Ben Thompson explains how the improbable DJ pairing of snooker’s Steve Davis and avant-garde guitarist Kavus Torabi helped establish the template for an innovative literary/music event he’s running in St Leonards next month.

Hastings is home to a thriving literary subculture. There are no less than four excellent independent bookshops keeping Waterstones on their toes (see Reading the Runes HIP issue 193) as well as a tempting range of second-hand options and an elegantly refurbished central library. So, the town has seen numerous books events establish themselves in recent years, from the annual Storytelling and Literary Festivals, through regular bookshop and Electric Palace launches and talks, to the headily interactive celebrations of A Town Explores A Book.

Lee Scratch Perry
CREDIT: Kate Peters

When I put on The Medical Grade Music Roadshow at the Kino-Teatr in September of last year, with guests including Fat White Family’s Lias Saoudi and the unlikely but now institutional DJ pairing of snooker legend Steve Davis and Gong guitarist Kavus Torabi, I was very conscious that this event had no pretensions to being an oasis in a literary desert but was rather planting a sapling in an already verdant copse. The added value I wanted to bring was a new connection between Hastings’ quietly thriving books culture and the more upfront excitement of the town’s myriad, and much envied, music scenes.

Belgian Surf Ensemble

Sometimes on a Friday or Saturday night in Hastings it can feel like the last seventy years of popular music history are coming alive inside your head – as you hear the sounds of a Ten Years After-inspired heavy blues outfit in The Nelson mingle with a rocking Belgian surf ensemble at The Fratcave in The Royal Standard, before striding down the seafront via an Upbeat ska night at The Pig, past the Pier where Jimi Hendrix and The Sex Pistols played, to a full-on techno rave at The Marina Fountain. Bottling that thrill in the form of a books event was a worthy challenge but I like to think Davis, Torabi, Saoudi, hometown superstar DJ Riz Maslen and former HIP listings supremo Ade Peachment managed to rise to it.

Reggae’s Clown Prince

This inaugural books and music mix-down drew a large and appreciative crowd, the general consensus afterwards being that there was a keen appetite for more such happenings in the future. In response to that demand, a second one-off event will takes place at the Kino on 5 May, with Lee Perry’s official biographer David Katz – a man whose treasure house of Upsetter anecdotes is no less glittering than the mirrored crown with which reggae’s own clown prince liked to dazzle fans and rivals alike – and acclaimed author Michael Bracewell, whose most recent book Souvenir is a vivid snapshot of a lost London whose soundtrack was its heartbeat.

I’ll be talking to them both, separately and together, with additional contributions from a stellar home team of Unofficial Britain and Car Park Life author Gareth Rees – who’ll be reading from a new work exploring the story of David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes Pett Level video location – and returning DJ Riz Maslen. I’m hoping Hastings’ rock n roll readers will turn out in force for this event, as there’s a heavyweight slate of possible future attractions waiting in the wings if we can keep up the momentum. 

The Books and Music Mixdown is at the Kino Teatr on Thursday 5 May. Tickets via www.ticketsource.co.uk

Ben Thompson is a local author and DJ whose book Ban This Filth! Letters from The Mary Whitehouse Archive features in BBC2’s Banned: The Mary Whitehouse Story, which is currently on i-Player. 


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