.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pink Fairies subvert national identity

What a bunch of sweeties...got an hour to bash this out. So what are the facts?

Fact 1. Got and read SubvertingScotland’s past ,Scottish whig historians and the creation of Anglo-British identity 1689-1830 : Colin Kidd: Cambridge University Press: 1993 on Monday. Stirring stuff.

Fact 2. Got and listening to cd as replacement for old vinyl Pink Fairies ‘What a Bunch of Sweeties’ (1972). Pink Fairies being as previously mentioned here, link from lates sixties/ early uk counter-culture to late seventies / early eighties punk via the Westway / W11 - see Tom Vague section of www.historytalk.com

The context - World Cup fever thrown up Anglo-Scottish conflict which has fed into post-Blair succession argument ... Gordon Brown is a Jock (as in a Scot not as in a jock-strap wearing sporty type in US college speak) but says he supports Ingerland. Top (Scots) Jock - First Minister Jack McConnell says he does not. Ohmigod, it is the end of the UK!

Maybe. Point being that next year - May 2007- there will be elections to the Scottish Parliament and if enough previously Labour voting Scots are still annoyed enough by Mr Tony Blair to not vote Labour or even vote SNP/ SSP/ Green , the devolution settlement of 1998 could go pear shaped, with echoes of revolution settlement of 1689.

The relevance. Kidd. Got to say I really enjoyed his subversive take on ‘identity’. He manages to deflate English, Scottish and British constructions of ‘essential historic identity’ through a gloriously revolutionary process of deconstruction. Unfortunately written in pretty dense language so can’t easily summarise- you will have to get the book -£26 ish from Amazon (from slight blurring of text, looks like it is printed to order).

The Pink Fairies? Thinking about it, did Pistols and Crass subvert or re-inforce ‘national’UK identity? Banging on about the UK and the royals suggests you take ‘em seriously, attribute some kind of reality to the symbols.

The Pink Fairies connect back to Mick Farren and the more radical aspect of sioxties counter-culture (Farren inspired by the USA Fugs, later recycled by the Pop Group). Suggests an argument which I can only Vaguely hint at - that the pre-punk W11 radical counter-culture was more effectively subversive than punk/ post-punk -since it refused even to recognise the symbolic reality of a ’ Kingdom United by Royalty’ - thus the Social Deviants/ Pink Fiaries/ Hawkwind/ Edgar Broughton Band etc were inheritors of the radical republicanism of the later Covenanters (Cameronians post 1680) who denied the legitimacy of any king or any state and chose to live outwith the law of a United Kingdom.

Oh really? No, probably not. Just having a bit of fun with history and enjoying listening to ‘Right On, Fight On’ which is based on an actual event - the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind were holding a conventicle (= free concert) underneath the newly built Westway in summer 1971 when it was suppressed by a party of dragoons (=police).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Its an alternative reality

Its an alternative reality

4 am solstice morning. Dull grey overcast. Raining and windy. The sun may be rising somewhere but not here. Reminds me of Bratton in 85- when we didn’t even have a tent and Hawkwind’s stage blew down. Still, thanks to wonders of modern technology can listen to Hawkwind’s ‘In Search of Space’ as I write.

Woken from a dream, one with a recurrent theme, that of an alternative reality. Dream probably sparked by reading a comment piece by Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph on why a conspiracy of leftists led by the BBC ( and which now includes even David Cameron’s Tory party) still seek to denigrate Margaret Thatcher and all her works.

“the Left is determined to prevent any young people from even remotely understanding how great she was, by ensuring she is crudely depicted as mad and evil”

Not that I dreamt of Maggie, rather that in the dream an alternative (counter) culture enclave was ‘attacked’ and collapsed. Solstice symbolism no doubt.

Then, in the liminal zone between sleeping/ dream consciousness and waking/ real consciousness thought about the Galloway Levellers and the difficulty of ‘history’. Bit of a postmodern moment. Not denying the reality of the past, but recognising, realising, the impossibility of ‘interpretation’.

If you plough backwards through Greengalloway, I have discussed, documented, interpreted, speculated and fantasised freely across thirty years or so of the/a counter/alternative culture and its history, significance and meaning.

But even for the few times when I was physically ‘there’, my accounts are just versions of events and situations. Compare and contrast my versions of the Wapping Autonomy Centre and Centro Iberico with Andy Martin’s. Or my version of Crass’ significance with virtually all other versions.

What really happened in 1724? Some stone (or were they turf) walls were knocked down. Some landowners tried and failed to stop the walls being knocked down. Some soldiers were sent, but there was no fighting. End of story?

Not quite. Leftist (back to Simon Heffer) and other historians wondered why there was no Scottish equivalent to the ‘Captain Swing’ rural riots which took place in southern England in 1830. Scottish historians also began to wonder why although the ‘Highland Clearances’ became part of Scottish myth and legend, the no less thorough ‘Lowland Clearances’ did not.

For both (Captain Swing and Lowland Clearances) only the Galloway Levellers could be mentioned as an example of ‘rural riot against clearance’. Unfortunately they happened a) in Galloway, which is outwith the mainstream of Scottish history and b) too early to fit into accounts of ‘agricultural improvement’/ ‘origins of capitalist agriculture’.

To confuse thing even more, I have found that there were strong politico-religious influences - connecting the Galloway Levellers with Jacobite and anti-Jacobite forces/ individuals which can be traced back into the 17th century -‘English Civil War’, Restoration of Charles II and ‘Glorious Revolution of 1688, King Billy, battles of Killiecrankie and Boyne- which lead forward to the still ongoing conflict in northern Ireland. Which is probably why modern Scottish historians shy away - fear of ‘the Troubles’ jumping the North Channel if such strands of history are followed through.

The Scottish Enlightenment can be read as an attempt to put all the bloody past behind us - a past which had been bloody as recently as Culloden in 1746 and which had led to intense anti-Scottish feelings - the Scots all savage barbarians.

I haven’t followed this angle through yet - probably impossible to show any direct link forwards from the Galloway Levellers to the Scottish Enlightenment and through to the present. Maybe more a question of focus - to shift away from the ‘economic history’ interpretation of the Levellers to a ‘political history’ one.

We’ll see.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Folk and punk

Summer Solstice Kelton Hill

‘Folk is the cultural foundation stone of any people. Without an indigenous culture reflecting or transmitting the feelings of the people society would be anaemic with little or no idea of its own significance.Hence the strength of feeling expressed through the medium of folk by, ofr example, exiles from Chile where the current political ideology is very anti people’. [John Barrow: Folk Now: from- see below]

Thoughts inspired by reading “The People’s Past, Scottish Folk, Scottish History”- edited by Edward J. Cowan, published in 1980. Ted Cowan now Director of Glasgow University’s Dumfries/ Crichton Campus and who has encouraged me to research the Galloway Levellers. At midsummer 1723, local folk met at Kelton Hill to plan what became the Galloway Levellers Uprising of 1724.

June 15 2006
Sure is hot. Just walked along an old railway line, over grown with trees so some shade, but then had to cross the edge of marshland - white with bog cotton, skylarks overhead- and the mid day sun hit me. Took the camera to try and get some shots of Kelton Hill.

Up until about 1850, home to a midsummer fair - horses sold and bought, but also a hiring fair for farm servants and traditionally a ‘riotuous assembly’. Its origin ‘lost in the mists of time’ already by 1790. I have found mentions of it dating back to 1650 -dispute about the purchase of ‘ane black nag’ - farmer from Mid-Kelton bought the horse at Kelton Hill at midsummer that year, but when a lad turned up the next day with the horse, farmer claimed it was not the right one...

Fair probably older -pagan festival? Perhaps, but midsummer a practical time of year - never quite gets dark here at solstice, light enough to travel by 4 am, also dry season, so rivers and bogs easier to cross. But is next to known ‘Celtic’ pagan site - Carlingwark loch [Locheltun circa AD 1200, and carlin = witch] from which votive offerings, including a large bronze cauldron dated to AD 100 and earlier bronze daggers and mini axe heads, have been recovered. Also a crannog - wooden round house built on artificial island - in loch.

A lost world. But so many lost worlds. The local landscape as it was in 1650, even 1750, is lost. It was an open landscape, lacking hedges, fences, roads, bridges and most of today’s trees (trees planted by Victorians as cover for game). Houses built of rough ‘dry-stane’ walls, wood and turf/ thatch. Later landscape features no less lost. A castle built in 1370 in ruins since 1640. A canal built in 1765 now a rush filled drainage ditch. A railway built in 1864 now a green lane overgrown with trees. Only a road (bypass built circa 1980 to replace turnpike road circa 1800) on its embankment high over the marshes is not yet lost. It carries a constant stream of trucks back and forth from Ireland - and today a convoy of army vehicles, part of a 5000 strong ‘invasion of third world country’ excercise.

Punk as Folk

And other lost worlds... the festivals of an alternative/counter culture. Saw a repeat Time Team a few weeks ago about Durridge (Wiltshire). Details fade, but suggestion was that at Durridge there were prehistoric pagan mass gatherings - festivals and feastings- linked by the river to Stonehenge which was mortuary site. Or Glastonbury- 20 years ago this week end at the festival there- landscape here more Somerset (or Cotswolds even) than Wiltshire.

Wind back to 1980 and “The People’s Past”- final chapters on ‘Folk and Protest’ - songs for CND, “The Folk Revival in Scotland’ and ‘Folk Now’ by John Barrow [quote]

‘Folk is the cultural foundation stone of any people. Without an indigenous culture reflecting or transmitting the feelings of the people society would be anaemic with little or no idea of its own significance.Hence the strength of feeling expressed through the medium of folk by, for example, exiles from Chile where the current political ideology is very anti people’.

In 1980, I was in London, writing for Kill Your Pet Puppy - a radical punk fanzine. But in the summer of 1977 I was not, I was in Scotland and it was the Sex Pistol’s ‘God Save the Queen’ rather than any Scottish/ historical ‘indigenous folk culture’ which expressed ‘strength of feeling’ against anti-people ideology.

The Rezillos played that summer of 77 in a packed out Castle Douglas town hall- to an ecstatic audience. [It was a one off - nothing similar happened before or since]

Another lost world? How come we keep losing the ‘this world’? Maybe we don’t. Maybe we just keep re-inventing this world and ourselves within it.