The Punk Scene Then and Now
Irvine Welsh grew up in Leith, Scotland. The son of working class parents, he spent his childhood in government housing, a milieu he gave voice to in his hugely popular novel and subsequent film, Trainspotting. The book was an international success and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 1993. Welsh moved to London in his twenties and played in local punk bands but returned to Edinburgh in the late-80s. Drawing inspiration from the the rave culture there, he began writing seriously and submitting to literary journals. After Trainspotting, he published Ecstasy, Glue, Porno, The Acid House and The Bedroom Secrets of Master Chefs. His books’ themes range from the Scottish identity, sectarianism, classism, immigration, unemployment, AIDS and drug use. Recent works are The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs (2006), a play, Babylon Heights (2006), written with Dean Cavanagh, and If You Liked School You'll Love Work (2007). His latest novel, Crime, was published in 2008. He has taught undergraduate creative writing at Columbia College in Chicago and currently divides his time between Miami, Chicago, Dublin and London.
Question: How do the London and Miami scenes compare?
Irvine Welsh: South Beach is a fantastic playground, but it’s not kind of, it’s not really a kind of indigenous culture. It’s where people is kind of “Spring break!” . It’s where people go in to have their fun and they have this kind of hedonistic conferences, like the World Dance Music Conference. They have the Hip Hop Conference. They have they pull all these kind of stuff and it kind of works because Miami Beach is just such a fantastic place for that. You’ve got the beautiful kind of art deco hotels and you’ve got sort of kind of Ocean Drive and Lincoln and all. You’ve got all these stuff going around there, and it’s got a bit of… It’s just got a nice kind of sort of vibe to it, so… But not at all like the, not at all like London in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. That was much more of a kind of indigenous thing that people a whole kind of generation of people it’s basically, it’s a 1940, it’s the  Education Act that caused punk, basically, sort of the Butler Education Act, which basically gave the working classes a liberal education for the first time.
So we had disaffected working class youth who were kind of if you were… if you went to college to learn a trade like in plumbing or carpentry and [IB], you had to do this Liberal Studies thing and you started talking about all the things that that you’re interested in your life, like, kind of from like football, hooliganism to kind of rock and roll and all that sort of stuff. This became this, these technical colleges became this weird, kind of salons of interaction, and people, I think that, more than the music, was the thing that kind of, was the sort of thing that kind of inspired punk. And you’ve have this kind of, for years you [followed] these generations in Britain who’ve basically been lied to by the ruling classes, right from Lloyd George [almost for heroes] thing. You’ve always had this idea that there would be something great for the working classes around the corner if you just put up a shop.
And, unfortunately, after punk, [the actors kind of cry] and move so much in punk, that something great of a stature who decimated everything. So, yeah, I think, it was, like, such an interesting time, such a vibrant time, but very, very… we [mildly] notice, but a vibrant time in a very different way.
Recorded on: September 8, 2008
Irvine Welsh takes us back to the streets of London circa 1980.
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