We welcome our second guest writer – Jon Bounds, who tells us about Day 3 of ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’ from ‘Shopping Trolley Finder and Pusher’ all the way to ‘Graduation’ (with some great photos too).
Follow Jon on Twitter.
A ticket to a gig for the dead
The only previous time I’ve ‘borrowed’ a shopping trolley was to transport a falling-apart tent from the train station to the Reading Festival. 23 years later, I’m doing it again.
A more deliberate operation, as an allocated ‘Shopping Trolley Finder and Pusher’ I must take one to ‘the Florrie’ in Toxteth (Liverpool loves giving everything a nickname) for 2:30pm.
“The trolley park is round the back, mate” says Gimpo.
There are 23 trolleys, now filling with ragwort and buddleia, the 400 must have their faces painted white with black eyes (are we skulls, badgers, or pandas?). The effect, as the Florrie fills up with Ragwort Collectors, Tyre Rollers, choir members and other people who have jobs here today, is to make those who have not (or not yet) been painted look out of place.
The Dead Perch Menace security team, with their black uniform and berets now look less menacing and more like a mime troupe.
Bootleggers arrive with cardboard boxes and are selling Badger Kull T-shirts, £10 a pop. They sell out very quickly.
A chap has brought a dalek, which apparently has disturbed Bill and Jimmy. “That’ll get burnt” a chap tells me. It is still unburnt, but gaining signatures and messages
Steve, a Prisoner fanatic gives us a spin round Toxteth in his JAMs stickered Mini Moke, our skull faces producing questions and laughs around town.
“What’s all this?”
That’s enough, or enough to stop questions. It isn’t enough to stop a kid on Mill Street wanting an ice cream, his mum not quite being able to pacify him. It is an ice cream van, just not one where you can get a ’99’.
Rumours are flying, an effect of the individual jobs is that you know what you are doing, if not why, and parts of what others are doing, but you can’t build a picture.
Every so often you can see a skulled face at the window of the upstairs. And eventually we join them, the high-roof and it’s beams crossing to form triangles and pyramids from your perspective. The triptych screens light with K2 Plant Hire Ltd.
The hymn sheets on our chairs seem to give something away. But really?
The film is both startling and expected, flashes of memory and reference the of the undertakers is flecked with the sleeve notes of It’s Grim Up North, with a splash of -I’m told- Cosmic Trigger.
But the first hymn has a gravitas, “Don’t be afraid, you’re already dead.” are the words. All of them. But, the 400 make it a tune and a celebration of opportunity.
Is part two from Callendar and Callendar part eulogy, part sermon, part sales pitch? Yes: for we confirm that the JAMs have entered the death business:
*So much to explain.
The creation of space for new rituals to form.
A ticket to a gig for the dead.
A coffin made by The Justified & Ancient.
An ice cream van pulling up to a crematorium, or even a waiting pyre.
The singing of a hymn, familiar and stirring.
The bricking up of a fragment of your bones to rise up as:
The People’s Pyramid*
Ru challenges us, as we challenge death “Not everyone wants to point accusingly at the sky, goading God and lightning and local Tory landowners. But do you?”
Then, the second hymn. The choir, the bishops – traffic cone hats ducking to get through the door – proceed to the altar. One tall skinny man in blue robes leads the hymn.
If the JAMs call you up and ask you to stand by them, you do.
The 400 follow the procession out and downstairs, behind the ice cream van. Apart from the pullers, who have to be in front for obvious reasons. The chimes start and we proceed.
Gimpo, painted, boundlessly enthusiastic corals the actions: sending ragwort trollies to the front and to the back for more as the flowers of the invasive species are scattered in front of the van. We stop traffic, we create a scene, the three miles to the pyre are littered with people going about their Friday evening business. Very few seem uninterested.
By the time we reach our end, the 400 are all robed, the tyre rollers are tired and the shopping trolley pushers are empty. But the night has fallen and the fire must be lit.
The fire is lit. The piper plays. You can buy a brick, sign up for MuMufication at the van or online.
And the bar is open.
Bill and Jimmy, with a Strong Swimmer, climb over the barriers and stride into the darkness. We wait. Then – hopefully – the same figures all return.
Rock Man Rock holds a feather aloft “the Perch has been caught”.
Can you imagine the pressure of following that? At midnight Badger Kull handle it brilliantly. As do the DJs who slip in JAMs references and fill the factory with goodwill.
We have graduated. We made it through alive, although we are already dead. We have certificates to prove it.