Margate, on the Kent coast, has been a place for modernist poets to recover from nervous breakdowns, for mods and rockers to settle musical and sartorial differences, and now it’s home to It Came From the Sea, a three day festival of forward-thinking doom, sludge and hardcore put on by Connect Nothing With Nothing Promotions. Spanning everything from Worst Witch’s queer-positive feminist punk, through Sacred Son’s sideways take on one-man black metal, and Astral Noize-approved dungeon wave act Bodies On Everest, It Came From the Sea is a breath of fresh air for Kent’s heavy music scene, one that is often strangled by local conservatism.
In line with much of Kent, Margate contains extremes of wealth and poverty, with a recently formed artistic quarter giving way to a struggling high street. Find the right place in Margate and you can find yourself paying £500 for a handcrafted armchair on one side of the road and a £1 cone of chips on the other. Those historical tensions, between wealthy and poor, between high and low culture, have long driven musical subcultures in the town and their DIY approach to putting on heavy music. From punk and ska bands at the Sunshine Rooms and the Winter Gardens in the 1970s, emo and hardcore bands at the Lido in the early 2000s, to contemporary acts such as Venom Prison, Employed To Serve and Homewrecker playing the Westcoast Bar, Margate has always had something going on for fans of punk and metal.
Connect Nothing With Nothing’s co-founders Emma Falconer and Kevin Morpurgo are bringing their own, slightly more leftfield take on promotion to Margate. With several years’ worth of skin in the game in DIY punk, art rock and metal promotion, Connect Nothing with Nothing are hoping to connect challenging bands with passionate audiences, with an emphasis on inclusivity, ethics and musical extremity in all its forms. We talked to Emma and Kevin about zine culture, growing up in provincial towns and the importance of promoting diversity in punk and metal.
Who runs Connect Nothing With Nothing and can you tell us about your history in music promotion, bands etc.?
Emma: Connect Nothing is me Emma Falconer, and Kevin Morpurgo. Over the years, I’ve been heavily involved in all sorts of aspects of DIY culture, and groups and events based on Kropotkin’s idea of Mutual Aid. I used to organise the Brighton Zinefest and be on the DIY Space for London co-op as well, so that’s built up a lot of contacts and networks around the UK and beyond. I feel like I’ve just always been doing this stuff.
I don’t really like to perform music for people. I don’t know if I’m much of a performer, I like to hide in the background. Please don’t look at me. Even with recordings, I’ll delete or erase them, and never let anyone hear. I guess I prefer to encourage other people to express themselves.
I think being involved with making zines is really good for you. There are no possible riches or glory in zine-making. You have to do it for the love of it, and thinking you’re a big deal because you do a zine is incredibly ridiculous. It also gives you a large network of really thoughtful, kind, driven people, who do things just for the creative satisfaction of it.
Kevin: Hi [Kevin is a man of mystery].
What’s behind the name Connect Nothing With Nothing?
Emma: It comes from the T.S. Eliot poem ‘The Wasteland’. Eliot had a breakdown and came on a holiday to Margate to recuperate and ended up doing a lot of work on the poem sitting on a bench on the beach. One of the lines is “On Margate Sands, I can connect nothing with nothing”. Kevin originally used the name for his show on Radio Margate, and then it also became attached to the gig promotion side of things. I like the name too because it gives associations of connecting things in a DIY network, but is also quite mystical and spartan with the Nothing aspect. Look into the void and weep.
Kevin: I grew up in Philadelphia. Which at the time was a wasteland. I’ve been aware of this depressing place called Margate since I was in grade school. ‘The Wasteland’ was a favourite read and still is. I really couldn’t wait to eventually visit when I moved to London around 15 years ago.
Finally got around to it a couple years ago. First thing I thought was “what a fantastic shit hole!”. Then I said to the wife as we walked along the scummy beach behind the Lido at sunset amongst the discarded trash and condoms… “We’re moving here honey. Pack your bags!”
Kent isn’t traditionally a very culturally adventurous place, so what inspired you to start putting on more leftfield music events on the Kent coast?
Emma: I guess the simplest answer is that’s the kind of thing I like going to myself, so if it isn’t happening already you have to make it happen. DIY or die.
I’m from Medway originally, and lived in Reading then Brighton for uni, and then moved to London for work, but spent a lot of time in Central Europe via my job, so I’ve had a lot of different living environments. I moved back to Kent last year because I was priced out of London and wanted to actually enjoy my quality of life. It’s been a mixed bag so far – good moments but also a struggle.
Even growing up in Medway I always felt like I was looking around for things beyond my immediate surroundings. My parents are Londoners who moved down, so we weren’t tightly enmeshed in Medway, and my family are quite strange in other ways too, for example believing very strongly in astrology. So I felt out of place a lot of the time.
Growing up, I read every book I could get my hands on, and once I became a teenager I spent a lot of time with my mum backpacking in various places in Europe and Morocco. So Medway felt small and limiting, in both size and local culture, and I couldn’t wait to leave the second I hit eighteen. I loved going to university because it was suddenly full of people from all different places and backgrounds who were interested in the same things as me, and keen to discover more. Discovering new and different things has only ever expanded my life. I have always struggled to understand the mindset that sees new, different things as threats.
Kevin: I’m a creature of habit. I’ve been involved in this type of loosely defined/tightly-knit scene in every country, city or town I’ve lived in. Clearly, there’s no money to be made by putting on music many find unlistenable or even incomprehensible. Even less playing it.
I have developed a perverse thrill from freaking out the normies and meeting the latest batch of weirdos, or reconnecting with the old heads. It’s its own reward.
Your upcoming gigs cover everything from art rock, drone and doom to noise rock and sludge punk. Does that reflect your own musical tastes, or do you look more for a certain attitude in how bands approach their music?
Emma: That pretty much does cover a large chunk of my music taste, but I’m also into stuff like Boards Of Canada-style electronica and trad. folk. I would say the main conscious drivers of decisions are maintaining a high level of quality and working with cool people with good attitudes. There’s no room for egos or treating people badly.
I draw the posters too, and they just reflect my own aesthetic and whatever I fancy drawing that day. A lot of them seem to feature sea creatures too.
We also have a local friend Sammy Clarke who puts on really great gigs in Margate as Art’s Cool, so we try to book things that are different to his events to not split the local audience (and have co-hosted some events together). Why compete when you can co-operate and collaborate and build something even stronger and better?
Kevin: We’re all over the shop. Genre is never an issue. But yes, we do appreciate a certain type of DIY ethic, and fearlessness in the acts we choose to promote.
You’ve put together a similarly diverse and exciting group of bands for August’s It Came From The Sea three-day festival. What are your ambitions for It Came From The Sea and who are you most looking forward to watching over the weekend?
Emma: I won’t pick any favourites. It Came From the Sea was a breeze to book. We booked our friends Sacred Son, Dawnwalker, Bismuth, Worst Witch and the Lowest Form, and then other cool bands that fitted the bill perfectly like Bodies On Everest, Lovely Wife, and Lumphammer got in contact really quickly to ask to play. I think the whole lineup took two days to finalise or something.
Kevin: I couldn’t be happier with the bill. A mix of bands I’ve seen and love with ones I’ve been wanting to see. Tickin’ a lot of boxes for me personally.
We’ve spoken before about how you want to promote bands outside of the usual white/straight/male demographic that dominates most heavy or guitar-based music. Why is it important to you to champion people who are marginalised within music and do you hope to build a similarly diverse audience for them?
Emma: It’s completely ridiculous that people even accept the idea that guitar music is a straight, white cis man’s game. Those guys are actually a minority of the population, 30-40% at best, yet no-one bats an eyelid if you have a gig lineup that is just wall-to-wall straight white boys. It’s seen as a norm, and it needs throwing in the bin.
There are so many other people whose talents and skills have been ignored over the years and are being ignored or dismissed now, and we need to make room for them.
I have struggled myself over the years with getting people to take me seriously and believe that I am genuinely into this music. It gets really exhausting and boring, and has probably played into my hesitation to play for people. Things are getting slightly better with representation and inclusivity, but slow change isn’t good enough.
It gets boring and exhausting as well sometimes to always have to be the killjoy who says “this thing you’re doing is harmful” or “you’re excluding people”, but nothing will ever change if everybody waits around for someone else to do the difficult or embarrassing stuff. Sometimes you just have to be embarrassed.
Kevin: I rarely notice these things. Partially, I’ll assume, because I’m white/straight/male. But mainly, I believe, because I am constantly surrounded by self-possessed/strong/talented female badasses.
What for you are the biggest challenges and frustrations as a promoter and what is it that makes it worthwhile going through those frustrations?
Emma: Just building something from nothing, I guess. We only started doing this in Margate around Easter, so we’re still in the “build it and they will come” stage. Just building up our audience and reputation, so people know we put on quality events and treat bands well. I always feel personally responsible and bad for bands if there’s no-one to watch them, like I’ve let them down. I want to provide quality music, and a quality audience full of enthusiasm to watch them. Or at least that’s the dream.
Kevin: Hmm… still working that one out. I’ll get back to ya.
For people coming down to It Came From The Sea, what are good places to check out in Margate for culture, food, drinks etc.?
Dreamland: historical fairground with rides and roller rink.
Turner Contemporary: Tate Modern type modern art museum on the seafront. Free entry and spectacular views!
Shell Grotto: eerie archaeological mystery
Cliffs: local institution with coffee, brunch food and second-hand records. Also do great haircuts.
Marmar: cafe and plant shop, beautiful interiors and do bubble tea.
101 Social Club: our other home apart from the Tom Thumb. Sourdough pizza and Italian wine. We’re holding the afterparty here.
Botany Bay: about 40 mins walk east of the town centre. Spectacular sandy beach with chalk monoliths.
Morelli’s (in Broadstairs): ice cream parlour that hasn’t changed in any way in my lifetime. Great ice cream.
Ramsgate and Broadstairs also have really great charity shops.
Kevin: All of the above…
Transmission Records, Cliftonville
Harbour Arms (pub on the harbour arm)
Cheesy Tiger (right next door to the Arms)
Scummy Beach (aka “dog-beach”), the bit behind the crumbling Lido complex and Walpole bay. Proper Margate scum fun.
If you had an unlimited budget and a time machine, which three bands (current or past) would you like to put on for a show?
Emma: Don’t tempt me with the what-ifs.
Kevin: Lemmy-era Hawkwind/Motörhead/Lemmy and Wendy O. Williams. Boom!
Finally, are there any upcoming Connect Nothing With Nothing gigs you’d like to highlight, or anything else you’d like to mention?
27th July – Beige Palace/Dead Kaczynski
17th August – Bloody Head/Honey Ride Me A Goat/Allfather
24th August – Sacred Son/Dawnwalker/Inevitable Daydream
25th August – Bismuth/Bodies On Everest/Bruxa Maria/Lovely Wife
26th August – The Lowest Form/WorstWitch/Lumphammer/Oriza
26th August – Afterparty: UKAEA/Mighty Lord Deathman/Toska Wilde
Our pals at Art’s Cool are also opening a new record shop and venue in Margate called Elsewhere. The Kickstarter will probably be finished by the time this is published, but check them out at https://elsewhere.community.
It Came From The Sea takes place
Words: Andrew Day