Posters have played a significant part in the stories of ‘Welcome To The Dark Ages’ and ‘2023’ as well as in earlier works by Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond…
We welcome special guest writer, Nick Gilmour who shares his story and role in events…
Follow Nick on Twitter.
“A series of fortunate events”
“My parts in unfolding the continuing story of the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu”
‘Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.“’
Auric Goldfinger, Goldfinger (novel), Ian Fleming, Jonathan Cape, 1959.
Part Three: Enemy Action
3. Boy Is Crying
The Florrie, Day Three of Welcome To The Dark Ages, Friday 25 August 2017, 11:08am BST
A journalist Tweets from the Florrie. Jarvis Cocker just performed Justified and Ancient and it was one of the most incredible things he has ever seen. And he cried. I remind myself that it’s great that the journalist was there to Tweet about this new rendition of Justified and Ancient. I am not sorry I am not there. I knew it was coming. Well, a bit of it. I wonder what the 400 are going to be doing next?
2. Burn The Shard
My bed, Day Two of Welcome To The Dark Ages, Thursday 24 August 2017, bedtime.
I am still reading 2023. A passage stands out:
“Henry Pedders is a changed man since he led a mob all the way down Kingsland Road and through the City and over London Bridge. And they did burn the Shard down.”
I remember I made that journey once. I didn’t remark upon it at the time. I definitely didn’t burn down the Shard. Or separate a phrasal verb. Yet.
1. Underneath the AppleTree
My lounge, Day Two of Welcome To The Dark Ages, Thursday 24 August 2017, 17:23pm BST
I am sitting in an armchair, ploughing through my freshly-delivered copy of 2023; not skimming, but being avid. After 23 years of hearing nothing from the JAMs, I need to know. I am also keeping half an eye on the latest happenings in Liverpool on my Phone. Thank goodness for what I now understand will become FaceLife, AppleTree, etc. I finish page 92 and move on to page 93. I read the paragraphs at the top of the page. I remark upon how the principle characters are imitating (sampling) real life; posting posters on Kingsland Road. I chuckle. This is typical of Bill!
My eyes move down the page, across the section break. “A young man walks past the posters. They catch his attention. He photographs them on his phone. He uploads the photos onto FaceLife. They get Shared. And Shared. And Shared. And Shared.”. I stop. I reread it. Again. And Again. And Again. And Again. It can’t be? It could be. It is! I’m not in Liverpool. I am not one of the 400. I’m not a page holder. I am not even mentioned by name. But I apparently have a walk-on part in the book. I am again part of the narrative. What is this? Recognition? Reward? Punishment? It can’t be happenstance or coincidence. Those have already happened. Whatever comes next, I now know I will always be part of part of the story of the JAMs. It’s there in black and white. On Page 93.
A supermarket car park somewhere in Essex, Wednesday 2 August 2017, just after 7:00pm BST
I arrive for a pre-arranged meeting just after the pre-arranged time. I find the chap whom I have arranged to meet. He is wearing the blue KLF ski hat that he had said he would be wearing. He is standing by the supermarket entrance, next to a kids’ Bananas in Pyjamas ride. He recognises me by the slightly deeper K2 Plant Hire yellow-shaded 2023 long sleeve promotional T-shirt which I am wearing. We back walk over to my car, exchanging pleasantries. I explain how it was kindly sent to me by the nice people in the promotional team at Faber and Faber after I asked nicely for one. He thinks he will do the same. He asks what I think may come to pass in Liverpool later in August. He will be there. I will not. He guesses about what will happen. I think I know more than I can say – names, activities, reimagined lyrics.. I don’t. It’s none of my business.
I open my car’s boot and haul out a very large but thin cardboard box. I open the box and slide out one of the two poster frames inside. I show the chap that the frame contains the loosely-mounted remnants of a poster which was once on a wall underneath a railway bridge. I show him the other frame which contains the unmounted remnants of the poster’s twin. Money changes hands – just enough to cover the retail cost of the frames. No more – it wouldn’t be right. The chap puts the big box in his car and drives off, seemingly happy with his unique first-edition K2 Plant Hire promotional material. I realise I forgot to show him the blank 2023 promotional book which I had brought along; which the nice people at Faber also sent me in response to the first nice email that I had sent to them. I pop into the supermarket for a couple of things. The checkout assistant barely notices the 2023 T-shirt or its ‘What the fuuk is going on?’ logo.
Part Two: Coincidences
2. Not all bound for Mu Mu land
My kitchen, Sunday 23 July 2017, 10.54am BST
I can’t go to Liverpool in August. I have family commitments. I am not going to buy a ticket to Welcome To The Dark Ages. Therefore, I am not already logged onto the Bido Lito website. I am not getting ready to furtively press Refresh. Instead, I am making eggs for my kids’ late breakfast. My phone pings – a Facebook message. What’s this? The link to that which shouldn’t be available for another 30mins. The sender is a reputable source with far greater connections to the JAMs than I have ever had. But still. It can’t be? It could be. It is!
I click on the link. It works. I put a ticket in the basket and click through all the way to the payment screen. I close the phone’s browser. Maybe the basket will purge. Maybe it will be made available to someone else. Maybe. But I won’t take it. So what to do instead? I do the right thing. I copy the link. I share it with all of my connections whom I know may want or need it; family, friends, long time KLF mailing list members, more recently connected Kollectors and a very eager journalist. Some jump at the chance and succeed, others respond to say they can’t or won’t go either. I finish making the omelettes. By now, everyone else in the world has access to the link as well. I think I know enough of what I will be missing.
1. On the last train (two Trancentral)
London Bridge station (practically under the Shard), Thursday 20 April 2017, 9:33am BST
I am running late. Actually, I am not running – I am limping. I have a problem with my knees. They are not working and it is very painful to walk; apparently this is an allergic reaction to eating too much chocolate. Well, it is Easter. I hobble through the ticket barriers and finally meet up with my young German colleague. She has already worked out from which platform we now need to leave to get to our meeting in a town to which neither have us have been before. A meeting which had been arranged at very short notice. It is not the train we had intended, but I am unexpectedly late and it will have to do. It is the last train that will get us there on time. Just.
We ascend the escalators to the platform. I am glad I do not have to climb the stairs. At the top, the train is already in the station and the doors are standing open. We hasten across the platform and get straight onboard to find it is fairly empty. There are a few people already seated. My colleague chooses a group of empty seats near the door. As I go to sit down, I notice the man over the aisle speaking animatedly to someone on the seat opposite him. I pause and stare. Why is he so remarkable? What am I missing here? Is it the Scottish accent reminding me of my own ancestry? No, there’s something else. I start to notice more things about him… older, glasses, balding, notebook, turned up jeans. Scottish accent. Surely not? It can’t be? It could be. It is! For fuck’s sake! It’s bloody Bill Drummond!
He glances over as I sit down. Had I just said that out loud? He carries on talking to his companion without pause. Phew, no, I didn’t. I can’t believe it. What a coincidence! I don’t think anyone else will either. I realise I haven’t seen Bill in person since he was angrily promoting a book at Waterstones on Piccadilly sometime in the spring or summer of 2008. I remember how I’ve seen him on a few other prior occasions too with and without the other member of the KLF. I just have to take a sneaky pic on my phone to show off to my brother. I glance down at the screen to find he was staring almost straight into the camera for the photo. Have I interrupted something? Has he spotted me looking or even recognised me? I hastily make conversation with my colleague. I casually look back over – he’s still talking unguardedly, not interested in us. I can’t quite see his companion from my seat. I then catch a glimpse of straggly, long white hair under a beanie. My curiosity is already in overdrive – but surely it can’t be? Has fate really brought me right into the path of what they call the (Justified Ancients of) Mu Mu?
I make an excuse to my colleague about putting some litter in the bin further down the carriage. I have to see what I think I know. I wince as I stand, totter down the carriage and drop something in the bin. I return to my seat, surreptitiously confirming that it definitely is Jimmy Cauty with whom Bill is talking. Together. Again. I recall the few other times I saw them together – the Barbican and a Friends Meeting House. Then I realise that there have been no other reported sightings of them together of late. Or ever. In fact, there hasn’t even been any direct evidence (at least not on Facebook or in what is left of the music press) they are now working together at all, let alone on anything to do with all those posters. I muse on how some are still saying it’s all a hoax, a fake, a trick. But now I know it’s no longer conjecture – it’s fact; they’re back. The JAMS. The Timelords. The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. The KLF. The FALL. The K Foundation. K2 Plant Hire Limited. The Trustees. I forget what else as I am paused in shock and awe. My colleague brings me back into the carriage with a question about the meeting that awaits us. Inside my head, five handmaidens stir.
The train is noisy and I can’t really hear them from where I am sitting. I think this probably is and isn’t a good thing. I consider saying something to them, making my presence and cognition known. Then I’ve seen and heard enough to realise they are ‘at work’, in a carriage on a train (yes, I know – I thought that too). I reflect that if I was working on a train, the last thing I would want is to be interrupted by a ‘fan’. It’s impolite and improper. It’s indiscreet and it’s unprofessional. It’s not British. Instead, I do what I am conditioned to do. I post about this truly random encounter on Facebook. Someone demands photographic evidence. I feel I have to oblige. I won’t ever share the photo of Bill that I have already taken, but I manage to snag a reflected shot of Jimmy’s ear and Bill’s notebook on my phone. Just enough to confirm but not enough to be (too) stalky. I upload this to Facebook. I also manage to get a shot of Bill’s massive turn ups.
I contemplate showing them the Ukrainian Blaster logo which currently adorns the background on my phone’s screen and asking WTFIGO? I don’t. I am gradually catching snatches of their conversation. Titbits: names, frames, players, iBooks, rewritten Justified and Ancient lyrics – far more than they would probably want to be made public. But then again, this is a very public place. It’s not like I’ve broken into the Benio. My colleague is oblivious, still focussed on preparing for our impending meeting. She keeps asking me questions. I try to answer professionally. At one point, Bill asks Jimmy something about something that they did a long time ago. I have to keep a very tight lid on my urge to call out the answer which I appear to know better than Jimmy can manage to recall. Bill takes a call then discusses it with Jimmy. They agree a course of action. There are clearly big plans afoot. Everyone in the carriage can hear, but I know I am (probably) the only one who knows what any of it might mean. But it’s none of my business and definitely not for me to share on Facebook. Not all of it. Still not now. Not ever.
Then, it’s over. They both get off the train together at a station somewhere south of London. I recall that somewhere near this place reportedly had something to do with the start of something the K Foundation once went on to do somewhere else. I don’t take the chance to wish them good luck with Liverpool or with their book. I do notice Bill has left his coffee cup and napkin on the train floor. It falls over as the train sets off. I pick it up and put it in the bin as I get off at a later stop. I realise I am yet again clearing up after the JAMs.
I now tell my young, German colleague why I’d been so distracted. She is bemused; she says she had thought it was the knee pain that was making me zone out. I briefly tell her about the KLF, etc. She has never heard of this band of the early 1990s from before she was born, or their latter activities. I feel old. She sends a message about this to some of her family in Germany on her phone. Some time later, she tells me her father has responded to confirm that he remembers The KLF. I feel older. By now my Facebook posts have been seen, read, responded to and shared. The truth is fully out there. Bill and Jimmy, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, are indeed back again.
Part One: Happenstances
3. Unearthing aspects of 2023
My kitchen, Monday 6 March 2017, 8:00pm GMT
I think the kids are in bed. I grab a big piece of cardboard, a pair of rubber gloves and some tweezers. I start to unpick the soggy mass I found on the street earlier that day. Slowly, the bigger picture reveals itself. It’s hard work. Painstaking. Whoever ripped it off the wall had got it all off; while there are a lot of fragments and tears, large parts are still intact. The logo, the Liverpool text, the smaller text all unfurl. Then I find an identical bit of the poster to that which I have already found. I realise there were two posters and I have picked up almost all of the remains of both.
I carefully unfold the second Blaster logo. Hang on a second – what’s this? It does not say ‘Justified’. There is instead a single word in (what I know just enough to recognise as) Cyrillic script.
I check the other logo I’ve unfurled – it’s the same. I get on my phone and check the Facebook and Twitter comments from across the day – no one has said anything about this. I zoom in on the original photo which Jimmy Tweeted – the logo is fuzzy and the lettering unreadable. I send a photo of this new discovery to a relative and some KLF mailing list stalwarts via Facebook.
They respond; they have never seen anything like this before either. We are unsure what it all means. I remember I have Russian, Ukrainian and Latvian work colleagues. I send the photo to them via Instagram with no context. They separately agree it is definitely a Ukrainian word but there is a spelling mistake – the last letter is missing an ~ accent. Closer inspection and more smoothing reveals a tiny bit of it poking out from the top line of blaster. My colleagues collaborate to translate it into English using their own expressions while I use Google Translate. One of them eventually says “It could say ‘excused’. Or ‘justified’.”. Eureka!
I realise that, aside from the persons who posted the posters, their confidants and mine, no one else in the world is currently aware of this new Ukrainian direction by what is apparently The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. I share this news to the world by uploading more photos of these posters and their Ukrainian blaster logo onto Facebook. Some of these photos get shared. Again. And again. And again. And again.
2. We’re all going to Liverpool?
Kingsland Road, Monday 6 March 2017, 10:05am GMT
I am surprised. I had thought I was right but I appear to be wrong. I thought I had spotted the pattern – the posters were being flyposted on the first Monday of the month. I thought Jimmy’s Tweet just an hour earlier had confirmed it; a new poster had apparently been posted at the same spot on Kingsland Road announcing an “unearthing” in Liverpool. I had carefully arranged my schedule so that I could be there then again to see the posters for myself. I had thought I might even be able to take a piece home with me this time. Barely an hour after the Tweet, I had got off the 48 bus at the right stop, phone at the ready to capture and share my rectitude – but the tiles are bare. I must have made a mistake. I hastily take a photo of the empty wall anyway.
Hang on, is that tile glinting? I reach out and touch the wall again – it is wet, slimy. It looks and feels like wallpaper paste. But where are the posters? I take some more photos of the sign on the otherwise empty wall “STOP! Graffiti and Flyposting YOU ARE BEING FILMED Graffiti and Flyposting will result in prosecution Hackney (Borough Council)”. I think about submitting a Data Protection Subject Access Request for the CCTV footage. I turn to leave and catch sight of something on the floor a few feet away. It is a small white mass that looks wet and slimy. Hang on – is that a K2 logo? And a “23”? I bend down for a closer look. It can’t be? It could be. It is! I take some more photos on my phone and share these on Facebook. They are commented upon and shared. Again.
I see there is a bin a few feet away. I think about putting this litter in the bin and wonder why someone else didn’t. I remember I have a plastic bag with me (they cost 5p to buy you know!). I unfurl the bag and use it to scoop up the mushy paper. I squeeze all the air out of it and head off to work. On the way, I find a mini-supermarket and buy some freezer bags. I put the wet bag inside the freezer bag and seal it. I pop it in the fridge at work. Later that day I remember to take the chilled and squishy bag home with me.
1. Faber and Faber. Reading his paper.
A train heading for Liverpool Street Station, Monday 6 February 2017, approx. 9am GMT
I am on my usual train into work. I am bored and tired; it is Monday morning. I have just finished reading a free newspaper; the adverts ignored, the news digested, the sudoku no longer a mystery. I look out of the window at the City in the distance, and beyond it the Shard. My daze is interrupted as my phone pings in my pocket – multiple social media notifications. I get my phone out to check what’s going on. I scroll past the Twitter alerts and tap into the (The?) KLF group on Facebook. Always a reliable source of news and speculation. People are sharing a Tweet of a poster on a tiled wall under a railway bridge on Kingsland Road:
“K2 Plant Hire Ltd present 2023 a trilogy by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu ff”.
Speculation is rife – no one is quite sure what the fuck is going on. Is this really a herald for the return of the KLF? Or is it another hoax, just like that last poster from January is thought by some to have have been? For my part, I wonder why it’s not “presents”. I also wonder whether the poster in the photo is really what and where it purports to be. I want to see for myself. Some have already identified the wall which the January poster adorned. I use my phone to confirm it’s only a short bus ride from my train’s destination; but in the wrong direction from my office. I look at my watch and my work diary and make some mental calculations. I can just about get there and then get to back to work in time for what I need to be seen to be doing – if I hurry. I use my phone again to find and track a number 48 bus in real-time. I now know exactly where to get on and where to get off. [It’s almost like there’s a big all-knowing super-computer somewhere that has been waiting for the very moment I will need to have this information.]
I hurry off the train and onto the bus which arrives when and where my phone says it should. Using the phone’s GPS, I track my progress towards the potential site of the poster at the corner of Kingsland Road and Drysdale Street. I wonder if this is a wild goose chase. As I get off the bus, under a railway bridge, I stop. Directly ahead on the wall are not one but two, identical, posters exactly like the one in the Tweet. The man getting of the bus behind me grunts as he bumps into my stationary form on the pavement. I’m nudged forward and moved closer to the wall. I see it definitely is a Faber and Faber logo as some have suggested on Facebook. Something else grabs my attention. I reach out to touch the poster. The paste is still wet! I realise these posters have only just been posted in the last few hours. I pull out my phone and photograph the posters. I upload the photos onto Facebook. They get liked and discussed and dissected and shared. And shared. And shared. And shared.
I walk over Kingsland Road and wait at the bus stop across from the new 2023 posters. Another south-bound 48 bus arrives; I get on and find a seat. The bus takes me down Kingsland Road, through the City, over London Bridge and to the foot of the Shard. I get off the bus and, remembering it’s built on the site of my first ever London workplace, I glance up at the Shard, towering above. I don’t notice anything more remarkable about it. I don’t notice the resemblance to the pyramid in the posters. I walk on to my then current place of work. I know nothing of what this will all come to mean.
I still don’t.
Melodies from past lives keep pulling me back
Jimmy Cauty Model Village Builders, America Street, London, Friday 8 January 2016, 12:40pm GMT
I am in awe. Not only is the ‘8th Wonder of the Miniature World (in a disused railway arch)’ truly a sight to behold, but its creator, Jimmy Cauty, is here too. I haven’t seen Jimmy in person for many years, not since I was in the third row at the Barbican. I remember I have seen Bill Drummond a few times since then, also in his capacity as an artist, but never actually spoken with him or Jimmy since I tried to ask them to sign Pete Robinson’s ‘Justified and Ancient History’ after the screening of WTKFBAMQ in the Friends Meeting House in Manchester (Bill wouldn’t and neither then would Jimmy. Gimpo kindly did.).
I think about buying something and asking if Jimmy might sign it. Jimmy is talking with a couple of people – visitors, friends maybe. I look through the spyholes at different aspects of his miniature world. I take lots of photos on my phone. I spot Ford Timelord. I take in the post-industrial soundscape. I see Jimmy is still in the model-making area. He is fast in conversation with a woman whom I can’t quite see. I loiter, hoping to speak with him, if only to commend him on the models. I marvel at the Riots in Jam Jars. I take a photo of these too:
I can’t see anything I can afford. I wait, but I have to leave – I have to get back to work. They continue to talk. I wait a bit longer; I’m not sure I can come back again before the exhibition ends. In the end, I don’t feel I can interrupt and I can’t wait any longer. As I make to leave, I overhear his conversant suggesting how the thing to do these days is to host an ‘artist in residence’, where people or fans would pay (a lot of) money to hang out with him over a day or a couple of days. As I walk out the door, I think, “but what would they all do?”…
The end of the beginning.
“We don’t want to upset the apple-cart, and we don’t want to cause any harm, but if you don’t like what we’re going to do, you’d better not stop us ’cause we’re coming through.”
(Hey Hey We Are Not The Monkees, 1987:WTFIGO?, The JAMs, 1987)
All photography courtesy of: N. Gilmour.