Interview: Simon Lunkenheimer
Interview with Jonny Banger
We have been fans of his work for quite some time now: the bootlegging renaissance he sparked, the heartfelt community work and the notorious mega raves. He seems to be a creative with the right amount of integrity, a raver with a social conscience and a wit qualified to take up any debate. From early campaigns to raise awareness and visibility for the victims of unfair treatment through officials and accompanied press slurs to the more widely recognized NHS/Nike bootleg: Jonny Banger uses his resources and his D.I.Y. abilities to support the community in every way possible. So while things got worse for most, he helped setting up a food bank in his area and orchestrated a situationist-style protest against unjust governance actions through “The Covid Letters.” Here he was involving the most vulnerable, namely kids, and gave back to them big time! Banger is as notorious as it gets: easy to approach but hard to reach due to his immense work load. So we kept it thoroughly short with the questions.
STIGMA420: While Covid-19 is a disaster of it’s own, it is also accelerating the erosion of the National Health Service and the Brexit policies that are ongoing. Changing life all over the U.K. — making bad situations worse for the people. So in Sportsbanger manner you came up with a bootleg concept of social protest involving kids. Those who were constantly left behind in all the decision making. Can you quickly sum up the overall situation in London and the U.K.?
Jonny Banger: Everyone’s lockdown experience has been different. Some good, some really really bad. It’s easy getting lost in your own bubble, the food bank we set up at the local primary school is a good reality slap round the face. Shit is happening on your doorstep if you open your eyes. The area Haringey where we are has the fastest growing rate of unemployment in the country. The lockdown measures are coming to a close, with clubs said to open from 21st June. Everyone’s booking raves now, we’ll see how that pans out. Hopefully the promoters, clubs, agents, festivals, DJs remember the community they shouted about. Support local and share opportunity
The Covid Letters really hit the spot. We saw a lot of press coverage, there is an exhibition and the books are sold out. How do you feel about this and do you have another coup in the making?
The exhibition opened, closed, opened, closed. Think we managed to open for a total of 10 days. The lockdown letters are there but no-one can see them because they’re in lockdown lol. At least the artists got to see their work, it was amazing all the kids seeing their own work hanging. I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like it in a gallery or museum. Strangers were talking to each other like the smoking area at a rave and the place was full of hope, energy, laughs and joy. I’m so happy the exhibition found its home at the Foundling Museum, the first public art gallery and children’s charity in the UK since 1739. Jeremy Deller is a trustee there and invited me to show the work. It’s an important part of the social history of London and not many people know its story. The exhibition is going to another couple of places and the Science Museum have asked to archive the whole project in their collection. We self-published the book, it was so much work. It’s beautiful and the best thing I’ve done.
“I was born in the NHS. My mum worked for the NHS. The NHS tried to save my brother’s life. The NHS saved my life. The NHS saved my dad’s life. The NHS tried to save my mum’s life. The NHS saved my best friends life. The NHS saved my other best friend’s life.”
You said you are a raver and not an activist, and it again and again feels like an understatement. What got you here?
My mum and dad were my biggest influences without me knowing it. My dad worked for London Federation of Boys Clubs, inner city boxing and football for kids. After that it was his mates wholesale sports shop and warehouse, I didn’t realise it was all fake bootleg knockoffs. I loved working there, I was 11. My mum was a single parent mental health nurse for the NHS and died of leukaemia. From the age 14/15 I didn’t really have any parental guidance it was just me and my brother in the house, I could come and go as I please. I did work experience at a local record shop in Colchester and the elders there set me on the path of records, DJing and D.I.Y culture. I spent every night smoking round older mates flats, bedsits and sheds, listening to records, learning and observing. I don’t smoke now but I would say hip hop and pot saved my life. I’m a product of my environment and so is my work. Music got me here, everything I do comes from the sounds.
“Take pills and kick the Tories back to hell.” We really felt your contribution to TISSUE Magazine back in 2019. But in case the cannabis was super potent, would a spliff also suffice to spark a revolution (of joy)?
Ecstasy and weed changed the world. More sparks, more revolution, more joy.
Channeling the spirits of a thousand of subversive approaches, Jonny Banger aka Sportsbanger is once again blessing us with his very humane insights. Using his time to (re-)appropriate the means of branding while also sparking fraternal love within us through action. From early on he showed solidarity towards the mistreated through his bootlegging campaigns. Raising funds and awareness on a regional level with world wide recognition. All this while being “just a raver” — not a politician, not a self-proclaimed saviour, not a woke star — just a human being filled with compassion and the guts to act on it.