Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
© Anonymous Bosch

© Anonymous Bosch

Lovers Harold and Edith reunited

Film maker Andrew Kötting and writer, pyscho-geographer and raconteur, Iain Sinclair have collaborated on a couple of films – Swandown, By Our Selves with Toby and Freddie Jones and now as part of Root 66, Edith. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths talked to Kötting about his latest project.

If you are after conventional movies, Kötting’s films are not for you. I, personally, love his idiosyncratic, off the wall, style; his loose connections that all make up his process of creativity. His is not conventional movie making, comprised of story arcs, scripts, reversals and redemption. His are made with curiosity, collaboration of music, dance, performance, folklore and serendipity. Kötting starts with an idea and lets it unfurl.

© Anonymous Bosch

© Anonymous Bosch

Previous films have been a journey of random characters and English landscape, delving gently into memory, culture, myths and legends, relationships, love, mortality and the simple eccentricity of life.

And the films take their own journey. Kötting begins with an idea, with a ‘not knowing’ and allows things to happen; he goes with the flow, ideas grow, tangents are followed. And then, at the end, “like reverse engineering”, after musing and melding, the film emerges like a boat appearing out of the mist and seeing the destination.

Edith takes a fresh look at Harold’s story and death – and reinstates Edith back into history. “Women and injustices at the hands of men have been written out of the annals of history, and they are important, vital to the story.”  It is about King Harold and the beautiful Edith Swanneck, or Edith the Fair. She was his hand-fast wife, man and wife in name, though not in the eyes of the church; their five or six children were legitimate heirs.

Kötting and Sinclair undertook a five day walk over 80 miles to reconnect Harold and Edith after 950 years of separation. They walked from Harold’s tomb in Waltham Abbey, Essex (where  some of Harold’s body parts had supposedly been interred) to the 1875 sculpture of the embrace between the dying Harold and Edith in Grosvenor Gardens, St Leonards on Sea.

© Anonymous Bosch

© Anonymous Bosch

There are many myths that surround the life and death of King Harold – not least, was he killed by an arrow through his eye and where his body was buried? Stories abound. One is that Edith the Fair identified Harold’s mutilated body by a mark on his torso that only an intimate would know. Another, that his mother offered to give William the Conqueror Harold’s weight in gold, if he would release the body for burial. That was refused and it is said that he was buried up to his neck in the sand at Hastings, his head facing the sea, his back turned to England. Another myth is that Harold did not die, but went to live in the Fens in East Anglia and reinvented himself as Hereward the Wake.

“You have to walk it to understand it.” So Andrew Kötting gathered together a merry band of troubadour companions with no fixed plan as to what would happen or who they would meet – and processed through the countryside, filming on Super 8. Amongst his companions were Iain Sinclair, singer and performer, Claudia Barton, musician, Jem Finer, pinhole photographer extraordinaire, Anonymous Bosch and drummer, David Aylward. And always with them was their muse, Edith, as they walked and talked and collected “thoughts and recollections, snapshots and souvenirs – ever mindful of Edith Swanneck and her heartache, looking for a libretto that might comfort or console her”.

Claudia walked the whole journey – through fields and mud – in a wedding dress with a two-metre train, singing Edith into life, laments as if possessed by Edith Swanneck. Kötting, as the ghost of King Harold, carried a replica of the Harold and Edith sculpture with him. Aylward playing anywhere and everywhere.

Passersby were entranced with what they were doing. They thought it was a charity walk. Or a wedding. Aylward drumming  on a burial mound in Greenwich Park was stopped by two policemen: “You can apparently sing but you cannot play music in the park”.  Slowly their project captured their imagination leading to an interesting dialogue. Kötting explains: “Their odd collisions with the general public are always, what I call, ‘angels of happenstance’.”

And what about the Normans? They were brought  back into the picture at the end of the walk as they  celebrated, eating  hamburgers on William the Conqueror’s dining table, the sandstone slab opposite Undercliffe where, according to legend, William first dined on arriving in Hastings. A story completed.

Edith is more than a film, it is a project. Spawned out of the subject is a CD of the music, a book, an exhibition, art work by Kötting’s daughter, Eden, and the film.

Performance and film at KinoTeatr, 43-49 Norman Road, St Leonards,  TB38 0EQ. 17 September at 8.00 pm.

Anonymous Bosch photographs,  The BlackShed Gallery, Unit 3b, Russet Farm, Redlands Lane, Robertsbridge, TN32 5NG. Open Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 4pm until 1 October.

Eden’s art at Wayward, 68 Norman Road, St. Leonards On Sea. TN38 0EJ. Wednesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm.

Posted 12:29 Wednesday, Sep 14, 2016 In: Film

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