Space to play

The sound of British female punk music and its engagement with reggae in the 1970s


  • Helen Reddington University of East London Author



punk, Rastafarianism, women instrumentalists, bass playing, gender and popular music


British punk in the 1970s gave young women in the subculture the opportunity to play rock instruments that had previously been played by young men. They often learned to play through using reggae records, because the defined production made it easy to hear individual instruments. Much of 1970s reggae underlined Rastafarian principles regarding women’s behaviour, but these women ignored this aspect of the music and listened out for the sonic qualities of reggae. This article examines this apparent anomaly, noting a common purpose in the resistant musical activities of (especially women) punks and Rastas despite differences in culture and privilege between the two communities. New interviews by the author with Gina Birch from the Raincoats, and Tessa Pollitt from the Slits, are included to provide a retrospective viewpoint on this phenomenon.

Author Biography

  • Helen Reddington, University of East London

    Dr Helen Reddington is a senior lecturer in Music Production at the University of East London. She has been writing on both punk and women musicians and producers since 2007, as well as being an active songwriter and performer herself under the moniker Helen McCookerybook. Her book The Lost Women of Rock Music: Female Musicians of the Punk Era was published by Equinox in 2012.


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How to Cite

Reddington, H. (2021). Space to play: The sound of British female punk music and its engagement with reggae in the 1970s. Popular Music History, 13(3), 235–253.