What does it mean to be punk?

The album cover for Blueberry Pie by the Starlite Campbell Band featuring Starlite's grandma Betty Higgs flicking the Vs at the camera
The album cover of our first studio album featuring my grandma, Betty Higgs. Photo by me!

Virtually thumbing through The Guardian, I came across an article by Amelia Hill about the Unglamorous Music project, a new punk collective for older women in Leicester.

The headline - What does it mean to be punk? - started my mental cogs whirring and motivated me to write this piece.

“Founded last year by 61-year-old Ruth Miller, (a born-again punk music coach) the aim is to create a local punk scene for older, all-female bands who write their own music. Prior musical experience is immaterial – enthusiasm is everything.” - Amelia Hill, The Guardian

What is punk?

Miller makes a great point in the article, but it’s not gender specific - the older you are, the more difficult it is for people to accept individual and seemingly outlandish behaviour.

Musically, punk rock can be traced back to the garage rock of the 60s with the likes of the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges who influenced British bands such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. These bands started a major cultural phenomenon in the United Kingdom and the resulting punk subculture, reflected in attitudes, politics and clothing.

The Cambridge dictionary defines punk as “a culture popular among young people, especially in the late 1970s, involving opposition to authority expressed through shocking behaviour, clothes, and hair, and fast, loud music”.

Just for the young?

Let’s have a look at this list of synonyms for the word young:

New. Blooming. Developing. Fledgling. Growing. Modern. Punk. Raw. Tender. Fresh. Unfinished.

Can these terms be applied to people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and *0s - hell yes!

If you think your time has gone, that there are no more dreams to be dreamed, or lack the confidence or believe you are too old to start something new, then think again - whose eyes are you looking through?

Seeking acceptance and conforming to a stereotype stifles creativity and expression.

Imagine a story written by a ‘seasoned’ eleven-year-old journalist just about to leave primary school, fascinated that older people in their 20s have formed a musical collective.

So, is punk about being angry, or just freely expressing yourself, not giving a flying fuck about what others think?

Dana Williams said:

“Punk is whatever you want to make it. That's the beauty of punk. It is being yourself, not someone else.

Most people, having heard that, would assume that everyone is punk, since everyone is their own person, of course. Yet, the majority of people in the world, for better or worse, follow the decisions, dress, attitudes, lifestyles, thoughts, ideologies, and actions of everyone else around them, without question.

Punk simply means you question things.”


When interviewed about Allelujah - a film adaptation of Allan Bennet's play of the same name - Director Richard Eyre admitted it’s his own generation’s fault.

“We fetishised being young - Hope I die before I get old - it’s just stupid! There’s no need for us to make such a fuss of the young to keep mimicking them, showing how envious we are.”

A great statement ehh?

Am I punk?

Of course! As each year goes by I become more non-conformist, more punk, feeling my best creative time is ahead of me.

After many dark nights and bottles of wine during the lockdown, my husband Simon (mental age 18) and I (mental age six and three quarters) decided we needed to begin something totally fresh, without boundaries of genre or expectation and are now working on a multimedia project - Starlite One - which has bigger wings, higher skies and wider horizons than our previous work, where the only limitation is our imagination.

Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell pictured with a random dog against a old school English pub background
Simon and I with a random dog. Image by the wonderful Paul Husband

Boarding now!

No matter what your age, punk is about saying no to death and yes to life!

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts below.

Much love and see you in two weeks. Simon’s up next!

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