Joe Corré is nothing if not true to his word. The founder of Agent Provocateur and true heir to the legacy of British punk (Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren are his parental units) announced back in March that he would be setting fire to his £5 million ($7 million) collection of punk memorabilia. This past weekend, he did it. Hey, people burn through $7 million of inheritances all the time—he just did it literally.
But Corré, ever his mother’s son, did not put on a show just for fun—it was in protest to the Queen announcing that 2016 was the official “Year of Punk,” seeing as it marks 40 years since the movement’s inception, and since the release of The Sex Pistols’ first single, “Anarchy in the UK.” At the event, effigies of the current and former Prime Ministers of England were dressed in some of Westwood’s most iconic pieces and torched along with posters, albums, and other memorabilia. Meanwhile, both Corré and later, Westwood, made speeches about climate change, and the political system.
Punk was not without faults. For one thing, it was immature. The punks wanted revolution, but didn’t really offer up plans on how to put change into action. It was also hypocritical—dress different, be different, but all in the same sort of way.
“Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a fucking museum piece or a tribute act,” Corré said when he announced his intentions. Fair enough—intention is a very important part of art, after all. But in a small way, punk changed the world, and that act of change is solidified in history.