Thursday, 7 June 2018

DONOVAN'S REDWING RESIDENCY - BIOGRAPHY FROM AN ONLINE DETECTIVE AGENCY

The second of my Redwing talks was given on Tuesday - June 5 2018 - and this blog-post provides a summary of the content. There were a handful of people in the audience and I am very grateful to them for coming, listening and expressing their interest and enjoyment. If I may single out Su Ormerod in Tuesday's audience and John Pestle in Saturday's, both of them are part of a Penzance cultural scene that is as diverse as it is stimulating. Here are two links to help you discover more about Su who has set up a coaching enterprise and John who is one of the team organizing the Penzance Literary Festival. Press on their names for the links.

Rob and Su in the Redwing 


Blog-posts benefit from pictures so I took my Nikon Coolpix along and I am grateful to Roselyne for



taking the pictures on my camera.

Peter Fox and Roselyne Williams - co-directors and founders of the Redwing Gallery


In my first talk on Saturday - see this link here -  I had told the story of the making of 'Jago', the biography of Jago Stone, as far as the end of December 2015. In this second talk, I continued by relating the key developments in the 30 months since January 2016 when my website and blog-spot were established. Here are the six main threads.

* The Skinny Latte blog had revealed the existence of two children of Jago - Simon and Merlin. Would I be able to find more family members through my online detective agency? In March 2016, I received the first of a steady flow of emails that continued until November, eight months later, from a source I have called Janet. She is Jago's eldest child and I learned much from her testimony. Chapter Five in 'Jago' is called 'A Daughter Appears' and provides an overview of the new material and its significance.

The Redwing Noticeboard


* Jago's autobiography: ''The Burglar's Bedside Companion" carries the claim that Jago was an international artist. The Skinny Latte blog provided supporting evidence. Would I be able to find more evidence of this trans-Atlantic connection through my website and through my membership of the Facebook community from January 2017? The first American Connection came my way through cyberspace in November 2016 - Becky Bender in north Dakota - and many more followed. In total, 21 American families have made contact to date and they have gifted me 67 images of Jago paintings in their own family collections - plus a number of Jago stories.

* In January 2017, on New Year's Day, I received an email from an anonymous source - a man I have called Mark - who had known Jago from 1974 through to the early 1980s. His testimony - from emails and telephone conversations - together with the memories of Jenny Fell, the Hellidon village postmistress, and her husband, Tony, provide the substance of Chapter Six in 'Jago': Taking the Lid off Jago', an account of his hedonistic life in middle England as the gypsy artist.

Close-up of the Redwing noticeboard, focusing on my flyer


* How much evidence would emerge about Jago's free-wheeling years as the itinerant artist in middle England through my cyberspace activity? Chapter Eight in 'Jago' is based on the evidence provided by 20 families who have given me 54 images of the Jago paintings in their collections.

* My Google searches and other online research and feedback brought me news of Jago media interviews in the press and on TV film that have provided the material for Chapter Nine: 'Jago on Jago'. In February 2017, I spent a day in the British Library in London, transcribing a 20 minute BBC radio programme featuring Jago in 1971 called 'The Gaolbird'. In July 2017, I was in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth transcribing a TV programme showing Jago being interviewed by Kenneth Griffith in 1969. Other interviews I transcribed at home, listening to tapes and soundtrack.

The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth

* As I was bringing the writing of 'Jago' to a close in February this year, I received seven downloads from Merlin Porter - Jago's youngest child - and 'family connections', that provided the newspaper stories of Jago's criminal past before his last sentence of ten years for stealing the Archbishop of York's silver. An extraordinary gift from cyberspace - not least because I learned of Jago's criminal life in Cornwall in the early 1950s for the first time. More on that another time!

The British Library in London - queuing for entrance - February 2017


I will repeat this talk in the last week of my Residency this month, either on the Saturday or Tuesday - if you are interested, please let me know and I'll try to arrange to suit.