A reflection on the WHAT I LEARNED FROM KEN CAMPBELL: Tenth anniversary tribute event,
The British Library, London AUGUST 31st/September 1st, 2018
DAY ONE: BABE IN THE WOOD
No Church could house him. Once gone, he was simply returned
To the forest. Where, with love and dogs, he roamed freely,
While concocting new rules for man from his desk.
He would be busily rewriting the soil with all of his blood burning waters;
The tears of joy he engendered, along with the hard sweated efforts
As he detonated each standard and what each of us had come to expect.
This weekend event stars and marked the tenth anniversary of his passing,
Like the story of his treasured dog, Werner, we, who attended
Wanted to touch a little of him through the grave. To re-encounter
That joy and the energy of his: Ken’s ‘land lightning’, that sparked life
And challenged and in more ways than most, came to save.
On Friday Night, Pigspurt’s Daughter, a solo show from Ken’s Daisy.
His precious child with Prunella Gee, resplendent now as his time was,
While blazing wildly in a singular field of her own. Her voice echoed his
As did the style and themes of her writing, with all of its God scented
Structure, by joining the dots in this, minds are thrown.
In aping Pigspurt, and making it hers, Ken’s transcendent.
As Daisy tells her tale of survival, the death of her father leads to a quantum
Dimension where life still continues by finding new ways to be through the arse.
The ecstatic innovations pass by, like protuberant wind through the tunnel,
As what we know we know is soon toppled by what we have yet to unearth,
Choose and cast. In the hilarity put on show there are terrible moments of silence.
On the day Ken dies, Daisy’s with him, an Epping Forest visit, briefly interrupted
By the need to get her kids lunch,then by death. When Daisy returns all is still
But the audience love him with her, and so we cojoin in that moment,
Our only hope and intention being to somehow extend his last breath.
Like the expert she is as writer and director, Daisy regulates this deep silence
With more of the information Ken prized. Lithuanian mushrooms were seen
As gifts to the poor from the spirits, and it is this sacred mushroom that details
The pay off and prize of this play. The mycelic mushroom brain of a fairy is claimed
By Daisy’s daughter, and reappears at Ken’s headspace when a dream of exhumation
Is raised. Such details abound, for these were the currency of her father,
Along with his commands and commissions to ‘Do Something of Note!’
Daisy does so at each step, even as she navigates trouble;
Forming this song she sings for him, that is at once hers completely,
While also being everything else her dad wrote.
It is a mercurial stance to orchestrate the sad moment into a fire fed invocation
Of his glorious past and her life. From the troubles they shared to her own personal
Counter culture; from the nits split with her daughter in Brighton,
To French Gastromancy and the hysterical Cartharseis of spirits that burn time
And Templar and cleanse away man made strife. What the Gnostics g-know
Is that we are all sound and fury; if Ken was sound then we hear it in shouts and kazoos,
And sink plungers, exquisite designs, teeth and tears. Daisy summoned Ken up
Before a Vanauarto-esque congregation; our pot bellied friend became totem
To which we are all worship as we love long and remember his perfection of fact
And idea. A girl cries for her Dad by learning the laughter he gave her.
Alone in the woods for one moment, his spirit returns fast to rescue
And repopulate every year. Ken Campbell can’t die.
He cannot be memoralised, ever. Instead, celebration like this event
And the future will become their own bible and all of Ken’s congregation
Will learn how to dispel what was fear. Dads don’t fall from the tree.
They become the tree, don’t they?
Pigspurt’s daughter feeds from it.
And pigs can fly.
That’s so clear.
DAY TWO: THE GRAND TOUR OF HIM
Saturday becomes key as the congregated re-open Ken’s future,
To watch Tim Newton’s film of Ken playing a 2002 show in a boathouse
On the river Lea, full of mirth. From Heaven to Hackney, in one,
These unique shows were Ken’s treasure and formed the final stages
Of his particular part on this earth. From Werner Erhart’s EST schemes,
To the confessions of plants, all were featured. Perec’s A VOID, The Three Stooges
And a societal study of wigs, You can see the exuberant boy Ken retained,
Who once directed plays on the lino, as well as the ecstatic eccentric,
And the fearsome goon who crushed prigs. Campbell set a new precedent
For what theatre should be; a fresh holy. It could take place in a bookshop,
Or a river fed anteroom. It could be a coruscating display at the National Theatre,
It could be a pub conversation, or a dream that he had, spicing gloom.
Here was a man who blazed bright as film following Panel host David Bramwell
Informs us. A man who burned all too brightly for most of those he kept close.
The pressure of this must have been a kind of tragedy for him, as no-one he knew,
Even Daisy would want to blaze like he did, all the time. And yet he does in the film,
Recolouring in a moment; from a normal flesh tone, to a revelatory red.
The pressure of this on the heart that steered his strain occurred to me,
But what Ken contributed in each new space, was star fed. These sections of film
Cut and jump but Campbell is more than real through them. We grasp at him,
Almost fevered, as we seek to fix him firm in our room. The screen before us becomes
A small astral window, as if we were housed in the quauntum and were moving
With him through the dimensions, along David Deutsch’s parallel lines, then
And soon. Watching Ken, one returns to the personal times we all saw him.
He is suddenly there, invocated, with those eyebrows ablaze, and that voice.
After two hours he fades but reforms at once. He’s us watching.
He becomes what we’re thinking and part of our own inner God.
We’ve no choice.
The Panel follows on. Bramwell, Toby Jones, Terry Johnson.
Nina Conti, Ken’s later treasure and Prunella Gee, his once wife.
Daisy’s mother, who completes their tripartite beauty, and whose recollections
Of living and sharing life with Ken are sublime. Meeting him, marrying
And then separating. Playing Illuminatus and The Warp, the sad stories
And then the glorious ones, so entwined. As Jones and Johnson compliment
With hysterical recollections; Jackie Chan nights, confrontations, synchronicities,
Epic quests. If Ken was born normally, something profound soon remade him.
Perhaps the early death of his mother, prompted a total rewrite of life’s task.
Whatever it was, the spell he spun, set brains dancing. And hearts along with him;
You were always compelled to comply if he asked. Nina Conti strikes deep,
As he sparked her own star fed talent. By aping him, she found Monkey.
Who at one transcendent point is re-gloved, to turn himself inside out
And the unwealdy joy of this is pure Campbell; Conti’s debt to Ken repaid grandly
By the natural tint to her talent and some of the expertise he allowed.
Her joy fuelled act appears later on, vent masks making audience volunteers
Her new puppets.The speed of Nina’s mind echoes Campbell and though often dainty,
The fire they fed blazes loud. The panel gives away to an evening show of invention:
The School of Ken features many with wonderful turns, as hats drop.
The charm of Alan Cox’s rich voice and fast thinking approach to new Shakespeare,
Sean McCann’s lithe precision of moment and muse; reason stops.
Oliver Senton leads from the front, reprising the lessons of his former Phil Masters,
And Niall McDevitt’s new discordian epic re-conjures Ken’s last appearance
In a Rimbaud revue through starred font. Daisy and Kate Alderton reprise Henry Pilk,
In a Campbell clash of perception, as stance meets the artful in a duologue
That sprouts wings. And then the pidgin MAKBED, Ken’s personal favourite,
Starring a blazing Roddy McDevitt and Jacqueline Haigh, transmutes gall and breast milk
Into hot bloodied new rivers, in which classic language become fire fed words to sing.
Each contribution astounds through this grand tour of Campbell
As we all fall enchanted right where we sit and enthuse.
For Ken was a new form of humour. Today was prayer for me,
From new sprits, offered not to ‘an up there whatever,’
But to Ken Campbell of course; humour’s muse.
To be as special as that;
To be as special as this need to love him.
That is what just happened.
His art transcended. As has his life.
But there’s news:
And it was written today,
Thanks to all of those who cared for him;
It is for all who come later and everyone who was there.
We all know it of course, so we must continue his stories:
it is then we all realise
KEN REMAINS EVERYWHERE
No Church could house him, for sure.
No Church should house any body.
Let our souls and our arseholes relearn what’s been written
And in so doing,
Find a new form of laughter and a new way to rise
Through the air.
September 2nd 2018