Black magic theatre, 1920’s horror movies, pony-tails, waistcoats, murdered Prime ministers, ghost hunting gear, drummers of the Damned and a lot of hot air about some dead Italian artist and his poxy code…
So. That was the Fortean Times UnCon 2006. It was, as always, a mixed bag â€“ some wonderful events, some not so wonderful. Overall the uncon was as enjoyable as I hoped it would be. The talks were varied and entertaining and the side-room events were intriguing to say the least.
The book that cannot be mentioned
But, I have, as always, my complaints. Most notably concerning the avalanche of DaVinci code-related material. Every book-stand groaned under the weight of DaVinci/Sauniere/Rennes tat and two of the central talks revolved around the mystery. Whilst Rat Scabies (founder member and drummer of punk band the Damned) maintained a healthy sense of humour and irreverence during his talk on Rennes le Chateau and Berenger Sauniere, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, selling yet another book on the same subject, took a rather different tack.
Their talk was punctuated by references to how it was they who created the DaVinci code, how it was they that didnâ€™t sue Dan Brown and how it was they that had a cameo in the upcoming movie, temporarily sharing the screen with their mate ‘Tom’. As a result, they came across as rather smug and self-satisfied, losing most of the audience after about fifteen minutes. Myself included.
Seriously folks, enough is enough. Just stop it.
Blood on the Snow
By contrast, the ever-wonderful Dr. Jan Bondeson held his audience rapt as he explored the controversial murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme: a murder which has come to occupy the same place within the Swedish zeitgeist as the Kennedy assassination within the American. Palme, was brutally gunned down on the way home from a night out with his wife, twenty years ago. From the very outset the murder investigation was a botch job of almost Pythonesque dimensions. So inept was the police handling of the investigation that it made the recent London Met handling of the DeMenezes shooting look like a textbook operation.
The Palme murder, for which no-one has been properly convicted, has given birth to a sub-culture of conspiracy and counter-conspiracy. As always Dr. Bondeson dealt with the issues in his hilariously clinical manner â€“ dismissing the rubbish and reducing the audience to howls of laughter with his dead-pan delivery of macabre facts and figures. Luckily enough, I managed to get to meet him briefly afterwards and thrust a book in his mits to sign. A true Fortean gem.
The cabinet of curiosities
The full cavalcade of lunacy on display at Uncon would take too long to describe, but highlights included the HP Lovercraft societys’ wonderful movie â€˜The Call of Cthulhuâ€™ â€“ a cracking 1920â€™s-style adaptation of the classic horror story, Doug Skinnerâ€™s Cabinet of Musical Curiosities â€“ a fun romp through some of the darker corners of the musical world and ASSAP‘s experiments with mind-controllable computers. Nope, don’t know what that was about either.
Last but by no means least I saw a two hour performance by theatre group Foolish People (see below). Now, Iâ€™ll be honest: I didnâ€™t understand what was going on from start to finish, I felt at certain points like I was having bad-trip and large parts of dialogue got lost amidst the screaming and wailing, but overall I was quite impressed. Their work is clever, inventive, confrontational and often hilarious. Combining black-magic ritual, interactive audience participation and a healthy-dose of pigsâ€™ entrails, Foolish people is the quixotic brainchild of actor/director John Harrigan. Youâ€™ll either love them or hate them, but their unique brand of visceral and physical theatre (they will literally get right in your face) will make you squirm and wriggle. Enjoy the ride.
Lovecraft Historical Society
Jan Bondesons’ ‘Blood on the Snow’
Centre for Fortean Zoology
ASSAP – The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena