Anarcho-punk ‘zines -Symbols of Defiance

A book chapter on anarcho-punk ‘zines that I co authored with Prof Tim Wall and published in Fight Back:Punk, Politics and Resistance edited by Matt Worley also available here


This link will take you to the full  book chapter   punk_zines_symbols_of_defiance_from_the

Punk Scholars Network (PSN) Reading April 19th 2013. Punk In Other Places: Transmission and Transmutation


I recently attended the second Punk Scholars Network (PSN) event hosted by Dr Matt Worley and the School of Humanities at Reading University. The PSN, of which I am a member, has been in existence for approximately 8 months and is a collection of academics, and some non-academics, that have an interest in researching and investigating punk and its many musical, cultural, social and political facets across many disciplines of study and research. This event was titled Punk In Other Places: Transmission and Transmutation and entailed a collection of presentations considering punk, its global ‘reach’ and localities.

The first presentation was from Hilary Pilkington (University of Manchester) who discussed an ethnographic study of a punk scene in a post-industrial post USSR town (of which the name eludes me) in Russia’s arctic hinterland. Described by the local punks as a ‘rotting city’ Hilary’s study followed a group of local punks and examined in what ways the group defined themselves as ‘punk’ and how that particular subcultural group negotiated their place within the city and alongside other subcultural groups. The particular town was in both industrial and social decline and many young people would leave and move to larger metropolis, whereas some, including this particular group of punks, decided for one reason or another to stay.  One of the interesting things to come out of the study was how the many subcultural groups in the town would share places, spaces and resources within the city to maintain their scene. Despite the groups were fundamentally different in their music and style they appreciated that due to a lack of investment and resources they were having to renegotiate their subcultural boundaries in order for each of those scenes to survive.


The second presentation was from Jim Donaghey, a PhD candidate from Loughborough University who is researching his PhD around notions of anarchism within punk scenes in UK, Poland and Indonesia. In this particular presentation he discussed some of his findings from a recent visit to Indonesia where he was conducting an ethnographic study of Indonesian street punx (sic). His study highlighted how 2 particular groups of street punks expressed their punk aesthetic, anarchistic beliefs and politics in a country with a regime that was both extremely politically and religiously (Islam) repressive. Marginalisation, discrimination and physical intimidation were regular themes that came out in his work, but despite this there is a sense of positivity and deep comradeship within the punk scenes he is investigating. Those scenes are deeply immersed and entrenched in the DIY principles of punk as access to media and resources to support them are barely available and would also bring them to the attention of the authorities that regularly clamped down on any youth cultures that fell outside of the ‘norm’ in both the eyes of the authorities and the local religious leaders. You may have read last year in the Guardian newspaper about groups of street punx in Indonesia being rounded up by the religious authorities and sent off to ‘ youth boot camps’ where they were ‘de-punked’ (heads shaved, piercings removed etc.) and ‘re-programmed’ (religiously and socially) before being returned to society as a ‘normal model citizen’. Quite repressive and disturbing.


Following on from Jim was a presentation by Melanie Schroeter of Reading University who discussed the issue of racist and xenophobic lyrics in German punk song lyrics of the nineties. Applying discourse analysis to the lyrics she highlighted the relationship between German punks and the asylum debate following on from the fall of the Berlin Wall and series of racially motivated attacks on hostels housing immigrants.


After an agreeable lunch Russell Bestley, from the London College of Communication, gave a fascinating presentation on the visual imagery of punk (predominantly record sleeves) and its relationship to regional locations. Decentralizing London as the home of punk he demonstrated how punk bands from regions around the UK would use local landmarks, such as street signs and known buildings, as backdrops for the covers of the records released by those bands to firmly locate them in their region. He argued that this was partly done to show that London didn’t ‘own’ punk and that punk and its scenes were existing and flourishing in other parts of the country, despite media rhetoric about it being a London phenomenon. It was great seeing some of the old record sleeves including the Vaultage series from Attrix Records, that had all the Brighton/Sussex punk bands showcased- I was part of the punk scene that developed around The Vaults ‘venue’ which was a crypt below an old church in the centre of town


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Following on from Russ was an interesting talk From Pete Dale who started his discussion around Scottish post-punk by delivering a searing critique of Simon Reynolds and his work on post punk and how Reynolds attempt to locate his work in academic theory and theoretical grounding failed-I can’t quite remember the full content of what Pete said but I remember it being controversial and received some nods from the audience. Note to self: remember to take a digital audio recorder to future events.

Last up was Paul Harvey who discussed his journey from playing with Penetration (a great Scottish punk band who I was/is still a fan of) to academia. His story was one of reticent acceptance into the academy but came about from his excellent PhD that linked Stuckist art to punk through questioning the whole concept of authenticity,what makes punk ‘punk’ and punks relationship to Dadaism and the Situationist movement. I thought his deconstruction of notions of authenticity in punk through the questioning of memory and what he referred to as ‘fabricated cliches’ was insightful.

All in all a great afternoon where I met some really interesting scholars and am really looking forward to the next one.

Forthcoming presentation on Anarcho-punk at Oxford Brookes University

Here is the poster for a forthcoming symposium reconsidering the legacy of Crass and Anarcho-punk.










I will be delivering a presentation on the Alexander Oey documentary ‘about Crass called ‘There is No Authority but Yourself’. There will also be a round table discussion at the end of the symposium with Penny Rimbaud one of the founder members of Crass. Interestingly enough at a recent talk he gave at a film festival in Southend -On-Sea he said that he wasn’t too enamored by being asked to attend academic conferences- see his comments amongst other interesting insights here on Richard Cross’s fantastic blog. All the same Penny  apparently is still coming which is great news.


Here is the abstract outlining what I will be discussing

Call it Crass but ‘There Is No Authority But Yourself’: De-canonizing Punk’s Underbelly.

Matt Grimes

       “But if punk stops in 1979, then it can be argued that that there is a great deal of the story left out. This includes punk offshoots such as…. the anarcho-punk movement, with bands such as Crass who took the anarchist message seriously…”[1]

Roger Sabin’s analysis of the histories of punk is very telling. It is in this context, of how histories of popular music are constructed, documented and presented, that this paper examines the documentary There Is No Authority But Yourself (2006) directed by Dutch director Alexander Oey concerning the anarcho-punk band Crass[2]. This documentary is important in providing an analysis of a band which has been mostly excluded from a standard story of popular music, and even from more focused examination of punk as a broader musical genre. Discussing the documentary, therefore, allows us to engage with a neglected part of music history.

In this essay I link the issue of documentary style to questions about documentary as historiography. By this I mean how documentaries are used as a way of presenting and documenting history– specifically how we find out about and present the history of popular music, with a focus on punk rock, for the screen. I intend to use Oey’s film to go beyond the classification of televisual representations of popular music as “rockumentaries[3]. To do this I distinguish between what I am describing here as ‘standard music histories’ exemplified by the BBC’s Britannia[4] series, the avant-garde approaches taken by Don Letts and Julien Temple, and the approach typified by Oey. Generally, I want to suggest that the first two approaches, for all their differences tend to represent popular music histories, through the utilisation of what can be seen as the canonical processes that contribute to the formation of a ‘punk’ canon.  In doing so I suggest we need to reconsider the role of canons in the construction of popular music histories.


[1] Roger Sabin, ed., Punk Rock: So What? (London: Routledge, 1999), 4.

[2] Crass were an avant-garde English punk rock band formed in 1977 around a collective of musicians based around Dial House, an open house community in Essex. The band was formed as a direct response to what they saw as the failings of the then popular punk movement to live up to the DIY (do it yourself) and anarchist ethos often espoused by artists such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash et al. Crass were seminal in the development of anarcho-punk, a specific subcultural strand of punk rock that promoted anarchism and pacifism as a political ideology and a way of living. Members of the band continue to perform under various collaborations and individual performances.

[3] a term first used by Bill Drake and Gene Chenault producers of the 1969 93 KHJ Los Angeles syndicated radio documentary The History of Rock & Roll

[4] The Britannia label consists of a series of documentaries and one-off programmes produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation about the history of popular music and their related cultural activities in the UK


From Protest to Resistance: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance

Following on from my previous blog post about writing chapters for future books on punk  I have decided to share with you the abstract for my next solo submission for a forthcoming book specifically on anarcho-punk. The book is titled The Aesthetic of Our Anger:Anarcho-Punk, Politics and Music, 1979-84 and is edited by Mike Dines and Matt Worley. This looks to be a seminal publication as it will be the first of its kind in academia to focus purely on anarcho-punk. I am really excited about this as I will be publishing alongside some academic luminaries in the field of punk studies.

From Protest to Resistance: British anarcho-punk fanzines (1980-1984) as sites of resistance and symbols of defiance

This chapter focuses on the role that alternative publications played in the cultural, political and ideological practices of the British anarcho-punk movement between 1980 and 1984. I explore the way these fanzines disseminated the central ideas of Anarcho-punk, the way that the editorials, reviews and articles mediated a shifting notion of ‘punk’, and how these ‘amateur’ publications fitted into the paradoxical construction of the early 1980s alternative rock scene.

As punk emerged in the 1970’s fanzines soon became one of the central methods of communicating the developing ideologies, practices and values within this new musical and subcultural movement as they have historically been regarded as an alternative to mainstream publishing and being independently representative of the ‘underground’. I will show how the Anarcho-punk editors of these fanzine worked with an ideological sense that early punk was an attempt to challenge and exist outside of the ‘mainstream ‘ of popular music and culture, but that punk’s style, fashion and music soon became co-opted, commodified and absorbed into popular culture. Early protagonists of anarcho-punk, such as Crass, sought to reinforce the personal politic of being responsible for one’s own authority and actions, and the political agenda of anarcho-punk came to embrace notions of anarchism, peace, libertarianism, animal rights, feminism, anti-capitalism and anti-globalization. The analysis explores how these discourses of political position were mediated and the sense of an Anarcho -punk movement that they constructed.

The chapter focuses on the visual and textual discourses of a selection of British anarcho-punk ‘zines’ and examines how discourses of authenticity, community and identity were embodied and reinforced by and for their producers and consumers. I first explore the role of anarcho-punk fanzines as a link between members of the scene, and second how its editorial content and design fostered a subcultural movement that self-consciously sought to resist what they saw as the commodified fate of the earlier punk movement. In doing so I examine how DIY fan production practices, through the articulation of specific and at times oppositional ideological positions, contributed to the construction of the musical, cultural and political boundaries of the anarcho-punk movement.


Steve Ignorant discusses the emotion of performing the final gig of his The Last Supper Tour

Here is a link to Steve Ignorant’s (Crass) blog discussing his recent final performance of The Last Supper tour. Really honest and insightful piece of writing. I had the pleasure of seeing this tour in Sep2010 when he came to Birmingham. Seems so long ago. Gutted that I missed the final show as he was joined on stage by friends and former Crass members Penny Rimbaud and Eve Libertine.