Back in the summer of 1996 I was invited on a journalist junket to watch KLF pop star Jimmy Cauty demonstrate sonic weapons at a remote location on Dartmoor (south Devon and close to Cauty’s home at the time). A carriage on a London to Exeter train was blocked booked for stringers attending the event and we were plied with booze on the journey. By the time we boarded a helicopter at Exeter airport (a small provincial facility that shuts down in the early evening), the majority of journalists present were at least mildly drunk.
After a twenty minute chopper ride disaster struck. The pilot announced that we couldn’t land because a mist had swept across the moor. Instead, we returned to Exeter airport where we were told a coach would pick us up and transport us to the acoustic weapons test site. After an hour of waiting, the PR people were going crazy – hardly surprising when you consider that they’d spent fifty thousand pounds staging the event and wanted to impress us stringers into giving them lots of coverage. Meanwhile, an assortment of journalists and photographers were having luggage cart races around an otherwise deserted passenger concourse. The airport had closed down for the night, until one of our party succeeded in activating the public address system and went into pirate DJ mode.
A security guard appeared and attempted to restore order when a bored music journalist switched on a luggage conveyor and one of his friends disappeared down it. While this was going on I picked up a huge pile of postcards depicting a Jersey European Airways jet and placed them in my bag; my thinking being that one day I’d make an art work out of them. The postcards sat around various flats I lived in for 16 years waiting to be alchemised into art, which finally happened this summer when Matthew Higgs asked me to contribute to a show of Bulletin Board art he has organised at Venus Over Manhattan – you can see my work here.
Returning to 1996, I was supposed to get an exclusive interview with Jimmy Cauty for The Big Issue but because not a single journalist had seen the promised sonic weapons demonstration, the PR people offered all the stringers present an interview with the KLF star as a form of compensation. We’d been left stranded at Exeter airport for several hours and weren’t taken to something approaching civilisation until around midnight. I got to speak with Cauty early on – he saw us journos one by one in the back room of a local pub – and he admitted to me that his sonic weapons were actually just some disco gear through which he played back pop music at high volume (I already suspected as much having seen an earlier demonstration in London). He told me he’d simply hoaxed the media and police into believing he was developing acoustic weapons.
I wrote up my interview and sent it to The Big Issue who very shortly afterwards called me to thank me for producing a really great piece. Two days later my editor Tina Jackson phoned me sounding distraught – I’d done my work properly but Cauty had given nearly identical quotes to The Independent newspaper.The Big Issue now couldn’t run the piece I’d written but Tina Jackson said if I could quickly knock up something else about Cauty then they’d use that. I replied that since Cauty’s sonic weapons were a hoax, I could write a joke story about him showing me a secret bunker where among other things he stored more conventional combat equipment including guns and ammunition. This suggestion was immediately accepted by Tina Jackson.
My humorous story Captive of the KLF appeared in The Big Issue of 19 August 1996. On 26 August 30 anti-terrorist cops waving a copy of my hoax Big Issue article raided Jimmy Cauty’s country home and arrested him. This made the front page of The Western Morning News on 28 October 1996; on 15 November that year The Guardian newspaper provided their take on the matter (and this is my favourite piece of coverage of the incident – despite the fact ‘The Grauniad’ call me an ‘art terrorist’ which is not a term I would use to describe myself):
“So where do you reckon the intelligence services get all their best stuff from? Telephone taps? High-level informers? Secret agents? Or none of the above? It appears in fact that they spend their days reading The Big Issue. Following an entirely spoofed article by self-styled art terrorist Stewart Home describing how he was kidnapped and shown an arsenal of weapons at the house of KLF/K Foundation money-burner-in-chief Jim Cauty, Mr Cauty’s abode was put under police surveillance for several days. Not long after, it was raided by 30 officers who searched the gaff from top to bottom and found nothing….” John Duncan Guardian Diary, 15 November 1996, page 17.
This incident involving Jimmy Cauty and the anti-terroirist cops gave me a great anecdote to tell friends – but actually the best thing to come out of that journalist junket is my Bulletin Board art work which after 16 years has finally finished its necessary period of gestation The Matthew Higgs/White Columns curated show Bulletin Board – including my postcard piece – is on at Venus Over Manhattan, 980 Madison Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, from 20 July to 24 August.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!