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The Light Before Lockdown

This blog is one bit of my response to Claire Warmsley Griffiths’ ‘The Light Before Lockdown’ project prompt. It was written over two days: 30th Nov and 1st Dec. I don’t think there’s a need to know the questions she asked mainly because I’ve only skirted on them. When I think of postcards I always think of my step mum. When I think of her I think of my mum and the understandable animosity between them. How they once fought in the chemists on Arthur St. I think that was the first time I saw my mum’s fury. Her violent tears. Despite that I always find some warmth when looking back. I wonder how we’ll look back on the year just gone? Are there things that we’ll remember other than the pandemic? AN Dec 2020

There’s a box upstairs which is full of postcards that were sent to my step mum. They run from the late forties to the early sixties. They are mainly from her husband at the time. I don’t know anything about him if I’m honest except that he loved motorbikes. I’m assuming he used to travel with work as they are from all over the UK. What I find interesting, apart from the affection between them, is that they are sometimes from places that you wouldn’t expect. Dead end towns. Places you wouldn’t expect to have postcards. As I write that I realise it’s quite a dismissive thing to say. It’s not meant to be. If anything the postcard is the perfect medium for our thoughts. There is only a certain amount of space. And we nearly always slip into hopeful mode.

It was this wistfulness I tried to embrace looking back on 2020. Now okay I know that it’s impossible to ignore the pandemic and trust me I won’t. I think things stopped for me when the call to work from home came. It threw things into the air. I’m a strange person. Socialising kills me sometimes, it’s in listening to the lives I others I know I’m so different, but through interactions come the ideas. Sometimes it’s just a phrase I take. Sometimes it’s twisting what someone has said completely. Sometimes it’s osmosis. Their lives soak into me and appear as my words. That’s not to say that I don’t have my own story. I just worry sometimes that people want more than the thoughts of a bashful smalltown boy.

So what I have missed during lockdown? I’ve missed rummaging around in charity shops. Flicking through the battered vinyl records to see if I can find anything that will take me back. To those days of Jane Fonda workouts and Pick N Mix. Greenham banners and first kisses. I’ve missed being amused by how many albums Mrs Mills seems to have made. Though I do love the fact that she seems to have been embraced. Was it the variety of the music halls they craved? Did it take them back to a simpler life? I miss the cramp that comes from crouching down too long. A sure sign I’m becoming old. I miss wandering around aimlessly. I miss the dance floor and northern soul. The style of the Indie Couple. I know it will all come back eventually.

The last gig I can remember being at was the ‘Sick Of Being Normal’ punk event. I liked the fact that a bunch of punk descended on a library. I did plan to do a review but the photos I took are still undeveloped in a disposable camera. It felt like the right medium at the time. This idea of not knowing what the end result will be. Struggling to see and not being able to retake. A bit like life itself sometimes. How often do we get the chance to change first impressions? That’s always been the appeal with the photos I take. Showing real life. That’s not to say they can’t be abstract and dreamlike. After all being northern doesn’t have to be about carrying all you own in a Kwik Save carrier.

My step mum took thousands of photos. Most mean nothing to me, some mean everything. My dad’s scarred ‘going out’ face, unable to stop the bleeding post shave. Photos of the cuddly toys she won in the raffle. Toys that became surrogates given pride of place on an armchair in front of the fire. Her photos record moments. How we’d sometimes uncomfortably slow dance to ‘Simply The Best’ at the end of night when, post stroke, my dad became unsteady on his feet. How it would’ve broken my mum’s heart if she found out. Nights out which made me lie. Made me imagine and learn empathy. “What! That cow who took him away from us?!” Thankfully that never came. Life is less complicated now that they have all gone and I find myself alone. Sometimes their shadows come back and I find the need to write. It’s always the same; part nostalgia and part making sense.

My next gig is meant to be in the back room of the Castle Hotel in Manchester. I’ve always liked the crush, sweat and reverb of the place. How will I find it in this new world of ours? The fact that touch has become fearful. Will I even go? I think it will be taken out of my hands. Who wants to be the first band to kill someone? I’ll miss walking through the neon city with ears ringing. Feeling in the moment. Feeling glad to be alive. I’ll miss the bus drive over through impossibly beautiful countryside so different to the concrete here. Villages like ‘Loveclough’ – even their names seem magical. I’ll miss checking into a cheap budget hotel and the twenty four hour a day ambulance sirens. I’ll miss wondering whether I’m going to survive the night. And then not really caring.

And that else? I’ve never been one for the multiplex until I became friends with Christina. I love the fact that we have such different tastes. I enjoy having to be positive about throw away films but even I struggled with the Dumbo remake. She didn’t like it either. I love and have missed being in her company. I see this as a counterpoint to films I now watch online at the Pendle Social Cinema. Films for which the word ‘cerebral’ was invented. Films where people talk in different languages. I like the fact that they are often just as bad as Dumbo. I love the discussion even though I’m the least opinionated person on this planet. The five words that used to make me to have cold sweats?: “how do you feel about..?” I love the fact that I’m comfortable enough to say nothing at times. I love the fact that it makes me comb my hair even though there is no real need. I at least look human on a Thursday night.

It’s hard putting this year into words but it’s been one of connection and not of disappearance. It’s a year where I’ve realised that the outside world doesn’t realise that living on your own is often a preference. That loneliness and being single are two separate things – you think I just sit in a darkened room doing nothing? I love the way that my friend Lyn texted for the first time in a while at the weekend. She’s always been there for me since that time things really did become too much. Is that really twenty years ago? Maybe that’s something for another day? I love the fact that she forgot my birthday. She’ll ring me in a couple of weeks feeling all apologetic. We’ll laugh. I know full well she’ll forget it again next year. I love the fact that this is the last year of my forties. That’s when my life will begin.

Although I create zines and send these around the world I feel the urge to make and write postcards in the new year. Perhaps you’d like to receive one? I’ll tell you more things of home and perhaps ask the odd question of you. Not prying more wanting to know about the light that fills your life. What are you looking forward to? We can talk about our pasts. How as a kid I used to look at the aerial on Graham’s electrical shop and wonder if they were communicating with aliens. How I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been the only boy to think that. How all that is still in me and appears given half the chance. I’ve started to realise that perhaps it’s not what people write that matters just that they found the time. To slow down and take notice. Of themselves, others and what surrounds. To tell us about the weather with them. How their families are growing. Who they are missing. And those adventures that sometimes come along. Little things that seemed to matter before life became wired.

On Openness, Adventure And Nudity

A few years ago I wrote a, now deleted, blog post about the programme ‘The Great British Skinny Dip’. I kind of wanted to talk about nudity in a body positive way but address certain issues. I’ve decided to re-write it. Ask the same question: will it ever be acceptable to appear naked in public or will it always be deemed as obscene? Nov 2020

Channel 4 have done two programmes on naturism that I’m aware of: ‘My Daughter The Teenage Nudist’ (2012) and ‘The Great British Skinny Dip’ (2017). The first one is by far the most interesting. The second one I found bizarre but as a writer it was its ‘what the fuck’ aspect that made me put pen to paper. The story of an organisation trying to entice in new members but caught between two stools. Having to appeal to those who may see naturism to be about openness / healthy lifestyle whilst going for those of a hedonistic bent. ‘This is me’ vs thrill seekers. I pointed out at the time that those two tribes may want completely different things.

I think my reason for deleting the original blog was that I felt it was a bit mean towards British Naturism. Not the organisation per se more what they felt constituted a good time. It was diet of barbecues. It was a diet of visiting tourist attractions off season. It was doing stuff I don’t want to do in the first place but naked. It was very domestic and ordinary. There was no warmth and dare I say it there was very little laughter. Nothing that touched on the absurdity of life. Now okay, I didn’t delve any deeper and other things they put on may appeal more. I think for me personally it comes down to one thing. Appearing naked is cool but not if it’s organised and sold back to me.

I was reminded of all this after watching Hannah Maia’s excellent documentary ‘My Big White Thighs & Me’ at the weekend*. Hannah’s film isn’t about naturism but about the joys and adventure that open swimming brings. However there was a brief scene where Hannah and her friend are shown from the back walking naked into the water. It isn’t explained; it doesn’t need to be. From what has gone before we know it’s about her being comfortable with her body and also with her friend seeing her ‘imperfections’. It’s about having fun whilst feeling liberated. It’s just two friends going for a swim enjoying each other’s company.

The idea behind ‘The Great British Skinny Dip’ was to take a naked swim and try to give it a community appeal. A mass event where families could take part. But, as they found out, you are battling an awful lot of barriers. There will always be a stigma attached to an adult being naked in front of a child. There are an awful lot of folk who don’t feel comfortable looking in a mirror never mind being naked in front of someone else. And then there’s the weather. It’s something I may have done though I’m pretty ambivalent. I’d probably put it in the same bracket as camping. I get the great outdoors aspect but not much more than that. If you fancy trying to convince me you know where I am. We can take the plunge together.

I’ve spoken about this before but I’m pretty sure mainstream views on nudity stem from two things: we equate nudity with shame / sin (Eve in the Garden Of Even) or only see it as a prelude to sex / titillation. We also take too much notice of social media. Touched up bodies. Most of my work features degrees of nudity. Some of my friends have seen my zines, some haven’t. Some think it’s artistic, some think I’m a sexual deviant. I’ve never tried to influence. It wasn’t about keeping it hid in some circles I just had a pretty good idea who would be supportive. I’m proud of what I produce and that’s the main thing. I’ll keep going until my creative energies die. Trying to blur boundaries all the while.

A final thought though: is it better for us to continue having this ‘strange / strained relationship’ with nudity? Baring all is often what we do when we want to make a statement or protest. Or get our fifteen minutes of fame. Pick your oracle: Femen, Victoria Bateman or Erica Roe. Would we just want it to be par for the course? In many ways the programme fell down because so many of the members chose to have their faces pixelated in later scenes. What was sold as wholesome took on a sense of embarrassment. I do not want to be identified. As someone who leads a compartmentalised life I understand that but it appeared seedy. If you’re going to do something then embrace it fully. Do it without compromise**.

After watching Hannah’s documentary I was tempted to take a few more
‘Wild’ photos – it’s been on hiatus for twelve months mainly because I felt I’d said all I wanted. Besides there haven’t been any zine fairs what with the pandemic. These images may just stay as they are and not turned into a zine. Give me a shout if you want the full set. Like her it was a case of slipping and sliding as I went to a place I hadn’t been since childhood. It was cool to just take time out of my working day and have a walk through the woodland. Scrape my skin and get stung by the nettles. Listen to the brook. It made me feel giddy. I like to feel the resulting images are art and not troubling.

* You can watch Hannah’s film here. I wrote a few words about it which can be found on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/review/rw6299290/?ref_=tt_urv

** I’m being a bit of a hypocrite there as I occasionally obscure my penis and my face. I would say though that I only usually do it when I’m talking about censorship or duality. I will admit though that sometimes it actually looks better that way. Let’s face it penises are ugly!





A Year Of Solitude

I’d always intended to create a follow up to last year’s ‘A Year In The Wilderness’ and at the end of October I finished final edit. This new work is called ‘A Year Of Solitude’. The idea was for it to be quite an insular take. Not to neglect the lush outskirts completely but to give it a more domestic feel. Home is always a difficult thing for me to write about. Home as we stand means being safe from the pandemic. Home in the past was more a place of disillusionment. Now don’t get me wrong my life isn’t that of misery lit. It’s more full of impossible dreams. Wanting to escape but not really having the confidence or means.

I’ve read a lot of commentary on the pandemic. People who say that the cruel climate has made it impossible for them to concentrate. “It takes all my time to survive I cannot contemplate writing / creating art“. I understand that. I attended a talk by the writer Elif Shafak who said that you have to be a sociopath to say that you haven’t been touched in some way. To see the death toll rise but to remain passive. For me it’s been suffocating at times. It was that aspect that I wanted to touch on. How the four walls have closed in. How being in one place made things that I’d usually throw away gather around me. Clothes, cutlery and wrappers becoming flotsam and jetsam. And how my healthy diet took a nose dive.

But conversely how soaking this up became catalyst. In many ways it is also an indication of how comfortable I am now of me as a person. I don’t feel the need to rush out and buy soft furnishings. I don’t feel the need to deny who I am. But that in turn becomes a double edged sword – not needing to moderate to fit in brings with it the darkness. Old wounds start to reappear. The times in my life when the self loathing grew and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Scrap that, I did but I didn’t feel comfortable approaching anyone. How do you put it into words? Older me can, younger me couldn’t. I guess it comes with experience / world weariness?

The zine mirrors the last one in design and number of pages, thirty six in total. All the images were taken at home or on strolls around my home town bar two. These were taken in Blackburn town centre when I was there for the Kick Down The Barriers exhibition. I wanted to retain the nude imagery of my ‘Torso’ zine though kept very much to a minimum and from a distance. I like to think it adds to the vulnerability. There are two ‘promo’ copies in existence. One a copy of the original template and one a printed off scanned copy. I felt I needed to change one of the images after viewing. I’m all for leaving in mistakes but it was just too saturated. You can see it below.   

Above all else I wanted it to be raw. ‘Daughter Of Winter’ is about my fiend’s toxic relationship with their mother. How their mum was cruel because in her eyes their birth had been a hindrance. She wanted to feel free not spend all her time changing dirty nappies. There’s pieces about my stepmum feeling isolated after my dad’s stroke. Him in hospital, her alone. And my thoughts on clearing his house when he died years later. Why do I know so little? My parent’s divorce turned us into strangers. My mum tried to make me see him as the devil incarnate. I was more understanding and she could never forgive me for feeling that way.   

So what does the coming year bring? Well I’m just putting together another issue of the main strand which if memory servers is #24. I can’t see me doing many others but I will definitely do one for IZM and a ‘Circa’ to record how my body looks. I’ve going to make a slight tweak to this account which will allow people to subscribe for bonus content. I turn fifty next year so I’m hoping to do weekly posts starting in the first full week of January. I’ll also be looking to ask people to be part of the selection process for my next book’s imagery. Turn my archive over to other eyes and seeing where that takes me / us. It’d be cool to have have you on board.

‘A Year Of Solitude’ will be available at That 0282 Place (upstairs at Burnley Library) when things get back to normal. Or directly from me, just give us a shout: nicholas563@btinternet.com If you’re one of the people I’m regularly in touch with who live abroad i.e. non UK I’ll make sure you get a copy at some point. 

The People’s Museum

I’m paraphrasing a misremembered quote here. It goes something like this: there are two types of people. Type 1: those who know nothing about history. Type 2: those who know loads about history but spend all their time passively writing about how we never learn from history. This post is about a photo I submitted to KDTB’s Exhibition at Blackburn Museum. My history? It brought with it quite a melancholic feeling. How can I write about an image when I don’t know all that went on? Can I be upbeat about an image when I know the heartache that came later? Oct 2020

It seemed like quite a straight forward request. The artist William Titley has put on an exhibition where the curated items are things sent in by the public. His request: if you had to choose one item which represented you as a person what would it be? A prized possession? Something whimsical or passed down? Something worthless but which means the world to you? I have no idea how museums are usually curated – I often find them staid with too much taxidermy – but William’s vision appealed. This idea of a community expressing who they really are rather than it being a straight, predetermined ‘this is who we think you are’. It’ll be interesting to see if this ends up being more authentic.

So what to submit? That first 7″ has long since traded in for something new. That fancy tie-dye t-shirt that I wore to death at college has been recycled. What do I have other than certificates? I have thousands of photos. When my step mum died I took in her photos that span from her being a young woman in the late 1940s right the way up to her time with my dad. I have my mum’s photos which again show her life and the special occasions. But also sad ones when my brother’s illness came. There is often one thought: who are these people and what happened to them? I often don’t know. Is a photograph anything more than a paused moment? I picked one photograph and wrote down my thoughts:

“Although this polaroid was taken when I was a toddler it wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I first saw it. It was taken when my grandma visited from Canada – I’m assuming she came to see me as latest addition to the family? It was taken by my Auntie Mary who left most of them with us but took this with her as a keepsake. It is one of the very few photos of all three of us together. It was sent on to me by the guardian who was dealing with her belongings when she died. I don’t recall my grandma coming over again so this would the only time we met. I have many thoughts now: doesn’t my sister look young? Why does it look like my brother is trying to escape the frame? Can you tell from this how we would disintegrate later on? I often wonder that. Can we look at a photograph as a moment in time or is it forever marked by what came next? My parents’ separation. My brother’s illness. For me if differs from image to image but I feel real warmth with this one. I’m just not that sure about my outfit!”

I’m not sure when my auntie Mary emigrated. There are pictures of her here at the illuminations in the late fifties so I’m assuming it was in the early sixties when travel became affordable. I also don’t know what took her away. I know her and her husband worked in nursing so perhaps they answered a call? Canada wants your bedside manner. Maybe they saw more opportunities across the Atlantic than in Barrow-in-Furness where they lived? Maybe they craved somewhere slightly less isolated? I don’t know whether they ever regretted their decision. I know she came back at least twice to visit. Once shortly after I was born in 1971. And once much later during those strange times we lived in fear of the Millennium Bug. We met by accident that time. Maybe that’s a story for another day safe to say that family had become much more complicated by then.

I’d take my mum’s friendship with my auntie as being something that cordially spanned my childhood but then disappeared. I have no idea how often they saw each other before the move. Or if they got on. My distinct memory though is of my mum getting those blue air mail letters from the post office and writing about what had been going on. What I was doing at school. But after I left school what exactly do you say – how many different ways do you say: no he isn’t married yet? Actually I’m not sure when they stopped? I think they kept going post my dad leaving which must have been awkward. Maybe they eventually found they had nothing in common? Or ran out of things to say. Isn’t that often the case?

It’s one of the main reasons why I love creating zines and then doing the snail mail thing of writing an accompanying letter. Sure it’s about friendship but it’s also about understanding and imagining the place where the other person lives – both visually and socially. I haven’t been abroad in years but each time I create and send I get a ‘postcard’ back. It’s somewhere I have travelled. It feels wankish to call it a twinning but it’s like finding a common bond. By sheer fluke I’ve just sent a package to someone who lives in the same place as my auntie did, Oshawa. Now okay it’s probably changed a lot but it feels like I’m connecting with both of them in many ways. I’m excited as to what I will find out.

What I can remember most about my auntie is that she always sent literate presents: a set of Disney encyclopedias when I was younger and then later Pearl S Buck’s Book of Christmas. I also remember her sending a compilation of Dickens’ Christmas novels. It was as though she wanted to encourage me to read. Perhaps this could be you? It’s hard knowing what I think of her as someone I hardy met but I love looking at the older photos of her. Wild hair like young Ellie in the film ‘Up’. They scream I am what I am and don’t give a fuck. When she developed dementia I think it killed my dad in many ways. He found talking to her extremely difficult . As though he’d lost touch with the person she once was. His big sister.

I think in the end I can only describe what I see. Place photographs in their own bubble free from the future. I love this one. My grandma just stood there as though she’s is impervious to what is going on – or is that a smile I see? My sister looking so young and at the centre. Feeling maternal towards me. My brother almost out of shot – is he trying to race off back to his bedroom where Roxy Music await? What with lockdown our hairstyles are almost the same – I have become clone. I cannot remember living in this house on Heyhead St but I often walk past it on the way to the park. It doesn’t bring back memories of the pebbledash, of texture, but of get togethers where we’d reminisce. Take the boxed photographs out of the cupboard and look back. Perhaps take more.

I’m not sure when my grandma died but it was pre my teens. I know that she lived into her nineties but nothing other than that which is sad. My sister became a teacher in a rural village school. After many years living in Italy post retirement she has returned home. I’d tentatively describe her as bohemian. Perhaps free spirited is better? She rocks! I’ve spoken about my brother many times. He developed MS in his early twenties, became confined to a wheelchair and died about ten years later. There’s obviously much more to him than that but this is a blog and not a memoir. So yeah here is an image from much earlier in our lives. Slightly awkward but aren’t they always? It perhaps shows an idyll that never existed. I’m not sure if I have the precise words to describe how it makes me feel. It makes me feel human.

Postscript: a childhood friend recently posted a photograph of us as kids. One of my brother’s friends often does the same – how they used to hang. In many cases I’ve never seen them. They show tribe. There is a sense of belonging. I’ve often wondered if there could be some kind of photo amnesty where we regularly share these memories. Could we create an alternative history from snapshots we thought were lost? At any rate it would be cool to let some more out into the digital world. See what it makes of those hazy days.












Who I am / Who am I? #lockdownexhibition7

This blog / photo exhibition / collage was inspired in part by the track ‘Identity’ by Xray Spex. Are we comfortable with how we look? Will we ever truly become or belong? Do we try all we can to disguise who we really are? In the end I only used one full manipulated photo but others became keys. The collage is primarily made up of the results of Google searches asking the questions: “what is manhood?” and “how will I know if I am gay?” Plus other things I had lying around. Ephemera. Discarded parts of me. SAN August 2020

I wouldn’t say having a sense of ‘identity’ is something that consumes me. In fact I’ve never been that keen to paint myself a certain way. My ‘Torso’ zine and associated art comes from wanting to question the images of masculinity in mainstream media. Type ‘normal man’ into any search engine and see what images come back. They won’t be me i.e. fortysomething, flabby and childless. They’ll be athletic, virile or the sort that inhabit ‘Marley & Me’ type films. Proud from the neck down, dead from the neck up. Or is that me being bitter? We are force fed stereotypes but think about it: why shouldn’t an OAP be portrayed as amorous instead of decrepit? Is it that we are in denial? What I do know is that me as a half-life person is restless. I want to move, refocus and move again. I want to confound.

I’m not sure where that desire comes from? If I look back on my life it’s hard to highlight anything that set me apart. Do I even have one unique characteristic? There’s a great piece on Jarvis Cocker by Julie Burchill (I think) on the sleeve notes to their ‘Countdown 1992-1983’ comp of pre Brit Pop era tracks. She recounts how when she first met him he looked so out of place wearing charity shop hand me downs and velvet flares. Like someone who refused to believe the Seventies had come to end. A few years later and with retro / glam being back en vogue he suddenly found himself as unlikely style guru. Now don’t get me wrong I will never be as cool as Jarvis. For him it was about making a statement – I am outsider. I used to be so passive that everything washed over me – I still am in some circles. I needed to be told what to do. I stayed where I was out of fear.

But why so fearful? Perhaps a schooled belief that different was bad? My parents had a set idea of which careers were suitable and I was definitely a conservative teen. It was all attainment and keeping up with the Jones. Even if the Jones were cunts. Although I always knew I was good with words I never considered ‘author’ as viable option. Or anything else creative if I’m honest. I plumped for science which left me cold, baffled and miserable. But I stayed silent instead of changing tack. Who wants to be labelled ‘failure’? I ended up bunking off college more often than I went but it was never questioned. No MIA letter home which I would have to deny. All college did was make me adept at killing time. I would leave home as though nothing was wrong, head to the arcades and wander aimlessly.

I’ve always been comfortable with meandering along but I don’t think it is a pig headed reaction. FUCK YOUR RAT RACE! I didn’t wake up one morning and start swimming against the tide. It was it mixture of circumstance, your options are limited when you have little money, and a what’s the worst that can happen attitude that only came once I hit my thirties. I often fail. I am contradiction and the more I develop my art the more I find that’s an interesting place to be. It isn’t a case of never wanting to stand up and be counted. It’s just that I don’t really know what is expected. Like what exactly defines me as male, bisexual or working class? A prick? An attitude? Lady Gaga on heavy rotation? Dirty fingernails? Are there points which overlap? I’m not entirely sure and somehow I don’t think my bathroom mirror or society will provide answers either.

The ‘Identity Session’ – Some images from my bathroom Aug 2020.

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The ‘Identity Session’ (Adapted Versions)

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‘Do You See Yourself?’ collage for #lockdownexhibition7 created 08-Aug-20 can be found here —> Identity Collage
Many thanks to @sophieparkerdesign for the spark as ever xx.

 

The Fever Dream #LockdownExhibition6

I watched Virus Tropical the other week. It seemed alien in many ways but I felt an affinity in others. Like the main character religion was to the fore throughout my childhood. As a child I was offered nothing but things which would cause me to stand still. They gave me labels which never seemed fit or I did my best to scribble out. They gave me sums and rote commandments. Sacred hearts and woe betides. I can’t remember if I had any dreams? Vivid colours that contrasted the greyness of what I saw in the everyday. They were probably the same as everyone else’s. YOU MUST BE SOMEONE. Strive for a life of houses and fucking. You can get where you want as long as you measure up. If you don’t then you won’t exist. If you don’t well it’s going to be long, hard life.

As an adult I often head to places with only a vague idea of where they are. And this in itself doesn’t scare me because there is no real risk. But this sense of feeling / getting lost or going round in circles is a recurring theme in my dreams. I think it comes from my introverted nature. Unlike my childhood I now thrive on being out of place. Not being apart from everything just thinking: “I haven’t done this before but I’m going to do it now”. I don’t think much has changed. I’ve just learned to realise that all people have the same insecurities. About their lives and bodies. About where they stand. I just knew I needed to strip things back. Lose all the needful things. Lose the pretence and appear naked.

I’m not sure how I feel about dreams as a psychic concept. This belief that they are just a way of processing events. An overspill of cerebral energy that needs to find earth. That needs to play itself out. When my dreams come they are always populated by people I’ve known. Family I haven’t seen for a while. People living and dead. There is no fulfilment or settling scores. I never see an idealised version of myself. I don’t see a life with all the kinks removed. There is always a huge degree of domesticity. As though reality is never far away even with all the barriers removed. I have no dreams of saving the world. Nor do I ever find redemption. Some times they are nonsensical or sexual in nature. They offer nothing more than repetition. Often, like myself, they disappear without trace.

For me there are two true states: inert and transient. Neither really appeal and I probably find myself flipping between the two. I switch between placid and perverse. I want to defy and rip up. I want to be honest. That is always the objective of my art; to talk about wantonness and the signs of destruction. To talk about the passing of time. How our lives have lost meaning. We don’t feel content so we run away both physically and spiritually. To where there is warmth. To where there is less pain. To where there is nothing. Maybe dreams are the buffer? Fanciful and there to stop us tip over the edge completely?

These photos were taken at the end of June. Although there are signs of things getting back to normal I am still tied to my home most of the time. Maybe that is what these images stem from? From this isolation. From not having the lives of others to act as catalyst. From knowing that something invisible may kill me. But fearing that these four walls may do the same. This is what I wanted to touch on. The darkness and the fleeting nature. I often position my naked body against abstract. I also often use a mask in my work. It is to give a faceless fluidity. The version that only comes out in my imagination. Quite nightmarish I guess. But not something to be shunned. My dreams will come and go. They are scream. They are folly. They offer nothing but echoes. Of the past, present and future. All imperfect.

Two new zines out now: ‘IZM July 2020’, which most of the following images form part and ‘An Invisible Man’ which is a sneak glimpse of a project I’m working on with Heloisa Silva an artist in Brazil. Come say hello if you want free copies: nicholas563@btinternet.com
Words and images created for #lockdownexhibition6 on a theme of ‘dreams’. Again many thanks to @sophieparkerdesign for the opportunity.

The Fever Dream

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Human / Nature #LockdownExhibition5

Here is my latest work for Sophie Parker’s Lockdown Exhibition. The link should take you to my first ever e-zine. I wanted to talk about this belief that our fall from grace came from one bite. How come Eve wasn’t thrilled when she gained knowledge but just became embarrassed because she was naked? At the end of this blog I’ve included a few images that didn’t make the final version. I doubt most people will be familiar with Brierfield but the woodland is on the outskirts of town. It’s almost like it forms a boundary between two worlds. The industrial and the rural. Both eating away at each other. Like I say in the intro I’ve always found the woods to be both magical and threatening. Where will I end up if I hack through. Will I become lost? Will I find a new Eden? AN June 2020

This New Eden Issue Link

#lockdownexhibition5 Theme: ‘Nature’
@cavedweller71
@sophieparkerdesign

Artwork from the previous exhibitions can be found here:

#lockdownexhibition
#lockdownexhibition2 ‘Bodies’
#lockdownexhibition3 ‘Imperfections’
#lockdownexhibition4 ‘Self Love’

A Different Eden – ‘This New Eden’ (Lost Versions)

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Androcles Press: Other Output October 2018 –

I felt it best to keep this separate from the blog post about my Torso strands because that was already over eight thousand words as it stood. Plus these in the main deal with completely different topics. These ones are concerned with local history and seeing places / people in a different light. The main aim for any of my zines is always to document the changing landscape. To preserve views which may be taken down at any point. And to question. What gets lost along the way? And how do we feel about that?

Arndale Issue 1 (October 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Seek Ye The Lord’ poster – who’d be a town planner? There’s a documentary that I’ve posted before which shows the vibrancy when Nelson town centre was redeveloped in the early sixties: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B4_FS7sqRo You get a sense of how futuristic The Arndale must have appeared. A brave new world. When did the decline come? Maybe in the late seventies with the motorway? Or with a bus service that gave people an opportunity to visit the city instead? Or with sky high rates? Were the seeds sown when the outdoor market went?

The photos I took weren’t of the Arndale shops themselves though I will return to them eventually. I may also visit the other ones throughout the northwest. The photos are of the old bus station and the stair wells. The multi-storey car park. The signage warning against ‘loitering’ and unruly behaviour. This idea that the youth should be feared and moved on. I love brutalist architecture as much as the next man but let’s face it it became an eyesore. I obviously didn’t realise that a few months after printing off this zine there would be reports that the car park was to be demolished. And now it is but rubble. I hope the zine gets across the strange beauty of the place.

Bureau Issue 1 (Spring 2019) Flip: ‘Fucking Beautiful’ collage – never officially released though I did send a promo version to CF. An issue made up of photos taken at the Obscura Darkroom re-launch at The Bureau on Fri 15th March. I was in the process of trying to get hold of the artists to see if they’d be happy for their work to be used when the fire happened.

Library Issue 1 (July 2019) Flip: Abstract ‘shadow’ triptych – created to mark the opening of That 0282 Place Arts Hub. With this I wanted to show how the perception (libraries are quiet and inert places) is different from the reality (libraries bring hope and fire). They are about community. I wanted to show how they inspire. How Burnley Library was a catalyst for my art. It is quite an abstract zine but I like it that way. It features the scrawled graffiti on the outside stonework, the colours of the corridors and of course the books that offered escape for some. Libraries will always be more about the people who go there. Anything bound is incidental.

Library Issue 2 (July 2019) Flip: photos of ‘poppies’ installation – The images follow on in the abstract style of the first issue. This one was inspired by Nelson Library. Obviously Nelson is slightly different in that it has both the war memorial and scout statue outside so the issue became about remembrance. It features the free written piece ‘Falling Silent’ which tries to draw comparison between the hell of physical war and the loneliness felt by an old ex serviceman.

0282 Commune Issue 1 (July 2019) Flip: sketches of gasometer redesign by Manchester Uni architecture students. I’ve always written about my hometown of Brierfield but I was commissioned by Moz at 0282 to come up with a series of zines focusing on all of the local towns. Is there something that ties them altogether or are they all pretty unique? It’s well known that the Wikipedia entry for Brierfield once contained a lie that Smith & Nephews with its belching chimneys was the inspiration behind Mordor. It stayed in for years. I’ve always wondered what people would include if they tried to make a visual depiction? I wanted to skew the idea it had to be the lion at the cenotaph or mill buildings.

0282 Commune Issue 2 (July 2019) Flip: ‘Burnley Life’ abstract – When it came to this series I wasn’t too worried about retelling a straight history. To me Burnley’s is about a sense of belonging whether it be the Turf Moor terraces or the Angel’s dancefloor. I’ve found that a good way in is always the town’s motto, in this case ‘Hold To The Truth’. What is the truth? That these days will soon be our past. They’ll fade and become memory. Fade and become tinged. What will people remember of the them? I think they’ll look back and hopefully recall the days they tried to make a difference. And who was with them. It features images from Bank Hall Pitch and the Ghost Train at the May Day Rally. Make of that what you will!

0282 Commune Issue 3 (August 2019) Flip: Aretha / Miles album covers (close up detail) – Done as a freebie for when Moz DJed at the Blues Festival. What I should have said at the start is that this is my perception rather than social commentary. The one for Colne is perhaps the most personal issue. What do I think of when it comes to Colne? Easy, being a teenager and tri-skating at Colne Sports Centre. How my life was becoming an adventure whilst at home things were completely different. See ‘Wallpaper’ issue below for more details on that front. It’s an issue about feeling alive when other things in your life are casting dark shadows.

‘Commune’ has gone on a bit of a hiatus what with one thing or another. Hello pandemic. But the ones for Barrowford and Padiham are done. They just need assembling. Nelson’s will recount the story of the Baptist Church Sunday School teachers who drowned on Derwentwater at the end of the 19th Century.

0282 Openings (Versions 1 and 2) Flip: Sonny J Barker’s KWIR Exhibition collage (Version 1) and Torso dd/mm/yy Issue 15 collage (Version 2) – Again this came from just wanting to create something for the ‘Openings’ art event that could be given away at That 0282 Place. It compiles free verses from the Torso zines with unissued photos, mainly of street art. It was also a way of spreading the word about the intention to re-open Burnley Zine Library. It a zine about how easy it is to get started when it comes to creating art. Humble brag: I’ve done over a hundred zines in three years. It’s just me, my imagination and mobile camera, some scissors and a means a reproduction. It doesn’t have to cost £££ and there is so much power in doing it yourself. Top tip: don’t wait to be asked.

0282 Literature (October 2019) Flip: Christiana album back cover (detail) – Another That 0282 Place giveaway this time a posthumous ‘record’ of the Literature Festival. It feature images taken over the weekend along with two free written pieces on the subject of ‘anarchy’. Yes, it can be about ripping it up and starting again. But it’s also about saying that there is only going to be change if we learn to switch focus. There was a really fascinating talk on the Brontes on the Saturday. There must have been around thirty women in the audience. I didn’t know anything about any of them but I’m sure if we got talking they would have stories to tell. Maybe progress comes in telling those rather than focusing on what we already know?

Wallpaper ‘A Portrait Of A Life Cut Short By MS’ (October 2019) Flip: photo of weathered ‘Lava / Ignite’ poster – At the Literature Festival I saw the poet Amy Lee Tempest who spoke about depression, same sex love and Multiple Sclerosis. I’ve written about this before but I wanted to use photos of her performance, the poems hung like wallpaper from the ceiling, with other fragile imagery to talk about my brother’s struggle with the illness. The isolation and feeling of drowning. The coldness of his room. The sound of the ventilator. The smell of the potions that the nurses used to treat his sores. Looking to expand this soon.

‘The Splintered Door’ Selected BHSG Poems 1951-1960 (April 2020) (Double sided) – This was done for the cancelled Northwest Zinefest (Burnley). It’s a promo to highlight an ongoing project to compile the art and poetry from the Burnley High School for Girls annuals. These date from when it was opened, well when it became separate entity, right through to the Seventies. Again under the auspice of That 0282 Place it echoes other projects in saying that this material may not be of national import but it is of value. It shows hopes and dreams. It shows how schooling and our social mores have changed. It’s an engaging snapshot of how we used to live.

‘An Invisible Man’ (July 2020) Flip: Distorted shower room image – I’ve always liked the idea of collaboration but felt it needed to be for the right reasons. As lockdown started I wanted to create a zine about Covid-19 but not focus of the disease per se. I was intrigued by how an invisible and non-discriminating killer has in turn made us invisible. Over time it became more about persecution. I thought it would be an interesting idea to talk to other people from different backgrounds and genders as contrast. At present it is just me and Heloisa Silva an artist from Brazil. It may be expanded further. ‘An Invisible Man’ just acts as a promo which includes a couple of my written pieces and additional photos.

 

Androcles Press: Torso Output Oct 2017-

As I’ve been reaching out to more people of late I thought it’d be cool to update the list of zines I’ve created. This really acts as an aide memoire because even I’m beginning to forget some of them! Those heady days of creating four zines a week are such a blur! I’ve totted up and I have created, drum roll, 115 issues in just shy of three years. Some of which are in two separate parts. This list is in strand order so will be skewed date wise. If I had my time again I definitely would have done them as a single sequence and just explained away the different styles.

Torso Issue 1 wasn’t my first zine but it was the first one I created on my own. For completists I edited a zine called ‘Northern Souls’ which compiled work by myself, friends and local artists who had had residencies with In-Situ. This isn’t me denying my roots like some A list celeb regretting starring in some tacky horror flick when they were green. It’s just that I don’t feel I can take sole credit there. But, as I’ve noted in previous blogs, it did stand me in good stead. It gave me a certain drive. Why shouldn’t I as a fortysomething be creative?

I should reiterate that Androcles Press is just me, my imagination and mobile camera, some paper and scissors. I just wanted some branding to say I owned this work instead it being completely anonymous. My ‘Torso’ output has dwindled mainly because I’ve started doing other things but I’ll still end up doing around twenty issues this year. I don’t know how it will change. Part of me likes the autonomy and doing in all myself. But there is also that thought: if I let someone in where will that take things? I certainly don’t know where it will end. But as long as the desire is there you will find me hunched over a photocopier somewhere.

Monthly Issues:

Torso Issue 1
(Oct 2017) – The zine’s genesis is documented elsewhere but you have Alyce Wood to thank for all of this. Sure what I did is completely different to what she was about but I wanted to pose the same question: what exactly is a body? Looking back the content shows an early tendency to treat myself as a whole. To write about my emotional needs and physical desires. I just wanted that messy truthfulness to be there.
Theme: ‘Torso’
Free Verses: ‘Simple Pleasures’ and ‘A Teenage Daydream’
Flip: ‘How Feminine Am I’ collage

Torso Issue 2 (Nov 2017) – As the zine’s intro proclaims: “More rough and ready snapshots on a theme of masculinity. Are we but a vague definitions? Virile? Potent? Fuck machines hell bent on destruction?” This second issue began my love of putting rude words on the cover which actually caused more problems at times than the nudity.
Theme: ‘Manhood’
Free Verse: ‘Gods and Monsters’ – which is terrible!!
Flip: ‘Illuminati’ graffiti collage

Torso Issue 3 (Nov 2017) – This issue is about acceptance and rejecting ideals. It’s about finding beauty in everything and not worrying about so called perfection. The front is of a bronze statue in the Manchester Art Gallery. I always wanted to talk about the disconnect between nude art (acceptable) vs photography (liable to be censored).
Theme: ‘Beauty’
Free Verse: ‘My Blank Expression’
Flip: Microfiche image listing news worthy things that happened in Brierfield circa 1900. I just liked the way that it mentioned grim detail like ‘decapitated man found’. It reminded me a lot of ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’.

Torso Issue 4 (Dec 2017) – I still like this issue. It is vibrant and the front cover was a sign of things to come with it’s use of selective blurring. I also like the theme of wantonness both in terms of destruction and being sexually aroused. It’s about feeling human and fallible.
Theme: ‘Masturbation’
Free Verse: ‘1 Samuel 5:4’ and ‘Feeling Human’
Flip: Photo of ‘Destroy Power Not People’ graffiti.

Torso Issue 5 (Jan 2018) – Another issue I love from the early days. An issue based around the colour pink where there’s a lot of play with imagining different surfaces as skin.
Theme: ‘Flesh’
Flip: ‘Mantra’ collage which features a few lines for a friend who was going through a rough patch. It reads: “Failure of the flesh only comes when there is indifference & silence. So rage on, forever, rage on. Dream on sister, dream on.”

Torso Issue 6 (Feb 2018) – An issue that leaves me cold now. I wanted it to be a play on the word ‘reproduction’. Saying that producing a perfect copy each time is folly. Intro: “Duplicating. Fucking around. Wanting to create some gleaming future. Or just the desire to appear naked. Again and again. All of this and then some.” 
Theme: ‘Reproduction’
Free Verse: ‘Whitechapel’
Flip: Photo of the ‘Nymphs’ painting at Towneley Hall. You’re not meant to take pictures there. Shhh…don’t tell anyone. The nymphs in the photo are male which acted a counter when Manchester Art Gallery did their feminist ‘Take Down’ event.

Torso Issue 7 (Mar 2018) – Marked the turning point when it came to showing my body in different ways. I’d had an unpublished review back from Nyx at Sea Green Zines which although positive expressed a degree of caution. She struggled with the imagery because of bad experiences with men. I experimented with light and movement to create a ‘warmer’ issue full of pastel hues. I explored this technique further in the ‘Chasing Ghosts’ strand.
Theme: ‘Ghost’
Free Verses: ‘Ghosts’ (2018 Version), ‘The Beholder’ and ‘Blindness’
Flip: ‘Imagination Is My Only Weapon’ collage.

Torso Issue 8 (Apr 2018) – An issue about change. How do we judge progress? Will there come a point when we’ll look ourselves in the mirror and say yeah, that’s who I wanted to be all those years ago? As men are we programmed to desire a ripped stomach and nothing else?
Theme: ‘Progression’
Free Verse: ‘Flotsam And Jetsum’
Flip: Photo of ‘Anarchy & Change’ graffiti.

Torso Issue 9 (May 2018) – Faith has always played a huge part in the zines. I wanted to create an issue which talked about what is ‘dirty’ and what defiles. Image wise it’s a mixture of smudged images – gel on mirror – and revealing shots. At it’s heart it’s an issue about the pornographic gaze.
Theme: ‘Dirty’
Free Verse: ‘Chelsea’
Flip: Originally a triptych of distorted penis shots (I’m not sure if I sent any out in this form?) Scrapped because it was too dark (colour wise). Replaced by a photo of the well known ‘Russian sailor girl’ street art on a Northern Quarter fast food joint.

Torso Issue 10 (June 2018) – An issue that played on the word ‘meat’ having different meanings. Something processed. Something tasty. Something to be devoured. A casualty of war. Or the male sex etc.
Theme: ‘Meat’
Flip: Photo of advertisement billboard. I’ve always liked the idea of taking a small detail of something and changing it into something completely different. In this case an extreme close up of the word ‘Drama’ where the pixelated colours shine. It was about creating something abstract from a definite thing.

Torso Issue 11 (July 2018) – Another of my favourites from that period. I’ve written about this before but the plan was also to include the female form in the zine. It never happened. Only the flip and poem ‘The Pilgrim’ remain from a proposed but then aborted issue with my friend Adi. The issue talks about what we do to feel free.
Theme: ‘Conformity’
Free Verse: ‘Pilgrim’
Flip: Bull fight collage made up my step mum’s old photos, letters and holiday mementos.

Torso Issues 12 and 13 (both Aug 2018) – I’ve written about this before but I was getting really frustrated around this time because I felt people were treating male and female images differently in terms of decency. I know there are other factors at play but is there any difference between a naked man or woman when viewed as ‘body without emphasis’? So I created back to back issues highlighting the problems I was facing. One is extremely playful. The other deals with censorship and representation.
Theme: ‘Implicit’ (Issue 12) and ‘Explicit’ (Issue 13)
Flips: Photos of street art taken in Hebden Bridge. ‘Freedom, Peace & Unity’ (Issue 12) and ‘This Is Our Canvas (Issue 13).

Torso Issue 14 (Sept 2018) – Another issue that doesn’t work in retrospect. An issue based around distorted views and appearances. I’d scrapped a poem but just kept one line: “Our real reflection is often obscured by the clouds of desire.” Looking back it’s the only thing I like.
Theme: ‘Distort’
Flip: Photo of ‘Create Chaos’ street art in Hebden Bridge.

Torso Issue 15 (Oct 2018) – I love this issue. Six images which show vulnerability and a thought piece. From vulgar graffiti to gravestones, my nakedness and everything in between. Why do we fear being nude? Is it more about fear of being judged rather than fear of getting cold. Or is it both?
Theme: ‘Vulnerability’
Flip: ‘Perpetual Persecution’ collage which was made up of women’s liberation photos and text / cartoons from anti-DSS ‘zine’ ‘Unsupported Mothers Handbook’

Torso Issue 16 (Nov 2018) – Another that played on the difference in the meaning of a word. How ‘object’ can mean a thing which is passively looked at but also ‘to disagree’. I guess it’s about contrary-ness. Why do we need moral guardians creating societal norms when half of them end up being outed as monsters.
Theme: ‘Object’
Free Verse: ‘How To Be’
Flip: Photo of ‘Tinsel’ street art in Hebden Bridge. The image reminded me of the Mike Harding witticism that he loved winter because the snow covered all the dead dogs and discarded prams. Thus turning dereliction into wonderland. I guess everything looks pretty in a certain light?

Torso Issue 17 (Dec 2018) – The first one without a recognised theme as such though tonally it is about new beginnings. This bizarre belief that on the stroke of midnight on NYE we suddenly become a new person. Switch into an ‘I Must Change’ mode. All that happens in reality is that we wake up, turn over and then convince ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow.
Flip: Photo of ‘No Posters Allowed’ warning.

Torso Issue 18 (? Spring 2019) – An issue which is really just an over-spill of images taken for various ‘Wild’ issues. By this stage I felt it needed to become a quarterly because I didn’t want it to become staid. It’s sort of about John The Baptist and this idea of someone finding themselves in the wilderness. The first page is a rough collage with lyrics culled from the Chumbawamba track ‘Salome’.
Flip: Photo of ‘wildlife’ count board at the Water Meetings, Barrowford.

Torso Issue 19 (Started late Spring but finished Autumn / Winter 2019) – A tortuous issue in it’s gestation! Originally planned for Northwest Zinefest but then shelved. I was never happy with the text. I scrapped everything apart from the front and back cover and took it in a different direction. It’s about not living up to expectation. And being glad of that fact. Scream: “BE WHO YOU ARE!”, repeat forever.
Free Verses: ‘I Couldn’t Wait For Them All To Die’ and ‘Ritual’
Flip: Photo of ripped and weathered ‘Our Climate Is Warming’ poster

Torso Issue 20 (? Summer 2019) – An issue of collages made up of torn torso photos and junk mail I’d received one week. An issue about consumerism, waste and prostitution. What is anything worth? What is my body worth?
Flip: Photo of ‘Manchester Arndale’ adapted into ‘There Is No God’ collage.

Torso Issue 21 (January 2020) – Quite a throwaway issue done on the quick. Most of the images are web cam shots or retaken photos of said shots. There’s obvious connotations of using this footage but it was really about trying to get a really grainy image. The dark themes were continued further in the ‘Want’ series.
Flip: Filtered green fire side selfie.

Wild Issues: Wild came from a desire to map how my body was changing against it’s environment. Were they both showing signs of decay? I wanted to talk about ecology / pollution. Wild also gave me the chance to take more photos outdoors. The early issues always acted as a travelogue around Pendle. The first six all had free written intros that were broadly about things falling apart. They can be found here: https://cavedweller71.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/torso-wild-free-writing/

Wild Issue 1 (May 2018) Flip: photo of DEXXX grafiffi

Wild Issue 2 (Early Summer 2018) Flip: photo of GEN abstract image

Wild Issue 3 (Early Summer 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Change The Law’ graffiti

Wild Issue 4 (Late Summer 2018) Flip: photo of ‘A Good Day’ graffiti

Wild Issue 5 (Late Summer / Autumn 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Babylon’ graffiti

Wild Issue 1-5X (Late Summer 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Be Free & Discover’ graffiti – I sort of wanted the early ‘Wilds’ to be free from explicit nudity. This issue compiled the more revealing images I had held back.

Wild Issue 6 (January 2019) Flip: photo of Eye from surveillance poster

Wild Issue 7 (January 2019) Flip:
photo of children’s gravestone – There were three versions of this considered but they all had pretty much the same imagery. I wasn’t happy with the cover so that got switched and then one of the photos. I only ever did five-ten copies of zines in the ‘Wild’ series but I’m not sure how many exist in each version or if any ‘version twos’ were actually produced? I think I was just being anal in my version control. The photos themselves were taken at/en route to the Inghamites Chapel at Wheatley Lane. I wanted to create a zine where the shots were all taken at night. The zine itself is dedicated to Crash Reynolds.

Wild Issue 8 (Parts 1 and 2) February 2019 Flip:
photos of ‘Love’ graffiti (Part 1) and ‘Revolt’ graffiti (Part 2) – My first split issue. Bank Hall Pitch was once one of Burnley’s coal mines but it has long since gone. The photos were taken at the neighbouring recreational ground which itself is now derelict. It’s a zine about lost history and transiency. What once was thriving is now an eyesore with strewn graffiti and needles. The harshness hasn’t disappeared it has just taken a different form. Look around and there are troubling signs of what people need to get by.

Wild Issue 9 (March 2019) Flip: photo of gravestone at Colne Cemetery – Sort of followed on from the last issue and was written after taken part in an artist friend’s documentary project about the film ‘Whistle Down The Wind’. A zine about homelessness. You can view the doc itself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF74hOLohME

Wild Issue 10 (Parts 1 and 2) (March 2019) Flip: still of Pendle Hill trig from Henrietta Armstrong’s ‘Summit Stones’ (Part 1) and photo of ‘So What You Sayin?’ graffiti (Part 2) – There’s a long story to tell here but I’ll shorten it somewhat. This is the first zine which shows my face. It was never about anonymity. It just seemed right to keep to the ‘torso’ aesthetic i.e. neck down, hips up. But I was interested in writing about what makes a man turn into a beast. Whether in reality or fable. It seemed like a good idea to reveal myself in the process. The beast is actually… I also felt it may open things up. Both parts deal with extinction but told through the differing views. The beast under attack and the man needing to hunt to survive.

Wild Issue 11 (Parts 1 and 2) (March 2019) Flip: photos of ‘Hope Is An Act Of Defiance’ graffiti (Part 1 ) and ‘Animals’ graffiti (Part 2) – Part 1 is made up of photos taken down Manchester. Part 2 is the day after with photos taken in local scrubland. In hindsight it probably should have been two distinct issues but I put them together to contrast the two days. One urban with the other rural. Part 1 could have equally come under the ‘Metro’ strand.

Wild Issue 12 (May 2019) Flip: photo of ‘Nelly’ graffiti on bin – Created as a special issue for Swansea Zine Fest and then retitled. Nelly is a local street artist whose tag can be found on many a wall.

There were also a few yearly / seasonal issues of ‘Wild’:

Wild ‘2018’ (December 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Cunt’ graffiti. Never circulated and probably never will be though it actually feels quite prescient as I write. An issue about racism, hate and displacement. I just felt it was a bit too negative and unfocused at the time.

Instead I released:

Wild ‘2018’ (Parts 1 and 2) (December 2018) Flip: photos: Change The Law graffiti (Part 1) and Stranger Than Paradise graffiti (Part 2) – not a lot I need say about these. Photos taken late summer / Autumn. The usual mix of my torso in nature shots placed against the things that I came across.

Wild ‘Winter 2018’ (October 2018) Flip: photo of ‘face’ street art down Duke Bar – I like this issue. It’s a about the dying of the year and getting old. It’s about the isolation my dad felt when my step mum died. How he knew he’d soon be joining her. It’s all autumnal brown in colour. Dedicated to Kassi G.

Wild ‘Spring 2019’ (May 2019) Flip: ‘Relics’ collage – I think this issue works in parts. It’s formed out of the nude images left out of Wild Issue 12. It documents a walk on Good Friday. I wanted it to work as travelogue but also talk about the symbolism of the religious service that takes place on the day. The violence and abandonment. The collage is really about corruption of the body. It features a very distorted / saturated masturbation shot juxtaposed with family first holy communion literature / gifts. It’s probably just the right side of crass.

Wild ‘Summer 2019’ (Parts 1 and 2) (June 2019) Flip: photos of ‘The Glory Of The Lord’ poster (Part 1) and CND car stick (detail) (Part 2) – It was around this time that there was an article about tropes in art. I’ve never seen myself as muse but ‘Wild’ with it’s nude figure in nature bent obviously fits the bill. That’s not something I have issues with but I’d like to feel I have more to say. Part 1 deals with this idea of a tortured prophet who is unsure if he is on the right path. Part 2 is just about me taking my clothes off in the sun, so I could be wrong? I’d argue that both could be seen as valid takes.

Wild ‘Autumn 2019’ (Parts 1 and 2) (November 2019) Flip: photos of banners from the Banner Culture Exhibition. Death (detail) (Part 1) and Nuke Plane (detail) (Part 2) – both free written intros return to the idea of destruction of self and our environment which seemed to tie in with a broader theme of protest.

Wild ‘Winter 2019 (December 2019) Flip: saturated version of an underpass photo by Crash Reynolds – This brought an end to the ‘Wild’ series though I will still do them for Zine Fairs. I love the blue coloured tone. That was always the idea; to document the changing colours of the seasons.

There are a few exceptions but ‘Wild’ was my go to style when it came to creating zines to send to zine fairs. I felt that the nudity was less likely to cause offence if I made them quite poetic. I simply doctored them slightly depending on how ‘open’ they were likely to be:

The Zine Fair / Zine Library Issues:

Bradford Zine Fair 2018 (June 2018) / Indie Book & Zine Fair 2018 (July 2018) Flips: photo of Max Gross ‘marking’ (Bradford) and ‘Real’ graffiti (Indie) – I’ve put these together because the images were taken at the same time. They are both monochrome and have the same intro. I’d say it was around this time, early summer, that the zines became much more artistic.

Swindon Zine Fest 2018 (July 2018) Flip: photo of graffiti at Stoneyholme – features a rewritten version of the Bradford intro. It mixes torso shots with abstract images and additional photos of graffiti. As previously noted nearly all the zines around this time were about things falling apart and trying to escape the wreckage.

Glasgow Zine Library Issue (July 2018?) Flip: ‘photo’ of ‘Fuck You’ graffiti – not a lot I can say about this one. The non-torso photos were taken in Burnley town centre. It was a case of juxtaposing my body / nature with the harshness of the derelict arcades.

Dundee Zine Fest 2018 (August 2018?) Flip: unknown. This was made up of images taken summer 2018 and was marked up as that at one point. It makes use of two animal masks I borrowed off a friend. It also continues this idea of duality, existing as both man and beast, which I would return to the following year. It’s a shame I haven’t noted what the flip was but I seldom re-print so there’s no real harm done I guess.

Cork Zine Fair 2018 (Parts 1 and 2) (October 2018) Flip: photo in animal mask (Part 1) and ‘Jesus’ graffiti (Part 2) – I’m not sure how me and Orianne at Shaky Shots came across one another. A split issue with one part detailing what ‘Wild’ is about and the other dealing with being comfortable living a life away from the mainstream.

Fanzineist Vienna 2019 (March 2019) Flip: additional photo from the ‘Exhibitionism’ series. Now this is another long story! A local art gallery were having a ‘body positive’ zine exhibition. At first they were really keen but then it went very quiet and I could sense they were having issues with the content. The idea was to feature zine art with a view to selling a limited run of zines in the gallery shop. So I submitted some of my flip collages which they liked but the zines obviously had full frontal male nudity which for them was problematic. I don’t want to go over old ground but this made me question what I needed to do to make things acceptable in their eyes.

So in a huff I looked round the house for anything which would either blur or discolour the images. I then edited them further so fleshy pink became vibrant reds and cold blues. I ended up with a series of images that had a painterly quality or were saturated to the nth degree. These images ended up as a valentine’s day special, this later issue and after a successful submission, were included in Creepy Cheese’s ‘Love Is Love Is Love’ bisexual anthology. In the zine intro I frame it as me wanting to present a male body where any chance of vulgarity has been removed. In reality – and this is still the case for both men and women – it’s just that society cannot cope with real bodies. And will do all they can to make sure they aren’t shown.

Edinburgh Zine Library Issue 2019 (June 2019?) Flip: photo of ‘Maximum Modelling’ poster. I’m not sure when this was actually created but it is made up of photos which weren’t included in ‘Metro #3’. It only features one torso shot which was taken in the toilets at work. The others are primarily from Manchester. It’s an issue about urban loneliness.

Anthens Zine Bibliotheque Issue (August 2019) Flip: accidental photo taken in Zumba class (yes really!) – a zine with a theme of ‘metamorphisis’. The intro again talks about the change that comes when you stop trying to follow the herd. The photos are a mixture of ‘wild’ photo images with a couple meant to signify magic: the carpet at the Albert Hall Manchester with it’s Twin Peak inflection, a manuscript about witchcraft plus a couple of others concerned with local heritage. As it was being sent abroad it was meant as a kind of snapshot of Pendle past. We of dilapidated mills and un-enlightened persecutions.

Cork Zine Fair 2019 (Parts 1 and 2) (October 2019) Flip: photo of ‘Live The Dream’ sticker and mark make painting (Part 2) – The second issue for Cork written on a theme of transformation. The images are split over two locations. Colne over the Blues August bank holiday and Old Laund Booth. They deal with the transformative power of music and nature. The flip is the second of the mark make sessions I did.

Plymouth Zine Library (Parts 1 and 2) (October 2019) Flip: unknown – Another where I haven’t noted the flip images. Written on a dual theme of ‘refuse’ and ‘refuge’ and playing on this idea of finding or being denied safe passage. This misconception that foreigners bring disease. Of all the issues I’ve done I think this is my favourite.

Wild ‘Takk’ (October 2019) Flip: ‘Fuck The Police’ tree etching – Not done for a zine fair but created to mark two years of ‘Torso’. It was sent out as a Christmas thankyou to all the people who had been supportive. It talks about the strangeness of going to places you last went as a kid. Why had I lost touch with all those friends? What are they doing now? Maybe they are still with me in spirit?

Wild “Imperfections” (May 2020) Flip: photo of Spraychild’s ‘Reset The World’ street art – Again not done for a zine fair but for Sophie Parker’s third Lockdown Exhibition. The set were taken in a nearby derelict cottage. The zine itself features an alternative version of one of the torso shots which I couldn’t use because of the nudity.

Over the years I’ve also created single one off issues for people who had showed my zine love and devotion. It was key hearing from these folk not so much to validate more to have ‘sisterly’ voices who weren’t put off by the nudity. I’m not going to go into any great detail because, although the zines are not about them, I think they should be personal to them. It probably makes sense to list these here.

Kindreds ‘Crash’ (July 2019) Flip: photo of ‘I Hope You All Die Of Cancer’ graffiti at Bank Hall Pitch. An issue that’s about the desire to roam.

Kindreds ‘Jess’ (July 2019) Flip: Stevenson Square artwork. Created from various images including photos taken in Manchester where we met at Northwest Zinefest. I also created ‘Mixtape 35’ (May 2020) which was a music zine for their 35th birthday.

Kindreds ‘Zine Cuisine’ (January 2020) Flip: NQ street art (x2). Created as an ‘introduction to me’ and sent to Zine Cuisine. Two copies exist which have differing flips because I couldn’t decide which I preferred. The zine deals with altered dream states / that period over the festive period where we lose track of time.

Kindreds ‘Heloisa’ (May 2020) Flip: mark make painting. Created using photos of a third mark making session most of which hadn’t been released (some did appear in ‘Want’ Issue 2). The issue is a mixture or torso shots and abstracts. Again it deals with self discovery through disobedience.

Offcut Issues: This series is very similar to the ‘Wild’ one except the imagery is more of urban decay. I wanted to use this strand to talk about my relationship with my parents. How it was strained at times. And also the idea of hereditary – are we doomed to make the same mistakes because of what we’ve learned? The first five were created in quick succession.

Offcuts Issue 1 (Autumn 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Escape Capsule’ collage – I think what I wanted with ‘Offcuts’ was to make the image selection quite random and for this then to drive the narrative. It was about creating art (or beauty if you will) from something that had been left behind. Something deemed to be worthless.

Offcuts Issue 2 (Autumn 2018) Flip: photo of St Pauli NQ Collage – A zine about society’s obsession with status and how we judge our own value.

Offcuts Issue 3 (Autumn 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Look Up’ graffiti. – A zine about my step sister’s sadness at finding presents, clothing and that kind of thing, unopened when my dad died. How it’s difficult to get someone to change if they feel it doesn’t matter.

Offcuts Issue 4 (Autumn 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Top Designs’ logo – A zine about whether I feel my reckless behavior comes from my dad. How he wanted adventure / a life less ordinary. And when he left the distance that created between us.

Offcuts Issue 5 (Autumn 2018) Flip: photo of ‘We Will Riot’ graffiti – An issue about the choices that we make. We are told that we should strive to change the world. And yet we are embarrassed about the marks that get left on our bodies in the process.

Offcuts Issue 6 (March 2019) Flip: Autumnal Triptych collage – inspired by walking through Duke Bar at night. A place that seems to come alive and throb with wantonness and disarray. In the intro I imagine the devil wandering in my footsteps and feeding off the anarchy.

Offcuts Issue 7 (April 2019) Flip: ‘Northern Souls’ Blackpool collage – again a zine about faith. It’s about hypocrisy and how sin was invented to keep people in line. The imagery is all white things found in my office. It’s about waiting in purgatory knowing you are going to be condemned whatever you do.

Offcuts Issue 8 (April 2019) Flip: ‘Do You Rent Time?’ collage – A zine inspired by the film ‘Wings Of Desire’ both in terms of architecture and concept of guardian angels. It’s a zine about being passive. The unease of having someone watching over us and knowing our desires / failings.

There were then a number of issues where the focus turned to the city.

Offcuts ‘Metro 1’ (May 2019) Flip: ‘Northern Souls’ singles collage – This issue is made up of photos taken when I was last down London. I took loads of touristy photos but it worked best as quite an insular vision. All the images are of things found in my budget hotel.

Offcuts ‘Metro 2’ (May 2019) Flip: photo of ‘Spoonies’ street art – made up of photos taken in the city when I was there for the ‘When In Manchester’ festival.

Offcuts ‘Metro 3’ (June 2019) Flip: photo of ‘In Case Of Emergency Make Art’ graffiti. made up of shots taken around the Hope Mill Theatre area when I was there for an all female production of ‘Hamlet’

Offcuts ‘Metro 4’ (October 2019) Flip: ‘Athena’ photo – made up of photos taken in Stockport whilst at the ‘Mercury Rising’ event. It’s an issue about living on the outskirts / not feeling as though you belong. It’s about my mum and the fact that she never really felt settled wherever she was.

Offcuts ‘Metro 5’ (February 2020) Flip: saturated version of Robert Parkinson’s ‘Danger Signals’ piece. The second issue that features images taken whilst in Leeds for Weirdo Zine Fest (the first was dd/mm/yy Issue 4 the year before). It’s about feeling like a freak but not really caring. It’s also about feeling as though you don’t want to identify as a particular gender / group for fear of having a label stuck on you.

I often talk about how people’s comments have shaped ‘Torso’. I’ve never been that forceful when it comes to requesting feedback but it’s always cool. I figure they may have a completely different take. I can always remember what Crash said one time about liking the darkness and the diary element. The darkness I could understand as I often talk about desire and destruction. But a diary? – I felt she had a point though as I always detailed where I was, when it was and my feelings at the time. So I ran with the idea and created a series of zines where everything was photographed and written on or for a specific day. And thus dd/mm/yy was born. The first one appeared in November 2018.

dd/mm/yy Issue 1 (November 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Do Not Be Afraid Of Ghosts’ subway graffiti – Created to mark my 47th birthday. This issue features the free verse ‘Unearthed’ which was inspired by Rebecca Lee and Nastassja Simensky’s performance, ‘Five Verses On Six Sacks Of Earth’. What will we find if we dig? Perhaps a cruel history which we don’t understand.

dd/mm/yy Issue 2 (January 2019) Flip: adapted Christmas Card collage – Created to mark the dawning of the new year. The flip is a nativity scene along with words culled from a Russian Bride spam email. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Again, all the photos were taken at home.

dd/mm/yy Issue 3 (February 2019) Flip: photo of Child / Serpent (Version #1) and ‘Not Queer’ KWIR Art (Version #2) – created for Valentine’s Day. This is the issue created for Zine Pavilion with those experiments with filtering. It exist in two versions, different flips and one different photo. I like the writing here which is about love being unpredictable. The break ups / trying to navigate a world where marriage is king but knowing you prefer solitude / an asexual lifestyle.

dd/mm/yy Issue 4 (March 2019; rewritten Jun2020) Flip: abstract photo of Nestle Factory in Halifax (original). I’ve just re-written the intro to this zine. It features front / back cover photos taken whilst over at the Weirdo Zine Fest; a statue in Leeds Art Gallery and some graffiti at Halifax Bus Station but that’s where the link ended. All of the internal photos were taken the day after. It now talks about the search for perfection. Hey, don’t be mad. This ain’t Dogma.

dd/mm/yy Issue 5 (May 2019) Flip: photo of abstract marking down Stoneyholme – I like this visually. Most of the photos were also taken down Stoneyholme (a pretty run down area of Burnley). Intro wise it’s about seizing or at the very least marking the day. A day may not be life changing but that doesn’t mean that what we see or hear shouldn’t be documented. Or, in this case, turned into art. It probably makes more sense if you know the area. It’s a zine about seeing beauty in something spoiled.

dd/mm/yy Issue 6 (July 2019) Flip: photo of ‘Fuck Your Dress Code’ street art. It seems strange writing this after working from home for the last three months. Issue 6 is about the our modern ennui. Having everything done for us by machines – will we eventually become automatons ourselves? We work to eat and pay the bills but what else does it give us? Is there any escape? Features the free written piece ‘CTRL-N’ which is about pressing the reset button.

dd/mm/yy Issue 7 (June 2019) Flip: photo of ‘Comfortable’ lettering. Created later but all the photos were taken on Easter Sunday. It’s a issue about being subtle / not too descriptive. I’m not sure if the words and images tie in really. Again, it’s about not really wanting your sexuality to be the main focus. Or feeling that it doesn’t define you. Sorry but you’ll have a long wait for that ‘being a bi deviant’ self help guide.

dd/mm/yy Issue 8 (July 2019) Flip: pink circles abstract image. This follows on nicely from the last issue and talks about fitting in. There was an article written by The White Pube about the vacuous nature of art; specifically how young female artists always put themselves at the centre. How they as critics found that boring. But who cares? It has some very stark pictures of my body set against abstracts. It’s an issue about creating art, moving on and not worrying so much about contrary views. Be trope, be cliché and be unrepentant.

dd/mm/yy Issue 9 (July 2019) Flip: photo of St Michael’s graveyard, Foulridge – Another favourite. Done in black and white. The torso photos are from various times but the other ones are from the 14th/15th June. It was written as response to Reetu Sattar’s ‘Harano Sur’ installation which I’d just seen in Thompson Park, Burnley. It poses one question: how do we imagine heaven? And whether it will measure up to what is promised.

dd/mm/yy Issue 10 (July 2019) Flip: yellow abstract image – An issue where I looked at my body as shape and landscape. As living surface which could be imprinted by the weight of other things. It was a response to the anger at men taking up space. Could I contort and make my sex unrecognizable yet still fill up the frame.

dd/mm/yy Issue 11 (July 2019) Flip: photo of ‘Sucks Cock’ graffiti in Sough Park – Again this probably works better visually than as message. It details why I stopped going to church. The images were shot as glorious sunshine filled my bedroom. They were meant to signify rapture or righteous judgement. Take your pick.

dd/mm/yy Issue 12 (July 2019) Flip: mark make session painting. It was my friend Helen who first suggested doing mark making as a way of showing my body differently. This issue documents the first one I did when I got round to it some twelve months later. I know it has quite exploitative stigma attached to it but to me it was just another way of expressing myself artistically.

dd/mm/yy Issue 13 (July 2019) Flip: mark make session triptych – This was done the day after with all the photo taken in my shower room. I wanted it to be extremely dark. It is essence about masturbating over lost memories of someone no longer around.

dd/mm/yy Issue 14 (Sept 2019) Flip: Fragility artwork. Done as a response to the discussions at Poor Lass Live. Most of the photos are of weathered and torn poster down Manchester. It’s about being working class and having impossible dreams.

dd/mm/yy Issue 15 (October 2019) Flip: ‘Eyesore’ collage – Looking back this was a guttural howl before the election. Written on the day that parliament was prorogued it’s about broken promises. Politicians as evangelical preachers hoping the people follow them into the abyss.

dd/mm/yy Issue 16 ( May 2020) Flip: photo of faux polaroid selfie – A lot of the time with the newer issues it’s knowing which strand to put them under. This is the third zine produced as part of Sophie Parker’s Lockdown Exhibition on a subject of ‘self love’. It repeats the idea of Issue 21 in saying that this will only come when we are prepared to show are bodies how they really are and not how we hope they will be.

The ‘Occasion’ and Time Marking Issues: I’m clumping these together but some acted as compilation issues whilst others were done as specials for IZM / art exhibitions. Some others were created to document how my body looked in that year. I’ve put them in date order.

Torso ‘2017’ (December 2017) Flip: Alyce Wood’s torso illustration – Compilation of images from the first four issues. The intro is my thoughts on being a body positive. Is it enough to ignore social media influence? Or is much more about complete abandonment even if that may be frowned upon? I didn’t do another visual compilation but the desire to record the ageing process was continued in ‘Circa’.

Torso ‘KWIR [Identities]’ Issue (Mar 2018; revised Mar 2020) Flip: ‘Reclaim The Night’ collage – special issue for gay culture event held at The Bureau, Blackburn. The zine was released in two different versions. Both contained nude selfies, photos taken on Canal St, Manchester and at the Continuum trans and gender variant art exhibition that was on at PHM in the summer of 2017. I was never happy with how it stood so two years later I switched all my torso shots with images taken at the event. I also included a revised version of the free written piece ‘First Awakenings’.

Torso Wild IZM July 2018 Issue (July 2018) Flip: ‘Sun Worshipper’ photo – another issue I love from that period. I wish I could read more into this issue but it’s simply about being in love with life and the sunshine.

Torso Wellcome Library Issue 2018 (November 2018) Flip: ‘Boom in penis ops’ collage – Wellcome were really understanding and took in the monthly issues I’d done up to that point. I did them this as a special as a thank you. I know there isn’t really a health angle to my zines but they felt they were of value as honest representation. The ‘reality’ and not all pouty with erect penis. Dedicated to Nicola C who worked at the library at the time and who was very helpful.

Torso Circa 2018 (December 2018) Flip: Aldo’s male figure photo – I’m not sure I need to say much about this issue. How my body looked in 2018 and my thoughts about getting old.

Torso ‘2018(1)’  (December 2018) – Scrapped end of year special though one copy does exist titled this way and is with Nyx at Sea Green Zines. This issue contains selected written pieces from 2018’s issues. It eventually came out in physical form mid 2019 as ‘Text Issue #1Flip: ‘Say No To Nudism’ PHM cartoon. It was just my concession to anyone who had an issue with the nudity.

Text Issue #2 (March 2019) Flip: Heyhead St childhood photo – Self explanatory. I left it after this and just used my blog to compile the words rather than doing a printed release.

Torso Circa 2019 (May 2019; revised June 2020) Flip: photo of ‘Jess Catteral Stinks of Fish’ graffiti – I’ve just rewritten this issue slightly as the first bit didn’t really scan and added a different flip. Again it is a portrait of my body in 2019. I’m not sure if this series should just be a recreation of the same pose/s each year?

Torso IZM July 2019 Issue (July 2019) Flip: ‘Spoonies’ collage. I’ve always been interested in this idea of memory vs being unreliable narrator. Why are there things we misremember? Do we remember certain things so we know how far we’ve come? This issue talks about the fear of wiping our parent’s existence from history vs not knowing what we learned from them. It was the first issue where I touched on my bisexuality.

Torso Xmas 2019 (December 2019) Flip: ‘Deciduous #2’ mark make painting. Sent out as a festive thankyou. It documents the mark make session for the Cork Zine Fair 2019. The intro again deals with this idea of not knowing if our lives have had purpose. Have we left a mark on anything or anyone? Does it matter?

Torso Circa 2020 (April 2020) Flip: Exhibition collage – The first zine produced for Sophie Parker’s Lockdown Exhibition seemed to fit nicely under the Circa strand. A document of how my body looks in year of stasis. It’s a zine about how this forced quarantine has changed me physically and outlook wise. Again, the zine includes some shots which I had to leave out because of platform restrictions.

Torso IZM July 2020 (July 2020) Flip: ‘Danger Signals’ collage – Another zine created for Sophie Parker’s Lockdown Exhibition which I became the issue for this year’s IZM. It kind of evolved slightly with it having a torso image and an abstract mirror. It had the theme of ‘dreams’ so I focused on the idea of a wasteland where I feel lost. But I also wanted to touch on the psycho-sexual element. Teenage wet dreams. The flip takes it cues from an activities handout for said exhibition.

The Other Strands: At the start I had this idea. Have a regular ‘perzine’ issue and a separate yearly one which would record my body’s appearance. Not about progress more as time lapse; this is my body in 20xx and again in 20xx + 1. At around the same time of me creating Issue #7 in March 2018 I wondered whether there was a need to remove some of the harshness and look at different styles. Then as I progressed I felt there were topics which disserved their own space. Here is full run down and a bit of a background as to how each came about.

Torso Blur Issue 1 (April 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Stripped’ lettering – So this is the issue that came about after talking to a few friends about the imagery. I didn’t want to lose the vulnerability but I realized there was also a place for something softer. It’s basically a mixtures of photos taken at various times created using filters and movement. It includes photos exhibited in the KWIR showcase, the first time my work had been on public display. This issue also contains the free written piece ‘I Am Renewed, I am Aglow’.

Torso Chasing Ghosts Issue 1 (December 2018) Flip: ‘Gay Hate’ collage – Blur in time morphed into ‘Chasing Ghosts’. This one was created as a thank you to Salford Zine Library and there are five copies with the alternative title ‘Salford Zine Library Issue’ which they house. The movement made the images quite spectral so I had the idea of writing about ghosts. Both of something trapped in time. But also as someone who was ignored because of prejudice. This issue has the first version of ‘All That Goes Before’.

Torso Chasing Ghosts Issue 2 (January 2019) Flip: photo from Krsysztof Wodiczko’s art installation ‘Guests’. Another issue that deals with worthlessness and the fear of being forgotten. This issue contains the free written piece ‘Petrichor’.

Torso Chasing Ghosts Issue 3 (February 2019) Flip: photo of Benson and Hedges sign. An issue about leaving things in the past. What do we actually gain from finding out things about our parents? Does it just make things worse? Or is best to have everything out in the open?

Torso Bold Issue 1 (April 2018) Flip: photo of ‘Shy’ lettering. In essence this is really just another monthly issue. I wanted there to be a degree of unsightliness to the images. Scrunged up or with imprints of where my belt had been. It was about not pulling away. Has the free written piece ‘My Body, My Cross’.

Torso ‘Reimagining Beauty’ Issue 1 (March 2019) Flip: photo of plastic doll. I was inspired to take up the more ‘unforgiving’ side of things after watching BlacKKKlansman and it’s discourse on beauty. The issue was just my response – surely there is beauty in my / our uniqueness and vulnerability? Has the free written piece ‘Kalon’.

Torso ‘Reimaging Beauty’ Issue 2 (June 2019) Flip: photos of ‘Jesus Saves’ / ‘Fuk God’ graffiti. See Issue 1; more of the same. Exists in two versions with a couple of photo switches. It contains the free written piece ‘Narcissus’. It’s an issue about vanity and our reliance on bottled beauty products.

.Torso ‘Erotique’ Issue 1 (August 2018) Flip: Sophie Gibson Collage (reprint) – At the time I wasn’t sure about this strand. But surely the same body can be both vulnerable and desirable? Why should I hide my sexual side? I wanted to comment on what is sensual in this internet age. Could I eschew the usual objectifying eye? I wanted it to be warm and playful rather than pornographic. It was nearly ironically called ‘Fancy Goods’!

Torso ‘Erotique’ Issue 2 (January 2019) Flip: Canal St ‘kiss’ street art – more of the same.

Torso ‘Erotique’ Issue 3 (July 2019) Versions A and X Flip: photos of CCTV poster (A) and Laptop (X). Probably a case of me being awkward! Two versions one of which is slightly more revealing which were sent out randomly. Done in my unloved bedroom I wanted them to be quite soulless. It’s about what we crave; not shaved identikit but difference / individuality.

Torso ‘Erotique’ Issue 4 (July 2019) Flip: additional lying photo – An issue about what we covet. The images were taken hourly 6pm to 10pm on the 15 June 2019. I just wanted to experiment with the fading light. By this stage I’d probably said all I wanted to if I’m honest. The four issues were always more about the photos than the words. Links to a blog I wrote on masturbation.

Torso ‘Appendix’ Issue 1 (Feb 2019) Flip: photo of ‘Property’ lettering – I just wanted to talk more about want, redundancy and self-worth. Specifically about my penis as unsightly flesh just tagged on. Again it’s more about trying to show it as quite alien looking. We’re so used to it being shown erect with foreskin pulled back that we forget what it looks like in reality. This issue had the free written piece ‘Sleepwalk’.

Torso ‘Appendix’ Issue 2 (March 2019) Flip: photo of ’12″‘ lettering – I wanted to do a response to Victoria Bateman’s ‘Body Manifesto’ but in the end I felt the images would speak for themselves. It was meant to reinforce the argument that every person can make different body choices and that these choices should be respected. Contains the free written piece ‘Pure Awakenings’.

Torso ‘Appendix’ Issue 3 (June 2019) Flip: photo of NQ spice epidemic street art – Looking back I just became bored with this strand though I may do another to complete. Style wise it repeats the ‘white office issue’. It’s about the rejection of purity. Finishes with the free written piece ‘Mute Witness’. I feel there should have been more text in issues 2 and 3.

Torso ‘More’ Issue 1 (October 2019) Flip: photo of ‘Sucks Dick’ graffiti – Perhaps my favourite strand. Like ‘Erotique’ I wanted to write about desire and cravings. I also wanted it to be a way of using up imagery that I liked but hadn’t made it into other issues. I wanted it to be quite revealing but not in a bad sex award kind of way. This first issue has a thought piece called ‘On Wantonness’ which deals with teenage homosexual urges.

Torso ‘More’ Issue 2 (Feb 2020) (Double sided zine) – This issue is basically about puberty and becoming sexually active. I wanted it to be a lurid account of God punishing people who been promiscuous. It’s probably too ‘Handmaids Tale’ for its own good. I just wanted to do an extended piece of free writing turning bits of my life that had actually happened into dark fairytale cum scriptural woe betide.

Torso ‘More’ Issue 3 (April 2020) (Double sided zine) – I’ve wanted to create an issue about being bisexual for a bit but never knew how to frame it. Again I felt the best way would be to exaggerate and make it more about having two character traits vying for control. About being split. Dr Jeckyl wants to fuck men. Mr Hyde wants to fuck women. Will one win out? Does it need to?

Musique Complete

I suppose there are three strands here; music as memory, music as ‘piece of me’ and music as escape. This all came from creating a mixtape zine for a friend’s birthday and then, as lockdown came, doing one of those ten albums that changed your life challenges. And then another. A thought: why not go through the whole alphabet? And then repeat for good measure. Is that classed as overkill or providing something for everyone? JUNE 2020

I’ve spoken about this before but writing about music is such a drag. Like I can describe the goosebumps I always get from the last couple of minutes of ‘Osmonds’ by Denim or The Wedding Presents’ ‘Kennedy’. Or song starts that immediately have me heading for the dance floor. What I’ve always found hard is saying why I don’t like something. Or comparing one album with another. It’s always subjective. Like you can say all you want about the Beatles. How they defined the boy band aesthetic. How they soaked up other influences. How they paved the way by following in the footsteps of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. But, and it’s a very big but, I still find ‘Call Me’ by Spagna more memorable than anything by them. I hope that doesn’t mark me as being contrary f-wit?

I created the mixtape without any knowledge of my friend’s taste and that was one of the joys. I wasn’t saying oh you like this band so you may love these. It also wasn’t a chance to be cool. Trust me there was fat chance of that! There were somber tracks (Tindersticks), throwaway (Camper Van Beethoven) and lovelorn (Ryan Adams). Mixed in with tracks of my youth. There was a lot of Britpop. It was my very first mixtape I’d done or at least I think it was. I may have done one for my first girlfriend but as my listening back then was basically Erasure, Erasure and more Erasure she would have got ‘Circus’ on one side and then edited highlights from ‘Two Ring Circus’ on the other. I lacked imagination. She would have to take it or leave it. She left me eventually.

I’ve never denied that I was chart music kid right through till college and even then it wasn’t a case of loving bands primarily because of their music. I would go into Our Price in Nelson Arndale and buy albums if I loved their cover. There were a lot of discoveries that way. The Fall ‘Infotainment Scan’ (I was a late convert), Carter USM ‘Thirtysomething’ (are guitars really me?) and Chumbawamba ‘Anarchy’ with it’s birth scene which was censored (let’s turn that the right way shall we!) It seems a strange thing now but bar The Chart Show or John Peel if you were edgily hip there weren’t that many ways to hear what a band sounded like. It all came down to taking a chance and, if I’m honest, that’s something which still appeals. Thirty years later I still take punts on stuff in charity shops. I guess back then I felt that if they’d gone to so much trouble with their sleeves the music must also be cool.

It’s strange but before college – even though I had many a music shop on my doorstep – I always used to go over to Reidy’s in Blackburn to pick up records. I’m not sure why? Did I need that sense of adventure in myself? Not knowing where I was going. Needing that independence. Simply loving the train journey. It was around this time that my brother’s MS was worsening and I think I just needed some time to be me. To like my own things. To escape the sickness. Look there will always be tracks I choose because they remind me of my brother. And they will be a diverse as Reparata (I can still get all the way through ‘Shoes’) and Rezillos (the same goes for ‘Where’s The Boy For Me’). And loads of other punk. I don’t care what anyone says there isn’t a better start to an album than ‘Inflammable Material. You can toy fight me if you disagree.

I feel there should be a ‘these are not the best albums of all time’ klaxon at this end point. Some may well be but these are albums which bring back memories. I always intended for it to work as quite an upbeat mix ergo there’s nothing from ‘The Holy Bible’. We’ll gloss over Killing Joke. No ‘Searching For The Young Soul Rebels’ or ‘Hounds Of Love’ is basically heresy. And on another day I would have gone for ‘Gold Mother’ so I could have chosen the hedonistic joy of ‘Come Home’. Kestrel Suite anyone? And that’s it when you think about it. Music reminds you of places, people and good times. Of the things that are no longer there. It can be disposable. It can change views if not the world. And the love changes as we get older. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I just think we need different vibes to feel alive at different times.

The Play List: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvoCzugjFh3vuDomNvG7YfaeDPwd8EkOj

I haven’t the inclination to put them back into alpha order but for further listening the albums are:

The Orb – Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld
Sabres Of Paradise – Sabresonic
Back To The Planet – Mind + Soul Collaborators
Horsebeach – Horsebeach
V/A A Kind Of Awe And Reverence And Wonder
X-ray Pop – Pirate!
Killing Joke – Killing Joke
Gary Clail – Emotional Hooligan
Jackson Sisters – Jackson Sisters
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
The Fall – Frenz Experiment
Prince – Sign Of The Times
Everything But The Girl – Eden
Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
Doris Troy – Doris Troy
Voice Of The Beehive – Let It Bee
Aphrodite Child – 666
James Last – Voodoo Party
Inspiral Carpets – Life
Terry Reid – Terry Reid
De La Soul – Three Feet High & Rising
Earth Wind and Fire – Earth Wind and Fire
Queen Latifah – All Hail The Queen
NWA – Straight Outta Compton
Inner City – Paradise
New Order – Technique
Massive Attack – Blue Lines
DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
Virgo – Virgo
V/A North The Sound Of The Dance Underground
Ray Barretto – Acid
Johnny Harris – Movements
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Roy Ayers – Coffy OST
Culture – Two Sevens Clash
UB40 – Present Arms
Grace Jones – Nightclubbing
TLC – CrazySexyCool
Zappatta Schmidt – It’s Gonna Get You
X-ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents
Goat – World Music
Selda – Selda
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
Mac Kissoon – Sole Satisfaction
Frank Zappa – Hot Rats
Quantic Soul Orchestra – Stampede
Pretty Purdie – Soul Drums
The Underground – Beat Party
Lulu – Love Loves To Love Lulu
Adrian Younge – Black Dynamite OST
Curtis Mayfield – Superfly OST
Brian Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blue
Linda Ronstadt – Different Drum
Magnetic North – Prospect Of Skelmersdale