Last Thursday started the long weekend of the Rebellion Punk Festival in Blackpool.
It was four days of the best and worst of punk rock music and all it entailed, mohican haircuts, rainbow and (these days) pastel hair colours, studs, tartan, bondage trousers, leather jackets, firm hold hairspray (actually, hairspray is a misnomer, soap, sugar and water and lemon curd are the only things that will make that mohican stand up straight and for a decent time. Maybe glue for the more hard core. Regardless, they all contribute to the The Viagra of the Hair World).
I was there myself, for as long as I could hold out, with a smidgen of blue hair, just to observe and take in the ambience, draped with enough chains and studs to weigh me down to the nearest pub or free live event.
I was never one to go around in a ‘pack’ of punks and could never understand why such an movement, geared to individualism and uniqueness, went around in tribal groups, like a bunch of sheep, all dressed the same, in identical leather jackets. I never had a friend who dressed like me, to help breed the hypocrisy of the uniform and the pack mentality. You’re either an individual or you’re not. You either go it alone or you don’t. As a lone punk, you become a paradox and a truth. As a teenage female punk walking down the street, alone, I would get heaps more abuse than say, a gang of gelled up juveniles with blonde mohawks doing the same thing. No friends to back you up you see, to snarl for you, as it were. The lone sheep is always going to be subject to violence and attack, whether they are a punk, or a hippie, or a metal head, or someone who is dressed in polyester jersey and unfashionable flares, or maybe even just a nice cardie.
Nothing changes. Last weekend, I hung out, around the punk festival, but not at the punk festival, with people who think punk is a) what Clint Eastwood would deem a criminal element b) a snotty nosed whipper-snapper, who needs to get some military training ASAP or c) a piece of wood gone rotten at one end.
To explain, I was, for at least one of those days, with mum and dad. Mum looks upon the whole spectacle quaintly and serenely, enjoys the vibrant tresses, ripped fishnets, Doc Martens and dangerous looking wristbands, says punk people make her happy. When dad heard he was going to be around when the event was in progress, he groaned in resignation, ‘Oh no, I’m 73, I’m too old for this. It’ll be wall to wall punks.’ I like that expression, ‘wall to wall punks’. And that’s what he said when I met and embraced him at the train station, in his suit, tie pin and cufflinks. He said to me, ‘It’s wall to wall punks and I think I’m the only person within three hundred yards wearing a tie.’
‘Now that’s punk.’ I said.
I never went around in a group of punks, a ‘group’ meaning more than one, but like the Greta Garbo of the Johnny Rotten world, I felt isolated at times, alienated. As we congregated, in the square by The Cedar Tavern pub, I thought, we may share the same conical stud belt and crazy colour pigments in our hair, but that’s where the similarity ends. I liked to watch them, as one may like to watch herds of multi coloured wildebeest thundering across the Serengeti that is the Winter Gardens. But I’m a wildebeest too, who has been separated from the herd. I thought I might appreciate, admire these music fans and even get some tips for future dressing, I thought I would enjoy the whole thing from a distance. I thought, punk never died, it just got more pastel.
But then, I changed my mind, the weekend happened…four days…and it was like the best holiday ever. I never got near the Winter Gardens and the actual festival, but it didn’t matter. There was another festival, going on, on the outside, and, on the inside of my mind.
It was all a lesson in social communication. I felt like I belonged. I thought, if I can feel authentic once, I can feel authentic again. I know I can be authentic. Next year, I might actually get a ticket, be a bit rebellious.
I would be happy if I could be punk every day, to dress punk every day and to somehow live it, perhaps with like-minded people. Theatre. Punk. Writing. Music. If I could just incorporate these four things into my life, every day of my life, for the rest of my life, I think I would be happy.
I think everyone has three or four things that will make them happy, if they were pumped in, at the right measure, balanced, varied, those three or four things, interests, hobbies, loves, passions. We all have them. I don’t think it’s just one thing any more. I used to think it was. For me, it was writing, but then, I had the punk passion and the acting passion and I realised it’s usually a combination of a few things and that combination is like a flower arrangement.
It’s the flower arrangement in the vase of the window sill of your life. And then, once we’ve sorted out that part of our lives, we might find the space, energy and incentive to actually do what we were meant to do.