Wake Up Punk: Director Nigel Askew on Vivienne Westwood and punk’s rebellious spirit

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For our latest Crack Supporters film screening, this week we’re showing Nigel Askew’s new documentary Wake Up Punk.

2016 marked the 40th anniversary of the Sex Pistols seminal LP Anarchy in the UK. In November of that same year Joe Corré – Vivenne Westwood and Malcom McLaren’s son – set an estimated five million pounds worth of punk memorabilia aflame. An act of protest in response to the commodification of punk, Corré’s actions were widely criticised and labelled cultural terrorism. In his new film, Askew offers insight into Corré’s decision to stage this event and features candid, revelatory interviews with punk designer Vivienne Westwood.

Through conversations between Westwood and her sons Ben and Joe, as well as footage featuring The Sex Pistols and the late Jordan, Askew traces the history of the movement whilst capturing its rebellious spirit. Alongside documentary footage, the film weaves a magical realist narrative, drawing inspiration from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist to emphasise the punk’s anti-establishment ethos. Furthermore, Askew traces punk’s enduring legacy in the context of climate activism today; and the idea of the new punk in the 21st century.

To celebrate the release of his new film, we catch up with Askew to talk Vivienne Westwood, climate activism and what punk means now.

Wake Up Punk is available to watch for Supporters from 9-16 May.

Courtesy of Wake Up Punk

How did you get into filmmaking?

I was a photographer for many years when a production company approached me. My first job was a music video for The Rebel MC Street Tough. I went onto film the first fashion videos 1989 onwards.

How did Wake Up Punk come about?

It really started with Joe Corré’s burn punk, I was drafted in to film the event and it grew from there.

Why did it feel important to focus on that?

I wanted to relate punk to activism which is the new punk, and Viv going over the clothes was so fab, as we saw her as herself for a change.

You’ve worked with Joe Corré before. How did you initially connect?

I knew him sociably as I filmed his mum’s show for years. We connected at the Life Ball Vienna as we both love a party.

When did you first meet Vivienne Westwood?

I first met Viv in 1985 filming her show.

Courtesy of Wake Up Punk

What does punk signify to you?

Since making this film my view of punk has altered. I now realise the attitude as a force for change means more than music and fashion, they were just vehicles for the concept.

The film includes this magical realist element with the storyline of the Dickensian kids interwoven with documentary footage. What made you decide to make Wake Up Punk in this way rather than a more conventional documentary style?

Malcom was very much into Dickens and he needed a voice. I thought it cool to tell the story in a cinematic way through the eyes of the kids, I wanted to appeal to the young with regards to the activism side of the New Punk.

Do you think that punk in its truest, most radical spirit is alive today? 

I very much think punk is alive and kicking; it’s just changed into other rebellions but all of these things have a punk attitude if they are challenging society.

Wake Up Punk is screening for Crack Supporters until 16 May

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