WELSH MOD: OUR STORY
CRIS DAVIES INTERVIEWS CLAIRE MAHONEY
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When we heard that top Welsh Mod and journalist Claire Mahoney was working on a new project telling the world about the history of the Welsh Mod scene Suit Yourself just had to get involved! This major book release is an incredible insight into the Mod scene in a country that up until now had been overlooked but is steeped in history and pride. Claire got together with some amazing contributors and a Bafta award-winning photographer to tell the story......
Cris grabbed Claire for an interview, in it, she tells us a little about herself and this amazing book release.
Hi Claire, can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from and how long you have been involved in the Mod scene.
I'm from Cardiff in South Wales and first got into the mod scene around the age of 13 when I heard Secret Affair's Glory Boys album. The music really spoke to me as I wasn't into much of the stuff that was around at the time.Two-tone wasn't really my thing even though it was really popular but I didn't associate it with what I considered mod at the time. Then I got into The Jam and that was it.
Can you tell us a bit about your early influences, what got you into the scene, the clubs and rallies you used to visit and a favourite early memory.
I was really influenced by 60s music in my early teens simply because there was a lot of it being played in the house. My mum was also into people like Dusty Springfield and Ella Fitzgerald and my grandfather also loved his music and introduced me to people like Stan Getz and Duke Ellington. My favourite early memory was probably going to see The Jam in Port Talbot at the age of 14. I got all togged up in my ski-pants and boating blazer with my disc camera in hand to take pictures. The wonderful thing is that so many people that I know now were also at that gig at the same time – so it's nice to have that common bond.
What sort of music do you like, where do you like to go, favourite clubs and rally destinations.
I'm a 60s R&B kind of person when it comes to dancing. I like Northern and other soul music but R&B is what does it for me. I love the Small Faces, The Who, The Kinks – but I also listen to a fair bit of Jazz both early and modern. I don't go out as much as I used to but I have great memories of going to the Isle of Wight on the rally and in particular, dressing up for the Hipshaker do's at Ryde Castle. Out of Time is a great night in Wolverhampton, plus I used to enjoy the Mousetrap R&B nights in London.
Do you or have you owned a scooter?
I used to own a Silver Vespa PX 125 but sold it because I simply wasn't riding it enough. Plus it was really heavy. If I did get another scooter I'd like to get a small frame.
What is your favourite part of the scene? the clothes? music? events?..
Would have to be the music for me. Live music preferably. I love the clothes too but 60s music has been the soundtrack to most of my life and I wouldn't feel the same without it.
What do you think of today's scene, has it changed over the years and what changes have you seen in Wales?
The scene seems to be massive at the moment. There are so many events on. It feels like a lot more people are getting back into it which is great, plus there is also a younger generation of people discovering mod, which is so important as it keeps the scene alive and fresh.
And the scene in Wales, is it the scene in Wales thriving?
Wales has a great scene, we had our first Mod weekender in the pretty coastal town of Porthcawl for 25 years! plus the annual scooter rally is taking place in Tenby which is a fantastic setting. The scootering community here in Wales is brilliant – they really look after each other and put so much back into the community with fundraisers and charity events.
Claire, we know you work as a journalist, can you tell us about that.
I've been a journalist for over 25 years. I've written for newspapers and magazines. Worked in London for many years and eventually moved back to Cardiff when I started a family. I've been freelance now for over ten years. But my work tends to be focused more on managing and editing magazines now.
Did the fact you are a journalist help to inspire you to write the book 'Welsh Mod - Our Story'?
I wouldn't say being a journalist inspired me to do the book, no. It was the people in the scene that inspired me to do the book. Being a journalist/editor just means I know how to put the book together and have the tools to do the job.
How did the initial idea come about? can you give us an insight into the Welsh Mod scene over the years and how that will be interpreted in the book.
Growing up in Wales in the late 70s, 80s was very different to now. It wasn't 'cool' to be Welsh and mod was our way of being cool. From this I thought about how much tougher it was to be a mod here. You stood out more, the songs Weller wrote about were about issues that were happening on your doorstep. There was real turmoil in South Wales during this period. So I guess that was the seed of the idea. I wanted to know why people turned to this particular sub-culture in Wales. The London and Brighton scene are well-documented but the role the subculture has played outside of the capital has been just as vital. Plus we have some incredible landscape here in Wales and I liked the idea of having photographs of people in the context of the environment that matters to them.
About the book itself, can you tell us about it, what you want to achieve by publishing it, Do you have collaborators and photographers, where did you find all the archive material and stories, when you hope to release it and how people can get involved.
The book will be a photographic book first and foremost. I've been lucky enough to be working with an incredible Welsh photographer, Haydn Denman www.haydndenman-photography.com on this who has filmed and photographed people all over the world and won two Baftas for his work. We want to tell people's stories through not just old photographs but through new pictures. This is about people's journey with mod – why they got into it and how it has changed their life. So really it's a book for people not just interested in mod, but interested in photography and sub-culture. The photographs will say so much more than I ever could about mod and what it means to people. The book will also feature interviews with Ebbw Vale born fashion designer and Mod Jeff Banks, Mike Peters of the Alarm who was originally in a mod band, Jonny Owen the film director and writer and Richard Parfitt of The Colours, The Truth and the 60ft Dolls.
We know the book was promoted through the Kickstarter website, what is Kickstarter and how does it work?
Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website. Basically, crowd-funding allows people to support ideas and projects that probably wouldn't get off the ground normally. It is kind of like a 'people's Dragon's Den' We needed to raise £8,500 to produce this book. So we asked for people to pledge for a copy at £25. If enough people pledged and we reached our target by 12th January 2018 we could carry on working on it and produce it. So effectively people were buying the book in advance. Lots of publishers are using this route to produce their work as traditional publishers don't tend to give such niche ideas a look-in. So it was a big risk for us as it was really all or nothing, if we didn't reach our target we couldn't do the book. Thankfully we did hot it and are excited about its release in November 18.
Once the book has been released and the demand means that you do a repress, where will our readers be able to buy it?
You will be able to buy the book directly through our website www.welshmod.co.uk and also hopefully through Amazon as well as mod-friendly independent book and clothes shops such as Mojokingcaerphilly.
What advise would you give to someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Believe in yourself and keep at it.
These are exciting times for the Welsh mod scene, are there any other proactive people doing other projects/events?
Yes, we have a great scene here. Like I said before we've got a really active scootering community that is always putting on events. Plus we have great regular soul nights such as Hip Hug Her, mod night and Ska and Reggae nights such as Tighten Up in Swansea. In Cardiff, we have the always popular Fabulous nights which have been going for years.
lastly, what is it about the scene you love that has kept you so involved over the years and what advice would you give a young Mod coming into it.
It's kind of in my DNA really. It's not really 'the scene' as such that keeps me involved as I can take or leave that and have always just wanted to dip in and out of it. I think anyone who has been involved in the scene will admit they have a love/hate relationship with it. So it's healthy to sometimes take a step back and sure enough you'll find something you'll love about it again – might be a record, might be a film, might be just the 'put put' sound of a scooter coming down the road. It will always find a way draw you back in. I think that's what I love. Mod has a hold on me and that's it really. As for young mods – take what you love from it and make it your own.
THE BOOK HAS BEEN RELEASED AND IS AVAILABLE FROM THE WEBSITE www.welshmod.co.uk