Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Branchage Blog – Day One (sort of…)

It’s unofficially Day One of Branchage, although technically it’s actually Day Minus Three (or T-72 hours as they say in NASA), as Le Gun’s Crime & Punishment exhibition launches in St. Helier’s Magistrates Court. As I arrive outside the court, I wonder if I’ve got the right place, as the angry gangster rap blaring out of the doors at a billion decibels seems somewhat ill-fitting. I poke my head inside, and it all makes sense; behind the decks is Garcia, one half of Victorian garage rock-revivalists The Rubbishmen. The other half, of course, is Jersey artist Rob Greene, whose Le Gun collective have taken over the Old Magistrates Court for the week of Branchage, re-occupying the cells that have been disused for almost four years. In the cells are life-size illustrations of ridiculously far-fetched characters, typical of the darkly comic world that occupies the minds of the Le Gun team; in cell five I find Jean Genet, a punk poet, thief, outlaw and lover of young men, charged with propositioning local businessmen and brawling whilst wearing lipstick. On each of the heavy cell doors is a scribbled biography, and perhaps the most twisted of the creations to be found is that of Edmund Chevalier, whose cell door has this story scrawled on it:

NAME: Edmund Chevalier

The occupant of this cell between 1934 and 1939 was tried for witchcraft and necromancy following the theft and mutilation of domesticated animals on the island over a period of 6 years. He was separately accused of embezzlement of funds from a number of charitable organisations.

Founder of the Hermetic Order of The Black Equinox, Chevalier became one of Jersey’s leading occultists in the period leading up to the Second World War, believing himself to be a direct descendent of Hermes Trismegistus. He was in regular correspondence with covens across the south coast of England and possessed a collection of magick artefacts to rival that of Aleister Crowley. His flamboyant and decadent lifestyle regularly attracted the interest of the island authorities.

Upon his arrest, police discovered a macabre workshop in which Chevalier had been creating hybrid entities from disparate animal parts and attempting to reanimate them through the invocation of demons.

He continued to practice the occult during his imprisonment and it is said that seven prison wardens left suffering from dementia and mental disorders after an incident in this cell on the sabbat of Samhain.

Chevalier took his own life here in October 1939 with a fatal dose of strychnine. His cell is as it would have been on that night.

If it wasn’t such a ludicrous tale, I might be genuinely freaked out by it. Mercifully, there was free wine to calm my nerves, so naturally, the wine bar was my next stop. I couldn’t help but observe that there was an odd mix of people in attendance; smartly-dressed adults, eccentrically-clad students, and lots and lots of teens with skateboards. I had to wonder what it was that so attracted skaters to a Le Gun exhibition, and initially guessed it was the free wine available. I was later informed, however, that in attendance was Winston Whitter, UK skate great and one of the mentors for the Branchage Bootcamp, which also got underway today. Several directors and their young charges have been getting to know each other and preparing for a week of intensive training and film-making, and it’s going to be a hectic week for them if they’re going to be ready to unveil their films this Sunday at the Branchage Spiegeltent.

Talking of the Spiegeltent, it’s arrived! It’s sitting at the dock, waiting to be transported to its site, where it will be assembled tomorrow morning. It’s finally happening – how exciting.

I’ll have more news and inane ramblings for y’all tomorrow. Goodnight.


The Blog Master

Friday, 5 September 2008

Branchage at Jersey Live!

How many people can you fit in a garden shed?? This was the challenge set by the Branchage team at this weekend’s Jersey Live music festival. Well, 27 people crammed into the B&Q special, and all was caught on camera by Branchage Artistic Director Xanthe Hamilton as the shed door burst open and the 27 fell out into the surprised music festival crowd standing their aghast! The film was then shown on the giant screens either side of the main stage between bands.

Branchage was in the house big time at Jersey Live. As well as the garden shed focal point, where Festival punters could come and learn about Jersey’s first major international film festival, with flyers and the team on hand to give out information (as well as have fun on the Branchage trampoline, the Branchage skis, and admire the Branchage potted plants on display!). The team was also out in force blitzing the Festival site with flyers and giant banners, so no Jersey Live punter went away without a knowledge of the looming Festival (kicking off in less than four weeks).

Jersey Live itself was a massive success, so massive hi-5 to the two Warren’s for putting together a stunning line up of bands and DJs. The big hitters included Black Kids, Cage The Elephant, David Holmes, Foals, The Music and The Zutons, not forgetting a stunning Festival finale in the form of the legendary Prodigy. Velofax also rocked the main stage on Sunday afternoon and they’ll be back at Branchage for the Warp Records party, and Midnight Expresso (Branchage’s own Festival brochure editor and Beat Happening supremo Chris Bell) entertained us with his surreal mix of John Shuttleworth and MC Hammer in the Cream Tease tent – he’ll also be back at Branchage with a set in the Spiegeltent.