The original Futuramas were a series of groundbreaking and innovative post punk and electronic music festivals in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They were the brainchild of one-man, John Keenan, a legendary Leeds promoter who has put thousands of bands on over 40 years at his famous F (Fan) Club. In 1979, he decided to create a 2-day festival at the Queens Hall in Leeds, he put on all his favourite up and coming bands and make it the first alternative indoor festival in Britain. Nearly all of Britain’s most important and influential independent bands played these festivals, many of them went onto considerable success in Britain, Europe and the US!
The roll call reads like the greatest who’s who of alternative music, it includes Joy Division, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, PiL, Killing Joke, Teardrop Explodes, Bauhaus, The Fall, Gang of Four, Sisters of Mercy, Theatre Of Hate, Psychedelic Furs & even a fledgling U2! The Futurama festivals caught the zeitgeist perfectly. They not only put on many female fronted bands including Siouxsie and the Banshees, Young Marble Giants, Bow Wow Wow & Altered Images but also many of the new wave of electronic & synthesizer acts including OMD, Soft Cell, Cabaret Voltaire, Simple Minds, Clock DVA & Vice Versa who later became ABC.
“Asylums with doors open wide, where people had paid to see inside” Atrocity Exhibition by Joy Division
“The atmosphere’s strange. Out on the town. Music for pleasure” Wardance by Killing Joke
POST PUNK PLAYLIST 1979 – 1983
What made these festivals so remarkable was they mirrored the explosion in youth subcultures, tribalism and the most outlandish clothes and haircuts this country has ever seen. People had no money but as a reaction to the dark times, they started to dress up. The early to mid 80’s was the most incredible period for both music and fashion. Post punk, new wave, goth and new romantic tribes were born and the northern cities of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool became hot beds of talent and creativity. The Futurama is coming back in 2021 as a celebration of a 40 year anniversary but also because there are so many new bands & fans who are heavily into and totally inspired by the 80’s post punk sound and look. Dark guitars, together with experimental sounds and weird electronic music resonates once again. It’s not been easy to survive in the music industry during these dystopian times but knock the scab off and scratch below the surface, you will inevitably discover a thriving underground…the lifeblood of any music scene!
“This is the happy house. We’re happy here in the happy house” Happy House by Siouxsie and the Banshees
“Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow…see those pagans go go go” Floorshow by Sisters of Mercy
GOTH & POSITIVE PLAYLIST 1979 -1983
Another element to the festival, is the heightened awareness of the current political and environmental issues in the world today that repeats the gloom and general insecurity that gave rise to punk and post punk in the first place! The late 1970’s and early 80’s were a terrible time in Britain politically and economically. Thatcher was destroying communities creating terrible unemployment and the threat of nuclear war hung in the air. Strangely, it was a remarkable time for the British music scene which saw an explosion of new musical ideas and dynamic sounds that created post punk and the new wave of synthesized electronica. Punk kick started the revolution but post punk was the driving force behind the British and Irish independent music scene that became one of the most exciting periods in our social and popular culture. 40 years later we are the living proof that being independent is a way of life and at every opportunity we need to celebrate our DIY ethos!
“He fills his head with culture. He gives himself an ulcer” At Home He Feels Like A Tourist by Gang of Four
“You don’t have to be strange to be strange. You don’t have to be weird to be weird” Totally Wired by the Fall
ELECTRONIC & SYNTH PLAYLIST 1979 -1983
In 2019 Marc Jones, a Liverpool promoter, who went to the original Futuramas, approached John Keenan to bring it back in 2020 after a 40-year absence. Unfortunately, the pandemic and subsequent lock down put pay to that as it has to everything else in 2020! However, with what is happening in the world today with COVID-19, Extinction Rebellion and global warming, democracy protests, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Brexit, Putin and Trump – it seems very similar to the political uncertainty and anxiety of that Thatcher / Reagan era. There is a growing awareness and sense of injustice that the ruling elites are making an unholy mess of our world. We are truly living in a dystopian nightmare where cries of fake news and propaganda resonate. Big Brother is not just watching you he’s dancing at the disco, taking selfies with you right now and selling your data to the highest bidder as soon as the download button is pressed!
“Been in a daze for days, people rolling ’round on your carpet, biting wool & pulling string” Villiers Terrace by the Bunnymen
“But me and you we know better…It’s only propaganda! We’re leading wonderful lives” Propaganda by Theatre Of Hate
HIT THE NORTH PLAYLIST 1979 – 1983
Once again…the oddballs, the weirdos, the rebels and the misfits are returning as a reaction to everything going on. Many have had enough of corporate & capitalist bullsh*t and want something different. With the return of the Futurama 2021 we hope to inspire the next generation of the square pegs in round holes. To become a catalyst for creativity and ingenuity, to flout convention and produce new music, record labels, blogs, fanzines, photography and street art. The festival is a collision of the music and ideas of the past with the shock of the new. Always forward looking…Welcome to the new Futurama!
“So I began the crossing, my throat burned dry…searching for Satori” Kick In The Eye by Bauhaus
“You never listen to a word that I said, you only see me for the clothes that I wear” Public Image by Public Image Ltd
This Charming Man (not according to the Smiths)…John F Keenan Leeds 1985