It has been said (by me) that when Henry Layte launches a Propolis book, it stays launched. I am confident this will prove to be the case with my own novel, now that Syd & Morgan’s fourth and final launch event has been and gone.
I had no clear idea how the evening of November 29 at Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin University (the former School of Art where Syd Barrett studied) might pan out – Henry and I have tended to contrive our presentations on the hoof, depending on the mood and make-up of each audience on the night – and it very nearly didn’t pan out at all, with Henry massively delayed on his train journey from Norwich and me delayed on my road trip from Oxford. Only now, having written those words, do I see that by twice using the verb ‘pan out’ I have unintentionally referred to the demi-god whose mischievous machinations doubtless lay behind our respective transport issues – but true to form, he delivered us finally to our destination.
And what followed was quite marvellous. I was so gratified to find dozens of people prepared to brave the filthy weather to come out and help celebrate not just the publication of my book but the lives and works of two of the august city’s most splendidly creative sons.
Plenty of those present made it clear to me that they had personal knowledge of either man – including a lady who as a small girl in 1963 danced the hippie hippie shake with Syd, and another connected with King’s College who’d often seen Morgan shuffling around the place. Syd’s own niece, Ginny, came along to represent the family, which meant a great deal to me; and as a result of an intriguing conversation with local resident Sorrell – daughter of Pretty Things’singer Phil May – my mind later raced back to that brief moment in January 1972 when the not-yet-completely-retired Syd jammed at a gig in King’s College Cellar with the wonderfully-named Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band featuring on drums another Pretty Things star, Twink.
The evening was made more special for me by the fact that a large proportion of the guests had already read my book and wanted to talk to me about their responses to it.When Henry and I then gave our stand-up spiel, we were thrilled to be able to involve the celebrated musician Hank Wangford in the discussion. Hank of course knew Syd extremely well during the 60s, and his reflections – not just on their friendship but also on broader issues of creativity, whether in the musical field or elsewhere – were invaluable.
A brilliant evening, then – thanks yet again to Henry and his Propolis team. And now all the parties – the Four that Launched a Thousand Books – have run their hugely enjoyable course.
Elsewhere: DJ Taylor gave this pleasingly considered review of the novel in last Thursday’s Times Literary Supplement: https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/private/did-they-connect/