Sunday, 18 May 2014

Neil and Tori and Dave (Oh My)

Foyer, British Library
Back in March, I saw that the British Library was going to be having an Exhibition, Comics Unmasked, about (the clue is in the title!) comics. And, even more exciting, from my perspective, that one of the events associated with the exhibition was this one, Neil Gaiman and Tori Amos, in conversation. Followed by Amanda Palmer and guests.

How could I resist? 


I was lucky enough to get tickets - I think I must have got in just before the rush started! So Friday morning saw me on a train heading towards London, and a truly excellent day! I t was, of course, disappointing to learn that Amanda wasn't able to be there, but the news that Neil, and Dave McKean, would both be part of the music event was excellent compensation!

After visiting the Vikings exhibition, I met up with my friend A, and we had a very civilised meal in Russell Square Gardens, before heading on the the British Library where we were issued with wrist bands for the evening event, and then we went into the conference centre.

The auditorium was starting to fill up so staff were directing people to specific seats, and we ended up in the second row, right at one end, which turned out to be pretty good seats! (and, although we didn't realise it until she went up to the stage, it turned out that the red-headed lady sitting immediately in front of us for the introductions was Tori Amos herself!)

Neil and Tori
The room seats about 250 people, which feels pretty small and intimate, and the event involved 2 of the exhibition's curators, John Harris Dunning and Paul Gravett, (Paul Gravett has known Neil for years, having been involved in getting Violent Cases published)

It felt less like an interview, and more like a conversation between friends which just happened to be taking place in front of 250 guests!

Neil had just returned from his trip to Jordan for the UNHCR , and looked rather worn out from it, and when he spoke a little about it, later in the evening, it was obvious that those experiences were still very raw. 

However, much of the conversation was much more lighthearted and free-ranging moving from how Neil and Tori met, the fact that despite having know one another for years there only seems to be one photo of them together (after Friday night, that will have changed!). They also talked about the reason Blueberry Girl was written, (with a shout out to Tash, who was in the audience)  and the reason it was finally published (Neil claimed he got fed up with photocopying it for people who asked for it at readings) .

Neil and Tori were both asked what they would try to teach, if they had an apprentice for a day, and both confirmed that they wouldn't try to teach someone to write, but to think about the creative process (Neil said he would probably take them for a walk, and try to explain what goes on in his head when he goes for a walk. I should love to take that walk!)

There was talk of how Tori and Neil  inspired one another, and Neil mentioned that one of the things he liked about Tori's songs when he heard them was the whole "Me and Neil'll be hanging out with the Dream King" - seeing him as separate from his creation, and also admitted that; "...some of Delirium's best lines were stolen from Tori".

Dave McKean
The conversation was over all too soon, and we all moved from the conference centre into the main entrance hall of the Library, for the second part of the evening: 'Late at the Library', which featured lots of music, and a reading from Neil. We started with some music from Dave McKean, some of which was accompanied by his own animations. I should like to hear, and see more (and luckily, he is appearing again at the Library on 6th and 7th June, so I should get the chance!)
Neil, reading

His performance was followed by a reading by Neil, who read 2 of the stories from 'A Calendar of Tales' (October and July), and 'The Day the Saucers Came'

There was more music from Marc Almond (Whose work,  I must confess, I was not previously familiar with) and the 'Comics Unmasked' exhibition was open throughout the evening.

I had been to look round earlier in the day, but we did go back in, and I have to say the exhibition, which is full of sinister mannequins wearing 'V for Vendetta' masks, as well as the comics), particularly  the 'sex tent' (the section of the exhibit containing the more graphic exhibits, unsuitable for the overly sensitive) works well late at night, with Rock music and the smell of beer and popcorn  in the background!

We didn't stay right to the end, leaving around 10, having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, met various friends and acquaintances, and generally had a stonking good evening.

And there is something utterly wonderful about filling the British Library, of all places, with comics, rock, and partying people!

(more photos here)

(PS - I believe that the conversation, at least, was recorded, so will presumably be available online in due course)

EDITED TO ADD: the event is now on YouTube:

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