University of East Anglia in Norwich offers to make amends with Sex Pistols after it cancelled gig 40 years ago

A copy of the article in the Eastern Evening News on the cancelled Sex Pistols gig

A copy of the article in the Eastern Evening News on the cancelled Sex Pistols gig - Credit: Archant

It was a moment that saw the University of East Anglia and its then vice-chancellor go down in punk rock history.

A letter from the UEA showing how much money it had to pay in cancellation fees

A letter from the UEA showing how much money it had to pay in cancellation fees - Credit: Archant

Exactly 40 years ago, the Sex Pistols were due to play the first night of their Anarchy in the UK tour at the UEA's union bar.

But following a controversial television interview just days earlier on December 1, 1976, the university took the decision to cancel the gig.

Its vice-chancellor at the time, Frank Thistlethwaite, feared the concert would not end peacefully given the band's 'reported attitude to violence'.

Four decades on, and the university's current vice-chancellor, Prof David Richardson, has written to Sex Pistols' frontman John Lydon to make amends.

A poster of the Sex Pistols tour

A poster of the Sex Pistols tour - Credit: Archant


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Along with a two-page letter, the self-confessed punk-rock fan enclosed a Norwich City bobble hat and UEA library card for the singer to use.

Mr Richardson said he chose the items as the 60-year-old mentioned he had a 'soft spot' for Norwich City FC in his autobiography, and that libraries and had been important to him as a child.

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'Unlike in 1976, you are very welcome to visit UEA and to use our university library,' Mr Richardson said. 'If you are ever passing through Norwich again with Public Image Limited, I'd be delighted to show you round.'

The decision to cancel the December 3 gig made headlines in the Evening News, and resulted in many other university venues across the country following suit.

But it also led to division within the UEA itself, with some students becoming concerned about the union's autonomy from the rest of the university. Following an exchange of letters between the union president and the vice-chancellor, it was agreed that the university would pay the £750 cancellation fee, rather than the union.

Prof John Street, from the UEA's school of politics and philosophy, said the decision to cancel the gig helped the punk movement.

He said: 'The university helped punk, or more precisely, the Sex Pistols, to acquire the notoriety and spirit of rebelliousness that was vital to their success. It may not rank with our place in the winning of Nobel or Booker Prizes, but it is a contribution that deserves its moment in the sun.'

The controversial TV interview

The Sex Pistols found themselves at the centre of national controversy following their television appearance on December 1, 1976.

The band, together with some of their followers, had been a last-minute replacement for Queen on Thames TV's Today Show, which was hosted by Bill Grundy.

And in the course of a chaotic, ill-tempered interview, frontman John Lydon swore.

The next day, the national Press headlines spoke of a nation's anger at the band's behaviour. The Daily Mirror's front page read: 'The Filth and the Fury'. Bill Grundy was later suspended by Thames Television for two weeks after being accused of 'sloppy journalism'.

Do you have memorabilia from a musical event? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684.

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