Image: first issue of Ripped And Torn created by Tony Drayton
Like myself, Ross Millard wasn’t old enough to witness punk rock’s cultural explosion of music, politics and fashion first hand. However, his involvement in a new exhibition in Sunderland shows that the DNA of punk rock still runs deep within him.
From its French Situationist roots to the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols, Sunderland Museum & Library’s Punk 1976-78 exhibition runs from Saturday 3rd December until Sunday 26th February, bringing a dose of anarchy to the city.
“I’ve always had a strong interest in punk music and the culture that surrounds it, so I helped put together some of the live events, workshops and talks that accompany the programme.” Ross explains.
So, why Sunderland, and how does the exhibition fit with the city in 2016? “Sunderland is a city with a good punk rock heritage, and the DIY culture that is an inherent part of punk is still very much alive there.” Ross has first-hand experience, of course; a member of Sunderland rockers The Futureheads and currently toting riff-heavy sounds as part of Drifts, his own initiation into the world of punk came at an early age. “I suppose my introduction to punk would’ve actually come from picking up Never Mind The Bollocks or The Clash from the City Library when I was 13 or 14 years old. I relied on that Sound & Vision department for a lot of my musical education.
“I think the stuff from the 76-78 era was a great grounding in the spirit and power of what music can do.”
In the way that punk transformed the musical landscape forever, the ideals of the movement also gave impetus to a burgeoning independent music scene. “I think a lot of kids starting bands are really into the idea of aggression and rebellion, but also the idea of forming a community with other likeminded individuals. Trying out different ideas, saving up to put out your own records, booking bands from outside of town.”
Drawing on the British Library’s extensive archives, the exhibition features a range of rare recordings, fanzines, flyers and record sleeves many of which have rarely been seen on public display, and will explore the musical form in cultural, political and social contexts, taking note of its impact on fashion, design and journalism. Exhibits will include rare material from the UK’s biggest punk-related archive held at Liverpool John Moores University, showcasing rare posters, ephemera and clothing from England’s Dreaming: The Jon Savage Archive; unique fanzines from 1977, including the first punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue, and the first and only edition of the Sex Pistols’ official fanzine, Anarchy In The UK; original clothing from the SEX boutique run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood; gig posters, tickets and flyers from iconic punk venues; John Peel’s personal copy of the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks; and filmed interviews for Women In Punk by Gina Birch, founding member of The Raincoats.
The city will also play host to a variety of events including workshops on screen printing t-shirts and album sleeves, creating fanzines and songwriting sessions designed with the aim of bringing back the spirit of musical rebellion and revolution to Wearside.