Gems from the Darktown Lending Library

Jonny Hannah’s Darktown Dinner & Dance is full of literary and cinematic references which inform its rich character, dark tone and joyful explosion of colour. From Pépé le Moko, the 1937 French film predecessor of film noir, to John Steinbeck’s realist masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, the Darktown Library is full of amazing reads and watch lists. In this final article before the show at City Space closes, Jonny shares with us gems of the Darktown Library.

Pépé le Moko is a criminal on the run, hiding in the Casbah quarter of Algiers from the police. The anti-hero of the 1937 eponymous French film, directed by Julien Duvivier, is featured in Jonny Hannah’s Darktown Dinner & Dance


POST OFFICE by Charles Bukowski

The closing lines to this book are gold. Bukowski’s publisher, John Martin at the Black Sparrow Press devised a weekly wage for him so he could leave the post office and become a full time writer. So he did.

Also, Black Sparrow Press design their gorgeous book covers with Letraset…

MEMOIRS OF THE FORTIES by Julian Maclaren-Ross

At one point, I wanted to become a Soho/Fitzrovia character, seen around most days in the Bricklayers Arms etc, and it’s all because of this book, which my tutor Christopher Brown lent to me in my first week of living in London. They’re all in here – Dylan Thomas, Brendan Behan, Grahame Greene… alas, I didn’t make it in the end, and moved to Shirley High Street instead.

WHEN MARTHA’S AWAY by Bruce Ingman

This book is all about mischief. Waiting ‘til the door closes and letting the anarchy begin. You may think this is a book for children. Bruce is after all the best illustrator in this area in the country… and the world. But it’s not, it’s for us. A guide for what to do when those in charge turn their backs. Plot, have fun and then tidy up the mess after… they’ll never know… Another of Bruce’s great books is called 'Bad news… I’m in charge’… just you wait, brother, sister… one day…

The complete list of essential reading, listening and viewing from the Darktown Public Library


THE REBEL directed by Robert Ray, 1961

Tony Hancock was a star of the small screen. But he wanted more… the BIG screen. This was his finest offering, before he committed suicide in 1968. If Aphrodite at the Waterhole doesn’t drive you mad with desire… call the undertaker.

PYAASA directed by Guru Dutt, 1957

I stumbled across a BBC documentary about musicals that featured this gem of a film. The music is wondrous. You float when watching this film, then cry tears of joy at the end. Even the goofy song about hair oil is brilliant.

ZÉRO DE CONDUITE directed by Jean Vigo, 1933

As I often say, French films are the best. And this magical slice of cinema is incredible. Vigo only made four films then died of TB aged 29. Watch them all. Set in a boarding school, as a metaphor for society, it wreaks of rebellion. Fight back. Tell them what’s wrong. Lindsay Anderson used it as the inspiration for If... VIVA VIGO!

In 2001 Jonny Hannah was invited to redesign a set of six best-selling titles by Nobel prize-winning author John Steinbeck, including this wonderful cover for the devastating The Grapes of Wrath

These are the last weeks to visit Jonny Hannah’s Darktown Dinner & Dance, on until 24 July 2021 at City Space. Make sure you submerge yourself into Jonny’s riot of colour and culture. All the works on display are for sale and available to collect at the end of the exhibition, with browser prints starting at £10 available to take straight away. Entrance is free and there’s no need to pre-book your visit.

🛒 A selection of Darktown Dinner & Dance artworks are now for sale online, too, so get your Darktown artworks by following this link 🛒

Follow City Space and The Gallery on Instagram.

Follow Hampshire Cultural Trust on Instagram.

Follow Jonny Hannah on Instagram.

If you have enjoyed Culture on Call and you are able to make a donation, please click the link below. Any support you can give will help us keep communities connected to culture in these difficult times.

Donate Now | Hampshire Cultural Trust
Our venues are safe and inclusive spaces that provide great cultural experiences at the heart of our communities and connect everyone to Hampshire’s rich heritage.We welcome over 700,000 visitors to our venues each year and also work with over 2,000 people annually who are vulnerable or who otherwi…
This article was written by:
Author image

Hampshire Cultural Trust

From museums to galleries to arts centres, we manage and support attractions across the county, welcoming over 740,000 people each year. Our charitable purpose is changing lives through culture.
You've successfully subscribed to Culture on Call
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Culture on Call
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.