VC writes apology to Sex Pistols over cancelled 1976 show

Punk enthusiast and UEA Vice-Chancellor Professor David Richardson has written to Sex Pistols frontman, John Lydon, to apologise for his predecessor cancelling their gig at UEA forty years ago. Included in the letter was a Norwich City bobble hat and UEA library card.

The show, due to be held at UEA on the 3rd December 1976, was billed as ‘A Punk-Rock Evening.’ Tickets cost £1.25 in advance and £1.50 on the door. Yet it was cancelled two days after John Lydon appeared on Today, a live London regional TV show, where he repeatedly swore.

Then Vice-Chancellor, Dr Frank Thistlethwaite, banned it “on the grounds of protecting the safety and security of persons and property.” The university ended up paying the band not to appear. 50 students protested inside UEA’s administrative block, calling the gig’s cancellation “a direct attack” on the ability of the student union to make autonomous decisions. In a letter to Mr Lydon, Vice-Chancellor, David Richardson, wrote, “Sadly I never got to see the Sex Pistols play Newcastle City Hall on the same tour, as that gig was also cancelled, but I did go on to see many of the punk bands such as the Buzzcocks, The Clash and The Damned. This would, I’m sure, come as something of a surprise to today’s UEA students.”

Professor Richardson, a big punk rock fan himself, also took a term away from university to follow The Clash on one of their tours.

Richardson continued, “By way of marking the upcoming 40th anniversary of the world of the Sex Pistols and UEA colliding, and as a way of saying thanks for the hugely creative and positive impact you have had on music. I have enclosed a Norwich City bobble hat (you do mention in [your autobiography] that it was a favourite of yours) and your own UEA library card.

“Unlike in 1976 you are very welcome to visit UEA and to use our university library. If you are ever passing through Norwich again with Public Image Limited, I’d be delighted to show you around. UEA remains a place that values teaching and learning and our campus is a place where you would be welcomed.”

In an interview with BBC Radio Norfolk on the 3rd December, Professor Richardson said, “The impact of it was huge and many of the Anarchy in the UK gigs were cancelled. In many ways it helped to create the Sex Pistols.

“It’s arguable that the cancellation of that first gig of that Anarchy in UK tour at UEA has played a major role in punk rock history.

“We were the first gig, and we cancelled and that was significant.”

He added, “The fact that I became Vice Chancellor of the first university that banned the Sex Pistols is really quite an irony.”


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January 2022
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