Farewell Jamie Reid, artist and anarchist, forgotten by Croydon

Jamie Reid, the anarchist artist and graphic designer who devised the designs and artwork that defined the punk era’s iconoclasm, has died. He was 76.

Never mind the bollocks: Jamie Reid’s style was visible in his campaigning work in Croydon

Reid’s ransom note-style collage work for the Sex Pistols was “a central pillar of the punk aesthetic”, according to one obituary.

Reid was a product of his south London upbringing, including his training at Croydon School of Art, where he met Malcolm McLaren, who was to become the manager of the Sex Pistols.

Yet, as noted by Inside Croydon, Reid has been forgotten or ignored by the Croydon Establishment, omitted from the borough’s Lottery-funded Music Heritage Trail, a flagship project for the Borough of Culture.

Born in Croydon in 1947, Reid attended John Ruskin School – he will have been a pupil there at the same time as Roy Hodgson, who went on to manage the England football team and Crystal Palace – before he went to art school.

Jane Nicholl, of the South Norwood Tourist Board, remembers, “It was during his art school days that I remember fondly his involvement with a campaign against the demolition of a house by East Croydon Station to build a roundabout where the NLA Tower was about to be constructed.

“The house was occupied by an elderly woman and, as usual, the property developers and Croydon Council did their bullying, intimidating best to get her out. Jamie and his art schoolmates launched a robust campaign of demonstrations, sit-ins and direct action against her eviction.

Iconoclast: Jamie Reid

“Of course, in the end the bad guys won. The resident was evicted and so began the concreting of Croydon, as depicted in so many of Jamie’s iconic artworks which have been displayed over the years.”

Reid’s best known work was for the covers of a series of Sex Pistols releases: the pink and yellow text of their only album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, and including God Save the Queen, the hit single banned by the BBC, Her Maj’s carefully coiffed portrait defaced by Reid.

Much of that style of work can be traced back to Reid’s time in Croydon, with the countercultural Suburban Press, which he began in 1970 alongside Jeremy Brook and Nigel Edwards, and was published out of 433 London Road and then 9 Sidney Road, SE25, the forerunner of thousands of fanzines that would be produced in the following decade.

“We are left dwarfed in the streets by huge towers of bureaucracy. An architecture and environment of commerce has been created to manipulate our lives,” began a 20-page diatribe against the “Manhattan-isation” of Croydon contained in Suburban Press No5 published in 1972.

“Our communications with each other are limited by urbanisation. There is nowhere to meet, our meeting places have been demolished. The people… have been made to perform in an urban environment of commerce and administration.”

According to a website on the radical press compiled by the University of West England in Bristol, “Reid’s design experiments in punk montage were essential to the paper’s identity, [but] its most distinguishing features were the density of its text and the fury of its argument.”

For instance, this: “On Saturdays the pedestrian shopping precinct ‘show piece’ of Croydon, the Whitgift Centre, echoes with the hysterical whine of shopping neurosis.

“Reverberating between the facades of plate glass and concrete. You cannot move for shoppers, busily replenishing their property, everyone seems dazed and determined.

“The instant sandwich bars have specially designed stalls and tables so as to make you feel uncomfortable after 10 minutes, to force you out, back it the buying arena. There is always someone to replace you, another coffee and sandwich, another sell.”

Iconoclasm: the unforgettable cover of an unforgettable single

According to the Grauniad, “Reid explained his ethos in 2015: ‘Our culture is geared towards enslavement – for people to perform pre-ordained functions, particularly in the workplace. I’ve always tried to encourage people to think about that and to do something about it’.”

Nicholl recalls that Reid “also collaborated with another Croydon anarchist activist, Ian Bone, in organising an anarchist festival in London in 1994 ‘Anarchy in the UK – 10 Days That Shook The World’.”

Tributes to Reid since his death was announced on Tuesday have described him as “artist, iconoclast, anarchist, punk, hippie, rebel and romantic” who has left “an enormous legacy”.

Nicholl said, “He remained an anarchist for the rest of his life. RIP comrade!”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to Farewell Jamie Reid, artist and anarchist, forgotten by Croydon

  1. Jack Griffin says:

    Reid hasn’t been completely overlooked as commentary on he and McLaren is buried in the bowels of the Croydon Music Heritage Music Trail app.

    Open the app, navigate to Walking Trails, then Central Trail, then Croydon College (still with me?), then 1960s, where you will find the following:

    “By 1968, British youth was disillusioned; two art students at the college were Jamie Reid and Malcolm McLaren. McLaren was fascinated by Guy Debord and the Situationists in Paris and decided to use their ideas as part of an anti-establishment sit-in at Croydon College that lasted for eight days. Reid took these ideas and turned them into a fanzine called Suburban Press, all about Croydon and his horror at its widescale post-war redevelopment.

    McLaren channeled his energies into his Kings Road clothes shop (initially called Let It Rock, later called Sex) and formed a band to effectively promote the shop – the Sex Pistols. McLaren and Reid stayed in touch and the artwork that Reid had first drawn up at Croydon College – like the twin buses with ‘nowhere’ as their destination – became some of the most iconic images of the punk era.”

    As with the rest of the trail/ app’s content, it’s ‘Janet and John’ stuff written for people who know nothing seemingly by people who know nothing.

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