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NUTTALL IN NORWICH

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The Menacing Eye article is said to be an early version of Nuttall's book Man - Not Man (Unicorn Books); a book that is a combination of philosophy and autobiography.

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Nuttall also had his opus "Bomb Culture" (1968) to finish and publish. The hoped for tranquility of Norwich and the summer holidays were opportunities to finish some pieces of work and lift his dark mood. Some luck - well he did plenty of work.  He published his "Journals" (1968) which heavily feature Norwich and Yarmouth. "Pig" (1969) the preface by William Burroughs reproduced below, has three sections of which the third, called "The Coast" is a miserable evocation of Yarmouth. Ultimately, Nuttall found Norwich a depressing place and he writes about it in "Man Not Man" (1975) as "Rudwich."

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Nuttall became immersed in the Norwich scene, publishing poems and drawings in Norch and Cyclops magazines as well as becoming involved in performance art. The below cutting is from the Eastern Evening News 28-7-69. Jack Douglas is best known for his performances in innumerable Carry On films and was probably doing a summer season in Great Yarmouth.

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And below from the 4-8-69:

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The family home in Norwich was at 6 York St. Wizz Wiseman recalled "My favourite memory of Jeff is when I went to pick Sara up, and he insisted I sit down and watch Monty Python before we leave.

I've NEVER seen a man laugh as heartily as he did."

 

The house was an unexpected nexus for international correspondence from Beats and others. The John Rylands Library of the University of Manchester has an archive of Nuttall ephemera and I gathered a few bits and pieces which are all focused on 6 York St. and can be seen here.

Jeff Nuttall and family moved to Norwich in 1966 - the first correspondence to the family home at 6 York St is dated from October of that year. Nuttall immediately and characteristically threw himself into the literary and artistic scene. He was a larger than life character whose influence on the Norwich Beats as an author, artist, guru and mentor, was hugely significant and has been casually over-looked. He worked as a teacher when he lived in Barnet and produced a series of avante-garde mimeographed magazines called My Own Mag.  What was called the "mimeograph revolution" in the States was also sweeping the UK where poets and authors were seizing the means of production with the advantage of the small press. The Wild Pigeon Press set up in Bristow's, and the relics of surviving pamphlets and magazines made there, surely owe something to Nuttall and his ties to the Unicorn Bookshop in Brighton and beyond.

Nuttall was also a founding member of the People Show, an experimental performance art troupe and when he moved to Norwich he occasionally joined another bunch of legendary lunatics - the Australian Dancers - with Tim Sillence, Snoo Wilson and Diz Willis.

 

If you look at the Jeff Nuttall official website the Norwich years are nowhere to be seen. It's as if the several years he spent in the city were erased as the bad memories of a prison sentence in the Norfolk gulag. Certainly Nuttall himself found it a difficult and transitory time from which he was pleased to move on. But it is the anecdotes and the corpus of his work created in Norwich and also about Norwich which concerns these pages.

 

The move of the Nuttall family to Norwich seemed to be an attempt at a fresh start. Previously they had been living in Barnet but Jeff wasn't living in the family home - he had found the Abbey arts centre - a gallery, museum and commune; "Retreat in the Abbey was, for me, a sort of suspension from the hairpin stage of a marriage. The sense of inviolability once you were inside those high hedges in that weeping Victorian garden with its whimsical inhabitants, was so complete it was dangerous. You could wander out without clothes sometimes. Girls forgot they were pregnant. People tripped and turned on with blithe unconcern...."

 

So why would Nuttall, the arch-communicator move to Norwich? There are clues in his Performance Art Memoirs published in 1979: "My situation at that time, marriage precarious, girlfriend suffering a miscarriage, sex-love dragging me one way, family-love dragging me another, was conducive to an immensely tortured imagery so bluntly expressed its reception hovered along the delicate lines between terror and hilarity." Dick Wilcock's revealed to me that Jeff's lover was Priscilla Beecham / Rose MacGuire and that they had an eight year long affair. They wrote and performed together and Nuttall repeatedly refers to Priscilla in many texts as Isabel. So perhaps the move to a teaching post at a Great Yarmouth comprehensive school and the new house in Norwich can be seen as a reaffirmed commitment to wife and family by escaping from London and his lover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many interesting things about this York St correspondence are the letters to and from HMP Blundeston. In Man Not Man there is a passage where Nuttall mentions going to the prison to visit Crassner. Now we can see that it was Victor Carasov, a Glaswegian, who spent more of his life in prison than out. He published a book, "Two Gentlemen to See You Sir," in 1971.

Another letter-writer William (Bill) Wantling was convicted of forgery and possession of narcotics and did time in San Quentin - he accuses Nuttall of being "a lush" and he discusses the mutual contempt between lushes and dope fiends before going on to write a graphic and obscene sexual fantasy.

Douglas Blazek - one of the founders of the Mimeograph Revolution - the original outlaw poet testifies to Jeff that his publishing venture "Open Skull" cannot live as he has nowhere to live. Both Wantling and Blazek were friends of Bukowski.

Harry Fainlight,  sendt Nuttall an article about LSD (which Fainlight dubbed Spiritlect) and references his famous bad-trip poem "The Spider" which heralded the dark side of the psychedelic revolution. Poor Harry - never on the "official list" of Beats due to LSD & ECT and interrupted in his reading by Simon Vinkenoog, high on mescaline, at the International Poetry Incarnation:

 

 

Nuttall was published in the first Norch magazine which came out in August 1968 with his poem "The Family Cosmetic" and a few of his drawings. Together with Norch 2, the combined effort of the 8.15 murders, which Nuttall described as a Miss Marple cut-up mystery, and the first Cyclops magazine there has been a small but significant amount of work allowed to disappear. Nuttall is also said to have illustrated the Tim Sillence "Speed Wars" novel.

It is to "Man Not Man" (published by the Unicorn Press) that I turn for a text where Nuttall reveals how Norwich could never be the place for him. The book is dedicated to Tim Sillence, I think in a back-handed kind of way. Because Tim represented the small lost tribe of

Norwich Beats perpetually stoned and drunk in Henneky's (Backs) and never quite making it.  "Rudwich" encapsulates  Nuttall's reasons for leaving Norwich and it seems to be written whilst suffering from a Zen-like hangover. Just when he relocated to Bradford isn't clear - Alex Hamilton wrote that he "arrived in Yorkshire late in the autumn of 1968, rescued from a perilously-held secondary school teaching job by Bradford School of Art". Nuttall himself wrote "I was glad to get out of the psychedelic south where dope, vanity and commercial pop were already beginning to erode the so called alternative society". The most likely scenario is that the family stayed in Norwich until late 1969 or even 1970 and Jeff would move between the two.

Nuttall's move to the "Yorkshire Vortex" created handy escape opportunities for some of the Norwich Beats including Snoo Wilson and especially Diz Willis.

The jury is out on Mr Nuttall - Pete Hoida thinks that Nuttall was "a rather malign influence" and Dick Wilcocks agrees that "there's a lot in what Pete Hoida says." Could it be that Jeff led others down the blind alley of cut-up techniques which he himself had abandoned? Nuttall's prodigious drinking was matched and frequently combined with his work - perhaps a feat not many others could follow. Dick Wilcock's mentioned "JN drank a lot in pubs throughout his life, but was never enamoured of the prevalent drug culture. In fact, I think in some ways he was pretty traditional and old-fashioned, in the background anyway. His opinions were sometimes inconsistent (goes for many people) and incoherent. His poetry reviews for the Guardian were not outrageous, and he had plenty of concerns and worries about his wife (wives) and children. I remember sitting outside "The Original Oak" in Leeds in (I guess) 1970/71. There were lots of smashed glasses on the ground and members of a fashionable group near us (tie-dye T-shirts, beads,etc) smoking pot were allowing their small children to run around in the beer garden with bare feet, without hindrance. Jeff was outraged, exclaiming "Fucking hippies They don't give a shit! Look at that. I hate hippies!"