Six Of The Best: Mike Jeffries | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Those Bloody Kids is a 100-page, full-colour book about fifty years of skating in Tyneside, looking at the skate/surf scene in Whitley Bay in the late seventies to 2022’s Girl Skate North East. It combines interviews with skaters with a remarkable treasure trove of photos and tells Tyneside’s story of national champions, legendary skaters and infamous spots

Birthed from the mind of Michael Jeffries, meticulously curated by Andrew Linaker and published by Shred The North, Tyneside’s skate CIC and PlayToon, the book will be launched in the Front Room, Baltic on September 30th (between 1-3pm) where you’ll be able to hear from some of the skaters who were there in the 70s, 80s and 90s, as well as the current scene.

Here, Mike Jeffries gives us his six of the best…

Art: Photocopiers. Pencils…  acrylic paint… video….? Give me a photocopier anytime, that magic, instant process toying with the risk of a paper jam. You never know quite what you are going to get. Photocopiers have that strange power to recreate and change, but to this day I do not know how they do it. Okay, they have come on a long way since they were a total gamble, when the paper was coated in a sort of crackling crust that could flake off, words lost here and there. Copiers are much more likely to make a decent copy these days. If you want a decent copy that is. Try just banging the control buttons and turn everything up to max. Move the paper around on the glass plate, following the light across. Copy again and again and again until the picture atomises. The office photocopier has always been a sneaky weapon, spawning thousands of zines, collages and buttocks.

Culture: Northumberland Street. The pure drama. Walk from Haymarket down to the Monument, you are guaranteed the noise, hustle and smell of the city. Check out the photoshopped visions from NE1 of how the street, and its side shoots Ridley Place and Northumberland Road, will look one day, full of loafing, lovely folk with their coffees and laptops. Then look around you. Nothing like it. I swear the Street has gotten stranger ever since the return to the new normal. It would be an unusual walk if you were not able to summon up a combination of an opera singer, energy drink promo, gadgie wheezing out the hits, jammed mobility scooter and Michal Jackson impersonator. 

Painting: George Grosz vs Edward Hopper.  I went to the same school that inspired Pink Floyd’s John Waters to write The Wall. Judging by “we don’t need no education” he didn’t have a great time there. I arrived many years later and it was very different, a proper liberal education. Okay, the German teacher would still show you his collection of Nazi memorabilia but the new art master comes in and says we are not doing painting, we are doing Dada and making Super 8 films. That was me hooked. I have always loved the images of late-night cities, ideally some combination of George Grosz’s Weimer angst and Edward Hopper’s achingly beautiful, half-empty bars. I hope Newcastle’s nightlife is getting the same love and attention. Sometimes I think I’d hire a taxi for the evening and just go round and round the Diamond Strip watching the crowds teeter and dance their way back and forth, searching for that perfect club. People worry, understandably, but the city has always been like this. Read the oldest accounts of the Bigg Market. It is exactly the same, the only change being the minor detail of the soundtrack. All this, more or less, on the line of Hadrian’s wall too, so you can literally have a night out with one foot in the Barbarian north, the other in the fleshpots of Rome. Top night.

Music: Voodoo Ray. Still sounds dangerously hypnotic to me, even if it may be a cliche of late 80s raves. A mix of noises some sort of hospital tech might make plus a kid going plinky-plonk on a toy piano. Late 80s and I wasn’t earning much being an ecologist but instead keeping the wolf from the door running the projectors in an acid house club in Edinburgh. For a nice, polite boy from the suburbs like me this was slightly strange, being stone-cold sober and straight all night long but breathing in several tons of strawberry smoke. The whole DIY approach of the scene was vital. No one seemed to know what they were doing, the music and films looping and cutting across s one another. I only have to hear those opening beeps to conjure up the smell of fake strawberries.

Architecture: “The Brasilia of the North”. Must have sounded like a great piece of PR once, though it is very difficult, maybe impossible, to pin down who coined it. For those of us in Newcastle, it is where we live, or did so up until about twenty years ago and the start of a systematic campaign to demolish any trace of the 1960s regeneration. The phrase is entirely bound up with one-time council leader and Mouth of the Tyne T. Dan Smith, who became an easy target to despise following his fall from grace and imprisonment. The key buildings are largely gone: the Bank of England with its Jurassic Portland Stone façade or the Basil Spence City Centre Library with the hanging gardens tumbling down into Lisle Street buried below. Aerial walkways are chopped off or gated. Smith’s vision of an Athens, a Venice, a Brasilia, with world-class culture, thriving universities and a Quayside of glittering venues was obviously too much for some people. There is not much of the future left to see so make the most of what is left.

Culture: Skateboarding. No one knows why people skateboard. Skaters cannot put it into words. Something about it just grabs their heart and does not let go. Lots of kids may try out skating but for some, it becomes a lifelong love. Even if they can longer skate, they are still skaters. The Tyneside skate scene has had the same boom and busts as other scenes but, over fifty years on, is still going strong.  It is easy to overlook but there is an unauthorised heritage out there on the street and DIY spots, a creativity, a positivity. From the late 70s when a Tynemouth skate scene meshed skate, surf and snowboarding, via the late 80s city – deserted and grimy on the Sabbath before the days of Sunday shopping right up to the contemporary scene, still building, still filming, still photographing. There is nothing wrong with the Baltic, Sage and Angel of the North but there are other cultural landmarks out there, even if you are not sure exactly where the New Wastey is.

Those Bloody Kids is launched on Saturday 30th September at BALTIC Front Room. Entry is free.

Photo By Adam Thirtle

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