Tag Archives: politics

Undaunted (selected poems 2014-2016) by Attila The Stockbroker

Attila The Stockbroker - UndauntedFor over thirty years Attila The Stockbroker has stood as one of the primary forces in the movement of ranting poetry. Grown from the same place as the second wave of punk in the early 1980s, the ranters were often found on the same stages as their noisier contemporaries, but, like the bands, over the years most have fallen by the wayside in one way or another.

Not so Attila. Following his fascinating and frank autobiography last year comes a new set of his poems, his eighth since 1985, suitably titled Undaunted.

Coming from the same scene that gave us the likes of Crass it’s not surprising that much of Attila’s reputation comes from his rabble rousing rebel ranting, and that is firmly in evidence here.

As up to the minute as it’s possible to be he takes on the targets you’d expect, Trump, Brexit, Farage and May in particular, in his own scathing, satirical and down to earth way.

While the titular poem, one of the books longest, is a more serious affair than many, elsewhere it is Attila’s streak of (appropriately) crass humour that makes this more than an ‘angry old leftie’ having a go with Rock ‘n’ Roll Brexit, Farageland, Theresa The Appeaser and Corbyn Supporters From Hell (a play on one of his earlier works) as highlights.

Attila The Stockbroker on stage with Barnstormer

Attila on stage with Barnstormer at Vale Earth Fair 2014

Along with these though we get another side to Attila, one that has always been there but seems more poignant as he moves on with life, poems that, in many ways, feel they really be credited to John. In these he takes a look a life, death and football in a way that is genuinely poignant.

It would be easy for his words on these subjects to become a bit cliché or over-processed like so much bad food, but his manner and style of writing and description just makes them feel real as in Candid Camera, Auntie Rose and the hugely effecting My Ninth Birthday.

Throughout all of these Attila’s politics still feature whether it’s championing the NHS or highlighting how past Conservative governments have caused tragedy for working class communities but in a less direct way, so it’s My Doctor Martens that pulls the two sides together and exists as a macrocosm of the rest of the collection.

Attila The Stockbroker

Accompanied by some excellent illustrations by Dan Woods (guitarist with Attila’s band, Barnstormer) and (I guess i should admit my involvement) a rather nice photo by yours truly taken at the Vale Earth Fair a few years back, Undaunted see Attila The Stockbroker continue to do just what he’s always done; speak his truth loud, proud and clear with an honesty, wit and humour many he ridicules could do with learning a thing or two about.

Much like his great inspiration John Cooper Clarke, Attila’s work may be best experienced read live and loud by its author but none-the-less the written versions remain hugely effective and effecting and it doesn’t seem there’s any slowing down this undaunted veteran yet.

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Arguments Yard: My Autobiography by Attila The Stockbroker

Arguments Yard by Attila The StockbrokerThe lives of many punks from the late 70s and 80s have been rendered in text in recent years with varying results, I have in the past particularly enjoyed John Lydon’s first autobiography, but none I have read thus far have quite left me with the same feeling as this one.

Attila The Stockbroker, aka John Baine, has been something of a punk journeyman, starting out as a bass player before taking on mandolin, mandola (specifically one called Nelson), fiddle, medieval recorders and it seems anything else that comes his way. But it was his brand of ‘ranting’ performance poetry that made his name.

As well as the stories of gigs and tours, from Harlow in Essex to New Zealand, Canada and pretty much all over Europe, what really stands out in Attila’s story is how everything is related to his strong political beliefs and how these associate with his work.

From the start its clear (even if you didn’t know before, though chances are if you’re reading Arguments Yard you do) that Attila’s politics are, to say the least, to the left of things – I won’t go into detail as I know I’ll just get the specifics wrong. This informed a lot of the choices of gigs and tours he made and leads to us getting a very interesting insight into a side of the world in the 1980s the mainstream media tends not to discuss very much.

Particularly fascinating in this are the chapters on his tours of East Germany (and other Eastern Bloc countries), which paint a far more balanced picture than I’d ever heard. Certainly it wasn’t all wine and roses, and in some places things seem particularly bleak, but there is also a strong streak of free discussion and creativity evident – at least in East Germany.

Attila (seated) with fellow ranter Seething Wells

Attila (seated) with fellow ranter Seething Wells in the mid 1980s

What this serves to show, along with his discussion of his role in miners strike protests, is the level of truth Attila seems to imbue all his work with – again if you’re familiar with his oeuvre this won’t come as a surprise but its impressive to read none-the-less.

More fascinating stories are told of Attila’s formative years on the punk circuit delivering his left-wing message in the face of the National Front and the British Movement, far right organisations that had a worryingly large following in the early 1980s (and sadly seem to be raising their ugly, likely shaved, heads again today – boneheads though, not skinheads).

Much like the East German passages, these shed a new light (for me) on a period I’d only really ever heard one side of.

All these stories could be rather heavy going, but, in the deft words of Attila, they are engaging and absorbing throughout – even when he’s talking about football!

Having seen Attila perform a few times (and I’m proud to say having supported him once as my musical alter-ego) its clear he writes very much as he speaks. Throughout his voice came across, making it almost like having the audio book playing in your head, or Attila there telling you these stories first hand.

Dropped in at appropriate times across the book are some of Attila’s poems and the lyrics to some of his songs that help in telling the stories and setting the scene. Many of these are out of print elsewhere and are no longer performed making Arguments Yard the only place you can easily find them and again, through Attila’s writing style, they really leap off the page if his voice is kept in mind while reading.

Attila The Stockbroker on stage with Barnstormer

Attila on stage with Barnstormer at Vale Earth Fair 2014

The final third of the book deals with much more personal matters but again these are rendered in fascinating and truly open style, and still run through with a (mostly) more relaxed string of gigs and tours. This all culminates in Attila’s most personal and emotionally effecting work, in many ways his masterpiece, The Long Goodbye.

As a fan of Attila already, and sharing some (if not all) of his political ideals – I think it was Fat Mike from NoFX who said if you agree with everything someone else says it’s deeply suspicious – I very much enjoyed Arguments Yard, but I think for anyone with an interest in punk rock, performance poetry, and life in Britain and Europe in the last half century there is a lot to enjoy, all told through the unique, honest and powerful voice of a true ranter.

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My second general election – some semi-stream of consciousness stuff

A generic election image... exciting!

This isn’t a review but more a personal blog based on my thoughts of Guernsey’s general election which happened today and is the second one I’ve voted in – just to make it clear, I am far from a political expert, and this is very rambling, but hopefully might make some coherent points amid my stream of consciousness mess and hopefully I don’t sound like an uneducated fool!

If you want more informed comment I’d suggest going here or here.

If you’d told me even 6 or 7 years ago that I’d care enough about an election to tweet and blog about it I’d have thought you were mad – my opinion (which isn’t entirely changed) was that government in the form it exists, both in Guernsey and the UK, is so deeply flawed, what’s the point of engaging with it?

However, it’s now Wednesday 18th April 2012 at about 9pm, so the polling stations are closed, and I headed up to the Castel Douzaine room this afternoon to put some X’s on a bit of a paper next to some people’s names.

I wouldn’t say they were all people I genuinely thought would be good at running the island (a couple may have been), and this is probably the first of my problems that I am wrestling with when it comes to actually getting involved.

Thanks to the way the system works over here I vote for up to 7 candidates standing in my ‘Electoral District’ and I will admit to having a challenge deciding on who I did want to vote for (though I certainly knew a couple I didn’t want to vote for).

In the past this is what made me not want to vote, I don’t like any of them, so I won’t vote for any of them and I won’t even bother paying attention, now however, I largely approached it more from a standpoint of who do I want to keep out… and this is troubling.

Surely the point should be to vote for people that seem to be standing for the same things you stand for and that you genuinely support – or maybe I’m too much of an idealist?

In my patch, from what I could tell, there was little to no mention of anything to do with issues I genuinely care about, specifically things to do with the island’s culture and heritage (which I feel are overlooked by ‘the powers that be’ on a regular basis, despite the amount of work real people put in for next to no comeback other a sense of pride for getting off their arses and doing something), and certain issues of equality which Guernsey has yet to face up to and which often makes the island feel more than a little bit stuck in the dark ages.

So this made making a choice as an idealist hard, and maybe I am now resigned to the fact that idealism in Guernsey politics will never work… maybe…

The other thing that has struck me in recent years is why I think its important to vote… and my thinking on this has come round.

In the past, as I’ve said, I was maybe approaching it from the ‘wrong’ angle (and by that I mean the right angle), but now I’ve overcome that I’ve also realized that democracy is the voice of the people effecting those in power and that if everyone voted and got more involved the outcome might be fairer and also the reason we have democracy is that people have fought for the right to it.

So I think we should respect that and use it (and anyone who knows me will know I don’t say this as a pro-fighting sort, but it had to be fought for and I respect that, maybe that comes from seeing bunkers everywhere and being reminded of what the cost was for the freedoms we do have, I don’t mean that it was just World War Two, there have been many other battles for democracy before and since, but the bunkers are obvious reminder).

While the outcome may not always be what I want, it is people power in action and, while sometimes public opinion may not be something I go along with, it is, at least the closest we can get to being what the people want and the more people who get involved the more likely it is to be a fair representation – even if that’s wrong in my opinion.

The other thing that’s come up this time is social media and that has engaged me greatly, sadly not with any of the people in my patch, as other than a few follows from candidates earlier on Twitter (who I didn’t follow back as I’m not going to follow you just because your standing, make me want to follow you!), I saw little activity.

However, regarding a few other candidates, there was a lot of action, both positive and negative for their campaign (one @deputyjoseph springs to mind) and the election issues in general came up time and again on Twitter and did seem to draw me in.

Anyway I’ve rambled enough for anyone who made it this far, but, I think in future the system needs revising to make it work better with island wide voting for a start, so I might actually be able to work from at least an element of my idealist tendencies, and the other problem is that very few of the candidates actually spoke about anything other than very general things which anyone could have come up with and felt largely soulless (but maybe that’s just a reflection of our current mainstream society).

Who knows if I will care in 4 years time, I may have lost myself in a sea of despair once again at the state of politics on our little rock and beyond, or I may go the other way, we’ll see…

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