All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


A little while back we held an art and music show called 'The London Book of the Dead' in the ancient vaults under St Pancras Church in Bloomsbury.
We played surrounded by the tombs and gravestones of the departed. It is quite a remarkable place and I had a very strange experience once when I was there alone during the set up.

If you visit the church, probably the most striking thing to see is the portico held up by four classical female figures based on caryatids at the Acropolis . Once, there was more to them than now meets the eye. You see when the builder - an Italian called Charles Rossi - who had them made at considerable expense, brought them to the church for installation, it was discovered that they were slightly too tall to fit. Oh Lord!

Under the pressure of the schadenfreude of his workers, the jeering of a gathering group of onlookers and the foot-tapping impatience of the church officials, Mr Rossi had to think fast. He made a heroic decision - or, one might say, a heroic incision - and removed a twelve inch slice of each lady's midriff. This, an early example of the gastric band operation, saved the day but is no doubt what gives them that characteristic and rather dumpy slouch. I have no strong feelings either way about cosmetic surgery but I quite like these girls the way they are and it is rather peaceful to sit in the shade in the churchyard under their watchful gaze on a hot, busy day.

This old song was written in the very same churchyard looking out at the busy city a few years back whilst waiting to take a train from Euston. I was thinking of it and St Pancras this last week on the fifth anniversary of the London bombings. They happened in the neighbourhood and that sad day was marked when the church was very movingly covered with flowers.

I will be back performing in a kind of vault this Sunday as part of Battersea Arts Centre's One on One show from 8-9 pm. Apparently, I will be in a large box with one audience member at a time playing a selection of such old and new songs.

If you come and have the stomach for it, do say hello.


spillyjane said...

I, for one, would be interested in hearing about that strange experience of yours, should you be willing to share.

What a remarkable concept for a show! I can see how that could be incredibly intimidating for everyone concerned (but that's only making me like it more.) If only I were closer to London..!

I recently spent some quality time with some lovely stone people these past few days in NYC. Oh, I can not wait to go back.

ArtSparker said...

Sounds af if their chi was surgically removed.

paulo said...

I'm hoping to come along to this - am trying to decide which of the other shows to go and see. I was contemplating A Game Of You, but that might just be on in the daytime instead of the evening. Decisions!

paulo said...

Ta for that Stephen, was very good/ a nice different experience! In my numerous times of having seen you, I think that might be the first time I've seen you play guitar and not behind your box of tricks! What was the name of the new song you played (that wasn't called The Natural World)?
& a general thanks for just playing at One On One, meaning that I found out about it and gave it a go. Nurse Knows Best was nice quirky fun, and A Game Of You was a thing of pure brilliance. Must try some of this malarkey again.

clerkenwell kid said...

Hi Paul. Yes that was really fun. I hardly ever play guitar live as Clive is such a good player but I enjoyed that a lot. I am now thinking I might break my rule and do some more playing like that.

The song is called 'The Things I Love' from the new album which is an accompaniment to Glen Duncan's next novel.

And I thought One on One was great too. I think we will go back this week. I heard you can have your own funeral there - can't miss that!

clerkenwell kid said...

When Catherine and I were setting up the London Book of the Dead show in the vault, she went out to get some materials. As she was leaving, a girl came down the steps and asked if she could visit. I said the show wasn't open until the day after but she said 'the lady upstairs' said she should come. I assumed this was Claire who runs the church and crypt so I told her to go ahead.

After about twenty minutes, I had to leave too so I called out and went to look when there was no answer. I couldn't find her. There are various chambers and sections beyond doors and I couldn't leave the entrance area for too long so I left the lights on, locked the gate and went upstairs to let Claire know. She didn't know anything about a girl so we went back down to find her.

The lights were off and there was nobody there.

Strangely Catherine had no memory of passing anyone on the steps.

spillyjane said...

That is a strange experience indeed! Thanks for sharing.

paulo said...

Ooh, new album, always good news! Are you going to do two slightly different versions of the next album, as seems to be the real tuesday weld way!?

& is the whole album going to be an accompaniment to Glen Duncan's new album? Or just that song? I must get/read more of Glen's stuff. I read I, Lucifer with your album as the aural soundtrack for it, as it seemed rude not to, and have read maybe another one or two of his books. I quite enjoyed them, but for some reason never investigated further. Must remedy. Wiki says that his new book is called The Last Werewolf - lots of otherworldy potential there!

I've now booked tickets for both days of Hunga Munga. The only other band I've heard of (and coincidentally like) are Piney Gir, but the rest of them sound quite good too, so worth a shot!

And finally, this morning I received my individualised three song mp3 ep from another favourite band of mine, Clem Snide, where you choose (and pay for) three songs for the singer to record just for you. I quite like this unique/one-off style of music/art I've experienced this week!

clerkenwell kid said...

Working on two albums side by side as usual. Seems to be the only way somehow - or else I go a bit mad. Glen's new book is much in the way of I Lucifer - and it is very good - I am biased of course - and he stole it from me actually..

Love the idea of bespoke songs too - hope they were worth it!