Signifying Nothing? The Creative Revolution of Punk

Image courtesy PTMADDEN

For more information

  • This event has taken place
  • Tel: +44 (0)1937 546546
  • Email:
  • Full Price: £19.76

The musicians, designers, photographers and writers who spearheaded the punk movement

The attitude and style of punk inspired a complete upheaval in fashion, design, media, artistic expression, and music. In this packed day of conversations, meet some of those who both lead the new spirit, or used it to unleash their own creative freedom.

All for 40th-anniversary-of-punk price of £19.76

10.30                       Doors open

11.00–12.00           Opening conversation: Glen Matlock

Glen Matlock, bass player for the Sex Pistols, is one of the key musicians in the story of punk. He met the other band members while working at Malcolm McLaren’s clothes shop Let It Rock and was at the heart of their rise to fame. He left the band in 1977, but has continued to perform and record ever since – with the Rich Kids, Iggy Pop, the Philistines and many others, as well as occasional Pistols reunions. An astute and engaging voice, he also wrote an autobiography I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol.

12.00–13.15            The Sound of the Suburbs

John Robb, creator of the online music magazine Louder than War and musician with the Membranes and Goldblade, talks to some of those who were inspired by the first stirrings of punk.

Bertie ‘Berlin’ Marshall – alongside Siouxsie and Steven Severin later of the Banshees, Jordan, Billy Idol and others – was one of the Bromley Contingent that were at the heart of the early scene. He is now an acclaimed writer.

Like many living outside London, County Durham-based Pauline Murray, was also instantly inspired and empowered by what had begun in the Capital. As lead singer of rapidly formed band Penetration she recorded two albums and the classic Don't Dictate single, and continued her success with the Invisible Girls. 

Now a successful artist, Gaye Black was still living in Devon when she heard about the Sex Pistols, but almost immediately moved to London to put together the Adverts with front man TV Smith and became one of the early stars of punk.

Lunch break. The café bar will be open, and the exhibition Punk 1976–78 and Punk Pop-up Shop available to visit.

14.30–15.15              Jon Savage: Fanzine/Culture

Author and film maker Jon Savage is one of our finest music writers and author of the classic story of punk, England’s Dreaming. His first writings were in 1976 for the self-published fanzine London's Outrage and soon after he joined the music paper Sounds.

For this session he talks especially about The Secret Public, an art fanzine created in early 1978 with the artist Linder Sterling – also graphic designer for Buzzcocks – that blended a punk aesthetic with European modernist photomontage influences.

15.15–16.15               Photographing Punk

Punk was brilliantly documented by many photographers, but the images captured by our three panellists are among the most memorable of all. PTMADDEN caught the Sex Pistols at the very beginning, and his series from April 1976 is a compelling record in a unique style.

Sheila Rock pictured not only the bands at the height of their appeal but also the followers - in the shops, on the streets and in the audience. (Her stunning book Punk+ will be available on the day).

Ray Stevenson began working as a music photographer in the 1960s, photographing Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie before being introduced to the punk scene by his brother Nils, quasi co-manager of the Sex Pistols. He went on to photograph almost every key moment.

Tea break

16.45–18.00            Fashion and Anti-Fashion

There are those that claim that style fashion is as important a part of the punk story as music, and for the likes of Malcolm McLaren it came first. The ‘punk look’ has its clichés, but it is undeniable that the movement ripped a gaping hole in what was acceptable for people to wear: filling it with endless DIY possibility, self-expression, rebellion and deliberate confrontation.

Ted Polhemus, writer /anthropologist and documenter of street style, and who was an associate of Westwood and McLaren, hosts a very special panel. He is joined by Jordan, who blazed a shocked trail across London in 1976 as one of the most stunning looking people of her era – by Alex Michonand and Krystyna Kolowska, who designed much of the most recognisable stage wear for the Clash, and by Pam Hogg, a hugely successful designer who owes her roots to punk.

Bar break. PUNK IPA, our exclusive guest beer from Brewdog, will be on sale.

19.00–20.00            Closing conversation: Jah Wobble 

John Wardle originally met John Lydon, John Grey and Sid Vicious at Kingsway College in 1973. It was Vicious who originally nicknamed John ‘Jah Wobble’, and would also loan him his first bass guitar. As a lover of dub reggae, Wardle took immediately to the instrument, and in 1978 Lydon asked Wardle to join Public Image Limited (aka PiL) where his bass sound became the backbone of the band. After two magnificent albums, including the mighty Metal Box, Wardle left to pursue a hugely diverse musical career, often blending in his genuine passion for Eastern and global music.

Highlights have included the Mercury nominated Rising Above Bedlam (1991) with his still-thriving band the Invaders of the Heart, The Inspiration of William Blake and Psychic Life, and collaborations with Brian Eno, Baaba Maal, numerous Chinese performers, jazz musicians and many others. He published an acclaimed autobiography Memoirs of a Geezer in 2009.

Signifying Nothing?: The Creative Revolution of Punk is co-curated by Professor Colin Fallows who leads the sessions above except where stated.

Co-curated by Colin Fallows – an artist, curator and Professor of Sound and Visual Arts at Liverpool John Moores University. His research explores crossovers between sound and the visual arts, frequently investigating the conditions and potentialities of listening. As artist and curator, he has produced soundworks for live ensemble performance, recordings, exhibition, installation, radio and the Internet. His large-scale curated exhibitions reinterpret previously under-researched figures and works in popular culture/counterculture – and his artistic and curatorial projects have featured in numerous international festivals, galleries and museums world-wide.

Image: The Sex Pistols at the Nashville Rooms, London, 3 April 1976. Photo by PTMADDEN


Name: Signifying Nothing? The Creative Revolution of Punk
Where: Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Full Price: £19.76
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546