In Conversation with Viv Albertine - Leeds International Festival

In Conversation with Viv Albertine

Leeds International Festival 18 7 May 2018

Best known, perhaps, as the guitarist in infamous 70s English punk girl group The Slits, Viv Albertine’s career has been made up of a hell of a lot more. One of the defining releases of the post-punk era was The Slit’s debut 1979 album Cut, which has been listed in countless ‘top 100’ albums ever, and lives on as a shocking, and era-defining, punk classic.

All-girl rock bands are rare now. They were pretty much unheard of in the 70s. Viv Albertine, alongside lead singer Ari Up and bass guitarist Tessa Pollitt uprooted, ignored and rewrote what it was to be female in the 1970s, and faced a massive range of reactions for their troubles, from outrage to disgust to adoration. Indeed, Viv Albertine went on to hide her earlier existence from her family – her daughter didn’t even know of her fame and she maintained radio silence for a long time, and again, rewrote herself and her identity.

This Leeds International Festival ‘In Conversation’ event explored the amazing breadth of Albertine’s life experiences, from way back in her Punk days through to her life as it is right now. She returned to music as a middle-aged woman, again forging an untrodden path as the middle-aged woman has traditionally been refused a role in cultural production. She ignores cultural mores and stands firm in her cultural output, treading new and exciting paths.

Credit: The Slits
The Slits

Albertine spent time charting the (frequently rough) waters of her life experience, in advance of the publication of her second memoir, To Throw Away Unopened, which has received critical support. This intimate memoir touches on the polemics and divisiveness of motherhood and operates somewhat as a feminist manifesto – with definite touches of domestic noir.

“Literature offers an avenue for subversion that pop music no longer can”, she said, and listening to her In Conversation event at The Wardrobe, the audience was left under no illusion – her words are caustically truthful, loyal to herself, clear-sighted – and, because of all of that, an intense, and pure, expression of subversion, dissidence, and, back at the root of it all – punk anarchy.