Close this search box.

The ‘Bard of Salford’ wins the city’s highest honour

John Cooper Clarke, The Bard of Salford has been awarded the City's greatest honour.

John Cooper Clarke, the legendary punk poet and “Godfather of Punk Poetry,” has been bestowed with the prestigious Freedom of the City of Salford, his birthplace and childhood home.

The recognition comes as a tribute to his extraordinary contributions to poetry, his impact on the arts, and his distinct style of wit and social commentary.

Hailing from Salford and raised in Higher Broughton, John Cooper Clarke‘s journey from a local lab technician to a world-renowned punk poet is nothing short of remarkable.

Inspired by his English teacher, he began reciting poetry in the pubs and clubs of Manchester during the 1970s, quickly gaining popularity on the city’s folk scene.

Clarke’s journey to fame began in the 1970s when he started reciting his unique and witty poems in pubs and clubs around Manchester and beyond. His poetry style is characterised by sharp social commentary, dark humour, and a distinct Mancunian twist.

Despite facing a challenging upbringing, Clarke’s talent and charisma quickly gained attention, and he gained a cult following during the punk era.

He became associated with influential bands like the Sex Pistols, The Fall, Joy Division, and New Order, touring alongside them and capturing the spirit of the time.

The Freedom of Salford

Upon receiving the Freedom of the City of Salford, Clarke expressed his genuine surprise and gratitude, admitting that he was not entirely sure about the entitlements that come with the prestigious award.

In an emotional moment, he thanked the local councillors and everyone who had supported him throughout his career, emphasising that coming back to Salford was always a treat, no matter how many times he had travelled the world.

He said: “I’ve circumnavigated the globe ten times and coming back is always a treat, but this one.

“Wow. Thank you, everyone.”

He added: “With me, it was never a social experiment, it was just a way of making a living, and the social consequences went out of my control.”

Arctic Monkeys ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ Cover

A huge resurgence in JCC’s popularity recently is in no part thanks to the Arctic Monkey’s cover of his iconic poem, ‘I Wanna Be Yours‘.

Discussing the Arctic Monkeys’ adaptation of his poem ‘I Wanna Be Yours,’ which recently surpassed one billion streams, Clarke remained characteristically humble.

He mused on the accessibility of poetry as an art form, noting that anyone can write a poem with just a pen and a piece of paper.

He playfully questioned the meaning of a billion (American vs. British) but acknowledged the incredible achievement nonetheless.

Clarke told The Guardian: “Is that a lot? An American billion is different to a British billion – and I don’t know what either of them is. But it’s a f**k of a lot of listens.

“I believe everyone’s written a poem at some point. It’s the easiest, most accessible – a pen and a piece of paper, and off you go.”

He added: “You don’t even have to be literate – you could record something. But it’s perceived as a minority of a minority who are interested in poetry.

“I don’t know why it’s got that reputation. Songs aren’t that far from poetry – as Alex [Turner] has pointed out.”

The Salford Lads Club

The Salford Lads Club congratulated him on instagram, saying: “We welcomed the legendary John Cooper Clarke to the club yesterday – huge congratulations to him on being awarded Freedom of the City of Salford today! (about time too!)

“John was born in Salford and lived in Higher Broughton in his youth.

“He’s known as “the Godfather of Punk Poetry” and “the bard of Salford” 🖋️ His work and cultural influence spans school curriculums, music chart success and beyond.

“His photo will now grace the walls of The Smiths Room”.

“Earlier this year, Clarke spoke about his poem, I Wanna Be Yours, becoming a worldwide hit after the Arctic Monkeys‘ song adaptation of it has pushed listening into the billions.

“Punk poet John Cooper Clarke has been honoured with the Freedom of Salford, the city where he was born and raised.”

A Cultural Influence

Clarke’s profound influence extends beyond his poetic works, as evidenced by his inclusion in the national curriculum for schools.

His witty social commentary and distinctive appearance have earned him devoted fans, including music legends like Sir Paul McCartney, Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, and Peter Hook.

If you’re unfamiliar, why not check this out:


John Cooper Clarke’s journey is one of triumph, from a working-class neighbourhood in Salford to international acclaim as a punk poet icon.

His words continue to resonate with audiences worldwide, inspiring generations of poets, musicians, and artists alike.

Did we miss something? Let us know: [email protected]

Want to be the first to receive all the latest news stories, what’s on and events from the heart of Manchester? Sign up here.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

Got a story worth sharing?

What’s the story? We are all ears when it comes to positive news and inspiring stories. You can send story ideas to [email protected]

Close this search box.