Vicky Pea enters the pages of 2023 to take a whistle-stop tour with The JAMS – not those ones, but those ones too.
Well that was shit wasn’t it?
Just kidding… Part one of Burn The Shard is complete. What was Burn The Shard? Well my day went a little something like this.
23rd November 2017
It’s 12.45 pm and I’m jotting these notes on my iPhone (23?) as to not forget them as they pop into my mind. The three weeks between the announcement of todays happening and now sitting on the train on route to said happening have fleeted by with nothing else of much notice, which is of course a lie, but that’s what it feels like now. A bit like how you never remember how you got into a dream, your just in the dream, now I’m just on the train.
Priority number one is to finish re-reading 2023, I’ve only three and a bit chapters left so it doesn’t take long before I’m filled with all of those feelings that finishing a book leaves you with. Questions, reflections, a void, desire for meaning. One of the questions that sticks is that of who is the main character in 2023? Is it the author Roberta Wilson, the narrator King Francisco Malabo Beosa XXIII (one of then) or is it Winnie? Certainly the three most likely culprits. As I think each option over in my head they all have their pros and cons. Roberta is the character I feel the reader has the closest relationship with and most empathy due to the direct addressing of the reader via her diary entries, however if she’s telling a story then surely she would not intent for herself to be the main character. Malabo often addresses the reader too, but throughout 2023 I often forget about who the narrator is and the context of him in the story, his presence doesn’t quite stick.
Most of the narrative follows Winnie but that doesn’t feel right either. Commonly a book that reveals its narrator, then goes as far to introduce the writer, would imply great importance on either or one of them, but this novel doesn’t exactly follow the rules. I’m torn between deciding on it being very much an ensemble effort, or that the year 2023 itself is the main character.
Although many who purchased the book have yet to read it (as will become apparent later today) I genuinely enjoyed it. “Of course you did, you’d love anything to do with the JAMS”. An excusable reaction I’ll let you get away with, but not accurate. I’d have no problem denouncing 2023 as a pile of shite if it was, but that’s simply not the case.
2023 had me laughing to myself regularly, thoroughly confused at times and riveted throughout. I’ve compared Bill’s writing to that of gonzo before and will now do so again. The reworking of real historical events and figures, flagged with the caveat of avoiding legal situations, as well as referencing the current situation and culture we currently find ourselves in here, in 2017, allowing you to place yourself in the story as you already have reference points to places and times in which you existed and experienced.
This raises another question. Who is actually the author of 2023? No I’m not talking about George Orwell or Roberta Wilson but the actual author. Bill? Bill and Jimmy? A team? Someone else entirely?
As with any novel the main question is of course, what’s the message? Is there a point? A debate and investigation for another entry I predict. For now, as I sit with the countryside whizzing by I hope that whatever occurs today might aid in shining a light on some of these ponderings, at this point I assume the book will again be central to proceedings with the title Burn The Shard and the release of the audiobook already hinting towards that likelihood.
Behind me in Liverpool another happening is in the midst of its preparation as the Liverpool Arts Lab prepares for its ritual cleansing of Mathew Street. After all today is a special day, something I tell myself to remember in relation to whatever follows and how it may play into this years Discordianism holy day. Before this year I’d never even known about any such things, now I’m aware of events happening up and down the country, a whole raft of people celebrating and enjoying a day that was previously ticked off my calendar like an other.
The two and a half hour journey leaves a lot of space for the mind to wander into. Mostly about what I’ll write in this entry and the adventure so far. I write a little list of The JAMS output and activities so far this year. Something that becomes apparent is that they’re starting to cover all bases of creative expression. Through the book at the mechanisms put in place at Welcome To The Dark Ages we’ve experienced all types of art. The written word, music, the physical creation of art (this leads me to a train of thought surrounding fan-art, another one for another time), theatrical interpretations, visual imagery with 2023 The Triptych. 2023 seems to be ticking all the traditional boxes of ‘the arts’. An all encompassing umbrella.
Well I’m sure you weren’t expecting to read 800 words before actually getting to the event, so I suppose I’d better crack on.
Armed with a post code and an instruction not to be late I arrived at tonights location to see the Ice Kream Van parked down an ally next to our HQ for the evening, The Barge House. It’s about 6.45pm so I head straight in, past the now familiar poster of rules, to get my hand stamped and told to “Report to Oliver“. Hurrah, Oliver is here, it’s been too long since our ears have been treated to his pleasing, booming delivery and gracious hosting skills.
As instructed I seek out Oliver to be presented a range of jobs. This time we get to pick and so I select the card Emotional First Responder 1 in hopes that if nothing else I can pat someone on the back if it all gets a bit too much, feeling that I’m now somewhat well prepared for whatever may happen. The job comes with the standard K2 high vis vest, which Gimpo will later spot thinking that I’m one of his helpers, as if I’d have been silly enough to volunteer for that. We also all receive a Dead Perch Posters x 99 job card.
Other jobs on offer include; Explainer, Dead Perch PR, First Aid, Life Guard (should anyone end up in the canal we are located on), DPM Security, Actor Lighter, Lighter of Daisy and Oliver, Paste Mixer, Hander Out Of Posters, Tangerine Distributor, Pies of Mu, Emboldener and probably a few more.
At this time I spot a few familiar faces from the Dark Ages and we enjoy catching up on what’s been going on since, talking about the creative exploits of some of them and how we came to be here this evening.
At 7pm we’re beckoned downstairs and greeted by Oliver once more and welcomed to Burn The Shard Part 1. Daisy is introduced to give tonights “first and longest reading of 2023“. She performs Book One Chapter Four (more of a performance than a reciting) in which Winnie is going for her 17km run starting by the canal. We are also told that should anyone ask what we’re doing on our adventure tonight to reply “We’re going to get Big Mac with Fries”, if anyone should ask who’s in charge we are to reply “We’re all volunteers”.
With that we’re soon lined up outside along the canal, the 99 dressed in either the iconic yellow macs or hi vis vests. We’re waiting for Winnie to run past us as which time we’ll follow her. I can’t say I actually saw her but there were a lot of joggers and cyclists along the route so she most likely looked like any other. The line starts to set off so we’re following her up the canal, under a bridge, all the while Gimpo is lobbing yellow smoke bombs along our route. We come to a halt as across the river a figure is standing against the rails, a slender woman with short black hair that to any reader of 2023 identifies as Yoko (the younger). She then begins to lift the sheet covered corpse of John Lennon from the floor and over the railings, into the canal, the ‘Actor Lighters’ shining their torches on the scene for us all to see.
We don’t stop for long and continue up the canal until we reach Oliver and another character looming above us. Oliver reads from Book Two Chapter One of 2023 that introduces us to Henry, Henry Da Riot, the previously fat and taunted boy who now hits the gym and throws bricks though windows. We now follow Henry on this route back to his home at 355 Queensbridge Road. On the way the main source of our entertainment, as it so often is, becomes watching Gimpo. He’s taking glee in smoke bombing the hell out of the city, finding inconvenient and annoying places to plant his little yellow bundles of joy, even managing to lodge a couple onto the back of the Ice Kream Van whenever it passes. Before we reach Henry’s flats we see Yoko fly posting one of the 2023 What The Fuuk Is Going On posters onto a bus shelter. When we reach 355 Queensbridge Road Henry disappears inside and Oliver takes his stage to pick up from his last reading where we discover Henry’s intention to burn the Shard. We’re also given Tangerines. I still have no idea why.
Now it’s time to follow Chodak. We’re lined up in single file holding onto a rope as we follow the monk with “Big Mac with Fries” chants spreading down the line. I can tell we’re approaching the high street as more people start to pass us, groups of kids trying to figure out whats going on and chasing the van.
“When you see the yellow arches start the chant!” Daisy bellows. We’re on Dalston highstreet at about 8.30pm on a Thursday night. It’s much busier than the Great Pull North and we’re attracting much more attention. Our chant of “Big Mac with Fries” has now been hilariously immortalised by a tweet from a local resident asking if anyone else heard a crowd chanting “Bring back mince-pies” that ironically does somewhat tie in to later events. Perhaps we need to work on our elocution for next time.
We enter McDonalds one by one, chanting our mantra as we walk up to the counter, around the seating area and bemused diners and leave, no time to stand and watch, across the road we go and are directed inside a pub. No idea why but it was fun just to walk into one door, through the pub, and out the other door with no explanation. Why not?
We snake around and visit the Arcola Theatre where Henry was once a young thespian before doubling back to Gillett Square. From what I gather we had been expected at the theatre, but something somewhere seemed to go wrong as we were denied entry, none the less the actors we had been following at this point simply performed outside the venue instead in, what I can only guess was a pidgin rendition of Macbeth as is referenced in 2023.
In the square we’re well taken care of as shots of Jura are passed around from the Ice Kream Van as well as Mu Mu mince pies (they’re back after all!), which Daisy tells us were made by Bill’s very hand. One attendee next to me seemed to stop mid bite and ask “really?” in a concerned tone. I neither like whiskey or mince pies but I partake in both in the spirit of things. This is where I also spot Ronald McDonald, being spun around in a shopping trolly. I had hoped we’d get to see the scene where Chodak beheads Ronald McDonald but alas, that would have been a harder one to pull off.
Those with the roles of Paste Mixers and Handers Out Of Posters are beckoned. Each pairing is to take a bucket and a poster. This is the first time I feel a little lonely on my adventure. Despite not being part of a pair, having so many familiar faces about meant at no point was I ever just parading about alone, but looks like I’ll be sitting this bit out. All the buckets and posters are claimed for and we spot Yoko approaching.
We follow to watch a reenactment from 2023, where Winnie and Yoko meet, Yoko’s mouth covered with black tape which Winnie removes to be surprisingly snogged by Yoko. They then give us a tutorial of how to successfully fly post. As I’m watching a man comes up to me asking what’s going on (probably about the 4th of the night so far) I try to explain and he tells me it’s his shop we’re currently pasting on. He doesn’t mind though, he points to a small piece of wall missing saying “That used to be a Banksy”. Well that makes sense I think to myself.
We’re on the last leg of our 2023 tour and stop alongside a construction site, enclosed around one of those erected wooden board walls. This shall be the spot for our vandalism. On the way a passer by inexplicably decided to yell “No hanky panky, none of that hanky panky” of which we’re not sure what he meant, but it inspired the fantastic new chant “Sex Cult, Sex Cult, We’re a Sex Cult“.
In perfect (terrible) synchronisation the 49 pairs approached the wall and began the ritual of pasting and applying their 2023 What The Fuuk Is Going On posters. Cue the 5th person to approach me asking what indeed was going on. Our job was done.
Apparently none of the posters remained there the next day, which I feel is a mighty shame. I hope not because any of the 99 decided to go back and claim them for their own. One of the passages in 2023 tells of how those very posters we’re removed in order to be displayed after winning the Damian Hurst Award (previously Tate Award) so it would be lame if someone decided to take them home for their perceived value. It would have been cool to see some general public reaction to them.
We return to the Barge House where we are promised a performance by Badger Kull. We’re issued song sheets by Bill, one side with the lyrics to Burn The Shard and the other Jerusalem. Enter four blokes in delightful jumpers and little sailor beanies. I’ve got to say, I’m loving this new look. Think fisherman barbershop quartet.
As they stand on the stairs they treat us to their rendition of Burn The Shard, pausing to teach us the proper sea shanty bits before we all join in and have a jolly good sing song. Badger Kull, like the FUUK movement of 2023, has now been opened too all, or so it would seem. Just a concept to be wielded when required.
Some time later Ronald McDonald and Henry lead the room in a hearty rendition of Jerusalem as many enjoy a bottle of Dead Perch Brew. Beer is another thing I hate, more than cider and mince pies, so I pass. Maybe a Dead Perch Cider next time aye?
Jimmy takes to the merch desk to start stamping books, Bill joining him some time later. Those that don’t have books present song sheets, merch or other bits and bobs to be branded.
Once the demand for stamping has subsided the new merch makes an appearance. We’ve three options, all of which cost £20.23.
An Audio book download with free poster and free 7″ single
A Poster with free 7″ single and free audio book download
A 7″ single with free poster and free audio book download
I just take whatever I’m handed with a smile and put it safely away in my backpack. With that the night is over. Many are still hanging about the Barge House, enjoying good conversation, I stay until around 11.30pm then make my leave to head back to the hotel, I’ve got a 5.27am train to catch and a desk to be at by 9.00am. I thank Bill as I leave and hope that they had just as a good of a time as we did.
Of course I don’t sleep a wink. I just lay there thinking about this, thinking about what that was all about and what might be next, thankful that this time I’ve not got to worry removing a layer of paint from my mug.
Although the threat of being quizzed on 2023 by the DPM never came to fruition I feel it was a good threat to make, as I’m sure the night was far more enjoyable, and understandable, to those of us that had thoroughly read the book. I could instantly recognise characters and their context and was able to flashback to those scenes. The actors were great too, not just in their performances but appearance, they all looked pretty much exactly as I’d envisioned them in my head.
One of the things that struck me was the concept of Grapefruit Are Not The Only Bombs. In 2023 it’s the book Yoko (the younger) creates and sends to 23 people. Each of them find something in the book that they feel relates directly and specifically to them. In Welcome To The Dark Ages it’s the book the 400 created on Day Two, having been issued a page that was specifically for us to find inspiration, and now this evening it seems as though The JAMS have taken our book and used it as their inspiration.
Back in August one the chapters did go into McDonalds and chant “Big Mac with Fries”. We were issued with tangerines by another Chapter. Neither of these two things happen in 2023, but here we are doing them. Tonight wasn’t just a reenactment of parts of 2023, but also it seems a tribute to Grapefruit Are Not The Only Bombs, the 400 edition. A domino effect.
The JAMS write a book that references another book, that in its pages, usually individual pages – one per character – inspires the characters actions and their future. The JAMS divide their book up, one page for each of the 400 that inspire their immediate actions on Day Two. The 400 create a book. The JAMS take that book and then recreate some of the pages as part of Burn The Shard Part 1. Still with me? You guessed it, another one for another time.
In the days that have followed Burn The Shard Part 1 some criticism surfaced online, primarily from those that were not present. That there wasn’t a ‘buzz’ of activity online during the event itself, sharing what was going on, that it all felt like a bit of a damn squib. I can appreciate that those who didn’t get to go would be keen to live it vicariously via social media (as I would have) and that in comparison to Welcome To The Dark Ages where almost every second was shared instantaneously things would have seemed quieter but that should not be the measure by which we judge events. After all 2023 makes a plain mockery of such things, if we’re to judge the impact and events of 2023 it should most definitely not be through whether or not its ‘trending’. It would be counter intuitive to everything The JAMS and 2023 represent.
Burn The Shard Part 1 was also somewhat harshly summarised online in my opinion (by non attendees) to be “a walk, some chanting and fly posting.” Even if that was a accurate description of events, what’s wrong with that? Better than a majority of Thursday nights. I find it quite strange that those not in attendance have more of a desire to categorise it and rate it than those who were.
Was is as good as Welcome To The Dark Ages? Of course not, but we’re talking apples and oranges here. It was different. A different motivation behind it, a different context with different resources to make it happen. To say they didn’t live up to expectations would only be to say they set expectations so high back in August and I’d have thought any fan of The JAMS would put little credence in having expectations by now.
It was clear enough to me on the night that the 99 had a damn fine time. I’d go as far as to say that those of the 99 that were not at the Dark Ages had a better time than those of the 400 that were there. I mentioned a few entries ago that no one wants to play to the same crowd twice. If the selection of the 99 had purely been 99 of the 400 you’re limiting your ‘audience’ to the 400. Another act which would have been counter intuitive. Especially if my idea about them recreating our scenes from Grapefruit Are Not The Only Bombs holds some truth. It would make no sense to do this for its creators.
Overall Burn The Shard Part 1 was an inventive and enjoyable way to bring 2023 to life and to have some fun in the process and I’d have no hesitation in doing it all again in, hopefully, part 2 and however many more parts they fancy putting together. Although I literally just denounced having expectations a few lines ago, I think it’s safe to say anything they do next will be unique and a whole lot of fun. As for when these may take place? I’ll be keeping the 23rd of the month clear from here on out.
You can keep up to date with Vicky’s Journey Into The JAMS on Twitter @vxpeax