There is an exhibition in the crypt of St Mary in the Castle until the 30th June regarding Poly Styrene, lead singer and founder of the, primarily, 1970s punk band X-ray Spex, who wrote and sang iconic punk songs such as Identity (youtube) and Germ Free Adolescents (youtube). Now, I know about her, well, because I am of a certain age, but I was surprised to hear from 2 younger women I know that they had never heard of her!
So, who was Poly Styrene (misspelt 'Steryne' by St Mary's, not sure why)? She was born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said in Bromley in 1957, and was brought up in Brixton, London. Her links to Hastings? Well, her mother came from Hastings, though of celtic stock (Marianne's father was Somali), she was inspired to form the band X-ray Spex after seeing the Sex Pistols play on Hastings Pier in 1976, and she moved to an end of terrace house in St Leonards in her later life, enjoying riding along the promenade on her scooter.
Poly Styrene was a rebel, no doubt, she left home at 15 for two or three years visiting music festivals and hitchhiking around the country, after her first experience of punk, seeing the Sex Pistols in 1976, X-ray Spex brought out their debut single in September 1977, the anti-consumerism, anti-misogyny, anti-racist, Oh Bondage! Up Yours! I'd suggest you don't click on any video links here if you can't cope with bad language or more liberal views of life, but this was punk, after all; youtube link.
Poly Styrene developed breast cancer, which spread to her spine and lungs, and died whilst in St Michael's Hospice, St Leonards, in 2011. Her daughter, Celeste Bell, herself a singer in the mode of her once classically trained mother, has been involved in the writing of the documentary Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliche, and a biography is due out next year; see her Guardian article written earlier this year.
Sadly, I missed the play Highly Inflammable, but you can still get into the exhibition at St Mary in the Castle until Friday 30th June 2017, 10am to 4pm; see website.
Poly Styrene, Marianne, 1957-2011, R.I.P. 😢