Two male punks kiss in a parking lot. The one on the left is wearing a leather jacket and hoodie, the one on the right has a studded leather vest and a mohawk.
Photos: Chris Bethell

This Is What a Punk in Love Looks Like

"The heart of punk is pure love. They say the punks are really just hippies with studded armour."

Punks are known for many things, but romance isn’t one of them. It’s hard to know where love fits into a busy schedule of raging against the system, punching fascists and making sure your mohawk is gelled to perfection, but Cupid’s arrow does not discriminate: When it strikes, not even the crustiest anarcho-punks are above its power.

Also, if you actually know the punk community, then you’re aware a lot of what goes on in it is compassion-led – whether that’s organising fundraising gigs, creating safe spaces, or fighting injustice. On some level, love is the driving force behind all of these actions. 


Manchester Punk Festival is the city’s annual celebration of all things punk, ska and hardcore. It takes over seven venues for an April weekend and hosts over 140 bands from the UK, Europe, the U.S. and beyond. In its eighth year now, it’s a major date in the punk calendar with devotees coming from all over the British Isles to watch their favourite bands, mosh together and just hang out with like-minded legends.

We could’ve interviewed the incredible bands there this weekend. We could’ve covered the wild mosh pits. We could’ve written an in-depth piece about the punk scene in 2023. But, because we’re wholesome AF, we decided to speak to the cutest couples we could find and ask them how love fits into their lives as gnarly punks.

A guy wearing sunglasses and a band t-shirt is being embraced by a woman with bleached green hair and a denim vest. They're standing by a colorful mural on the street.

Gareth and Alice. Photo: Chris Bethell

Gareth, 37, and Alice, 37, Darlington

VICE: So, how did you guys get together?
We met at sixth form college in Darlington. Gareth didn't have a singer for the band he was in with his friends, then I went to see them and it was one of the worst gigs I'd ever seen, actually! 
Gareth: You were the only person we knew who could sing and was willing to play with us.
Alice: We did a few practices, I joined the band and we got together a couple of months after that. We’ve been together 19 years now and we got married in 2021. We started on the local Bishop Auckland scene in Durham, which was tiny, and we’ve since gone between a lot of different punk communities. Punk and activism are something we've always done together, and our social beliefs are important in our jobs too. Gareth works for trade unions, and I do safeguarding in further education.
Gareth: I got into Noam Chomsky through punk and then I started reading about workers’ rights. It’s kind of been a vein through both of our lives.

What do you love about each other?
I love that Gareth is a source of boundless energy and endless positivity. I tend to lean towards the negative, but he has the get-up-and-go in this relationship – it gives me a shot in the arm and he's so supportive. 
Gareth: I love how empathetic Alice is. You can tell from the way she interacts with people that she really cares.

A woman lays onto another woman with their eyes closed, the one embracing them looks outwardly. They're both wearing leathers and other punk accesories.

Grace and Natalie. Photo: Chris Bethell

Grace, 27 and Natalie, 26, Manchester

VICE: How did this beautiful love story begin?
We actually met through the punk scene itself. Grace was a DJ and promoter at the time.
Grace: I was organising gigs. We did a pride event and the Red Stains came along to play it. This is before I was in the band, and –
Natalie: We fancied each other!
Grace: But it took a lot of time. I actually invited her to come and DJ with me. We played a few events together and then drunkenly one night somebody pointed a camera in our face and –
Natalie: I just planted a kiss on you!
Grace: Now we play in the Red Stains together. 

What’s the punk scene like in the UK?
The punk scene here is pretty diverse. There's a community feel and there are bands who really look out for each other – it feels like a family. You really feel proud to be part of this, especially in Manchester.  
Grace: Some big, big people came before us and carved out a path to the point where now it feels like one of the more welcoming places in society to be “out”. There are a lot of people who really care about making sure that spaces are welcoming, accessible, equal and safe for everyone. 
Natalie: I also think being queer is a means of protest – it's punk in itself. The whole meaning of the word “punk” isn’t just a mohawk and leather jacket, it's about being true to yourself and not being afraid of who you are, being brave and bold and strong. 

A woman in a cheetah print overall with a tote that says "Not Today Satan" embraces a bald man with a relatively fresh head tattoo of a snake's head.

Nyla and Sam. Photo: Chris Bethell

Nyla, 26 and Sam, 33, Newport

VICE: How did you both end up meeting?
I used to be in a band and then Nyla started playing bass. We just sort of chatted about bass and realised that we were both into the same stuff – she started showing me new music and I started showing her new music. 
Nyla: We’ve grown together since then, really, as wonderful people. The punk scene is really inviting. Being a person of colour, in particular, I feel welcome, the vibes and I just feel like I belong – that's the most important thing for me. 

What are the unwritten rules of being a punk?
All the knob heads in the scene have been cast aside and it’s just all the cool people left – all the people who are accepting of anyone. Punk is community-based, no one cares what you look like or what you dress like. 
Nyla: For me it’s, “Just don't be a dick”. 

Two people kiss against a column on a street, a beer garden sign can be seen in the background.

Roz and Hope. Photo: Chris Bethell

Roz, 34, and Hope, 29, Sheffield

VICE: Is punk a big part of how you met?
Definitely. There were a lot of gigs we’d both been at in the past, before knowing each other. We’re both in a band together now and I feel like everything that we do is based around writing music or going to gigs. Punk is an ethos that we live by. 

What’s your favourite thing about the scene?
I feel like, a few years ago, if a band had a queer person in it then that would be the defining feature. Whereas now, nobody makes a big deal about it –  it’s refreshing. 
Hope: A lot more bands are starting to pop up who are very open about being queer or part of the LGBTQ community. 


What are your favourite things about each other?
Roz is very true to herself. She’s always honest about what she thinks and I really appreciate that. It might be uncomfortable for half a second, but at least I always know what she's thinking. 
Roz: Hope is probably the smartest, most creative and passionate person I've ever met – I'm just always in awe. My favourite moment of our time together was when we got a bit drunk and I asked her to explain her PhD in an hour and she did it. It just made me feel more and more in love with her.

A couple sits on a sidewalk curb, the person on the left is laughing.

Samba and Sophie. Photo: Chris Bethell

Samba, 34, and Sophie, 28, Leeds

VICE: Can you remember what first drew you to each other?
In Leeds there's a festival called Nice As Pie Fest, at the Wharf Chambers.
Sophie: I was there getting drunk and accosted you in the smoking area. You were tall and I liked your cheekbones. 

What do you love most about each other?
My life would be a lot more boring without Sophie. She even found me a job on one occasion, working in a bakery – it was great and I worked there for a long time. My life would be a lot poorer without her.
Sophie: Being with him is just fun, all the time. And he puts up with my bullshit. And he hasn’t killed my cat – yet.
Samba: Our plan for our next anniversary is to punch a nazi together! 

A man with a pink mohawk, beard, and an Raiders tank-top is being embraced from behind by a woman with a shaved, green hair.

Dan and Maddy. Photo: Chris Bethell

Dan, 36, and Maddy, 35, Hastings 

VICE: So, what brought you two together? 
We met drunk in a bar. It’s a classic love story of old. 

How does punk come into your relationship?
Punk is a really big part of it, actually. 
Maddy: I’d say Dan introduced me to punk. I was really new to the whole thing when we met. I've always had a taste in alternative music, but Dan showed me loads of really cool bands and I thought, ‘He might be a keeper, this one!’ It definitely formed quite a big basis of our relationship after that. Basically everything we do is somehow related to music, punk gigs, friends – everything's all kind of tied up in one. 
Dan: Compared to other styles of music, I’d say there’s a lot of love in punk.
Maddy: I think punk celebrates all kinds of love, too. 

Two male punks kiss in a parking lot. The one on the left is wearing a leather jacket and hoodie, the one on the right has a studded leather vest and a mohawk.

Kieran and Collin. Photo: Chris Bethell

Kieran, 55, and Collin, 49, London 

VICE: How did you two fall for each other, then?
We met in Berlin. I was in a hip hop crew at the time.
Kieran: It was a queer weekend rave event at a squat that had lots of artists, workshops and all kinds of radical queer theory stuff. Collin was on stage and straight away I was like, “I'm in love!”
Collin: I'm sort of a punk by marriage, right? Someone told me that Kieran was in a band and Kieran told me it was just a lot of noise, and didn’t say much else. I went to see them, expecting some small band who rehearses in their garage, but arrived to a room full of hundreds of people singing along to The Restarts! I was blown away by his humility. 

Great. Do you think there’s space for love in the punk world?
Punk has a reputation for being confrontational and I think people wear that as a suit of armour to protect themselves. A lot of people in the punk scene come from broken homes, have mental health issues or were closeted and queer, stuff like that – so there's vulnerability here. I think the heart of punk is pure love. They actually say the punks are really just hippies with studded armour. A lot of the punk ideology – the left wing anti-racist and anti-sexist – all comes from a place of love.

A couple looks into each others eyes through their sunglasses, the woman puts her finger on his nose in a flirty manner.

Mike and Jess. Photo: Chris Bethell

Mike, 29, and Jess, 27, County Durham

VICE: How did you both find each other?
 Jess's dad used to be in a punk covers band and we met at one of those gigs – we just hit it off from there. Four years later, I actually ended up being in the band with her dad and we’ve been together for 13 years now. I love that story, because meeting at a punk gig when you’re both underage is the most punk rock story ever. I had a full emo haircut at the time, though.
Jess: I had a mohican! We’re still really involved in it all. 

Where does love fit into your lives as punks?
Love should be a big part of the punk ethos, because I don't think there's any real room for hatred. Put it this way, I’ve never felt unsafe at a punk gig.
Jess: You feel safe because you know everyone has your back – it’s lovely.