Saturday, July 20, 2024

Beat the Blues Festival 1980: 'Post punk Woodstock' at the Ally Pally

The Beat the Blues Festival was a one day event at the Alexandra Palace in north London on 15 June 1980, held to mark the 50th birthday of the Morning Star - the daily paper associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain (technically the Morning Star had only been so named since 1966 but its predecessor, The Daily Worker, was founded in 1930).

I was still at school at Luton Sixth Form and went down to London on a coach which I presume was put on by the local branch of the Young Communist League. I had been to a couple of their meetings and done some fly posting against cruise missiles with them in the underpass near their Crawley Green Road HQ in Luton though I never joined up. They only had a handful of active members in the town but they pulled more of a crowd down to the Ally Pally on account of the fantastic line up. 

Looking now I can see that I could have checked out folk acts including Dick Gaughan and Leon Rosselson not to mention jazz from Humphrey Littleton and others, and even 'fire defying motorcycle stuntmen'. But for me at the time it was all about the great post punk line up featuring some of the best acts of that time - The Au Pairs, Raincoats, The Slits, The Pop Group, Essential Logic and John Cooper Clarke. It blew me away,  The Slits and The Pop Group in particular had an amazing funky energy- drummer Bruce Smith played with both bands that day, while The Pop Group played with two bassists! I was lucky enough to see the Raincoats, the Au Pairs and The Pop Group again in that period, as well as other great post punk heavyweights including The Gang of Four and Delta 5 but for me this day will always stand out as the pinnacle of that scene and one of the musical highlights of my life. Somebody else who was there recallled:  'I'd just turned 15, Metal Box had just come out and was playing over the PA between bands at this outdoor festival- I guess this was the post-punk Woodstock for me!'. All of this for £2.50. The only thing that could have improved it for me would have been if Scritti Politti had played too, sadly not though I remember standing behind their drummer Tom Morley in the crowd.

A ticket for the day signed by John Cooper Clarke (from ivaninblack)

The politics of it were a little contradictory, the CPGB was generally quite staid and sympathetic to the regimes of Eastern Europe where  autonomous music scenes were often the target of state repression. In his NME review of the gig, Graham Lock mentions Czechoslovakia 'where musicians from the bands DG307 and The Plastic People of the Universe have been jailed for playing rock'n'roll without a state licence'. While the cream of innovative English bands played on the stage elsewhere there was an 'International City' - 'about ten tents filled with travel brochures for Eastern Europe'. I think there were also brass bands from that part of the world, and lots of stalls indoors from various left groups.

The Pop Group, with their more independent radical left perspective called these contradictions out on the day, 'dedicating 'Forces of Oppression' to "all the Stalinists in the audience" and "For How Much Longer do we Tolerate Mass Murder' to Leonid Brezhnev' (Lock). In fact I recall a thrilling moment when Mark Stewart smashed up a portrait of then Soviet leader Brezhnev on the stage. 

Lock describes the festival, or at least the main stage music as 'the result of a tentative alliance between Rough Trade - freewheeling, anti-biz collectivists [...] and the Morning Star'. Elsewhere Dick O'Dell - who I think managed The Slits and The Pop Group at the time, as well as founding Y records which released their stuff - has said that he organised it with Shirley O’Loughlin, manager of The Raincoats and who worked at Rough Trade setting up their booking agency.

There were many iconic photos taken that day, perhaps most famously David Corio's picture of The Slits' Viv Albertine;

 I really like these colour ones snapped by Bruce Crawford which he shared on twitter a while back.

The Pop Group

The Slits 

The gig was reviewed in issue number 6 of Vague  zine:

'June 15 Morning Star 50th anniversary festival at Alexandra Palace, featuring the Slits, the Pop Group, the Raincoats, Essential Logic, the Au-Pairs and John Cooper-Clarke: Alexandra Palace is full of communist propaganda. The punters are a mixture of Rastas, biker types, punks and old age pensioners. I spent 4 hours walking round the stalls, which was fairly interesting because there were stalls selling souvenirs from Russia, Greece, etc. I won’t go into details though because even the Pop Group aren’t into politics like this. Whether left or right it amounts to the same thing, an authoritarian state that subjugates the weak, poor and minorities...

Anyway most people came to hear the music and this particular music says a lot more than we ever could. The gig was behind the palace and started at 3pm. The Au-pairs came on first and did a very exciting set which got some of the crowd going. The Raincoats came on next and all the crowd were dancing and being friendly with each other. Half way through their set an announcement was made: “Somebody got bottled. So if you want this gig to go on, report anyone who looks as if they might get violent.” Big Brother is watching you. Where have you heard remarks like that before? Even this didn’t do it, after that announcement 2 more people got bottled. John Cooper-Clarke was on next, minus musicians, which I think is much better, because that guy has so much stage presence…

The Pop Group were on next and Mark came on stage with a picture of Brezhnev, shouted “We don’t want communism!” and stamped on the picture. They did all the stuff off the second album which got the crowd shouting and Gareth was doing some brilliant disco-dancing… Apparently the Pop Group stole the show and Iggy didn’t have much (anything?) to say about the Slits, which is a shame, but this is the Pop Group’s piece, feeble as it is. The Pop Group have a highly original style of their own, if you didn’t like them at Ally Pally give them a second chance, they deserve it. They also deserve a better article than this. Their lyrics make Crass seem like failed Cockney Rejects (they are aren’t they?) and their funky dance beat is better than the Crusaders. Sorry we couldn’t do them more justice'.

It was also reviewed in the NME (21 June 1980) by Gavin Lock:

There is some good footage of The Pop Group on the day shot by Don Letts on the stage. If you look carefully you can see a cricket match going on in the background elsewhere in the park.

He also captured The Slits, great clip here of them doing 'Man Next Door' on the day with the young Nenah Cherry on the stage with them (in red beret). I think you can see members of other bands standing around on the edge of stage watching them, including Gina from The Raincoats and maybe Jeannette Lee of Public Image Ltd and later Rough Trade.


The Ally Pally itself was seriously damaged by fire just a month later which broke out during a Capital Radio Jazz Festival there, resulting in it being closed for a number of years.

See also:

(I used to have a poster for this event on my teenage bedroom wall, can't find that particular image online, anybody have a copy?)

Saturday, July 06, 2024

The Oxford Street 48: arrests on peace march (1982)

 On Sunday June 6th 1982, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament held a huge demonstration to coincide with a visit by US President Ronald Reagan.  Up tp 250,000 people marched to London's Hyde Park, where the speakers included Labour MP Tony Benn and miners' leader Arthur Scargill. The recent Falklands war had shown up the weakness of the peace movement, which had failed to significantly mobilise against the war. This account of the demonstration was written in a text '1980 to 1984: anarchy on the CND demo':

"At Hyde Park it was the same as usual and anarchists who tried to heckle the speakers were kept miles away from the front of the stage by police. Some of us gathered behind the official platform setting up our free platform with a megaphone to discuss the Reagan visit, the Falklands war and any issue the people wished to raise. Many took advantage of this situation to air their views, as the official platfor was only open to invited speakers, not to anyone who might have something creative or new to suggest. A proposal was made that we move out of Hyde Park where we were wasting our time and take the issues to the London crowds in Oxford Street. This idea was greeted with enthusiasm. About 300 people gathered at the Speakers Corner end of Hyde Park and by now many of us were in defiant mood. Some began breaking across the road over to Oxford Street, there were no stewards this time. There was a lot of confusion with people trying to keep the group together and deciding what to do next. The group pushed on loudly down Oxford Street with more following behind. Fump! Hooray! Everyone cheered as someone let off fireworks and the traffic was blocked. It was some time before the vans started to arrive on the scene. As the police vans slowly pulled up in force those in the front decided to head down a side street to the american embassy it was too late, the police jumped from the vans and charged into the march. About 20 marchers made it into the side street and were able to escape including one who received a nasty gash on the forehead form a truncheon. However 48 were arrested".

An Oxford Street 48 Defence Campaign was set up to support those arrested, and Scottish punk band Political Asylum recorded a track 'Oxford Street 48':

The events were reported in 'Freedom' as 'Anarchists Attacked':

'Around 300 anarchists with a  number of flags and banners marched out of Hyde Park. At first the police didn't seem to be interested. One senior officer was heard to assure a constable that 'its alright, they're only going home'. However, when he realised just what was happening his cool tone changed to panic with a shout of 'NO they're not!' and a grab for his radio. 

As we moved into Oxford St with shouts of 'Free all Prisoners', 'Smash the Nuclear State' and 'Free Simon Los' (imprisoned for 3yrs for distributing a leaflet in Nottingham) we soon acquired an SPG van as escort. As we drew level with the turning that leads to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Sq, the police attacked Without warning this entirely legal and, though loud, peaceful march was assaulted by van loads of police. The police used were from the SPG and the newly formed, SPG style, quick-response riot units. They jumped out of their vans and waded into the march.

Several anarchists were knocked to the ground in the melee. 48 anarchists were arrested. During the arrests they were beaten up. Several others  were rescued by comrades who resisted the assault. In one case it has been reported that two comrades were actually pulled back out of one of the vans. One escaped, the other was recaptured. The arrested have now been released and face a range of charges from insulting behaviour to assault. 

Not content with just breaking up the march, the police vans then patrolled the side streets stopping anyone who looked as if they had been on the march. This was particularly unfortunate for the punk comrades with their easily recognisable form of dress. Several more conventionally dressed comrades managed to evade these patrols. There were also reports of police at nearby Underground Stations checking for possible marchers'. 

(Freedom, 12 June 1982 - the address for the campaign at 84b Whitechapel High St was/is the Freedom bookshop)

'48 people were arrested when police attacked a march of 500 walking peacefully up Oxford Street on Sunday 6th June after the CND rally. Most are denying the charges, some of which are serious'.

(leaflet reproduced in Toxic Graffiti zine at the time)

(Militant, 11 June 1982)

(Socialist Worker, 12 June 1982)

See also:

Glastonbury CND Festival 1982

Reagan visits London 1984

Friday, June 28, 2024

Working Class Records: Antifascista Siempre

Picked up this rather fine 'Antifascista Siempre' t-shirt in Spain recently, produced by Madrid-based Working Class Records.

They have a huge range of options on the antifa/anarcho/punk/skin spectrum so check them out!


Monday, June 17, 2024

Wild Combination: Arthur Russell zine

'Wild Combination: a zine inspired by the music of Arthur Russell' is published by Black Lodge Press. I got a copy from the excellent Common Press bookshop in Shoreditch.


Monday, May 20, 2024

Stay True

 'first, I was drawn to raves more for the idea of community than the music itself. You found a flyer, called a number, copied down the directions. It meant surrendering to a void, a cluster of headlights the signal you were in the right place. I never did drugs, but it still felt magical to be in a room with no center, where the only way of orienting yourself was by following a bass line or synth wash. This was a range of faces you didn't see in daytime: vacant and somber, devoted to the rhythm; smiling and platonic, eager to share; rapturously free. Something was always already happening. People walked in casually, and their gait slowly adapted to the sounds around them, and within minutes they looked as though they were trying to punch and kick their way out of an imaginary sack. It didn't matter how you danced'

Hua Hsu, Stay True: a memoir (2023) - writing about Berkeley, Calfornia in the mid/late 1990s

Saturday, May 11, 2024

My student occupations - University of Kent at Canterbury (1981-84)

My first student occupation took place shortly after arriving at the University of Kent at Canterbury (UKC), and it was a short one. As the the anti-apartheid struggle raged in South Africa, Barclays Bank was a frequent target for protest due to its heavy involvement in the South African economy.   On October 15th 1981, as part of a national 'Boycott Barclays' day of action called by the Anti-Apartheid Movement, a group of students temporarily occupied the small Barclays bank  on the university's campus. According to this report in the student newspaper Incant (November 1981), around 25 people entered the bank at 3:15 pm - shortly before it was due to close - and refused to leave. It seems we stayed there until around 8 pm before leaving to attend a student union meeting, which seems a little half hearted! The bank though was a regular target for graffiti and window breaking over the next few years.

During the rest of that college year the big issue was a rent strike prompted by the high rents charged for university accommodation. The student union set up a large  'rent tent' as the campaign HQ on the lawn in the middle of campus which I recall blowing down on one cold and windy January night.  Later there was a portacabin where the union collected rents and held the money in reserve to be paid to the college when a deal was agreed. I noted in my diary (10th February 1982) 'At dinnertime there an open air mass meeting about the Rent Strike. I spoke in favour of escalating the campaign. A call for occupation was defeated but it was agreed to organise dining hall boycotts' to further hit the university's income.  The rent strike was called off in May 1982 having achieved a real term reduction in rents.  

A picket during the 1981/82 rent strike

In March 1982, 700 students from different Kent colleges marched from the art college up to UKC in a protest against the level of student grants. At the end of the march 'the union provided a soup kitchen and disco' (Incant, March 1982).

Education cuts were the focus of a library sit-in in November 1981, basically staying overnight in the library. A similar event on 8 November 1982  took place during a week of action called by Kent Education Alliance, made of education unions. As well as the  'work in' at UKC there was one at  Christchurch college, the teacher training college in Canterbury.

On 23 February 1983 more than 100 colleges responded to the National Union of Students' call for 24 hour occupations as part of its Grants Cuts Campaign. Senate House (University of London), Queen Mary College and University of Sussex were among those taking part. At UKC  a 'Special Committee' had been set up following a Union General Meeting to plan an occupation despite the opposition of some local student union officials. Around 150 people occupied the Cornwallis building where 'a disco consul was brought in and films set up' before moving in to the Registry (the main admin. building for the university). An editorial in Incant bemoaned that  'The university's belligerent action of preventing access to the Registry made it necessary to cause a small amount of damage to actually effect entry into the building'. I seem to remember a couple of people climbing on to the roof of the Registry and later one person managed to enter the building through an air vent and then open the door for others to enter.  As planned, the occupation only lasted one night.

Incant, March 1983

A more sustained occupation took place a few weeks later led by the Overseas Student Organisation. Overseas students had previously been more or less guaranteed accommodation on campus, but this had been reduced to 48 out of 250 students. Living in the city was not felt to be safe for some black students in particular, with its military barracks and sometimes late night punch ups. The occupation started on 16th March 1984 and lasted for about a week, taking over the college accommodation office and for a little while the Registry again. 

The occupation was pretty life changing for me as I became very close to a couple of anarchists who remained friends for long after. Unable to stomach a return to social reality when the occupation ended we hitch hiked to Amsterdam, where we went to the Melkweg club among other adventures.

The final occupation of my student days came in March 1984. The University had agreed to run a 13 week IT course to Marconi  management recruits which involved them staying in new Park Wood accommodation that had been built for students. With student accommodation in short supply - many had to travel in from Whitstable or Herne Bay - this in itself was controversial. But there was also a broader question of the privatisation of the university with corporate income substituting for government funding. And the fact that  electronics company Marconi was essentially a military contractor (hence the 'Marconi sells death!' graffiti on campus). The occupation continued for nearly two weeks before the University took out a High Court injunction. 

I found this diary entry for March 13th 1984 which describes how it started: ‘next term's accommodation lists had been published and the university had gone back on an earlier verbal promise and was going to rent out 25 rooms in Park Wood to Marconi Electronics. We went over to the union offices where some more people had gathered in small groups. We went over to the Registry and took it over though unfortunately due to bad planning we only got one office upstairs in addition to the finance office downstairs. Subsequently as doors were mysteriously broken down we had access as well to all the corridors, toilets, kitchens the post room and the print room. The first thing that happened was that people rifled through files and cupboards, a lot of university stationery was expropriated. A key was found which opened another office which we took over as the 'Autonomy Office', we covered the door and some corridors with anarchist posters’. The more 'hippyish' occupiers also set up their own area, which they christened 'Weird City'.

Among other things I recall that during the occupation we had a film showing of The Hunger, the vampire movie which starts with Bauhaus playing Bela Lugosi's Dead. Socialist Workers Party leader  Tony Cliff gave a talk in the occupied foyer on the Russian revolution with a bad tempered argument about Kronstadt thanks to anarchist questions, and a couple of miners came by - the miners strike was just starting in the local Kent coalfield and was soon to become the main focus of radical student activism for the next year (see previous post on miners support in Kent).  I also recall having sleep deprivation hallucinations, looking out from the occupation and buildings seeming to move.

These occupations were mainly short lived and actively involved a minority of students, though the size of union general meetings where these actions were discussed and sometimes agreed was quite impressive, more than 600 people for instance at one of the meetings discussing Marconi. Disagreements about tactics and maneuvering by different factions was sometimes exhausting. But the act of taking over space and living together in a common cause outside of the routines of everyday life, even for a short time, is an intense experience never forgotten.

[at the time of writing this, May 2024, students at UKC have set up a pro-Palestine encampment at the university and a campaign against education cuts is continuing with courses facing closure including art history, music and audio technology, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, health and social care, and journalism.]

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Shocking Pink and other feminist zines: an interview with Katy Watson

The 'Women in Revolt! Art and Activism in the UK 1970-1990' exhibition at Tate Britain (2024) included a great collection of zines and printed ephemera from the feminist movements of that period. Included in one of the display cases were issues of Shocking Pink magazine alongside punk/post-punk records from bands including X-Ray Spex, Au Pairs and Mo-dettes. Sadly my friend Katy Watson, who was involved in Shocking Pink, is not here to see this but as a sometime queercore/punk DJ she would no doubt have been delighted to be in such company. Shortly before she died in 2008 I interviewed Katy about her life, including in this section about her memories being involved in Shocking Pink and other zines including Outwrite and Bad Attitude, all in the context of living in Brixton in late 1980s and 1990s. Katy first moved to London in 1988 after finishing University, her first home being a rented room in a house in Kennington next door to future Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw! Soon, as she recalls, she was getting involved in feminist publishing...


'The best thing about this time was that I used to work as a volunteer on this newspaper called Outwrite, a feminist paper which I really admired. It was very lesbian and I was thinking about my sexuality at that point. It was really big on international news, they had a very international collective from all over the globe. I thought it was wonderful, but unfortunately it closed down during that year.

After a year or so I ended up living in Brixton. That was the place for me. For the first time I felt ‘I am at home here’. I really liked it, there was a big alternative profile, a big anarchist scene, a big squatting scene, a big lesbian scene, and suddenly not having a job became a very good thing. I was signing on and realized I had plenty of time to hang out with my friends, drinking tea, yakking on and watching daytime TV but also to do political stuff which I got more into at that time.

Troops Out

I was involved in the Troops Out Movement quite early on when I lived in London. I worked on their magazine, Troops Out. I was also part of organizing an Irish arts exhibition and film festival. The art exhibition we tried to put on through Southwark Council initially and that lovely publication the South London Press ran a front page news splash saying council funds IRA film show and the Council very bravely shut the thing down. We managed to transfer over to Lambeth and had the exhibition in the basement of the recreation centre, not the most accessible high profile place, but we put it on and it did have some really good art work in it. We had a weekend film festival at the Ritzy cinema with various political Irish films, some really good stuff. Some of it was not very subtle but some was much more exploratory – I wouldn’t call it straightforward Irish republicanism but something in that area.

I went on the Troops Out delegation to Belfast and stayed with a family, it was shocking and frightening to find yourself walking past soldiers with their guns. It did feel pretty besieged.

Shocking Pink

I started working on this magazine called Shocking Pink, which at that point had an exhausted collective who really wanted to palm it off on someone else. Me and my friend Vanida took it on to quite a large degree. It was based in squats, and was a young women’s magazine. It was supposed to be an alternative  to magazines that were around at the time like Jackie and My Guy which were all about boyfriends and getting your make up right,  whereas this was feminist and had a good lesbian profile as well, which definitely was a big pull for our readership. We used to get lots of letters from isolated lesbians from all round the country. They found it a real lifeline when they felt isolated at school and stuff like that. 

I really liked that magazine. I liked the way it worked. We had a kind of no-editing policy - if we wanted to put something in we just put it in wholesale. We didn’t put everything in, we were selective about what we put it in, but very open. It meant that we put in heaps of stuff which individuals on the collective might never have agreed with and thought was rubbish, it made it very varied and quite strong for that. It made the collective meetings and collective process of putting it together quite light and quite fun because we weren’t sitting round saying ‘what news issues do we need to cover‘. We were just saying ‘OK what articles have we got typed up on the computer, what cartoons have we got, is this enough to fill a magazine yet?’, and then when it seemed like it had  built up quite a lot we’d shove it all together and have these big press weekends. First of all it had to be typeset, which we did late at night in this friendly typesetters’ office. I first started learning typesetting which led ultimately to the layout and subbing work I did later on. I really took to it, I really liked the whole world of newspapers and magazines.

I learnt how to use the typesetting machine, it was a beautiful old machine, very difficult to use and user-unfriendly compared to the DTP that was going to come in a couple of years later but the results were really beautiful. We’d come up with lovely long columns of beautiful quality typeset articles - galleys - ready to stick down in our mad collagey style that we had at Shocking Pink. Then we’d all spend a whole weekend spending 16 hours a day sticking it all together, doing lots of art work round the articles. 

It was loads of fun as a collective experience,  there were lots of volunteers who’d all come out of the woodwork at that point and join in. Just generally around Shocking Pink it made it into a little gang. There was another woman called Louise who I guess was the third main person in the collective apart from me and Vanida, a lovely person who used to do our music reviews - a good little punk. It was just fun being in a gang. After a new issue came out we’d go round selling it, even selling outside Brixton tube station just like the SWP would with their paper, or else we’d go the easy route and go to lesbian pubs and sell it there because it was easy-peasy selling it as a dyke thing, We’d go on demos with it and flog it. It was such a sort of positive publication it was very easy to promote it, you didn’t feel like you were forcing anything difficult or worthy on people that they are less keen on sometimes.

Shocking Pink’s office shifted from a couple of squats, and we managed to get ourselves a huge big room at the top of 121. We had to fight with one of my flat mates, Alex, who wanted it for Class War but we managed to just swing it by claiming that we should have more women in the building!

The poll tax riot

We went on that really huge anti-poll tax demo [31st March 1990] - it was absolutely vast with about half a million people on it or something like that , the one that turned  into a riot in Trafalgar Square. There were lots of little poll tax riots going on all over the country at that point, quite a busy political time with quite an anti-Thatcher focus. We went on that big demo with our stacks of Shocking Pinks, selling it, and it was a mad demo. It had all the lefties and anarchists and all the trot groups but also Tories in big flowery hats, it was a sunny day, it was like people were out for a big picnic partly as well. 

And then in Trafalgar Square it just turned into a riot with police horses and people chucking loads of stuff. I’d met up with my poor sister who absolutely hates that sort of thing. Of course I was totally thrilled that there was a riot. We were sitting by some landmark and I would say ‘I’ll see you in ten minutes’ and I’d go and try to riot and chuck things into the crowd. I was a really awful rioter because I couldn’t throw very well so I ended up throwing things on the heads of the people in front of me which was not a lot of help to anybody. I’d do that for a bit and then I’d go back and check on my sister who was completely stressed out about the whole thing, and then I’d go  and try and riot very ineffectively a bit more. It was an exciting time when you just felt that a lot was happening and I do personally credit that particular riot with bringing down Thatcher- there’d been lots of riots, but that one was big, there were huge buildings in Trafalgar Square set on fire and it went on well into the night. That was a very good time.

Squatting in Brixton

I moved around loads when I was living in Brixton. Some of the time I was living with these friends right in the middle of Brixton in Rushcroft Road, which felt like quite a crazy place. I lived in this very nice co-op for a while, but everyone was always arguing. Then I moved into a squat for a year and a half - I had the world’s easiest squatting experience, we had electricity and I wasn’t there at the point when they actually opened it up and did all the hard work, I just moved in and said ‘Oh will this be my bedroom then?’, and painted it nice colours!  It was quite together it wasn’t one of those disaster squats full of hopeless types, it was quite organized and sensible, it was very sociable and very pleasant.

I really enjoyed squatting, it was very much part of the Brixton anarchist scene, very connected with the 121 bookshop.  I lived in a squat in Saltoun Road, then later lived in flat back in Rushcroft Road with Rosanne and Atalanta and about ten pets - cats and dogs. 

After a bit I decided that since Shocking Pink was a young women’s magazine I was maybe getting  a bit old for it, it was supposed to be for teenagers and I was beyond that so  I left.

I was working part time, I’d done a course in typesetting and DTP and started working on TV Quick. I was doing lots of writing, working on my first novel, unpublished to this day!

The Wild Women’s Weekend

I went to the Wild Women’s Weekend [in May 1990], it was in a squatted former council housing benefit office in Brixton,  next to the George Canning pub [later Hobgoblin and now Hootenanny] and also unfortunately next to Brixton’s rather anonymous Tory headquarters. It doesn’t have the name on it - they wouldn’t dare, just a bit of blue paint. I think it was them who were instrumental in eventually getting the place shut down. It was this lesbian squat for quite a while, well not exclusively lesbian but quite lesbian.

All that dyke scene in Brixton did dissolve fairly quickly in the 1990s because the squatting laws got harsher, and all the gentrification started and  Brixton just became too hard and too expensive to live in, but at the time that squat was a fantastic achievement. The Wild Women’s Weekend was absolutely amazing, women coming from all round the country and probably abroad as well. There were loads of workshops, sort of practical workshops like bike maintenance, lots of discussion groups, and obviously good parties in the evening. That was a very fine achievement.

Bad Attitude

A couple of years on I got Bad Attitude together, it was really me that motivated it because I was still sort of hankering after the days of Outwrite because I so admired their international news perspective, and I thought ‘we need that”. We went through  quite an arduous process of fundraising for it, galvanizing a collective, sending out loads of letters appealing for people to take out advance subscriptions and we managed to buy ourselves this tiny apple mac to lay it out on. Shocking Pink had folded by that point, and Bad Attitude took on the office and took on some other people involved. We had Vanida, and Sam my old flat mate, Rosanne and lots of other people who came and went'.

(The loose transcript above doesn't completely follow the audio interview here as it was edited from a number of different taped conversations).

See also:

Friday, March 08, 2024

Institute of Goa 1995 (plus Trends/Trenz in Stoke Newington)

A couple of flyers for London parties I believe I went to in 1995 (sometimes it's a bit hazy) . The first one I think a free party somewhere on 8 April 1995,  'The Cave Club' summer party featuring Institute of Goa and Chiba sound system. Not sure where  in 'central London' this was.

The second one is an Institute of Goa Halloween Party, I think in October 1995, at 240 Amhurst Road.  I can make out some DJ/performer names there - Liberator DJs, Aztek (ex-Spiral Tribe), Brides Make Acid...

Although the name might suggest a pyschedelic/goa trance vibe, something that was emerging as a distinct sub genre at this time with clubs like Return to the Source, I think that 'Institute of Goa' was more on the harder edged London free party techno/hard trance tip. I beleive it was run by a guy called Chico who also DJ'd as Whirling Dervish. I'm pretty sure I also went to a night they put at Labyrinth (ex Four Aces) in Dalston Lane, or maybe that was something else. They also seemed to have taken part in the Deptford Urban Free Festival which I went to in 1995, on the Innervisions sound system. 

Deptford Urban Free Festival 1995, held in Fordham Park SE14
('Anti CJA=Freedom')
Amhurst  Road: Trends/Trenz nightclub [post update 10/3/2024]

Thanks to Blackmass Plastics for recalling that the venue at 240 Amhurst Road was a club called Trends at this time. Events there included in October 1994 an 'All Hail Discordia' all-nighter put on by Sublminal Revolutions (which I believe was run by Lisa Lovebucket and Lovely Jon), during the Anarchy in the UK Festival in London

Later the spelling changed to Trenz, as mentioned for instance in this listing for Undergrowth there from Muzik magazine, April 1999:

Must admit I've got a bit confused about identifying this location. 240 Amhurst Road E8 was the address of the longstanding pub The Amhurst Arms. It has had various incarnations this century including De Bysto, Oro and most recently The Hand of Glory.

But down the road in a separate building 240a Amhurst Road N16 was a hall that was the headquarters of the Hackney Spiritualist Church in the 1900s and then the Hackney Jewish Lads Brigade. In the 1960s it became the Regency Club, notoriously associated with the Kray Twins, then later became Willows, an African Caribbean Club. So I assume it was this building, rather than the Amhurst Arms, that became Trends/Trenz. Apparently it's now been converted to flats. This was presumably also the location in 1970s of Phebes 'Reggae, soul and funky club' famous for its Jah Shaka sessions as well as its own Phebes Hi-Fi (thanks to John Eden for info about this) - but again there's some confusion as address is given as 240 not 240a, though elsewhere I have seen Phebes address given as 240a! 

Flyer archive Phat Media has one for a 1993 event there which names the venue as The Jungle Club, so maybe it was know as that for a while too.

The club was the scene of a fatal shooting in 1997, as reported in Birmingham Mail:

See also:

Some Brixton Nights 1994/95 (Club 414, Fridge etc)

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Melancholic Troglodytes on Star Trek, Dune, Capitalism and War

A couple of sci-fi infused critiques of capitalism and war from Melancholic Troglodytes from the early 21st century.

'Neither Species 8472 nor the Borg: No war but the class war' (2001) uses Star Trek as a framework to understand the impending conflict between the US (the Borg) and the Taleban (Species 8472):

'The Borg's diplomatic panache  seems to have been pirated by the US Bourgeoisie. American military radio broadcasts to the Taleban carry an ominous message of doom and assimilation: “You will be attacked by land, sea and air...Resistance is futile”! The Taleban (species 8472), for their part, are quite oblivious to the tractor beams and photonic charges of their nemesis. Their mastery of fluidic space has conditioned them to thinking of themselves as pure, superior and invincible. Even as the bombs rain down on them, the Taleban insist on viewing the Borg as decrepit and decadent, hence their battle cry: “The weak will perish”!'

Full text at Internet Archive

No blood for spice melange

'God Emperors of Dune' (2003) switches to the Duniverse in the lead up to the Iraq War, with the war for oil now being fought over 'Spice melange: The second most precious commodity in the known universe (after labour power)'...  'Paul recounted the efforts of House Atreides to counteract the falling tendency of the rate of profit. His father the Duke had increased the mass of surplus value by raising the intensity and duration of the working day and at the same time decreased the mass of variable capital by depressing wages and expanding foreign trade. Paul would continue this good work by decreasing the mass of constant capital through raising the productivity of labour in the capital goods industry (Caffentzis, op cit.) and by launching the holy Zensunni Jihad. The Jihad, in particular, would catalyse innovation in technology and open up new areas for profitable capital investment.'

Will the proletarian Freman upset the schemes of the rival houses? 'There was only one force they had not reckoned with and that was the mysterious Fremen. Intelligence could not predict their behaviour, although recent reports of Fremen children chanting, ‘No war but the class war’ were ominous. They seemed impervious to both Imperial Conditioning and the Great Voice. How do you control slaves that you rely on for profit? For as the orientalist Nietzsche once said: ‘There is nothing more terrible than a class of  barbaric slaves who have learned to regard their existence as an injustice and now prepare to avenge, not only themselves, but all generations'

Full text at Internet Archive

See also from Melancholic Troglodytes: Star Trek: Towards a Historical Materialist Critique