The Odditorium – the bestselling book by David Bramwell and the makers of Ernest Journal – is going on tour! Our first stop is the wonderful Buxton Festival Book Weekend this coming Saturday 19 November. Come along for an evening of engaging and surprising talks – an inspiring medley of Antarctic exploration, literary hoaxes, wild avant-garde art, time travel and the world’s largest underground temple. Here's what to expect from the evening...
Literary hoaxes: from the playwright incarcerated for “crimes against library books” to the ‘seeker’ who tried to rebrand the Royal Shakespeare Company
David Bramwell shares stories of our most daring literary tricksters: W. Reginald Bray, a Victorian postal prankster who mailed over 30,000 singular objects (including himself, half-smoked cigarettes, a letter ‘to the nearest residents’ of the Old Man of Hoy and an Irish terrier named Bob). Playwright Joe Orton, who was jailed for “crimes against library books”. Theatre director and ‘seeker’ Ken Campbell, who pulled off one of the greatest pranks in British history by re-branding the RSC as The Royal Dickens Society. And Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, a West Country plumber who reinvented himself as a Tibetan lama and went on to become the best-selling author of books on Tibet.
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven: the woman who was the future
John Higgs introduces us to the Baroness Elsa, a wild avant-garde artist who wore cakes for hats, postage stamps for makeup and a bra made from two tomato cans and green string. Over a 100 years before Lady Gaga turned up wearing a meat dress, the Baroness was genuinely shocking. John argues that the Baroness, a previously overlooked character in history, should not only be recognised as the first American Dada artist and first New York punk, but also the originator of Duchamp’s Fountain, voted the most influential work of art in the twentieth century.
The worst journey in the world: the life and aspirations of Apsley Cherry-Garrard
James Burt explores the life and times of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, one of three explorers on Captain Scott’s fatal Antarctic expedition who was tasked with “the weirdest bird’s-nesting expedition that has ever been or will be.” Facing brutal blizzards (their tent was blown away, followed by the top of their igloo) in conditions so cold that Cherry’s teeth shattered, the trio returned with their requested emperor penguin’s egg only for it be treated with complete indifference by the Natural History Museum (“this ain’t an egg shop,” the custodian says as Cherry is left in a corridor, waiting to be given a receipt.) This an inspiring tale of failure, endurance and redemption and, although most of us will never venture into such inhospitable places, James Burt argues that Cherry’s experience has great significance in our everyday adventures. As Shackleton once wrote: “We all have our own White South.”
Damanhur: singing plants and the world’s largest underground temple
In the foothills of the Alps, an hour’s drive north of Turin, lies the eighth wonder of the world: The Temples of Humankind. A vast underground network, equivalent in size to St Paul’s Cathedral, it boasts nine chambers, secret stairways, a labyrinth, glass music hall... oh, and a fully functioning time machine. In this illuminating talk, David Bramwell digs into the life of Falco Tarassaco (aka Oberto Airaudi) who led a spiritual community in building this genuinely astonishing architectural wonder, exploring ideas of obsession, singular ambition and what it means to create a living myth.