Son of Punk Legends Sets Fire to Millions of Dollars of Memorabilia

Joe Corré set fire to punk history to protest commodification, nostalgia, and climate change.

Rare punk memorabilia on fire in protest. Photo by John Phillips, courtesy Getty Images.

More than $6 million worth of punk memorabilia went up in flames on Saturday, a statement against the nostalgia and commodification of punk on the 40th anniversary of the Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.” Firefighters looked on as a barge floating on the Thames river in London was set ablaze by Joe Corré, the son of the late Malcolm McLaren of Sex Pistols fame, and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

Corré and Westwood both spoke to crowds, the former from the boat packed with Corré’s collection of ephemera, and the latter from a bus sporting a banner advertising The activist mother-and-son duo both spoke on the urgency of ethical consumption and saving the environment, besides Corré emphasizing his motives.

“Welcome to the great punk rock swindle, a time when you can buy McDonald’s punky nuggets, an ‘Anarchy in the UK’ credit card at 19 percent APR, punk rock car insurance, and bondage trousers from Louis Vuitton. And London is being socially cleansed and turned into a theme park,” he began.

Joe Corré's punk memorabilia collection on fire on a boat in London. Photo by John Phillips, courtesy Getty Images.

Joe Corré’s punk memorabilia collection on fire on a boat in London. Photo by John Phillips, courtesy Getty Images.

The entire event was livestreamed online, and a YouTube account with the name Burn Punk London has uploaded a 26-video playlist of Corré’s and Westwood’s speeches, and clips of individual ephemera on fire.

As nothing less than an elaborate theatrical ignition was appropriate, Corré set fire to a “band” of DIY mannequins wearing his vintage punk clothing, called “The Extinctions,” complete with printout faces of British politicians.

Corré’s method of protesting the contemporary commodification of punk has been met with questions of why he couldn’t sell his archive instead, and donate the money to charity. On an Instagram post, commenters called the action “pathetic,” “a waste,” “capricious and middle class- quite castrated in fact [sic],” and “so fucking lame.” Others praised the bonfire, one user with a “thumbs up” emoji, another with the comment, “Bravo…If you can’t understand this, you never understood punk.”

Twitter user @MattJHartley said to Corré on Saturday, “If you can somehow turn this into a good thing I will be astonished,” to which Corré replied, “Something good will come out of this.” In other replies, he made mentions of a documentary, and indeed, cameramen filming from different angles can be seen in the YouTube videos. Time will tell if “something good” is more than an attempted wakeup call to fashionistas in Louis Vuitton bondage trousers.

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