*From the speech Liz gave at our 2nd year birthday event
You will have noticed that there are currently lots of different exhibitions and books celebrating 40 years of punk rock in the UK. In fact a major exhibition celebrating the cultural impact of punk has just opened at the British Library in Euston.
I was around 15 years old when punk happened and it opened the world up to me. It wasn’t particularly the music; it was something much much deeper that spoke to me. The message that I got from punk was that there was a way in which I could become so much more than I could imagine.
Prior to punk I was someone who was just about to get expelled from school without any qualifications. Someone who didn’t know how to be me in the world; didn’t feel like I belonged or had a place in the world. I wanted to be a writer, to write novels – so careers advice told me I could be a secretary if I didn’t look so weird. I felt like I wanted to say things but had no way of accessing the language to express myself – even though I was gobby as fuck.
So, beyond all the stories of The Sex Pistols and Mohawks and spitting, there was actually something happening in punk in terms of Do-it-Yourself (DIY), encouraging people to release records, to be in bands, to write fanzines. It was not only the spirit of being able to Do-it-Yourself but something much more profound about seeing the opportunity for self-determination and ceasing to be a passive consumer of life. There was an ethos of just getting up and doing things, of learning as you tried new things, of not being defined by lack of opportunity or limits of what you thought you could achieve.
The artwork above is taken from a single by the band Scritti Politti who had an explicit do-it-yourself attitude, which manifested itself in their hand-made record sleeves with detailed breakdowns of production costs, including addresses and phone numbers of record pressing plants. They also produced a booklet called “How To Make A Record” so that other bands could access the right information. At the time it was pretty difficult to get hold of such information since it was in the olden days before the internet was invented….
So, I didn’t become a secretary – instead I started a magazine, I wrote, I managed bands, put on gigs, got involved. I discovered a voice.
Now I’ve worked with Bob for over 12 years now – it’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had! Bob and I had a meeting a few months before we set up Foundation for Change about the possibility of setting up an independent charity. We thought ‘Can we really do this???’ – and… a little bit of that old punk DIY crept in. So we did it.
I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last 2 years. And without really thinking about it in those terms I realised that at times it has been a little punk rock/DIY…we’ve had to be resourceful and creative in how we work; we’ve had to push ourselves beyond who we thought we were and what we could achieve. And through all our actions we have learnt and grown – truly praxis.
This rather long blog amble through the landscape of punk and post punk Manchester tells you something about my past and setting up of FfC – but most importantly I hope it explains the ethos we bring to working with people.
The people who attend our courses are trainees, not clients. Both the NEXT Project and KfC provide an accessible introduction to psychology so that people can begin to better understand themselves. We provide our trainees a 200 page booklet called simply ‘The Manual’. This gives information about different psychological ideas and approaches. We are hugely aspirational for our trainees and encourage people to work hard and achieve beyond what they may have believed they were capable of. We try and help people to step out of the role of a recipient of treatment or the identity of ‘drug addict’ or ‘alcoholic’. Through our courses and the development groups that we run our message is that people – given the right information – can learn to listen to themselves and to understand their own story without being defined and limited by the words of experts.