Posted by & filed under Books, Zines.

Infamous for its outrageous yet witty humour, and for leading the rock ‘n’ roll comic style of fanzine, PUNK was a one-of-a-kind publication that broke the conventions of what a zine was at the time. Originally created in 1975 by the trio, John Holstrom, Ged Dunn and Legs McNeil, PUNK would publish just 15 issues from 1976-1979 (despite returning for a couple of special issues down the line). 

An amalgamation of sequential art, fumetti, interviews, illustration and photography gave PUNK a distinctive style that separated it from other popular music publications of the time. It was notably more ironic, took itself less seriously, however PUNK always maintained its serious passion for music journalism on the rock ‘n’ roll, CBGB and punk rock music scene. PUNK was also a great platform for female writers and creatives who were, all too often, denied opportunities at other publications.


Playing a significant role in defining the punk movement of mid-70s’ New York, PUNK is often cited as one of the earliest punk zines. Holstrom says, ‘Looking back on it, this was the moment when the loose term “punk rock” … was redefined. This was when the punk movement began. No one had ever identified themselves as punks.’ 

Like a meticulously balanced Manhattan, the New York punk scene was established via complementary measures of contributors, namely CBGB (the infamous venue that welcomed the likes of the Ramones, Patti Smith, the Dictators, Television and Blondie in the early stages of their careers), PUNK (who broadcast the scene to a wider audience and created a ‘culture’ and buzz around the scene), and of course the musicians themselves. 

Unlike the mainstay rock ‘n’ roll of the time, punk rock was hard and fast, with less refinement and more noise. This created a sense of freedom during live performances, where bands could play more riotously and push the boundaries of creating the most outrageous set possible. This attracted a crowd of young people, desperate for creative expression and an innate adolescent desire to anger their parents and the authorities. Perhaps no one documented this movement better than PUNK.


Ending up at CBGB on their first assignment, simply due to chance (the Dictators cover fell through, and the Ramones were a back-up story who happened to be playing at CBGB), Holmstrom, McNeil, and Mary Harron managed to stumble upon an interview with Lou Reed, a story that would grace the cover of issue one and entice readers who may have otherwise dismissed the magazine. When the first issue was published, PUNK became a hit overnight and all of New York was talking about the hottest new music publication. 

So what made people crazy about PUNK? The unconventional interviews that were both straight-faced about music, yet informal, engaging and intimate? The comic-style format, previously only seen in superhero stories? The star-studded features? The irreverent humour? The answer likely lies in a combination of these factors, as well as an air of ‘right place at the right time’.


Possibly the most renowned edition of PUNK was Mutant Monster Beach Party, which took two years to create and was published in 1978. It was one of their Fumetti issues that read more like a film than a magazine. Perhaps the greatest appeal of this issue was the unimaginable cast – featuring Andy Warhol, Joey Ramone, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Peter Wolf, and Annette Funicello to name a few. The story itself is a brilliant blend of sci-fi, surrealism, and drama – touching on youth subcultures at the time, while blending in the signature PUNK humour. 

Other issues included interviews with the likes of Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, and Robert Gordon, unforgettable playboy-spoof style centrefolds of Debbie Harry (Blondie) and Niagra (Destroy All Monsters), and the signature comic strips that would poke fun at music, people, just about anything.

Testament to the originality and creative flair that PUNK possessed, punk zines became a matter of international interest. Soon enough, there were publications taking inspiration from PUNK’s format being produced in New York, London, Sydney, Paris, and beyond. To this day, the prevalence of punk zines are notable, now being re-interpreted into multiple zine genres. And for that, we have PUNK to thank. Although we can’t say for sure that they created the punk zine, we cannot deny it was PUNK who created the space for zine formats to be respected as publications, cementing the DIY spirit of punk within the publishing industry.

Posted by & filed under Art, Art, British Subculture, Goth, Music, Punk.

Words by Jess Ralph  Lead photo from No One Studio


Dark, fetishistic , transgressive , hedonistic and with community at its core, Wraith is the club night for those who like their electronica gloomy and hard, their platforms stacked high, and don’t mind their dancing momentarily interrupted to witness someone being whipped- all in the name of art, of course !

Quickly amassing a cult following amongst the most macabre of East London’s party going darlings, the dark rave-cum-performance event aims to provide a space not only for indulging in some gothically minded escapism, but also a platform for non-conformist, anarchical artistic experimentation. Created and curated by Parma Ham, who speaks to UNDERGROUND about Wraith below.

Hi Parma Ham, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an artist that mostly works in performance and design under the name Nullo. I regularly DJ, and founded the dark club night Wraith which attempts to platform every discipline, from live music to philosophy.

Wraith Creator and Curator Parma Ham


Photo Jeanie Jean

Wraith- what’s the club night’s manifesto? What are you about and who are you for?

Wraith reflects the community surrounding it, so each and every one of its contributors and attendees are an influence on its direction.


After a few years in the club scene I felt there were so many amazing minds in the audience, that I thought it would be a great idea to platform them ;whatever their discipline, and ideally all at once. It created a club that wasn’t solely music orientated. I’m relieved performance in clubs has become almost commonplace amongst queer raves now, but what sets Wraith apart is its penchant for the dark in both art and music, and the experimentation in transhuman fashion. Some people have said Wraith is elitist, which isn’t true, it just has a particular taste which maybe other people and nights do not understand and are intimidated by.

How did the idea for putting on Wraith first come about?

In 2019, I wanted to put on a Nullo fashion show with Salvia, but we couldn’t find the right place to host it, so I created a Wraith – that way we could guarantee a suitable environment. Wraith has never been run with economic profit in mind, and any proceeds go towards the night, which really helped with doing a fashion show which can be very expensive.

…And how has the club night evolved since then?

Wraith was an instant success in that a unique community of outsiders came together, so we kept putting them on. Perhaps the first few editions were a bit more classically goth orientated, before we found our feet. The music we play is very broad, DJ’s can experiment with any genre, but with a dark or aggressive element to it.


Following on from that, how would you describe the musical language of Wraith?

Anything that is dark and abrasive. Wraith has been around for 4 years now, and we evolve with whatever works in the moment. There’s always a couple of resident DJ’s on the line-up that ensure elements of industrial hard techno and EBM, but I really love how that combines with the guest DJ’s who bring their own worlds and tastes.



from left to right

@jazmin bean @leomonira @rexyrubin

pics by @jeaniejeanphotos

Could you talk about the performance art element of the night ?

Other than loving performance, I think perhaps it was my own attention span where I felt like I wanted more out of a party. Our sober guests particularly appreciate it too. I think there’s also something special about showcasing art, fashion, and music all at once, as they belong together and shouldn’t be individually siloed. Our nature is anti-censorship, which is particularly important right now as galleries often object to showing our work, and social media would be quick to take it down, so there really aren’t a lot of available platforms left where you can freely experiment.


Wraith is mostly situated at Electrowerkz , which is of course the home of Slimelight (the longest running goth club night in the world). Did you feel any sense of continuing legacy with Wraith, being on the same turf?

That was initially why we took residence there. That and I had a long standing relationship with Electrowerkz, and it’s generous and kind owner Mak from DJing a spectrum of alternative nights in the venue. Unfortunately the owner of Electrowerkz passed away during the pandemic, and the club has fallen into new ownership who prioritise money, so we had to let it go.


Wraith does continue a British legacy of dressing up, creating, and getting messy, but without the nostalgia that bogs down subculture. I think the subtle aim is the proliferation of a new subculture made from the fragments of those that have come before.

Does your  day job as an art curator influence your approach to curating a club night ?

I think that informs a lot of my decision making. Working in the art world also informs me of what not to be, particularly regarding stale framing. Work is best enjoyed as a community ritual, amongst friends, and partying. The term curator is thrown around a lot, but I do think Wraith line-ups are carefully considered. It can be a bit tough as I work within a public realm with some budget, but when it comes to Wraith it’s DIY and community spirit all the way, which is nice, but there are so many more things I wish I could do.

Genderfuckery and fashion experimentation outside the usual binary codes has of course been part of goth culture since ground zero , could you talk about your own interpretation of this ?

The genderfuck is one of the things that attracted me to goth when I was growing up. Before I really understood terms like being queer or non-binary, goth presented a subculture where you could experiment with your appearance, without it really being a statement about gender or sexuality. It’s about an exploration of an aesthetic that transcends the body, and that in itself is quite liberating.

And from your observation, how do you think the interpretation of gender fluidity within goth subculture is different to how it has been historically , or say even 10 years ago ?

From what I gather the dialogue wasn’t there in the 70s – 00’s, and so the way people understood fluidity was very different. It was gender bending but with little intentional connection to the liberation movements. I always found goth inherently a bit queer, but actually when you pay attention to the alternative icons and musicians that came out of that time period, surprisingly very few of them are LGBTQ+! These days all the interesting alternative spaces are queer dominated, so clearly it’s not just me that sees goth as useful and relevant in a queer context for today. Perhaps the real comparison was that early goth was threatening and dangerous as it was an affront to aesthetic values – well in 2023,if you read the news what could be more threatening than queer and trans people!

Could you talk about Wraith’s magazine INERTIA ?

It was always the plan to do a zine, partly because I wanted lasting documentation to a valuable moment, but also because the zine is a work in itself. With the power of print you can include other mediums that are a little difficult in a club setting, for example philosophy, poetry, and short stories. The layout was designed by artist Hila Angelica, and it’s full of images by NO ONE STUDIO (some of those are included on this page ). It really gives the reader a sense of what the night is about, just in book form, with more space to dive into academia.

What is next for you and Wraith ?

We have some great collaboration dates coming up including Tech Noire in Paris, and Subverted in Berlin. Sadly in London we have been without a suitable venue for a few months as they keep closing down, and having the right venue that feels right is so important as it sets the tone of the night. I’m sure we will get something together soon.

Photos courtesy of No One Studio

Brought to you by Underground- the brand of the Original Allgender Creeper and other British Subculture styles

bizarre magazine john willie irving klaw

Posted by & filed under Art, Art, Books, British Subculture, Erotic, Photography.

Bizzare Magazine by John Willie

Words by Jess Ralph


Ever since there has been art , there has been erotic art. The human appetite for titillating imagery can be seen across millennials and cultures – the explicit ( and often homo-erotic) pottery of ancient Greece ,  the sex as spirituality how-to manual of 3th century India’s Karma Sutra , the mass consumed Shunga woodblocks of Japan , with their depictions of the exploits of the floating world’s most glamorous – and sexually adventurous- courtesans. The invention of photography in the 19th century quickly coincided with the invention of photographic pornography; ideas that the Victorians fainted at the sight of a slightly hitched petticoat are greatly exaggerated.

In the early 20th century, ‘fetish’ was not just a dirty word, but a medicalised one. Originally an anthropological term for a worshipped , totemic object, its meaning shifted upon the advent of psychiatry and Freud’s studies of sexuality. ‘Fetishism’ meant having a sexual fixation on an inanimate object , particular material or ‘non-sexual’ body part (such as the feet). More, it was classed as a paraphilia, a disorder, an inversion, a moral corruption ; as was everything to do with sex that was not concerned with heterosexual pro-creation.

Yet for as long as there has been prudishness there has been kinkery, underground worlds for libertines and pioneers trying to buck societies sexual status quo. John Coutts was born in 1902, and after his military career was cut short due to marrying a nightclub hostess, migrated to Brisbane, Australia in the mid ‘20s. It was here that he joined ‘The High Heel Club’ , a covert community of shoe and feet fetishists with a mail order network for its members to share artworks, photography and media with those inclined to similar tastes. Already collecting fetish imagery and producing some of his own, Coutts lampooned The High Heels Club’s little black book of members to distribute his own wares.

In 1945, Coutts moved to Canada. In the same year, he published the first issue of his magazine Bizarre , titled under the pseudonym John ‘Willie’ – a tongue in cheek reference to the euphemistic slang for a certain body part any Brit will know. Bizarre was, in Willie’s words , “The magazine for pleasant optimists who frown on convention, the magazine of fashion and fantasies fantastic!…Coupled with the taste and ability to create the orthodox and unusual to the trend of the moment”. Within its short and erratic publishing history between ‘45 and 1959, Bizarre not only revolutionised (and to some extent mainstreamed) kink culture and media, but also set the pretext for a style of fetish orientated imagery – cartoonish drawings of buxom girls, tight laced and high heeled, yielding whips and speech bubbles with domineering, witty one liners. A campy mash up of superhero , super villain and pin-up girl. The drawing style of his best-known creation, Sweet Gwendoline – a flaxen haired damsel in distress, usually portrayed as the submissive tie-up-ee at the will of his other bondage happy characters, the dominatrix secret agent U69 and the aristocratic villain , Sir D’Arcy- influenced later renowned fetish artists such as the proto-feminist, “Rembrandt of Pulp”, Eric Stanton. Bizarre’ s short publishing tenure was dogged by trying to evade the conservative censorship laws at the time ( Willie’s commented they did so by trying to avoid any explicit  “nudity, homosexuality, overt violence, or obvious depictions of things that might be read as perverse or immoral and that might rankle those parties who were capable of banning, censoring or blocking circulation.”), however the community and conversation it created in regards to discussions of so called ‘atypical’ sexual desires and behaviours ( sadomasochism, bondage, amputee fetishism, body modification, same sex and transgender attraction) , as evidenced in its readers letters, are nothing short of an important social documentation of sexuality removed from the constraints of morally conservative, post war ‘50s America. 

Willie was introduced to the American fetish underground by the burlesque costume designer and photographer Charles Guyette. Also born in 1902, the ‘G-string King’ as he was later known was already something of a cult figure in the underground fetish community, a martyr to the cause having served time in prison in 1935 under ‘obscenity’ censorship laws. Guyette’s theatrical background and passion for vintage corsetry set the tone for his own pioneering fetish fashion creations; invoking something of the Edwardian beauty archetype of the wasp waisted ‘Gibson Girl’ , along with his other signatures of masks, opera gloves, extreme high heels and of course, the infamous G-strings. Prior to working with Willie at Bizarre, Guyette had supplied costumes and the occasional photo spread to the publisher Robert Harrison for his  “cheesecake” pin-up girl mags such as Beauty Parade, Titter and Whisper. Notably, the photography in Harrison’s titles was originally wholesome, if slightly cheeky, fully clothed imagery “Glorifying the all American girl”, yet in the post war years was increasingly focused on sadomasochistic themes.

Arguably described as Guyette’s spiritual protege, Irving Klaw was another seminal fetish art pioneer that contributed to Willie’s Bizarre magazine. Klaw was not a creator – like the cartoonist Willie or the costumer Guyette- but a merchandiser of kink, pulp , BDSM and fetishist content. Taking over a run-down basement  bookstore in Manhattan in 1938, he noticed the teenage frequenters of his emporium were tearing out magazine images of their favourite movie star beauties , and had the lightbulb moment of selling “Pin-up” stills and photo cards of starlets, earning him the title of “ The Pin-Up King”. His favourite and now most famous model was the raven haired, micro-fringed Bettie Page.

Klaws shop was called ‘Movie Star News’, and although undoubtedly this name was intentionally ambiguous to avoid any street level suspicion about the nature of his business, Klaw’s combining of showbusiness glamour and kinky content is emblematic of the cultural climate in which The Golden Age of Fetish Art occurred. It is, after all, the same period as The Golden Age of Hollywood – the era of deified movie actresses, pedestalled and objectified in equal measure. More, the most lusted after actresses of the day were no sweetly shrinking violets – stars such as Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn were sharp witted, sharp tongued and wore sharp shoulder pads to match. Added to a society in which women had more visibility and autonomy than ever before in history due to the second world war, it’s not hard to make the leap between these incarnations of domineering, powerful, beautiful women and the prevalent themes of muscled, big booted dominatrixes in the fetish art of the era. The combination and influence of proto-feminist ideology and sadomasochistic imagery even reached the world of comic books. First appearing in 1942 and created by psychologist William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman-the amazonian superhero, with her burlesque-esque costume, ‘lasso (rope) of truth’ and ‘bracelets of submission’- in both her image and mode of crime fighting was heavily influenced by fetish and pulp artworks. Marston was something of a libertine himself – a vocal advocate for women’s rights, the character of Wonder Woman was allegedly based on both his wife Elizabeth Marston, also a psychologist and creator of an early form of polygraph, and his polyamorous lover, Olive Byrne, the daughter of first wave feminist Ethel Byrne, who opened the first birth control clinic in the USA.

Original Wonder Woman Sketch by William Moulton Marston

As the 50’s came to an end, the dogmatic censorship laws that Bizarre’s roster of artists had been ducking and diving since the magazine’s incarnation finally came to bite. The Kefauver Hearings on the subject of Juvenile Delinquency in ‘57 tried to link pornography to teenage crime rates. Klaw was branded a degenerate, a threat to society and his business was forced to close and most of his archives destroyed. Even pin-up queen Bettie Page was brought to testify at the trial. Bizarre magazine folded in ‘59, with Willie’s similarly destroying the publications archives. He moved to California and died of a brain tumour in ‘61. The Golden Age of Fetish art had took off its boots and hung up its whip – ironically the public desire for Willie and co’s style of artwork waned as obscenity laws laxed in the wave of 60’s social change and titles such as Playboy made softcore porn accessible to buy in any newsagent. 

However the aesthetic language and depictions of transgressive sexuality in the artworks created and distributed by Willies, Guyette and Klaw had a lasting impact. A nostalgia fuelled cultural revival of 50s Americana in the 1970s saw Bettie Page being retrospectively dubbed a pop culture icon. At the same time, there was a renewed interest in retro fetish art, inspiring a new generation of provocateurs including Robert Bishop , Jeff Gord and Allen Jones, of Clockwork Orange furniture fame, whose work we see below. The burlesque artiste Dita Von Teese named her gin company ‘Sweet Gwendoline’ in homage to Willie’s most famous creation.


Underground England - Contemporary Subculture

Posted by & filed under British Subculture, Post Punk, Punk, Rockers.


UNDERGROUND chats with Jeanie Jean, the creator behind NOT DEAD zine – a rawly impassioned, documentary style diary capturing the influence and impact of punk and new romantic scenes on contemporary youth subculture.

Jess Ralph sits down with Jeanie for an insight.

Hi Jeanie ! What inspired you to first make the Not Dead zine?

The idea came to me during the pandemic, during the first wave. It starts on quite a sad note – I just lost my mum, and my grandmother soon after. All my work had been cancelled or postponed and I felt as if I was just stuck in a box at home. As the restrictions started lifting, I honestly just wanted something to do, a project to get my teeth into that was my own and was about a subject I was already interested in. And that’s when I had the idea. I wanted to start off in London and then branch out, explore different subcultures and people around the country that were seventies and eighties inspired to see if they were still thriving. Because no one was going out [clubbing] at that time I felt that there was this stillness with culture. Everything just felt so desolate. When I started going out and exploring this, meeting new people, it just went from there.

When did you first get interested in 80s subculture?

I really do have my parents to thank for that!

You know when you were young, there might have been a particular sound or song that you heard at a very young age that has stuck with you until this day? My Dad used to play all his 2 Tone and Ska CDs. I remember as a child I thought the beat sounded like a cho-chooing train ! So, ska was the first genre I was introduced to as a child , and from that psychedelic and garage music from the sixties. And of course, that music went on to inspire the punks.

I also remember in 1998 being with my mum, we were in the car on the way back from the supermarket, and Pretty Vacant by The Sex Pistols started playing on the radio. I remember just witnessing this transformation – she cranked up the volume, screaming, singing along. She just became a teenager again! And she said to me – ‘listen to this, this is history’. It sounds very cheesy but that did stick with me.

Underground England Contemporary Subculture London


Who are your favourite icons of that era?

One of my main icons is Ari Up , who was the lead singer of The Slits. They were unlike anything anyone had ever seen or heard. Because at the time, it was all very well boys in punk bands, but an all-female punk band? No way, that was unheard of!

Ari up was about 14 or 15 when she was in the band, and she even got stabbed just because of the way she looked. They all went through hell – being girls – and the way their sound was. I just love the fact that Ari’s dress sense was so outrageous ; I suppose we’re less shocked by things now but she used wear her pants outside her jeans. She would screech her lyrics, she even once took a piss on stage ! It wasn’t even for the shock factor, she just really needed a wee! Then she’d just carry on singing! The whole band were trailblazers.

I also look up to Jordan [Rooke] , who was part of the SEX shop and a muse of Vivienne Westwood. Bowie will always be my number one. It is funny how so much relates back to Bowie. Because there were so

many icons at that time. I look up to Marc Bolan and Patti Smith as well. To me it wasn’t just their music but their appearance – the androgyny, mysteriousness, the makeup, the hair, the gender fluidity. They still have a huge impact with young people today.

And of course, there’s Joy Division. Ian Curtis’s darkness – he told his story through his lyrics and dancing. I could really go on forever!

What was your creative process in making the zine?

Social media, as much as it winds me up, did really play a massive role in the project; it’s where I found most of my photography subjects. I started with friends of friends, acquaintances. I started researching clubs, events, talks and underground scenes that were happening in London, and up north.

I’d just go along with my camera and see who I could bump into and who I could find.

My mind works in quite a cinematic way – I’ll have a narrative or short story just pop up in my mind and then just find the right person and it’s like a lightbulb moment.

Some people I just bumped into on the street. If I thought they looked interesting I’d just say “Hey! You look amazing , I’d love to work with you, can I take your picture?”. I do specify that what I do is not a fashion shoot – I want the real deal, as much authenticity as possible with every shoot or bit of film that I do.

Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk


Why did you choose to print as a format?

Particularly with the zine , they were [zines] of course very popular 40 or so years ago in the punk scene but while I was at uni there was something of a zine resurgence. I love the feel of them , I love the fact they almost have this dirtiness about them . Having something physical ,

tangible in your hands. I wanted it to be almost like a diary. When I was making the zine , I wanted it to have a timeless feel – that when looking at it you couldn’t exactly place whether it was contemporary , from 10 or 15, or even 40 years ago.

You mention being inspired by the work of Derek Ridgers and Ken Loach in your zine. What historical or archival material did you look at to inform your creative process?

During lockdown I started looking at archive material again. I’m a bit of a geek with this stuff !

I’ve watched a lot of documentaries about punk and new romantic scenes , particularly the Blitz Club era. I’m transfixed by that era. I think part of it was growing up in Bexley, which is quite a conservative little village, you know it’s not the kind of place you’d see any punks or goths knocking around. I’d often think,

“Why am I so different? why isn’t anyone around like me?!”

So, watching these documentaries became my sanctuary. I felt a kinship with these dazzling outrageous bunch of outsiders. Then I started to buy more books, and look at photography from that era, such as Derek Ridgers’s work. His stuff really is the bollocks! When you look at his photos from the gigs, the bars he went to , you can almost smell the sweat and cigarettes! You can also see from the photos these kids were angry, and that reflected how I felt- I didn’t want to be told what music I should be listening to or the ‘right’ way to look. Fuck that! It was a real encouragement to just be your own person and be who you want to be. If you want to go to a club dressed head to toe in rubber – do it! If you want to go dressed as a sponge – do it.

I’m really inspired by British films from the sixties and seventies , that raw documentary style of filming. There’s this film called Up The Junction, set in Battersea, and tells the story of a wealthy girl who leaves her opulent lifestyle to work in a factory. It just really shows the class war politics in London at that time. I then went and watched Kes straight after by Ken Loach .I was just completely blown away by his work. The documentary style of filming was unlike any kind of filming I’d seen before, so far removed from the usual clean cut, epic Hollywood cinema. It was truthful, tragic yet heartfelt and bittersweet. It really changed my life.

From the nineties ,one of my favourite photography books is the Diary book by Corrine Day. Every single time I look at those pictures, even when I’ve flicked through the book 100 times, I see something different captured ; it’s so beautiful yet so harrowing at the same time.

Why do you think youth culture today is borrowing and embracing the aesthetics of 80’s subculture?

I may get stick for this, but I do feel like the last few years have almost been a mirroring of Thatcher’s Britain – we’re approaching another recession, youth unemployment. You could even make comparisons with the cold war and the current conflict in Ukraine. And I think because of that , there has been this bubbling of angry, artistic energy – rising from the cracks of the concrete – with our generation. This new loud, crazy, scary, brilliant new scene of people who are using creativity to try and thrive through this. It’s hard to shock now , but I think the difference is that we’re not intentionally trying to shock anymore for the sake of it , people dressing “outlandishly” is more from the angle of people just embracing their own creativity, making the statement “ I want to be myself”.

Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk Rock


What’s your take on when people say, ‘subculture is dead’ ?

Such a boomer thing to say! Sorry to sound harsh!

But you know in one sense I understand it’s because yes not what it used to be, and a lot of that has to do with the media landscape. It’s not as televised, or in the papers – you just need to know where to look! You need to explore the subcultural nooks and crannies.

It’s like when people say there’s no good music anymore. And that perception is because the charts don’t exist anymore. You need to make a bit more of an effort to know what’s going on and what’s well. Deep dive the internet for interesting new music, see what gigs are going in in pubs and smaller venues, look for club nights.

One of my new favourite club nights is Wraith. I remember being there, looking around at everyone and having a chat with Parma [ Ham , founder of Wraith Club] and I said, “ Do you reckon this is our generation’s equivalent of The Blitz Club?”. When we look back at photos from now of this club , will they be part of the archives, history, a future generations nostalgia trip?

Sub-culture is certainly not dead, and conversely to what some people might think, the internet and social media are playing a big role in keeping subculture alive.

Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk Rock London


What would say the relationship is between this revival and queer culture?

I feel like punk now has really intertwined with queerness, and the LGBTQ+ community. Again, it’s young creatives saying “Fuck you!” and going out, having fun, in the face of societal oppression or government legislation, which is – let’s face it – punk.

I have queer friends who are young creatives and I think punk and 80’s subculture has helped them embrace their sexuality.

What’s next for you?

I’m planning on doing three volumes of Not Dead. I’ve started work already on Volume Two, which is going to be focused more on dark club nights and gig photography rather than straight portraiture. A Lot more mosh pit photos that’s for sure! A much sweatier version of Volume One.

Volume Three is going to be exploring the contemporary rockabilly scene, teddy boys, maybe even some emo and scene kids – my era!

After that , I’m just going to keep my eyes open and see who and what inspires me and what I want to document next. Maybe I just like people.

Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk Rock London Music



The zine is available from Jeanie

Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk Rock London Music Scene
Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk Rock London Music Scene Underground


Vivienne Westwood, Mother of British Punk Fashion

Posted by & filed under British Subculture, Fashion & Design, Post Punk, Punk, Rockers.

Words by Jess Ralph

The Queen is dead, boys. And no, of course, we’re not referring to QE2. Dame Vivienne Westwood passed away on the 29th of December 2022, casting a sombre cloud of collective mourning across the fashion industry and leaving behind her a legacy of cultural influence so seismic and far reaching it is almost ungraspable. From architecting punk fashion in the mid ‘70s to her vocal climate activism in her later years, Westwood’s spirit had been one of constant reinvention, taste making and politicised provocation; using her boundless creative spirit and vehement absorption of references – art, politics, historical fashion, literature , the environment- to challenge convention and present a vision for change, both aesthetic and ideologically. She often quoted the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who said “Orthodoxy is the grave of intelligence.” She made clothes that forced you to think.

Westwood’s life reads like a twisted fairy tale, a story of rags to ridicule to recognition and finally, riches.

Vivienne Westwood, Mother of British Punk Fashion Punk

Photo Credit Ki Price

Born on the 8th of April 1941, she grew up in the Pennines before moving to Harrow aged 17 when her father acquired a local post office. Enrolling in Harrow Art School, she studied fashion for less than a term (“I didn’t like it, we had to draw all the time and I wanted to make clothes” she said retrospectively, briefly switching to silversmithing before deciding to train instead as an art teacher. After a whirlwind romance with toolmaker and Rolling Stones enthusiast Derek Westwood (married in ’62 , son Ben born in’ 63), Westwood was introduced and fell in love with one of her brother’s friends. The friend – a wiry art school dropout into situationist art and anarchist philosophy – was Malcom McLaren, and their (albeit deeply problematic) relationship would change the course of British fashion, music, and politics forever.

Westwood and McLaren went on to set up a succession of boutiques at the address of 430 Kings Road, London, each one dedicated to a singular look that McLaren hoped would capture the youth culture imagination, and that gave Westwood the opportunity to play around with how to make clothes that linked to political concepts and that told a story. The first of these boutiques was Let It Rock in ‘71, a nostalgic emporium of 50’s vinyl and Teddy Boy zoot suits, followed by Too Fast To Live, Too Young to Die in’ 73, which took stylistic cue from the leathers, studs, and badges of the Hells Angels.

However, it was the third incarnation of the Kings Road shop in ‘74 that struck the zeitgeist gold McLaren had been dreaming of, and where Westwood started to explore and hone the stylistic motifs and subversive fashion philosophy that came to define her. With its gigantic pink padded letter sign (inspired by the work of Swedish sculptor Claes Oldenberg), the garments at SEX took reference from Pin-up girls, fetishists and bondage gear( in McLaren’s words, “ England is the home of the flasher, we’re all closet perverts”) and increasingly the cut-up, ripped, safety pinned and provocative slogan t-shirts that came to be known as the classic punk look. Staffed by the formidable Jordan Rooke and future Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, SEX became not only a shopping destination for the most daring of Sartorialists but something of an outsider’s community centre, a mecca and meeting hub for the arty Avant Garde, radical thinkers and disenfranchised, angry young creatives and musicians.

It was in SEX that McLaren held auditions for his latest situationist experiment, a pop group with an abrasive sound, anti-establishment sentiments, and a strong, shocking look: The Sex Pistols. Against a backdrop of mass youth unemployment and recession, the Pistols’ gained both popularity and infamy for their nihilistic posturing, chaotic television appearances, snarky tongues, and often violent gigs; top fodder for an alarmist, conservative tabloid press. And in every accompanying photo to a “Foul Mouthed Yobs” headline or OFCOM meltdown-inducing television interview there was the image of The Sex Pistols kitted out in Westwood’s latest designs. By the time the Never Mind the Bollocks album came out in’77, SEX had changed to Seditionaries – a statement of rejection against West End consumerism, a favourite hangout spot of Siouxsie Sioux, and where the iconic “Anarchy”, “Be Reasonable, Demand The Impossible” and “Destroy” shirts, along with bondage trousers were first put on the rails.

Vivienne Westwood, Mother of British Punk Fashion Underground Punk

In the aftermath of Sid Vicious’ death in ‘79, Westwood for the first time looked back to historical fashions to inform the direction of her work – specifically, the swashbuckling, flounced shirt styles of the 18th century. In 1981, aged 40, she put on her first catwalk show which was retrospectively dubbed the “Pirate” collection ; “ Clothes that are made to go hunting and fishing in, climbing trees and running through the wilderness – cassette pack on your back, loincloth between your legs, gold braids in your hair, a modern day pirate” stated the shows press release. In contrast to the leathers and dark colours of Seditionaries, the Pirate collection was awash with colour, pattern, and romanticism – voluminous silk shirts, tassel scarves, embroidered waistcoats and frilled capri breeches- and perfectly timed to connect with the emerging Blitz Kid and New Romantic club culture. Pirate set the precedent for Westwood’s direction for further collections in the eighties – marrying the historical with street wear and street style and experimenting with deconstructed and unconventional approaches to tailoring.

“Nostalgia of Mud” in ‘82 full skirted silhouettes, Peruvian prints and underwear-as-outerwear, “Witches” in ‘83 occultism, Japanese Kimonos and the New York cool of Keith Haring, Hip Hop, and sportswear; the collection created the first ever high fashion trainer. Westwood and McLaren split in’85, also the year which she presented the collection that marked a “cardinal change” in her fashion direction; Mini Crini. In stark contrast to the strong, masculinized silhouettes (and desired athletic, gym honed body to match) of the era, the MinI Crini collection was a subversively sugary celebration of girlishness, evoking Victorian porcelain dolls, the costumes of the Ballet Russes and “the Queen as a child.” The “Crini” of the collection’s name was a shortening of “crinoline,” the 19th century multi-hooped, cage-like undergarment worn under skirts to give them volume.

Westwood not only shortened the name but slashed the length of the crinoline skirt, a statement on the sometimes-contradictory relationship between women’s dress and equality, that the crinoline represented “a mythology of restriction” and the mini-skirt “an equally dubious mythology of liberation,” according to fashion historian Caroline Evans.

Though by the end of the eighties Westwood had started to gain mass critical acclaim from her fashion designer peers, in the mainstream press it was another story. Her reputation already spoiled in conservative Britain’s eye because of her links to the punk movement, ( added no doubt to the fact she was a women convicted to her own creative vision, that kind of artistic self-belief is usually only allowed to pretentious men), she was routinely humiliated in television interviews and press appearances, her out-there designs subjected to mediaeval stocks-style mocking and ridicule.

However, it was in the 1990s that the tides started to turn, and Westwood started to cement herself in the public imagination as something akin to an alternative national treasure. She received the accolade of Fashion Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Council Awards in 1990 and then again 1991 (the only designer to be awarded the title in two consecutive years), and the following year received an OBE for her services to fashion design; characteristically visiting Buckingham Palace in a completely sheer skirt and knicker flashing Elizabeth II in the process. In the era of anti-fashion, when the prevailing look was either androgynous grunge or sleek minimalism, Westwood instead went Tatler Girl, revelling in maximalist Baroque decadence and clothes that parodied the historical upper classes.

Frivolity and heaving decolletage in renaissance printed, corseted bodices. Venetian Harlequins, courtly harlots, and leotards in the style of Leon Bakst’s costumes for Vaslav Nijinsky’s ballet Afternoon of the Faun in Voyage to Cythera in 1990, Codpieces on skirts and Tudor dominatrixes for Dressing Up in ‘91. The tartan and plaid bonanza of Anglomania in ‘93 (where Naomi Campbell famously tumbled on the catwalk in a pair of electric blue, mock croc platforms), and Kate Moss, powdered, rogued and topless coquettishly licking an ice cream in the Belle Epoque themed Cafe Society in’94. A voluptuous dressing up box for the post-modern, Gen X Marie Antionette. “Sex is the strongest influence on fashion, to play around with new sexual motifs is to be Avant Garde,” she said

Vivienne Westwood, Mother of British Punk Fashion Underground Punk Rock Kings Road

Westwood had begun tutoring to fund her catwalk collections in the late eighties, and it was as Professor of Fashion at the Vienna Academy of Applied Arts that she met student Andreas Kronthaler. They married in 1993, forging a partnership that would see Kronthaler increasingly collaborate with Westwood on the creative direction of her designs- the label became “Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood” in 2016. As the millennium turned, Westwood reached new heights of both commercial and critical success; opening stores in Tokyo, New York and Milan and having a major retrospective dedicated to her at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

She also became actively and vocally involved with political, social, and environmental activism, with this reflecting in her garments in a way that had not been so visible since the days of punk. This was epitomised in the Propaganda collection of ‘05. Taking cue from the shock-factor slogan t-shirts of her Seditionaries era, clothes were emblazoned with the words “Branded” and “Propaganda” writ large, inspiration provided from an essay by Doors of Perception author Aldous Huxley, titled “Propaganda in a Democratic Society.” “Graphics rather lend themselves to overt political statements,” she reasoned.

The press release of the collection included a petition for the freeing of Native American rights activist Leonard Peltier (who had been imprisoned in a highly contested and controversial trail in ‘77), signed by Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, and Giorgio Armani to name a few. The “Chaos Point” collection in ‘08 signalled Westwood’s shift of focus from social activism to ecological – the show’s title pointing to the extremis of climate disaster, and the look a mix of flora and fauna prints, pagan-esque makeup with Rites of Spring plaited hair, and childishly drawn doodles. From this point, she used her catwalks (and their show notes) as a vehicle to express and bring attention to issues such as rainforest deforestation, global warming, fracking, consumerism and capitalism; collection names such as “Do It Yourself”, “ +5 Degrees” ( 2009) , “Gaia The Only One” (2011), “Climate Revolution” (2013), “Save The Arctic” (2014) and “End Ecocide” (2015) where hardly subtle in their messaging.

Vivienne Westwood, Mother of British Punk Fashion Underground Punk Rock Kings Road Chelsea

Photo Credit Ki Price

Vivienne Westwood was, until the end, an expert in understanding the political and semiotic power of fashion and a vehement believer in the transformative process of using creative vision to positively change the world for the better.

“The world changes and we change. Every epoch sees a new world” she asserted.

Simultaneously, she was an aesthete, a romanticist, and an unabashed adorer of the pleasure of dressing up, saying “I see fashion as a proposal, a way for people to look more wonderful.”

Vivienne Westwood, Mother of British Punk Fashion Underground Punk Rock Malcolm McLaren

Photo Credit Ki Price

Shave It Off! A Cultural History Of The Buzz Cut

Posted by & filed under Art, British Subculture, Fashion & Design.

Words by Jess Ralph

Utilitarian, empowering, confrontational, queer- the buzzcut is a hairstyle loaded with symbolism, and rooted in the political.

The heritage of close shave style – hair cut so short that only a hint of a stubby hair follicle remains – lies in the military. Arguably, the buzz cut can be traced as far back as Ancient Rome, where the uniformist qualities of the ‘do made it the favoured look amongst the centurion army. Though it was in the 19th century, with the advent of manual hair clippers that the buzz cut first gained widespread popularity, and the hair style first acquired its name – the ‘buzz’ originating from the buzzing sound the clippers made while lopping off your locks. For reasons of practicality, hygiene and egalitarianism, the cut soon became a codified requirement for anyone serving in the armies of the UK, USA, France, and Russia.

Jazz artist John Coltrane buzzed for war service

However, it wasn’t until the 1950s, that the buzzcut transcended its military connotations and became a haircut with cultural cool. Post-world war two saw the birth of the teenager, and the new musical style of Rock ‘n’ Roll – the undisputed face of this youth culture explosion was Elvis. When “The King” enlisted in 1958- at that time being one of the most recognisable faces in the world – his hair underwent the very public transformation from the
impeccably coiffed quiff of the rockabilly style to the shaved head required of any American GI. The singer reportedly said, “Hair today, gone tomorrow.”

Around the same time, across the pond, Britain had a new subcultural tribe- the mods. Young, working class and with a penchant for expensive Italian suiting, this new group became known for their motorcycles, their rivalry with “rockers” and their favoured past time of (amphetamine fuelled) dancing to R ‘n’ B and soul. However, as the 1960s progressed the mods separated into two separates groups: one for the more dandyish, fashion focused of the lot, the second with a harder, more masculine image…with the reputation to match. Kitted out in hobnail boots, straight legged denim and bomber jackets, the buzzcut became the cut of choice for this new tribe, earning them the name ‘Skinheads.’ The Skinhead aesthetic was intentionally combative in its militaristic references, and against a backdrop of societal and racial tensions in the early seventies, became associated with violence and (somewhat paradoxically given its mod-ish heritage of enjoying music of Black origin) racism and neo-Nazism.

The Skinhead - photo by Derek Ridgers

By the 1980s, Bowie and punk had done their bit and pop culture was at the height of its genderfuckery. Heart-throb singers on Top of the Pops were boys in makeup and filly shirts, and many New Wave artists and bands experimented with fashion and makeup in a way that was never seen (or allowed on the telly) before. Though most of the discussions around transgressive fashions of the era focus on male artists subverting gender norms by playing with traditionally ‘feminine’ looks, similarly female creatives where delving into the dressing up box of styles associated as ‘masculine’ to project power, autonomy and their disregard for a misogynistic society telling them how to act, and what they should look like. Annie Lennox dyed her short shaven style a vivid orange hue in homage to Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust era tresses, and Grace Jones revealed in her 2015 memoir that “Shaving my head directly led to my first orgasm.”

The London Leatherman
Annie Lennox

The buzz cut on women increasingly became a symbol for female empowerment and feminist activism, and by extension expressions of non-normative sexuality and lesbian culture. It is interesting to consider the cultural significance of hair and womanhood, almost universally across societies and history, long hair has been associated with femininity and beauty, and hair a potent symbol of (sometimes dangerous) female sexuality. Think for example of the Greek myth of Medusa with her deadly long hair of writhing snakes, or Renaissance depictions of Mary Magdalene, always with impossibly long hair tumbling to her feet. More, throughout history a woman removing her hair has either been associated with religious ritual (such as a nun shaving her head) or persecution and punishment. During the Salem Witch Trials, suspected witches had their hair systematically chopped off in public, purportedly under the guise of ‘looking for the mark of the devil’ but also no doubt, the spectacle of humiliation. “Hysterical” female psychiatric patients in the 19th century had their heads shaved. Either way, hair is framed as the ultimate symbol of femininity, and its removal the ultimate sacrifice. Therefore, the feminist assertion of a shaved head was not only to do with appropriating the aesthetics of hyper-masculinity, but also reframing/reclaiming the narrative around what it meant to be a woman with a shaved head. As astutely put by Sinead O’Connor, responsible for one of the most iconic buzzcut moments of all time in her video for the tear jerking “Nothing Compares 2 U”, “They wanted me to grow my hair long and wear miniskirts and all that kind of stuff because they reckoned I’d look much prettier…So I went straight around to the barber and shaved the rest of me hair off.”

Sinead O'Connor

In Hollywood, traditionally beautiful actresses shaved their heads to play badass characters and avoid casting stereotypes based on their looks, such as Demi Morre in G.I Jane (1997) or Natlie Portman in V is for Vendetta (2005). Then came 2007, when the continuing and very public breakdown of former pop darling Britney Spears (and her vilified hounding from the aggressive and sexist mainstream press) reached its apex, climaxing with her shaving her head after leaving rehab. The tabloids responded by regurgitating old stereotypes, perpetuating the idea that Spears’ act was a cry for help, a sign of madness – after all, why else would a pretty girl shave her hair? Others interpreted it as the former pop princess’ way of claiming control over her own image. During the rise of the #MeToo campaign, when actress Rose McGowan spoke publicly of her assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein in 2017, she buzzed her hair, saying “When I shaved my head, it was a battle cry. Fuck Hollywood. Fuck the messaging. Fuck the propaganda. Fuck the stereotypes.”

Make-up Artist Mei Pang

And now? The buzzcut is just another classic in the cannon of haircuts; favoured for its practicality and stylistic shock factor in equal measure. For guys, time has diluted any negative connotations the cut may have had from skinhead past, and for women and queers the cut remains favoured for its powerful androgyny and feminist history – though no more likely to gain a second look than a pair of bleached eyebrows or sporting a mullet. Current trends have seen the buzzcut in creative incarnations of being dyed pastel colours, or ornamented with patterns and animal print, a blank and bald canvas to express individuality.

From the OOO_ing Studio in Taiwan
Gimp Mask - courtesy Robert Mappelthorpe Foundation

Posted by & filed under British Subculture, Erotic, Fashion & Design.

Words by Jess Ralph

The Gimp Mask- While a certain cohort of the sartorially minded has immersed itself in the unabashed girlishness of the Y2K era – all micro miniskirts, diamante crop tops and baby pink- others, who like their sexy served with a side order of subversion, have been whipping out the talcum powder, buckling into their shiny, shiny boots of leather and taking cue from the dimly lit and latex clad worlds of fetish wear.

But for all the corsetry and sweat inducing PVC get ups, it’s the sight of the gimp mask adorning (and concealing) the faces of the belles du monde that has aggravated the mainstream most, inspiring a slurry of sensationalist think pieces on how the appearance of zip and lock style in the public arena signals the quote-on-quote “degeneration of society”.

Gimp Mask - courtesy Pulp Fiction

Debatably, the gimp mask entered public consciousness in 1994 with Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and its character of The Gimp; the bondage gear clad, mute, and psychopathically violent creature living in Maynard’s pawnshop basement, subservient to conduct his wicked deeds. It’s this stuff of nightmares image of the gimp and ‘extreme’ bondage wear that has permeated pop culture to this day, yet the wearing of the bondage hood within BDSM subculture can be evidenced in the communities’ underground press as far back as the 1940s, as well as forming an important part of the aesthetic culture of queer sex club scenes in the 1970s and 80s, as documented in the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe (image below )

Gimp Mask - courtesy Robert Mappelthorpe Foundation

Transgressive, provocative and simultaneously a symbol of sexual empowerment and dehumanisation, the gimp mask made its first foray into the minds of fashion designers in the mid-1970s when a then virtually unknown Vivienne Westwood decided to give her Kings Road boutique a makeover – transforming the premises of the then rockabilly themed outfitters to the rubber curtained and SCUM manifesto graffitied punk mecca of SEX. In line with taboo-busting philosophy of the burgeoning brand, alongside Westwood’s own designs SEX stocked the wares of specialist bondage and fetish wear lines such as Atomage, London Leatherman (image below) and She-And-Me; the type of gear only usually found in (and associated with) the seedy alleyways of Soho.

Gimp Mask - courtesy London Leatherman
The London Leatherman

As punk style morphed into the glitzier, more ostentatious incarnation of New Romantic and brash guitar riffs were replaced by thumping electro and sexy disco beats, the gimp mask became a prominent feature in the theatrical style of one of these new vanguards most influential and outlandish personas: Leigh Bowery. The club kid/ performance artist/ walking work of art’s costume creations, which married the camp with the uncanny, genderfuckery and carnivalesque overblown proportions have provided endless inspiration to fashion designers ever since. And by extension, the gimp mask as the ultimate symbol of provocation by fashions Avant Garde and enfant terribles.

Gimp Mask - Leigh Bowery

The lineage of Bowery’s gimp mask legacy can be seen in the alien domanatrix glamour of Thierry Mugler, the hounds toothed sex dolls-who-lunch of Jean Paul Gaultier’s 1991 French Can Can collection, the club kid inspired, dark-sided sculptural drama of Gareth Pugh in his spring/summer 07 collection (and again in spring/summer 2019), and most recently, the chintzy kitsch-cum-kink designs of Richard Quinn.

Gimp Mask - Sorry Jonny Died

Arguably, it is the work of two Belgian designers that have continually referenced the gimp mask most prolifically throughout their careers. Further, harnessing and exploring some of the more nuanced and complicated psychological aspects that make the bondage hood so subversive (and dare we say it, unsettling). Martin Margiela first tapped into the Jungian possibilities of the identity concealing garment at his debut collection for spring/summer 89, the omnipresent motif reappearing again in the jewel toned decadence of autumn/winter 95, the sheer, skull like offerings of spring/summer 96, the Maison’s anniversary collection in spring/summer 09 and the bizarro-baroque ornamentations of spring/summer 2014- the same year John Galliano became head of the label. The other Belgian, Walter Van Bierendonck has explored the gimp masks’ many guises since the 1980sfrom homoerotic symbol, sci-fi fantasy characters and colourful latex, Mexican wrestler inspired creations. Bierendonck’s love of face obscuring garb even saw him co-curate the exhibition The Power Of Masks – featuring work from Jean Paul Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, and Picasso- at the esteemed Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam in 2017.

Gimp Mask - courtsey Walter van Beirendock
Gimp Mask - courtsey Maison Margiela

The enduring appeal of the gimp mask seems to lie in the object’s very facelessness. By concealing and taking away the wearer’s most defining and characteristic features, rendering them anthropomorphic and not recognisably human, the mask’s anonymity becomes a blank slate to project the fears and anxieties of the age- particularly ones surrounding desire, identity, gender, power, and surveillance. In our own times of Orwellian data surveillance, facial recognition software and the increasing blur of our IRL/URL selves, it’s no wonder that the potent symbol of the bondage hood has become the fashionable way to express our collective, existential angst – and further, no surprise that numerous cultural satirists, have cleverly recognised the garments potential to reflect the zeitgeist. Added to a cultural climate wherein non-normative sexual practices and kink communities have more visibility and acceptance than ever before, the anonymity rendering qualities of the mask have been reframed from their original sadomasochistic connotations of degradation to represent that most rarefied of thrills- the pleasure of not being perceived.


Posted by & filed under Art, Events & Exhibitions.

Narrative by Jess Ralph

It can be tempting to ascribe certain social and artistic movements to a specific point of history, and a handful of people that were the movers and shakers of that time. The chronology of culture neatly boxed and segmented into easily understood, consumable little chunks. But of course, that’s not how culture works. It evolves, it reacts, it absorbs, with the creative happenings of yesteryear providing the framework of inspiration to a new generation of artists; to mould and metamorphize and become part of the rich bricolage of references that makes a contemporary artist’s work feel so right and relevant for now.

A couple of weeks ago, Underground deep dived into the history of punk poetry. In this article, we’ll look at how a new vanguard of poets, spoken word and performance artists have harnessed the cultural spirit and explosive creative energy of punk poets past to breathe new life and make their mark on the literary art form. Though these writers and performers may not be sporting the spiked hair and safety pinned looks we associate with punk de facto, they and their artistic output represents punk in a way that runs far deeper than mere aesthetics – using their art as a medium to bring attention to social and political issues. More to use their art as a tool to incite and inspire social and cultural change.

Poetry has undergone something of a cultural renaissance in recent years, and much like the poets and the words they pen, the medium has evolved for the post digital age. Once seen as elitist, the democratisation of social media, free publishing platforms and resurgence of DIY zines has opened up poetry to diverse range of voices, particularly female, queer, POC and working-class artists. Similarly, the viscerally and gig-like energy of spoken word and performance poetry (much of the contemporary scene’s roots taking heed from the dub poetry movement in the 80s, which was trailblazed by the Caribbean diaspora) has grown in popularity in recent years.

Kae Tempest


A performance poet, playwright and novelist, South Londoner Kae Tempest is arguably one of Britain’s most popular and critically acclaimed young bards, who at the age of 36 has already mounted an impressive list of accolades including the Ted Hughes Award, being named a Next Generation Poet by The Poetry Book Society (a tile only awarded once a decade) and bagging a Brit Award in 2018. A regular performer at festivals such as Glastonbury, Tempest began their career supporting politico-poetry greats such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Billy Bragg and John Cooper Clark. With a performance style that simultaneously merges the rhythmic flow of hip-hop and the crafted tradition of ancient epic storytelling, Tempest’s poetic mix of grit and romanticism (they cite Wu-Tang Clan and William Blake amongst their influences) is centred on the anxieties of modern life; themes of urban gentrification, inequality, consumerism, identity, pop culture and class.

Kae Tempest Poetry Underground
Instagram Kae Tempest Poetry Underground

Jay Bernard


Another South Londoner, Jay Bernard is a writer, performance poet, artist and film programmer – they’ve worked with BFI Flare (the institute’s annual LGBTQ+ film festival) since 2014. Bernard won the Ted Hughes Prize for new poetry in 2017 for Surge, a multimedia anthology of written verses, spoken word and film exploring the issues surrounding the infamous New Cross Fire in 1981; a tragedy that killed 13 young black people celebrating a 16th birthday party, and in its aftermath became a catalyst for discussions surrounding racial equality and the tabloid media’s demonisation of the black British community. Surge, with its verses in Patois and imagined first person perspectives of the fire’s victims, is arguably the best example of Bernard’s artistic practice- using social history and documentary archives as a text to mythologise and transform, using poetry to not only contextualise and create empathy for these events, but also to draw parallels and critique contemporary happenings that echo with the same injustices. Bernard was elected a fellow of The Royal Society Of Literature in 2018.

Jay Bernard - Photo Tim Francis Poetry Underground

Anthony Anaxagorou


British born Cypriot Anthony Anaxagorou is a writer, performance poet, essayist and founder of Out Spoken Press; an independent London based publishing house that focuses on platforming the voices of poets and writers who are underrepresented in mainstream publishing. Out Spoken Press also runs monthly slam poetry events, and runs an emerging poet development scheme in collaboration with New Writing North, a charity supporting young writers in the north of England. Anaxagorou’s own poetry – a bricolage of historical and literary references, academic theory and his own experiences- explores the motifs of his dualistic heritage, the simultaneous violence and joys of city life and the contradictions and complexities of working-class masculinity, all delivered in his signature cuttingly sharp and colloquial poetic style. His second collection of poetry, After The Formalities, was shortlisted for the T.S. Elliot poetry prize in 2019 and was named as one of The Guardians poetry books of the year.


Joelle Taylor


Joelle Taylor won the title of UK Slam Poetry Champion in 2000, and this year won the Polari and T.S. Elliot prize for her written poetry collection C+nto & Othered Poems. The anthology stands as a testament to Taylor’s life experiences as a queer woman; leaving the stifling oppression of her home in Lancashire to make the much-trodden pilgrimage to London. Its here that she immersed herself in radical lesbian counterculture in the late 80’s – a world of Soho bars, sex workers, squatters and grassroots activism- finding kinship in a community of ‘rebel dykes’, a world of women whose life’s, legacies and voices would go to inspire and be mythologised in Taylor’s prize-winning work. The complexities of navigating a patriarchal society as a butch presenting lesbian, and more broadly the politicised female body, are motifs that are not only explored in Taylor’s poetic output but also her activism; using her platform to promote the work of unpublished female writers, speaking publicly about global queer oppression and running workshops for survivors of sexual abuse, refugees and for school children on the role of poetry in social activism.

Harminder Judge Self Portrait

Posted by & filed under Art, Events & Exhibitions.

Words by Jess Ralph

A new exhibition at Somerset House exposes what a little island of horrors we really are. From the camp, the uncanny, the macabre, to the just down right disturbing, The Horror Show: A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain explores how the language of horror has impacted British culture over the last half century, getting its (fanged) teeth of influence into everything from fine art, film, music and youth culture. More, how the tropes and themes of horror as a genre – the supernatural, folk tales, witches, ghosts and demons – have been galvanised by British creatives and tastemakers as a metaphor to express the very real horrors, and existential dread, of their contemporary realities.


Co-curated by artists Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard, together with Somerset House’s Claire Catterall, the expansive and sprawling exhibit features over 200 artworks, costumes and kunstkammer curios. It is split into three sections – Monster, Ghost and Witch.

Ray Stevenson The Bromley Contingent

The Horror Show begins with “Monster”, its grimm vision of Britain in the 1970s, a time in which the Victorian overhang of morals and censorship had been transgressed in the previous decade, but the peace and love promises of the counterculture seemed like a distant fairy tale. Illusions of revolution shattered, coupled with mass unemployment, rising inflation, electricity blackouts and the tangible threat of apocalyptic nuclear destruction, courtesy of the Cold War.

As you enter the exhibition, goth rock classic Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus plays; its droning, dreary dub pitching the mood for this sections delve into how youth culture subverted the traditional aesthetics and motifs of horror in their style and dress to not only horrify their parents, but perform their collective horror at the world around them. The striking image of female punk icon Jordan Mooney, shop girl in Vivienne Westwood’s boutique SEX and star of Derek Jarmans Jublilee, with her mondrian makeup, platinum beehive and penchant for latex subverting the image of the glamazon pin-up and in turn, the male gaze. The album artwork of David Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs portraying him as a glam rock version of a man/beast hybrid from greek myth, shock of orange mullet on one end, dogs backside and paws on the other. The albums hit track Rebel Rebel, with it’s opening lines “You’ve got your mother in a whirl / She’s not sure if your a boy are a girl” seem fitting next to all the Hammer Horror-esque camp and kitsch of The Rocky Horror Picture Show memorabilia, reminding us that for a certain chunk of conservative society, a boy in lipstick is far more horrifying than any ghost or ghoul.

Chapman Brothers Return of the Repressed

The continuing into the 1980s is signalled by a large effigy of Magaret Thatcher, her carnival caricature likeness created for the satirical politico-comedy TV show, Spitting Image. It’s also a time when youth culture shifted from the spit and sawdust nihilism of punk to the performative glamour and romanticism of goth and Blitz Kid styling, captured in the blown up, flashing club portraits of Derek Ridgers. There’s a costume once worn by provocative performance artist/club kid royalty Leigh Bowery on a suitably voluptuous mannequin, next to it a sculptural wearable art piece by 2000s enfant terrible designer Gareth Pugh, drumming home the former’s influence on the latter.

Kerry Stewart the Boy from the Chemist

“Ghost” examines the 1990s and immediate post-millenium; a time of increasing surveillance, the Blarite War on Terror and the rise of the internet. Gone were the outre and projected expressions of horror of the last two decades, instead replaced by inner horrors of existential angst, paranoia and a questioning of what it meant to be human in a world that was increasingly driven by technology. 

Electronic music, once the genre made for clubs, raves and collective joy is now introspective, dark and experimental, epitomised by the glitchy avante garde beats of Aphex Twin. A new type of conceptual art emerged that was sardonic and unashamedly, unflinchingly self absorbed, the loosely defined group known as the YBA’s (or Young British Artists). Lucy Gunnings film Climbing Around My Room (1993) is genuinely nail biting to watch, as she climbs around the bannisters and doorframes, nearly slipping frequently. It’s the cruel anticipation of her falling that keeps us spurring to watch, evocative of the Orwellian human-suffering-as-entertainment of reality television. Jeremy Millers’ Self Portrait as a Drowned Man (2011) makes us ponder the psychology of the artist more than the actual art itself – what’s the frame of mind of a man that would model himself as a corpse, particularly one that has died in such a horrific way? It’s also an era in which art reflected the tide of millennium induced nostalgia, and martyred the cultural icons of the pre-internet era, as seen in Gavin Turk’s spectral portrait of Sid Vicious Ghost Pop (2012) and Graham Dolphins Door, Joy Division Version (2012).

Jeremy Miller Self Portrait as a Drowned Man

The Horror Show’s final saga, “Witch”, explores the renaissance of alternative spirituality in the post-digital, post post-modern age, and how the practices and motifs of witchcraft and occultism have been reclaimed as a form of defiance, particularly for women, queer people and minority groups. The iconography of the witch being a prominent metaphor for historical female persecution has meant that the witch and the motifs of witchcraft have a history of being reclaimed by feminists dating back to as early as the first wave, suffrage movements in the late 19th century.

In an increasingly chaotic and divided world, the ancient practices of tarot, spells and astrology not only provide a feeling of permanence but also a mode of exerting autonomy and an identity outside of these oppressive structures. More, in the face of impending climate disaster, a mode of being that feels more connected to the natural world.

Hollie Miller and Kate Street Ate

The Horror Show: A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain is on at Somerset House until 19th February 2023.

All images sourced from the exhibition programme.

Young people lean on retro car in New York

Posted by & filed under Art, Photography.

We invited five young creatives based in New York to speak with us about their work and and the best music scenes in NYC. Finishing off with a photograph that encapsulates the city, read on to find out what they had to say:


Introduce yourself:


What’s your profession?

Great Frog Sales Man, Bartender At Home Sweet Home, and Punk Rock Musician (Bad Vacation).

What’s your favourite hang out in NYC?

Home Sweet Home, Nublu, Fig 19, Clockwork, Tompkins Sq Park, Orchard St.

What’s the best place to see live music in NYC?

Bowery Ballroom, Tv Eye, Our Wicked Lady.

Any emerging artists or bands you’re into?

TDA, Killer Hearts, RMBLR, Trash Bags and Mel Machete … There’s way more but I’ll keep it short.

Who’s the greatest band or artist to come out of NYC?

The Ramones – without a doubt.

Which one photograph of NYC encapsulates the spirit of the city?

Young people lean on retro car in New York


Syd in the kitchen

Introduce yourself:

I’m Syd.

What’s your profession?

Whatever pays my bills – a lot of art department work in production, I bartend, play shows, some dj gigs, random shit – always hustling.

What’s your favourite hang out in NYC?

Nazar and Drew’s apartment. 

What’s the best place to see live music in NYC?

Wherever there is a good band playing. TV Eye is my go to.

Any emerging artists or bands you’re into?

On All Fours 😛

Who’s the greatest band or artist to come out of NYC?

I mean plenty of people, including talented musicians, come in and out of the city. Many New Yorkers are not born in New York, and still identify as so. Being in NY comes with what can sometimes feel as unlimited inspiration [unless plagued with a depressive episode], whether it be through music, art, friends, wild nights out, etc. Masses of artists have lived here and therefore influenced by it so really, a hell of a lot of great music has come out of NYC. If we’re getting technical, and just talking incidentally being popped out of the womb in NYC, then maybe the Ramones or Lou Reed, more recently Show Me The Body. I don’t know, I’ve never been a fan of these kinds of questions. 

Which one photograph of NYC encapsulates the spirit of the city?

F you T-shirt in NYC


Jack James Busa wears Underground shoes

Introduce yourself:

Jack James Busa.

What’s your profession?

I’m part of a DJ duo: The Muses alongside my boyfriend Daniel Walters. I’m also the lead singer in the band UNI and The Urchins with Charlotte Kemp Muhl and David Strange. I went to school for drama at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

What’s your favourite hang out in NYC?

There’s this great new spot on the lower east side called VICTORIA! You can probably find me at the Georgia Room, Joyface, or Butterfly.

What’s the best place to see live music in NYC?

I’ve been enjoying small shows at Spring Place. They have this room where the floor is sunken and it’s covered in red carpet; vaguely Playboy After Dark vibes.

Any emerging artists or bands you’re into?

I mean, I guess it’s tacky to say myself but when have I ever steered away from being tacky?! I’d say Vlad Holiday, my friend Francelle Daly has an incredible new makeup line called Love Craft Beauty, this great new grunge band called Long. As far as DJs go: Angel Macklin Schwartz aka Vibeiana, Angel Star, Samantha Michelle. My friend Brasko is blowing up in the song writing realm. Nicole Galinson and Ariel Sadok are two of New York’s brightest up and coming photographers. 

Who’s the greatest band or artist to come out of NYC?

Warhol Monday-Wednesday and Madonna Thursday-Sunday.

Which one photograph of NYC encapsulates the spirit of the city?

1997 David Byrne NYC


Riley Pinkerton with a guitar

Introduce yourself:

Riley Pinkerton.

What’s your profession?

Musician for The Rat Queen/Frontwoman of medieval fantasy doom metal band Castle Rat & Sales Associate for The Great Frog NYC.

What’s your favourite hang out in NYC?

TV Eye’ in Ridgewood is the best hang on the scene as far as I’m concerned; great venue consistently hosting excellent bands, great bar, sprawling layout, all the best people, and, not to mention, some of the best food I’ve ever had by Barker & Sons. 

What’s the best place to see live music in NYC?

‘Our Wicked Lady’ in Bushwick is the best spot to catch bands, especially come summertime when New York Night Train Sunday Soul Scream parties are in full swing on their rooftop. Two bands are featured every Sunday, followed by dancing ‘til late with DJ Jonathan Toubin. 

Any emerging artists or bands you’re into?

Top five favorite bands in NYC right now (in no particular order) are Reverend Mother, Joudy, Bad Vacation, Evolfo & Certain Death. 

Who’s the greatest band or artist to come out of NYC?

As a creator/member of a fully costumed heavy metal band, I am contractually obligated to pay my respects to KISS. However, Velvet Underground and Blondie are some of my favs.

Which one photograph of NYC encapsulates the spirit of the city?

Debbie Harry and Joey Ramone


Alex Thompson Photographer

Introduce yourself:

I’m Alexander Michael Thompson.

What’s your profession?

Freelance photographer from NYC, co-founder/editor of Ponyboy magazine, photo/music editor for Reserved magazine.

What’s your favourite hang out in NYC?

Definitely TV EYE in Ridgewood by my DJ buddy Jonathan Toubin. Lots of fun, cute rock ’n’ roll people with the best underground bands/djs & delicious drinks/food.

What’s the best place to see live music in NYC?

TV EYE. Also, Sunday Soul Scream at Our Wicked Lady in Bushwick.

Any emerging artists or bands you’re into?

So many great new bands coming out of NYC, including Uni and The Urchins, Daddy Long Legs, Bad Vacation, Castle Rat, Baby Shakes, Trash Bags, Girl Skin, Beechwood. Also Killer Hearts from Texas!

Who’s the greatest band or artist to come out of NYC?

Ramones, Blondie, Velvet Underground, Warhol.

Which one photograph of NYC encapsulates the spirit of the city?

Maxs Kansas City by Bob Gruen