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The Good Old Days With Tracey Moberly

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Sat in Shoreditch House I was waiting for Tracey Moberly to turn up, Author of Text-Me-Up! and co-owner of The Foundry, Artist and Activist. Then, the unmistakeable laughs of a Welsh Accent echo around the room. Tracey walks through the door, all Brigitte Bardot hair and skinny jeans, blazer and t-shirt. "Hello!" she beams. "I'm Tracey!" She's Tracey! I am standing in front of Tracey! And her voice? It's turbo Welsh, gentle and the most friendly voice I have ever heard in my life.

From what I can make out she's the best kind of working-class girl: pretty with piercing green eyes, down-to-earth, talented, honest, amusing and the most free person I have ever met. I like her - she's fun. As we sat down by the pool we ordered a bottle of wine each. The thing about Welsh girls is they don't do things by halves!

So how did a girl from a small mining village in Wales end up in London via Manchester? Was it another pin in the map job? Tracey laughs "I was working with Professor John Hyatt the singer of the band the Three Johns -we were exhibiting together at the time and I contributed some details to a book he was writing. The book launch was at the Foundry in Shoreditch, London which the publisher was co-owner of. We were doing an exhibition to go with his launch, there were three of us, I think other person was the Sex Pistols sound guy. Jonathan who owned The Foundry was there (whom I later married) was also the co-owner of the book publishing company called Ellipsis who was publishing the book. So I traveled down to London from Manchester and It was like bam! I love London! I love The Foundry! - a set up I had had similar ideas of doing in Manchester. It was really cool a really democratic place.

So tell me a bit about the radio programmes you ran from the Foundry? "Resonance 104.4fm was starting up and they were looking for people to do different shows and looking for different places and venues to help with the fund-raising and hosting of different evenings. So we started doing different radio shows - all of our shows being broadcast live from within the Foundry via Resonance."

I Inquired is radio something you've always wanted to do? " I never really wanted to do radio" she smiles " I had been on radio before and done interviews but I had never had any inclination to present. I dislike my voice, I really do! I came up with a format for the main radio show. Jonathan worked on the technical and broadcast side and we produced the main shows. We put a basic idea together of how to do the main show which was called The Foundry late late Breakfast show www.foundry.tv/archive/radio

And asked Vis the Spoon who hosted our regular Sunday poetry night (at the time one of London's longest running poetry nights). He had taken over from Peter Doherty (The Libertines) who had hosted the night for a few years joined by Carl Barat in latter times. Vis the Spoon was the perfect candidate to do it. However he later got a job that clashed with the times so had to finish hosting it. I had to stand in and host it temporarily - but then it just didn't stop. It went on for nine years, we never did any recorded music it was all live".

Tracey's shows weren't your average shows though. "I just used to come up with completely random subjects for the shows. It's about just letting people be really. I used to come up with three words for each show and they'd all start with the same letter. So say it was the letter 'P' ... one show was Pot Pouri, Poo and Pom-Poms, so no matter whom we invited in, they'd have to talk about those words. You'd have everyone on the show, from activist and comedian Mark Thomas, artist and ex-KLF Bill Drummond (who became regulars and close friends) to the great former MP Tony Benn. Many people have been on the show and always came back for more such as Bruce Reynolds the mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery, Mr. Nice aka Howard Marks and even Banksy. So that's how the show was done. Many of the guests had never met each other before, they would all sit around a table which was like a large dining room table and it had the atmosphere of a chat around the table in a pub. It was all very easy and extremely comfortable not like being on the radio in a studio - sometimes I would forget and come out with things thinking my sons would kill me if they heard me speaking about or mentioning some of them. I never researched anybody who was coming on the show, preferring to find out about them live there and then with no preconceived ideas from other people's points of view or words. All different age ranges listened to my show".

So what was Tracey's most memorable show? "A few weeks earlier Kate Nash had been doing an exhibition in The Foundry, and it just so happened that Bjork's music producer had been in that night. He'd whisked her off to Iceland and recorded an album with her. So Kate came on this one particular show to talk about it - her new music and the recording of her new album. The night before a friend called Ian Thompson had sent me a mobile phone photo of a placenta in a bag in his freezer. A friend of ours had just had a baby and she had given Ian the placenta for his dog to eat, because it's full of nutrients. I couldn't believe it so I told him to come in with the dog and the placenta for the show. Shoreditch TV were also guests on there with local firemen dressed in their gear who were exhibiting artwork in the Foundry amongst others. Artist Emma Buggy who was a student at the time doing a project on the Vagina and perception - had sculpted a giant vagina and wore it on her head. At the end of the show we had the dog eating the human placenta live with the woman, Sarah whose placenta it was had come in with her friends and new baby to see the dog eating it. It was all completely random. There were female Australian artists on the show as well, but they quite aghast by it. I had not realized, but in parts of Australia there is a spiritual ritual/practice of burying the placenta under trees as a precious commodity. But the dog had his nutrients and we sort of turned it into a celebration on behalf of the baby and mum."

So did Tracey ever have guests that talked more than her? "One memorable guest was Paddy Joe Hill one of the Birmingham Six. Paddy was one of six men who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975 for the bombing of two pubs in Birmingham. Following appeals which exposed police corruption and malpractice within the criminal justice system their convictions were declared unsafe. They were freed on 14 March 1991 after sixteen years of wrongful imprisonment. Paddy started speaking about everything that happened to him and his family at that time - the brutality, it was quite awful. He is now part of MOJO (Miscarriages Of Justic Organisation) with John Mcmanus, helping other prisoners who have been wrongly accused of crimes. The show was for an hour and I just let him talk. He just said all this stuff and all my other guests were so caught up with his story they preferred to listen".

I dared Tracey to tell me about the craziest night in The Foundry "So anyway we did this art, performance and music exchange with Moscow. It was the first Russian Alco Film Festival. Jonathan had set up this exchange he's one of these people who sees things and makes them happen -he's very clever and creative. In Moscow we stormed the TV centre by invite, setting off fireworks and later recreating the Battle of Potemkin with the TV presenter. They had a pet rabbit on the set and I remember it went to the toilet on air, jumped off the table and fled - I was told it died which was disturbing. You had never seen breakfast Tv like it before and we were recognised all over Russia. I worried about that rabbit though.

Then the Russians came to the UK and that was completely creative and mad. I can remember we did a circle of fire all the way around the Foundry as a performnce - the building was a large old bank and the Foundry occupied the lower three floors - we lived above. We had very little trouble in there, didn't need door staff as the vibe was very anarchistic in there really and people would stop anything before trouble happened. Self policing for a huge central venue - but the democratic nature of it sorted things out. The night of the circle of fire around the Foundry was so mad though I can remember we decided to have a lock-in with free drinks to end the Russian leg of the arts exchange. A load of army flares were let off inside there, filling the place with smoke. People had fallen asleep where they had been enjoying the party - how I don't know how as the flares sounded like bombs going off. The police came in at the very early hours and they were like 'what on earth is going on, what is happening in here?' asking who were in charge - I remember saying 'I think he's asleep on the floors somewhere' and their faces they were like what the hell! They knew the good spirit of the Foundry so they just smiled and walked out leaving us to conclude the party and cement post Cold War relationships through the art, music and party vibe. Although about an hour later somebody let off more army flares and they just blasted through the ceiling leaving neat holes as we sat around the table beneath it. The holes remained as a marker of the event.

Anything else? "yeah the rabbit didn't die on the TV show in Moscow it was back on very content the following day - which was a huge relief!" {We laughed}. As we sat on the roof terrace of Shoreditch House we ordered some espresso martini cocktails'. As we looked across London Tracey looked at me and said "this has been nice, we should do it again". So we drank to that. Ching Ching! To be continued........!