Caught by the River

This One's for the Believers

John Andrews | 20th September 2017

This one’s for the believers: A Brief History of the Lives of All Those in the Caught by the River Tent at The Good Life Experience, by John Andrews

Photo by caroline_seaside

I missed Joan Shelley and The Pictish Trail and all on Friday to my shame, coming north on an evening train after the fire, crossing the border as midnight struck on Gladstone’s clock. “This one’s for the believers”, shouted Mick Head, our favourite of saints, the next day, mid-song, and the tent was lit, we were fifty thousand each crying a silver tear, you can call it sheer joy, you can call it what you want, but it WAS the holy shiver, a sighting of the magic bird, a book stall in the corner of a gin parlour, a Kabbalah for the kids. Will read ‘A Song for Uncle Dee’ and Michael Chapman declared ‘I ain’t no folk singer’. Golems chanted in the secret rooms of each corner for Keenan, a blessing for the one-issue fanzine writers, a blessing for all the bands who might have been, a blessing for all the galleries that were dole queue rumours and a blessing for all believers. ‘Who are the believers?’ asked Emma with a smile, as if she and we didn’t know. Can a tent be a chapel, a Cocteau-painted cocoon in what on Thursday last Cerys Matthews called a world of chaos? Yes, it can, it can, it can. Don’t pick a fight with a grizzly bear, grab that Gretsch and get out of it in a new town, eat cheap-nail-polish-tinged chips with Andrea Dunbar, Adelle Stripe and Anna Wood, brush your teeth in bad lager, always keep your manuscript in a carrier bag, succumb to your rhythm, be it Polly Atkin describing a Lake District midden of a winter, or Martha Sprackland pacing out the time between lightning strikes. Play post-war i-Spy with Frank Cottrell-Boyce, cheer when the house martins come as one in the spring, so good you felt in that moment when the Bootle Boy met the Royal Oak Kid and the Bolton Girl Uptown, an Old Man for Everyone, a moment of grace like offering your seat to a priest in the snuggery on Ken Loach’s ‘The Golden Vision’. Scoff you each a plate of Scouse, wake at three, remember with fondness every track played by the Jukebox boys, think for an hour about the nature of charm, ‘This one’s for the believers’ shouted Mick and as if to prove it down came the house and on came The Orielles, Girl Ray, the Flamingods and Amber Arcades and into the night we went. On Sunday we rose early and listened, listened, and watched flat capped-Ceri channel Ginsberg dropping acid in ’67, as the king of booksellers told of finding the gold of author’s own copies of significant works in shops downtown. Will, Martha and Zaffar, the new Crucial Three, performed, and Zaf saved our lives on that slope where we have all stood in Sparkhill and elsewhere, later broadcasting his prayer, his forecast for us as fabled ships, spoken with his hallmark of hesitation, deviation and repetition. Anna read her short stories aloud for the first time and stilled the room. Tyler came by via the Vancouver boatyards with his new novel, the ink still drying, and then we were walked along the Brecon canal to The Glass Aisle and back. Time slipped, the sun came out for one last time and from the stage, Jeb Loy, our late-in-the-day saint asked, ‘have I got time for one more?’ and Jeff said ‘Yes’. Oh, yes.

John Andrews on Caught by the River