AN EXHIBITION inspired by the iconic picture of The Clash frontman Joe Stummer working as a gravedigger at St Woolos Cemetery will open to the public on what would have been his 70th birthday.

The punk rock legend lived in Newport in the early 1970s, arriving aged 20 as Woody Mellor in 1972.

Having previously been busking in London, he said at the time that he would “get s**t hot on the guitar” when living in Newport.

By the time he left Newport in April 1974, he was full of confidence on the stage, having mastered the guitar and played live with a band, The Vultures.

His first gig with The Vultures was at the then Student Union – 88 Stow Hill – in October 1973.

While in Newport he had a job as a gravedigger at St Woolos Cemetery and was photographed leaning on a shovel one day while at work.

The National Wales: Joe Strummer at St Woolos Cemetery in the 1970s. Picture: Richard FrameJoe Strummer at St Woolos Cemetery in the 1970s. Picture: Richard Frame

This now iconic photograph inspired Richard Frame, who was a student at the art college and also lived in the same run-down house as Strummer behind the railway station, to team up with photographer Ian Agland to take a series of photographs recreating the image, but with musicians associated with Newport over the last 50 years.

The photographs are on display for a week at 88 Stow Hill from Sunday, August 21 – which would have been Strummer's 70th birthday.

Also on display is a cartoon poster that Strummer himself created for The Vultures.

“Ian and I were doing a one-year photo project at the cemetery. Whilst we were do it, we thought why don’t we try to find the spot where the iconic picture of Joe Strummer was taken,” said Mr Frame.

“I was living in the flat in Pentonville by the station when the photograph was taken. I remember him giving it to me and I made copies for him to send out.”

“We must’ve spent two weeks wandering around but just couldn’t find it,” said Mr Agland. “So we found a spot as similar as we could get.

“We took a lot of pictures. Then I picked my best ones and Richard picked his best ones so we gave them to Jon Langford and asked him to pick the best ones.”

“We knew we wanted to coincide the event with what would’ve been Joe’s 70th birthday,” said Mr Frame. “We also wanted it to be here as it was the first place he played with The Vultures.”

The exhibition was launched with an event on Saturday, where Jon Langford, founder of The Mekons, performed a series of Strummer’s songs, including one – ‘Crumby Bum Blues’ – believed to be the first one that he wrote while living in Newport.

The National Wales: Jon Langford performing Joe Strummer's songs at the opening of the exhibition in Newport.Jon Langford performing Joe Strummer's songs at the opening of the exhibition in Newport.

“Richard had it on a cassette tape,” said Mr Langford. “He’d played it to me a few years ago.

“Certain words popped out so I mapped it all out. I must’ve listened to that same song for about eight hours.

“There’s a line in it: ‘Intelligent bank robber is the thing to be’, and one of The Clash’s big hits was ‘Bankrobber’, so it’s funny to see that’s still there all that time later.”

Reflecting on his memories of Strummer, he said: “I had this band, The Three Johns, and we had a song which Joe heard on the radio, He called our record label and asked if we would open for The Clash. They had a big stage set and we were this little three-piece that were playing small clubs at the time.

“Years later I opened for him in Chicago. We hung out and had a chat and he told me all sorts of things about living in Newport.

“When we were opening for him, I played a song ‘Pill Sailor’, about the docks down here. About halfway through I saw Joe was by the side of the stage waving his arms around.”

The exhibition opens to the public on Sunday, August 21 at The Share Centre at 88 Stow Hill and runs for a week.