Thursday, 30 August 2012

Shirt Parade Day 6

The first entry in the list for my Dad! And yes I am wearing a Sparrer vest to a Pilates class... This is from the gigs at the Forum in Kentish Town in 2010. So this marks a special time all round really...

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Why I like Tom Daley's tattoo

The nation's favourite 18 year old Olympian Tom Daley has been in the news recently for getting some ink. He has commemorated his bronze medal for the 10m platform dive by getting the Olympic rings tattooed on his upper bicep. Good for him. Like the unwritten rule of only tattooists getting tattoo machines on them, it would sort of be cheating if non-Olympians walked around with the five rings permanently etched on their skin. You know when you see an Olympic ring tattoo that person has represented their country in the greatest sporting competition in the world.

There have been a range of articles this summer which have commented on the significant number of athletes who arrived in London wearing their tattoos as well as their national colours with pride. A combination of two sets of circumstances lead to me noticing and then begin counting. The first is that I spent 32 out of 48 hours recovering from a music festival in front of the excellent BBC coverage of the 'Lympics. Most of this time there was either a snoring boyfriend or kitten curled up next to me.

The second is that I found myself dipping into - my favourite procrastination guilty pleasure. The author had posted a photo of a Russian gymnast with a particularly bold set of butterflies going up her back and down one thigh. From that moment on I was tattoo spotting.
I counted at least eighteen tattoos on athletes representing their countries within the first six hours. Hours 15 to 21 were also productive as I flicked between the women's beach volleyball and the hockey, the tally getting ever bigger. From the small and delicate to huge solid pieces of tribal, it's a statement of fact from my highly unscientific research, that this was the most tattooed Olympiad to date.

I remember Olympic champions from previous competitions marking their victories and participation with tattoos. I remember the men's 400m relay team from Atlanta in 1996 photographed in an issue of Cosmo. The entire relay team naked save for flags and tattoos. Stuck in my memory somehow. Bit creepy considering I was 12. Where did I get a copy of Cosmo from at that age?

My own tattoos have taught me that even the most disparaging of critics will attempt to see past their own prejudices if you have an explanation for the tattoo. Tattoos are individual, unique and personal, and the motivations behind them equally so. Saying that, I am happy to talk about mine, as are a number of other of my tattooed friends.

The decision to get a tattoo isn't one that should be taken lightly and we are often asked about the 'meaning' of each piece. It's worth pointing out that not everyone and not every tattoo has a significant meaning - as I said unique. The motivation behind one of mine was definitely just that I liked it and wanted it. But for the most part I can explain the rationale behind each tattoo.

What has struck me is that once I saw the stories about Daley's tattoo I really expected there to be backlash or heavy criticism. Especially when the first place the story is cited on Google is the Daily Mail. But like the absence of heavy criticism on the previous articles about tattooed Olympians, the British public doesn't seem to want to criticise Tom for his tatt. In some ways it's completely understandable why he'd want to do this.

Dare I posit that we have reached an era of tattoo normalization? I don't know if this occurrence is because we are all proud of his achievements and hold a soft spot for him. Or whether it's because an 18 year old marking a point in his life with a permanent reminder is now more commonplace. Whether this achievement is winning a bronze medal or something else.

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Monday, 27 August 2012

Shirt Parade Day 5

As you can see, looking thrilled at the gym in my Barcelona Hammers t shirt. This was a gift from a friend who was a members of the city's supporters club. Forever blowing bubbles in Catalonia!

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Sunday, 26 August 2012

Shirt Parade Day 4

This stunner is from the first time I saw the Aggrolites who are one of my family's favourite bands. Seriously we listened to the albums over Christmas dinner!
The gig was at Dingwalls in Camden. I went with my Dad. We had a boogie.

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Friday, 24 August 2012

Shirt Parade Day 3

Can't believe it's another non-black one! This is representing our boys Contra, check them out if you like punk and Oi! Home to the magnificent Booze and Glory. I acquired this very recently as a present :)

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Rebellion this summer

Some of you may know that I've been going to the Rebellion festival for a few years now. A few years more than I care to admit to. This year I was honored to be asked to help write articles and features for the programme.
The programme itself is a fancy shcmancy 80 page magazine, which is free to every Rebellion punter and read by thousands. Needless to say I jumped at the chance.
Two of the bands I featured were the Sydney Ducks and Downtown Struts, who both had huge attendance at their sets, some of which I hope was down to the programme. The bands were in the middle of the Endless Rebellion European Tour, which I'll try and write about separately if I get the chance.
Their record label, Pirates Press Records, has just posted photos of the articles to their Facebook page So I think they might be quite happy with it!
And as you might be able to tell, I'm pretty proud of them, so I've decided to repost the pictures.

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Thursday, 23 August 2012

My first Huffington Post article!

Some of you may have noticed that this blog has been a little quiet this summer whilst I've been in Europe. It doesn't mean that I haven't been writing though, and I actually had my first article published on the Huffington Post! Very excited!
In case any of you missed it, here it is:
And here's a picture:

The event itself was one of the other things I've been up to this summer, organising the charity tattoo art auction! We raised a considerable amount of money for Mantle Cell Lymphoma research, thank you to everyone who helped and was involved.
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Problems for UK bands getting US visas UPDATE

Thanks for all of the messages and interest about the work we're doing on this campaign. I wrote a short article for the Rebellion programme which helps explain the situation a bit more and give you all an update. Enjoy!

The British are coming! The British are coming! Or not as the case may be...

Ladies and Germs of Rebellion, we appear to have a problem. Well collectively we have many problems, but the one I want to bring to your attention is the problem that America has with British music. To play in the States, bands should apply for work visas, which includes an interview at the US Embassy in London and the requirement that you prove you're a band worth letting in. The American visa system seems to be keeping UK bands out of its borders based on nothing more than whether the random jobsworth who gets your file has heard of you or not.

It's an uphill struggle anyway. Trying to tour in America is beyond the financial and organisational means of most of the bands I know. Then you have to factor in that the country is bloody enormous, some of the people very strange and their tastes in music stranger still. The sticking point really though is that tough visa requirements have been made tougher by increased bureaucracy and more money needed to actually make it happen.

Over the last ten years there has been an increase in rejections for British bands. There is no appeal process once you've been rejected, they don't give you any explanation, and none of the money you've shelled out is refundable. Musicians and their promoters have wasted considerable money, as well as having to rearrange and cancel tour dates. The system is making it too expensive and unpredictable to book tours in the US, and is not favouring the bands that don't try and fly under the radar. We've all heard of a band that either got rejected or didn't have enough time to apply properly, turning up to gigs with little or no equipment because they're playing on a tourist and not a work visa.

The madness gets madder still. What if one of you can't get the time off work to tour so you get another mate to stand in on bass? The problem is that your drummer has only been in the band for 11 months. To even get anywhere close to near being granted a visa, the rules require that at least 75% of the members of the group must have a substantial and sustained relationship with the group for at least one year. And there's no flexibility in this at all, no extenuating circumstances can be given.

These words 'sustained and substantial' come back to bite British bands in the arse in another ridiculously impractical demand. I mentioned earlier that part of the process is to prove that the band is a legitimate band that deserve visas? Did I tell you that it has to be a substantial bundle of evidence (at least 30 pages) showing that the band has an international reputation and has attained a high level of achievement for a “sustained and substantial” period of time. Define high level of achievement to a punk band.

The costs can become prohibitively expensive for non-London based bands. I heard of an 80 piece orchestra from Manchester who had to cancel US gig dates (or I suppose it's a concert with an orchestra!) because coordinating getting all of them to the interview at the London Embassy for the 8am time slot just wasn't going to happen in the real world. This problem is widespread across the music industry, an industry which generates over £6 billion per year for the UK economy and employs over 130,000 British jobs.

In March, for the first time in 25 years, UK acts occupied all 3 top slots in the US album charts. But it's not the Adele's of this world who are being denied visas - although interestingly she had to get the UK Culture Minister to phone the Embassy and vouch for her as her fast-paced success didn't meet the requirements on her first US tour. It's the non-superstars who don't have the spare cash to pay for the fast-track process or a consultant's fee to get it done.

Louder Than War is working with professional musicians associations and MPs in campaigning for this process to be reformed and for the US to show the same love to UK bands that we do to their artists. If you have any experience of this we want to hear from you. Email

The campaign is calling for American immigration policy to be reformed:
- To implement their proposed plan to reduce processing for visas to 15-20 days, which was announced in July 2010 and never enacted.
- To consider exempting particular showcases and festivals from visa requirements, such as SXSW, CMJ festival (for which bands do not get paid either) and Coachella Festival and, along the same lines as currently happens for Glastonbury, the Proms, etc. Managers in the industry have got together to lobby for such an exemption for trade events.
- The system could certainly be clearer and more transparent, to the extent that this is consistent with security concerns – so that bands don’t have to either pour money into the system or risk cancelling their tour. This should including clearer eligibility criteria for demonstrating international reputation, so that record labels etc do not waste huge amounts of money applying for visas for bands that will be rejected.
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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Shirt Parade Day 2

Today's Shirt is courtesy of the Red Sox 100 year celebration of Fenway Park, brought to me direct from Boston and the centennial festivities. Love it!

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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Shirt Parade: day 1

So the project starts today. Here's the top of the pile, The Bouncing Souls, acquired in London, summer 2011. The Souls played four nights at the Islington Academy, showcasing their back catalogue in a brilliant series of gigs, which we attended two of and got highly battered courtesy of the dressing room whiskey.
Good times all round.

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A new online photography project: The Shirt Parade

Unpacking from my summer in Europe has made me realise that I have somewhat of a T shirt issue. Namely I can't help but acquire them on my escapades and love them all for special reasons. I have no idea how many I have. This is where they live:

A veritable treasure chest of gig shirts from venues long closed, band logos from groups no longer in existence, plus a few in claret and blue for good measure.

So this is my new project. Not wear a t shirt more than once and attempt to photographically record the collection. I wonder how many Sparrer ones there will be...?

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