THE TRAVELLER’s HAPPINESS
TRIP NO. 4
SPIRITUALITY AS THE ANTITHESIS OF INTELLECTUALITY
Mathura (Margus Lattik)
HARRY PYE'S POSTCARD FROM LONDON
DOSHI’S “SANGATH” IN AHMEDABAD
YOUR OWN ROOM AND AN ETERNAL SUMMER
Harry Pye’s Postcard from London
Instead of “My Library”
Although I’ve never been a great reader of books, from as far back as I can remember I’ve always loved most other types of publications. Obviously I wasn’t alone in loving comics for example, but unlike a lot of children, whenever I got my paws on something good I would always then attempt to make my own version of it. For example, when aged 7 I bought my first copy of Nutty whose cover star was Bananaman. As you might imagine, Bananaman was just an ordinary school boy until he ate a banana and then he would develop super human powers. Perhaps predictably one of my firtst characters was “Super Pye”. As you’ve probably guessed my character (who looked a lot like me) would solve crimes and help the helpless using special powers he’d gained from eating a pie.
Where as comics like Nutty, Buster, Whizzer & Chips, and The Breezer were probably read by thousands of children. My comic was probably only read by one or two friends and maybe my mother. By the age of nine or ten, a comic called 2000ad was all the rage. My pathetic attempts at science fiction were no good to man or beast. However by the age of eleven, with help from my older sister, I made a little publication that was actually worth reading.
My sister had brough my attention to the two Francis Ford Coppola brilliant film adaptions of S.E. Hinton’s two novels “Rumble Fish” and “The Outsiders”. I had this funny idea that the best thing that could possibly happen to me was that one day I’d own a leather jacket, have a flat-top crew cut and basically be like Hinton’s character Dallas, Two-Bit or Pony Boy Curtis. But for the time being I would console myself by editing and publishing a magazine called “REBEL”.
I remember thinking of the name and feeling really pleased with myself. The word had two meanings! It meant “Rebel” as in a guy like James Dean. And it was also an instruction or order. I got my Dad to draw a picture of James Dean for me and my sister came up with a slogan, “We’ve got an eye for talent” for which I drew a little accompanying picture of an eyeball with arms and legs. My sister has taken me to see a Royal Academy degree show and had bought a catalogue which listed all the graduate’s contact details. Very cheekily I began phoning various people up and asking the graduates daft questions claiming that their answers would appear in REBEL – “the magazine soon to replace The Tatler and The Face.”
One of the graduates I spoke to was a chap called Andy Vella who designed the record sleeves for The Cure. Around this time The Cure were having hits with songs like, “Let’s Go To Bed” and “The Love Cats”. Mr Vella was also employed as a designer for a magazine my sister loved at the time called, “Just 17”. Looking back it was incredibly kind of Andy Vella to not only answer my silly questions but to invite us to meet him in a café in Carnaby Street and have a cup of tea with him. After meeting Andy of course I stopped dreaming about wanting to be a James Dean rebel and started dreaming about being a graphic designer who’d been to art school and hung out with pop stars.
For some reason, one of the main things I remember about my sister and I meeting Andy was that before setting off I put on a t-shirt that had a black and white photo of James Dean’s face on it and the word “REBEL” written up the side. It makes me laugh now but I can remember putting the T-shirt on and thinking that it would really impress him and that he’d probably ask if I wanted to meet The Cure or something. Although an encounter with Robert Smith never took place I think it was Andy who tipped us off about a “Just 17” open day in which readers could meet writers and walk round the offices.
It was at this open day that my sister and I showed off our REBELS. Our little photocopied mag featured interviews with the songwriter Stephen Duffy, the comedy promoter Malcolm Hardee and Dick Cuthell (the man who played trumpet on my favourite song, “Message to you Rudy” by The Specials). There were also various family friends and odd sods we’d come across that also got mentioned.
The staff at “Just 17” were very supportive and wrote a little feature about me. “Just 17” was one of the best selling publications at the time so I received many, many letters asking for a copy or for advice or just to say Hello. I made a point of answering every single one but suddenly Summer was over and it was time to start back at school. There was something about my school where if you had a passion for playing the oboe, stamp collecting, bird watching – or in my case making a fanzine – you kept very, very quiet about it. There was a fear that anything you said could be used against you and if you tripped, hundreds would come running to trample over you. By the age of 13 REBEL was a distant memory.
Last month I was asked to contribute to an exhibition organized by the Sartorial Gallery. I had some photos that I wanted to exhibit but, knowing that the private view was going to be well attended it would be nice to give something away free. It struck me that as 20 years had passed since issue 2 of REBEL may be it was time to make another one. I liked the idea of setting myself a target of getting all the interviews done within one month.
My photos were of men who grew up in the same part of London as me reading their favourite book. I suppose I’d been thinking about book clubs as there’s one at work and my mum goes to one. My friend Billy asked me which books they had been discussing at my mum’s club and he was disappointed when I told him that her club was women only. I started considering which of my friends and neighbours would join me if I had a book reading club. And I began asking these South London friends what they’d bring to the club or what they’d suggest we all try and read. Hardly anyone had a favourite book, they’d say, “well my girlfriend bought me this” or, “my favourite book tends to be the one I am reading at the moment” and so on. But everyone has picked something they’re happy to be associated with or represented by.
I suppose part of the reason I went through with the photographs was because it was a pleasant thing to do… arranging to meet up with people you like and chat to them about something they enjoyed doing is obviously going to be a nice way of spending an afternoon. Also, I’d suggested the title for the exhibition, (“People Like Us”) and I knew that Jasper, James and Stella were all going to show quite bold and sexy stuff, so I thought that it would be nice to contrast that with some quiet, gentle stuff. It’s nice to be able to show a positive image of men being gentle. But also, going back to the book club idea… I don’t think, in reality, that a men only book club would work. I don’t know why it wouldn’t work, it’s just one of those things. I know it’s stupid to make a generalisation about gender groups but I think it’s unlikely that if say, 8 of the men in those photos went ahead with the club and they all decided to read or re-read “Catch-22” and then meet up a month later to talk about it… I could see it happening once and once only. I just couldn’t imagine them not falling out, remembering to read the book or just staying focussed on just talking about the book. I think it would be like the Fast Show sketch – one of them would talk about the book and then someone else would either mock him or just agree with him to shut him up, and then someone would say, “Does anyone fancy a pint?” And they’d all stop. That said, if any two of them were in a book club with six women in it they’d be very conscientious, reliable and good company. But what I was thinking about really was the idea that the first 500 people who came to this show would get a free copy of REBEL magazine. And they could read it and either tell me what they thought or e-mail me something and it would be a litlle bit like being in a book club. For this reason the cover of REBEL was designed by my friend Kes Richardson to look a bit like a paperback book. The cover. The cover features a drawing John Strutton did of Tony Hancock in the film the Rebel.
Some of you might be interested in how much REBEL has changed after it’s twenty year rest? The answer is: Not that much. The new magazine features interviews with a guy called Paul Foot who studied maths but is now a comedian. A comedian called Rob Newman who is now a novelist. Rowland Smith, who went from art school to study homeopathy and Stella Vine who was an actress and is now a painter. Realistically not that many of the 500 people who attended the private view will bother to read the magazine. And I imagine a lot of visitors to the show just looked at the photos and said, “What’s he done that for?” and walked off but it doesn’t matter. I wish the 32 year old me had been around when the 12 year old me was making REBEL.
My favourite of the photos is “Jamie of Brixton”. I like this photo because he looks like he’s really into the book and he looks content. He looks funny because he has slightly chipmunk teeth and his hairy belly is exposed. I think that the title of the book he’s reading, “Notes from a Small Island” probably sums up the whole project.
is a writer, curator and artist who lives and works in London. See also his stories about the art scenery of East London, South London and “Night on Earth” show (1/2005, 2/2005, 3/2006).