Name: Karen Westbrook
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 wasn’t part of a mob infact i only had 2 friends at school. One was Tracey, who i’d been in junior school with, and the other was Terri, who was also a skinhead girl. I was bullied at school untill i shaved my hair off. Really dont know why, my mum always said it was jealousy cos i had lovely long blonde hair and was pretty!!
I also didnt fit in at home, being adopted i was very different to my brother and sisters and didnt mix with them, i was the odd one out and had real issues with the fact a woman can give away her baby and felt if your own mother didnt love you enough to keep you then why would anyone else love you? I was quite shy although oddly quite confident around the skinheads friends i made over the years.
I sort of fell in to being a skinhead by mistake really, i was wearing jeans and a Fred Perry shirt out in Aldgate with Tracey, and come across the Last Resort clothes shop, and hung about a bit, people started talking to me and that was it, i had found a group of people that accepted me, and i felt comfortable with. My adopted dad was in hospital dying of cancer and i put chewing gum in my hair so i could have it all cut off. Obviously i had a feathercut, no4 to start with, when i went to the hospital to see my dad he had tears in his eyes cos i’d cut it all off.
I was into Madness and Bad manners, see both groups so many times! I loved Reggae and ska and still do.
I dont think there was a highlight of those years, i always describe them as the best years of my life, nothing has ever matched them care free yrs!! Loved the fact you could go anywhere, any pub and it didnt matter if you knew anyone you just fitted in, everyone would talk to you. Bank holidays at Southend were great, always exciting and New Year in Trafalger Square!
I dont think i can say there was a low point i enjoyed every minute but being pregnant at 14 was scary!! I had him, kept him, his name is Jay and hes 30 now with a daughter of his own!
Memorable occasion: Madness were playing at Camden Palais, my boyfriend Jay and i went up to Camden on the hope of getting in for free somehow!! We met a boy on the way, who said he was on the guest list, and he’d get us in but when we got there he fucked off and left us!! There were plenty of other skins hanging about and one of em said he knew a skin girl who would let us stay at her flat. So we went to Islington but she said there were too many of us, so it was off to find a squat, that one of the others knew.
On our wander round the streets of London, there was this huge four floored house and we could see all the Mods inside, so one of the boys ran up and banged on the door, there was about ten of us and they all started pouring out of the building and chased us!
At the end of the street there was a kebab shop, so we all ran in and the mods were all banging on the windows, but wouldnt come in!! Jay and i had no idea how we were gonna get home when some man said he was an off duty police officer, and he would take us back to Manor park. We were both 14, i was about six months pregnant and stupidly got in the car with him!!
Lucky for us he did take us home, could you trust someone to do that now? I doubt it!!!
Is this enough?