Monday, April 06, 2015

Geoff Dyer on Underground Culture in 1980s London and Now

The novelist Geoff Dyer wrote an article for the Observer this week entitled 'Underground culture isn’t dead – it’s just better hidden than it used to be' (5 April 2015):

'Looking back – and I’ll explain later how I came to be looking back – I realise how much of my social life in the 1980s was spent at “underground” events of one kind or another... In my teens, I’d been a devotee of magazines such as Frendz and Oz with their illegibly swirling psychedelic designs and still blurrier editorial agenda. These publications represented an (open) marriage between insurrectionary politics, prog rock, fashion (loons) and porno graphics. I was interested, mainly, in photographs of Hawkwind.

That may have been the golden age of the underground, but its spikier manifestations or descendants were part of the social landscape of London in the 1980s: the squatted cafe in Bonnington Square, Vauxhall, the Anarchist Centre at 121 Railton Road, Brixton, and, of course, the ubiquitous underground parties that later morphed into raves'.

Dyer's initial take is that all that is in the past - 'Maybe new variations of such things still exist in London and I’m too old and square to know about them but, broadly speaking, the counterculture has given way to an over-the-counter culture of cool cafes and pop-ups that lend a subversive slant to one’s retail experience'.

But attending an event in New York changes his mind -  'my visit... got me thinking about the long and nourishing role the underground has played in my life. It also made me realise how easy it is to fall into elegiac mode and how important it is to resist doing so. In different forms, in spite of everything, places like this will keep popping up, unbeknown to the middle-aged likes of... me. So, as a way of combining the urge to lament and the need to affirm, we’ll close with the final words from Larkin’s Show Saturday in High Windows.. “Let it always be there.”'

I generally agree with Dyer's position, even though I think the notion of 'the underground' itself has always involved a heavy dose of self-mythologisation. Of course I was most interested in him name checking places I used to hang out at too in the late 1980s/early 1990s - Bonnington Square cafe, scene of many Community Resistance Against the Poll Tax benefit nights, and the 121 Centre (which has been mentioned many times on this blog). Dyer lived in Brixton in the 1980s, I think slightly earlier than me, and his first novel - The Colour of Memory (1989) - is a fictionalised account of Brixton dole life in that period.

121 Railton Road, Brixton, in 1984/85
(photo from Kate Sharpley Library)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Mobs riot in West End' - 25 years since the London Poll Tax Riot

The big London Poll Tax riot was 25 years ago today -31 March 1990. Here's a few contemporary newspaper reports (click to enlarge).

'Mobs riot in West End' (Independent on Sunday, 1 April 1990)

'Central London experienced its worst riot this century yesterday as the biggest demonstration against the poll tax turned to violence. At least 113 people, including 45 police were injured... There were at least 300 arrests.... In the heart of London's West End, cars were overturned and set on fire, dozens of shop windows were smashed and their contents looted' 


'Tonight the anarchists are celebrating "Our Time"(Evening Standard, 2 April 1990)

One of a number of press reports seeking to blame the riots on 'Left wing activists who march beneath the black banner... For more than a decade a small and disparate grouping of punks, misfits, thugs, hardline politicos and animal liberationists have pledged a violent revolution. Under their black flag banners at the weekend they saw themselves firing the first shot'. 'Class War and its Brixton-based counterpart Black Flag' are mentioned the formed linked to squats in 'Hackney and Clapton' ('London's East End is still Class War's heartland'). Much of this is pure invention, such as the claim that rioters on the day carried 'small, easily concealed "mollies" - firebombs'. I don't recall any petrol bombs being thrown on this day.


'£20 if you join Army of Envy' (Today, April 2 1990)

Another ludicrous piece of misinformation - 'Agitators toured pubs offering £20 to anyone willing to join their army of envy'. Considering hundreds of thousands of people had made the effort to travel from all over the country to be there, it was hardly necessary to pay anybody else to join in!  The report itself says that 60 coaches came from Bristol, 40 from South Wales, 30 from Weymouth etc.


'Battle of Trafalgar: Burning with Hate the Fire Bombers Sabotage Symbols of Wealth' (Today, 2 April 1990)

The angle of this piece is that decent theatre goers were terrorised by the 'howling mob' - no doubt some were frightened by the scenes, but the riot did not include attacks on random members of the public. Tourists wandered around in the middle of it. Again there is the myth here of the 'fire bombers' - it is true that a small number of cars were set on fire, but not I believe with petrol bombs. Still the looting and rage against 'symbols of wealth' was real enough: 'the riot against the poll tax turned into open warfare against the wealthy and all the symbols of affluence... Garrards, the royal jewellers, was a favourite target. Thugs wearing punk clothes uprooted bins and hurled them against the windows. West End fashion shops were next in line. Some grabbed £400 suits from gents clothes shops while women dressed in rags robbed other stores'. 

The story does include the fantastic line 'The great English public is rioting, sir' reported as being said by a policeman in reply to an American tourist asking what was going on.







Note to clarify (3 April 2015): in the image above I have blurred out the faces, they are clearly shown in he original and indeed I believe that they were all subsequently arrested. The guy with the white t-shirt was jailed and the guy leaning in to the porsche was acquitted in a trial that made headlines because the judge dismissed police evidence as lies (I believe a policeman claimed to have witnessed it but couldn't have done because of his location). I decided to blur the faces because they are still recognisable from these photos today and for work or other reasons might not want people to know about what they may or may not have been up to in 1990.

See also:

1990 Trafalgar Square Memories;
Brixton poll tax demo (Transpontine)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Burns the Radical

Burns Night once more, the Scottish poet Robert Burns being born on this day in 1759. I have had my vegetarian haggis and a glass of Laphroaig...


Awa ye selfish, war'ly race,
Wha think that havins, sense, an' grace,
Ev'n love an' friendship should give place
To catch-the-plack!
I dinna like to see your face,
Nor hear your crack.

But ye whom social pleasure charms
Whose hearts the tide of kindness warms,
Who hold your being on the terms,
"Each aid the others,"
Come to my bowl, come to my arms,
My friends, my brothers!

'Friendship, in these poems, has a sacred quality. In one of his prose letters, Burns refers to the 'solemn league and covenant of friendship'... Burns' view of humanity's god-given sociability has political ramifications. It provides the basis for a strongly civic political ideology, an ideology rooted in the principle of duty to one's fellows... Burns and his correspondents (local poets and farmers, freethinkers and freemasons) are presented as an archetypal civic community: a society of equals, whose selfless cultivation of virtue, integrity and public spirit distinguishes them from the 'selfish, warly race' whose sole concern is with 'catch-the-plack'. In the classical republic, of course, it was the landed elite who formed the virtuous citizen class, while the disenfranchised poor took care of domestic 'economy' In Burns's epistolary republic, however, it is the poet's humble correspondents who devote their scanty leisure hours to public pursuits (learning, poetry, political discussion) while their supposed superiors - the 'cits' and 'lairds' - are wholly engrossed with money-grubbing' (Liam McIlvanney, Burns the Radical: Poetry and Politics in Late Eighteenth-century Scotland, Tuckwell, 2002) 


What tho’, like Commoners of air,
We wander out, we know not where,
But either house or hal’?
Yet Nature’s charms, the hills and woods,
The sweeping vales, and foaming floods,
Are free alike to all.

(advert from old book of my dads for '50 selected songs of Burns',
published by Mozart Allan, 84 Carlton Place, Glasgow)

See previously:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Save Denmark Street: 12 Bar Club Occupied

The famous 12 Bar Club in London's Denmark Street closed a couple of weeks ago, having been given notice to quit as part of a plan to 'redevelop' this area that threatens its status as the city's main area of music shops. Denmark Street, off Charing Cross Road, became known as Britain's 'tin pan alley' as the home of many songwriters and music publishers. The Sex Pistols once lived at no. 6, among numerous other musician connections (see history) Today it is famous for its musical instrument shops. 

All is not lost yet though. The 12 Bar Club was squatted on Monday, and those occupying it hope to use the building to help galvanise opposition to the increasingly homogenous corporate gentrification of the West End of London. 


I was down there today, friendly people so pop in and see them. They would welcome donations of sound equipment, furniture, sleeping bags etc (see notice in window). The are also launching an open mic night tomorrow night (Friday), so looks like the last song has not yet rung out in that venue where, among many others, Jeff Buckley, Joanna Newsom and Bert Jansch, have performed.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Anarchy on Eastenders

One of the highlights of Eastenders over Christmas was an episode where soap opera arch-villain Nick Cotton finds his old copy of The Sex Pistols 'Anarchy in the UK' in the attic of his long suffering mum, Dot. Later the bible-quoting Dot comes home to find Nick having sex with his ex in the front room - he quips 'you never did like the Sex Pistols, did you ma', as Johnny Rotten screams 'I wanna be anarchy' in the background. Earlier in the same episode, Cotton eats his breakfast to 'London Calling' by The Clash.


Let the record show that he had the 1977 French reissue of Anarchy in the UK, not the 1976 EMI original.


Nasty Nick Cotton has been in the series on and off since it started.This is him in 1986:


Actor John Altman, who plays Cotton, was previously a young mod in the 1979 movie 'Quadrophenia'


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Datacide 14

I probably should have mentioned by now that the latest issue of Datacide - the magazine for noise and politics - was published last October. Loads of good stuff, including an article by me on the 'Archaeology of the Radical Internet' about the early 1990s European Counter Network. Also material from Howard Slater, John Eden, Stewart Home, Controlled Weirdness, Dan Hekate, Nemeton, David Cecil, Hannah Lammin, Christoph Fringeli and more.

The full contents and some of the texts are online at Datacide, but you should really try and get hold of the 76 page printed version for the full effect.


Friday, December 19, 2014

The noise of history

'All around me there was an incredible rushing noise, which I knew was composed on shouting and screaming and firecrackers and stamping hoofs, but sounded to me like a great wind, like history'
(Hari Kunzru, My Revolutions, 2007)

Grosvenor Square, London, 1968

Kunzru's quote is from his novel of late 60s/early 70s radical politics, in which the narrator describes taking part in the anti-Vietnam War demonstration by the US Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square. But that exhilarating noise of history, the sound of the crowd in motion, has been heard in many times and places.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nine Funerals of the Citizen King - Henry Cow

Henry Cow's 'Nine funerals of the Citizen King' is a track on their 1973 debut album 'Legend' and signalled the radical critique which they carried forward until breaking up five years later. The lyrics reference Lewis Carroll ('the Snark was a Boojum' from his poem 'The Hunting of the Snark'), Gertrude Stein ('a rose is a rose is a rose') and Shakespeare ('O, gentlemen, the time of life is short!...An if we live, we live to tread on kings', Henry IV, Part 1).

The latter was also quoted in Guy Debord's 'The Society of the Spectacle' (1967), and as the song refers to the 'spectacle of free' I wonder whether Henry Cow had been reading Debord. If so they were ahead of their time - the first English translation of 'The Society of the Spectacle' was made by Black & Red (Detroit) in 1970, but it was certainly not widely known. The line 'we'll work to live to buy the things we multiply, until they fill the ordered universe' could have come straight out of Debord, or even an Angry Brigade communique from the same period.

Nine funerals of the Citizen King

Down beneath the spectacle of free
No one ever let you see
The Citizen King
Ruling the fantastic architecture of the burning cities
Where we buy and sell...

That the Snark was a Boojum all can tell
But a rose is a rose is a rose
Said the Mama of Dada as long ago as 1919

You make arrangements with the guard
Halfway round the exercise yard
To sugar the pill
Disguising the enormous double-time the king pays to Wordsworth
More than you or I could reasonably forfeit the while...
Double-time the king pays to Wordsworth
More than you or I could reasonably buy...

If we live, we live to tread on dead kings
Or else we'll work to live to buy the things we multiply
Until they fill the ordered universe

Once upon a time my punky self would have dismissed this as 'prog'. But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

Oh and they played a benefit for Brixton Socialist Club in 1978.

Monday, December 15, 2014

1984 Chronicle of a Year Foretold: February

A chronology of events in the UK

See previously: 

Welcome to 1984 
January 1984

Wed 1 February – print unions and News International agree deal to resume printing of The Times; Sogat 82 calls off blacking of Radio Times on day BBC takes them to court – union members had refused to distribute Radio Times as part of a dispute with Maxwell’s British Printing and Communications Corporation over redundances – as  a result BBC switched printing to Hunter Print in the North East, but the boycott continued (GH 2/2)

2 February: Gilbert & Page factory at Colney Heath, Hertfordshire, which makes snares and pens, set on fire by animal liberationists (I.2)

3 February: official unemployed figures reach almost 3.2 million

3 February: National Coal Board announces closure of Bogside pit in Fife blaming flooding, ten days after announcing closure of  Polmaise colliery near Stirling blaiming geological conditions  - workers rejected both reasons for closure (GH 4 Feb)

3 Feb  - Shop stewards at Scott Lithgow shipyard on the Clyde reject plans for 2500 job losses as part of potential privatisation and takeover by Traflagar House

Monday 6 February: management issue redundancy notices to 3000 staff at the Highland Fabricators oil platform construction yard at Nigg on the Cromarty  Firth, blaming lack of orders for new platforms (GH 7.2)

Monday 6 February: police visit offices of Friends of the Earth investigating the leak of a Government document about nuclear dumping at sea (GH 7 Feb)

Monday 6 February: Government announces reduction in scale of planned cuts in housing benefit ‘to head of a rebellion on his own back benches’ but remains criticised by pensioners and child poverty organisations (GH 7 Feb)

Monday 6 February: ‘9 people arrested outside London High Court during Animal Liberation Front protest at delay of appeal sentence for Steve Boulding jailed for 15 months last June, for conspiracy to cause damage at lab using animals in experiments’ (I.2)

Tues. 7 February: striking workers sacked at Phillips Rubber Ltd in Manchester.

Wed. 8 February: court orders workers to end occupation of the Sovereign Explorer oil rig in the Firth of Clyde off Largs. The rig was built at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, but was damaged in gales during sea test. The CL workers  wanted it to be brought back there for repairs, but the company insisted it be taken to a yard in France (GH 9 Feb)

Wed. 8 February: workers a Scotts Bakery, Aintree, Liverpool told they must end four week strike and accept 120 redundances or face the sack (GH 9 Feb)

Thurs. 9 February One day walk out at Scott Lithgow shipyard in response to threatened takeover and loss of 2000 jobs

Thurs. 9 February: Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of Soviet Communist Party (1982-84) dies.

Thurs 9 February: police seize documents from investigative journalist Duncan Campbell and search his house after he is involved in a bike accident (GH 16 Feb)

February 10 February: Michael Hickey roof top protest continuing at Gartree prison after 79 days, protesting innocence in Carl Bridgwater case

Monday 13 February: NUM meeting for delegates from Scottish pits in Edinburgh decides to postpone for a week decision about whether to stage indefinite strike against closure of Polmaise and Bogside colliery, pending a series of pithead meetings. 100 Polmaise miners lobbied the meeting for an all out strike, and some angrily shouted ‘sell out’ at the NUM Scottish leaders (GH 14 Feb)

Monday 13 February: life models at Glasgow and Edinburgh art colleges refuse to pose nude in campaign for better pay and conditions. At the latter, ‘Classes went ahead, and students produced drawings of the clothed models’ (GH 14 Feb)

Monday 13 February: 2500 railway workers stage a 24 hour strike, causing cancellation of at least 75% of trains in Strathclyde area. The unofficial strike organised by the Strathclyde NUR action committee was against plans for driver only trains and automated stations. It was criticised by the NUR leadership as well as management. In a separate dispute, 4000 bus workers went on strike for two hours in protest against planned closure of three bus garages in Glasgow (GH 14 Feb 84)

Tuesday 14 February: a man accused of being a police informer is found shot dead by the IRA near Crossmaglen (GH 15 Feb)

15 February: miners walk out at Seafield colliery in Fife in dispute relating to disciplining of miner; strike at Killoch in Ayrshire in response to management action over overtime ban (GH 16 Feb)

16 February: 17 year old William McDonald found hanged in his cell at Glenochil detention centre near Alloa, the 4th death there in 18 months (GH 17 Feb)

17 Feb: employment secretary Tom King hit by an egg during a protest by Cammell Laird shipyard workers on a visit ot Birkenhead in Merseyside (GH 18 Feb)

Strikers at Cammell Laird in 1984 - they were later dismissed and jailed for 30 days 

Mon. 20 February: strike by miners in Doncaster area following merger of Goldthorpe and Highgate collieries (workers from two pits were not paidbeing the same). Miners also walk out at Manvers Collliery in South Yorkshire in dispute over meal breaks, supported by strikes at six other local pits over the next week.

Mon. 20 February: 16 arrests in clashes between hunt saboteurs and police at harecoursing meeting in Altcar, Lancashire (I.2)

Mon. 20 February: four Greenham women jailed after refusing to pay fines (Insurrection 2)

Mon 20 February: NUM delegates meeting in Edinburgh votes against strike against closure of Polmaise, despite support fro strike by NUM president Mick McGahey (GH 21 Feb) . By this time rumours of hit list of pit closures were rife, but Scottish miners were reluctant to strike on their own.

Mon 20 Feb: strike by scenery makers and shifters at BBC (GH 21 Feb)

20 -23 February: sacked strikers occupy Phillips Rubber Ltd, Manchester

Tues. 21 February: two members of the IRA and  British Army soldier killed in a gun battle between an undercover BA unit and the IRA at Dunloy, County Antrim.

Tues. 21 February: 100 protestors invade the Lothian council chamber in Edinburgh in an attempt to stop the Tory/Alliance cuts budget (GH 22 Feb)

Tues. 21 February: Michael Hickey ends his roof top protest at Gartree, started last November

Wed 22 February: NCB chairman Ian MacGregor knocked to the ground after fence gives away during a  protest by  miners and his car tyres let down in a visit to Ellington colliery in Northumberland (GH  23 Feb)

Wed 22 February: workers vote to continue their week long strike over working conditions at the BP chemical plant in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire (GH 23 Feb)

Wed 22 February: steelworkers strike at Clydesdale Tube Works, Bellshill, Lanarkshire (GH 23 Feb)

Thurs 23 February: student day of action in support of higher grants in Scotland. At least 4000 march in Glasgow; in Dundee 60 students briefly occupy local education department offices (GH 24 Feb)

Thursday 23 Feb: two Greenham women say they are shot at after cutting through fence. An American patrol fired two shots after the women refused to lie face down. They are arrested but unhurt (GH 28 Feb). Government denied shots were fired.

Friday 24 Feb: British ariways cabin crews stage 24 hour lightning strike against 4% pay offer. Some wear 'I am a flying picket' bibs.

Friday 24 Feb: Thatcher's car is hit by an egg during a demonstration by 500 students as she visits Warwick University. A Conservative students meeting with Cecil Parkinson (Trade & Industry Secretary) at Essex University after 'students threw missiles at him and blocked his way' (GH 25 Feb)

Friday 24 Feb: Police and troops saturate the funeral of IRA volunteer Henry Hogan in Dunloy, shot dead earlier in the week. There are scuffles as police block the mourners path - supposedly to prevent IRA firing shots over the coffin (GH 25 Feb).

Sunday 26 Feb: Strike at BP chemicals plant in Grangemouth ends after 11 days with new agreement on working practices (GH 27 Feb)

Tuesday 28 Feb: TUC day of action in support of GCHQ workers - walk outs (mostly half day strikes)  at hospitals, DHSS offices, the Yarrow warship yard, newspapers (leading to halting of all Fleet Street papers), North Sea oil rig at Methil, car factories,. 40,000 march in London from the Embankment to Jubilee Gardens.(GH 29 Feb). GCHQ workers had been given to the end of February to renounce union membership in return for one off £1000 payment - most did. 40 asked to be transferred to other Government departments

Tuesday 28 Feb: animal rights activists in white protective suits and gas masks hand in letter to Ministry of Defence against animal testing at Porton Down Chemical Defence establishment (GH 29 Feb)

Wednesday 29 February: seven Americans begin a world peace walk with a vigil at the Holy Lock US nuclear submarine base, followed by a torchlit procession with supporters to Greenock. They aim to walk to Moscow to arrive on Hiroshima Day (GH 1 March)

Wednesday 29 February: violence involving England supporters in Paris following friendly between England and France

February: Five women go on hunger strike at Durham prison in protest at harsh conditions in Control Unit

Sources: Glasgow Herald (GH), Times (T), Red Rag (RR - a Reading radical paper), Socialist Opportunist (SO - a chronology published at the time); Insurrection (I- anarchist paper);

Meanwhile back in the UK pop charts, these were the top twenty singles in February 1984:

1. Relax - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
2. Radio Ga Ga- Queen
3. Girls just want to have fun - Cyndi Lauper
4. Break my stride - Matthew Wilder
5. Doctor doctor - Thompson Twins
6. That's living (alright) - Joe Fagin
7. Holiday  - Madonna
8. New moon on Monday - Duran Duran
9. (Feels like) Heaven - Fiction Factory
10. 99 Red balloons - Nena
11. My ever changing moods - Style Council
12. Here comes the rain again - Eurythmics
13. The killing moon - Echo & the Bunnymen
14. What difference does it make - Smiths
15. Somebody's watching me - Rockwell
16.Love theme from "The thorn birds"- Juan Martin
17. Wouldn't it be good - Nik Kershaw
18. Wonderland - Big Country
19. Michael Caine - Madness
20. Pipes of peace - Paul McCartney


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Athens Protest and Street Art - December 2014

Some pictures from Athens last weekend:

Demonstrators gather outside the university on 6 December, the 6th anniversary of the killing of 15 year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos by police. Thousands took to the streets to remember Alexis and to express solidarity with his friend Nikos Romanos,  on hunger strike in prison (the hunger strike has now ended).
Later there were clashes, with tear gas and petrol bombs (from BBC News)
Syrian refugees protesting at their camp in Syntagma Square, opposite the parliament building
'We faced death passing the sea, now we're sleeping at Greek streets'

Sunday December 7th - an art students banner on  protest outside Parliament against the setting of a new austerity budget
At least 5,000 (my estimate) took part in the Sunday evening protest
(image from here of a trade union contingent on demo)
Some street art from the Exarchia area:










Wednesday, November 19, 2014

'Death from Excessive Dancing' - Bermondsey 1903

From: South London Press, 3 January 1903:

'The Fatal Thirteen -Death from excessive dancing

Dr Waldo held an inquest at the Southwark Coroner's Court on Wednesday on the body of Mary Ann Cocklin, aged 35 years, the wife of a Bermondsey labourer.

John Cocklin, the husband, stated that he and the deceased went to a Christmas party at the house of a relative on Christmas Day, and kept on dancing until after midnight. Deceased then lay down to rest, but awoke in a fright, screaming that three men were after her.

Dr Waldo: Had she been drinking any spirits?

Witness: No, sir, only port wine. We had nothing but port wine, any of us.

Dr Waldo: What happened when she came to herself again?

Witness: She went down stairs and resumed dancing to the music of an automated piano organ we had in the house. I next heard she was very ill, and that she had again gone to rest, but had turned giddy and fallen down the stairs.

Dr Waldo: How many?

Witness: The fatal 13.

Susan Poore, a neighbour, stated that she heard the deceased fall. She was taken to Guys Hospital, where she died the same day.

The medical evidence showed that death was due to fracture of the thigh caused by the fall, which was the result of giddiness produced by dancing. A verdict was returned accordingly'.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Criminal Justice Act 20th Anniversary Event coming up at MayDay Rooms (London)

Daily Star, 10 October 1994 (from Datacide archive)

Revolt of the Ravers: The Movement Against the Criminal Justice Act, 1994

Sunday October 19th 2014, 2 pm –  7 pm,  at MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
(Admission free)

Twenty years ago, on 9 October 1994, a huge demonstration against the Government's Criminal Justice Act ended in London's Hyde Park with riotous clashes, police horses charging, and people dancing to sound systems. The Act brought in new police powers against raves, squatters, protestors, travellers and others, and was passed amidst widespread opposition.

This event will include memories of this movement, its ways of organising and representing itself and will feature displays of its ‘material culture’ such as zines, flyers, cassettes and letters.

There will also be a panel discussion looking at the related radical/techno zines of the 1990s, in what was one of the last musical and social movements mediated primarily through print rather than digitally.

The talks and discussion will be followed by films and music from the period.

It is hoped that the day will be a catalyst for a process of archiving, circulating and discussing materials from the radical social/musical movements of the 1990s.

Supported by MayDay RoomsDatacide magazine, Cesura//Acceso journal, History is Made at Night.


Hyde Park, October 1994  - Copyright © 1994 Andrew Wiard
My Datacide article on this subject is here. If you were involved in the anti-CJA movement come along and contribute - we would be particularly interested in hearing from Michelle Poole from Advance Party or Debbie Staunton from United Systems, get in touch if you're out there! (transpontine@btinternet.com) Of course if you weren't there, or maybe weren't even born, come along  anyway and find out more.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Panacea: 1990s Cardiff zine from 'techno underground'

Panacea was a mid-1990s zine from Cardiff ('Panacea West') and Southsea ('Panacea South').


Panacea 'future sounds collective' aimed 'to provide information distributed from the techno underground, bring quality music to your ears, and find ways of getting to best future sound parties'.


This issue (number 3) from 1995, includes articles on Jeff Mills and DJ Torah, and a round up of London techno nights, including Digital Nation at Bagleys, Kings Cross and of course Dead by Dawn: 'next Dead by Dawn will continue the party with cutting edge hardcore and hard experimental sounds to challenge the techno establishment. The next Dead by Dawn (121 Railton Road, Brixton) is on Nov 4, line up includes Torah'. I remember chatting to the Panacea crew at Dead by Dawn, nice people.


The front page mentions 'Insurrection in Hyde Park' and the issue includes a review of the pamphlet I wrote at the time about the October 1994 anti-Criminal Justice Act riotous demonstration in Hyde Park, 'The Battle for Hyde Park: ruffians, radicals, and ravers 1855-1994'.



With Datacide magazine we are planning an event at the May Day Rooms in Fleet Street, London,  on October 19th 2014 looking at the anti-CJA movement and also featuring a panel discussion on the radical/techno zine scene at that time. Put the date in your diary, it will start at 2 pm and carry on into the evening with films and music (further details here soon).  We would be interested in hearing from people involved in that movement/demonstration, if anyone from Panacea is out there (Arlene/Sian?) get in touch as we'd like to have you there too!

Monday, August 18, 2014

London Political Graffiti 1968

From the excellent Oz Magazine archive, here's some images of London graffiti from Oz number 13 (June 1968), photographs apparently from 'a series of postcards being prepared by JLTY, 49 Kensington Park Road, W11'

'Pop is Dead'
'Crime is the highest form of sensuality'
'Burn Baby Burn'
'A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear, A drowsy, stifled, unimpassioned grief'
(Coleridge quote in Moorhouse Road W2)
'All you need is dynamite'
'Burn it all down'
'Cars are dead' (from Denbigh Terrace W11)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

History is Made at Night in The Wire

Back in December 2013, The Wire magazine featured this blog in its 'Unofficial Channels' column:

(from The Wire, December 2013 -
 nb John Eden is incorrectly described here as the publisher of Datacide, though he is a contributor to it)

The item was based on a short interview with me by Dan Barrow, which I've reproduced below as it sets out some of my thoughts on 'History is Made at Night' in a bit more detail:

How did you come to start the blog? What kind of interests fed into it?

I stated the blog in early 2007. The name came from a byline on a poster for ‘The Last Days of Disco’ - at the time I was unaware of the 1930s film, History is Made at Night.  The origins of it go back to the mid-1990s, when I first started writing about the history of dance music scenes – for a while I had a column in Mixmag on this called Back in the Day, and I also had stuff published in Eternity and Alien Underground zines. I guess every generation thinks they are the first to discover staying up all night dancing, but I was and am fascinated by how people have been doing this for centuries.

The blog also has its roots in the 1990s free party scene, in particular Dead By Dawn techno/speedcore night at the 121 Centre in Brixton. There was a scene of people around it who were thinking and writing about the political/social implications of electronic dance music, with zines like Technet and Alien Underground. So the blog is very much my expression of an ongoing collective project. I still write for Datacide, which also emerged from that same milieu.

The blog's described as being about "The Politics of Dancing and Musicking" - how do you feel dancing and (radical) politics intersect?

In a negative sense, dancing has always been subject to political regulation. As I said at the beginning of the blog there have been ‘rules about when, where and how they can move, rules about who is allowed to dance with who, rules about what dancers can wear and put inside their bodies…’.  Resistance to this regulation has been politically significant, from the 1969 Stonewall riots to the 1990s movement against the ‘anti-rave’ Criminal Justice Act and beyond.

In a positive/constitutive sense, dancing affirms community and can create new social relations between those involved. I took part in Reclaim the Streets, when the fusing of sound systems and protest was taken to a new level in the UK. In more recent movements, such as the student protests of 2010-11, we’ve also seen how sound systems can help fuse together isolated individuals into a social force.

What are your musical interests? I remember reading quite a lot of stuff on the blog about rave, jazz, UK reggae...

I suppose the focus of the blog is less on the music as such than on what happens when people come together around a music. So although I am not a massive jazz fan, I am very interested in the 1940s/50s London jazz scene as it prefigures later bohemian counter-cultures and indeed as far as I know gave birth to the word ‘ravers’! My personal musical involvements have ranged from anarcho-punk, to house and techno, to playing in pub folk sessions.

How do you keep blogging? I ask partly becuase a lot of the blogs from that era have more or less disappeared - Woebot, Beyond The Implode, Sit Down Man, The Impostume...

In starting HIMAN I was partly prompted by that wave of music blogs such as Blissblog and Uncarved (the latter’s John Eden is somebody else I first met through that Dead by Dawn scene). Obviously people’s focus shift sfor various reasons, some of that first generation of music bloggers used their profile to move on into publishing books and articles etc. It’s obviously true that the time I have spent blogging could have been put to use in writing several books, but maybe that desire to monumentalise your writing in an object that sits on your shelves is anachronistic – though I am not averse to it. Actually I have been talking to somebody about publishing a History is Made at Night book, but we shall see. What I still like about blogging is its immediacy - the ability to respond to things in real time. And the fact that unlike with Twitter, you have the space to do more than just express a quick opinion.

The blog goes up and down in terms of the time I can put into it, what keeps it going is that every so often something comes along that make its concerns seem particularly relevant – such as the Form 696 row about policing grime events. Also when people express an interest in it I feel guilty that I haven’t posted for a while and am stung into a burst of action!

I also wanted to ask about the Transpontine blog. What do you feel distinguishes South London as a place, especially musically?

If you start exploring the history of music scenes you can’t help but be struck how certain locations recur as important over the decades (e.g. Soho). As I live in South East London, I’ve tried to document this in relation to my own area at another blog, Transpontine. Deptford and New Cross for instance have been important at various times for reggae sound systems, punk and other scenes. I don’t think it’s necessary to fall back on a supernatural spirit of place to explain this, as Peter Ackroyd sometimes seems to – there are material processes at work. Partly it’s about the mix of people created by migration, location of colleges etc. Partly it’s about them having space to practice and perform – so you need a combination of plentiful/cheap rehearsal studios and pubs, clubs and other venues. As with art scenes, music is sometimes valorised for its contribution to creating a ‘buzz’ for regeneration, but the same process of rising property values threatens to undermine its infrastructure  as pubs and ex-industrial buildings get converted to flats.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Just Kids - some young people killed by the state 1968-1972

Grew up reading about the late 1960s and early 1970s, all those heroic struggles of resistance and repression.They seemed like ancient history to me as a teenager but actually were only 10-15 years away, a time period that seems like yesterday to me today. Now I'm older but not necessarily wiser I like to think I'm less caught up in the historical romance of great events and when I read about Kent State, or the Panthers, or Bloody Sunday, what I see are just kids, cut down by the state (in this case the US and British states), leaving behind grieving friends and families. 

Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party, killed by Chicago police in 1969 - aged 21 (referenced by Jay Z in the line 'I arrived on the day Fred Hampton died' in 'Murder by Excellence' - Jay Z was born on that day, 4 December 1969). 



Jeffrey Glenn Miller (age 20), Allison B. Krause  (age 19), William Knox Schroeder (age 19),Sandra Lee Scheuer (age 20) - killed by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University, May 1970. 


Henry Smith (19), Samuel Hammond (aged 18) Delano Middleton (aged 17) - shot dead by South Carolina Highway Patrol during an anti-racist protest in Orangeburg, February 1968.


Frank Quinn, killed during a British Army operation in Belfast in 1971 ('the Ballymurphy Massacre') - aged 19.


Then of course there's Bloody Sunday 1972, where nine of the 14 people killed by the British Paratroop Regiment in Derry were aged 22 or under:

John (Jackie) Duddy (aged 17)
Patrick Joseph Doherty (31)
Bernard McGuigan (41)
Hugh Pious Gilmour (17)
Kevin McElhinney (17)
Michael Gerald Kelly (17)
John Pius Young (17)
William Noel Nash (19)
Michael M. McDaid (20)
James Joseph Wray (22)
Gerald Donaghy (17)
Gerald (James) McKinney (34)
William Anthony McKinney (27)
John Johnston (59)



I can't even find a picture on line of Kevin Gately, aged 20, killed in an anti-fascist demonstration in Red Lion Square, London in 1972.

Good to see Neil Young is keeping the memory of Kent State alive, still singing 'Ohio' more than forty years after he wrote it in the immediate aftermath of the killings.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

1984 Chronicle of a Year Foretold: January

A chronology of events in the UK

(See also  Welcome to 1984; February 1984)

1984 started with various strikes, including the early rumblings of what would soon become the national miners strike. The armed conflict was continuing in the North of Ireland, with the row continuing about the mass escape of IRA prisoners in the previous September. The movement against nuclear weapons was focused particularly on Greenham Common in Berkshire, where women had established a peace camp...

Tues. 3 January: 110 workers go on strike over pay at Phillips Rubber Ltd, Dantzic street, Manchester [Hansard, 5.7.84]

Tues. 3 January: 21 Greenham women arrested after sit-in at Little Chef restaurant in Newbury. They were protesting about being banned from the premises, the nearest to the peace camp [GH, 4 Jan)

Thurs. 5 January: planned national shipyard strike called off by unions [T.6.1.84]; Land Rover workers vote to strike (but this is also later called off by unions).

Mon. 9 January: Sarah Tisdall, a 23 year old civil servant, charged under the Official Secrets Act  for leaking information to the Guardian last October about the arrival of cruise missiles at Greenham Common.

Mon 9 January: 24 hour strike against new working procedures by 1800 Edinburgh bus drivers, only three of whom turn up to work (GH)

Mon. 9 – Tues. 10 January : Riot at Peterhead prison with prisoners breaking on to the roof  (GH 11.1.84)

Tues. 10 January: policeman shot dead in Newry, County Down.

Tues. 10 Jan: Motherwell District Council vote to ban a planned march by the Troops Out Movement, scheduled to take place in Wishaw on June 21 (GH 11.184)

Wed. 11 January: British Rail Engineering Ltd announces that 3500 engineering jobs are to be axed, on top of a similar number lost in the previous year (GH 12.1.84)

Sat. 14 January – national planning meeting in London for Stop the City 2 at the Ambulance Station  squat, 306 Old Kent Road  (RR)

Mon. 16 January – 31 people appear before High Wycombe magistrates courts charged in relation to sit-down blockade of nearby USAF Daws Hill on Dec. 19 ’83 where cruise missiles are controlled (at least 113 were arrested)

Mon. 16 January – Ford announce the closure of its Thames foundry in Dagenham, with the loss of 2000 jobs. They claim its is cheaper to buy in castings made elsewhere (GH)

Mon. 16 January – miners walk out at High Moor colliery in Derbyshire in protest at visit by National Coal Board chairman, Ian MacGregor.

Mon 16 January – 19,000 workers stage one day strike at Britain’s eleven Royal Ordnance factories, in protest against plans to privatise them.

Tues. 17 January: Parliament passes rate-capping bill, giving Government powers to intervene to control spending by local Councils.

Tues. 17 January: 200 workers walk out at Volvo bus and truck plant in Irvine, Ayrshire in pay dispute.

17 January: a 38 year old man dies in a police cell at Camberwell magistrates court (Insurrection)

Wed. 18 January: the national council of print union National Graphical Association agrees to purge its contempt of court in the Stockport Messenger dispute, effectively ending support for the dispute, which started in July 1983 with the dismissal of the ‘Stockport Six’ for striking at the newspaper owned by Eddie Shah.


Tony Dubbins, NGA General Secretary (centre front) with the 'Stockport Six' in December 1983

Wed. 18 January:  James Prior,  Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced a public inquiry into the child abuse scandal at the Kincora Boy's Home in Belfast.

Thurs. 19 January: British Leyland announces 1000 jobs to go at its truck plants (GH)

Thurs. 19 January: seven journalists who refused to cross printers’ picket lines during the Stockport Messenger dispute are sent dismissal notices (GH)

Thursday 19 January: police clear protestors from Bracknell Town Council meeting after 200 protest against threat to close Easthampstead Adventure Playground and East Lodge Play Centre. The next dday users and staff occupied both places and staged a roof-top demonstration.

Fri. 20 January: nurses and other staff strike against the threatened closure of the Dreadnought Seaman’s Hospital in Greenwich [T.21.1.1984]

20 Jan: Irish National Liberation Army shoot dead UDR soldier in Dunmurry

Sat 21 January  – Stokely Carmichael (now called Kwame Ture) refused entry to Britain when he arrived at Heathrow for a ten day speaking tour as a guest of Hackney Black People’s Association. He had last visited in 1983 and made speeches apparently supportive of riots. The Home Office declared that ‘his presence in the United Kingdom would not be for the public good’ (GH)

Sat 21 January: 500 people take part in die-in at Holy Loch, the US polaris missile base near Dunoon. 27 people are arrested (GH)

Monday 23 January: workers at Scott Lithgow begin a ‘work on’ with laid off workers reporting for work, and their wages being paid for out of a levy collected from other workers (GH)

Monday 23 January: 40 ferry services across the Channel and the Irish Sea are cancelled as 3,000 members of the National Union of Seamen stage an unofficial 12 hour strike against the closure of the Dreadnought Seaman’s Hospital in Greenwich (Times, 24.1.84)

25 January – Thomas Kelly, a shipyard worker and Scottish republican, jailed for ten years  for sending a letter bomb to Conservative government minister Norman Tebbit last year, following evidence from a Special Branch informer Bernard Goodwin (GH)

Wednesday 25 January: Government announces ban on 7000 civil servants at GCHQ in Cheltenham from belonging to unions or going on strike (GH). They claimed the strike action by civil servants there in 1981 had put security at risk – seemingly the decision to ban union had been taken at the time, but was postponed until after the 1983 election (GH 1.2)

Wed. 25 Jan – British Shipbuilders announce closure of Henry Robb shipyard in Leith; unions in other years agree to more flexible working practices (GH)

Thurs. 26 January:   The Hennessy Report, into the mass escape of 38 Republican prisoners from the Maze Prison on 25 September 1983, was published. Most of the responsibility for the escape was placed on prison staff. James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated that there would be no ministerial resignations as a result of the report.

Thurs. 26 January: NCB announce closure of Polmaise colliery near Stirling

Thurs 26 January: News International - publishers of the Times - dismiss 750 members of SOGAT 82, for taking part in a two week unofficial sympathy action in support of clerical staff striking over staffing in the library. The Times failed to appear for four days.

Thurs 26 January: tens of thousands of civil servants in DHSS offices and other workplaces walk out in protest at GCHQ ban.  

Thurs 26 January: miners walk out and occupy surface buildngs at Bogside pit in Fife after management downgrade 12 workers for ‘not developing new seam quick enouhg’ (GH 28/1)

Thurs 26 January: students occupy the library at Strathclyde University in protest agains changes to travel allowances for students.

Fri 27 January: workers occupy the Henry Robb shipyard, where 390 jobs have been cut as a result of decision to close: ‘A Royal Navy sub-marine, under repair at the yard, will not released by the men’ (GH 28.1).

Fri 27 Jan – strike stops the Times appearing for second day. Courts unfreeze assets of NGA print union relating to Stockport Messenger dispute

Sat 28 January – 20+ women stage a Reclaim the Night walk in Reading.

Sun 29 January: 1500 -2000 people demonstrate at Cocksparrow fur farm in Warwickshire, surrounding the site and attempting to break through fences and police cordon. Mounted police are deployed and 25 people arrested (Hansard)

Mon. 30 January : The Prison Governors' Association and the Prison Officers Association both claimed that political interference in the running of the Maze Prison resulted in the mass escape on 25 September 1983. Nick Scott, then Minister for Prisons, rejected the allegations.

Mon 30 January: a man is shot dead by the British Army in Springfield Road, Belfast (GH 31.1.1984)

Tues 31 January:  Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers killed in an Irish Republican Army (IRA) land mine attack on their  police near Forkhill, County Armagh (GH 1.2).

date not confirmed:

30 arctic foxes rescued from Cocksparrow fur farm near Nuneaton, and a similar number from Bould Farm, Oxford, in Animal Liberation Front raids (SO)

1000 demonstrate in the snow at new Hazleton vivisection laboratory in Harrogate; fences are pulled down and police snowballed (SO).

Anarchists open Peoples Squat for Life peace centre in Bradford and, a few weeks later, a similar peace centre in Bristol (SO)

Sources: Glasgow Herald (GH), Times (T), Red Rag (RR - a Reading radical paper), Socialist Opportunist (SO - a chronology published at the time); Insurrection (anarchist paper); Hansard (official record of UK Parliament)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Agit Disco: A benefit shindig for Housmans

A while ago I put together a mix for Stefan Szczelkun's Agit Disco series of political music, which was later included in the book of the same name. Myself and various other Agit Disco selectors are taking part in a benefit for Housmans, the long established radical bookshop at Kings Cross. The event takes place at Surya, 154-156 Pentonville Rd, London N1 on Thursday 10th April, 7pm to Midnight. Full details follow...



'We’d like to invite you to come along to a special fundraising DJ shindig, being put on by Housmans alongside the good people involved with the Agit Disco book (Mute Books 2011). We’ll be taking over both floors of local eco-music venue Surya, and filling it with guest selectors who featured in the Agit Disco book.

The music policy on both floors will be nothing but the best politically-charged tunes ever recorded.

Selectors on the night include:

Sian Addicott
Martin Dixon
John Eden
Marc Garrett
Nik Górecki
Caroline Heron
Stewart Home
Paul Jamrozy
Micheline Mason
Tracey Moberly
Luca Paci
Simon Poulter
Howard Slater
Andy T
Neil Transpontine
Tom Vague
And a big big thank you to Stefan Szczelkun

Entry: £5 – additional donations welcome
Thursday 10th April
7pm to Midnight
Surya, 154-156 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9JL

-Locally brewed beer on tap-

Tickets can be bought in advance here via Eventbrite
www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/agit-disco-a-benefit-shindig-for-housmans-tickets-7135846509
Or can be bought on the door

=======

Sian Addicott

Sian is a photographer and photo editor. Whilst researching her MA dissertation Sian looked into the history of the Welsh Not and became further interested in the oppression of Welsh Identity. Sian is a non-Welsh speaking Welsh person from Swansea.

Mel Croucher

An internet wizz kid designer and writer who has worked with Frank Zappa and Ian Drury amongst others. He is a collector of wax discs – which are all one-off recordings. One time member of the Ice Cream Yak Band. Life long inhabitant of Portsmouth.
www.Melspages.com

Martin Dixon

Martin was a Trumpet playing member of the Proles in the Nineties – but I didn’t know him then. I ‘met’ him thru Flickr as part of the Kennington / 56a Infoshop network. I was impressed with his archiving of the Proles old handmade flyers. Then he came to my 60th party where the Agit Disco 1 was played, took photos of the event and was enthusiastic about the project. He made selection 4 and then offered to make a website. Nine months later the website you are looking at was born.
www.mdx.org.uk



John Eden

John is one of the founders of the reggae, dubstep and grime fanzine Woofah. He lives in Stoke Newington and writes at http://www.uncarved.org/blog

Nik Górecki

Co-manager of Housmans bookshop, and weekend producer and deejay.

Stewart Home

Artist, writer, prankster, film maker, occasionally even a musician etc. His many books include ‘Cranked Up Really High: genre theory and Punk Rock’ Codex 1996. Home’s own punk slop can be found on the music CD ’Stewart Home Comes In Your Face’ Sabotage Edition 1998.
www.stewarthomesociety.org

Tom Jennings

Writes regularly for the papers Variant and Freedom. Many intriguing analyses of film, television, art, music and writing, with a deep insight into the workings of oppression. e.g. ‘Beautiful Struggles and Gangsta Blues’ [urban music review of the year 2004]. Variant, 22, February 2005.
http://libcom.org/
www.starandshadow.org.uk

Micheline Mason

Micheline is an activist and leader of the Inclusion movement in Britain. She started the Alliance for Inclusive Education. She is also a visual artist, poet, author, parent and co-counsellor. Her poems may be sampled on her website
www.michelinemason.com/topics/poems.htm


Tracey Moberly

The co-owner of The Foundry, London – Tracey is a socio-political artist, arts lecturer & visiting lecturer in politics & activism. She hosted the Foundry’s Late, Late Breakfast Show on Resonance 104.4fm for 8 years. Her book Text-Me-Up! is published April 2011

Luca Paci

Luca Paci is an Italian poet currently living and working in London.
http://rizomatic.wordpress.com/

Stefan Szczelkun

Project originator. According to Clifford Harper I was talking about the idea of a political disco with Street Farmer Bruce Haggart over 30 years ago. Stefan is an artist and author currently working with video organised on DVDs as ‘active archives’. Producing a series about people power and counter cultures of the Nineteen Nineties.
www.stefan-szczelkun.org.uk

Howard Slater

Sometime writer and trainee counsellor. Self-publishes occasionally as Break/Flow. Wrote regular reviews and articles in the experimental Techno zine, Datacide. Also published in Mute, NoiseGate and was on the Board of Dire Rectors of the Difficult Fun record label. See his new book: http://www.metamute.org/en/shop/anomie_bonhomie_other_writings


Andy T

Andy T is the inventor of the poloroid dj decks, the only instant decks now not available from ktel. He’s the only son of a king of Prussia and a french sewer cleaner. He was bought up on a diet of cheese and castor oil, spread liberally with right wing politics and gay porn. He escaped this prison in the summer of ‘76 to invent punk. After falling out of love with the punk scene he lived for some years in a barren landscape, before returning to music.

Neil Transpontine

Neil Transpontine has written on music and politics under various guises for publications including Datacide, Alien Underground, Woofah, Mixmag, Eternity, Head, Trangressions, Practical History and Past Tense. He is largely responsible for the blogs ‘History is Made at Night: the politics of musicking and dancing’ and ‘Transpontine’ (South East London eclectica).
http://history-is-made-at-night.blogspot.co.uk/


Tom Vague

Luminary and producer of Vague magazine at one time the glossiest fanzine in the land. Tom has been working with the pyschogeography of Notting Hill Gate where he lives.
www.historytalk.org