Archive Excavation – Zolan Quobble

We’re thrilled to receive funding from Heritage Lottery Fund to create an archive for spoken word. Over the coming months Archive Coordinator, Russell Thompson, will be bringing you the latest excavations from the Spoken Word Archive, as he uncovers rare sound and video recordings, photographs, and press cuttings, piecing together the artform’s exciting cultural heritage. So here’s the first #ArchiveExcavation to whet your appetite…

Welcome to the first Archive Excavation, our regular bulletin from the bowels of the archive cupboard. Each week we’ll dig up a flyer, a photo, a recording, or an item of unclassifiable ephemera that’ll intrigue, bewilder or affront you. Thirty-three years is a long time to accumulate rubbish fascinating insights into cultural heritage, so there should be plenty of goodies moseying your way. Be mildly surprised at how much has changed over the years! Be horrified at how little has changed! Ladies and gentlemen – we give you ARCHIVE EXCAVATION!

To begin at the beginning. Apples and Snakes was born from the activities of Worthless Words, a writers’ collective that had enjoyed a peripatetic existence in South London since the late ’70s. Worthless Words’ best known alumnus is the left-wing comedian Mark Steel, although he’d jumped ship by the time WW morphed into A&S.


Zolan Quobble – Early Apples and Snakes Banner Artwork

One man who weathered the changes, though – and was a veritable sine qua non of our early years – was Chris Cardale (known on the circuit as Zolan Quobble), whom we see here with the banner that he made at Greenwich Mural Workshop. Not one of your namby-pamby, pop-up, exhibition-stand banners, you’ll notice. Imagine turning up on the picket-line at Neasden Power Station with one of those swaying in the breeze (11 February ’85 – we were there, comrades). No, this is a proper banner. And take note, all you young urban dudes who think you invented the concept of being photographed in front of manky brick walls: we did it first. Us and the Ramones, anyway.

By the time I joined A&S in the early years of the millennium, there was an official directive that none of our publicity material should ever – EVER – feature a snake or an apple. A shame, as there was something aesthetically pleasing in the contrast between that circularity and that sinuousness, but there you go. And let’s get this out of the way right now: we’re called Apples and Snakes because our first shows were in a pub called the Adams Arms. The thought process went (whirr, click): Adam > Garden of Eden > apple/snake. Geddit? Every time you mistakenly call us Apples and Pears or Snakes and Ladders, you are undermining a brilliantly abstruse piece of lateral thinking.

And what of young Quobble? you ask. Well, he’s still doing it, still excellent, and currently residing here. Big thanks to Berni Cunnane for the pic.

More Archive Excavation coming soon…!

Don’t miss any of our exciting spoken word discoveries – follow #ArchiveExcavation to keep up to date with the latest Archive finds. The Spoken Word Archive is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Find out more about the Archive project, here.