THE 1998 LEONARD COHEN MEETING
Early on Friday morning we (my wife Eija and I) flew to London. After several hours of going round the city center and some shopping we went to King's Cross Station to take a train to Lincoln. To our very big surprise we were greeted by John Etherington, a long time Cohen fan from London, who also was waiting for the same train. I had never met him before so it was funny that he could identify us in the queue. Two hours to Lincoln were used, as you would guess, in comparing our experiences.
In Lincoln we met Lizzie Madder and Chris Bolton, the organizers of the meeting, who were waiting us outside the railway station. We had a cup of coffee together and discussed the Saturday program. We went to bed quite early after some 17 hours of travelling and walking around London.
The venue for the meeting was The Lawrence Hall at The Lawn Center. The conference room was once the recreation room of The Lawn Hospital. Opened in 1820 and known initially as The Lincoln Asylum it became a caring and pioneering institute. Famous for being amongst the first to remove all use of physical restraint and isolation in the treatment of mentally ill. Nowadays it is a renovated activity center in beautiful surroundings. The hall was a most appropriate venue for the meeting. Chris and Lizzie wrote in the meeting program: "It is hoped that everyone gathered here today is able share in the enjoyment of the words and music that has become so precious to us, free from the prejudice and exclusion, that so often attempts to stifle the voice of truth". Well said, indeed.
Participants began to arrive at 10 am - the total number was something between 70 and 80. The daytime was used for meeting old and new friends, trading Cohen items and watching Cohen documentaries, films and concert videos. Chris and Lizzie had provided high quality equipment to show both PAL and NTSC videos. Computer screen could also be projected on the wall. The program included two recent Canadian interviews, the films Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen and Bird on a Wire, and several short films, including Leonard, Light My Cigarette from Canada (with very high sound volume as requested by the producers). In another smaller room we had a scheduled program of documentaries like Spring 96, "Stina meets Leonard Cohen on Mt Blady" and "Rockpop Special".
Chris had sent a circular letter to all who used to subscribe to Jim Devlin's Newsletter. That's why there were so many Cohen fans who are not yet connected with Internet. The others had read about the meeting in the LC Newsgroup or on the pages of The Leonard Cohen Files.
Jim Devlin was of course there (Jim with Lizzie in the photo). Jim has just finished his third book on Cohen: "Leonard Cohen In His Own Words". The date of issue will be announced soon (late August or early September). Other familiar names from Internet included Martin Godwyn, Warren Gilbert, and Martin Greaves. Andy Jones - a long time collector and the author of the list of Cohen's singles and Phillip Smith had brought some of their most precious rarities with them. Herve Cesard had driven from Paris to Lincoln and was still very alive although the left side traffic was a nightmare for him; Herve visits the Leonard Cohen Files daily. It is impossible to mention all the names here; it was great to meet all of you!
Some rare live songs like "Billy Sunday" and "Do I Have To Dance All Night" were played from archive tapes. There are around 20-30 songs which Leonard has performed live on stage but never recorded.
Leonard Cohen activities on Internet were introduced by Chris Bolton (Newsgroup) and by myself (The Leonard Cohen Files); we had burned all the Files on a CD-Rom so we were able to project the pages on the wall without any loading time!
At 3 pm a versatile buffet lunch was served, and all other facilities of The Lawn were in active use - coffee house, pub and restaurant. Especially the pub had certainly a successful business day!
Later in the evening we had many hours of live music - seven guitarists (John York and friends) and some vocalists (thanks Chris!) performed Leonard's songs, joined by the whole audience. The band played most of the songs ever written by Leonard! Between the songs old and new poems were recited.
John and Chris & Leonard's songs
In the auction two T-shirts (with Leonard's autographs) were sold - the first one for 70 pounds; the earnings were donated to the "War Child" campaign.
There was also a quiz in which short pieces from various songs and poems by Leonard had to be identified. John Etherington was the winner and became the happy owner of a Future T-shirt - again with Leonard's autograph. Leonard's manager, Mrs. Kelley Lynch of Stranger Management had kindly sent these to Chris. (Chris on the left and John, the happy winner, on the right with the T-shirt!)
Chris and Lizzie had printed a stylish meeting booklet "Asylum - The 1998 Meeting of Leonard Cohen Fans", with the programme details, Jim Devlin's foreword, some interesting items from The Blackening Pages (of The Leonard Cohen Files), and a story about the making of "Leonard, Light My Cigarette".
Patrice Hamilton's portrait of Leonard is shown on the front cover. A special poster had been printed - also using Hamilton's painting. Leonard's greetings to the meeting were reprinted on a special card. Patrice Hamilton's Cohen tile panel was also on view. Trevor Neal had brought his original oil painting to the meeting - it is also used on the cover of Jim Devlin's book.
The meeting ended after midnight when happy (and at the same time also tired - after more than 14 hours of continuous meeting) participants went back to their hotels.
The city of Lincoln was an excellent choice for the first meeting. It's a wonderful and peaceful historical city. Eija and I changed our plans - originally we had planned to return to London on Sunday morning, but instead we spent the whole day in Lincoln going around the town and enjoying its charm.
After the memorable Lincoln meeting we spent two more days in London, saw the surprisingly speedy new musical "Chicago" and admired the Spring flowers in the parks.
Our warmest thanks to the Lizzie and Chris - we really appreciated your efforts in making the meeting an unforgettable experience. Finally - on behalf of all of us who met in Lincoln -our sincere thanks to Leonard who brought us together!