Archives for category: Childhood

I hold the The Tricorn (1964 – 2001) in only fond regard. This was a place where, in chronological order, my parents met, I cut my graffiti teeth, I bought records, I nightclubbed, bought clothes, bought more records, learnt (kind of) to DJ and finally worked.

The complex provoked and continues to provoke extreme reactions. A sprawling Brutalist complex that contained a shopping centre, apartments, car park and even a nightclub, the Tricorn was designed by Rodney Gordon at the Owen Luder Partnership and was completed in 1964 to general acclaim. In 1967 it won the Civic Trust Award for its “exciting visual composition”, three years later it was voted Britain’s fourth ugliest building. Go figure.

The Tricorn, like many similar, system built concrete structures built at this time soon both fell out of favour, fashion and into disrepair. Before it’s demolition nobody lived in the apartments besides pigeons, the club had long shut down and most of the shops had long moved on. The place had been left pretty much to rot, becoming a foreboding mass of crumbling concrete, a blot on the landscape. Despite appeals for it’s regeneration these were drowned out by the majority and the sad and tatty Tricorn was finally put out of it’s misery to a spiteful fanfare in 2004.

Personally, I’m sad it was demolished and I’m certainly not alone. Before its demolition, hoardings were put up around the site and Portsmouth City Council invited the artist Jeanie Kerswell to create a public art project which would both decorate the hoardings and display Portsmouth residents’ memories of the Tricorn. ‘The Colour Happened On The Inside’ concept covered the boards with Marmite jars (a neat take on ‘you either love it or hate it’) with white labels to be used for handwritten recollections of the soon to be demolished building.

What followed was an emotive set of comments from people who, like me, had learned to love the complex despite it’s failings. Somehow,within it’s alleyways, arcades and damp, crumbling facades a community had built up. Whether it had happened in the way Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon had intended was besides the point. While the bigger shops like Argos and Virgin Megastore (why isn’t anything a ‘mega’ anything anymore?) moved out of the building, a network of independent traders did their thing in Charlottes Superstore; an indoor market which seemed to absorb the noisiness and chaos of the Charlotte Street market outside.

In my era Charlottes and The Tricorn was home to the independent clothes shops, One Legged Jockey and Rif Raf (which was run by Pete Voss, the eventual lead singer of Indie Dance mob Campag Velocet), Domino Records which sold half decent Hip Hop and House music, a pet shop (with an agressive parrot if I recall), the obligatory greasy spoon and the haven for misfits, miscreants and all round good people, Mondo Comics.

The whole place was a bit of a mecca, a slice of alternative culture rarely found in Portsmouth at this time. This was people making the most of what they had. It’s my understanding that these independent shops were able to flourish as the rents were so low due to the poor state of The Tricorn but it’s interesting how this thriving community formed from nothing much.

Town planners of the late 60s and 70s had tried and so often failed to ‘create’ communities by building housing estates with schools, shops and pubs bolted on. But communities don’t just happen by plonking a group of people into one purpose built set of buildings. They evolve, untidily and unpredictably. Perhaps this was part of the reason The Tricorn failed; at least in it’s intended purpose. Structurally of course, it suffered the same problems as other Brutalist style buildings of that era; the bare concrete soon deteriorated when exposed to the unforgiving weather of the South Coast and the buildings warren-like layout and barely negotiable alleyways and foreboding voids seem quite bizarre on reflection.

The Tricorn demolition finally started in 2001, accompanied by a jovial live radio broadcast and torrential rain. What stands in it’s place is a car park.

Tricorn 3D walkthrough

The Tricorn: Life and Death of a Sixties Icon by Celia Clark and Robert Cook


I bought my first 7 inch vinyl single in HMV, Commercial Road, Portsmouth in 1981.

Ghost Town by The Specials on the legendary 2 Tone label reached the number 1 position in July of that year and was a song that held a mirror to the state of the nation.

The Specials -  Ghost Town

Socially and economically, Thatcher’s Britain was on its way to breakdown. My personal memory of Portsmouth in the early 80s was of closed shops, litter blown streets and an undercurrent of violence. 1981 was a year of mass uneployment, race riots, hunger strikes and strangely, a Royal Wedding. Where I lived the music and the fashion of 2 Tone was enjoyed while the essential multicultural element was ignored. Despite the city being virtually all white, racism existed. The National Front were prominent in this period and I distinctly remember going to a school disco (I was 10) and seeing a line of slightly older kids shouting ‘Sieg Heil” and giving the Nazi salute at the end of the ‘der-de-der’ sax riff of The Piranhas –  Tom Hark. Very odd and considering the cultural references of this song, even odder.  The racial harmony point was certainly missed by the more meat-headed youth of my lovely city, some of whom would go on to enjoy their Saturdays as part of Portsmouth Football Club’s notorious 6.57 crew.

Brixton Riots

Ghost Town is a bizarre number one single in relation to others of the same year (Bucks Fizz! Shaking Stevens!) and goes to show how influential the group and the 2 Tone movement were. Lyrically, it expresses life in a nation blighted by the destruction of industry and mass unemployment and virtually predicted the violence that would break out in England that year. Shaky certainly wouldn’t have covered that sort of content. Musically, the track is inspired. Doom-laden reggae with jazzy keyboards, horns, an unhinged wail of a chorus and ghostly sound effects. Timeless. The B sides, though a little more low-key were nearly as good. Why? is the tale of a racist attack on band member Lynval Golding and Friday Night, Saturday Morning captures the meaninglessness of a night on the tiles and features one of my favourite lyrics from the mealoncholic Terry Hall: ‘Wish that I had lipstick on my shirt, Instead of piss stains on my shoes’. Nice.

Here’s the single version of Ghost Town.

And here’s the extended 12 inch version, with the awesome Rico Rodriguez adding woozy trombone to the mix.

The Specials

There’s a brilliant feature on how the track was produced here at the 2 Tone website: John Collins – A Producers Story

And a great article on being attached to Portsmouth Football Club: Up Pompey



Lose or loose?


On a visit to our local (grotty) health centre we found some old Ladybird books for sale in the waiting room. When I say old I mean well old, for a children’s book anyway. Finger Rhymes was printed in 1976. How it had managed to get to this point in time intact I’ll never know. The Ladybird books were a big part of my childhood and the sense of innocence and the pre-PC-ness in them is really sweet. I’m sure you couldn’t get away with printing half the things in the book now (or is that just cynical me?) Anyhow, here’s a small selection of spreads.

Ladybird Finger Rhymes

Ladybird Finger Rhymes

Ladybird Finger Rhymes