Toxteth Day Of The Dead 2019
Toxteth Day Of The Dead 2019

KLF Khronicals #21: Wake L8, Toxteth Day Of The Dead, Hereafter Party, Thetis Bardos

Toxteth Day Of The Dead extends to 3 days for 2019, Vicky Pea reports from Wake L8, Toxteth Day Of The Dead, The Hereafter Party and Thetis Bardos.

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By Vicky Pea
Mon 25 November, 2019

“Will you be writing this one up?”

“I’ve not decided yet. Writing about the first one is one thing, but if I write about the second I’m setting myself up for life. Although it would also be pretty awesome if the first one I didn’t write about was the one where I’m dead and getting laid.”

Above you see my general thought process in regards to writing this entry. It wasn’t a guarantee. If anything I woke up Friday morning very anti-Khronical. I don’t know what I was thinking seeing as I actually don’t have a choice in the matter. I say that with the utmost love because the lack of choice comes from inside my own head, quite possibly the other place too.

With the events extended this year my usual reflections were delayed a further day until Sunday night where now I lay fidgeting in bed, habitually checking the time (1:18), screaming “Go to sleep!” and “You have work in the morning!” inside my head whilst a torrent of thoughts and phrases and feelings and sentences just flood the cavity between my ears until there’s no room for the screams to resonate in and so I just resign to getting up and starting this.

The problem is, it’s all so damn inspiring. I don’t know what other word to use to describe something that literally keeps me awake for nights on end, mind wandering and wills me to share my thoughts on it.

🧱 Our coverage from 2018’s Toxteth Day Of The Dead 🧱 

So as I go about this once again please keep in mind that I had no involvement in the plans this year (except for producing the job cards) and so I had intended to arrive purely as a spectator, with just about as much information as the rest of you. Now due to my unnaturally high levels of road safety awareness, something I can only accredit to my brief spell in the Girl Guides, I ended up in my now traditional role of ‘bringing up the rear’ and yelling at people who DARE TO UNDERMINE MY ROAD SAFETY AUTHORITY. Sorry if I did yell at you, really, please know that it comes from a place of deep anxiety and desire to, ironically, keep you all alive for future events. 

What this means however is that I spent the entirety of the three days either in a corner giving out jobs, standing at the back peeking over crowds on my tiptoes straining to hear, let alone get a proper view of what was occurring, or sat on the door punching tickets, so please excuse any inaccuracies or omissions in my account of what took place, I’m trying my best from my obstructed views of the weekend. 

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Friday 22nd November

The first new addition to Toxteth Day Of The Dead this year came in the form of Wake L8. I arrived at The Florrie a couple of hours before kick-off where the Liverpool Arts Lab were doing their thing and transforming the gym of the Florrie into tonight’s venue, centered around a decorated shrine of sorts under which the Foundation Stone and Bricks of Mu of the recently MuMufied (or is it soon to be MuMufied? At what point does one officially become MuMufied?) would shortly be displayed and so I got to hanging lights, arranging milk ghosts and keeping busy.

The evening was sound-tracked by the prolific, lovely, even taller than you expect and only several hours away from joining the ‘yelled at by me in the street’ club Stephen Clarke 1980, with some of the songs picked by the family and friends in tribute to their departed person. Of course he pitched it absolutely perfectly, cementing the tone of the evening that remained respectful but celebratory and full of expression. 

Where present, family and friends of those to join the People’s Pyramid were welcomed and take the time to tell us their stories, read poems, perform songs and let us know exactly who we were here to meet. 

Those people are;

Donald Joyce

Jonathan Webber

Michal ‘Ricky Fitz’ Lucienic

Charles Hardman

Alex Johnson

Andrew Nelson

Kaushal Kumar Gupta

Brian Wilks

Simon Cauty

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It feels strange to say ‘meet’ but that’s what we had to do before we could move onto remembering them. Usually, if you’re at a wake it’s because you at least knew of the person in question, but not tonight and that’s where the good stuff is.

Tonight I found out about 9 brilliant people that I’d almost certainly never ever known about otherwise. And they were all brilliant in their own individual ways, made apparent from the words of their family and friends. We met them, applauded them, laughed at the things they did and said, felt sorrow for the things they didn’t get to do and now we’ll remember them. 

That’s how the wake kept me up that night, because everyone is kind of brilliant, aren’t they? I mean we didn’t just get lucky with 9 proper boss people joining the ranks of the MuMufied. To the people that care about you and know you, you’re brilliant. So then I thought about that for several hours and wondered if I shouldn’t be a bit nicer to people and not put on a hat and headphones and keep to myself so much but then I had to get up and get back on the Merseyrail and returned to the comforts of headphones and hats for the time being.

I would absolutely love to see the wake becomes a permanent part of each year’s ritual, as morbid as it sounds, I can’t wait to find out about some more brilliant strangers next year. 

🔺 What is the People’s Pyramid? 🔺

We were also gifted a wonderful new tag line for our mission by Angie, via Jimmy. It shouldn’t be GET MUMUFICATION”, it should be “GET LAID!”  he proclaimed with glee.

Saturday 23rd November 

Ahhh, I love the sight of pure chaos in the morning. I’ve set up Job shop in The Florrie garden and spent the pre-procession time assigning the remaining jobs including Withy Bearers, Ball Bouncers, Plagiarisers, Shouters of “Where’s My Shirt”, Horn Honkers, Kopywriters, Compliment Givers, Spirits of The Flame, Staff Bearers and Banner Bearers to name but a few, being handed random objects by The JAMS, failing to answer any logistical questions they asked of me and taking attendee photos in Melinda Gebbie’s ‘La Dias del Muertos’ booth (see gallery below!). 

Each time I poke my head around the van the crowd is bigger, louder, brighter and before I know it or have done any of the things I was hoping or attempting to do we’re all squished into The Florrie for our final briefing. 

We’re treated to a new gorgeous poem performed by Tommy and Michelle as well as a tribute to our first 2019 Great Spirit of L8 and community hero Kumar Ramasamy V. Volunteer extraordinaire Kumar taught English as a second language and ran a mobile breakfast service for refugees and asylum seekers to name just two of his many contributions to make the world a better place.

Then, around 1.23 ish, we’re off! As per my intro I’m now equipped with a Milk Ghost Staff and my highest blood pressure of the year, poking stragglers in the back and flinching every time someone steps off the pavement. 

We celebrated our next Great Spirits of L8 with Eileen Halligan in a commemorative memorial garden and playground, including the magnificent statue Wo/Man. These Great Spirits of L8 are Lynn Aldridge and Stephen Flannery.

We soon come across a familiar sight, the end of last year’s procession, now marked by a tile depicting the moment the first Brick of Mu was laid. We’re welcomed by 4 wise women to guide us into 2 circles for a ring of roses type ritual.

I’m happy to report that the Beckoning Of The Gimpo returns once more this year and probably takes the crown for the most amusing moment of the day. To the tune of D.I.S.C.O (you know the one) we coax the shy and reserved Gimpo (accompanied by the Foundation Stone) towards us with new and ridiculous lyrics. We are invited to touch and welcome the stone before making our way to find the Keeper Of The Ghosts.

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We are each provided a ribbon on which we are asked to write the name of our ghost on and either pin or tie them to us for the remainder of our journey today. The Keeper Of The Ghosts recites a poem, Eternal Friend, to inspire our choices and mark this moment. 

My first ‘goosebumps’ moment comes as we visit a flower bed and hear about Great Spirit of L8 Julie Christian who we celebrate with a soft and delicate rendition of The Beatles’ Blackbird, one of Julie’s favourite songs.

As we make our way onto Merlin Street we encounter Eric waiting to tell us his tale, the tale of Merlin. Naturally, this leads to Arthur and the story of the Great Spirit of L8 Tony Bradshaw. With Tony having been an ecologist Excalibur is no longer a sword, but a shovel. Attendees try and fail to wield it from its stone (wheelie bin) until our Arthur steps forth to rightly be crowned the new King of England

On Dombey Street we here the tale of Frankie Su. Great Spirit of L8 and England’s first Chinese footballer. Not far away at the site of the Old Credit Union House we meet Great Spirit of L8 Eileen Halligan Sr. The tribute reads ‘To Eileen Halligan and all those at the Credit Union who helped see through her vision. A Lifesaver to many.’  It is also around this point I realise many of the Arts Labber’s have spent much of their time at each of these spots educating the onlookers. How many times they must have answered: “What’s this all about?” I wouldn’t like to guess. Each time they do it’s with kindness and energy and is necessary if this tradition is to grow within the L8 community and not just our own.

Another new element introduced this year is… a break! Squash Nutrition Cafe plays host as Tocky Tarts are passed around and in my case administered to me in what could be considered basic first aid. If you’ve not had the pleasure of a Tocky Tart then I’ve no hesitation in telling you they’re bloody lovely and The Night Chef’s onto a winner with them, they’ve taken on a bit of a life and buzz of their own. 

As always tends to happen, even in November, an ice cream van turns up and some gleefully help themselves to a 99 or several. In true ‘from the ashes’ fashion we learn the uplifting and defiant story of Squash as well as Great Spirit of L8 Esiah Levy, the Croydon Gardener who passed away earlier this year. 

I predicted ‘goosebumps moment’ #2 the moment I heard about it. The Hope Street Harmonies choir’s rendition of Do You Realise?! by The Flaming Lips. Tingly just thinking about it. Proper stunning, as a huge Flaming Lips fan this was practically tailor-made for me. 

Then there’s a little change. A little spark. You really can feel it when we start to head into the final stages of our procession. There’s a pace and anticipation that builds as the sun gets lower in sync with us ending our snack break and pushing onward.

Great Spirits of L8 John Archer and Adrian Henry are welcomed ahead of another returning tradition, The Annual Broadie Ball Testimonial. The Broadie Ball is beckoned forth and in tribute to Great Spirits of L8 Gordon Weston and Tommy Lawrenson we kick off with a game of headers ‘n’ volleys. 

The Hope Street Harmonies choir joins us again at Toxteth Library (save your local libraries!) for their version of Nick Cave’s The Ship Song before we’re given our coins in preparation for crossing The River Styx. Or Upper Parliament Street in this case. Waiting to scare the shit out of us, or maybe just me, on the other side is Our Lady Of Go Fuck Yourself, strapped to the fence along the pavement and lurching toward us as we pass by. 

We stop at number 3 Gambier Terrace, once home to John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, where we’ve time for another sing-along, this time to Across The Universe. As the last Ommmmmm’s resonate out it is now time to embark on the final stages of our journey in silence. 

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The final Great Spirit of L8 is remembered, and remembered fondly by many of us, at The Oratory that sits next to our entrance to our final destination, St James Gardens. Here we remember Paul Agoro of The Little Grapes pub who died earlier this year.

As we descend into St James Garden in silence we pass through a stone tunnel where the echoes of saxophone bounce up the walls, on the other side the incredible grounds of the Anglican Cathedral wind out in front us, you turn a corner and you can see in the distance the glowing lights of Milk Ghosts, the real, proper, Ice Kream Van and a growing mass of bodies planting their feet in front of an altar where The Bricklayer and The Undertakers stand. Epic would be an understatement. I mean you really had to be there and look around it was insane to think we were where we actually were and how dare I say, cult-y, it looked.

The Undertakers welcome us to this year’s Toxteth Day Of The Dead and, as they’re known well known to do, create that magical atmosphere that is unique to these events. One of an appropriately somber and respectful nature but with a cheeky element of “we’re building a fucking Pyramid out of dead folk” running through it. For me, it’s an environment that brings feelings of connectivity, empathy, stillness, understanding, amazement and peace bubbling up.

The Bricks of Mu to be laid are collected by friends and family or representatives from The JAMS in the Ice Kream Van and brought up to the altar where raised above the crowd Daisy Campbell, The Bricklayer, is assisted by The Night Chef aka The Bricklayers Labourer in intently preparing and placing each of the 8 Bricks of Mu onto the Foundation Stone, where they are laid, joining the remains of Simon Cauty from last year’s ceremony. The silence remains unbroken.

Once all Bricks of Mu have been laid and cemented in place The Undertakers close this year’s Toxteth Day Of The Dead ceremony and a gong rings out 10 times, which in the enclosed surroundings of the grounds is a beautiful and haunting sound. 

A mighty and veiled Pete Wylie steps to the front of the altar and leads those gathered in one final sing along to K Sera Sera (War Is Over). We actually make a half-decent choir ourselves at times. 

In our final ritual, we end our ghost’s journey for the day as well as our own. Tommy informs us that elsewhere, in London, John Crow is conducting his final vigil at Crossbones. In a cathartic end we return our ghosts to The Keeper Of The Ghosts, giving them up, letting them go, as a chant mutters it’s way around us “Here lay your hearts, your flowers, your book of hours, your fingers, your thumbs, your miss your mums, here hang your hopes, your dreams, you might have beens, your locks, your keys, your mysteries”.  

It’s done. Shoulders slump, knees buckle and we take a moment to reset. Smiles, nods, winks and hugs are shared.

Although a shorter route than last year the day is no less long. Mead is passed through the thinning crowd, “Thinning?” you ask. Why yes, there’s a party to get to!

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A lesson learned from last year was that this group ain’t one for an early night or a quick getaway, so this year the Liverpool Arts Lab and District added the Hereafter Party to proceedings. What a bloody good idea it was too.

By the time I get there, having hung back a little to gather the last, wild, roaming Milk Ghosts from the cemetery grounds, there’s already a healthy gathering of people, most of which chowing down on the fine, warm, plentiful food on offer. A refueling if I’ve ever seen one.

You can only imagine the type and quality of the conversations going on, but I manage to drag myself away after a couple of cans to enjoy the performance of Paddy Steer. A more perfect act for this event you’d struggle to find. The dude gravitates your attention to him, as well as your limbs in a variety of directions.

As most of the Arts Lab take to the stage themselves as part of Keep It Cryptic I man the door and run a small taxi service, which is actually quite nice as I get to have a seat and chat to most of those who turn up and/or leave on their way out.

Thanks to the power of cheap and fruity ciders I fall asleep as soon as I hit the sofa a little past 2, shoes n’ all. In fact, I won’t even get to take them off for another 14 hours or so… because it’s still not over!

Sunday 24th November 2019

Sunday morning, late Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon if we’re being technical, produces the rarest of things. Something actually actually this side, my side, the other side, of the river. I could barely believe it. Emma Watkinson, with some help from the Liverpool Arts Lab, is conducting a ritual on the banks of the Mersey in Birkenhead concerning the 1939 sinking of the HMS Thetis submarine in the Mersey that ultimately took the lives of 100 men.

Believe it or not, there is many a Discordian connection that can be made of these events, Emma and the other attendees enthusiastically bring us up to speed, the wedding of Thetis and Peleus being that wedding that our Eris threw a fit at if you’re to believe the Greeks, plus connections to 23rd August and the beginning of World War II.

After a performance full of mythology, tall tales, a catfight, chilly calves and more Timothy Leary’s than one was able to count in such a state we were pleased to learn we had in fact “ACHIEVED ENLIGHTENMENT” in assisting the souls of the Thetis on their journey to, or through, the void. Not the scary void, the good death of the ego kind of void. 

Capers over we were then invited to climb the tower at Birkenhead Priory where each step is marked by the name of one of the souls lost with the Thetis. From top to bottom each of the attendees announced the three names that were memorialised in the metal plaques to the right, in front of and to the left of them. The names were spoken, the bell was rung and the men of the Thetis remembered. Another story that I never would have heard about if not for Emma and the Arts Lab. Sounds familiar that doesn’t it?

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Monday 25th November 2019

Somehow this strange new annual tradition, born from chaos, has become a source of comforting reliability. This year hasn’t been a classic, one of those where you feel like your coming out of it worse than came into it, I’ve disappointed myself on too many occasions and spent far too much of it in fear, but there is an optimism to be had in knowing this strange thing exists. That once a year we get to have these mad couple of days that so far have not failed to inspire me on every occasion and that switch my thinking, change the focus, pull the roots up of my perspective and plonk me down somewhere a little bit different and removed from that person who turned up a few days ago.

Ahead of this year’s event I expressed the standard “Can’t believe how quick the year’s gone” sentiment to Tommy who of course replied with perfection. “We’ll measure out the rest of our spans in the spaces between each Toxteth Day Of The Dead”. Never-mind new years and birthdays, if at 00:00 on 24th November is when my calendar flicks over then I’m always guaranteed to be ending this year and starting the next in a very special place indeed.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE’S PYRAMID 

Photo gallery below by Vicky Pea

*If you did not collect your printed photo from me on the weekend, please get in touch via twitter or email with a postal address and I’ll send them out.*

How Did We Get Here? Revisit the KLF Khronicals for the whole story.

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