All Our Yesterdays: Punk 1976-78 at the British Library

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2016 by kmflett

Punk 1976-78: British Library exhibition


There has been criticism of some events designed to mark the 40th anniversary of punk (turning rebellion into money and so on) but that can’t be levelled at the just opened British Library exhibition. It’s free. More over given that the Library holds not just books but the national sound archive,the exhibition combining pictures, records you can listen to on headphones and video clips is particularly appropriate to the venue.

I do remember the 1970s and punk. I had a beard even then but as an Anti-Nazi League activist (I still have the steel toe capped Doc Martens but I use them rarely these days) I was well aware of the wider currents sparked by punk and saw a good number of the bands live.

The BL exhibition is particularly focused on the origins of punk from early 1976 (remember the Damned’s New Rose? I spent much of the second half of the 1970s occupying the premises of the College where I did my first degree. I rarely attended lectures (I got a 2:1 degree) but we did listen to the Damned and the Ramones in the occupations. There was also a local punk band headed up by a youthful anti-racist Rod Liddle….)

The exhibition is obviously focused around on what archival material the Library has and so the Sex Pistols feature more than some others. There is a video of the Bill Grundy TV interview and so on.

Of course I’d like more politics and while there is a nod to Rock Against Racism and the ANL it really should have mentioned the efforts of the far right to link with punk. I well remember the Sham 69 gig in London where London dockers were drafted in to eject Nazis in the audience. They were exciting and rather scary moments and the exhibition doesn’t (and possibly never could) capture that edge of punk that spelt danger that might lead who knows where.

Still why not stop by and see yourself

If you are eager to consume there is a pop-up shop but this being the British Library its not in the same location in the building as the exhibition. They really are interested in just looking at what took place as a public service.



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