Friday, November 26, 2021

British Hip Hop Championships 1985

Flyer for first 'National Hip Hop Championships' at the Rok Rok Club at Brixton Recreation Centre, 'the freshest most awesome place to be'.  Two heats and a final in July/August 1985 with rapping, scratching, breaking and popping. Organised by British Hip Hop Alliance (184 Brixton Road) for ‘people interested in scratch DJing, Breaking, Graffiti, Rapping and related performance arts’. 

Flyer comes from 'Mirror Reflecting Darkly: the Rita Keegan Archive', book published  to accompany interesting exhibition at South London Gallery and available from their great bookshop.

Some video footage of the event, with some great moves to tracks including Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick 'The Show':

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

William Scott at Studio Voltaire (En Vogue in Clapham)

William Scott is an Oakland, California based artist with an exhibition of his work at Studio Voltaire gallery in Clapham, South London. Outside the gallery on the corner of Clapham High Street there's Scott's billboard sized picture of 1990s R&B group En Vogue, who also started out in Oakland.

Scott's paintings have an afrofuturist and spiritual dimension with spaceships  ('Citizen Ships') of his imagined Skyline Friendly Organization bringing peace and indeed bringing the dead back to life.

As well En Vogue, other musical reference points include Janet Jackson (in painting above), Diana Ross and Prince who we are told 'will be coming back to life soon'.



Friday, November 19, 2021

Gender Autonomy Now

Lots of interesting material at the South London Gallery (fire station site) in the School SOS display of work from a recent critical design programme, SOS-21.

As I'm posting this in Transgender awareness week (November 2021)  I'll highlight a couple of relevant works from this exhibition.

O.S. Warren risograph print 'Gender Autonomy Now' and pamphlet 'Transgender health in the UK: a primer':

'Gender, and identity more broadly, is work: an alienated labour of enacting or failing to enact an amorphous set of supposed norms, the value of which is handed over for judgement by supposed experts'

Jackson Deans' video piece 'Malicious gay faggotry 'interrogates historical trans exclusion from LGBTQ+ activism and the current climate of corporate late-stage Pride':


Monday, November 08, 2021

Dancing in London in the Second World War

From 'The Dancing Times' magazine, a snapshot of social dancing in London during the Second World War by day and night.

At the Astoria on Charing Cross Road, 'Dancing twice daily' at this 'West End Dance Salon' where 'A new and beautiful floor makes Dancing a pleasure'. Music from Jack Lennox's 'The Astorians' and 'Syd Dean's Band'

Dancing Times, March 1943

At the Hammersmith Palais de Danse, dancing every day in the afternoon and again in the evening with 'two famous bands' - Lou Preager's and Harry Leader's (in 1943) with the latter replaced by Sydney Simone by 1945.

Dancing Times, March 1943

Dancing Times, April 1945 - prices have gone up!

There was also a whole culture of dance schools - for instance at Westbourne Hall in Westbourne Gorve W3 you could try your hand at Spanish classes with Elsa Brunelleschi and Scandinavian Dances with Danish dancer Madame Karina.

Dancing Times, December 1942

'Records for dancers' reviews from Dancing Times, April 1945, note reference to 'Jivists', not sure if that was a term that was widely used:

A post war issue (May 1950) and another change of font for The Dancing Times


Tuesday, November 02, 2021

'Freedom of Movement': Anti Fascist Action on the dancefloor 1993

One way or another music was at the heart of the movement against racism and the far right in the UK in the early 1990s. Some of the heaviest confrontations, notably the fighting at Waterloo station in 1992, arose out of mobilisations against planned gigs by bands in the neo-nazi 'Blood and Honour' music scene. Meanwhile Anti Fascist Action (AFA), the most militant of the opposing groups, had its own Cable Street Beat musical arm and put on gigs and festivals.

A rare explicit intervention into dance music was 'Freedom of Movement', launched in 1993 by Manchester AFA and sympathetic DJs associated with Manchester clubs.

The aim was 'to raise awareness of fascism and encourage people at least to identify with the anti-fascist cause and get active'. The title 'arose out of the idea that the largely unpolitical dance club scene is one where black and white, and gay and straight people mix and enjoy themselves together... Under the divisive hate politics of fascism, such a vibrant and multiracial scene could not exist'.

Freedom of Movement put on a number of benefit club nights, including at Home in Manchester and the Venue, Edinburgh in December 1993, with sets from Justin Robertson, Norman Jay, Luvdup and, Flesh DJs.

Report on Freedom of Movement from Fighting Talk (Anti Fascist Action), no.7, 1994

A write up of Freedom of Movement in i-D magazine, December 1993

Norman Jay in anti-fascist t-shirt

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Rosaleen Norton: Dance of Life

Getting in the Halloween zone, I watched 'The Witch of Kings Cross' (2020)- a fascinating documentary about New Zealand born artist and occultist Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979) who scandalised Australia in the 1950s. Her erotic/esoteric paintings led to prosecution and the destruction of some of her work, and newspapers published sensationalist accounts of her supposed involvement in 'black magic and sex orgies'.

I'm always amazed by figures like this who bravely lived a 'counter-cultural' life decades before there was such thing as mass counter culture. Pursuing a life of queer sex, magic and drugs in the face of overwhelming repressive conformity was dangerous - no wonder they felt they needed to invoke the powers of gods like Pan against the world that confronted them.  This was an age in which social ruin awaited 'deviants', as for instance the composer and conductor  of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Eugène Goossens (1893-1962) found when his bisexual relationship with Norton and the poet Gavin Greenlees was exposed.  50 years later, hundreds of thousands of people were parading every year down the same streets in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras- but maybe in their own ways it was people like Norton's circle who helped open a space for this.

'Individuation' by Rosaleen Norton

 'In the spiral horns of the Ram,

In the deep ascent of midnight,

In the dance of atoms weaving the planes of matter is Life.

Life spins on the dream of a planet,

Life leaps in the lithe precision of the cat,

Life flames in the thousandth Name,

Life laughs in the thing that is ‘I’.

I live in the green blood of the forest,

I live in the white fire of Powers,

I live in the scarlet blossom of Magic,

I live'

(Dance of Life by Roslaeen Norton)

In this case the accused was asked why 'despite police warnings she was still consorting with homosexuals'. She was said to have been to a Black Mass conducted by Rosaleen Norton, and to have explained to court that 'although she had some other clothes she preferred to wear black - "the sign of the witch cult"'. She was sent to jail for 2 months for vagrancy  with 'recommended psychiatric treatment'' (full article here)

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Refugees are Welcome - rally in London

A good turn out in London's Parliament Square last week (Wednesday  20th October 2021) for the Refugees Welcome rally organised by Solidarity with Refugees and others. The event highlighted opposition to the Government's anti-Refugee 'Nationality and Borders Bill' making its way through Parliament.

As highlighted by Refugee Action: 'Under the bill, only refugees arriving through extraordinarily restricted “official” routes, such as refugee resettlement, will be allowed to claim protection. All others will be deemed “inadmissible” to claim asylum and the Government will seek to deport them. If they cannot be deported, they may be allowed to claim asylum in the UK but if they receive refugee status as a result they will not be given the right to settle. Instead, they will be regularly reassessed for removal, with limited rights to family reunion and benefits'.

'"nikt nie jest nielegalny" ('No one is illegal' in Polish)

'POMOC - Polish Migrants Organise for Change'/'Solidarity knows no borders'

One clause in the anti-refugee bill seems designed to give immunity to Border Force staff who could potentially cause harm or even death in their actions, such as when 'pushing back' migrants in refugees in the Channel. Schedule 4A, part A1, paragraph J1 of the bill states:  “A relevant officer is not liable in any criminal or civil proceedings for anything done in the purported performance of functions under this part of this schedule if the court is satisfied that (a) the act was done in good faith, and (b) there were reasonable grounds for doing it.”

'Afghans beyond borders'

'Social workers without borders'

Appeals to human rights and compassion cut very little ice with the Government and its supporters, paradoxically neither do economic arguments about migration and labour shortages seem to matter to the party of business. This is a theatre of cruelty in which being seen to be harsh to migrants (as well as other folk devils such as travellers and climate protestors) is deliberately performed as a means of solidifying its reactionary political base. The continuing arrival of migrants via the Channel has shown that the Brexit fantasy of cutting off island Britain from the world and returning to some imagined 1950s theme park cannot be realised - the anti-refugee bill is an expression of this rage against reality. 

Little Amal in London

There have been other positive gatherings in the last week to welcome 'Little Amal', the puppet of a young refugee that has made its way across Europe from the Turkey/Syria border.  I went down to Deptford last Friday (22/10/21) where thousands of people, including lots of excited school kids, crowded the streets for Amal's arrival in London (see report at Transpontine).

As described by the projects Artistic Director, Amir Nizar Zuabi: “It is because the attention of the world is elsewhere right now that it is more important than ever to reignite the conversation about the refugee crisis and to change the narrative around it. Yes, refugees need food and blankets, but they also need dignity and a voice. The purpose of The Walk is to highlight the potential of the refugee, not just their dire circumstances. Little Amal is 3.5 metres tall because we want the world to grow big enough to greet her. We want her to inspire us to think big and to act bigger.”

There was a festival atmosphere in Deptford High Street. Music included the South London Samba Band and 'We do Good Disco''s Campomatic giant washing machine - yes, there was dancing to Dead or Alive (by coincidence on the day before the 5th anniversary of the death of the late lamented Pete Burns).

'Disco against fascism' badge from wedogooddisco

'Migration is not a crime' says Paddington
- bag from Migration Museum stall in Deptford

Monday, October 25, 2021

Anti-fascism 1962 - the real battles of Ridley Road and Trafalgar Square

The BBC series 'Ridley Road' (2021) is a fictional drama which draws on real historical events - the activities of Colin Jordan's neo-nazi National Socialist Movement in Britain in the early 1960s, and the efforts of its opponents, especially Jewish ones, to stop it through intelligence gathering, demonstrations and ultimately physical force. The series adapts Jo Bloom's novel of the same name and its main story line of a Jewish infiltrator going to the extent of sleeping with Jordan may be a fictional device. But it needs to be restated that much of the action in the series is based on actual events - especially as some including a Daily Telegraph columnist have complained that it is BBC propaganda that overstates the threat of the far right in order to whitewash left-wing anti-semitism. The latter certainly exists in some quarters but to deny the menace of organised far right anti-semitism seems perverse - we are talking about people who actually burnt down synagogues.  

Here's some contemporary documentation of episodes featured in 'Ridley Road'

Colin Jordan and George Rockwell

Colin Jordan founded the National Socialist Movement in 1962 having split from the far right British National Party because they weren't explicitly Nazi enough for him. He was a leading figure in the international neo-nazi movement and in 1962 hosted a visit by the leader of the American Nazi Party, George Rockwell. The latter was deported from the country in the aftermath of a far right camp in the Cotswolds.

The camp in Guiting Wood 'was stormed by 100 Cotswold villagers'. A swastika flag 'was hauled down after its centre had been blown out by a 12-bore shotgun, and as the villagers wrecked the camp the party followers fled' ('Fuhrer hunt hots up as Nazis routed', Aberdeen Evening Express, 8 August 1962). The Daily Mirror termed this 'The Battle of Dead and Bury Hollow' after the part of the wood where the fighting took place ('Village Army Routs Nazi Camp', Daily Mirror, 8 August 1962).

Daily Mirror, 8 August 1962

(it seems the Cotswolds anti-fascist mobilisation was started from by a party from The Farmers Arms, Guiting Power, Gloucestershire, including its landlord Walter Morley. The pub is still there today if you want to raise a glass to them!)

Rockwell boasted shortly afterwards that he and Jordan 'had made certain arrangements which will "shock the world within six months''' (Belfast Telegraph, 10 August 1962). It was during his 1962 visits that Jordan and Rockwell established the World Union of National Socialists.

Jordan was married to Françoise Dior

Françoise Dior was the niece of French fashion designer Christian Dior, though as an international nazi activist she was denounced by her family - Christian's sister Catherine (Françoise's aunt) had been sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp for her activities in the French resistance. Dior and Jordan are believed to have met in 1962 and married the following year in Coventry, to anti-fascist protests:

'British National Socialist movement leader Colin Jordan and his French bride Françoise Dior were bombarded with eggs, stink bombs and pieces of turf by part of an angry crowd of about 500 after their marriage at Coventry registry office today. Jordan (40) and his 31 year old bride – she is a niece of the late fashion designer Christian Dior – greeted the crowd with Nazi salutes after the 15 minute ceremony. They were met by a chorus of boo and jeers, and the crowd surged forward in the attempt to break through the police cordon' (Belfast Telegraph, 5 October 1963).

Dior was an enthusiast for Synagogue burning, and was involved in an arson plot by NSM members to put this into action. She was jailed in 1967 in relation to arson and attempted arson attacks against 10 synagogues in the London area in 1965, having told  police that she 'would like to make an Act of Parliament to burn down all synagogues by law'. Among the buildings targeted was the Brondesbury Synagogue, extensively damaged in March 1965 and the Herbert Samuel Hall Synagogue in Notting Hill in June of that year (Belfast Telegraph, 7 September 1967). 

Trafalgar Square

London's Trafalgar Square was a flashpoint in 1962, with two major confrontations in July of that year. Jordan's NSM held a 'Free Britain from Jewish Control' rally there on 1 July. There was mass opposition: 'speakers were almost drowned by jeers from the 2,000 strong crowd' which 'charged hurling eggs, fruit, tin cans and coins'. The NSM's truck was stormed and its banner 'broken and burned'. 21 people were arrested' ('Battle of Trafalgar Square: Fury at Fascist Meeting', Daily Mirror, 2 July 1962).

A few weeks later on 22 July  1962 another far right organisation, Oswald Mosley's Union Movement, tried to hold a meeting in Trafalgar Square with similar results: 'Stones and tomatoes were thrown, placards and flags torn down and police cordons made helpless by a crowd of 7,000'. There were 55 arrests ('Mosley Meeting Wrecked, Birmingham Daily Post, 23 July 1962).

Illustrated London News, 28 July 1962 (check out cool shoes of anti-fascist throwing a stick, cuban heels a year before The Beatles first LP!)

Ridley Road 

Ridley Road, Dalston was a key battleground between fascists and their opponents in 1962, just as it had been in the 1930s and 1940s as an area with a well established Jewish community. Just a week after being driven out of Trafalgar Square,  the Union Movement attempted to meet there but were opposed by a large crowd:

'Sir Oswald Mosley was hurled to the ground and then punched and kicked in London's East End last night. The 65-year-old leader of the Union Movement was jumped upon as he arrived for a meeting at Ridley Road, Dalston - scene of many clashes with Blackshirts in the 1930s. The rally last night turned into a three-minute-fiasco - that was the time Mosley was allowed to speak before police were forced to stop his meeting because of rioting. And after the meeting police arrested 48 people including Mosley's ginger-haired son, Max. For an hour before Mosley arrived, the police had struggled to control the 1500 strong crowd of jeering, shouting East Enders... Chants of 'Down with Mosley' and 'Sieg Heil' drowned his words. Rotten fruit, stones and coins were hurled at the grey-suited Union Movement leader' ('Mosley beaten up again, Daily Mirror, 1 August 1962).

('The magic words "Mosley Speaks" will spark a riot anywhere... in this stronghold of anti-fascism their appearance was a guarantee of  trouble... they cried 'Down with Mosley and down he went'  - Pathe newsreel of Mosley in Manchester then in Ridley Road in July1962 - still below shows anti-fascists being held back by police in Ridley Road)

With plans for further fascist meetings on 2 September, the Home Secretary banned all demonstrations in the area -  affecting planned events from the British National Party and the anti-fascist Yellow Star Movement, though static meetings were not covered by the ban. Following the announcement there was an explosion outside a synagogue in Stoke Newington described by Rev. Sargent of the Yellow Star Movement as 'fascist activity' (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 1 Sept 1962). Sargent was the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Dalston and one of the founders of the anti-fascist group who held a position of non-violent opposition to the far right - disagreement with this position led some to form the 62 Group, a militant Jewish organisation set up in August 1962 and who were the main inspiration for the Ridley Road drama. They were to play a major role in fighting the far right for the rest of the decade.

On 2 September the Yellow Star Movement occupied Ridley Road to prevent the BNP holding a meeting. The BNP had gathered nearby in Balls Pond Road where 'they were attacked by several hundred men' - probably one of the first actions involving the new 62 Group. 

Birmingham Daily Post, 3 Sept 1962

On the same day, Mosley's Union Movement was forced to abandon a meeting in Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green, after two minutes. A crowd of 3000 broke through police lines and Mosley faced 'Boos,  blows, eggs and stink bombs'. There were 40 arrests (Birmingham Daily Post, 3 September 1962).

There were further clashes on 16 September, when Hackney Young Socialists occupied the space in Ridley Road where Mosley's supporters were planning to rally.  As fascists 'marched into the Young Socialists rally... Fighting broke out immediately. It spread through the crowd in Ridley market and spilled out into Stoke Newington High Street' (The Newsletter - Socialist Labour League, 22 Sept.1962)

Colin Jordan was jailed for 9 months in 1962 having established 'Spearhead' as a paramilitary force linked to the NSM. The latter was relaunched as the British Movement in 1968. In the same year he was 'beaten up in a well-planned attack by a group of men in Birmingham... Jordan was in Waterloo Street in the city centre with four other men handing out leaflets for a meeting when about 30 men came running round the corner and set upon them' (Aberdeen Evening Express, 11 September 1968).  

Jordan remained an active neo-nazi until his death in 2009. While some of his erstwhile collaborators attempted to tone down their public rhetoric and present themselves as simple British patriots, Jordan never disguised his Hitler worship and virulent anti-semitism. 

The events of 1962 sparked not only militant anti-fascism but a wider call for legislation against incitement to racial hatred. More than 100,000 people signed a Yellow Star petition calling for this, and 'Three hundred teenagers from Jewish and non-Jewish youth clubs in the Hackney area' marched from Ridley Road to Downing Street in support of this.

Association of Jewish Refugees Information, November 1962

See also: 

Radical History of Hackney for more on this and the 62 Group

A history of the 62 Group from Searchlight, 2002