Friday, 22 December 2017

Bad Apples: Twelve

Part seven of a series of posts reflecting on almost a decade of DIY culture - focusing this time on swapping. For an introduction to this series, click here.


2008: Swap things. I’ve got a book or shirt I don’t want. So do you. Maybe we could get together and trade. Maybe we could get a few people together and trade? Also, I like the idea of people contributing or sharing things to cover the costs of an event. An example of this is a potluck, where everyone brings a meal so that one person doesn’t have to cover the cost. Or the scavenger hunt I planned years ago where the entrance fee was something we could give out as a prize.

2017: This post is an edited group discussion inspired by fragment #12. Ben plays bass in Latchstring and books DIY shows as part of the A Public Disservice Announcement collective. Geraldine as involved in booking punk shows as part of the STE collective (and its afterlife). Jordan co-runs Circle House Records, books shows as part of DIY Exeter and plays as Phaedra’s’ Love. Kristianne is a spoken word artist who also runs the bi-annual event DIY Southampton at Planet Sounds. Enjoy.


Geraldine: I’m all behind the theory of swapping, I just got a problem where Rich likes to keep everything he’s got! [Laughs] There are some things I like to keep because I really want them, but if I’ve bought and read a book from a charity shop, I’m quite happy to give that away or take it back to the charity shop. But Rich will even keep those books! [Laughs] In ten years time I don’t know what our house is gunna look like!

Jordan: Possessions are kind of a weird thing and people in these scenes have really different views. Some people can read a book and say “someone else can have it” but a lot of people – and I kind of find myself in this boat, it’s not about finances, I like to have something with me. If it’s say, a record I love but I’m not even using it much, I love the fact it’s sitting there on the side of my bedstand.

G: It’s not a financial value. Rich will listen to records and even though he’s had them years, he’ll have that cover and he’ll be looking at the artwork and the words and it’s the whole package. So we’d never be able to rip that collection and get rid of the physical copies because to him, it’s not just the music that he really enjoys.

J: I like when you play in bands you swap a cassette for a cassette or a t shirt for a t shirt. In a world where everything’s about money and value, its nice to just strip that back and actually just relax about it a little bit more. It gives more value to the things you own - it gives sentimental value. 

Ben: People ascribe different value to different things, like I would ascribe a personal level of value to my record collection and I can’t see me any time soon getting rid of that. I don’t feel the same way about books and DVDs. DVDs I go “I’ll watch that a couple of times, I can probably find that online” and I’m quite happy just like, Googling a ripped copy of the film online, whereas I don’t feel exactly the same about a record. I like having a record, even though I’ll have the digital version to carry around with me.

Kristianne: For years I never thought I would get rid of a book. Books were sacred like vinyl, really special. And then I just realised that things were piling up everywhere and actually, my head couldn’t cope with it all anymore. And I kinda went, “you know what, I have to do something about this” because actually, I need to be well and I can’t be well with all these amazing books around me. I started pulling out books I thought I could give to people I thought they might like, then I realised that was going to absolutely wipe me out. So I just went, “no, I’ll do it and see what happens. I’m not gunna die.” And I kind of did it and actually, it was quite freeing and it lifted quite a lot of weight off of me.

B: I’ve got a very few books where there’s a story about how I came across that book that’s extraneous to the contents of the book. So like my copy of ‘The Mountain inn’ by Guy De Maupassant, I was reading a book where the main character of that book was reading the ‘Mountain Inn’, it was woven into the narrative. When I finished that book, there was at Boscombe bus stop a 50p book table. The top book was ‘The Mountain Inn’ by Guy De Maupassant, so I’m never getting rid of that. But I’ve got way more stories like that about records and I think that’s why I probably ascribe more value to my records and I’m probably less likely to turn up with a carrier bag full of them and say “help yourself”.

K: There are some things that I’ve kept. I’ve got books that are signed by the author with little messages inside them, there are some sequences of books that I have read over and over again that I know I will read again and again and again, fiction that I love reading and can lose myself in. And I won’t get rid of those because I know I’d only have to buy them again. And I have a lot of very valuable kind of art books that I think “oh, I could sell all these and make loads of money”. And then I’m like “I really like it so they go back on the shelf!”

G: I could go through our books and cull them, I’d be quite happy to do that… But the records would only go in an emergency situation, if we were desperate for the money. We’ll get our records out, and there’s tickets in them, there’s letters from people when you had to be writing to people and reading zines to know what was going on. And you’d buy something and you’d get the record and it’d come with a little note and I would always keep that note in with the vinyl – I’ve got little notes from Dick Lucas – and yeah, and then all that are in there so it’s like you say, it’s the whole, it’s the whole story of how you came by it. And it’s not just going into HMV and buying it or downloading it, it’s so much more assessable music now then there ever used to be. If you weren’t involved you didn’t know what there was to buy. You had to be involved and engaging to know what was going on, to know what was out there and what was happening. And when you drop out of that it’s hard to get back into it again. You have to put the effort in don’t you? So having a lot of the records and stuff is tied up in the effort you put into engaging in the scene. Which is why they’re so important. Because they’re like the history of a lifetime.


J: I’m a promoter but I feel myself very like graphically impaired in the sense I just can not create like a poster that’s good. If I have a friend who’s really good at design, they can make a poster and that’s their way of contributing to that show, and if I got a really great graphic designer in that’d be very expensive for me so they get free entry.

G: The STE worked a bit like that didn’t it – Ad always used to do the posters mainly and Rich would do most of the organising and then everybody flyering and what have you.

B: But with swapping to say get entry to a show, I can’t see that would happen beyond people who are able to do something to make the show work. You wouldn’t charge those to get into the show would you because they’re part and parcel of organising that event. I don’t see how it can be any broader than that.

G: If you need to pay the bands, swapping’s not going to work is it? Because you’re not going to find something of value to them that’s gunna help them.

J: Circle House records has quite an expansive distro of records put out by different labels. And we never buy those tapes from different labels to stock them in the store, we give them four of our tapes, they give us four of their tapes and so all the people that are interested in our label are able to find out about those bands and records etc. And I think things like that in swapping can actually really help to support bands bit more.


K: I like swapping and away things I don’t need… I do it a lot. I also like that idea of if I’ve got a skill and I swap it with you then somewhere down the line you might help me out. I don’t think there’s enough of that going on, I don’t think there are enough people participating in that kind of pool of swaps and gives. Some people are doing a lot of it though like Libby with clothes swap and Curb with the food and that’s a bit what I try and do with DIY Southampton, give something away because I can pull all those people together. And Tim at Planet Sounds gives me that space so between us we are giving away quite a lot. 

B: It’s a way of explaining the concept of mutual aid to someone. You have someone doing an event and you’re not expected to bring and drop something off but you can still take something. Everyone can get together and to participate when they might not have the means to. It breaks down barriers to access so that people can still have a good time even if they’re unable to put in like everyone else. There’s a meme doing the rounds where it’s loads of animals all cooking dinner for each other. All the different animals are saying “I’ve got a carrot”, “I have stock”, “I have like, cutlery”. And then one animal goes “I don’t have anything” and they go “But here’s a spare bowl, here’s a spoon, there’s enough for everyone”. And it’s like it’s cute and it’s overly simplifying something but at the end of the day, that’s what it is.

K: When I take stuff to swap, I’m not looking for something in return. If you’ve got stuff and you don’t want it and somebody else does, I’m cool with that. I go to every clothes swap and I always take stuff. But I never take anything away because I don’t want to take something that I don’t need for the sake of taking it. I’ve got what I need, not everybody’s in that situation, which is why I like it and I support it. It’s the same with Curb, I’ve always donate and have something to eat with them but I’m not going to take away loads of stuff just because it’s there necessarily. If we were sat around the table now and I brought a big pile of books to swap, I wouldn’t care if I went home with nothing. I’d be really happy seeing those things go somewhere else.

B: I think within a community, it relies on people to self regulate. There’s a big difference between one day not having anything to bring, but you see something and you go “I really want those,” that’s fine. But if this happens regularly and you’re always a person who always takes and never gives, it’s down to that community of people to say “how do we resolve this situation because this has become something that isn’t quite fair.”


Jump to fragment (links added as fragments are posted): Intro // One // Two // Three // Four // Five // Six // Seven // Eight // Nine // Ten // Eleven // Twelve // Thirteen // Fourteen // Fifteen // Sixteen // Seventeen