Margate! So much to answer for
One man has a Margate mission – to document, record and applaud the youth culture that has permeated the town through the years. Here, journalist Iain Aitch lays out his battle plan to Louder Than War…
Give me your mods, your punks, your skinheads, your rude girls, your poor huddled Teddy boys. Such has been the clarion cry for my artistic residency in Margate for a project that attempts to record and value the activity and creativity of working class youth in the town throughout the second half of the 20th century.
Something of an urban London-on-sea, my home town was steeped in youth culture when I was growing up. Mods still gathered on bank holidays, skinheads strutted around Dreamland http://dreamlandmargate.com/and any concert large enough to take place at the Winter Gardens http://www.margatewintergardens.co.uk/default.aspwas guaranteed to be an explosion of adrenaline, homemade fashions, cheap speed, cheaper cider and an edgy mix of punks, skins, psychobillies, bikers and even soul boys (who knows what they made of The Meteors?). Yet local history records almost nothing of these important years in the lives of many who lived here.
Going through the archives at the town’s museum it seems that there was a year zero moment around 1976. Only no one thought to start the clock ticking again. Sure, there are newspaper cuttings of mods and rockers battling on the beaches in 1964, before being held in the cells that now house the now sadly closed museum (inspiring the ”Ësawdust Caesars’ speech in Quadrophenia). But the photographs and concert posters in the archive ignore anything even slightly off-piste as far as officialdom was concerned.
Taking a tiny silver Airstream caravan http://www.kentculturalbaton.com/ around Margate I have started to rectify this situation, renewing old acquaintances and making new ones. Who knew that my uncle’s neighbours were old rockabillies or that so many people would fondly recall the tear-gassing of a gig by local thrash metal outfit Obliteration http://www.freewebs.com/kentbandarchive/obliteration/info.html, or that the Warrriors’ http://www.thewarriorsengland.co.uk/ (and seemingly every other local bands’) bass player would have become the unofficial historian http://urbanfallout.blogspot.com/ of local DIY music culture?
The town may be changing, with the opening of the Turner Contemporary http://www.turnercontemporary.org/, where the results of my research will make up an exhibition and one-off event, but some things never change in this town of the youth cults, where new fashions arrived on the train from London every weekend.
Standing talking to a 1977 punk outside the Airstream he seemed oddly shifty. Then I spotted what was wrong. Two hulking great skinheads were also waiting to have their details taken and interviews arranged. His fight or flight impulses were twitching. All parties were well past their teens, but the man had youth culture history etched in his cerebral cortex. Now, I can’t stop him being scared of skins, but I can at least give him and others their rightful part in Margate, and indeed, the UK’s history.
You can see more about Iain Aitch’s project at http://www.facebook.com/margateyouthculture or contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org. He is in Margate until 30 May.
Words: Iain Aitch. Photo: Courtesy the author.