There isn’t a lot to be positive about in Philip K. Dick’s iconic ‘Man In The High Castle’. His reimagined world, where Nazi Germany win World War II, along with Japan and Italy, is a bleak one for anyone on the opposing side.
That said, even amongst all that oppression, you have to hand it to these fictitious triumphant Nazis: some of their inventions were ingenious. The rocket plane, for example: Stockholm to San Francisco in 45 minutes. Who could say no to that?
And just last week, it was this incredible sounding rocket plane that I was thinking of as I awoke at 5am in order to fly to London to see this year’s Secret 7s exhibition. The thought of Glasgow to London in just three minutes at five in the morning – if only.
But what’s a bit of tiredness in the end, really? Especially when compared to a trip to the big smoke, on the sunniest and warmest day of the year so far, to see your own work exhibited in the flesh? Nothing, that’s what.
First thing’s first. For the uninitiated, Secret 7s – run by Kevin King and his team – is an annual competition which raises money for charity (this year it’s Amnesty International) by inviting designers and artists, famous and unknown, from across the world to submit record sleeve designs for a selection of 7” singles. But with a catch: the sleeves cannot reveal the artist or song name.
There were more entries than ever this year (over 7,000), but still only 700 spaces available; and over 200 of them to invited guests such as Anthony Burrill, Erik Spiekermann, Jean Julien, and the legendary George Hardie, creator of sleeves for Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
Front Page have a pretty decent record (pun klaxon!) when it comes to Secret 7s, with one successful submission in 2014, and two in 2015. But with the number of entries increasing considerably, the chances were getting slimmer.
However, this year has been our most successful yet, resulting in four entries. Four secret sleeves – one each from copywriter Jim and designers Kath, Lisa, and Martin – that will each be sold on Sale Day for £50 each.
So with the exhibition this year taking place in Sonos Studios in Shoreditch, we had to go and check it out.
The venue itself is excellent. A relaxed, creative and collaborative space that smells of freshly-brewed coffee, it has a far more inviting ‘come in and hang out’ vibe than last year’s venue, Somerset House. The only snag being the work is split over two floors, with the staircase itself not immediately visible (but frankly, not exactly hidden away).
Minor gripes aside, it is a great venue, and the surrounding, vibrant, almost shambolic vibe of Shoreditch again is a better and more natural fit than last year.
As for the work itself, as mentioned, the calibre and quantity of invited guests was high, with the rest of the work making up the 700 sleeves of incredibly high standard too. From wit, to humour, thoughtfulness and just basic loveliness, the full gamut of what design, art, and record sleeves can achieve was on display.
It’s an incredible job that Kevin and his team do. The standard of work, the reach they have, the ‘names’ who want to take part is astonishing really; more so that each subsequent year builds on the one before. All of this and for a great cause each year too.
So if you’re in the Shoreditch area on bank holiday Monday 2 May – or even if you’re not – get yourself along to Sale Day, and grab a copy of a great 7″ single with a one-off, never-to-be-repeated sleeve. You might end up with the artwork of someone famous on the sleeve; or better still, one of our very own here from Front Page. A word of warning though: as previous years have shown, you might need to start queuing on the Saturday night if you really have your eye on something in particular!