We are having a peek into Simon Woolham‘s darkly wonderful narratives, which the artist will present for PAPER next month, along with some utterly unique drawings. In Simon’s own words, he will present ‘a “Jackanory“-style performance combining live storytelling and filmed drawings.’ It is a clear reference to the artist’s childhood, for whom the programme had a strong feeling of intimacy between storyteller and listener, and in his video this is further enhanced by ‘the handheld qualities of the filmed illustrations.’ Simon ‘will construct the performance by presenting the non-linear narratives from a series of stories set around memories of 1980’s Wythenshawe. The live reading will take place and activate the spaces around PAPER, creating a specific environment for the recordings. This footage will then be juxtaposed and intercut withthe specific drawings.
The video will be presented on an old cathode ray tube TV that will emphasise both the nostalgic reference and the idea that memory is as much constructed through television as through physical experiences.‘
Simon’s video is available to watch here. Below we present the text and drawings by the artist, which will be shown during a live performance as part of PAPER #7: Performing Paper, on Thursday 20th June.
An old friend of mine told me this story about a nightmare he had, he dreamt it was the end of the world. It started when he looked out of his bedroom window and found himself staring at mushroom clouds and a strange orange colored sky.
He at once ran down the stairs out of the front door to find cover. The only place he could think of was behind our school gym, which was about a five minute run from his house. He then remembers running across the main road, nearly getting knocked down, climbing under the school fence towards the gym.
He then remembers turning around just before he reaches the gym, looks out across the school field to see that the whole of our estate had been obliterated. In a state of panic he ran behind the gym and curled up in a ball. He woke up aching with blood all over his feet, not in his bed but huddled up behind the gym.
I always entered the school between the fence and bush, over the field and through the playground, I wasn’t aware until years later what the strange gang of lads that hung around at the bottom of our field were doing. We threw things at them just to get a chase.
We wouldn’t have escaped if it wasn’t for the broken fence.
Saving My Cousin 1984
I once saved my cousin’s life, I can’t forget it coz every time I see him he gets all nostalgic about it “Si, do you remember when you saved me from drowning, I’ll never forget that I tell you”.
We were playing down by the river on the broken jetty, we’d played there for years, suddenly the thing breaks in half and starts floating down the river, with my cousin holding onto it, I knew my cousin wasn’t that good at swimming, coz he even failed his 25m certificate, I had to jump in and save him, he was about to hit the current. I jumped as close to him as I could, grabbed hold of his collar, and dragged him to the shore, “I’ll never forget that Si”, he eventually says to me, “when we get back you can have my Bryan Robson sticker”.
Fights most of the time took place at the bottom of the field, I only really had one fight, but it didn’t take place there. I was in the dinner queue with my mate Greg, when this lad, I can’t remember his name, started pushing my mate and saying he’d pushed in the queue, “no he didn’t”, I said to him, “do you want a fight”, “O.K.”
I couldn’t eat a thing, I was shitting myself and feeling well dizzy, I remember leaving my chips n beans and heading outside, I was suddenly surrounded by loads of people, “fucking kill him Si, he’s a right dickhead”. Suddenly the bell goes, its the end of dinner time, I didn’t want to be late for Art did I. “Lets go down to the bottom of the field”, he says to me, “no” I said, and floored him with one punch.
The Skeggs Across the Way
“They’re nutters”, my mum used to say, “if I catch you hanging around with them, your in trouble”. I saw the dad cut one of his fingers clean off once, “it should have been his head”, my mum said to me. I went robbing with them once, we did this allotment down the road, “were just gonna get some vegetables and maybe the odd shovel”, I’d never been robbing with my mates dad before, I thought it would be a good experience. There was five of us, me the three brothers and the dad. They decided that because I’d never been with them before, I’d be on the lookout. “You’ll still get a share though Si”, what was I gonna do with a load of vegetables. The nearer we got, the more nervous I was, I knew the place where we were going, I also knew that it was guarded by dogs. “That’s just to put you off”, my mate said to me, “we’ve done this job many times, last time we did it, we got enough food for a week”. By the time we got there I was feeling well sick, you could tell they’d been there before cos they went straight into an opening in the fence, they must have made it last time they were there. “Right Si, you stay there, if you hear anything suspicious, give us a whistle”, “OK”. I stood next to the hole in the fence and after a few seconds they were gone, I couldn’t see a thing, it was well dark. Suddenly I hear this heavy breathing a few feet away from me, I was convinced it was the guard and his dog, I held my breath and stood as still as I could, my heart was going mad. I hear them light a cigarette and walk nearer to me, I didn’t know what to do, should I run, should I whistle, I suddenly remembered that I couldn’t whistle, so I pegged it, I didn’t look back, I just ran and ran towards home.
They’re was this gang in front of me, they looked familiar, it was skeggs across the way with they’re arms full of stuff, “where did you get to Si, we thought you’d been caught”, “no, I thought you lot had. “Us, we’ve never been caught, were gonna take this stuff back then do an house, do you fancy it”, “nah, I’ve gotta go home, I’ve got school tomorrow”.
I used to love camping out, I still do. We used to camp out in this cave, it was down a valley in Styal, the tent fitted in beautifully, we’d tell each other ghost stories and who we’d love to shag.
I saw this bloke hanging around at the bottom of our garden, I’d never seen himI saw this bloke hanging around at the bottom of our garden, I’d never seen him before, he did have this dodgy tash. I didn’t say anything to me mum, she was a bit off men. A few days later I got woke up by this noise coming from outside, I looked out my window, I couldn’t see a thing, I didn’t think anything of it and went back to bed. The next day my mum asked me where my bike was “it’s in the shed isn’t it”, “not anymore” she said.
We built this bomb once at school, we took it to the field and tied it round the goal post to let it off. As soon as we lit it and ran to find cover, this little kid starts walking towards it, we start shouting and waving our arms like mad to warn him, luckily it didn’t go off.
Hanging Out at the Lamppost
I used to always hang out at the lamppost with Colin and that lot, there was also this bloke who’d come out with his slippers on, he’d tell us stories about him and his wife. We saw them naked in their bedroom once, they were at it for hours. I can’t imagine hanging out with the kids round our way.
All images by Simon Woolham