Skin – blood and guts
This month, we celebrate love – with much of the actual celebration focused on a single day – St Valentine’s Day – and the commodification of one of humanity’s fluffiest, most beautiful gift. But, of course, we know that not all love is accepted, cherished or treated equally. And while it is pure coincidence that in the UK we celebrate LGBTIQ+ history month in February – the real reason is the abolition of Section 28, in 2003 – in a shamelessly opportunistic move, I’m dedicating Black her_stories monthly to all love, including bi-love, with Skin.
Admittedly, she had faded from my memory a little, until she reminded us all, that SHE had actually been the first Black British artist to headline at Glastonbury as the lead singer of rock band Skunk Anansie - in 1999 - TWENTY whole years before Stormzy – in an equally electrifying performance. And watching it now, it’s still like WOW! 💥🔊
Musician, singer, songwriter, DJ, producer, radio presenter, LGBTIQ+ rights activist … and now author, Skin is a woman of many talents and if you were around in the 90’s, she needs little introduction … but if you weren’t – time to catch up!
Reading and listening to interviews, her radio show - every Sunday at 10.00 pm – watching videos of her performances – you are reminded what a trailblazer she really was – overcoming racism, sexism and homophobia in the music industry and in real life.
‘As black people we always have to do so much better than anybody else to get the same dues, respect and coverage.’ Skin on This City
On Clara Amfo’s This City, Skin talks about growing up in Brixton, being quiet, shy church girl who rebelled to become strong and ferocious. Having spent her teenage years going to school, working a Saturday job and going to church on Sundays, she couldn’t wait to leave London for Middlesbrough to study. It gave her a chance to start afresh and reinvent herself. This really resonated with me. It was exactly how I felt when I came to London from my home town – no one knows you and you can be who you want to be.
Coming back to London in the late 90’s was exhilarating. She lived in a housing co-op, the music scene was mental, with so many gigs, house parties, illegal sound systems and raves – a total bonanza. That set the scene for her rise to prominence as the lead singer of rock band Skunk Anansie. But she admits that: ‘not being the typical face of 90’s Britpop, meant we had to work so much harder’. When they split for a while, in 2001 (they reformed in 2009), Skin pursued a solo career, including as a techno, tech house DJ – which she continues to this day. No interview with a 90’s pop star (I use the word loosely) is complete without a mention of Top of the Pops. And it was after her first appearance on the show that her mum finally ‘stopped moaning’ about her being a musician. And that performance of Skunk Anansie’s remix of Army of Me with Björk.
There are a million more things to say about Skin – including that she was invited by Nelson Mandela, to perform at his 80th birthday gig. On 04 March, she will be speaking at an online Southbank event about her memoir, which she wrote with NME journo Lucy O’Brien – It takes blood and guts! Don’t miss it … I know I won’t! In the meantime, you can listen to her radio show – every Sunday from 10.00 pm - the 14th February episode has an interview with singer songwriter Joan Armatrading.
There are lots of interesting interviews, including one in the daily mail (I won't make a habit of quoting it!) where she openly raises concerns about the current political situation:
'In England we got to a place where we were much more open and
much more liberal in life. I feel like in the last few years this has been closing down,
and that doesn’t bode well for us and people in my community.
The moment Brexit happened, literally the next day the atmosphere just changed and gave power to a certain small percentage of people who don’t like us and people like me.'
… and I’ll stop here!