Artefacts > FAC 331 The Temporary Contemporary Table

FAC 331 The Temporary Contemporary Table [photo courtesy Andy Woodcock]
FAC 331 The Temporary Contemporary Table [photo courtesy Andy Woodcock]
Cycle parking facility in Groningen designed by Andy Woodcock (with references to the Temporary Contemporary Table)
Cycle parking facility in Groningen designed by Andy Woodcock (with references to the Temporary Contemporary Table)

Artefact: Table

Andy Woodcock explains to Cerysmatic Factory about how he and his mate Ed Jackson came to design the legendary suspended table wot Happy Mondays broke:

Andy Spinoza made the original contact with Wilson about my design work, and then at the opening party of the HQ I caught up with him (Tony) outside when he first mentioned an interesting little project which I should call him about. Hence the table. Tony thought the whole meeting culture idea was just painful, so he wanted a table which would be a nightmare to sit at so that any meetings wouldn't endlessly drag on and on. We also had a bit of a giggle about spilt coffees and expensive suits. It was only meant to be a temporary thing too, to last out until a 'proper' table had been chosen and bought for the room. Tony went to some lengths explaining the concept of the "Temporary Contemporary", he'd had a puff or two, so you can only imagine... ;-) The only constraints in the brief were the budget (£2K), and time - 2 weeks. Nothing like a challenge.

[Andy Spinoza clarifies this point: Yes, I made the original contact; but the actual approach from Wilson came in a phone call to me at the Manchester Evening News. "Spin. Your mate Andy Woodcock, can he make us a table? We've only got 2000 quid and I went to IKEA to buy three at £700 each and I was going to push them together. But they'd sold out." His exact words. Remember it like it was yesterday. So then he thought of you! And then we carried in the finished thing in pieces one Sunday night, my cousin Adam helped us out.]

I had no idea at the time what Tony was telling his partners, but I do remember Alan Erasmus being somewhat panicky and suggesting that maybe we could cut down on the expense of the table by using some bits of wood he had stored in his garden shed. At the time I was kind of bemused by the suggestion as I thought that two grand wasn't really that expensive and that he must be taking the piss. He wasn't though, which later became clear when Tony told me he'd said it had cost Factory £30,000. No wonder, with all the other uncertainties of the time that Alan had the jitters.

Anyway, I came up with the idea of making it seem to float, tense, chaotic and asymmetrical, as the thing should be, like Factory, somewhat unstable and structureless. I made a model of the steel construction in the attic and one of the table so that together I could figure out how to rig up the cables to keep it in position, trembling in mid-air. That's when I showed it to Ed for some design criticism, which was more or less, cor, that looks cool, when do we start?

Ed and I put the table together firstly in the Poly workshops, under the guise of architecturally experimental project work, where we cut out and sprayed the MDF table top in international orange. That was a sort of fuck up in itself as I wanted it to have a semi-matt finish, but Ed, with all of his unremitting enthusiasm, for god knows what reason, decided to buff it with car polish. His face was a priceless picture when it became apparent that he'd achieved a high gloss finish... tat! Ha ha ha! Looked good though, so that's how it stayed, besides there wasn't the time or enough paint over to respray it.

The rest of the construction was done on site in the attic boardroom with crates of beer generously provided by Factory and the glorious secretary of the time, who's name with much embarrassment I've totally forgotten (she was gorgeous).

As well as Ed, there was also Bob Sumpter and Craig Linell who later joined in on the chaos. The biggest challenge was drilling through the steel joists to attach the cables with a naff Black & Decker, as you might imagine this took a while. And all that coupled with Bob constantly saying that the fastenings would never hold, the cables were too thin, the table wasn't thick enough etc etc etc - fucking hell...

We used beer crates and stacks of mags and books to get the table to the right height and level, rigged up the the cables and tensioned them to keep it in place. Nerve racking! That thing made noises which were not healthy, we all thought for sure that something was going to give, but both thankfully and amazingly it didn't! The added bonus was that the cables could be tuned, like you would a guitar, and therefore the table could be played and used as an instrument (sort of). Contrary to rumour, nothing got broken and no walls collapsed. The first glimpse of it when coming up the stairs was magical, there was this big industrial object hovering in space, which looked like it just wanted to go fast, to take off, but was being tied down and held in check by razor thin steel wires - nice!

A 'copy' was made for 24 Hour Party People. The guy who did it, who's name I don't remember, phoned me up to ask if I had any drawings or photos. Like an idiot I sketched it out and sent it to him, imagining that he'd be at least faithful to the original. I suppose in the main he was, in that the form and scaffolding frame were similar. However he made it with load bearing legs (!) and the cable system was just for show and boringly symmetrical. In itself that would have been ok(ish), what wasn't though, was that he charged the film company (or so I've heard) £50K for it... £50K for a shit copy of an original design that only cost £2K! I must admit that whilst I admire his cheek, I still think that, if it's true, he's a jerk. We ended up with 1200 quid split between us, which paid the gas bill...

In brief, that's the whole story; nothing ventured, nothing gained. :-) I like the way it died too, bloody funny. I also like that it got a Fac number, praise and reward enough. I don't like the fact that Tony's dead, I genuinely miss him, he was good.

Peter Hook rescued the bits of the table out of a skip when the HQ was gutted and he's (as far as I know) still got them. We talked about doing a little project together with them, but that was ages ago and I feel slightly embarrassed to bring it up with him again. Maybe I should.

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Join in the Message Board thread about the 331 table.

FAC 331 The Temporary Contemporary Table [photo courtesy Andy Woodcock]
FAC 331 The Temporary Contemporary Table [photo courtesy Andy Woodcock]