Monday, 13 June 2016

Generation X - Revisited

An old chestnut this one. But I've been asked several times to explain why I still stand by my theory that Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson's UK book Generation X (1964) is the very first significant use of the now oft-used term 'Generation X'. Especially when the phrase was very likely first immortalised in print a dozen years earlier. If you've stumbled upon this post and wondering what it's all about - or fancy a refresher - please check out my previous article on the subject, dating back to 24th February 2014. 

Holiday Magazine December 1952
What the Holiday editors were previewing was a three-part article which ran in the January through to March 1953 issues of Holiday magazine. The project was initiated by Robert Capa with the collaboration of a team of his fellow Magnum photographers - but the 'Generation X' title (attributed to Capa himself) was actually ditched in favour of the rather bland billing 'Youth of the World'. 

So 'Generation X' what Holiday calls "the projection name" failed to get beyond starring in this snippet when published in the USA. It was also not mentioned at all in the UK when the same photo story ran in a special edition of the popular Picture Post magazine in January 1952.

But the term was actually fully revived in January 1954, when Capa's piece was rejigged for Switzerland's stylish DU magazine:

A marvelous cover - published by Conzett & Huber in Zurich, January 1954
Undoubtedly it is this publication that justifies the argument that the term was coined well before the 1960s or certainly Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel. But I think that sadly back in 1952 and 1954, Capa's Generation X concept simply failed to break through, and so swiftly slipped out of sight.

The major reason is that this was a much less-celebrated return to an earlier study of the lives of ordinary folk across the globe called 'People are People the World Over', which was first published in the Ladies' Home Journal in 1947. This also involved Capa, and the newly founded Magnum photographic agency. But also, the subjects of Generation X were 'young adults', already too old to be part of the emerging 'teenager', or the rock and roll generation that was waiting just around the corner. So too conventional perhaps, even though it was fascinating to hear from those people who were still children during WW2.

To sum up - here are some pages from DU (in German) where 'Generation X' first appears to enter the lexicon of our sociologists and cultural anthropologists. But it is interesting how the term was completely (and thus not conveniently) forgotten when the term would later be truly seized upon to describe a new breed of youth...

Thursday, 2 June 2016

United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975

It's just three weeks to go until the 'Referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union'. Yesterday, while searching for something else completely, I found two small objects that I'd held on to from my secondary school days in the 1970's that are very timely reminders of the very first referendum to be held nationwide in the UK. 

Of course I wasn't old enough to vote on the 5th June 1975 - forty one years ago this month - but this was big news which certainly spilled into the playground. 

Above is my old ticket wallet courtesy of Southern Rail on which I'd affixed a SAY "YES" TO EUROPE red sticker on the front. These stickers would have been given out in the streets at the time, and a few handfuls found their way to us kids who'd stick them on exercise books, duffle bags and the like.

I've also discovered a KEEP BRITAIN IN EUROPE badge which was given to me by a class mate whose father I think was quite active in politics at the time. Interesting to note the address of the publishers - it's in Old Park Lane, a very smart apartment block just round the corner from Piccadilly's Hard Rock Cafe (which had opened in 1971, four years before the referendum).

Tin Badge, 1975
The '75 referendum demanded a simple Yes or No to the question: "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community?". Back then the nation responded with a whopping 67% saying YES. 

It was just two years earlier that the UK had joined what was commonly termed 'The Common Market'. I also remember the various 'Fanfare for Europe' activities back in January 1973 - like the commemorative stamps that were issued by the Post Office. YES, just 3 pence to send a letter back then...

On the same day as the postage stamp issue, there was an unusual football fixture as part of the Fanfare for Europe which was held at Wembley Stadium - between The THREE new entrants into the Common Market and The SIX current members. A dazzling line-up of great players of the time included Northern Ireland's Pat Jennings, England's Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, and Scotland's Colin Stein playing for The THREE. And on the pitch for The SIX that night were the West German stars Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller, and Holland's Johan Neeskens.

Official Programme Cover
For the record The THREE won 2-0 in front of some 36,500 spectators - in a stadium that then held 100,000. The scorers were Henning Jensen (Denmark) and Scotland's Colin Stein.

And now, some 43 years on from the year that began as a Fanfare for Europe, the citizens of the UK are set to put a CROSS in the box next to their answer to the question "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union".

Stickers printed in 2016 for the 'IN campaign', handed to me in the street this week