In 2016, 40 years after London’s punk scene took off, John Corré burned £5 million worth of memorabilia – largely from the collections of his parents Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, who owned the clothes shop SEX in the 1970s and are largely credited with starting British punk. But his documentary opens not with Westwood’s iconic fashion or images of 70s rebels, but with a ragtag group of Victorian urchins. These charmless guides are meant to take viewers through the aims and moments of punk, but the clumsiness of the device irritates and distances. Wake Up Punk struggles with this tone and the many contradictions of the style and political movement, never emerging strong enough in celebration, or condemnation, or both to cement its purpose.

Notably, Wake Up Punk feels set rather than interrogatory – perhaps much like the punk movement itself, which its detractors say is nothing more than the marketing and commercialisation of aesthetics it claims to decry. When Westwood and Corré find clothing that may or may not have been designed by the icon (due to the profligate use of fake branding), the frustration over protecting Westwood’s brand feels exclusionary rather than celebrating the ingenuity and imitation. The tags are a step too far, but the documentary team feel more concerned with the singular Westwood-McLaren legacy than with the diversity punk fostered in London during a fraught time. 

The documentary’s final moments capture Corré’s conflagration on a barge, politicians’ effigies burning alongside history. Its anticlimactic party feels both appropriate (what is more punk than destruction without glory) and meaningless. Society takes no notice. 

Westwood and McLaren devotees may find the personal collections engaging, but Wake Up Punk feels an odd and subdued match with the movement’s rage and range. At once overworked and underbaked, the documentary fails to inspire. 



CAST: John Corré, Vivienne Westwood

DIRECTOR: Nigel Askew 

WRITER: Nigel Askew

SYNOPSIS: Joe Corré, the son of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, takes a look at punk’s legacy and the commodification of communal protest.