Anarchy in Sunderland? Punk exhibition opens at city museum

The opening of the exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. Picture: North News.

The opening of the exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. Picture: North News.

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Sunderland has remembered its punk roots with the launch of a British Library exhibition in the city.

Punk 1976-78 started with a bang last night at Sunderland Museum, Library & Winter Gardens - with performances from 1977 and Loudmouth setting the scene.

The exhibition, curated to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the musical phenomenon, highlights the influence of punk in music, art and politics.

At the opening, Deputy Mayor of the City of Sunderland, Coun Doris MacKnight, said: “Sunderland was a major contributor to this movement, not just locally or regionally, but influencing the national and international punk scene through bands such as Red Alert, Leatherface, Toy Dolls, Angelic Upstarts, to name just a few."

She continued: “Sunderland City Council actively promotes partnership working and engaging new audiences. As a result of the partnership between Sunderland Library Services and the British Library, the city is proud to be the first venue outside of London to host this exhibition."

Drawing on the British Library’s extensive archives, Punk 1976-78 features a huge range of rare fanzines such as the first Sniffin’ Glue in 1977 and the first and only edition of the Sex Pistols’ official fanzine, Anarchy in the UK.

Original posters, gig tickets and flyers from the clubs that would become synonymous with the scene are displayed alongside original record sleeves, many of which have never been on public display before.

Highlights also include John Peel’s personal copy of the Undertones’ single, Teenage Kicks and original t-shirts from Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX boutique on the Kings Road.

Rebecca Ball, Bid Director for Sunderland 2021, said: “Exhibitions such as this not only pay a key part in our bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021 they also show how far the city has already come in delivering a huge range of fantastic events."

The display also features 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’.

The event is open to everyone, and is running during normal opening hours until Sunday, February 26 next year.

As part of the programme, a wide range of activities will take place across the city. These fringe events, organised by Sunderland Library Services, include screen printing t-shirts and album sleeves, song writing sessions, fanzine sessions and links to associated music and bands.

Billy Black, bass player with local punk tribute band 1977, hailed Sunderland's punk scene and added: “Punk is essentially a state of mind, a questioning of the accepted norms of society.

"It is still relevant today and there are numerous punk bands keeping the music alive around the world."