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Former punk-rock star now a crew member with Sea Palling lifeboat

PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 September 2013

Steve Ignorant lead singer of punk band Crass who is now a crew member with the Sea Palling Independant Lifeboat. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Steve Ignorant lead singer of punk band Crass who is now a crew member with the Sea Palling Independant Lifeboat. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

Unlikely though it may seem, former punk-rock star Steve Ignorant thinks his old life and his current role as a member of Sea Palling’s lifeboat crew have much in common.

What is punk rock?

Punk rock emerged in the mid 1970s as a musical genre which rejected

mainstream rock.

It was typified by fast, strident music with minimal instrumentation and lyrics which were often political and heavily anti-authority.

The rebellious youth culture which grew up around punk included distinctive fashions in clothes, hairstyles and adornments. A typical punk, in the public imagination, wore tight, torn jeans, had an elaborate spiked hairdo and a body draped with chains and safety pins.

In Britain famous punk bands included The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.

“Crass used to take a big pacifist stance but my eyes have since opened and I don’t think that’s realistic any more. I’ve lost my innocence,” said Steve Ignorant.

“If someone slaps me round the face - I’ll slap them back twice as hard.”

Today Mr Ignorant is guest vocalist with Dublin-based band Paranoid Visions. He is also part of a three-piece called Slice of Life and says much of their performance is spoken word.

Although he believes today’s Britain has many serious problems including poverty, leading to people relying on foodbanks, he says the younger musical generation do not seem to sing about them.

“Maybe they’ve been stifled by The X-Factor,” he added.

From 1977-1984 Mr Ignorant was lead vocalist with the band Crass, once dubbed “Lords of punk’s extreme left,” who practised direct action including squatting.

He would stand on stage screaming out, with blood-curdling vehemence, songs with titles including Nagasaki Nightmare, Fight War not Wars and Bloody Revolution.

The band had a large following and its fans included Paul Weller, of The Jam. In more recent years actress Angelina Jolie and football star David Beckham have been photographed wearing Crass t-shirts.

Today Mr Ignorant, 55, is still angry at the world’s many injustices and still throws soul and sinew into singing about them but, should his pager sound while he’s at home in Chapel Road, Sea Palling, he’s on his way to the lifeboat station before you can say “anarcho-punk.”

Steve Ignorant in his days as lead vocalist with the punk rock band Crass. Picture: SUBMITTEDSteve Ignorant in his days as lead vocalist with the punk rock band Crass. Picture: SUBMITTED

“In a funny way it’s really similar,” he said. “Sea Palling lifeboat is independent - it’s not part of the RNLI - and punk was also one step removed.

“Punk rock also changed the lives of people who had a hard time, and the work of the lifeboat can also help people and change lives.”

Born Steve Williams, Mr Ignorant, or “Igs”, and his Dutch partner Jona Hofman moved to Sea Palling in 2007.

Crass’s gigs were all benefits, raising money for causes including CND and the miners during the 1984 strike. And when, in 2007, Mr Ignorant headlined a punk festival at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, he decided to donate £1,000 of the proceeds to the lifeboat station in his new home village.

Steve Ignorant in his days as lead vocalist with the punk rock band Crass. Picture: SUBMITTEDSteve Ignorant in his days as lead vocalist with the punk rock band Crass. Picture: SUBMITTED

As a “thank you,” the crew took him out on the boat and eventually persuaded him to join them.

He clearly remembers his first “shout”, to rescue two tired swimmers who could not get back to land. They were clinging to a surfboard and starting to get hypothermia.

Mr Ignorant is proud of his role as Number Three in the boat but admits to finding it terrifying. “When the pager goes I jump out of my skin,” he said. “My heart rate goes up 1,000 notches. However calm I try and stay I always get a bit breathless because you just don’t know what’s coming. We all put our lives on the line.

“You definitely don’t need drugs to get the adrenalin going. If only I’d known that all those years ago I wouldn’t have wasted so much money - all you really need is a lifeboat pager!


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