Saturday, 26 September 2009
Good to see more local coverage of the Under The Volcano exhibition at the Bluecoat in Liverpool:
Under The Volcano: The Bluecoat
Liverpool Echo 26/9/09
WRITER Malcolm Bradbury described Malcolm Lowry as having a “curious internationalism”.
That is what has perhaps led him to be less well known in his home city than he might have been, and is also what the Bluecoat has attempted to reflect in this new exhibition marking the centenary of his birth.
Those who do know of Lowry will probably have read his magnum opus, Under The Volcano.
But few will be aware that the author of what has been described as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century was born the son of a Liverpool cotton broker in New Brighton.
In fact, there are many intriguing aspects to the man who was a writer, golfer, nomadic adventurer and inveterate drinker (alcohol caused his death at 47).
The Bluecoat’s two-month celebration of all things Lowry includes the publication of a new book, From The Mersey To The World, the screening of John Huston’s film Under The Volcano starring Albert Finney, and music written by poet Ian McMillan.
At its heart, however, is this exhibition of artwork and film inspired by the writer and covering not simply his life in the Mexican town of Cuernavaca (where the novel is set on the Mexican Day of the Dead), but also his fascination with the Isle of Man, his time in New York and his spartan existence in Canada.
It turns out to be perhaps one of the most satisfying exhibitions held recently at the Bluecoat, mostly because while it features disparate artists, it has a pleasingly unified central theme – they all share a fascination with Lowry.
Adrian Henri’s vibrant Day Of The Dead In Liverpool paintings sit alongside works from Julian Cooper’s Under The Volcano series, Cooper’s images redolent of Hockney or Hopper.
There are also a series of intricate Under The Volcano-themed prints by Chilean artist Jorge Martinez Garcia, while the Tate has loaned the gallery watercolours by Lowry contemporary Edward Burra which (despite his apparently disliking Lowry) also feature the skeletons so prevalent in day of the dead iconography.
A newly-commissioned video installation centres on the alcoholic Lowry’s experiences drying out in a New York sanatorium.
And, most fascinatingly of all, there are never-before-seen telegrams, borrowed from Liverpool Record Office, charting the highs and lows of the globetrotting writer’s hectic life.
Watch interest in Lowry erupt.
Unlike Malcolm Lowry, Brian O'Toole (1946-2001) spent most of his life in his native Liverpool, apart from art school training in Newcastle and London and regular stays in Dublin, producing cartoons, portraits of Irish writers and absorbing himself in the labyrinthine world of James Joyce. Frighteningly well-read, literature informed O'Toole's art and he admired Lowry, whose complex prose, references to other literature, rich thematic layering and Merseyside origins appealed to him.
O'Toole's darkly humorous, surreal pen and ink drawings appeared in a range of publications, on posters and in exhibitions, and the ones selected here echo the dancing cadavers of Mexican artist Posada, whose Day of the Dead prints were a particular influence. O'Toole's drawings, with their combination of the familiar and the absurd however can also be seen in a particularly British tradition of caricature and satire, stretching from George Cruikshank to Steve Bell. Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
Associated principally with punk through his weekly cartoons for the New Musical Express and artwork for the Clash, Ray Lowry (1944- 2008) was drawn increasingly to his literary namesake and fellow North Westerner. Like the alluring and tragic figures of his heroes, rock'n'rollers Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, Ray found a kindred spirit in Malcolm Lowry. And just before he died, he created a series of colourful, expressive paintings on paper inspired by Under the Volcano.
Freer than anything else Ray completed, these final paintings are almost abstract. Though little is known about them, episodes from the book are discernible: the Mexican Indian dying by the roadside, the Consul's alcoholic bliss, his encounter with fascists accusing him of being a spy ('spider'), and the final indignity as a dead dog is thrown after his corpse into the ravine.
The single large painting entitled Under the Volcano, is more enigmatic, suggesting a baked landscape and parched vegetation. But despite the painting's title, it is not Mexico that is its subject, but Iraq, and the time is the present, as toy soldiers play out a war in a part of the world that, as Mesopotamia, was considered the 'cradle of civilization' - a reminder of one of the book's underlying themes, that of man's folly, with the world heading towards war. Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
For Cisco Jimenez, a native of Cuernavaca where Under the Volcano is set, Lowry's book and his life continue to provide - 70 years after he stayed there - a barometer for measuring the expectations and failures of this Mexican town. For Jimenez the paradox portrayed in the novel repeats: the clash of the popular against the contemporary, tradition under threat from global changes and impositions, and the failure of utopianism (colonial utopias, the social experiments of the 1960s, the neoliberal policies in the 1990s).
Jimenez's mixed media sculptures make playful reference to Lowry's life: his drinking (Two Atoms Connected), golfing prowess (Necklace), and in Peddler the imagery and folkloric aspects of Under the Volcano, whilstAK47 Barroca is indicative of the artist's concern with the contradictions and violence of the everyday in Mexico.
'Cuemavaca is no longer what it used to be. What remains are tourism and opportunistic "cliches" of the quiet and colonial past - multiple thematic hotels and restaurants for wealthy foreigners and visitors from Mexico City, and real estate speculation. Nature has been covered over with tons of concrete, and the last old mansions with their majestic gardens are slowly falling down, giving way to massive condominiums (which we call "condemoniums"). You face such disaster every day'.
Edward Burra (1905-1976) occupies a particular place in 20th century British art: represented in major collections yet remaining, like Malcolm Lowry, something of an outsider. He is best known for his satirical, often macabre paintings of 1920s and 1930s urban life, particularly its seedier side. He flirted with Surrealism and his allegorical works share some of its characteristics. Working mainly in watercolour, he imbued his art with 'a feeling of tawdriness and the meretricious and yet, at the same time, (created) such convincing beauty' (George Melly).
Despite constant ill health, Burra traveled widely, visiting Lowry in Cuernavaca in 1937, together with Lowry's early mentor and their mutual friend, the American writer Conrad Aiken. On his return to England Surra painted Mexican Church, its composition based on two postcards of churches he'd visited, the cathedral at Taxco and Santa Catarina, Mexico City. Burra and Lowry did not get on, however both shared an interest in Mexican culture.
Burra was influenced particularly by the Mexican muralists and the prints of Jose Guadalupe Posada (1851-1913), whose depictions of lively skeletons had a profound effect, contributing to his interest in representations of death. Under the Volcano's Day of the Dead theme is echoed in Burra's other two paintings shown here. Dancing Skeletons, painted after a visit to Spain, anticipates his Mexican journey and immersion in the iconography of death. In Skeleton Party, completed nearly 20 years later, Surra returns to this earlier theme. Whilst the pyramid shapes on the horizon have been identified as slag heaps in an industrial landscape, they could equally suggest the twin peaks of Lowry's Mexican volcanoes. Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957,
Described as a 'Neo-Baroque' printmaker and painter, Jorge Martrnez Garda has read and re-read Lowry's writings since first discovering Under the Volcano in Quito, Ecuador. Inspired by Lowry's famous letter to Jonathan Cape, in which he proposed there were at least five levels at which the book could be read, the writer has been
a constant point of reference for the artist. The series of intaglio prints shown here demonstrates the way that Martfnez interacts with Lowry in diverse and layered ways, each print being both compositionally and thematically complex. Many familiar elements from Under the Volcano are evident: the Consul, the volcano, an 'eternal' cantina, the ever present bottle of mescal, all rendered through Martfnez's exquisite printmaking technique.
Martinez seeks to illuminate or, in a more metaphorical sense, circumnavigate Lowry's 'heraldic universe' (Lawrence Durrell) according to Martinez's own life experience and his own existential reading of Lowry's writings. Lowry has also motivated Martinez, an artist living and working in Chile, to reflect on Latin American realities in terms of what he calls 'our existence as culture and cosmovision'. Like D.H. Lawrence, Lowry represents for Martinez 'the outsider who is able to perceive other worlds with a universal sensibility'. Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
Pete Flowers' interest in Mexico was awakened by reading Under the Volcano.
It introduced him to the Day of the Dead, which has become a life-long fascination. Flowers sees parallels between his work and Lowry's, for instance the way - as suggested by Michael Schmidt in the introduction to the book's current edition - that the writer's 'imagination exaggerates and distorts, forces connections and recurrences' . Like Lowry's fiction, Flowers' paintings use montage technique and are worked over and over again, becoming dense and complex in the process. Like Lowry, he is also drawn to the spiritual, referencing Eastern beliefs and religions.
Of the paintings here, two refer directly to the book, interwoven with Flowers' experiences visiting Mexico, where 'you very quickly become aware of the fact that you are always under the volcano'. A Prayer for the Consul is a memory of being mistaken for Christ in a cantina by a beggar who pinned two medallions of the virgin under his lapel. The idea for this painting and A Prayer for Malcolm, came from a votive candle of the Virgin of Guadalupe that Flowers' wife bought him. On the back of this is a prayer for those involved in the abuse of drugs and alcohol, although 'she claims not to have read the prayer when she bought it'.
Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
Cian Quayle's film and photographs interrogate Lowry's fascination with the Isle of Man, which he visited as a child, the island being a popular holiday destination from Liverpool. Lowry also befriended a Manx boat builder, Jimmie Craige, when he lived at Dollarton. Craige was indispensable as carpenter and all round handyman, helping the Lowrys survive the harsh conditions. He also helped fuel Lowry's interest in Manx folklore.
Quayle, himself from the Isle of Man, 'first encountered Malcolm Lowry on the bookshelves of my father, and my interest in his life and writing is concerned with the way that fact and fiction, myth, folklore and history are interwoven in narratives of exile and return. His affinity with the sea, and the idea of the journey, are pertinent in my own work and wider research.'
The installation here comprises a looped film taken on the ferry journey from Liverpool to Douglas, the island's capital, and a series of photographs of locations and other references made to the island in Lowry's writing, principally in the short story Elephant and Colosseum. Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
The three paintings by Julian Cooper are from a series of seven completed in the 1980s entitled Under the Volcano. The novel was instrumental in the artist's search to develop a kind of abstract painting using figurative methods, one capable of taking on contemporary experience in the way that Lowry's novel does, with its intricate symbolism and a vivid representational surface. For Cooper the book 'had everything. It was set in a landscape, it was outer narrative and inner narrative as well, it had lots of references to literature and cabbalistic religion - it had all the complexity of a Renaissance painting. '
Douglas Day's biography of Lowry in particular, linking the writer's life to his fiction, provided Cooper with a 'layering of myth and reality. .. I see the novel now as quite prophetic in the way that its leading metaphor applies as much to an "economic growth" as to an alcohol addiction'.
Like Lowry's writing, the paintings are meticulously detailed and create a real sense of place and time, an evocation of Mexico and the book's setting. Each takes a particular episode from the book chosen for its self-sufficiency and symbolic power. They avoid being simply illustrative however, the structure and execution of the paintings echoing the complex layering of meaning found in Lowry's masterpiece. Despite the specific references, the paintings are autonomous, requiring no prior knowledge of the book. Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
In his series of paintings and drawings, Adrian Henri (1932-2000) sets the Mexican Day of the Dead in contemporary Liverpool, populating Hope Street with a crowd including artists and writers William Burroughs, Alien Ginsberg, Frida Kahlo, Ed Kienholz and Henri's Liverpool painter friend, Sam Walsh. In the main painting shown here the white suited, pipe-smoking figure on the far left is Malcolm Lowry.
Henri's partner Catherine Marcangeli describes his interest in the writer: 'He went to see the Day of the Dead exhibition at the Museum of Mankind, a visit that had immediate echoes with Lowry. He bought lots of paper-lace patterns, sweets in the shapes of skulls, and all manner of folkloric artifacts ... when he painted the Day of the Dead years later those echoes were also mixed with a host of other references, the most important and obvious one being his own earlier painting, Entry of Christ into Liverpool, of which The Day of the Dead, Hope Street is a kind of new version, except that the "friends and heroes" are dead ones here.'
There are other echoes, of a visit Henri made to a graveyard in Lorraine on the Day of the Toussaint (All Saints' Day in France, when people take flowers to the graves of dead friends or relatives), and of the eerie and sinister masks at the Basle Carnival. Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
Paul Rooney's film Bellevue draws on Lowry's time in a psychiatric ward at New York's Bellevue Hospital in 1935, which informed his novella Lunar Caustic. Published posthumously in 1958, the book focuses on a failed English musician who befriends two other patients. Rooney was interested in the book's 'study of the disorientation of addiction and intoxication, but also in the idea of Lowry's voluntary attendance at Bellevue (he could check out when he liked), which parallels the privileged position that art has in relation to real life: it is always easier to visit desparate places when you know that you can leave at any time'.
In the film a man, 'Bill', is taking part in an advertising agency's focus group meeting, which is using the conference facilities of a beautiful English stately home. The focus group is discussing an ad campaign for US city break holidays. But Bill also appears to be acting out scenarios set in a 1930s New York psychiatric institution, in which he takes on the character of a failed jazz musician recovering from alcohol abuse. Eventually, this 1930s world, and the shadow it casts over the present, entirely disrupts the proceedings.
The artist says 'Bellevue extends my interest in the artifice of narrative construction, and how this artifice is all we have to make sense of the world. I have adapted a pre-existing "found" text, and re-written and repositioned it in a new context. I am interested in language play, how differing "voices" - such as contemporary marketing speak or mid-20th century literary modernism - can be deliberately disrupted through collision to emphasise both their deceit and their formal delight'. Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
Ross Birrell and David Harding's Cuernavaca: A Journey in Search of Malcolm Lowry chases Lowry's ghost through the Mexican town that inspired his novel. Their film and installation is in two parts. In the upstairs gallery, surrounding a lawn, a wall text is the Consul's mistranslation of a sign he encounters in a public garden next to his own. It should read 'Do you like this garden, which is yours? Make sure your children don't destroy it!' but instead it reflects Lowry's fear of being evicted, of being cast out from the Eden he had found at Dollarton.
The text in Spanish, repeated at the end of the book, provided the source for Birrell and Harding's installation, whose film, shown here in the Vide space outside the gallery entrance, revisits the final footsteps of the ex-Consul. It includes readings from Octavio Paz and Lowry, the painting of a mural/text from the novel, interviews with local people who claim to have met the author, a journey to the peaks of Popocatepetl and a ritual in which a spiritualist communicates with Lowry's tormented soul.
The artists describe how 'the mescal-infused poetic symbolism drawn from Dante to the Kabala, which informed the writing of Under the Volcano, was the inspiration for the composition of Cuernavaca - where the editing attempts to mirror Lowry's intoxicated syntax' . Bryan Biggs Artistic Director The Bluecoat Liverpool: Under The Volcano; An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957
The Bluecoat's celebration of the centenary of writer Malcolm Lowry (born New Brighton, 1909) includes this special exhibition alongside a programme of performances and events. The exhibition takes its title from his best-known work, Under the Volcano, published in 1947. Set in Mexico, it is considered one of the most significant novels of the 20th century. Gabriel Garcra Marquez described it as 'probably the novel that I have read the most times in my life. I would like not to have to read it any more but that would be impossible, for I shall not rest until I have discovered where its hidden magic lies' .
Lowry has influenced not just writers, but artists working across the creative spectrum - painters, filmmakers, choreographers and musicians. This exhibition brings together contemporary visual artists from the UK and Latin America, who each respond to Lowry in different ways through painting, film, printmaking, sculpture, photography, drawing and installation. Much of the work relates to Under the Volcano, but other books and aspects of Lowry's life also provide the impetus.
The exhibition is intended to reflect Lowry's continuing inspiration for artists today, and to explore what Malcolm Bradbury has described as Lowry's 'curious internationalism'. Indeed the artists echo some of the writer's journeys, which took him from Merseyside to the Far East, Europe, USA, Mexico, Canada and finally back to England, and many points in between. Whilst the exhibition reflects Lowry's creative compass, works are not arranged chronologically or geographically and the exploration of themes moves away from simply a literal reading of the subject. Like Lowry's own writing, much of the work here is multilayered and can be read on several levels. Finding contemporary resonance in his work, the artists demonstrate that Malcolm Lowry is a writer very much for today.
Some of the works have been made especially for the exhibition, others selected from artists with a longstanding interest in Lowry. Others still, such as the paintings by Edward Burra, were created during Lowry's lifetime.
It is appropriate that the exhibition is taking place on Merseyside where Lowry was born a hundred years ago. He described Liverpool as 'that terrible city whose main street is the ocean', and though he never returned, Liverpool and the Wirral peninsular where he grew up continued to haunt him, and local references appear often in his writing. The exhibition includes a timeline tracing key moments in Lowry's colourful life, which ended in 1957 in mysterious circumstances in a village in Sussex.
Read more below about the exhibition:
Ross Birrell and David Harding's Cuernavaca: A Joourney In Search of Malcolm Lowry
Paul Rooney's film Bellvue
Adrian Henri's Entry of Christ Into Liverpool and Day of Dead, Hope Street
Julian Cooper's Under The Volcano series
Cian Qualye's photographs and film
Pete Flowers's series
Jose Martinez Garcia's etchings
Edward Burra's Mexican Church, Skeleton Party and Dancing Skeletons
Cisco Jimenez's Peddler
Ray Lowry's Under The Volcano
Brian O'Toole's Cartoons
It was good to see Liverpool's Daily Post newspaper giving the Malcolm Lowry Centenary Festival a 2-page spread in yesterday's edition.
You can read Laura Davis's full article, which includes an interview with Bryan Biggs, the Artistic Director of The Bluecoat in Liverpool, who is the curator of the exhibition and the driving force behind the festival, here:
Under the Volcano author Malcolm Lowry is globally celebrated but forgotten in his Wirral home
The new book on Malc was launched last Thursday night at the Bluecoat in Liverpool. The launch was a prelude to the opening of Malc's Centenary Festival in Liverpool over the next 2 months.
Several contributors to the book attended the launch including Ailsa Cox, Mark Goodall and Rob Sheppard above. Rob was just passing me another bottle of the Malcolm Lowry Golden Ale which has been brewed for the festival!
After the book launch, we had an opportunity to view the exhibition which accompanies the festival. I will be posting more details on the exhibition in the next few posts.
Friday, 18 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Malcolm Lowry described Liverpool as ‘that terrible city whose main street is the ocean’. Born on the Wirral side of the river Mersey, Lowry’s relationship to the Merseyside of his youth informs all of his writing and Liverpool itself continued to hold tremendous significance for him, even though he never returned. Published in conjunction with a festival and exhibition at Liverpool’s Bluecoat arts centre celebrating Lowry’s centenary, this beautifully produced book showcases a variety of creative and critical approaches to Lowry and his work, and includes twelve specially commissioned pieces of new writing. There is a particular focus on place and on journeys; contributors write from the UK, Europe, Canada and Mexico, and reflect both on Lowry’s ‘voyage that never ends’ and on their own journeys with and through Lowry’s work. The book also demonstrates the richness of Lowry’s influence on contemporary visual artists and includes full-colour illustrations throughout. It will be an indispensable companion for anyone interested in the creative legacy of Malcolm Lowry’s life and work.
I am very pleased to announce that the book is now available. This is an essential read for anyone interested in Lowry. However, the imaginative construction of the book may excite readers to delve into Lowry for the first time, dig out Lowry's books again or move beyond Under The Volcano and explore Lowry's other work.
Helen Tookey and Bryan Biggs, the editors, have assembled 12 essays written by a wide spectrum of people including myself. The editors say in their introduction; "the essays take a variety of approaches - creative, literary-critical, geographical, theoretical, fictional, anecdotal - to Lowry and his work."
Malcolm Lowry from the Mersey to the World: Synopsis
Ian McMillan(poet and broadcaster) Malcolm Lowry: who he was and who I was and who I
"Poet Ian McMillan begins with a personal story of his encounter with Under the Volcano – ‘a story of misreading and mishearings and misunderstandings and long hours at sea and long hours on trains"."
Colin Dilnot (Wirral-based artist/writer) Lowry's Wirral
In my essay, I provide a snapshot of my ongoing project to investigate and map the geographical contours of Lowry’s early years
Cian Quayle (Manx artist/writer) Elliptical Journeys: Malcolm Lowry, exile and return
Manx artist Cian Quayle reflects, through text and images, on the place and meanings of the Isle of Man for Lowry
Michele Gemelos (University of Cambridge) Lunatic City: Lowry's Lunar Caustic and New York
"Michele Gemelos gives an intriguing reading of the Liverpool/New York dynamic, and the complexities of home, family and origins, in Lowry’s novella Lunar Caustic; ‘writing in New York’, she argues, Lowry uses a distinctively ‘Liverpool’ literary voice ‘to capture another city in similar crisis, to balance its contradictions, and to try to deal with those personal ones that he imported’."
Alberto Rebollo (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) It's not Mexico of course, but in the heart..." Lowry seen from Quauhnahhauc
"From New York we travel south to Mexico, the setting and the genius loci of Lowry’s masterwork. Alberto Rebollo, guiding spirit of the Malcolm Lowry Foundation in Cuernavaca, gives an impassioned account of Lowry as the writer who, more even than most Mexican writers, has captured the truth of Mexico – and who, beyond any considerations of place, has written a novel of ‘human solidarity against death, human solidarity against isolation and the devastation of the world’."
Mark Goodall (University of Bradford) Lowrytrek: towards a psychogeography of Malcolm Lowry's Wirral
"At the centre of the book, and as it were giving a conceptual grounding to the whole, Mark Goodall gives background to the notion of ‘psychogeography’ and makes a convincing case both for the value of such an approach to Lowry and for Lowry’s own creative process as fundamentally psychogeographic; as he points out, in his letter to Cape Lowry describes the first chapter of Under the Volcano as ‘above all establish[ing] the terrain’."
Ailsa Cox (short-story writer/Edge Hill University) No se puede vivir sin amar
Mark’s piece is followed by Ailsa Cox’s short story, "which takes up the themes, so central to Under the Volcano, of circulating words – letters which may or may not reach their destination, may or may not even be sent – and of the absolute necessity, above all, of love."
Annick Drösdal-Levillain (Strasbourg University) Eridanus, Liverpool: Echoes and transformations at the edge of eternity
"From the volcanic landscapes of Mexico we follow Lowry to the northern idyll of Dollarton, Canada. Annick Drösdal-Levillain shows how Lowry’s Canadian ‘paradise’ was fundamentally imbued with the Wirral of his childhood; at the same time, she celebrates the ‘echo-system’ of Lowry’s writing, beautifully revealing the ‘treasures’ his work holds for ‘the reader willing to lend a “floating ear”’"
Nicholas Murray (Liverpool-born writer) Uxorius prose: Malcolm Lowry's October Ferry to Gabriola
"Liverpool-born Nicholas Murray also focuses on Lowry’s Canadian writing, in this case recounting how Lowry’s last work, the unfinished October Ferry to Gabriola, appeared in his own life as a book he was ‘destined to read’; October Ferry, Murray argues, is ‘occasionally a flawed novel, but it is a richly rewarding and haunting one in its celebration of human freedom and the determination to find a meaningful path or embark on the redeeming voyage’."
Michael Turner (Vancouver-based writer) The Malcolm Lowry Room
"Approaching Lowry from a rather different angle, writer and musician Michael Turner tells the wonderful story of how he came to create The Malcolm Lowry Room, a Vancouver nightclub ‘within mortar fire’ of Lowry’s Dollarton paradise, popular with bikers, playing host to the fabulous-sounding Demolition Doll Rods (‘a band that performed naked but for carefully placed pieces of gaffer tape, with two of the members in the midst of gender reassignment’), and presided over by huge photos of our hero himself ‘in his bathing trunks, standing guard’."
Robert Sheppard (poet and writer/Edge Hill University) Malcolm Lowry's land
"Finally, we come full circle. Writer and poet Robert Sheppard weaves together multiple times and multiple journeys to create a haunting (and haunted) depiction of his pilgrimage to Lowry’s grave in Ripe, Sussex."
Gordon Bowker (literary biographer; author of Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry)Malcolm Lowry: neglected genius
"Gordon Bowker, author of the highly acclaimed biography of Lowry, Pursued by Furies, provides an overview of Lowry’s life and his place in the literary pantheon; he is, Bowker argues, ‘probably the most neglected genius of modern English literature’."
You can buy the book directly from the Liverpool University Press or from Amazon UK
Bluecoat to celebrate ‘lost’ literary hero
Malcolm Lowry Centenary Festival
25/9/09 to 22/11/09
Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX
His classic novel Under the Volcano has been hailed as a modern masterpiece by Time magazine, Modern Library and most notably Nobel literature prize winner Gabriel Garcia Márquez.
Add to that an intriguing personal life including battles with alcoholism, worldwide travels and a mysterious death in 1957 and in Malcolm Lowry you have one of Merseyside’s most fascinating and significant writers.
Over the next eight weeks from 25 September the Bluecoat celebrates the New Brighton born author’s centenary with an ambitious programme that includes an exhibition, book, live music, dance, talks and special participatory events such as a Mexican Day of the Dead altar dedicated to Lowry.
The influence of Lowry’s work, especially Under the Volcano, which is set in Mexico on the Day of the Dead on the eve of the Second World War, has extended beyond writers to visual artists, and this free exhibition brings together twelve from Merseyside, the UK, Mexico and Chile, who respond to Lowry in different ways.
Paintings by Julian Cooper (from his Under the Volcano series), Pete Flowers and Adrian Henri (taking a Day of the Dead in Liverpool theme), are shown alongside watercolours, loaned from the Tate Gallery, by Edward Burra who visited Lowry in the 1930s in Cuernavaca. This town in Mexico, where Under the Volcano is set, is home to Cisco Jiménez, represented here with sculptures.
Another Latin American artist, Jorge Martínez García, exhibits a series of prints, and there are cartoons by Ray Lowry (NME, the Clash) and Brian O’Toole. Cian Quayle’s film and photographs interrogate Lowry’s fascination with the Isle of Man. Liverpool artist and Northern Art Prizewinner Paul Rooney has made a new film, commissioned by the Bluecoat with Film & Video Umbrella, drawing on Lowry’s time in New York, and Ross Birrell & David Harding’s film installation follows Lowry’s footsteps to the Mexican volcanoes that inspired his great novel. The exhibition also includes films and rare and previously unseen material relating to Lowry’s Merseyside upbringing, collated by Wirral resident Colin Dilnot.
Portraying the Wirral in his 1947 masterpiece Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry recalled: ‘The smoke of freighters outward bound from Liverpool hung low on the horizon’. Outward bound: at the age of seventeen Lowry was already eager to explore the world. Yet at the same time he retained always in his mind, and in his writing, his early years by the Mersey.
In 1927 Lowry forsook the comforts of his home at Inglewood, Caldy, overlooking the River Dee, for a rigorous sea journey, shipping as a deckhand at £2.10s a month on the steamer SS Pyrrhus sailing from Birkenhead, bound for the Far East. This marked the beginning of thirty years of voyaging that would take in two marriages, three continents, several jails, a couple of psychiatric hospitals, and a squatter’s shack; and would leave in its wake both thousands of empty bottles and hundreds of thousands of words, including arguably one of the greatest twentieth-century novels in English.
Artistic director at the Bluecoat, Bryan Biggs said: ‘This exhibition, book and events programme at the Bluecoat aims to re-claim Malcolm Lowry for Merseyside, and to position him as a writer very much for today. His masterpiece, Under the Volcano, has been claimed one of the top 20 books of the last century, yet he remains relatively unknown in his home town. Like Lowry, our programme has an international outlook, whilst being rooted in Merseyside. We hope that it will help to restore the writer to his rightful position as one of our truly great creative and cultural exports.’
Exhibition: Under the Volcano: An Exhibition for Malcolm Lowry (1909 – 1957) Open daily 10.00am – 6.00pm. Free
Other programme highlights include:
Donald Brittain’s Canadian TV documentary Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (1976). Daily during the exhibition, Fri 25 September to Sun 22 November.
Two films shown at FACT, John Huston’s Under the Volcano (starring Albert Finney), and one of Lowry’s favourite films, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.
A music strand in response to Lowry’s passion for jazz and his own skills on the taropatch (ukulele), includes a contemporary song cycle written by poet Ian McMillan and musician Luke Carver Goss, performed by acclaimed Liverpool choir Sense of Sound. Sat 21 November.
A performance choreographed by Angus Balbernie and inspired by the Lowry legend. Sat 10 October.
Lowry specialists and writers respond to Lowry’s life and work, including his biographer Gordon Bowker (Wed 14 October), whose Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry is re-published by Faber and Colin Dilnot, who gives an illustrated talk about Lowry’s childhood on the Wirral and references to Merseyside throughout his writing. Tues 10 November
Lowry Day Sat 31 October
The Voyage That Never Ends is a 12 hour psychogeographical day, journeying by ferry, coach and foot to resonant sites on Merseyside, with hymn singing, hot jazz, films and much more.
Lowry Day of the Dead Altar Sun 1 November
Join Mexican artist Javier Calderon and local people in creating an altar dedicated to Lowry.
Malcolm Lowry: From the Mersey to the World, published by Liverpool University Press and the Bluecoat featuring 12 new texts by Lowry experts and many new images.
For full programme visit www.thebluecoat.org.uk
Friday, 4 September 2009
A young Malc was taken by his father to see a version of Shakespeare's play at the Birkenhead Hippodrome circa 1919 (Bowker Pursued By Furies P 16).
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England (ruled 1377–1399) and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's successors: Henry IV, part 1, Henry IV, part 2, and Henry V. It may not have been written as a stand-alone work.
Although the First Folio (1623) edition of Shakespeare's works lists the play as a history play, the earlier Quarto edition of 1597 calls itself The tragedie of King Richard the second. Read more on Wikipedia
I see it as one of the greatest and most moving films of all time, one that is also a return to a great tradition of the movies, something that should combine the emotional impact of Griffith's Broken Blossoms and Isn't Life Wonderful with Citizen Kane. Letter to Frank Taylor 29 September 1949 discussing his film script for Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night.
This was one of the first films Malc ever saw as a child leaving a lasting impression (Bowker Pursued By Furies P 16).
Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl is a 1919 silent film directed by D.W. Griffith. It was distributed by United Artists and premiered on May 13, 1919. It stars Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess and Donald Crisp, and tells the story of young girl, Lucy Burrows, who is abused by her alcoholic prizefighting father, Battling Burrows, and meets Cheng Huan, a kind-hearted Chinese man who falls in love with her. It is based on Thomas Burke's The Chink and the Child. Read more on Wikipedia
You can watch the whole movie on You Tube
Abe gives his own background in movies: "I saw Buster Keaton in Seven Chances - I saw Intolerance." The cinema of Malcolm Lowry: a scholarly edition of Lowry's "Tender is the Night
No, but what's really funny, it was a D.W. Griffith film, Intolerance — or maybe Way Down East." Or perhaps (and ah, the eerie significance of cinemas in our life, Ethan thought, as if they related to the afterlife, as if we knew October Ferry to Gabriola
We went to see the old silent film Intolerance - played straight through without any music at all - a great mistake, since Griffith wrote his own score. Letter to Downie Kirk 13 December 1950
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Through the Ages is a 1916 American silent film directed by D. W. Griffith and is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Silent Era. The three-and-a-half hour epic intercuts four parallel storylines each separated by several centuries: A contemporary melodrama of crime and redemption; a Judean story: Christ’s mission and death; a French story: the events surrounding the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572; and a Babylonian story: the fall of the Babylonian Empire to Persia in 539 BC.
Intolerance was made partly in response to critics who protested against Griffith's previous film, The Birth of a Nation (1915), charging that it had overt racist content, characterizing racism as people's intolerance of other people's views. Read more on Wikipedia
You can watch the whole film on You Tube
Thursday, 3 September 2009
And there had been nothing that mattered, save only themselves and the blue sky as they scampered like children past the Hall Line shed to the harbour wall just in time to see the Norwegian tramp steamer Oxenstjerna pass through the gate of the inner dock, while a scratch four paused on their oars watching her entrance steadfastly, their striped singlets dancing in the afternoon sunlight. Ultramarine
The Hall Line shed stood on the Wallasey side of the Great Float in Birkenhead Docks near to the Duke Street swing bridge.
Robert Alexander started shipowning in the 1850s and in 1868 founded the Sun Shipping Co., Liverpool which operated cargo and passenger services. The ships were named _____HALL, the company became known as the Hall Line, and in 1899 the name was officially changed to Hall Line Ltd. The company was purchased in 1901 by John Ellerman and continued operating as part of the Ellerman Group as Ellerman's Hall Line. Below is a photograph of a Hall Line ship The City Of Cairo built in 1915 and which would have been a familiar sight at the Hall Line sheds in Birkenhead during the 1920's
People rowing would also have been a familiar sight in the Great Float as it is today. The photograph shows a scratch four training from Wallasey Grammar School in the Great Float sometime in the 1930s. The Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club have been rowing in the Great Float since the 1884 and their boathouse is located near to the former Bidston Dock site. If you go to their site you can see a photograph of one of their oarsmen with a striped singlet as described by Lowry.
It is not surprising that Lowry has chosen to have a Norwegian ship entering the docks given the Norwegian heritage of Hilliot the main protagonist of Ultramarine which reflected Lowry's desire to adopt Norway as his spiritual or even sometimes his imaginary home.
The above ship Bravore would have been typical of the kind of Norwegian ships that would have visited Birkenhead Docks in the 1920's.
The Oxenstjerna acts a catalyst in Hilliot's mind to remind him of how Janet and his love first grew in Norway as they had both seen the ship in Oslo Fjord. I cannot find any ship with the name of Oxenstjerna and we can only speculate why Lowry chose this name. The ship in Ultramarine is named after a Swedish minister as we discover when Hilliot tells Janet the source of the name on the way home on the Liscard bus after seeing the ship.
Oxenstjerna is an ancient Swedish senatorial family, the origin of which can be traced up to the middle of the 14th century, which had vast estates in S6dermanland and Uppland, and began to adopt its armorial designation of Oxenstjerna (" Ox-forehead") as a personal name towards the end of the 16th century. Its most notable member was Count Axel Gustafsson (1583-1614), chancellor of Sweden, 1911 Encyclopedia
Had he not sought her in the town and meadow and in the sky? Had he not prayed to Jesus to give him rest, and found none until the hour they met? Again, they seemed to be sitting together on the sand dunes, staring at the sky; great wings had whirred above them, stooping, dreaming, comforting, while the sand imprinted like snow, had been whistled up about them by the wind Ultramarine
The above passage from Lowry's Ultramarine comes just after Hilliot's (Lowry's) day dream of the smells of Birkenhead and Liverpool as Hilliot day dreams about Janet the lover he left behind in Liscard, Wirral.
These reminisces are based on Lowry's love affair with Tess Evans and the above passage clearly demonstrates his affection for Tess. I am currently pulling everything together what I know about Tess for a longer post on Lowry's early love.
In the 1920's, the north coastline of the Wirral looked very different to today's. The coastline from New Brighton to Meols consisted of sand dunes and was much nearer to the wild place described in my post on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Wrecker. Gradually from the 1930's onwards, the coast was tamed with concrete sea defences with new promenades and roads.
In the spring of 1927, Lowry and Tess could have walked off the old promenade by the Marine Park in New Brighton (see above map) then walked along the beach towards Harrison Park. They would have passed the Yellow and Red Noses which were high sandstone cliffs above the beach.
They would have continued their walk up towards the sand dunes which ran in front of the railway line from Birkenhead to New Brighton passing Warren Point near to where Lowry was born in North Drive.
They could have stopped to sit anywhere between Harrison Park and Leasowe as the dunes would have stretched for nearly 2 miles before reaching lower ground around Moreton.
When they stopped to sit, Hilliot (Lowry) was thinking of escape by a sea voyage:
Beyond, a freighter carried their dreams with it over the horizon. Ultramarine
From the tops of the sand dunes, you would have had wonderful views of the Mersey Estuary with ships leaving the mouth of the river. Perhaps, this is when Lowry told Tess that he intended to fulfill his dreams of adventure by going to sea on board a Blue Funnel Line ship.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Lowry wrote to his teenage friend Carol Brown:
A gramophone playing "Rhapsody In Blue" reminding me of you awfully. Letter To Carol Brown April/May 1926 Collected Letters Of Malcom Lowry Vol. 1
Malcolm is writing to Carol from the Leys School. We can only imagine that they may have shared moments together when the song was played on his trips back to the Wirral on school holidays. Lowry often uses music as others have done to capture moments in time. His novels and stories often contain musical references as if it was a soundtrack to the story on the screen of his mind.
We can see the above in Tender Is The Night film script which was written by Malc and his wife Margerie as they litter the script with music. One such piece of music occurs early on in the script:
From a window in the tower - doubtless still a barracks - we hear a gramophone playing jazz music faintly: Gershwin's Somebody Loves Me
Lowry mentions the above track to Carol Brown in a letter to her in June 1926 when he realises that his love is not going to be reciprocated by Carol.
Lowry asks her to remember the song on the other side of "Just A Little Drink" - on Columbia. This can only refer to the California Ramblers track "Dromedary" which is the other side of the 78. I am not certain why he refers to the track as a reference to be be remembered by except that a dromedary is an Arabian camel and Malc used the alias Camel when he wrote for the Leys School magazine Fortnightly.
Unfortuantely, I was only able to find a snippet of the song. However, here's the Paul Whiteman Orchestra's version of "Just A Little Drink" which could have been Malc's theme song!
One of the most popular jazz outfits of the 1920s, the California Ramblers were also certainly the most prolific. Though signed with Columbia Records they waived all royalties with the label for the right to record for other companies under differing names. Throughout the decade they recorded for practically every label in the United States, Canada and Great Britain using 111 different pseudonyms, however they most often worked under the Rambler's title and the nom de plume ''Golden Gate Orchestra.''
The name California Ramblers is deceiving as most of the original members of the band were from Ohio. Their career began when agent Ed Kirkeby found them work in New York accompanying singer Eva Shirley. The group soon began arguing amongst themselves, however, and broke up. Leader Ray Kitchingham then took over Arthur Hand's orchestra, which at that time included such personnel as Red Nichols and the Dorsey Brothers. Kirkeby found the new group work, which included a stay at the Post Lodge in Pelham, New York. The lodge later changed its name to the California Ramblers Inn, and the group took its moniker.
The orchestra first recorded in 1921 and was instantly successful. Its lively rhythms and hot solos, different than the staid dance music of other white orchestras, caught the public's ear. Standing out on many of the recordings was the bass sax work of Adrian Rollini. Rollini shunned the traditional role of the instrument as rhythm and emerged as a soloist, giving the group a distinctive flavor. Trumpeter Bill Moore became the first permanent black member of a white orchestra when he joined in the early 1920s, though most audiences never knew, as the Ramblers had become primarily a studio orchestra. At various time vocals were by Kirkeby, Artie Dunn, Billy Jones, Irving Kaufman, Arthur Hall, and Sammy Fain.
In 1924 Kirkeby formed a quintet with some of the group members in order to exploit the public taste for ''hot'' jazz and novelty numbers. Called the Goofus Five (a ''goofus'' was a small instrument that looked like a saxophone but sounded like a harmonica), the outfit eventually expanded to seven or eight members and recorded for the Okeh label. Vocals were sparing on Goofus Five recordings but when present were handled variously by Beth Challis, Russell Douglas, Ernest Hare, Billy Jones, Earl Rickerd and Blanche Vincent. The group stopped recording in 1927.
1927 also marked a turning point for the Ramblers. After a successful tour of England, many of the band's key musicians decided to remain behind when it came time to return to the United States, including Adrian Rollini. The Ramblers' sound suffered considerably. The new orchestra focused more on dance music than on jazz and the group's popularity and novelty declined. Rollini returned in 1929 for the outfit's ''final'' recording. Various units, however, recorded under the Rambler names throughout the 1930s. Solid
Here's a tune which Malc probably sang many times after leaving the pub:
Lowry mentions the above song in a letter to Carol Brown in June 1926. There is a suggestion that the version he is referring to was recorded by the Savoy Orpheans. I have been unable to find such a recording. It is possible that the song, which was a hit in its day, was only played on the Savoy Orpheans radio show.
I believe the original song to have been recorded by Gene Austin in 1924.The lyrics were written by Bud Green - Music by James V. Monaco & Harry Warren with a ukulele arrangment by Dick Konter.Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a copy of the song by Gene Austin to post. However, I did find a copy by Cliff Edwards from 1924:
I did discover that Josephine Baker also recorded The Only, Only One For Me which I am waiting to hear and I will post the song as soon as it arrives. In the meantime, while searching for the song, I came across these an exceptional pieces of video of Josephine Baker which was new to me called The Plantation - Les Revue Des Revues from 1927.
Gabrielle, an ambitious but innocent would-be young chorine, trumps a music hall publicity stunt to become the new Parisian nightclub Cinderella. But this lighter-than-champagne-bubbles story is only a pretext for La Revue des Revues white-hot, non-stop precession of outrageously and scantily attired exotic dancers, showgirls and acrobats. But its Josephine Baker, "the high priestess of primitivism" (J. Hoberman - Village Voice), who triumphs in two show stopping numbers in which "her clownish backfield-in-motion Charleston shimmy is unlike anything else in the movie and perhaps unlike anything anyone ever did.
In 1925, Malcolm Lowry was given a copy of Stevenson's novel as a prize by his school magazine Fortnightly at the Leys in Cambridge.
The Wrecker (1892) is a novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson in collaboration with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. The story is a 'sprawling, episodic adventure story, a comedy of brash manners and something of a detective mystery'. It revolves around the abandoned wreck of the Flying Scud at Midway Island. Clues in a stamp collection are used to track down the missing crew and solve the mystery. It is only in the last chapter that different story elements become linked.
This novel is an early example of one of the literary influences that stirred Lowry's desire to travel the world and escape the confines of his Ingelwood home in Caldy.
What also may have appealed to Lowry's imagination in Stevenson's story is that the Wirral had a long history of wrecking due to its former isolation, treacherous coastline and the abundance of shipping passing the Northern coast en route to the port of Liverpool. Lowry must have known that his birthplace was steeped in tales of wreckers and smugglers and that as he wandered over the sand dunes or beaches of North Wirral that he was stepping in the footsteps of the notorious wreckers. Perhaps that's why he chose the book as a prize?
By one of those Lowryean coincidences, one of the more famous instances of wrecking on the Wirral coast was that of the Pennsylvania in 1838, a ship who shared the same name as the one Lowry sailed to Mexico on in 1936 which was the basis of his greatest work Under The Volcano.
The above painting is inscribed as follows:
The loss of the Pennsylvania, New York Packet Ship, the Lockwoods Emigrant ship, the Saint Andrew Packet ship and the Victoria from Charleston, near Liverpool, during the hurricane on Monday & Tuesday Jany 7th & 8th 1839. Also the Ward from St Johns at anchor; the Victoria Steam Tug towing the Lifeboat and the Mountaineer steamer, with a view of Leasowe Lighthouse & Bidston Hill. This print is intended to represent the vessels shortly after they struck on the Tuesday afternoon from particulars given to the artist by Captain Sprowle of The Lockwoods; Captain Thompson of the Saint Andrew and by Captain Candler of the Victoria. Mike Kemble
Following the wreck on the Wirral coast in January 1839 of the packet ship 'Pennsylvania' en route from Liverpool to New York during a hurricane-force storm, a Liverpool newspaper commented, 'We lament to find that these infamous wretches, the wreckers, have been at their fiendlike occupation, plundering what the elements have spared, instead of seeking to alleviate the calamities of their fellow creatures. The wreckers who infest the Cheshire coast were not long in rendering the catastrophe a source of emolument to themselves. The property of the passengers and crew where plundered by them to an alarming extent.'
You can read more details of the wreck of the Pennsylvania here.
A new book on the subject of Wirral Smugglers and Wreckers has just been published:
The book is the first authoritative, illustrated, full-length account of smuggling and related activities in Wirral. Covering the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it represents the first book-length account concerning this important chapter in Wirral's heritage. Not only does it describe familiar facts in great detail - Mother Redcap and her smugglers' tavern on the Wallasey shore, the labyrinth of smugglers' tunnels stretching from the Red Noses in New Brighton throughout Wallasey, and the wreckers who used to prey upon Liverpool-bound shipping - it also covers the less well-known aspects of Wirral's piratical past, including smuggling in Parkgate and Heswall, and the swashbuckling adventures of Captain Fortunatus Wright - the Wallasey privateer.
The theme of wrecks and groundings of vessels crops up many times in Lowry's writing both in his novels, short stories, poems as well as his letters. I will return to the subject in a later post.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (German: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) is a 1920 silent film directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It is one of the most influential of German Expressionist films.
The film was a favourite of Malc. The film is being shown as part of the festival in Liverpool to celebrate Lowry's centenary later this year. Lowry could have been first first exposed to the film during his forays to the Century Cinema in Liverpool but he could have also seen the film in Germany on his visit in 1928.
We can gauge the importance of The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari and other German Expressionist films to Lowry when he voiced to Clemens ten Holder in a 1951 letter, that he would be very happy to have his novel Under the Volcano made in German in the style of the great Expressionist movies such as Caligari.
The deranged Dr. Caligari and his faithful sleepwalking Cesare are connected to a series of murders in a German mountain village, Holstenwall. Caligari presents an example of a motion picture "frame story" in which most of the plot is presented as a "flashback", as told by Francis.
The narrator, Francis, and his friend Alan visit a carnival in the village where they see Dr. Caligari and the somnambulist Cesare, whom the doctor is displaying as an attraction. Caligari brags that Cesare can answer any question he is asked. When Alan asks Cesare how long he has to live, Cesare tells Alan that he will die before dawn tomorrow – a prophecy which is fulfilled.
Francis, along with his girlfriend Jane, investigate Caligari and Cesare, which eventually results in Cesare kidnapping Jane. Caligari orders Cesare to kill Jane, but the hypnotized slave refuses after her beauty captivates him. He carries Jane out of her house, leading the townsfolk on a lengthy chase. Cesare falls to his death during the pursuit, and the townsfolk discover that Caligari had created a dummy to distract Francis.
Francis discovers that "Caligari" is actually the director of the local insane asylum, and, with the help of his colleagues, discovers that he is obsessed with the story of a Dr. Caligari, who, in 1703, in northern Italy used a somnambulist to murder people as a traveling act. After being confronted with the dead Cesare, Caligari reveals his mania and is imprisoned in his asylum.
A "twist ending" reveals that Francis' flashback is actually his fantasy: he, Jane and Cesare are all inmates of the insane asylum, and the man he says is Caligari is his asylum doctor, who, after this revelation of the source of his patient's delusion, says that now he will be able to cure Francis.
Here is a highly quality clip which I have recently come across and is a better print than the whole movie clip on Internet Archive:
While researching this post, I came across a very interesting 2005 project which involved a re-make of the film which is described in the 2 videos below and sounds fascinating. I am yet to see the finished product.
You can watch a copy of the 1920 film below:
Lowry spent time in the 1930's in Sussex with his mentor Conrad Aiken in Rye. However, his first recorded visit to the South Coast happened in the summer of 1925, Malcolm's parents went abroad and he was sent off on holiday to Children's Special Service Mission held at St Andrews School in Eastbourne Sussex.
In 1867 Josiah Spiers spoke to 15 children in a drawing room in Islington, London, and began the work of sharing the Christian message with children in a way that related to their real needs. This led to the founding of the Children's Special Service Mission (CSSM) which was later to become "Scripture Union".
The following year, Spiers travelled to Llandudno, North Wales on holiday and began to tell the children there about his faith. He drew the text "God is Love" in the sand, invited children to decorate it, and then told them a Bible story.
At about the same time as Spiers held his meeting in Islington, brothers Samuel and James Tyler and Tom Bond Bishop started a similar meeting in Blackfriars Road, south of the river Thames. Similarly Henry Hankinson and Henry Hutchinson had started meetings in Mildmay Park. All of them had come under the influence of Rev Edward Payson Hammond, a controversial American preacher who had visited London in the early summer of 1867 and held meetings for both children and Sunday School teachers. Hammond's idea was simple: informal, special services for children. Despite the controversy which it sparked amongst Sunday School teachers, Spiers and the others were convinced.
Spiers quickly established the CSSM as a mission to oversee his work in Islington. By August 1868 Bishop had joined the committee and by the end of the year, Hankinson was also a member, bringing in the Mildmay Park meetings as well. Whilst Spiers was the engaging children's speaker, Bishop had the organising ability and became the Honorary Secretary. The working partnership of Bond and Spiers was to last for more than 40 years and be the foundation of a movement which has spread to more than 130 countries.
In 1879 CSSM started the Children's Scripture Union, a system of daily Bible reading. A membership card had a list of daily readings, and this was soon complemented by explanatory notes in children’s magazines. Booklets of notes were published for troops in the trenches during the Great War from 1914-18, and led to the first issue of Daily Notes in 1923.
In 1892 the first Boys’ Camp was started in Littlehampton by Major Leibenrood, a veteran from the Zulu War. The following year, the Caravan Mission to Village Children (CMVC) was started using a bakers’ cart. The CMVC became part of CSSM, but in 1960 Scripture Union became the official name of the organisation. Wikipedia
According to Lowry's biographer Gordon Bowker, Lowry spent the entire holiday of 10 days frequenting the pubs and cinemas of Eastbourne.
The first cinema to open in Eastbourne was the Electric Picture Hall in 1908. Quickly others followed: the Gallery Cinema (July 1913) where the main entrance to the Arndale Centre now stands. In 1914, cinemas opened at the rate of one every two months: there was the Winter Gardens (see below as Devonshire Park), with the cinema on the first floor.
The Old Town Cinema which stood on a site now occupied by Safeway's Food Stores, the Empire, which changed its name numerous times and is now the Mecca bingo hall in Seaside, and opposite, the Eastern, which finished its life as the Regal (See below)
If you look above the shop that now stands in its place you will see the old flag posts and on the east side, the entrance to the projection box reached by a metal ladder. In 1919, the Central cinema opened in Seaside Road, it's still there though sadly derelict.
The only cinema that has survived is the Curzon, formerly the Picturedrome in Langney Road, opened in 1920. In March 1973, the Curzon was converted into a triple cinema with seating for 537, 238 and 237 respectively. Eastbourne Voice
There was also the Tivoli Cinema as seen below.
We have no record of what films Lowry saw during his stay in Eastbourne or which pubs he may have visited. I have picked out a clip of Hitchcock's "Pleasure Garden" from a film made in 1925:
Or perhaps Rupert Julian's "Phantom Of The Opera" with undertones of "The Hands Or Orlac":