Corby exists.

Corby gets its name from the same Latin root as the Corvidae family of birds.

Magpies. Ravens. Crows.

Corby’s population of over 60000 includes over 10000 inhabitants of Scottish heritage.

There’s a crater on Mars called ‘Corby’, in reference to a famous transcript of a conversation in June 1969 between the crew of the Apollo 11mission and mission control, whereby world news was relayed to the crew, amongst it was the news that “in Corby, an Irishman named John Coyle won the World’s Porridge Eating Championship by consuming 23 bowls of instant oatmeal in 10 minutes”. The reply from Apollo 11: “I’d like to enter Aldrin in the porridge eating contest next time; he’s on the 19th bowl. Roger.”

Weetabix Factory 2, Corby

Corby was home to Bill Drummond from the age of 11, before his move to Liverpool.

Corby is a New Town.

Corby is 23 miles from Northampton.

Corby is 1hr23min from me.

I know this because I’ve been there twice in the last month.

Bill Drummond’s The 25 Paintings World Tour has five years left to run. The original tour itinerary was:

2014: Birmingham, UK
2015: Belgrade, Serbia
2016: Kolkata, India

2018: Lexington, North Carolina, USA
2019: Ribadavia, Galicia, Spain
2020: Bingöl, Kurdistan, Turkey

2021: Half Time

2022: Jinja, Uganda
2023: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2024: Akureyri, Iceland
2025: Goaribari Island, Papua New Guinea
2026: Jerusalem, The Holy Land
2027: Damascus, Syria

The world has changed. The Elderly Gentleman has made himself known. Half-time was spent in Great Yarmouth with the ghost of his cannibalised uncle. Uganda teeters on the brink of another civil war. The 25 Paintings have decided on staycation.

The 25 Paintings Tea Rooms Exist

The 25 Paintings Tea Rooms exist.

I’ve been there.



The journey to The 25 Paintings Tea Rooms presented a choice. A motorway to the East. A motorway to the West. Despite St Etienne’s eloquent protestations, Life isn’t a motorway. Motorways get you from A to B and sometimes C. Never to be. Never to see. There are better ways. Is there a route that takes you door to door on a single road? Does it take just a little bit longer? Take it. Enjoy the ride.

Hard to beat.

Nottingham and Corby are connected by the A606. A picturesque route through the mythical county of Rutland. There are hills and there are valleys. Lots of them, and not enough crawler lanes. That’s fine. Embrace the crawl. If I stretch this metaphor any further, it’s going to snap. My next book does a better job. It’s full of hills. Seven in fact. The point is finding the right one to die on. It’ll be out in 2023 or not at all.

The Rooftop Art Gallery exists.

It is situated in the ruins of the Corby library. If you’re looking to recreate the Clockwork Orange exterior vibe, head to Corby.

The Willow Place shopping centre exists on many levels. Most of them twenty three metres up into the air. The Rooftop Art Gallery is on top. Entry is free, but there are rules.

The first room featured more of Bill’s text heavy paintings that I first saw at Great Yarmouth. They are there for context. Lots of context.

The second room was The 25 Paintings Tea Rooms themselves, ably staffed by Nippy aka The Elderly Gentleman, but there was no doubt about the fact that The 25 Paintings were the ones in charge. They dominated the room, blocking all sight lines to anywhere else. The Penkiln Burn Posters where resigned to the periphery and then X-ed out.

Yellow and black, takes me back.

One the walls, the mini-predecessors gazed onto their big brothers

The rear of the canvases of The 25 Paintings made their own contributions, told their own stories and a cream tea awaited anyone who added/traces 40 words to them.

There’s something very discombobulating about tracing over someone else’s words. I know this because I’ve done it before, but I can’t for the life of me remember when.

Paint job complete, it was time for tea. And scones. And elderflower cordial. Corby Train Station Elderflower Cordial.

Million Stitch Quilt still under construction.

Around the table, the conversation with my new tea room acquaintances skirted around the topic of the future at the request of Nippy. We settled on AI and it’s latest attempts at faking reality. Including this one.

AI/JAMs Twitter Thread.

Over the second cup of Darjeeling, talk turned to the suddenly mythical Pied Wagtails of Corby and stolen images were exchanged and then subsequently exchanged for the latest publication from the now sadly deceased Tenzing Scott Brown.

Offers to tidy up were rebuffed with a firm but polite “That’s my job” from Nippy and then it was time for another pleasant trip along the 606.

Two weeks later, I returned to Corby. I’ll spare you the road, valley and hill metaphors this time, except to say that savouring every journey like it’s the last time you’ll take it is one hell of a leveller.

I was back in Corby for a performance of BEFORE, DURING, AFTER by Tenzing Scott Brown. But before BEFORE, DURING, AFTER by Tenzing Scott Brown, we enjoyed another cream tea in which we discussed that during BEFORE, DURING, AFTER by Tenzing Scott Brown, there would be a performance by a newly formed tribute band to The17 called TheSeventeen and that after BEFORE, DURING, AFTER by Tenzing Scott Brown we would be treated to some of Bill’s homemade vegetable soup and some Latvian bread.

The play was performed with the grudging permission of The 25 Paintings, but they would not be moved. Oh no. A chair was to be taken and placed wherever.

The audience of around 40, were all together in the same room, but oddly isolated from each other, a Zoom performance made real. Alone together.

BEFORE was a brief history of The17 and an invitation to join the tribute act. DURING took place on the streets of Corby, as TheSeventeen performed their version of SCORE 328: Surround.

As we were a tribute act, we revelled in the lack of authenticity and we just went for a single circumnavigation.

It was quite an odd feeling waiting for the performance to begin, not helped one bit by the family of around 23 that had sat down for some chilled alfresco dining right next to where I was positioned. After about ten minutes of waiting while Bill positioned the rest of TheSeventeen, a distant ‘way-oooh’ could be heard gathering pace and volume as it reached me. I added my part and then walked off into the sunset*

*Back to the Rooftop Gallery for soup.

AFTER consisted of some more biographical details from The Elderly Gentleman mixed with some history of the Latvian population of Corby. Kate Bush and Madonna got a mention, as did the match-making potential of soup.

Bill’s Post Script

Then after AFTER, it was time for soup then home. Back along the 606, 606 AFTER ONE. 🔃

The latest Lost Doctor production is ready and waiting for you all now. It was written by John Higgs and stars Kermit Leveridge as The 23rd Doctor.

It will be followed in August, by SHADOWS OF HIROSHIMA. It’s probably the best thing I’ve written.

Until then, the best things I’ve written can be bought here, but probably not beyond 23/8/22.

Five years is enough.

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