$8.9m of punk memorabilia set on fire

Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corre set fire to what he said was $8.9 million of punk memorabilia as well as human effigies (above) to protest against Punk London, while his mother, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, called for the crowd to support green
Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corre set fire to what he said was $8.9 million of punk memorabilia as well as human effigies (above) to protest against Punk London, while his mother, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, called for the crowd to support green energy.PHOTO: REUTERS
Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corre set fire to what he said was $8.9 million of punk memorabilia as well as human effigies to protest against Punk London, while his mother, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood (above), called for the crowd to support green
Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corre set fire to what he said was $8.9 million of punk memorabilia as well as human effigies to protest against Punk London, while his mother, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood (above), called for the crowd to support green energy.PHOTO: REUTERS
Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corre (above) set fire to what he said was $8.9 million of punk memorabilia as well as human effigies to protest against Punk London, while his mother, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, called for the crowd to support green
Agent Provocateur founder Joe Corre (above) set fire to what he said was $8.9 million of punk memorabilia as well as human effigies to protest against Punk London, while his mother, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, called for the crowd to support green energy.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Mr Joe Corre, the son of Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols manager who defined the band's direction in their brief heyday in the late 1970s, set fire to what he claimed was £5 million (S$8.9 million) worth of punk memorabilia aboard a boat on the Thames River last Saturday.

"Punk has become another marketing tool to sell you something you don't need," he said to dozens gathered on the shore in London's Chelsea district, as flames licked at a trunk of punk paraphernalia and fireworks shot from the boat into the late afternoon sky. "If you want to understand the potent values of punk, confront taboos. Do not tolerate hypocrisy. Investigate the truth for yourself."

Mr Corre, a household name in Britain, is also known as the son of Mr McLaren and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and as a founder of racy lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.

He announced this spring that he would burn his punk collection to protest against Punk London, a celebration of the genre timed to the 40th anniversary of a 1976 Ramones concert in the city that is said to mark punk's arrival in Britain.

Last Saturday's bonfire coincided with the anniversary of the release of the Sex Pistols' single Anarchy In The UK, which put England's bestloved punk band on the map.

The items set on fire included a pair of bondage trousers tailormade for Mr Corre as a child; rare posters; live punk recordings; and pants that had belonged to Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the Sex Pistols, said a news release sent by a publicist for Mr Corre.

Punk London, which includes exhibitions at venues such as the British Library, has drawn protests from die-hard fans, who lament the movement's co-option by mainstream culture.

Mr Corre, 48, has called the series a betrayal of punk's counter-cultural values and has claimed that Queen Elizabeth II endorses it. (The queen has issued no public statements on Punk London.)

As the blaze died down last Saturday, Westwood, a last-minute addition to the proceedings, poked her head out from a green double-decker bus carrying some members of Mr Corre's crew.

"By the end of this century, by 2100, there'll be only one billion people left," she said to the crowd in a speech that argued that a superelite of bankers and politicians was driving climate change. "We'll all be migrants, all trying to get to the green part."

As a wailing fire truck arrived, she urged the crowd to support green energy. "It's the most important thing you could do in your life," she said. "Let's all have a laugh and stay alive. Bye," she added, before disappearing into the bus.

Besides the trunk of punk memorabilia, Mr Corre incinerated several human effigies modelled on conservative politicians such as Mr Boris Johnson, London's former mayor and an advocate for Britain's exit from the European Union, and Prime Minister Theresa May. A band on board the ship played drum-heavy music as the bonfire burned.

After the bonfire, Mr Corre returned to shore to speak with journalists. When one reporter noted that the event could be a hoax as the press were not able to verify the value of the materials on board, he dismissed the comment with an expletive and said: "You've seen it, you've seen it. What are you talking about, a hoax?"

An hour after the event began, the green bus pulled away, carrying Mr Corre, Westwood and their coterie. Some photographers and visitors lingered.

Bajowoo, 32, the South Korean fashion designer behind the punk brand 99%IS-, stood looking out at the boat. He had heavy, ghoulish mascara around his eyes and wore a surgical mask with a hole ripped through the mouth.

He had flown to London just for the event, he said. He had learnt about it on the Internet and said he was disappointed that the crowd was so small. He noted that he had expected deeper interest from a country considered as one of punk's homelands.

"Not many people," he said. The "world is very big", he added. "And punk started here."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline '$8.9m of punk memorabilia set on fire'. Print Edition | Subscribe