Saturday, November 25, 2017

Punk in the Provinces, Norwich Arts Centre

After work on Thursday I hopped on to a train to Norwich, via Stowmarket. I remember driving up there in a Range Rover Overfinch, a hyper-energetic car that couldn't manage to have the heater and the windscreen wipers working at the same time without stalling. Oh, the car adventures I could relate to you!
I went to interview John Peel who, impeccably-mannered, did the interview in his kitchen even though there was a Liverpool match on the TV in the room next door. Every so often, the crowd cheered and he shot into the adjacent room to find out what was going on.
The event took place in the Arts Centre bar, and was packed with (mostly) men of a certain age with whom I had some interesting music chats, being of a certain age myself.
Professor George MacKay and Dr Lucy Wright introduced the evening, and then Professor Matt Worley read from his book No Future: Punk, Politics and births Youth Culture 1976-84, focusing on the suburban roots of many of the bands and talking about New Towns. He quoted Steve Ignorant, who reported being locked in the high-rise flat by his mother and pacing up and down, occasionally looking out of the windows at the bleak estate where he was brought up. Oh the 1970s was an ungodly awful time!
Richard Balls and Jonty Young were the next speakers. Richard has written a history of Stiff Records as well as a book on Ian Dury. Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story sounds interesting and I think I'll read it, especially having had inside information from hanging out with King Kurt so much. He said he hadn't written about them though, but I still would be interested to read Dave Robinson's take on his label. I remember watching an interview with the producer Pete Waterman when he said that they always mixed the stiff productions too slow because Dave always wanted them faster: if the track was to be the right speed, the had to deliberately slow it down before playing it to him. The world of recording was full of such stories back then.
Jonty is the marketing director of Norwich's Lanes area and he told a wonderful story of being up all night having missed the last train (or bus?) home from a gig at Cromer, starting off on the beach with a bonfire, gravitating towards the station and eventually finding their way to a caravan park and into a caravan that wan't locked; making  cup of tea and settling down for the night, then suddenly realising they were moving. The caravan had been hitched to a car by the owners and was being towed home. It stopped at a railway crossing to let  train go through and the opened the door and ran like maniacs, only looking back to see the man driving the car looking at them with an expression  of total astonishment on his face. Brilliant!
My bit was talking about Brighton punk, which was a pleasant change from talking about women in punk, although i did talk about how the small scene there facilitated young women getting into bands. Dr Gina Arnold, who sat next to me, talked about Nirvana and the San Francisco hippy scene's contrast with New York's hardness.
It was an interesting event and it was great to chat to people afterwards- and to see Treacle and Mark and catch up with them.
Photo: Lucy Wright, me (the Norwich Nerd) and Gina Arnold (nicked from George MacKay)

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