Monday, 2 October 2017

Kiss of Life

My friend Robert Dellar passed away last December. He was, amongst other things, what I suppose you would call a mental health activist and advocate working on the behalf of those enmeshed within the psychiatric system, patients often unable to speak up for themselves, not least due to their status having deprived them of certain basic human rights in the eyes of the medical establishment. Robert had been a significant voice in the Mad Pride movement. I knew him, or knew of him on and off since about 1984 or thereabouts, and in recent years we had collaborated on a cartoon strip called Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador which I drew for Southwark Mental Health News, a publication he produced on behalf of patients which, despite the somewhat dry title, was closer in spirit to the old punk fanzines through which we originally met. His passing left a lot of us distraught, bewildered, confused, and rudderless. There's some saying about how the character of a person may be judged by the quality of their friends, and the eulogies which began to accumulate on facebook bore testimony to a world with Robert being both stupid and pointless in all respects that matter.

'Someone should do a book of these,' I suggested, referring to the aforementioned eulogies.

Inevitably that someone ended up being myself because if it it wasn't exactly something I wanted to do, it felt like something which needed to be done.

So here, nine months later, is Kiss of Life, an anthology of writings about Robert Dellar by those who knew him from school, people who made fanzines, who were in bands, who met him through Mad Pride or his work within the corridors of the psychiatric system. Contributors include Ted Curtis, Paul Mex, Andy Martin, Paul Andrew, Stan Batcow, Rosanna Thompson, Robin Basak, Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, Steve Hayes, Amethyst Beeblebear, Simon Morris, Barnaby Oliver, Lucy Williams, Sarah Doherty, Claire Monk, Andy Fraser and others, not to mention a few examples of Robert's short satirical fiction pieces, otherwise out of print*. As a collection, it's not going to bring him back, but he's someone who really should be remembered, and the generously rebellious spirit of his life should be remembered, particularly now with the forces of crap and entropy all around; so that's why this book exists.

You can buy it here. All proceeds go to Mental Health Resistance Network.

*: Excepting Crusty which also appears in the excellent Tales From the Punk Side co-edited by Mike Dines and Greg Bull.