When I stepped into YOUTH CLUB's Subculture Archives on Carnaby Street in London, I was enamored, and then upset that I had no part in creating such a wonderful project because it so perfectly aligned with my own interests and philosophy. I was dismayed to discover that the Subculture Archives was just a pop-up and not a permanent fixture; however, the fact that YOUTH CLUB had plans for a permanent Museum of Youth Culture cushioned the blow.
Starting out as a photo library, YOUTH CLUB, as evident from the name, is dedicated to preserving youth culture, and they're rapidly expanding their collection to adopt a more global perspective. Additionally, they will also be creating more physical manifestations of the archive (like the permanent Museum of Youth Culture). They plan to bring subculture history into the present through collaborations and large-scale projects.
Jamie Brett, the creative projects manager of YOUTH CLUB, is crucial to these endeavors. His curatorial expertise and artistic eye has helped YOUTH CLUB extend its reach (he's earned mentions in Dazed & Confused, VICE, and Red Bull for his work). An aficionado of youth culture, his passion for what he does is obvious.
The sincerity and care with which the Subculture Archives was put together is what impacted me the most about the experience. Browsing the YOUTH CLUB archive online, I once again was touched by its authenticity and sensitivity. It's not old people trying to understand youth in a desperate attempt to be hip/rekindle their own adolescence. Rather, it emphasizes the value young people add to the world, and the importance of remembering that, highlighting both the perennial qualities of juvenescence, and how youth culture as a whole (as well as individual subcultures) have evolved over time.
Why did you start YOUTH CLUB?
YOUTH CLUB in it's current form was started in 2015 however the archive has been running since 1997 under the original name 'PYMCA', Photographic Youth Music Culture Archive. PYMCA was originally a collection of photographs gathered from Sleazenation Magazine by our archive founder Jon Swinstead. Running as a picture library for 18 years, it essentially kept the archive alive through the licensing of photographs to documentaries, magazines, book and brand projects until YOUTH CLUB formed with the goal to turn the PYMCA archive into a Museum of Youth Culture, using funding received from the Heritage Lottery Fund and that's where I come in!
What is your favorite subculture or youth movement?
My favourite youth movement would probably be Emo, as it was a culture that I was very much engulfed in as a teenager, and we really felt that our lives were paved out ahead of us as Emo's forever. The music really brought everyone together in a way where we thought the world would be forever changed. It's a sentiment that I hear across so many youth cultures and if I could have been part of the 90s Rave scene, 70s Punk, or even the 50s Teddy Boys I think I'd be just as happy!
What's your favorite project you've done?
I think my personal favourite project we worked on was a one off club night called 'Lost in Music' in 2016. We took over a huge brick warehouse space in East London, Village Underground, and put on an original rave night with Acid House DJ's and included images from our archive on show all night amongst people dancing to the music that led the photographers to shoot the work in the first place. It's definitely those events that bring the photographs to their original culture but in a way that introduces a younger generation to the energy of that scene, that I feel are most effective. Of course we've put on a breadth of incredibly memorable events but this one stuck out to me for it's effortless connection to the past.
How long will it be before there's a permanent Museum of Youth Culture?
By July 2019 we will have a fully functional online Museum of Youth Culture and by 2023 we will have a touring, pop-up physical Museum of Youth Culture with a central home based in London.
What projects do you have coming up?
We have a few exciting projects coming up with institutions and brands (of which I can't talk about yet!), the best way to keep an eye on what we're doing is our Instagram @youthclubsocial. However we have just launched an ambitious new campaign inviting the public the send us their photographs of their youth so we can start to build up the most accurate picture of what it was like to grow up in the UK. This involves scanning social events across the country where people can bring in their photos, negs, flyers and also pop up talks and exhibitions to support the message that archives aren't just for established photographers! More info at youthclubarchive.com/submit.
Is YOUTH CLUB mainly centered around British youth culture or do you also include international youth movements etc?
The archive has a stronghold in 1980s and 1990s London but spreads out across other decades and across the world. Our goal is to grow into a worldwide museum representing youth culture in a way that is authentic and accountable, free from agendas and free to access.
What's distinctive about British youth culture?
British youth culture often represents resistance against a struggle, whether that be political, economical or racial. It's through these times of diffuclty that young people come together and innovate through fashion and music to design a new world. I think it's native to these isles that people respond to difficult situations with creativity via very little resources.
What qualities of young people do you think span across generations?
I think the need to rebel and the confidence to create change is something that spans across all generations and its the post potent form of energy!
What do you think makes young people today different from generations before them? I think young people today have a lot more pressure and adversity to deal with on so many complex layers with not as many simple outlets to help them channel that energy like the youth clubs, record shops etc of yesteryear. However I think young people are now more creative than ever, and incredibly adaptable. Youth culture is looking very different to the way it did, but I think we have to look a bit harder to understand it and to make sense of the amazing, creative innovation coming from young people in terms of fashion, music and photography expressed through social media.
Images used in collage via @youthclubsocial