Phil Howitt (Facelift blog)

I got hold of this remarkable book at the Canterbury Sound event back in October (as well as meeting its author, Matt Watkins). Having finally had chance to sit down and read through You Are Here I should say that it’s every bit as mind-blowing and informative as I had hoped.

You are Here is essentially a study of Canterbury from the year dot to a specified date and time in August 2014. True to his mathematical roots, Matt constructs a perfect spiral timeline (the book’s byline is  ‘an accelerated history’), with two page segments being devoted to each time frame. Initially this means that the timeframes are large (the first being 14 thousand billion to 11 thousand billion BC), but then incrementally shrink (e.g. 1109 to 1292 in medieval times, 1867–1897 in the 19th century), to segments of hours, then minutes, then seconds as the book reaches its rather frenzied conclusion.

What this means for the reader is that what starts out as essentially a superb historical document from the Roman era forward, setting out the premise for Canterbury being a totally critical centrepoint for religious and political machinations within England, inevitably becomes something else, as time ‘speeds up’ . From a purely ‘sceneist’ point of view, the segment of time devoted to seminal Canterbury musical activity, let’s say between 1960 and 1972, is condensed to a mere 3 pages. The accelerating nature of the timeframes means that roughly half of the book is devoted to Canterbury in the new millennium, which by extension means that it’s an autobiographical account of life in the city. Matt’s own personal interests and perspectives become relevant here. There’s a fair amount of commentary, or at least noting, of counter-culture,  streetlife, local politics, corporate machinations, and their impact on the local environment, alongside the prevailing themes of history and religion, and in that regard the latter half of the book put me in mind of CJ Stone’s excellent Fierce Dancing book, another example of where an account of (counter) culture was to some extent overtaken by the process itself. For those of you who are students of ‘modern’ Canterbury music, the likes of Syd Arthur, Lapis Lazuli and other of the many innovative musicians that are carrying the torch forward in such an inspired fashion, the extended sections afforded to the era from 2010 onwards allows for many references and a myriad of information regarding their activities – all good news…

read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *