The never ending list of things, events and projects from, around, before and after The KLF – from the never finished White Room Motion Picture to the infamous burning of a million pounds on the Isle of Jura.
As we all know Bill and Jimmy burnt a million pounds. They gave Gimpo a camcorder to film (in Super 8) the burning as it happened. This resulting film was first transferred to two 8 mm projector film spools with a soundtrack, and first shown to bemused villagers on Jura. The film is in colour, good quality and “quite boring”. Quite literally it is 55 minutes of Bill and Jimmy burning the million pounds, feeding the flames with bundles of 50-pound notes. Jim Reid appears, and occasionally Gimpo is seen, mainly whilst he’s fiddling with the camera.
Later it was edited down in order to fit it onto one spool because “when the first spool ran out everyone thought it was the end and seemed disappointed that they had to sit through even more…” (Gimpo). However, Jimmy claimed that it was because everyone talked through it anyway so they thought they’d have the “audience providing the soundtrack”, but this may be a cover, as according to some reports, the soundtrack tape was ‘lent’ to the BBC for the Omnibus programme and never returned despite Gimpo’s best attempts. It is quite likely they just thought “why bother hooking up the sound?”. Jimi said that the video was to be destroyed two days after the event, because they wanted people to have faith and not have to have proof. But he was obviously lying!
The highlight for most list members is when Gimpo walks outside of the boathouse, and we can see the glowing embers rising out of the chimney, and floating off into the darkness. Somewhere in the film (perhaps its the bit where he goes outside) Gimpo decides to pocket a bundle of notes – a few minutes later he starts to feel guilty and puts the money back. Bill (in a letter to Nick) commented on the problem of the film’s name, against it really being Bill and Jimmy’s money: “Calling the film ‘Watch The K Foundation Burn A Million Quid’ is a creative compromise.”
On the 4th September 1995, and on some further occasions, newspaper adverts appeared advertising the film to local audiences. They announced a showing of the film, to be followed by a debate centring around a question e.g. Why did the K Foundation burn a million quid? Was it Art?, Was it Madness?, Was it Rock and Roll? etc. The 5th September saw Bill and Jimmy at the In The City convention in Manchester, showing the film, followed by a discussion in front of a 100-plus music-industry audience, where they asked for people’s opinions, not on whether it was ethical to burn the money, but on whether it was Rock and Roll? Then they were interviewed on Radio 1’s Evening Session. Bill said: “And we’re very proud of this film, this is the biggest kinda visual thing we’ve done.”.
The film was toured around the country, usually gracing cultural centres in major towns and cities, and some more obscure venues like film festivals, builders yards, Glastonbury Tor, an inner-city comprehensive and then Eton on the same day, and MIND drop-in centres. In Glasgow they planned to show it at various venues over a weekend of ‘art- terrorism’ eg, Barlinnie prison, (but they were refused permission and asked to leave!) (see the relevant archived articles from the Sunday Times, Blah Blah Blah and the Scotsman for more on this eventful weekend). Bill and Jimmy also took the film to Belgrade, in Serbia. The Independent on Sunday reported that it was very well received because 1) they showed to this very artistic community and 2) Serbia experienced 36 million % inflation so they could relate to burning money. Each showing was followed by a discussion, where Bill and Jimmy wanted to get the audience to voice what they thought was the reason B&J; burnt the money. Many reviews of the showings from local newspapers and transcripts of various local and national radio interviews are available online.
Following the Cape Wrath contract Bill and Jimmy would no longer comment on the burning at post-film discussions, preferring to leave an associate, Chris Brooke or Gimpo to lead them. Bill and Jimmy’s self-imposed silence was usually broken after around five minutes.
An Info-sheet was distributed in the later stages of the tour. Attached to this were a series of quotes of audience observations from the various screenings. Bill and Jimmy invited audiences to write to the address given (The K FOUNDATION, PO Box 91, HP22 4RS, The UK), with their own reactions. Some people even got replies from Bill. Other list members gained other memorabilia at the screenings, such as soggy newspapers adverts, signed vodka bottles, and in one case a signed ukp 50 note!
As well as discussing the film, Bill occasionally opened up on other matters. At the Manchester showing in November 1995 he is quoted as saying “We would do it [release records] again, if we thought people would like it”. At the same showing he refused to sign a copy of Pete Robinson’s Justified And Ancient History, saying “That’s a load of bollocks… It’s all lies.” Bill is also notorious for refusing to be held to quotes.
The film was due to be shown for the final time in a car-park in Brick Lane in London, 8th December 1995. Several list members turned up to witness the event turn into something of a fiasco. The car-park idea was abandoned on the night, but a basement room was hired in the Seven Stars pub nearby. Around 400 people turned up for the showing, and most somehow managed to crowd into the small room. Bill and Jimmy hung around, but were evidently nervous, and hid for most of the evening in the toilets with their minders. Gimpo showed some of the film but the cramped conditions proved too much and the showing was abandoned. Some reports indicate the police called it off, but although the police did turn up, it is understood that they had no part in the decision.
The film was due to be cut up and sold off for ukp 1 per frame after the Brick Lane showing, but this never happened. At the end of the show, when everyone tried to grab frames, Gimpo protested “no, it’s not this film that’s being cut up, it’s the other [two- spool] copy”, going on to point out that he didn’t even want to do it, it was all Club Disobey’s idea. A subsequent advert in the NME gave the ansaphone number of London’s Club Disobey (0181-960 9529), but to the best knowledge of the list members, no frames were ever gleaned from this. The only frames list-members obtained were blank ones from the film header.
At several screenings people with professional cameras, camcorders and dictaphones recorded the film and subsequent discussions but bootleg copies have yet to surface. Gimpo also made videos/recordings saying “maybe a video sometime next year”. He is also quoted (from the Omnibus documentary) as saying “I’ve never been a film director before.” A proper DVD release was once planned if there was enough demand, but this has yet to happen.