Wednesday 12 August

The Hatbox Project is finally yours, having been ours for far too long. Admittedly you will have to fork out 20 shillings for a mixed bag (box) of work squeezed, shaken, or gamely extracted from a range of Manchester artists; price being just one of the issues that has sustained its three ‘masterminds’ on a journey of self and mutual discovery (as literary editors Spike and I clashed over Petra Couture’s contribution – there being no casting vote we were forced to undertake a dual, lost by me – Ouch! – while Dylan, as the sole artistic editor, had double the work, if only half the arguments; something he was compelled to raise with us aggressively). I have nothing but respect for creatives who collaborate more than occasionally – perhaps it’s no coincidence that these pairings are usually writers of Puppet Show comedies situationale, and that the characters therein are almost always catatonically dysfunctional. Certainly it’s no surprise to learn that my inviting Larry Pekalowski and his sixteen-man, four-carrier, and one- monkey strong crew to record tonight’s launch in As Muck bar is seen as a distraction rather than a boon by my partners. In the event it is Bateman and Licky who take on most of the photographic duties, though the anticipation is clearly for them both to be more drinking/violent than shrinking violet.

Even after all, the fussing and fighting – the numbering of the little blighters under the shadow of Bateman’s giant concentrating tongue and oversized colouring book – the launch proves well-populated and, eventually, relaxing. 100+ people turn up, not in any way swayed by the free drink on offer, and as well as the literary circle/female cycle of Mimi, Tattetta, Mandy Candeur, and Amy-Lou (who brings along her famous, and friendly, fella, Gisbo Gibson, from folk band Tennyson) it is great to have Sir Dempson and Swarthy Erick amongst a scattering of near life-long supporters/hecklers – likewise DH selecting the tunes; Daisy making an appearance – so rare I see her these days – before the whole night comes under threat from an impromptu reading, inspired by this very (quite..) mechanical journal. Shuddering in the toilets – not for the first time – Bateman struggles to affix his false moustache while I admire my real McCoy; sweats over his lines while mine are firmly pressed into the old grey spongy matter, yet on stage, frustratingly, it is the young pretender who gets all the laughs (not that there’s many) precisely because of his well-rehearsed ineptitude! Spike comes up to run the bingo and order is restored, until the same lucky lady wins two boxes in a row – and promptly faints with surprise, gratitude or fear. Three of us at least knowing just how she may feel.

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