Exeter Punks The Cut Ups have been writing politically charged anthems since 2004 but it’s been some time since I’ve heard one quite as direct as their latest single ‘Thomas Orchard Is No Longer Around’ lifted from their newly released 4th album ‘The Nerves’ available from Banquet Records.
The story of Thomas Orchard is truly tragic; the 32 year old church caretaker had a relapse in his mental health in 2012 and was arrested by police on the morning of October 3rd on suspicion of a public order offence. At the Heavitree Road Police Station (Exeter) he was restrained, pinned down and had a large fabric webbing belt put across his face. Officers then left Thomas face down in his locked cell, when they returned 12 minutes later Thomas had suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. 4 years on and the court case is still ongoing, with no punishments yet for the 3 police accused of being responsible for Thomas’ death.
I caught up with The Cut Ups front man Jon Curtis and asked him what motivated him to write about Thomas Orchard:
‘A couple of things really. The depressing reality of members of the police force who don’t know/don’t want to know how to help people with mental health issues, to the extent that their actions led to/caused the death of someone in their care. But also the narrative of a person who’s life changed so dramatically so quickly, and the sad reality of that story.’
He continued ‘With this song I want to acknowledge the anger amongst citizens here who hope/expect/need police officers to be just and honourable, but most of all the fact that Thomas Orchard should have been helped, but instead he got the opposite, when he most needed it’.
And here lies the distinction between The Cut Ups and so many other punk bands, writing an anti-police song is nothing new in the genre but whilst acknowledging the anger this situation creates Jon instead writes from a place of compassion and empathy with the victim where so many of his peers would focus on hatred for the police responsible.
Nothing The Cut Ups do is without thought and that is certainly true of the video that accompanies this new single, Jon tells us the thinking behind it:
‘We wanted to track Thomas’ journey, as a reminder of him as a local person. This wasn’t a story only viewed through other media but one we were all involved in. I walked that same journey the same morning he died, I heard the police sirens – essentially this was the death of one of us, by one of us. And the idea evolved from there. And I guess that method of filming with a handheld 360 degree camera on my own (apart from two cameos) Highlights how Thomas Orchard was completely on his own too.’
The video was created by and starred Jon Curtis himself, making it quite possibly the most DIY Punk video of all time.
While many in Exeter still hope to see some form of justice served against the police officers responsible, one thing is certain no matter what happens thanks to this newest single from The Cut Ups we will never forget the name of ‘Thomas Orchard’
Taken from The Cut Ups 4th album ‘The Nerves’ Available now via Banquet Records.
Written by Hena Larkin