Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Viewpoint: Punk arrives ... 30 years on

Disturbances at the Ulster Hall, alarmed city fathers cancelling a rock concert, disappointment exploding into teenage outrage.

This is what happened when, 30 years ago next month, punk rock arrived in Northern Ireland.

October 20, 1977 was the date that the Clash were booked to play Belfast, a gig that never went ahead but which market the arrival of the punk movement in the province.

Belfast City Hall politicians, spooked by the tabloid outrage against the emerging anti-establishment rock movement, cancelled the Ulster Hall gig at the last minute.

The reaction? Widespread teenage disgust, mini-riots in Bedford Street and a pledge from Clash frontman Joe Strummer that they would be back.

How quaint it all seems now. But back in 1977, Northern Ireland was a strife-torn backwater and Belfast city centre a no-go area. Bands avoided the city like the plague, and a generation of rock fans felt trapped in an artistic wasteland.

Then along came punk and, musically at least, everything began to change.

In memory of all this, a bunch of old punks will mark the 30th anniversary of the Clash concert that never was with a retro gig at Lavery's bar. A great idea that deserves support.

The chances of a riot in Bedford Street, however, look pretty slim this time round.

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