ALPHABET CITY is run by native New Yorker Erin who specialises in pre-digital printing and runs an early evening letter writing group. Erin is old skool and upon our arrival at the work-shop she and Swifty enthusiastically talked TYPE! They then set a group to work organising letter press alphabets which could be printed out and then cut up and used to construct headlines and layouts. Others were directed to the central table which had numerous portable manual typewriters. Their task was bosh out the pieces that they were writing or had received from friends.
I’m included in this latter group and though I have roots in the Tipex generation I was going nuts by the end of play. The combination of Erin’s tinny sounding transistor radio, which was tuned to an indie rock station, and the succession of typing errors was doing my head in. I was ready to take a hammer to that damn typewriter by the end of the afternoon. “A project not using computers! Whose STUPID idea was that?!”
While I was at Alphabet City quietly stressing about whether we had enough copy to create a Zine and fill out our goodie bag (which was being hand printed in the corner) Swift was at Cut Collective getting ready to put it all together. I needn’t have stressed. By Thursday morning everybody had risen to the quest.
The vibe at Cut Collective was on another level. It’s a hip and inspiring space littered with their own artworks and when we reached there it was already a hive of activity. The huge table was piled high with paper and print outs. People were cutting and pasting, licking and sticking. Swift’s waxer was working overtime.
To a gentle backbeat of roots reggae and hip hop Jason was making rapid progress with the fold-out map of the city and it’s hot spots while Sanya was getting busy with Swift’s collection of letraset. The Cut Collective were equally busy creating their own booklet while another duo were creating a feisty ‘zine called The Vomits. Q&A’s and interviews with Home Brew, Recloose, The Yoots and a local micro brewery had come together along with Amanda’s piece on urban foraging and J”s post card ideas.
A couple of cases of beers arrived threatening the momentum but the pages continued to mount. The building blocks were in place and after a bit of juggling and a touch of editorial improvisation the zine’s flow seemed OK. Of course, as the spirit of improvisation prevailed we had no idea of how many pages the zine would be. Our sponsors were amazed when I said it would be 54 pages.
I reserved the task of dividing the spreads and re-splicing them for the printer until the following morning. It was good move. The task required a clear head. Even so, it took time and completion was in danger of colliding with Swift’s lunchtime presentation at Semi Permanent. That was to be avoided at all cost and following a final burst of activity we hi-tailed it to Semi Permanent stopping off at the printers on the way!
Stepping into the auditorium at the Aotea Centre was a freak out. No wonder Swift had wanted to get this over and done with! The capacity had to be between 1500 and 2000 people and it was filling up fast. Swift was onstage, sitting on sofa organising his stuff and I was praying that the late nights at Conch hadn’t prevented him preparing, especially as he was going to focus half the rap on the current project. However, I needn’t have worried, he seemed to win over the crowd with his explanation of Yea Nah and despite a couple of technical glitches, transferring instagram pics onto the big screen, he pulled it off. Yep, the boy done good.
Basically, we were on a roll and after leaving Semi Permanent popped into the print shop. The job was ready and nicely finished prompting us to get a few LARGE prints of the UK reggae flow chart for the Conch session that evening. They looked so-o-o-o fresh! Once back at Cut Collective brown paper goodie-bags were stuffed ready to be allocated out to the crew and anyone who was coming to Conch that evening. Everybody was stoked. Job done!
At Conch Swift organised his prints and one-offs for sale and then set about finishing his his new piece. My good friend Gaylene Martin was in the house and as she’d worked with just about everybody on the UK and international reggae scene we had a splendid reasoning going over the flow chart. As Swift was fully mash-up I took on the Conch Q&A session with my good friend and one-time voice of Kiss FM London – Wendy Douglas. In fact, we did the Q&A twice as the crowd changed radically over the evening. I enjoyed dropping a selection of reggae 7’s that I’d brought with me. The Conch session was a liberating conclusion to hard working but enlightening and enjoyable week.
Saturday was our last day and our only day off. Wendy picked us up and we headed off to Matakana stopping off to pick up some green stone on the way. A 45 minute drive from the city and we were in Matakana sampling the wares at the farmers market and checking the second hand shops. For a tiny town they had one wikkid cinema. From there we went to Wendy’s ranch which spans 8 acres, has panoramic views, barns, chickens, a wetland with 5000 local plants, fantastic ancient trees and a chill out room which contains their London sound system. Think Channel One. Word sound & power!
Much to our relief we were greeted by blue shies in Matakana and following a walk on a heavenly, largely deserted beach we stopped of at the Sawmill for a drop of fine Pino Noir. Swift put on an impromtu display of live painting by firelight and then it was back to the city. Finally, after a hectic diversion to secure a baseball cap with the Arcade skateshop logo for my boy we arrived at the excellent Verona for our final diner. It was a fitting end to a great day and a TOP trip.
THE END (at last!)
Big shout out to every body involved! Respek is indeed due!
Pics: Cut Collective (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cut-Collective-Ltd/62880888305) PIYN (http://piyn.net/) and Swifty Instagram ( http://ink361.com/#/users/4696626 )