Punk to take over the museum

Insurgents group members. Photo by Steve Smith.
Insurgents group members. Photo by Steve Smith.

An exhibition charting the story of punks in Morecambe in the early 1980s is being held at Lancaster’s City Museum.

The exhibition, called The Party’s Over – Morecambe Punks 1980-1982, is on until March 8 and contains a series of atmospheric photographs capturing the last days of punks in Morecambe by Steve Smith.

Mature lady inspects mohican. Photo by Steve Smith.

Mature lady inspects mohican. Photo by Steve Smith.

The images originate from a youth project where punks, based at the Euston Road Youth Centre, took photographs of each other.

At the time punk was on the decline as new wave and the new romantics gained a musical foothold.

The exhibition consists of a number of black and white prints.

Artist Steve was behind the re-establishment of the Lancaster Community Arts Team in 1980.

Passing up refreshments above Central Pier toilets. Photo by Steve Smith.

Passing up refreshments above Central Pier toilets. Photo by Steve Smith.

His first substantial project there was to become known as the ‘Morecambe Punks’ photography project.

He said: “A local group of young people felt alienated within the local community – older folk found their appearance shocking and intimidating and they were judged before anybody got to know them.

“One of the few forms of self-expression at the time was film based photography and I wondered how they would respond when given a decent SLR camera that they could use as they wished.

“We built a darkroom within the centre out of slate battens and cardboard sheets, we taught the young people how to use an SLR, develop negatives and print photographs.

Young women at the new Rensburg Club, North Street, Lancaster. Photo by Steve Smith.

Young women at the new Rensburg Club, North Street, Lancaster. Photo by Steve Smith.

“So began a uniquely creative period of around 18 months where their ordinary life was recorded in detail.

“Once the young group had printed their photos they discarded the negatives – I kept them in paper bags and now more than 30 years on I have used digital technology to repair and re-present them.

“Although I worked in community arts for six more years, I feel we rarely created anything as fresh and audacious again.

“The group were not all ‘punks’ – there were some skin heads and a smattering of casuals.

“I can’t remember most of their names and trust they have all gone on to be judges, solicitors, doctors and all manner of moral citizens.

“Of course the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, et al has transformed the way young people can publish and represent themselves – but for all of this I wonder if the present 17/18-year-olds feel any more ‘visible’?”

Steve came up with the exhibition in a bid to highlight this small section of society.

He said: “I wanted to recognise the creativity of this loose band of young people who for a brief moment used film photography to express their identity and their relationship with other people in Morecambe and Lancaster.

“Most of the images have not been printed before and none of them have been seen in public.

“The film negatives are 34 years old and some I had to restore quite extensively.

“I know that a few of the original members have seen the exhibition, which is fantastic – I’m sure that the images will give them fun and joy, maybe some pause for thought and reflection.

“Some of today’s young people are astonished how such provocative fashion was so widespread and ‘normal’ at the time.

“I hope everyone can find the time to visit the show and maybe see old friends, relatives or even (heavens above) – see themselves.

“When people visit would they let us know their memories and feelings and write a postcard for the exhibition ‘memory board’!”

Handmade postcards from the exhibition are available in the museum shop.

It is hoped that More Music musicians will perform acoustic sets in the galleries on Friday March 6 from 3-4.30pm.

Some of the young people are directly influenced by the Punk scene but the idea is also based around how the young people of Morecambe express themselves and identify themselves in 2015.