Waking the witch

It’s been a time of great personal upheaval and change.

The last six weeks or so have been utterly exhausting: I have ended the longest relationship of my life, moved house once and am preparing to do so again at the end of the week and realised that it’s likely that I have Asperger’s. Writing fiction has been next to impossible in this time, but my work for Dead Unicorn Ventures has continued, along with a doing a couple of interviews. My new abode is – for the first time – my own flat, in central Penzance. I have no idea what living on my own will be like, or even whether I can actually afford to do so, but an opportunity arose that I couldn’t turn down. It will mean that I will be able to write at any time, day or night, that I feel the urge/need. It will also mean that I’ll be able to try to work out what having a diagnosis for Asperger’s – which won’t happen for a year or so – will mean for me. It certainly makes sense of my moods and behaviour over my entire life. Every therapist I’ve ever come into contact with has tried to find a way to ‘fix’ how I am, has told me I have to be able to face crowds of people and big social situations.

I don’t need fixing because I’m not broken. I’m just wired differently to most people.

Not one therapist or doctor has ever suggested I might be on the Autistic spectrum.

As a result of what’s happened recently, I brought forward a decision I’d planned to happen after my death; after talks with Simon Costain of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, in Boscastle, I will be donating Jhonn Balance’s wand to the museum at the beginning of April. The wand was given to me by Ian Johnstone, but I knew I was only its guardian for a short space of time. This way, people will be able to see it and it will be cared for for generations to come. Obviously, as with all Coil collectables, the wand would probably fetch a large amount of money if I sold it. Money would be extremely useful, of course, but I promised Ian I’d never sell it. I feel happier having made this decision and am very much looking forward to visiting the museum again, and meeting Simon – a big fan of Coil – in a couple of weeks’ time. Photos and a report will be posted here.

Meanwhile, test pages of Dykes Ink have been printed. There have been some technical issues with riso print and DUV is discussing how to resolve these, but we’re still on course to get the first issue out in the Spring. We have been lucky enough to obtain contributions from some excellent female artistes and have enough material to fill a fair part of issue 2. More here as it happens.

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Art as provocation

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Photo: Sab Astley

One of the ‘Unicorn free zone’ posters put up by our Queer arts group Dead Unicorn Ventures several weeks ago has recently been vandalised. It was with great amusement that we found that someone had gone to some effort to turn it into a ‘Unicorn welcome zone’ poster. Apparently some are taking the DUV poster to be ‘anti gay’. This is ridiculous beyond words, especially bearing in mind that every poster was accompanied by another declaring our right to be gay! It seems some people have no sense of humour. But it also means we’re on the right path.

Wounded galaxies

The Ginger Nuts Of Horror’s LGBTQ+ month (January) has gone very well, providing a much needed focus on a marginalised group. Most of the writers involved are new names to me, which is the whole point of the focus. My own interview appeared on 29 January and it’s possible that the article I wrote on the Coil album, Horse Rotorvator, will also appear in the next few weeks. Some straight writers were also involved in this project, which attracted criticism from some quarters, but I found it perfectly acceptable to have them there – I’ve never been against having allies. My thanks to Jim McLeod for instigating such a progressive initiative.

I’m delighted to announce that The Cruor Garland has been accepted by Queer horror podcast Monsters Out Of The Closet. Producers Shriya Venkatesh and Nicole Calande felt the story had an affinity with The Wickerman and Children Of The Corn – most illustrious comparisons. The story will be recorded this Summer and will appear either later this year or in 2020.

Dead Unicorn Ventures’ interview with The Tribunes on 19 January went extremely well and I’m in the process of transcribing a huge amount of material for the Dykes Ink ‘zine. There’s undoubtedly enough for at least two issues of the zine, which is what we were hoping for. We’re now almost at the point of collating all our material for issue 1, so we’re on schedule for the planned Spring publication. We’re also finalising the Press Release for Swallow Your Pride and have begun a fly-posting campaign around the streets of Penzance, not just to advertise DUV, but to provide some defiance in an increasingly Right-wing country.

Finally, I’m also in the process of being interviewed by a female student at Exeter University, Devon, UK, regarding female punks of the 1970s and 80s. My work with DUV made me keen to be involved in this!

 

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title, which is lifted from the Cyclobe album, Wounded Galaxies Tap At The Window

 

Dykes Inkorporated

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I’ve been immersed in activities relating to Dead Unicorn Ventures recently. The ‘zine now has a name – DYKES INK – various people are writing pieces for it and we will be interviewing local political rock band The Tribunes on January 19th. A few days before that we’ll be hitting the streets with the start of a fly-posting campaign to promote the gig and to show that the local Queer community is creating something interesting. This has come at the right time, I think; not only are we bored at the lack of a meaningful local scene, the far Right are well on the rise and us ‘Others’ need to be seen and heard.

Fiction has inevitably taken a bit of a back seat but I’m writing again now. Sky Eyes is still progressing and I’m hoping to be able to announce some further good news on the fiction front. There are so many possibilities now that I feel as if I’m attracting good fortune. It’s intruiging to be somewhere other than the wilderness for a while.

The Phoenix Guide To Strange England: Hookland

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Photo: Julie Travis

Hawthonn’s Widdershins has now been released as part of a Hookland mix.

“Hawthonn – Widdershins Produced & performed by Layla & Phil Legard Spectral hurdy-gurdy by Rory Scammell Mastered by Gregg Janman (Hermetech Mastering).

“Everything is a time machine.” We’ve wanted to record something based on the story ‘Widdershins’ by our friend Julie Travis for some time. The tale, criss-crossing temporal and metaphysical realms, begins with the observation of a girl – the elderly narrator’s younger self – walking widdershins around a rural church, and opening the way for the Bosch-like hurdy-gurdy-playing demon Madame Gargoyle, who is described as “proof of the wrongness of the area where the church stood”. The Hooklandish resonances in Julie’s tale are many, and so we took ourselves to our own ancient church, walking widdershins around it, and recording our own plaintive time-machine dirge. One route to the church takes walkers along the path of the old corpse road, which scythes through a field now owned by property developers and hemmed in by mesh security fences on each side, keeping unruly spirits – both living and dead – to the path. The sound of these fences being rattled and agitated in protest as part of an impromptu ritual conducted while walking the corpse road concludes each of the three sections of the music.”

 

Image © Julie Travis, text © Hawthonn

 

Mme. Gargoyle is most pleased

So much has been happening here that it’s difficult to know where to start, but perhaps I should open with my absolute delight at hearing ‘Widdershins’ by Hawthonn, an amazing ambient/drone duo from Leeds, England. Some time ago Layla and Phil Legard told me they were intending to write a piece based on my story Widdershins, (Storylandia 15). This was recorded recently (with Rory Scammell providing hurdy-gurdy drones), both in the studio and using field recordings and the finished result will be released as part of the Hooklands project on the weekend before Christmas/of the Winter Solstice. The track is an extremely evocative and Otherworldy experience which has me in goosebumps every time I listen to it. More details on the track/release to follow.

Work on the ‘zine for Dead Unicorn Ventures is progressing well – pages of art (a real struggle/learning curve for such a non-artist as myself) and a comic strip are being worked on and we’re hoping to interview The Tribunes (the local band who will be playing Swallow Your Pride in July 2019) soon, as well as plans for some other features that I won’t reveal for now but will be very exciting if they come together. We’ve also been talking to Footprinters, a workers’ co-operative also based in Leeds, who will be printing the ‘zine, about costs and colours and I can safely say that our colour scheme will be extremely distinctive and eye catching! We still haven’t agreed upon a title, but we’ll get there.

Meanwhile, work on my latest short story, Sky Eyes, is inching forward. Fiction is a place I need to go to on a regular basis and of course it requires an entirely different headspace to the ‘zine or anything else I’m doing, but progress continues, however slowly. The project I collaborated on during the Spring and Summer is still marked confidential, and has been delayed, but I am hoping for news soon and an announcement will follow as soon as possible.

All text © Julie Travis

And dead unicorns will scatter the land

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Photo: Julie Travis

I’m delighted to announce the formation of Dead Unicorn Ventures. This is a group of three – Cat Astley, Teresa Knight and myself – who have become tired of nothing of substance happening for the Queer community in Cornwall, and nothing at all happening in Penzance! As will be obvious from our name, we want to make a point without being po-faced about it and I’m hoping people will get the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve. We have spent the last month or so working on our first event, Swallow Your Pride, which will take place at the Acorn Arts Centre in Penzance on 26 July 2019. This event showcases a real diversity of Queer talent and I cannot express how excited I am at the line-up we’ve managed to book: The Tribunes are from Penzance and play punky rock with a Socialist agenda, Jim Causley is one of the country’s brightest folk singers and musicians and Joelle Taylor is an extraordinary performance poet who’s toured many countries but has not, as yet, ever appeared in Penzance. I’ve worked with Joelle twice before – at the inaugural Queeruption festival in 1998 and at The Poetry Society Cafe in 2002 and I’m finally making good on my promise to get her a gig in West Cornwall! There may also be some comedy and a performance/reading of one of my stories and hopefully an art exhibition elsewhere in the town to run alongside the event, as well as the possibility of a programme/fanzine to be made available on the night. A Facebook page is in the process of being constructed to give details of what we’re doing. It feels like the right time to be doing this and I’m happy to bring my punk sensibilities and experiences to this project. May it lead to many wonderful things.

All text and images © Julie Travis