We are UNcollective

by James McColl

We are UNcollective Artwork

We are UNcollective Artwork: Credit We are UNcollective

Poetry and music for the masses –the upcoming punk poetry night at Underground, Plymouth (8pm, 5th of November) is sure to be a night to remember. With spoken word performances and music from punk legends Attila The Stockbroker and TV Smith (of The Adverts fame), alongside local poets Alexander Rhodes and T.S. Idiot, the We Are Uncollective organised night shows how far the collective has come in a relatively short amount of time.

We Are Uncollective is a South West based arts collective and has thrived in the post-uni slump some experience in the years following graduation. Consisting of a diverse group of talented individuals that includes painters, filmmakers, poets and musicians, We Are Uncollective has made a name for itself curating events across the region. The collective has organised spoken word nights, music gigs, workshops, the Langaland Festival (We Are Uncollective’s very own festival, now in its second year) and has even started a record label, ‘Unrecords’ that will be hosting the upcoming punk night at Underground.

Their ‘DIY’ approach is more than mere aesthetic, having slowly built the art collective of bored teenagers and creative art students from Falmouth bedrooms during the collective’s infant years, Thomas Stockley, AKA T.S. Idiot, the mainstay member and spoken word poet Stockly explains,

“We just thought, let’s just do it ourselves. Let’s get our mates that are in bands, our mates that do video projections and our mates that are poets to start putting on these little nights…and we started doing kind of cabaret style events”

Moving from Falmouth to Devon has been one of many important steps for the collective, and one that Stockley is determined won’t slow the collective’s progress, “there’s some really important stuff going on in Devon and Cornwall that [we] never want to be too far away from”. Though the group has moved and regularly goes through member changes, the lasting impression of the collective is clear. It’s for everyone and anyone who wants to be involved. “Art can be very cliquey…that’s why we’re called [We Are] Uncollective. [There’s] so many art collectives and it gets so cliquey in [these] very exclusive little groups of artists and we want to exist as the kind of in-between people”.

Performance piece We Are UNcollective

We are UNcollective

Langaland festival We are UNcollective

Langaland festival We are UNcollective

The upcoming poetry night alongside punk legends TV Smith and Attila the Stockbroker, is a milestone for the spoken word poet and the collective, “to start getting people that are recognising this nationally is a fairly new thing, it’s something we’re learning to do…the money side of it as well, Attila is amazing, and TV Smith, ‘cause they haven’t lost that punk thing. They will go on just commission…” The punk ethos goes beyond performance and impacts business and finance. It is a mindset that reaches across everything We Are Uncollective do, not just the stage. You can see this impact in We Are Uncollective’s work, having learnt from previous encounters with indie bands and promoters. It is telling that their biggest creative venture to date, Langaland Festival, is a charitable event.

“[Punk] is a really good bridge between artists and the rest of the population, because punk is very political and very down to earth with the whole DIY thing. It’s just about normal everyday people doing quite amazing stuff with what they have”.

Stockley is keen to continue his own practice despite what can be large financical obstacles. This is true of all collective members who are encouraged to continue working on their practices while still a part of We Are Uncollective. Stockley’s own practice has at times, taken a back seat to the collective, yet his personal accomplishments shouldn’t be dismissed. His lock key brand of localism humour and critic gives his work a contemporary edge that is refreshing to see.


We are UNcollective

We are UNcollective

“I started out four years ago writing very, what I thought, painfully honest and abstract poetry, and it went down alright, but I realised the more I did it that I wanted to entertain people and to make them think a little bit, by having those humorous poems, and some things are a little bit more local.” The humour and politics in Stockley’s work creates a direct link to his punk peers. Humour is an integral element for much of punk (especially spoken word), yet punk is rarely thought of in this way. He continues “That’s the only trap of it. It’s a very evoking word. If you say punk, people are like, ‘What Sex Pistols, Clash, all of that? For me it’s more about the attitude towards it and the humour. Little things that artists and punk musicians have done over the years especially in poetry, is really funny”.

Always looking ahead, We Are Uncollective and Stockley have bigger plans for the future and don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. We Are Uncollective continues to evolve and cut out its own space within the art world, “The whole point is that we’re everywhere and everyone at any one time, we’ll never go away. We’ll go quiet maybe, and we’ll change and different people will come in and out, but I’ve set it up in a way that we’re not centralised, we’ve got nothing that can topple us”.