Marking 40 years since the punk movement

Charlie Harper, lead singer of the UK Subs. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It's been forty years since the punk music movement hit the scene and now an author from Norwich has written a book about the impact of punk on society.

ITV News Anglia's Matthew Hudson has been to meet some of those caught up in the movement.

  • Read Matthew Hudson's thoughts on the punk movement:

Being asked to put together two features on punk music in East Anglia was something of a dream commission.

I first developed a love of loud, left field music at Cambridge Corn Exchange in the late 1970s and it's something that's stayed with me all my life.

And as it turned out I wasn't alone. When I started contacting people to see if they would take part I fully expected a lot of them to say words to the effect of "Sorry mate, that was a long time ago, my life has moved on." But no, not from a single person.

Instead everyone from band members to photographers to plain old fans were keen to take part, to share their memories of the time, in some cases to travel long distances to be interviewed.

And so I got to meet a lot of very friendly, very intelligent people with things to say. Andrew Gibson whose photographic record of bands and fans at West Runton pavilion is simply priceless. Steve Ignorant, a courteous, reasoning man decades after his band Crass were considered so subversive the police kept tabs on them. Steve Spon from UK Decay, a quiet respectful man still involved in social causes in his beloved Luton. Charlie Harper of the UK Subs, still rocking out at the age of 73, who responded to my "Hi Charlie how are you?" with "I'm fine, but more importantly how are you?"

And perhaps most significantly the author and university lecturer Matt Worley whose new book No Future is an in-depth look at the effect punk had on politics and culture. The fact it's published by the Cambridge University Press shows how seriously the subject is now taken.

It started me thinking that for whatever reasons punk, both its music and its ethos, had had a lasting impact on at least part of my generation. But why?

Punk was like a breath of fresh air for people like me and in order to understand why you have to appreciate just how ghastly music and society in general were in the late 70s.

Prog rockers making multi-disc concept albums, Rolling Stones sipping cocktails with royalty, this had nothing to do with people like me. Punk did. Getting up close to bands in small clubs, bands you could approach, talk to, feel a part of.

So around small venues all over the region like-minded people started creating their own scenes, forming their own bands, writing their own fanzines.

Some went on to great things, most were happy just to put out a single or see their name in print. As Peter Murphy of Bauhaus once remarked: "We had no expectation of success. I mean, we were from Northampton."

Charlie Harper, lead singer of the UK Subs. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Unlike most youth movements punk was actively political from the word go, confronting the attitudes of the day at a time when racism, sexism and homophobia seemed ingrained into society. Punk spawned Rock Against Racism, the Anti-Nazi League and many other groups. Artists like Tom Robinson led some young people at least to think about their attitudes to sexuality.

Oh and girls were allowed to play too. The Slits, Gaye Advert of the Adverts, Honey Bane, Eve Libertine from Crass were "the little woman at home" for no-one. They were strong, independent role models.

But perhaps most importantly punk led young people to question authority at a time when they weren't really encouraged to ask the question: why? To a generation which can share its every thought online, criticise and even abuse authority at will, this will seem strange.

The punk movement is 40 years old. Credit: ITV News Anglia

But at the time saying to authority "This is what we want to do and if you won't help us then we'll just do it ourselves," seemed revolutionary. And today's worlds of arts and media are almost certainly richer as a result.

JJ Burnel of the Stranglers, who lived in Cambridgeshire for many years, said punk was about: "jiving and the odd bloody nose...and about people like us talking seriously about the social order." And that is not a bad way of putting it.

  • Watch Matthew Hudson in the studio with Becky Jago and Jonathan Wills.

Part two of Matthew's reports into the punk movement will be featured on ITV News Anglia on Wednesday 10th January.

Send us your thoughts on punk and any photos of the time and we may be able to include a few in the programme.