Earlier this month, Rebellion Festival 2010 took place in Blackpool's Winter Gardens, boasting countless names from the history of punk rock. In addition to the usual list of legendary acts were several of today's biggest punk bands topping the bill. These included New York Dolls, Gallows, Fucked Up and, celebrating their 30th anniversary, Bad Religion. This impressive line-up helped Rebellion achieve one of its most successful years to date, making it the biggest punk festival in the country and helping it towards becoming one of the most prestigious in the world. John Robb, who is better known for being one of the country's most renowned music journalists, as well as the singer with Goldblade, is also one of the people behind Rebellion Festival. Shortly after this year's event, John spoke to Room Thirteen to talk about how it all went and to talk about the history and the future of the festival.

R13: Please can you describe your role at Rebellion?
JR: I've got several different roles at Rebellion. One is helping them out with the press and getting it publicised. That's quite difficult for a punk festival. It's not like the mainstream press is tripping over itself to cover punk rock. They prefer to ignore it. It's always been a bit of a struggle getting a lot of attention, but there's a lot of websites and underground magazines that are very supportive.
So that's my first role. Then obviously, I also play there with Goldblade. This year, I started interviewing people onstage like Penny and Steve from Crass, Charlie Harper [of UK Subs], TV Smith [of the Adverts] and a guy who did a book about the punk scene in Northern Ireland. Then, my other role is watching loads of bands and hanging out like everyone else does. Being a punk festival, it's not about doing cocaine backstage, it's about hanging out, really.

R13: How did this year's event go?
JR: It was the best one so far with the biggest crowd we've ever had. I think it's because it was a really varied bill. There are a lot of second wave punk bands, which are all really great bands. I mean, UK Subs are an eternally great band. Charlie's a legendary figure now and that should be acknowledged. His story's such a great story. Like Lemmy, he's one of those people who's part of the story of British rock'n'roll.
So there are all those kinds of bands, but we've stretched out now, so you've got bands like Fucked Up and Bad Religion playing. Bad Religion are the same age as the rest of us, but they look like a new band [Laughs]. A lot of younger people tend to like that American melodic hardcore and post-hardcore, so it's good having them on because it's a whole different audience. Fucked Up's great and then you've got bands like New York Dolls, so it was four generations of punk all rolled into one festival, which is a really cool idea.

R13: How long has the festival been going and how did it first start?
JR: I think it's about fifteen or sixteen years old. It was first started by the promoter Darren Russell and his wife Jenny. They'd been putting on gigs for years anyway and they came up with a really cool idea to put on a punk festival. There are a lot of festivals in Britain now, but when Rebellion started, I don't think there were that many. No punk band could ever get on at a festival because everything was run by the indie people, so there was a bit of a gap there because none of these bands could play anywhere. I don't think they realised how successful it was going to be. I think it became a rallying point for the British punk scene. One of the great things about it was that a lot of these bands were in isolation and toured around, but didn't really get to meet each other, but they all got to meet each other at Rebellion. So did all the people that went there as well. That was really important and I think it had a big knock-on effect in the punk scene. It's probably one of the biggest punk festivals in the world now.

R13: How would you describe Rebellion to someone who has never been?
JR: It's like a big indoor festival, really. It's like a normal festival, where you've got loads of bands on different stages, but it's mainly built around the punk scene. It's at a really fantastic venue, the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. The Empress Ballroom is one of the classic venues in the UK. It's got such a great history. It's where the Stone Roses did their classic gig in '89 and where the Rolling Stones riot was in '64. The whole place is steeped in rock'n'roll history. Blackpool is also the perfect town to have a punk festival. There's loads of cheap B 'n' Bs. A lot of people go there for about seven days. The festival starts on Thursday now. It's an extended festival for an extended family.

R13: Compared to when it first began, how has the festival developed?
JR: It's got a lot bigger, it's stretched to more days and a lot more bands play. There were probably a hundred and fifty bands playing this year. A lot of people go from all over the world. It's got bigger, it's reach has got bigger and there's more of a variation of bands.
There are a lot more younger bands now. When it started, there were mainly Old School bands, but now there are bands that are only sixteen, seventeen or eighteen years old. They get their first big festival break by playing Rebellion, which is great. All the young bands get to meet the older bands and join the big family. It's really important in all the different generations of punk. If you were eighteen and you'd grown up on Green Day and some of the other new punk bands, you could go there and you wouldn't feel completely lost. It's not like you'd be left on the outside.
One of the great things this year is that Darren's mother was watching some of the bands and she's ninety-three. To me, that's great. Whether people are ninety-three or thirteen, they're all welcome. There's no dress code. It's not like you have to have a Mohican or dress in a load of punk clothes. You could go there and wear what you want and you'd fit in.

R13: Do you think that people go to watch a lot of stuff that they wouldn't normally listen to?
JR: There are people that I meet there who are big fans of my band Goldblade, but they don't come and watch us because they want to go and watch some new stuff instead and they've seen us tour round the circuit anyway. Obviously, we play in a room at the Empress Ballroom that's really packed, so I've got the luxury of saying that, but I like that attitude of checking out new stuff. A lot of people just go to hang out with their mates and check out a few bands, but a lot of people are running backwards and forwards checking out as much stuff as possible. They seem very keen to check out stuff they've never heard before, so there's definitely that inquisitive nature, which I think is part of the punk thing anyway. When we all grew up listening to John Peel it was always: "What's next? What's next?" That was one of the fascinations of punk. That kind of thing continues and you can hear that tradition at Rebellion Festival.

R13: As you mentioned, the newer styles of punk are very different from a lot of the older stuff. Just as an example, do you think a Stiff Little Fingers fan would go and watch Gallows and enjoy it?
JR: I don't think every single Stiff Little Fingers fan or every single Gallows fan would go and watch the other band, but there will be a crossover. I think a lot of the older guys are aware of Gallows and really like them. I don't think Gallows are a band that only people in their twenties can understand. If you listen to Gallows, you can hear a lot of Old School influences in there. Obviously, they covered the Ruts, didn't they? They do have an American hardcore sound, but they have a very English sound at the same time.

R13: You had some pretty big bookings this year, such as Bad Religion and New York Dolls. How did these come about?
JR: It was talked about during the year, because they were trying to stretch the envelope a little further. I think they were after Bad Religion for a long time. They've been after Rancid for a long time as well. Trying to get these bands to come over for one gig is not always that easy because they've got five-year-long schedules. You've got to remember that they're based in California, so to pop over to Blackpool is not always that simple for them.
Each year, they have a list of bands they'd like to get and, this year, they worked on getting Bad Religion. Bad Religion are a really busy band and it's great that they came to play a punk festival. Sometimes you get this weird thing with bands that are really big, who kind of grow out from punk, and are always a bit embarrassed about playing a punk festival. There have been a few bands that I can't mention, who say they didn't want to play Rebellion because they didn't want to be tarred with a punk brush and you think: "Well, you are a punk band." So power to Bad Religion for coming to play Rebellion Festival. They really rocked it and they were really welcome there. The thing about punk is that the bands who are big never think they're bigger than the bands that are small. It's very much a level playing field and, if you don't think in those terms, you're not a proper punk band.

R13: Are these bookings a sign of how much bigger the festival is getting?
JR: Yes, it is part of a sign of it, but what's great is that it doesn't lose touch with its roots. They've still got bands like 999, UK Subs and Vibrators playing. You know, the classic bands. Not particularly fashionable, but great bands. Bands who are always out there touring and they've never been ashamed of being a punk rock band. I think they've got to keep those bands. It's important that you have those bands playing the festival. They're crucial bands that were part of the whole thing. They're the spine of the festival. Bad Religion and New York Dolls are a little bit of flash to put on top. It was busier than it's ever been before, but it still would have been busy without those bands.

R13: Rebellion Festival prides itself on being completely independent. Why do you think that this is so important?
JR: I think being independent is part of punk rock, but I don't have a problem with sponsorship. If a sponsor puts loads of money into it, that means you can put the ticket price down, get a better PA or get bigger bands to come and play. If a festival gets sponsored by a pair of shoes, it doesn't mean it's sold out. I don't really care about stuff like that. It's great if you can run everything completely independently but, to me, it's not a cop-out if you do get sponsorship because it helps to run the whole thing smoother and it makes it a better experience for everyone that goes there. If you can keep the ticket prices affordable, that's the key, because in the recession everyone's skint. It's got to be a great party, but something that's not going to hit people's pockets too hard.

R13: I see that you're already starting to sell tickets for next year and that it's being advertised as the 35th anniversary of punk. Do you have anything major planned for such a big celebration?
JR: There's always talk of things. This year, there was talk of trying to get the Sex Pistols to play, or even Public Image. Obviously, these are almost impossible to get, because they play bigger venues, but you never know. Sometimes they might turn round and go: "That's the one gig I'd like to do." So who knows? It could be something like that. There's already twenty great bands booked. You know the Subs will play and all the other greats. There are some ideas of getting some of the big names. Sometimes the bigger old bands aren't so easy to get through to. Someone like the Pistols, you've got to go and speak to four different managers and twenty-five agents, but it's always worth trying to track them down. It was like with Gallows. I said that we should get them at Rebellion and there was a feeling that they'd never do it. I said: "Let's just ask them." I asked the manager and they went: "They'd love to do that, because they love all those bands." That was great because they're really happy to rub shoulders with people like the Subs. I've always really liked the Gallows, but I really respect them for that. They see it just as music and fuck-all to do with fashion. Fashion's always poisoned music.

R13: Do you have a personal wish list of bands you'd like to see on the bill?
JR: I'd love to see Rancid, I think they'd be really great at Rebellion. Rancid are a fantastic band and they represent a lot of great things. I've liked Green Day in parts and the Offspring in parts but, of all those modern, big American punk bands, Rancid are my favourite. Why not go for AFI or one of those kinds of bands as well? Dropkick Murphys would be good as well. There's a whole generation of American bands that haven't played Rebellion yet and it would be good to get one on each year. This is an endless kind of pub game, isn't it? Who would you pick? I'd also keep encouraging those young British bands to play. Try to get as many of them on as possible. One thing I'd like to do is get some of the venues around Winter Gardens and maybe use them as a springboard for young bands who aren't quite big enough to get on at Rebellion.

R13: Do you think Rebellion will ever branch out into other genres or will it always be purely a punk rock festival?
JR: To me, personally, it just stays a punk rock festival. There are other genres that are represented. There are a lot of ska bands that play. You could put stuff that fringes onto punk. You could have a Northern soul room and that would be popular.
Don Letts is a really amazing DJ. I think he'd really rock it. In fact, thinking about it, I might send him an email to see if he's up for that, because I think he'd be really good there. Don's great, he's one of the few people from the elite of punk. He's the guy that joined the Pistols and the Clash together. While a lot of people sniffed at anything that came after '77, he's one of the people that actually really enjoys the way punk is now. He understands it.
People will say: "Why don't they have more than just punk bands on?" Every festival kind of operates within the parameters of a genre. I think Rebellion does stretch it quite a long way, so you go all the way from New York hardcore, to really melodic punk, an acoustic room with folk singers, avant-garde punk, weird punk, post-punk and Old School British. There are quite a lot of genres already represented within the parameters of punk rock. Compared to most festivals, it doesn't half stretch that fabric and it works. But it would be good to see a bit more reggae and Northern soul, just using some of the other rooms at Winter Gardens. A lot of punks love reggae as well, so I think that would be quite interesting.

To find out more about Rebellion Festival or to get tickets for next year, go to:
Rebellion Festival