Words and Photos by Ollie

Virginia Is
For Lovers

Ok, so I’m 16 and getting punched the face by a guy twice my size. This was not your usual kind of punch – this is a punch that you both look at each other afterwards and laugh about. ‘Dude! I just clocked you right in the face’, ‘ha, I know man! It was fucking rad!’ – Sounds like unusual behaviour right? Well, this was my youth. I was involved in hardcore punk in my late teens, and this kind of behaviour was… well, it was normal. Here, a punch in the face meant ‘I Love you man, you’re family’. The blood running down your face was something to laugh about or bond over. It was all very tribal and simple – nothing to be ashamed of - just a bit unusual. I think it was a way of stroppy teenagers getting their frustrations out. This particular punch which I remember very well happened to the soundtrack of the straight-edge hardcore band from Virginia called ‘Down To Nothing’.

Sleeve for Splitting Headache (EP) by Down To Nothing, 2005

Fast forward ten years and I’m on a plane to that very Virginia. I’m originally from Essex in the UK, and this was the furthest I had ever been from home. I was visiting a state which I would sing about at gigs in my teenage years – ‘Richmond, always on top, swinging off ropes, flying out trees, jumping off bridges, pony pasture cuts our knees’. Time to see it in the flesh, would it be as idealistic as Dave from Down To Nothing wrote? The lyrics struck me when I was younger; I hated where I was from and longed to move and take all my best mates with me. The song is about the love of your friends making the most of where you are from – something I was always trying to do.

My plane to Charlottesville, VA

I landed in Charlottesville, VA at an interesting time. VA is 'for Lovers' (so the slogan for the state claims) and I am there just a few weeks after the putrid right-wing demonstration that happened in the Summer of ’17. The streets were tense with love and recovery. When the wounds of a place are healing they work hard and fast to recover. This town was healing, and the plasters came in the form of signs, placards, speeches – a series of graphic symbols and messages spreading pure unadulterated Love. Charlottesville wasn’t just nice it was 'lovely'.

Some Charlottesville locals in the street

I met lots of kind people in Charlottesville, all of them very far from the right wing – This is a liberal left leaning university town. It is a shame that people might be able to imagine the opposite just because of what they have heard in the news. The locals seemed frustrated by this. The demonstration was attended by people that weren't even from VA. I’ve never really been a man who believes in slogans – the array of ‘keep calm’s and carry on’s’ that seem to force us into some sense of false enjoyment can feel somewhat exhausting. But saying that, this ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ thing seems to ring true. I asked Virginians what they thought about the slogan, and it became clear that the slogan is about loving everything from their craft or practice to the people around them. Just like the lyrics by Dave, the people were interested in the state where they were currently living. The I met people were passionate – passionate about love. Especially Harold who spoke me through his favourite dating apps…

Sunset in Charlottesville, VA

At the end of my time in Virginia, I found myself at a party at a cider orchard on a mountain. This was a place with a real sense of identity. The nature, the craft, the people all become something to celebrate in a time of hardship. The community, un-torn by hate, were all dancing and singing in unison as the sun was setting and it reminded me that love comes in many forms: A glass of cider, an invitation to dance or a slogan t-shirt. All types of love are to be enjoyed as long as they are delivered genuine respect – and yes, even a punch can be okay in the right context...

Pillow Talk is a string of sweet nothings between , the design collective. More about us at lovers.co


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