KISS ME QUICK
One of the enduring images in the English consciousness is that of the seaside. To casual visitors, myself included, the seaside is a place of relaxation, of hedonistic fun and nostalgia but for year-round residents in these towns it’s often a very different story. Economic decline, austerity and rising inequality paints a bleak picture of social and economic deprivation and neglect.
I grew up in a small rural community in 80’s Sweden, raised by my mother and maternal grandmother. My father was in the army, my maternal grandfather worked on the docks and my first job as a 15 year old was on the production line for a local industrial company. I know it’s a cliche but you could practically hear Bruce Springsteen on the factory floor radio singing; “I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company, but lately there ain't been much work on account of the economy”. In hindsight it seems like such an idyllic childhood but I couldn’t wait to leave. Notions of identity and masculinity are present in a lot of my work, I feel a strong connection to the blue-collar worker and I still identify myself as working class, whether that’s still true or not.
The decline of heavy industry and manufacturing jobs, like shipbuilding and the fishing industry, where men’s collective class identities were historically formed, has left a lot of men in a position where they don’t feel the jobs on offer – particularly service jobs – are ones they feel comfortable with. The collapsing pillars of patriarchy that mistakenly says men are naturally superior to women has created a crisis of masculinity.
Previous generations of men prided themselves on being providers but old images of manliness have faded and given way to the modern British man for whom consumer power trumps hard work and community. Masculinity is mutable and complex and sometimes contradictory. There is a generation of boys, many without positive role models, who are struggling to find a purpose, and sometimes, a voice, in todays society. Youth unemployment, homelessness and drug problems are noticeable, they literally live on the margins of the land and for many of them, their future is uncertain. These communities are also facing an unprecedented environmental crisis. Climate change is now recognized as an existential threat to many coastal towns and resorts as they grapple with rapidly increasing global warming. It is causing sea levels to rise, which is increasing the risk of flooding and erosion around the UK’s coastline.