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Credit Crunch by Eddie Farrell and Henningham Family Press is on show in the Summer Exhibition (167) in room II. They are black screenprints on flattened cereal packets.

Edition of 70
£165 framed
£65 unframed

Purchasers can approach the Summer Exhibition sales desk in the vestibule at the exhibition, or contact them on 0207 300 5683

Click here to see a PDF document showing details of all 70 copies available in the edition

This same document will be emailed to purchasers of the Credit Crunch at the Royal Academy so they can make their selection, as cereal packets vary.

The most advanced print technology in the world is used to make food packaging, rather than fine art prints. We are surrounded by amazing print in the supermarket. The cereal itself is very cheap, it is the print and distribution costs that we pay for, making this one of the biggest print markets in the world.

Two of our publications have been selected for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition! Our third entry was also shortlisted! We are delighted to be taking part; we love the fact it has been running for hundreds of years, and the fact that we’ll be exhibiting alongside grannies and the YBAs simultaneously. In the show you will see,

The nth Convention (Julie Rafalski, Tahu Deans, David Henningham)


Credit Crunch (Eddie Farrell and Henningham Family Press)

and shortlisted, but not quite making it to the wall,

Monday School Illuminations (David Henningham)

We continue our collection of off-the-beaten-track press coverage with this contribution from the Financial Times on our Christie’s stall, (and readable online here)

“The most modest prices are to be found at the Henningham Family Press, which will bring along a mobile printing workshop and offer…a takeaway work printed on chipboard for less than the price of a bag of chips.”

They also include an image of Eddie Farrell’s ‘Credit Crunch’, ideal for their readership.

Our ambition for the future is to be featured as the photo in the middle of a crossword puzzle in ‘Puzzler’ magazine.

It’s funny you should mention the Palast der Republik as I pass the former sight of this building every other day. Now being a large green site in the centre of Berlin it has also become a very contentious space as last year the German Parliament agreed funding to rebuild the Schloss/ palace ( destroyed at the end of the 2nd world war) on this sight before The Palast der Republik. There have been a series of campaigns protesting against any costly rebuilding particularly if it means recreating a symbol of despotic rule from earlier times. I have heard it voiced that one of the main reasons given for dismantling the Palast der Republik was the high amount of asbestos found in it. One view, which argued against the Palast der Republics complete demolition, felt that the governing parties want to rid Berlin of as many of the former DDR symbols as possible and that using the Asbestos argument to dismantle the whole building was just an excuse to get rid of it because if they seriously applied the same rule to the whole of Berlin they would have to destroy an unimaginable amount of Buildings. Other former West Berliners talk with some nostalgia of day visits to the Palast der Republik before the wall came down. Tacky is a word that’s used a lot. Although fun is another. Drinking dancing and Volksmusik seemed to be on the menu and there are a few snippets of this to be seen on You Tube which may supplement your post card image.

I am not sure when the building work will start so in the meantime it remains an impressive open grass space in the centre of the city. Last winter the green space became white with snow for a couple of months and played host to one of the best exhibitions that I’ve seen in a years. Thankfully Katharine Eastman did the necessary documentation which you can see in these photos.

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Carry On Fighting

August 24th, 2010 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (1 Comments)

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I am no stranger to being beaten up. Teenage years in Glenrothes, a Scottish Newtown took care of that. It was the 1970s; flared baggy trousers, Simon shirts, Glam rock and loads of gangs. And although nearly all the boys had long flicky hair it was a time when boys were boys and girls were girls. Beating the crap out of another boy was respected and would earn you a position on the toughest boy league table. Lee, a good friend of mine had such a position and from time to time would be challenged to a square go to keep it. I remember when Jimmy Philip did just that, resulting in a marathon scrap over several school lunch breaks. Each day Lee would bring a change of clothes to school for his dinner time fight. This always began with a flurry of kicks and punches, which quickly settled into a stalemate clutch; straining red faces with hair, mouth and nostril pulling. Surrounded by a crowd of baying pupils on the outer edge of the school playing fields, they were finally pulled apart on the third day by McPhail, the Chemistry teacher. He punished their display of violence by belting them.

I was a useless fighter but because I was one of the bigger boys I would be challenged now and again. I had some stock defensive tricks which only succeeded in making my assailants even madder. I used one of these when a furious McMinn ran towards me at speed across the school yard. I waited until he was almost upon me then ducked down onto my hands and knees. His momentum sent him clattering painfully over my crouching body onto the gravel. When he got up however, boy was he mad. I took a real scratching and thumping before managing to hold things in a stalemate clutch that was thankfully broken up by the janitor. The problem I had was getting angry enough to hit someone back. In every fight or attack on me, and there were many in my teenage years, I can truly say I was never able to enter into the spirit of the thing. It felt too much like the attackers thing and all I could do was let them get on with it. I was strong enough in most cases to protect myself. This I did by curling up in order to cover my head, stomach and genitals. Then it was all about waiting for the other to get bored by punching and kicking themselves out.

When the Punk movement and attitude swept across the country in the late 1970s I was ready to tune into it immediately. Within this refreshing wave of change I found, a more constructive outlet for my own teenage anger which didn’t involve physically thumping my fellow man. The only problem being my fellow men didn’t see it that way. So, much like the effect of my earlier ducking technique it served only to make them more violent towards me. It was like I was betraying some old and noble tradition of kicking the shit out of people and the reprisals I received for my heresy from some of the most psychopathic upholders of that code were truly horrific. In getting my hair cut short and wearing different clothes I had also broken my cover. The attacks increased. On one particular night out with friends, I was attacked on 3 separate occasions each time by a different set of assailants, earning myself a dislocated jaw and putting one of my friends into hospital. By the time I left the Newtown at the age of 19, I had had my nose broken as many times as my age.

After Glenrothes, studying in Aberdeen in the mid 1980’s was relatively nonviolent. This may have been in part to the extra pair of eyes in the back of my head I’d acquired. However, the Aberdeen Casuals were riding high at that time and walking home from the pub one Saturday night with two friends we encountered a couple of them. We had stopped off at the all night Bakery in George Street. While being served the two sports-casual clad loons came in, one thin, wiry and nervous the other, just big. We left with our rolls and juice and continued our journey towards Kittybrewster. Shortly after we heard them close behind; a bit pissed, chanting and singing. Soon they were directing their venom towards us, which we ignored and kept walking. Still they kept snapping ever closer and louder from behind like yappy dogs at our ankles. Inevitably a skirmish broke out, but then ended just as quickly as it began. One of the friends, a gentle giant from Govern, suddenly brought a full bottle of Iron Bru smashing down onto the big ones head. For a couple of seconds there was complete silence then blood began flowing down over his face. We were all completely stunned, not least the one who was now standing with just the top and jagged glass remains of his Iron Bru. After that an odd peace ensued, we helped patch up the big ones head to stop the bleeding and began walking up the road together, with only the occasional outburst from the wiry one, threatening retributions.

I experienced a whole new aspect of violence or certainly the threat of it some ten years later in Edinburgh. Of all things I had agreed to go and play a game of Cricket for the Maccabi club. Over the phone a very charming elderly man had told me to just come along to the Murrayfield playing fields on a particular night and join in. I didn’t really know that part of town but had passed the Murrayfield Rugby Stadium many times on the train and had remembered a huge playing field outside which I took to be the one. On the evening of the game I gave myself plenty of time and walked up through the sparsely filled stadium car park. There was no one around apart from a tiny parking attendants hut in the distance so I continued on in the direction the playing fields. On reaching the large open field I found it deserted. Confused and getting slightly edgy about being late I headed over to the hut to see if they had any Idea where the cricket might be being played. As I asked through the window of the hut the benign looking man inside suddenly began shaking his head slowly and saying;

No, no, you don’t understand, you’re in big trouble for coming over the security fence. You’re going to prison.

This statement betrayed his character somewhat and thinking he may have gone a little mad in there I repeated my former question hoping normal service may resume. This time however, he just repeated his lines louder and with a lot more expletives. I was getting annoyed but thought it better to diffuse the situation by explaining that I had jumped no security fence and had simply walked through the car park towards the playing fields to see if the game of cricket that I was supposed to be playing that evening was being played there. And as it was not and as he was unable or unwilling to help me find it I’d better go off and do so.

You’re going nowhere. We have you on CCTV Jumping the security fence at the far end of the fields. Security is on its way. You’re going to prison.

Before I had a chance to say another word a younger man wearing a black security jacket and a large scar on his left cheek came striding towards me. He was shouting into a crackling walkie talkie and pointing and shouting at me.

Yeah yeah we’ve got him ######## You’re in big f***ing trouble! #### Yep he’s here in the car park########### You’re going to prison. You jumped the security fence and we’ve got it on CCTV######

I was desperately trying to make some sense of what was happening. Seconds before I was on my way to play an innocent game of cricket on a beautiful summers evening and now suddenly I was in a high security drama with violent undertones. The Scar-man now threatening me was a psychopath, no different from those I’d encountered 20 years before only this one was wearing a uniform. Cautiously I questioned his evidence. Could I see the CCTV film that I was being damned for as I know it would prove me Innocent? No, this would not be necessary, they had all the evidence they needed. Ok then, could I speak to someone in authority? This really annoyed him; everyone was really busy and anyway he was the authority! Quite quickly the prison threat disappeared and he had decided that I must leave the car park the same way I’d entered. I pointed out my route through the car park entrance to which he called me a liar and told me to get moving in the opposite direction. I refused and said I wanted to speak to the police. He started to move towards me. Apart from the man in the hut there was no one else around and I was not carrying a mobile phone. I knew the look in his eyes all too well and I knew what would happen to me if I didn’t do as he said. I was beginning to shake. I told him to keep his hands off me. I would do what he was demanding only because I knew if I didn’t he would assault me. I also let him know that I would be reporting him first thing to the authorities.

Yeah, yeah, do what the f*** you like. Now Move!

I moved in the direction he was pointing staying ahead and to his side so I could keep him in the corner of my eye. Crossing close to the outer end of the stadium building, he blurted out something quite odd, almost to himself; Have you any F***ing idea who is in this building tonight? I didn’t and to this day I have no idea who or what he was talking about. I continued protesting my innocence and telling him that I would make sure he would be made to account for his actions when he suddenly stopped. As I turned to face him he nodded to a darkened back stairway. With a demented smile on his face he suggested that we might want to go there and discuss the matter further. At that point I was scared for my life. There was no point in trying to reason with this Nutter anymore and the stupidity of what he was forcing me to do no longer mattered. I just had to get out of there in one piece. I stepped up the pace over the playing fields that I had never been on before and headed towards the 12 foot high security fence that I’d never been over. With some difficulty I made it to the top but fell badly onto my ankle on the other side. No cricket tonight or any other night after that then! *

Two weeks ago I watch the Peter Watkins film, Punishment Park, made in 1970. I had come across it by chance. In conversation with a friend I remembered an odd film about the crushing of the Jacobite Rebellion ( 1745 – 1746) which I’d seen in secondary school. Looking on line I found the film. Culloden; Made for the BBC by Peter Watkins in 1964. I also discovered it was Peter Watkins who had made The War Game; again, for the BBC in 1965. This film which dared to imagine the possible effects, during an outbreak of war between NATO and the USSR, of a nuclear strike on Britain, was thought to be too horrific for the medium of broadcast by the then BBC Director General, Hugh Carlton Greene and was not shown on TV until 1985. The films of Peter Watkins up to the present day ( he is now 75) have taken the form of docudrama, devised and developed with a majority cast of non actors. Within this structure the director is able to explore politically controversial issues by revisiting historical events or playing-out fictional ones. The dialogue is constructed from both the narrator’s voice, that sets the plot and comments on developments, and the voices of the cast, who often simply state their own opinions.

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The Peter Watkins, Film maker/ Media critic website, that I have been working my way through over the past fortnight, charts a life’s work of relentless campaign. I would urge you visit this site – obviously more comprehensive than anything I could hope to supply in this text.

This resource not only catalogues his films, their background, making and reception but also contains a number of statements made by the Peter Watkins. It is a considerable body of writing of heartfelt criticism, from a director with over 50 years experience, exposing the failings of TV, film and in particular the Hollywood Monoform, (MAVM as he terms it). It is also a heartfelt plea for change and invention: that recognises the international status of political debate but argues that new maps through which to engage in communication need to be constructed. (From a BFI biography by Will Fowler.)

The DVD version of Punishment Park which I watched, is introduced by a lengthy statement read straight to the camera by the director in 2004. It is heavy with information and delivered in a slightly stilted and at times, annoyingly earnest manner. After 10 minutes or so I was beginning to wonder if the amount of information given would ruin the film. With this prejudice I watched the entire film with the introduction twice in one day. Set and filmed in America at the height of the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, the docudrama imagines a training ground for the National Guard that convicted protesters can choose to participate in, in order to avoid a lengthier term in prison. Watching Punishment Park was both unique and extraordinary and at no time would I describe it as Spectacle. During the end scenes, the camera, verbally confronts certain members of the National Guard for their actions. Their blunt and matter of fact responses given straight to camera unexpectedly hurled me right back to the school yard, Glenrothes, Aberdeen and the Murrayfield Stadium car park.

*First thing the following morning I phoned up Murrayfield Stadium. I told the person in the Public relations office what had happened the previous evening. They immediately apologised saying with some exasperation that this had been happening all too often with the security firm they employed and they would be taking my complaint very seriously. In the meantime I was asked to write down everything and they would contact me in a couple of days once they had looked into the matter at their end and also checked the CCTV footage. I was very impressed with their response to my complaint. They had taken my complaint very seriously and I felt confident that the incident would be dealt with properly. I did as they asked and wrote down my report and waited for them to get back to me. Three days passed and I heard nothing. I ended up phoning them back and spoke to the same person. They were almost rude and dismissive of me this time and claimed to have only a vague recollection of the previous conversation. When I brought up the issue of the CCTV footage they almost triumphantly informed me that everything gets scrubbed every two or three days so no footage would exist of the evening I was claiming that the incident took place.

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‘The Neglected Interviews’ is now on sale in Artwords Bookshop on Broadway Market, which many of you will know as London’s benchmark arts bookshop. So those of you who have been asking where you can see it in the flesh can now get hold of your copy here:

20-22 Broadway Market
London E8 4QJ
Tel: (0)20 7923 7507
Fax: (0)20 7729 4400
Email: shop@artwords.co.uk

Drei Schreit fur alles

April 9th, 2010 | Posted by Eddie in Eddie Farrell (UK/DE) - (0 Comments)

I really enjoyed reading Julie Rafalski’s last blog on the flagship site, Henningham Family Press. I liked how just one overheard word on the tube led to such a flow of information. The whole subject of how one writes or composes was foremost in my head yesterday as I tottered along Invalidenstrasse on a beautifully warm spring afternoon in Berlin. I’d just got back from a hectic schedule of visiting family in Edinburgh and Accrington which had laid me up in bed for two days with a virus on my return. The 48 hour wipe-out had cleared my head enabling me to think about what I would write about in this month’s blog. And I realised for the first time that when I write anything I always start with a solid picture in my head which I then describe; so really the story already exists, I am just noting it down.

Berlin has changed so much in the few days I have been in the UK. The remaining snow, ice and grit has gone and the concrete grey sky of nearly four months has given way to the blue of Giotto’s Padua frescos. On Wednesday morning I sat at the kitchen table looking out at this blue and the 3 Poplar trees standing tall in the Backhof. Accompanied by cacophonous birdsong and drinking the first coffee of the day I leafed through a book I’d bought up a couple of weeks earlier.

The World I Live In is Helen Keller’s second book, she wrote it in 1908 at the age of 28 some five years after her first book, The Story of My Life. At 19 months a mysterious illness had left her totally deaf and blind. Until the age of 7 she was cut off from the world, when a half blind teacher, Annie Sullivan joined her in Alabama and together they began an intensive course of learning. Helen Keller’s hunger to be in the world speeded her learning and by 1904, with the aid of Annie Sullivan, she had not only written her first book but had also completed a degree at Radcliffe College, Massachusetts.

In the first chapter of the book we are introduced to Helen Keller’s primary source of contact with the world, her hands; the right one to see with and the left one to read with. She puts forward a fascinating point for all sighted people to consider:

Physics tells me that I am well off in a world which, I am told, knows neither colour nor sound, but is made in terms of size, shape and inherent qualities; for at least every object appears to my fingers standing solidly right side up, and is not an inverted image on the retina which, I understand, your brain is at infinite though unconscious labour to set back on its feet. A tangible object passes complete into my brain with the warmth of life upon it, and occupies the same place that it does in space, without egotism, the mind is as large as the universe.

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Some chapters on, there is a photo of Helen Keller; a young woman pressed against a tree in a wood. The caption reads; “listening” to the trees. Looking out at the 3 Poplars, I wonder what she might have heard from them?

I am not very good at judging heights but I live on the 4th floor and the trees shoot up with straight trunks high above the window. Due to the extensive bombing of Berlin in the later part of the second World War, and the extreme shortage of firewood following, I would guess that they are about 60 years old. They are impressive structures and provide a habitat for a variety of birds and wildlife including the odd red squirrel (or Eichhoernchen, a fine German name). Back in November their leaves withered away, naked and stoic they have waited out the harsh winter. In March things began to stir again and in the freezing cold mornings I sensed them at work, farming and distributing whatever nutrients they could find in the sleeping soil and absorbing anything they could from the pale daylight. It was as though with every sinew they where hauling up new life from roots to the furthest most isolated tips high above the roof tops. A couple of weeks ago new buds in muted tones of lizard green and cherry lips red began to show. I would predict that if the young lady was listening to these trees she would experience something akin to that of the straining trembling body of a power lifter, drawing and gathering strength for the final push. And perhaps the joyous almighty scream, that any day now will accompany the burst into bloom, will be big enough to throw her backwards onto the forest floor?

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I heard an altogether different scream a day earlier when I reached the Hamburger Banhof – Museum fur Gegenwart. My walk in the sun had purposely led to the free admission afternoon of Berlin’s largest State collection of, Art since 1960. Of all the City’s Museums this one distresses me the most and not only because of the €12.50 entrance fee (the highest I know of in Berlin). The problem I have is with the automatic placing of work within a museum context, of many works which directly question their own positioning. The general feel of the place is of a curator’s/ DJ’s playground, resulting in acres of space (over 13000 sqm) strewn with large blocks of Joseph Beuys’s lard and broken bits of detritus from Fluxus performances. The most disturbing section is the never- ending Rieckhallen, the former Lehrter Banhof goods depot which now contains works from the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection. Here we find Gordon Matta- Clark and Robert Smithson, forever cutting up a house and running over a spiral jetty and yet another large Dieter Roth installation looking lost and abandoned. The check list of important names continues; Richard Artschwager, Marcel Broodthaers, Sol Le Witt, Rodney Graham and Duane Hanson. Actually Duane Hanson’s shopper at least seems to have made the decision to try and get out of there, although the hopeless expression on her face indicates just how far away from the exit she still is. A typically light and throw away gesture from Roman Signer of a hack-sawed spray paint can (Arbeits Platz.1999), is sealed off in a claustrophobic cell with a semi roped off entrance to make doubly sure no fun can escape.

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Oh yes, and the screaming. This begins about halfway down the Rieckhallen close to work by Lawrence Weiner; a mildly defiant statement of his, under the circumstances reads, LEFT HERE – PUT HERE – FOR A LIMITED TIME (#426. 1976/2004). And a glass fronted case displays some of his collected publications, all mounted like butterflies. Walking on the screaming gets louder giving you a sense of being trapped in some conceptual madhouse. Before finally reaching the source of the yelling there is one last detour, as you enter one of Absalon’s completely white cell structures. In a very short life (he died at 28) Absalon made many of these odd live/work pods. His artistic career was developed through a steady stream of commissions and exhibitions encouraging the further design and building of these minimalist structures. So perhaps it is not too surprising to discover it is Absalon who is screaming. This we witness through a short film made in the year of his death, Bruits 1993. With hindsight the film is really disturbing and not only for its imbedded frustrated madness. One can’t help also seeing a jarring between the disciplined, reductive practice of the artist and the space that has been allotted and constructed by the gallery to show the film. I realise that there must be sound proofing concerns, but when considering that Bruits was made by such simple means; man in front of camera screaming for 3minutes and 28 seconds, then one has to question the chapel size box made to house it?

The third and final scream that I’d encountered in the last week was on the early morning return Ryanair flight to Berlin. I had managed to sit in an aisle seat with my right ear next to a very unhappy baby and my left positioned far too close to one of the cabins speakers. The combination of the child emptying its lungs and the continuous drivel of pre recorded advertising made Absalons efforts at screaming look very amateurish by comparison. The poor distressed child persisted through taxiing, takeoff and well into our journey and was evenly matched by the chirpy Irish and Scottish brogue belting out of the speaker. Perhaps after 45 minutes the child passed out only I can’t say I noticed because by then the soundscape had become one. As my 3.30am start that morning mercifully began to kick-in, I was still being assaulted by offers of smokeless cigarettes, exclusive perfumes, surprisingly bright Chardonnays and an excellent full bodied red. Screaming, screaming, screaming!

On the sedate S Bahn journey back into Alexander Platz I began to reappraised the baby’s screaming as that of an astute critic. Perhaps even one so young knew it was going to be subjected to an epic reading of a script written by the Fast Show’s Swiss Tony and had responded accordingly.

Did I really have all that in my head?

ankuendigen – to announce

achten – to respect

anblicken – to look at

aufarbeiten – to reappraise

to look at again………………………………………………..

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Over the last few months I have been keeping a word book; noting down all the new German words I come across. Before the book, which is really 3 notebooks joined together to make something that looks like an alphabetically ordered phonebook, I had been writing everything down on bits of paper. However, having hundreds of scraps of paper lying around flat was too over whelming; can there really be so many German words? Now the book keeps all the words in one place and makes the flat a little tidier, although it has brought to my attention just how many I am forgetting; when I read or hear a familiar word, I say, ah yes I came across that word last week and logged it in the book. Only, I haven’t got a clue what it means, let alone its gender, if it’s a noun (very important in German) and its conjugation if it is a verb. It feels like stacking a shelf with books from one end and as you add more the first ones you put up, are being pushed off the other end, disappearing behind the sofa or through the cracks in the floorboards.

Christmas brought a new batch of books and DVD’s. Two have been of particular interest; the Bill Douglas Trilogy and the writings of Ian Jack; The country formerly known as Great Britain.

The 3 films by Bill Douglas are a wonderful retelling of the director’s difficult early life growing up in the East Lothian mining village of Newcraighall. I first saw the films in the 1980’s and remembered them as pretty dark, certainly My Childhood and My Ain Folk. Watching them again, I’m struck by their direct beauty, economy and intelligence in telling a story. Perhaps my awareness of the filmmaking of Bresson, Pasolini and Fassbinder in the interim has helped me to view them afresh, but there is no doubting, the power of Bill Douglas’s own forcibly silent voice throughout. The Trilogy is a gently epic composition, from darkness out into an intense euphoric light, leaving me with many of the film frames burnt onto my retina. In recounting his past Bill Douglas often makes a rich painting from something otherwise very ordinary; I note here one particular view of a bend in the road, which I take to be the one leading out of Newcraighall. The view goes far beyond one found by a location finder; we are looking at memory, a brotherly bond of image and storytelling embedded within the landscape.

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My good friend Keith Grant who gave me the Ian Jack book for Christmas, thought I may find an interesting link with the Bill Douglas Trilogy, he was right. Ian Jack also grew up in a Scottish Mining village, Hill Of Beath in Fife. The opening piece is about the writers childhood there, and indeed that of his parents; raising a family, growing old and dying in and around the same location. I am enjoying dipping into the various essays which I tend to read just before bed. The 12.10 to Leeds, written in 2001 following the Hatfield train crash inquiry, has reminded and re-appalled me of certain social/political changes that occurred in Britain during the 1980’s and 90’s,changes which confused and angered the public then and have continued to do so. Whilst reading I sensed it oddly melding with another lengthier book I was working my way through, Isaac Deutscher’s third volume biography of Leon Trotsky.

Before moving from London to Berlin I got rid of so many books. Most of them I gave to the Oxfam bookshop on Kentish Town Road. Over several months I sorted out the ones I would part with and once a week, take a couple of carrier bags full of them to the shop. I found it difficult not to look at the other books they had on sale; reminding myself I already had too many unread books and if I just took those to Berlin I would be enough reading for several years. On the last trip I saw the biography in the window. I knew next to nothing about Trotsky; something about his death with an ice pick in South America, but had a strong feeling I should know more. Although my packing was 3 thick books heavier, it’s been a purchase I’ve not regretted.

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Throughout 2009 I was gripped by the first two books – the Prophet Armed (1879-1921) and the Prophet Unarmed (1921-1929) last week I finished the final book the Prophet Outcast (1929-1940). In all, over 1,500 pages filled with facts, figures, names, events, politics and Ideologies from a pivotal point in modern History. Unlike the Bill Douglas Trilogy, Trotsky’s life (in terms of his years alive) begins light and leads into a central point of extreme brightness which fades abruptly to complete darkness. By Christmas 2009 I was wading through the darkness of Trotsky’s descent from political power and Stalin’s ascendency.

Ian Jack’s essay, also packed with facts, figures, names, events, politics and Ideologies from another pivotal point in modern British history, runs to just 40 pages. In these pages he sticks to a type of investigative writing, advocated by Katharine Whitehorn; that is to give voice to someone who is member of the concerned public and not that of the know it all authoritarian. Having said that he does come across as a rail enthusiast and this we can sense in the brief history of The Railway he tells; from Babylonia 2245 BC, through to the national rail chaos in Britain at the time of his writing. I was drawn into the story through his notes of conversations with various engineers and how they illuminate the subject of the Permanent Way; how a track is laid and fixed. Likewise, how the steel track was produced and developed. One engineer refers to this as a living thing, due to the skill and care needed in making, laying and maintaining the track.

Piece by piece we are given information making us appreciate just how complex a thing, a rail track is. Perhaps a lot of people know this? I have to confess I didn’t. However, what I do know and what I had forgotten before reading The 12.10 to Leeds is that one day I sat on a train and the announcement referring to me and fellow travellers as Passengers had over night changed to Customers.

From about half way his writing explores how this change came about. From the policy of the Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher to privatise the nationalised industries of Gas, Water and Telecommunications (the author quotes Harold MacMillan, who called this selling off the family silver) Responding to criticism of the first sales not being competitive enough, the next, Electric, was broken up into smaller units. This increased competition, produced a highly successful sale and by doing so, secured a rosy future for popular capitalism in the UK. After the fall of Margaret Thatcher, Railways became John Major’s baby. In spite of rail privatisation being highly unpopular with just about everyone, he was determined to see the sale through. Following the example set by the sale of Electric, it was decided the railways would be carved up into smaller units. New controlling bodies appeared:

TOCS, (train operating companies) 20 of those.

ROSCOS,(Rolling stock companies)3 of those.

And RAILTRACK, was to over and under-see: Signalling, the Permanent Way, Bridges, Tunnels and some larger stations.

Leading up to privatisation, it was noted that the emphasis switched to an operators rather than an engineer’s railway. This strikes a chord with a comment from one of the disillusioned Permanent way engineers who Ian Jack interviewed, he said that most people where only interested in trains from the wheels up. He emphasized the upmost importance of what goes on below. Operators were also dominant in management; of the 13 board members of Railtrack only 2 had any previous railway experience. The confused and chaotic privatisation rumbled on:

6 Transport Ministers in 7 years.

British Rail, carelessly and cheaply sold off for £5 billion

Profits: for the private shareholders as share prices rise sharply.

Track Maintenance: under pressure from efficiency savings, leads to work being put out to competitive tender.

Resulting in: fragmentation in knowledge of the Track, the Living thing.

Accusations fly: putting profit before safety.

At Howe Dell, The 12.10 King’s Cross to Leeds express enters the curve at 115 mph- the maximum speed for that stretch of track – and comes off the rails. Four people die.

From the offset of rail privatisation we, the public had been bombarded with facts, figures, names, events, politics, Ideologies, scandals, sackings and deaths. We have been informed of everything and more through a flood of media reporting. And with bewildered disbelief we repeatedly witnessed the chaos at first hand.

(It should be noted that The Labour Party, then in opposition, made the appropriate, vote winning noises to the public; Tony Blair, the then leader of the party said, They (the trains) should be run for the public and stay in public ownership for the people of this country, while his shadow chancellor, Gordon Brown was privately saying to colleagues that, Privatisation will make the Tories unpopular and will save us from having to do it).  [taken from the 12.10 to Leeds text.]


To say exactly how the Trotsky Biography and the Ian Jack article merge is difficult; both writers strive to inform the reader clearly about their chosen subject and I believe they achieve this while never resorting to hindsight. But the melding I feel is something else and appears on another level, in contradiction to the black and white compositions that tell each story. I felt my role as a reader activated the text and brought me closer to the events described. At times becoming the everyman, a participant and witness of the period being described, one who is struggling to remember and process the mass of information being thrown in my direction. In such a position and in spite of my determination to maintain a clear picture, very often my view would cloud over into a very murky and inactive grey hue.

Here is a particular section from Isaac Deutchers biography of Trotsky. At this point (1928) Stalin has already had Trotsky forcibly removed from Moscow to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan, severely restricting his political activities and that of thousands of his supporters. (pg 457, The Prophet Unarmed )

He [Stalin] still shrank from sending the killer; he did not yet dare even to throw his enemy into jail. The odium would have been too heavy, because, despite all that had happened, Trotsky’s part in the revolution was still too fresh and vivid in the nation’s mind. He therefore planned to expel Trotsky from Russia. He knew that even this would shock; and he carefully prepared public opinion. First, he put out rumours about the new banishment; next he ordered the rumours to be denied; and, finally, he gave them fresh currency. In this way he blunted public sensitivity. Only after rumour, denial, and recurrent rumour had made the thought of Trotsky’s expulsion from the U.S.S.R. familiar and therefore less shocking could Stalin carry out his intention.

erinnern – vr: sich ( an akk etw) to remember

vergessen – vt to forget