If you don’t follow Bookkake on Twitter, then you might have missed our pointing at an interview with Michael Butterworth over at Ballardian. It’s the first of a projected three-part series covering all aspects of legendary Manchester press, Savoy Books.
We’ve only written about Savoy before in the context of the Obscene Publications Act, Savoy having the dubious honour of suffering the last successful prosecution of literature for obscenity in these isles for Lord Horror – a book now so hard to get hold of, you might want to enter Ballardian’s microfiction competition, where an original file copy is first prize. If you’re not familiar with Savoy’s work, then that interview is a good place to start, as is Bookkake contributor Supervert’s introductory essay Horror Panegyric.
Reading the interview, we were intrigued by mention of Michael Butterworth’s latest project, a magazine called Corridor8:
It grew out of an interest in conceptual art, and wanting to do a magazine again. I’d begun publishing a small line of print-on-demand books featuring work which didn’t fall into Savoy’s remit, but which I was in the habit of being offered from time to time by people who knew I was a publisher. One of these books was an interview with Colin Wilson by the writer and journalist Brad Spurgeon, about Wilson’s philosophy as an optimist. Another, which arrived anonymously one morning, was a surreal oddity — a full libretto for an imaginary musical about Jackson Pollock written by an artist friend, Roger McKinley. Although his libretto took the conventional form of a book, it worked as a piece of conceptual art, and it was seeing the possibilities of this that got me interested.
Corridor8 derives its name from the small-press magazines I started out doing, and the first issue is dedicated to J.G. Ballard and New Worlds, although I wouldn’t say it is recognisably in the Ballard/New Worlds or even Savoy moulds.
The history of Corridor actually goes back to pre-Savoy times: Corridor #1, published in 1971, featured Michael Moorcock’s ‘Pride of Empire’ – a Jerry Cornelius origin story – #4 (1972) marked the first appearance of David Britton’s art, later to become a Savoy trademark; #5 features a long interview with JG Ballard, a year after the publication of Crash.
The new magazine is a delight to behold: oversized (A3) and weighty, it continues Savoy’s tradition of luxurious design whatever the age or prevailing political climate, making the most of print. Featuring essays on the architecture of Will Alsop – and another on his painting – on the design of Peter Saville, on the art of the Haçienda – all North-focussed, and bouncing off Alsop’s concept of the “Supercity”:
Imagine a future in which the vast M62 corridor is a singular entity, a huge coast to coast ‘SuperCity’, 80 miles long and 15 miles wide. Here city limits are blurred, its inhabitants live in Liverpool, shop in Leeds and go clubbing in Manchester. Using the latest forms of advanced transportation, SuperCity residents could wake up by the Mersey and commute to an office overlooking the Humber. Air travel from a central hub puts the world on our doorstep. What impact will this have on the traditional definition of a city and the people who work, rest and play in this radical new landscape?
As well as introducing a range of contemporary artists, including Bob Levene, Rachel Goodyear, and the Freee collective, Corridor8 sent the usually London-centric writer Iain Sinclair on two journeys through the SuperCity: a trip by car from Hull to Liverpool with filmmaker and frequent collaborator Chris Petit, and one by bus in the opposite direction with his wife Anna. (Incidentally, a new film by Petit is also mentioned: “a 21st Century, post-crash movie, provisionally entitled Economy, for Channel 4.” We’ll keep our ears open.)
Sinclair’s stories are true to form, crackling with pith and critique: “There’s nothing wrong with speculative architecture as long as it’s not built.” On Travelodges: “You know exactly what you’re going to get: strategic minimalism. Minimal efficiency, minimal fuss, minimal satisfaction. Expecting nothing, you are rarely disappointed.” The defunct Earth Centre: “an abandoned Guantánamo Bay… Guard-Towers, a grass-roofed yurt, overgrown slagheaps.” Sinclair is unimpressed by his journey through the SuperCity, his encounter with Alsop. He cheers up on the way back – a little. He doesn’t like the bus – he isn’t in control. “Steady movement and, once aboard, no decisions to make: where you go, we go. End of the line. End of the story.”
Corridor8 achieves its twin aims with style and grace: A North of England arts round-up, and the opening up of a passageway between related forms. It’s available from corridor8.co.uk for the fine price of £10.99, and we heartily recommend it.