Monday, May 31, 2010

Claremont Road 1994: 'the rave had to end sometime'

The movement against the M11 linkroad in Leytonstone (or Leytonstonia as we termed it then), North East London, was one of the more inspiring struggles of the mid-1990s. In particular, Claremont Road was squatted and turned into a protest site for the best part of a year before being evicted by the police in 1994's 'Operation Garden Party' The street was demolished, but like at Newbury in the same period the defeat of the immediate movement was also some kind of victory - by increasing the costs of road building these struggles led to other road projects being shelved. 

 The Channel One TV programme below from 1994 includes the classic line: 'Claremont Road was notorious among locals for its psychedelia, squatters and new age travellers. But everyone living in this time warped street of the 60s knew the rave had to end sometime'. There was a strong overlap between this scene and the free party scene - both united in the movement against the Criminal Justice Act which criminalised raves and protest. I remember, for instance, people from Claremont Rd showing a film at Megatripolis, the techno/trance club at Heaven.

The 'Just Say No' flyer reproduced here (click to enlarge) is from a benefit party I went to for the M11 campaign held on 2 April 1994 at Arch 21, Valentia Place, Brixton (one of the railway arches between Loughborough junction and Brixton). The party was put on by Sunnyside 'with the boundless co-operation of the conscious club'. Some good dancing I recall and good conversation. As a bit of a househead I was always quite glad to go to a free party where the music was a bit broader than just acid-tekno, much as I loved some of that too.

The flyer includes the words 'the eco-consciousness is rising, carry the vision out into the mainstream of society, keep it sweet, keep it right, remember this is a peaceful fight'. This alludes to the bitter arguments in the anti-CJA/roads movement at that time between the 'fluffy' pacifist faction and the 'spikey' riotous faction. Up until this point I had been politically inclined to the the 'spikey' side, but despite rejecting the absolute pacifism of some 'fluffies' I came to appreciate that tactically they were sometimes achieving more than those 'spikies' who seemed to want to kick off a confrontation at every opportunity regardless of the terrain, balance of forces or risks for those around them. Anyway there were some lovely people in the anti-roads movement (as well as some casualties), and nobody can say that they didn't have a go. Some dark times ahead perhaps, so learn the lessons well.

1 comment:

bob said...

Thanks for this too - also sparked some nice memories. I had a similar ambivalence on the spiky/fluffy issue. Ideologically, I was very pro-spiky, but by temperament am very fluffy and found the spikey scene to be very posturing and full of itself. I also preferred the fluffier soundsystems to the spikier ones.