Blog

The punk space.

Since completing THREE KINGDOMS back in March, I have been pursuing a series of conversations with different people about my own work.  I've been making my own work for 5ish years now & it's useful to take a step back & think about what it is I have been doing.  But also, what I have not been doing.  What I'm not thinking about.

One such conversation has been with the always-brilliant Philippa Neels - a champion creative producer & all-round beautiful mind.  I find chats with Pip fascinating & challenging in equal measure, because she thinks about theatre & art & music in a different way to me.  Whereas I tend to think about my work in terms of texts, actors, design etc, she thinks about it as a total experience - what do I offer audience members and participants?  

My natural (unconscious) tendency is to think "I offer them a good story & they will/will not enjoy it & might get a bit excited" - which, firstly, is not good enough for those funding applications but, secondly, is such a limiting and limited way of thinking about it.  Whereas Pip says amazing things like "you create spaces where THIS happens and THIS happens!"

One way that I've found helpful to think through Pip's provocations - and as a way to begin a short series of blogs about punk rock - is in the definition of the punk spaces that I attended and occupied.  

(A side note: some people would object to these spaces being defined as punk, but that's not especially important for this discussion.  I'm not interested in terminology here.  We defined it as DIY punk, and that's what's important here.)

Cardinals Cap, Canterbury - before it was renovated.

Cardinals Cap, Canterbury - before it was renovated.

I remember a gig at Canterbury's Cardinals Cap (a classic Kent punk space - tiny pub, bands every Friday & Saturday, zero interest in the age of gig goers, closed and turned into a wine bar sometime at the beginning of the new millennium) headlined by Glaswegian band Ex-Cathedra. It was absolute carnage in there - boozy kids & adults banging into each other, running on and off the stage, knocking equipment over and pushing the sax player away from the microphone for the sixtieth time.  I loved it.  I also remember a conversation about the gig in the following week with a friend who was more into proper rock & metal (I remember he liked A Perfect Circle), describing it to him with huge excitement, and him just saying "um, doesn't that mean the music kind of sucks?".  And I remember thinking, yeah, I guess, but that's the point - it's less about the perfect performance of music, more about the energy created in the room.

Ex-Cathedra!

Ex-Cathedra!

So the actual performance of music, in this example, was a key component, but it was about the whole experience created in the space.  Ex-Cathedra, on that night in Canterbury, for that performance for those 40-50 odd people, created a genuinely anarchic space - no rules whatsoever, almost no hierarchical distinction between the musicians and the audience - it was about that interplay between musicians and audience.  They created a space - theoretically safe, sometimes not in practice - where it was possible to dance & let off steam, to shout slogans and choruses, to drink and have fun.  I can remember similar spaces at the Stripes Club in Folkestone (which I helped create and will write about shortly), the Union Bar in Maidstone, the Forum in Tunbridge Wells, the Scout Hut in Canterbury and - one time at least - the Planet Lazer in Canterbury.

Gigs and theatre are different (and let's not talk about 'gig-theatre' mmkay?), but those qualities remain with me in the work I create & want to create today.  Where the overall energy of the work is more important than the specific precision of it.  Where the feeling created in the room has a bodily, rather than an intellectual, effect on the audience.  A space where a band of outcasts and misfits turn up and make something happen.   

Tom Hughes