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

She calls to the king of fishes

Lindisfarne by T Knight

Lindisfarne by T Knight

To begin, a distinctly Lovecraftian dream from a few weeks ago that I can’t forget, even though I can only remember it in flashes: set at night in a large room with a bay window in a grand house, the gentleman sitting opposite me – white, well-groomed hair, big sideburns, 19th Century dress – widens his eyes and says in a sinister voice, “Dark forces!”. Whether he has conjured something up himself or is warning me, I can’t tell, but there is a terrifying but unseen Thing in the room.

As you can see, just a section remains, and this might be for the best. I certainly woke up – not sitting up, in a sweat, like they do in films – too afraid to move. Given its style and setting I can’t even use this one in a story. However, Widdershins is making decent progress. Over 3,000 words in, which is good going, bearing in mind I began with virtually nothing other than a saying of my partner’s, which she uses when she’s busy but which has always made me shiver slightly: I’ll meet myself coming back in a minute. The story, as the title would suggest, involves the supernatural and folklore. I’ve just finished reading Goose of Hermogenes by Ithell Colquhoun, artist, writer, occultist (with thanks to Matthew Shaw for pointing me in her direction and providing the music, via Fougou’s Further From The Centre of Disturbance, that has accompanied much of the writing and note-making so far) and no doubt the surreal, dream-like nature of the novel will influence the story in some way, even though Widdershins bears no relation to the book. And perhaps this is all an escape from a life that right now is more about dire poverty, illness and bereavement than the things that I would prefer to connect with. Saying that, I don’t intend the story to be either escapist or irrelevant.

The picture above is one of the few available from my trip around the north of England; due to two cameras becoming faulty simultaneously, I found that instead of having a detailed document of the trip, I have two reels of blank negatives and a digital camera that’s now completely useless. The 35mm SLR may be fixable but that just isn’t an option at this point in time. All I have is one shot of Jhonn Balance’s memorial; the close-ups I took of the plaque, the shots around the woodland and by Bassenthwaite Lake, the magical island of Lindisfarne – all have been lost.