Bridgewater calling: Strummer's friends want concrete folly turned into memorial

He was renowned for provocation not preservation, for opposing the establishment, not conserving it. But now Joe Strummer, the iconoclastic Clash frontman known for songs such as "White Riot" and "Guns of Brixton", could posthumously save a crumbling example of Britain's architectural heritage.

He was renowned for provocation not preservation, for opposing the establishment, not conserving it. But now Joe Strummer, the iconoclastic Clash frontman known for songs such as "White Riot" and "Guns of Brixton", could posthumously save a crumbling example of Britain's architectural heritage.

Eighteen months years after Strummer died of a heart attack, the punk pioneer's celebrity friends are backing a bid to memorialise him in the unlikely guise of a heritage project in his adopted home town of Bridgwater, Somerset.

They plan to save Castle House, a derelict Victorian folly that was one of the world's first concrete buildings, and turn it into the international headquarters of a charity in Strummer's name. Adapting one of The Clash's most famous songs as their clarion call, fans are urging the public to "rock the concrete casbah" when the building is featured in the BBC2 series Restoration later this month.

If it can be saved ­ at an estimated cost of less than £1m ­ Castle House will be the base for Strummerville, a charity launched at the Glastonbury Festival this year. It aims to provide rehearsal space and business support for young people who would otherwise lack the funds to make music.

The Bridgwater HQ would include a cinema and a gallery that would be overseen by Damien Hirst. The artist said Strummer had been "a great friend" who lived about an hour from his house and they used to go on holidays together in Spain. Hirst said: "Lots of people have promised to help. We want to spend the money in Joe's memory and this was a building Joe loved."

The long-term aim is to set up workspaces in similar locations around the world, possibly calling on the support of Strummer's American fans such as Bruce Springsteen. Plans to launch the initiative include the actor Keith Allen leading Bridgwater in a karaoke version of "Rock the Casbah" on Saturday 17 July. Mick Jones, who played with Strummer in the band, and film maker Don Letts also plan to appear.

Strummer was seen by his fans as the archetypal angry musician who struck blows against what he saw as the complacency of the political and musical establishments. He and the band also put their money behind their political convictions, and in April 1978 they headlined a free Anti-Nazi League festival in London, organised by the pressure group Rock Against Racism.

Just a month before his death on 22 December 2002, Strummer played a benefit gig for the striking Fire Brigades Union with his new band, the Mescaleros. He was also working on a track written with Bono and Dave Stewart for Aids Awareness in Africa.

Supporters claim Castle House is very much the underdog in a competition where its rivals include the Gothic castle Strawberry Hill at Twickenham, and a Palladian palace in Dorset. But they say Castle House is ­ like Strummer ­ unique. Julien Temple, director of The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, which featured the Sex Pistols, said the project would help kick-start the charity as well as regenerating an underprivileged and neglected town which Strummer loved for its "raw spirit and rebel traditions". He added: "The charity has been set up to help kids in underprivileged areas find a place to rehearse and perform in and create links with music business contacts. We are doing it in Bridgwater because it was Joe's favourite little town where he lived."

The Grade II* listed Castle House was built in a back street in 1851 by John Board, a successful local brick maker who was convinced of the revolutionary potential of concrete. It now stands on the brink of oblivion after seeing service as apartments, a guesthouse and crack den.

Castle House supporters are calling on the public to "vote concrete" when the building is shown on Restoration. The building that wins will be saved with the money raised by those using the telephone voting lines.

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