The last time I went to Bedford was for a work-related meeting. I was told all about The Panacea Society. It was easy to chuckle about the unique, religious group founded by Mabel Barltrop in 1919 and inspired by the teachings of an 18th century Devonshire prophetess, Joanna Southcott.
Amidst the terraced houses on Albany Road, this 70-strong community maintained the end terrace (The Ark) as a residence for the Messiah after the second coming. At the peak of their influence, they collected 100,000 signatures and advertised in national newspapers in an attempt to persuade 24 Anglican bishops to open the sealed box of Joanna Southcott’s prophecies. They felt, if this was to happen, that the ills of the world would be cured.
In the eyes of the society, Bedford was the original site of the Garden Of Eden.
Yes, it’s easy to chuckle with cynicism at this crackpot collection of ideas and beliefs. But then you consider the growing stature of Farage and his freaks and realise that people can sometimes be plain stupid.
Another time that I went to Bedford I got horrendously drunk and accidentally gatecrashed a wedding party after missing a train. Sat by the wedding cake, I felt most proud of my adventurous aptitude until the mother of the bride suggested to me that I was ruining her daughters delightful day.
But Bedford is not just about crazed prophecy and pathetic craziness. For it is also where The Grubby Mitts are from. It feels completely and utterly right to me that this should be their birthplace. News that their ‘8 years in the making’ debut album, ‘What The World Wants Now’ is getting a release in March next year is warmly welcomed. I’ll look forward to giving it a proper listen and perhaps reviewing it fully on Sonic Breakfast. Lead single, ‘To A Friend’s House The Way Is Never Long’ is a very English artistic piece. The title is repeated, cut, spliced and warped by a range of spoken-word voices until it draws you in, the effect being that you’re almost hypnotised by the sound that builds.
In celebration of Christmas, The Grubby Mitts have released a Christmas song for Tom Ravenscroft’s 6music show. Listening to this alongside ‘To A Friend’s House The Way is Never Long’ shows the versatility on offer here. Comfortable in writing tunes, confident in expressing ideas and conforming with as much intent as Mabel Barltrop.
Beautiful one Bedford!!