Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Interesting Few Days

Sprinkled amongst the practicalities of electricians, phone queues, removal of vinyl albums to Oxfam and other house-related things (not forgetting very LOUD very ANGRY cats trying to exit every crack in the house while they are on house-arrest until they realise they live somewhere new), some interesting things have been going on.

On Monday afternoon, I spoke to a woman called Shehnaz Suterwalla who is doing a PHD at the Royal College of Art about women's dress and resistance. She wanted to talk to me about punky stuff (she has four case study areas, the most contemporary one of which is young Muslim women wearing traditional clothing as a statement even though this is not part of their established home dress code).
Because my research was not about clothing, I found that I was remembering and talking about stuff that I hadn't visited for years- exactly why I wore what I wore, and all the different ways young people, and especially women, around that time wore things that declared them to be punks without spending a fortune that they didn't have (most of us were unemployed) in Seditionaries or Boy on the King's Road.
 I remembered seeing Poly Styrene, before I even knew she had a band, sitting in her little stall at the World's End in Chelsea with her name above it, carved out of that white expended polystyrene stuff that puts people's teeth on edge.
At that time you could buy a toy that consisted of a hot wire stretched between a two-pronged red plastic handle that allowed you to cut very slowly through those white polystyrene tiles that everyone had on their kitchen ceiling, without it snapping or disintegrating into irritating bobbles. She obviously must have had one of those at home and this made me warm to her immediately. The clothes she was selling were all made of bright plastic and she sat amongst them like a serene alternative princess in an alternative world- very different from the aggression that emanated from Malcolm McLaren at the time.
I remembered the clothes that were dumped by the clothes-fairy outside the room I shared with my boyfriend at the squat in Lansdowne Place: I wore them for months.
And I remembered Dave and Pete and their black bin bags full of fantastic attire for the young punk woman: fitted leopardskin jumpers, giant cardies, peculiar dresses. They would delve into their bags on a whim and pull something put for one of us to wear.
I had a fantastic boiler suit. The first drummer in Joby and the Hooligans, Dub Duncan, came from Burgess Hill and his father had been in the Air Force.
He appeared for his first gig with us wearing his Dad's old boiler suit in airforce blue. Joby immediately went to the Army Surplus Store and got himself a green one, closely followed by me (grey) and Steve (also grey). They were great, and since I had discovered the hard way that looking like a sexy punkette got you sexually assaulted, they made you feel safe and comfortably neutral.
I liked talking to Shehnaz and she liked talking to me so we are going to do more of it in a couple of weeks time, and I'll dig out some photos which I will also send to Caroline, who is writing a piece for the F-Word, and who was concentrating more on the music than the look.

Then yesterday was another interesting day. I went to the London Academy of New Music to do a Songwriting workshop. It's in Bow in East London, an area of big skies, big roads and warehouses, a 'Hackney in Waiting'.
The students were lovely but there was only one woman in a group of 15.
People seem to understand multiculturalism but not gender equality. It is almost as though they will look at anything but that! And hey-ho, we have the National Front again, calling itself the BNP this time around, and people will again have to learn to understand the need for tolerance, acceptance and promotion of equal rights for all people, and again will ignore female people's rights and abilities and the need to look at why women might be excluded from so many areas of life.
But I digress...
...but it was an important digression...
The students were great: they jumped on board the ideas I had straight away without that puzzled look of being patronised that you get from some mature students.
 I'd taken in a Daily Mirror and a Metro (ugh to both, but never The Sun, never The Sun, that horrible piece of birdcage liner) and we looked for headlines to base our songs on. Later, they did lightning cover versions of each other's songs to see if they worked- and they did, and I was happy and I hope to go back again sometime.

Tonight, I am guesting with Martin at the Half Moon in Putney.
I'm at work now which is why I can do a longer posting. I came in specially early at a student's request- she cancelled at the last minute and so did the next student. If I get annoyed with them they will cease to turn up altogether and produce bad work. Bit of a chicken and egg situation, or the bad version of that... dead chicken and bad egg perhaps.
But I have tonight to look forward to, and tomorrow not to look forward to (the return of the 50 essays I have been frantically marking in every gap of the day for the past week, and the disappointment of the new first year students as they realise they are not brilliant, as they had previously supposed).


Life is bittersweet, sweet and sour, hot and cold.


Unknown said...

I very much enjoyed our talk and eagerly await the next episode! The detail you describe here is wonderfully rich too. Thanks for taking the time to remember and recall--I think this material is incredibly important for our archives. Shehnaz

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