Saturday, 26 August 2017

JAGO STONE AND THE BAR STOOL FANTASIES

I have been writing hard and I think well throughout the summer. 'Jago' - the biography of James Henry Stone - is taking firm shape. Chapters 1and 2 have now been written and join the drafts of the already completed Chapters 4, 5 and 6. The completion of Chapter 3 - centred on the autobiography: 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion' -  remains my aim over this next week before we take our break on the Aegean island of Patmos. This post is designed to provide a taste of the biography by sharing with you the opening of Chapter 2: THE  BAR STOOL FANTASIES OF A CAD'.

Before I turn to these pages, I should explain that there has been a fresh discovery in my online detective story - the search for information about the artist. The new find has prompted this particular focus on 1983. Readers familiar with these blogs will recall my post telling the story of the visit to Aberystwyth at the end of June this year and the wonder of viewing and transcribing 23 minutes of Jago being interviewed in 1969. Here's the link if you missed it first time or would like to revisit. A week or so ago, I received an email from Owain Meredith, archivist at ITV Wales. Owain had already been very helpful and now he was telling me that he had discovered another piece of film that featured Jago - only three minutes or so but an interview nevertheless and this time from 1983. That was the same year as the Bar Stool interview with the Sunday Express journalist - have I been blessed!

'Untitled' - Jago Stone - Bardon, 1968


More on that 1983 film interview another time. Here for your interest is the beginning of my second chapter from the biography. The paintings that accompany the text are a selection from Jago Stone's extraordinarily large 'catalogue'.


Chapter 2

THE BAR STOOL FANTASIES OF A CAD

There is no doubt that Denis Pitts’ take on Jago in 1983 and Jago’s own testimony from the bar in the ‘Up the Garden Path Inn’ in Manton, near Marlborough in Wiltshire shape any reader’s initial sense of the character of Mr Stone. Effortlessly, it seems, Jago holds court from his bar stool throne and unfolds the stories of his misdeeds. The Sunday Express writer records the flow of

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

JAGO STONE AND THE MEDIA


As spring turned to summer in 1983, the 'Sunday Express' published a feature-length article on Jago Stone, headlined 'The Bar Stool Fantasies of a Cad'. That admirable piece of journalism by Denis Pitts, one of Fleet street's most accomplished writers, provides the initial focus for Chapter 2 in my biography of Jago. My late father-in-law, Ronald Watkins (see my eulogy for Ronald using this link) had given us the faded newspaper cutting sometime in the late 1990s. Only then did we learn that the artist, Jago Stone, whose palette-knife and oil paintings graced the walls in our home, had spent nearly twenty years in gaol before he was released in 1967 at the age of 39.
Jago's gift to my wife, Louise, presented as he left the Gerrards Cross area around 1970

When I first read this piece – and for a long time afterwards, I had little reason to move beyond what Denis Pitts sets out as his impression of Jago – a bit of a card, a bar stool character in his mid-fifties, an affable English eccentric proud of being a reformed gaolbird. That of course was exactly what Jago was acting out. He had the pub regulars as his audience and a man come up from London to do the interview. The playhouse of the local hostelry provided the perfect setting for his performance. And what a brilliant choice of venue for the interview. The pub was called ‘Up the Garden Path’. Jago, the pied piper, leading his listeners on. Yet it was all true. As Denis says, the

Friday, 11 August 2017

JEREMY CORBYN RETURNS TO CORNWALL - AUGUST 2017

The last time I saw Jeremy in Cornwall it was at Heartlands during his second Party Leadership campaign. The New Labour members of the Parliamentary Labour Party - the MPs who believed that Jeremy and his socialist beliefs made him and a Party that continued to follow his leadership unelectable - had forced another election with Owen Smith standing against him. It was just over a year ago, in August 2016. Our leader was in fine form and delivered a speech that outlined the 10 Pledges that would form the basis of the election manifesto in 2020 or whenever Theresa May chose to call an election. See these three links for my blog-posts back then:

http://robdonovan.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/jeremy-corbyn-and-labours-10-pledges.html
http://robdonovan.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/jeremy-corbyn-and-labours-10-pledges_11.html
http://robdonovan.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/jeremy-corbyn-and-labours-10-pledges_12.html

Jeremy Corbyn easily defeated that New Labour challenge and the Labour Party under Jeremy's leadership gained 3 million extra votes in the June 2017 General Election that was called by May and the Tories, calculating that the Labour Party would be destroyed as the Opposition. Doh! The Tories lost their overall majority and Labour are now 6 percentage points ahead of the Tories in the latest opinion poll. What a miscalculation!

To Lindsay and to Jack - all the best - Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy returned to Heartlands then with even more spring in his step. Mixing my metaphors, he is - as his deputy, Tom Watson, has said: 'walking on water'. After he had delivered his speech, our next prime minister came down from the rostrum and spoke with the people close to the stage and signed autographs. Lindsay Smith, one of the St Ives Labour Party activists from the Penbeagle estate who


Thursday, 20 July 2017

'THE ROAD TO CORBYN' LEADS TO TOLPUDDLE

It was late last Saturday evening that I checked my Facebook to discover that Keith Shilson, the newly elected Secretary of the St Ives Constituency Labour Party, had sent me a photo from Tolpuddle in Dorset. He was there - obviously - because of the three-day annual event to celebrate the anniversary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs who laid the foundations of Britain's trade union movement.

Here's the picture, taken in the museum shop:

The Road to Corbyn reaches Tolpuddle in Dorset

How cool is that!  It reminds me of this one, taken in the shop window at Fahrenheit Books Cooperative in Middlesbrough where four copies of my book had been sold up to March this year:

The Road to Corbyn reaches Middlesbrough in North Yorkshire

I have provided a link here to an earlier post that I published that first explained the connection with Fahrenheit Books. I said then that I was learning that an author has to learn the art of being a hustler for his own creation.

And then there is the outstanding Redwing Gallery in Penzance that I've been praising in posts

Monday, 17 July 2017

DRINK IN VICTORIAN NORWICH - AFTER THE PENZANCE LITFEST FRINGE TALK

When I knew that I had the opportunity to give talks at the Penzance LitFest Fringe at the beginning of this month, I decided on three talks, one after the other - Wednesday lunchtime, The Road to Corbyn'; Thursday lunchtime, 'Jago Stone'; and Friday lunchtime, 'Drink in Victorian Norwich'. The first two needed little preparation but the third talk was different. My doctorate had been awarded in 2003 and my ceremony followed in 2004. Nearly a decade and a half had elapsed. The main themes were still embedded in my mind but as I returned to the pages of the thesis a weird feeling surfaced. I was reconnecting with material that I scarcely remembered producing in the first place - and experiencing the joy of resurrecting my own forgotten scholarship.

Bess of Bedlam - a Norwich Victorian pub - (acknowledgements and thanks to the Norfolk Heritage Centre - see this link)


Derek Guthrie and Daniel Nanavati, editors from New Art Examiner - the independent voice of the Visual Arts (see this link) - were amongst the half-a-dozen audience. So too were my socialist comrades, Abbi and Mick. As I had planned, I began with a sketch of how the idea for the thesis came to life - explaining how my mum towards the end of her life had passed on to me her grandfather's journal, his life story in effect, and how I discovered for the first time his role as a trusted steward of club funds in the working class drinking and leisure culture in the city of Canterbury in Kent.

From that acorn emerged - seven or so years later - my doctoral thesis that maintains Victorian social cohesion depended on drink. In Norwich, as in other urban centres, population growth led to an

Sunday, 9 July 2017

THE ROAD TO CORBYN by ROB DONOVAN - FEEDBACK FROM JANE SAND

The Penzance Literary Festival 2017 has been happening this week - and like all good festivals it has a Fringe. I've been part of that Fringe - see this link for more detail on my three talks. These were given - very enjoyably - in the friendly ambience of the Redwing Gallery in Penzance. Roselyne Williams, the co-director there, passed me an envelope on Wednesday containing a letter for me from Jane Sand, an artist in Penzance. Her painting 'Ruined Cottage on the Moors near Boslow' (2015) I had admired and bought at a Redwing auction earlier this year. Jane had bought a copy of my book 'The Road to Corbyn' on the recommendation of Claire Healey, another Penzance artist whose work I admire. I had purchased Clare's 'Io rescuing Odysseus' at the same auction. You can see both of these striking paintings in this post. Jane's letter contained this feedback on my book which impressed me. I value what I have written and it is wonderful when someone shares your own  appreciation of the ideas that matter. Jane has given me  permission to publish her feedback.

'I nearly didn't get it for 2 reasons. (1) Political books are usually dogmatic and deadly dull, and (2) we were made to read Pilgrim's Progress at school when I was 11 and I loathed it! It was so preachy and boring. But Clare kept on saying: 'Get on and read it!'. So I did, and I think it's great.

Ruined Cottage on the Moors near Boslow - Jane Sand - 2015


Yes, I totally agree with you that self-deception and hence the deception of others is the major problem, plus this dreadful myth of democracy - the latest packaged concept. The idea may have originated in Ancient Greece, but their whole culture was based on slave labour so the idea is fatally flawed from the start.

And horribly accurate on current Tory ideas re: education. 'Invest in the best and satisfy the rest. That's the way forward.' My long-ago ex-husband taught in a secondary school in Camborne in the 1970s and was horrified by the appallingly low standard of teaching and the over-riding feeling


Thursday, 6 July 2017

JAGO STONE - TRACKING JAGO DOWN IN THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF WALES - TUESDAY JUNE 27 2017

My Google searches for Jago Stone in January of this year had brought to the surface a new posting from ITV Wales that led me to their archivist, Owain Meredith, and the collection of materials housed in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth in Wales. I knew this new source was one I had to see. It was a 'historic production' by the Harlech Television Company which featured 'the work of the representational artist,  Jago Stone' and had been made by Kenneth Griffiths (sic). The record of the programme was in archival shorthand and from this I knew I could expect an interview between Jago and Kenneth Griffiths and a visit to the Notley Arms where they met the landlord, Mr Mellows (or Mellars) - who had formerly been in the Rhodesian prison service and served as its hangman - and Mr Davies, aged 92, a former soldier. And there were walking shots of Jago with his wife and baby.Tantalisingly, I couldn't figure how long the programme was. But the date was clear enough. February 5, 1969. Jago had been out of prison the best part of two years.

My further research established that the Notley Arms was a pub in the village of Monksilver in Somerset on the edge of Exmoor. Harlech TV's reach in 1969 extended that far into England.   

Aberystwyth - looking south-east 
The National Library of Wales and the new campus of the University of Aberystwyth lie up the hill to the east 

It took until June of this year for me to fit everything together but less than a fortnight ago, on Monday, June 26, I set out on my all-day train journey to Aberystwyth from St Ives in Cornwall. It was long and complex, changing at St Erth and then Bristol Temple Meads to head west for Newport in south Wales, and then changing again to head back into England and northwards to Shrewsbury. Some dodgy characters had nicked copper cabling used for signalling very early that morning between Cwmbran and Abergavenny so that last section of the journey took an extra two