What is Normal?

On Saturday 8 February 2020 we had a wonderful evening of music, photography, words and print as the Sick of Being Normal exhibition and event looked back at the punk explosion in the Pendle Hill area in 1979-80, and its legacy. It was the launch of Casey Orr’s exhibition, which was due to be at Burnley Central Library until Easter and then travel on to other venues in Pendle. Of course, Covid-19 meant that plans changed!

At that February event was Feona Hadcroft, a Master of Fine Art student at UcLAN in Preston. As part of her MA Feona wrote a review of the exhibition, which we are excited to share with you.

Feona says that through her studies she has… discovered a love of print and delving into the realms of memory! It has been such good timing for the punk exhibition as I am linked in many ways to each of the ‘old’ rockers within the Pendle punk scene. I was young at the time, but my brother used to take me along ‘occasionally’. Their attitudes affect my way of thinking and doing to this day!


If only I had realized how monumental
‘that day’ way back in the late 70’s was to be!
The day I helped my brother fashion
a necklace out of a slice of toast and string…
FH (2020)

SICK OF BEING NORMAL

Pendle Punk Forty Years On

Photography exhibition – Casey Orr

Photo-zine writings – Boff Whalley and Stephen Hartley

Part of the Pendle Radicals project, led by Mid Pennine Arts

That 0282 Place – Burnley Central Library – 8th February to 18th April 2020

Renowned documentary photographer, Casey Orr (b.1968 Pennsylvania), has lived in England for 14 years, working as a freelance photographer and senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University.  Orr’s work is about systems of power and breaking down barriers, so fits beautifully within this exhibition.  Sick of being Normal is an exhibition celebrating what was and what developed from the way the ‘then’ younger generation felt.  Casey’s colour photographs document twelve of the notable people, perhaps, the better-known radicals of yesteryear.  Images and interviews in the large-scale photo-zine publication fig:1, part of the exhibition, help to shed light on how lives were changed by the local and national events of 1970/80’s.  The publication also includes writings from internationally famous Chumbawamba songwriter Boff Whalley and Stephen Hartley, original member of Pendle’s well known ‘local’ punk band the Notsensibles.

TAPE THAT LEAVES A STICKY RESIDUE WHEN REMOVED

Casey’s poster sized prints are predominantly grouped on two adjacent walls, displayed as they would have been on my bedroom wall back in the late 70’s – 80’s, conjuring up a nostalgic feeling of my own youth and probably that of many who view this exhibition.  The way the photographs were fastened to the wall by short strips of brightly coloured fluorescent duct tape, signifies the strong colourful bunch who were ready to fight the world, and say how about we do it a little different!  It seems fitting that the photographs have been exhibited in such a way, simple yet very effective.  In this exhibition, we take a time travelling journey exploring the explosion of the Pendle Punk scene in 1979-80.  Through the exhibition and publication, we can gain an understanding of Pendle Punks legacy.

(fig:1) Photo-zine Deconstructed – Sick of Being Normal

One thing I note as I look at Casey Orr’s images, is each of these people have lived their lives by pushing boundaries, they have lived their lives wanting to challenge things that are not how they should be.  These people are Generation PUNK, you can see the battle scars on every one of the people photographed by Casey.  Casey’s images are displayed amongst several spunky old black and white photographs, each capturing fuzzy moments in time, snap shots of the ‘then’ and Casey’s ‘now’.  This juxtapositioning allows me to shed light on the injustice, inequality and the sidelined aspects of society, that each of the documented have probably endured over time.  Showing me the reality of the forty-year gap.

ROCK BOTTOM IS THE FIRE IN ROCK AND ROLL

Newspaper cuttings, black and white photographs and the occasional album cover, artifacts of the yester-youth in this exhibition show me there was hope.  It was the late 1970’s and the people of the United Kingdom were ready for change.  Britain had just experienced ‘the winter of discontent’, the pound had plummeted, and inflation rates soared.  Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative party had now been newly elected the UK’s Prime Minister – Thatcherism was happening and change was inevitable, people had nothing, jobs were in short supply.   Many of the younger generation were now unemployed or on a government funded Youth Opportunity Programme.  The wage of a YOP was £19.50 per week, this was apparently to encourage the younger generation to find employment.  The average weekly wage in the UK (1979) – for men £101.30 and women £63 … why were women paid so much less than men?  Anyway, the younger generation felt robbed, they were being used as cheap labour, it was depressing times for all.  Punk reacted against 1970’s authoritarianism; when you hit rock bottom it ignites a yearning for change. 

A powerful sense of creativity added fuel to the new beginning, people were coming back from visiting the Big Cities, such as London and New York with tales of Anarchy and protest.  The massive Punk explosion of these big cities took a few years to fully filter through to the Northern villages and small towns.  The voice of prominent punk bands such as The Clash and Sex Pistols were being heard, it was time for change.  The punk scene had not fizzled out, and the death of Sid Vicious from a heroin overdose – New York (1979) had not been the end, the blue touch paper had been ignited.  Creative ripples had been set in motion; PUNK was indeed not dead.  It was just about to ‘go off’ big time, in a colourful display of Lancashire creativity, a fast-paced and hard-edged urgency was picking up speed UP North.

THEY COULDN’T BE NORMAL – EVEN IF THEY TRIED

Stephen Hartley, founder member of the self-acclaimed ‘first’ Pendle Punk band The Notsensibles fig:2, had helped to record the time with his camera, his black and white images are excellent artifacts.  Without the likes of Stephen Hartley, much of the Pendle Punk scene would have not happened, he was one of the privileged few.  Thankfully, amongst the punk scene there were teenagers who came from stable backgrounds, ones who had parents who believed in them, ones who had access to transport and instruments, and then there were the families like mine, the ones who couldn’t have begun to pretend to be normal even if they tried.  


(fig:2) Notsensibles (79) Image courtesy of S Hartley

I am eternally grateful to the privileged ones, for this is where the story developed.  Young creatives who were able to get there, energetic do’ers, the go getters, youths from the small towns and villages in and around Pendle, catalyst for Pendle Punk.  Ones who fought adolescent boredom and now adultness.

THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE – FAST FORWARD 40 YEARS

The dust has settled, it seems fitting that the gallery space of Burnley Central Library’s old children’s library, is once again a place for quiet contemplation.  I spoke to Jamie Cunningham at That 0282 Place he was there on the opening night; he told me about the buzz he had felt, people dipping in and out all night. The gallery was filled with many who were just teenagers at the time, familiar faces, who had been part of the Pendle punk scene.  Joined in unity once again, sharing memories together. The reunion was an equitable part of the exhibition, in equal measure to the music, writings and photography.  Creatives had travelled great distances to get there for the opening night, some from as far afield as Australia.  One of the musicians had even traveled all the way over from America, just to perform on the opening night.  But for some the distance needed to travel was a far greater challenge, it was a journey they ‘maybe’ had to conquer in their own minds.  Rock-n-roll people came to the opening ‘whom’ only had a few road miles to travel yet, they had to overcome the barriers of self, the greatest distance of all to trek.  Thankfully these creatives were able to push forward and leave the confides of their homes and join the unity, the powerful draw of creativity.  Unfortunately, for some of the important Pendle punk participants it was impossible to arrive at all, these were there simply in the memories shared.

A SLICE OF NECKLACE

One of the notorious punks Pepe Bona lead singer out of Walter Mitty’s Head, a better-known energetic band of the time, was unfortunately unable to make the opening night.  Boff Whalley in his writings, mentions a moment shared with Pepe and others at a gig some forty years ago.

Unforgettably, Pepe turned up at a punk gig at the Lowerhouse cricket club wearing a piece of toast around his neck.  As the night wore on, people took bites out of it.

Boff Whalley (SOBN photo-zine 2020)

I was thrilled to read this in Boff’s writings, as Pepe is my older brother.  I had stood with Pepe in our kitchen, when he was making this necklace.  Boff’s memory transported me back in time so vividly, I can even smell the aroma of bread, toasting.  We had laughed so much, and I can knowledgeably inform you that the bread was not just any old bread, it was a ‘Warburtons’ thick sliced, toasty white.  What a fantastic point in time to have been swept back to.  Such a shame I don’t have an actual photograph of this moment, although in my memory I do!

I found Pepe ‘captured in time’, on one of the grainy enlarged photographs fig:3 taken by Stephen Hartley or Sage as Stephen likes to be called.  Pepe looks so very young in the black and white photograph, they all do.  Standing on the right of the picture, leaning backwards into the group of creatives, wearing a sharp white edged blazer, the piping sewn on to the jacket by his own design.  The carrier bag slung over his wrist is pre–brand advertising, a simple white carrier bag, I am confident the bag contains records, records bought in London.  He was celebrated there too!

(fig:3) Photograph courtesy of Stephen Hartley

HE UNDERSTANDS THE PASSING OF TIME

As I walk around the exhibition, I am instantly drawn to Ticker Le Punk fig:4, one of the largest posters in the set – does this scale in size define his importance within the Pendle Punk scene.  Ticker looks cocky, he seems to exude a deeply rooted attitude, In the loveliest of ways!  You can tell he has ‘seen stuff’.  It’s not about how Casey executed the photograph i.e. which shutter speed she uses, but instead the true representation of the human and their inner most experiences.  You can feel Tickers unease at having a camera pointed in his direction, a little awkward, yet exuding a certain air of Rock and roll, you can see he meant to do it … all of it.  ‘It’s life you see, and I want to do it my way’, I imagine him say from the confides of the photograph.  He looks shy and yet exudes confidence in himself.

(fig:4) Ticker Le Punk 60”x 48” – Casey Orr (2020) – Sick of Being Normal

Ticker Le Punk – he’s stood there in a Stetson hat, like the one Bono won back in a legal battle (2005) worn on his Joshua Tree tour… YET, Tickers looks cool, much cooler than Bono.  Ticker wears his leopard print Stetson with a pure rock and roll attitude a deep-seated air of pride – Like he knows stuff. 

THE OLDER YOU – LIKELY YOU

Casey enables us to see into his world and better understand it, the world of the punk lives through photographic portraiture.  It is easy to see from the emotions she managed to capture that Ticker is indeed rock-n-roll and everything that the punk rock movement stands for.  I am intrigued by the flash of red neatly tucked under Tickers lapel fig:5, what are these slightly obscured writings upon a bright red patch.  Is this simple language of the handwritten message, peeking out from behind the pinstriped suit jacket, partially hidden on purpose like his emotions?  The uppercase sentence boldly fashioned with tippex, each word yelling.  Capital letters emphasizing his message, is he expressing profound truths!  Just enough showing to create interest, enticing you in, to work it out yourself if you want to spend the time.

(fig:5) Detail; Ticker’s message – Red patch, profound words

I do want to spend the time, but so we are all on the same page, I decided to give Ticker Le Punk a call and ask him to discuss the rest of the concealed wordage.  He was happy to reveal the hidden message and highlight the shirt’s origin too …  

THE OLDER YOU ARE THE MORE LIKELY YOU ARE TO BE WRONG… THE YOUNGER YOU ARE… BE REASONABLE AND DEMAND THE IMPOSSIBLE

The fusion of these two sayings and the striped design were all hand painted in a totally punk DIY fashion, it reminds me of Dame Vivienne Westwood’s creations.  Prominent British fashion designer Westwood was largely responsible for bringing modern punk fashions into the mainstream.

DIFFERENCE IS NORMALITY

The opening night saw a live performance from the long-standing post punk group Screech Rock, singing songs with titles such as Baby You’re a Scab. One of the singers Lindsey Walsh, a beautiful creature, looks and acts so differently when not onstage.  Lindsey Walsh artist, DJ and singer (top left fig:6) has been a close friend for many years.  She is one of the people who helped me to understand, at a young age, normality is in your own head.  It seems fitting seeing her stuck to the gallery wall in such a DIY fashion, on a slight slant encapsulating the era.   

Top left (fig:6): Lindsey Walsh 24”x 36” – Casey Orr (2020)

In the photograph, Lindsey stands in front of her trailer, her home based at Prospect Farm, Colne.  She is slight and so wears two coats, a leather bomber jacket under a blue mac, the clothing and lighting suggest a brisk winter’s day.  Her eyes shielded yet, at the same time magnified by her oversize Clark Kent style spectacles, appearing most humble.  Lindsey is well recognized by her trademark dreadlocks, and the shortest of rebellious fringes I have ever known.  Casey has caught Lindsey outside her everyday groove, she is captured in a moment of contemplation, pausing in her thinking.  Her expression at odds with the atmosphere of what is going on around her, out of shot, creating a certain sense of warmth in her eyes.  She says that she has kept all her values from punk… “friends, feelings and the vibe, everything. Simple.”

CREATIVITY – ANYONE CAN DO IT

Documentary photography is often used to aid the bettering of society, this wasn’t necessary, many of the people in the photographs had already done that.  These people are punk rockers, key protagonists in their ‘normal’ daily lives.  Importantly, Casey and Stephen’s photographs and the broad sheet photo-zine facilitate a better understanding, a reflection of the world of punk through the exhibition of photographic portraiture, recollections and time.  It’s clear to see the people who experienced the Pendle Punk wave convey a very simple message, beautifully.  These people have carried the punk ethos forward into their lives, acceptance of others; the fortunate ones that survived are the ‘punk’ pensioners of today, ‘almost’.  So much has happened in the last forty years, I wonder what the story will be of these radical thinking non-conformist revolutionaries,eighty years’ on? Hopefully, I will witness the next celebration, proud to have experienced the initial outer ripples of the punk revolution, in Pendle.  

ARE WE HUMAN OR ARE WE DANCER?

In the light of COVID-19: are we ready for a relapse of the happenings of 40 years ago?  Can the ‘world’ accommodate the explosion that should ensue, when people ‘en masse’ are given time to find their ‘self’?

If ‘collectively’ there are more protagonists, holding PUNK values … ‘non-conformity, anti-authoritarianism, anti-corporatism, a DIY ethic, anti-consumerist, anti-corporate greed, direct action and not ‘selling out’, … anarchy could catch-on on a scale that is incomprehensible, worldwide!  Given time to stop and think, will ‘the 20/20 visionaries’ see that ‘together we go further’ and fight for an anti-establishment world and individual freedom, cutting free from the strings of automata – OR – just simply sit ‘bored’ on the naughty step and await ‘Normality’!?

If only I could teleport back
to the time when it all seemed less complicated
and shake the ones who went out and forgot to go home
FH (2020)

REFERENCES

Orr, C. (no date) i Portraits of Anarchists. Available at: http://www.caseyorr.com/i-portraits-of-anarchists.php (Accessed: 23/03/2020).

Mid Pennine Arts (no date) Sick of Being Normal. Available at: https://midpenninearts.org.uk/news/sick-of-being-normal/ (Accessed: 22/02/2020).

Wilson, T. Granada TV (1978) B’dum B’dum Buzzcocks Magazing Documentary. 25/08/2007. Available at: https://youtube.com/view_play_list?p=C400825399EC9574 (Accessed: 01/04/2020).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Art21 (2016) Idea Generator Liz Magor. Available at: https://art21.org/read/liz-magor-idea-generator/ (Accessed: 04/04/2020).

Collis, D. (09/01/2020) Burnley and Pendle punk event for those ‘Sick of Being Normal’. Available at: URL (Accessed: 30/01/2020).

McKittrick, D. (08/10/2006) Such old hat: After 19 years, Bono goes to court to get his Stetson back. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/such-old-hat-after-19-years-bono-goes-to-court-to-get-his-stetson-back-6230645.html (Accessed: 26/03/2020).

Pendle Radicals (06/12/2019) Sick of Being Normal! Available at: https://pendleradicals.wordpress.com/2019/12/06/sick-of-being-normal/ (Accessed: 28/03/2020).

White, V. (05/07/2015) It’s 40 years since the punk revolution. Available at: https://mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/going-out/music/its-40-years-punk-revolution-6001729 (Accessed: 28/03/2020).

PHOTOGRAPHIC AND PUBLICATION ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Hartley, S. (1979) [fig:2 fig:3]. Place of Publication: https://facebook.com/pendleradicals/ (Accessed: 10/02/2020).

Orr, C. (2020) Ticker Le Punk [fig:4]. That 0282 Place / Sick of Being Normal Photo-Zine. (2020)

Orr, C. (2020) Lindsey Walsh [fig:6].  That 0282 Place / Sick of Being Normal Photo-Zine. (2020)

Whalley, B. Hartley, S (2020)[fig:1] Sick of Being Normal [Pendle Punk Fourty Years On]. Photo-zine Publication Available: ‘That 0282 Place’, Burnley Library. (08/02/2020 – 18/04/2020).


You can find out more about Sick of Being Normal HERE
You can find out more about Feona HERE

2 thoughts on “What is Normal?

  1. Oli

    A brilliant capture of memories being told. The part where the toast necklace was being eaten randomly had me laughing. Really good read and insight to the punk scene in the Penines

    Like

  2. Pingback: What is Normal? (via the Rebel Pen Club) | Mid Pennine Arts

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