Way back in 2005, I got pretty obsessed with the story of Factory Records. To me, the tale plays out like a particularly wonderful play. It's equal parts tragedy, comedy and romance. You can go on shopping web sites right now and buy whole books on the main characters of this play. Everyone from the label owner, to the building where everything happened to the singers to the singers widow. One character intrigued me the most. Mainly because there was so little known about her.
Annik Honore met Ian Curtis when she was 22. She was promoting gigs in Brussels and writing for fanzines. They began a love affair, despite Ian having a wife and a new born baby back home in Macclesfield. A few months later, after admitting the affair and breaking up with his wife, Ian took his own life in his family home on the eve of an American tour, leaving a wife, a baby and a girlfriend devastated.
Back in 2005, very little was known about Annik. The only points of reference were the book Touching from a Distance, a book by Ian's widow Deborah, and a few mentions by Factory people in interviews. The mentions in Deborah Curtis's book are scathing on Annik, (a women she had never met) and in Factory interviews, any mentions of Annik would be extremely vague, presumably due to guilt about keeping the affair a secret and not wishing to upset Deborah by seeming to 'side' with Annik.
One mention did grab my attention. Tony Wilson describes a time very shortly to Ian's suicide. Annik was incredibly distressed about the lyrics of the then unreleased Joy Division album Closer. She drove to the Wilson's home in tears. She was was desperately trying to point out how real the dark, depressed and void of hope lyrics were. Wilson and his wife sat her down, gave her tea. It's just art Wilson told her. Just art. “After Ian took his life,” quipped Wilson, “I wish I had fucking listened”.
Whats intriguing here is that no-one, not his manager, his wife, his parents or his band mates that he spent day after day with saw these lyrics for what they were. They were not Curtis visiting the muse, but a heartbreakingly bleak account of the darkness that surrounded him and the hopelessness and disgust of life he felt. No-one saw this as, not a cry but, a scream for help except Annik. Who was this woman?
Maybe it's a sign of having any piece of information I desire at my finger tips, but the shadowy, almost ghostly figure of Annik both intrigued and frustrated me. I trawled and crawled through the internet in search of any information. Nothing. No interviews, no articles. Nothing. How did she remain silent while people told her story for her, sometimes hopelessly inaccurately? Did she not want to tell her side of the story?
Then, out of nowhere, I found an email address with her name on it. It couldn’t be the same woman, could it? I (looking back, extremely cheekily and perhaps insensitively) sent of an email asking if it was the elusive lady, and if it was I admired her silence deeply.
I got an email from the Belgian embassy a few hours later. Yes, it was that Annik.
“It matters to me that Ian is well represented / pictured as a good man. And so far the things that had been written on me (and therefore on us and him in a way) were totally untrue and biased or even ridiculous. Fair enough - the world is like this - people have the right to write whatever they feel like and everybody has different opinions and feelings.” She wrote “Debbie's book but I guess she needed to write those horrible things about me in order to feel better. That's human nature and I +/- understand her hatred for me and certainly her suffering. Still it does not excuse the lack of "intellectual fairness" (esp. after so many years). A pity she did not try to understand why it happened and that I was a kid and not a groupie and that when love is involved things become different. I trust Anton (Corbijn who was talking about making a film that would go on to be Control) understands this. Anyway silence is often the best answer.”
I got two long emails altogether. Full of calm, understanding, and forgiveness. I didn't really reply to the second one, just a thank you and best wishes. I didn't ask her any questions, and yet she was happy to share her innermost feelings to a stranger who emailed her out of the blue. I regret not writing again. It's pretty obvious she was a woman who had a lot to get of her chest. She was also a thoughtful, polite, and incredibly articulate pen pal.
Annik Honore died yesterday (July 3rd 2014) of a serious illness. Even now, there's little known about Annik. Searching for a picture to head this article, I found one picture of Annik to every 40 of the actress who played her. There a few interviews here and there, but we know little about the actual woman. When we remember Annik, I hope we remember her not as a home wrecker or Ian Curtis's mistress but a bright, forgiving, human who gave her soul to music and to love.