Observations: Writers to re-trace JB Priestley's steps
Friday 08 January 2010
JB Priestley's 1934 tome English Journey is a classic of the travelogue genre, but how far does its subject resemble today's landscape? The author-cum-psychogeographer Iain Sinclair and the graphic novelist Alan Moore (he of Watchmen fame) are set to find out as they undertake a similar journey. Their project begins this month at Aldeburgh, as part of the Suffolk town's ongoing programme devoted to experimental music, Faster Than Sound.
Joining them are the traditional-song collector Shirley Collins, as well as the composers Susan Stenger, who made her name in cult indie outfit Band of Susans, and FM Einheit, a founder member of sonic terrorists Einstürzende Neubauten. Their collaboration promises to mix folk music with cinematic soundscapes, vocal contributions with electronic graffiti.
It is a fitting time to retrace the Yorkshire writer's steps, as his Journey was no whimsical Olde England reverie, but a look at a nation still suffering from the Great Depression. As Priestley wrote, "I am here, in a time of stress, to look at the face of England, however blank or bleak that face may chance to appear, and to report truthfully what I see there."
Not that Sinclair and Moore are exactly following in his footsteps, the producer Paul Smith explains. "English Journey was an inspiration but will really only be a jumping-off point for their own contemporary view of Britain." So, what can we expect? "The Straw Bear Festival's paganist roots, 'mad' poet John Clare, the lost town of Dunwich – and the Vincent Price film Witchfinder General as an 'English Western'," says Smith.
English Journey: Revisited at the Hoffmann Building, Snape Maltings (01728 687110; Aldeburgh.co.uk) 30 January
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