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Turner Contemporary

Isle One

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  1. I remember my time in Margate as a Mod by Keith Clements.
    We were South London Mods from Eltham, Bexleheath, Dartford and Erith. We would all meet at the Railway Pub in Dartford for a Friday night dance and word would soon get out where we were going over the weekend. Ready Steady, Go was our programme and in the early days our Bible, back then the RSG team used to come down to see us to pick dancers for the show.
    In our early days Friday and Saturday nights were spent at the El Partido in Lewisham then onto the Penthouse in Catford. Later on we joined the West End set at the Scene, Discoteque and Bag of Nails. Our leathers and suits made by Mr Bedelow in D’Arbly Street, Soho, or Paul in Wardour Street. I worked in a Mayfair furriers, my girlfriend was a Mayfair hairdresser and model.
    I was just 16 in 1964 when we came to Margate on the Bank Holiday. We often came down at weekends either by scooter, but mainly by train, usually dodging the fare. I remember we all met up at Dartford Station where most of the South London lines terminated, the Dartford Loop form New Eltham being mine. We would meet our pals from Greenwich, Erith, Bexleyheath etc. and take over the carriages. We were like a family and we all looked out for each other sharing, caring and loving. Being a Mod was all I lived for.
    We downed the first batch of amphetamine pills, the blues/ dubes – double blues (Dryminal), dexes (Dexadrine) that had been bought ready for the weekend. Euphoria and excitement followed and quite honestly we felt, and were invincible. Our parents and society had no idea what we were doing, it was a wonderful time.
    I remember getting to Margate Station with my girlfriend and the rest, about 30 of us and heading straight for the Italian coffee bar Macari’s, which with its high chrome stools and modern 60’s interior fitted our style, there we met up with the other Mods who had driven down.
    They told us how the convoy of scooters had been passed (obviously) by a gang of rockers who had kicked one over and caused a pile up of scooters and a few minor cuts and grazes. This incensed us all and I am pretty sure started the search for Rockers and revenge, but we needed no excuse. There was usually a fight.
    We never sat still for long. Things blur a little….but mob handed we roamed the town and then hit Dreamland the gang of us hyped up and looking for trouble, but there were very few rockers in town that day. The ones that were there did get attacked, not by me I may add, well perhaps one, but our mates who by this time were extremely high. There were the Mods who were into fashion and just being a Mod, and the rest who followed for the excitement. As with our parents, the police did not have a clue what was happening and drove around rather fast in Black Maria vans and Ford Anglias but were very low in numbers. I remember about sixty of us being chased through the streets by the police and sheltering in people’s gardens with my girl to get out of the way of the crowd. Quadraphenia (we were also at Brighton) had it spot on. As night fell we broke into the beach huts but we could not sleep and sat along the seafront exhausted but awake. I remember hearing a lone motorbike heading along the front and as it passed in front of me it suddenly flipped on its side throwing the passengers off. One of the “Mods” had thrown a stake of wood through the spoke wheels of the motorcycle. I, in my innocence (and loving everyone….), went over and picked them up and apologised for the incident. If of course they had objected they would have been set upon by the many Mods gathered around.
    Many of our South London team were arrested so depleted we made our way home. I remember the train was full of holiday makers and we had to sit in our rather dishevelled state, “coming down” (occupational Mod hazard), it was all rather surreal and made us feel even less part of society and even more special people. As on so many other nights I reached my suburban home and snuck up to bed with just a “night..” to Mum and Dad.
    The following week we heard the horror stories of how the police had fitted us up and how fines had been paid again exactly like Quadraphenia. Thankfully I missed all that.
    Then there was Brighton, the West End of London…..and my Metal Red/ Chrome Vespa 180….so many stories….

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