John Cartwright and Jaki Whitren
Blog post, December 22 2016
John Cartwright and Jaki Whitren, musicians who died within a fortnight of each other during November, were celebrated last night at a special community gathering at the Red Brick Building. John and Jaki had met in the early 1970s, and for much of their lives had split their time between Glastonbury and Clu du Pont in France. This winter solstice event included tributes from musicians, poets, photographers and film makers – and from the community at large, for they had meant so much to many over the years.
A film recording of a concert from 1988, held in the Universal Hall at Findhorn, was particularly poignant – from the days when they were at the height of their creative power. Jaki’s remarkable singing voice was particularly show-cased: https://vimeo.com/41411221
Perhaps most extraordinary, though, was a short film – made five years ago by Sue Palmer of Biggerhouse Productions – of John drumming at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol. The exhibition at the time – by Angus Fairhurst – had included a drum kit, which visitors had been invited by the artist to play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5bGmlIGqPs. John is remembered as a pianist and keyboard player; he rarely played the drum kit, certainly not in public. Nevertheless, he was better than most. As so many people had reiterated during the evening, John and Jaki were very special people.
They were, as well as everything else, remarkably humble and self-effacing. As one local commentator remarked back in the 1980s, they ‘spent years studiously avoiding the kind of success that their faithful admirers believe is rightfully theirs.’ Glastonbury has for years had a vibrant music scene, and quietly, ‘all this stood on the shoulders of one particular giant, John Cartwright. In the eighties he took lots of musos over a big hump, got them working together in different combos and got the performance thing really going. John made the musical momentum really ‘quorate’, and what happened in the nineties might not have happened without the co-operative element catalysed by John in the eighties.’