Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché

A new film exploring the life of punk icon Poly Styrene received its world premiere this weekend via the Glasgow Film Festival. ‘Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché’, which is directed by Paul Sng and Styrene’s own daughter Celeste Bell, profiles the British-Somali singer who was one of the first women of colour to front a successful rock band in the UK.

With an unconventional fashion sense and a defiant attitude towards female identity, Styrene would be an archetype of the modern-day feminist punk when she formed X-Ray Spex in 1976 after attending an early Sex Pistols concert. Despite only releasing one album during their brief initial run, riotous singles like ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’ are now regarded as classics of the British punk movement, with Styrene’s lyrical attack on capitalist materialism celebrated as a rallying cry for disillusioned youth.

The documentary explores how Styrene’s career was unfairly subjected to intense scrutiny owing to her gender and race during the band’s short but influential career. Following a false diagnosis of schizophrenia in 1978, around the release of the band’s album ‘Germfree Adolescents’, Styrene quit, signalling the band’s end. The remainder of the singer’s life would be plagued by mental illness, before she eventually succumbed to cancer in 2011 at the age of 53.

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché‘ is released in the UK on 5th March.