Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Punk and firefighters' strikes in 1977 and 2002

Good luck to firefighters on strike today in England and Wales in their pensions dispute, and to those in the London fire stations facing closure next week by Boris Johnson's cuts.

There's still a couple of days left on BBC IPlayer to watch 'Never Mind the Baubles: Xmas '77 with the Sex Pistols', Julien Temple's remarkable documentary about the Pistols last gigs in the UK. In 1977, firefighters were on all out strike over pay, walking out on 14 November for a 30% pay claim. The government mobilised the army to operate a strikebreaking fire service, and as Christmas approached firefighters and their families were facing great hardship. The Sex Pistols meanwhile were being banned from venues all over the country.

Huddersfield, December 25 1977

On Christmas Day 1977, the Pistols played two gigs in Ivanhoe's nightclub, Huddersfield. The first was a party for the striking firefighters' families, with the band handing out Xmas presents including t-shirts, albums and skateboards. The gig ended up with a cake fight and kids pogoing in their 'Never Mind the Bollocks' t-shirts. In the evening the band played a regular gig for adults. Temple was there on the day and filmed both sets, their last on British soil before heading off to the USA where they split up in January 1978.

The Pistols weren't the only band to play a benefit gig. The picture below is of popular pub rock band The Pirates at Hammersmith Fire Station in 1977, who also played for the strikers. Drummer Frank Farley's dad had been station officer at Hammersmith.

picture by 'Mick' at flickr
25 years later in November 2002, firefighters staged a series of strikes in another pay dispute. Another old punk, Joe Strummer, played a benefit gig for them at Acton Town Hall and was joined on stage by ex-Clash guitarist Mick Jones - the first  and only time they had played together since Jones left The Clash in 1983. The following month Strummer died.

Strange how these iconic moments in the history of punk and its aftermath coincided with these waves of firefighters' struggles.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rote Flora eviction protests in Hamburg

There were violent clashes in Hamburg yesterday over the threat to evict the Rote Flora social centre. The ex-theatre in the city's Schanzenviertel has been squatted since 1989, and serves as a a space for political and social  projects as well as gigs and parties. The local council sold the building to private developers some years ago, and they have recently announced plans to evict Rote Flora and develop a concert hall and office building.

At least 7,000 people took to the streets of Hamburg yesterday, protesting against the planned evictions and also for the right for several hundred Lampedusa refugees to stay in the city. Demonstrators faced 2,000 riot police deploying water cannon, baton charges and pepper spray.

See Flora Bleibt ('Flora stays') for more information. Their English language call-out for yesterday's demonstration states: 'Worldwide, cities are places of political struggles which frequently refer to each other and connect. When people are demonstrating against gentrification, eviction and increasing rents in Istanbul, Athens, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Berlin, Amsterdam or Copenhagen, not only the issues and architectures of investors overlap but more and more the experiences of protest and political goals as well. Political movements are newly created and evolve from the cities' social basis. The fight for Rote Flora's preservation is intersecting with struggles of other squats and urban district projects worldwide. There is tenants' resistance against revaluation and displacement, protest against privatisation of urban life, self-organisation and sabotage against repression and the inhuman system of deportation and sealing off borders... Right to the City - Fight Capitalism! No Border - No Nation!'


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Time for Team Tulisa

So Prime Minister David Cameron sticks his nose into a current court case and proclaims his support for Nigella Lawson - well of course she is the daughter of a former Tory minister. Judging by twitter and facebook he's not the only one - my timelines are full of people proclaiming their allegiance to #TeamNigella. I've got nothing against that, but I would like to see a bit more solidarity with #TeamTulisa.

The difference between the support given to Nigella vs. Tulisa says a lot about the different ways drugs are regarded according to class. Nigella has admitted taking cocaine, and has been accused by witnesses in court of doing so regularly. Does anyone imagine she is going to be arrested and questioned about this? No, a bit of Class A drug use is OK for upper class celebrities.

But what about ex-N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos? She has been charged with being involved with the supply of Class A Drugs followed an operation by The Scum newspaper. Their story claimed that she had merely introduced their reporter to a dealer after the former said he was trying to score some coke. No indulgence for her though - a working class London Irish/Cypriot woman is seen as being practically a gangster if she is accused of going anywhere near drugs. And of course a woman from her background who dares to have a 'female boss' tattoo is considered fair game to be denounced as a 'chav' and cut down to size.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Charlotte Bronte and Alexander Trocchi: Silent Revolt of a Millions Minds?

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) and Alexander Trocchi (1925-1984) might not seem to have too much in common as writers, but I wonder whether the famous passage in Jane Eyre about the 'millions in silent revolt' might have influenced Trocchi's coining of the phrase 'invisible insurrection of a million minds'? 

Of course Bronte's version has a more proto-feminist slant - it is the denial of agency to women that is her main point, though she does generalise to the 'masses of life which people earth'. Trocchi's appeal is to those who he sees involved in a diffuse cultural revolt:  'the cultural revolt must seize the grids of expression and the powerhouses of the mind... The cultural revolt is the necessary underpinning, the passionate substructure of a new order of things'. But in both there is this sense of a simmering insurgent intelligence.

'It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags'.  (Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, 1847)

Bronte in 1854
'Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds...What is to be seized - and I address that one million (say) here and there who are capable of perceiving at once just what it is that I am about, a million potential "technicians" - is ourselves. What must occur, now, today, tomorrow, in those widely dispersed but vital centres of experience, is a revelation. At the present time, in what is often thought of as an age of the mass, we tend to fall into the habit of regarding history and evolution as something which goes relentlessly on, quite without our control. The individual has a profound sense of his own impotence as he realizes the immensity of the forces involved. We, the creative ones everywhere, must discard this paralytic posture and seize control of the human process by assuming control of ourselves. We must reject the conventional fiction of "unchanging human nature." There is in fact no such permanence anywhere. There is only becoming' (Alexandre Trocchi, Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds, first published in the Scottish journal New Saltire in 1962 and then as 'Technique du coupe du monde' in Internationale Situationniste #8, January 1963).

Trochhi in 1967

Sunday, December 08, 2013

International Workers Music Olympiad 1935

In 1935 the International Workers' Music Olympiad, an anti-fascist festival, was held at Strasbourg in France close to the German border. The composer Hanns Eisler helped organise it, and one of the songs he wrote with Bertolt Brecht, the 'Einheitfrontslied' (United Front Song) was 'premièred by a chorus of 5,000 members of the workers song movement'. Also present was the British composer Michael Tippett (1905-1998), who wrote an account of it in 'Comradeship and the Wheatsheaf',  a publication of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society in August 1935 (Tippett worked with the RACS choirs).  This was later republished in 'Music of the Angels: essays and sketchbooks of Michael Tippett' (Eulenburg Books, 1980). Here's an extract:

'Over the Whitsun week-end an English choir of fifty voices went, under the conductorship of Comrade Alan Bush, to take part in the first international festival for working-class music organisations at Strasburg. The membership was drawn mostly from the London Labour Choral Union and Co-operative choirs (in particular the Federation Operatic at Abbey Wood). There was a competition piece to sing as well as music for the concerts and demonstrations.

The most numerous entries to the festival were workers' brass bands. Choral singing has not so strong a tradition in France as wind bands. There were choirs from various parts of France and Switzerland. Russian and Dutch choirs were, unfortunately, refused permits to enter the country by the French government. The Czecho-Slovakian contingent was unable to come, and all workers' organisations in Germany, Austria, or Italy only carry on illegally underground under the stress of the three forms of the fascist terror.

The festival was organised principally by the Strasburg Workers' Music League, with the help of other Alsatian music organisations. These musical and sports unions are very strong in Alsace and Lorraine, in Switzerland and France proper. The membership often runs into thousands. Benefits similar to those of our friendly societies are paid to members, and concerts, practices,and gymnastics are organised. All the unions have a political basis and join together for public demonstrations under the name of the United Front against Fascism, which the various socialist and communist parties of France have laboriously built as a weapon in their struggle...

Strasburg is an ideal town for an international festival of this kind. The older men fought in the German army and navy, their sons are conscripted into the French army. The president of the Strasburg Music League fought in the Kiel Mutiny in the German Revolution of 1918. Formerly a communist worker in Germany, he is now a communist worker in France. Working-class international solidarity has been forced on him by blood and war and revolution...

Michael Tippett
At the festival itself one could not help being struck by the delightful air of equality and informality. Everyone was a comrade, whatever language he might speak. It was like a foretaste of a free classless society but for the police ban on street music and the clashes that arose because of it. Over thirty bands marched onto the big festival ground played 'The International' while thousands of  voices sang it in various languages. The children were as free as the grown-ups. They walked onto the the microphone platform, they talked to whom they liked. No one was ordered about. Occasionally someone called for space round the microphone so that we might sing there, or a telegram of greetings be read from a sympathetic groups of workers'

A note in the book states that the London Labour Choral Union shared first prize in the Mixed Choir competition with the Chorale Populaire de Paris.

For more on 'Einheitfrontslied' (United Front Song) see Marxist Theory of Art:

'Und weil der Mensch ein Mensch ist,
drum hat er Stiefel im Gesicht nicht gern.
Er will unter sich keinen Sklaven sehn
und über sich keinen Herrn'

'And because humans are human,
they don't like a boot in the face.
They want to see no slaves under them
And no master over them'

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Pirate Radio: Article from Muzik magazine, 1995

There's now an online archive of every issue of Muzik magazine, from 1995 to 2003. The launch of the magazine by IPC was an indicator of the state of music in the UK a the time - dance music was massive and the coverage of it in IPC's NME was woeful. Magazines like Mixmag and DJ were flying off the shelves and IPC wanted some of the action. Likewise by 2003 the boom was well and truly over and there had been a revival of the guitar-led bands that NME liked to feature - so it was farewell Muzik.

There's lots of great material to be found in this archive. From Issue no.2, July 1995, here's an article on pirate radio (click on image to enlarge, or go to the archive and look through the whole issue).

'''Meet me outside McDonals in Crystal Palace. I'll be there in 10 minutes". The voice on the mobile phone belongs to the man behind Energy FM, one of London's longest-running pirate radio stations... As one of the highest places in London, Crystal Palace is a prime location for pirate radio transmitters and a prime target for the DTI investigators. Energy has been broadcasting on and off from here for over three years and the station's boss knows the area intimately. Tower blocks are central to pirate radio mythology because their height provides stations with the widest possible catchment area. Most hide their transmitter in a lift shaft or a drainage pipe within cable reach of an aerial placed on top of a block. Energy's transmitter is sufficiently high to enable their programmes to occasionally be picked up in Luton, which is some 50 miles away'. Dream FM (Leeds) and Power FM (Nottingham) also feature in the article, as does Kiss which by then had gone from being a pirate to being legit (the article mentions that they also used Crystal Palace tower blocks).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lou Reed Riots in Italy 1975

Following the recent death of Lou Reed, I could write a lot about his influence on me and the many hours of my life spent listening to him and the Velvet Underground. Intense student nights discovering chemicals whilst listening to 'Berlin' ('The Bed' still makes me shiver), hitch hiking to Amsterdam and getting a lift in a BMW playing 'Venus in Furs', all that indie pop taking its cue from 'Pale Blue Eyes' and 'What goes On' - indeed all those nights at How Does it Feel to be Loved? in Brixton, taking its name from the fade out of 'Beginning to see the light'. But I guess most of us could tell such stories.

Instead of going any further down my own memory lane I'm going to write a bit about a lesser known episode in Lou Reed's career: the riots at his gigs in Italy in February 1975. In Milan, Reed fled the stage after just two songs (Sweet Jane and Coney Island Baby). In Rome, there were clashes between police and young people trying to get in to the concert for free. Tear gas was fired, bars were looted, and many people were injured and/or arrested.

Rome 1975
These weren't anti-Lou Reed riots as such though, rather they were moments in a wider social movement. As Robert Lumley outlines in his book 'States of emergency: Cultures of revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978':

'Between 1975 and 1979 young people in several major Italian cities entered the political scene as the protagonists of new forms of urban conflict. In Rome, Bologna, Turin, Naples, Milan and other cities, they organized themselves into collectives and ‘proletarian youth groups’, squatted in buildings and carried out autoriduzione (that is, fixed their own prices) of transport fares and cinema tickets, set up free radio stations. At the height of the movement in 1977, tens of thousands of young people were involved in mass protest and street battles with the police'.

As well organising their own counter-cultural music festivals, the movement contested the cost of commercial cultural events: 'Autoriduzione of tickets at pop concerts had already been carried out ‘spontaneously’ in Milan in the early seventies. In September 1977, at a Santana concert in Milan, the practice became formalized; youth groups assured the organizers that the event would not be disrupted in exchange for a fixed price reduction. Earlier, in October 1976, youth groups launched a campaign to force cinemas to reduce ticket prices. A leaflet of the youth groups of zona Venezia declared: "The defence of the living standards of the masses also means establishing the right to a life consisting not just of work and the home, but of culture, amusement and recreation"'.

The 'autoriduttori' movement was promoted by the Milan-based Stampa Alternativa (Alternative Press), who set up stalls outside concerts organised by promoter David Zard - including Lou Reed's 1975 gigs. There's some misleading information about these events online - one source claims that 50 people died in Rome, but in fact there were no fatalities. You may also find mention of 'fascists' being involved - again, this does not seem to be true. It was common practice at the time for the Communist Party in Italy to denounce militants of autonomia and the extra-parliamentary left as 'fascists', even as these same militants were fighting in the streets with the actual fascists.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Free Pussy Riot Banner at Champions League Match

Great to see this Free Pussy Riot banner at tonight's football match between Manchester City and CSKA Moscow. It may have been swiftly removed by stewards, but the image of it is already going round the world.

This week's the family of Nadya Tolokonnikova  complained that she has been 'disappeared' in the prison system. According to the Independent (2 November 2013):

'A Pussy Riot member imprisoned at a Russian camp hasn't been heard from for 10 days, her family has said. Nadya Tolokonnikova was moved from her prison colony in the Russian republic of Mordovia on 21 October. She is currently serving two years for her band's performance of a crude song in a Moscow church in February 2012.She had been on hunger strike over conditions in the prison.

Her father, Andrei Tolokonnikov, told Buzzfeed: “No one knows anything. There’s no proof she’s alive, we don’t know the state of her health. Is she sick? Has she been beaten?” Her husband, Petya Verzilov, has been protesting outside the colony regularly. He said: “We think they moved her to a big city to hide her. It seems they got sick of these protests. They want to cut her off from the outside world. When they moved [political prisoner Mikhail] Khodorkovsky, he was also kind of absent for two weeks. Nobody knew where he was, then he suddenly appeared in Chita."

During the offending protest the all-female punk band ran into Moscow's biggest cathedral sang a song calling on the Virgin Mary to kick President Vladimir Putin out of office. Tolokonnikova and fellow member Maria Alyokhina are serving sentences for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” following the performance'.

Meanwhile 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists remain in prison charged with hooliganism after a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig in the Arctic in September. These high profile cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Last month (27 October) thousands of people took part in a rally in Moscow in solidarity with political prisoners.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Octoroon Ball, from WEB Du Bois' The Crisis

One of the most exciting sites I have come across recently is the Modernist Journals Project, a joint project of Brown University and the University of Tulsa that is digitising key early 20th century English language magazines. There's some astounding material there, not least numerous issues of 'The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races', the ground-breaking journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People edited by W.E.B. Du Bois.

From Issue no.5 (March 1911), here's a poem by Rosalie Jonas entitled Ballade des Belles Milatraisses. Its subject matter is the Octoroon Balls of 19th century New Orleans where white men would meet 'mixed-race' women (octoroons were defined as one-eighth black, quadroons as one-quarter), and from which black men were excluded - or almost. As often in the history of American music and dance, black people were both excluded from fully participating as equals while simultaneously being central to it as musicians and performers. In this instance it is the fiddler who is "the one man of 'colour' admitted" but with the instruction "Play on! Fiddler-man, keep your eyes on your bow".

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Datacide Los Angeles Launch Party and Conference

Issue number 13 of Datacide magazine for noise and politics was published earlier this month with a bumper 76 pages including:

  • Datacide: Introduction
  • Nemeton: Infiltration and Agent Provocateurs; Vision Tech; Endless War; Surveillance, Control and Repression
  • CF: NSU Update
  • Two in London: UK Anti-Fascist Round Up
  • Comrade Omega: Crisis in the SWP, or: Weiningerism in the UK
  • David Cecil: Confessions of an Accidental Activist
  • Neil Transpontine: Spiral Tribe Interview with Mark Harrison
  • Neil Transpontine: ‘Revolt of the Ravers’-The Movement Against the Criminal Justice Act in Britain, 1993-95
  • Split Horizon: What is This Future?
  • Fabian Tompsett: Wikipedia-A Vernacular Encyclopedia
  • Howard Slater: Shared Vertigo
  • Dan Hekate: Crystal Distortion
  • Howard Slater: Cut-Up Marx
  • Howard Slater: EARTH ‘A RUN RED
  • Marcel Stoetzler: Identity, Commodity and Authority: Two New Books about Horkheimer and Adorno
  • Nemeton: Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency (book review)
  • Christoph Fringeli: One Night in Stammheim. Helge Lehmann: Die Todesnacht von Stammheim – Eine Untersuchung (book review)
  • Christoph Fringeli: Anton Shekovtsov, Paul Jackson (eds.): White Power Music – Scenes of the Extreme Right Cultural Resistence (book review)
  • CF: Press reviews
  • John Eden: Emencified Shrill Out: Nomex at the Controls
  • Alexis Wolton: Vinyl Meltdown, Prt. 1
  • Record reviews by Zombieflesheater, Nemeton and Kovert
  • DJ Charts
  • Matthieu Bourel: Rioter
  • Sansculotte: Overdosed
  • Plus: The Lives and Times of Bloor Schleppy
There have already been launch events in Berlin and London, and next month there will be events in Los Angeles. On Friday November 15 Darkmatter Soundsystem and Immaterial Tech present the Datacide #13 Release Party at The Lexington Bar, 129 East 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90013 (9pm-2am / 21+ / $5 all night). Line up includes Split Horizon , Key, Bad Timing, Novokain, Diskore and  WMX b2b Nemeton

Then on Sunday November 17 The Public School Los Angeles and the Anti-Authoritarian Marxist Network present  Datacide Conference with talks on Electronic Music Counter-Cultures; Sonic Fiction and Information Technologies including:

- Lauren (DJ Nemeton) - Raves and Riots: Networked Counter-Cultural Strategies - An Introduction to Datacide 
- Sean Nye - Sonic Fiction: The Musical Case of Philip K. Dick's "Martian Time Slip"
- Split Horizon - Salt Marsh to State: (un)Divided Space

Start time: 4pm; Free/Donation. Venue: The Public School Los Angeles, 951 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Monday, October 28, 2013

Radical Pirate Radio in Islington, 1969

Here's an account of  a short-lived radical radio intervention in North London. The Islington pirate radio station broadcast on 230 metres medium wave at the time of the North Islington by-election in October 1969.  Those involved were inspired by the Irish civil rights pirate radio operating in Belfast and Derry, and by pirate broadcasts earlier in the 1960s by the anti-nuclear weapons Committee of 100.

The article 'Political Pirate Radio' was published in radical paper Black Dwarf, 16 January 1970, explaining that 'a group of Islington revolutionary socialists got together the organisation and apparatus for a less conventional attack on people's boredom with politics. With the struggle in Derry and Belfast in mind, they transmitted within the election boundaries an hour-long pirate radio programme every night in the week before polling. We draw a veil over the participants - except that IS [International Socialists] members want a mention to show they're not such fuddy-duddies after all, and anarchists to show they're quite capable of complex political organisation'.

The programmmes consisted 'of interviews with people in social groups whose problems cannot be solved - and are not even expressed - through ballot box politics. The voices were: a tenant; an Irish worker, a housewife, a schoolboy, a black organiser, and an unofficial strike'.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pirate Radio Raids: China, Thailand, Tunisia, England

That the state seeks to clamp down on 'pirate radio' is perhaps not surprizing, what is inspiring though is that across the world people find ways to defy the state's monopoly of the airwaves. Would be good to know more about the content of some of this broadcasting, I can't quite believe the official account that in China the police are just clamping down on adverts for 'sexual performance drugs'!

China (Global Times, 8 October 2013)

'Chongqing police have raided two illegal radio stations and confiscated their transmitters, antennas and computers, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday. As part of an ongoing campaign launched in April, city police located and seized illegal transmitters in Jiangbei and Yuzhong districts, the report said, but did not say if anyone had been arrested in the raids.

"The city is carrying on its joint campaign on illegal radio," Chongqing Culture Radio and Television Bureau staff member Li Xiaopeng told the Global Times on Tuesday. Li's bureau, Chongqing Radio Management Committee, and local police have all been involved in tackling the illegal broadcasts...

City residents had first tuned into obscene adverts for sexual performance drugs on their radios in late March, Zhang Xueming, a senior official from the city's radio management committee, told the Chongqing Evening Post in April. Authorities began investigating the case after receiving more than 100 reports of illegal transmissions, Zhang told the paper. The drugs advertised had been expensive, several hundred yuan each, and a few citizens had bought them and felt cheated. From April to September, Chongqing authorities have launched four raids, arresting one suspect and confiscating six transmitters, six antennas and six computers.

Thailand (Asia Radio Today, 11 October 2013)

'Thailand’s media regulator continues its clamp down on the thousands of pirate radio and tv stations in the country. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has launched legal action against 1631 broadcasters – mostly thought to be radio stations. So far, 167 stations have been closed down and a further 109 have been searched, according to an NBTC release.The remaining 1355 broadcasters will face legal action in due course.

The stations are all accused of using broadcasting equipment without a licence and using  frequencies reserved for legal broadcasters. Owners could face fines of US$160,000 (Thai Baht 5 million) and a five year jail term. The NBTC has urged the thousands of stations broadcasting illegally in Thailand to apply for community broadcasting licences. By the end of September, more than of 2,800 organisations have been approved for temporary licences, according to the Bangkok Post.

Tunisia (Guardian, 15 October 2013)

....Suffocated by fresh repression under the new government, DJ Nejib turned to a US-based cyberactivist, who taught him and a group of Egyptians and Moroccans how to assemble a pirate radio transmitter. Radio Chaabi (Arabic for popular) operated mostly through secretive night-time recordings.

Partly a celebration of music free from the threat of hardliners, early recordings simply experimented with lacing popular traditional Arabic music and rap lyrics. Politically focused efforts included collaborations with musicians from Palestine.... Days after the Guardian interviewed him, Nejib and seven colleagues were jailed following a dawn raid.

Almost three years since a wave of popular anger toppled Ben Ali's government, the first of several corrupt, autocratic Arab governments to feel the swell, Tunisia is still treading water. Attempts to hammer out a new constitution have floundered as hard left unionists have battled Islamists, in particular over a clause that would allow sharia law to be brought in...On a recent sunny Wednesday, a group of students and an enthusiastic 74-year-old grandmother handed out political flyers at kerbside cafes. Around one corner of a tree-lined boulevard, a weekly protest was taking place; on another, anarchists from a newly formed group called Désobéissance! (Disobedience!) loitered. "I no longer believe political parties can bring about change in Tunisia," said Nabil, an anarchist who said he was beaten by Tunisia's feared police for distributing "anti-capitalist" badges at a rally.

London: Kool FM

Loving Four Tet's sonic tribute to the oft-raided London junglist pirate Kool FM (on his new album Beautiful Rewind). Check out Radical History of Hackney for more on Kool FM and Rush FM.

Kool FM is now an online operation after years of dodging the authorities going back to the early 1990s. Here's an account of one of the operations targeting it and other pirates - Operation Twilight in February 2008:

'Ofcom today announced the results of joint operations across four London boroughs to take illegal radio stations off the air.  Working in partnership with the London Boroughs of Hackney, Haringey, Tower Hamlets and Islington, as well as the Metropolitan Police, Ofcom’s team carried out enforcement action against over 20 illegal broadcasters in these areas...

Ofcom’s operation ran from 6 to 16 February and resulted in three arrests, one studio raid, the removal of 22 illegal broadcasters’ transmitters and over 20 letters sent to local night clubs that have advertised events on illegal radio stations. Ofcom estimates that there are over 150 illegal stations operating in the UK, with half of those broadcasting across London and the South East. There are over thirty illegal stations across these four boroughs, making up 60% of all illegal broadcasters in North London...

Enforcement activity conducted:

Attitude 107.4FM - Hackney:  Transmitter removed on Thursday 14 February. This was secreted within a shaft and took four hours to seize. Working with Hackney Homes, access was gained by drilling through the brick shaft.

Bizim 104.2FM - Haringey: Fifteen warning letters produced - to be hand delivered.

Conshus 106.9FM - Tower Hamlets: Warning letter delivered by hand to night club on Wednesday 13 February for using Conshus as an advertising medium on flyers/posters.

George Lansbury House - Haringey: Two transmitters were disconnected on Friday 15 February.

Heat 96.6FM - Haringey: Transmitter removed on Friday 8 February.

Jiggy 105.6FM - Haringey:  Transmitter removed on Friday 15 February. This seizure necessitated cutting off a metal door (with council approval), as the illegal broadcasters had glued up the locks to prevent access.

Kasapa 104.0FM - Hackney: While tracing the studio on Tuesday 12 February, the transmitter and mid link transmitter were located; no action was taken at that time. Transmitter disabled and aerial removed on Wednesday 13 February.

Kool 94.6FM - Tower Hamlets: Warning letter delivered by hand to night club in Tower Hamlets on Monday 11 February for using Kool as an advertising medium for an event;  Warning letter sent to night club in Brighton on Monday 11 February for using Kool as an advertising medium for an event; Request made for the disconnection of three phone numbers related to the business of Kool FM (Studio, event management). One phone (T Mobile was disconnected on Wednesday 13 February.

Live 101.5FM - Tower Hamlets:  Transmission site traced to Anglia House, E14 7PW

Millennium Supreme 99.8FM - Tower Hamlets: Studio raid on Thursday 7 February. One arrest for unlawful broadcasting. One arrest on warrant. One person was arrested and cautioned for possession of drugs. Transmitter removed on Thursday 14 February.

Origin 95.2FM - Islington: Warning letter delivered by hand to night club in Camden on Monday 11 February for using Origin as an advertising medium for an event.

Rude 88.2FM - Islington: Transmitter disconnected on Friday 8 February. One male attended the vicinity and appeared to visually check the connections; he then made a phone call and left. Officers suspect that he was the DJ finding out why the station ceased broadcasting. The station stayed off air until Saturday.

Shine 87.9FM - Tower Hamlets: Mid link transmitter seized on Wednesday 7 February. Transmitter removed on Friday 15 February.

SLR 97.7FM - Haringey:  Request made for phone disconnection on Wednesday 13 February relating to event organisation. Transmitter disconnected on Friday 15 February.

Takeover 107.7FM - Hackney: Transmitter and aerial removed on Tuesday 12 February. Warning letter delivered to night club on Wednesday 13 February for using Takeover as an advertising medium.

Touch 94.0FM - Haringey: Transmitter disconnection on Wednesday 6 February. No installers attended the scene to reconnect while officers were in the vicinity. The station stayed off air until Sunday. Transmitter removal on Friday 8 February.

True 100.2FM - Hackney: Warning letter delivered by hand to night club in Haringey on Monday 11 February for using True as an advertising medium for an event. Transmitter and aerial removed on Tuesday 12 February.

Unidentified Station 102.6FM - Haringey: Transmitter disconnection on Wednesday 6 February. No installers attended the scene to reconnect while officers were in the vicinity. The station stayed off air until Friday.  Transmitter disconnected and aerial removed on Friday 15 February.

Xtreme 101.7FM - Haringey: Transmitter and aerial removed on Wednesday 13 February.

Operation Twilight has resulted in one studio being raided during the period 6-16 February, and equipment seized, eighteen transmitters being seized or disconnected and four aerial installations removed by Ofcom personnel. In addition a total of twenty one warnings have been given to advertisers on illegal broadcasters, including a number of night clubs, who have been hosting events promoted by pirate radio stations and four phones being used either as studio phones, or to publicise illegal events have been disconnected. Three people have been arrested in connection with the operation'.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stewart Home recommends...

Cheers to Stewart Home for including this blog in his selection at the The Wire:

'History Is Made At Night: A blog about dancing and politics with a focus on London and beyond. Working on the premise that “when the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake,” this site is rich in both historical and contemporary material. It’s full of really great images and covers, everything from 1920s jazz clubs to the contemporary hardcore underground dance scene and way more, with some of the posts delving into clubbing and dancing as they manifested themselves several hundred years ago. Still, the site’s webmaster started life in a different subculture so you’ll even find stuff about the situationists and anarcho-punk!'

See his full selection - Stewart Home's Portal. In good company with Wu Ming, Who Makes the Nazis and others.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Raid on 'Homosexuals and Satanists' in Iran

The Guardian reported earlier this month (10 October):

'Iran's revolutionary guards have announced the arrest of "a network of homosexuals and satanists" in the western city of Kermanshah, close to the country's border with Iraq, prompting fresh alarm over the treatment of gay people in the Islamic republic. The news website of the revolutionary guards in Kermanshah province, home to the country's Kurd ethnic minority, reported on Thursday that their elite forces had dismantled what it claimed to be a network of homosexuals and devil-worshippers.

A number of foreign nationals, including Iraqis, were also among those detained, the report said, adding that eight of the group were married to each other. The group were picked up from one of the city's ceremony halls, which they had rented for a birthday party. The guards' webiste said they were dancing as the raid ensued. The revolutionary guards claimed the group had been under surveillance for some time but did not specify how many people were arrested'.

The Iranian Lesbian & Transgender Network has since reported (16 October) that  'Dozens of people recently arrested in Kermanshah, Iran have all been reportedly released on bail'. In a country with various paramilitary/police agencies the Network suggests that it is significant that the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) themselves carried out the raid, the 'first time the IRGC has openly declared responsibility for confronting a community described as belonging to “homosexuals” and “satanists”. In the past, police and Basij forces were reportedly the forces responsible for raiding house parties and assaulting, harassing, and arresting guests for same-sex relations or 'Actions against chastity'.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has published more detail, drawing on an eye witness account:

“There were 75 guests in the party. A banquette hall had been rented therefore the owner had given permission to an all-men party to take place there...“about 60 to 70 IRGC and Basij forces entered the hall, around 12:15 am., after dinner was served. The agents had Kalashnikovs, pepper sprays, cables and Tasers. They started beating everyone, using swear words:’You’re not men, you’re a bunch of women. You’ve gathered here to rape each other. The government will never accept you. Faggot asses! (Korreh-khar’ha’ye Hamjensbaz)”

"The men were beaten harshly. Their cellphones and cameras were confiscated. When a young man refused to give up his cellphone, the agents attacked him and beat him mercilessly. A total of 17 Guests who wore colorful clothes or looked like Ahl-e-Haq [members of this group have distinct-looking mustaches] were taken to the local police station. The rest of the guests were kept in the hall, and they were forced to eat the cake and they were insulted while they were forced to eat the cake. After that, the remaining guests were forced to sign a pledge (they weren’t allowed to read the content), and were released.”

“Seventeen of the men who were singled out based on their appearances and religious beliefs were transferred to a police station and then shortly thereafter were taken to an unknown detention center. They were blindfolded at all times. They were stripped down to their briefs/underwear. They were photographed naked from several angles. Then they were given prison grey-suites, a uniform for those who’re going to be hanged. The detainees’ clothes and other belongings were placed in bags plastic bags. They were interrogated repeatedly. At the detention center, the men were taken to a very small space, a little larger than a phone booth, blindfolded, and they were asked to pull up their blindfold a little. The place was ‘very, very dark.’ They were repeatedly beaten and accused of being homosexuals and Satan-worshippers'.

Accounts in the Western press have mainly focused on the obvious anti-gay aspects of this raid, but it is also linked to the attacks on other cultural and religious minorities in this Kurdish area of Iran. Suspected 'Ahl-e-Haq' ('People of Truth') were seemingly singled out during the raid, followers of the Yarsan religion. This weekend 80 people protesting against the persecution of this faith were arrested in Tehran.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Anti-CJA Protest July 1994: Eternity report

I posted some photos and memories recently of a demonstration in London against the Crimininal Justice Act (and its 'anti-rave' powers) in July 1994. Here's a report by Rosey Parker of the same demonstration from dance magazine Eternity (no.21, 1994). The march of around 50,000 people went from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, via a brief altercation in Whitehall when some people tried to climb the Downing Street gates and were charged by mounted police. It finished with people playing in the fountains of Trafalgar Square on a very hot July day (click images to enlarge)

'The march started at 2:30 pm. It seemed to take ages to filter slowly out of the gates onto the road, and the first thing most people noticed was the huge police contingency. Rows upons rows of expressionless policemen to being with, a police helicopter buzzing frantically above and the odd photographer milling around. Several mobile sound systems (one on a bike) rode around playing music that made everybody smile with delight... everywhere you looked all you could see was smiles and hot people. All age groups, all races, all religions, were there. It was wonderful'

'everybody continued moving toward Trafalgar Square peacefully. People spalshed in the fountain and soaked everybody walking past. Because of the heat, being splashed was an indescribably orgasmic delight! What a day! What a vibe! The whole of Trafalgar Square was full of people, thousands of people, music of varying types, percusssion instruments, dancers, everything'

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Datacide zine London launch event

The 13th issue of Datacide, the international magazine for noise and politics, is out this week. As well as a conference and release party in Berlin this weekend, there will be a launch event on Sunday 20th October 2013 in London, 7 pm to 10 pm. The event will take place at Vinyl (4 Tanners Hill, SE8) the new record shop/cafe/gallery in Deptford. It will feature talks from Datacide contributors, including me looking back on the movement against the 'anti-rave' Criminal Justice Act, and Christoph Fringeli on Datacide magazine. Further details to be announced. 

Sunday nights sounds courtesy of DJ Controlled Weirdness, and there will be a bar.

Update: now confirmed that event will include talk from David Cecil:

- 'Confessions of an Accidental Activist – Sexual politics and homophobia in Uganda'. David was arrested in Uganda and deported earlier this year. He found himself in the media spotlight after he produced a comedy drama in Kampala (Uganda) which was mistakenly portrayed as a piece of ‘gay activism’. The US evangelist movement, international rights activists and the mainstream media have all contributed in different ways to misleading perceptions of sexuality in Uganda. Meanwhile, more substantial and complex factors of post-colonial socio-economic transformation have been (deliberately?) overlooked, along with the actual experience of daily life for LGBTI people in Uganda.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Datacide Launch in Berlin

The next issue of Datacide - the magazine for noise and politics - is out this week, and there's a release party and conference to celebrate it taking place next Saturday 12th October at Naherholung Sternchen in Berlin. 

There will be talks on 'sexual politics, rave, revolt, and repression' starting at  5pm including:

Introduction to the thirteenth print edition of datacide – the magazine for noise & politics

In search of the constructivist moment: from Russian Futurism to South London Speedcore (via 1975)

"It's not freedom that I want but a way out!" So proclaimed the ape in Kafka's short story 'A Report to the Academy'. This talk takes this ape's proclamation as a reference point for the construction of a map that could  be used to locate potential points of escape. The first part of this talk identifies what exactly it is that we may be seeking to escape from. We will then embark on an exploration of a series of problems, some of which may involve us asking: what is the meaning of Mayakovsky's "our''? what is a sonic community? and how exactly did the world change in 1975? Jason Skeet is currently completing a book about contemporary poetry. In the last years of the previous century he was involved in the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA) and this talk may, or may not, build on a certain number of exit strategies previously put forward by the AAA'.

Confessions of an Accidental Activist – Sexual politics and homophobia in Uganda

David Cecil’s contribution to this issue of Datacide looks at the politics of sexuality in Uganda from a very subjective angle. The author found himself in the media spotlight in 2012/13 after he produced a comedy drama in Kampala (Uganda) which was mistakenly portrayed as a piece of ‘gay activism’. The US evangelist movement, international rights activists and the mainstream media have all contributed in different ways to misleading perceptions of sexuality in Uganda. Meanwhile, more substantial and complex factors of post-colonial socio-economic transformation have been (deliberately?) overlooked, along with the actual experience of daily life for LGBTI people in Uganda. The author will give a brief presentation
focusing on the politics of identity in Uganda, and looks forward to a discussion on international sexual politics.

A Darker Electricity - a co-founder talks about the history of Spiral Tribe

Mark will be talking about his personal experience with the Spiral Tribe sound system and how that experience revealed the establishment's invention of plausible narratives to define territories and control them – whether those territories be physical, social, intellectual, artistic or electronic.

The party includes a top line up of noise/experimental/breakcore/drum & bass sounds:



SANSCULOTTE (confused images for the confused)


London event

There's also going to be more low key London launch event the following weekend - provisionally on Sunday 20th October,  7 pm to 10 pm, at Vinyl (record shop/cafe/gallery space), 4 Tanners Hill, Deptford, London SE8. Watch this space for more details...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Police raid at Royal Holloway College

It's the start of a new term in British student life, and yes no doubt at the end of Freshers Week some students are going out dancing, having a lot to drink and maybe something a little stronger.

But at the Royal Holloway Students Union in Surrey the local police obviously thought this was a big crime fighting priority. According to Workers Liberty:

 'On the night of Friday 27 September, at least fifteen police officers were present at Royal Holloway Students’ Union in Surrey, engaging in the profiling and searching of students attending a freshers’ week social. This included both uniformed cops with tasers and sniffer dogs and, even more bizarrely, undercover police disguised as students. The police had been invited into the student union by a commercial manager; no student or elected student representative authorised their presence or was consulted. The police were particularly targeting black students: an all-too common reminder of the police's systematic racism. When a group of students attempted to challenge the police action, one of them – former Royal Holloway SU President and current University of London Union Vice President, Workers’ Liberty member Daniel Cooper – was manhandled to the ground by seven officers and arrested. He was held until Saturday afternoon'. 

Follow story at Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance (facebook)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pavlos Fyssas (Killah P): anti-fascist rapper murdered in Greece

Demonstrations are continuing all over Greece following the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by fascists this week. An anti-fascist lost an eye on Wednesday after being hit by a police tear gas cannister, and numerous anti-fascists have been injured and/or arrested. Check Occupied London for latest updates.

A demo has been called in London at the Greek Embassy tomorrow (Saturday 21 September), 1 pm at 1a Holland Park, W11 (facebook event details here).

 From EAgainst.com:

'On the night of September 17th, a 34-year-old man died in the early hours of Wednesday morning after he was attacked by a neonazi (member of Golden Dawn) and subsequently stabbed in Piraeus. The victim has been named as Pavlos Fyssas (who went by the stage name of Killah P.), a hip-hopper involved in the antifascist scene, organising anti-racist concerts and other social activities in the area where he lived. He was stabbed in the chest outside a café at 60 Panayi Tsaldari Avenue in Amfiali, in the Keratsini district of Piraeus, shortly after midnight by a group of neonazis dressed in black and camouflage uniforms. The name of the 45-year murderer of Fyssas appears to be Giorgos Roupakias.

 More specifically, Pavlos’ friends made a remark against Golden Dawn inside a cafe where they were watching a football match. Somebody from a nearby table overheard them and made a phonecall to Golden Dawn members. Golden Dawn squads arrived almost simultaneously with DIAS motorbike police. Pavlos tried to help his friends evade the scene, but he was ambushed by another Golden Dawn squad and surrounded. Then another Golden Dawn associate drove with his car opposite in an one-way street, stopped and stabbed him to death, while the DIAS policemen did not intervene. One girl asked them to help but they didn’t. They only approached afterwards to arrest the man with the main suspect. Pavlos was taken to Tzanio hospital, where he died shortly afterwards. Before he died, he managed to identify the perpetrator and his accomplices, according to reports'.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Mass arrest of anti-fascists opposing the EDL in Tower Hamlets

The English Defence League demonstration in London yesterday didn't amount to very much, with around 500 taking part. Fears that they would pick up momentum in the aftermath of the Woolwich killing of soldier Lee Rigby have not been borne out.

The EDL had intended to march on East London Mosque in Whitechapel claiming that Tower Hamlets is under sharia law - presumably just because it has a large Muslim population. The police kept them well away from there however.  After meeting in Southwark by the south end of Tower Bridge, they were escorted over the bridge to the edge of Tower Hamlets at Aldgate and back again. Later a few of them wandered through Bermondsey shouting slogans then dispersed.

Large police presence on corner of Tower Bridge Road and Queen Elizabeth St SE1
 - EDL gathering point

A larger counter demonstration of several thousand people gathered in Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel where the EDL had originally planned to get to - a provocative gesture as the park is named after a local man killed in a racist attack in 1978. Speakers included Max Levitas, who fought against fascists in this part of London in the 1930s.

'Sisters Against the EDL'

 In an attempt to get nearer to the EDL, a large part of the crowd headed by an Anti-Fascist Network bloc set off round nearby streets. Some of them ended up being kettled by police, who later staged a mass arrest of anti-fascists under Section 12 and Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 - the laws which allow the police to impose conditions on public demonstrations and assemblies. In other words, they were arrested for diverging from the route imposed by the police - for little more than standing in the wrong road.

South London Anti-Fascists Banner
Final numbers have not yet been confirmed but it seems that in the region of 200 anti-fascists were arrested. Bail conditions have been imposed preventing those arrested from taking part in protests 'within the boundaries of the M25 where the English Defence League, English Volunteer Force or British National party are present'. This seems to be a deliberate police strategy to combat the resurgence of militant anti-fascism - South London Anti-Fascists and similar groups have shown that they can mobilise growing numbers of people at a time when the wheels seem to be coming off the SWP-led Unite Against Fascism.

A bail notice issued last night at Colindale police station to one of those arrested (Source)

On a musical note, I noticed that the Association of Musical Marxists had a banner out yesterday.

And in the park there was a great performance by UK Apache. After a rendition of his famous 'Original Nuttah' ('Bad boys inna london, Rude boys inna england') he sang Tenor Saw's 'Lots of Sign' - fantastic.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Abu Simbel 2005 by Ellen Gallagher

I caught the last day of Ellen Gallagher's AxME exhibition at Tate Modern on Sunday. Particularly taken with this Sun Ra homage:

'Abu Simbel 2005 is based on a print that hung in Freud’s library, showing the Temple of Ramesses II. Reworking the faces of the Pharaoh’s statues and adding incongruous figures, Gallagher also brings in a cartoon-like spacecraft derived from Sun Ra’s film Space is the Place 1974. The evident humour of the piece belies its knowing references, setting black historiography that claims a cultural lineage stretching back to ancient Egypt alongside Sun Ra’s fantasy of discovering a new homeland in outer space' (Tate)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Marching against the Criminal Justice Act, July 1994

Doing some research/recollecting the movement against what became the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 with its notorious police 'powers in relation to raves'. There were three large demonstrations against the Criminal Justice Bill/Act in London - on May Day 1994, 24th July  1994 and 9th October 1994.

This leaflet is for the second demonstration, from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square on Sunday 24 July. Estimates of the numbers attending ranged from 20,000 (police) to 50,000 (organisers).

'Supported by Bernie Grant MP, Tony Benn MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Paul Foot, Arthur Scargill (NUM President), Brenda Nixon (Women Against Pit Closures), Winston Silcott Campaign, Justice, Advance Party, Socialist Workers Party, No M11 Campaign, Hunt Saboteurs Association, Forgive us our Trespasses, Mike Mansfield QC, Squall'

Politically there were a number of tensions - the established Left, the SWP in particular, had woken up to the emerging movement. Their organisational skills may have helped increase the turn out, but some complained that something that was fresh and creative was being funnelled back into the traditional routine of A to B marches with speeches at the end. 

If there were any speeches at the end though, I certainly don't remember them. Trafalgar Square felt like a big party (though I don't think any sound systems were present other than cycle powered Rinky Dink), with people playing in the fountains on a sunny day.

'I squat therefore I am' - the proposed laws targeted squatters as well as free parties

There were some clashes with police in Whitehall, after some people tried to scale the gates guarding the entrance to Downing Street. Police on horseback charged the crowd there, and 14 people were arrested.

(all photos taken by me on the day - anyone got any memories of this demo or the others?  -more to come!)

See also: Report on this demo from Eternity magazine