Girl gangs and the “do-it-together” attitude in the DIY punk scene

Charmpit lie down on the floor surrounded by pink balloons.
Charmpit by Nina Pennick.

The patriarchy weaves a plethora of tall tales to keep its ego in check and the biggest of those is that women can’t stand each other. Even when we were pitted against each other by repugnant, morose men, we didn’t really want to tear each other’s eyes out.

In reality, you couldn’t find a better example of a deep bond than the one that exists in female friendships. Women are there for each other with a shoulder to cry on or a knowing piece of advice when you need it most. Nowhere is this seen more strikingly than in the music industry. We speak to some of the leading figures in the DIY U.K. punk scene to find out how their revolutionary girl gangs are tackling inequality in the scene and putting female friendships to the forefront of their work.

Read the full article at Alternative Press.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

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Growing Up As An Alternative Black Girl

Big Joanie stand on stage mid set.

Did anyone really want to be popular as a teenager? I mean it would have been nice to experience life with perfect hair, teeth and skin, a natural disposition to do everything right, be loved by humans and animals alike and generally seem to have no worries. That might have been nice but, to be honest, it looked so boring when I was a teenager. As a chubby, awkward black girl growing up in the deepest, whitest area of Britain, I knew I was never going to be seen as normal enough to be popular so I never tried.

Read the full article at Black Ballad.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

The Bands Taking British Punk Back to Its Multicultural Roots

It’s a sunny Friday in June, and I’m struggling to make my way across a heaving room in Peckham’s DIY Space for London. I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with a bustling throng of people – a kaleidoscope of melanated shades – and the 20 steps it takes to reach a vantage point from which to see band the playing in the southeast London community centre’s main room feel like a thousand. Reader, I haven’t taken any mishmash of time-altering drugs. I just can’t make it more than a couple of paces at a time without being practically smacked in the face by everyone’s visible joy.

A woman thanks me for putting on the festival; another person says they’ve never felt comfortable in a punk space until now; someone else decides they wanted to see similar festivals happening across the UK. By the time I make it to watch Sacred Paws, guitarist Rachel Aggs is asking for “people of colour to come to the front” – a rejig of Kathleen Hanna’s Bikini Kill-era “girls to the front” demand. This is Decolonise Fest, and it’s the future of UK punk.

Read the full article at Noisey.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Why Rihanna’s new man means so much to us

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It’s a tired and outdated myth that women don’t look out for each other. The most negative assumptions of female behaviour would have you believe that we get jealous of our friend’s relationships, talk about them behind their backs or, worse, secretly desire to steal their partner.

The internet truly broke that woman-hating myth into tiny pieces when it was revealed that Rihanna, AKA the woman always living her best life at all times, was dating a new man.

Pictures of a contented Rihanna with her doting piece of arm candy frolicking in a pool on holiday in Spain set Twitter alight.

Read the full article at The Metro.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Myth, the supernatural and black female storytelling in three 1990s classics

Black-womanhood_DotD

Asked who the greatest storytellers in the world are, I’d be tempted to point in the direction of black women.

Why? Well we’re full of stories, passed down to us by our mothers and our mother’s mothers.

We can convey how we feel with a slight raise of an eyebrow. Our tongues tease around language to find the most delectable word or phrase. If a suitable word doesn’t exist, we’ll make one up, enriching the world around us with a new word to add to the lexicon.

Yes, we’re full of stories, yet we rarely hear black women’s stories in the media – and only very occasionally in the cinema.

Read the full article at BFI.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

10 great documentaries about iconic musicians

Le Tigre sit on a kerb in front of a brick wall with bottles of water.

Lead singer in Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin, Kathleen Hanna was the central figure in riot grrrl, a feminist punk movement born in the US in the early 1990s. She’s also known for inspiring Kurt Cobain to write one of Nirvana’s most famous songs after spray painting “Kurt smells like teen spirit” on his apartment wall.

Travelling through Hanna’s life up to the present day, The Punk Singer shows Hanna struggling with her diagnosis of late-stage Lyme disease and the treatment she has to endure. While the film was made with Hanna’s fans in mind, treating them to unseen footage and candid interviews with contemporaries such as Kim Gordon and Lynn Breedlove, there’s an emotional honesty on display here that should prove affecting even to viewers with no understanding of Hanna’s work or influence. Sini Anderson’s film is a superb portrait of a once vibrant music icon looking back at her glory years with wonder.

Read the full article at BFI

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Beyoncé vs Daughters of the Dust: How an American indie classic inspired Lemonade

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When director Julie Dash created the groundbreaking Daughters of the Dust (1991), a multigenerational tale of black women from the Gullah sea islands struggling to hold on to their culture, little did she know that 25 years later her work would be held up on the world stage thanks to one of the music industry’s most influential artists: Beyoncé.

The singer’s breathtakingly lush visual album, Lemonade (2016), tackled issues of black womanhood, southern traditions, race and female rage. Although Lemonade was the artist’s second visual album, it stands out as the first time the artist seems to have created music to soundtrack a standalone film. Given the subject matter and the detail paid to the cinematography, Dash’s film provided an obvious touchstone to inspire Beyoncé’s vision.

Read the full article at BFI.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Why A Punk Fest Celebrating People Of Colour Is Needed In 2017

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As I write this the first ever UK punk festival created by and for people of colour looms on the horizon; Decolonise Fest is nearly here. Organised solely on the lofty dreams of forward-thinking punks and a whole lot of determination, the Decolonise Fest collective have created a festival that showcases the people of colour at the forefront of the UK DIY punk scene.

The idea for the festival came about when, enamoured with the creativity I saw sprouting in fellow punks of colour and frustrated with the DIY scene’s non-approach to tackling racism (punks can wax lyrical about veganism or anarchy but mention race and you can hear a pin drop), I posted on social media about potentially organising a festival by us and for us.

My post soon came to fruition and on 2nd to the 4th June at DIY Space for London, Decolonise Fest will showcase bands such as Divide and Dissolve, Sacred Paws and The Tuts alongside art exhibitions and workshops all weekend. After a year’s planning and a lifetime wondering why this event wasn’t already here for us to enjoy, the Decolonise Fest team is ecstatic to see our baby coming to life, but we know others may not feel the same way.

Read the full article at The Quietus.

 

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Is Britain ready for a mixed-race princess?

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This really isn’t a question we should need to ask in 2017, is it? We shouldn’t get the feeling this could go either way, but as most of us know all too well, in our post-Brexit era every single hard-won social victory feels like it’s up in the air, so let’s get started on tackling this one.

The princess-in-waiting that the country just isn’t sure about is of course African-American actress Meghan Markle. Her relationship with Prince Harry was only confirmed by Kensington Palace in November 2016 when the Palace had to basically tell everyone to cool it on the racism and abuse she was receiving. It was a surprising move from the Palace to issue such a statement, showing just how severe the situation must have been for Markle and her family.

Forbes posed the question, does Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle, have what it takes to be a princess? The Daily Mail produced an article that was essentially a list of seemingly obvious facts that all linked to Meghan being black. It read like the writer had just discovered this new-found concept, blackness, about an hour before his deadline and wanted to let the world know what he’d found.

Read the full article at IBTimes.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Crooked Grrrls

crooked gurls kelsey
Extract from an illustration by Kelsey Wroten

Originally published in One Beat Zine’s Identity Issue, November 2015

I always knew that I was different. Well, not that I was different but that I was treated differently to other people. From an early age I was used to the different tone, the sad looks, the blank faces my presence would draw out of everyone and anyone I came across. I noticed the difference in the ways I was treated compared to other little girls my age. I didn’t know what exactly was causing this wave of indifference to everyone around me but I knew that it centred not just on me but how others perceived me.

If you don’t know, it can be hard growing up as a little black girl child. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, just stating the facts.  The treatment I received and interactions I had with people were all heavily influenced by how they perceived my blackness and therefore value. The different tone was one in reaction to my perceived threatening nature. The sad looks reflected the pity they felt looking at my unconventional appearance that didn’t fit the rigid Eurocentric beauty standards. The blank faces were from those who do not even rate my existence as worth acknowledging.

Navigating this world is complicated, confusing and requires an ability to both adapt to different identities and to be able to deal with the reconstructed concepts of black female identity imposed on you by society. Like many black women I found myself representing all things to all people. Having a fixed identity during my teenage years to early twenties became secondary to keeping the perception society has about black women alive.

Sometimes I was shy and quiet, easier to get through the day if no one knew what I was thinking; sometimes I was more gregarious, playing the fun black best friend from every sitcom ever; sometimes I tried to over compensate and be better than my white counterparts, knowing that I’d be judged more harshly than them.

Dealing with such contradictory personality traits and expectations it is no wonder that black women can find it hard to find their own identity. But not all is lost. This is the point in the story where every black girl needs to hear political scientist, Melissa Harris-Perry’s theory on the impact stereotypes have on black women’s lives. In her book Sister Citizen, Harris-Perry refers to the ‘Crooked Room’ theory; a post world war two field dependence study that saw subjects placed in a crooked room in a crooked chair and asked to find their vertical. Many subjects believed themselves to be standing up straight in relation to their surroundings even though they were standing at angles of up to 35 degrees.

Harris-Perry expands this theory to suggest that when black women have to confront race and gender stereotypes and are constantly shown warped versions of their own humanity they are standing in their own crooked room. Sometimes we see ourselves purely in relation to our surroundings and adapt to become the Jezebel, strong black woman, baby mama that we see looking back at us. Have you ever acted up and louder than you normally would around white friends and asked why? It’s because that is the way we have been taught to act.

Of course, sometimes we ignore our surroundings, see the damaging images for what they really are and stand tall.  This is not something that every black woman is able to, or feels comfortable enough to do. They may not be at the right point in their life or may not understand how to be once you break down that wall. After all even when you stand up straight you’re still in the same crooked room with the same images weighing down on you, forcing you to conform.

To stand up straight, take a look at the images and stereotypes around us and see how cartoon-like we would have to be to truly meet the stereotype of the black woman. Once we see it for what it is, slowly that room will start to transform. On the walls a space will emerge, ready to create a new identity based on beauty, intellect, and power for each and every black woman.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Article in Intersectional Politics For Punx Zine

international punx of colour

You can order the first issue of Intersection Politics for Punx zine which features my article. The first issue focuses on race and racism in the UK DIY punk scene.

I wrote about growing up listening to pop punk as a teenager in the Midlands and the unintentional violence of white femininity.

The zine was edited and compiled by Cassie Agbehenu, bassist in Fight Rosa Fight, who says that she was “sick of being the only person of colour at shows when she knew of punx of colour sitting at home and not feeling welcome. We’ve got so much work to do and so many conversations to start.”

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Reclaiming rubbish design: eco friendly interiors with 2012Architecten

Originally posted at Design Build Network.

As environmental issues become ever more important in our society, interior designers are increasingly looking to make their interior pieces more eco friendly. While many designers choose to incorporate sustainably sourced wallpaper, clay paints or organic fabrics into their designs, few have taken the route of the Netherlands-based company, 2012Architecten, who merge sustainability and innovative designs using reclaimed materials.

Led by directors Jan Jongert, Césare Peeren and Jeroen Bergsma, 2012Architecten was founded 15 years ago when eco design and sustainability was not as widely known as it is now. This focus on sustainability has led to some unique, mad-cap designs, including a dance floor made out of desks, windmill blades masquerading as a playground and an office decorated with old ceiling tiles and teddy bears.

When you start throwing teddy bears and windmills into the mix many would say you risk being labelled as quirky or kitsch. 2012Architecten certainly don’t worry about being quirky, in fact they wear their quirky label with pride, regarding their innovative designs as a more “playful” way of promoting environmental issues.

Superuse – redesigning waste

To understand 2012Architecten you first have to understand Superuse, their primary concept that affects every aspect of their business. “Superuse is the transformation of wasted materials, components and elements into a new purpose, giving it a secondary not pre-purposed [sic] life,” said director of 2012Architecten, Jan Jongert.

After the initial design period, the team research various sources of material in the local area and plot them on a harvest map, which shows potential materials and their distance from the building site. The aim of the map is to limit transport distance to reduce energy.

Since the final designs of their projects will always be influenced by what building materials they can find at the time, the team have to prepare for the fact that their designs are constantly in flux and may have to be changed once the materials are found. Jongert describes this stage in the project as a “parallel process”.

One of the company’s more complex projects was the design and construction of a residential villa built for a couple to showcase a collection of paintings. Around 60% of the villa was made from reused materials, including the villa’s kitchen drawers, which were made out of old billboards, as well as the curtains, which were made out of greenhouse foil.

Another of the company’s more complex projects was the redesign of avant-garde arts and culture institute WORM. After overcoming various restrictions that came along with the 19th century building, the team created the perfect home for the institute. They used reclaimed parts of an Indonesian Airlines Airbus for the concert hall and reused rolling photo archive cabinets found in the basement as furniture.

Hajo Doorn, director of WORM, said: “We didn’t know when we were starting or how it would look like in the end and that’s a very dynamic way of dealing with architects.”

It seems understandable that many would feel slightly concerned when faced with the idea of being surrounded by used materials. Jongert says he has noticed many of his clients have the same reaction: “In the beginning people react awkwardly … to the idea of using waste, but when we design we always find a new aesthetic and patterns with those materials and components, not revealing their origin in the first instance, but creating a new layer in the new function. People react positively and surprised when they discover the origin and depth.”

Although challenging, the experience of working with reused materials is certainly not something that Doorn regrets, saying: “It is fun to do it and to be environmentally friendly doesn’t mean it has to be boring.”

Transforming waste, transforming attitudes

Although the redecoration of interiors for homes or businesses are usually purely for aesthetics, using reclaimed or recycled materials can have as positive effect on the environment as reusing materials saves energy which would have been wasted creating new materials.

On 2012Architecten’s talent for using reclaimed materials, Jongert explains: “Our strength is that we look at what people find discarded and ugly and waste and transform that into new aesthetical products.”

The terms eco-friendly and green design have not always been as popular as they are now. Jongert knows this all too well and reflects on the changes that have occurred during his time in the industry.

“When we started 15 years ago there was not much interest in these thoughts … the whole concept of recycling resources has pretty much changed,” Jongert says. “I think there is a much bigger understanding about this.”

The change in attitudes towards eco issues has seen 2012Architecten’s business increase year by year. “It has also changed the kind of projects that we are involved with so we started with very small interiors and more art-like projects and grew to really big interiors and buildings.”

Taking responsibility for green design

Along with its followers eco design also has its critics. The main criticism of eco design is that it puts politics before design, creating a clash between green and good design. Jongert strongly disagrees with this stance, stating that bad design is not limited to “conscious” designers.

“You have very bad green design and very bad non-conscious design as well and there is also very good design that doesn’t take care of anything. Design, I think, is about creating added value and in every process this is possible, the difference is the responsibility you take as a designer.

“It takes maybe a bit more effort to deal with all the contexts you have to take care of and to understand about it and that’s not something that designers are taught very much about in their education, but I think this is a new way to go.”

Another criticism of eco design is that it can be expensive to buy green products or make your home eco friendly, and in this economy many people may not want to spend money redecorating their homes in a sustainable and eco friendly way when redecorating is already seen as a luxury.

Jongert agrees that for many people, converting to an eco friendly lifestyle can be expensive, but he sees a way around it: “As soon as you find people in your neighbourhood that are a bit handy and you have material to supply, you can, on a very small scale, transform your direct environment, so I think that’s much more interesting.”

The design skills and knowledge of 2012Architecten might seem quite daunting to replicate, but the company wants to make it as easy as possible for ordinary people to make their homes eco friendly and sustainable using reclaimed materials.

“We are working on a digital ‘harvest map’ so that other designers as well can see what materials are available,” Jongert explains. “Because it is connected to superuse.org, you can get inspiration from other products that are being designed and gain the knowledge to make it possible to obtain these materials that would otherwise be hidden.”

“That is something that we think is essential, that materials should not be privatised after they are harvested. They are returned, in a way, to the public.”