Of all the places, in all the world, in terms of Punk parlance at least, there is one particular South East London suburb that gets name-checked more often than most. Nestled in London’s sprawling commuter belt, and situated about 10 miles from Central London, Bromley has earned its place in Punk history – through absolutely no fault of its own.
In olde yester-year, Bromley had been an important coaching stop on the road between London and Hastings, and is even name-checked in Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice”. Now fully modernised, Bromley, might be seen as the central jewel in the glittering crown of the London Borough of Bromley; a Borough that boasts 14 libraries, a Tory MP and 4 non-league football teams.
Bromley’s role in Punk history, is as the hometown of Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin, Jordan, Billy Idol, Debbie Juvenile, Tracie O’Keefe and others, as well as being the birthplace of Poly Styrene. All of which makes the name “Bromley” now seems only half formed, naked almost, if it’s not immediately followed by the word “Contingent”.
Although the town was linked with its punk rock inhabitants, there was nothing very Punk Rock about Bromley itself – it housed no Punk clubs, no Vivienne Westwood clothing outlets and was not well known for its free-love anarcho-squat culture. It was much like any other small town in the UK, with a High Street, some mini-roundabouts, two train stations, a few charity shops and sufficient commuter belt housing for families and young professionals. But maybe this was Bromley’s secret. Unlike the towns and cities that had previously been associated with popular culture; Liverpool, London, Nashville or Detroit, Bromley provided a useful counterweight. This was not somewhere to gravitate towards, but instead, somewhere to escape from. And so, for a short time in the late 1970s, Bromley became “every-town”, of somewhere completely ordinary, and just maybe we all started to see a little of bit of Bromley in where we lived as well – and looked to escape.
Even before hitting the headlines as a Punk hothouse, Bromley was no stranger to the world of popular culture. In 1970 it was selected as the home of the fictional Green Midget Cafe where Monty Python’s Flying Circus set their famous “Spam” sketch.