Never mind the mohawks: here’s how punk made what we watch and read

They brought anarchy to our airwaves and fashions, and now punk is coming to your books and screens!

For the Punk Festival Weekender from 18-20 August, the world of punk in literature and film will be exposed through a series of events organised by the University of Leicester’s Dr Emma Parker. 

And newly confirmed for the programme is a conversation between Viv Albertine of punk band The Slits with Dr Parker on Saturday 2 September.

Joining her in an exploration of how the outrageous, provocative yet highly creative youth movement made its impact beyond just music and fashion will be several well-known names from Leicester and beyond.

Dr Emma Parker, from the University’s School of Arts, said: “Punk isn’t just about mohicans and safety pins. It changed British society. Like second wave feminism and the Gay Liberation Movement of the 1970s, punk challenged gender norms and celebrated inclusivity.

“Punk is usually associated with music and fashion but it also influenced literature and film. Its legacy is evident in many aspects of contemporary culture.”

The events kick off with a screening of the documentary ‘I am a Cliché’ on Friday 18 August from 5.30pm at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery, about punk icon and X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene by her daughter Celeste Bell. An after-film discussion follows on women and punk hosted by Dr Parker with filmmaker Celeste Bell joining the event by satellite link, alongside Ruth Miller, founder of Punk Girl Diaries & Unglamorous, and producer/ activist Cindy Sasha. 

Acclaimed Leicester author Nicholas Hogg, writer of Tokyo (a novel currently being adapted for the screen by Ridley Scott), will join Dr Parker to discuss literature’s impact on punk, and punk’s impact on fiction, poetry and drama. Their talk Punk Fiction takes place on Saturday 19 August from 3 – 4pm at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery.

And she will join actor Jenny Runacre at a screening of the 1978 cult punk film ‘Jubilee’ on Saturday 19 August at the Phoenix Cinema, where they will take part in a Q&A. 

Finally, as the Punk: Rage & Revolution exhibition draws to a close, Typical Girl: A Conversation with Viv Albertine of The Slits will be held at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery on Saturday 2 September at 2pm. Viv Albertine of influential Punk band The Slits will discuss clothes, music, boys and books with Dr Emma Parker (University of Leicester).

The Punk Festival Weekender forms part of the Punk: Rage & Revolution exhibition, telling the story of the 1970’s UK Punk scene through original objects, clothing, information panels and ephemera. While the exhibition focuses on the key year of 1977 - when the Queen’s Silver Jubilee spectacularly clashed with the Punk explosion notoriously led by The Sex Pistols - it also examines earlier influences and the post-Punk era of New Wave and beyond. Alongside origins and influences, the exhibition also looks at the subculture’s ideology, attitude, fashion, music, art and legacy. The Leicester Punk scene, with its pubs, clubs, venues and characters, forms part of the exhibition.

The exhibition is supported by the University of Leicester’s Heritage Hub and features contributions by Dr Emma Parker on Leicester-born author Joe Orton and punk, and women and punk.

Sarah Scott, Heritage Hub Director, University of Leicester said: “We are delighted to support this exhibition. One of the key ambassadors is our own Dr Emma Parker. Her network and expertise have helped launch the event’s national profile and press coverage. Emma has been a great asset in establishing links between Punk and Joe Orton, whose influence can be seen in the works of the artist Jamie Reid and designers Malcolm McLaren and Dame Vivienne Westwood. Our Archives and Special Collections team has also supported the development of the exhibition. We are looking forward to future collaborations with Soft Touch Arts, Arch Creative and Shaun Knapp through our newly established Heritage Hub. The Hub is working in partnership with communities, organisations and businesses to co-design and deliver projects that explore and celebrate the rich heritage of our city and region.”