A few weeks ago, I got an email from Sarajane Martin which said:
“I am aware this may be a long shot but I’m a 21 year old Fine Art student living in London, studying at the University of Westminster and I am in the process of writing my dissertation…”
She asked if I could help her with something. Alas I could not, but I can spot a good blog subject when I see one, so we had a tea and coffee this week. She handed in her dissertation today.
Sarajane: I was born in a moving car going at about 80 miles an hour. My dad kept driving and he said he heard the sound of a child being born behind him. He turned round and me mam was sat there with me and he was fucking flying and he just kept going.
John: He was on his way to the hospital?
Sarajane: Yeah. He ran in and he said: Me wife’s had a baby in the car! And they told him: You are drunk, sir. Please go! And he’s like: For fucksake! My wife’s just had a baby!
John: It was unexpected, then?
Sarajane: Yeah. Afterwards, me dad went back to the house to get things for me mam, like pyjamas and stuff, and the second he hit the spot when I had come out, where he heard that noise, Pretty Flamingo by Manfred Mann came on the radio and he sang it all the way to Durham, thinking about his new daughter. He sang it to me my whole life. I have a tattoo of a flamingo on my leg and it says Daddy and he’s got one on his.
John: When Ron Kray shot George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub, there was a jukebox playing, wasn’t there?”
Sarajane: Yeah. It was playing The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore. Ron said, the second he shot him, it went: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore… Anymore… Anymore and it jammed. How weird is that?
John: What is your BA (Hons) dissertation called?
Sarajane: What Does Performance Art Contribute To The Myth of The Criminal?
John: What DOES it contribute?
Sarajane: Well, if I’m being totally honest, I just said ‘Performance Art’ because I’m an art student and I had to connect it to art somehow. I wanted to write about gangsters and bad boys an’ that.
John: In her autobiography Handstands in the Dark, Janey Godley says that old-time Glasgow gangsters were like actors. They were putting on a performance of being gangsters.
Sarajane: It’s right, that. It IS a performance, like it’s not real. I got interested in criminals. I think it’s a thing we all do.
John: You have a Kray Twins T-shirt on.
Sarajane: Ultimate gangsters.
John: Criminals are bad people.
Sarajane: I know. It’s not that I think they’re nice people. I just find them more interesting than good people. That’s just a human reaction, isn’t it?
John: Any specific reason?
Sarajane: I know exactly why. I have two older brothers. The oldest one is 37. I’m nearly half his age. I’m 21 and I’ve done much more than he’s ever done because he has just like been in prison his whole life near enough. Petty stuff. Gone with the wrong crowd. Daft. Stupid. A rolling stone.
He would write me letters when I was a kid. I remember seeing it was an HMP (Her Majesty’s Prison) envelope and I was buzzing, thinking it was really cool. My brother in prison had sent me a letter! I was thinking of this when I was writing a letter to Bronson.
John: Charles Bronson, the criminal.
John: He’s changed his name again, hasn’t he?
Sarajane: Yes. Charles Salvador.
John: Some women get married to long-term prisoners.
Sarajane: People start to write to a person because they know that person’s a murderer.
John: Why would they want to write to someone who has killed people?”
Sarajane: Because they see the good in people. They say Ron Kray was mad. But he was ill. Nowadays, he wouldn’t have lived like that. It was such a different time.
John: There are still psycho killers around today, though.
Sarajane: Yeah. Yeah. But they’re treated differently.
John: Have you seen The Piranha Brothers in Monty Python?
John: People say the East End of London was safer when the Krays were around. They only killed their own, not ordinary people.
Sarajane: Yes. In a Fred Dinenage book, Ron is quoted as saying he wanted to kill George Cornell. He says he had shot people before but he did it just to maim not to kill. With George, I wanted to. I walked in there and wanted to kill him. That’s mad.
John: You are from the North East of England. There are loads of hard men up there.
Sarajane: Yeah. But Northerners are wankers.
John: Are you sure you want that quoted?
Sarajane: I’m a Northerner, so I can say it. They’re just not very interested in the world around them.
John: If this were 1963 or 1965, would you have thought of marrying Ron Kray?
Sarajane: Probably. (LAUGHING) I don’t think Ron would have done what he done if we had met. (LAUGHING) I don’t think Ron would have been that interested in me. They reckoned when Ron liked someone, that was it. Someone said: You would hear that the Krays were coming and all the good-looking lads would piss off. They knew Ron was on the way.
John: You just fancy bad boys.
Sarajane: I don’t fancy Bronson or owt like that. I just love ‘em, you know what I mean? I don’t fancy them. It’s not like that.
John: You would not marry Bronson but you love him?
Sarajane: Yeah, but in a different way… Appreciation…
John: …of what?
Sarajane: I don’t know.
John: You appreciate his art?
Sarajane: I do. I love his art.
John: It IS interesting.
Sarajane: Do you know he sent a Get Well Soon card to the girl who lost her leg in Alton Towers? (When a rollercoaster crashed at the amusement park.) Bless him.
John: I hate to say this, but Hitler was an artist.
Sarajane: And Joseph Goebbels was about five foot high and used to wear high heels when he was in photos. What a weird thought.
John: You graduate this year. What are you going to be?”
Sarajane: I felt I knew before I started the course.
John: What did you think back then you were going to be?”
Sarajane: Famous. That was the only thing I wanted. I wanted to come to London and be famous. Like Bronson. Go into prison and become famous.
Sarajane: No. I’m joking. I always just wanted to be a painter. I was going to be pure punk and drop out of Art School and just be a failure. And then I thought: No, I can’t go my whole life saying Oh, yeah, I dropped out of Art School.
John: Have you done any art inspired by the Krays?
Sarajane: I’m saving it for my degree show. I want it to be like you feel the presence of the two of them. Possibly something like two life-sized sculptures which show the difference in their characters.
John: So what are you going to do when you leave university this year?
John: I’ve never seen it live.
Sarajane: I like the old 1970s Formula One, me. Much cooler. And they were much more ‘for it’. Now it’s all money and there’s no, like, courage in the game. In the 1970s, they were like right up to death, looking it in the face: We don’t care. Niki Lauda is one of my heroes. His crash happened at Nürburgring. He was on fire. They had to put a thing in his lungs and like vacuum his lungs and he did it more than once. He was that much of an animal he was like: Do it again. It doesn’t even hurt that much, man: do it again.
John: You’re just looking for the ultimate bad boy.
Sarajane: He’s not a bad boy, though. He’s just a total nerd who had an accident.
John: You’re attracted to death and punk. It’s Goth Art.
Sarajane: Goth’s dead. I’m pure punk. I’m pure 1970s punk, me.