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.
By 7pm the party was in full swing. The numbers swelling to well over 60 people. Although it wasapparently an invite only pre party, nobody objected to this stranger tagging along. And by the end of the evening I had made at least 20 new friends. Some were complete experts on the Reggae music,
The stories of our youth were hurting my sides, as we laughed about the stuff we got up to. My south London youth seemed very similar to that of Belfast and Hartlepool.
Saturday Lunchtime was the main event. The Volks club sits right on the seafront over looking Brighton pier. They had put some barriers out in the road to allow us some extra space. Tables and chairs out the
front were quickly taken up, as the DJ’s of the day cranked the sound system up. Like a time machine I was back in the South London youth centre, memories of my friends and the best time in my life was rushing round my brain. The guys and girls around me, I could imagine were thinking the same thing, as they chatted and compared clothing and stories. Some had brought kids with them, others had very very normally dressed wives, who seemed to be thoroughly having fun.
The dancehall filled and the venue was packed to capacity, throughout the night, the bar staff must have had the busiest day of their life, even being a time of financial stress and misery on the world economies, it didn’t effect this day as the bar was drank dry.
The Event was organized in a co operative way, but mainly by Symond Lawes, and the only people making profit was the venue, all the DJ’s bands and promoters did it for love. And the odd beer
The DJ’s were Lee Evans, Mark Groover Thompson, Bmore, Sabrina Walton, Olas Boss, and Skavoovie.
Bands. Skingraft playing 1981 Oi! and The Estimators with authentic Ska, both brilliant.
I didn’t get the feeling of recreating a time, but more like living for now. Enjoying who they are. Enjoying their friends, the music, the culture, which for many years has been sabotaged and dissed by outsiders.
This really was Britain at its best. And I for one am a new convert.
Keep up the good work lads.
The next Skinhead Reunion is booked for 8th-10th June 2012