Joe Corré, founder of Agent Provocateur and son of the late Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, is still on course to destroy over £5 million worth of punk memorabilia this Saturday – in protest at Punk London, a city-wide celebration of punk history backed by the Museum of London and the Mayor’s Office.
The collection is a vital repository of the punk movement, but Corré says he plans to burn the whole lot at 3.45pm on Saturday November 26, streaming the event live on his website.
It begs the question: is Corré’s threat true to the radical legacy of the punk movement that swept through British music, art and fashion in the 1970s – or is it just a publicity stunt?
We reckon it’s just a publicity stunt.
The aesthetic of punk was all about the reclaimed, the repurposed and the recycled – think newspaper cuttings as album art or bin bag fashion statements. An act of wanton destruction like the one threatened by Corré is profoundly opposed to the creative ethic that drives punk.
Corré claims that Punk London’s institutional backing is ‘the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard’. But what’s worse: celebrating punk’s cultural legacy by ensuring it survives as, to use Corré’s words, ‘a fucking museum piece’? Or is it the irreversible destruction of artefacts and objects from a whole generation?
What gives Corré the right to threaten a valuable piece of punk history? Bugger-all according to London’s actual punks, who we spoke to back in April, when Corré first started threatening to get all firestarter on us. Dave McDonald calls Corré ‘a bit of an arsehole, a spoilt, rich kid’, referring to Corré’s privileged upbringing, while a man named Panda said: ‘It’s a load of old crap. What do they wanna burn it for? Those were the best years of my life.’
The general feeling was that Corré is about as punk as John Lydon’s butter adverts. But all punk politics aside, threatening to burn 5 million quids worth of anything is pretty unhelpful. So, Joe, if you’re having second thoughts, here are five things with way more punk credentials you could do with £5 million.
1. Pay Pussy Riot’s legal fees.
The embattled Russian punk-feminists are facing official persecution in their homeland, and could really do with some dosh to help pay expensive legal fees. Instead of going around threatening to burn stuff, Pussy Riot have been agitating and protesting in one of the world’s most dangerous and conservative political environments. Watch and learn, Joe.
2. Buy 10,000 mobility scooters for ageing punks.
It’s been 40 years since the original punk movement, and some of its original members’ are certainly suffering the ill-effects of one too many mosh pits. Corré could quit trying to get punks' blood pressure up with his silly stunt, and help them get down the shops instead.
3. Help fund a museum of queer history.
Punk’s anti-establishment philosophy saw it embrace the full spectrum of sexual and gender identities. Corre’s £5 million could help fund the growing movement calling for London’s first LGBTQ+ museum.
4. Save London’s squatting scene.
London’s squatters – such a vital embodiment of punk’s anti-establishment ethic – face extinction in the face of profiteering ‘guardian’ schemes, which charge tenants exorbitant rents to ‘look after’ empty buildings. The properties, many of them historic, are just left to rise in price as they fall apart, as the owners bide their time before selling the land to developers. Corré could inject some much-needed cash to boost the anti-property movement.
5. Buy 47,000 pairs of Dr Martens for London’s homeless.
If Corré really wants to stand up for the legacy of punk, he could do worse than sorting out a decent pair of trebs for the homeless of London. The iconic Dr Martens, symbol of the punk movement, would be the perfect choice.