Researchers at the University of Reading are pioneering a participatory approach to social history to break down the barriers between regional punk communities and the ‘establishment’ of academia.

Mainstream celebrations of Punk culture have traditionally been perceived by many in the community as being culturally exploitative and imposed upon them for commercial gain. But now, a pioneering approach developed as part of a research project led by Professor Matthew Worley at the University of Reading is transforming the preservation, curation and presentation of counter-cultural legacies within this traditionally hard-to-reach community.

Worley’s approach decentralises the prevailing, media-driven narratives of Punk culture in the UK, which typically centre on London and Manchester while largely overlooking the rich cultural legacies of regional communities. In 2011, he co-founded the Subcultures Network to enable academics and cultural practitioners to co-create histories of local cultures.

This work led to the delivery in 2016 of a cultural heritage project to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the birth of punk music. The project involved a programme of events to celebrate the history of Punk in Norwich, alongside the co-creation with members of the punk community of a museum exhibit and the development of a website and social media network to facilitate ongoing engagement.

Together, these activities have brought together former and current members of the punk community in and around the region and created a sense of ownership of their shared cultural heritage. In doing so, it has reinvigorated their identity, validated their cultural practice and empowered them to share their histories in ways that resonate with them.

Find out more
View the full impact case study on the REF 2021 website: Excavating Youth Culture in Norwich: co-creating a history of Punk from within