Punk 1976-78 at the British Library: a new 40th anniversary exhibition exploring the formative years of this musical phenomenon

First issue of first punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue, copyright Mark Perry 1976

Free exhibition exploring the remarkable impact of punk

Items on display include fanzines, audio recordings, posters, flyers, gig tickets and clothing

A series of events includes John Lydon’s only live interview of the year

13 May – 2 October 2016

Punk 1976-78, a free exhibition revealing the extraordinary impact punk had on music, fashion and design across the UK between 1976 and 1978, opens at the British Library on Friday 13 May.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of punk, the exhibition will explore its roots in the French Situationist movement and New York City art-rock scene through to the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols, from their scandalous live appearance on early-evening TV programme Today to the furore around their alternative jubilee anthem God Save the Queen.

The exhibition will also consider how the culturally and socially explosive phenomenon of punk rapidly transformed Britain’s musical landscape, playing a pivotal role in the rise of the independent music scene and challenging the conventional image of women in rock bands.

Drawing on the Library’s extensive archives, the exhibition in the Library’s Entrance Hall Gallery will feature a range of rare fanzines, unique flyers, exclusive audio recordings and original record sleeves, many of which have never been on public display before.

Punk 1976-78 will also feature rare material from the UK’s biggest punk-related archive held at Liverpool John Moores University, showcasing rare posters, ephemera and clothing from ‘England’s Dreaming: The Jon Savage Archive’, ‘The Situationist International: John McCready Archive’, ‘The Pete Fulwell Archive’ and ‘Adventures in Wonderland: The Falcon Stuart and X-Ray Spex Archive’.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Rare copy of the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen single, which was never released because the A&M record label signed and dropped the band within one week
  • Unique copies of fanzines from 1977 including the first punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue and the first and only edition of the Sex Pistols’ official fanzine, Anarchy in the UK
  • Original posters, gig tickets and flyers from the Roxy Club, Covent Garden and Eric's Club, Liverpool
  • Original clothing from the SEX boutique run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood at 430 King’s Road, London
  • John Peel’s personal copy of the Undertones' single, Teenage Kicks
  • Filmed interviews for Women in Punk by  Gina Birch, founding member of The Raincoats
  • The Damned drummer Rat Scabies's leather jacket

In recognition of the continuing legacy of punk, Punk 1976-78 is accompanied by an exceptional range of British Library events featuring speakers and creators who witnessed and participated in the events of 1976-78 first-hand.

Event highlights include:

Andy Linehan, Curator of Popular Music Recordings at the British Library, commented:

“Forty years ago punk had a huge impact on many aspects of British culture and continues to do so today, so we’re excited to dedicate an exhibition to it – featuring music, film, magazines and fanzines, record sleeves and more.  Punk 1976-78 showcases the British Library’s unique collection of contemporary culture, as well as celebrating a phenomenon that spread across the nation and changed our cultural landscape.”

Punk 1976-78 has been curated by Andy Linehan (Curator, Popular Music, British Library), Steve Cleary (Lead Curator, Literary and Creative Recordings, British Library) and Colin Fallows (Professor of Sound and Visual Arts, Liverpool John Moores University).

The exhibition is accompanied by a Punk pop-up shop selling vinyl, t-shirts, prints and books in the British Library Entrance Hall inspired by the objects on display.  The pop-shop opens on 13 May and closes 2 October 2016, and will offer limited edition prints by punk photographer Sheila Rock, along with a range of merchandise including record players, homeware and jewellery.

The British Library’s punk season is part of Punk London, a year of events, gigs, films, talks and exhibits celebrating 40 years of punk heritage influence in London.


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Notes to Editors

Monday – Thursday 9.30 – 20.00, Friday 9.30 – 18.00, Saturday 9.30 – 17.00, Sunday and Bank Holidays 11.00 – 17.00, this exhibition is free.

The exhibition contains adult content.

The full events programme is as follows:

Me, Punk and the World: Bernard Rhodes in conversation

Friday 27 May 6.30-8pm

After working with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, Bernard Rhodes formed and managed The Clash to global success. A true original who has been there, seen it and done it all. 

Signifying Nothing? The creative revolution of Punk

Saturday 28 May 11am  - 8pm

A packed day of conversations on the music, fashion, writing, design, photography that were all part of punk. Participants include musicians Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Jah Wobble (Public Image Ltd), Pauline Murray (Penetration) and Gaye Black (The Adverts), ‘style icon’ Jordan, designers Pam Hogg and Alex Michon, photographers PTMADDEN, Ray Stevenson and Sheila Rock, and writers John Robb, John Savage, ‘Berlin’ Bertie Marshall and Ted Polhemus. With Colin Fallows, Liverpool John Moores University.

Damned Damned Damned

Wednesday 8 June 6.30 – 8.30pm

The Damned’s New Rose was the first UK punk single release, and the band’s riotous but melodic energy and compelling stage presence put them up with the best of their generation. Original members Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian talk  to radio host and journalist Colleen Murphy. In association with Classic Album Sundays.

Buzzcocks  in their own words

Thursday 9 June 6.30 – 8.30pm

Buzzcocks are one of the best loved punk bands – producing a string of singles that remain of pop classics. Founder members Steve Diggle and Pete Shelley and original manager Richard Boon talk about their musical story to radio host, and journalist Colleen Murphy. In association with Classic Album Sundays.

Stories from the She Punks

Friday 10 June 6.30 – 8.30pm

Punk transformed the position of women in music. Film and conversation with some of the key figures in this revolution. With Gina Birch (The Raincoats), Helen Reddington (Helen McCookerybook of The Chefs), Jane Woodgate (The Mo-Dettes) and Tessa Pollitt (The Slits).

Ezra Furman on The Velvet Underground: Punk Pioneers

Thursday 23 June 7.30 – 9pm

An intimate evening with genre-fluid American singer-songwriter Ezra Furman reflecting on The Velvet Underground’s influence on punk and their musical legacy.  Ezra will be in conversation with Laura Barton and performing covers of their songs

An Evening with John Lydon

Friday 24 June 6.30 – 8.30pm

One of the most recognisable figures in the history of music gives his one and only live interview of the year – 40 years on from his notoriety as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.

Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!: The Day the Ramones Ignited Punk. 

Monday 4 July 6.30 – 8pm (film screening 8.30-10.15pm)

New York’s Ramones played London’s Roundhouse this day in 1976: a show that had a massive influence on UK music. Hear the story with their legendary manager Danny Fields and other special guests. Plus a screening of the documentary Danny Says.

The Sex Pistols and America

Tuesday 5 July 6.30 – 8pm

The story of the notorious, culture-clashing 1978 tour of the southern US by the Sex Pistols. With acclaimed US photographer Bob Gruen, who joined band on that tour; their road manager John ‘Boogie’ Tiberi and music writer Brian Ward.

Faber Social with Jon Savage and Viv Albertine.

Thursday 14 July 7pm – 10.30pm

With Jon Savage, seminal writer on punk, and Viv Albertine, inspirational guitarist of The Slits in conversation with Kate Mossmann. Plus DJ Scratchy, tour DJ for The Clash.  

Punky Reggae Party: The Story of Rock Against Racism

Friday 9 September 6.30 – 8pm

How black and white bands collaborated in a huge movement against a resurgent National Front. Chaired by Daniel Rachel, with musicians Tom Robinson and Dennis Bovell and RAR founding members Kate Webb and Lucy Whitman. 

For more information:

Alice Carter
The British Library
t: +44 (0)20 7412 7126
e: alice.carter@bl.uk

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

Press Office contacts

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

The Special Collections & Archives at Liverpool John Moores University contain unique primary resources available for consultation by LJMU students, staff, external researchers and the general public. Professor Colin Fallows has been instrumental in the acquisition of several world-class archives of post-War British popular culture and counterculture held at LJMU including England's Dreaming: The Jon Savage Archive; The Situationist International: John McCready Archive The Pete Fulwell Archive; and Teenage: The Jon Savage Archive. As curator and research consultant to these archives, Prof. Fallows has curated materials in a variety of contexts for large-scale exhibitions in galleries and museums across nine countries. There are 40 collections encompassing many different formats including fanzines, photographs, artefacts and more recent digital records, images, sound and video files. Working in partnership with the academic staff of the University, Special Collections & Archives supports all four core aims of the LJMU strategic plan: excellence in research and teaching, student partnership and civic engagement.