“All teenagers rebel against their parents, we were no different,” says O’Neill, “We loved this new music that was emerging with its outrageous sense of style. It was exciting, dangerous but most of all, fun. That’s what drew us together. Not caring to ask what religion your new found friends were was almost a byproduct of the music.”
The divisionary aspect of religion lost out in a manner to the unitary nature of music and within this new environment, created by the songs of SLF and the Undertones and those featured on the Spit Records compilations, teens could create a future for themselves, independent of the one their birthplace dictated.
O’Neil’s future was as a chronicler of the people populating this new environment. Interest in the stories in the book led to interest in the music behind the stories.
“When compiling the book I had obviously spoken to lots of people from old Northern Ireland punk and New Wave bands and quite a lot of these people had unreleased demo recordings of their old band. I thought that it would be a good idea to release a compilation of these tracks, as almost a companion to the book if you like,” says O’Neill “Lots of these bands were mentioned in the book but unless you saw them live at the time, you had little chance of actually hearing what they sounded like. These compilation albums became Shellshock Rockers Vols 1 & 2. My aim with the label was to unearth previously unreleased recordings by Northern Ireland bands and issue them on limited run CD or vinyl. It is a way of archiving the material and also sharing it.”
The label is an ongoing concern, issuing not just rare and unreleased original punk bands but also bands currently active.
The Warzone is also an ongoing concern. Although there have been difficulties across its history, the ideas behind the Collective have remained strong and relevant. Changing the world is exhausting and many quit, many too, leave for a variety of reasons, but not Bleakney.
“Belfast was always home, and I am so glad I stayed, because look at it now,” she says, “For me, I stayed and learned and grew in confidence and raised a son and set up a business and now, at 50, I’m still involved in vegan activism and have a vegan food business, all while being surrounded by loving friends I have had since the days of Giros. I have travelled a lot, but leaving for me was never even a thought. . . I had far too much going for me in the fantastic city,”
“Why break away from a place that you love and where all your raw material is?” he says.