Worthless Words, Zolan Quobble & a banner

Zolan Quobble with first Apples and Snakes banner
Emile Sercombe/Berni Cunnane

To begin at the beginning. Apples and Snakes was born from the activities of Worthless Words, a writers’ collective that had enjoyed a peripatetic existence in South London since the late ’70s. Worthless Words’ best known alumnus is the left-wing comedian Mark Steel, although he’d jumped ship by the time WW morphed into A&S.

One man who weathered the changes, though – and was a veritable sine qua non of A&S’s early years – was Chris Cardale (known on the circuit as Zolan Quobble), whom we see here with the banner that he made at Greenwich Mural Workshop. Not one of your namby-pamby, pop-up, exhibition-stand banners, you’ll notice. Imagine turning up on the picket-line at Neasden Power Station with one of those swaying in the breeze (11 February ’85 – we were there, comrades). No, this is a proper banner. And take note, all you young urban dudes who think you invented the concept of being photographed in front of manky brick walls: we did it first. Us and the Ramones, anyway.

A brilliantly abstruse piece of lateral thinking

By the early years of the millennium, there was an official directive that none of our publicity material should ever – EVER – feature a snake or an apple. A shame, as there was something aesthetically pleasing in the contrast between that circularity and that sinuousness. And just to forestall future enquiry: we’re called Apples and Snakes because our first shows were in a pub called the Adams Arms. The thought process went (whirr, click): Adam > Garden of Eden > apple/snake. Every time you mistakenly call us Apples & Pears or Snakes & Ladders, you are undermining a brilliantly abstruse piece of lateral thinking.

And what of young Quobble? Well, he’s still out there, still doing it, and currently residing here.


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