Thursday, 14 August 2014

PARLOUR by Vulpes Vulpes - Excavation by Hadiru Mahdi

#7 in a series of blogposts from VulpesVulpes reflecting on their AirSpace Gallery Residency activity for  PARLOUR

Words: Hadiru Mahdi
Images: Anna Chrystal Stephens


Some gatherings move from impromptu into permanence. I wonder if it is possible to chart the movement between, find the turning point. I reckon not, likening it to when a sprained wrist or clicky knee is such a fixture that you prepare yourself for living a life defined by it. Only to realise in its absence, how it passed so quietly, you would have rather had a chance to mark it, to celebrate the freedom.

The focus point may be ceremony, or site. Habits turning habitual. For the past two years those who know me well can find me on a Wednesday, though the day and location has sometimes changed, they will know what. This certainty, broken briefly at times by factors outside our control, was never the result of plan or intent. It developed I feel, through the value of experience and interaction, openness ,joy, vibes. The hesitation to recreate or recapture dissipated, replaced by trust in what had been built.

There are signs of course, when see you next week changes from a question to a statement. When you stop checking whether someone will be there; if they are not you don't fret, fully expecting to see them again. When you yourself feel become spatially reliable.

Music is a great gatherer, what I describe above is a jam session that grew from a suggestion to a force. During this residency I have been drawn to the musical cultures of Stoke, the tribes and scenes, the shrines. From the seemingly endless supply of cover bands, to the Northern Soul all-nighters and stories of queues round the block for Acid House raves. When world-renowned DJs were in residence, records sought and traded in car parks, and landlords accepted Amphetamines in lieu of rent.

I find myself thinking about the abruptness with which these moments shifted from permanence to past tense.
The rest in peace dates. The closure of Shelly's Laserdome, the end of Jollies, the last all-nighter at the Golden Torch. The resistance. When police involvement, planning permission or licensing proved too hard to navigate, too stifling. The come down. After people grew older, sought direction or stability, had children, moved away. But also the revivals, the originals still in stock at Rubber Soul Records. The all-nighter on October 4, King's Hall, Stoke-on-Trent. What memory might be stored in the hallowed grounds of the places that gave us these times? If those shopping at Lidl only knew what Sasha did in the car park

Some sites are still here, as they were then, the product of coincidence or better confluence, and ending when the sources and springs dried. Up until -the mid-90s, on the M6 between junctions 15 and 16, Keele services served as a convergence spot for revellers travelling north or south after the clubs had put out and those leaving the forest knowing they better now than spend the night. The cars pulled up playing tapes, recorded sets for which many were there, that mix, that drop, a flashback, the body tingles in muscle memory.
That Fiesta, a deep metallic purple, four doors open, drinks out the boot, is from above a Scarabc displaying wings and circled by admirers, moving. More cars arrive and come to a rest on the rock. You stopped first just because you were bursting for a piss but are here two hours later, another half, go on. Jonny's gotta drive to Chester and sleeps with the driver's seat back, how the hell he can with the music at full blast you'll never know. That's a skill that. Those who stumble upon it for the first time are already crafting the story in their heads to tell the friends who continued home or never made it out. But not to say I told you so, I'll take you next time. You leave at dawn, are in your city after sunrise and still up at noon. The only service you ever used was the loo, never caused any harm, were always polite and courteous to the staff, made friends of them, brightened their nights.

On our pilgrimage we excavate in a woodland clearing, searching for remnants that would carry us closer or take us back in time. I am not sure I expected to find anything or if we did, what it might say. Yet, the seemingly banal left us astounded - a Bounty wrapper nearly 20 years old, a marble, a pill case - they were boundless, leaving us with freedom of thought and imagination. I saw faces, friends and strangers in the high grass between the clump of trees, where they searched but had no torch, nearly a decade before someone might be relied on to have a phone light. 

The nostalgia I realise was mostly my own, though it was only partly of the melancholy and sickness that word may describe. I am lucky to be able to imagine through living in part a phase of that history. In Yorkshire, Lancashire, London and places I could never again find on a map. I sat in circles with people I cannot otherwise imagine ever encountering and talking to. I value and hold dear those exchanges and feelings, of being open, trusting and welcoming in. It is why I would now rather ask than assume, why I might meander in conversation, take time, start again, knowing that there is something in there that I can learn from, that we share. Why remembering all this is necessary and shows me that I still at times am lacking, because really it was the people that made it be and so it is them I must call on and not only to reminisce, but to see what's happening now.

It's the muscle memory and emotional recall. Why we still rave to jungle and garage as I remember humming bass lines in South London primary school playgrounds. How Kabal in Sheffield is at once then and now. An education through which I found admiration and the want to honour the pioneers and creators, how I wanted to be true to them, acknowledging my position is but a little mark in history bigger than me. Why we say respect the space. Why my friend throws an acid house party on a Monday night in East London begging someone to tell him it isn't right

this one you

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