Pulling North by Mike Cooper

We welcome guest writer, Mike Cooper who kindly shares his passionate rendition of his time at ‘The Dark Ages’ as a Great North Puller…

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Pulling North

I’d like to begin my musings with my conclusion, if I may be indulged; Welcome to the Dark Ages was an amazing event and has certainly affected my life in a way that I had never even considered possible prior to ‘buying a ticket for a mystery KLF reunion thing’. And I genuinely think that that was the intent – Bill and Jimmy wanted to take a group of people and see if they could get at least some of them to step outside of their normality to see what can be achieved when you try.

So on day 1 the only piece of info I have is my job card, which cryptically tells me that I will Pull North for the First Leg and to meet Gimpo at the Florrie on day 3. Almost none of this makes any sense, but that doesn’t seem to matter, because, the excitement is so real you can almost cut it with a knife. I need to find out what this means! Skipping over the interstitial happenings, on day 3, having Googled The Florrie and found out where I’m supposed to be, I turn up there at about 11.45 in time to see the Ice Kream Van arrive, looking slightly sorry for itself as it’s being towed by a 4×4. It’s manoeuvred into position on the pavement outside the Florrie by a combination of helpers and a reluctant-to-run engine, and we find out shortly from Gimpo that we are, indeed, going to be pulling the damn thing from here to an undisclosed location across Liverpool later on. And the first task is to rig up the harnesses to allow us to do this. Gimpo has long lengths of rope, shorter lengths, and some bolt-through clasps. We organise ourselves quickly, as it happens, everyone seems really up for it and everyone wants to help each other. It probably takes about an hour for the van to be roped and harnessed and for us to work out where we will be in the 2 lines, and then the van is ready to be pulled and we can relax for a bit, barring getting our faces painted…

The Great Pull North

Skipping to later on – as the Rites Of Mumufication are about to begin, the Leg One Pullers are asked to sit near the back as we will need to be out early on. Once the ceremony is over and we process out, I get to my allotted place in front of the van and put my rope over my shoulder. All of my fellow Pullers are really excited too and we watch the procession assembling itself in front of and behind us, and then we’re ready to be off. We have an official Encourager leading us in the chant – ‘Great Pull North, PULL!’, we have Gimpo urging us on, Bill and Jimmy are in place and we have the chimes of the Van playing in our ears, and we are off. It’s amazing. The sense of occasion and indeed awe that came from the ceremony we’d just taken part in was all around us, and I felt that I was really taking part in something special and indeed almost other-wordly in terms of being so far removed from everyday happenings. All around me there are fellow members of the 400, there are friends and onlookers, there are bemused locals – the atmosphere is amazing! During the First Leg I have conversations with my fellow pullers, my friends, with Oliver (who seems like a great guy!), with Rupert Callender (striding along with the skull of Papa Gede)… I don’t want it to end. But end it must, although I think we Leg One Pullers did more than 1/3 of the journey. We stride over the strewn ragwort and buddleia and I don’t think I’ve done anything quite so much fun and so unusual ever, really.

Oliver Senton

Rupert Callender & Papa Gede

Looking back on it – do I feel changed? Yes – inspired to create more and to participate in life rather than observe. Would I do it again? YES! I really want to take part in the first Toxteth Day of the Dead. I feel totally privileged to have been one of the 400 and to have been a Puller.

The Great Pull North 2



All photography courtesy of: M. Cooper.