I am delighted to be on the bill at the legendary Cabaret Futura on 20 April. If you don’t know, Cabaret Futura is a series of ‘uncategorisable entertainments’ that have been put together by musician, writer, performer and bohemian extraordinaire Richard Strange, on and off, since the early 1980s. I have no idea who else will be on. That is part of the charm and the thrill of Cabaret Futura. All I know is that there are bound to be some surprises and wonders among them. As for the audience, that is up to you! It would be great to see some friends there, so do book a ticket and come along if you fancy ;)
The piece that I’ll be reading for Cabaret Futura is new short story The Holborn Cenotaph, which comes out of my current ‘loose collaboration’ with the artist Stuart Brisley, Maya Balcioglu and Sanja Perovic. The Holborn Cenotaph is a satirical short, a Swiftian ‘modest proposal’. Spoiler-wise, I’m reluctant to say more. I first performed the story at an event that we did in the chapel at King’s College London as part of their Arts & Humanities Festival. Since Stuart Brisley has been a supporter of my samizdat publishing project Piece of Paper Press since the mid-1990s, it seemed apt to produce an edition of the The Holborn Cenotaph that could be given away at the end of our event. This is something that I have been trying to repeat at subsequent readings where possible.
I recently performed The Holborn Cenotaph at The MAC in Belfast (as part of this) and afterwards something quite extraordinary happened. I know that sounds like clickbait, but in this case it’s true. A student at Belfast School of Art who had attended the event at The MAC, and taken a copy of the publication, then took it upon themselves to perform my text in full to a new audience of fellow students at the art college the next day. Artist and friend Shirley MacWilliam who is an Associate Lecturer in Fine Art at the university takes up the story:
One of the students, Zara Lyness—to whom I think you spoke during the evening—read the whole thing. Very well. And brought the listeners to silence the way you did. Certainly it is a performance text—like a saprophyte that attaches itself to its host in time and space.
I find this very exciting as well as highly unusual. In my twenty-odd years of giving readings and performing my fiction in all kinds of venues and contexts, I have never known someone to then spontaneously re-perform one of my stories like this. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it happening to any writer colleagues either. (If you can think of another example of this, do please email me, as I would love to hear about it.)
This kind of response to The Holborn Cenotaph has spurred me on to consider doing more readings of the story, so I am particularly thrilled to be able to present it at Cabaret Futura on 20 April. Do please come along if you can.
That reminds me, when I got back from Belfast, I included The Holborn Cenotaph in my set for lively London literary line-up In Yer Ear. I also included a reading of the opening chapter of my 1999 novel CHARLIEUNCLENORFOLKTANGO (in honour of my late friend the author and poet Malcolm Bennett ((1958-2015)) whose favourite it had been, and whose funeral was being held the next day). Reading from CHARLIEUNCLE… is quite involving for various reasons, as you will know if you’ve seen me reading, so I wasn’t able to stop and turn around when someone shouted out a panto-style, ‘Behind you!’, but luckily In Yer Ear’s regular photographer Peter Clark was able to get a shot of this visitation (above), which was unscheduled, but right on cue.
Now, London gallerist Domo Baal (who had been in the audience at In Yer Ear) sends another photo, this time wondering if The Holborn Cenotaph is actually being built. ‘Do you think,’ she asks, ‘someone was listening?’
Cabaret Futura, 20 April, 8:00pm—£10.00 booking essential
Paradise by way of Kensal Green 19, Kilburn Lane Kensal Rise W10 4AE