Dunstan Bruce

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Words by Kairen Kemp

Dunstan Bruce performer, writer and political agitator was looking sharp as ever when we met. His appearance links with his creditability. “I want to be visible and people to see that I’ve not given up because I’m getting older …. I don’t wear jeans, I don’t wear trainers and I don’t wear t-shirts. That’s just my thing – it ties in with what I’m saying with my music”. Most first became aware of Bruce as part of anarcho punk band Chumbawumba. Formed in Burnley in 1982, they’re probably best known for their 1997 single ‘Tubthumping’, which was nominated for Best British Single at the 1998 Brit Awards where singer Danbert Nobacon threw the contents of an ice bucket over the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Their first single in 1985, when what they were saying politically was more important than the music, took off when John Peel championed it. Then they realised that “there was a whole world out there …. We stopped doing the shouty, confrontational music so we could get our message across with harmonies and melodies to gain a wider audience”. 

Leaving Chumbawumba after twenty years left him with the feeling of not knowing what to do, becoming a house husband for a few years. “I was uncertain about my place in the world. I wasn’t in a good place. I felt miserable and lost” The music of John Grant inspired him to get writing again and the band Interrobang was born. “The first album was full of misery but the three years of writing it was really cathartic … there I was performing all these songs about being a grumpy curmudgeon and being lost but I’d sorted all that out”

From there he became involved in film making through working with The Levellers and Sham 69 documenting their tours ; learning his trade on the job. This led to his film about Chumbawumba ‘I Get Knocked Down’ exploring “what can you achieve when a political band enters the mainstream; can you make a difference, can you change the world, to ask all those questions?” The one man show ‘Am I Invisible Yet’ emerged from the song of the same name on the first Interrobang album and from spoken performance he’d developed on tour. With friends Sophie Robinson (director) and actor/producer Tom Dussek he has a backup ‘crew’ but it is still a one man show. It is “about stepping outside my comfort zone like actually doing it. I really got into it and really enjoy doing it”.

Now ‘I Get Knocked Down’ is finished and he’s coming to the end of the run of ‘Am I Invisible Yet?’  Sophie and he have undertaken a completely new challenge of turning the show into a television drama comedy series. Watch this space …

“What drives me on is I judge my worth by what I’ve achieved” he says and with this level of passion for his work that journey will be a long and productive one. 

IG: @dunstanbruce

Steven Graham
Author: Steven Graham

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