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EXHIBITION REVIEW: Punk 1976-78 @ Sunderland Museum.

December 16, 2016 11:00 am

The exhibition is on display until the 26th February 2017 and is free to attend.

For more information, click here. 

Review by Madelaine Houghton


Image Credit: Jon Savage

Created as homage to the movement’s 40th anniversary, the exhibition speaks of punk’s arrival, stating that it was both ‘inspiring and offending in equal measure’. The various displays catalogue the music genre’s influence on fashion, politics and the media, pioneered by the radicalism of bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Ramones.


The impressive collection places its focus on British punk, though there is mention of its American counterpart. The New York scene predates the UK division as the iconic CBGB’s gets revealed as the mecca of Punk. It was the Sex Pistol’s however, who sparked outrage on Bill Grundy’s Today Show, with their refusal to conform to television niceties and with their blazé attitude towards violence. This soon led them to become dropped by their label, EMI, and catapulted them into the public eye, thus cementing their notoriety.


During the show the band’s front man, Jonny Rotten, is seen wearing Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McLaren’s aptly named ‘Tits T-shirt’. This wholly demonstrates that sexuality is at the fore of the genre; the exhibition also boasts a selection of Westwood’s famous ‘Sex’ fashion line. The exhibition also has a leather jacket by Rat Scabies, drummer of The Damned, on display. The jacket seems to be a key piece of the exhibition, displaying the ruggedness that embodies punk fashion as a whole.


A plethora of vinyl records spans the whole rear of the room, allowing the exhibition’s visitors to gain an understanding of punk’s most dominant colour schemes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, black and white is most common, but visitors may be surprised by the various neon colours that assault the eyes. In all ways, it seems that the punk takeover was impossible to ignore.


This scheme is mirrored in the collection of important fanzines that are on display- these magazines created by fans, assisted in circulating the genre as traditional magazines refused to review such offensive content. The exhibition features a remarkable first edition of the UK’s ‘Sniffin’ Glue’ fanzine. Put together with nothing but a ‘child’s typewriter and a felt tip pen,’ the print boasts a bold, monotone design that is raw and captures the punk spirit.


Overall the exhibition presents a whistle-stop tour of the way in which the punk generation was shaped. Providing a historical background of such a significant time period allows visitors to acknowledge punk’s importance today. It is a wonderful addition to Sunderland museum and is certainly not one to be missed.


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