Atrocity Museum
On homes, belonging and moving on
A Public Service Announcement With Guitars

Richey Edwards, the inspired genius behind much of the early literate punch of Manic Street Preachers, famously once stated of his home town “If Blackwood was a museum, it would be full of rubble and shit”. This powerful image (appropriated regularly, not least by this fanzine) encapsulates how many feel about the suffocating embrace of where they grow up, and articulates the widespread teenage desire to escape.

Fast forward a few years. The Manics have now draped their amps with Welsh flags, composed the team anthem for the Euros and are all based in or close to Wales, with a new studio outside Newport, just up the valley from Blackwood. Their own creativity and energy and passion has clearly wiped out any hint of rubble and shit from their feelings towards the area, perhaps showing them that it was all a state of mind anyway...

Does this make them dirty sell outs or soppy home boys?

I've lived in Cambridge since 1989, having applied for a job here as a somewhat unfortunate 'joke', whereas I was only based in Swansea while at secondary school, aged 12-18. But perhaps those were the most important times. For, over the past years, I have come to realise that I really think of Swansea as home. Perhaps this feeling was exacerbated by the death of my father, but I think it was always there at the back of my mind, like a badger nestling in its sett, not often seen but always present, burrowing away. Nothing particularly against Cambridge and East Anglia which (to be fair) has embraced me like one of its own web footed fen creatures, but I never really felt I belonged. The wide January skies and encroaching horizons never made up for the see-saw sea, shadowy valleys and fern hills of that lovely ugly town where I spent my formative years

So I've decided that I am going to move back.

Of course I may be making a massive mistake, a rush of romantic rubbish to the head. If that proves to be the case, I will be straight back. However I want to at least try living back 'home' and I need to do this now, before I get to retirement age.

Lots of personal and 'professional'(!) factors have collided to make this year a good time to give it a go.

I can't imagine being happy growing old in Cambridge.

View from outside my new pad

So, I have bought a small house right along the sea front on Swansea Bay, half way between the City Centre and my Mum's house on the Gower. It's called 'The Old Sweet Shop' and is near a pub, a cafe, a wild and waterfalled park and, as I said, the sea. You're all invited, come and see me. Cos I'll be coming to see you. To start with (for a year at least) I am keeping a room in my house in Cambridge (the R*E*P*E*A*T office, no less) so I can return regularly to promote gigs, maybe do a bit of teaching, help out at Cambridge City and get involved with any anti racism that needs a bit of donkey work. I'll also be keeping the Big Badger Music Shack functioning, so that I can continue to work with and record bands. So in that sense, I won't be leaving at all. In fact, I already know that I am back here for the first 2 weekends after I move. It's just that my base will be there, and not here.

Things I'll miss about Cambridge are too many too mention, but they include

1) The kids and staff at my school; having been there a long time (a very long time), I have an easy relaxed relationship with the kids, especially the slightly awkward, outsider, underachieving ones, who need a little bit of subtle support, something I've been lucky enough to be able to provide. I will so miss walking into a school and everyone wanting to talk to me about badgers, or tell me how rubbish The Swans are (as if I didn't know).

2) Being able to turn up at almost any political or musical event in the City and instantly meet interesting people, eager to talk about interesting things. Special thanks to all the friends, promoters and activists who've been so generous with me and with R*E*P*E*A*T over the years, you know who you are.

3) Being a part of Cambridge Socialist and anti racist politics. I think I have helped coordinate anti racism in Cambridge, first through the Anti Nazi League and then Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up to Racism and of course Love Music Hate Racism, since the mid 90s. In that time we've achieved some brilliant things – the 9 full buses that went to the Brockwell Park Carnival in 1994 where the Manics played, and we still we had to put some people on the train, the massive demos that sent the EDL scurrying on two occasions, the Kick It Out events at local schools, and the continued rapid response we manage to stage to racist attacks, big and small. Organising to help get thousands out on the streets or tens to a tiny but important meeting, brings a massive sense of achievement, and is something I will sorely miss. Of course the internet means that I can still remain involved, as well as getting active in Swansea (where a Football Lads Alliance has just been set up, grrr!); however it will be nice to be more of a helper rather than a leader, something I never like to be...

4) My loyal, talented, appreciative, talented guitar students, most of whom quickly become far better players than me, but keep having lessons as they have become friends and not 'students' at all. That's why some of them are still coming back aged 30+...

5) Bury St Edmunds Rock City, the most inspiring, inclusive, sweaty, creative, fun place for a night out in these parts. I'll be planning my trips to Cambridge around Washing Machine dates!


6)Arbury and The Arbury Street Kids who seem to have adopted me; last week they made me swim in the Cam - “You have to go in first and check it's safe for us!!”

7) Cambridge City FC, where our work with Football in the Community has brought pleasure to hundreds of kids (many of them who'd not normally have any access to football at that level), as well as great rewards and satisfaction to me. The news about our new ground in Sawston is reassuring : the Future is Black And White!

8) My peaceful garden and its oddball pigeon, Crackers McKenzine (pictured below).

9) Biggest thing of all – my wonderful friends who've kept me simultaneously sane, mad, fed, red, busy, stirring trouble, smiling and happy. But then again maybe not; we have the internet, we have phones, we have carrier pigeons (Crackers McKenzine), we have travel, and as I keep saying, I mean to be back!!

I've not put music in this list as I don't intend for that to stop. As mentioned, I already have gigs pencilled in for September. With the ever energetic Seymour Quigley, another eager exile who also returned to his roots, we are planning 'This Is The Sound Of Sugar Town 3' for release in the new year. And I'm looking forward to 'You Flexi Thing 5', perhaps a split BSE / Swansea / Cambridge thing, along with (hopefully) a Swansea compilation, tentatively entitled 'Lovely Ugly / Pretty Shitty' (spot all the allusions there, win an Alcopop CD). I'm looking forward to the challenges of finding bands in a new City, and of earning some money to finance these new releases. But I hope I can still be involved with Strawberry Fair and The Fiver and The Portland and Relevant and all that punk back here. So there.

Saffs Fans,mid 90s

It's just that as from September 1st, I will be based more in Swansea than I have been, with a lovely house in need of improvement, and with no job and no money and no definite plans.

And maybe when I've achieved them, I'll be back for good, who knows.

I am so lucky to have a choice, and I mean to use it.

I can't wait!

Thanks again to everyone who's helped make the last 29 years such a wild, twisty, unexpected, empowering, creative, ridiculous, smelly (that refers to the River Cam swim, mostly), impassioned, noisy, chaotic ride - you're all S*T*A*R*s.

Now go set up your own fanzine, start your own band, run your own revolution.

It's either that or get mired in the rubble and shit.

Foxy Ramone at my 50th birthday do

Rosey R*E*P*E*A*T July 2018

I'm uploading more pix similar to the above from my 'files' (ie the cupboards and cupboards of junk I seem to have accumulated) for all Nostalgic Push Heads here