Advertisement
Music

Sex Pistols punk seer Jamie Reid searches for our new spirit of rebellion

Jamie Reid’s artwork for the Sex Pistols shocked society and inspired rebellious young Britain in 1977, defacing the monarch for ‘God Save The Queen’ and creating the punk template of day-glo colours and cut-up type for ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’

Revolutionary art that ripped into Britain’s national identity at a time of crisis: immigration, poverty, hunger, job conditions and unemployment had the nation on a knife-edge. Any of that sound familiar? Reid not only defined the punk spirit, he changed our cultural iconography forever. And in politically and culturally conflicted times for the UK it resonates loudly today.

In his newer work the self-styled ‘socialist druid’ weaves anti-war and ethical causes, and in a major new exhibition, Jamie Reid XXXXX: 50 Years of Subversion and the Spirit, nature and spiritualitysit alongside the spit and venom of punk. And in today’s turbulent times Reid warns we’d better brace ourselves: things will definitely get worse for Britain before they get better.

Pussy Riot

“When Pussy Riot were arrested in Moscow I did a poster for them. I met up with them in Liverpool, had a fantastic day with them and it made me think again about art and direction and how fucking brave Pussy Riot are. I’m a big football fan and when they ran on the pitch at the World Cup final it just dawned on me what a load of shite the World Cup had become. Their bravery and what they’ve done with their art is just amazing, better than shredding things in bloody auctions and making them double in value.”

Direct Action

“It’s hard, but there’s still got to be direct action and popular protest, such as Occupy London, who I worked with. Since Thatcherism that’s almost been made illegal because of the whole illusion of terrorism, which I think the establishment’s behind anyway to an extent.”

Banksy

“If Banksy was to give all his money to the homeless it’d be brilliant. That shredding was a comment on capitalism I think. But I can’t believe he’s into that moneymaking art world scene. I think more about actual radical direct art; like when during the first Gulf War the [prankster Daniel Finegood] changed the Hollywood sign to say ‘Oil War’, that’s pretty radical. Banksy’s just part of that whole Brit Art thing, a continuation of people like Damien Hirst. It’s like when Saatchi & Saatchi helped get Thatcher into power, they created this so-called ‘shock art’, and there’s nothing remotely shocking about any of that stuff.

It’s just a means to make money. There’s so much radical and underground art in this country, but there’s a whole monopoly in the arts scene, between critics, galleries and artists and they all socialise together. It’s so incestuous you wouldn’t believe it.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Situationism

“There probably are people documenting the times through art all over the world but you don’t get to know about them. I don’t anyway. There’s always things happening. All my politics with Suburban Press and then into the Pistols to an extent was Situationist-based. With the whole punk thing I’ve come across people who are only interested in the fashion and the music.

I was interested to meet up with a Finnish film director called Aki Kaurismäki and punk for him meant that he and his brother squatted a cinema in Helsinki and then went on to make their own films, and to some extent the people who took my and Malcolm [McLaren]’s ideas and moved them into a whole other arena was the KLF, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty [who Reid collaborated with on the print Boudica is Coming]. They understood a lot of our ideas and where we were coming from and took it into the rave and the dance scene, which at that time I found incredible.”

Politics

“In the UK at the moment things are going to have to get a lot worse before they get better. I almost hate mentioning it, because I think a lot of liberal people who have good intentions actually do a lot of harm by talking about the rise of the new right. I’m showing my age here, but I think you’ve got to have an understanding of history. They remind me of the National Socialists in Germany –they direct all their policies at the working class, in much the same way that Trump has or Boris Johnson would like to, to gain the working class.

And it’s difficult now, because my whole inspiration was the Situationist society of the spectacle. And that’s never been truer than now. And then there’s the complete control of the media over everything. If you think about the time Anarchy In The UK and God Save The Queen came out, which showed the discontent about things like monarchy, since then these people have learned lessons – the monarchy’s PR has been phenomenal. You can hardly say a word about anything now without being accused of this, that or the other. You can’t criticise Zionism and the terrible atrocities committed against the Palestinian people without being called anti-Jewish. What you don’t hear about in that particular case is the amount of people in Israel who protest against their government as well. It’s quite interesting to see how things will go with Jeremy Corbyn [in that respect].”

Jamie Reid XXXXX: 50 Years of Subversion and the Spirit, the first ever major retrospective of Reid’s work, is at Humber Street Gallery, Hull until January 6. humberstreetgallery.co.uk

Image: Anarchy In The UK from 1976 (screen print) is part of the Hull retrospective

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
Lucy Sweet: Glastonbury – 'the maddest masterclass of sensory overload'
Music

Lucy Sweet: Glastonbury – 'the maddest masterclass of sensory overload'

Music biz legend Barbara Charone lifts the lid on an incredible career
Music

Music biz legend Barbara Charone lifts the lid on an incredible career

Six things we learned from Phoebe Bridgers live at Glasgow Barrowland
Music

Six things we learned from Phoebe Bridgers live at Glasgow Barrowland

Calum Scott: 'Pouring my heart out is the only way I can write'
Music

Calum Scott: 'Pouring my heart out is the only way I can write'

Most Popular

Read All
Exclusive: BT call centre sets up 'food bank' for its own staff
1.

Exclusive: BT call centre sets up 'food bank' for its own staff

Prince William: 'Why I wanted to work with The Big Issue'
2.

Prince William: 'Why I wanted to work with The Big Issue'

Rainn Wilson emailed Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to say Harry Mudd would 'fit right in'
3.

Rainn Wilson emailed Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to say Harry Mudd would 'fit right in'

The UK approach to replacing the Human Rights Act is just as worrying as the replacement itself
4.

The UK approach to replacing the Human Rights Act is just as worrying as the replacement itself

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.