What was it that inspired you to found Decolonise Fest?
Stephanie: We wanted to celebrate the work that people of colour have done in the punk scene, and to create a space that would welcome and inspire people of colour. In the society that we’re in, there are so many issues around race and racism. When you enter the punk scene, which remains majority white, people can feel excluded or unwelcome. People of colour might drop out of the punk scene or just watch it from afar, never going to gigs or engaging more deeply with something they love.
That’s why we created Decolonise Fest. We can be the space for people of colour that they’ve wanted ever since they were a teenager. We get people in their fifties bringing their families. For many punks it’s the first time they’ve been at a gig that’s majority people of colour. This is going to be our fourth year and every year the festival gets bigger.
The Museum of London’s panel discussion will also feature other speakers like Celeste Bell, daughter of Punk legend Poly Styrene, lead singer of X-Ray Spex. Stephanie spoke about the role of Decolonise Fest in recognising punk’s diverse and feminist history.
Stephanie: People of colour have always been present in the punk scene. There are the well-known faces like Poly Styrene, but punks in the seventies were listening to reggae, they were taking part in the immigrant culture which was thriving in London at the time. Punk picked up on that culture of resistance.
It’s taken longer for women and people of colour to be taken seriously- you had bands like the Slits who were around at the same time as the Clash, but they were seen as just silly girls. It took years to understand the way that they were approaching it, the different genres they were weaving in.
We’ve been here from the start, and part of Decolonise Fest is about recognising that.