Now, more than three months later, we've hosted thirty Leaps and the shows run for at leats ninety minutes. More than a hundred contributors have taken part - novelists, poets, musicians, singers, film-makers, performers, indie publishers and many others, and from all over the world. My thanks, imadequate as they are, to all of them.
I'm astonished, but also reassured, by the fact that A Leap in the Dark has never really caught on, or taken off. We have a brilliant loyal and clued-up regular audience numbering never more than fifty (to date); we've raised a few quid for The Trussell Trust (although I have no idea how much and don't hector attendees to donate); we've shared some light in these dark times, and made new friends. A consolation, not a palliative, but welcome as such, and it's kept me preoccupied when I'd otherwise be climbing the walls with anger and frustration at - well, pretty much everything.
Here's the piece, with pictures of another time:
A lifetime ago, on 29th February, I organised a ‘A Leap in the Dark’, a Dada cabaret staged in a dilapidated former Conservative Club in Paddington. The venue was unheated but there was plenty of whisky and cocoa and the performers all blazed with a hard gemlike flame (see above).
Such gatherings are now a thing of the future, but the same loose-knit group of writers and poets and musicians and performers all want to share their work with an audience and with each other, to spread some light and possibly even joy in these dark and difficult times. Because that’s something we can do, and something we all need to do, now and in the future, until the current crisis passes, and after that.
So I’m organising an open-ended series of online gatherings which will aim to reproduce the atmosphere of the original gigs, although you’ll have to bring your own booze.
There are no constraints on the contributors (apart from time) and no telling what will happen when we go live at 8pm each evening.
On Friday 3rd April we’ll have live music followed by a conversation between Neil Griffiths (novelist and founder of the Republic of Consciousness Prize), Sam Mills (Dodo ink publisher, author and one of this year’s prize judges) and Frank Wynne (translator of Jean-Baptiste Del Amo’s novel Animalia, announced today as winner of the 2020 Prize). It’s an absolutely stunning novel, brilliantly translated from the French (and the first time a work in translation has won the Conchy). The best review I’ve read so far appeared in 3:AM magazine.
Audience members will have a chance to win a pristine copy of Del Amo’s magnificent novel, courtesy of the publisher and RoC organisers.
On Saturday 4th April more live music followed by the world premiere of Spring Journal by the author and poet Jonathan Gibbs. Prompted by Autumn Journal (1939) Louis Macneice’s great poem about the early days of the Second World War, Jonathan’s poem is a work-in-progress thoughtfully navigating and responding to the social and political changes of the current crisis with sharp wit and a keen, humane eye.
An extract from Macneice’s original and the first section of Spring Journal will be read by Michael Hughes.
On Friday 10th April a live transatlantic exchange with the Vancouver-based Irish writer Anakana Schofield (author of Malarky and Martin John) with readings from her latest novel Bina. Plus the latest canto of Spring Journal read by Michael Hughes.
After that we intend to broadcast two live thirty-minute programmes starting at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays for the duration, although that may change. Everything may change. Possibly for the better. You never know.
For practical reasons access will be limited to 75 registrations and, to avoid prankster hacks, by invitation only. The events will be transmitted live and not recorded, so unavailable for later listening. That’s part of the point.
How to join the audience:
You’ll need to contact me as the organiser, so DM me your email details on Twitter @davidcollard1
You’ll then be added to a group of invitees on a first-come, first-served basis. Your details will not be shared.
To see and hear what’s going on you’ll need the Zoom app and I’ll be sending all invitees a password on the day.
There’s no charge, but we suggest a donation to your local food bank or equivalent.
Future confirmed contributors:
Kevin Boniface – author of Round About Town
June Caldwell – author of Room Little Darker
Susanna Crossman – Anglo-French writer of fiction and non-fiction
Tim Etchells – author of Endland and founder/creative director of Forced Entertainment
David Hayden – publisher and author of Darker with the Lights On
Amy McCauley – poet and performer, author of OEDIPA and 24/7 Brexitland
Dan O’Brien – American poet (War Reporter) and playwright (The Body of an American)
Simon Okotie – author of the Harold Absalon trilogy
Alex Pheby – author of Playthings, Lucia, and the forthcoming Mordew
Paul Stanbridge – musician and author (Forbidden Line, The Encyclopaedia of St Arbuc)
Isabel Waidner – author (Gaudy Bauble and We Are Made of Diamond Stuff)
Is this what we need right now? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’m reminded of my favourite moment in a favourite film — John Ford’s Rio Bravo (1959). Here’s the brisk IMDB synopsis: ‘A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold a murderer in jail until the state marshal can arrive’.
For latecomers and those slow to catch on we get a summary of the set-up when an old army buddy of the embattled sheriff (played superbly by John Wayne) rides into town and asks him what’s going on. Wayne explains and his buddy says:
‘A drunk man and a cripple? That’s all you got?’
To which Wayne laconically replies:
‘That’s what I got.’
A Leap in the Dark. That’s what I got.
First posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2020.