Joe Corré, son of punk visionaries Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, burns an estimated £5M worth of punk memorabilia protesting the commodification of punk. WAKE UP PUNK takes this incendiary act of ‘cultural terrorism’ and the questions it raised to explore the lifespan and true worth of punk – the 20th century’s most volatile movement. Available On Demand from 9th May 2022.
The initial interviews take place around a table with Joe Corré and his brother Ben Westwood talking with their very famous fashion designer mother Vivienne Westwood, the once upon a time punk pioneer. Who better than Vivienne to give her opinion about the punk generation? Married to Malcolm McLaren, together they famously opened the shop ‘Sex’ on London’s Kings Road in the 70s, that became a hangout for punks and was where one of the most notorious of all punk bands, the Sex Pistols, assembled under McLaren’s management.
As they go through some original punk memorabilia, Vivienne reminisces about the early days of punk and the punk look – the clothes, the hairstyles, the music and the attitude – but also how punk has been appropriated over the years by corporations, cashing in on its name, even though punk’s anti-establishment beginnings were in complete opposition to corporate values with their rather rebellious outlook on life.
Joe makes the point his famous punk parents weren’t considered the great iconic British figures they are today but were actually vilified by the establishment. This ironic change in circumstances isn’t lost on Joe who, as literally the son of punk, feels an unerring duty to keep flying the flag for punk.
These memories of punk history are enjoyable to hear first-hand from the people that were there but the gentle, defiant, nostalgic tone changes when Joe reveals he’s going to burn his priceless collection of irreplaceable punk memorabilia, estimated to be worth £5 million, in a rallying punk message against the establishment and the associated problems causing climate change. This of course brings to the debate a fervent questioning of the rights and wrongs of this destructive cultural terrorism from those around and not least by Joe himself, who has more reason than most to be upset by his own actions brought about by what he sees as the end of the true punk spirit.
A dramatic visual touch to the documentary is added to good effect with a theatrical re-enactment from a group of children playing the role of Dickensian street urchins (a nod to his father’s description of himself as a Fagin like father figure to the punk generation) who deliver their angry message about the economic inequality in society between the wealthy 1% and the poor.
Whatever your views on punk and Joe’s endeavour to make an artistic punk statement, it is a timely documentary, even though the burning of the punk memorabilia took place back in 2016. This release coincides with Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year and this special anniversary is coincidently shared with the Sex Pistols’ famous song “God Save the Queen” released in 1977 for Her then Silver Jubilee. Maybe this will help with the sale of more punk merchandise – if it hasn’t all been burnt – or could go towards helping save the planet?
Film: Wake Up Punk
Director: Nigel Askew
Stars: Vivienne Westwood, Ben Westwood, Joe Corré, Eddie Tudor-Pole
Run time: 1hr 25min