Saf­fiyah Khan on tour with The Specials

In Europe with Coventry’s finest, 39 years on, and their newest member: Saffiyah Khan.

On 8th April 2017, after a counter-demon­stra­tion out­side Birm­ing­ham Library, Saf­fiyah Khan went viral. A pho­to­graph of her cool­ly star­ing down a rant­i­ng Eng­lish Defence League goon was shared round the world. The Spe­cials t-shirt she was wear­ing also brought her to the atten­tion of the vet­er­an ska band. Recog­nis­ing a kin­dred spir­it – defi­ant, uncom­pro­mis­ing, anti-racist – they offered Khan con­cert tick­ets. Next came a writ­ing and vocal gig on their first new album in two decades, Encore, fol­lowed by a slot on their tour.

As bass play­er Horace Pan­ter said: Most young peo­ple don’t think about pol­i­tics, but Saf­fiyah real­ly is at the cut­ting edge of some­thing. She is doing [all this], where­as the major­i­ty of peo­ple her age have got their heads stuck in their mobile phone, tak­ing self­ies.” Not entire­ly true, but Khan is of a polit­i­cal­ly-active gen­er­a­tion, intent, as she put it, on sav­ing pub­lic areas such as libraries, schools and health ser­vices”. We enlist­ed the activist, mod­el and pho­tog­ra­ph­er to doc­u­ment The Spe­cials’ cur­rent Euro­pean tour. Too much too young? No such thing.

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: The cater­ing on tour can bright­en up your whole day. This chef and her veg­eta­bles def­i­nite­ly did.”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: Steve (band man­ag­er) tuck­ing into some scran back­stage, look­ing fright­ened. Peo­ple don’t appre­ci­ate sur­prise flash while they eat.”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: The venue was right in the mid­dle of the Reeper­bahn, the red light dis­trict. This coin­ci­dence devel­oped fur­ther the next day in Ams­ter­dam, and to a sus­pi­cious lev­el when our next hotel in Paris was between two sex shops.”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: This venue is rich in char­ac­ter and his­to­ry. The club beneath it, Kaiserkeller was the loca­tion of an icon­ic ear­ly Bea­t­les 40 day run from 4/10/1960, where they were expect­ed to play 6/​7hrs every night of the week. Back when the posters had to say Bea­t­les-Eng­land-Liv­er­pool’”.

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: The view from the front door. I walked 10 mins away to FC St. Pauli which is the local foot­ball club inter­na­tion­al­ly renowned for its anti-racist stance and its exten­sive work with refugees. I bought some scarves – that fea­ture in oth­er pho­tos – for my pals back home. Pil­grim­age complete.”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: Niko­laj Larsen (key­boards, accor­dions and every­thing in-between), pre-show rep­ping the cus­tom tour kit. He and Horace duck-taped immi­grant’ on the back of this shirt one night. On his right, Nick (key­board tech).”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: Left, Steve Cradock (gui­tar and fel­low Brum­my), right, Horace Pan­ter (bassist and cre­ator of the stage art fea­tured in back­ground). The stage design was metic­u­lous­ly hand paint­ed and organ­ised by Horace and Ter­ry to look like protest placards.”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: Left, Tim Smart (trom­bone), right, Pablo Man­del­son (trum­pet). Look­ing excit­ed pre-show.”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: Lyn­val Gold­ing behind the cur­tain, pre-show, with noto­ri­ous enthu­si­asm. Behind, Mike (tour man­ag­er) not look­ing as enthused, but hap­py on the inside I’m sure.”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: Ken­rick Rowe behind the cur­tain, pre-show.”

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: Lyn­val Gold­ing being led to the encore in the dark. His eye­sight isn’t great but you would nev­er guess when he’s on stage.”

Ham­burg @ Grosse­frei­heit 36: After the show, Tim, Pablo, Lyn­val get­ting bevvied.”

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: This is what most morn­ings look like. The crew is busy from when the venue opens (around 11am), mov­ing all kit/​instruments/​merch from the van on the right dri­ven by the dar­ling Tim Hop­wood (pic­tured below). Our tour bus is on the left.”

Ams­ter­dam @ par­adiso: Tim – van dri­ver extraordinaire/​all round top lad/​chairman of the Duck Lib­er­a­tion Front (pic­tured below).”

Ams­ter­dam Day off: Var­i­ous mem­bers (both veg­an and pet-duck-own­ers) found a com­mon dis­gust at the pre­sen­ta­tion of grilled whole ducks in win­dows of restau­rants. We formed the Duck Lib­er­a­tion Front. Com­plete with salute. Top left: Mari­na (mon­i­tor engi­neer), top mid­dle: Josh (gui­tar tech), top right: Tim (van dri­ver), bot­tom left: Jess (reprobate),bottom right: James (assis­tant to TM and SM).”

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: Lyn­val Gold­ing shred­ding. As yet I’m still unclear whether it was weird to be in the crowd after I per­form every night. Hey, they’re one of my favourite bands, imag­ine get­ting free tick­ets to their gigs every night. I have no cool.”

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: By the time I fin­ish my DJ set, per­form my song and have a dance in the crowd, I feel a lot like this lady’s eyes.”

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: Hang­ing out with the bins of par­adise, face like a slapped arse.”

Ams­ter­dam day off: All the crew and some friends in a punk bar.”

Ams­ter­dam day off: Bike, check, wind­mill, check, mid-fart, unconfirmed.”

Ams­ter­dam day off: When in Rome.”

Ams­ter­dam day off: A close mate, Jess, came to hang out for the three days we were in Ams­ter­dam. She stage invad­ed from the crowd dur­ing my DJ set. Jess is trouble.”

Ams­ter­dam day off: On Tony the bus driver’s tour bus.” 

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: “@luxuriousthomas was the tour videographer.”

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: Me, glow­ing red, doing my song. Ter­ry on the dub.”

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: Lyn­val jack­et Golding.”

Ams­ter­dam @ Par­adiso: How I feel when I get to the bus after two days of gigs and being sil­ly in Ams­ter­dam, about to leave for Paris overnight.”

Saf­fiyah is rep­re­sent­ed by Elite London.

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