Finneganight photos

Follow me through the heavy steel mesh security grill and into the derelict former Paddington Conservative Club, scene of the inaugural Finneganight, which was held here on Saturday 4 May 2019 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first publication of James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake by Faber and Faber.

Described as ‘a one-off pop-up Dadaist cabaret’, Finneganight brought together a brilliant company of authors and performers for readings, discussion and performances. I was honoured to have been invited to be part of it.

I read ‘The Willingdone Museyroom’ (p.8–10 of Finnegans Wake), and wore my old Royal Mail tie for the occasion (for the first time in probably twenty-five years), as later in the evening I also spoke briefly about reading Finnegans Wake in the Camden Town of the early 1990s – ‘A Portrait of the Author as a Young Postman’, in David Henningham’s words – before giving a reading of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem ‘Who Killed James Joyce?’

Here is author and critic David Collard – Finneganight’s impressario and Master of Ceremonies – and author June Caldwell, just arrived from Dublin, unwrapping the cheese and ham sandwiches (triangular cut), ‘shop cake’, fig rolls, and black and white puddings. This was the part of the evening where there seemed to be enough Guinness to go around . . .

And here’s David introducing the proceedings in front of the Convervative Club’s honours board, which stops abruptly at 1990.

Visiting from Los Angeles, Dan O’Brien and Jessica St. Clair performed ‘Jute and Mutt’.

‘So when did you first not read Finnegan’s Wake?’ L–R Jennifer Hodgson in conversation with Susan Tomaselli, Eley Williams and June Caldwell. The funniest, most earnest and illuminating literary conversation of the year.

‘Finnegan’s Wake’ – the song, with apostrophe – here performed by Melanie Pappenheim, accompanied by Alice Zawadzki. Later both company and audience reprised the song in the ‘shoutmost shoviality’:

Whack! Hurroo! Now dance to your partner! Welt the flure, your trotters shake; Isn’t it the truth I’ve told ye, Lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake.

David Henningham sang ‘The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly’ . . .

. . . while Henningham Family Press produced the programme, which was printed on their physics-defying – ‘Quarko’ format, specially developed for Finneganight.


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4 May is Finneganight – ‘a one-off pop-up Dadaist cabaret’

I just dusted off my copy of Faber and Faber’s 1989 paperback edition of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce in preparation for Saturday’s inaugural Finneganight celebrations, convened by author and critic David Collard, and featuring an incredible array of writers and performers including Eley Williams, Jennifer Hodgson, Susan Tomaselli and many, many more.

I see from the barely ‘legligible’ (p.356!) date on the 55 bus ticket I’d been using as a bookmark – as was my habit in those days, and which I just found still tucked into the novel’s closing pages – that I finished reading Finnegans Wake on or around 5 October 1993.

I’m truly thrilled to be a late addition to the bill of what promises to be an extraordinary evening, on the 80th anniversary of the original publication.

I’d say ‘Come along!’ but brilliantly/sadly it is completely SOLD OUT. And looking at this line-up, it’s no wonder.

If you were lucky enough to get a ticket I’ll see you there ;)

If not, I’ll try and post some pictures . . .

Here’s the blurb:

Let us propel us for the frey of the fray! Us, us, beraddy!

Finneganight will take place on Saturday 4th May (the actual publication date of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake in 1939).

This is a gathering of enthusiasts, sceptics and the well-disposed uncommitted who would all like to celebrate the world’s most difficult book.

This is emphatically not an academic bunfight. Finneganight is a one-off pop-up Dadaist cabaret, created to mark the 80th anniversary of the publication by Faber & Faber of Joyce’s astonishing masterpiece. It’s an antidote to the commercial cavortings of Bloomsday but is nevertheless likely to get a bit rowdy. There will be live music, songs, readings, performance, film, and an all-woman panel discourse.

Taking part will be an illustrious cohort of poets and performers, musicians, artists, publishers and literary luminaries from Dublin, Paris, the United States and London. Confirmed names are:

Alba Arikha London-based writer and musician. Her latest novel is Where to Find Me (Alma Books, 2018).

Jessica Boyd London-based violinist.

June Caldwell Irish author whose debut short story collection is Room Little Darker (New Island Books, 2017).

David Collard reviewer, critic and author of About a Girl (CB editions).

David Henningham artist, writer, performer and publisher, one half of Henningham Family Press.

Jen Hodgson editor of The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments by Ann Quin (andotherstories, 2018).

Dan O’Brien American poet and playwright. His most recent poetry collection is Scarsdale (CB editions).

Melanie Pappenheim: singer, composer and performer.

Alex Pheby author of Lucia (Galley Beggar Press), joint winner of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize.

Jessica St Clair American actress and improvisational comedian from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

Susan Tomaselli founder and editor of gorse, Ireland’s leading literary journal.

Tony White author of novels including The Fountain in the Forest (Faber, 2018), and publisher since 1994 of the artists book series Piece of Paper Press.

Eley Williams author of Atrib. (Influx Press), winner of the 2018 Republic of Consciousness Prize.

Alice Zawadzki singer, violinist and songwriter/composer

So much for the first Finneganight!

I hope it’s not the last.


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Photo from the archive: reading in Mostar, 2017

I’ve updated my listings and events archive pages, and while I was doing that I found this fantastic photograph by the photographer Ivan Kelava of my reading in the Black Dog Pub in Mostar, Bosnia i Hercegovina, for Festival Poligon back in September 2017.

Tony White reading at the Black Dog Pub, Mostar, Bosnia i Hercegovina, for Festival Poligon, September 2017 / © Ivan Kelava, 2017


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Thank you . . .

. . . to my good friend Alison Turnbull for sending through this photo of The Fountain in the Forest in the window of the lovely Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town, London NW5. So thrilled to see this ;)

If you should spot a copy of Fountain (for short) on your travels, I’d love to hear about it – do please send a pic!


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Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces – an interview with Liliane Lijn

Paris was really lively and open and it was very easy to meet people, and I talked about the jigsaw puzzle work a lot, but I never told [André] Breton about them. I was much too shy. I didn’t tell any of those guys about my jigsaws. You know, frankly, very few people paid any attention to what I was doing at that time. I was a) young, and b) a woman.

On 26 September 2018 I visited the artist Liliane Lijn in her studio in north London. The purpose of the visit was to interview Liliane about some enigmatic and tantalising lost early works that she made in Paris between November 1958 and March 1959.

Click-through to read the full interview on 3:am Magazine . . .

Images courtesy Liliane Lijn and Rodeo Gallery. © Liliane Lijn


Liliane Lijn’s Spotlight display at Tate Britain runs until 28 April 2019

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Acker ad from ’86

I love this. Kathy Acker’s novel Don Quixote as the lead title in the launch list of one time Collins imprint Paladin’s new mass-market paperback fiction list.

This ad was on the Guardian newspaper’s book page (singular, as it was then) of 1 May 1986.

(Yes, really. One page of book reviews per week.)

PALADIN, so the wording goes, promises,


Paladin Fiction is launched – with four exciting titles by writers with style, wit and narrative drive

Quite right, of course.

There’s also a great review by Robert Nye of Michael Moorcock’s novel The City in the Autumn Stars that week – see larger image below.

I’ve posted the image before, but it would have been Acker’s birthday yesterday (18 April), so I’m posting it here again in honour of that.

The ad turned up while I was researching my 2012 Chernobyl novella Dicky Star and the Garden Rule in the British Library’s newspaper collection in the old reading rooms at Colindale, north London. Dicky Star (for short) was written using a mandated vocabulary so turned out to be a test piece for The Fountain in the Forest.