MYPLACE Project Manager, Martin Price, University of Warwick, on UK artist Plan B’s new single and how it relates to the work of the project.
In a recent music blog on the Guardian newspaper’s website, Dorian Lynskey described Plan B’s latest single “Ill Manors” as “the greatest British protest song in years.” The single, together with its striking video (see below – from Plan B’s official Youtube channel) are blunt and direct in their confrontation of political and social issues facing British youth. The video, in particular, draws heavily on imagery from the riots and looting in British cities in August 2011, which formed the subject for the first post to the MYPLACE blog – in fact keen observers might spot the image used in that blog appearing in the Ill Manors video.
While the video emphasises the riots, the lyrics themselves are more generally about social alienation, class and a swathe of British society left feeling increasingly disenfranchised by the government and mainstream media:
“Who closed down the community centre?
I kill time there used to be a member
what will I do now ’til September?
Schools out, rules out, get your bloody tools out
London’s burning, I predict a riot “
As the artist himself has observed in interviews with the BBC, the portrayal and alienation of this group is encompassed in the name “chav” which is popular in the media: “For me that term is no different from similar terms used to be derogatory towards race and sex, the only difference being that the word chav is used very publicly in the press … When you attack someone because of the way they talk, the way they dress, the music they listen to, or their lack of education, and you do it publicly and it’s acceptable to do that, you make them feel alienated. They don’t feel like a part of society … For every person who uses the word chav there is a less educated person ready to embrace it. They say, well, look, I’m never going to change the way you think of me so actually I’m going to play up to it and fuel the fire. In essence that’s what Ill Manors is about.” (as quoted in Dorian Lynskey’s Guardian blog)
What has this to do with our project, MYPLACE? Arguably, everything. Ill Manors speaks to and about a youth disillusioned and disengaged from formal politics, a youth which policy makers appear to have little interest in understanding. MYPLACE speaks directly to these issues, seeking to explore how, when and if young people engage in social, political and civic systems, but just as importantly to understand the reasons why. What motivates (or demotivates) young people? This song and its video address the situation in the UK directly, but how many of the other countries in MYPLACE will recognise some of this sentiment in their own field sites?
It will certainly be interesting to find out. Using those findings to inform policy will also be a key challenge.