by Bodwyn Wook
The Firm, by Jocelyn Hogg, reveals an English, and not a ‘British’, substratum, to-day criminal, that is at once eternal and yet has never been adequately comprehended by historians. It is older than Robin Hood and the 1970 film, Get Carter, as yet has not been exceeded in its film portrayal of English underworld…’firmness’. In photography, though, Hogg has produced a masterwork.
It is an unexampled peep into the world of a contemporary ‘British’ or ‘UK’ gang; or, rather, an English brotherhood. The fact that many shown in The Firm seemingly are Welsh is simply not the point; this brotherhood holds to an old English creed. Some not-inapposite search terms of course are: The Firm; Hogg, Jocelyn Bain; pervs; slashers; layabouts; YOBs; twackers; unheralded new aristocracy; paedos; heirs of medieval warrior tradition; neo-feudalism; CHAVs. Not that the men and women and children shown merit — and certainly none aspire to — all of these epithets: they would doubtlessly do anyone very badly who called any of them either ‘perv’ or ‘paedo’. And about their only interest in CHAVs and layabouts and YOBs is to get the latters’ benefit money from off of them as soon as possible in return for the stolen bling, or motorbikes I daresay, or drugs.
Altogether, in The Firm are shown the heirs of a medieval warrior tradition that reaches back into the nighttime of Northern Europe; perhaps they are neo-feudatories.
They are in any case ‘the firm’, firm in their pledges to each other, and more than firm with anyone who breaks ranks, or with any hapless intruders from outside: rivals, functionaries of the state, the otiose and obtuse.
Jocelyn Hogg asserts the diverting thesis that the bravos portrayed therein, and ‘their’ females and offspring, all members of The Firm, are in fact the same phenotype who find utterly no place in to-day’s postmodern English or ‘British’ nanny state, and its professionalised diagnostic way of existence. To Hogg the Englishmen who are The Firm are rather the proud, sometimes brutal and always lively and bouncy, but now-thwarted, heirs of traditions of chivalric and empire violence. I see in the images shown in Hogg’s book not the thousands on thousands of Oxbridge middleclass dead on the Somme — instead, these are the sons and daughters and grandchildren of the working men of Dunkirk.
There is also displayed in any case lots of tattoos and laddish rearing and roaring, and much jack vancean thrusting forth of massive bellies charged with beer. But we need to understand that these are the unknown English. Perhaps they are at bottom as well unknowable, but I happen to think we are on the track when once we realise that they are those English who have never been touched inwardly by the christian tragedy. They are those English who are immemorially pagan and always will be dionysian.
But if this is the England you mean, then yes:
There will always be an England.
The Firm, by Jocelyn Hogg, is published by ‘Westzone’ in hardcover (London, 2001).
[all rights reserved & all others revert to holders
[8 March 2010]