On Saturday the 28th of July I made one my infrequent, if increasingly regular trips to London for an event. Once again I was travelling down at the gracious invitation of Eamonn Loughran of Hell Fire Club Books to attend a book launch. This book launch unlike the last one I attended (Paean to Hekate – 6th October 2017 and link below), was part of a much larger one night only art exhibition. The author Sean Woodward; whose work ‘Keys to the Hoodoo Kingdom’ is published by HFC Books, was one of the eight exhibiting artists.
I arrived in London before 3pm having made remarkable good time from the Midlands, on a fast and direct train. Wandering out on to the Euston Road, I was in a rather unusual situation as a provincial; I knew exactly where I was going. I don’t know my way around the capital at all well but I can at least find my way around the area between Saint Pancras train station and the British Museum. The exhibition was being held in the crypt of that remarkable building, Saint Pancras New Church on Euston Road itself. Only a short walk from the British Library, even I with my poor sense of direction couldn’t miss it. I have walked past it often enough on the way to the heart of Bloomsbury.
It was a bright sunny day, if slightly less warm than the Midlands. I was very early and this was planned. I made my way to Mabel’s Tavern on Mabledon Place for a late lunch, texting my few London friends with news of my safe arrival. I was soon joined by my group from the Crypt, artists not zombies, only one of whom I knew via social media. They had only just finished setting up the exhibits.
After the usual introductions and this was my first meeting with Sean Woodward, we sat for a meal and a few drinks. Chatting away the hours until the exhibition officially opened, before taking a slow and leisurely stroll to Saint Pancras New Church. As we stood outside of the hostelry, I felt a strong breeze and I realised that for the first time in weeks, I was actually cold. Britain was and still is, experiencing an unusual heatwave.
One of our number required a cash dispenser, so we went on something of a hunt through the quieter streets of Bloomsbury. I stopped to take a few snaps of the surroundings as we walked, including shots those marvellous blue plaques so common in central London.
Arriving at the church we descended a flight of steps into the crypt and I found myself face to face with several acquaintances also waiting to enter. A most pleasant and welcome surprise to see so many familiar faces, a true delight. The crypt itself is a moderately dark series of connecting tunnels, well-lit for the exhibition but not so well-lit as to spoil the unique atmosphere.
The main tunnel of the crypt runs the full length of Saint Pancras New Church below ground level and is remarkably dry. There are various alcoves and smaller side tunnels that run off the main thoroughfare. The exhibitors had with the expected imagination, taken full advantage of the unusual space afforded them. Paintings hung in rows, while some hung singularly in the smaller alcoves, lit by a spot. Sculptures were presented along the side of the main tunnel, others set back into a larger alcove. There were ‘room’s or gallery spaces made of only three walls, open to the walkway on the fourth side and other smaller rooms, dark and secluded.
For one brief moment and it was only for a moment, I remembered a story by Poe. A story of murder, a wine cellar and a body being bricked up there. Obviously the crypt did once house bodies. The majority have gone leaving only plasterboard memorials stacked to one side. I feel a certain sadness about this and I acknowledge a sense of irony. It is sad that people are disturbed in their repose and not left to sleep for eternity. The irony is that the wealthy who had paid to lie here in this prestigious plot, have now (I assume) been moved to a mass grave that houses many of the poor from the East End of London.
The list of exhibitors was an impressive one, I had even heard of a couple before my attendance and besides Sean Woodward, there was Sasha Chaltow, Jason Atomic, Savage Pencil, Zoetica Ebb, Alberto Bona, Amodali Zain and Madeleine LeDespncer.
The exhibits on display were as varied as their creators and as one would expect, utilised a multitude of mediums in their creation. Some were perhaps rather ‘modern’ for my traditionalist taste but all were executed with skill and style. The professionalism of the artists was of especial note, all took their time to engage with the attendees, and all made an effort to answer questions, to be involved fully in the event. The artists were as much an exhibit as their remarkable creations.
As one would expect from such a team of talented artists and exhibitors, many of the works on display displayed elements of esoteric symbolism, not usually found in the mainstream. Amongst the studies of form and texture, many works touched upon themes of poetry and the subconscious. Many held hidden symbols and glyphs, signs or were influenced by mythology. A walk around the exhibition was a journey of contemplation.
Since this was a book launch party organised between Atlantis Bookshop and Hell Fire Club Books, I naturally perused the Atlantis stall. I was surprised to realise that I owned several of the tomes on display but not of course, the new work. So buying my own copy of ‘Keys to the Hoodoo Kingdom’ I set off pen in hand, to search for the man of hour Sean Woodward.
Time waits for no man and neither do trains. I circulated once more, saying my farewells. As I was outside preparing to leave, an acquaintance from Stratford was just arriving. Samantha called to me from across the lawn outside of the church and mistook me once again for Eamonn Loughran. I swear I am better looking but from a distance, we probably do look like billiard balls. This mistaken identity is becoming a running joke, something Eamonn and I will no doubt laugh about at every party we attend for years to come.
My own departure could be delayed no longer and with a sad heart, I hastily finished my farewells. A brisk but easy walk took me back to the station, boarding a far slower train to the Midlands than the one I came down one. As I sat I could reflect on a pleasant, highly stimulating but exhausting day. I had experienced the great pleasure of a truly remarkable exhibition and met some remarkably talented people.
My journey home was uneventful but I fell asleep. I awoke to a female attendant nudging me. We had reached my stop and fortunately the train terminated there. If it had not, I would have been much further north and very far from home. I have friends in Leeds but I wasn’t planning a visit. So ended my day and it was a day of delight; spent in a dark crypt with people whose ideas, shed light in a world of shadows.
Hell Fire Club Books (esoteric publishers)
Paean to Hekate – 6th October 2017