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Punk in the Provinces, Norwich Arts Centre


Here are my v. brief opening remarks, the ones about punk, for the event.


Paul Cobley wrote in 1999, from the perspective of having been a punk in Wigan: ‘If provincial punk rock is less spectacular than its London [or Manchester] counterpart[s], this is no reason to write it out of history….’

For Matt Worley, the location of the provinces is not positively represented in punk: ‘both the suburbs and “small town England” provided suitable backdrops to punk’s “negative drive”.

I’ve often thought that one of the points of the kinds of grassroots DIY side of what a thing like punk might have been was that it could be significant in the provinces. It could be louder away from the centre. If it wasn’t so ‘spectacular’, as Cobley put it, maybe it was deeper, more enduring.


‘Getting nostalgic about punk is worse than a contradiction in terms, it’s a kind of betrayal, trading in punk’s forensic nihilism for a rose-coloured cosiness’, wrote Andy Medhurst, 20 years ago.

In the several 40th anniversary years of punk around 2016-2019, there is an opportunity if you want it to see the 40th anniversary band reunion tours (Sham 69 40 years on? Oh dear. ‘Jimmy is our leader!’ I don’t think so thanks, not 40 years ago, and definitely not today).

It’s too easy: that whole  no future, therefore no looking back. Everyone here tonight who was there has had a future—four decades and counting, half a lifetime. So we can think about punk critically, what it meant, what it meant to us, what it meant particularly in somewhere like Norwich or East Anglia, and not only did it matter but does it.  

Dr Lucy Wright & Prof George McKay introduce the evening