Cazz Blase interviews women of British 1970s punk on the music – and the politics, in part three of her series
Gina Birch was on an art foundation course in Nottingham when she first encountered what would become known as punk. She and her friend Alex were hitch-hiking around the UK, on a quest to find the perfect art school,when they fetched up at Saint Martin’s College Of Art in London, and saw the Sex Pistols perform alongside Bazooka Joe.
“It was the Sex Pistols’ first ever gig,” she explained to me, “and it was so bizarre. I don’t remember Bazooka Joe, but I do remember these four boys, on the stage, and they only played about four or five songs… they were just really kind of mesmerising, because they were so unlike anything we’d ever seen before, and we were both rather taken with them, we didn’t know what they were called, or anything about them.” Gina’s friend Alex didn’t get into Brighton, and at the last minute Gina changed her application from Leeds to Hornsey, meaning that the two girls arrived in London in September 1976. “Now, the art scene where I was at Hornsey was pretty dreary compared with Nottingham and Leeds,” she explained, “and I thought I’d maybe made a bit of a mistake in the end, coming down here, but… I discovered that there were these gigs going on.” She saw Subway Sect at the Royal College of Art, along with The Clash, on 5 November 1976.
“It was just an incredibly exciting event. And shortly thereafter, or around that time, the Roxy Club opened.” The word ‘punk’ was floating around by November 1976, thanks to journalists Caroline Coon and Jonh Ingham, but Gina maintained that, “All we knew, we kind of were beginning to belong to a tribe, which was known as punk by people.”