A million reasons why myth makes history

Fans of graphic novelist Alan Moore will watch fiction become reality on November 5 when the 2017 Million Mask March sees his V for Vendetta story brought to life by anti-establishment street protestors across the world…

The Guy Fawkes-style masks in his graphic novel, later a major film, have become the disguise of choice for the Anonymous movement which runs the protest.

How Alan Moore’s fantasy fiction – which includes Watchmen and From Hell – is interwoven in Britain’s history will be on the agenda at Buxton International Festival’s Book Weekend on November 24 when John Higgs will speak about his latest work, Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever Present Past.

John uses Watling Street, which links Holyhead and Dover, as a short-cut through Britain’s history and geography.

Watling Street was already old when the Romans did their best to straighten it out, but its 370 or so miles, now bits of today’s A5 and A2, still take very British detours which touch on places which define the country’s history and change your perception of it.

Murder in the Cathedral, the decisive battle of the English Civil War, Dick Turpin and James Bond all feature on Watling Street.

But Alan Moore has a special place along the way, including in the story of how Britain’s most modern city, Milton Keynes, mirrors Stonehenge.

Stand in the middle of Midsummer Boulevard, in the early hours of the summer solstice, and you’ll see the sun strike down the tarmac strip between the 20th Century steel and glass buildings, a sign which comforted our ancestors with the knowledge that the world was still turning as it should.

John discovered that one reason for this may well be that Milton Keynes was designed by young men at the height of the hippy era.

And by chance, one of the labourers working on the project was Alan Moore, now revered as the father of Britain’s graphic novel movement who has produced its own new mythology.

Watling Street constantly teases John with coincidences such as this during his travels: Alan Moore’s famous collaborator in graphic novels, the late Stephen Moore (no relation), lived nearly all his life in the same house where he was born and died – slap bang on Watling Street in Shooters Hill.

And Alan also lives within a mile or two of Watling Street, close to the spot which he claims is the absolute centre of Britain, a rubbish-strewn canal bank under a railway bridge in Northampton.

“We tend to think of history as one thing and myth and legend as a completely separate category,” said John. “They really aren’t. They interact with each other. There are things which myth will explain which factual history can’t.”

And on November 5, a million masks will make the same point…

The Book Weekend, which runs from November 24 to 26, includes talks by the BBC’s Jeremy Vine, Time Team’s Tony Robinson and The Archers Timothy Bentinck. For more details and to book tickets, go to www.buxtonfestival.co.uk/whats-on/books  Image: commons.wikimedia.org