Still Sick of Being Normal

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.


Stephen ‘Sage’ Hartley is the guitarist in cult East Lancs band Notsensibles, an A & E consultant, author, record label owner, printmaker and small scale organic farmer! Read more musings from Sage on his blog – Hartley’s Plot.
The Sick of Being Normal film is available HERE.
The ‘digital online shit’ happened (for the first time) at 8pm on Friday 18 September 2020. You can find out more about it HERE.

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

Reclaiming A History of Pendle Punk – We’re Going To Need A Louder Record Player!

Writer/composer/musician/fell runner Boff Whalley is one third of the creative powerhouse behind Sick of Being Normal. Back in the punk moment, he was a stalwart of Chimp Eats Banana. Boff considers how that unruly creative flowering has stayed with so many contributors through their later lives, and how punk in Pennine Lancashire has contributed to a longer story of nonconformism, independence and dissent.

 

History is a slippery, shape-shifting thing. I found out long after I’d left school that all the history I’d learnt had been filtered through someone’s opinion and that it could be changed to suit whoever was doing the telling. In my case, at school it came via a few dog-eared standard textbooks that, judging by the roll-call of pupils’ names listed inside the front cover, had been around for decades. It also usually came via a boring teacher who was clearly bored stiff of teaching bored kids about the boring stuff in the boring books.

Years later I realised that history could be relevant, exciting and crucial to the way we understand the world. Which didn’t make it any less of a shape-shifting thing – the same event could still be re-told in completely different ways, and time itself could shape our opinions: over a period of many years, the things that initially seemed outrageous and anti-social could be accepted as innovative, crusading and essential to the way we lived.

Reading old newspapers from the time of the suffragettes you’d never believe that these pioneering women would one day be championed and celebrated. (The Guardian at the time declared that the actions of the suffragettes were  “such as one was accustomed to attribute to women from the slums” while a Daily Mirror editorial was simply titled ‘Let The Hunger Strikers Die!’).

Fortunately the chosen Pendle Radicals that are being celebrated in the ongoing MPA series are old enough (and, frankly, dead enough) to have come through being pilloried and criticised and we can now collectively agree on how the suffragettes and suffragists, along with the trades union organisers, nonconformists, pacifists, Chartists, Clarion clubbers and more, are remembered as inspiring trail-blazers.

I was wondering about all this history stuff a couple of years ago, realising that a lot of the firebrands and rebels who I’d looked up to were still dotted around the world, working away and still passionate and driven in their radical ideas. Pacifists, theatre-makers, poets and anarchists, demonstrators, feminists, writers and activists. And it dawned on me that it would be good to try to weave into our local and regional histories of radical subversives and free-thinkers those people who I’d grown up with, ordinary kids who made their own little history in the Pendle area, fired up by punk and by opposition to Thatcher’s ‘no such thing as society’ ideology to create their own social community.

SOBN Exhib - newspaper clippingThis is how Sage, Casey and me first came together to talk about the Pendle Punk exhibition – not as a nostalgic look back, not as a sort of school reunion with hair dye, but as a way of incorporating those strange and inspiring times into ‘proper’ history, a history that’s survived the ridiculous headlines and cliches (as the Burnley Express headline said at the time, ‘MP Slams Obscene Punk Magazine’) and become a small part of the story of the Pendle Radicals. Maybe it was also a way of rescuing that little slice of history from being shape-shifted by London-centric cultural commentators, a way of saying that we can tell our own history in the way we want it to be told.

And the way we wanted it to be told was with large-scale portraits of those punks as they are now, with a newspaper to give them space to talk about the way their lives were altered by those times. By holding an opening event that partly reflected the music of those days but could be mixed up with what’s happening now, how that punk aesthetic still resonates with a young grime artist. By filming interviews with people and giving them the chance to think and talk about what that punk culture meant historically and what it can mean personally, now. And by holding this exhibition the hope was that we could situate the East Lancashire punk explosion within the history of the infamous Pendle Radicals – even if only as a nagging, sleeve-tugging footnote.

image00011When the opening of the exhibition was held at Burnley Library I was worried about it turning into simply an excuse for nostalgia; and though I love the idea of meeting up with a lot of those folks who I haven’t seen for decades, this had to feel like more than that. Even digging through my old badge collection for them to be photographed for the exhibition reminded me how loudly political the punk movement in the area was – and at the Library, talking to people who’d travelled from all over the place to be there, I was told constantly how those few years had changed and shaped people’s lives, made them socially aware, responsible, questioning, radical.

History will always be ‘up for grabs’, available to be twisted and distorted by people. Which is why it’s essential and inspiring that local people can re-tell the stories of the folk from their area – whether it’s ancient or recent history – so that they aren’t forgotten, dismissed or just written out.

Boff Whalley

Sick of Being Normal will continue after the lockdown, with further showings of the exhibition by Casey Orr, and additional special events. Watch out too for a short film captured at the February event, and further blog posts.

SOBN publication - front page - cropped

Photographing The Punks

Photographer Casey Orr, whose portraits of people involved in the Pendle punk explosion of 1979-80 will be exhibited as part of  Sick of Being Normal – Pendle Punk – 40 Years  On, gives an outsider’s perspective on how the physical and emotional landscape of East Lancashire played its part…

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I’ve lived in the North of England for 25 years and in that time I’ve regularly travelled from Yorkshire over the Pennines to visit my in-laws in Burnley.  I’ve run on the hills and explored the towns of East Lancashire. As a photographer I’ve worked there and know many people from the region. I’ve lived with one of these punks for over half my life so you’d think I would have understood a bit more about how punk changed the lives of people coming of age at that time and the ways in which this creative explosion reacted with British culture and specifically Northern small town communities.

I just did not get it until sitting in on the interviews for this project and listening to these people talk about that time and how it transformed their lives forever.

The smaller worlds we all inhabited in the 1970s are so alien to us now in the 24/7 interconnected nonstop reality we live in. There was less visible choice of who we could be, of what lives were possible. When we come of age and are looking for clues to guide us these chance meetings and sightings often come from culture, from music.

Forty years ago I was 11 years old and watching Saturday Night Live in my family living room in small town USA. David Bowie was carried onto stage in a plastic tuxedo by performance artists Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias. The performance changed my life forever. My whole self woke up to the possibilities of what my life could be.

IMG_0329

The people photographed here, I photographed 12 people for the project, spoke about these moments too, moments that changed everything. They were young adults when punk exploded, full of energy, just stepping out of school and family life and in a position to seemingly make anything and everything happen. They were from the same place, from a shared culture and often a shared lack of opportunity. All of this bonded these creative kids and made a community through the music, art, fun and freedom that punk offered. They were in it together. Everyone talked about this.

The interviews and days photographing these people also showed me how important and integral the landscape of East Lancashire is to the people from here. There are hills to be seen everywhere, hills to be climbed and hills to look down from. Towns can be climbed out of, horizons are negotiated by what can and can’t be seen. The land is undulating. There are rocky outcrops to sit on, gardens to tend, paths to walk down. There is the changing sky, the clouds, the rain.

And then there is the wind. It blows through your coat, past your ears, up your pantleg. It sneaks around every corner. It isn’t quiet!

These people are a part of this landscape. The outside and inside are connected, the person, the hill, the wind. They are the 1970s punks but they are of this place – part of this landscape that predates us all.

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Casey Orr is a documentary photographer, researcher and lecturer at Leeds Beckett University.  Her long running project Saturday Girl, which in 2019 won an award at Format Festival, will be the subject of a new publication in 2020 from Bluecoat Press.
Click here to find more information, and buy tickets, for the Sick of Being Normal event on Saturday 8 February 2020 on Eventbrite.