24th July

July 24, 2002

As part of Norwich City Council’s City Of Culture bid, I’m invited to a ‘literary lunch’. What I assume will be a grand banquet turns out to be ten people being professionally nice to each other while two respected writers (poet George Szirtes and Booker nominee Trezza Azzopardi) recite parts of their work for the grand prizes of a sausage roll and a pizza slice.

I’m introduced to Newsnight Review critic Miranda Sawyer who is as lovely/quirky as she is on TV. Avoiding asking her the truly essential question as to why she changed her name from ‘Bunny’, we talk about Manchester, * the Sebald project and the fact that a bag of chips (the caviar of the North) can get you killed in certain parts of Hulme (something that I suspect won’t appear on the next edition of Newsnight Review).

Afterwards, I go for a coffee with George Szirtes. As well as talking about the Sebald project, we discuss the particularly unfashionable intensity of the late 60’s and early 70’s work of Ted Hughes and Bernard Malamud and the alarming similarities between the contemporary musical and literary industries. George is intelligent, enthusiastic and has an impressively open mind regarding art, literature and music and the way in which its viewed.

Hoping I’ve not made a complete arse of myself on his hallowed literary turf, we agree to meet again.

* The Sebald Project

This is something I’ve suggested to the City Council as part of their City Of Culture bid.

The press release:

‘In association with the Norwich City Council’s bid for European City Of Culture 2008, innovative online label Burning Shed is spearheading an ambitious project involving an intriguing fusion of music, art and spoken word.

Using the inspirational texts of the celebrated late German writer W.G Sebald (former resident of Norwich and UEA Professor), a unique album will be assembled utilising musical compositions and atmospheric soundscapes from the likes of Brian Eno, Robert Fripp and Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) and spoken contributions from acting luminaries Stephen Fry and Simon Callow.

A specially commissioned sleeve design will come courtesy of Carl Glover (designer of the award-winning 1992 Led Zeppelin box set). Containing artwork and photography from legendary artists such as Francis Bacon contemporary Colin Self, the cover artwork will be conceived as an integral part of the project’s impact and be accompanied by a gallery exhibition of the image components.

An exciting coming together of the disparate worlds of music, literature and the visual arts, The Sebald Project is a potentially culturally significant contribution to the new Millennium and a wonderful testament to the creative diversity and artistic excellence currently found in the East Anglian region.’

That’s the idea anyway. Of course, it might help to tell Brian Eno, Stephen Fry and Neil Tennant about it!

The evening is spent with talented looping bassist Andy Butler. We listen to Torn’s Splattercell and Talk Talk’s ‘Laughing Stock’ before doing some improvising in his home studio. Later, I listen through rough mixes of some of our recent collaborations.

Have a long discussion regarding releasing an album by Deive Montaigue (looping guitarist) on Burning Shed.