Notes from M25 London Orbital

This is a transcription of some notes I scrawled, somewhat drunk, in late 2002 while sitting in the audience at the Barbican Centre for London Orbital – an evening of readings, music, and sundry entertainment connected to Iain Sinclair’s book of that name. I, and a fair few others, were in attendance primarily due to the presence of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty on the same billing for the first time since their fantastic 23-minute performance on this very same stage in 1997 to launch “Fuck The Millennium” (which I also attended). Bill’s reading was wonderful — he’s always a consummate speaker-performer — while Jimmy’s band were, er, noisy. Ken Campbell was awesome; Sinclair himself read in the monotone of a particularly bad vicar’s sermon, conclusively proving that the writer of a book is not necessarily the best person to read it. I found the other participants of variable quality… I was young, full of hubris, and prone to epiphanies of the retrospectively obvious. As I grew increasingly incensed at some of the rubbish (as I perceived it) being presented to this huge audience, wasting our time, wasting a great opportunity, I started to scribble… the following is particularly harsh on one particular performer, but bear in mind that there must have been others who bored me sufficiently to want to keep writing instead of paying them any heed.

Bill Griffiths is playing
Something by Bartok
A plodding piece
Simple, 2-note chords.
I fantasise
About taking the stage
By force.
Like the Chechen Rebels
in the Moscow Theatre
But no guns
Just Liberation
An audience
Ready to be Captivated
by the introduction
to Acclimatize.

Bill Griffiths is reading
A poem of his. He reads
Pauses inser
ted where they don't
belong, where they
Don't flow
And saying Nothing
that makes any sense.
Am I being cheated?
"You would do better,"
He says.
I agree, wholeheartedly.

Bill Griffiths is playing again
Something else by Bartok
A better piece this time.
One that actually requires
some skill, that actually has
some tune. He plays
And then it's over.
And all I can think is,
I need to network
with people like Iain Sinclair
Have my audience delivered
on a plate.
And fuckin' use the opportunity.

There are three films being projected: a slow-mo rear-view mirror scene in the rain in the centre; on the left a real-time forward-looking “this is you driving” boring one; but on the right, zoomed in, a view looking right. We see one-frame blipvert flashes of wheels zipping past on the other side of the central reservation, the rhythm of this occasionally broken by an overtaking car sailing serenely past on this side. We’re cruising the middle lane, but with a view normally denied to the driver, that of the sheer pace of humanity, the raw velocity with which we drive ourselves toward extinction. We are a pair of alloy wheels for one frame only, and then we’re gone.

There’s few a better opportunity for the peoplewatcher, the loner, to catch sight of other loners, other peoplewatchers, aliens, standing, sitting alone, watching, than at any event associated with The KLF. They stand, unashamed, at the edges but also in the middle of the foyer, watching, observing like I, but not making notes like I, just watching. Who are these people? Who am I? Was I?

Watching the films I realise that the point of motorways is to take you through, past; never to touch, feel or experience the countryside, the people, just a journey to get from A to B and not even realise how shit it was, our lives reduced to the need to arrive, never deviate from the course ordained for us by our wise Government Minister. Ours is not to question, just to fucking drive, got to get There, never mind all the cones, never mind having an HGV up your arse, never mind the grey, the black, the spray, the Nothingness, the shit food and shit service stations, never mind the White Van Man cutting you up for the umpteenth time that day, never mind the rain, the sales exec in his Mondeo, never mind the concrete just play spot the Eddie Stobart, it beats actually THINKING.

Encased in our
own personal
We feel nothing
see nothing except
what hits our windscreen.
No wonder people are
so divorced from reality
when the reality they face
day in day out
is the M25.

You might like to check out a more complimentary review.

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