Photo-punk: making an idea a reality

As a communications officer for Royal Pavilion & Museums, I’m always thinking about our audiences and how we address their needs and interests. So when the UK punk movement, which I have a personal interest in, started to gear up for its 40th anniversary, I felt that it was something many other people in Brighton & Hove might also be interested in celebrating.

Photo of Buzzcocks
Buzzcocks, copyright Kevin Cummins

I regularly work with our Programming team to promote exhibitions and displays across our five venues, but in this case I got to be involved in developing the idea and agreeing a focus. Having initially envisaged a diverse ‘Punk in Print’ display in Brighton Museum’s Print and Drawings Gallery we realised that much of that ground was being trodden elsewhere, but that we had a great opportunity to home in on the work of two key photographers we were planning to include.

I’d worked with leading music photographer Kevin Cummins, a fellow Mancunian, in a couple of small ways previously, and he’d kindly agreed to lend iconic images of the north west punk scene to our display.  And through the director of a recent film about one of my favourite bands, The Damned, I’d made contact with legendary rock photographer Ian Dickson, whose pictures of the band had long been my favourites and who turned out to live in Brighton.  When Ian mused about mounting a wider display of his punk photography my Programming colleagues loved the idea, and we decided to invite both artists to share their individual takes on the birth of UK punk.

Photo of The Damned, 1977
The Damned, 1977, copyright Ian Dickson
Photo of Captain Sensible and Jo Nightingale
Captain Sensible and Jo Nightingale

As well as publicising the display, cleverly named ‘Photo-punk’ by our Marketing Manager Jemma Treweek, my interest in UK punk led me to become involved in its curation; from collaborating with our Creative Programming Curator Jody East and the photographers on image selection and layout, to writing background information and editing captions. I also managed to secure the loan of a guitar and trademark outfit from The Damned’s Captain Sensible, and my meeting with him in the Royal Pavilion’s tearoom has definitely been a highlight of the process!

It’s been wonderful to meet and work with these esteemed photographers and help showcase their pioneering work on punk; it’s been great to see that Brighton Museum’s visitors, both regular and new, have enjoyed the exhibition since it went live.

Jo Nightingale, Press and PR Officer