Ken Campbell, Nina Conti & Me

Nina Conti is a showbiz ‘personality’ who has just revealed – to promote her new TV film A Ventriloquist’s Story – that she was theatre maverick Ken Campbell’s lover in the mid-nineties (when he was twice her age). Conti claims Campbell decided she was ‘a clown who didn’t want to wear a nose’ so he sent her a teach yourself ventriloquism kit. And Conti now seems to credit learning ventriloquism with kick-starting her career – although the fact she comes from a showbiz family must have helped too!
Conti’s current publicity drive reminded me of my own encounters with Ken Campbell (minus the affair, scandal lovers). Back in February 2000 I did a reading at The Conway Hall in central London with Campbell, Nick Cave, Michael Moorcock and Iain Sinclair. After seeing me perform, Campbell approached me excitedly and said: “You have a completely stone face. You were born to be a ventriloquist. I want to teach you!” At that time I was a bit too busy to take up Campbell’s kind offer of free ventriloquism lessons – but I did teach myself the art a few years later and incorporated it into my public readings.
Now I’m wondering whether it was just Conti and me, or if Campbell told virtually everyone he met that they ought to be a ventriloquist? Not that it really matters. The suggestion that I hook up with a dummy set me off in a productive direction! Nonetheless, I rather like the idea of Campbell telling hundreds of people they should be ventriloquists! It would be a suitably surreal thing for him to have been doing! And I really would like to know if anyone else took up ventriloquism after Campbell suggested it to them….
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by SEOzz0r on 2012-06-09 16:19:07 +0000

“Anna Noon is a twenty-year-old student with a taste for perverse sex – involving an enigmatic older man and a ventriloquist’s dummy”

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-06-09 16:30:26 +0000

And if Ken was me he wouldn’t have had an affair with Nina Conti, it would have been with one of his ventriloquist dummies! And I wrote 69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess shortly before Campbell suggested I try ventriloquism (but he wouldn’t have read it as it wasn’t published then)…. But until Ken suggested I do ventriloquism I’d only considered vent dolls as sex toys, not as a public double act…..

Comment by Emu on 2012-06-09 16:51:50 +0000

I thought Ken Campbell was a right dummy when he told me I’d make a great ventriloquist! Hadn’t he seen the great work I’d done with Rod Hull – I’m so good people thought my doll was the ventriloquist!

Comment by Lord Charles on 2012-06-10 12:58:19 +0000

You sound like Ray Alan. Why not learn to speak for yourself?

Comment by Frank Farter on 2012-06-10 14:07:16 +0000

The only reason your lips ain’t moving is coz you’re talking out of your arse!

Comment by Frederick Wilson on 2012-06-10 14:36:30 +0000

Nina Conti is the Terry Wogan of ventriloquism – strictly light entertainment.

Comment by No Feelings on 2012-06-10 15:27:15 +0000

Stone face – stone heart!

Comment by Anarcho Marko on 2012-06-10 17:18:18 +0000

Reading with Nick Cave, Michael Moorcock and Iain Sinclair! Sell out!

Comment by Downliner Dave on 2012-06-10 18:15:23 +0000

Showbiz? It’s killing me!

Comment by Betty Boolean on 2012-06-10 18:16:26 +0000

I see there’s something on BBC 4 about Nina Conti @ 21:00.
I read a story about how Ken Campbell came across the first book of Illuminatus in Camdens Compendium Books when looking for something to stage at the Liverpool Science fiction theatre. He liked the synchronicity of there being a yellow submarine on the cover . . .

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-06-10 19:41:21 +0000

Yeah the Conti film on BBC 4 in about 20 minutes is A Ventriloquist’s Story – and the reason she’s been on a press offensive with her “I was Ken Campbell’s lover” story….
And that’s a great story about Ken Campbell in Compendium given that I’ve covered Compendium previously here….

Comment by Derek Maybury on 2012-06-10 21:45:58 +0000

Campbell and Conti – sounds like some dodgy knock off of branded soup to me!

Comment by The Green Man on 2012-06-11 09:36:45 +0000

I didn’t know much about either Campbell or Conti before this except him winding up Basil Fawlty and her looking hot in Black Books, but found the BBC4 documentary to be witty, weird, moving and the best TV of the weekend.

Comment by Steve on 2012-06-11 12:48:32 +0000

Give me John Conteh any day!

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-06-11 13:45:53 +0000

What about a boxing ventriloquist with dummy? Now that might really be something!
@ Green Man – I’m much more interested in Campbell than Conti but glad to have turned you on to something anyway…

Comment by Carrie Askew on 2012-06-11 14:39:08 +0000

But Kinky Ken Campbell should have had an affair with a Bondage Barbie doll, not Nina Conti!

Comment by Sam Boot on 2012-06-11 16:03:45 +0000

That Conway Hall gig was to promote King Mob spoken word releases – so what happened to the Ken Campbell and Michael Moorcock CDs?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-06-11 19:31:50 +0000

A Moorcock album was definitely recorded but Paul Smith who was running the label wanted a more dynamic performance… so I think the plan was to do it again but for whatever reason that never happened. I don’t know if there were even plans for a Ken Campbell CD – but the fact he was on the bill that night would make that seem likely. Regardless it was an enjoyable night.

Comment by Monk on 2012-06-11 21:15:51 +0000

Nina Conti is a waste of time. You should shine your spotlight on the real stars and blog about me.

Comment by Tessie Talk on 2012-06-11 22:04:50 +0000

Forget those showbiz dolls, what a man needs is a real woman like me!

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