“It starts with disenfranchised youth and not wanting to do what the generation before has done, but by taking the usual teenage angst and by creating a scene and a music and a language, they turn it into something much more powerful and culturally significant,” says Jim Stephenson, the founder of Miniclick and co-curator of the Behind The Beat show.
Featuring work memorabilia collected from the scenes and work by nine photographers – Ken Russell, Gavin Watson, Derek Ridgers, Dean Chalkley (with creative director Harris Elliott), Stuart Griffiths, Paul Hallam, Ali Tollervey, Olivia Rose and Elaine Constantine – Behind The Beat focuses in on the fans and subcultures that have sprung up behind the music in Britain over the last 60 years.
Including seemingly disparate groups, such as Teddy Girls, B-Boys, ravers and Skinheads, it draws out parallels between the different scenes, and also includes interviews Stephenson has done with people who were involved with them. “The way they talk is quite similar,” he tells BJP. “Whether they’re talking about [UK grime star] Stormzy or The Clash.”
As Stephenson points out, all of the photographers in the show – with the exception of Ken Russell – were also fans, actively involved with the sub cultures they photographed before picking up their cameras. Stuart Griffiths, for example, went to raves in Brighton for the fun of it in the early 1990s, before being asked to become “the ‘un-official’ photographer of the Church of the Sub-Genius”.
It’s a refreshingly non-hierarchical approach, but for Stephenson it’s part of a wider reappraisal of youth culture currently underway in Britain. “There are a lot of shows about sub-cultures now,” he says. “I think it’s interesting what happens when you get some distance – punk and rave, for example, are now accepted as interesting cultural movements.”
Behind The Beat was curated by The Miniclick Photography Talks and Ali Tollervey, and is on show at Spectrum Photographic in Brighton every weekend in May from 10am-6pm. On Saturday 13 May, there will be a special afternoon of talks at the exhibition, featuring all of the artists involved except Ken Russell, plus Hayley Brown, founder of Brick Magazine. That evening, there will also be a party at the West Hill Tavern, featuring a band and djs playing music from the scenes in the show.