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Radical People
Radical People Vol 1 Issue 2Courtesy of Radical People

The zine celebrating Britain’s subcultural icons

Punk heroes, sex positive pioneers and a legendary tattooist star in the new issue of Radical People – peek it here, just in time for Election day

Fed up, both with the apathy of a generation living under the austerity of Tory rule and with seeing subculture reduced to images losing their meaning with every regram, writer and Sang Bleu editor Reba Maybury took things into her own hands. Radical People, the newspaper she created – with portraits by Iain McKell and graphics by Jamie Reid – is a celebration of unsung heroes of British culture. The new issue, previewed above and launching today to mark the General Election, includes the likes of Bruno Wizard of the Homosexuals, sexologist Tuppy Owens and notorious madam Janis Hetherington, the first lesbian to receive artificial insemination. All were asked to give their interpretation of the word ‘radical’ or share a radical memory, with stories ranging from the AIDS crisis to wetting the bed. “These people are the roots of our collective notion of British subculture,” Maybury explains of her motivation. “Today we’re obsessed with nostalgia and empty referencing, but I wanted to express how these images of subversion come from a place within of passion and integrity.”

What inspired you to start Radical People and also this issue?

Reba Maybury: I’ve spent the first half of my twenties under a Conservative government. I grew up with the horror stories of the Thatcher years and how culture interacted with that – I expected to see so much more anger, rebellion and revolt amongst my generation. I suppose this newspaper is my own personal reaction to how uncontrollable and vast the Conservative Party’s effect has been. Apathy seems to be running through our creative culture as well as our politics more than I thought it would – by meeting people I deem to be culturally radical I wanted to share how important it is to have strong and passionate values in the face adversity. 

On a more superficial level, all of these people possess an unshakeable coolness in their work and image. So I really wanted to translate that being cool is about values, instinct and passion. If we look theoretically at how fashion forms, its usually through subculture, the well-known stereotypes of Punk, Mods, Teds etc. They all came from a place where people were using their bodies to express the people they wanted to be in the world, it wasn’t about some capitalistic void of ‘fitting in’ but a rebellion against the conservative.

What makes someone a radical person?

Reba Maybury: Someone whose views are utterly intrinsic to themselves. The people who aren’t afraid of causing a bit of controversy or pissing off the more traditional, not because they want to but because it comes from a place of instinct. These are people who have never really sold out, which is becoming a more and more a difficult task. Notions of homophobia, racism, transphobia and sexism have come into direct contact with every single one of these people and they all have stories about how they’ve tackled these issues while simultaneously creating some of the most vibrant culture over the last forty years.

“Apathy seems to be running through our creative culture as well as our politics more than I thought it would – by meeting people I deem to be culturally radical I wanted to share how important it is to have strong and passionate values in the face adversity” – Reba Maybury

Who are some of the people in this issue, and how are they related?

Reba Maybury: Many are already old friends or have crossed paths over the past forty years. This can be seen with people like Christine Binnie, Judy Blame, Jeffrey Hinton, Lana Pellay and Princess Julia all emerging from the New Romantic scene. Bruno Wizard from the punk band The Homosexuals also lived in the infamous squat on Warren Street where many of those Blitz kids lived. He is friends with Sid Truelove and Zillah Minx of Rubella Ballet and of course Sid and Zillah played their first gig with Crass and Steve Ignorant is also featured. Honey Bane ran away from her juvenile delinquent home at 14 to make a record with Crass and she’s also in the newspaper. Franko B and Ron Athey are already friends existing within the same performance art scene in London and have been tattooed by Alex Binnie who has children with Nicola Bowery who was married to Leigh Bowery. ROY INC has also been tattooed by Alex and was an instrumental part of London’s nightlife and club kid scene during the 80s and 90s. And if we're to talk about post punk both Lesley Wood from The Au Pairs and David Thomas from Pere Ubu are also featured.

I already knew of Caroline Coon who is an artist, writer, activist and muse who was instrumental in the hippie, pop art and punk scene, so she joins all these people up quite brilliantly. Others like politician Peter Tatchell has been a bit like a personal hero to me and comic book artist Melinda Gebbie and sexologist Tuppy Owens are the kind of sex-positive feminists who have paved the way for us to live on now! And then I featured Paul Murphy in the newspaper, he’s been giving out the Socialist Worker paper since he was 19 and working in the Islington dole office for thirty years, he was just made redundant though. He’s a man who has given his whole life to helping others to have been laid off, for what?

Which story from the issue was most unexpected? 

Reba Maybury: Steve Ignorant’s contribution was completely unexpected and beautiful. He spoke about a gig he played with Crass where a big group of people with Down's syndrome came as their guardian brought them without telling the home what type of concert they were going to. He described it as one of “One of the most beautifully radical actions I've ever been privileged to be part of.”  

Which was your favourite?

Reba Maybury: Jeffrey Hinton’s story was probably my favourite because it was so personal and relevant. He described his life in New York during the late 70s while living with William Burroughs and going to Studio 54 where being gay was a euphorically utopian experience only then to return to London and see him losing so many of his friends to AIDSTo be gay in New York then was liberated HEAVEN. Acceptance flourished in a totally new way which none of us had ever experienced before. But then people started getting ill in unexplainable ways. We didn’t know but that was the beginning of AIDS. Coming back to London, being gay went through a metamorphosis. AIDS happened and it felt like a blossoming flower having acid poured all over it. The unapologetic euphoria of gay life that New York had offered and London was just beginning to see me lose about 80% of my friends by the start of the 90s.” I suppose this was important because HIV is so on the rise in London amongst so many young men who don’t remember the 90s and we can never forget what happened. It seems so horribly regressive so I was so happy that Jeffrey wanted to share this story. 

What opinions did these people have on the state of British politics?

Reba Maybury: Everyone was unanimously worried, these people have worked all of their lives and now what is their future? Where are their pensions and health care? Left wing values really do come from a place of compassion and progression so its essentially impossible for these people to lean to the right. None of them have confided into the blind comfort of capitalist expectations; mortgages, material wealth, children, the 9-5 and the suburbs so why would this government work for them? And even if you – or they have confided in to those goals, this security isn’t necessarily a stable option for you anymore. They’ve lived through Thatcher and been born just after the utopia of the welfare system being created in Britain only now to see it being destroyed.

Can subculture survive in the age of global capitalism?

Reba Maybury: It can, but sadly it can’t last as long without it being engulfed and then pissed out by capitalistic marketing strategies. The space for behavioral development, which is so intrinsic to the construction of subculture, is becoming weaker as we all now judge everyone through a plastic screen rather than meeting in groups. We shouldn’t all revel in the nostalgia of Punk, Riot Grrl or New Romanticism, after all they are in the past. This is the present, we can’t recreate that and it would be boring if we did – we can create newer versions of them though which relate to issues surrounding today.