Category Archives: art

Squeaky bum time (with zombies)

Squeaky bum time - it's not rude - it's a potato for goodness sake. It's saying, please download The Spirit of Christmas by Fynnjan. You'd better do it. That spud has got it's eye on you. Geddit?

Squeaky bum time – it’s not rude – it’s a potato for goodness sake. It’s saying, please download The Spirit of Christmas by Fynnjan. You’d better do it. That spud has got its eye on you. Geddit?

It’s crunch day. Almost zero hour. Teensy weensy bit stressful.

You know the 11-year-old boy with Aspergers called Fynnjan that I’ve been helping – and you’ve kindly been supporting – and his song The Spirit of Christmas for autism charities? (The National Autistic Society and Nordoff Robbins music therapy.) Well – tomorrow/Sunday – is UK Top 40 day. If enough people have downloaded the song from iTunes and HMVdigital.com, then we’ll get into the Top 40 and thereby attract media and public attention and radio play. That platform will be a huge boost towards the Christmas no1 spot and a fantastic news peg. So all the hard work and support has been working towards that point.

If it doesn’t get into the Top 40 tomorrow, then we’re probably stuffed. Stuffed being a euphemism. So it’s squeaky bum time (as ex Man Utd boss Alex Ferguson used to say).

Charlie Adlard unleashes The Walking Dead in support of Fynnjan.

Charlie Adlard unleashes The Walking Dead in support of Fynnjan.

Against us are ranged money, money and money. And the Xfactor. And Beyonce’s surprise release. And retreads with cover versions. And paid-for front cover advertising. And the corporate machines.

But FOR US – a genuine good story, a small boy’s courage, a tiny band of dreamers and… AND ZOMBIE MAN!!!

Charlie Adlard is the artist for The Walking Dead. He’s ace. He’s drawing a one-off piece of artwork in his inimitable style. There’ll only be three copies. You – or any other fan of his work – can get it for free by downloading Fynnjan‘s song The Spirit of Christmas from iTunes or HMVdigital or via www.fynnjan.com Very cool!

1 Zombie

The artwork is a series of frames depicting Fynnjan’s interpretation of what Aspergers and other mental health issues are like for those that have them.

According to Fynnjan, life has three rooms. Most people are born into the second room. They go through the door into the third room to reach their potential. Children with Aspergers and autism are born into the first room. they don’t know that there are any other rooms. They don’t know there’s even a door. But with the right support, they can find the door and catch up and then work towards realising their own potential just like everyone else. He received great support from special educational needs staff at primary school. He knows he was lucky. He wants the same for other children.

This post is not a plea to get behind Fynnjan or to support him. Because many of you have done so already – with posts of your own, sharing, comments, downloads of the song too, and even donations to the charities. It’s been moving and humbling. I want to thank you properly, but I don’t have time just now. Because it’s squeaky bum time.

So – if you can – please share this post. Or copy the picture with the details of the Charlie Adlard competition and post it on facebook, twitter, instagram or wherever. And maybe we’ll do just enough to squeak into the UK Top 40 tomorrow.

Here’s the video:

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No doom and gloom just bravery and beauty

Chantelle Msumbuga

What’s the connection between Charles Dickens and this: Should have died in infancy. Didn’t. At the age of four had meningitis and went into a coma. Recovered. Had a stroke with complications that lasted a year. Survived. Major blood transfusions. Long term organ damage. Hours of chelation therapy five times a week to reduce iron overload from blood transfusions. Bruising, discoloration, pain, pain, pain…

Dickens is renowned for cataloging the suffering of the poor and downtrodden, but this is not the torment visited by his imagination on some poor character. It’s real suffering. It’s what happens when a young girl is born with sickle cell anaemia.

A young girl like Chantelle Msumbuga. She’s now a young woman – almost 16 years old. Last weekend she told me and some others about the succession of pain and setbacks she’s undergone in her short life. And she was so cheerful and beautiful as she told it. Her blog is here. She educated us about the condition and the very invasive and intensive treatment she received at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for Children.

Liliane’s lovely buns – you have to bite through the head of Charles Dickens to taste them.

Now do you get it?

After JM Barrie and Peter Pan, Charles Dickens is the famous figure most associated with this London hospital for children. Shortly after it opened, he helped save it from bankrupcy and to double in size.

That’s why Charles Dickens fan Christopher West (who also lectures under the nom de plume Charles Dickens London) arranged a special Dickens Day to raise funds for GOSH – to mark the connection between writer and hospital during this year, the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth.

Liliane the beautiful cake maker from the Cote d’Ivoire

Oh – there’s another reason too. It’s not just Chantelle who medical staff at GOSH are helping. They also saved the life of Christopher’s granddaughter not so long ago. So, like Chantelle he’s also saying thank you for personal reasons.

Chantelle and Christopher were helped and supported by lots of other people too. People like the Kings College Chorus, schools, experts and Liliane. She’s from the Cote d’Ivoire, has beautfully accented French, beautiful buns (no not that! I do actually mean the buns in the picture) and is just beautiful.

There was a lot of beauty around that day – and that includes Continue reading

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A good telling off

Kirsty Allison – photo by Stephanie Correll http://tinyurl.com/d3zqjp5

I’ve been caught out and given a good telling off by Ramana in India of the Loose Bloggers Consortium for not talking properly about epitaphs. Which was a bit silly of me given that I’ve written a book called The Obituarist.

I also used to make an obituary programme for radio called Brief Lives. It wasn’t musty and dusty. Dead people need not be boring. I had happy days whizzing around London trying to find the late Idi Amin’s widow or a couple who had conceived their child to the music of the late Barry White. It was enormous fun.

The problem with writing my own epitaph is that, like Robert Emmet, I’m not yet ready to dictate it. I hope that this will get me off the hook and appease Ramana instead –

It’s a link to a radio programme called Art Saves Lives that I took part in at the weekend. (I’ve mentioned Art Saves Live before – visual art and unexpected drama off stage.) This show was broadcast on London art radio station Resonance FM 104.4 – but you can also find it here. I recommend listening to it all – though I pop up near the end at 48’30-ish in.

But there are loads of other interesting people first – including playwright Mark Ravenhill, post-pop artist  Duggie Fields, Gemma Peppe from the Hepatitis C Trust, singer songwriter Aletia Upstairs (video below) from Cape Town and Nepalese poet Yuyutsu Sharma (who also translates Donegal Gaelic poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh into Nepali).

The presenters were the irrepressible impressario and playwright Dean Stalham, and poet and film producer Kirsty Allison who “combines the cerebral with the carnival” according to the Sunday Times.

You can even see photos of it all by Stephanie Tesse/Correll here.

Am I forgiven Ramana?

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Classroom rule number one: Never smile before Christmas

Two excellent short films. The first is clever and imaginative. The second may induce feelings of vertigo or unsettled stomach – IT”S THAT EXCITING!

So – first – The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemmingway’s book and John Sturges’s film starring Spencer Tracy – now an animation drawn by Marcel Schindler.

I saw this film on the excellent Brain Pickings website. My only quibble with the animation is that the role of the boy is omitted – though, to be fair, he doesn’t board the small boat on the trip depicted.

Next – short film number two. Some of the camera shots may make you queasy. Here’s the film called People Are Awesome.

It’s the going over the edge skiiing shot that has me holding on to the table for balance. Though I suspect it’s the sort of thing Lesley “Get” Carter does every morning before breakfast. I presume they used the same crew as this Carling Black Label advert (based on cameraman Graham Henry’s exploits with Anneka Rice in Treasure Hunt).

The nearest Continue reading

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Street Art 2: Famous faces

Amy Winehouse – She’s saying: “Oh no, I couldn’t eat another thing. Well… Maybe one more chocolate eclair. Just to be polite.

Ever walked down the street and felt that you were being watched?

I’m not talking about that time you forgot your trousers or had your skirt tucked into your knickers. You were being watched that time. Gawped at in fact.

But I’m talking about something more surreptitious.

Something you sense but can’t quite be sure of.

As if people aren’t moving turning their heads – just twitching their eyes. Like a ghostly portrait in haunted mansion.

So back to the street and the feeling of being watched.

Do you try to carry on as if you hadn’t noticed. Whistling maybe. Swaying in an attempt to look casual. Fighting the urge to speed up.

Samuel Beckett: “You looking at me? Huh! Beware or I’ll zap you with my laser eyes.”

Whilst beneath cloth your buttocks are clenched. Your back is straighter. Your own eyes are swivelling while you force yourself not to look back over your shoulder.

Then imagine that the eyes following you are not just anybody’s eyes. That round each corner a new famous face confronts you.

Do you feel intimidated? Scrutinised? Weighed and measured?

Or Continue reading

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The Devil made me do it

How often do you encounter – or read – something completely fresh?

Rarely, I’d say.

This is fresh. Or to be more accurate – it’s sulphurously original. Continue reading

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Robert Hughes: What democracy is for…

Robert Hughes died recently. I liked reading his work.

This is what he said about democracy and art – from an editorial in the Guardian newspaper:

The late Robert Hughes wrote his own epitaph in his 1993 polemic Culture of Complaint, where he inveighed against the banal politicisation of art and championed instead the importance of quality.

“Some things do strike us as better than others – more articulate, more radiant with consciousness,” Hughes insisted. “We may have difficulty saying why, but the experience remains.”

Democracy’s task, in the field of art, he believed, was to make the world safe for elitism, not to outlaw it. He believed passionately – in Hughes’s case the adverb is redundant – in an elitism that was not based on class, wealth or race, but on skill, imagination, high ability and intense vision Continue reading

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