Nu-Punk (or how the Force Awakened)

Louise Distras. Picture: Neil Chapman
Louise Distras. Picture: Neil Chapman
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Cast your minds back to 1977, Star Wars hit cinemas (featuring no black actors), it was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the United Kingdom held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time, and Never Mind The B******s was released by the Sex Pistols.

Now 40 years on to 2017, we are due a new Star Wars film (featuring John Boyega, a young British black actor in a lead role) and heading for the exit door of the European Union.

Matt Abbott

Matt Abbott

In response to if not a reflection of the divisive Brexit referendum and General election result, we have now given rise to the forward thinking but under represented Millennials. The Nu-Punks.

The Nu-Punks are trying to find their way amongst the Brexiteers whom long for the glory days of yesteryear, the bunting at the street parties and the old fashioned out-dated notion of what it is to be ‘British’.

With 24/7 social media and open minds, the youth are forging their own path, a path that is now scaring the 50/60 year old men and women (now parents and adults themselves), who were the very trailblazers of the Punk movement that scared their own parents in 70s England.

Nu-Punk is a fusion of punk and grime both born of dissatisfaction, low incomes and feeling of hopelessness. It is the voice of the new generation of inner city youth of all colours and races, jaded and sidelined, looking for an outlet to find their way in the world.

Wakefield-born punk singer-songwriter Louise Distras is performing in Leeds at The Fenton on September 30 and headlining a series of punk and grime shows across the UK next month.

“Music has the power to change the world. Nu-Punk takes the spirit and energy of rebel rock through the ages and we are building on it for a new generation of working class kids. Nu-punk is a movement that stands on the shoulders of giants but has a different field of vision.

“These shows are about more than bringing grime and punk together,” adds Distras. “These shows represent the new energy here in the UK that has seen a record number of young people registering to vote against division, hatred and austerity.”

Jeremy Corbyn, agree on his policies or not, spoke out for the nu-punk generation at the recent General Election, and recently took to the stage with raptuous applause at Glastonbury to introduce hip-hop act Run The Jewels.

During the election campaign, the youth of Leeds and surrounding cities in both the North and South of England were encircling Corbyn as their leader. They had their ring master and their spokesman, and he greeted them all with open arms.

Unofficially titled The Nu-Punk Messiah, Corbyn was represented by a Grime movement #grime4corbyn, created by the scene to encourage young people to take part in the electoral democratic process.

Grime MC Stormzy has been an outspoken supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, whom recently presented Stormzy with the GQ Man of the Year award.

Stormzy heaped praise on Jeremy Corbyn stating in a recent interview with The Guardian: “My man, Jeremy! I dig what he says. I saw some sick picture of him from back in the day when he was campaigning about anti-apartheid and I thought: yeah, I like your energy.

“I like Jeremy: I feel like he gets what the ethnic minorities are going through and the homeless and the working class.”

The above Stormzy speaks of are also the students, artists, musicians and creative youths who talked with their feet clamouring at the polling booths to attempt to secure a better future with Labour.

A YouGov poll revealed that in electoral terms, age seems to be the new dividing line in British politics. The clearest way to show this is to note that, amongst first time voters (aged 18 and 19), Labour was forty seven percentage points ahead.

The youth desire and deserve a future without suffocating austerity and cuts to creative funding or access to free/affordable education. A future without Tory rule who seem intent on pushing the underground arts into obscurity, muting the voices of the masses.

Matt Abbott, Leeds poet and Labour supporter explained: “I’ve absolutely no doubt that the growing presence of politics in various art forms contributed to the increased youth vote in this year’s General Election. People feel angry, betrayed, disenfranchised and to some extend, scared. But art gives them a positive and constructive outlet for these emotions.”

Punk’s legacy still to this day injects money into the economy, whether derided as a product by Vivienne Westwoods son Joe Corre, or seen as a pilgrimage by tourists both domestic and international.

The Tin Pan Alley campaign of 2016, successfully brought Grade II listed status to the home of the Sex Pistols on Denmark Street in London, setting the history of Punk firmly in concrete.

Businesses in the arts and culture industry contribute an estimated £6bn to the UK economy, and though a nice sentiment to have listed status at Denmark Street, the ‘original’ punk scene is forever looking back than looking forward trapped in England’s past glories.

More can be done to support grassroots venues, artists, and creative groups and individuals to secure a future not only for the present, but for future generations and future footfall into our country to show we are a forward thinking presence that challenge the establishment and are a force for change.

“Art and music under a Tory government is very much a Catch 22 scenario,” says Abbott. “The Tories specifically do not want art and music to thrive, because it almost universally opposes them, and most of all it encourages people to think and to challenge. But on the other hand, it’ll always mean that the best art and music is produced. Arts/music and protest go hand in hand.”

The Force is awakening. Change is coming. Nu-punk is on the march.