THIS is the beginning . . . Because somewhere between not knowing . . . and knowing . . . there lies imagination . . . THIS, THAT and THE OTHER . . . Book 1 . . . OUT NOW . . . THIS is the beginning . . . Because somewhere between not knowing . . . and knowing . . . there lies imagination . . . THIS, THAT and THE OTHER . . . Book 1 . . . CLICK HERE . . .

CURRENT : RED SPARROW WRITERS : storytelling, workshops, book signings : RSPB Conwy : booking now for 29 October 2019
THIS (parts 1 & 2) : OUT NOW from The Red Sparrow Press : paperback & e-book editions

FUTURE : Folklore & Fairy Tales of North Wales : Mixed Exhibition at Oriel Ty Meirion Gallery, Dyffryn Ardudwy : 22 October 2019 - 5 January 2020
THIS (Kindle Editions parts 3 & 4 of THIS, THAT & the OTHER Book 1) : Publication Dates TBA

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Stars, At Our Feet - The Plas Tan y Bwlch Journals (part 2)

Iron : made in the stars, gifted to the universe upon their deaths. More plentiful than any other metal. It is in our blood. It is in the land. The acid waters from the high, peated moorland carried the iron down to deposit it as pans of bog-iron in the extensive marshlands that once surrounded the village of Maentwrog. This iron was discovered and worked by the ancient smiths of the Bronze Age, ushering in a new Age of : Iron.

Left: bisected lump of 'bog-iron' displayed at Plas Tan y Bwlch (photograph by Remy Dean, 2016)
Right: galaxy Pictor A - when the light we see left this distant galaxy, 500 million years ago,
what is now the slate of the Cwmorthin quarries was still sediment and ashes...
(image courtesy of 
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and NASA, 2016)
Nebulae of rust stain the starscapes of tiny pits and scratches left by the footsteps of quarriers. Slate, once above their head, now at their feet reflecting the infinite night above. Of the land, of the stars.

The Stars, At Our Feet (i) photograph by Remy Dean, 2016
In December 2015, the Snowdonia National Park was officially designated the world's tenth International Dark Sky Reserve. This news, and the poetic image of slate miners returning to their barracks on a rare, clear night, their heavy work-boots splashing in the puddles and mixing the reflection of the stars with their own, were the seeds for an on-going series of images I have titled, The Stars, At Our Feet...

The Stars, At Our Feet (ii) photograph by Remy Dean, 2016
I took the title for this series of photographs from a poem by an anonymous Cwmorthin miner, found written on the back of a shipping slip, dated 1889.
You can read the News Release about Snowdonia becoming a Dark Skies Reserve HERE.

Find more about the Cwmorthin Quarries HERE.

Read about Peter Crew's archaeological excavations at Bryn y Castell hillfort and subsequent findings related to bog iron and the Iron Age significance of the Maentwrog area HERE.

Work produced during this Residency will be on show in the Stable Block,
Plas Tan y Bwlch, over this Yuletide, and through Spring 2017...

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Plas People Past Present - The Plas Tan y Bwlch Journals (Part 1)

Approaching the house where it sits upon high, overlooking the perfected bend in the river Dwyryd, I walk a steep winding path sided by ancient trees. The leaves are beginning to tan. After this dull muggy summer, when it rained enough to drown cars and wash away the chrysalides from their sheltering soil into rampant rivers and the eternal seize, it cannot be the tanning of the sunshine but the brush of autumn that is bronzing the leaves with its subtle signal to fall. The branches and trunks record the sodden summer in new rings, hold a sample of our air within their grain, breathe in what we exhale.

So to the house. My hand upon handles turned by Lady Mary, whose skill also turned wood and carved church rails. My feet step on stairs ascended and descended daily by her maids and footmen. I touch the ever present past and walk the corridors of time that measures its steps with mine, second for second into a share of the future. The past remains mine as much as yours, though what we know of it is told in the coded marks they left us. Stone upon stone, word after word, the scratches left by rings on the age-polished door handles and the smooth stone of steps bowed by thousands of footfalls, to which I add my own.

For Helfa Gelf 2016, I am delighted to be Writer in Residence at Plas Tan y Bwlch, and have already started exploring the rich heritage of this great house and the land that surrounds it. I will be using combinations of text, artefact and images to document my findings and responses, which will be recorded here in this on-line journal.

I will be in residence at Plas Tan y Bwlch on Saturdays and Sundays until the end of September.
Those dates are 10th & 11th, 17th & 18th, 24th & 25th.

You will find me in the ground floor Bar, where you will be able to see some examples of my work, take part in creative workshops, listen to readings, and buy books.

I will host the Creative Writing workshops each morning from 11:00 to 12:00, and there will be readings and storytelling beginning at 14:00 each afternoon. Readings will include a special preview from my forthcoming fairy-tale-fantasy, This (recommended for age groups of 9+, though suitable for all). There will also be short-form creative writing activities at any time you 'drop-in'.

I am looking forward to lots of fascinating chats about art and writing, local history and folklore... Bring it!

Follow my twitter feed for up-dates.

more info about the Residency at my Helfa Gelf page
and find out more about Plas Tan y Bwlch at their website

Nick Cave – The Funniest Man in Europe


With the feature film and album, Skeleton Tree, debuting in a couple of days' time, I was reminded of this blast from the past. So, 25 years on... and Nick Cave is still at the height of his creative powers!

“I’m very paranoid. I just don't like this situation. I don't like what it's doing to me, what it's doing to my life outside the interview situation. Whatever I say in an interview ultimately becomes public property, and becomes a kind of Nick Cave cliché…”

This is probably the only time you'll hear the name Nick Cave and the word cliché in the same sentence. Since the demise of The Birthday Party and the forming of The Bad Seeds in 1983, Cave has established himself as one of the most influential and original song-writers, as well as an accomplished novelist and actor of promise.

Nick Cave does not sing in lounges!
I met Nick Cave in a quiet West London pub, between The Good Son and Henry's Dream, before he jetted off back to Berlin, where he lived for some time after leaving Australia. Had Berlin changed for better or worse since the Wall came down?

"The last time I was in Berlin was when the Wall actually came down, so I've yet to see the repercussions of that. In a way I grieve for Berlin - simply because it was, for me the most, unique city in Europe. I wonder what will happen now that it's sucked into the rest of Germany.”

Wim Wenders, director of the film Wings Of Desire, in which Cave appears and contributes two songs to the soundtrack, commented that he could never imagine him living in any other city.

"Well I don't know how well Wim knows me, really. I must say, the moment I got to Berlin, I felt like I was home in some way. When I first left Australia and came to Britain, I felt quite crippled by London, in many ways. Berlin just seemed such a natural place to be for me."

The angel, Cassiel (Otto Sander), stands at Nick's shoulder
in Wim Wender's 1987 film, Der Himmel über Berlin
 (The Sky Over Berlin) aka Wings of Desire
Nick Cave seems unable to settle in one place, flitting from London to Berlin, to Brazil, where the The Good Son album was recorded. Where do his roots lie?

"I am an Australian. When I see other Australians overseas, no matter how gross they may be acting, I feel a definite kinship with them. I find them funny, I understand their sense of humour. Australia has a very strange sense. of humour, something that I've been trying to put across for many years.

"I was always trying to be the funniest man in Europe - but it never really worked - I don't think the rest of the World is really ready for the Australian sense of humour;"

He then tells a couple of quick-fire jokes, one vintage English sexist and one tasteless Australian jibe at the Tasmanians. I quickly interrupt to divert a possible stand-up routine by asking about his critically acclaimed novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, which drew inspirations from sources like Faulkner and The Bible.

He tells me, "It's essentially a comic novel."

There are rumours about a film being made of the book…

"Yes there's talk about it, but all that's out of my hands. If someone wants to put my book to film then I'd be really happy about that. But I’m not really prepared to get involved with it. That book took up five years of my life and it's out of me, now. I'm really happy with the way it turned out, but I can't get involved with it any more."

Nick was involved with the screenplay for the harshly brutal film, Ghosts Of The Civil Dead a kind of documentary fiction set in a top-security prison, in which he made his noteworthy acting debut as a psychotic maniac, and for which The Bad Seeds provided the soundtrack.

"I was heavily involved in the writing of the first and third draft - it went through eight drafts and by the time the, script was completed, it was a very different story. I was responsible for inventing certain characters.”

It's hard to imagine Nick Cave fitting easily into someone else's creative process, how did he feel about it?

"I liked it a lot. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but I enjoy the different forms of creativity. I very much like working in a solitary way writing a novel, even though it's very much the hardest thing to do. I also like working with a small unit of people where everyone's very much bound to each other in the form of making a record. And it's also interesting to work with a massive film team where there's all these different people with different jobs and the director entrusting his ideas to make-up people, art directors, cameramen, lighting people, script writers, and so on - and I'd like to do more film music in that way."

Are there any projects that he has in mind?

"Well I wouldn’t mind writing the music for some Jim Thomson adaptations, for example. I've read all the books and the woman (Maggie Greenwald) who made The Kill Off is now making Savage Night… and we’ll contribute a song to Wim Wenders' next film..."

Cave's lyrics are always filmic, theatrical and brimming with rich imagery, a kind of poeticism that seems to go with Australian singer songwriters, such as The Triffids, Go-Betweens, Dave Graney...

"It could be the heavy influence of country music on the kind of wise young sector of Australia. Maybe, being Australian, we have a little more to say than people in other countries, a little more need to say something. "

Then would he prefer to be acknowledged as a novelist or a songwriter?

"I don't distinguish between the two, I see the difference between the two but I don't place any more importance on one or the other. My work is the sum of my worth as a human being - so it's very important."

Revenge and extremes of emotion are omnipresent themes in the lyrics of Cave’s songs and prominently feature in his prose…

"In my songs I create characters and allow then to live out fantasies or certain emotions that taken to their logical conclusions I’m not prepared to act out in real life. So if I have a character who’s stabbing a woman to death - then it may be something that I'd like to do but am not prepared to do.

"A great deal of my songs are about revenge and there are certain people who know what those songs are about, and possibly those people are glad I'm writing songs and not actually ... (thumps table) Y'know." He grins dangerously.

"I think I'm able to express my emotions far better on vinyl than in real life, and maybe because I have the outlet of doing that creatively, it constipates me in other ways, in more real terms."

The Good Son is a very romantic, beautiful, vulnerable and honest record, filled with atmosphere that begs comparison with such greats as Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen. A very different Nick Cave to the screaming demon of The Birthday Party. How does he reconcile this image, as a suited lounge singer bordering on sex symbol?

"I don't think I’m a lounge singer, at all - a lounge singer suggests that there isn't a lot of emotion going on there and... I don't like it, I'm not a lounge singer! I don't sing in lounges - you know, fuck man! I’m no fucking lounge singer… You think that Leonard Cohen is a lounge singer!? You think Leonard Cohen could actually go into a lounge and sing and not be thrown out on his ear half way through the first song? I don't think so!"

…well, maybe Australians aren't ready for the British sense of humour?

"My image is what you're dealing with, not what I’m dealing with. I try my best to be honest with what I’m doing. I try my best to be honest on stage... in the recording process. I don't try my best to be honest in interviews, I admit! But the whole building up of my image is your business. So, do me a favour, don't quote the jokes."

OK, Nick...

This interview was conducted in 1990, when Nick’s relationship with the UK press was openly strained and, I think, it was one of only four interviews he made time for that year... I am very grateful that he was kind enough to spend his time on this one, during which he was most charming and attentive. Parts of it appeared in a feature for the June 1990 issue of Outlook, and later in the Crumblin’ Rock 1992-1993 Yearbook. It was also grounding for research that led to my critique-cum-biography, Hellfire: Life According to Nick Cave, published in 1995 with an introduction by Mark Radcliffe (The Dunce Directive ISBN 09522068 5 4).

For current info, check out the Official Nick Cave website