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June 2011

  /    /  June

Name: Karen Westbrook
Born: Barking
Grew up in Hornchurch
Became a skinhead in 1979

The photo was Jay featherstone behind me, Karl Hayes is the little one and Dominic Attard is at the front. We were all friends and they all lived in Manor Park. We were all 14 at the time. It was at the back of the Last Resort, which was a clothes shop which sold skinhead, mod and punk clothing, down the East End near Brick Lane market.

The day it was taken was a normal Sunday down the shop, loads of skins, and if i remember rightly Nick was a skinhead too. He just asked people if he could take their pictures for a book he was doing. We did it for a laugh, never thought about it until a neighbour, years later said she had seen the pic of me in it!! Then my son bought it home from school!

I didn't really know what to expect

I had been browsing through facebook and stumbled on a page, which mentioned a Skinhead Reunion. I had long forgotten my youth, the music and times had been tucked away into the broom cupboard of my mind, the fading photographs in a weathered cardboard box.

But I have always liked Brighton, a bit of 2tone on the radio always brings a smile, as I sit stuck in London traffic, a welcome interlude from the usual Simon Cowell Karaoke imposed on me.

As the train rumbled out of Gatwick on the home run to the south coast, my thoughts were taken by the ‘shish’ of an opened can and the unmistakable Belfast accent of two very smartly dressed skinheads.

I didn’t know tonic suits were still being made, but these guys looked a million dollars, the brogue shoes shined to a mirror. Chattering like a pair of excited school kids they noticed I was wearing a fred perry

with close cropped hair, which was my subtle way of getting involved, I guess the skinhead culture has never really left me, a Ben Sherman or pair of Levis has been a permanent part of my wardrobe since 1978

"Alrite mate Eamon, where you from" the first skinhead said as he stretched out his hand, passing me a fresh can of lager.

Until that point I wasn’t even sure if I would attend the skinhead reunion, I hadn’t been to anything in years, even I had been aware of the media version of skins, and wasn’t sure if that was true or not, I know we were the bad boys in the school playground, and there were a fare few crazies involved back in the day, but these two guys were like stand up comics. I real breath of fresh air. Call it a mid life crisis if you like, but I felt great, I don’t think I have ever been welcomed by two strangers so warmly in my life.

Hitting Brighton we made our way to the seafront, the sun was shining, the gulls screaming. The fresh air of the English channel immediately started to wash the stale polution of London from my lungs.

First stop was to be the Friday afternoon meeting point. The Modern World Gallery on Madeira Drive,the scene from Quadrophenia movie was replaying in my mind as we walked along, the noise of the pier

and streams of tourists soon was replaced by the sounds of Jamaican Ska blasting over the Street. I small crowd of well dressed skinheads were already milling about. As we approached they all turned to see us.

Instead of the old style stand off that skinheads always used in the old days, once again the smiles were immediate. Everyone introducing themselves and eachother, more beer was handed over and the party began.

I was amazed to see several good looking ladies with feathercuts, perfectly styled clothing, dancing in the street, the tourists watching on, unsure of what they were witnessing,

The Modern World Gallery stocks some great art pieces and mod memorabilia, original silver disks hanging on the walls. T shirts, some great Lambretta panel art pieces.