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Archive for the ‘2014’ Category

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This week I felt more proud to be a Rover than I have for quite a while. Blackburn Rovers released a video on YouTube to promote their new kit, that as well as showing that they are comprehending the modern media landscape produced a film that is brimming with wonderful self deprecating NE Lancashire humor. Its intelligently produced thriftily and celebrates a “local” and a local lifelong Rovers fan. It out Peter Kayes, Peter Kay. 

The ‪#‎BIRDYSDATE video is joyous, intelligent and a stroke of marketing genius. I’m proud that Rovers have adopted this light-hearted approach rather than the elitist and corporate attitude churned out by most high profile football clubs and their sponsors. The film went viral. 190,000 people viewed the video in less than 48 hours, a brilliant result and there is real potential value to be gleaned from this level of coverage. As is often the case, some people don’t get subtle humor and some just like to be negative, but its worrying that so many adults viewed the film as serious, rather than the spoof and comic gold that it certainly is. Anyone who views it as something else is daft. I can’t believe some of the comments online condemning this as an embarrassment for the club and I can’t believe how The Metro can employ such a thick journalist who wrote negatively about the film (obviously the Metro readers are not as stupid as the journalist as they rode to Rovers defense).

It could be a TV comedy show sketch, but the fact it’s a low budget, in-house production, using a season ticket holder as the star makes it all the more clever and humorous. This should be celebrated. Well done Rovers.

But then, my beloved Rovers you caved in, you took the video down and cowed down to to those who don’t get our humor and who don’t realise the value of intelligent, witty viral videos. Your brief foray into the modern world lasted 48 hours, you have, just temporarily I hope, lost your bottle. Just imagine if Channel 4 had pandered to all those southern critics who decried Peter Kay in his early days.

By Wayne Hemingway

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Renault Zoe 3

I bought a Toyota Prius back in 2003 when hybrids were still an experiment, and it’s been a great car (it’s still in the family and has done 200,000 as is still going strong).

A couple of weeks ago I took delivery of a fully electric Renault Zoe on trial, to support a campaign called Go Ultra Low. Its aim is quite simply to encourage people to think about whether an ultra low emission vehicle could benefit their lifestyle.

I was happy to find out.

We spend part of the week in London and part in West Sussex. When in London we don’t use a car, and have shied away from buying a fully electric car for our house in West Sussex because of the distances we drive from there to visit family or ferry our youngest son to sports matches. The early fully electric cars had a too limited mileage between charges and were limited in size / boot space to make it work for us.

The Zoe, though, has the proportions of a standard car and we can get about 80 miles between charge, which just about does the job for what we need. You can get the range between charges up to around 100 miles if you drive carefully (the on-board computer helps you see how careful you are being) and an “eco” button which limits you to a max speed of 60 mph helps you to edge the range up further. The challenge of increasing the range by developing good habits, like driving slower and accelerating more mildly, is satisfying and definitely encourages this driver to be safer and more considerate.

Driving a whole journey in a silent car, then coming home and simply attaching the special charging unit from the wall next to our front door and hearing the charge “kick in” does all feel rather modern, and you certainly know that you are doing your bit for the environment; low emissions and energy consumption.

My gut feeling is that if “ultra low “ is going to cross over to the mass market then the cars must fit in with modern cars and not stand out as being too different. The Zoe gets this just about right. The dashboard is nice and minimal, the on-board computer does what you want it do (filming behind the car as you reverse, syncing easily with your phone, helping you to conserve battery power etc). There are nice little streamlining touches to minimise air flow such as the concealed door handles and the overall styling allows it to blend in.

The thing that does feel like “the future” here and now, for someone who thrift is a lifestyle, is the cost of a full charge: £3 to do 80 to 100 miles. Now that is exciting and saves a fair amount of cash. Add to that 4 years of servicing for less than £300, and no road tax to pay (and no Congestion Charge if they are used in London) and it does feel rather good.

Naturally, you have to plan ahead as to where charge points are and wait 30 minutes or so to be “boosted”. Roll on the day when every fuel station has rapid charge points! The days of rapid charge points at every service station are not a million miles off: according to www.goultralow.com it’s within the next year or so. So, the future is here and it feels like I am part of it!

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Mum Maureen At Brubecks ,,Mum In Middle In White

I have been talking to my Mum Maureen about her memories of Morecambe’s history of cool music and dance. This is what she says,

“Brubeck’s Coffee Bar, just down the street from the Winter Gardens, was the place to be and be seen in the 1950s. Many parties were held there after the shows in the town. Brubeck’s invited the stars of the time, a very young and spotty Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and an equally young and spotty Lonnie Donegan. There was Alma Cogan, Tommy Steele, The Shadows, Screaming Lord Sutch, the (very young) Rolling Stones and many, many more.  The shows held every week at the Winter Gardens were top class shows and it was one of the most prestigious theatres in England outside London for the cool stars of the day to perform in. The annual Morecambe Music Festival was also held at the Winter Gardens which brought in many brass bands, pianists, soloists and choirs from many parts of UK as well as local talent.  The Floral Hall was the ‘in’ place to dance together with the Central Pier where bands like Chris Barber’s Jazz Band with Monty Sunshine often played.  At the Floral Hall you could go in the week and dance to records and no alcohol was served only pop and crisps!” If you wanted to meet a member of the opposite sex you would parade up and down the prom every Sunday and end up at Bruccianis”. 

My Nan, Ida Hemingway, would spend part of every fine day on West End Pier and had walk on part with her dogs in a shopping trolley in the film The Entertainer, made at the Alhambra with Laurence Olivier.

Nan Advertising Morecambe Fags On Pier

I personally have memories of appearing in The King and I and singing The Music Man’s ‘76 Trombones Led the Big Parade at the Winter Gardens and finishing runner up at Harry Graham’s Bandstand singing Congratulations and Celebrations!

Wayne Kid  (1)

In the post Brubeck’s era, Morecambe continued to host some of best music of a generation from the soul nights on the Central Pier to WOMAD and today the North Lancashire Soul Festival and the punk-focused Nice ‘n’ Sleazy.

Nan   Auntie Ev Dancing On Pier (2)

The British seaside has a history of hosting decade defining youth culture and music movements. Margate and Brighton still dine off their mod and rocker heritage and the soul, disco and funk scene that revolved around Blackpool’s Mecca ballroom is still celebrated.

This September we will continue the tradition of cool music events in Morecambe with ourVintage By The Sea Festival.

On September 6 The Warehouse at the Winter Gardens will bring the North’s distinctive dance culture and DJ history to the fore with Hacienda legends Mike Pickering and Dave Haslam evoking memories of Acid House era Manchester.

Nan   Wayne With Mohican Morecambe Pier

And the Soul Casino on September 7th at the Winter Gardens will create the sounds and style of the classic 70s soul club and 80s disco scenes. Add to that Let it Rock at The Platform and The Torch Club at The Midland and Morecambe will be alive with music this September.

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1940's, Residential Flats, High Rise, Buildings, Post War, Social Housing, Photograph

On the 9th of June 2014 I took part in a debate about the current housing crisis at the LSE to be aired on BBC Radio 4 – 8pm Wed 11th June 2014 and then repeated on Sunday 15th June. It was chaired by Mark Easton. I was particularly vocal and political; I hope they don’t cut me too much!

Well designed, affordable homes, in the right locations are essential for a balanced, productive and happy society. By delivering far too few homes, Britain has created a very difficult situation for those wanting to buy and created rentals that are on the whole far too high for those choosing or having to rent. Surely we want a society where the difference between rich and poor is narrowing, but the current surge in house prices is widening the gap again.
These were my research notes for the programme. I attempted to rank the issues and things that need addressing in some kind of order of importance.
There is no single “silver bullet” to solve the crisis, but rather, all or most of the below need addressing.

1. House Builders 

House builders are too often operating in a monopoly situation where they control the speed at which a site is built out. There are a significant number of housing developments in the UK that are in excess of 300 homes (many are much larger). A development of this size often is the only one in that particular district of a town or city. House purchasers sensibly put location above all other factors when considering purchase. It may be a desire to be near family, work, and leisure. It may be about ease of access to public transport, schools, and healthcare. It may be about “brand”, how an area of a town is perceived.

Thus, if a house builder has a large scale scheme in an area, then if on the other side of town another house builder has a site for sale, there is still a quasi-monopoly situation. When a business is in a monopoly situation it is not unusual to restrict supply to force prices up and receive a better ROCE (Return on Capital Employed). This explains why it is the norm for a housebuilder to complete on average 1.6 homes a week per site when they could deliver so many more. Many house builders are recording record annual profits and delivering volumes way below the numbers when they posted previous record results. As well as serving their investors, reducing borrowing risk they are doing what most people would like to do. Do less and earn more!

There is a solution here. All development sites could have to have competition introduced by not allowing a single housebuilder to build, say over 100 and 150 units. This would bring us more in line the Netherlands and some Scandinavian countries where several house builders are selling homes at the same time on one site. By introducing competition, by the simple laws of how business works, there is bound to be an element of the different providers trying to outdo each other through either good design (kerb appeal), better interior fit outs, space standards and of course price and mortgage deals.
In many parts of Europe this competition has led to improved design and less nimbyism. Good design and housing developments in verdant landscaped public space has been proved to lift the price and desirability of areas of towns and cities. This can have a real positive effect on “Nimbyism”.

2. Not in My Backyard (Nimby’s) 

Nimbyism stymies development but if that development is going to be as ugly and inappropriate is some developer’s wont, then how can you blame the Nimby’s?

Nimbyism is only going to be shrunk by house builders delivering a development that rather than screaming “bang goes the neighborhood” screams quality, liveability, desirability.

3. Planners and the Planning System 

There needs to be planners and elected planning committee members who understand good design, are trained in place making, can recognise when they are being hoodwinked or steamrollered and are empowered to stop house builder in their tracks and then work with them to deliver something fit for purpose.

We need a younger profile to our elected members of local councils, anyone can stand – you just need to sacrifice some time, easier said than done when you have family and work commitments. The demographic that is being hit hardest by the housing crisis is the young; they need to find a voice.
It can be too easy for house builders to use their legal and financial weight to overpower the planning system.

We need more political, more skilled and creative planners and we need a career in planning to be considered every bit as desirable as architecture and design when it comes to education. We surely should be shouting more about the importance of place making to the quality of life. There is an argument for making it easier to enter the planning further education.

4. Reduce the Reality

Reduce the reality that getting onto the housing ladder can lead to relatively easy financial gains.

It really is counterproductive to a balanced society when some house owners can sit back and watch their homes appreciate in value every week above the rate at which an average salaried person gains income from going to work for 40 hours a week. This is wrong in every respect and sends out so many negative messages about the value of hard work.

It is human nature to want to earn money for doing nothing and when house price increases are rampant house owners naturally feel good. The demographic of house owners is naturally skewed away from the young and that general election voting has a higher turn out from this home owning demographic. Thus a feel good factor of rising house prices can help win elections, but damage society. In reality don’t we need a slight reduction in house values sustained over a decade to help a generation get a leg up? This could be achieved without throwing thousands into serious debt.

We need the young to come out and vote for a party that is looking towards their future in terms of where and how they are going to live and importantly a party that commits to building large number of homes. With home owning still being at around 65% those not owning are going to all have to vote if the status quo is going to be shifted or nudged.

N15 Courtyard

5. Owning a House

We need to recognise that owning a house does feel good in terms of being able to put your “sweat equity” but offer alternatives that are equally or almost as desirable. Germany is a prime example of a country where renting a home isn’t seen as a poor man’s only choice. Tenants have significantly better rights than in the UK and this naturally leads to a better offer.

We need a growth in institutional and large scale commercial delivery of PRS (Private Rental Sector) homes. The East Village project in the former Olympic 2012 Athletes Village in Stratford is an exemplar scheme of high quality homes and landscape and is popular. I am led to believe that it works financially for the developer and investors.

If only we could divert all the Pension Fund monies wastefully propping up our outmoded High Streets. At the same time we need to recognise some of the worrying statistics about private landlords in terms of incidences of damp and the higher costs of renting than from renting from social landlords. There has to be legislation and monitoring to ensure that private landlords overall standards are increased.

6. Decent Homes

We need to get council’s building again on the land they own, building decent, high quality homes in the right places.

7. We Need to Rethink our Land Use 

a) Make it easier for offices to be designated as possible housing.

b) Look at the not so green sections of the green belt.

c) Work our Brownfield sites hard.

d) Work our town centre first and second floors hard.

e) We need a government and local authorities that are not afraid of CPO (Compulsary Purchase Orders). The French are particularly good at that and last year delivered 342,000 homes – 3 times what the UK built.

8. London

We need to look carefully at the London situation where so many new builds are being marketed (often in roadshows travelling round Far Eastern cities) to the middle classes in Asian counties as investments. We could take a leaf out of The Australians here who have a fluid percentage (depending on local demand) of how many properties in a new development can be bought by overseas buyers.

9. Tax System

We need to put the tax system to better use to help finance council housing. We need to use London’s pull to heavily tax rich foreign investors who “buy to leave” or just buy to use occasionally or just buy here at all. We need to heavily tax UK investors who prefer to buy, leave empty and await capital appreciation so that they stop doing it! We should consider a mansion tax, increase taxation on those that can afford it – it’s a tricky one though.

10. Regions

We need to recognise that there is substantial opportunity and low values in the Midlands, the North, and elsewhere. We need to invest in our regions in terms of job creation and accessibility and take the heat out of the South East. We need a government that is willing to decentralise more of our public service HQ’s.

11. Self-Build

We need to increase self-build and community build from its current very low base of less than 10% – again many parts of continental Europe show’s us the way here.

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Birkenhead Park 01l

*Boat House Birkenhead Park

As with much of our publically funded services these days our parks and open spaces are chronically underfunded. I don’t need to harp on again about the value to our lives in terms of health, social cohesion and happiness and not to say land values, as the past few years have seen a proliferation of research that finally proves this. And whilst it’s important to keep reminding councils and central government about the value of funding open space and parks and the money it can save in health and fitness related areas, nothing is going to change in a hurry in terms of significant increases in central funding.
There is still also an obsession with communities taking control and looking after these spaces but people are under pressure holding down jobs, paying mortgages, making ends meet and the level of community involvement in managing and looking after parks and recreational space has probably plateaued for the time being.

Taking The Lead From The Victorians

Wherever I travel I always take my running stuff and seek out town and city parks to run through. The national legacy of urban parks instigated by the Victorians is one of our greatest urban assets. It often wasn’t central or local government or communities who created or funded these parks but, rather, wealthy local landowners or industrialists often acting, primarily out of self-interest (with a coating of philanthropy) to give them a shiny gloss with the community, local authorities or their workers.

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*Joseph Paxton Birkenhead Park

An example of this would be one of the earliest public parks, Joseph Paxton’s Birkenhead Park, which was part of a residential development scheme to create an attractive setting for new homes and to recoup the costs through the property sales. Flanked on all sides by handsome houses and wide tree-lined boulevards, Birkenhead Park was the inspiration for New York’s Central Park.

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*Central Park, New York

At lunchtime some of us go out from the HemingwayDesign offices for a run or to the outdoor gym in the almost always semi-deserted King Edward VII Park Wembley (it’s a hundred years old in July this year) whilst it’s generally tidy it does feel a tad under loved and lacking in decent seating, interesting planting and has none of the kind of creative touches seen in more central parks or in parks and open spaces in wealthier boroughs. Judging by the hi-visibility vests with ‘Community Payback’ printed on the back, some of the maintenance is clearly done by ‘offenders’ who are being ‘rehabilitated’. Whilst this may have some benefits to society, it doesn’t seem to be resulting in a particularly uplifting finished result in terms of thorough litter collection of creative landscaping!

Potential Modern Day Solutions

On my way back to the office though it isn’t hard to see potential modern day solutions to the ‘self-interest’ model. Over a hill within a few hundred metres, development specialists Quintain have developed The London Designer Outlet, and have created apartments for thousands of people (with more in construction). Surely it would be a selling point for Quintain to promote the park as an extension of the Wembley Park brand that they are investing in so heavily? It should help them attract viewings and buyers.

Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena are two of the nation’s primary sports and leisure venues and hundreds of thousands of people flock to Wembley to attend events. The surrounding residential streets become littered with folk waiting for gates to open, people sit on garden walls or just wander or end up waiting in boring burger bars and kebab shops because there is nowhere to go. Yet, un-signposted and a very short diversion from the route from transport hubs and car parks is King Edward VII Park, somewhere where folk could take their take away and watch a squirrel or two away from the traffic fumes. Surely the Stadium and Arena would benefit in terms of goodwill from having the park as part of their marketing in terms of ‘things to do while you’re here in Wembley’?

Ch319944 942long

*The London Designer Outlet

The building of large scale student accommodation continues apace in Wembley and some very large hotel chains have and are opening. Surely there is scope for all of these to have a good quality urban green space as part of their ‘sales pitch’ to the public.

So why isn’t ‘self-interest’ corporate funding of parks more prevalent? I suspect part of it is a reticence and fear of linking sponsorship with public amenities. To some this is seen as crass and inappropriate. But there definitely will be ways of ensuring that sponsorship and corporate funding of our green spaces isn’t crass.

Let’s get on and make it happen.

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The word hipster is much maligned. The media has helped turn a sector of young folk who are interested in new things and being a bit different – someone who in the past might have been described as cool and hip – into a caricature.   Its derogatory connotation is impossible to avoid. But the fact is there is nothing derogatory about hipsters when it comes to regeneration as “hipster led regeneration” has and is creating value around the world, often in places where government investment has failed.

Certain people have what I call ‘’the eye’’. “The eye” allows you to spot things and live well without very much money. Being brought up in a creative household where music, fashion, film and making were central to life, my mum, nan and pop bestowed “the eye” on me. It manifested itself from when I was 13 years old and wearing army surplus and second-hand, as new clothes were a luxury not really afforded to me. This enabled me to dress and go out on the cheap. As I got older I could apply that intuition to the business I started with my wife, who is equally creative and able to spot quality in things others might dismiss.

During the building of our first brand Red or Dead we opened a shop in the early 80s on Neal Street – now a buzzing part of fashionable London, but then it had no fashion shops and was a rather dowdy area stocked full of white good repair shops. We took a risk and acted outside of the mainstream. Our “eye”, allowed us to spot a place that city investment and mainstream money wouldn’t go. We grew our business by spotting Neal St equivalents in half a dozen UK cities and another dozen locations around the world.

Here are some contemporary examples of “hipster led regeneration”.

Hackney

Up until not long ago there were a number of failing parts of London, some were considered basket cases. Hackney had some of the highest deprivation indices and many would argue that government money that was thrown into it had little to no impact. But look at it now. That impact did come, but it happened from the people without money, colonising the space because it was cheap. That’s the impetuosity of the hipster – they take risks, often because there is no choice.Hackney

Institutional money is risk adverse. Hipsters tend to be people of a certain age where risk happens. And when a clique of people takes risks together, you can create a self-serving community. They’re almost like pioneers of the west coast of America in the nineteenth century – which led to the creation of LA and San Francisco. Those pioneers were the hipsters of their time. I think the word hipster should be changed to ‘urban pioneer’.

And don’t get me started about the accusation that all this leads to gentrification. Should gentrification be a dirty word?  Many people say that East London has gentrified – because it’s all cafes and interesting little shops. Well if that’s gentrification, bring it on. It’s better than betting shops that just encourage folk who can’t afford to gamble to gamble. And what’s better a greasy kebab shop on every corner or a nice café that happens to have a man with a beard serving you decent hot chocolate and healthy bites? And which of these is likely to grow and create employment? There are critics of my thinking but I can beat their arguments every time!

Mitte district, Berlin

After the Berlin Wall came down, the Mitte district became a place for artists and those on the left field of the German society. For the mainstream the Mitte was often considered a place that you just didn’t go near. To a large extent the new government left it alone. Now it’s widely recognised as the most culturally diverse and forward thinking place in Berlin and has become a significant visitor attraction in its own right.

Williamsburg, New York

Could you imagine Williamsburg having the reputation it has today only 10 or 15 years ago?

When we were doing shows in NY in the 80s and 90s, we never thought about going into Brooklyn. If anyone were to do that it would be the inquisitive design community, and yet it didn’t happen. You never thought about it, as it was dangerous. It certainly wouldn’t have inspired one of the world’s most famous footballers to name his son after it! Hipsters made it cool, simple as that.  Manhattan became too expensive and its values – Wall Street, greed, high rises, just didn’t match those of a the new generation.

Williamsburg-bridge

When we were there recently, we were based in Brooklyn for the entire trip. We were shopping in an incredible market and we asked if there were any decent markets taking place in Manhattan that weekend. The girl we asked replied ‘how would we know, we never go to Manhattan, our life is here, this is our New York”. At first I was cynical, but after a few days living in Brooklyn it struck me that they don’t indeed need Manhattan, they’ve made a better life for themselves in Williamsberg. People who are more sustainable in their thinking, they’re more left of centre. Manhattan is the old way of doing things. In time Williamsburg will also become the ‘old way’ and somewhere else will take its place. And yes you can say that the chains are moving in and it’s losing its edge, but for every shop with an expensive refurb, there’s 6 or 7 done up by mum and dad painting the floors and the siblings doing the walls. People are getting on and doing something, not waiting for you to do it for them. They’re not moaning about the world, they’re getting on and doing it their way.

Margate

A seaside town that again the press often depicts as a bit of a basket case. I have one word for it: amazing! Margate is truly walking with a swagger these days. People are moving from their one bedroom flats in London to a four bedroom house and opening cafes, gallery shops.

margate

Photography Nick Morley

Every time I go there I see more young couples doing something interesting with an old building. There is a cultural institution there, The Turner Contemporary, that has helped to “gild brand Margate“. Margate is not being given a leg up by city folk like in Whitstable.  These are young, often creative, without vast sums of money who are spotting an opportunity that is  relatively  affordable evocative  property, a sandy beach, within reach of London and some likeminded pioneers. My god its exciting there. I look at it as a place full of exciting opportunities. You know that in ten years’ time it won’t be a failed Portas High St – it’ll be a cool town.

Jo-burg

South Africa too many people mean’s one thing: Cape Town. Johannesburg if considered, is often considered a dangerous place to be avoided. While that might be the case for some areas, there are others that are really changing. It’s not changing with thrusting high rises, its hipsters. It’s in the process, Virgin Atlantic are talking about it in the in-flight magazine, go see it happen.

Red October, Moscow

I don’t associate Moscow with areas that are ‘cool’. Yet changes through young artistic types leading the way is even happening here, go check it out.

Detroit

From small shoots and all that – Detroit clearly has a long way to go, but have faith in young people to be creative and to find a way. Humans will always find a way at bringing places back to life. We’re brilliant at reinventing. So don’t sneer. Yes it’s hard to imagine in this economic climate and Detroit does have enormous issues to solve, but all it takes is for pockets of people to get together, and they are doing. It’s the urban pioneer, going out and exploring and finding the new places and saying ‘try it here. Bring your money here’’.

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Image

I am sat reading yet another headline that says a regional city is suffering compared to London. This time it’s one of my favourite cities, Sheffield “Action needed to stop Sheffield’s 30-something braindrain”.

The media is full of justified concerns about an increasing financial chasm between London and regional cities outside the South East. The discussion about whether High Speed 2 will benefit the regions it stops in is one worth continuing and analysing. The two speed housing market is gaining momentum (but may in time, turn out to be more of a problem for London) the jobs market outside London continues to be sluggish in most areas. But I am being nagged by a thought that culturally there may be a widening divide.

There was a north / south divide when I was a teenager growing up in Lancashire, in the 70s but we had football teams that dominated (isn’t it great to see Liverpool and Everton doing so well again?) and regionally based hot spots of youth culture. My mum was able to witness and enjoy Mersey Beat (a name which came from an independent magazine that celebrated the music of Liverpool), a movement that had a recognisable style and was more than just the Beatles, with over 500 gigging bands in Liverpool between 1958 and 1964.

My first “youth culture”, and one that has stayed with me, was Northern Soul, a movement with a distinct fashion style, based on dancing and collecting black music of the 60s and 70s. Northern Soul was famously based around northern towns such as Wigan, Blackpool, Stoke (and Burnley where I met my wife at a Northern Soul Club). Coach loads of southerners and Scots would descent on these northern clubs every weekend. Many Northern Soulies went on to embrace Disco and Jazz Funk and venues like The Highland Room in Blackpool and The Ritz in Manchester became mecca’s for young dancers from all over the British Isles.

Punk shook Manchester as much as it did London. We were spoilt for choice with the likes of The Buzzcocks, Slaughter and the Dogs, Warsaw, V2, Eater and The Drones. The Post Punk scene was incredible in Manchester with bands like Joy Division, Magazine, A Certain Ratio, The Durutti Column and a fashion aesthetic mined regularly worldwide (Raf Simons seems obsessed by it).

The New Romantics came out of Birmingham in equal step with London (The Rum Runner Club was as important as London’s Blitz and Billy’s). Two Tone was defined by Coventry (and defined Coventry) what a style and what a list of bands, The Specials, The Beat, The Selector. Sheffield was unbelievable with its asymmetric haircuts and modernist leathers and of course those seminal electronic bands, Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, Heaven 17, The Thompson Twins. Cool had a real home in Sheffield then.

Liverpool had its own significant music and fashion scene going on in the early 80s with Echo & the Bunnymen, A Flock of Seagulls, Teardrop Explodes, the Mighty Wah!, OMD, China Crisis, which left a lasting legacy.

Meanwhile in Glasgow, the distinctly indie Postcard Records created a recognizable indie movement with Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and The Go Betweens.

My first label, Red or Dead, flourished in the massive Madchester scene of the late 80s and early 90s and we picked up distributors in Japan as a result of the 1000’s of Japanese kids who would flock to Afflecks Palace and The Royal Exchange to get baggy and emulate their heroes in The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Northside, James et al.

My home town of Blackburn had its time in the sun at the same time as Madchester with the infamous Blackburn Raves. The powers that be may have hated this at the time but Blackburn could do with more of that youth culture spirit right now.

Bristol spawned Trip Hop’s Massive Attack, Tricky and arguably the graffiti movement that led to Banksy.

But whilst there has been nothing quite as seismic as punk since the 70s there has been a youth movement of sorts, Britpop (albeit being loose and being music only rather than music and fashion). Britpop, with the exception of Oasis and Pulp, was mainly centred on Camden, London. There the “urban” movements of Jungle, and Drum and Bass, the modern day version (bastardisation?) of R & B but whilst none of them can be classed as overtly visually recognisable, and are not “owned” by London, they are linked with London more than any other city.

There are some that would argue that it’s not a divide but rather that youth culture movements don’t happen like they used to. The argument coming from some quarters that how can young folk rebel against their parents when their parents were so rebellious? Hence all that “norm – core” rubbish coming out of the fashion industry. Another argument is that the all – pervasive internet both prevents youth culture from fermenting and brings things overground too quickly and also allows young people to build their own individual online identity making mass youth culture movements obsolete.
Anyhow, come on youth of Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham, Birmingham. Show us what you are made of, make London jealous.

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