Join us for a unique discussion and performance celebrating the history of an iconic band and Belfast’s punk scene.
Ruefrex were one of Northern Ireland’s most popular and uncompromising punk rock bands. Emerging from the Belfast street-gang culture of the late-1970s, the group, inspired by The Clash, enjoyed a turbulent, decade-long career. They played for millions on CNN and Channel 4, toured with The Pogues and recorded the controversial ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’, which attacked American donations to Northern Irish terrorist organisations.
Throughout it all, founder member, songwriter and spokesperson Paul Burgess ensured the band remained faithful to their Protestant, working-class origins. His recently published candid memoir takes us on a journey from the streets of Belfast to encounters with U2, Shane MacGowan, The Cure, The Fall and Seamus Heaney.
Paul will be in conversation with Barry McIlheney and the interview will be followed by a gig featuring ‘The Sacred Heart of Bontempi’ (Burgess’s current band), performing for the evening as ‘The Wild Colonial Boys’. Special guests may make an appearance!
Barry was the singer and co-songwriter with Shock Treatment, key movers in the Belfast punk scene of the late 1970s. After a period working in the Belfast public libraries he moved to London where he joined the staff of Melody Maker and briefly shared a house with Paul Burgess of Ruefrex. During this time he was the London correspondent for the BBC Radio Ulster Across The Line programme. Barry went on to become Editor of Smash Hits and Empire, and Publisher of Q, Mojo, The Face, Elle, and many other iconic magazine brands in the UK and around the world. From 2010 to 2020 he was the CEO of the Professional Publishers Association (PPA), the industry body for all magazine media in the UK. In 2018 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the magazine industry in Ireland.
He now divides his time between Belfast, London, and southern Spain.
In association with Manchester University Press
Media reviews of Wild Colonial Boys:
“Unabashed, unapologetic and outspoken. Thomas Paul Burgess provides a refreshingly honest account of his experiences as a punk musician from the ‘wrong’ side of the divide in Northern Ireland. Well-worn historical narratives are upturned in an engaging, beautifully written chronicle of identity, class and the politics of anti-sectarianism.” Russ Bestley, co-author of The Art of Punk
“Wild colonial boys is a beautifully written account of the band Ruefrex and their bid for success in Britain at a time of changing political perceptions. Offering a fresh window on the history of Northern Ireland punk, it takes a few swipes at icons along the way. A compelling read.” Elvera Butler, founder of Reekus Records.
“This is a storm of a book. A rollicking account of the punk revolution in popular music, intersecting with the story of the maligning of the Protestant working class as innately fascistic and unimaginative. Outrage through music was a creative response to the sectarian corralling of young people and sectarian branding. Paul Burgess was at the heart of it.” Malachi O’Doherty, author of How to Fix Northern Ireland
“This overdue account of a Northern Irish punk story flies by as quickly as a Ramones classic. Sprinkling his tale with rock star anecdotes, Burgess is not above settling a few old scores, though this is balanced with plenty of finger-pointing at his own band and indeed himself.” Eoin Brannigan, Editor-in-Chief, Belfast Telegraph
“Paul Burgess writes, as Ruefrex played, an absolute storm: from the head and the heart, with attitude and with truth. If you weren’t there, this is the book you need. If you were there, this is still the book you need.” Glenn Patterson, author of Two Summers.