>>>40 years of punk in London
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40 years of punk in London

"Live fast, die young" was the punk philosophy. But the movement is still alive, and this year London is celebrating its 40th anniversary
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t was one of the most significant nights in the history of popular music. On 4 July 1976, New York rockers The Ramones took to the stage of the Roundhouse in London and inspired a generation. In the crowd that night were the men and women who would lead the UK punk rock scene, forming iconic bands such as The Clash, The Buzzcocks, and, of course, the Sex Pistols. Now, 40 years on, London is reliving those days, so spike up your hair, rip your clothes and turn the music up loud, it’s time to embrace the anarchy.
The Clash were famous for their punk songs about London
Photo: Ron Ellis/Shutterstock.com

Strolling the fashionable King's Road

440 Kings Road in Chelsea was run by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and designer Vivienne Westwood, and was as much part of the scene as any Soho nightclub. While the infamous SEX boutique closed in 1980, it remains a Westwood store, and the designer still loves to shock.

Well, anarchy is perhaps not the right word. While Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious railed against the establishment in the 70s, these days, punk has gone mainstream, with the biggest events taking place in museums, galleries and even libraries rather than in squatted Soho flats or dirty basement bars. It’s at the British Library where punk as a cultural phenomenon is explored in most-depth. Alongside the Gutenberg Bible and Shakespearean manuscripts, fans can view rare records, hand-written lyrics and rarely-seen photographs. Additionally, through video and audio archives, the Punk 1976-78 exhibition (until 2 October) explores the “enduring influence of punk as a radical musical, artistic and political movement”.
At the Museum of London, the focus is on London’s position at the centre of it all, with fanzines, posters, clothes and accessories documenting the few short years when the streets came alive with loud music and Mohawks. In comparison, the special punk season, to run at the famous BFI (British Film Institute) on the South Bank will take a wider look at the phenomenon, exploring not just the London scene but how it was picked up by youths across the world. Through a series of talks, exhibitions, performances and, of course, film, the BFI explores how the movement spread from central London to Jamaica and even parts of Africa .
The Sex Pistols were discovered as customers shopping on the King's Road
Photo: Bikeworldtravel/Shutterstock.com

Finding young punks in Camden Town

For proof that punk lives, head to Camden Town. Most weekends you'll find groups of leather-clad, crazy-haired snarling punks loitering on the bridge over the canal. Be sure to ask permission to take a photo – and expect to pay for the privilege.

But it’s not just about the past – even if some people were claiming that “Punk is Dead” as long ago as 1978. Punk is very much alive and thriving in London, provided you know where to look. In the Ladbroke Grove part of the city, Rough Trade Records helped launch the careers of several of the biggest punk pioneers and continues to serve as the launch pad for new talent today. Throughout this year it will be celebrating the punk anniversary through a series of in-store concerts. And if that whets your appetite, the iconic 100 Club, which has played host to the Clash and the Sex Pistols, among others, is still going strong, with shows on most nights of the week.
The British Library exhibition includes a rare copy of 'God Save the Queen' by the Sex Pistols
Photo: Bikeworldtravel/Shutterstock.com
More importantly, it’s not just the music that lives on. Punk was more an attitude than a musical style, and the ‘DIY’ (do it yourself) philosophy that drove the movement forward can still be felt across London. During 2016, punks young and old are being encouraged to organize their own events to celebrate the landmark anniversary. So what are you waiting for? Head along to the Punk Weekend at the Design Museum (June 24-26), get kitted out and throw yourself into the scene.
 

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