No Sir, I Won’t: Reconsidering the Legacy of Crass and Anarcho-punk
Friday 28th June, 11am til 6pm, Headington Campus in Willow 01 and RHB Arena
Free entry, lunch provided, to book a place email firstname.lastname@example.org
30 years since legendary anarcho-punk group Crass released their highly challenging LP Yes Sir, I Will, this symposium will explore the impact and long-lasting legacy of Crass and anarcho-punk. Crass are widely perceived as ‘reluctant leaders’ of the anarcho-punk scene; an ironic title for self-proclaimed anarchists, of course. The central question, for this study day, is: were Crass and anarcho-punk scene significantly effective politically or, alternatively, was the anarcho-punk scene surreptitiously more about clothes, music, image and ‘symbolic rebellion’ (to use Adorno’s term)?
Newspaper articles, journalist/fan publications and a growing body of scholarly work on Crass and the anarcho-punk music scene has been keen to celebrate the fact that such groups sold many thousands of records (more than a million in total in Crass’s case, reportedly), contributed substantially to the rise of anarchistic strategies on the Left and the revitalization of CND in the UK, drew the attention of the UK establishment including the House of Commons and were eventually prosecuted under the Obscene Publications act.
Recent scholarly work on punk has challenged classic academic accounts of punk such as Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style. Querying the legitimacy of such accounts has been a specific intention of the nascent Network of Punk Scholars, for example. This symposium, however, would offer a counter-challenge to post-Hebdigean scholars: what is the meaning and politics of punk? What have bands such as Crass done, beyond the ‘bricolage’ which Hebdige describes? What are (were) the limits to their efficacy as agitators? Was/is anarcho-punk really about more than music? If so, was music the best possible vehicle for the forms of agitation which Crass undertook?
Within the study day, in addition to presentations from members of the Punk Network of Scholars and any other interested parties, an afternoon panel combines the views of Penny Rimbaud (the vociferous drummer of Crass), Sarah MacHenry (Crass fan, 1in12 member and ex-Witchknot/Curse of Eve drummer) and George McKay (author of Senseless Acts of Beauty discussing examples of correspondences he had with Crass in the early 1980s).
11am Registration, coffee and introductions
11.30am Panel 1: ‘Politics and Culture’:
- Rich Cross, ‘ “You’ll never beat the system by bombing Number 10”: Perceptions of the utility of political violence in anarcho-punk, 1977-1987’;
- Jim Donaghey, ‘Rudolf (is a punk) Rocker: Anarchism as a politics of punk/Punk as a culture of resistance’;
Chair: Mike Dines
1.30pm Panel 2: ‘Design, Style and Representation’:
- Matt Grimes, ‘Call it Crass but “There Is No Authority But Yourself”: De-canonizing Punk’s Underbelly’;
- Ana Raposa, ‘Punk is dead, long live punk!: The representation of politics in anarcho-punk music graphics’;
- Pete Dale, ‘More Than Music?: Confusions of musical style and political attitude in anarcho-punk from Crass onwards’;
Chair: Rich Cross
- Penny Rimbaud, George McKay and Sarah McHendry
Chair: Pete Dale