Posts written during 'March 2012'
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Thursday, 8th Mar 2012
Christchurch Primary was a mixed school where I passed from laddish indifference to girls, through to the first stirrings that these curious beings might actually serve some purpose beyond ‘kiss chase’. A predominately white, Church of England establishment, it was the better of two local schools; the other was Cowley where the roughnecks went. The neighbourhood I grew up in had a liberal sprinkling of Jamaicans, Irish, English and the aforementioned Greeks. As I remember it was about as harmonious as a bunch of displaced misfits could get. If there was any trouble it was of the type of drama reminiscent of cheap daytime soap operas. I never saw any direct racial trouble. Although when things erupted, as they inevitably would in this fragile ecosystem, people were quick to revert to basic colour-coded insults. We had the usual assortment of urban bit players and everyone knew who the major characters were, and who had bit parts. During the late sixties, I moved on to Archbishop Tennison’s School in Oval, south east London. I was truly dropped in the deep end being the only West Indian pupil at the school over a five-year period. My father was so proud when he found out that I’d been accepted by a Grammar School, he ran out and got me a shiny tan leather briefcase with my initials embossed in gold on the side. I hated that briefcase. We had to wear short trousers for the first year of Grammar School. On the very first day the school bully greeted us ‘first years’ by slashing our legs with his steel comb. When he made a move on me I smacked him in the mouth—simultaneously the bell for break rang, giving him no time to retaliate. Perfect timing. It wasn’t that I was particularly good at fighting, it was just that if I had gone home and told my parents that I’d let someone do that to me they would have beaten me! But by the same token if I went home and told my parents I’d got a beating from a teacher guess what, I’d also get a beating from them. Go figure.
Whilst at school, I can remember all too well Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech that he made in 1968. He demanded an immediate lowering of the numbers of immigrants setting up life in the UK and wanted those that were already lIving here to be sent back home. That speech had a devastating effect at street level. One minute I’m playing with my mates in the playground the next it was fuck off you black bastard. Wog, nigger, Kit-E-Kat eater, Brillo bonce, coon, sunshine, chief, sambo—all these names and more were used to try to humiliate me. But whenever they called me a name, I’d just proudly reply, “That’s right.” It was like “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud” as James Brown put it. This would piss them off no end and in the end they began to respect my stance. During this period I became close to a white guy called Roy Freeland or ‘Froggy’ as he came to be known and we became best of friends throughout secondary school. He was the one that got me hooked on the Beatles. I’d bought “Penny Lane” for seven shillings and six pence, a huge commitment in those days. It was Froggy that taught me the meaning of ‘obsession’. Luckily my steadily growing ego would save me from the one-way street of ‘fandom’, but not before I had acquired one of the largest collection of Beatles’ memorabilia in the U.K years later.
At the age of twelve I had to decide which subjects to pursue to examination level. Simple, right? Wrong. My parents believed that a black person couldn’t possibly make a living as an artist. So in my best interests they decided that I should take up physics, chemistry and technical drawing. Years later when it came time to sit my exams, in a moment of rebellion, I wrote on my chemistry paper, “a chemist I was not to be, that I clearly state, ’cause I got a splitting headache and I cannot concentrate.” I drew a nude woman for my technical drawing examination with the caption: “curves are better than straight lines.” Anyway, we’d just discovered sex, drugs and rock’n’roll for Christ’s sake! God knows what a distraction that can be for a jaded adult, let alone those juveniles who considered they were boldly going were no man had been before.
Now in my formative years I was immersed in white culture. Through hanging with white guys like Froggy I got to hear bands like Led Zeppelin, Captain Beefheart, Cream and Pink Floyd. I had that coming in one ear, and in the other ear I was listening to black music. Being immersed in black and white cultures made me open-minded and was the beginning of me not wanting to be defined by my colour. I didn’t understand the attitude or school of thought that said, “If you are black, then you could only listen to black music and be immersed in black culture.” The juxtaposition of black and white cultures side-by-side just made for a more interesting ride.
Click HERE for all blog posts by Don Letts.
Wednesday, 7th Mar 2012
Our Friends of Fred project returns this week, with a new selection of iconic brands invited to join the fold. For SS12 Aquascutum, George Cox and Ally Capellino came aboard, as well as new seasonal contributions from Sunspel and Levi's.
This season's outfit includes two pairs of limited edition George Cox x Fred Perry creeper shoes; created with dual branding on the inner sock and a traditional stacked crepe sole. Known for making the very first creepers, British shoemakers George Cox became the brand of choice for subcultures ranging from the drainpipe clad Teddy Boys of the 1950s to Ska and Psychobilly. For Friends of Fred, George Cox have created a versatile brushed black suede creeper as well as an exclusive navy and ecru colour option.
George Cox x Fred Perry Creepers
British born and trained designer Ally Capellino has contributed two of her signature heavy waxed canvas bags, created in an exclusive colour option that's only available through the project. The spacious 'Dean' rucksack and stylish 'Dougie' side bag feature rich bridle leather buckles, coated canvas bases and embossed branding.
Ally Capellino 'Dean' rucksack and 'Dougie' side bag
British brand Aquascutum have contributed their iconic Sheerwater raincoat, worn by everyone from Humphrey Bogart to Michael Caine. Favoured by the mod movement due to its streamlined styling and slim, tailored fit; the Sheerwater raincoat continues to be made in England, lined with the brand's signature club check cloth.
Past friends Sunspel return to the project, contributing a classic striped long sleeve top as well as a seasonal striped t-shirt made from the finest cotton. Levi’s also return for a third season with the Bedford cord; a key trouser style based on an original 1966 fit, with a slim cut, ‘Big E’ red tab branding and traditional five pocket construction.
Please note, our Manchester shop will not be carrying Levi's styles.
Friday, 2nd Mar 2012
Celine Danhier's Blank City premieres in the UK this evening, presenting a fascinating look at the misfit cinema of the late 70s and 80s that emerged from an economically bankrupt and dangerous period of New York history. Made on shoestring budgets in collaboration with the pioneering musicians and visual artists that ruled downtown Manhattan, these stripped-down edits coined the phrase 'No-Wave' cinema. Whilst the punk scene of the same era enjoyed a much celebrated notoriety, this thrilling and confrontational underground film movement has never before been chronicled.
Set to a soundtrack of Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell & Sonic Youth; Blank City captures the maverick spirit of the New York Underground that continues to be prevalent today. Featured players include actor, writer and director Steve Buscemi, Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Hip Hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, all captured on Super 8 camera wherever the directors could grab a shot.
Blank City will be screened at the ICA, London, from 2-15th March, the QFT Belfast from 6-8 March and The Cube, Bristol from April 30th - May 2nd.
Celine Danhier will also be hosting a Q+A at the Rio Cinema, Dalston at a special screening this evening.