Low Technology
Abi Frost

Six colours? Well, I do my best...

Leaving the Crafts Council was a laugh, anyway. It took me three days to clear out my office, what with all the typography magazines I wanted to sneak home and years and years of no-one to do the filing and dammit I'm too grand for that sort of thing. This has taught me a lesson. Next time I insist on a slave. Michael and Richard's exhibition opened just about on time (though they had to do what they called 'bloody woodwork' -- nailing the samples into cases -- instead of coming to my leaving party, which was the hour before the private view), and the early copies of the great book even arrived on time. And my boss was so full of sisterly love about it all that I even got to take home a copy -- so if anyone wants to go all creative with rainbow-coloured bronze she should apply to me for a recipe.

I even managed to get in a holiday of a sort, in the last few weeks of my life as a wage-slave. Went up to Edinburgh to run my father's book stall at the Faystiverl. For once I do know exactly what young Ms Hibbert means about something. The Nightrider is hell on wheels.

Actually, it would probably be ok if one took one's own alcohol; I'd foolishly assumed the advertised all night buffet meant all night bar, and had counted on a couple of miniatures of British Rail cognac to send me to sleep. Not even BR, however, are so foolish as to put all night bars on cheap trains to Scotland. In some ways the ride was rather magical -- that's the only word, believe it or not, for the sight of Newcastle at four in the morning -- but for the next two days I was subhuman to say the least. It was probably that train that gave me the disease I collapsed with just before the last deadline.

Didn't do too much Faystiverl, since I had to look after the stand for at least half of every day, went to see the Forth group on the Tuesday night, and went out for a meal with the book fair crowd on the Thursday. What I did see was high-class stuff, though; Lumiere and Son in Slips, a surrealistic play about (I think) gender identity, Happy Hour in Cairo, a free lunchtime show by some brilliant people called Pookiesnacknburger (I went around telling everyone about these brilliant unknown geniuses I and only I had discovered, and then they turned up on Jasper Carrott, to my undisguised rage) and a late-night cabaret of assorted Fringe artistes at the Assembly Rooms cafe, all decked out in jungle foliage and utterly wonderful.

That was the theaytar. For your actual art I managed Man Ray, Piranesi, and Elizabeth Blackadder (never made it to Miro dammitt), all good stuff but none of them exactly unknown geniuses -- though I did fail to see la Blackadder at the RA the month before on the grounds that I'd never heard of her.

Being in a city which is trying to shove in a year's worth of culcher in a fortnight or whatever it is tends to warp one's perspective on life. I remember sitting waiting for the nite bus to my suburban hotel after the Assembly Rooms do, full of the wonderful atmosphere ... the sense of a community enjoying its own jokes (the Fringe crowd, not the burghers of Edinburgh, I mean) the excitement ... the (bloody hell) sheer (jhchriste) FANNISHNESS of it all, and watching people getting the night bus back to Glasgow. They were having a really good party in that bus: rolling joints, passing round bottles of wine, singing and dancing and generally having a reasonable sort of time, by my standards. And I thought to myself yes I did:


Silly, silly. In London you have to go to work/college next day, you have to get home to where they don't run nite buses etc, etc. These people were at a gigantic convention. I must say, they seem to run their conventions better than we run ours; you don't see any miserable souls wondering where the hell all the fun is. I certainly think conventions could be improved by a rather more stylish and theatrical approach; why don't we have paper lianas all round the bars then? And couldn't we put on all night cabarets -- apart from the private ones in room parties?


Last time round I had about half the mailing comments all done. Ever so brilliant and witty they were, and all beautifully typed with little starry boxes round them

Like this only bigger of course and as it happens there's no asterisk on this sodding machine.

Only I lost them during the Great Office Clear-Out, and by the time I found them I had the plague and anyway could no longer use my beloved reducing photocopier. Damn and blast. [Specific mailing comments deleted.] What's the point, I ask you?

The trouble is, the sort of mailing comments that seem to be required (as done so conscientiously by the two Lindas) are quite outside my capability. Yes of course I can write things like:

Gertrude: Sorry to hear about your husband, but it's good to hear you get on so well with his brother. I shouldn't worry about your son -- mine was just the same after his first term at university. It's just teenage rebellion you know. His girlfriend sounds a bit of a nutter though -- shouldn't let her go out to the river alone. Your poem 'What is a woman?' was quite the most poetic thing I've read this week. Hope the theatricals at your house go well.

But that sort of thing sounds really patronising when I do it and makes me feel like Shit of the Year. I'm not really a sweetness and light person. So what's left? I can't teach you lot to write -- not with stencils the price they are and at six-weekly intervals. You know how to write, don't you? You just push your lips together and ... or something. Deep-structural lit crit isn't on with the material to hand, either. It's like trying to sculpt in marshmallow. [Deleted.] Sisters, will you kindly stop taking in each other's washing and




AH, that's better. Sorry about that, but while the first issue was a very pleasant surprise, I really thought the second was not up to scratch. You have been warned.


Well, today I was at LCP. The worst thing about my course is the other students on it. That sounds a vile and cruel thing to say, but most of them really do come from another planet. At first I thought it was just because they are The Young (mostly unemployable graduates) but then I realised that Steve Higgins is actually younger than them, and he comes from the same planet as me. And the block-release apprentices I see in the canteen look like normal working class lads like the ones wot live on my estate, and the design and photography students look as normal as art students ever do and all in all LCP looks like a jolly enclave of fun ... except for DBP. (My course. Diploma in Book Production.)

The trouble with DBP is that it's the course tutor (lovely man called Alan)'s proud boast that 80% of his students get publishing jobs within a few months of leaving. This means that at least 80% of his students get jobs, presumably.

This means that the course gets flooded out with people who want to spend their inheritance (or something -- few have grants) on a course that will GET THEM A JOB. Any old job will do. it seems -- few have any interest in lovely mucky evil commercial publishing, or in discovering the next Great English Novel, or even in running a pious little community press.

All this lack of imagination, creativity or even good old vulgar ambition distress me, but I suppose it's all you can expect these days. In search of the real glamorous art-student life (and trying for a nostalgic recreation of the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms) I took a friend to see Cabaret Futura at the college's Halloween do in the Student Union Bar.

The LCP Union Bar (which for reasons of artistic credibility or something calls itself the Laundry) is more or less what you'd expect -- a rat 'ole. On Friday night it was a rat 'ole hung with torn-up dustbin bags and that hairy cobweb stuff. This was surprisingly effective, except that they'd failed to remove the notices about the Snooker Tournament and so forth, which rather destroyed the Berlin-in-the-Thirties-or-whatever-they-were-after effect.

I knew little about Cabaret Futura except that they were ever so trendy a year or could it be two ago, so it seemed about the right time for me to catch up with them. (And I wanted to check out the LCP social life, and they were what was on this weekend.) About half way through I got obsessed by counting the number of people who had appeared on the stage so far and trying to work out how much they were being paid. (This failed because I was quite hopeless at trying to estimate the number in the audience, and had no idea what proportion of the money goes to the acts anyway.) No doubt this proves that I'm not really the type for the new orgiastic neo-Arts Lab culture wot I keep reading about, but actually I was trying to imagine all these people -- two good bands, one rotten comedian, and a few odd dancers -- as characters in a 1940s travelling show movie, and to do that I had to work out how exactly the show stayed on the road.

My calculations were interrupted by friend Kerry and then me being -- along with everyone else within five feet of the stage -- hauled up to join in the dancing. Audience participation is the thing, you see. I had great fun while doing it, but now, two days later, it all begins to seem a bit worrying. The whole . come-and-dance-with-us, we-here-in-this-rat'ole-are-all-Beautiful-People

bit seems by turns Fascistic and over-optimistic. Whereas the people in Cabaret Futura (with the possible exception of that awful comedian) were all genuinely creative, talented and the rest of it (yes, even the girl who did a dance interpretation of The White Hotel, ye gods) the people in the audience had. up till now been simply spectators, and there was no reason to believe that they had any right to be other than spectators. Art students they may be, but in a few years' time most of them will be relegated to the sort of hackwork my boyfriend does and be grateful.

No doubt Phil Palmer will tell me I'm missing the point. The trouble is really linguistic -- I can't describe that sort of of-the-moment art without descending into Pseuds' Cornerese and being false to my own manner of writing, speaking and thinking. But I enjoyed it and recommend Cabaret Futura.

'Hackwork' (see above) is a vogue word in this apa, of course. As a paid up hack I'd like to say a few words in defence of it. I can't now remember who it was who expressed fears that we'd all degenerate into 'reams of fannish hackwork' in order to fill up our space, but I think she was barking up the wrong eucalyptus.

The point about hackwork is that you have to do a lot of it, if you're a hack, and it isn't always necessarily what you'd choose to do for your own creative satisfaction. The positive thing about it is that doing it develops the skill of simply (in the present case) writing -- quickly, with the minimum agony, about any and every subject, I don't think that anyone can create a perfectly crafted work of art without the confidence that comes from knowing you can handle the basic materials (in this case words) and have the technical competence not to risk feeling at the end that one's work has been wasted. So let's see more hackwork in this apa, and less twittering about how one couldn't possibly ever write anything as brilliant as 'How women get pregnant'.

I must say that if I'd written anything as good as 'How women get pregnant' I wouldn't have put it in here -- I'd have put it in my fanzine, thank you very much. Remarkably generous of Linda to publish it here, I reckon.

Time to get on with some real hackwork -- the sort I get paid for.

Low Technology comes from Abigail Frost, 69 Robin Hood Gardens, Cotton Street, London E14, in the heart of the Docklands Development Corporation's fiefdom. Many thanks to Rob Hansen for polluting The Women's Periodical with his nasty huge throbbing male status symbol. This apazine was printed on it.

If I don't go to Novacon (still haven't decided whether I can afford it), have a good time there for me.

1 November 1982

The Women's Periodical 3 (November 1982)