Collaborative performance by Iain Sinclair and Bill Parry-Davies (video)

“A collaborative performance by the author Iain Sinclair reading from his latest work ‘Ghost Milk’ and his friend the solicitor / musician Bill Parry-Davies. This rousing performance is illustrated with photographs and video by Mike Wells and Sasha Andrews. It was created to highlight the existance of radioactive contamination on the London 2012 Olympic site.”


Iain Sinclair BBC interviews (2006): London – city of disappearances

These video interviews date back 26/10/2006, when City of Disappearances was published. Iain talks about the ideas behind the book and also about London, Abney Park Cemetery and more.

“It’s used a lot by Satanists,” says Iain Sinclair, London’s foremost psychogeographer, as we approach a menacingly derelict church. “Stoke Newington’s an epic centre of black magic. You can see the symbol of the eye in the triangle on the wall there. A lot of bodies have been dug out of graves; it’s a fake Gothic church that’s been overwhelmed by a gothic reality.” Spend time with Sinclair, either in book form or in person, as we’re doing one overcast afternoon in an overgrown Victorian cemetery, and your surroundings rapidly become richer than you suspected them to be. It’s such investigations of the cityscape, both physical and emotional, that make up London: City Of Disappearances, a compellingly immersive new literary compendium edited by Sinclair.
Sinclair’s vision of London, and that of the 50-odd other writers and artists – including Will Self, Marina Warner, Alan Moore, Stewart Home and JG Ballard – who have contributed pieces to the book, is inimical to chainstore homogeneity, willfully at odds with the “City Hall version of London” and the airbrushed projections of the Olympic Committee. “The reason for doing the book in the end was a sense of threat, a sense that there is a mendacious, top-led voice that gives descriptions of London that I can’t recognise at all. You look at the River Lea and at the moment it’s just a carpet of green algae filled with dead fish and dead dogs. All the Olympic building work is on top of toxic sites – glue factories, piles of maggoty bones – and you can’t clear all that overnight, which is what’s constantly attempted and never works, so you end up with some freakish compromise that looks like JG Ballard’s science fiction.”
Not that such developer-led attacks on London are a cause for despair. “I think more than any other city, London absorbs whatever horrors are enacted upon it,” Sinclair insists. “We can swallow Millennium Wheels, Domes, all of these things. Whatever’s put up is absorbed into the story and narrative of London.” It’s the work of curators as discerning and dedicated as Sinclair, and testaments as involving as those he has collected here, that enable the city’s sprawling narrative to continue to resonate.

Chris Power 26 October 06

TateShots: Iain Sinclair on Susan Philipsz’s ‘Surround Me’.

I made a video for TateShots, recorded on a day of thick snow (and steady fall) in the City of London. We toured the sites of the Susan Philipsz installations, ‘Surround Me’. (Philipsz won this year’s Turner Prize.)

Video: Iain Sinclair at the LSE Literary Festival 2009

Strangelies in Dalston (DVD)

Strangelies in Dalston

This short silent film was mostly shot in early 1969 when Dr Strangely Strange came over from Dublin to London to record their first LP, Kip Of The Serenes after producer Joe Boyd had signed them to his Witchseason company.

The band stayed in Albion Square, Dalston with old Dublin mates Renchi and Judith Bicknell; round the corner in Albion Road was another ex-Trinity College friend, writer and film-maker Iain Sinclair. Using a small 8mm Bolex, Iain had started keeping silent ‘film diaries’ ‘to map and log the lives that were being lived in this Hackney community.’ One of the film diary techniques you’ll notice when you watch this DVD was single-frame shooting, which enabled him to record images in a very dense way. It’s evident that the camera tended to be passed round rather like the Gorgons’ eye, and it’s quite possible that some of the sequences here were filmed by Renchi or by band members. Here’s an attempt to sort out who’s who.

Iain himself appears in one of the first sequences, shot in the street outside his house; his wife Anna is also in some of the shots. Much of the film takes place in Renchi’s basement, including a clip of Ivan Pawle at the harmonium playing an embryonic Kilmanoyyad Stomp. Linus also appears at this point – she’s the one in a brightly coloured patchwork jacket. After a bonfire night scene, probably filmed earlier, we see Tim Goulding working on a print.

The next footage takes us to Sound Techniques recording studio in Chelsea where the band are listening to a playback, quite possibly Mirror Mirror (one of first songs recorded at the first session, 5/1/69). You can just make out Joe Boyd at the mixing desk on the right-hand side of one of the shots. After being filmed upside down, Tim Booth recovers enough composure to – quite possibly – ask the budding auteur to make him a cup of tea.

The scene shifts abruptly to Dublin where we catch a glimpse of the infamous ‘Orphanage’ in Sandymount, Dublin where the band lived communally and ‘the Egyptians hanging on my wall’ in Tim Booth’s room there.

We’re back in Albion Road again, with a cameo for Gosport Lil, the band’s Renault 4, as the Strangelies head to Battersea Park to enact a mysterious medieval pageant scene, which Ivan appears to be ‘directing’. Next, it’s Tim G and ‘Orphan Annie’ Moran we see enacting a short poem about an egg by Samuel Beckett. The film ends with a lot of red smoke – quite possibly something to do with the mummers’ play. No-one can remember.

For the film’s 2007 premiere at London’s 12-Bar Club, I asked Tom Barwood to produce a Kip Of The Serenes ‘mash-up’ to use as a soundtrack. Even though he’d never seen the footage, he produced something that we thought combined excellently with the images, and so we’ve added it on the DVD.

Adrian Whittaker

if you would like to buy a copy of this DVD, please email joe rosen