Published: 1st July, 2011
by ANDREW JOHNSON
THE life and times of an almost forgotten Welsh artist who blazed a trail through Britain’s Bohemian landscape during the early part of the 20th century, is to be brought to the big screen next week by an Islington film-maker.
What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? stars the former Bananarama and Shakespear’s Sister singer Siobhan Fahey as Nina Hamnett, who was a friend of many of the era’s greatest artists such as Modigliani and Picasso, as well as an artist in her own right.
Hamnett, almost forgotten now, left behind a humble upbringing in Wales to become known as the Queen of Bohemia. She was openly bisexual, kept numerous lovers and was unashamedly promiscuous and modelled for many of the era’s artists.
After studying at the London School of Art, she lived in Paris during the First World War, making decorative fabrics, murals, clothes and furniture. Her work was exhibited at the Royal Academy.
On returning to London she became a well-known figure in Fitzrovia – an area bordered by Charlotte and Windmill streets in Soho renowned at the time as a centre for artists and writers. Hamnett was also an expert on sea shanties, hence the title of the film.
Tragedy followed, however, in the form of alcoholism and poverty. She died in 1956 after falling out of a window and impaling herself on railings.
Now film-maker Chris Ward, who lives in Thornhill Square, in Barnsbury, has made a film of her life. It will be screened at the Dalston Superstore next week.
Mr Ward, described as a “punk playwright” has worked in the past with Julian Temple and Derek Jarman through his Wet Paint Theatre Company.
“If you pick up any book about the arts in the early 20th century, or a biography of any artist at the time, she’s always mentioned,” Mr Ward said. “But there’s very little about her. She’s a fascinating figure for both her art and personal life. I knew a lot of people who knew Siobhan and I heard that she was looking for something to do. I sent her the script because I thought she’d be perfect for it and fortunately she loved it.”
• Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor? will be screened at the Dalston Superstore in Kingsland High Street, on Wednesday at 9.30pm.