Archive for March, 2018


Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist/
Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits

In the year which celebrates a 100 years of women having the right to vote it is fitting that two very different tales-with some connecting threads- of how women gained a strength then took that acquired power and used it as a means of expressing this recently found freedom through fashion and music. Athough the stories of Westwood and The Slits are very different and have vastly opposing outcomes in terms of financial success- Westwood has a global business generating millions whilst The Slits have still to recoup the advance on their nearly 40-year-old debut album- they do have a shared and significant starting point: Punk!
Technically Westwood had moderate success before punk but it is her association with Malcolm McLaren and The Sex Pistols –whom McLaren managed- that she first became widely recognised and forever associated with.
Not that this is something that she wants to discuss in the documentary by Lorna Tucker. In fact it would seem that Westwood is reluctant to discuss anything of this era or any other in this documentary by Lorna Tucker as she appears curmudgeon like, awkward, brusque and downright rude whether she is aware she is being filmed or not.
Often the viewer is left wondering why she agreed to participate in this film at all as she waives most questions with a haughty air, rarely even making eye contact with the camera at all. Having since distanced herself from the film it is easy to see why as she is painted in a very unflattering light although this is no fault of Tucker who continually tries to draw out Westwood’s more pleasant side. Despite this car crash quality-or maybe because of it- it is still extremely watch-able whilst the clothes are never anything less than exquisite and her influence can never be underestimated.
Perhaps Tucker should have made the film about Westwood’s husband Andreas Kronthaler as he makes for fascinating subject matter, more than willing to discuss anything even if he is like a comic creation of Sacha Baron Cohen; a figure of ridicule who takes himself so very, very seriously.
The only time Westwood’s icy demeanour melts a little is, ironically enough, when she is discussing climate change. One is left with the feeling that this is a subject she would happily talk about for hours and hours on end.
By comparison Tessa Pollitt and the former Palmolive of The Slits seem more than happy to recount their glory days as members of all girl band The Slits as it at last focussing on their side of the story as previously the media focussed on the perspectives of the late Ari Up- who sadly passed away in 2010- and Viv Albertine. Like Westwood, The Slits have a great legacy and were hugely influential in the punk and post punk era.

Their debut album ‘Cut’ is a classic which transcends the era that bore it due to it sounding nothing like anything else either then or even now (by default they were the first band I ever saw live in my early teens as they supported The Clash on 1977’s White Riot tour and being the opening band therefore makes them my first live music experience). The fact that it was produced by young women with a fierce attitude and a blinding vision was a revelation at the time is this is simply not how women were supposed to behave or look; at least in the nineteen seventies male dominated patriarchal society. Patti Smith may have opened the door for them but The Slits booted it in, and then used that same door as a weapon thus making sure it would never close again.
Albertine makes an appearance and is always a worthy contributor but her side of the story was more than ably told in her 2014 book Clothes, Music, Boys and one feels this is more Pollitt’s and to a lesser extent Palmolive’s film.
Although the overall feel of the film is occasionally disjointed there is some very fascinating early footage captured by Don Letts which raises the interest quotient somewhat. When it does begin to drag around the time of the reunion tour another dimension still remains as some of the last ever clips of Ari Up not too long before she dies give the whole thing a sentimental twist one doesn’t normally associate with The Slits.
Now that the 40th anniversary of punk in 2016 has passed both of these films can stand alone in their re-telling of an era which forever changed the landscape of the country; with things in even more disarray now than they were then perhaps neither are films of sentiment or history but a lesson in how to drag a sexist,racist, backward, bigoted country with delusions of grandeur out of the quagmire it has entrenched itself in.



Just An Observation

This week the British Government decided to partake in a Carry On style Bond film giving rise to the fact that perhaps Ken Dodd had scripted it before his death last Sunday. ‘To Russia with a Yah, Boo, Sucks’ has a slightly implausible plot wherein a Russian double agent was poisoned by a highly traceable nerve agent that could have been administered by anyone but, according to that ever reliable source of truth Theresa May, was apparently the doing of the Kremlin.
Rushing to put the super power in its place was her weedy Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, obviously taking diplomacy lessons under the tutelage of Boris Johnson, who stated ‘Russia should go away and should shut up’ despite having the look of a man who finds it hard to fight sleep never mind the Russians.
The whole situation seems to be embedded in a tissue of lies, mis-truths and clouded facts that seem to point anywhere other than Russia and this comes from one who has little sympathy for the nation which houses gay concentration camps where homosexuals are beaten, tortured and even killed for their sexual orientation.
It would seem that the only person who seemed to offer up any reason in the face of all these claims and accusations was Jeremy Corbyn and for simply demanding proof and clarification was branded ‘Putin’s Puppet –courtesy that bastion of truth and righteousness The Sun although the Daily Hail also attacked him- despite merely asking that some evidence should be shown before action was taken.
Of course by this point Theresa May, sick of being called weak and unstable, had ordered the removal of Russian diplomats from the UK opening up the possibility of further unrest; probably following her Thatcher rulebook she has decided that what she needs to rescue her plummeting popularity is a war of somewhat and we all know how the Tories love a war especially if it distracts from their own incompetence.
As a sub plot in this far-fetched movie we have the aforementioned Theresa May removing free school meals from the most impoverished children in England and Wales-not Northern Ireland funnily enough as the DUP were required a sweetener in order to secure their support in this abominable action- but at least the rise in food banks her government has kindly necessitated means they may not actually starve completely.
Seriously I ask myself what sort of country is the UK becoming and why does what feels like being in a bad movie turn out to be real life?
All the while we laugh and sneer at the US and their bumbling buffoon of a President- I feel the Russian situation is in someway a point scoring exercise with him- while our own country lurches towards perilous disaster on a daily basis.
On a more local matter I was saddened this week that it seems that Leith Depot and its surrounding businesses on Leith Walk is now more than likely to close down within the next year and a half to make way for student accommodation. Of course the prerequisite Starbucks and Sainsbury’s will appear soon after as students can’t possibly be expected to survive without these two essentials and they especially need to be housed right next to each other otherwise disorientation sets in.
I personally will be sad to see Leith Depot go as it provides the necessary community requirement of live music- alongside great atmosphere and fantastic food- in an area which is starved of it. Unfortunately Edinburgh Council seems only interested in students and tourists whilst its residents and their requirements always seem to come pretty far down the list of priorities. I see it no small coincidence that talk of the trams being extended is suddenly news again; I mean after all what more pleasant way is there to starting your day than picking up your meal deal, popping next door for a skinny soy latte then taking a tram into town up to the university.
Meanwhile the locals lose an array of local small businesses in an area which until recently has been resistant to the gentrification which the student population automatically engenders. Leith has been a student free zone until the last few years and one of the reasons I left Marchmont to move here was that Marchmont was essentially a student area and I know what living amidst that entails. By the way I have nothing against students it is just that I don’t feel Leith needs to be populated by them.
Anyway I wonder what the next week will bring in the worst scripted Bond movie of all time: perhaps Theresa May will reveal spiked poison tips in her leopard print kitten heels a la Rosa Klebb or we will discover Boris Johnson is in fact Ernst Stavros Blofeld with his worst ever makeover. Who Knows? As long as it doesn’t involve any of its players emerging from the sea in a pair of tight blue Speedos as that is box office poison by anyone’s standards. Fantasy seems to have overtaken reality anyway but unfortunately that is nowhere as good as it seemed when it remained a mere concept.