by Stephen John (Sage) Hartley
Sick of Being Normal
is a song by Notsensibles.
I wrote it.
It’s just a nondescript one chord teenage angstism.
40 years later, and catalysed by Mid Pennine Arts (no hyphen), who were there right at the start, the idea of a celebration of the local punk scene is born. It slots neatly into Mid Pennine’s Pendle Radicals project. We’re close to Pendle (I have a splendid view from the ranch) and by jove we’re radical.
It’s Boff’s idea and Casey and I complete the working party. We’re soon meeting regularly with Nick and colleagues at Mid Pennine.
It’s not just an old farts’ revival party – it’s a multi-dimensional, cross-generational thing.
There’ll be a gig + an exhibition of then and now pics of some of the main protagonists + a fanzine-like publication with interviews with aforementioned by me and Boff. Casey (a photographer) takes the pics. There’ll also be a film of the night, then the exhibition and associated talks and giglets will tour Pendle. Neat.
It gathers interest and momentum. What shall we call it? Sick of Being Normal? Why not? It somehow captures the then-and-now anti-establishment irreverence.
What’s important is to feature how the punk movement has moved into and influenced the current generation. We find MeLeon a rapper and the house band for the night is half oldies and half youngies.
Like any big project, it’s not without hitches. We thought we’d found the perfect venue – the old Kippax factory in Colne, now a skating rink. It falls through and we have to find somewhere else at short notice.
Coincidentally, Jamie Cunningham, another local muso mover and shaker is putting on events upstairs at the Burnley library. He uses one of the large majestic rooms. The mirror-image one across the way is empty. It was originally the children’s library. The atmosphere is amazing and the architecture is stunning. Bingo.
It’s not all plain sailing. Is it Pendle enough? Is it big enough? Can we stay late enough?
Coincidentally there’s a cool new bar in town The Gallery at Creative Arts. It all clicks into place. We can have the gig at the library and an after-party with DJs at the bar. Cool.
The last minute preps are frantic. It sells out and suddenly everyone want to come.
Can you get me a ticket?
It’s alright on the night. It’s more than alright. It’s an astonishing success. Khany comes from America and people travel from all over. The after-party is a blast.
Originally we were aiming for the end of the year (2019) but realised that was over-ambitious, so we went for early 2020. January is a non-starter. We discussed waiting until spring, but opted for early Feb. Was it insight? Was it intuition? Probably not. Any later, and it would have been another Covid victim.
Then Lock-down comes and for me, it really is lock-down. I work in a f’ing hospital innit!
Music goes out of the window, but the seeds are sewn and the project has its own quiet momentum. Now the film is finished and off we go again. We’re doing the digital online shit which isn’t my bag but it’s still punk and we’re still sick of being normal.