination and a condensation of all of that research.

And it was particularly generative not least because it made me confront my own biography even while writing a short story set in and around a town I hardly knew. Or two towns: Bournemouth and Poole. Writing ‘A Porky Prime Cut’ made me look again at some of my own formative experiences, in particular those moments where as a teenager perhaps you might discover that you have some kind of creative agency. All of which made me remember just how contingent my own art education really was.

So it felt quite special having the chance – thanks to Electra and the NPG – to read the story as a 20-minute standalone piece with live music from Simon Edwards in the form of his fantastic 85 bpm funk bass accompaniment. This really is something that both Simon and I are hoping to do again.

I’m also hoping that we can add the MP3 of the performance on to the ebook which you can download for free from James Bridle’s wonderful Artists’ eBooks.

The ebook includes beautiful colour photographs of Turbary Common taken by Bournemouth photographer Diane Humphries. Diane also took this photo of me on my first visit to Turbary Common, one cold, wet and misty March morning a year or so ago. At some point soon ‘A Porky Prime Cut’ will also I think be available via Bournemouth Libraries, both in ebook form and as a special print edition on Piece of Paper Press. I’m hoping there will be an event or two down there, too. I’m looking forward to that very much.