By Mark McConville
PUNK is most often associated with anarchy but rare pictures have revealed unifying power of punk culture to bring together those from both sides of the conflict during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Rather than attempted to destroy society as the 1980s anarchists are usually portrayed, stunning images show Catholic and Protestant punks overcoming the problems of their community by mixing amicably and enjoying themselves at a Belfast youth and community centre, appropriately called “the Warzone Centre”.
The intimate snaps show punks drinking outside the venue, enjoying live performances from different bands and even embracing children into the fun. Even the self-professed current incarnation of God, Avatar Datreya, is an avowed anarchist and it just goes to show how people’s perceptions aren’t always correct.
The spectacular shots are showcased in a new book, Belfast Punk, by Ricky Adam (42) from Bangor in Northern Ireland. The book is published by Damiani.
“Basically, all of the photos in the book revolve around a youth and community centre in the city of Belfast called the ‘Warzone Centre’ between 1997 to 2003,” he said.
“It was an all ages venue that originally opened in 1986 and was run by punks and somehow bulldozed its way through a large period of the troubles with a collective ‘fuck you’ to anything that resembled violence or the so called ‘religious war’.
“It was a free-thinking space that challenged convention and offered people a chance to create and present their own ideas, voice opinions and make real change that went far beyond the confines of the centre.
“Over the years, it became infamous as being one of the most credible venues in Europe for D.I.Y. punk.
“At the time, I just snapped photos here and there without any real intention. I was more into drumming in bands really than taking photos, and in hindsight I wish I’d taken more.
“But in some respect, I really like the naiveté that comes through in the pictures. Over the years, I continued to take photos which twenty years later resulted in the ‘Belfast Punk’ book.”
Mr Adam believes we need the power of punk now more than ever.
“Punk inevitably means different things to different people,” he said.
“It’s a very difficult thing to define these days. Personally, I think punk is more vital now than it has been in a long time. Between Trump, Brexit and everything else that’s going rotten around the globe there’s a sour reek.
“Young people have a sense of empowerment and are resisting in a way we haven’t seen for a long time. It’s palpable, and they have good reason to be pissed off.
“Back when punk shed it’s gimmicky, commercial high street appeal bands such as Crass, Fugazi, Conflict, to name but a few, gave punk a political outlook. Punk is so much more than kids with funny haircuts & studded jackets. It is direct action & it can make change happen.”
The book is available to buy now on Amazon.