Nigel Askew on Wake Up Punk: ‘I wanted to do a call for action’

Nigel Askew seems to be a man of many talents. He’s a good friend of Vivienne Westwood’s, beat Nigel Farage in an election and now he’s made a documentary. 

Wake Up Punk Vivienne Westwood

Nigel Askew seems to be a man of many talents. He’s a good friend of Vivienne Westwood’s, beat Nigel Farage in an election and now he’s made a documentary. 

Askew speaks to me from a coffee shop in the middle of a film shoot, where he has been lugging a camera on his back for hours, walking up to 20 miles a day. The purpose of our call is to discuss his new documentary, Wake Up Punk, featuring Vivienne Westwood and her son, Joe Corré.

What’s your relationship with Vivienne Westwood and Joe Corré?

I’ve worked for them for many, many years, making all their films, generally been around in the scene, fashion stuff, along with a lot of other designers. Also, I stood against Nigel Farage, only because he sort of tried to set up in my hometown, which was Ramsgate in Kent. And I was a publican there. And the only people I could find to give me any money to support me to get rid of him were Vivienne and Joe. Everyone else thought I was completely bonkers. They just went for it. We’ll give your money on advertising, to spend to stop him and we did.

To you, what is the meaning of punk?

I wouldn’t dread answering that question at all. Because when I went into this film, I had a very different attitude about what is punk. That was actually the journey that I found myself going down to discover what is punk, it’s really not what I thought it was. For me, it’s about an attitude to life. It’s about how you look at things. And nothing to do with music and fashion, although it was a perfect synergy, a mix between the two to bring it together for the publicity and actually it’s a frame of mind.

Vivienne Westwood child

Punk has been around for a very long time and times have changed. Has punk changed?

It’s evolved into something that young people can grab onto and use that element of, especially the political side of punk, the attitude of punk where they can use that for a force of good and pick it up and learn from it. So I think that it’s evolved constantly for the last 20 years or 30, 40 years. Yes, it’s evolved into something completely different. 

What sparked the documentary? Joe burning his punk memorabilia?

I started by filming the event of the burning, just to get it down on record. From then it kind of went on from there really. They had planned a documentary, but they hadn’t planned one with me, or they weren’t thinking about it. But I sort of just so carried on really, and made the film.

I couldn’t see it in a cinema, but it would be great to see it on a big screen as well. And where did the name for the film come from?

The quality is great on the big screen. I was shocked how the expensive cameras make the difference? Well, what happened was, I had trouble getting Malcolm (McLaren) in, because he wasn’t really represented obviously, because he’s not alive. And I had a friend called Eddie Temple, who was the only person that would let me interview them, everyone else refused. He said Malcolm was really into Dickens. So I invented that children’s part in the film to sort of be Malcolm’s story really. That’s what he was into. And so we were sitting with Vivien, talking about it, to make sure we got it right with the speech of what they used to talk about in the beginning with the kids, how they were going to change the world. So it had some sort of meaning. So I wrote that bit with her. And we were thinking of a name. So Vivian said, Well, Wake Up Punk! What more could you say? 

Wake Up Punk Vivienne Westwood Poster

Joe talks about his father, Malcolm, surprisingly much in this considering that their relationship was quite troubled. Was that always going to be a really big element in the film, and did you have to sort of convince him to do it?

I had to convince him to get our story out. To sort of just tell it, because everybody kept saying all these things and writing these things that weren’t true. And you maybe just do it once to get it over with. So that’s how it was, to stop all the speculation. But he was very uncomfortable with it, really uncomfortable with me leaving a lot of stuff in, but they were the only they were really sort of punks. They have to follow this attitude of we don’t care. It’s the truth. What I’m trying to say is, is they haven’t bossed me around about on the field of taking things out. Most people would.

What do you want people to take away from the film? What do you want people to talk about while the credits roll?

When I went into it, I wanted to do a call for action. So rekindle that punk rock spirit and to use it to address all the issues that we’ve got now, which kind of are like the 70s. We don’t believe our politicians. I think we need to use that punk spirit to go forward and that’s what I was hoping that the movie could do or achieve.

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