The second of the Illuminations series took place at Kensal Green Cemetery Dissenter’s Chapel this past Thursday. It was unique for a number of reasons. The first, is that it celebrated Erich Fried. His poetry has been special to me since I began reading poetry because it is indelibly tied to where I have lived for a decade, West London. He was recommended to me by Sheila Ramage of the legendary Notting Hill bookshop, one of the very many writers Sheila gifted me and so many others over many decades, and then, by chance, exploring Kensal Green Cemetery, just over the canal from where I live, I came across his grave, by accident. Pure chance led me to find his burial site and then go deeper, beyond the Calder books of his love and political poems, into exploring his life. For years his presence has been there with me, writing poetry as I have done, in the cemetery and being concerned with the middle European post war aesthetic more than any other. Then this past year the very generous Austrian Cultural Forum allowed me to develop the Illumination series, and I choose Fried immediately.
What followed deepened the aforementioned connection even further. I was able to secure the Dissenter’s Chapel through my collaborative exhibition with Tereza Stehlikova, so host the event in the place of Erich’s burial, which he choose over Austria, as London was his home in exile. I ran the entire event alone, getting in early to set up projections, seats, switching off alarms and locking catacombs. It was well worth it, the audience was able to take in the most beautiful view of the cemetery after hours, sneaking in through a small gate on Ladbroke grove. And vitally, the connection Stephen Watts gave me to John Parham and then David Fried and Kathy Fried, Erich’s children, allowed me to bring the Fried family to the event. Generations of the family were there, with even Maeve Fried contributing, two generations removed from Erich.
A personal affair for me, one tied intimately to the west London literary history I am value so much and feel myself to be in the lineage of. And the performances were really great, full of different, not too reverential to Erich, but not completely oblique either. All the videos can be seen here www.theenemiesproject.com/illuminations and some pictures too by Madeleine Elliott who was kind enough to attend and document.