I sometimes tweet clippings from my Sounds magazine archives, and recently posted a piece from 13/5/78 featuring “the woefully under-rated Newcastle post-punk band, Punishment of Luxury.” At the time, I loved Punilux and their unique, idiosyncratic quirkiness. Their imaginative soundscape melded punk with elements of proggier rock, underpinned by wonderful lyrical imagery, delivered in a manic performance style alluding to their origins in English fringe theatre. I semi-autobiographical novel I wrote in 2009, featuring my personal experiences of psych wards and the post-punk music that coaxed me back towards stable mental health, was entitled ‘BrainBomb’ (after a frenetic Punilux B-side).
This led to various exchanges on Twitter, not least getting introduced to Gary Alikivi, a North East English filmmaker/photographer. After explaining about the influence of Punilux on my writing, Gary was kind enough to share some links to his excellent website. The many eclectic projects documented include captivating photo archives documenting life on South Tyneside and interviews with authors like John Orton, whose 2022 novel He Wears a Blue Bonnet, set after Cromwell’s victory over a Scottish army at the Battle of Dunbar, gives insight into how POWs were treated in 1650 (many were sent to the New World colonies but 40 survived the notorious Death March over the border, arriving in ‘South Sheels’ to work in the salt panns).
Another interview was with artist Peter Dixon and writer/poet Keith Armstrong, who co-founded Northern Voices Community Projects in 1986 “to give people who are denied a voice a platform to express their views and experiences of living in the North East.” Keith has been a prolific writer celebrating everyday life in Northumbria, while Peter’s striking work caught my eye because he is the graphic designer behind some of Punilux’s seminal single and album covers. Peter got involved with the band after designing background scenery for The Mad Bongo Theatre Company led to singer Brian Bond making contact. He went on to meet Neville Luxury (guitar, vocals) and drummer Red Helmet. Their debut single ‘Puppet Life’ (Small Wonder 1978) was reviewed in Sounds by none other than Bowie and Bolan’s producer Tony Visconti, who described Peter’s sleeve as sick (in that adjective’s original rather than contemporary context!)
‘Puppet Life’ was reviewed in Sounds by none other than Bowie and Bolan’s producer Tony Visconti, who described Peter Dixon’s sleeve as sick (in that adjective’s original rather than contemporary context!)
Gary’s website covers and extensive range of articles he has blogged about the film, music, culture and social history of North East England. He waxes lyrical about potency of music for uplifting spirit (a theme running through my own work like the legend inside a stick of Blackpool or Spanish City rock). “The adrenalin rush of the thunderclap from Icelandic football fans. The guitar intro to Alternative Ulster by Stiff Little Fingers. Kurt Cobain’s anger on the Nirvana anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Particularly impressive is his photography. Included is an archive of nearly 2,000 photos displayed on the South Tyneside History website, including Haven Point, Mill Dam, The Word, Seafront, Holborn, Market, North Marine Park, and many more. These arresting images highlight the ever-evolving face of South Tyneside over the decade from 2010-2020. You can easily lose yourself for a while as you head down a mesmerising rabbit hole of everything from ancient shipwrecks and the North Sea churning off Sandhaven to more prosaic shots of architectural renovations. This site is well worth bookmarking.
Keith Armstrong website: http://keithyboyarmstrong.blogspot.com/
Peter Dixon website: https://www.peterdixonart.com/
Gary Alikivi website: https://garyalikivi.com/
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkW7F_6t-GNVMCYLT4BNHfg
Interview with Peter and Keith: https://garyalikivi.com/2019/05/15/pressing-issues-with-peter-dixon-keith-armstrong/
The power of music: https://garyalikivi.com/2018/10/25/sounds-alive-and-the-power-of-music/