After a couple of years sponging off the Observing the 80s page I thought that it was about time I sorted myself out and got my own blog. I will be importing various older posts and using the space to blog on my current and forthcoming projects. I’m also hoping to invite occasional visiting posters. So do get in touch if you’ve got something to share.
An assault on an all female band by a member of security staff at this weekend’s Undercover punk festival in Brighton has brought the online mansplainers and slut shamers out of the woodwork. It also raised some issues that need to be resolved, some feel new, some are as old as punk itself. Can women make a new space in a scene and politicize it from within ? Is there ever a way to reconcile the punk politics of the past, and the intersectional politics of the present? Can we actively build a politics where race, gender, age and subcultural identity intersect ?– the answer, it seems to me, to all of these questions is the same; not really, no. Continue reading Your punk politics will be privileged, or it will be bullshit
I’ve just got back from the most mind-blowing conference I’ve ever been to. Keep It Simple, Make It Fast, is a conference/music and literary festival/art show organised around DIY cultures, Spaces, Places. Events were held across various venues in Porto, bringing together academic presentations, some celebrity guests, live performances, exhibitions with daily book launches and a summer school. The event is convened by Paula Guerra and Andy Bennett with an incredible team of international volunteers. I went with my Subcultures Network army (Matt Worley, Petes Webb and Ward, David Wilkinson and stayed in a seminary with the Punk Scholars Network and Steve Ignorant from Crass).
I’ve been out of the country for a week at a great workshop in Berlin “How to Write and Conceptualize the History of Youth Cultures” organised by Felix Fuhg, Doctoral Student, with the Centre for Metropolitan studies. I was travelling with the histrrry girls and The Subcultures Network, so there were Harringtons. There are always Harringtons. We spent one day working and talking in the Archiv der Jugendkulturen. Its an incredible community archive and library that has brought together all the different traces of resistance in youth culture and subcultures. From magazines made by school pupils to the Love Parades’ backdrops and giant cut outs of Nena – the transational and hyper local are boxed up together and are being carefully catalogued by local participant experts in each scene.
I remember being canvased for the 1989 European election. I was a nineteen year old mother of a two year old, living in a shared house. It was the first election I’d been old enough to vote. It was also the first time I’d seen the Green Party as an electoral force. Something interesting was going on. I can’t say that Europe itself really mattered to me very much, but it opened up ways to think things through, that we couldn’t really find space for elsewhere.
Today was finalist results day for the students on my Post-Punk Britain Module. Together we’ve laughed, done cutting and pasting, swapped celebrity gossip, kicked over a few statues and analysed the history of subcultural theory and practice. They have made me laugh and they have me think in new ways.
Yesterday was the last seminar of this year’s Post-Punk Britain course that I teach with Chris Warne in the third year of our History degree. It is a funny sort of course; it is not really about Punk, and quite a lot of people might think it is not really about History either. It is about what we can do with punk. We do some history of subcultures stuff, but really it is about thinking of punk as a methodology, as an ethos and as a form of dissidence or resistance. In practice that means it’s an ongoing pedagogical experiment. Each of the three years we’ve run the course has been totally different. This is partly because the students collaboratively set the agenda and choose what directions they want to go. It is partly because we’ve been funded through Technology Enhanced Learning and Excellence in Teaching to run a set of student led projects; DIY Digital and DIT Digital. These projects are scavenger history. Students create open access educational resources inspired by the course using apps, social networks, and websites that were often designed with other purposes in mind. Like a DIY zine, it is a way of taking what we can find and making it our own.
Have you ever been on holiday with your students? Its got a lot of awkward potential.
This year Chris Warne and I were awarded an Innovation in Teaching Award to take a group of students to Margate and set up a digital pedagogy experiment. DIT Digital: Doing Subcultures Online involved tours and workshops with two of Margate’s significant heritage sites; The Turner Contemporary and Dreamland. Our Twitter hashtag is #DITDreamland
Last year we had run a less ambitious project DIY Digital: Doing Punk Online with students on our Post-Punk Britain module. Students had created open access educational resources around topics from the module. One of the key lessons from the project last year had been the importance of ‘being in the room’ to facilitate virtual interaction so a field trip offered a way of sharing a physical space together whilst doing digital work. Furthermore last year’s MA mentors had been absolutely central to the success of the project and we now had a group of masters students who had been part of the original project as undergraduates who could act as mentors.
In the end I watched it because Catherine Grant very kindly invited me to speak at an event that she organised with Diarmaid Kelliher, on Pride and its Precursors and I was too honoured, and too embarrassed, to say no. When the film first came out I ducked and dived out of numerous press requests to comment on it. I had toyed with the idea of presenting at the symposium without actually having watched the film, maybe as a sort of thought experiment. I’d floated the idea over drinks with the talented historian Ben Jones from UEA but lost my confidence after he described some of the scenes I might have missed out on (the alien invasion and massive shoot out at the end).
On 19th November I stood in the Latest Music Bar Brighton and read out bits of my teenage diary from the year 1984-1985. The event, ‘Cringe at Mass Observation‘ was jointly organised by Cringe and Mass Observation as part of ‘Being Human: The Festival of Humanities’. London Cringe organise events where “Funny ‘grown-ups’ read aloud from their teenage diaries”. It’s a model that was picked up from New York and spread from there. Fiona Courage and Jessica Scantlebury from Mass Observation had been to one of the events and had immediately recognised Cringe’s resonance with Mass Observation writers who also share their private experiences and analysis for public consumption.
You can hear a bit more about Cringe, where it came from and the Brighton event on a podcast of an interview myself and Cringe organiser Ana McGloughlin did for Radio Reverb with Melita Dennett. (at about 22 minutes in)
Over the past few weeks Class War and LSE’s Lisa Mckenzie in particular have been taking a lot of stick for their choice of target and tactics. For months Class War and the Women’s Death Brigade have been standing up against the relocation of young teenage mothers by supporting E15 Mums’ campaign, opposing Poor Doors, challenging Gay Pride’s for profit associations with big business and international banking, and exposing the dodgy deals and marketing of working class women’s bodies for profit at the Jack the Ripper Museum in Cable St. All pretty straight forward. Not everyone likes the shouty, irreverent style of the brigade, but its pretty hard to defend kicking out teenage mums, humiliating social housing tenants, censoring gay activists in the name of Pride, or possible shonky negotiations for planning permission. But then Class War went too far. They went for the hipster – and the infamous Cereal Killer Café. Jokes were made on Radio 4 quizzes. Newspapers dug around in activist’s private lives and recreational choices for a few exposes. Friends of mine argued that these were the wrong targets and the wrong tactics. I’m not going to get into analysis of cultural capital and bearded entitlement (but honestly doesn’t your face take up enough space already?). But I found it difficult to see the cereal café as the biggest victim in the struggle around austerity.
Fair enough, the other side of that coin is that the bearded cereal sellers might not be your biggest problem either. In fact you might not have heard about all the grassroots activism that Class War and the Fuck Parade had been doing if they hadn’t annoyed Shoreditch. [disclaimer – I am gluten and lactose free so cereal prices are never going to be my biggest issue] But the issue of personal taste, and personal tactics really isn’t the problem anymore. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what your personal political style is. It doesn’t matter how your particular political form and content sit together. Because whether you like it or not, whether we like each other’s style or not, we really are all in it together. If we didn’t know that already, the CPS have just made it very clear.