Ian Hinchliffe in a Hammersmith hole was loudly building something dubious

Ian Hinchliffe (right) with Lol Coxhill (Photo by Bill Smith)

Ian Hinchliffe (right) with Lol Coxhill (Photo by Bill Smith)

As an antidote to news of the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe, another story about now-dead anarchic performance artist Ian Hinchliffe.

Four days ago, I posted a memory by Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – a story of Ian Hinchliffe performing at a Matchbox Purveyors’ gig in Toronto around 1985/1986.

Bill’s memoir Rant & Dawdle

Bill’s personal memoir of England and Canada and more – Rant & Dawdle

Musicians Lol Coxhill and Bill Smith (no relation of Anna) were members of The Matchbox Purveyors. Bill, in his book Rant and Dawdle: The Fictional Memoir of Colston Willmott calls them “a pocket-sized back-up band for the English lunatic humorist Ian Hinchliffe”.

Bill now lives on one of the Gulf Islands near Vancouver. He remembers one incident with Ian Hinchliffe in London. “I probably have more Hinchliffe stories,” he says, “but it is so very long ago it would take a while to bring them into focus.”

This is the story he remembers:


Bill Smith

Bill Smith remembers Ian in a hole outside an arts centre

I don’t remember the year. Ten or more years ago, I reckon.

The gig with Ian was at an arts centre in Hammersmith (possibly Riverside Studios).

He was dressed in inflated clothing inside of which was red-dyed porridge. The sketch was about being left in the lurch by a promised loved one. The set was a room with pictures on the wall of the bride that had fled. This may have been based on a real incident. I was behind a curtain playing an improvised saxophone to the melodrama. At one point, Ian stabbed himself in the stomach with a knife and the red-dyed porridge began to seep out of the hole.

Very dramatic.

We then left the building to continue the performance outside.

The road adjoining the arts centre was under construction, a deep muddy trench lining the side of the road which was overlooked by a block of fairly modern flats. I was concerned for my saxophone because of the rain, so it stayed in its box while Ian started the second half of the show – or perhaps it was his idea of an encore.

Shouting incoherently in that terrible Yorkshire dialect of his, he proceeded to remove all his clothes, jump into the trench and begin to build a giant penis with the mud.

Across the street, one of the residents of the apartments, alarmed at the gathering, hooting, noisy crowd, called the police, who arrived some twenty minutes later in a Panda car. Ian was well into building his giant penis by then.

Two officers, one a woman, attempted to persuade him to get out of the trench, unknowingly becoming part of the performance.

Eventually, after much drama, out he came, covered from-head-to-toe in slimy mud. He linked his arm in mine and we returned to the arts centre and headed for the bar.

The doorman, of course, attempted to stop us going in but, when I produced our two performers passes which included free drinks and snacks, he had no choice but to stand aside.

In the Green Room, everyone moved away from us as we entered and the barman refused to serve us even though we insisted this was still an ongoing performance.

In the end, after collecting Ian’s clothes together, they simply threw us out.

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