Big city, bright pink fluorescent lights overhead spelling out PUNK.
“I’ll have a white wine, please.”
I swig the wine, fill my pockets with the free beetroot and parsnip crisps, but reserve the right to throw the PR and marketing gesture back in the face of the Museum of London.
Punk: anarchy, loud women, spitting, skinny bare-chested boys with pale faces and orange hair, snakebites, lager and Ribena, guitars and shouting, electric feedback. None of these things that I associate with punk yet.
So far this is an exhibition of 21st-century branding. The multitude of around twelve people at the door with i-Pads in hand ready to check my details for admission, and tick me off their list. Ten of them had nothing to do. The giant screen on the wall projecting Twitter posts in real time, and the enormous sized pink PUNK continuing to circle the room above the noise of all the natter, chatter, clink-clink, sip, gulp, go again activity.
This is not about the movement or rags to riches stories, but more how punk changed the lives of individuals. On the walls are old photographs, examples of pieces of design, in various media and mediums and someone’s story: how punk turned me into a graphic designer, a model maker, and nicer person.
I remember the dark and gritty reality of punk more on the journey up the stairs, where I walk past, on the stairwell, a dirty duvet and pillow, a book for bedtime (Catch 22), and a half-eaten sandwich, tidily stashed in the corner. I notice this is the floor with the drain and the stains of piss on the tiles that lead to it. (Everyone else takes the quick route from the tube, up the glass lift.) Thank gawd for our creative arts and cultural centres: last time I went to an evening play at the Barbican, there were two homeless women in the toilets, washing and cleaning their teeth before they went back out into the night, all their possessions precariously strapped in plastic bags, and raggedy suitcases, on tired old luggage trailers.
Punk was about one long hot summer, a movement, not a genre.
That’s how you separate the scene that’s saying something, from the scenes that celebrate themselves, which are created in editorial meetings.
Without punk, I would never have dared to go to the youth club in a second-hand Victorian nightie, fake fur coat, clear plastic granny sandals and hair back-combed, with a couple of large hair rollers left in. I wouldn’t have had my head stuck down the toilet, and flushed, by the Bromley girls, and gone home and written a poem about it – and remembered a childhood thing: I like writing.
Without punk, there would be no post-punk, the sacred canon of Joy Division, New Order, Human League, et’el and the launch of maverick, independent labels, artists and designers, producers, promoters, the latter which delivered unto us DIY guitar music in pubs, and later, indie. But can we stop talking about punk now?