No Glue. No Glass Bottles - poster for 2017 retrospective exhibtion

In a guest post, Darren Pike reflects on the recent The Bunker 35 events, which celebrated thirty-five years of Sunderland’s acclaimed punk venue

 


“WHO’S YOUR LEADER? Which is your flock?” One of my favourite lyrics written by one of my favourite bands: Crass.

Crass were part of a movement which was spawned in the late 1970s and which gained popularity and notoriety into the early and mid-eighties. Anarcho-punk was a scene in which bands’ lyrics became extremely political and where serious anarchist ideas and ideals were expounded. Its DIY punk ethic saw like-minded people coming together forming collectives, bands, setting up record labels, writing fanzines and opening venues across the UK.

One such collective who “did it for themselves” were The Bunker group, who opened up a venue and activist centre in Sunderland. This September, members of the group arranged a celebration of 35 years of The Bunker at the “Pop Recs” coffee shop and art space (which was once part of the old Bunker). An exhibition and gig held over two nights (the line-up featured two bands that had played at the Bunker 30-odd years ago Anti-System and Andy T). Having attended one of the very first gigs at the old Green Terrace School (Conflict, Icons of Filth and Omega Tribe) and subsequently formed my own anarcho-punk band named Hex, I was intrigued and excited by the planned events.

As I pulled up in my car, I looked across the road and saw a large group of people standing outside Pop Recs, smiling, hugging each other and shaking hands. Faces I hadn’t seen in years mingled with people who weren’t even born 35 years ago. I was transported back in time and remembered my younger self chatting with mates while waiting to go into a gig, maybe to see Antisect or Flux of Pink Indians or one of the host of other bands which I saw play at The Bunker (or sometimes didn’t due to drinking far too much home brew).

Framed photographs of the original collective, of the venues, of people at the gigs and of the bands themselves had pride of place on the walls

The first thing that struck me was the sheer amount of people there. Once inside, you could barely move. I was really pleased with the amount of support shown. After chatting with mates and organisers, I had a look around the exhibition. Framed photographs of the original collective, of the venues, of people at the gigs and of the bands themselves had pride of place on the walls. A film made by the collective in the 1980s was also shown. Real DIY stuff, but great all the same. I then watched Jamie Harwood perform. He was excellent and very well received. After buying some merch, which consisted of high-quality reproduction posters and flyers, I said my goodbyes and was on my way and already looking forward to the gig the next evening.

The Bunker 35 - Prolefeed - Mr and Mrs Hardcore Photography
Prolefeed – The Bunker 35 – Mrs & Mrs Hardcore Photography

There were a lot of different faces in a large crowd for the gig the following night. After speaking to mates, it wasn’t long before Prolefeed came on and ripped the place apart. They are loud, aggressive, tight and on top form tonight. Each song lasts about 90 seconds. Barely giving you time to get your breath back before the next onslaught of rage and power is thrust into your face! Great stuff indeed.

Next up was Andy T. I first heard Andy on the Bullshit Detector compilation album back in the early 1980s. I still regard the song “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” as utter genius, and loved his debut single Weary of the Flesh. I’ve seen Andy T and band on a few occasions and thought tonight he was exceptional: spitting out poetry and songs from Life at Tether’s End and finishing off with “I Still Hate Thatcher”. Andy is still thought-provoking, original and relevant; a spoken word performer who’s up there with the genius that is John Cooper Clarke.

Let’s hope “the kids” get off their backsides and create some kind of worthwhile movement of their own

Finally, Anti-System take to the floor: a whole 32 years since they last played the Bunker! I remember buying their Defence of the Realm EP and loving it. This band have really gone through the mill, having members of the band imprisoned for various animal rights’ actions. They are a band who really do mean it. Confirmed by their recent mini album What Price is Freedom, they remain a band who are still angry, have something to say, and show no signs of slowing down. Starting off at such a ferocious pace, you think there was no way they could keep it up. Wrong! They were still blazing at the end of their set, and leave with the audience roaring for more.

And so the gig ends, and it’s off to the Museum Vaults with bands, punters and organisers for an after-show drink or three. This was a fantastic weekend, and I have to say the hard work put in by those involved certainly paid off. So, what now? Well let’s hope “the kids” get off their backsides and create some kind of worthwhile movement of their own, taking up the mantle themselves instead of leaving it to the old timers. But whatever happens next – here’s to The Bunker, and all who hunkered down, hung out, held the stage or hatched plans in her.

Darren Pike

The Bunker - Andy Hardcore and Raf Mulla

Andy Hardcore and Raf Mulla – The Bunker 35 – Mr & Mrs Hardcore Photography