Neil Trelford | Interview
Author: The Youth Club
By Conor O’Neill • Photography: Tremaine Gregg
On the release of his first book The Youth Club, Antrim boy Neil Trelford tells of his summer of love, violence, glue, climbing trees, pot-noodles, headers and volleys, early blossoms of love/lust and most importantly his first encounter and then fastidious embrace of everything Mod.
If the Mod slant doesn’t grab you, never mind; his fish-eye renditions and memories of little details like Mother’s Pride loaves, the Maine Lemonade Man and the milkman collecting his weekly dues all set against the backdrop of the Troubles in early 80s provincial Northern Ireland should whet your whistle.
Now 45 and with plenty of time to configure the early memories, Neil kindly gave half an hour of his time to speak with CultureHUB. He sounds jovial and a man at ease with himself. As to how he got to writing the book, “I looked around and saw there was nothing telling the story of my time. I almost approached it with a Trainspotting mentality.”
Anyone lucky enough to read the book will see slight traits of Irvine Welsh’s approach to nitty-gritty realism with plenty of laughs into the barrel. Trelford’s imagination doesn’t shy as we’re introduced to many characters, an eclectic mix that fuel the fun and frolics of growing up.
The book is not all rose-tinted idealistic memories though. A stabbing and the still born birth of a mate’s kid stamp a note of authority and stark realism. I ask, ‘Was Antrim as challenging at the time as how you tell it? “Very much so, the two episodes you’ve mentioned did happen and as young kids we sort of lost a bit of our childhoods at that time.” Spending most of his formative years hanging round with those older than him, the HUB asks did he find himself growing up too fast? “I think I did miss a bit of what might be called a ‘normal’ childhood but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.”
One stand-out and lol scene is Trelford’s first viewing of Quadrophenia with two Originals, leads nicely to the next question: ‘Do you think that Mod is an oxymoron?’ (Mod is short for modernism, started in the early 60s and revived in the late 70s.), Neil answers: “Mod and many other scenes have become timeless, probably helped by technology. In my day what happened in the sixties was a lifetime ago. Our era had The Jam, Secret Affair and the Lambrettas to name but a few bands, then in the 1990’s it came again with the likes of Ocean Colour Scene and Oasis. They’re all very working-class and about the style, the power element of the guitars and telling your story, so I think it’s new generations adding their twist on what’s already there. I suppose one could call it that, but if you look at the punk scene there’s all sorts of off-shoots, like Blink 182, you’ll see a progression. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the punk scene and 2019 will see the Mod revival anniversary which will influence a new bunch of kids.” Neil adds, “One of my favourite songs of recent years is the Libertines ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ which took elements of Mod and Punk and mixed them together.”
The Youth Club as a book enjoys the mix of lots of sub-groups, be they the Originals, Antrim Mods, The Team, the Mass Generation Mods – basically Mods in fashion only – teamed with new-wave proper Mods such as The Parkhall Mods, The Stiles Mods and Neil’s wee group The Munchkins. Chuck in Punks, Rockers, Teds, Skins and what we would now call Hoods, tension seemed to be round every corner. “I think there was a lot of tension and a lot of disrespect, the Mass Generation Mods were just there for the fashion and girls, the ‘I’m a Mod because you’re a Mod’ mentality. We had no respect for them. The Originals who brought the culture to us were so old and had day jobs and kids; they thought we didn’t get it. It wasn’t so much as in-fighting as a sort of friendly banter.”
As for the backdrop of the Troubles, which features very little in the book, Trelford says, “I think that it was conscious or subconscious, but we were fortunate enough to escape that, we were fortunate enough to be far away from that. My father was a fireman in the midst of it all and he sort of shielded us from that. The idea of being away from that give us a chance to enjoy growing up because we were somewhat alienated from that.”
Whatever you think of Trelford’s book, you’ll find a story well worth a reading. Genuine fella, true story, even if it didn’t fit into one summer.
You can purchase a copy of The Youth Club HERE