Young Offenders : Punk in Norwich, 1976-84

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It seems like I’m always drawn back to this – the Jamie Reid ‘buses’ graphic utilised across various Sex Pistols literature and single sleeves bearing the destinations ‘boredom’ and ‘nowhere’. The image was created by Reid in 1972 as part of his Suburban Press print project. Across that early to mid seventies period the press created and distributed a bunch of posters, stickers and leaflets proposing all manner of situationist inspired mischief and thought provoking mayhem.

The bus graphic itself has been the subject of some minor dispute with the LA based situationist group PointBlank! claiming on occaision that they were responsible for the images origination. Similar images of buses were featured in a 1973 San Fransico based project that included a pamphlet on space travel (featuring the buses) alongside various posters and such that in classic situationist style utilised and mocked existing government literature. Reid was indeed aware of the group, forming as they did part of a loosely knit international collection of art/graphic based anarcho-creative misfits insisting on being heard and hell bent on hurling spanners into the workings of the modern day world and the mainstream media.

From Reids side he maintains he provided the graphic to PointBlank! (and the dates seem to tally with this) In turn and in true agit-prop style the US group labelled much of their work as free from copyright so it’s difficult to see their issue much passed sour grapes as the graphic reappeared to market product via a major record label.

It remains my favourite Reid graphic. I prefer it more than him sticking a safety pin through the the Queens nose (though that is undeniably a good one too).  The destinations capture the mood of the early seventies in England – a country going nowhere, it’s population entrenched in boredom. Late in 1976 The Sex Pistols were poised to head out on their Anarchy tour for a string of dates across the UK, eager and excited no doubt to hit the provinces, to getaway and out of London central and all manner of emerging nonsense that was beginning to cling to the band. I always imagine they boarded the bus with the word nowhere on its destination board.

Across the country it seemed nowhere did exist. Numerous small towns and villages, a random collection of UK postcodes that pinpointed differing landscapes that felt to their young inhabitants  the same despite the shift in accents and the miles between them. People it seemed did live in nowhere – some were stranded on the outskirts of nowhere, others in the middle of nowhere yet it seems it all amounted to the same thing, young lives and minds like tinder, eager for any kind of spark.

“Back in the real world Norwich was touched by the hand of punk in ways similar to other corners of the nation. the hole torn in the cultural fabric by The Sex Pistols in 1976-77 allowed for young misfits and malcontents to rally to the standard and force their way through”

‘Young Offenders: Punk in Norwich, 1976-84’ is one version of what happened when the spark hit, one of the stories from nowhere.

On December 3 1976, The Sex Pistols bus (marked destination nowhere) was due to arrive at Norwich UEA for the first date of the Anarchy tour. In the wake of the bands TV interview/foul mouthed jousting  with  Bill Grundy on what amounted to a regional TV show and the subsequent national newspaper reported outrage on the incident Norwich University set the precedent for what would follow across the country and cancelled the bands planned gig. Yet in Norwich (as across the nation) the promise/threat of a new excitement had already been revealed.

As this potted history of Norwich as a punk city reveals The Sex Pistols did play in the county of Norfolk and Pete Strike’s memory of that night echoes something of the difference between that event and what had been previously available. A tale from another era, a tale of attending a glorious ramshackle night that refused to be denied by the non existance and ease offered by a functioning city/county wide public transport network. Hired mini buses (crammed with “more bodies than seats”) are rarely mentioned in the story of punks DIY story. Hereafter they should be.

“As for the audience, they were drawn from the four corners of Norfolk. Around 500 people pulled like moths to a bright light to witness the music of now, the music of our generation, the stripped back, naked, no nonsense rock n roll that was punk ”

More than anything else DIY was the option punk revealed to kids across the UK, a catalyst for people to establish there own space in which to meet up, leap around, get drunk, take to the stage in bands, and create future 45 rpm artefacts whose existence would forever confirm that something had happened.

This zine comes wrapped in non reflecting matt card cover, the colour echoing the blank canvas of council laid concrete slabs, its contents revealing a story of anything but dullness. For a period it happened like this in all sorts of out of the way places across the country. This glorious fun filled version is the story of how it happened in Norwich.

Copies of Young Offenenders: Punk in Norwich 1976-84 are available now in the subbaculture shop get it here –  £2 plus postage

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