Re: John's 3rd & Last Report from Europe

From: Michael Kemp (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Feb 22 2007 - 00:06:56 PST

thanks John, I've been enjoying these...

john porter <email suppressed> wrote: JOHN'S 3RD & LAST REPORT FROM EUROPE - February 21,

Thanks to Meg for suggesting I send reports so she
could live my trip vicariously, they're written for
her, and to Keith for suggesting I post them on
Frameworks Listserv for all to see
( I'll
collect them on my website soon, with photos.

My nephew Anthony and his partner Fiona recently
bought a house in the Dublin suburb of Monkstown, and
on my first two days Anthony and I rose early and
drove to his office where he works as Senior Software
Developer. I had my own office with an online
computer, and we went out to lunch together. Friday
became a pub crawl with a pint of Guinness at each of
four bars, starting with a great lunch of ham, cabbage
and potatoes at Maguire's, Lower Boggot Street. After
work, I went to the Solus Bar to meet Dennis Kenny of
Dublin's experimental film collective Solus (not
related to Solas Bar). We had a short but promising
exchange of info, ideas and contacts for the future.

Then Anthony and Fiona found me and we went to Jack
Nealons Bar on Capel Street, which was his favourite
pub when they lived nearby in their first house. For
his 30th birthday party in 2005, he rented and packed
the whole second floor and hired a DJ who was
stationed next to his favourite spot in the corner
between two windows, so this visit I had a photo taken
of the three of us in his spot. Then we met some of
their friends at the smoking patio of O'Donoghue's,
which was packed "cheek-by-jowl".

The next morning the three of us left on a weekend
pilgrimage to three of Anthony's and my ancestors'
home towns. The first day we drove to Kinawley, home
of my mother's father's father William Johnston (I was
carrying a copy of his baptism record), and to
Newtowngore, home of her father's mother Isabella
Thompson, and where Isabella and William were married
(I was carrying a copy of their marriage certificate).
Each stop included looking for the appropriate church
cemetery, and shooting photos and super 8 of them and
of the centre of town.

Those two towns are very close to one another but on
opposite sides of the border between Ireland and
Northern Ireland. Our final destination was also
nearby in Northern Ireland - Fivemiletown where
William and Isabella moved to and had five children
including my mother's father, Benson. It's so named
because it's located five miles from each of the three
nearest towns

We stopped at the big, beautiful, new, Ashlone House
B&B, a five minute walk from the centre of town
We had difficulty pulling ourselves away from tea and
scones served in the lounge with a roaring fireplace,
in order to walk to town in the rain to have dinner at
the hotel. Our B&B host was the elder Gretta Malone
assisted by her daughter and son-in-law. They were
delightful, and very helpful with our history
questions. She showed us her copy of an illustrated
history book of Fivemiletown and put us in touch
with its local author Jack Johnston (not related) who
then arranged for her to sell us her copy which he
would replace for her later. He also offered to help
me research our family history some more in the

Also with Gretta's help, the next morning during
Sunday church service we met the elder church
caretaker Ronnie Robertson whose father and
grandfather were the caretakers before him. He led us
around to the many Johnston graves, which I
photographed, and thanks to Anthony's quick thinking I
got a great super 8 shot of the children running out
of the church. Anthony also gave Ronnie a nice big

Anthony and Fiona were as fascinated with the town as
I was, and with their invaluable assistance, I
thoroughly documented the downtown, in the sunlight
just before it started to rain. (I've had that luck a
few times on this trip!) We had fun re-shooting the
exact camera angles in four different photo postcards
of Main Street shot in the 1930s and 1950s, which my
grandfather had collected on return visits to his
hometown, and which I had brought copies of.

On the way back to Dublin we visited some friends of
Anthony and Fiona to watch an historic Six Nations
rugby match on TV
and on my last night in Dublin we tried an excellent
Thai restaurant in their new neighbourhood, and
Anthony and I phoned my mother to tell her about
Fivemiletown. And Anthony is mailing my many rolls of
exposed super 8 to me so there's less chance of them
being fogged by airport security x-ray scanners.

The next morning I flew to Amsterdam, then took a
train to Groningen where I was met by Erwin van 't
Hart. He's a programmer/co-ordinator with the Starting
from Scratch experimental film festival which holds
repeat screenings in three Netherlands cities - the
Rotterdam Film Festival, Groningen, then Amsterdam -
and Erwin gave me screenings in all three. Last
October on his way to The International Experimental
Film Exposition (TIE) in Denver, Colorado, he made a
special stop in Toronto for a private preview of my
live performance show. I rented CineCycle for it, so
he and Martin Heath had a good meeting, and I invited
some Toronto film friends. Then Erwin organized most
of my tour for me, so thanks to him above all, for
making all of this happen!

Erwin led me to my Groningen show's location, and my
home for two days - Vera, "Club for the International
Popunderground" ( - a
legendary, multi-disciplinary venue occupying a large,
previously squatted building. It has hosted
world-famous musicians for 30 years, including many
when they were still unknown. I was their only guest
this time, so their entire upstairs "hotel" dormitory
was my own apartment, with big windows, cable TV, and
my own keys. After hours, my private entrance was
around the back, down a lane, and through a big,
swinging metal gate. The basement bar was open to 2am,
so until then each night I was using the computers in
Vera's office while drinking free Grolsch and chatting
with some of their volunteers, also working late. And
I bought some pot and a pipe at the Glory Coffee Shop
just around the corner, and was using my Dublin
Porterhouse Brewery souvenir lighter.

Barbara, the pregnant mother of one son already and
Vera Zienema's Co-ordinator, programmer and 35mm film
projectionist, treated me and her volunteers like her
own. She took me on a walking tour of Groningen and
helped me re-live an old memory - buying and drinking
"vla" pudding from the carton, which I did often when
I was a hippie hitch-hiking through Groningen and
Europe in 1970.

Vera is an arts co-operative run by a large staff and
more than 200 volunteers who form the arts discipline
"clubs" to programme and manage their concerts and
screenings, design their posters, and design, write
and publish their VeraKrant periodical, for which they
have their own printing press and giant
screen-printing shop. Their posters are popular and a
book of them with some interviews and a history of
Vera is being launched there on March 11
( I was glad to meet Yolanda
who designed the beautiful Starting from Scratch
poster, and Barbara is mailing a mint-condition copy
of it in a mailing tube to me.

Everyone at Vera is eager and happy, and having a lot
of fun. I had breakfasts in their large "Kemenade"
meeting room and kitchen, used by staff, volunteers
and guests. One morning it was packed with music club
volunteers leaving on their annual "thankyou" from
Vera - a two hour bus ride to the Grolsch brewery for
a tour and free beer, then back to Amsterdam for a big
restaurant dinner. I was taken out to dinner by
University of Groningen professor and veteran Vera
Zienema volunteer Rene Veenstra.

Vera Zienema screenings are mostly on 35mm and video
so I gave Barbara and her volunteers-in-training,
Brenda and Marjolein, a lesson in super 8 projection.
I used Starting from Scratch's sound Beaulieu, and
silent Eumig projectors for my Groningen and Amsterdam
shows. They are the same as my own best super 8
projectors. My attendance was 30 in both cities, which
is good for me, but everyone else was disappointed.
Some Vera volunteers in my Groningen audience
suggested I return.

My first night in Amsterdam I had dinner at Starting
from Scratch co-organizer Pim Zwier's apartment with
he, Erwin and fellow Canadian filmmaker and
Frameworker Amanda Dawn Christie from Moncton and
Vancouver, who's here showing her films in Starting
from Scratch like I am, and travelling with her
Vancouver friend Robin.
During my five days in Amsterdam I had the exclusive
use of the apartment and bicycle of a film student
friend of Starting from Scratch who was away at the
Berlin Film Festival. Each day I bicycled 20 minutes
across town from his apartment in the Oost.

Amsterdam is a bicyclist's dream, a labyrinth of
winding and rolling roads, bike paths, walkways and
canals, intermingling seamlessly using a combination
of efficient signals, rules and outlaw yielding. The
pace is startlingly slow, calm, and quiet for a city
its size. Nobody wears a helmet, or rides mountain
bikes or racers. They all ride the same upright Mary
Poppins bicycles, some singing or shouting, and
they're omnipresent. The weather was perfect and I
treasured every moment I was bicycling. It was the
most joyful experience of my trip, and the one I least
wanted to end. Even getting lost while bicycling home
late most nights was fun.

And no trip of mine would be complete without being
stopped by the police, this time for following other
illegal bicyclists onto a pedestrian street. I was
unfamiliar with some symbols so I often just followed
other cyclists to avoid going the wrong way.

I shot super 8 of the location of AORTA squatters'
gallery where Jim Anderson and I showed our films in
1982. And I used a student internet coffee shop on its
block - Softland 1.
I visited the office of the Netherlands experimental
Film Bank which presented a programme of recent Dutch
work at Starting from Scratch
(, and I met and
photographed Claartje Opdam there who later attended
my show.
At the Stedelijk Museum ( I
was impressed to find two different group exhibits
each of which included a different 16mm film loop
installation, and a solo exhibit by New Yorker T.J.
Wilcox consisting entirely of two 16mm loop
projections with two stand-up, home-movie screens.
I met and photographed Johan Kalee at his incredible
Parallaxe film shop and museum
(, and I bought a fresh roll
of super 8 film and a movie film developing tank from
him at very good prices. He's also involved with
Sprocket Sounds
( monthly
screenings of found films on 16mm, 8mm and super 8 at
the squatted ex-building of the Filmacademy. When I
told him I projected my originals, he shook my hand
and called me his friend.

The Starting from Scratch screenings were at de Balie
Theatre and Cinema
which chose my frame blow-up of my film Down on Me to
fill the front side of their glossy, colour, 20x20cm,
monthly promo card. My face was literally looking up
(at the camera looking down on me) from the stacks of
cards on display counters in the lobbies of de Balie
Cinema, the Netherlands Film Museum, and others!

Starting from Scratch is a wonderful annual
experimental film festival with 16 different
programmes scattered among three cities over four
weeks, 11 of them in Amsterdam on this weekend, and
many combining 35mm, 16mm, super 8 and video
projection. Visiting artists this year included Amanda
Dawn Christie, Sandra Davis, Eve Heller, Ben Rivers,
Peter Tscherkassky, and Milena Gierke from Germany who
makes edited-in-camera super 8 films and projects them
herself - a highlight for me. Also to my delight,
there's an annual "shoot & show" super 8 screening by
local artists, organized by Starting from Scratch
founder Roos Geevers and Anita de Groot.

I was also able to hang out with Netherlands' king of
super 8 Jaap Pieters, because like me he goes out to
all such screenings in his town, taking notes too. The
Film Bank has a touring programme of his work
including four, 35mm blow-ups and a video documentary
about him by Starting from Scratch regular Fred Pelon.
Amanda and I want to bring him to Canada.

When the festival was over, after midnight Sunday, we
all celebrated it and Erwin's birthday with drinks at
the nearby Cafe de Spuyt, a film projectionists' bar
where they hold regular "filmspuyt" screenings of
recent feature-length movies projected on 16mm. At 3am
I left to get lost on my bicycle one more time.

Thanks for reading this far, John.

John Porter, Toronto, Canada
email suppressed

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