Claire Mahoney reviews the limited edition Ready Steady Girls book, which is devoted to the women of the mod scene.
It’s quite incredible that there has never been a single book devoted entirely to the women who were part of the mod movement. So, when the publication of ‘Ready Steady Girls’ was announced earlier this year, it was met with a collective ’bout bloody time’ amongst us women.
It was, after all, primarily male authors and pundits that have until now have made up the majority books, articles and magazines that have chronicled mod’s influence over the last 50 years and any reference to mod in the mainstream media would usually be made up of images of parka clad boys getting their strides dirty throwing deck chairs around.
So, at last, we can discuss what we have known all along – that mod meant just as much to women as the men and it played an important role in helping women defy gender stereotypes. I was fortunate enough to be asked to write a short foreword for the book where I was able to put my own feelings on the subject down on paper, but the book’s concept and compilation came about through the work of a trio of writers, albeit male ones, that have already gained credence within ‘the scene’ – Ian Snowball, Jason Brummell and Mark Baxter.
All were keen that ‘Ready Steady Girls’ was not going to simply be a book about women by men and once you turn the cover its clear they have achieved just that. The book is almost entirely made up of quotes and comments and photographs from a range of female contributors – from the 6os through to the present day.
We get perspectives on mod from those who discovered it in the last few years to those for whom it has been part of their lives for well over quarter of a century. We also hear from mods living in Europe and mods on the other side of the Atlantic whose non-British experience offers a different take on this most stylish of subcultures. Homage and reference is also made to the likes of Mary Quant and Twiggy plus its great to be able to read some personal accounts from 60s It-girl and dancer Sandy Sarjeant about her days on Ready Steady Go and her nights at The Flamingo.
As well as the many stories the book is packed full of great pictures – some better quality than others – mainly due to age. It is a shame, however, that the book doesn’t put names and dates next to the people who tell its stories, as it would be nice to put faces to names and eras. In the same vein it is the really personal narratives that stand-out when the book becomes something of a sea of soundbites.
The section entitled: The Young Mods Forgotten Story by Sandra Hutchinson is probably the book’s most poignant chapter. Born in Middlesborough in 1967, Mod and its music Sandra writes, offered her a world away from the harsh realities of life in at the end of the 70s and early 80s. But not only that, it it provided her with an environment in which she could express herself without being restricted by her gender. She took her cues from the original mods girls in those blurry black and white pics seldom seen against the more mainstream version of female mod style with its flouncy hair and go go boots.
This chimed with me, how mod provided a ‘safe haven’ for self-expression that I thought was just a product of the climate of the 80s. But then you read the stories from women such as Gill Evans and Maria Veall, Val Weedon, who have been devoted to the ‘scene’ since the 60s and you see the story then was very similar. Mod was an outlet – it gave them a freedom to be themselves, a freedom to dress for themselves and a freedom to dance completely by themselves! Long live the Ready Steady Girls!
Ready Steady Girls is published by Mono Media Publishing and is priced at £20.