The short review: best issue yet of Weird Walk. Buy it now.
The longer review: Outwardly, nothing has changed. Weird Walk still has the same neat 48-page A5 format as ever, printed as before on high-quality paper. The design and typography are unchanged, as are the grainy photos of megalithic sites.
But the contents have moved up a level. Aside from the obvious draw of comedian and writer Stewart Lee, this issue of Weird Walk gets decidedly political, and is all the better for it.
The lead article is ‘Questing for Albion’ by broadcaster, artist and DJ Zakia Sewell. This is a powerful piece which, like Justin Hopper’s article in the last issue, forces us to reconsider conventional ways of thinking about the land we occupy. The BAME experience of the British countryside is woefully under-represented in popular culture, and Sewell’s contribution is inspirational. A child “between two different colours” (father Welsh/Australian, mother from the Caribbean), Sewell only became conscious of her skin colour when, at high school, she was made aware of her “difference”. Through the Pentangle song ‘The Cuckoo’ she became aware of the myths and legends of Albion and, allied to memories of childhood holidays in Wales, found “a different kind of Britain – magical, mythical, and full of wonder”. Hers is a necessary counterpoint to the current political mood, and an inspiring story of how the fabric and symbols of a country’s past need not be hijacked by dark agendas. Check out her “My Albion” series on BBCSounds.
Issue 4’s cover star is Glastonbury Tor, and there are suggestions for making the most of the Somerset pagan hub. This issue’s playlist by Archer Sanderson is a primer for walking edgelands – there’s one near you right now – and for all you pylon-worshippers. Tunes include Burial, Bark Psychosis, Broadcast and artists beginning with other letters of the alphabet.
Dolmania takes us to the Hellstone in Dorset, and opens up the thorny issue of “authenticity” around those megaliths which – like the Penwith peninsula’s Lanyon Quoit (visited in issue 1) – have been reconstructed or in some way altered from their original layout. Another victim of this process, and staying in Penwith, is the Men-an-Tol, which leads me seamlessly on to Stewart Lee’s weird walk around Lamorna. A lesser-known hive of artists than St. Ives or Newlyn, this “polyamorous world” included Marlow Moss, whose reputation has been re-evaluted in recent years to the extent that experts have suggested she influenced Mondrian, rather than the other way around…
But Lee’s real guide is of course Ithell Colquhoun, whose The Living Stones was a handy companion for my own weird walk around Penwith a few years ago. Lee takes us past maidens, a fiddler and some pipers, and even down into a fogou: “an underground ceremonial chamber unique to the Penwith peninsula.”
Elsewhere, Professor Vicki Cummings gives us a fascinating insight into Neolithic times: trying to look at megaliths from the viewpoint of those who erected them.
Finally, living in Scotland, it’s easy to take for granted our right to roam. Readers south of the border are not so fortunate, but handily Nick Hayes is on hand with advice on ‘How to Trespass’. Hayes, author of The Book of Trespass, is pushing for changes to the law in England to allow more access to land. His own trespasses are done peacefully, and he wears a hi-vis jacket to draw attention to himself and, by extension, his campaign. Covid has highlighted the importance of the countryside to our physical and mental wellbeing, but also how much of that countryside is off-limits to the overwhelming majority of the population. He stresses that his actions aren’t to fetishise the act, but to highlight the absurdity and manifest unfairness of trespass laws. I wish him luck.
In summary, this is a superb edition of Weird Walk. Keep it up, guys.