Friday, December 02, 2022

'The fight is for life!' - protests against Italian anti-rave law

The far right Italian government is planning to bring in a new law against raves. The law was announced following the recent closing down of a three day Halloween party attended by some 3000 people in Modena.

The  proposed law includes provision to convict 'anyone who organizes and promotes the arbitrary invasion of other people's land or buildings, public or private, in order to organize a musical gathering or gathering for other entertainment purposes', punishable by up to 6 years in prison.

Opposition to the law is growing. The pictures here are of a demonstration against it by hundreds of people in Treviso on 11th November 2022. The march was organised by the Treviso social centre CSO Django and featured a sound system, flares and a large 'No to repression' banner.

CSO Django say that the law is part of a pattern of measures that 'aims to suppress everything that is somehow considered uncomfortable, unpleasant or that expresses radical criticism, in words and in facts, to the model of society we live in.

On Saturday we reiterated clearly that the repression of movements, struggles and social phenomena is one of the forms in which those who exercise power try to leave the model of society we live in unaltered.

Saturday's street parade brought different subjects into communication, who together built a demonstration that went through the city in a colorful and noisy manner, proving that it is possible to work together, within our differences, to build, from the bottom up, different moments of sociality free from market logic, delivering anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-fascist messages...

Against the ideology of profit, the practice of creating resilient and caring communities. We claim the right to be anomaly, to be a grain of sand in the gear of a world in which market logics aim to make everything a consumer product.We claim the right to practice dissent and conflict, as the only engine capable of changing the balance of power and modifying the existing one.
Against the advancing nothingness, the fight is for life!'

The Italian government is led by Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, with its roots in the fascist movement.

Monday, November 28, 2022

London queercore 1995: Vaseline, Up to the Elbow, Sick of it All

'Vaseline zine' started out in 1995 'for gay people who love indie and alternative music and want to rage against the scene'. They put on club nights including at the Bell in Kings Cross (later the Cross Bar, today the Big Chill). The period saw a flourishing of 'queercore', riot grrrl and LGBTQ+ indie clubs and bands in the UK - including Sister George, Mouthfull,  Bandit Queen and Sapphic Sluts. 

Vaseline, no. 2 1995 'rage against the scene' - with review of PJ Harvey at Kentish Town Forum, May  1995

Vaseline no.2 (May 1995) mentions that 'Popstarz is a new weekly gay indie night' opening at at Paradise Club with 'indie-pop downstairs and 70s discos and trash upstairs'. Not sure where the Paradise Club was (don't think this was the Paradise Bar in New Cross) but Popstarz went on to be a massive club night moving to the Scala in Kings Cross and continuing for 20 years at various locations. Its founder Simon Hobart died in 2005 (see Remembering Popstarz)

from Vaseline no.5

'Mouthfull' interview from issue 7

My friend Katy Watson DJ'd  at the time at Up to the Elbow, a club night started by the band Mouthful, and then started another night Sick of it All. Here's her brief account of the scene, from an interview I did with her:

'I’ve played music with a few people over the years but we never got it together to be a performing band.  I did try to start a band with my old flatmate Rosanne but it didn’t work out. She had been in a band called The Sluts from Outer Space. We had a very nice drummer we used to rehearse with, I was well into her.

I used to DJ in a couple of gay punky clubs, that was lots of fun. It gives you a focus for lots of record buying, so lots of shopping in Rough Trade. It was very nice doing it, having the motivation to check out lots of new records and you can justify buying them and also I was writing reviews of them for Bad Attitude. 

At first I played music in a sort of indie gay club - Up to the Elbow (the world’s worst name). That had quite an indie music policy, I put in my punky classics as well, like Iggy Pop and New York Dolls. The club was in Islington and sometimes at The Bell, an alternative gay pub in Kings Cross.

 And then after that I bonded a bit with these two gay punks called Rick and Satoshi and we did our own club very positively called Sick of It All (that was Rick’s gloomy American approach to things!). That was more punky than indie sort of gay stuff.  We didn’t do that many nights of it, but it was lots of fun. We had trouble fixing a venue, it was in a different place every time - we did one night at 121 Railton Road, the anarchist centre. Another one we did upstairs in a funny little club place off Warren Street with gold lame curtains and velvet chairs, it was a bit too smart for us..

 It was around the period of riot grrrl with bands like Bikini Kill. We went to two or three Bikini Kill gigs, and hung out with the band including Kathleen Hanna. She’s a very good self-promoter, so we interviewed her for Bad Attitude and she hung out with us in the squat that I was living in at the time. Tribe8, another US queercore band, also came and stayed in Brixton.  It was a very happening time for gay punky/indie bands and female punky/indie bands – the whole riot grrrl thing. We were being very cool and punky with our dyed hair and squatty lifestyle and all that sort of thing'

[notes: you can see Rosanne Rabinowitz in the great Rebel Dykes movie and the Sluts from Outer Space feature on the soundtrack; Katy's Brixon squat where Kathleen Hanna once stayed was at 2 Saltoun Road; I remember meeting San Francisco band Tribe8 in Brixton, in someone's house in Josephine Avenue around this time]

Katy (right) on her way to see Bikini Kill

Good to see some mentions of some of these nights in Vaseline. It seems that the first Sick of it All was at Sol's Bar near Warren Street in July 1995

Sick of it All's first night - 'The philosophy of the club seemed to be 'fuck the common denominator' and the atmosphere was reminiscent of Up to the Elbow. DJs Rik and Katie careered their way through punk, queercore and harder edged indie music, while Satoshi added the je ne sais quoi' (Vaseline no. 5).

The 'punk party extravaganzathon in a huge Brixton squat' in October 1995 was presumably the night at the (not particulary huge!) 121 Centre in Railton Road, Brixton. Katy was involved with the feminist paper Bad Attitude which had an office upstairs at 121.

Vaseline no. 7

I went to a couple of  'Up to the Elbow' nights with Katy on the decks at the Bell (I saw Bandit Queen and the Frantic Spiders) and downstairs at Freedom in Wardour Street. Of the latter I noted at the time (January 1995) that I went  'to 'Up to the Elbow', the queercore club where Katy (DJ KT) does her stuff. It had moved from the Bell (which has been bought by the Mean Fiddler for heterosexualisation) to the Freedom Cafe in Soho. There were a couple of good bands playing - Mouthfull who were a bit Nirvana-like but did a great punkified version of 2 Unlimted's No Limits and Flinch who were more in the Pixies/Throwing Muses mould'.

Katy Watson (1966-2008)

See also:

[thank to MayDay Rooms archive, whose display of Vaseline zines at the radical bookfair at the Barbican library set me off down this wormhole. The bookfair was part of Quiet Revolutions: A Celebration of Radical Bookshops, 26 November 2022]

Monday, November 21, 2022

Skins and Scum: Rene Matić and Simeon Barclay at South London Gallery

Rene Matić's exhibition 'upon this rock' at the South London Gallery features their very moving film 'Many Rivers' about their father, growing up through family trauma and the care system to be a black skinhead in Peterborough. Jimmy Cliff's song plays over the credits just in case you haven't got a lump in your throat by that point.

Richard Allen novels and a Peterborough scarf among the memorabilia

Matić takes their 'departure point from dance and music movements such as Northern soul, Ska and 2-Tone, using them as sites to queer and re-imagine the intimacies between West Indian and white working-class culture in Britain'. In particular they reference the 'Skinhead movement, which originally emerged in the mid-1960s as a cultural exchange between Caribbean and white working-class communities' (source: South London Gallery).

A wall of crucifixes feature a model of Rene Matić's father and references the familiar image of the crucified skinhead.

There are parallels with another exhibition at the South London Gallery's other site on the other side of Peckham Road: Simeon Barclay's 'In the name of the father'. Here too a black artist explores themes of exclusion and masculinity with a nod to late 70s/early 80s British working class culture. In this case the references include the 1979 movie 'Scum', set in a brutal Borstal. Barclay's work includes a puppet of Ray Winstone's Carlin character in the film, offset against a puppet of the artist in a 1970s Elton John duck costume.

Guard dogs and a fenced off sign for Huddersfield nighclub Johnnys - reportedly hard to get into for young people like Barclay - also feature.

Exhibitions continue until 27 November 2022

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Suzi Quatro and AC/DC: punk rockers in Australia 1974/75

I don't think anyone who knows 1970s UK pop culture would argue with the fact that Suzi Quatro was one of the leather clad pop rockers who prepared the ground for punk. Still was surprized to see her being mentioned in relation to punk as far back as 1974 in the Australian press on the occasion of her touring there:

'She looks like the leader of a motorcycle gang, but pretty like the girls who run with the pack ought to look. She's 23, dresses all in skin-tight leather zippered down to her waist, off stage as well, but usually adds a shirt under the leather suit. Her eyes look out soft and warm from photographs. In real life Suzi Quatro is tough, but still soft underneath.

She's from Detroit, and in this country that says a lot. A harsh city, "Motor City," with the highest crime rate in the U.S.A., it is the birthplace of punk rock, the MC5 (Motor City 5, a once famous rock group.) Suzi continues the image though she does complain that "people who've only heard my voice expect me to be about 6 feet tall." In fact she's five feet. Wearing a small star tattooed on her right wrist, she explains, "I got the star four years ago 'cause that's what I wanted to be'  (Australian Women's Weekly, th May 1974).

From searching on the great Trove newspaper archive this seems to be the first reference to 'punk rock' in an Australian newspaper, earlier even than a 1975 mention of 'top punk rockers' AC/DC.

Strangely the AC/DC gig in question at the Harmonie German Club in Canberra took place on 7 November 1975, one day after the first Sex Pistols gig at Central St Martins art college in London.

Canberra Times, 7 November 1975

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Hackney Volcano Festival 2000

Continuing series of scanning in old flyers of things I went to in ancient times, or should I say documenting priceless cultural history artifacts, here's the programme for Hackney Volcano Festival held on Hackney marshes in August 2000. 

This was a legal free festival, seemingly with some Millennium related funding, but featured lots of performers, sound systems etc. from the free party, punk and other scenes. The line up included for instance Luton's Exodus Collective, Out of Order Sound System (with Liberator DJs), Hackney punk system Reknaw and Homegrown radio (UK hip-hop). Reggae writer Penny Reel was on the Solution Sound System and Bobby Friction was on 'Purple Banana's Conscious Clubbing stage'.  Squatting/festival magazine Squall was trying to 'put some revolutionary stance back in the dance' and bands included benefit gig stalwarts P.A.I.N., Inner Terrestrials and The Astronauts. Quite a cross section of turn of the century London musical subcultures. Shame I can only really remember the Miniscule of Sound - 'the world's smallest nightclub' -  a tiny booth with a disco ball!

See also:

Friday, October 21, 2022

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

'For dancing in the streets' - solidarity with revolt in Iran

The 'Women, Life, Freedom' revolt in Iran is an inspiration. I can only express my solidarity for those who have taken to the streets following the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini at the hands of the Guidance Patrol morality police, after she was detained because of how she was dressed (specifically for not 'correctly' covering her head).

Mahsa Amimi

So many others have been killed since, here's just some of those named so far:

Let us never forget them, or Asra Panahi, a 16 year old killed after refusing to sing an anthem in support of the regime

In a state which polices music and dancing so heavily it is no surprise that these are being forcibly expressed in the protest movement, most notably in Shervin Hajipour’s “For…” which makes a song out of tweets posted by people about what they are fighting for: ''For dancing in the streets,  For the fear we feel when kissing a loved one, For my sister, your sister, our sisters...For women, life, freedom

Echoes too of the 'dancing is not a crime' movement following the 2018 arrest and jailing of Maedeh Hojabri for instagram posts of her dancing. This piece, 'Dancing Tehran: Iran's Women Make A Stand' features women dancing in defiance and solidariy intercut with videos made by Maedeh Hojabri.


Friday, October 14, 2022

Breakbeats & Benefit Gigs at 1990s Pembury Tavern, Hackney

I was in Hackney recently for a Hackney radical history walk/talk and went past the Pembury Tavern on Amhurst Road. The pub has been there since 1856 and has witnessed much of the history under discussion. It has certainly changed since I first went there in the early 1990s and is no longer full of squatters - but neither is Hackney! No doubt it has always changed to reflect the changing locale and it was good to see that it still seems to be flourishing - now of course a home to craft beer (it is linked to Hackney based Five Points Brewing Co.) and pizza.

Anyway I came across a flyer from a night there in December 1998:  High-Rise 'Freestyle underground sounds every Thursday at the Pembury Tavern'. My friend Laurel from Luton ('Flo Hrd' junglist) was involved and it was another of our Luton friend's birthday (Kim). Hence I played a short set as Neil Disconaut, can't say my mixture of space disco and Ambush records breakcore exactly set the place alight but hey. 

The Pembury was a regular venue for benefit gigs around that time. This listing from radical zine Contraflow from Autumn 1997 for instance highlights several gigs there, including benefits for Reclaim the Streets, Hackney Refugee and Migrant Support Group, the Autonomous Refugee Centre Hackney (ARCH) and Contraflow itself. Head Jam, PAIN, Inner Terrestrials in the house, not to mention Radical Dance Faction, Dead Dog Mountain and Tofu Love Frogs in the area.

After first writing this I came across this mention of the Pembury in an interview with Class War founder Ian Bone in Freedom magazine (vol 82:2, 2022/23), where he talks about Hackney in the late 1980s/early 90s:

'The Pembury (pub) was like a sort of red base, with squatters, red actionists and class warriors, also a palpable anarchist community, like maybe there'd been in Brixton in the early '80s, lots of anarchists per head of the population and a lot of little magazines like Hackney Heckler, loads of other stuff, a very vibrant scene. There was the music scene, then we'd do stuff like chase the housing manager down the road. Yeah, people were declaring it the People's Republic of Hackney'.

Good to see some old friends on the 'radical history faction' walk, some of whom were involved in some of those things mentioned above. There were various tales of poll tax protests and squatting adventures including the occupation of the empty London Fields Lido which helped prevent it being demolished and turned into a car park. 

Saturday, October 08, 2022

'We are dancing strong': A free festival on Hackney Marshes, 1997

'The Big Sexy Festy Party'

The rather grandiosely titled Free Festival of Human and and Environmental Global Rights was a one day legal free festival held on Hackney Marshes on 20th July 1997 (a similar event had taken place in Finsbury Park the year before). 

My diary note: 'We met outside the dub and roots tent. The sound systems were arranged in a line along one side of the park, ranging from a stage with punk bands, through various house and techno line ups, a drum & bass system and a more eclectic tent which seemed to be playing everything from Stevie Wonder to sort of Latin Jazz (the DJ was wearing a huge sombrero). With so much in such a relatively close space it was possible to listen to several sounds at once depending on where you were standing. We took kids dancing on our shoulders at the Big Sexy Festy Party sound system. The crowd wasn't as big as last year's in Finsburty Park, but it was nice and relaxed in the sunshine. At one end of the site were circus performers. There was a trapeze and stilts, but not much action while we were there, although four women in white dresses and silver foil angel wings emerged and ran into the dancing throng and there was also a giant robot marching around on stilts'

'Staging a free festival is riddled with obstacles and bureaucracy - but these hassles pale into insignificance when we're dancing. And today we are dancing strong to show our unison against such infringements of our rights to gather, assemble, protest, dance and move on'

There were stalls there from various groups including Reclaim the Streets, Justice (Brighton anti-Criminal Justice Act group), Squall (squatting/counter culture paper), Friends and Families of Travellers and the Free Tibet Campaign.

Kai Sounds ran the dub stage, with Jah Free from Southend, the Bushchemists, the Disciples and a Zion Train DJ set. 

There was also a free party sound system stage, as explained in the programme:

'Hello, hello and welcome to the show This is the all England Free Party Stage comin' at ya loud and proud, courtesy of the Big Sexy Festy Party and the International Free Festival of Global Rights, 1997. Hosted this year by the South West's smiling groove posse Sunnyside and Nottingham's ever legendary DIY bringing you just a small but excellent sample of the UK's funkiest free party culture.

In every region of this country just about every weekend of the year, groups of people commonly assent to gather together with one unifying purpose to dance for free in woods and fields, warehouses and factories, barns, farms, quarries, squats, forests and beaches. just about anywhere. In fact these events defend an age old inclination by mankind to assemble, celebrate and interact as a community in a
spirit of care, responsibility and joy.

In an era which has seen a huge erosion of our human and civil rights and the hard sell of practically every conceivable aspect of modern existenve they provide a valuable and democratic
antidote for the spirit in the face of crass cultural commercialisation.  In a society where everything is potential product, priced and marketed for those who can afford it, something for free sets a
dangerous precedent for those in economic and political power,

This stage is dedicated to all those many groups and individuals who tirelessly provide their energy and resources in order to preserve these principles. The biggest of shouts goes out to free party heads everywhere; to Bedlam, Circus Warp, Smokescreen, Desert Storm, Lazy House, Disc-Lexia, Chilholm Tribe, Freebase, Fun Factory, Sacred Grooves, Discord, Slack, BWPT, Stroudoss, Mutant Dance, Vibe Positive Sounds, Pulse, Rogue, Spoof, Fluffy as Fuck, TWAT, Toe-to-Head, Pineapple Tribe, Exodus, Chiba City, Misdemeanor, Indigenous Sounds, 55 Trout, Immersion, Trolley Sound System and all those who shall remain nameless for risking liberty, property and land in the name of freedom .

Enter, enjoy, think then act. Do it and remember, always make a donation, support
your local underground'

Daniel Poole glow in the dark robot t-shirt!

See also:

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

East London Gay Centre attacked (1976)

The East London Gay Centre was at 19 Redmans Road, Stepney in the 1970s. As this report from 1976 describes it faced sometimes violent hostility, some of it seemingly organised and quite possibly by the far right that had a significant presence in that area at the time. In this instance 'an apparently organised group of men ran up the road shouting fascist slogans and throwing pub glasses and beer bottles' while a small party was going on at the centre. 

The centre was a place where people lived as well as socialised, and this article seemingly written by a resident suggests that this was central to being able to live an authentic life - 'Even with gay bars and clubs you can limit your gayness to one night a month or a week, and limit being gay to having sex. But you're not just gay every night at the club or when sleeping with another woman, you are gay the whole time... This is then the first point of living gay centres - by living with other gay people you can be gay the whole time'

Source: Anarchist Worker (paper of the Anarchist Workers Association), September 1976, copy held at Bishopsgate Institute archive. 


Friday, September 30, 2022

The Age of Insurreckshan - LKJ in NME, 1984

From the NME, 17 March 1984, Neil Spencer interviews Linton Kwesi Johnson. Don’t call him a dub poet…

‘I’m not a dub poet and I don’t want to be classified as one… I’ve always seen myself as a poet full stop. I write mostly in the reggae tradition so my work can be described  as reggae poetry in the same way as jazz poetry, blues poetry.. but dub poetry no. I’m responsible for coining the phrase, as early as 1975 in a pamphlet I wrote called Race and Music but then I was talking about the reggae DJs and describing what they do as poetry, as dub lyricism’

[click images to enlarge]

Extract from interview:

Do you think it's important for black Britons to have a separate identity?

I think they have to forge their own identity from their own reality. The cultural gap between my generation, when we came to this country, and my children and their contemporary white friends, it's negligible.

What are you saying there? There's been no real change between conditions for blacks in Britain between then and now?

Oh, there's been changes, but we've had to fight for them. We've made a lot of progress, tremendous progress I believe, over the last 25 years, and as the events of '81 show clearly, we've moved from the era of the '50s and '60s and early '70s, which was an era of resistance, to an era of insurrection. And that is progress from my point of view.

Progress in what respect?

We're now accepted as being part of the country, even the repatriation lobby has to recognise and live with that. The state and the political parties, those who have power in this country, recognise that we have something to offer, we can swing an election particularly in marginal constituencies.

When Thatcher was running for election in 1978 she made those racist speeches about Britain being swamped by an alien culture; well, as you can see, by the last election they'd changed their tune and were trying to win the black vote.

The riots of '81 seemed almost like fulfilments of prophecies you'd made on the
first two LPs.

Well, not so much prophecies, anyone with any common sense could see it, I wasn't unique in saying those things. There had been a lot of mini-riots throughout the '70s, Basically I think the seeds were sown by the police in the '70s and things came to a head with a new generation of youth.

They were anti-police riots primarily?

Definitely. Anti-police and anti-establishment. All the foreign press reported them as race riots, and some press here too, but you and I and Joe Public know different, because though the young blacks were primarily in the leadership of those insurrections - in Brixton, Toxteth, Manchester whites were a big part of those riots.

I think a lot of the frustrations of the unemployed came out there, and were no means confined to them because a lot of those arrested and charged with looting were workers, people in jobs.
On the LP, on the title track and the tone you adopt is, not exactly rejoicing but…
Celebration! An event to be celebrated! It's an important event in the history of blacks in Britain. It's part of our making history in Britain.

Do you think it changed anything?

Of course it did.

What exactly?

I think it's given the establishment and the police a measure of what blacks can do if pushed too far. It did away with saturation policing. They've eased up a bit, been more careful how they move. Things have generally cooled down. And the project hatchers have got a bit more monev out of it.

A lot of the anger about the New Cross massacre spilled over into the riots. a lot of people can't see that, it was only a month after the day of action that the Brixton riots started.

Ad for LKJ's Making History LP from same issue of paper

See also