• Daniel de Jongh

Mark E. Smith’s Home Is For Sale

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The home of the late Mark E. Smith has gone on the market, and to be frank, it’s an absolute shitbox. The ceilings are caving in, the yard is overgrown and full of junk, the kitchen is a dank inoperable mess, and practically all aspects of the home are in a state of disrepair. It seems like the only life that could be sustained in the premises is that of a micro-bacterial organism.

The sale of Smith’s dilapidated estate has provoked online debate as to what should be done with it. It’s state, combined with Smith’s cultural legacy to Manchester, and the natural sense of curiosity his abode of many years has to his fans being a central driver of outside opinions.

Kickstarted by a Tweet from respected DJ & music writer, Dave Haslam, the commentary and general sentiments seem to be against the sale of the house. The sticking points being concern for the littered possessions that remain in the house and suggestions it should instead be converted into a Mark E. Smith museum.

In a recent Discipline Mag interview with Kollaps’ Wade Black, the group’s front man made a pertinent point about a different deceased cultural icon, Genesis P. Orridge. When quizzed on the impact of P. Orridge’s death, he responded like so:

When Genesis P-Orridge died I felt nothing at all. I did not know P-Orridge personally. I’m going to go on a cynical trade here, but honestly at the time I just found it distasteful that people were sharing a lot of posts online where they snagged a photo of themselves together with Gen after having met them for 1.5 seconds at a show and presented that in what I felt was an oddly self-serving manner - it was more about exhibiting some kind of a morbid trophy than a true and respectful sentiment that Gen deserved as an artist and as a person.

Black makes a good point about fans interpreting their brief encounters and long-term fandom as having some kind of authority over an artist’s life and personal affairs. The fact of the matter is, such commentators only hold, at best, only a fraction of the details and are often guilty of overemphasising the importance of their input. The idea that inward looking outsiders should have a say is, well, a little preposterous.

(And yes, the irony of a music journalist advocating against invasive acts of speculation is not lost on this writer.)

To cut through the noise, it’s best to turn to those closest to the situation. Looking to Smith’s wife, Pam Vander (who’s possibly the most knowledgeable person on the situation), she had this to say:

Re: the news stories and some Fall fans being sad about the sale of Mark’s house... guess what? It’s no-one else’s fucking business, that’s what. The house was left to Mark’s three sisters and what they choose to do with it is THEIR decision and THEIR decision only…

Vander continues on with a number of reassurances that only somebody close to the situation could provide. They included that Smith’s important possessions are either with her or Smith’s family, that the house wasn’t where Smith lived out the final years of his life, and that the house was playfully dubbed the “House Of Doom” and inspired the track “Second House Now” from New Facts Emerge.

To return to suggestions from commentators - while cute, the museum idea doesn’t exactly feel in step with the spirit of Smith’s legacy. On the remaining possessions, the scattered array of books, couch, record player, clothes, and old TV appear to indicate that these are merely residual items, and most artefacts of value have been removed (a point reiterated by Vander).

Is there enough value in what remains to warrant an archival of their contents? Who knows - but is this a decision of the public? The answer is almost certainly a no.

Vander’s full comments and photos of the house can be found below.

"Mark E. Smith House Statement: Just wanna clear a few things up cuz people have been messaging me today about Mark’s house in Prestwich going up for sale. I don’t need to read it in the news cuz I’m right in the middle of it all, the death aftermath... all these years later (it’s complicated) so wanna just try to explain this a lil Re: the news stories and some Fall fans being sad about the sale of Mark’s house... guess what? It’s no-one else’s fucking business, that’s what. The house was left to Mark’s three sisters and what they choose to do with it is THEIR decision and THEIR decision only. Please respect what they want, their wishes and Mark’s wishes. And lemme tell ya something, Mark was long DONE with that house. It was a in a total state w/no working kitchen and many other major problems, the place was falling apart and Mark himself named it the ‘House Of Doom’ ...that’s why we moved out, hence ‘Second House Now’ on the New Facts Emerge album. I’m honestly so glad he didn’t have to die in that shit-hole of a house with all the mold & decay & depression, he passed in peace somewhere clean and warm and where he felt safe & free, with me. I appreciate the history there, I get it, but it’s Mark’s families decision and that HAS to be respected.

We’ve all been through enough, just let it go. Ironically, as all this was going down today, I happened to be going through some of Mark’s things so here’s a few pictures... please understand that Mark’s stuff is right here with me safe & sound and the rest is with his family and NOT in his old dank house somewhere rotting. Not that he even had much stuff, quite honestly. Bits and pieces. It’s crazy that so many people assume they know things about people, when really they know nothing. I’m a fan of many people, but I wouldn’t get involved if they died and their house was sold. I mean, who does that? I’m actually trying to move on with my life a bit, and it’s wild how things can come up and drag ya back to the past. But all I can do is tell people some small truths, and show some pretty cool pictures. What-cha-gonna-do🤷🏻‍♀️"

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