I’m sat in the award-winning NTS radio station in the heart of Dalston, on the biggest day of the LGBT calendar. I am to guest on a very ambitious 8 hour live broadcast extravaganza, celebrating all that is DIY Punk and Queer. The hashtag for the day is #QueerMyPunk.
Taking a call midweek and having been in a bit of a malaise, I’d agreed straight away to a weekend away to take part in a radio show, talk about empowerment and inspiration and play some of my favourite tracks. Arriving on the friday I find a hive of activity, with my host fashion designer Lyall Hakaraia and artist Cara Parkm utterly focused on creating interview packages, sorting playlists and scheduling the show.
This will be the first time NTS in Dalston, have attempted anything so ambitious.
Midday with katundu in hand we are welcomed into the station by two spectacled guys from NTS – they will be our main producers for the show, and run the desk. The space is about the size of a medium office with a sound proof studio with mic set-up – and a green room with a window, looking into where the action takes place. It was fun watching the two main presenters Cara and Lyall, through the glass whilst listening to the show streaming on NTS INT, particularly because of the time delay of a few seconds.
For NTS, this was a day to explore and experiment, find out what could be done in terms of programming and mixing live and prerecorded material, for us, it was the chance to open a queer punk drop in. And drop in they did. First to arrive were a trashy glam band called Wild Daughter and while they were sound-checking, we opened with an interview with David ‘More Than Less Than’ Hoyle proving that spoken word doesn’t have to be wordy to be good. ‘It’s time to change the record…’ because Wild Daughter are ready to play live at our punky shebang. Dressed in pvc and leather, the band do battle with mother nature, filling our heads with sexy dark psyche-punk, while outside the heavens open. Blistering sounds, check out new single ‘Get Gone’ out in September.
With the storm really beginning to take hold, we welcome our first live guest, queer artist Max Allen, dressed in customised denim and a decorated crepe orange blouse. He has a deep and meaningful with Cara about the fluid nature of the term ‘queer’ and DIY fashion. His track selection is as obscure and exotic as it gets, with names like Bunk Trunk Skunk and Feel like a woman… I spend the rest of the day with Max and I find him to be an engaging free spirit, with creativity oozing from every pore, as he waxes lyrical about contemporary dance, fashion commissions and future feminist performance artistes. ‘Every day is a school day’ He was recently featured in i-D Vice Magazine Max Allen Loves Experimenting With Different Clothes; A Portrait Of A Modern Man.
Back in the greenroom we swap stories, and song choices, it is a party atmosphere and everyone is so generous and open-minded, each with a different take on what the day, being a performer -whatever guise- and what Pride means to them. I’m learning a whole lot and being turned on to all manner of underground subculture.
We’ve been on air for three hours and we’ve played some of the best music, to all the listeners on NTS INT from The Beach Boys to Quentin Crisp and everything in between. Listen again to the PODCAST which NTS are kindly making available to all you who missed it first time round, due to your being fabulous somewhere else.
Britch Birth brings the rain and the thunder with a soaring vocal that serves like a rallying cry, powerful and heartfelt in every way. The man responsible for lifting our hearts is Stuart Flynn he is clearly a connoisseur of voices, and in the green room he shares with me a moving version of Metallica’s Enter Sandman by S.Korean jazz singer Youn Sun Nah and something by Patti La Belle.
Female takeover around teatime with Veronica and Em Dab, talking up all things queer politics and media representation – one subject clearly hits a nerve in the green room and that is the use of a white actress to play an Asian character, in the new Ab Fab movie. I understand that, there are trans actors looking for work, but rather than represent a real trans person, casting executives plump for a more accepted representation of trans.
“You are listening to Woman’s Hour,” Cara jests, as we begin our hour of music and chat. Cara speaks openly and honestly on the subject of abortion and the impossible situation that many women in N.Ireland find themselves in. Highlighting recent cases where a woman was targeted in the media for seeking an abortion and even where women went to the lengths of handing themselves into the authorities. Echoing the Irish theme Cara chooses Mandinka by Sinaed O’ Connor alongside Klaus Nomi and Art of Noise.
My Turn. You can listen again of course and then tell me, how we got on to the subject of pet ducks drowning. I did manage to namecheck Hull’s Adelphi Club and give a shout out to 2017 and our ever evolving physical and cultural landscape in the city. For my music choices I picked ‘Daniella’ briefly outlining the wonderful Alynda Lee Segarra’s railroad tale, then Kate Bush, a woman whose creative force defies category. And with a nod to the punk ethos of the day, I relive the moment I first heard the Ming City Rockers. Halfway through the hour and the four of us are now feeling quite at ease (despite the pic). It’s a trip to the early days of punk for Bishi as she shares with us her nights of illicit clubbing, seeing artists that would go on to shape her life and politics. This was a time where the visibility of women and more importantly women’s emotions and lives, were represented in music far more than in previous years. Reba spoke about how Poly Styrene had influenced her and given her the courage to believe in her own creative energy. Reba Maybury was introduced as artist, activist and dominatrix, controlled and measured, she spoke about the way some female artists have sought to re-invent themselves to be seen as relevant. Soul becoming disco and how disco has many of the trappings of punk, being that it was dangerous, underground and originally the domain of persecuted gay communities. Renaming Disco as the original punk, Reba dished up a selection of superstar divas including Chaka Khan.
The vital importance of DIY spaces was highlighted again and again, with Colette and Georgina of BentFest, talking up the Annual Queer/DIY/Punk fest in London that takes place during the last weekend of May.
New must-see band TommyandMary, were the final live band and the original busking punks, arrived mit entourage to entertain us in riot royal fashion. With barnstorming drums and guitar, they won us over with songs about managers being pricks (definite Lovely Eggs feel to that one) and ‘Authority’ which recounted a run in with the law as a direct result of their penchant, for street performance. They ended a lively set, with a heart warming tale about long distance love, called ‘Angels’.
Followed by a visit from celebrity hairstylist Lyndell Mansfield, blowing in all the way from Glastonbury to see us in our queer punk shack, to talk about the space she takes over for #DIYThursdays, putting on live bands in true punk fashion.
To close the show in outrageous fashion, a real loving message from trans-terrorist Christeene, all the way from the barn in Seattle; the barn, where she stables the ponies? In a message specially for PunkMyQueer she delivers strength and unity as we all fly the rainbow flag, in our own way, to celebrate and mark Pride here at the VFD takeover.
And then it is done. Eight hours, four live acts, over a dozen invited guests, two worn out presenters, in organisers Lyall and Cara and a whole bunch of happy producers in NTS, sparking off ideas and conversations about how this kind of radio takeover could evolve and grow, to make even better use of the Dalston space and yeah reach out to more communities.
One of the revelations of this weekend has been the discovery that Pride, particularly Pride in London, has become a corporate platform taking advantage of the pink pound. I’d assumed that it would be all about marginalised sectors of society, community groups and the like, coming together in a grassroots activist-led sort of way. Learning about the multi-nationals rebranding themselves with the rainbow flag for the day, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Discussing this with members of the LGBT community I found a number of differing viewpoints, some maligned the the business side, suggesting Pride being just another platform to advertise their brand. Whereas another group recognised the value and importance of big business involvement, not least for the financial support and status and sustainability of the event. As with many political socially active movements the picture, for someone looking in from the outside, the picture is not at all straight forward.
Final cheers and congratulations to Cara and Lyall and to NTS for all their gracious support and giving up their time, so we could create our Queer Punk Radio Show – and to all the artists, contributors, listeners and fans, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts, for making it the unprecedented success it was.
Links to follow @NTSLive @vfduk @Bishi_Music @rebamaybury @tommyandmary @BentFest http://vfdalston.com/ http://www.nts.live/ https://stuartflynn.bandcamp.com/(Britch Birth) http://www.tommyandmary.co.uk/ http://www.wilddaughter.co.uk/
Read Speech by Cara Park given at International Women’s Day Event, Stormont, 2014 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/10/solidarity-women-cara-park-international-womens-day