Category Archives: Britain

2020 ➤ Beyond: Learning how to be black and gay and blaze a trail to the future

Shapersofthe80s, black issues, gay issues, film, Beyond, Claire Lawrie,

Beyond director Claire Lawrie, centre: with some of her garrulous cast answering questions after a screening at Central Saint Martins college. (Photo by Shapersofthe80s)

AFTER A STREAM OF EXCLUSIVE SCREENINGS for a poignant and edgy short documentary about growing up black and queer in Seventies Britain, everyone can now view it online. Titled Beyond “There is always a black issue Dear”, the 34-minute film explores black LGBT identities and the ways in which they have influenced the collective history of London’s alternative club, fashion, fine art, dance and music scenes. The cast of ten are long-standing friends of director/photographer Claire Lawrie who helps tell their personal stories when these fans of soul and disco, punks and Blitz Kids found each other’s company in underground clubs.

Over the past year Claire has won a fistful of film-festival awards and, prompted by the coronavirus lockdown, she has posted the full version online, and repeat viewings reward with deeper appreciation. Onetime Blitz Kid Andy Polaris is part of the project and he recalls its origins in this extract from his own website Apolarisview. . .

Black issues, gay issues, film, Beyond, Claire Lawrie,

Photo that inspired the movie Beyond – Click pic to view the film in another window

“To me it’s important now that people
realise that black people were there,
because a lot of the time they
tried to paint us out”
– Andy Polaris

❏ A 2013 exhibition at the V&A museum in London titled Club to Catwalk was instrumental in bringing the collective creative talent of Eighties fashion stalwarts and club luminaries together for a preview party that summer. It was a splendid event, one of the last memorable social events with such a vibrant successful crowd. Among the assembled were Judy Blame, Princess Julia, Andrew Logan, Zandra Rhodes, Body Map, Antony Price, Chris Sullivan and it was the last time I saw Steve Strange (who along with Rusty Egan) had brought us all together at the Blitz Club in 1979.

The visual artist Claire Lawrie was at the V&A and pondered on the omission from the exhibition of gay black talent whose influence had permeated Eighties club culture. Although Jeffrey Hinton’s brilliant cave of projected nightlife photography did feature some of us, Lawrie echoed some of her friends’ frustration that their experience was not reflected in the exhibition. She set about organising an open-call photograph to celebrate a contingent of black talent and arranged for the gathering to be filmed by her friends, Emile Kelly and Kim Mnguni. This was the genesis of something deeper and her award-winning documentary, Beyond “There is always a black issue Dear”, emerged from that event with her as director.

Click any pic of the interviewees to enlarge all in a slideshow

Over the next year Claire arranged interviews with ten of the candidates who were filmed on a shoestring. Contributions of archive footage were given by a long list of talented artists, people who, over the years had collaborated with and who wanted to show their respect and love for the cast. These included Pam Hogg, Dick Jewell, Dave Swindells and Nicola Tyson as well as John Maybury, Derek Ridgers, BodyMap, Devon Buchanon and Rankin.

The film adjusts the colour settings of the standard view of black creative lives when telling the story about club culture and its impact in the UK. Featuring ten black queer voices from the diaspora, born in the late Fifties and Sixties in the UK, Guyana and New York, the documentary delves into personal stories of discovery and eventual self-acceptance, looking back at struggles with identity and family and the wider world. The cast features stylist Frank Akinsete, transgender model Winn Austin, international model Roy Brown, make-up artist Kenny Campbell, choreographer Les Child, clubland pioneer Kenrick Davis and his mother Velma “Vee” Davis, nightclub host Nicky Green, gender-fluid performer Lanah Pellay, composer Robb Scott and myself as an original Blitz Kid turned pop singer.

Roy Brown, Black issues, gay issues, film, Beyond, Claire Lawrie

Roy Brown in 1985: poster boy for the Barbican’s recent exhibition on Masculinities. (Photo: Rotimi Fani-Kayode)

In the mid-Seventies and Eighties the UK’s attitudes to both race and gay issues were particularly brutal, endorsed by the anti-gay policies of Thatcher’s government and tabloid sensationalism regarding anything queer, especially later with the arrival of the Aids epidemic. The Seventies were marred by stereotypes of both marginalised groups, joining the sexist and misogynistic tropes in light entertainment and films which set the tone for how the world viewed us and how we viewed ourselves.

This lack of representation and role models forced us to create our own image during our teens, which in some cases was defiantly camp. Instead of allowing bullies to mock us, we accentuated certain behaviour, not just as a direct challenge to the heteronormative majority but against the conservative oppression in society.

Music and fashion were an escape from small-mindedness and even as early teens we were exploring alternatives and the fashionable disco and punk clubs were our laboratories of choice. . . / Continued at Apolarisview

➢ All about the making of Beyond “There is always
a black issue Dear”

➢ Interview with director Claire Lawrie: “These were
people that I looked up to and admired”

➢ On video – Beyond Q&A by RankinFilm after
the July 2019 screening at his studio

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2020 ➤ “Every hat is opening night” – Stephen Jones 40 years on

Culture, Vogue, millinery, Stephen Jones,Fashion, London, Social trends ,

Stephen Jones: 40 years as fashion’s head master

The decorated British milliner Stephen Jones has created headgear for everyone from Princess Diana to Rihanna, collaborated with some of fashion’s greatest houses and contributed to exhibitions around the world. This week he talks to Liam Freeman for Vogue about his glittering career. . .

Vogue, millinery, Stephen Jones,Fashion, Rihanna, Social trends ,

Rihanna sports Jones at the 2018 Met Ball (Getty)

It’s 40 years since Stephen Jones – one of the fashion industry’s most prolific and inventive milliners – entered the hat game. Does it feel like yesterday? “No it doesn’t,” the 62-year-old replies. “It definitely feels like I’ve had a career doing this. But the thrill and the terror of making a hat is just the same as when I started.” Why the terror? “You’re dealing with a piece of white paper, you’re working with a [insert: often world-famous] client, a high-profile designer, and you do learn how [to do it], but in a way you don’t because every hat is opening night… / Continued at Vogue online

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Britain’s top hatter, Stephen Jones OBE, celebrates 30 years of Jonesmanship

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➤ Thanks, Steve, for my invitation to the Swinging 80s

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Observer Music Magazine, Derek Ridgers,Spandau Ballet, Steve Dagger, Steve Strange, Tipping points,London, Media, Politics, Pop music, Swinging 80s,,

The Observer Music Magazine, Oct 4, 2009. Pictures © by Derek Ridgers

MARKING THE FOURTH ANNIVERSARY
OF STEVE STRANGE’S DEATH

WHEN MY PHONE RANG IN JANUARY 1980, little did I realise its message meant: “Put out the cat. You’re coming to the party of your life.” The voice on the other end spoke without pausing: “My name’s Steve Strange and I run a club called the Blitz on Tuesdays and I’m starting a cabaret night on Thursdays with a really great new band…. they combine synthesised dance music for the future with vocals akin to Sinatra, they’re called Spandau Ballet and they’re going to be really big. . .”

➢ Click through to continue reading Yours Truly’s eye-witness account of Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics at The Observer Music Magazine

➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s:
The Invisible Hand of Shapersofthe80s draws a selective
timeline for the break-out year of 1980

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➤ Four years on: How the Blitz Kids paid magnificent tribute to Steve Strange

On the fourth anniversary of Steve Strange’s passing
(not to mention the 40th anniversary of his Tuesday club-night
opening at the Blitz), how better to remember the man who revolutionised London nightclubbing than with the massive collection of tributes assembled here at Shapers of the 80s
from every significant Blitz Kid the day after Steve died…

1978, when Steve Strange teamed up with Rusty Egan (Photo © Fin Costello/Redferns)

1978, when Steve Strange met Rusty Egan. (Photo © Fin Costello/Redferns)

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Read the fulsome tributes to Steve paid by the Blitz Kids here after his sudden death in 2015

Brief tasters. . .
Original Blitz Club deejay Rusty Egan said: “I’m very, very sad and down tonight because I’ve lost an old friend. We had our disagreements but we did have a decade of the best times that anybody could ever have wished for. We made some amazing music, some amazing parties, clubs and fun and friends. Underneath it all he was a good soul. Steve, I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to say I still love you.”

Chris Sullivan, who ran Soho’s Wag Club: “We were both flamboyant club-running Welsh dandies but were never rivals. Steve had too much dignity for that. We were friends and remained so for the rest of his life. And I can say that Steve, despite quite a few hard years, never lost that that spark, humour or joie de vivre, was forever stylish and was always a pleasure to see.”

Princess Julia, writer and deejay: “Getting dressed up, going out and getting noticed… Steve was head of a subculture the likes of which perhaps we will never see again.”

Kim Bowen, stylist, onetime Queen of The Blitz: “Rushing enthusiasm, involving everyone, creating insane parties going round and round on the Circle Line. Some truly bad outfits (his not mine.) Shockingly, ‘Kim, will you be my official girlfriend?’ ”

And many, many more delicious anecdotes…

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➤ Milan says Ciao to snazzy Ross now fronting the flash dads of Spandau Ballet

Spandau Ballet, Ross William Wild, Martin Kemp, John Keeble, Fabrique Milano, pop music, interviews, tour dates

Last night at Fabrique Milano: singer Ross William Wild fronts the new Spandau line-up, alongside Martin Kemp and John Keeble

LAST NIGHT FIVE STARS WERE REBORN. Spandau Ballet returned to the international tour circuit with a long nostalgic set for an audience of 3,000 in Milan’s vast Fabrique music space. For their rebirth in fashion-conscious Italy, the leaders of the UK’s New Romantics movement during the Swinging 80s pulled out the stops: the dads flaunted floral beach shirts and zhooshy silky jackettis. Up front, their new boy-wonder vocalist Ross William Wild – recruited from Britain’s stage-musical circuit at the appetising age of 30 – dressed both down in Ts with street-cred ripped jeans and up in skimpy black leatherette. All radiated evident joy to be back onstage in this handful of dates titled The Next Line to test the temperature for bigger plans next year.

Tonight they play Rome, then Padua, Utrecht and Tilberg, then home on Monday facing a 3,600 audience at London’s Apollo Hammersmith where tickets at £57 and £155 are still available through Spandau’s own store.

Monday’s event Backstage Live presented by Pips Taylor will be streamed online from 19:45 to 20:30 GMT via YouTube and Facebook. Fans are invited to suggest funny and creative questions to put to the band by emailing in advance to nick [at] moonlightmile.co.uk

Spandau Ballet, Fabrique Milano, pop music, interviews, tour dates, Steve Norman , Gary Kemp

Looking sharp at Fabrique Milano: Steve Norman and Gary Kemp

Spandau Ballet, Fabrique Milano, pop music, interviews, tour dates, Steve Dagger

Milan last night: Manager Steve Dagger adds to the smiles all round after the Spandau Ballet tour launch. Front right is keyboardist Toby Chapman

Spandau Ballet,pop music, interviews, tour dates, Ross Wild, John Keeble

Wherrrrre’s Johnny? Missing from available Milan photos, Spandau drummer John Keeble – pictured instead in rehearsals with his new bro Ross. Plus the playlist

ROSS TELLS ALL IN RECENT INTERVIEWS

❏ In a frisky chat with Graham Norton on Radio2 [from 2h04], Ross told listeners that singer Tony Hadley’s exit leaves “an awesome legacy” but it wasn’t just a matter of him playing a role as Hadley: “As a kid, all I wanted to be was lead singer of a band. It’s liberating now to just be myself and sing as me.”

❏ Pre-show buzz included this lively and reflective interview with Ross and Steve Norman [above] for FaceCulture in Holland, plus a massive picture splurge on Spandau in The Sun last Friday:

Guitarist Gary Kemp insists the band are stronger after surviving Tony Hadley quitting as lead singer. Brother Martin adds: “We should be so lucky to play together and have that opportunity. In the end, we’re a family. We might be a dysfunctional family, but whose isn’t?”

Tony may no longer be part of Spandau’s plans but they insist they are all back on good terms, with Tony also recently making contact after a bereavement within Steve’s family. Steve says: “He was straight on the phone and that cut through everything. None of the grievances came into it. We’re old mates. . . / Continued at Sun online

Bang Bang Romeo, Spandau Ballet, pop music, interviews, tour dates,

Bang Bang Romeo who are supporting Spandau’s gigs: vocal powerhouse Anastasia Walker, Ross Cameron (guitars) and Richard Gartland (drums)

❏ “An absolute honour” – so say Yorkshire’s female-fronted soul rockers Bang Bang Romeo who will be supporting Spandau in Holland, as well as in London on the 29th. The trio represent a strong voice for the LGBT community.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2018, At Ross’s showcase debut, dad band Spandau preen with pride for their newly adopted son

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2018, Shock claims about the secret role of Shapers of the 80s in the rise and rise of Spandau Ballet

➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, Who was really who in Spandau’s break-out year, penned by the Invisible Hand of Shapers of the 80s

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