What a year it’s been, both over at Year Zero, where we had a fantastic live tour taking in venues like Rough Trade East and the Poetry Cafe, and then starting up eight cuts gallery, exhibitions, prizes, press and all, not having the first clue what would happen, just a desire to do something different and get great work out there.
And what a time we’ve had here. It has been a delight, through the eight cuts gallery prize, to have showcased the very best literature of the year, most notably the breathtakingly brilliant winner, the Thomas Stolperer Blog. Tragedy meant that our prize for the outstanding contribution to breaking down barriers in the arts has been named in honour of a remarkable young man, Chris Al-Aswad, founder of Escape Into Life. There couldn’t have been a more worthy winner of this award than the wonderful Johanna Harness, creator of the #amwriting community.
It was always my wish to make the eight cuts experience more like a gallery than a regular literary site, creating a series of exhibitions, merging art forms, and leading readers through pieces in new ways. Our first show, Into the Desert, drew stunning pieces in all forms from words through music and art to film. And the submissions I’ve had so far, and excitement I’ve seen, for our next show, Once Upon a Time in a Gallery, make me genuinely excited about 2011 – there’s still plenty of time for you to submit your work. Huge thanks go out to all the wonderful artists who have contributed and allowed me to showcase their work.
We have also had the luck to strike up a friendship with Oxford Castle’s fabulous O3 Gallery, who have kindly allowed us to stage live shows there once a month. so far we have had two fantastic shows, and have a wonderful line-up for next year, starting with our launch of Once Upon a Time in a Gallery.
Most of all, I want to say thank you to Cody James and Oli Johns for letting me publish their work this year (and to Penny Goring, Sarah E Melville, and Robert James Russell for queuing up for next year). The press is the riskiest part of this venture, because there are lots of presses around already and yet I want to do this differently – refusing to put out ISBNs, promoting the works in alternative formats. It’s unconventional, yet my wonderful authors have got behind this vision – designed to think of their stories less as books than as works of art -and I hope will give me the time to bring this vision to fruition – without them it wouldn’t be possible.
And thank you so much to the readers and reviewers who have responded so extraordinarily to Cody’s The Dead Beat and Oli’s Charcoal. It means so much to know that others are as passionate about these remarkable books as I am. If you haven’t yet bought them for yourselves, please do – they are truly truly amazing.
What’s it been like as an experience? Extraordinary is the only word I could use. The way people have supported us has been amazing, the quality of contributions has stunned me, getting to work with the most talented authors currently writing has been a priviliege beyond my wildest dreams, and the warmth of readers has made me feel fuzzy inside.
There have been challenges. I work a full time day job, and doing right by my wonderful artists, and most of all the press’ authors, has been very hard. Sometimes I have fallen short. Sometimes the pressure to do more has left me drained, damaged, and deeply hurt. But I wouldn’t have had one pound of that pressure removed.
It has been so busy that it has been hard to keep a sense of distance and keep my eyes on my goals. I have had considerable pressure from those slightly nearer the mainstream to give our books ISBNs. I have felt very tempted to bang on the doors of the mainstream media harder and harder to get reviews in high profile places. The pull of the centre is powerful. But that would be a betrayal of what I wanted to do. This is not an attempt to enter the mainstream. It’s the creation of a window onto another world, a different world that does its own thing. Sometimes like what others do, sometimes not, but never taking a single point of reference from them. I want to thank Sarah, Cody, and Penny for the comments and content that led to my post The New Libertines, reaffirming the artistic values of truth and wholeness that matter to me.
There has been controversy too. I wanted eight cuts to cause a bruhaha. I wanted it to get in people’s faces. So far we have been largely uncontroversial in our work, letting its quality speak for itself. But on one occasion I spoke out against the current hipster literary scene, and maybe widened my net a little too far and got my knuckles well and truly rapped by those who felt done an injustice. I apologised unreservedly, and received not a single comment from those who’d demanded recompense. Take what message you will from that. eight cuts gallery isn’t here to cause a rumpus for the sake of it. But we are here to call out some of the bollocks that gets peddled as originality. First and foremost we are here to do our own thing and do it exceptionally, but it’s good not to settle for derivative and slick, and when that happens in 2011 I’m going to get on people’s cases to put it right.
So what does 2011 hold? Well, in terms of persevering with what we’ve been doing, there’s Once Upon a Time in a Gallery, our take on modern and traditional fairytales, with a live show in the turret of Oxford Castle. I’m already looking for nominations for our 2011 literary and Chris Al-Aswad’s awards. And I will be plugging our two amazing books, The Dead Beat and Charcoal, right through the year, building up to a campaign for thr Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize next Autumn. One thing about running such a small operation is that everything takes time, but I intend to give them the time it takes. We also have four stunning books coming out next year, Penny Goring’s NeuroRococo, Sarah E Melville’s This is Paulie, and Robert James Russell’s The Mating Habits of College Girls – and one other TBA.
It’s always a mix of perseverence and innovation, though. Coming up we have Wafer Thins, our short story zines. There may be a big zine. And there will be festival shows as well as some fantastic live shows of our own. And I want to up the opinion content of the blog here, start stirring things up a little more.
Take a look back through our prezzie lists and, AFTER you’ve got your hands on your Dead Beat and Charcoal, find some amazing gift ideas. Enjoy our exhibitions, and look forward with us to an amazing, creative 2011. I will be off line until January 4th, getting my head together ready to storm next year, to do everything I can for some amazing writers, to plan subversion and cause chaos. I will also be enjoying all the wonderful Once Upon a Time in a Gallery submissions and putting the show together. It’s also time to do some writing of my own. Working with so people so much more talented than me has left me feeling at times dejected, at times despairing, and wondering if I have anything at all of my own worth saying. I don’t know, but I will spend the next fortnight doing some finding out. Thank you all for a wonderful 2010, and here’s to 2011!