If you follow my blog or social media accounts, it will come as no surprise that I feel very strongly about the subject of independence. Women’s autonomy, independent designers and makers, businesses, music – they’re all topics close to my heart. We’ve adopted an identikit culture in society that makes me cringe; people – especially young people – often aren’t encouraged to like or create outside of the norm, so I love to support in my own wee way the indie artists, brands and people who brighten up my day.
One of these people is Bob.
Bob is an Edinburgh legend. Utter this phrase at any party, music venue or festival in the vicinity and folk will know what you mean. and who you mean. She sings, she DJs, she runs some of the best events – including my favourite 90s party Return of the Whack and the fabulous Grrrl Crush (a strictly no wankers allowed night for girls who like girls, and their pals). She’s also written articles for The Skinny and Phannatiq (here, here, and here). She is Bob’ll Write It, a one woman copywriting sensation.
I could go on about all the things that Bob does, but that would be a whole blog post in itself.
A few months ago, Edinburgh’s music scene lost one of its iconic clubs Studio 24. My Facebook was flooded with posts by friends complaining about the degeneration of independent music and venues; people who hadn’t been to Studios in years came out in force for the last events, reminiscing about the good times they’d had there, the endless pints, shots of jäger, and hazy memories. Whilst everybody and their uncle mourned the “death” of non-mainstream music, Bob wrote something that was so spot on that I basically messaged her immediately and asked if she would do a guest post.
Edinburgh is a fucking amazing place to live, and this is one of the reasons.
When I think of independence, I think about independence in all its forms, of which there are a few. It’s interesting that independence is encouraged in some ways but scorned in others. Historically, women weren’t actively encouraged to be independent because of society’s expectation of the female of the species to want a steady relationship and a family. It wasn’t until Destiny’s Child and TLC came along that women began to feel liberated and the influence of these strong women created a wave of independent powerful kweens.
To work independently is something that can be both positive and negative. Employers like to know that you can work independently if required, but there’s no ‘we’ in independently, and there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘me’ if you switch some of the letters about. But if you’re good at working independently, there’s the danger that you’re perhaps less able to work as part of a team. Employers don’t like to think that you’re not a team player, so the notion of being independent in the workplace has both positive and negative connotations.
Let’s consider the art of enjoying yourself independently and whether it’s a) encouraged or b) a cause for suspicion. I watched a film called The Lobster which is a kind of dystopian perspective on the world that tells a story of society that is structured around couples. Anyone that isn’t coupled up gets sent to a hotel where they are given an amount of time to meet another human and fall in love. If they don’t couple up within a certain time frame, they’re punished by being transformed into an animal of their choice thus forcing people into false, loveless relationships to maintain their humanity – literally.
This is clearly an extreme version of the world as we know it, but it’s not far off. I love to dine alone, go to the cinema alone, and go to gigs alone, and there’s been a few times that I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable in these situations. Not because I’m self-conscious about it, but because it’s not common. Other people in the restaurant are often with families or business acquaintances, I sit next to couples at the cinema, and I usually find myself next to groups of pals at gigs.
People probably look at me and feel sorry for me, and wonder what’s happened that I have had to sit and endure an entire meal / movie / show alone. Little do they know, I chose this. I’m enjoying my own company. When I was working as a waitress and the odd person did come in to dine alone, I would often experience an overwhelming feeling of admiration for them – because if you can’t enjoy your own company, what’s the fucking point?
This brings us to the notion of consuming independently: probably the only form of independence – aside from the up-rise of independent women fuelled by the Spice Girls’ girl power moment in the 90s – that is widely celebrated and encouraged in our society. After Fight Club made its impact on the world, there was a revolution of sorts that made people question everything that had been rammed down their throats for so long. We began to question Coca Cola, and Starbucks, and McDonalds, and whatever else. People began to see through adverts and they began to think for themselves a little bit more and it was a genuinely beautiful time as humans around the world started to wake the fuck up. If only more people had listened to Rage Against the Machine.
Anyway, here we were being faced with these huge, corporate, conglomerate bastards and deciding that we didn’t want them to have our money any more. We wanted our money to go straight to the source. We almost wanted to see the impact that our money had. So, with the rise of smaller businesses, this dream became a reality. Independent coffee shops are everywhere now and people often choose to purchase their skinny decaf mocha flat white from a small independent than at Starbucks. Not all people, but a lot of people, and that number is growing. People have begun to boycott the big supermarkets to shop at their local butcher, baker or candlestick-maker. They’ve stopped shopping on the high street and started buying from small online Etsy businesses. There has been a significant revolution of ‘support your local’ in the past 10 years and that’s truly fucking amazing.
This brings me to the notion of independence within the music industry. Again, people have become disillusioned with this industry due to the rise of music streaming and the X Factor and Simon Cowell and Ed Sheeran and basically everything that’s wrong with it. There are now more independent record labels, record stores and venues than there have been in a long time. There are more independent musicians, independent artists, and independent music promoters. Independence –as far as the creative world is concerned – is cool as fuck. Why this hasn’t translated to the wider, more mainstream society, I have no idea. Perhaps they don’t like to think. Perhaps they don’t care about their impact on the world. Perhaps they don’t have a personal connection with someone who runs an independent business. But as someone who knows a lot of people who ‘work independently’, here’s my tuppence.
Independence, in all its various and beautiful forms, is a wonderful thing. To be independent is important. To support independence is important. To encourage independence is hugely important. I think the word independence often suggests selfishness to some people – that you are only thinking of number one. The reality is this: if you shop independent, or you go see your friend’s unsigned band, or you take yourself out to dinner like a motherfucking boss, you are doing one thing and one thing only – supporting our society from the bottom up. If you buy a piece of art from a local artist, or a record from a local band, you are literally providing them with money to eat that night, or contributing to their rent. The more we do this, the more creative we can be, and the happier our society could become.
This negativity that appears to be affiliated with the notion of independence is something that we, as a collective of humans, must change. Work independently. Steer clear of co-dependent relationships and fall in love with independent humans. Shop independently. Listen to independent music. Go to the cinema on your fucking own – if nothing else, you don’t have to share your popcorn.
Think independently. Support your local. Be a legend.