As an authority on JM Barrie, Andrew Birkin wanted his son to grow up a poet like the real-life inspiration for Peter Pan. When Anno Birkin blossomed into an exceptional creative force, his father's wishes were granted - until tragedy struck in a cruel echo of the past. By Jessamy Calkin. Photograph of Andrew Birkin and Thomas the cat by Gautier DeBlonde. Photograph of Anno by his mother, Bee Gilbert, in April 1998.

In February of this year, a little club called West One Four in West London hosted an unusual event: the posthumous launch of a CD by a band called Kicks Joy Darkness. The evening was also a tribute to a 20 year old musician and writer called Anno Birkin, who died in a car crash with two other members of his band on the freeway outside Milan in November 2001. As the evening unfolds, some of his extraordinary poems, both visceral and delicate, are read in fits and starts by friends, family and admirers, including Hayley Mills, the writer Bruce Robinson, and actor Ian Holm. There is some live footage of the band and a video projection of Anno's aunt, the singer Jane Birkin, reading one of his poems. About 100 people are there, including his brothers David and Ned, and some of his cousins, and the actress Milla Jovovich, one of Anno's greatest loves. The event has been organised by his mother, photographer and writer/producer Bee Gilbert, and his father, Andrew Birkin. Tall and thin, handsome in a ghoulish way, Birkin is waving his arms around, directing operations, dancing like a wayward spider. Film maker, writer, anarchist, alchemist, archivist and intellectual, Andrew Birkin is an obsessive man whose life has been redefined by the death of his son. He's an eccentric and talented man, a film maker of high repute and low profile, a sought after script writer, and the world's foremost expert on J M Barrie and Peter Pan. He is probably best known for his film The Cement Garden, and most recently he has been adapting the book Perfume for the producer Bernd Eichinger. But for the last 18 months his world has been taken over by something else: creating a monument to his son, Anno: collating all the music and words he ever wrote, every photo of Anno, putting out a CD and getting his poems published. This total immersion is typical of Birkin - when he wrote a script about Napoleon he read 88 books in six months; more than just an expression of grief, he says, it is a way of coming to know his son, of researching every facet of his short life, of creating a new form of biography.

* * *

Anno in 2000, photographed by his cousin
Kate Barry

Anno was born in London on December 9, 1980, on Andrew's birthday, which was also the day that John Lennon died. ("When I arrived at the hospital and saw all the long faces, I though Bee must have had a miscarriage," says Andrew laconically.) When Anno was two, the family moved to Wales, to an old abandoned farmhouse on the Lleyn peninsula, a place so remote that at night there were no other specks of light visible anywhere on the horizon. It was never meant to be a permanent home, says Andrew, who has always thought of himself as having no fixed abode, but nonetheless he has lived there ever since, although Bee (from whom he has now separated) lives in London. The farmhouse – in a glorious place, looking out over fields and hills, there is a stream and horses, a wood – is like a gothic museum. A native Welshman called Ken has been doing it up for nearly 20 years now.

Around the main house is a collection of outbuildings, containing Andrew's laboratory, his wine cellar, a recording studio, an art room. There is Ned's toy museum, the children's library, which resides in a gallery above the chapel/cinema - a screening room with a lectern above ("I raided a church for the furniture") - and some original photos of J M Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies brothers who were the inspiration for Peter Pan. It was here that Andrew showed Anno the film The Bicycle Thief when he was 17, and was moved when Anno, who'd been so quiet throughout that Andrew thought he'd fallen asleep, burst into tears and ran up the nearby mountain. It was the same mountain from which Andrew fired Anno's ashes into the sky in a rocket, three years later. Next to the screening room is Andrew's library, which houses his 8,000 books, one wall of which is dedicated to Napoleon. In another building, through a trapdoor and down some stone steps, lies the wine cellar which, as well as bottles of 1808 Madiera, 1914 Yquem and 1945 Lafite, contains the ephemera of bottles previously drunk - little bunches of petrified grapes, and their corresponding corks, the seals from the bottles. It is, says Andrew, the closest he's ever come to keeping a diary. In an outbuilding next to the cellar is his laboratory, built when his son Ned dropped out of school due to dyslexia and Andrew decided to teach him chemistry, physics and biology. It is a beautiful place, a laboratory out of Gormenghast; stone floors and wooden shelving on which perch a stuffed fox, bottled specimens (a lobster in a jar bears the words "Do Not Eat - Ned"), and the walls are lined with a myriad of glass bottles and jars - Hydrogen, Sodium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Gallium. It is like poetry. There is Niobium, Zirconium, Germanium, bunsen burners and petri dishes in which Andrew knocks up a few impressive experiments, an alchemist in his lair, extolling the virtues of certain properties with real love in his voice. Plastic models of clusters of molecules hang from the ceiling - "That's Vitamin B12, that's ecstasy..." says Andrew, pointing to them. He loves chemistry. When he met his girlfriend Karen a couple of years ago, the clincher for him was not her remarkable beauty but the fact that she had done chemistry A-level. Opposite the cellar is Anno's original recording studio which has been turned into the HQ for the Anno archive, and it has become the beating heart of Andrew's life. Here, for the last 14 months, he has been cataloguing his son's work - collecting, sorting, sifting, transferring, transcribing. All Anno's poems - or his words as he used to call them – his songs, everything he ever recorded. Thousands of photos of Anno since he was a baby, all scanned onto computer. Film and video of him throughout his life; box files of his schoolbooks line the shelves (Holland Park: French and Mathematics, Malibu High: English), files labelled "To be Sorted" and one called "Everything Else". CDs, cassettes, DATs, computers, photos of Anno on the walls: Anno with blonde hair, dark hair, long hair, short hair. Anno in a mask, in a hat. A magazine picture of Milla Jovovich with Anno's handwriting scrawled across it: "In my heart she will burn like a lie for life / Like a scar, she's for life..."

What is he going to do with this meticulous archive of his son's lost life? He is releasing the CD, and is publishing a selection of Anno's poems, but there is clearly more to it than that. He rolls a cigarette thoughtfully, it is as skinny as he is. "Given the fact that I can't put the clock back, I've learnt so much from him, and by going through all his poetry, all his thoughts, he's taught me as much - if not more - than I ever taught him." Later I hear something similar from Ian Warwick, Anno's English teacher who became his mentor and friend, and who now teaches the teachers of gifted children. "I learned easily as much from Anno as I taught him," he says, "and I can't think of another student of whom that is the case." Birkin's friends are united in thinking that it's something he's got to do - after all, it's not out of character. We are talking about a dedicated and solitary man. It's just the way he is. When he was 20 and all his friends were out partying, he went and camped out on Lundy Island for three months and wrote a script of Jude the Obscure, living on Pro Plus and Weetabix. "Whatever gets you through the night," says Bruce Robinson, his friend of thirty years. "That's how he's getting through his night. Andrew's a very obsessive man; he's either obsessing about mathematics or Napoleon and now he's obsessing about his dead son. And that's a place I can't go with him. I adored Anno, I've known him since he was born and I've seen him grow up. Andrew's coped with his death as a project, he's coped with it in a creative way even though what he's done doesn't immediately strike you as a work of art; he's used what he knows - his creative ability and his research skills - to survive. I can well imagine that most

Top: Anno Birkin with his mother, Bee Gilbert, in 1982.

Above: Anno, aged 7, at the farmhouse in Wales with his brother Ned, 3, and cousin Lou Doillon.
people, myself included, would have been too devastated to do anything constructive, but out of the tragedy he has made ... well, there's no gravestone for Anno, but there's an enormous memorial, isn't there?"

* * *

Andrew Birkin likes to talk, and he often takes a long time to get to the point, though he gets to it in the end, usually via a dissertation which might involve a mad mathematician called Kurt Gödel and his Incompleteness Theorem, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Michael Faraday's maths, non-maths, irrational numbers and degrees of infinity. Napoleon is likely to come into the conversation more often than not, and he may well touch on quantum mechanics, non-locality and dark energy. Sooner or later he'll get round to answering the question. But whatever we talk about, the conversation invariably comes back to rest on Anno. When we talk about the finality of death for example, Birkin says: "When it comes to this kind of phenomena - and I have to be careful here not to sound like I know a lot about science, because I don't, I just skim the surface - but everything I've come across in quantum mechanics leads me to suppose that life and death is simply one way of looking at something, and that there is another way which is non-reducable, which cannot be articulated mathematically. And when it comes to life and death (and there are those, of whom I was formerly one - an atheist - who would put themselves very squarely in the set of knowing that death is the end) the reality is that we cannot possibly know. Cardinal Newman wrote that death is a horizon, and what is a horizon but the limit of our sight?" "He's an exceptional man," says Bruce Robinson. "I find him utterly fascinating, yet exasperating - one of the most exciting blokes I've ever met - he's all of those things. I am one of the few people who can say 'Shut up, who gives a fuck about Schroedinger's fucking theory.' We laugh about it. He knows I'm always on his side."

Andrew's laboratory, which he built for his son Ned's science lessons after Ned dropped out of school. Photo: Gautier DeBlonde
  Birkin was born in 1945, the son of actress Judy Campbell and ex-SOE member David Birkin, and brought up on a farm on the Wiltshire/Berkshire border with his younger sisters Jane and Linda. "The interesting thing about the Birkins," says his schoolfriend, the actor Simon Williams, "is that all their brilliance and eccentricity seems to stem from an incredibly tight family unit, and however they arrived at being who they are, it all comes from the fact that they absolutely adore each other." Jane Birkin remembers their childhood as an idyllic time. "I don't think we ever got over it," she says. They were all three at boarding school but the holidays were "miraculous. We had our fun like savages; we'd get on our bikes at dawn and be gone for the day. We had an eccentric and wild childhood which was what I tried to recreate for my own daughters. If Andrew could find an abandoned house we
were in it. I was very lucky to have such an adventurous brother because I was always rather safe - he was the chief and Linda and I were his lieutenants, standing guard and whistling should anyone come along." Andrew went to Harrow where he didn't deliberately set out to break rules, he was just oblivious to them. Williams remembers him as "the most exhilarating person I've ever known. He was dangerous, funny - he was just better than most people. I remember being in the sanatorium with him, sitting there on our antibiotics taking turns to play the Paul Scofield part in A Man for All Seasons. He knew all the dialogue." When Winston Churchill was due to make an appearance at the school and cancelled because he had a temperature, Birkin sold the story of his illness to the Evening Standard in order to buy his first film camera. His father was appalled at such behaviour and persuaded him to give the money to charity - then bought him the camera anyway. "We made a little film which was really designed to accommodate my attraction to his sister Jane and his attraction to my sister Polly," says Williams, "but it was just an excuse to do a lot of running about and snogging really. I think there still exists about 20 minutes of completely superfluous footage of me and Jane kissing on Battersea Park boating lake which Andrew then very sweetly agreed to re-shoot." Andrew is only a year older than Jane, and Bruce Robinson thinks of them as the masculine/feminine versions of each other. "They have a real beauty about them. Well, Andrew looks like something the cat brought in now - he's the worst dressed man in England - but when he was young he was very handsome. He has an astonishing sense of self, but no vanity about that self." Birkin's first job was in the mail room in 20th Century Fox, and his first major revelation was working on Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick was his mentor, who took a delight in educating him cinematically. As a teenager, Birkin was never obsessed with sex, he was obsessed with love. "I was profoundly in love, from the age of 15 to 21, with the same girl [Hayley Mills], who wisely left me for an older man. By that stage I was working on 2001 and my love for her became a great love for cinema." Sitting in the Kalahari desert he wrote his first film script. Birkin has always been a nocturnal creature with an appetite for the darker classics: Huysmans, Maldoror, Tarkovsky. Bruce Robinson used to nickname him The Embalmer, because of his general demeanour and habit of getting up with the setting sun. "When I first met him he had somehow purloined a whole section of his sister's three-tiered wedding cake and he lived off wedding cake, coffee and cigarettes. And he sometimes used to turn up with a live sheep in his car. It was his pet, it lived in the car and came out and fucked about then went back in there..."

In 1968 Birkin worked on Kubrick's aborted Napoleon (which spawned his lasting adoration of Napoleon; 20 years later he wrote his own script which got shelved after Gerard Depardieu made his own version for French TV. It sank without trace and Andrew is confident that his own will re-surface). In the 70s he wrote screenplays for David Puttnam, including Inside the Third Reich which he spent two years researching
with Albert Speer. For various reasons, this film never saw the light of day, and Birkin's next big project was The Lost Boys, an exquisite and beautifully written five hour trilogy for the BBC, telling the story of J M Barrie and the five Llewelyn Davies boys who were the inspiration for Peter Pan. Birkin had first become intrigued by Barrie when he had the job of co-adapting the story for an American musical. Mia Farrow was playing Peter and Birkin fell in love with her and made himself into a Barrie expert in order "to stay in her orbit". He developed this into an outline for The Lost Boys and then his researcher tracked down the last survivng Llewelyn Davies brother, Nico, with whom Birkin exchanged 600 letters, and he discovered a wealth of material. The film, which became a book – J M Barrie & the Lost Boys – starred Ian Holm as Barrie, and Holm's partner Bee Gilbert subsequently became Andrew's for 20 years and the mother of Anno and Ned. Birkin continued to write screenplays and made a brilliant short film, Sredni Vashtar, which won the BAFTA award and got an Oscar nomination, wrote and directed The Burning Secret, and wrote the screenplay for The Name of the Rose. He is probably best known for his 1992 project The Cement Garden, from the book by Ian McEwan, which won him Best Director at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival. It was the last film he directed. He has always said he would prefer the company of an intelligent child to directing Faye Dunaway, any day, and he just wanted to be with his children in Wales. And in the same way that Barrie dedicated his life playing with the Llewllyn Davies boys,  
Andrew (cast as a monk) and Anno in 1984, during the making of The Name of the Rose
photographing them, recording what they said in notebooks, so too did Birkin with his children and their cousins and friends. Ned and Anno mostly grew up in Wales, sometimes joined by their half brother David (Andrew's oldest son by a previous relationship) and it was there too that all their cousins would often congregate in the holidays - Jane's three daughters Kate, Charlotte and Lou, and Linda's three sons George, Henry and Jack. Much of Ken's work back then was to build tree houses and other contraptions for the children. And in the middle of it all would be Andrew playing with them, madly. When he was seven, Anno wrote a poem:

My Papa is so tall and thin
He dos not have a dubble chin
His hear is black and getting grey
He dose not see a lot of day
he sits and rits all through the night
and dose not like the site of lite.
He likes to play like a child
And really is very wild
We have adventures all the time
I'm really very glad he's mine.

Anno and Ned with one of Ned's lizards (1990)
  It must have been something, growing up in this magical place, with a father like that. "If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I'd like to come back as one of Andrew Birkin's children," says Simon Williams. Jane warmly remembers summers in Wales with everyone racing around in the middle of the night on wild adventures, led by Andrew, having mud fights, water fights, playing Manhunt, which involved being chased through the woods - Andrew still plays that at 57. Bruce Robinson marvels at Birkin's rapport with children. "He's a sophisticated intellect, and always has been, but at the same time he can make gear shifts that I can't make, wherein he can be perfectly comfortable with kids at their level of functioning and do what they do - you know, rushing off to the woods with flashlights, whereas I'd rather be sitting in front of the fire with a bottle of red." In Andrew's films of Anno playing with his cousins, there is always Bee's voice in the background, intoning: "That's enough now," and then "Be careful now..." And then, "Stop before someone gets hurt!" "You can often hear her saying that," says Andrew, smiling. "While I would just carry on filming." Bee was the voice of reason, the one with the blankets and the hot bath after the midnight games. Andrew was more reckless. It is hard to separate the real Anno from his father's vision of him, but talking to anyone who knew him you can hear their voices break under the weight of their anguish at losing him. "He was like light," says Jane simply, "in that if he came anywhere near you, you felt better. He had very wide arms that he used to hug you with, and everyone remembers his hugs, and everyone remembers that he always had time for them.
And his time was very precious, but we didn't know exactly how precious." "I have both your madnesses inside me," Anno wrote in Close to the River, of his parents. "I am in constant disagreement with myself ..." This is the poem that Jane is currently reading on her world tour, Arabesque. "He seems to have conjured up in just a few words what every adolescent feels," she says, "and how most of us have forgotten what that feeling's like. I don't think I'm being over sentimental. I think he had something very great in him." It is true that his poems have a wonderful type of rhythm and an evocative resonance which is very sophisticated for a boy of his age:

She drew me my dreams, and with ease she unrumpled
a mind convoluted and crumpled
that was mine then but now is for none save the one
who shall someday receive me completely.
So with eyes to the floor I stand, sorry and sore,
and I long for that sleep to defeat me,
so the whole world may breathe me as you did so easily,
silent in moments of knowing. ...

Anno was 18 when he wrote that. Andrew had heard his music and read lots of his lyrics, but it wasn't until after Anno's death that his words emerged in notebooks and on scraps of paper, everywhere. "He was exceptional," says Ian Warwick, who now works with gifted children. "He was always two steps ahead, and he was way wiser than his years. As a writer myself, I used to look at his words and think, My God, I wish I could write like this." "He was a serious talent," agrees Bruce Robinson, "there's no question about it - there was a proper poet emerging there, if not already emerged. His poetry is very sophisticated and it has tremendous signature. He was the sweetest man. And he's gone."

Anno in 1996, aged 15, with his English teacher Ian Warwick (left)

* * *

Andrew had always hoped that one of his sons would be a poet. In his introduction to the new Yale edition of J M Barrie & The Lost Boys, he writes: "My son Anno was born on my birthday in 1980. As he and his brothers grew up, I came to experience first hand the joys that Barrie had so longed for - "my boys". I secretly wished that one of them would be a Michael - the poet among the five Davies brothers - but as a boy, Anno seemed much more like George, with lashings of Nico's humour. Then, around his 15th birthday, a sort of miracle occurred, and Anno suddenly blossomed into a poet and musician of great originality."

The figure of Michael has become almost totemic in Birkin's life. Barrie had been besotted with the entire Llewelyn Davies family, and when the boys' parents died he adopted them and paid for their education, but Michael had always been his favourite. In May 1921, Michael, by this time at Oxford, went bathing in the river Thames and drowned. He was one month short of his 21st birthday. Barrie heard the news from a reporter, and was thrown into a slough of despair from which he would never completely emerge. "What happened was in a way the end of me," he wrote to Michael's tutor, "and practically anything may be forgiven me now." Michael's death had a profound effect on everyone who knew him. "I am sure if he had lived he would have been one of the remarkable people of his generation," wrote Lytton Strachey to Ottoline Morrell. "The uselessness of things is hideous and intolerable." Michael was buried in Hampstead cemetry. Eighty years later, Andrew went there to find his grave. That day was the last that he saw Anno alive. Anno went off to Amsterdam with his brother Ned, then to Venice with Milla, and then to Milan with his band to record their first album. Hours before his death, Andrew spoke to him on the phone for a long time, and was struck by how happy he sounded. At the end of the conversation, Anno said: "We'll see what the morrow brings," which had been Andrew's father's last words before he died nine years ago. Anno and the rest of the band – Alberto, Lee and Billy – went out to dinner, where Anno sat writing a poem on a napkin, which he then - oddly - entrusted to Billy, who had decided not to to accompany them to the club they were going on to
because he had a headache. They were driving in thick fog on the autostrada outside Milan.
Kicks Joy Darkness in July 2001. L to R: Anno, Billy, Lee and Alberto
  Alberto - completely sober - was at the wheel and Anno was asleep in the back with Lee, when their car went into the back of a lorry which had earlier been involved in another accident. No one had cleared the first car off the road, and in swerving to avoid it, their car hit the lorry. Anno, Lee, Alberto and a friend, Giorgio, were killed instantly. Anno was one month short of his 21st birthday. The driver of the car who caused the original accident had fallen asleep, Andrew later learned, and is now being prosecuted by the Italian authorities. Andrew has posted the following message on the KicksJoyDarkness website: "As Anno's dad I have no real interest in who was at fault ... the man who fell asleep has the rest of his life to live. So if anyone in Italy knows the driver involved, be so kind as to pass on this message: it could so easily have been me at the wheel, and your son on the back seat."

Andrew had just returned from a camping trip to Scotland (he had been to the island of Eilean Shona, where Barrie had spent his last summer with Michael in 1920) when Alberto's mother called him with the news. When Andrew phoned Bee in London, she cried "Not Anno, Not Anno ..." because she was always more worried about Anno than the others. He went straight to her flat in Iverna Court, and shortly afterwards to Italy with his sons David and Ned, and they went to visit Anno in the mortuary and saw that he'd cut all his hair off, shaved it to the bone before he died. They had some time alone with him and Andrew had Anno's hands cast in plaster by the man who cast Toscanini's hands – and he has them now, in his sitting room in Wales, in a little shrine. Andrew had brought some of Bee's hair to put next to Anno's skin, under his shirt, in the coffin, and they also put in his front door keys, a penny (for the ferryman - and a pound in case the price had gone up) and a very big joint. (When Andrew opened the ashes later - and it was no easy task, you're not allowed to scatter ashes in Italy, so the box was lead-lined and doubly sealed - he found the penny still there, everything else gone.) Bee remained in London. "She couldn't have come," says Andrew. "She made it through in a different way. There was a constant stream of people at Iverna Court, it was open house: Bee's friends, Anno's friends, all being very supportive. Bee was ... perfect, but she's different from me, in some ways enviably so. I would like to be the sort of person who needed to just close my eyes and feel the hands in the darkness; as it was, I was the one with the tin opener having to open the lead-lined box ..." He brought the ashes back to London and later Billy came back, bringing with him Anno's precious notebooks and his guitar. "That was the thing that completely broke me and Bee up," says Andrew. "Not the ashes, the guitar. Anno had travelled everywhere with that guitar. That was the howl of grief." "I never, ever again want to see anything as terrible, as sad, as his parents at that time," says Jane. "They were so generous with Anno - flinging open their house, his recording studio, his words, his ashes, his everything - to his friends and cousins. Andrew and Bee have been so impeccable, you feel they are doing it the way Anno would like it." Jane no longer calls Anno her nephew. "I call him my brother's son, so as not to ever, ever pull his light or his glory onto me. He was theirs, he was theirs. And the sadness is theirs."

Ten days after Anno's death, Andrew returned to Wales along with about 80 people - Anno's half brother Barnaby Holm from LA, his half sister Lissy, his friends and cousins, his Milla and his Honeysuckle - the two girls he had loved most at various times – and Ken built a huge bonfire and they let off 20 huge rockets, the biggest you can get. Then Andrew took the nose-cone off the 21st rocket and put in a great wad of Anno's ashes and fired it from the top of the little mountain. "It was a cloudy evening except for a patch of sky that suddenly cleared to reveal a single star, and the rocket took off in the direction of this one star, and suddenly it burst over the Irish sea - it was extraordinary. And we could hear a great wave of sound coming up the mountain -- a huge cheer from all the people round the bonfire." Anno's ashes have now been scattered all over the world by his family and friends.
Anno and his brother David in April 2001, photographed by their grandmother, Judy Birkin
  They have been thrown from a coral reef in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Kenya, into the Pacific, the Nile, off Kiwayu. They are under a chestnut tree in France and by a stream in the Luxulyan Valley in Cornwall, and they grow through the roots of a silver birch tree that Bee planted for him in her garden. "By his side," she writes tenderly on the memorial page of the KjD website, "is a maple tree for dear Alberto and a prickly holly for the prodigal Lee..." Later, a year after his death, she has added: "365 days and not one when I didn't think of you, my darling Anno."

Not long after the rocket ceremony was Andrew's birthday – December 9 – which would also have been Anno's 21st, and there was another gathering of friends and family in London, and Andrew opened a jeroboam of 1982 Beychevelle. "To say that it was wonderful is the wrong adjective. I don't think there is an adjective that describes that occasion in one word ..." he says now. Shortly after that he was anxious to start "rescuing Anno's stuff." He and Ken retrieved hundreds of bits of paper and notebooks and cassettes from Wales and London and collected them all together and Andrew's work had begun. He spent months collating the music and the words, putting stuff onto the website with Nao, one of Anno's friends, selecting and transferring
music onto CD, copyrighting everything, choosing poetry with Ian to anthologise into a book. There were 57 recorded songs, 20 hours of mini discs, over 1,200 poems and lyrics. The cataloguing alone ran to 1,000 pages. It is, he says, the most concentrated work he's ever done ("except possibly Napoleon, which was the training for it"). For a year he didn't see a film or watch TV. "It was every waking hour, and I was on the telephone a lot - to Ned and David, Bee, Milla - but because I was surrounded by all the material up here, I didn't feel the loss, the separation, perhaps as greatly as they did, because they immediately had to get on with their own lives." Jane asked, "Do you miss him?" and Andrew said, "He's with me all the time, he's on my shoulder." An entry on the KJD website from Andrew reads: "At 4 am this morning I transcribed the last of Anno's words from the vast amount he left behind. I was dreading the moment, and secretly hoping it might have some special significance." This is what he found:  

My whole life hangs tonight – like water –
swelling to the final drip.
My grip on nature fumbles – as I
stumble backwards – over rhetoric & rhyme.

The rumble in my heart could uproot heaven,
and all their ghostly judgement is like air –
is naught at all.

The dust that is my body shall be
one dust once – again –
with all things, not soon... not soon enough –
Ring the bells of murder –
Jesus sleeps –– in every one of you.

Wake! Wake sweet prince & sing!

Fill the avenues – with laughter.
Scream your words of
goodness in my ear –
let me hear – what I have done.

I seek just closeness with my fellow man.

Anno in 2001: a passport 'self-portrait'.
In some ways, Andrew says now, it will never be finished. "I just keep finding Anno and discovering more about him every day." If it had been another of his sons, he says, it might have been harder to bear, because they wouldn't have left all this creative archive behind. He sympathises deeply with Alberto's mother, who only had about eight photos of her son. Andrew, by contrast, has so many hours of film and video footage of Anno and his brothers that it would take him three months to watch it all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He acknowledges that the awesome scope of technology available to everybody has enabled all this archiving (he has never, for example, so much as kept a diary himself). The KjD website stands as the most extraordinarily moving tribute to his son and the band, a kind of living gravestone.

But now that it's kind of finished, and the CD is coming out, and the poetry will be published, he can return to one of his unfinished projects: J M Barrie. (He bequeathed all his royalties from the TV film and the book to Great Ormond Street Hospital but still has a wealth of research material, which will be auctioned on behalf of the hospital next year to buy incubators in Anno's memory). He has always felt that his relationship with Barrie is not yet over. He's got a producer, he's got a title, he's got a story and he recently wrote the first ten pages. He's even got the beginnings of a cast – he wouldn't consider anyone else but Ian Holm for the role of JMB, and he recently met someone he thought could play Michael. Anno, whom he once considered for the role, always felt that his father shouldn't make another Barrie film unless he had something new to say. In his introduction to the reissued book, Andrew writes: "I don't remember reading Peter Pan to Anno or his brothers. I don't think he ever saw The Lost Boys, or read the book. He didn't need to. Whether I make another Barrie film remains to be seen, but yes Anno, I do have something new to say."

* * * * *


Who Said The Race Is Over? by Anno Birkin - a selection of poems with Introductions by Bruce Robinson and Ian Warwick - is published by Laurentic Wave Machine @£8, and is available through bookshops or via this link at All royalties go to Anno's Africa.

Dreams of Waking by Kicks joy Darkness, with a bonus CD of Anno's earlier songs, is distributed by Cargo in the UK and is available through record shops or via this direct link at @ £12.99. All royalties go to Anno's Africa.

J M Barrie & the Lost Boys is published by Yale University Press (reviews). Author's royalties donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital. The website is at

The Lost Boys - Birkin's award-winning BBC trilogy - is available on DVD, both in the UK and USA. Author's royalties donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital. (reviews).

View/download Sredni Vashtar (350k, 28 min)

Copyright © 2003: Jessamy Calkin & the Telegraph Magazine.

All material Copyright (c) 2001-2009 or earlier by the Estate of Alexander Birkin & Laurentic Wave Machine. All songs published (p) 2002 or earlier by Laurentic Wave Machine, unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved. For further information, please contact: