Thursday 14, Friday 15 and Saturday 16 July 1994
Subversion In The Street Of Shame
Bridewell Theatre London
Emmanuel Litvinoff, Patrick Wright, John Healy, Iain Sinclair, Christopher Petit, Robin Cook, Brian Catling, Cris Cheek, Aaron Williamson, Marc Atkins, Peter Whitehead, Alan Moore, Stewart Home
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INTRODUCTION by lain Sinclair
Harry Lime on the run, elephant-shadows printed on rubber. The Vienna sewers. Torrents of bad water. The authentic sound of middle-European expressionism, right? Wrong. All those subterranean gurglings (sewage travels at the speed of a briskly-walking man, 3mph) were recorded beneath London, in the old Fleet river.
("The Fleet… was a complex place. Great iron tubes spanned its upper levels, through which the station subways and the trains ran. Seen fitfully by the light of miners' lanterns and special lamps, it was like one of the prisons designed by Piranesi ... When there was a storm, they told me, first of all
an apocalyptic wind raged through the sewer and then the rain water came thundering down, filling it up to the brim ... " Eric Newby)
When the weather breaks and the drains are overwhelmed, the Fleet still insinuates itself into the labyrinth of cellars beneath the Bridewell Theatre.
The Theatre is one of those secrets it seems a shame to give away. It has survived, so far, within a comfortable nimbus of obscurity. Bridewell, you say, what's that? An 11th century church (associated with the cult of St. Bridget), a Tudor palace, a prison (demolished in 1864)? The site of the French ambassador's house in which Giordano Bruno hid away as a double-agent?
The St Bride's Institute used to be the "centre of learning and recreation" for the printing trade; a secular monastery which was also the folk-memory of the trade, housing the collection of books accumulated by William Blades, printer and bibliophile. A gymnasium and a swimming pool turned out the required quota of muscular Christians.
This place seemed to demand some response, hiding away, as it did, on the fringes of an east-running energy field that takes in Fountain Court, the Temple Church, Ludgate, St. Paul's, and the London Stone.
A fortnight of events dedicated to the "Underground" (last seen vanishing over the western horizon) at the Bridewell seemed like a good excuse to gather together a group of writers/performers/artists able to respond to a sense of place (the reprehensible traditions of a grubby and decamped Fleet Street), and willing to revitalise it with perverse strategies of their own devising.
These people are "underground" only in the sense that the flathead culture has been too lazy or too diverted by its own misery to notice them. The charge in putting together the "Disobey" mob was in seeing how such disparate elements would cook; characters from different disciplines who had little in common beyond the determined pursuit of private demons.
The form we arrived at was made up of three distinct but cumulative elements. One: the "lost" literature of London (represented by Emmanuel Litvinoff, John Healy, Christopher Petit, Robin Cook moving, geographically, in from the plantation of Whitechapel to the nightface of Soho). Two: the activating of "place" by performance. Brian Catling, cris cheek, Aaron Williamson - with the prose explorations of lain Sinclair. Three: counter-culture or secret history (Marc Atkins, Stewart Home, Alan Moore, Peter Whitehead).
Exhibiting these rogues in one place offers a chance to sample a small part of the mythology of the city, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to honour the ghosts of those scufflers and chancers (lovingly described by Gerald Kersh and Jack Trevor Story) who hacked out a living (pages for cash) down the silted tributary of Fleet Street.

Disobey at bridewell Theatre