Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Funk the Royal Wedding, 1981

The ill-fated wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was announced in February 1981. Unemployment was high amidst cuts and austerity and the first of what were to be a wave of major riots had taken place  - the Bristol uprising of April May 1980 setting the tone for the following year's events. A lot happened between the announcement of that engagement and the wedding itself on 29th July 1981. The Hunger Strikes in the North of Ireland set off a huge wave of demonstrations and riots there and across the world - 6 prisoners had died by the time Chas'n'Di walked down the aisle. 

Meanwhile on the streets of England, tensions between (mainly) young black people and the police erupted in Brixton in April 1981 and then in July in towns and cities across the country. On the night before the wedding, there was rioting in Toxteth, Liverpool. Chief Constable Kenneth Oxford authorised the police tactic of driving Land Rovers at high speed towards the crowd - a 23 year old disabled man, David Moore, could not get out of way and was run over and killed. Nobody can seriously maintain then that the 1981 Royal Wedding 'brought the nation together' in any meaningful way. The following cartoon was published in socialist magazine The Leveller (no.61, 24 July 1981), showing the royal cake besieged by rioters. Prime Minister Thatcher watches from the tier beneath the royal couple, while below her a line of riot police keep guard. The bottom of the cake reads Brixton, Toxteth, Southall - scenes of major riots at the time.

Funk the Wedding

I was at school in Luton at the time and on the day of the Royal wedding went with my sister to the Funk the Wedding carnival in Clissold Park in North London, an anti-royalist event organised by Stoke Newington Rock Against Racism. From what I recall it was unexciting but hey it was some kind of statement, with a good few thousand people there. Headliners Tribesman were a UK reggae band, who incidentally made a record about another London green space - Finsbury Park. Joshua Hi -Fi was a north east London reggae sound system. Don't know anything about Movement or Monkey Business who also played that day. 

'Funk the Wedding -recently formed, but very dynamic, Stoke Newington RAR have organised a mini carnival for you to dance  away your wedding day blues. If you haven't been invited, or can't stomach the Chas & Di show, come and see Tribesman, Movement, Monkey Business and Joshua Hi-Fi in Clissold Park' (Temporary Hoarding, Rock Against Racism zine, August 1981)

  Advert for event from Leveller no.61:

Funk the Wedding, Clissold Park (my photo):

'Guess who WASN'T at that wedding... Eight thousand turned up in Clissold Park London' for 'Stoke Newington Rock Against Racism's amazingly successful afternoon of Militant Entertainment' (Socialist Worker).

[post updated Sept 2022 with addition of Socialist Worker report; Temporary Hoarding notice added December 2022

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