Scum Fest: South London DIY Punk Festival Interview
Scum Fest and Scum Winter Fest are international DIY punk gigs happening in South London
Scum Fest and Scum Winter Fest are international DIY punk gigs happening in South London. Since it’s conception in 2005 Scum Fest has raised over £10,000 for wide range of grassroots charities, organisations, causes and struggles both locally in the UK and internationally. The Scum Fest Collective is 100% non profit and all proceeds go directly to the causes a gig or festival is in aid of. This year’s Scum Fest is announced for May 23rd – 25th 2014.
Interview with Si (one of the Scum Fest Collective) conducted in 2011 for the third issue of my zine Tigersuit.
Hello! Introduce yourself and tell us about the things you’re involved in?
Greets from the UK(KK) My, name is Si and I am namely involved in The ScumFest Collective (SFC).
You’re born in New Zealand, but now living in the UK. What was the reason to leave your birthplace?
Haha, I have been asked this a lot over the past years, especially by English people who have watched Lord of the Rings!
New Zealand (or Aoetearoa as known by the indigenous people) is a beautiful country, with a lot of beaches, forest and a small population. However like most places it is not without its predjeduce’s and social problems. Growing up there can be pleasant providing you play the game, conform and don’t rock the boat… So growing up and getting into punk is not ideal! Small population seems to = small mindedness so homophobia, racism or perhaps more accurately ignorance and a fear of what people don’t understand is pretty common. The punk scene there is good in many ways as it is small and close knit (or was when I last checked). When I moved to the UK in the beginning of 2002 it was for a number of reasons (some personal) but mostly because of the isolation I felt living there and not feeling very much part of the punk/DIY/Anarcho scene outside of NZ. At the time a few of us lived in a DIY venue space aptly named NECROPOLIS and booked shows and the short lived UNITYFEST but again the problem of isolation meant that with the exception of the occasional Straight edge band (L) very few bands from abroad made it to our shores. The straight edge scene at the time in NZ was pretty big, and as we were the only venue that didn’t serve alcohol was DIY and all ages we put on a few gigs with some of the straight edge crew(s) for a time… pretty funny in reflection as we were drunk most of the time!
Also the urge to travel and actually SEE some of my record collection play live became just too tempting!
Do you still keep in touch with people from New Zealand and are you aware of what’s happening out there? Are you interested into the punk scene there?
I have limited contact with people in New Zealand, a lot of my closest friends moved to the UK or Australia around the same time as I did. I try to get back there every few years and when I do it seems better each time (or is that because I am on holiday?) Also a lot more bands seem to manage to tour there now, VARUKERS, PISSCHRIST, GBH, UK SUBS have all played there in recent years.
The one negative thing I will say about the scene is that the ‘drop out’ rate in Aoetearoa is pretty high, so a lot of people lose interest in politics and punk by their early twenties – often in that order too!
What’s the usual day for you and do you live the punk way of life?
Haha, well if that means drinking lots and going to gigs then yes! But I also work 3 days a week so maybe no. I part time in London as a embroider/screen printer (does that earn me punk points?) but live in Birmingham. I stay in the Deathdrop Squat when in London (more punk points?) In my spare time I am involved in putting on gigs, printing for bands and Scum Fest related projects. More recently I have become quiet involved in the Justice for Gary Critchley Project.
You’re part of the collective organizing Scum Fest and Scum Winter Fest, tell us more about that.
Well the S.F.C came about through a few of us booking DIY benefit gigs in South London under the moniker Brixton Scum. So when a few bands happened to be touring the same week of June 2005 (PROVOKED, RAW POWER & BRUCE BANNER if memory serves) a member of the to be collective decided to make a 4 day event and called it ScumFest with all profits going towards a number of campaign groups. Six years on SF has steadily grown in size but with the focus still on raising money for various campaign groups and causes that the collective and/or bands playing support or have affiliation with. To date we have raised approx £11,000 for various benefits/causes whilst being lucky enough to put on some amazing bands and still have a good laugh along the way!
The events are 100% DIY and non-profit, how do you manage to do it? What are some things that we should know about organizing such kind of events?
Yes, SF is both not-for-profit and as DIY as possible, we print all our own merch, tickets, flyers, banners, posters etc. and do our best to make sure as much £ as possible goes to the benefits/causes a festival or gig is in aid of. We are also lucky to have the SF café crew who feed the bands and run a Vegan café at our events and stops the punx from passing out on empty stomachs. We are also proud to say we are not for profit, save for a small amount of money we keep back to put into our backline or future events.
The only advice I would give organizing larger events would be to do the math and keep an eye on what your outgoing costs are. Most importantly be up front with bands and treat them well…because without bands any gig or festival will be pretty boring!
What about the bigger bands that are playing Scum Fest events? Is it hard to deal with them and which are the problems that you’re facing with the organizing of the festivals? Are there problems with drugs, alcohol, dogs, police, skinheads…?
We deal with ANY band playing ScumFest in the same way, and pay only bands travel costs, feed them, give them accommodation if they need it and make sure they can get drunk for free if they want/need to. This applies for the ‘bigger’ bands we have put on in recent years… and to be totally honest more or less all of them have been a pleasure to put on and in some cases a lot more humble and supportive of what we do than some of the ‘DIY’ bands we have worked with.
I think a big misconception about some of the ‘bigger bands’ we put on is that they do essentially come from the same scene as us, and hold a lot of the same views and beliefs as we do just maybe not with the same level of DIY ethic, so when they are asked to play a benefit gig for a cause they feel empathy with or in some cases are directly involved with they are more than happy to help out.
As far as problems go, well thankfully nothing too bad (touch wood). The Collective lost a squatted space that was going to be used for a fest a couple of years ago which resulted in some members being arrested and a ‘legit’ venue had to be used at the last minute instead which meant we lost some of the funds we use for setting the fest up. But I would still consider the fest that year to have been a success as a good amount of £ was still made for the benefits. We also have drawn a little attention from the cops in recent years who seem aware of where and when SF takes place but we are yet to be shut down… so I guess we are not seen as much of a problem. So much for making punk a threat again!
Drugs are not a problem, Alcohol is fine, dogs are not allowed (no dogs no bastards!) and the only skinheads who come to our gigs are of the Antifa variety. The only other trouble we have are from blaggers/punx who don’t give a shit about the benefit and don’t want to pay the entrance fee no matter how cheap we make it. These ‘punx’ still afford to get pissed outside, break shit and risk getting the gig shut down…
As I understand Scum Fest is all benefit festival with all the profits going directly to some cause. Tell us about the causes and organisations that you’re donating money for? I see that Scum Fest 2010 was a benefit in support of Justice For Gary Critchley, who is he and why does he need support and justice?
Yes as aforementioned all our gigs are a benefit of some description, past benefits have been for W.A.R (Women against rape), The 1in12 Club, International Queer Rights, Gender L’viv, Polish Anti-fascists, Bologna Anarchists and many many others. The last Scum Winter Fest was indeed in aid of Gary Critchley who has been wrongly incarcerated for the past 30 years. Gary’s case was brought to our attention through Jock from GBH.
Gary a friend of the band was convicted at the age of 17 was wrongly convicted for a murder he did not commit. 30 years on he is still a prisoner of the state! I could fill your zine writing about this ‘miscarriage of justice’ but instead suggest yourself and your readers to go to justiceforgarycritchley.org for full and up to date information regarding this campaign. There are many ways people can help Gary so PLEASE get involved!
What do you think about charity in general and what’s the difference between charity and solidarity?
Wow, nice question (you had to save the hard ones for last and when I have had had too much to drink!)
Well I am supportive of charity, providing it’s in aid of something I support and of a grass roots nature. Also it is important to me that it is transparent where money raised goes. In relation to solidarity I guess that I view the two as more or less the same thing in the sense that if I support something even in the monetary sense this is still a form of solidarity. Something we have tried to focus on more in relation to ScumFest in recent years is really try and inform people exactly what a benefit gig is in aid of, sometimes people couldn’t care less but I still believe it is important and right to at least try… knowledge is power right?
Are you collecting punk records and what are your favorite punk bands from the UK? GBH are playing in Bulgaria for a first time, do you think they’re still as good as in the old days?
Yes I am happy to say I am still buy records, although I didn’t for the first few years I moved here, partly due to the nature of squatting at the time, lack of money and being able to see so many bands live! There are so many good bands in the UK at the minute, newer bands such as Agnosy, Bullet Ridden, Warprayer, Falling Down and Pettybone are all worth checking out, as are the ‘older’ classics such as Doom, E.O.M.
Well I can’t say I was in the right country or old enough to comment on GBH in the old days but I can say they are still one of my favorites, brilliant live and not bad for a bunch of punx pushing 50.
What does DIY punk means to you? Do you think that punk could inspire or change anything other than your own life?
DIY punk means everything to me and I dread to think where I would be without it. Being able to turn up in a foreign country, meet people at a gig or a fest and to be taken in, fed, looked after and in turn make new friends because you are part of ‘a scene’ is pretty unique to DIY punk in my opinion. As to it changing anything other than your own life? I think that is up to the individual, but I certainly hope so!
Thank you for your time, anything you want to add?
1of the SFC