Look, I know we could all do without yet more misery at the moment, but please hear me out… Due to you-know-what (I can’t even bear to type its name), our local hospice – St Christopher’s – has had to cancel all the vital fundraising events that were planned for the spring and summer.
It’s 25 years today since my wonderful, irreplaceable mum died – with Dad, Tom and I at her side – at St Christopher’s. And three years ago today, we were having one of the worst days ever at home with Dad, who was suffering severe symptoms stemming from his cancer and a recent hospital-acquired infection. Frankly, it was unbearable.
And then St Christopher’s came to our rescue. Later that week, Dad was admitted to the inpatient unit in Sydenham for symptom control and to give Tom and me a rest. By the weekend, he had perked up considerably and we were able to take him out from the hospice to look at the amazing street art that had started to pop up in Penge.
If you’ve read How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While), you know the rest. Yes, Dad’s love of graffiti and street art gave him (and us) focus and meaning at a time when our world was otherwise falling apart. But it was the invaluable support and care we received from St Christopher’s that really made those final few weeks as smooth and bearable as they possibly could be.
Our family owe St Christopher’s a huge debt, which we’ve been trying to repay in some small way by donating all the profits from How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While) and Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning). As you may know, we’ve now raised more than £2,500, with a little help from our friends. Oh, and I should add that the idea for the graffiti book really came to life during bereavement counselling sessions I received via the hospice.
I’ve also just written a little zine – Send Me A Sign – which is about Mum’s messages from beyond the grave (possibly). It’s only £2, but we’ll be donating all the profits from that to the hospice, too. And we’re already giving half of the profits from Nan to Age UK – but we’ll now give the other half to St Christopher’s.
I realise everyone’s watching their pennies at the moment. And there are lots of other worthy charities across the UK who are feeling the pinch and equally deserving of our support. But, you know, if you’re in the market for a book or zine while you self-isolate/try to ignore the news… Every little helps.
PPS On behalf of Mum, who is doubtless rolling her eyes at me in the afterlife, I would just like to say that – unlike everything else I’ve written for Colossive – my next zine will NOT include any mention of her dying. After all, she did lots of other things, too. And out of everything she did, the bit where she died was definitely my least favourite…
Isn’t it always the way? When I was compiling Nan at the end of last year, I was convinced I’d once seen some photographs of Nan as a little girl. But try as I might – and God knows I tried – I couldn’t find these pictures anywhere.
And then a few days ago – when I was, naturally, searching high and low for something else of great importance – I stumbled across a grey cardboard folder containing around 30 assorted family photographs from way-back-when. (I think Dad assembled this little collection when he was going through his ‘genealogy phase’ in the late 1990s.)
Anyway, here’s the aforementioned picture of Nan when she was about three or four years old, I think…
This would have been taken soon after the rapid change of fortunes that saw her mum, Gertrude, marry Bill – the man Nan came to call ‘Dad’.
And here’s Granddad (fourth from right, with his tin hat at a jaunty angle) and his fellow air raid wardens in Dulwich during World War II…
I was also very pleased to find this picture of Granddad (back row, left) with his parents and siblings in around 1920…
Aunty Jimmy is missing from the line-up for some reason. Perhaps she was making the tea. But that’s Aunty Pussy striking a pose with a kitten in her arms in the foreground. I’m wondering now whether Aunty Pussy’s rather ‘unusual’ name was due to her love of cats. It’s a much nicer theory than some I’ve come up with over the years.
And finally, here’s Nan circa 1980 – continuing the family’s love of wearing off-kilter headgear…
The crown was mine, by the way. But I didn’t mind lending it to genuine royalty…
Three years on, it’s testament to the hard work and tenacity of Steve at London Calling Blog – as well as the huge talent of the many street artists he’s lured to SE20 – that Penge now boasts an incredible open-air gallery to rival any other urban art hotspot in the world. And that’s why yesterday’s Penge street art tour, in memory of Dad – a Sunday stroll around most (but not all) of the walls – lasted a whopping six-and-a-half hours.
Steve and project volunteer John gave up their time to lead the walk – while Airborne Mark made an early start on Maple Road, painting yet another brilliant piece for Penge. Despite it being a typically cold and miserable end-of-January day, there was a huge turnout. Admittedly, some people did have to go home for lunch and/or a lie-down three or four hours into the walk – but there were still around 20 hardy souls who stayed right to the end!
Thanks to everybody’s generosity, the event raised £258.90 from donations and book sales for the hospice. That brings our running total up to £2,486.70 – and there’ll be more money on the way very soon. A massive thank you from the bottom of our hearts to Steve, John, Mark and everyone involved with the project.
And thank you Penge. (Shoreditch is so last decade.)
It’s just over 24 years since Nan died – so why suddenly write a little book about her now?
I read somewhere that most people are ‘forgotten’ within three or four generations. We hand down stories about our parents and grandparents – but beyond that, things tend to get a little hazy. I never met my great-grandmother, Gertrude – we missed one another by just over a year – but thanks mainly to Mum and Nan, I’ve been armed with enough colourful anecdotes and black and white photographs to form a vague picture of the kind of person she was. But that’s all it is: vague.
Nan, however, lives large in my mind. I don’t think a day has passed when I haven’t looked at her photograph, said her name out loud or at least thought of her. I can still hear her voice. And if I close my eyes and focus, I can feel her hand in mine. I miss her terribly.
I don’t want Nan’s memory to fade away to nothing. But Tom and I don’t have any children. We’re the last of the line in both our families. There’s nobody obvious to pass these stories on to. In the main, this doesn’t worry me. I can’t grieve for people who never existed. It’s exhausting enough grieving for the ones who actually did. And yet…
It’s hit me harder over the past two-and-a-half years since Dad died. The family home where I grew up – an end-of-terrace house with Nan’s little flat on the side – is finally empty, and Tom and I have been tackling the gargantuan task of clearing out everything my family ever owned. The clothes, the crockery, the furniture, the toys, the ornaments, the plethora of vintage sporting equipment: most of them are easy enough to part with. But what about all the photographs, the letters and the other little mementos that somehow clung on through time?
Some people would have just chucked them all in a skip. And I know that’s what will happen eventually – but not on my watch! They’ve helped me through the grieving process, to revisit the happy and not-so-happy days of the past and to tell the story of my Nan, and my relationship with her.
Nan was my ‘third parent’. I was so lucky to have her – particularly when my other two parents were pretty special, too. She spent her entire life looking after other people and never wanting anything more than what she already had. I wish I could be more like her.
So in short, I wrote Nan because I wanted to share her story. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. I wanted somewhere to store all these anecdotes and memories. I really hope you enjoy it…
We’re very excited to announce that we’ll be auctioning The Dark Side – a limited-edition silkscreen print by street artist Trust.iCon – to raise funds for St Christopher’s hospice, in memory of Gordon Gibbens (or ‘Dad’, as I prefer to call him). Make your bid here.
When we published How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While), we were overwhelmed by the response from the graffiti and street art community – many of whom had got to know Dad over the years, and had grown accustomed to him popping up behind them with his camera when they were working on a wall.
Trust.iCon had never met Dad. But when he found out about the book from Steve at London Calling Blog, he immediately bought four copies and posted about it on Instagram, generating lots more sales and more much-needed funds for the hospice. And then he went a step further and sent us this amazing print (plus a couple more – so watch this space)…
We’re hugely grateful to Trust.iCon for this truly amazing gesture. And we know Dad would be so pleased and proud, too – although, like us, he’d be hugely tempted to keep the print for himself!
As I mentioned in the book, we made a special trip to Queen’s Park on Christmas Eve 2016 so that Dad could take a picture of a new piece by Trust.iCon that had popped up next to the station. It took us about two-and-a-half hours to get there by train and bus. And we only got the shot after a florist agreed to dismantle his stall, which had been obscuring the work.
That wasn’t our only stop that day, though. We then headed for Latimer Road to see another new work by Trust.iCon that Dad was desperate to photograph…
(Dad was happier about it than his expression in this picture would suggest – honestly!)
Nearly three years on, and – thanks to London Calling Blog’s SprayExhibition20 project – Trust.iCon is now a regular visitor to Penge, where Tom and I live. There’s a Snoopy-based work on a garden wall just round the corner from Colossive Towers, and this Trump-meets-Lucy masterpiece from earlier in the year has become a firm favourite with everyone…
So even if you live miles away – Queen’s Park or Latimer Road, for instance – and it’s a bit of an effort to get to Penge on a freezing cold winter’s day, it’s well worth coming to see…
Friends of Colossive! Sorry we haven’t been very vocal on here of late, but if you keep an eye on our Twitter and Instagram, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what we’ve been up to.
Anyway, as the days are getting shorter, colder and – let’s be honest – considerably more miserable, we’ll be fighting the gloom by firing up the XR3i and taking the Colossive Experience on the road again to the following events:
Sunday 27th October: DIY Space for London Zine Fair(London SE15): We really enjoyed tabling at this fab venue back in the balmy days of summer, and we’re looking forward to heading back. DSFL is a brilliant venue that does fantastic work in giving everyone a voice. There’s always a fascinating collection of exhibitors, and we’re particularly looking forward to seeing how the print collective is shaping up.
Saturday 16th November: St Christopher’s Christmas Market (Kingsdale Foundation School, London SE21): This is obviously one that’s very close to our hearts, given our connection with St Christopher’s. A word to the wise: you can save yourself a quid by buying an entrance ticket in advance (£2).
Sunday 1st December: Made in Croydon (Boxpark, Croydon): Taking place in the shadow of the NLA Tower (‘No 1 Croydon’), this is a bit of a homecoming in our roles as custodians of the history of Croydon Spaceport. We’re really excited about this – as well as the usual Colossive goodies, we’re hoping to be launching a (small) range of new Croydon Spaceport merch!
Sunday 8th December: Catford Comic and Zine Fair (Blythe Hill Tavern, London SE6): Thanks to Henry and Stan Miller for inviting us back to the most convivial comic and zine fair in the calendar, held in one of London’s friendliest and most acclaimed boozers. It’s a little show that punches way above its weight in terms of the talent it crams in, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to come and blow the froth with some exceptionally pleasant and talented people (and us).
If you ever attended one of the now legendary Monthly Eruption events at the Colossive Gallery, you’ll remember some amazing musical talent that didn’t so much push the envelope as tie a 16th-century rocket to its back and launch it against a nearby fortified town.
So, with Colossive having taken the printed page in bold new directions, it seemed like the next logical step for us to knock the world of music off its axis and roll it down the stairs. No industry is safe from our urge for disruption!
Our 2019 catalogue brings you the first wave of releases (with drop dates to be firmed up). Along with some old Eruption faves such as The Exiled Tarquins and Alabaster Chambers, we’re pleased to introduce new acts such as Horwich Loco Works Open Day, Orthopraxy and Disastrous Twilight Sheds. Look below for a few choice highlights.
The catalogue is a snip at £2, which will be refundable against a future purchase of Colossive music*.
LEND YOUR EARS TO THE COLOSSIVE SONIC REVOLUTION!
* Subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.
We had a splendid time at Northwest Zinefest last week – especially considering some of us had slightly lost the run of ourselves at a friend’s landmark birthday party the previous night…
Anyway, moving swiftly on… Admittedly we’ve only done four zine fairs so far, but this was by far the busiest and the salesiest. It probably helped that it was in a destination venue anyway (the very stirring People’s History Museum), and the biblical rainfall may have driven more people inside. However, it was really nicely organised and <grimace> curated, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
One of the nicest things that happened was a visit from Elena and Nicola of the Wellcome Collection, who bought copies of Emergency and 3:52 AMfor their burgeoning zine collection. Here’s an article about some of the zines in their collection. If you’ve got anything you’d like to suggest or donate to them, I’m sure they’d be very pleased to hear from you: email address on the flyer.
We also had a lovely conversation about Emergency with a man with autism and dyspraxia, who clearly related to it a great deal and said he was going to send a copy to his mum and dad, to show how much he appreciates the degree to which they supported him and fought for him during his childhood.
Huge thanks again to Iestyn and VJ Sellar for letting us publish such powerful and personal work, and thanks to Wellcome for picking it up.
However, in this brief essay (which will come with Perdu as a supplement), Colossive’s “Tom Murphy” looks back at the unlikely-sounding genesis of the project.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A couple of weeks after moving from Chorley to London in 1986, I saw Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville at the Barbican. Which was exciting enough for a wide-eyed nipper with a Billy the Fish football perm who’d just hopped off the National Express 570 Rapide.
However, the main feature was preceded by a cryptic yet compelling 16mm short called Mitte, by a compatriot of Godard’s named Jean-Paul Marsaud. Later, with a more functional critical vocabulary at my fingertips, I’d be able to wax lyrical about Mitte. However, at the time its mesmerising sequences depicting a glide through an unidentified city became a formative experience that I struggled to put into words and which had a profound effect on how I perceived my new metropolitan environment.
A bit of (pre-internet) research revealed that while Marsaud had taken pains to remain generally under the radar, he had made two more similar films – Proxima and Espacio – that also seemed to beguile as much as they baffled. A huddle of cognoscenti would gather at festival screenings and private cinema clubs to pore over these films, in which the strata of urban reality unfolded like a thousand-petalled lotus bloom.
Then, in 1992, le cataclysme. At a time of great personal distress, Marsaud destroyed the negatives and prints of his three films and withdrew from public life. Despite persistent rumours, it seemed that the films didn’t even live on as an n‑th generation VHS.
And that might have been the end of the story, had it not been for a chance encounter at London’s Institut français at which I became an unlikely instrument of destiny.
Attending a bande desinée (comics) event and making awkward smalltalk with a couple of acquaintances, I became aware of a similarly uncomfortable looking man on the periphery of the group. Later, in the pub, one of my rosbif companions revealed that the man, known only as Jean-Paul, was nicknamed le fantôme (the ghost) around London’s French community, and that he had apparently been a great artist who had suffered a breakdown and destroyed his life’s work.
With my mind making connections and my curiosity piqued, I returned to the Institut français and pestered the librarian, who reluctantly confirmed Jean-Paul’s identity and agreed to pass my details to ‘the ghost’. Weeks passed, and, as I’d expected, no contact was forthcoming. Unable to let go, I made increasingly regular visits to the French enclave of South Kensington, wondering if I’d ever track down my elusive quarry – or even if, true to his nickname, he was a phantom who had once more dissolved into incorporeality.
I had all but given up hope when fate again intervened. Having dived into an unpromising chain pub for an early-afternoon loosener, I heard a familiar voice order a crème de cassis from the other side of the frosted-glass snob screen.
Using my stool as a prop to lever myself upwards, I peered over the screen to see none other than the auteur manqué Marsaud, peering intently into the maroon depths of his drink as if seeking the likeness of a long-dead lover.
As I introduced myself, my bumbling – and uncharacteristic – enthusiasm seemed to drive him further into his retreat. However, a crack appeared in the curtain when he waspishly corrected me over my apparent misinterpretation of one of his films. With the regular replenishment of his glass, he began to defrost (albeit never showing the slightest bit of interest in my own life or work).
I probed him gently on the destruction of his films, and in a startling moment he revealed that he’d kept an archive of sketches and photographs from the production of his films. With a certitude that I generally lack in my quotidian routine, I resolved not to let le fantôme dematerialise until he had agreed to the Colossive Gallery staging an exhibition of these priceless artefacts. As the sun crept lower and the bar bill did very much the opposite, a deal of sorts was reached.
Many terse episodes of psychodrama were still to be played out over that summer and autumn, but on October 15th the Colossive Gallery opened ‘All That Remains – The Lost Films of JP Marsaud’. But you know that already, don’t you? You were probably there.
Anyway, the show went – as they say – like gangbusters (despite JP failing to grace us with his presence even once). When the fortnight was up I met JP as arranged – back at the Institut français – to return his material. I’d anticipated that he’d be late, but when he slouched in, in his usual laboured gait, I was intrigued to see another package under his arm. Without a greeting he dropped a foxed envelope, emblazoned with coffee rings, on the table in front of me. With the most minimal of gestures, he indicated that I should look within.
What I found was a disordered series of black-and-white photographs of various claustrophobic, even sepulchural locations. He wouldn’t be drawn on their origin or purpose, but wanted my opinion as to whether any money could be made from them. Over a coffee (and a seemingly obligatory Cognac) we reached what could loosely be termed an agreement to publish them as a zine. He didn’t bother to hide his disappointment – his disdain, even – when I revealed the scale of production and promotion that Colossive would be able to provide. However, pouring another Cognac on the troubled waters seemed to do the job.
However, my request for a title for the work seemed to test his forbearance to destruction. Downing his drink (after a reflexive swill round the glass), he rose with a previously unsuggested nimbleness and rolled back out into the London rain.
A couple of mornings later, a seemingly hand-delivered postcard was waiting in the gallery letter box, bearing nothing but the words Perdu sur le vaisseau spatial. Lost on the spaceship. So that’s what it is.
Thanks to anyone who popped by the Colossive table at the DIY Space for London Zine Fair yesterday.
The venue’s location – doughnutted by evangelical churches on a backstreet industrial estate – pretty much precluded any ‘passing trade’.
However, there was a good atmosphere inside the venue and a couple of flurries of activity during the course of the day. We chatted with some very nice people (on both sides of the table) and sold a few bits and pieces. You can check out the list of exhibitors, with links, here.
Thanks to Peter (Books Peckham) and Gabriel (1831 Shop) for arranging the fair, and to all the volunteers at DSFL – an valuable hub for creative activity.