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What happened when thousands of punks descended upon a British seaside town?

Rebellion festival celebrated its 20th anniversary this year
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong\/Getty)

We came, we pogoed and we celebrated 40 years of punk at Rebellion Festival, the UK’s biggest dedicated punk event. For the first time in its 20 year history, the festival was completely sold out with around 10,000 punks descending upon Blackpool for total musical anarchy, DIY merch and beer. Missed out? Here’s why we thought this Rebellion 2016 was the best so far…

1. It was the who’s-who of punk royalty

The Exploited, The Damned, Buzzcocks, UK Subs, Stiff Little Fingers, Jello Biafra – the list goes on! Where else could you find some of the biggest names from the world of punk performing across one site over the space of four days? There’s a good reason why Rebellion Festival is the most important event of the year for so many punks.

2. They celebrated musical diversity

More than 350 live acts from all around the globe performed at Rebellion 2016 playing every punk-friendly style imaginable from hardcore to punkabilly, ska and post-punk. This year, there were six official venues within Blackpool’s indoor Winter Gardens complex as well as the open-air Tower Street Arena just opposite, so we were all spoiled for choice. Exclusives included the only UK show from punk legends Descendents, US hardcore band Dag Nasty’s first ever UK festival date, the return of Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen’s latest project The Old Firm Casuals and two incredible performances from legends Ruts DC.

3. They represented punk’s female warriors

The Slits’ guitarist Viv Albertine recently criticised the British Library’s punk exhibition for ignoring female punks so she must have been pleased to see women so heavily represented at this year’s Rebellion. Vice Squad, Besserbitch, Army Of Skanks and Maid Of Ace were among the frontwomen and female musicians proving they had the biggest balls of them all!

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4. They broke a shit ton of new bands

Punk may be 40 years old but Rebellion isn’t a nostalgia festival. This year, the new band stage was extended across all four days with more up-and-coming acts than ever before. There were even more new names spread across the remaining six stages – who said punk was dead?

5. They realised punk was about more than just music

Want to buy some original punk art? You’ve come to the right place! In addition to all the must-have merchandise and DIY clothing stalls, this year’s Rebellion was once again exhibiting art by a number of independent punk artists. You could buy original pieces by Charlie Harper (UK Subs), Gaye Black (The Adverts) and Knox (The Vibrators), as well as oil paintings, collages and stained glass panels from less well-known creators.

6. They even paid tribute to Lemmy

Friday afternoon saw Vice Squad honouring the one and only Lemmy Kilmister over on the Tower Street Arena stage with a riotous cover of Ace Of Spades. Feisty singer Beki Bondage dedicated the anthem to “Uncle Lemmy” and the place went nuts.

7. They promoted punk acts with disabilities

Last year’s Eurovision Song Contest had Finnish punks Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, this year, Rebellion Festival had Clan Of Anarchy and Reject Renegades. Both bands have been guided by Bradford organisation SORM (aka The School Of Rock And Media) who not only offer musical opportunities to the local community but also run workshops for budding musicians with disabilities. We’re talking real music for real people.

8. People added to their tattoo collection

A team of tattoos were ready to provide permanent souvenirs of the event, with the Rebellion logo being the most popular tattoo design by far. This year, Hawkeye’s Tattoo Carnival and Vendetta Tattoo Works also etched a ton of roses, Black Flag bars and Exploited motifs on the limbs of festival attendees.

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Shawn Brown of Dag Nasty

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Keith 'Monkey' Warren of The Adicts

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Dave Vanian of The Damned

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Jello Biafra

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Jeff Geggus of the Cockney Rejects

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Steve Ignorant

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Captain Sensible of The Damned

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Dick Lucas of Subhumans

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Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks

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Don Letts and John Robb

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Beki Bondage

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Milo Aukerman of the Descendents

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Chuck Dukowski of FLAG

9. They reminded us of punk’s roots

The power of the spoken word resided over on the Literary Stage at the Opera House, where we were all treated to performance poetry, punk-u-mentary screenings and classic interviews from some of punk’s founding musicians. Penetration’s Pauline Murray, The Damned’s Captain Sensible, Wattie from The Exploited and even DJ-turned-punk documentary maker Don Letts shared their stories from the early years.

10. And they celebrated their birthday!

It’s hard to believe that Rebellion began under the guise of Holidays In The Sun a whole 20 years ago. Thousands of bands and some very special reunion shows later, the family-run, DIY festival is going strong. Here’s to another 20 years!

Photos by Getty. Tickets for Rebellion 2017 are on sale now.

Natasha Scharf

Dark prog (and chocolate) fan Natasha has been a Prog regular since 2009. News Editor between 2014 and 2019, now Deputy Editor, she is the only member of the team to have appeared on Prog's cover.