I’m in Crewe. I’ve just been collected from the rail station by a uniformed chauffer piloting an elite Bentley Mulsanne. I sit in the back in isolated splendour and am driven the ten minute glide to the factory at Pyms Lane. A car works gleaming like a freshly glossed hotel. New limousines stand in the yard, cocooned in white plastic shrouds. Clean, clear post-Industrial assembly. None of the workers wear anything held together with a zip or a button. Bentley keep clear of things that scratch.
I’m here to write a feature for Blown magazine, Wales’s new and glossy magazine of image, text and cultural intelligence. “Swearing, Murder, Gypsies, Pies, Bingo, Torture, Drinking, Lies” are bannered on Blown’s cover. Inside there’s as much avant-garde fashion as there is Llwyd Owen and Paul Granjon.
The Bentley Piece is a joint amalgamation of my work with that of photographer Paul Avis. I’m listening to the guide telling me about how Bentley’s bling quotient is low. Mos Def doesn’t have one. The rappers go for Rolls. Bentleys are made to order, every single one. You tell them just where amid the tooled leather and polished walnut you’d like to fix your iPod and they do it. Paintwork to match the colour of your shirt? Done.
I cover the detail, find out how much of Germany there is in this quintessentially British car (the company today is owned by Volkswagen), check the lamps, stare at the machined radiator grills. Their planes and lattices. Their Cricklewood forms. Paul shoots on a digital half-plate, lamp lit, slow and sure.
The result, a car review like few others, fills the pages of Blown issue two. This is a print magazine that stakes new cultural ground, crosses genres, really does make new. The thrust is to forget that visual artists rarely mix with writers, dancers with film-makers and that fashion photographers live beyond art on a platform of their own. It’s a high risk strategy. Do you really want to wade through twelve full plate colour fashion shots by stylist Danielle Rees and photographer Jeff Orgina just to get Richard Huw Morgan and Sam Hasler’s interview with Bill Drummond? Fans of the Superfurrys reading Emma Price’s conversation with Gruff Rhys about his new film Separado! will they also read on into Sian Melangell Dafydd’s hunt for the answer to water and aging in Bangor and in Bala?
Here in 2011 where iPhones have no chance of replicating album sleeve gloss and TV programming rarely embraces such cultural diversity the answer is yes. Absolutely. Blown: you can’t really pin it down. You need to just sit there and look at it. Richard Gwyn, Niall Griffiths and Gerald Tyler mix with DJ Fonteyn, Charlotte Hatherley and Gordon Dalton. Fancy a great ride? Buy this.
An earlier version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail. #183