Gustavius Payne is an award winning Welsh artist, who is part of the Welsh Group artists collective, and has had his work exhibited in museums across Wales and around the world.
I moved from Georgetown in Merthyr Tydfil to the Gurnos with my family during the mid-1970s at the age of six. Our terraced house on John Street in Georgetown was soon demolished and the street was replaced with new bungalows.
By comparison our new home in the Gurnos was a delight; freshly painted walls and a bathroom with running water and two indoor toilets (our only toilet in Georgetown was outdoors, with no bathroom at all) and my sister and I now had our own bedrooms! The roads were quieter too, so I was allowed out the front, though told not to cross any roads. This new found freedom allowed me to explore the estate a little and eventually, as I grew older, to explore other areas of Merthyr too; our family didn’t have a car, so it was always by foot…unless I caught the bus.
There seemed to be fewer opportunities for young people compared to today. There were youth clubs associated with secondary schools (Penydre was okay but I’d never enter Bishop Hedley, that was my school and the last place I wanted to be in the evening!) and there were Christian centres like the Coffee Bar in the Gurnos (a small detached building next to the Old Peoples’ Complex). We were never going to be “converted” but we did meet a lot of good people, including the photographer Wally Waygood.
By the age of 14 my friend Steve and I had started a punk band and by the age of 15 we’d found our first proper rehearsal space and we’d recruited a proper drummer, with a proper drum kit! The rehearsal space was at Bethesda Arts Centre, which has since been demolished, where we also started a photography course with Wally. The course didn’t last long but we managed to get a “professional” photograph of the band done, with the band’s name burned into the actual photograph.
Well it seemed professional at the time.
When I was 16, and our guitarist and drummer were only 15 and 14, we played our first gig, supporting local punk rock stalwarts Foreign Legion (who are still going today!) on bonfire night 1985, at the Wesley Chapel Hall, Pontmorlais. At that time the venue was home to the Young Socialists; today it’s a furniture shop. I don’t remember too much but the gig must have gone okay because we played all our songs twice and I think one or two were played three times! Granted, we didn’t have a huge set list then. The audience was mostly made up of local Merthyr Tydfil skinheads (or the MTS as they were generally referred to on the streets). The few others in the audience included my father hiding at the back, who later at home said we were “just as good as that other band”, which, I think, was a compliment.
Our set eventually increased to be able to fill half an hour or more without repeat. We played a couple of charity nights with other local bands at Dollars Night Club; some may remember it as Tiffany’s – plastic palm trees and a sticky beer sodden carpet. We were all too young to drink and half of the band were too young to even enter a pub or club but that didn’t seem to matter; we were on the stage! The last great show I remember at Dollars was when Joe Strummer from The Clash came to town as part of the Rock Against the Rich Tour on 19th July 1988. And being close friends with the boys in Foreign Legion, who were the support band, a few of us even got in free by playing roadie. Today Dollars is the local town centre Argos shop… the stage area must be hidden deep in the store room there somewhere.
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