Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wakefield Music Collective Follow-Up

 Our article “Is ItTime WakefieldMusic Collective Called It A Day?” received a wave of responses and created a lot of discussion. Here is a follow up that reacts to the many points raised, focussing on two key issues: The NAME of Wakefield Music Collective and What Rhubarb Bomb Does. All quotes / references are taken from Facebook comments.
Ok, lets cut to the chase here. Quite simply, if Wakefield Music Collective, with the same history, setup and attitude was called something else, the article would not have been written. Simple as. The people are passionate and fantastic. The name is misleading, misrepresentative and just wrong.

Formers WMC member Tony Wade hit the nail on the head when he spoke about band selection policy for Clarence. Whatever the collective tried, they were damned for it. Not necessarily from the inside (though as current member Martin Waterhouse points out, this is also a nightmare) but from people on the outside who believed they deserve a say in how it is run. Why? Rightly or wrongly, because it is called the Wakefield Music Collective.

What if I started a micro brewery in my cellar? And I called myself Wakefield Brewers Collective. If I was kind enough to invite every other brewer in town to join my collective - and they refused – would I be a collective? Even if the beer I made was the best in town and I was the nicest bloke around – would I be a collective? And some might say: just let him be! He’s doing what he loves! Yes, that’s true. But it’s still not a collective. And what about when CAMRA come knocking?

Because I’m looking at this from a much wider angle of ‘my music’ and ‘your music’ and ‘my scene’ and ‘your scene’. Running Long Division has given me a greater sense of what the outside world thinks of Wakefield. By the way - it’s not great. We need to change that, and I’ve been doing my small part to help. But what happens if you Google that most broad and complex of terms “Wakefield Music”? Wakefield Music Collective is the top hit. Go look at it now. Pretend you know nothing about Wakefield and see what it tells you. What do you think?

It’s not a point about Web design. It’s the name. If you are Wakefield Music Collective you need to be a Wakefield Music Collective. It wasn’t the case in 1991 when it began, but Wakefield Music Collective, by using the name Wakefield Music Collective, is now representing our city to the whole world. What do we want people to see when they look at Wakefield?

If it feels it can step up to that challenge, fine. From the evidence I have seen, I don’t think it can. I don’t think one organisation or entity could, or even should.

If you got to the end of the article, I expressed my desired solution. Wakefield already is a collective, if we approach it with the right attitude. We work hard individually at the things we love, but we open our minds enough to then collaborate with others. It’s a fluid collective that isn’t bogged down in red-tape, that doesn’t need to meet once a month to discuss the venue for next months meeting. If Wakefield Music Collective altered its title but kept up its hard work, it would be part of that collective. Does that distinction make sense?

Also, some people saw the piece as a criticism of Clarence Park. This was not the intention. Personally, I would do it differently. But instead of moaning endlessly, that’s what I did. Rob Dee makes a very good point in that Clarence is the only major all ages event we have in Wakefield. I have tried hard to make Long Division 16+ for the last two years but my partners, Ossett Brewery, are not comfortable with it. That’s a massive thing we have Clarence to be thankful for. Can it do more, and can we help it?

Another thing I have learnt from this experience is that a lot of people have misconceptions about Rhubarb Bomb. So, to be clear: Rhubarb Bomb is a fanzine. I run it because I love writing about stuff. It is not funded in anyway. We get advertising where we can from independent businesses (which are struggling now, of course). If there’s a shortfall, which there usually is, I cover it with my own money. So in that sense, it owes no-one anything. We released a 5th birthday book in April. The very first page says this:



This is not the story of every band that ever strummed a chord or wrote a song or played a gig in the smoky backroom of a forgotten boozer. This is not a discography of every record Wakefield has produced or a record of every fine gig that has taken place here. It is not a city wide examination of all the various subcultures that have made their home here or an attempt to cover the entire musical history of this Merrie City. It is not reliable, complete, balanced, concise or spell-checked.

It’s not even consistent.



            I am not the Wakefield Musical Express. It’s something I do to amuse myself, and hopefully others. I sit at home in my spare time writing, when I could be out earning money or spending time with my girlfriend. The money I do earn is spent printing a limited amount of pages. So naturally, I generally like to write about things that I like or I feel are important.

But that isn’t a genre, or a band, or a place. It is an attitude. A positive, DIY, independent attitude. So I am constantly treading this line between the micro and macro political; is this about me, or about Wakefield? Who am I responsible to? I question it ALL the time.

The zine was started by a close group of friends who reported on the bands their friends were in, because no-one else in the country was talking about them. I think many people still think Rhubarb Bomb is like that. It’s changed a lot.

I discredit the claim we “perpetuate this bullshit exclusive attitude” (Louise Distras). Example: this year we ran an interview with Louise Distras. I’m not a huge fan of her music. I don’t think it’s awful by any stretch, it’s just not something I would normally buy. But the way she expresses and conducts herself, gets her voice heard and DOES IT HERSELF is truly inspiring (even if she objects to us and our manner). So, we wanted to know more, and let more people know what she was up to. Rhubarb Bomb is certainly not a paper version of my record collection (that would be far too depressing).

            I have learnt a lot of people judge Rhubarb Bomb by its online content. I think it was naïve of me to think otherwise. But the physical zine is our ‘product’, it’s the thing I love. For those who think Rhubarb Bomb are a group of people who  “sit in the hop at night with the lights off, sat in a circle blowing smoke up each others arses while reminding each other that they are important, even if it is just to their friends, who happen to be in the bands they mainly cover anyway.” (Daron Dopestghost Green) or that our content is “a load of pretentious, pseudo-sophisto, neurotic lifestyle-choice-orientated insipid, unispired drivel” (James Harrison) I suggest you try actually reading it. I offer this list of EVERYTHING the physical zine has covered in the last twelve months, including our upcoming issue, as evidence that our scope is wide and our content diverse and challenging:

Philophobia Music, Luke Haines, RB writers favourite music books, Living In Japan, Wild Swimming, DC Comics, London Riots, First Wedding Dances, City Based Festivals, Promoting Gigs, The Inner Swine (a NYC zine), The Philosophy of Battle Of Bands Competitions, Vinyl Party, Mi Mye, Protectors, History Of LOUDER THAN BOMBS Clubnight, Russell Senior (Pulp), Wakefield Cathedral turning into a music venue, Red Riding Quartet, Imp, Unity Hall, The Passing Fancy, Skint & Demoralised, Importance Of Supporting Live Music, Middleman, Cake Recipe, What Wakefield Music Means To You, The Grand, Laura Slater (Bespoke Textiles), Runaround Kids (Irish Tour Diary), Olympics, Retarded Fish, Buffalo Skinners, Louise Distras, Motorways, Stephen Vigors Short Story, Fixing A Hole Records, Music and Mental Health, Live & Unsigned Pastiche, H.Hawkline, The Spills, Gareth Nicholls (Theatre Director), Beards In Music, Post War Glamour Girls, Hip Hop Breakfast, Anatomy Of A Gig, Modernism, Helen Rhodes Short Story, Wakefield Jazz, Why I Zine article (Edinburgh Zine), Geordie Shores & Wakefield, The Do’s.

53 articles. Just 18 about Wakefield bands / labels / venues. But all relevant to the type of culture we support.

We have evolved. Wakefield, as I said, is evolving. Nothing is perfect. I still believe Wakefield Music Collective, if it continues, needs some deep rooted changes, starting with that name. The idea that we could all form an official collective is, I fear, too far-fetched. As Joel Rowbottom rightly says there would be “Too many egos, too many agendas.” He’s right. But if Wakefield Music Collective removes the idea, strongly suggested by its name, that it is a Collective of Wakefield Music people, the idea of a more fluid style of collective can move forward.

Dean Freeman

P.S. One final thing. If you still think Rhubarb Bomb is very much up its own arse, lording it over everyone with its deluded superiority, why don’t you start a blog or a zine? I am serious. I said as much in the book: “I wish someone would come along and say, those Rhubarb Bomb guys have lost. Here’s a zine that shows what’s really going on in Wakefield…” Go for it. It’s all part of the DIY attitude. Stop moaning, stop just talking about it and go do it yourself.

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