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Reflections on Rebellion- a first timer’s perspective!

Herman de Tollenaere, one of the vocalists of late ’70s Dutch punks Cheap ‘n’ Nasty, explored the political as well as the musical during his first time at Rebellion.

Can you believe it has been over a week since Rebellion ended (the festival, not actual acts of rebellion which we hope will continue)? Well, we’re still buzzing! 2022 was the first time our Herman was able to make it to the mammoth punk love-in that is Blackpool’s Rebellion Festival. And his experience demonstrates that punk solidarity is alive and well! Read on to find out how he got on….

“Punk is not mainly something to look back to, but to look forward to’”- Don Letts at Rebellion 2022.

For many years, I wanted so much to go to the Rebellion Festival but it was impossible. All the way from the Netherlands to Blackpool, without knowing about public transport in England? Too daunting! But, where there’s a will (and some punk solidarity), there’s a way! My travels to the fest were made possible by Lorna Tiefholz. I had met her in Belgium where she played guitar in Hägar the Womb, opening for Pussy Riot. Yes, we can rekindle links after decades!

Lorna’s other band- Rabies Babies– were part of the Rebellion line-up. She offered to be my travel companion and keep me on track for the fest! An example of how punk solidarity cuts across national borders and long times apart. Before we knew it, we were on our way to Blackpool and I was assured of a warm welcome!

“Punks are welcome in Blackpool with shopkeepers etc.’ Lorna said. ‘Punks tend to cause less damage than stag and hen dos!”

Seeing the Winter Gardens venue for the first time, it was surrounded by so many punks! So colourful- what a sight!

I made it in time to see Rhoda Dakar being interviewed on the Literary stage of Rebellion.

Rhoda co-founded the punk-ska girls the Bodysnatchers in 1979. She spoke about working with The Ruts and The Specials as well her new record, a reggae version of the Rolling Stones‘ song ‘As Tears Go By’.

The literary stage was a carousel of punk legends. As well as Rhoda Dakar, there was Edwina Banger, The Skids’ Richard Jobson, Mickey Bradley and Damian O’Neill of The Undertones…amongst many more! Worth coming all this way just for them!

I packed in so much over the weekend, from punk poets such as Attila the Stockbroker, to oi! punk from US The Suede Razors, to folk punk like Blyth Power. All the different genres and manifestations of punk in one weekend is truly a magical and uplifting experience.

Some of my musical highlights were Sham 69 and The Ramonas– both of which I saw for the first time. One of the most encouraging sights was a young, possibly 11-year-old Ramonas fan moving along frantically with all movements of the band. I hope she will start a band soon! After all, that is what punk is about at its best- showing you that you can start a band and do-it-yourself!

But punk is never just about the music alone, and Rebellion offers many other activities and events that allow you to explore the legacy, meaning and future of punk and what it means.

One of my highlights was the Women in Punk panel. With panellists Gaye Black (The Adverts), Rhoda Dakar (The Bodysnatchers), Jessica Rush (Bite Me), Mandy Shaw (Mere Dead Men), Pauline Murray (Penetration), and Penelope Houston (The Avengers), it was a fascinating discussion about the experience of women in the punk movement in different parts of the world at different times.  All chaired by Tara Rez (The Duel).

This is a moving subject for me. As my inspirations for becoming punk in 1977 were one Dutch woman and three French women: The Lou’s! The first all-women band in any kind of rock in France. The bands I played in could not have existed without their female members. Women have always played a huge part in punk, from its inception. The panel agreed:

Rhoda Dakar: “When punk started, it was more matriarchy than patriarchy. After big business stepped in, it became more patriarchy”.

Gaye Black: “We should emphasize that women in early punk were not just singers. Also instrumentalists.”

Pauline Murray: “Before punk, the only places for women in music were as groupies. Or as background singers. Or a ‘non-threatening’ singer like Kiki Dee. It was such a breakthrough when Patti Smith started singing what were not cliché love songs.”

Penelope Houston: “As I first wave punk woman in the Avengers, I agree that punk brought progress for women. However, the rise of the hardcore tendency within punk undid that progress partially.

When we talk about the situation of women, then we should not forget the recent decision of the Supreme Court in my country, the USA, to outlaw abortion. This is part of a bigger danger to women’s rights. As next steps, the far right plans to outlaw contraceptives and all sexuality outside heterosexual marriage. If women are unfree, being deprived of choice about abortion, then it affects women in their creativity, including being in punk bands.”

The impact of those women who embraced the early punk movement cannot be overstated. As musician and author Helen Reddington (author of ‘The Lost Women of Rock Music‘) said on the Rebellion Literary Stage:

“To my joy, in the university library I found academic books on punk. Now, I would be able to read about my heroines, about the women who had inspired me: Poly Styrene, Siouxsie, The Slits, The Raincoats! But, what did I find in those books? They were all about male punk musicians only. I decided to do something about that.”

Gina Birch also spoke about the lightbulb monent of going to a Slits concert and being inspired to start her own band:

‘I went to the first Slits concert.  There, I found out that women could also make that exciting new music. That I could make it. So, in late 1977, I started the Raincoats.’

And the rest is history!

The interview with Don Letts was also an opportunity to reflect on the way punk ideals took on concepts of racism and built a bridge between communities- another legacy that punk can be proud of.

Early punk, Don Letts said, was “multiculturalism before the word existed. And to me, punk is not mainly something to look back to, but to look forward to”. So fuckin’ right!

Asked about John Lydon/Rotten and his er…’challenging views’, Don said: “I still value what he has done, like when we were together in Jamaica giving reggae bands the chance to make records; though I don’t recognize the person he has become lately”.

Rebellion was so much more than the music- I met friends old and new; was able to ruminate on the impact that punk has had and what it still represents to so many. There were so many national cultural backgrounds represented, many ages, men and women…..both on stages and among audiences. And that is what punk is all about. And this is why events like Rebellion- where we can all get together- are so important.

The dates are already set for August 2023- 3rd-6th August- and early bird tickets on sale now! Join in the fun and we’ll see you next year!

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