The 40th anniversary of the release of the first punk single – The Damned’s ‘New Rose’ – saw the start of the Punk in the East festival in Norwich, with a launch night at Norwich Arts Centre headlined by Ruts DC and a fascinating exhibition and fanzine to go with it.
I never saw The Ruts play, I was just a couple of years too young, although that didn’t stop others of a similar age I was still at school and hadn’t started gig going but was a fan. This gig surpassed all expectations with Ruts DC playing with passion and energy after all these years and still creative too with the new songs just as strong as anything else in the set . Music Must Destroy is an immense, angry anti-corporate anthemic song. Defiant and rallying, full of punk spirit, albeit not yet as familiar as the famous early singles, as they rightly said, this one will be sung along to at gigs in forty years!
There were other big gigs happening in the city at the same time which were sold out but so was this one. The NAC has rarely felt so full and had a great vibe with a few hundred punk rockers sharing memories and having a good old catch-up. I met up with people I hadn’t seen in around 30 years (good to see you, Ray!) and I think many others were having a similar experience.
This was a brilliant way to launch Punk in the East and everyone had a great time, not least Rupert Orton who joined the band onstage for a few numbers towards the end including a blistering rendition of In a Rut, with an unexpected bit of Public Image in there too. Other gems in the set were sprinklings throughout of wonderful punky reggae dub.
Thanks to Jonty, Rupert, NAC, Ruts DC and all behind Punk in the East.
In late October the Norwich Lanes are set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of punk with an exhibition trail, series of gigs, films and talks in an event aptly named, Punk in the East. The reasoning behind the location is that the medieval alleyways, streets and open spaces of the Norwich Lanes were once the stomping ground of the local punks. Back in the late 70s the Lanes had more than their fair share of record shops selling the latest vinyl, at least two of the pubs hesitantly opened their doors to the outrageous dressed youths and the charity shops had the clothes to be disfigured and worn.
What makes this event so very different to its national counterparts is that Punk In The East is totally unfunded and has been put together by the people who were there. There’s poignancy in the timing too. It opens on Saturday 22 October, 40 years to the day of the release of the first UK punk single, ‘New Rose’ by The Damned, and closes on 3 December, 40 years to the day that the Sex Pistols were banned from playing Norwich at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The idea first came about when Matt Worley, a Norwich boy turned professor of modern history at the University of Reading, interviewed former local punk rocker and Norwich Lanes marketing manager Jonty Young. What began as a fact-finding mission, soon turned into a project. Further meetings with local ex-punk ‘faces’ threw up plans for a website, books, exhibitions and reunions. Within a few months the Museum of Norwich in the Bridewell eagerly became involved and their volunteers have been scanning photographs and ephemera ever since. Next up was Norwich Arts Centre who offered to host the opening night party and give up their wall space too. A team of ex-punk rockers had answered the call, dusted off memories and built a provincial punk history from the bottom-up.
Highlights at Punk in the East include hundreds of previously unpublished photographs, many being shown in the very same venues they were taken so many years ago. You will also find rare posters, tickets and fanzines at the Museum of Norwich in the Bridewell, original clothing in window displays and photographs from local gigs that haven’t seen the light of day for three decades or more. The exhibition trail is an obvious treat for music lovers, but if you look in the background it also offers a fascinating insight into the social history of the city.
Punk In The East opens on Saturday 22 October with the exhibition trail, and fanzines with a map will be available throughout the Lanes. That same evening Ruts DC take to the stage at Norwich Art Centre, ably supported by three local punk DJs from back in the day. In their original incarnation as The Ruts, the London based trio played legendary sell-out shows at both St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich and West Runton Pavilion on the North Norfolk coast. These shows became part of East Anglian punk rock folklore and helped shape the nascent local punk movement. As an additional nice touch, a limited edition fanzine containing stories and images from the time will be given away to those lucky enough to get tickets.
For more information on all the events planned visit www.punkintheeast.co.uk
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