A Gallivant round St Leonards-on-Sea with Andrew Kötting

After watching Andrew Kötting’s debut feature, Gallivant at the Sydney Film Festival in 1997 I went straight out and bought a Canon Super 8 camera to make a film on my travels through India back home to England. There’s a direct line between that screening in the Pitt Street Cinema and my weekly YouTube videos today. So this trip to St Leonards to take a stroll round the Regency seaside town with Andrew Kötting had particular resonance. In fact it had too much significance to fully dwell upon.

A journey to an English coastal resort in winter is either an extreme display of confidence or a brash two fingers to Fate. I like to think I was doing both and Fate decided to answer back with howling winds, torrential sideways rain and plummeting temperatures. So we hid in the Goat Ledge Cafe to take refuge and feast on Goat Ledge Sunrise rolls filled with smoked haddock, chilli jam, fried egg, and chard mayo. We attempted to push on along the esplanade but the rain hammered down even harder and the wind clipped our ears, so we retreated to Andrew’s home to talk about Gallivant.

Andrew Kötting outside a Fish and Chip shop in St Leonards-on-Sea

The four-month road trip around the entire coastline of Britain with his Grandmother Gladys and young daughter Eden, was a visionary odyssey, capturing the eccentricity as well as the beauty of this mystical isle. It was the perfect re-introduction to end my three-year travels abroad. The psychogeographical revival was well underway in Britain when the film was released in 1996 with Patrick Keiller’s film London and the writings of Iain Sinclair. Gallivant expanded this scope beyond the capital to cover the entire island. So when Iain Sinclair’s review of Gallivant in Sight and Sound brought the two together on the streets of St Leonards, where Iain also sometimes resides, it was feared that the psychogeographical reverberances would crack the country apart – or at least swallow a kebab shop in Hackney. Instead we’ve witnessed a steady stream of collaborations that have seen Andrew dressed as a straw bear walking from Epping Forest to Northamptonshire, a nautical journey in a swan-shaped pedalo, a 24-hour walk around the London Overground, a quest to reincorporate the ghost of King Harold, and a pilgrimage to deliver a whalebone box to the Outer Hebrides.

The colonnade at Bexhill-on-Sea

We conceded defeat to the elements and Andrew took me for a drive along St Leonard’s Regency seafront, stopping to pay homage to the statue of Edith Swanneck before driving onwards to Bexhill-on-Sea. Gallivant opens on the beach at Bexhill in front of the majestic modernist dream of the De La Warr Pavilion. This year was the 25th anniversary of the film’s release and Andrew reminiscing about childhood visits here with Gladys seemed the perfect end to the day. Maybe Fate had been on our side after all.


  1. christine slike   •  

    Can’t wait to watch! P.s. on your recommendation, I am reading THE RIVERS OF LONDON…and LOVE it!! Thanks!!!

  2. Russell   •  

    An interesting film, thanks again. The bleak – in a non pejorative sense – British coast in winter makes me homesick again at the start of another Australian summer. I’ve seen two of Kötting’s films to date: Gallivant and By Our Selves, the latter a rumination on the lives of the working class poet John Clare. Both are IMO interesting if, as Kötting acknowledges re the former, somewhat flawed, but then what isn’t? Btw, have you read Nick Hayes The Book of Trespass yet John? A very interesting book IMO, not least because of the tacit and overt references to the concept that dare not speak its name, at least in the Guardian et al: class. Cheers.

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Hi Russell- I’ve got that book next to the bed but haven’t got beyond the opening pages. Will get stuck in after Xmas

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