Thursday, June 07, 2012

Becoming Nancy

Becoming Nancy (2012) by Terry Roland is a coming of age/coming out novel set in late 1970s East Dulwich, where the author himself grew up.

The main character, David Starr, is growing up gay, listening to Blondie and preparing to play Nancy in a school production of Oliver. This is a pre-gentrification East Dulwich, with social life centred around places like the 'Lordship Lane Working Men's Club' (presumably a fictionalised Dulwich Working Mans Club which was at 110a Lordship Lane until 2001) and the Crystal Palace Hotel where the mods hang out (the real pub being the Crystal Palace Tavern). Various lost shops get mentioned like Chelsea Girl in Peckham and Follett's record shop in Lordship Lane - in real life the author has recalled in respect of Kate Bush that 'when Wuthering Heights was number one, I ran all the way to Folletts record shop in East Dulwich to copy the lyrics down off the back of the album cover'.

One key chapter 'A Moment of Unity' is set in the 1979 Rock Against Racism carnival in Brixton: 'Brockwell Park is awash with punks, Rastas, hippies, students and all sorts of homosexuals, male and female, under a seemingly endless canvas of azure sky'.

There were actually two big Rock Against Racism events in Brockwell Park in this period - on 24th September 1978, the bands included Aswad, Sham 69, Misty In Roots and Elvis Costello and The Attractions.  A year later on September 2nd 1979 the line up was Aswad, Stiff Little Fingers and Verdict.

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