with Barney Ashton-Bullock
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Barney: My first theatre show was called ‘Church At Llanbadrig’ and was performed at the now defunct Bournemouth Centre For Community Arts in South-West England. My first influences were playwrights; Harold Pinter, Steven Berkoff, Jim Cartwright. Towards the end of my teens you could add Derek Jarman, Hanif Kureishi, Rupert Brooke and Thomas Hardy into the mix. In terms of contemporary poetry, it was specifically the two film-poem texts ‘Xanadu’ by Simon Armitage and ‘V’ by Tony Harrison, both published by Bloodaxe in the nineties. The arena of Cultural Studies particularly infuses my work and the conversational transcript and diary keeping ‘qualitative research’’ approaches in particular.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Barney: Thomas Hardy’s poetry is still a major influence, but I’m ruthless a contemporary poetry reader these days and some that recently I have found inspiring are Roy Guzmán, Caleb Femi, Jameson Fitzpatrick, Kathryn Maris, Bobby Parker, Matthew Walsh, Dom Hale, Jamie Thrasivoulou and Joelle Taylor
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Barney: I was living and working in Swanage in Dorset, South-West England immediately before starting at Goldsmiths’ Art College and grew up predominantly in the Southbourne suburb of Bournemouth, a Victorian seaside town. Both living in rural Dorset with my father from the age of 15 onwards and with my mother prior to that in the seaside resort (my Grandmother having run a seasonal guest house) these formative experiences still resonate in my work. I always had a very strong and specific interest in Norway from the earliest age, doing school projects on it from age 8 onwards and the Norwegian landscapes both isolated and urban have a profound influence on my writing and aspirations.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Barney: I have a creative non-fiction tract with the working title ‘North’ that has lived alongside me for about 25 years and with which, in its original 8 page form, I was chosen to represent the UK as a young playwright at the Interplay Europe Festival through the Royal Court Young Writer’s programme. All these years later, it’s about 50 pages with photos, poems, speeches and fragments. It is everything I’ve ever wanted to create and unlike much of my published work, it’s an achingly personal, yet, non-linear work and I’m not sure that I’ll ever, can ever or want to ever finish it. But, I do know it has a spiritual hold on me and that I do find it deeply comforting to know that alongside everything I’ve ever written and had published and performed are these pages which I think and hope reflect the best of me and everything creatively that I ever aspired to be.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Barney: Two pivotal moments when I sussed that the fusion of poetry and music was a direction I was compelled to explore was when I heard the album ‘Wild Seed’ by Morten Harket and could visualise, though my listening to it, a world I’d rather live in. The power of that transformative experience, coupled with reading Derek Jarman’s searingly honest thoughts in his autobiography ‘At Your Own Risk – A Saint’s Testament’ and my sensibility shifted into a conviction and dedication to fuse the radical and accessible within a hybrid of poetry, theatre and music
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Barney: I love listening to whole albums in a dim-lit room with no distraction. My favourites are contemporary classical and new age instrumental music for deep relaxation but I also love electronic pop music and atmospheric pop in particular. The most amazing defelction from stress is walking the Dorset Coast Path when back in my hometown.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
I have a fairly in-yer-face poetry pamphlet, ‘Café Kaput!’ out with Broken Sleep Books. https://www.brokensleepbooks.com/product-page/barney-ashton-bullock-café-kaput
And the last remaining copies of ‘FPig Zeitgeist!’ which is my verse diaries spin-off poetry book from the ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ project are available through Cherry Red Records mail order
My next book which will be coming out in August this year, will shortly be available to pre-order through Cherry Red Records and it is called ‘Bucolicism – Alt-Lite Lyric Verse For A Post-Pastoral England’ visit www.cherryred.co.uk and search for Barney Ashton-Bullock
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from one of your poems or others?
“the conch shell held to an itchy ear,
a touchstone to a myriad of uplifting whispers;
forebearers, predecessors, ancestors, antecedents,
illusive Gods and dead heroes
jostle in a chirp-a-thon
their wisdoms in a soothe of song”
From ‘Some Sort Of Salvation’ in my forthcoming booklet ‘Bucolicism’ through Cherry Red Records mail order from August 2021.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Barney: Being an avid attendee of salons and classes at Coffee House Poetry run out of The Troubadour Cafe in London’s Earls Court district, I have to mention organisers and teachers Anne-Marie Fyffe and Cahal Dallat as real enablers of creativity. My dear friend, salonista and editor Chip Martin is the most selfless and life-affirming mentor as has been an inspiration in all he has done. I am honour bound to also mention Noël Greig, my now deceased tutor from many years back at the Royal Court Young Writers Programme who first green lit my urge to fuse poetry and theatre. Finally, my muse, Andy Bell, the singer in the synth-pop duo Erasure, for whom I’ve written three solo albums and stage shows as part of the Andy Bell is Torsten music / poetry / theatre hybrid collective of which I am a founding member. Those albums also available through Cherry Red Records