Newcastle Lyon Sonvillier Dresden Berlin Petersburg Chita Moscow Helsinki Amsterdam Newcastle

In progress.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Section Plans

My return to Newcastle and people and more immediate life things meant I didn't get started on the write-up of the anarchist pilgrimage. And now in the break between Christmas and the New Year I'm idly thinking of returning to some of the places I visited to fill in some gaps - the Kropotkin volcano, Bakunin's family estate, black petrograd etc.. But money means that's pretty unlikely.

I have divided the journey write-up into smaller and more manageable sections, and in January I will start with the first of these sections: probably the Poland/Belarus journey and then Germany. So not in order as such, but in an order of manageability.
(One reason I haven't got the zine underway yet is because I built it up into being too big a thing, and I always shy away from big undertakings.)

The sections are (probably):

UK: Newcastle-London

France: Paris-Lyon

Switzerland (big section)

Germany: Dresden-Berlin: 8 pages, half = cartoon of young Bakunin

Belarus-Poland journey: 8 pages

St Petersburg 1

Journey across Russia: Kazan, Ekaterinburg, Decembrist journeys & other map-based intros to anarchist(ish) Russia.

Lake Baikal






St Petersburg departure

Finland & exile

Stockholm & Copenhagen


Newcastle return & reflections

Each of these sections will be printed separately and bound, possibly by sowing, in such a way that they attach to each other as collections of pages rather than altogether. So I not only have extra reading about Bakunin & Kropotkin's life to do, but also a proper gen up on bookbinding.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Newcastle upon Tyne

After a week in Copenhagen, a train journey, an afternoon in Amsterdam and a ferry, I arrived home in Newcastle last week.

It has been 12 weeks of absence, so my thoughts have, since my return, been absorbed in this place that I know so well: the years of experience and adventures, and growing into a different person, and friends who have gone, and things forgotten but still lingering in the places I walk past. All that familiarity and nostalgia and working out what's going on this month and what I want to get involved with.

Gigs, collective endeavours, comics, the outdoors, meetings, agit-prop, groups like the newcastle philosophy group and the bothy association that I want to get back involved with.

(The Bothy Association are meeting the same day as the Bookfair, actualy, so I will have to miss them: I see their work as anarchist in both spirit and in effect. The Newcastle Philosophy Society brochure this autumn also speaks in terms that I rate:)

But for the last 2 days I've just been at home, digging out my old possessions and trying to cram everything into my room. Trying also to throw things out. As part of this I've linked with the Canny Little Library by collectivising some of my books.

I've printed off 2 short runs of zine/comics I made while on my anarchist pilgrimage, but they were not connected to the main aim and spirit of it so I've printed them off mainly to get them out of the way. Today, finally, I am re-focussing on the anarchist pilgrimage idea.

The London Anarchist Bookfair is this Saturday, and I want to have a 'sampler' or introduction ready for it. So right now I'm laying out the front-room table with all my notes, clippings and drawings from my journeys, in order to try and select some representative things to cut n paste and then print off on Friday as an 8-page mini-zine.

Now I am home, this blog will be kept up as a place to put in finished pages or work done for the final zine. I am, however, happily free of full time work now, so I will also be busy doing other zines, activities, and maybe even some actual politics. These will be updated on my main 'zine-it-yourself' blog, and may include a pornographic cartoon about Thomas Spence (a local radical from the 18th century) and a zine of band reviews called 'Opinionated Geordie Monsters'.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Copenhagen Street Art

Stockholm Street Art

I took these kind of photos of most places I passed through. But Russia was so barren, that it got quite depressing. Returning to the politically conscious graffiti and stickers and flyposters of the West was WONDERFUL.

Helsinki Street Art

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Losing the plot in Stockholm

After spending 24 hours doing a comic (for 24 hour comic day) in Helsinki, the anarchist history stuff has kind of fallen out of my head a bit.
I'm off now to look at fanzines here [WHICH WERE NO LONGER THERE, THE OLD ZINE LIBRARY GONE], and then maybe an art gallery, but historical sites? Not sure, I'm just looking forward to heading homewards and keep thinking "I'll do it from the comfort of my room"...

But I'll try check one of these places out.

Bakunin and Stockholm:

"After three years in the underground dungeons of the Fortress of St Peter and St Paul, he spent another four years in the castle of Shlisselburg. It was here that he suffered from scurvy and all his teeth fell out as a result of the appalling diet. He later recounted that he found some relief in mentally re-enacting the legend of Prometheus. His continuing imprisonment in these awful conditions led him to entreat his brother to supply him with poison.

Following the death of Nicholas I, the new Emperor Alexander II personally struck Bakunin's name off the amnesty list. In February 1857 his mother's pleas to the Emperor were finally heeded and he was allowed to go into permanent exile in the western Siberian city of Tomsk. Within a year of arriving in Tomsk, Bakunin married Antonia Kwiatkowska, the daughter of a Polish merchant. He had been teaching her French."

Bakunin met up with his wife in Stockholm after his escape from Siberia.
His wife was called Antonia Kwiatkowska. There is a picture of them together here.

Bakunin wrote to Herzen & Ogareff from Stockholm on 17th August 1863 "I stayed in Sweden and I devoted myself to finding friends sympathetic to our Russian cause, who are ready to struggle with us. My efforts have been rewarded with success. From now on, Stockholm and all of Sweden will be a secure refuge for Russian revolutionary action and immigration. The Russian publicity and propaganda will find here solid footing, supporters and a wealth of resources. And with that nothing could be easier than communicating from Stockholm to St. Petersburg during summer. I learned to like the stalwart men who you can confide in and count on. Thanks to them and to the resources I have found here, I was able to spread throughout Northern Russia (the Arkhangelsk and Olonetzk governments) approximately 7,000 pamphlets of different proclamations"

And he gives his address as Stora Vagutton, which I now need to visit too.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Leaving Russia

I was nervous on the train, just because of my slightly off registration form and the subversive literature in my bag, and the stories I had heard of anarchists in Russia. But it was nothing, just a boring journey.

Strange, but as soon as I entered the carriage (actually the platform, thinking about it now), it felt very different to Russia. Finns have very distinctive faces, for a start - several types of face but all very distinct from other countries. (I hope to find a cartoonist who captures them.) And the whispering! Women in Finnish whisper at amazing speed and with no pauses and this created a major sibillant susserance in the carriage, which at first was a very impressive, restrained thing, but then became bloody annoying after a couple of hours because it just never stopped and what on earth could be so exciting to talk about for so long?

Like a chinese water torture, as the saying goes.

As soon as we entered Finland itself the weather changed too, got much colder and with thin lines of hanging white mist 12 foot above the ground, in the leaf layer. Still lakes giving blue deep reflections of the sky and the trees with their leave on the water, and FROST! The first frost I've seen this year (except up in the distance on the mountains of Baikal), it was very exciting.

Arrived knackered in Finland. An extra hour got added to the day, which I'd not anticipated, and this made the journey feel even longer. Last night I was becoming a real pain for Dima because I was so tired, suffering from multiple days of postponed sleep which I never had chance to catch up on. He's so good natured he didn't seem to mind, but if he'd not had that profound russian patience we'd've got narky and ended on tense friendly terms like I used to with my old mate Ben.

I must admit, much as I will miss all the russian things of the last month or more (and looking at peoples' online photos of our time together is really emphasising this), I grinned with pleasure at being back in the western world. Not on principle, but on re-meeting things that I love, and value, and which are REALLY hard to find in Russia. Like comics, and art magazines, and free listings papers and NME-style magazines and gig posters and loads of quasi-bohemian art spaces. Just a border creates this difference, crazy. Political art stickers on lamp posts. People with innocently stupid London-style 'cool' haircuts and new york fashions, but scruffy so there's no stuffiness.

And there are, I have counted so far, 8 different small live music events I could (should) go to tonight. If only I wasn't so tired. And I found out about them by just walking round the streets. You don't find ANYTHING out by just walking around with your eyes open in Russia. And I must say the (customer service type) people I've met have been so much more friendly, chatty, and verbally intelligent than I got used to in Russia. And people stop at traffic lights and zebra crossings, actually they stop with an almost manic obedience, so you feel stressed by all their eyes on you if you walk over a 6foot lane when there's no cars even in sight. A bit repressive.

So I won't follow Kropotkin north, where he went (somewhere, lord knows exactly where) on his escape from Russia. I'll go the sensible, easy, cheap and fast way across the water east to west to Stockholm, and have a happy day bumming about, finding comics, cutting and sticking, and SLEEPING. Oh such a wonder is sleep. If God existed, I would thank him for the blessing. I reckon the odds are 8:1 on me actually making it out to a venue tonight.

Picture of anarchist Russian sailors in Helsinki.