Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dancing Questionnaire (19): Lydia from South East London

Lydia is a New Cross-based feminist zinester, blogger (see her Swimsuit Issue) and co-promoter of Girl Germs - 'a grrrl-tastic night of music, zines, cakes and dancing. We’ll be playing le tigre, Bratmobile, Sleater-Kinney, The Slits, The Kills, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bikini Kill, M.I.A. and plenty of other amazing tunes by amazing grrrls' (see their facebook or twitter).

1. Can you remember your first experience of dancing?
As a baby, I used to pull myself up using the sofa arm and jig about the Top of the Pops whilst my parents were watching it, but I was too young and I don't remember doing it. I've just cringed at the photographic evidence. At about 3/4, I started ballet lessons. I remember galumphing about, in my pink outfit that made me look like a marchmallow, and waving a scarf around. I loved it, and carried on with the lessons until I was 11 and I realised I would never make it as a ballerina because I have funny knees.

2. What’s the most interesting/significant thing that has happened to you while out dancing?
Probably realising that the person I was with at the time, was an absolutely appalling human being that I needed to get rid of as soon as possible, which I did. Weirdly, it took seeing his reaction to having glowstick juice accidentally being flicked into his eye to make me see this.

3. You. Dancing. The best of times…
I'm torn, on this one. Two occasions come to mind. One would be playing Bikini Kill's 'Rebel Girl' with my friend Laura at our clubnight, Girl Germs. We were thrashing about at the decks and everybody there was jumping around and screaming the words. Awesome. More recently, dancing to 'Y Control' at a Yeah Yeah Yeahs gig before Christmas. I consider it a bit of a theme tune for me, and I always end up crying whilst stomping about to it. Hearing it live was incredible.
4. You. Dancing. The worst of times…
Probably the same as a lot of women really. Having a letchy man grab hold me whilst I'm just trying to have fun with my friends. One particularly obnoxious fellow hooked his fingers through my belt-loops so that I couldn't escape from him. It was disgusting, and quite frightening while it lasted.

5. Can you give a quick tour of the different dancing scenes/times/places you’ve frequented?
I can't give a very good answer to this question I don't think. I grew up in Bedford, and there was only one place to go out if you were a self-conscious indie kid, and that was The Pad. They played all the indie disco hits and my friends would always end up pulling some boy who wanted to be Julian Casablancas or Connor Oberst. I used to come down to London for gigs a lot before I moved here. I went to see NME darlings, The Others about a million times and made lots of friends through that scene. Looking back the music was terrible, but we had so much fun together. I even met my boyfriend at an Others gig at The Old Blue Last, which is pretty embarrassing! When I moved here, I initially played it safe, frequenting indie hang-puts like White Heat and Durrr. I don't drink though, so I often found myself feeling a bit left out at these studenty nights. I briefly got into the fashion-obsessed scene around Boombox which was based at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, but I didn't have the time, the money, or really the inclination to pour myself into a PVC outfit and headdress every time I went dancing!

6. When and where did you last dance?
I last danced at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. It was a night called Bad Seed run by a friend and I had so much fun. I think it's going to be a regular thing there, great if you love garage rock and soul, which I do!

7. You’re on your death bed. What piece of music would make your leap up for one final dance?
Probably 'Y Control' by Yeah Yeah Yeahs again. It's not my favourite song in the world, but it always makes me feel pretty powerful. And I'd like to feel powerful in the face of death.

Photos above: from Girl Germs, October 2009.

The next Girl Germs is an Anti-Valentine's night on Saturday 13th February, at the Camden Head, 100 Camden High Street, London. £3 in, 9:00 pm start.

All questionnaires welcome - just answer the same questions in as much or as little detail as you like and send to (see previous questionnaires).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Couple in Voodoo Trance

This sublime image has turned up on a number of blogs including Royal Quiet Deluxe and Lucky Charm (I was alerted to it by Drumz of the South twitter feed). The photo was taken by Weegee - as the photographer Arthur Fellig (1899–1968) was known - and was featured in an exhibition at the International Center of Photography a few years ago. Weegee was a Jewish immigrant to the US from Ukraine, and is best known for his portrayal of life in New York. So I am guessing that this 1956 photo, entitled 'Couple in Voodoo Trance', was taken in the States rather than in the Haiti homeland of Voodoo (or Vodou).

What is striking is the calm dignity of these participants - who could be dancers anywhere - quite at odds with the racist caricature of Vodou as some blood-crazed evil cult. Such caricatures have sadly been getting quite an airing in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, most notably from right wing US Christian fundamentalist nutjobs like Pat Robertson, who blamed the earthquake on a pact between Haitians and the devil. Clean Living in Difficult Circumstances is among those who have taken these views to task.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rabbie sings the blues

It's time for that Burns night post again:

Music historians have long noted the influence of the Scottish ballad tradition on the development of the blues and jazz, a product of the cultural encounter between Scottish and African American immigrants in the New World.

The Slave’s Lament (1792) by Robert Burns is pure blues in sentiment and structure as well as being a clear statement of solidarity with African slaves:

It was in sweet Senegal that my foes did me enthrall
For the lands of Virginia-ginia O;
Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more,
And alas! I am weary, weary O!

All on that charming coast is no bitter snow and frost,
Like the lands of Virginia-ginia O;
There streams for ever flow, and there flowers for ever blow,
And alas! I am weary, weary O!

The burden I must bear, while the cruel scourge I fear,
In the lands of Virginia-ginia O;
And I think on friends most dear with the bitter, bitter tear,
And Alas! I am weary, weary O!

Radio voices from the other side

Justine Picardie’s If the Spirit Moves You (2001) is a book about bereavement, specifically the author’s struggle to come to terms with the death of her sister, Ruth, in 1997. Like many in her position, Justine longs for a sign that the departed is still somehow present – a longing that takes her on a journey through the realms of contemporary spiritualism.

It is a moving book in its own terms, but it also caused me to reflect on the relationship between death and silence, life and sound.

Picardie writes that “When someone dies, they do not always disappear out of your life. You have a relationship with them: a relationship that changes, that begins to accommodate their silence”. This silence of the grave is at the heart of bereavement, the recognition not only that the dead are no longer physically present but that we can no longer hear their voice. Death cuts short the song and dance of our lives – Victor Jara’s widow (Joan Jara) called her biography of the Chilean folk singer, murdered by the military in 1973, ‘Victor- an Unfinished Song’.

So it is not surprising that the search for evidence of life after death has so often focused on the will to hear voices from beyond the grave, a pursuit that has gone hand in hand with the development of recording technology. Oliver Lodge, an early 20th century scientist (he invented the spark plug) and Psychic researcher, wrote that 'the dead live in etheric wavelengths which operate at much higher frequencies than ours'. No less than Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph, talked of inventing a machine to record the voices of the dead ‘if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected or moved or manipulated by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument when made available ought to record something’.

Then there was the Russian Dr Konstantin Raudive who believed he could record the voices of the dead ‘by attaching a micro-phone to a detuned radio’ or by leaving a tape recorder running in an empty room. In her quest, Justine Picardie meets current day enthusiasts for EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) such as Judith Chisholm and Dale Palmer. The latter has moved on to digital approaches, through projects like the Global Association of Instrumental Transcommunication and the Noetics Institute, hoping to develop software to make the voices of the dead audible. Inevitably, computers are the new frontline for those hoping to communicate with other realms – some have claimed that spirits have subtly left messages on PC screens.

Ulimately Picardie comes to the conclusion that it's all just apophenia - seeing patterns and meaning where none exist. But as her friend David Toop says to her at one point ‘Well, of course I don’t believe in it, but that’s not the point – what’s interesting is that these voices have significance to people who are looking for somehting’.

Radio Peter

The book put me in mind of an event I attended back in 2002 organised by the International Necronautical Society. The Second First Committee Hearings: Transmission, Death, Technology were held at the Cubitt Gallery in Islington and featured a talk by John Cussans on EVP which included reference to supposed radio stations broadcasting from the other side, set up by dead spiritualists:

'Friedrich Jurgensen... was a Swedish film producer I think, also an ornithologist, and I think as far as I can tell Jurgensen's was some of the first work in the nineteen-sixties... in fact it was using magnetic tape, and picking up on the white noise on magnetic tapes. Jurgensen had been taping bird calls, as an ornithologist will, and when he got the tapes home and listened to them he heard these voices in the white noise between... he thought he heard, well he picked up, he tuned into these voices, and eventually found, you know, decoded them, and interestingly enough also it was his mother that was speaking to Jurgensen, calling his name. And Jurgensen wrote a book... Radio Contact with the Dead in 1967. And that was the first work on EVP.

...EVP is Electric Voice Phenomena. The other technological term is ITC: Instrumental Transcommunication. And, yes, Raudive read Jurgensen's book, and that's what inspired him to do more and more research into the field. And it was Raudive who first encountered something called Radio Peter, which is the first documented claim that there are actually sending stations, radiotechnology, on the other side; that the people who are involved in ITC research, when they die they all meet up on the other side... ...and set up radio stations on the other side. And Radio Peter is that radio station'.

Raudive wrote that 'The astonishing conception that "other-worldly" transmitting stations exist emerges quite clearly from many of the voices' statements. Information received indicates that there are various groups of voice-entities who operate their own stations' (quoted in Haunted media: electronic presence from telegraphy to television by Jeffrey Sconce, 2000). In addition to Radio Peter, Raudive claimed to be in contact with another station called Studio Kelpe.

If only it were true, we could have some great listening when the present generation of London pirate radio operators pass on - 'big shout going out to the afterlife massive, hold tight the recently departed crew'.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Prohibition and the Pleasure Principle

The Pleasure Principle by Kane Race (Sydney Alumni Magazine, Summer 2009) is an excellent article on the absurdities of drugs prohibition, in the context of policing of queer parties in Australia. It's starting point is a police raid on on the Azure Party in Summer 2007
part of the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney.

Race argues that: 'Dance parties have long been a central element of gay community life in Sydney, and recreational drugs have played a significant part in the formation of self and community. To thwart these events by seizing upon this aspect is to deprive a whole subculture of one of its most significant community-building rituals'.

More generally he discusses how he enforcement of prohibition results in a situation where:

'casual intimidation of ordinary citizens is, if not already normalised, then rapidly becoming so – at youth events, in migrant and racially marked suburbs, and in the recreational precincts and public transport arteries of numerous states and nations. What’s striking is how the status of certain substances as “illicit” provides an occasion for the state to engage in what could be described as a disciplinary performance of moral sovereignty. This performance bears little relation to the actual dangers ofdrug consumption – in fact, it often exacerbates those dangers...

The state allows many forms of dangerous recreation, such as hang-gliding, football and mountaineering. And then of course there are those legal, revenue-raising drugs like alcohol (much more likely to be associated with violent crime and aggression than club drugs, incidentally). We would be horrified if the state tried to make these activities as dangerous as possible in order to discourage people from trying them. But this is exactly what is allowed in the attempted enforcement of drug prohibition, which in its present form precludes quality control, puts the drug market in the hands of organised criminals, and threatens users.

The illicit drug user has become a special and symbolic figure for the contemporary state. Their consumption practices resemble the licensed (legal) pleasures of the market, but can also be made to represent their excess. In times of governmental stress, the state jumps at the chance to stage a drama between immoral consumers and the supposedly moral state. But this drama seems more like high-profile posturing on the part of the police, designed to reassure middle-class voters that the state is tough on law and order, and driven more by the state’s desire to be seen to be “doing something” than any considered response to the issues at hand. Indeed, the persistence of these policing practices despite the evidence accumulated against them suggests that their counter-productivity is beside the point. For the point is the public spectacle of detection and humiliation, the making-suspect of populations, and the desire to create a demand for authority in the sphere of consumption. The state confirms its image of itself and its moral constituency in these forcible attempts to expose its other'.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kate McGarrigle

Sad to hear that Kate McGarrigle has died, here's some nice footage from way back in 1977 of Kate & Anna singing 'Foolish You'. It's from their 1975 debut album which I have listened to a million times and could listen to a million times more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Paris - city of sleep?

Interesting article in New York Times (10 Janyuary 2010) on decline in Paris nightlife:

'...Despite its reputation as the bustling spiritual home of the bohemian, the city has in recent years grown ever less mirthful and ever more staid and bourgeois, club owners say. Faced with mounting noise complaints, fines and closings, many Parisian bars and concert halls are struggling to stay afloat. D.J.’s and musicians have also been abandoning the French capital, forcing a startling conclusion upon the city’s night life professionals: Paris may soon be dead at night.

“The generalized law of silence that is battering down upon our events and our living spaces is soon to relegate the City of Lights to the rank of European capital of sleep,” a group of music promoters wrote in an online petition, to be submitted to the mayor of Paris and several government ministries on Jan. 31. The more than 14,000 signatories call for, above all else, more tolerance from residents and officials: it would be “dangerous hypocrisy,” the document says, “to let people think that the Parisian night could or should thrive without disturbing the perfect tranquillity of a single resident.” A headline in the newspaper Le Monde last month deemed Paris the “European capital of boredom.”

....A sampling of the city’s problems: densely packed, mixed-zoned neighborhoods; a lack of late-night transportation (the last metro leaves at 2 a.m. on the weekends, 1 a.m. during the week); and an unwieldy tangle of rules and regulations on bars and nightclubs, applied with uncommon zeal by a “repressive” police force.

Club owners say the central issue is the city’s accelerating gentrification. Real estate values have more than doubled here in the past 10 years, and residents increasingly demand peace and quiet, the club owners say... The police have lately, for instance, begun enforcing a long-overlooked law requiring establishments to hold a “night authorization” permit in order to stay open past 2 a.m., an annual license that club owners say is difficult to obtain.

(full article here)

Monday, January 18, 2010

High on Hope

The links section of this site is badly in need of updating, but I have at least managed to get the new addresses for Datacide and Expletive Undeleted right. The latter includes an interesting interview with Piers Sanderson, who has made High on Hope - what promises to be an excellent film about the Hardcore Uproar acid house warehouse parties in and around Blackburn in the late 1980s/early 90s. There's more about the film at the High on Hope website.

Here's the trailer for the film, which will be released once funds for use of music on the soundtrack have been sorted out. Look out for the great bit at the end where someone shouts 'listen, the old bill have took the fuckin' desks, the bastards'. Someone should sample that.

High On Hope - Trailer from piers on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti: all the tears and all the bodies

In today's Observer, Arcade Fire's Régine Chassagne, whose family fled Haiti to escape the Duvalier dictatorship, writes about the earthquake: 'Somewhere in my heart, it's the end of the world. These days, nothing is funny. I am mourning people I know. People I don't know. People who are still trapped under rubble and won't be rescued in time. I can't help it. Everybody I talk to says the same thing: time has stopped. Simultaneously, time is at work. Sneakily passing through the cracks, taking the lives of survivors away, one by one'.

She urges people to donate to Partners in Health, which provides free health care to people in Haiti.

Here's Arcade Fire's song Haiti, set to film shot there a couple of years ago by CryptoBioMayhem:

Haïti, mon pays,
wounded mother I'll never see.
Ma famille set me free.
Throw my ashes into the sea.

Mes cousins jamais nés
hantent les nuits de Duvalier.
Rien n'arrete nos esprits.
Guns can't kill what soldiers can't see.

In the forest we lie hiding,
unmarked graves where flowers grow.
Hear the soldiers angry yelling,
in the river we will go.

Tous les morts-nés forment une armée,
soon we will reclaim the earth.
All the tears and all the bodies
bring about our second birth.

Haïti, never free,
n'aie pas peur de sonner l'alarme.
Tes enfants sont partis,
In those days their blood was still warm

Friday, January 15, 2010

Teddy Pendergrass and the Birth of Disco

Sad to hear of the death of Teddy Pendergrass this week, aged 59. Among his many musical achievements was a critical role in the birth of disco. In 'Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco', Peter Shapiro argues that The Love I Lost by Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes (Philadelphia International records, 1973) - with Pendergrass on lead vocals - was the first disco record proper:

'Along with the Temptations 'Law of the Land', 'The Love I Lost' marks the birth of disco as a genre of music; it is the beginning of the codification of disco as a style rather than the taste of whatever DJ happened to be playing at that time. This was hardly the fault, or the intention, of Gamble, Huff, and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. It was just that they had hit upon the epitome of dance music: the hissing hi-hats, the thumping bass sound, the surging momentum, the uplifiting horns, the strings taking flight, lead singer Teddy Pendergrass's over-the-top gospel passion working as sandpaper against the honeyed backing vocals... While drummer Earl Young basically created the next two decades of dance music with his snare pattern and hi-hat work on 'The Love I Lost' it was perhaps Pendergrass taking gospel sermonizing to new levels of excess that really marked disco as a separate entity from soul'.

See also: Guardian Obituary.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The xx at The Vinyl Factory, Soho

xx: A Sculpture of the Album at the Vinyl Factory (the gallery space under the excellent Phonica record shop in Soho's Poland Street) was a '3D physical interpretation' of The xx's debut album. It was put together by the music video director Saam Farahmand, who described it as 'a physical music video, a looping shrine to the album that you cannot compress, send or turn off'.

Essentially it was a triangle of three audio-visual units in the middle of a dark room, with each of the units featuring video footage of a member of the band performing. The music was split between the three speakers/band members, so that the guitar sound for instance came out of the unit showing the guitarist playing. The effect was something like standing in the middle of the band in a live performance, and obviously the mix between the instruments varied as you moved around in relation to the three sound sources.
There was nothing technologically astounding about if - after all the possibility of 'surround sound' has been in existence since the launch of Quadraphonic sound in the early 1970s. But with music ubiquitous as background sound, it did create a space for paying attention to the music. The xx were a good choice for this approach, with their understated sound and softly-sung vocals drawing the listener in.

Sorry folks, it was only from the 8th to 12th January so you've missed it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Irish dancing in London, 1902

An interesting early 20th century photograph of people out dancing in London (click on photo to enlarge). It comes from Living London by GR Sims, published in 1902, with the caption 'Learning Irish reels (Athenaeum Hall, Tottenham Court Rd.)' The dances were organised by the Gaelic League, which promoted Irish culture. The Athenaeum Hall incidentally was used for lots of radical meetings - William Morris was among those who spoke there.

From Moving Here: 'Living London records that the Gaelic League 'holds meetings for practice every Monday evening, when jigs, three-part and four-part reels, "heel and toe", "cover the buckle", and other complicated steps are taught to novices or practiced by experts'. As this photograph reveals, traditional Irish dancing around 1900 did not necessarily involve the wearing of 'traditional' Irish costume. This evolved during the 20th century as a colourful and distinctive Irish dancing dress. It is said that a group of London-based Irish, visiting Macroom feis (festival) in August 1900 were the first to wear the kilt - an interesting example of how malleable Irish culture could be. Dance halls in towns and cities in England were an important social venue where Irish people could meet'.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Battle of Arlingford Road: a Brixton Party raided in 1993

Some documents relating to a fateful party in Brixton in 1993. Some people I know were at this one, it was just a typical Brixon squat party in a house, with the usual mix of people from all over Europe. Some of them may have had circus skills, but the notion that police were attacked by a gang of crazed jugglers, as reported in the national and local press, was absurd. And it was no joke for those arrested, some of whom were remanded in prison - although I believe they were all later acquitted. A friend of mine who wasn't event at the party who went down to see what was going on got bitten by a police dog and nicked. A defence campaign was launched, with benefit gigs in various places including France. I went to a benefit gig in Camberwell, in a squat behind the Joyners Arms, where RDF played - it raised £900 towards a total of more than £5000 in one week so that some people were able to get bail.

Crock That! Police Pelted by Jugglers (Daily Mirror 20 May 1993):
Circus jugglers pelted police with crockery when their fireworks party went off with too much of a bang. Officers were called to break up the bash after neighbours complained of the noise. But when they arrived, the Big Top revellers bombarded them with a hail of plates and cups. Thirteen people were arreseted and nine officers hurt.

Circus performers from all over Europe were at the party in Brixton, South London, to say farewell to a colleague. In bizarre private shows, a fire-eater wolfed down flames in the back garden and jugglers showed off their skills. But when the music carried on until the early hours, accompanied by fireworks going off, neighbours dialled the law.

A PC who turned up was half dragged inside, then had the door slammed in his face. Reinforcements rushed to the scene – and crockery, sticks and stones rained down from upstairs windows. One party goer said: ‘People panicked when the police turned up’.

Officers eventually forced their way in through the back door and arrested all those inside, The injured officers suffered cuts and bruises. But none needed hospital attention.

Eight cops injured by Circus Revellers (South London Press 21 May 1993):

Police officers were pelted with plates, cups, and sticks, after being called to break up a wild party of circus performers. Eight officers needed treatment to minor injuries following a fracas at the squat in Arlingford Road, Brixton, early on Wednesday. The revellers, many German and French, were celebrating the departure of a colleague, but as the party got louder and fireworks were let off police were called. Two officers who arrived on the scene were half dragged inside before having a door slammed in their faces. They called for back up and when the reinforcements arrived they came under fire. Eventually police stormed the building from the rear making 12 arrests. Eight party goers also suffered minor injuries. A total of 11 people including three women were remanded in custody at Camberwell Magistrates Court yesterday and another man was bailed until the same date. All were charged with violent disorder.

Arlingford Road Defence Campaign Leaflet, 1993:


Around the beginning of March this year, an empty house. No. 1 Arlingford Road, in Brixton, South London, was squatted. It provided a home for about 10 people and was used as a community centre for European and local people.

On Tuesday 18th May a small party took place in the house for the departure of a friend. It wasn't a rave, there were no bands or sound systems, just a nice atmosphere and a small tape deck. At point a neighbour asked the partygoers to turn the music down, which was then done.

At around 2 am in the morning, two cops turned up. They were being aggressive and abusive, and threatened that if they weren't let in the people on the door would be arrested. The law was quoted to the cops that they had no right to force their way in without a warrant. At this point other police arrived and started hitting the people on the door with truncheons and trying to pull them outside. Several people were injured, one person later needed stitches for a head wound from this attack. Because of their violent behaviour, the door was shut on the police.


As a result a large number of riot police turned up, and started to smash windows at the front of the house, while a group of 15 officers broke into the house round the back. There were then about 12 people left in the house, who were panicking and trying to hide. The police went systematically through the house, beating people up, and pushed people (some of who had handcuffs on) down stairs. At no time was there any resistance to the police. Everyone was arrested, and people who had escaped onto the street were attacked with police dogs, and nicked at random. The beatings carried on in the police vans and in the cells, and people were also racially abused. The injuries received from the beatings were severe: broken fingers, jaws twisted, bad bruising, and cuts which needed stitching. Two of the defendants were later admitted to hospital


All of those arrested were remanded in the police station for two days, mostly charged with Violent Disorder (Section 2 of the Public Order Act), which carries a maximum sentence of 5 Years in prison. In court two days later, three people were released, and eleven remanded in prison. Of the three let out, two were on minor charges, and one on Violent Disorder. All those remanded in custody were of foreign nationality (French, German, Italian). After nine days in custody, all the imprisoned defendants appeared at Camberwell Magistrates Court on the 27th May, for a bail hearing. Three people were refused bail and remanded back to prison because of other outstanding charges from another illegal eviction. The other eight were granted bail on heavy conditions :

- a £1000 security for each person, to be handed over to the court in cash before they could be released;
- all passports and ID to be surrendered to the authorities;
- a curfew between 8pm and 6am;
- to sign on at Brixton Police Station EVERY DAY;
- a ban from being in the SW2 area.

In court there was enough money to release four of the eleven. Since then due to money being raised through benefits and other means in Britain and Europe, three more have been bailed. Four remain inside.


All this because they were partying together. They never threw stones, broke any windows or fought with the police. This is the story the police gave to the press, which was cheerfully reprinted by the Daily Mirror, South London Press and others, and appeared on the TV on South East News.


This raid is the latest event in a campaign of harassment of squats by London police over the last couple of years. Included in this were violent raids on squat parties at the Hell House in Borough, the squatted Bank in Peckham (both in 1991 ), the Nevil Arms squatted pub in Hackney, and a squat gig in Mile End, both in February '92. The attack comes on top of dawn raids on at least four squatted houses in Brixton in recent months on trumped up warrants.


Its only natural that cops should hate anyone they can identify as a squatter (although there's plenty of squatters who wouldn't stand out in a crowd). You don't need a degree in politics to know that property is the cornerstone of this society, property is power, and the "need to own" is what keeps us in line - particularly the need to pay for a home. "I'd like to go on strike but I've got to pay the rent/mortgage," imagine trying to explain the concept of homelessness to someone from a "primitive” society; in our world, the mortgage rate is the god we go in fear of (well, maybe not all of us). Now , when there just aren't enough homes to go round, politics doesn't come into it -what choice have you got? But even if there were enough homes, squatting frees you a bit, squatting a centre frees you a bit more, and brings people together - it also makes you more noticeable.

The average cop probably doesn't think it through - s/he just sees the lack of interest in consumer durables, the "scruffiness", the lack of discipline, lack of competitive spirit - and hates it. But one of the cops' bosses big fears is that one day there will be a squatter epidemic - a permanent rent strike, communally run venues, a loss of confidence in the city, property becomes worthless; Norman Lamont shits himself on the telly (OK now he's out of a job maybe he already is!). [Nicked from 'Squats and Cops].


The defence campaign still needs money for bail to release these innocent people. Despite all the gigs that have been held, £4000 needs to be raised. Anyone who can organise, or play any part in any benefit gigs, or send any donations, please get in touch with us at the address below. Please circulate/reprint/pass on this information.


The following people are still inside. Send them letters and cards to they know they aren't forgotten.

GK, PD2944, Holloway Prison, Parkhurst Road, London, N7, UK.
ND, KW3260, Feltham Young Offenders Institution, Bedfont Road, Feltham, Middlesex, TW13 4ND, UK.
XR, EN2645, Belmarsh Prison, Western Way, London SE28 OEB,UK.
JFF, EN2643, Belmarsh Prison, Western Way, London, SE28 OEB,UK.



(nb I have not reprinted the names of those remanded in case they don't want it all over the internet).

Updated March 2010: comment by Ginkogirl at Urban75: 'I lived across the road. It sounds amusing when you read it as a news story but it was a pretty awful situation. The police basically had a grudge match against a bunch of noisy, but basically harmless kids. I saw a police dog being set on a woman who was bitten several times - she wasn't even in the house, she was one of a group of local squatters who turned up to witness and help if they could. Another policeman dragged a woman up the street to a van - by her hair, she was screaming and crying in pain.No, not very nice.My upstairs neighbour was with me and when we shouted and remonstrated with police because of their appalling behaviour (we were loud but polite) we were threatened with arrest. I had a kid indoors so couldn't do more - I wanted to get my camera but was afraid that I might be arrested if I started taking photographs.The behaviour of the police was so bad that weeks later when I got a letter from a solicitor representing the people in the house, I gave a full statement and later appeared in court as a witness for the defence. The police side of the story was worthy of the Booker Prize, let's say. I'm delighted to say that all were acquitted.There's a lot more to the story (there always is!), but that's the bare bones. I didn't really know the squatters, just to say hello to, and I asked them to be a bit quieter sometimes - which they always did'.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Scrap the Licensing Act

Singing and making music is a universal part of human existence, found in all known societies. What could be more absurd than having to have the permission of the state to participate in it - but such is the position in England and Wales. As explained by Hamish Birchall at Live Music Forum:

'We campaign against the Licensing Act 2003, which came into effect on 24 November 2005. This legislation regulates not only the sale of alcohol in England and Wales but also the provision of entertainment, including live music. It claims to regulate live music on the grounds of public safety, prevention of crime, disorder and public nuisance, and the protection of children from harm. But this legislation is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It effectively criminalises most live performances without state authorisation. In doing so it devalues music-making, encourages petty and harmful enforcement by local authorities which in turn discourages local participation in this overwhelmingly beneficial activity.

Under the Act the mere provision of live music, even by one unamplified musician, may be a criminal offence for which the maximum penalty is a £20,000 fine and six months in prison. Even providing a piano in a bar for the public to play is a potential criminal offence - no-one need play a note. The Act favoured canned entertainment over live music: in 2005 all bars were granted automatic permission to have recorded music, which allows DJs, but the long-standing exemption for one or two live musicians was abolished. The Act kept an exemption for broadcast entertainment. This means anyone can provide MTV or Sky football broadcasts anywhere on giant screens without an authorisation under this legislation. But even putting on a small, private concert without a licence under the Act would be a criminal offence if money was being raised for good causes. Obtaining the 'necessary authorisation' may be an expensive and time-consuming process.

The Act applies to 'any place', which includes your home, garden, public streets and parks, although there are exemptions including places of public religious worship, military bases, royal palaces, and - bizarrely - moving vehicles.The government used to defend this absurd and unjust regime on the grounds that it was necessary to control public safety, noise, crime and disorder at live music events. But separate legislation addresses all these risks, and for most small-scale performances is perfectly adequate.

The government now appears to accept this argument in principle, and has promised a public consultation this spring on further exemptions for what they call 'low risk' events. But campaigning must continue if the government is to honour this promise, and amend the Act so that small, low risk gigs are exempt, and live music is accorded the respect it deserves'.

Is this absurd act actually being applied? The answer is yes, though different local authorities seem to be applying it in different ways. In St Albans, Hertfordshire, for instance the Council is taking a particularly draconian line:.

'If facilities for entertainment are provided a licence is required. Facilities for entertainment include dance floor, pub piano, karaoke machine and other musical instrument.'[St Albans Statement of Licensing Policy, revised 7th January 2008, p6, para 2.2.1]

Other councils seem to be allowing pianos without a licence as 'incidental music'.

I am glad to say that I have personally performed in, and indeed organised, a number of musical events without any kind of licence since this law came in. Let's all get out there and make some noise!