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Punk Rage and Revolution – Leicester Museum & Art Gallery

Punk Rage and Revolution – Leicester Museum & Art Gallery

I was born too late to catch the first wave of punk in ’76 other than to sneak into my brothers bedroom to play his records. Legendary concerts passed me by as many of the luminaries of the scene played in nearby London. Leicester didn’t really register with me as a hotbed of punk but what this stunning new exhibition shows was that the influence of punk reached far and wide and left a lasting legacy that may seem strange to kids of a similar age today but in truth continues to permeate into society even today.

Leicester Museum and Art Gallery’s first floor exhibition space has been given over to a dazzling array of colourful and controversial clothing, slogans, records, posters and artwork. In amongst it all are the stories of those who were swept up in the punk wave up until 1980 in the Leicester scene.

The key themes of kids creating their own look themselves, abrasive and angry music, protest, shock and turning over the old order are present throughout. It’s hard to imagine a youth cult now where working class kids would cut, colour their own hair and make their own clothing and it’s frankly amazing some of these items have survived often chaotic lives. But here it all is, this is an excellent and forensic examination of everything that happened up until 1980. The organisers of the show have done an amazing job of pulling all of this together and making sense of the mayhem from the bespoke garments from the likes of Vivienne Westwood to the hand painted jackets of teenage punks it’s a real visual feast.

Punk didn’t end in 1980 and some references are made to its current state and influence – maybe that’s a story for another time. I remember well travelling up to Leicester with my punk band to play the Princess Charlotte in about 1986 and there are still punk gigs happening in the city to this day – but this is an excellent show of early punk and one not to be missed by anyone interested in the scene and it’s ongoing legacy.

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