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

 

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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

Wake up: time to Live

Teresa Boscawen-Un 17 July 2015

T at our memorial for Ian Johnstone, Boscawen-Un stone circle, 17 July 2015

After what has been a long break between posts, it’s time to do an update. Writing fiction has been almost impossible since Ian’s passing, as it was after my mother passed away, so I have been concentrating on re-drafting Pig Iron, to the point where I think it’s now ready to go for publication. The Man Who Builds The Ruins – the story inspired by Ian and his partner Mikel’s agroforestry project in Northern Spain – has been rejected yet again. I read it through, prepared to ditch the story if necessary, but instead I think it’s one of the best stories I’ve written, so I’ve made a few changes to the prose and am hanging fire on what to do with it next. It does have a very occult/’out there’ feel to it, so perhaps horror/dark fantasy publications are not the right places to send it (although it was nearly placed in two publications).

On a very different note, I’ve been chasing Penguin Books for eight months for an interview with Sue Perkins, but have just been turned down due to her ‘full schedule’ (her memoir, Spectacles, is out in early October). This was to be for Curve magazine in the United States and they are as disappointed about this as I am, I think – Sue has some forthright opinions and would, I think, make the subject of a good article. I’ll be writing to Sue direct in a final attempt to arrange this – if she doesn’t want to do the interview, I’ll accept it and move on. But I do need work that might pay as much as anyone else does!

Otherwise, I’ve been working on Ian’s page for this website. As you can imagine, it’s been a difficult task – plenty of material to choose from, but very emotional to put together, but it’s nearly there. I’ve also been putting Ian’s texts and emails into a document for my personal records, which has proved even more difficult to do! But out of all this grief has come some positive things: contact from some Russians who corresponded with Ian and are constructing a site in his memory, and an email from Phil and Layla Legard of the Hawthonn project, based around Jhonn Balance, grieving, and a journey from Balance’s home in Weston to his resting place at the hawthorn tree near Bassenthwaite Lake. I thank them all for their kindness and generosity.