The British Experimental Rocket Group

berg-logoI’m sober by the time I get back to Baron’s Court, but it doesn’t stop me pointing at my arm and ranting like a lunatic about the sigil burned into it: BERG. The Girl is subject to my head pouring forth ideas and plans, future cities of language and paper being spat out like erratic spreadsheet print-outs. “There won’t be a day that goes by over the next month where I don’t think ‘Man, I wish I was in BERG!’”.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Schulze & Webb’s ‘complimentary re-branding seminar’, as the design firm entered a new phase and blossomed into BERG: the British Experimental Rocket Group. Decked out in customised lab-coats, the team looked and sounded excited, terrified, enthusiastic, and nostalgic. To a man they also wound up being inspirational.

Matt Jones greeted me on entry, stamping my hand with the company logo and pointing out retro-future slides flitting away on the projector: “Look, that’s Quatermass, he’s important. That’s my favourite: a man on his mobile looking at a radiation test. That’s President Kennedy… I think he was important.” At any point when not wildly gesticulating his hands were stuffed into the pockets of his lab coat, every bit the factory foreman. All night he was drinking or transporting an array of alcoholic beverages in pint glasses, but in my mind he will be holding a mug of tea, forever full, animated with ideas and futures.

Jack Schulze was wild-eyed, goading Warren Ellis with questions while apologising for the last time we crossed paths – he was very drunk then. Last night he was simply excited. I saw maps in his eyes and the shape of cities, rolling landscapes with his face printed in browsers, AR interfaces shaping journeys and people and histories. It was stunning.

(I never met Tom Armitage, but I imagine he fills some unhinged working role, stripped to a vest over coding and circuit boards yelling “I need more time!” as Jones and Webb patiently watch, handing him atomic tea and bacon sandwiches while Schulze dances in a corner)

Matt Webb I’ve met only once before, at a ‘map pub summit’ that Jones put together with myself and James Bridle, essentially to clue me into new ways of thinking about fiction and distribution of text. Last night I caught him just before he drifted home, rocket goggles perched on his head, looking like the Future Villain Scientist that actually took over The World/Silicone Roundabout. By the time he careened over to PaperFuture Corner he had been struck with the sheer scale of the transformation: Schulze & Webb’s closure meant no longer facing the world with his own identity. To place a distance, a logo, an idea between the conception, execution and reception of a product means, for the first time in five years, that he no longer lives or dies on his name alone.

What an incredible thing. He and The British Experimental Rocket Group have become ideas – vague, powerful concepts that have all the potential to change the world or dissipate trying. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

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