Category Archives: Youth culture

2021 ➤ New photos to rekindle the spirit of Brummie icons Kahn and Bell

Fashion, Swinging 80s, Gary Lindsay-Moore, Kahn & Bell, Birmingham Rag Market, Damien,

Photographed by Gary Lindsay-Moore for his show It’s Not Unusual: Damien models a vintage Kahn and Bell dress


❚ ART PHOTOGRAPHER Gary Lindsay-Moore was a teenager when he caught the bus from Tamworth to Birmingham city centre to search out a boutique he had been hearing rumours about. Heading on to Hurst Street, he stepped into the emporium created by designers Patti Bell and Jane Kahn – and discovered a whole new world.

“I had no money,” he says, “but went in and there was Patti although I didn’t know it was Patti at the time. I just saw this seven-foot Amazon with massive blonde spiked hair, a massive set of heels and leather and chains. And it was ‘Oh, my goodness, this is amazing’. I felt I’d found my cultural home – this was the kind of excitement I was looking for. The significance for me was profound.”

Together, in the late Seventies, Kahn and Bell revolutionised the city’s fashion scene. They were at the vanguard of punk and new romanticism, creating hand-made clothes for a host of pop icons including Birmingham’s own Duran Duran, Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz and music and dance group Shock.

Talked of as Birmingham’s Vivienne Westwood, Kahn and Bell gave people the opportunity to dress to express. And now, 45 years after their shop opened in 1976 in the city’s emerging Gay Quarter, Gary is paying homage to their innovation with a photography exhibition featuring some of their original flamboyant clothing. The exhibition is called It’s Not Unusual as a nod to Patti’s close relationship with music stars of the era including her friendship with singer Tom Jones.

Gary set about capturing the spirit of experimentation and freedom which Kahn and Bell encapsulated in a series of new images of their creations worn by some equally dramatic models. Between July 27–30 the free show runs at Birmingham’s Rag Market, where Patti also ran a stall.

i-D Magazine,Fashion, Swinging 80s, Gary Lindsay-Moore, Kahn & Bell, Birmingham Rag Market,

Kahn and Bell profiled in i-D Magazine No 5, while Shock’s Tik & Tok are seen modelling


One challenge lay in the clothes themselves. “A minor issue was that all these clothes were quite small, like sizes six or eight,” Gary says. “A lot of the photography I do is about body positivity, acceptance and individuality and I didn’t want to just use a skinny model. I wanted people who were modelling them to have the Kahn and Bell spirit.”

Gary tracked down local models with an individual sense of flair including some of the region’s best-known drag artists such as Birmingham’s Twiggy, who had a personal reason for wanting to be involved, having worked for Kahn and Bell in the past.

“I’m not trying to update pictures of Kahn and Bell which already exist,” Gary says. “It’s about putting my spin on the show, so all the models I’ve pictured did their own make-up although we talked about it beforehand to make sure it reflected the make-up of the time. There is lots of make-up, glitter and stick-on gemstones. They all look amazing.”

“I like pictures that work with sub-levels, so I’ve included some references people might spot. Patti and I are both big fans of the film Blade Runner and in one of my favourite scenes in that film there are lots of mannequins so I’ve added mannequins to some of the pictures as a tribute.

“I’m going to be there in the Rag Market and am happy to chat to people, especially those who don’t already know Kahn and Bell who can ask questions and then do a bit of research themselves. We have so much information at our fingertips now but 45 years ago it was all word of mouth.”

Gary has created a book around the project and has already presented Patti with her copy as a recent birthday present.

Birmingham, Fashion, Swinging 80s, Kahn & Bell,

Kahn and Bell in their early years, courtesy of Patti’s son Dylan Gibbons


➢ Prints of his images will also be available to buy on Gary’s website

❚ It’s Not Unusual runs July 27–30, 9am–5pm, at St Martin’s Rag Market, Edgbaston Street, Birmingham B5 4RB (tel 0121 464 8349)

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2001 ➤ Blitz Kids nail the rites for a Tuesday night out

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Spandau Ballet, pop music, fashion

Before the phrase New Romantics had been invented: Blitz Kids queue for Spandau Ballet’s second pivotal concert at the Scala Cinema in May 1980

20 & 40
YEARS
ON

❚ BBC4 REMINDED UK AUDIENCES this week how entertaining were many of the Blitz Kids who set the New Romantics ball rolling 40 years ago. When the documentary The New Romantics: A Fine Romance was made in 2001, these talking heads were of course 20 years younger than they are today and full of fizz.

However BBC Manchester fell for some faulty memories that had gelled into mythological “truths” to create several laugh-out-loud howlers in the voice-over script as the price of believing odd Blitz Kid fantasies. Another irritation, amid much classic vintage footage, was the repeated montaging of film footage irrelevant to the Blitz club-night run by gender-bending Steve Strange and electro-deejay Rusty Egan, mainly because no more than about 11 minutes of live footage inside the Tuesday-night Blitz exist, and only one of which was used in this doc. That’s history for you. Set in video.

At least we can enjoy the many gnomic quips tossed out by the stars of 1980’s clubworld during the 48-minutes of A Fine Romance…

St Martin’s designer Fiona Dealey on the New Romantic credo: “Dressing for the Blitz was REAL THEATRE. It wasn’t just another uniform.”

Blitz Kid Stephen Linard’s trade secret: “Make-up was the big thing: make-up and Elnett. We used to get our make-up DONE FOR NOTHING down at Selfridges at half-past five and the girls there would do a makeover on you.”

Steve Strange on the term New Romantics: “I’d rather call it THE CULT WITH NO NAME, because the papers can never put one finger on it.”

Rusty Egan on gender confusion at the Blitz: “By the end of the night you’d hope to go home with someone – same sex, opposite sex, NO SEX AT ALL, you were never quite sure.”

Spandau manager Steve Dagger on their music: “Over the period 78-79 in the rehearsal studio the band gradually changed from a rock-pop sound to a modern SYNTHESISED TYPE DANCE SOUND.”

Duran’s Nick Rhodes on first seeing Spandau Ballet live in Birmingham in 1980: “We saw them play at the Botanical Gardens and when we left we were smiling. We just said: WHAT’S THAT ABOUT?”

New Romantics, Duran Duran, pop music, frilly shirts, Top of the Pops

Happy even to work “New Romantic” into their lyrics: frilly Duran Duran’s debut on Top of the Pops in March 1981

“Boy” George O’Dowd: “Duran Duran brought the FRILLY SHIRT through to the masses.”

Gary Kemp on shooting Spandau Ballet’s video for Chant No 1 at the Beat Route club in 1981: “That was our LAST HOORAH – Spandau being part of this movement.”

Spandau manager Steve Dagger on the early 80s: “There was this COLOURFUL BANG which revitalised pop culture and fashion and London as a swinging city.”

Robert Elms on the clubbing revolution initiated by the Blitz Kids: “It introduced one-off nightclubs, warehouse parties, the deejay as the centre of attention, clubs where they tell you you can’t come in UNLESS YOU LOOK RIGHT. None of that had existed before.”

George O’Dowd speaking as an old Boy: “Strange and Egan were the gruesome twosome of the time – the HINGE AND BRACKET of New Romanticism.”

➢ View A Fine Romance (BBC Manchester 2001,
last shown 2015, on iPlayer now for another month)

➢ Says one observer: “If you stepped out and didn’t get
abuse, you hadn’t done it right” – Daily Mail review, 2001

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
How real did 1980 feel? Ex-Blitz Kids give verdicts on the TV play about Boy George, Worried About the Boy in 2010

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1980 ➤ When Duran Duran put Brummie Romantics on the map

Duran Duran, New Romantics

Duran Duran in 1980: Birmingham’s fluffiest New Romantics

40
YEARS
ON

◼ 40 YEARS AGO TODAY the Birmingham club-band Duran Duran released their debut single Planet Earth, less than two months after signing to EMI. It charted in mid-March, peaked at No 12, and bagged the band a spot on Top of the Pops, Britain’s premier music TV show. They were the first New Romantic band from outside London to make good, and the writer Steve Jansen claims that “inside of three short years, Duran were officially the biggest band on the planet”.

He celebrated Duran’s birthpangs with a thorough survey of their origins titled Switch It On! – Planet Earth & The Launch of Duran Duran, on the blog gimmeawristband.com which though sadly defunct today, is preserved at the Wayback Machine. As a shorter alternative, Shapersofthe80s documented a few key excerpts from his epic account, where Jansen talked to all the key players involved during the run-up to the band’s chart debut. They are published here with his permission…

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Read Steve Jansen on how other people’s faith put
the Brummies into the charts

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, How Duran Duran’s road to stardom began
in the Studio 54 of Birmingham

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➤ It’s A Sin reviewed: “Supporting the sadness there is an abundance of humour”

It’s A Sin, Lydia West, TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Good times in the Eighties: Olly Alexander fronts the It’s A Sin gang. (Channel 4)

As It’s a Sin is premiered on Channel 4 amid great expectations, Eighties singer Andy Polaris reviews the exuberant five-part TV series. Here’s an extract…

“ ❚ The much-feted writer Russell T Davies broke barriers with the pioneering British TV series Queer As Folk in 1999 and more recently with Cucumber, both lively depictions of gay life in contemporary Britain. Now comes It’s A Sin which focuses on a diverse group of gay friends mostly escaping from the familiar claustrophobia of suburban life (mostly closeted) and attracted to that well-trodden lure of big-city life. We are off to see the wizard, but this time we’re thrown back to 1981, the year of the first recorded British death from Aids at Brompton Hospital in London.

Ritchie (popstar Olly Alexander) is a gauche, attractive, closeted twink leaving home to study law in London, and his send-off from the Isle of Wight is a multi-pack of condoms from his bigoted dad (Shaun Dooley) as they both stress “It’s different on the mainland”. Roscoe (Omari Douglas) is a flamboyant young Nigerian whose strict religious parents are so fraught over his sexual orientation that he bolts defiantly before an intervention. Colin (Callum Scott Howells) leaves the Welsh valleys to lodge with a family and start his apprenticeship with a Savile Row tailor.

It’s A Sin, Lydia West, TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, Channel4,

It’s A Sin: Lydia West as Jill emerges as the anchor for her hedonistic friends. (Channel 4)

Soon the group become fast friends with Ash (Nathaniel Curtis) becoming Ritchie’s first lover. We follow the group with Ritchie as lynchpin while his horizons broaden along with the thriving bar scene. Casual sex becomes addictive and flashes past in a blaze of encounters against a soundtrack of the hideous but popular Hooked on Classics.

A scene where Ritchie’s pals party at Heaven, the biggest, brand new gay club, was a baptism by sexual freedom for gay men in a pre-internet landscape including myself and friends. (My group Animal Nightlife played early concerts there along with Culture Club, Spandau Ballet and Musical Youth). The scene was blossoming through a whole network of bars and clubs. Safe sex had not yet been advocated, neither had the government’s “Don’t Die of Ignorance” leaflet campaign. It seemed to be abstain or die. Aids awareness was bad for business. As the Eighties proceed in the TV drama each gay character has to deal with the possibility of an early and lonely death if the dreaded health-test proved positive… / Continued at Apolarisview

➢ Read Andy’s full review – It’s A Sin: Pitch-perfect drama about the worst of times

➢ Catch up on the whole series of It’s A Sin online at All 4

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: More background discussion about the making of It’s A Sin

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2021 ➤ Olly Alexander fronts new C4 drama series exploring Aids in the Eighties

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Gay activist as Aids casts its shadow: Olly Alexander as Ritchie in It’s A Sin

GAY TIMES has teamed up with Channel 4 for a series of video conversations between cast members from tonight’s new series It’s A Sin and artists and activists who lived through the decade, offering social and political context to the themes explored in this LGBTQ+ drama from Russell T Davies. . .

Gay Times, Omari Douglas, Andy Polaris, video, It's A Sin,

Comparing notes: Omari Douglas and Andy Polaris in conversation for Gay Times

❏ “People forget how homophobic and racist it was in the 80s. People would actually say to you bluntly ‘You’re going to die of Aids – this is going to happen to you.” So says Andy Polaris – Eighties pop-singer with Animal Nightlife – to Omari Douglas, star of It’s A Sin. Omari plays a character called Roscoe who is forced to leave home when he’s 17 and his family finds out he is gay. The character quickly finds his tribe and a new group of friends who support each other during the decade that revealed the horrors of a new deadly virus.
➢ Click to watch Omari and Andy’s conversation at Gay Times

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Olly Alexander

Hedonism in Heaven: Olly Alexander on the dancefloor in It’s A Sin

Russell T Davies has given us iconic television shows such as Queer As Folk, Years & Years, Banana, Cucumber, A Very English Scandal, and more. Set during the 80s, his new queer drama It’s A Sin has a soundtrack (guided inevitably by Murray Gold) that evokes the youth, vibrancy and gay sensibility of the era – big electronic anthems that have stood the test of time and changed the musical landscape.

Asked for an iconic tune that he loved, singer-actor Olly Alexander chose for his ambitious and complex character who leads the show Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran. Omari chose Respectable by Mel and Kim, saying: “I just went through a phase of being completely obsessed with them.”

It’s A Sin starts today 22 January at 9pm on Channel 4, with all episodes available immediately after on All 4.

TRAILER PLUS DISCUSSION


❏ At YouTube, the BFI organised a 40-minute panel discussion on It’s A Sin, hosted by comedian Matt Lucas with guests Russell T Davies, exec producer Nicola Shindler, director Peter Hoar, Channel 4 head of drama Caroline Hollick, and from the cast Olly Alexander, Keeley Hawes, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, Lydia West and Nathaniel Curtis. The trailer for the series precedes the discussion.

➢ AnotherMag airs the vital role today of It’s A Sin with its creator Russell T Davies who declares: “Cast gay as gay – you not only get authenticity; you get revenge”

A HIT WITH REVIEWERS

TV drama, gay issues, youth culture, It’s A Sin, Channel4, Omari Douglas

It’s A Sin: Omari Douglas assumes the role of entertainer

➢ Aids drama is a poignant masterpiece – Lucy Mangan in The Guardian: “Humour and humanity are at the heart of this sublime series about London’s gay community in the 1980s, from the creator of Queer as Folk.”

➢ Aids drama is a reminder to find joy in the scariest times – Ed Cumming in the Independent: “For anyone who’s been through the agony of coming out, especially to a hostile family, or who lost loved ones to Aids, this series will be especially moving.”

➢ Living young, free and under the shadow of Aids in the 1980s – Hugo Rifkind in The Times: “Russell T Davies is a thousand miles away from, say, Hugo Blick or David Hare with their darkness and portentous heft. And yet I’m pretty sure he’s a far more important dramatist than either of them.”

➢ A dance in the face of death – Euan Ferguson in The Observer: “Russell T Davies depicts with wisdom how so many, shunned and ‘othered’ for most of their lives, might have chosen to adopt a defiant mood towards yet another orthodoxy, that of scientific reason.”

➢ Aids-crisis drama will break your heart and fill you with joy – Anita Singh in The Telegraph: “Russell T Davies’s best series so far.”

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