Today, on International Women’s Day I want to shed another spotlight on another amazing woman in my life. And in rather a timely fashion, another amazing woman in my life has launched a rather amazing thing for me to write about.
The Last Bohemians is a podcast that profiles and portraits ‘female firebrands and maverick outsiders in arts and culture’. These are women ‘who have lived life on the edge and who still refuse to play by the rules.‘
Journalist, broadcaster and good friend of mine Kate Hutchinson (The Guardian / The New York Times) originally launched The Last Bohemians for International Women’s Day in 2019, pairing the audio with stunning portraits by photographer Laura Kelly. Season one stole hearts with 86-year-old Molly Parkin’s stories of self-pleasuring, LSD countess Amanda Feilding’s tales of trepanning herself and Pamela Des Barres’ reflections on her saucy exploits in California.
When Kate first told me about the project she said, ‘the idea was to interview older artists and outsiders whose voices are, as we know, usually neglected in the media. The way it worked out, it also ended up being a series of life lessons from women who don't give a f*ck’. The result is entertaining, inspiring and heartwarming with a bit of explicit content induced titivation.
Molly Parkin, Pauline Black, Bonnie Greer, Amanda Feilding, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Pamela Des Barres made up the first 6 episode series (which was quickly made a podcast of the week in the Guardian, Observer New Review, The Financial Times and on Radio 4) and now they’re back with another group of incredible women for season two, and a sponsor, Mr & Mrs Smith.
Judy Collins, Zandra Rhodes, PP Arnold, Gee Vaucher, Vivienne Dick, Margaret Busby, Sue Tilley and Maxine Sanders are the subject of each of the 8 episodes of season two. When I asked Kate about this next group and the highlights she said,
‘Series two builds on series one with eight new episodes, delving into other, deeper themes about friendship, work/life balance and loss. I spent a long time tracking down Maxine Sanders, who was at the centre of the witchcraft boom in the 1960s and 70s, and getting to see her collection of antique books on magic and the occult felt quite emotional! We also loved going to Dial House to visit Gee Vaucher, a visual artist who is part of the anarcho-punk collective Crass. It’s an open-house where people can turn up or perhaps stay on as an artist in residence and it’s a really special place - a cultural landmark, basically. Especially if Gee makes you one of her, as she puts it, “shit cakes”!’
You’ll have to listen to Gee’s episode to find out if that is a good or a bad thing!
Series two launched on 2nd March 2020 – eight episodes, released weekly. The first episode is with folk legend Judy Collins, pictured below by Laura Kelly with the second episode featuring Zandra Rhodes, pictured above also by Laura Kelly.
Judy’s whirlwind life has taken her from the Greenwich Village folk scene, where she made Leonard Cohen famous with her cover of his song, Suzanne, to now, at 80, still gigging hard every year. Her episode is full of wise life advice about art and friendship, as well as what she really thinks about Bob Dylan, stories of getting tattooed with Anthony Bourdain’s mum, acid trips gone wrong and what motivates her to keep performing – as well as how she survived the dark side of the hippie era, the death of her son and the demons she’s battled along the way.
The following seven episodes are just as illuminating. Iconic British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes muses on relevancy and rebellion as she looks back on 50 years of her career; PP Arnold tells her incredible story of being a soul survivor, from the Swinging Sixties till now; Gee Vaucher of Crass gives us a tour of her radical Essex commune and discusses why punk was a disappointment; club kid Sue Tilley leads us into a night at infamous 80s party Taboo…Experimental film-maker Vivienne Dick explains why New York’s 1970s no wave scene was so special; Margaret Busby, the UK's youngest and first black woman publisher, surveys her inspiring career; and Maxine Sanders remembers being at the centre of the witchcraft boom in the 1970s and explains why we could all do with a little bit of sex magic from time to time…
It’s a real treasure trove of stories and has received rave reviews across the board, including mine (even discounting my bias as a friend, it is still superb). Do yourself a favour and listen to it.
This is Kate! pic by Jenny Lewis