MICHAEL HOROVITZ writes in the series “FORGOTTEN HEROES”
“THE INDEPENDENT”, April 16, 2004.
The jazz poet on his fellow polymath Jeff Nuttall
Who was he?
Jeff died aged 70 last January. He was a creator, comedian, and prophet who saw in his teens that the gratuitous terror-bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki left little hope for global survival save in the pursuit of love, art, and non-military intelligence. He conveyed this vision in Bomb Culture (1968). He hated the hijacking of mid-1960s human-scale counterculture by the soulless forces of profiteering and realpolitik.
What did he do?
His five adult decades were spent inspiring hundreds of students, mainly at Northern art schools, to fulfil their potential, and in later years he did cameo roles for films, television and money. But he never stopped working on his personal mission, which embraced plays, poetry, novels, essays, memoirs, polemics, painting, sculpture, ceramics, comic-strips and cartoons.
He introduced multimedia happenings, performance art and improvised theatre, co-founding, scripting and acting in The People Show. His jazz cornet, vocals and piano reincarnated his hero, Fats Waller, in the outsized high spirits and satirical zest with which he conducted ever more heterodox lineups and audiences to mutual euphoria. His poetry and prose are imbued with his love of GM Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, The Beats et al, whilst at all times - like his visual, musical and dramatic productions - making it new.
Why do l admire him?
Because however desperate the circumstances or ghastly the opposition, Jeff hardly ever lost his sense of humour, nor his militant lyricism, nor his instincts for bringing out the best from people. Because his works and energies were so wide-ranging, moving in verse from wonderment to metaphysical depths. Because he was such a Blakean good mate to "Everything that lives is holy", and so exemplary an engineer of unfettered spontaneity.