Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A visit to Ian Curtis' graveside, Macclesfield Cemetary

My love, my obsession, my passion, my weakness, whatever you'd like to describe it as for Ian Curtis, the front man of 80's post punk Band 'Joy Division' would you believe came from watching Richard Kelly's' film 'Donnie Darko' in 2004 (three years after the release date!).

The scene in this particular film was of main protagonist Donnie leading fellow, teenage lover Gretchen up the stairs during the party scene. I remember hearing this strange but very interesting song kick in complimenting the scene so well. The song to me represented the film in terms of the young love portrayed, probably never going to last with this notion of time travel and everything else. The general tone of the film was very eerie and disturbing and with Ian's voice echoing out, it was a good choice for this particular scene and led to my research of Joy Division and of Ian.

At first I felt a bit of an intruder, who was I - born 6 years after his death and 25 years later now discovering the legend of Ian and the great, influential music of Joy Division? my parents were around and didn't discover them or attend any gigs for Christ's sake! to this day, I still have to explain who Joy Division were and the only way in which my mum remembers is by reminding her that 'New Order' formed from the ashes of Joy Division with the response of 'Oh yeah, the band with the Blue Monday song?' I sigh and move on to explaining why I travelled all the way to Macclesfield on 18th May 2010 for the 30 year anniversary of Ian's death and an amazing tribute night arranged by former band member, Peter Hook. She doesn't really 'get it' and thinks I'm some kind of Goth in a black t.shirt worshipping a dead person and hanging around cemeteries! I guess it could seem that way to an outsider..

After around 6 years of 'Fandom' and research of Joy Division's music and looking into the amazing yet painful yet beautiful lyrics that Ian wrote, it really moved me in ways that I cannot express. I then got caught up in the media that surrounded Joy Division and Ian Curtis and how cool this band actually were for Manchester lads of their time. They were part of the influential Manchester music scene that was to emerge in the late 80's/early 90's that actually put a stamp on this bleak, industrial northern city and as a northerner that enough was interesting for me.

I watched the film '24 hour people' and as a film student and now a very interested 'fan' I picked at the portrayal of Ian by Sean Harris and the lack of ability to capture Ian in the light that I think we were all waiting for, a sense of true 'Ian-ness' that we have all been searching for that lives inside us. I believe this time came when Anton Corbijn cast Sam Riley in the film 'Control' in 2007. I was mesmerised, moved and more in love than ever. Not only did Riley creepily look just like Ian, his mannerisms and his style really captured the nature and the essence that I believe all Ian Curtis fans are searching for in a film performance and in the portrayal of Ian. With the back drop of the beautiful hills behind Macclesfield and the authenticity of the set, 'Control' really hit a spot in my heart and I felt it helped me to understand the life of Ian even more than newspaper and magazine interviews that I had found online. 

I even started a Facebook group to remember and to celebrate the life of Ian and within a year I had almost 400 members. I've met some interesting people because of the group and they are equally as passionate and I feel it gives me a sense of purpose to share and to discuss my interest in Ian and in the band.

My first visit to Ian's grave was in October 2009, it was a very cold, gloomy trip to the cemetery and after several attempts to find out where he was located I remember arriving at a small, square stone in the ground marked 'Ian Curtis - 18-05-80- 'Love will tear us apart'. It seemed so strange to see it sat there and almost unreal that this was the man that fascinated me and that he didn't have his own place or even special spot in the cemetery. But then I remembered that Ian probably would have hated that and that whichever point he would be in the cemetery he would still be visited and still be loved.

I remember the smell of the autumn air when I stood around his stone and the leaves blowing amongst some of the memorial statues nearby. It was a very bitter, late afternoon and it would be dark soon. I felt tears sting in my eyes and like I had my 'moment' with Ian. The atmosphere was perfect and I admired the tributes that had been left. I felt guilty that I hadn't brought anything but then confusion, I didn't actually know what to bring, I almost felt stupid. I had so many thoughts I wanted to express but nothing but sadness arrived. This year marked the 30th year anniversary of Ian's death. I couldn't believe it! 30 years! I've just turned 24, if Ian was still alive he'd be 53 now! I couldn't imagine Ian at the age of 53. To me, he's part of the group of artists that give everything that they could before they died and this way he is always preserved, respected and his legacy lives on.

It wasn't until May 2010 that I became inspired to write again and I left a poem for Ian on his grave of the afternoon of the 18th of May. It was daunting at first to see other fans at his graveside after coming in October and having him to myself and it was a very emotional day all round. I listened to the entire Unknown Pleasures album on the train to Macclesfield and the raw emotion came out as the train passed trees and woods and the sunlight came seeping in. Ian's voice echoed the whole of Macclesfield as I walked towards the cemetery and the tears seemed to hold. I chatted to fellow fans and was moved by the display of authenticity that I came across and no longer felt daunted. They were all here for the same reason and we all felt the same inside. There was an amazing, eerie painting of Ian placed upon his grave. It was as if he was watching us and we were all connected to him. I remember sitting on the grass across from his grave and just wanting to sit in silence and not speak to another soul. I stared at his stone, lit up a cigarette as Joy Division's 'Atmosphere' filled my ears. It reminded me of the ending of 'Control' smoke bellowing out of industrial Manchester's chimneys and for me that song marked the end of Ian's life. 'Walk away in silence, don't walk away'. That's what I did upon leaving Ian's grave. I walked away in silence, but never walking away from him.

I smiled as I left, the sun was shining and I felt a sense of hope as I watched Macclesfield school children gathering around his grave. He would live on inside of all of us, old, new, and from different backgrounds all around the world.... 

Ian Curtis - The Legend x

1 comment:

  1. Can you email I need permission to use your excellent photo of the gravesite in the next edition of Rock Atlas. Thanks - David Roberts