HIP remembers John Merriman

By Pete Donohue

Lit - John - portrait - RIP John Merriman 1961-2016

Age 54 is far too young to shed this mortal coil for other realms that may lie beyond, especially for such a talented and prolific local creative as John Merriman. John was well known throughout Hastings & St Leonards (and through his work, much farther afield) as poet, playwright, literary and fantasy writer, and a quirky performer both as solo singer songwriter and in fronting his band the Lovely Dreggs. Sadly we lost John on 30th January this year from complications due to liver cancer.

HIP Literature pages featured John as one of our Write on in Hastings authors back in Issue 30, published in spring of last year. Born in South London, the son of a coster family, he grew up as a council estate kid. Over the years John worked in both labouring and office jobs, being removal man, road sweeper, book shop and record shop worker, decorator, cleaner, and numerous other things besides. But it was always literature and music that were at the forefront of his ambitions. In his youth John moved through various musical and fashion subcultures including skinhead, mod, punk and rockabilly. At the same time he was discovering literature through writers such as Kerouac, Orwell, Philip K. Dick, Lovecraft and Huxley, all of whom he cites as influences.

John moved to Hastings & St Leonards in 2007 having experienced debt, eviction and family problems but soon established himself on the local literature and music scene, building up a following with his trademark urban sardonic wit. His musical home became The Rooms in St Leonards and his literary base Bookbusters in Hastings town centre.

He once told HIP “This town was pivotal in helping me regain my feet and in carrying on my art. I will always be grateful for this.”

With five published books (the first four under the pseudonym George Same) and about 30 CDs to his name John Merriman certainly left his creative mark. The Intoxicate is a fictionalised biography of a drug addict; From Brain to Toe and Beyond is a collection of three plays; Yxsy Glyxsy is a compendium of fantasy tales in the style of a modern Arabian Nights; Backward Moddy Boy is about the tribal intensity music generates in the activities of youth subcultures: and Rappa Nanny is a collection of poems and prose sketches.

John will be sadly missed for his performances at the monthly Sheer Poetry open mics, particularly for his as yet unpublished poem Laundry Woman versus the Hairy Handyman which describes ordinary people portrayed as superheroes. Another favourite is Beware of Evil Scribble, a warning about “poets who will have your guts for garters.”

If you wish to make a remembrance gesture for John Merriman (AKA George same, AKA Johnny Dreggs) all his books and CD’s are available or obtainable at Bookbusters. RIP John.