Hark all you bell-ends of Shoreditch!
For decades the archaic tradition of bellendry has languished in well-deserved obscurity. Now a new bell-end foundry in Shoreditch is at the vanguard of a surprise revival, intent on transforming this maligned art form into one of 2014's hottest youth trends.
“Hark all you witless bell-ends of Shoreditch! All you wank-handed practitioners of bastardry on the playing fields of Eton and Rugby! All you thick-skulled divs of Southend! ...”
~ W.H Auden
The first thing I notice about Matt-hue (Matthew) M'arse are his sideburns. Cropped to within a few millimetres of the skin where the top of his ears join with his skull, the hair is allowed to gradually lengthen as it descends the jawline, flaring outwards like a pair of opposing waves on the verge of breaking over a small, neatly-trimmed goatee, tucked beneath a waxed moustache. This diverse facial topiary is brought together by a pair of thick-framed imitation NHS spectacles with a sticking plaster wrapped ironically around the nose bridge.
His slavishly hipsterish wardrobe comprises a leather-patched tweed jacket that partially obscures a Centipede Hz-era Animal Collective T-shirt. His lower half sports a pair of hard-wearing khaki knickerbockers, the voluminous material ballooning around the knees. The ensemble is finished off with a pair of 'City Booties' - the brainchild of a former cast-member of the Channel Four reality show Made In Chelsea.
Leaning against the exposed brickwork of the interior wall behind him is his primary mode of transportation: A biodegradable unicycle.
“The design is the same one that Buddhist monks have been using to peddle around Tibet for over 1000 years. My mate Giles holds the global patent. We're trying to put the kibosh on cheap imports because I think that it's important to encourage people to buy British. The brilliant thing is that after about three months they break-down into compost, so they're really good for the environment.
“- How much are they? They retail for around £900. I got mine free because I'm reviewing it for a couple of web-zines that I publish. Giles is planning a subscription model where you pay annually by direct debit and get a new cycle delivered to your door every quarter. I can hook you up if you want.”
Keen to move on to the true purpose of my visit, I decline his kind offer.
M'arse is the driving force behind The Shoreditch Bellendry – a new bell foundry based in gentrified East London.
“A lot of people hear the name and assume that we're a trendy new dining establishment.”
He rolls his eyes theatrically, adding:
“Before we start the interview I would just like to apprise you of our company motto which is: 'Bellendry is dead.'”
I await an explanation for this bombshell, however none is forthcoming.
M'arse financed the creation of his studio-foundry using money that he made from the online re-sale of tickets to hot gigs and music festivals at grossly inflated prices.
“No bank would offer us a loan so we had to find another way to raise the capital. I don't see it as touting so much as adding value to a pre-existing product. What I am doing in essence is creating a package. All my clients receive a personal email from me that links them to the band's website or Facebook page. They also get a link to exclusive playlists on Spotify. I see what I am doing as a service to the music industry, building-up the brand of artists free of charge.”
M'arse makes frequent reference to himself as a “brand historian” unearthing and re-popularising dormant trends. His greatest achievement so far has been the cultural rehabilitation of an unusual cut of men's trouser not fashionable since the early 1900s (“It was crazy. I did interviews with The Independent and Time Out). However he feels that his venture into bellendry may eclipse even this early success:
“Brand-fatigue is setting in. People are looking for something a bit more real and I think that's where bellendry comes in. The end of the bell is the most concentrated part – it's the espresso to a normal bell's flat white.”
To assist him in making his vision a reality M'arse has enlisted the services of veteran bell-maker Harry Sales (OBE).
“Salesy used to make bells in a foundry just down the road but he's been working as a hospital porter for the last 15 years. It's a weird relationship we've got where it feels like, even though I'm younger, I'm teaching him things. He comes from a traditional bell-making background, where-as I'm approaching the craft with a fresh outsider's perspective and an insightful modern outlook. I think it's been an education for him.”
Despite M'arse's strong relationship with Harry (“We're proper mates. We tell each other to 'fuck off' all the time.”) in the long-term he sees the company distancing itself from bell-ends as physical objects and moving towards digital horizons, citing the rising cost of metal as a motivating factor:
“I predict that five years from now 90% of all bellendry will take place online. I'm in the process of developing an app that will take what we do into the virtual world where the only limit to the size of a bell-end is processing power and the storage space you have on a server. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it could revolutionise the internet.”
M'arse is not alone in his optimism: The government minster for small businesses - Neal Wicks is equally enthused by the new-found interest in this traditional craft:
“Bellendry, despite international variations, remains a quintessentially British pursuit. One that we should all be proud of.”