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Nick-Papadimitriou-and-Sam-BurcherAlmost twenty years ago I found myself sitting eye to eye with Nick Papadimitriou in the basement of an art gallery, just off Queen Square in Bloomsbury. It was our first day on a research project and we were both nervously rearing to write, even if science was not our primary concern. Over those weeks, I got to know Nick and admired his roll-your-sleeves-up dedication to writing, and was intrigued by his wayward and somewhat wild side.

I enjoy eccentricity, so happily listened to Nick prattle on about Gilbert White, the Woodcraft Folk, and the mysteries of Middlesex. His tales of a marginalised, middle-aged man with glasses bearing a sort of resonance. And, the more he told his stories and repeated his often humorous schtick, the more I realised that Nick had everything he needed to become a successful writer.

Over the years Nick would often call round to mine. We talked about everything as he would lend a helping hand in the garden, editing my first collection of poetry, playing with the assorted cats and dogs, and amusing the long-term boyfriends that might be around. Once, I switched on my recorder and just let it run while we talked. ( During another lovely day, I held my film camera on my lap as Nick talked about his latest project. (See below).

Read more: Lockdown Notes on Nick Papadimitriou

Bowie 1978 Isolar IIPart one of a series about a microcosm of lives in London and Birmingham in the late 1970’s.

It was a Saturday morning in June and that night David Bowie was playing the Earls Court Arena on his 1978 Isolar II World Tour. My friends and I were determined to see him. We bunked onto a succession of smoke filled, cigarette-strewn London underground carriages arriving at Earls Court. After crossing the road from the station to the arena we joined what was already a restless queue waiting to buy tickets for the evening performance. Not to be put off, we set up camp; singing songs, smoking and laughing with the other assorted young hopefuls.

I was sitting cross-legged on my sturdy leather-patched donkey jacket to contemplate the wait when a tall, stunningly handsome man with dark floppy hair and electric blue eyes walked over and sat close to me. “Can I make you up?” he asked. To my amazement it was almost impossible to understand what he was saying. “Can you say that again?” I replied, somewhat surprised. Firstly, I could not believe that this beautiful man was talking to me, and secondly that his thick Birmingham accent did not compute with the visuals. “Can I make you up? I want to make your face up,” he repeated slowly. “I’m an artist.” He petitioned me with a dazzling smile. Pulling over a large overnight bag he started unpacking eyeliners and eyeshadows, chunky and fine brushes, lipsticks, pan sticks and powder puffs.

At the sight of all the shimmering colours I began to seriously consider his offer. He was the first artist that I had seen that looked like that! Up until then, I had only met secondary school art teachers with alcohol and personal hygiene problems. His Birmingham accent was triggering memories of a puppet character Hartley Hare on a Central TV show called Pipkins that I childishly made references to by trying to role-play all of the animal characters to avoid acquiesce. Although we both laughed at my delaying tactic, his desire was not distracted. Finally, giving in, I said, “Ok, make me up!”

Read more: Make Me Up!


SamLondonYouth“People do seem very nostalgic for that time,” mused photographer Derek Ridgers about the period between 1978-1987, documented in his book 78-87 London Youth. It’s easy to see why: the photographs, snapped in clubs, after-hours haunts, and on the streets of London, capture so many subcultures that still fascinate today, from punk to goth to New Romanticism to skinhead to Acid House. It’s baffling to think that so many movements could have co-existed in such a short period. Even so, subcultures were simpler back then, according to Ridgers.

“Nowadays, there’s nothing that's easy to rebel against.” Fashion was a huge part of that rebellion, according to Ridgers, whose subjects sport everything from mohawks resembling Grecian columns to bones-as-jewelry to Leigh Bowery-esque makeup. (Ridgers also photographed Bowery himself, in addition to Boy George, Michael Alig, John Galliano, Hamish Bowles, and some other names you might recognise.) Of course, one reason nostalgia might be mounting for the era could be that many of the original punks and blitz kids are now in their 50s, in prime time for life reflection. With Derek’s help, we tracked down five intriguing subjects captured in 78-87 London Youth, and asked them about their lives then and now.

How old were you in this picture? Where was it taken?

SAMANTHA BURCHER: I was just 16 years old in this photo (above, right). It was taken in 1980, in the famous Blitz Club in London. I had been a member of the club from the very first evening, and had already been “clubbing” in London for two years.

What were you doing in your life that year? What are you doing now?

SB: I was still at school, but had been seriously distracted by my alternative music and clubbing life. I always shared the stories of my nocturnal adventures with my school friends and fell asleep a lot during lessons. I was the most famous girl in the school. Now, I work as an environmental campaigner and also as a photojournalist. A recent assignment was covering a demonstration about the plight of honeybees, which was fronted by Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett and combined fashion designers and protest.

Read more: 78-87 London Youth

blitz girl cutA feature article in Plectrum - The Cultural Pick issue 10 Nov/Dec 2011






Read more: Blitz Girl

09 December 2010

Sam Burcher dusts off some vintage memories of being a ‘Blitz Kid’

steve strangeEveryone claims that they were a regular at the Blitz Club. But my claim is real, and I can prove it. I remember queuing outside on the very first night in February 1979 eager to get in. However, to gain admission to the Blitz, I had to pass the strict door test. This meant being fashionably sanctioned by Steve Strange, who was sitting imposingly behind a polished wooden counter as soon as I got my foot through the door.

A pair of strikingly made up eyes scrutinized me. “Hi, it's two pounds to get in and a pound for membership,” Steve Strange said. I pushed three crumpled green notes over the counter in exchange for a Blitz membership card. Steve graciously motioned towards several stubby pencils, one of which I used to sign the card, while simultaneously thanking my lucky stars.

Inside, the Blitz was scattered with tables adorned with red and white checked cloths and simple fresh flowers. The low lights were coming from candles wedged into empty wine bottles, swollen with cascades of wax that had dried into hard rivulets. Bright lights over the bar were reflecting in the tantalising selection of glass bottles glowing with coloured liquids: primed and ready to be mixed into all manner of mind-blowing cocktails.

The Blue Lagoon

The bar at the Blitz was run by Sue Scadding, a fine-boned Debbie Harry lookalike, who was always sweet and polite. As the Tuesday nights became more popular she brought in her darker haired sister to help her when the bar got really busy. The Blitz was housed just off Southampton Row at the back-end of Covent Garden where the boom in cocktail bars was just beginning. My favourite cocktail was the Blue Lagoon. I loved the bright colour and the bitter taste of the Blue Curacoa, the crunch of crushed ice infusing the flavours of lime, sweet lemonade, and most importantly, the vodka - all converging under a miniature paper parasol.

Read more: The Blitz Club and the New Romantics 1979-1981