Artist News

Plan B apologises for Skrewdriver t-shirt in Shortlist cover shot

By | Published on Monday 23 July 2012

Plan B

Plan B has issued a statement over a t-shirt he is pictured wearing on the cover of last week’s Shortlist magazine, which some thought was imagery associated with Skrewdriver, the white power outfit that emerged in the late 1970s and which remains influential with far-right groups to this day, despite founder and frontman Ian Stuart Donaldson dying in a car accident in 1993.

On the magazine cover, which ironically bigs up Plan B’s political activities, the rapper, real name Ben Drew, is seen wearing a partially obscured t-shirt with a photo on it. Said photo includes a graffiti painted word that seemingly says ‘Skewdriver’ (the whole word isn’t visible), referencing the controversial neo-nazi band. Some then speculated that the man in the t-shirt photo was Screwdriver associate and convicted racist Nicky Crane.

Given that, as the Shortlist interview was so keen to state, Drew is known for being politically vocal, and given the political views he frequently vocalises, few actually thought that the rapper was trying to promote the far-right band or their controversial opinions. But nevertheless, people still wondered why exactly Plan B would want to put Skewdriver and one of the band’s associates onto the front page of one of the UK’s biggest magazines.

Except, he didn’t want any such thing, the 28 year old rapper having never previously heard of Skrewdriver. The man pictured on the t-shirt, as it happens, wasn’t Crane, but the brother of photographer Gavin Watson, who had posed for pictures in front of a graffitied wall.

As a fan of Watson’s photography, Drew had got permission to make t-shirts using his pictures for personal use, and had worn this one for the Shortlist photo shoot, not aware of what the word ‘Skrewdriver’ stood for. And presumably Shortlist’s photographer, designer and editor also didn’t realise the significance.

Anyway, Drew issued a statement this weekend, which has been published by The Quietus, explaining what happened. He writes: “I was ignorant to the existence of the band Skrewdriver. I don’t listen to music like that so I wouldn’t know the names of bands that make that music. I was wearing a t-shirt I created using a photograph from the photographer Gavin Watson’s book ‘Skins'”.

He continues: “I asked him if I could print shots from his book on to t-shirts. I made a number of these t-shirts. Gavin’s photos are relevant to me because they represent the demonised youth of the past. Just like my generation of young people are demonised in the media to all be hoodie wearing thugs and chavs so were the skinheads in the 80s”.

Clarifying who the man in the t-shirt photo is, he adds: “Most of the t-shirts I had made were of his brother. The boy on the image is Neville Watson. Neville is Gavin Watson’s brother. The graffiti behind him is graffiti. Neither Gavin nor Neville put it there; it was already there when Gavin took the photo. Gavin did not know I had printed that image on a t-shirt and I was not aware of the significance of it”.

And he concluded: “The minute I found out what the words on the t-shirt meant I was angry with myself for not questioning them. The t-shirt is not official nor is it on sale anywhere. It was of my own doing and therefore it is my mistake, but that is all it is”.