An Oral History of Plastic People, FACTMAG

Plastic Bar

Skream, Hija, Shona, Chef and others at Plastic People, bar area

7 of my photos of Plastic People, the club that I wrote about here a few weeks back have been published as part of FACTmag‘s Oral History of Plastic People, written by Tom Lea and Nick Wilson (aka Beatnick). Some of the photos had  never really been seen before, like the one above and the one of Skepta and Plastician . The feature tells the story of the club from the mouths of a handful of it’s resident DJ’s, staff and promoters including Erol Alkan (Trash), Seiji (Bugz In The Attic / Co-Op), Alexander Nut (Eglo), Jon Rust, Elijah Butterz and others. It’s pretty extensive and well worth a read. Also included are a couple of photos by Alex Nut, like this bizarre one of soulstress Fatima and a DJ with a cartoon snake wrapped around them. On an aside, congrats to FACTmag.com on their slick new redesign! It’s lovely to see my name in the contributors list, alongside some great people. :)

More Music Photography Gold

“Photographing the UK’s Free Party Raving Crew” on VICE.

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/molly-macindoes-out-of-order-rave-photos-659/165038

Molly Macindoe shot the free party scene in the late 90’s and early 00’s. I love the images – they’re happy. They remind me of why I shoot music events and artists myself…the hope that people will look at them in the future and see a bit of history that may otherwise go unseen.

Special mention to the picture of Streatham Cinema, in 2001. I was well and truly working full time from a newspaper office around the corner at the time, just goes to show how things can pass by you by.

The best thing about TLC’s Crowdfunding page…

TLC are crowdfunding their next (and final) album and they’ve already smashed their target.  A new TLC album is exciting news for most of the ladies and some of the blokes around the same age as me, as many of us know their 1994 album CrazySexyCool inside-out. Many of us can rap the entire Waterfall’s rap too (looking at you Clare C). Bette Midler didn’t try and attempt it on her recent cover of Waterfall’s though, which is the only thing that let it down.

Asides from the excitement of the actual album itself, it’s use of crowd-funding- is interesting, as it’s just one example of the new ways musicians are finding to make money (PJ Harvey’s current installation at Somerset House being another).

For me though, the most exciting thing about the new TLC album are the photograph’s on it’s Kickstarter page. Thirteen images, including Polaroid’s of T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye back in the day, complete with captions, seemingly annotated by themselves. Here are three of my faves.

©TLC

“By this time, all the photographers knew we liked fun shoots. It was so dope.” – TLC

©TLC

“… I remember Lisa did the sign language, and we all chose to do something with our hands….” – TLC

And last but not least…

©TLC

“We just got real creative with the burlap. None of us had any boobs so that was a serious little boob moment. We had a rope kind of thing to holding the burlap together, but that’s why we had our arms crossed.”

GOLD.

 

This is how to picket…

Be inspired by South London bus drivers – I’ve ridden the buses enough to know they’ve got a TOUGH job. I don’t know what their salary is but it should be decent, for what they’re dealing with. Apparently not, as they went on strike over pay last week. Here’s a video of a group of drivers at the Camberwell depot, striking while dancing to dance hall. *Air horn.*

Why everyone is sad about Plastic People’s closure.

Security

Smiley Security at Plastic People ©GC

Beloved club Plastic People closed down last weekend. The first time I went there was with Mala, sometime in 2004, on a Thursday night for Forward>> – I was trembling with adrenaline as I walked down the stairs and into the basement. There were lots of blokes, some of whom I recognised from Croydon. After some hellos and introductions (probably to Sarah Souljah, among others) and a drink at the bar, I went through the black curtains into the dark chasm of bass and space and became immersed in sound in a way that I’d never been before.

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Crazy D, Plastic People. ©GC

The next few years following that, Forward>> became a regular weekly pilgrimage. I’d come home from work, have some food, get my camera together, get in my Mum’s car, put Rinse on the radio and feel excited from the moment I left the house to the moment I was back in the basement, where a sense of seriousness would then kick in.

Circus ©GC

The Bar at Plastic People ©GC

By the bar, I’d meet and greet (or nod at on the dancefloor) Coki, N-Type and Walsh, Skream, Youngsta, Sarah, Loefah and Pokes, Kode9, Spaceape, Blackdown, Distance, Jamie from Vex’d, the Steppa gang, Scientist, SLT Mob, Cyrus, Crazy D, Youngsta, Benny Ill, D1, Dan Hancox, Bok Bok and Manara, Appleblim, Shackleton, Elemental, Boomnoise, Letty and Tom, Chantelle Fiddy, Melissa Bradshaw, Emma Warren, Hanna and Darkstar, the three DMZ/FWD>> regulars that I called the random trio among others. Pinch would pop in from Bristol and Joe Nice and DQ from the U.S.

Bouncy Crew, ©GC

Bouncy Crew at BASH, Plastic People, ©GC

©GC

One of my pics of Youngsta playing FWD>> at Plastic People.

Youngsta’s dark, solid sets became a staple and the thing I’d most look forward to.  It was at Plastic People that I also first experienced the energy of Grime via Roll Deep & BBK and there that I witnessed the merging of Dubstep & Grime in Skream’s Request Line, which I spoke about in this Guardian piece.  It was at Plastic that I first met Burial and where I started to really get my head around sound, frequencies and their capabilities. I also took a load of photographs there, like the relatively well known image below, often battling with whether to use flash or not.

Skank by GC

“SKANK” FWD>> Dancefloor, as seen in SLANG MAGAZINE, Portugal.

Hand Shake, ©GC

Warrior Queen & The Bug, BASH @ Plastic People, ©GC

Drumzticks ©GC

Drumzofthesouth, Plastic People ©GC

The fact that these memories are all from one Forward>> and Rinse Nights, says a lot about those particular events, bit also about the club itself, which was also hosting other forward thinking nights such as Co-Op and CDR.

Loefah and The Bug’s BASH also happened at Plastic People with guests including Warrior Queen, Nicolette and Ari Up (The Slits). I had the honour of doing the door on one occasion.

Plastic People was an important part of life for a very long time. And it doesn’t matter that it got to a point where I would no longer recognise anyone when I went there (the names above went on to set up their own nights or labels, tour around the world, run record shops and write books). It just meant that the place had become important to a new crowd. Like Croydon’s Black Sheep Bar which sadly closed last year, these venues facilitate honey moons – a particular group go there, love it, make it theirs for a number of years then naturally move on to make space for a new crowd to enjoy a new honeymoon.

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Plastic People, ©GC

Such third places foster community. They also facilitate innovation by allowing people from different places, interests and backgrounds to mesh together to create new ideas, new things.  I’ve read and heard countless tweets and statements over the past few days from producers saying that they would make tunes to play specifically at Plastic People, punters saying they met some of their best mates there and lots of people saying it changed their lives.

SO WHY DID IT SHUT DOWN? According to this article, the management felt it time to move on. Which is hard to accept considering how many other London venues have closed or been under threat of closure. Madame Jojo’s, The Joiner’s Arms, Vibe Bar, Black Sheep Bar, Micro-universes for so many people, ALL GONE.  Fabric nearly closed last year, Ministry of Sound the year before that and currently, there are battles to keep Tin Pan Alley (Denmark Street) and The Curzon Cinema alive. The truth is that London is changing rapidly because of development. Cross rail and The Overground have sprung up. On the one hand, Londoners can now get about this country of a city a bit more easily (ironically when the Overground was introduced, I was living abroad and wished it had existed when I was going to Plastic People every week).  On the other hand, more transport links mean more developers who know that areas are attractive to live in if they’re well connected.

“2008 to 2013, 41% of planning applications within a kilometre of a Crossrail station cited the new railway as a justification for the development proceeding, equating to around 53 million square feet of residential, commercial and retail space.” - GVA

Expensive flats, offices, shops and posh eating places are springing up where great clubs, pubs and bars used to be (or next to them leading to noise complaints). There’re not attractive to me, nor most of my friends, family and acquaintances. Arts and culture are attractive, interesting, vital and good for the economy, but alas, they don’t seem to be a priority to London’s current mayor; money does. At least we have memories though, right?