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Alison Dunne – stage name Fish – has formed a punk band at the age of 58 because, as she said: “I’ve got no fucks to give any more about what anyone thinks of me.”

She does care about one thing though: “This is definitely not a ‘cutesy grannies have a go at punk’ band – this is serious fun,” she said. “We write our own music and we’ve got a lot to say about everything we’re angry about. I’ve been enraged for years,” she added.

Fish is just one of the older women from all classes and ethnicities who have joined the the Leicester-based, Unglamorous Music project. Founded last year by 61-year-old Ruth Miller, the aim is to create a local punk scene for older, all-female bands who write their own music. Prior musical experience is immaterial – enthusiasm is everything.

Unglamorous Music, a collective of 11 all-women punk/garage bands in Leicester. Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Guardian

“There is a very limited range of hobbies that are acceptable as an older woman,” said Miller. “If you like music, for example, then you’re expected to join a choir.

“The genius of punk is that you don’t need to have played an instrument before starting. The main thing is your lyrics,” she added. “Most bands are young, white men aged 19 to 23 and their lyrics are about their experiences. But put together women whose ages range from late 20s to early 70s, and their experience of life, their humour, their anger – these songs are absolutely brilliant.”

The success of the project has, Miller says, been “overwhelming”. At a gig on International Women’s Day last March – just three months after setting up the project – Miller put five bands on stage. This March, there will be 12 bands ready to rock. A lavishly produced, compilation vinyl of their music is in production.

Fish, a former theatre producer, had no musical experience beyond playing the ukulele “to a very basic level” until she joined Unglamorous last year. Punk appealed to her because “it’s time for the anarchic, loud, shouty stuff to happen again”.

“You just get in there with punk,” she said. “It’s loud, dirty and simple. It frees me from the fact that older women disappear in our culture; that we get looked at as old boilers – which is why our band is called Boilers – who have nothing of interest or importance to say. Punk enables me to refute that – at volume.”

Fish isn’t alone. Chrissie Riedhofer will be 60 in April. Last month she started playing drums, guitar and bass, and co-formed the punk band Virginia’s Wolves.

“When I was young in the 70s, I was interested in punk but people told me I couldn’t be black and into punk,” she said. “It’s taken me a long time but I no longer care what people think.”

Nor does Abi Masih, the 48-year-old Indian drummer for The Wonky Portraits, who had “zero skills” in drumming before joining the band last year. “Being in a punk group is almost like having a secret life,” she said. “It makes me feel there’s more to me than just being a parent, a teacher and a daughter. It’s edgy. Rebellious.”

Not caring what people think is “definitely part of the punk ethos”, said Carole Jasilek, the 70-year-old drummer for Venus Attax. “Punk was anarchic and what’s more anarchic than older women letting rip?” she said.

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Ruth Miller, founder of Unglamorous Music
Ruth Miller, founder of the Unglamorous Music project. Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Guardian

Steph Smith, the 71-year-old guitarist for Velvet Crisis is very keen on letting rip. “All my life, I’ve kept it all bottled up inside,” she said. “I’ve had to be respectable and then watch as I aged and became invisible to society. But we’re not invisible on stage. We’re not little grannies. Our songs are full of anger and frustration.”

Velvet Crisis were asked to perform at a neighbourhood party recently. “We had to turn them down,” said Smith. “They didn’t know what they were asking really. The language we use on stage is far too bad for a safe, local party.”

Punk has become so important to many of the group’s members that they cram it into already jam-packed lives. Janet Berry, the 53-year-old guitarist and bass with Velvet Crisis, is a full-time working mother who lives in Leicester and works in London.

“It’s hard but I make it work because it’s just so incredible that people are actually listening to us,” she said. “It means I can say that I’m still a really big part of society – that I’ve got views. That I’m a useful person.”

Punk Generation by Miller’s band, The Verinos

Not gonna do the things we’re supposed to do
We’re not gonna do them; not gonna do them
You may look and you may stare
Raise your eyebrows; we don’t care
‘Cos we’re not gonna do the things we’re supposed to do,
oh yeah
Invisible women
Punk generation
Grey hair pink hair
Punk generation
Should we sit in the garden? (No!)
Should we go to a spa? (No!)
Do some out-of-town shopping (No!)
Fancy gin in a bar (Maybe
… )
Should we go back to bed?
Should we wait for the end?
With daytime TV
And an Instagram friend?

#Loud #dirty #simple #Leicesters #punk #collective #older #women

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