Mick Jones of the Clash opens library

Mick Jones has opened a "library" of Clash ephemera and is encouraging visitors to scan the stickers, fliers, and other archival material in the library and copy them to memory sticks.
200907281016The Rock n Roll Public Library is Mick Jones’s (The Clash, B.A.D, Carbon Silicon) direct artistic challenge to the likes of the corporate 02 British Music Experience. Rather than let his creative legacy atrophy Jones is transforming his own archive of nearly 10,000 artefacts into one unique "guerrilla-library." Set under the Westway motorway in 3000 sq.ft of former office space, Jones’s five-week civic endeavour will also encourage visitors to enrol, interact with the archive-exhibition (Jones began collecting well before he formed The Clash in 1976 to eventual international success, as such it forms an invaluable guide to the influences that informed Jones as a pop-artist). Also uniquely by request users will be able to scan (courtesy Genus, U.K distributor of the Book2net Kiosk) certain objects and via memory stick carry them away. Please note visitors to the world’s first, resolutely alternative, Rock n Roll Public Library shouldn’t expect peace and quiet.

Mick Jones of the Clash opens library (Via Arbroath)


  1. GAH!!! Wish I could go, as it looks it won’t be a permanent thing… But I suppose London isn’t my focus right now, anyhow.

    On a related note, some of the old punks around here have something similar going, with archival material from the Metroplex and 688. I tried to get the music archivist at my university interested in it (so we could add some archival material from the Atlanta punk scene to what they already have from the local music scene), but I have no idea how that worked out (I got the right people in touch with one another, at least). There are also a ton of zine libraries scattered across the country that I hope to be able to take advantage of in the not too distant future. It’s a good time to be a punk historian, apparently! People are all nostalgic about the punk rock days – it’s all those round numbers!

  2. As an archivist/historian who is currently working with rock and roll materials, I am torn (pun intended).

    Part of me thinks a “guerilla library” is exactly what the world needs. Getting the information out there is the only way people will start to care about our history enough to preserve it.

    But the other part- the part that freaks out when I see papers stapled together and metal paperclips- is imagining grubby hands bending, stealing, copying and otherwise slowly destroying irreplaceable artifacts.

    Isn’t there a viable compromise here? Couldn’t there be a staff to scan the objects for people? As the scans are requested, the digital copies could be copied to the private thumbdrive and a server. Then the images could be compiled for a website that the whole world could enjoy, instead of disappearing into pockets.

    Also, I wonder about copyright infrigement. Certainly some of the images are still under copyright. Does he have approval to start giving them away?

  3. I think you raise some good points, Anonimouse. It’s also interesting that Jones is only doing this for a limited time. I guess a proper “museum or archive” has the advantage of displaying things more permanently. He may decide that this isn’t worth his time, and never do it again (because of the aforementioned grubby hands). Who knows, maybe to bring away documents on your thumbdrive you have to agree to NOT post it without permission.

    But I have to say, I can understand his dismissal or contempt of the British music experience, as I find myself equally as skeptical of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame or the experience music project in Seattle. They are certainly promoting a certain narrative about my particular corner of music history that I strongly disagree with, at least in part. He seems to be attempting to bring the DIY ethic to this sort of archival/historical project.

  4. I can understand your frustration over museum storytelling.

    Music history is not the only narrative that is skewed. Museums and archives fall under the umbrella of “public history.” And public history is most often funded by the state or private investors.

    When this happens, these interests often have a lot to say about how a story is told, what artifacts are used, how they are used, and who gets credit. This isn’t only for controversial topics, but all topics. This is why your favorite indie bands don’t get much wall space in Seattle; and slave riots don’t get any coverage in the South.

    With a guerrilla library, (I am assuming) there are no vested interests, so no singular story gets told. But I must wonder, is there ANY STORY AT ALL? Or is this just a free-for-all? Could I just start digging in boxes with no context or explanation to run out with my cool images and post on my website?

    The DIY idea is great and revolutionary. I love it. But I guess I want a controlled revolution! hahaha!
    Couldn’t we compromise and use this as an opportunity to bring archives to the street, take off the white gloves, loosen the librarian girdles and punk it up a bit?

    This is great inspiration.

    Sadly, only private citizens will be able to do anything like this. :( I can’t think of any museums or archives that would ever allow collections to be open to the public in this way.

  5. Anonimouse- I totally agree with your assesment on public history, though I do think that even guerilla librarians have a narrative they are pushing as well (it just falls more in line with how I view the world is all!). I’m generally very keen to overturn master narratives in what I want to do…

    Actually, I was doing some readings on avant-garde this summer with a professor, and there was an issue that we managed the open up, this idea of mythologizing. It’s an intriguing idea that Rosalind Krauss explores that I think can have some applicability to my work as well… How have punks mythologized their narratives, what really happened, and what is their myths, and how does that fit in with how the mainstream establishment talks about them…

    Not being an archivist, I’m not as intimately familiar with how archives generally work, though I’ve done my time in them as a researcher, so have some idea. All I know is that you guys bring me lovely boxes of stuff to make stories out of… An archivist is a historians BFF, as far as I’m concerned.

    I do think others are doing similar things, with the various zine libraries that are popping up, some connected with universities, others in places like record stores, etc. These seem to be ground up, grassroots affairs. There are 2 near us (relatively, anyway) that I hope to visit in the near future. Many of these seem to be run by punks, not by professional archivist, which is encouraging. Jones is well known, so his effort will get more press obviously.

    And thanks Vincentm for the linkage!

  6. Mick, I met you at Janus Landing/ St Petersburg, Florida in the No. Ten Upping Street Tour. I plan to visit your library, and it’d be an honor to meet you again this June. I am going to hopefully be working with Dan Reed and you of course know of Daniel Lanois…..

    We didn’t think we’d get tickets, but had lunch there, kept drinking some long necks, they locked us in while you’re guys prepared for the show, and you sat down and chatted us up……Way cool. Your first 4 BAD albums were genius……..I like them all. You have more innovative spirit than any musician that I have known. Perhaps you’ll recall our meeting in Florida. You guys just CRUSHED that show!!! (handshake) I’ve seen tons of concerts, small and large venues, but that was by far my favorite. Thank you Mick. I will visit your library. You are great.

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