Railhead: Bristol fashion

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Just back from Bristol, and my Railhead event at the Old Vic theatre. Oxford University Press sent editorial assistant Debbie Sims along to look after me, and she took some photos during the event, but the lighting wasn’t really up to much. The show mostly consists of me reading from the book, accompanied by videos and slideshows and the music of Lufthansa Terminal AKA Sarah Reeve.

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I thought it would be difficult to find enough footage to make videos or slideshows for all the readings, but Jeremy Levett found me lots of footage of Katyusha rockets and other explodey military goings-on to accompany Sarah’s power-chords during the train-vs-train battle sequence. And Justin Hill’s photos of deserted Brighton beaches make very good stand-ins for the deserted beaches of Desdemor.

I also tried learning one of the readings by heart, which seems to work well, so if I do more of these events next year I must try committing some more of the book to memory.

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We were in the downstairs studio theatre at the Old Vic (the ‘studio pit’), and very well looked after by the front of house team and by the technician, Jay, who was able to get the slides and videos running without any trouble (always a worry). There were about sixty people in thew audience, which I don’t think was bad at all for a pouring wet November morning. If you were one of them, thank you for coming! I think it went well – here’s an eyewitness account from book blogger Jesse Owen. And here’s another from the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award blog.

Also in the audience was graphic designer Maria Quintin, who had brought along some great pieces of Mortal Engines work which she did while she was at art college. Here she is in a rather harshly lit corner of the Old Vic’s foyer, holding up one of her beautiful link-cut Guild logos…

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Here’s the whole set (Historians, Engineers, Geographers, Merchants)…

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And here are Hester Shaw’s identity papers, issued in stroke just before the book begins!

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Thanks to Sharon Clark and her team at the Bristol Old Vic for inviting me to be part of the Saturday Stories.

Justin Hill’s Brighton

Tangerine Sea

My longest-serving friend, Justin Hill, has been posting some great photos recently. I particularly love his pictures of Brighton (where we both grew up). Brighton usually seems to be portrayed as a kind of pleasure city (which it always has been) packed with holidaymakers, clubbers, artists and musicians, Gay Pride parades, festivals, and so on. All of which is fine and dandy, but there is another Brighton, a spooky, haunted, melancholy place, filled with odd bits of history and the strange light off the sea. That’s the Brighton which Justin photographs, catching the city and its beaches in odd moments of silence, often at sundown, or early in the morning. Look, here’s what Kensington Gardens looks like when it isn’t obscured by a heaving mass of hipsters…

Kensington Colours

And look at this recent one of the abandoned West Pier!


There are two piers in Brighton (their decks and platforms, and the rusting maze of girders and stairways beneath, were a big influence on the cities I wrote about in Mortal Engines). The Palace Pier is still going strong, but the West Pier has been out of commission for decades. I can dimly remember going on it as a very small child (there were roundabouts and things) but it was damaged by a storm a few years later, and has been slowly disintegrating ever since. There is a West Pier Trust, originally formed back in 1978 with the aim of restoring the pier, but after what was left of was set on fire it seems to have accepted that that is unlikely (you can read more about their current aims and plans here.)

Personally, I’ve enjoyed the West Pier’s decline immensely. It’s always changing, and it’s always beautiful. When I was an art student it was a wonderful, gull-haunted ruin; in my twenties it looked like a rotting wedding cake, and now it’s become this gaunt, skeletal island of corroded ironwork, which hugely improves the Brighton shoreline. Justin’s photos catch its different moods perfectly.

The Fog

And he’s just as good at capturing the more Ballardian bits of Brighton, out at the eastern end of the city, where the concrete sea defences and the yacht basins of the Marina give way to primeval

tide pools and chalk cliffs…

Lit Stairwell
Dark Matter

You can see Justin’s photos on his blog, where he posts three per day, and also on Google +, where he has vast numbers of followers, or circlers, or whatever they call them on Google +. He is known as @Dark_Derek to the good folk of Twitter.

Also – and this may be relevant to your interests as Christmas draws near – Justin’s photos are available to buy as cards, prints, calendars, mugs, watches, clocks and box girder bridges from his Zazzle shop, as are his cartoons.

All images © Justin Hill.