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Blitz Kids

The Blitz Kids were a group of people who frequented the Tuesday club-night at Blitz in Covent Garden, London in 1979-80, and are credited with launching the New Romantic subcultural movement. Steve Strange and Rusty Egan co-hosted these exclusive nights without giving them a name, according to Strange's autobiography, and publicised them solely by word of mouth. An emphasis on style was ensured by enforcing a strict dress code at the door. Crucially, the Blitz lay between two art colleges (St Martin's School and Central School) and it became a testbed for student fashion designers who set London ablaze during the 1980s. These included Stephen Jones, Kim Bowen, Fiona Dealey, Stephen Linard, David Holah, Stevie Stewart, John Galliano, Darla Jane Gilroy and more. The Blitz began making headlines thanks to its outrageous styles of clothes and make-up for both sexes, subsequently documented by Gary Kemp in his 2009 first-person book, I Know This Much, and by Graham Smith and Chris Sullivan in their 2011 book We Can Be Heroes: London Clubland 1976-1984.

Other core attendees included Boy George, Marilyn, Alice Temple, Perri Lister, Princess Julia, Philip Sallon and Martin Degville (later to be the frontman of Tony James' Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Biddie and Eve (long-standing cabaret act at the Blitz as wine bar), Perry Haines (who became co-editor of the earliest issues of i-D magazine) and Chris Sullivan (who founded and ran the Wag club in Soho for 19 years).

The team of Strange as greeter and Egan as DJ came together at Billy's nightclub in Soho in autumn 1978, when the post-punk generation found themselves bored with the whole nihilist punk genre, as Smith and Sullivan record. Strange and Egan introduced regular Roxy Music and David Bowie nights at Billy's and, in an effort to find something new and colourful, the denizens took to wearing bizarre home-made costumes and clothing and emphatic make-up, presenting a highly androgynous appearance. After three months, disagreements with the owner prompted this group of kindred spirits to move on from Billy's – which had effectively formalised the once-a-week club-night. Helen Robinson, who ran the shop PX as the flagship for New Romantic ready-to-wear in Covent Garden, employed Strange as an assistant and it was she who encouraged him and Rusty to transfer their energies in 1980 to the more elitist Blitz wine bar in Great Queen Street. Over the next 20 months their fashion-led Tuesday club-night was gradually acknowledged in the media as home to the New Romantic movement and prompted the "Blitz Kids" epithet in mainstream newspapers, led by the Daily Mirror on 3 March 1980.

Subcultural outcomes

The Blitz club provided roots for several new pop groups, notably Visage with Steve Strange on vocals and Blitz DJ Rusty Egan on drums, then Spandau Ballet who played live gigs there in 1979 and 1980. Later, Blitz cloakroom attendant George O'Dowd was to become internationally famous in his own right as Boy George fronting Culture Club. Marilyn became a singer, but with limited chart success.

Boy George celebrated the Blitz Kids scene in his 2002 musical Taboo, in which he played the part of Leigh Bowery, who hosted the London weekly club-night called Taboo in 1985-87, long after the Blitz closed.

In January 2011, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan threw a one-off reunion party on the site of the original Blitz Club, with performances from Roman Kemp's band Paradise Point and electro punk artist Quilla Constance, plus DJ sets from Egan himself. Egan simultaneously launched an official Blitz Club website incorporating a record label, which published three remixes in as many years.

In 2017 The National Portrait Gallery acquired portraits of Blitz Kids Stephen Linard, David Holah, John Maybury and Cerith Wyn Evans by photographer David Gwinnutt, which were displayed in the exhibition Before We Were Men

List of prominent Blitz Kids

  • Rusty Egan (Visage) (co-founder of the Blitz's Tuesday club-night and its DJ)
  • Steve Strange (Visage) (co-founder of the Blitz's Tuesday club-night)
  • Michael Clark
  • Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik)
  • Robert Elms (Radio DJ)
  • Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama)
  • Boy George (Culture Club) (cloakroom assistant at the Blitz Club)
  • Tony Hadley (ex-Spandau Ballet)
  • Jeremy Healy (Haysi Fantayzee)
  • Billy Idol (singer)
  • Tony James (Sigue Sigue Sputnik)
  • Stephen Jones
  • Princess Julia
  • John Keeble (Spandau Ballet)
  • Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet)
  • Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet)
  • Perri Lister (Hot Gossip)
  • Marilyn
  • Little Nell
  • Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet)
  • Gene October (Chelsea)
  • Sade
  • Philip Sallon
  • Tallulah (DJ)
  • Alice Temple
  • Midge Ure

    Literature