In the nostalgic orgy of 20 years on from Britpop, I’ve had a few people ask me what I thought. I don’t really need to say what I think, as I wrote RUE BRITANNIA to lance that boil. The aforementioned copulating retro-pile has made me wish I lanced it harder, dug into the flesh and then pulled out the burning brands to the open wound. Try as I did - “Cultural Chernobyl” - there’s still people who, through my failing and their own affection to the period, take Rue Britannia as a much more cuddly book than was intended.
Basically, I’m saying I wish RUE was a bit more like Clampdown by Rhian E Jones.
Reading this and nodding along in agreement to pretty much all of it (I haven’t read the book in question, but I think that’s about to change in the very near future).
The whole “Britpop Revival” thing over the last couple of weeks has left me feeling out in the cold, largely because it was talking about a scene that I didn’t recognise, even though I lived through it. I grew up on a council estate in the North East and, as far as I was concerned, the music press was non-existent (no one I knew read it and I ‘d never felt the urge to pick any of those papers up) so I only had the radio and music TV shows to guide my musical knowledge. I heard bands that I’d never heard before or since, singing songs that have been largely forgotten in the retrospectives clamour to hail all the usual suspects as The Greatest Britpop Bands/Songs Ever, which bugs me, but I never really expected anything else.
The Britpop scene, to me, never got up here to wilds of the north. Even though I was the right age to appreciate it, supposedly from the right background and hungry for a musical movement to call mine, it never reached me. I was going through a bad time back then; I’d pretty much cut myself off from everyone and I needed a way to reconnect, to find my way out of it. Britpop should’ve been it, but it wasn’t (although, there’s more than a few records from that time that carry a lot of weight with me, but that, as they say, is a story for another time).
Looking back on it now, I realise I wouldn’t have been welcome in that scene if it ever managed to get here; it was a largely middle class movement that would’ve been closed off to me because I happen to speak with a northern accent. My thoughts, opinions and feelings on…anything would’ve been ignored or brushed aside. Pretty much like now, really.
Unlike Mr Gillen above, I haven’t gone back and imagined what my life would would be like if I was 18 in 2014, because, to me, the past is another country that I don’t really want to revisit any time soon, but I wholeheartedly agree with him on how fucked I’d be. The opportunities for people like me (both younger and of a similar age) are pretty much non-existent these days. I’ve - somehow - managed to start carving a small place for myself in the small press comics world, but I know trying to do the same in journalism would be nigh on impossible; even attempting writing novels would be full of incredibly tough obstacles to get around, all of them rooted classism. Open any Guardian book review, or even just read tweets of some pro writers and it becomes clear that writing - and any kind of art, really - is something that’s only supposed to be open to the middle classes (and, Holy God, being a working class woman trying to do any of that…).
I’ve been accutely aware of my own class for a long time now, in a way that I never was when I was younger, and this whole Britpop retrospective has brought it all home in a surprising way (although, admittedly, backed with a pretty good soundtrack). Being poor and working class in 1994 was bad enough, but being poor and working class in 2014? Well, all you need to do is look at the headlines in the Daily Mail or listen to the latest Ian Duncan Smith soundbyte to realise how fucked you actually are.
For me, I have to keep moving forward and hope that somewhere down the line, I can get lucky enough to get a foothold somewhere with what I’m writing and try not to think about the wheels coming off and dropping me back to where I was in in the mid-90’s.