Tag Archives: Robin Reliant

New documentaries released about mad eccentrics: inventor John Ward and dangerous art performer Ian Hinchliffe

John Ward with small but effective fire engine

Mad inventor John Ward with small but effective fire engine

Last week, I mentioned that mad inventor John Ward had built probably the smallest fire engine in the world (it is for small fires) based on the chassis of a 3-wheeled Robin Reliant car.

As there is only one Robin Reliant Fire Engine and he owns it, John decided to start an Owner’s Club for himself (why wouldn’t he?) and drew up a membership form. He tells me that, at the last event he attended (yes, he attends events), he signed-up two other members to the club.

He told me this morning: “It is not hard to see how governments get in.”

Further joy, he tells me, was unleashed on his already happy body by picking up a copy of Classic Car Weekly newspaper yesterday to find they have added his Reliant Fire Engine Owners’ Club to their listings.

Not surprisingly, John Ward features in a new feature-length documentary: A Different Drum: Celebrating Eccentrics. It also features the late and much-lamented Screaming Lord Sutch, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and one Sarah Winchester, who built a 158-room mansion to house the ghosts of those who died as a result of her husband’s inventions.

The movie premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival this week (it gets a second screening later today) and this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith went along to see it.

“It is a good movie,” she told me this morning. “Long, but interesting and funny.”

She attached a photo of a man, a woman and a duck on stage.

Director John Zaritsky with duck lady and duck this week

Director John Zaritsky with Duck Lady & Bobby at premiere (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“In the pic,” she said, “is the director, Academy Award winner John Zaritsky, and Duck Lady, who is another eccentric in the film. I have seen her often, over the last thirty years, doing her gig on Robson Street in Vancouver with her fortune-telling ducks, The duck in the pic is called Bobby. Since I am not that interested in ducks or fortune-telling, I had never interacted with her. But I stood and took this pic for your blog after the screening and held Duck Lady’s hand getting down the stairs from the stage. Bobby the Duck spoke a bit during the screening, but was declining interviews afterwards.”

Director John Zaritsky won an Oscar in 1982 for his documentary Just Another Missing Kid. He also won a Cable Ace Award in 1987 for Rapists: Can They be Stopped, a Golden Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for My Husband is Going to Kill Me, a Robert F. Kennedy Foundation Award for Born in Africa, and a DuPont-Columbia Award in 1994 for Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo.

An interesting range of documentaries.

Which brings us to Hinch, a documentary he did not direct.

Last night, I went to Hackney Wick in London to see the DVD launch screening of this further leap into eccentricity.

I was a little surprised to see myself credited on the back of the DVD’s cover for supplying some film clips used in the production.

But I think this is a fair glimpse into the state of my memory.

Ian Hinchliffe in mud & rubble outside Riverside Studios

Ian Hinchliffe in mud & rubble outside Riverside Studios (in a still from Hinch: A Film About Ian Hinchliffe)

Hinch: A Film About Ian Hinchliffe does exactly what it says on the front cover. It is a film about the late performance artist Ian Hinchliffe, who has occasionally turned up in this blog before.

In July 2011, one of my blogs mentioned the occasion when he set fire to his own foot at the ICA.

In July this year, another mentioned the occasion when he went to roadworks in a street outside the Riverside Studios in London, removed his clothes, jumped into a muddy trench and began to build a giant penis with the mud. Police were called. Film of the incident is included in the new DVD.

The blurb for last night’s screening gives a fair idea of Hinch…

Ian Hinchliffe (1942-2011) was a performer who could bring a sense of menace, unpredictability and absurd humour into any creative arena. Hinchliffe hated the bland: life to him was an adventure and he pursued it with an insatiable, dangerous and playful delight with little distinction between on and off stage. His impromptu performances took place in the street, on public transport systems, in social clubs, art centres/laboratories, theatres, summer festivals, pubs, once in a consecrated church and, God help us, even the odd art gallery.

Ian Hinchliffe in the 1980s

Ian Hinchliffe in 1980s – genius, bully, fisherman or drunk?

Last night’s screening was followed by a live discussion on (I quote) “whether Hinchliffe was a performance genius, social terrorist, formidable artist, musician, bully, fisherman, entertainer or an irritating drunk.”

In truth, he was a bit of all those.

The DVD was produced by Ian Hinchliffe’s friends Roger Ely and Dave Stephens.

Last night, Roger Ely said of Ian:

“We had a big bust-up because he tried to throw me out of a car going at about 70 miles an hour. Ian and I had come back from a very successful two month tour of North America and Canada and we were doing three performances at the Oval House in London. The first two were awful, dreadful. He tried to throw me out of the car at 70mph because he was annoyed that the third performance had actually worked.

“I first met him in 1973. He was about to be beaten up by a whole crew of people at Leeds University. His performance was causing a riot – a load of what Ian called ‘rugger buggers’ were out. Insults and fists were flying.

“You couldn’t get two more opposites than me and Hinch. He taught me so much. I was a ponced-up public schoolboy working with this kid from Huddersfield. That kind of battle – and it was a battle – continued throughout our relationship and kind of came to a crunch with him trying to throw me out of the car. I suppose it was a scenario about control. We didn’t talk to each other for five or six years, but we made up. I made the film because I didn’t want to see his legacy disappear.”

Released yesterday: an art absurdist captured - Ian Hinchliffe

Released yesterday: an art absurdist captured

Roger’s co-producer Dave Stephens added:

“There is a kind of gap in the art history of Britain. When you go into places like the Tate Gallery, you often find the conceptual kind of art is very heavily recognised, quite rightly so. But there is a gap – the whole period of the 1970s, where there was a tie-in with overlaps between theatre and performance art – which is not really being acknowledged.

“It is almost like the thing you hide under the carpet – It doesn’t fit into any brackets. One of the problems is that, with people like Ian, they didn’t give a shit whether they were called artists or theatre people or whatever. What they were interested in was actually being creative – creating whole new visions for people to look at and often taking those out into places which were never recognised as art venues.

“In a way, what our film is about… is trying to package something which is unpackagable so it becomes palatable for people to then start finding a place for it. One of the problems is that (almost) nothing was ever recorded in the 1970s – almost intentionally never recorded.

“Nowadays it is like (artist) Richard Long goes for a walk in order to record the walk. We went for a walk to have a walk and we wanted people to come with us. We didn’t care if nobody had a record of that, because it was remembered inside them.

“And that does not quite fit into art history. What is inside people can get kind of lost. So, for me, what the whole purpose of this film has been about is building a package that can re-introduce some of what is being lost.”

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Eccentrics, Movies, Performance

Slugs having sex, dogs high on drugs, sawing-up cars & comedy in cemeteries

The Bo Diddlers diddling last night (Photo by my eternally-un-named friend)

The Bo Diddlers last night via the comedian from Venus (Photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

Strange things are happening.

No change there, then.

Last night I saw Ewan Wardrop aka The Silver Peevil, the stand-up comedian from 1930s Venus – aka a George Formby one-man play – aka a former Matthew Bourne principal dancer – perform an astonishing hour-long dance show Stump! with his six-man morris dancing troupe The Bo Diddlers.

It is very rare to see a morris dance based on The Midwich Cuckoos book/Village of The Damned film nor another based on what appeared to be the Dawn of Man ape sequence from the movie 2001. Astonishingly original choreography.

“They are gorgeous,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “Captivating. They made me feel like dancing. You know the way boy bands have dolls they sell to fans? This group could have figurines. You could arrange them dancing on your mantlepiece.”

“Maybe,” I said.

The Bo Diddlers are repeating the show at The Place tonight.

Soiree in a Cemetery

A fully sold-out soirée in a Cemetery somewhere in London

Which clashes with the one-off Martin Soan/Adam Taffler event Soirée in a Cemetery in which comedian Stewart Lee, the British Humanist Association Choir and others perform a comedy show in a Victorian cemetery somewhere in London (it’s a secret until later today) – all accompanied by cake and hot spiced cider from the Women’s Institute. Tickets have sold out.

Slightly eccentric you might think. But only comparatively.

I have received an email from mad inventor John Ward, who designed the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards trophies. He lives in Lincolnshire. He tells me he is in a documentary being premiered next Wednesday at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

The film is called A Different Drummer after a quote from Walt Whitman: I step to the beat of a different drummer. Not surprisingly, as John Ward is featured, it is about eccentrics. There is a trailer on YouTube.

What is it about Vancouver? Is it becoming the world centre of eccentricity? Or has the entire world gone doolally?

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith lives in Vancouver. She spotted a notice:

Notice spotted by Anna Smith in Vancouver

Anna Smith spotted this in an educational Vancouver building

ATTN: Debriefing for the Porn & Genital Image Online Survey and the Romantic Relationships & Mindfulness Online Survey will now be held in room 1606.

Anna has also been watching TV and tells me:

“On the CBC, the big news is veterinary. Doctors are saying that far too many stoned dogs are showing up at clinics and they wish the owners would just be honest about the problem, because vets have to give the dogs expensive blood tests. The laboratories found that although, in a few dogs, traces of cocaine and heroin were detected, the overwhelming majority of the dogs had ingested too much marijuana. However, the veterinarians said that it is not lethal, not a reason to panic and the most common side effect is that – I quote – It gives the dogs the munchies…”

Without pause or link, Anna then asked me:

“Just wondering, have you ever taken a picture of slugs fucking?”

A reasonable enough question (it seemed to her) but I had to say I had not, although my eternally-un-named friend appears to be on a barely-controllable mission to eradicate slugs from Planet Earth. She was out in the dark again late last night.

Slugs mating with something coming out the bottom (Photo by Cathleen Smith, Anna's mother)

Slugs mating with something coming out (Photo by Cathleen Smith, Anna’s mum)

“My mum,” Anna Smith told me. “took pictures of slugs fucking. They created a thin string of slime about a metre long and were dangling from the roof all day, possibly for several days. I visited my mother whist this blessed event was taking place. I don’t know which slug was emitting the slime or if it was both of them or what that blob of goo is. We live in what is left of a rainforest. Slugs love it. People make fun of them.

“My grandmother used to wonder why there was so much fuss about slugs. She once asked: Why don’t people just eat them? They eat snails.

Anna had no answer to this. Neither do I.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, John Ward has started to tinker with motorised vehicles again.

John Ward with small but effective fire engine

John Ward with his small but effective fire-fighting engine

He was last heard-of in this blog arranging and supervising a charity cabbage-hurling event, but his last motorised effort was creating what is apparently the smallest fire engine in the world, based on the chassis of a 3-wheeled Robin Reliant car. He created it because the British government has been trying to save money and has closed various local fire stations. John Ward likes to help out.

He tells me his next effort involves stripping down another Robin Reliant to the chassis.

“I took the car apart,” he told me, “but what do you do with the body? It’s too big for our local rubbish tip. So I got a small bench saw and reduced it to a wheel barrow full of smaller bits before putting them into carrier bags – Tesco ones of course as every little helps. Then I took it to the tip.”

I have no idea where any of this leads – neither the sawing-up of 3-wheeler cars nor taking photographs of slugs mating; neither trained ballet dancers doing morris dancing nor holding comedy shows in cemeteries.

I can only sit back and wait expectantly.

Strange things are happening.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Dance, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Nature