Tuesday, December 26, 2023

My London musical/radical soundscape 2023

Reading other people's end of year lists is like listening to people talking about their dreams - occasionally interesting but mostly very much not. So this round up of musicking and political activity from (mostly) London 2023 is really for my own benefit and to document a few things which might otherwise vanish from the historical record or at least my memory.

Best gig of the year for me was Kneecap at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, a giant mosh pit in a sold out gig for Belfast Irish language rappers. Just up the road at the Roundhouse in December, Lankum were also excellent. Irish hegemony in my music tastes for the first time since the 1990s. Love the Roundhouse (also saw Big Moon there in May  and a couple of years ago Laura Marling), not so keen on the cavernous Ally Pally where I saw Sleaford Mods with John Grant, but a good gig.

On a jazzier tip, loved Ezra Collective at Hammersmith Apollo in February, and Laura Misch's mellow cloud bath performance at the Peckham Old Waiting Room. Nearby at the Ivy House pub SE15, The Goose is Out continued to curate some excellent folk nights including Martin Carthy and Stick in the Wheel. They also put on a monthly singaround session where people take it in turns to stand and sing one song at a time; I sang there earlier in the year and also at Archie Shuttler's Open Mic at the Old Nun's Head. Strummed the banjo and mandolin a bit.

In terms of my own music making the highlight was taking part in the Wavelength Orchestra event on the beach in Gravesend in June, an improvisational performance where assorted musicians sustained notes based on the duration of waves (although it was low tide and they were more like ripples). I took along my old Wasp synth, my dad's bagpipe chanter and my grandad's harmonica to add to the mix.


Went out for my birthday to a Mungo's Hi Fi night at the Fox & Firkin in Lewisham, checked out my local Planet Wax record shop and bar in New Cross. Enjoyed giving a Peckham anti fascist history walk for around 30 people in October, and chatting about my own history on Controlled Weirdness' 'Tales from a disappearing city' podcast.

I always appreciate the unexpected random encounters with music in the city, like coming across an Italian hip hop collective (Hip Hopera Foundation) performing in Beckenham Place Park or bumping into morris dancers by my local pub. Loved dodging the rising tide on the Thames shore for a dark 'Noise TAZ' in the summer.

Politically I am not a super activist at the moment but do try and get myself out there in times of emergency - and with climate change, war, anti-migrant racism and transphobic 'culture wars' it feels like that is most of the time at present. Or as Benjamin put it, 'The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule'.

The year started with ongoing strikes from NHS, rail workers and teachers, I popped down to various picket lines and protests. It has been hard to keep track of the endless state onslaught against refugees, including the 'Illegal Migration Act' which criminalised seeking asylum. Protest too becoming increasingly criminalised with climate emergency activists being locked up for months or even years just for walking in the road or doing a banner drop.  My most sustained activity was turning up regularly to defend a drag event at the Honor Oak pub in South London from far right opposition (which I wrote about at Datacide). I got increasingly fed up with anti-trans nonsense from fellow old lefties  and said so. The end of the year dominated by the massacre of October 7th and the seemingly never ending massacre in Gaza ever since - highlighted by both Kneecap and Lankum at their gigs.

Perhaps it remains true, as Frederic Jameson said, that 'it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism', but the neo-liberal capitalist utopia of a world united and pacified by globalised markets has vanished too. It is not hard to imagine a kind of end of capitalism as we know it, at least as a global system, replaced by endless ethno-nationalist violence and conflict for shrinking resources like water and arable land. Harder sometimes to hold onto a politics of hope for a better world, but what is the alternative?

'South London Loves Trans People' - at the Honor Oak pub in May

Stop the Migration Bill protest at Westminster with speakers on Fire Brigades Union fire engine (13 March 2023)

Refugee solidarity on London anti-racist demo, 18 March 2023

Gaza ceasefire demo blockades Carnaby Street, 23 December 2023

Anyway here's a slice of London's musical/radical soundscape as experienced by me in 2023:

Seen and heard in film above:

1. Striking Lewisham teachers, January 2023.

2. Ezra Collective perform Space is the Place, Hammersmith Apollo, February 2023.

3./4./5. Extinction Rebellion demo in London, April 22 2023.

6. Martin Carthy singing High Germany at Goose is Out folk club at the Ivy House SE15, April 2023

7. Wavelength Orchestra in Gravesend (OK not actually London) on beach next to St Andrews Art Centre, June 2023

8./9. Dancing in the streets in Honor Oak, defending drag event from far right opposition, 24 June 2023

10. Stick in the Wheel at at Goose is Out folk club at the Ivy House SE15, June 2023

11. Torquon on Thames Beach, Noise TAZ, 19 August 2023 

12. Khabat Abas, Thames Beach Noise TAZ, 19 August 2023 (Kurdish experimental cellist)

13 Leslie, Hilly fields, September 2023 (pop up electronic performance in the park)

14. Blanc Sceol,  Deptford Creekside Discovery Centre, September 2023 (acid sounds on self made acoustic instruments as part of 'Thorness and Green Man' autumn equinox performance with artist Victoria Rance)

15 Cyka Psyko - Sardinian rapper with Hip Hopera Foundation, Beckenham Place Park, 24 September 2023

16. Laura Misch in Peckham 21 October 2023

17. Palestine demo, Battersea, 11 November 2023

18. Kneecap, Electric Ballroom, 29 November 2023

19. Sleaford Mods cover West End Girls at Ally Pally 2 December 3034

20. Lankum singing The Pogues' Old Main Drag to remember Shane MacGowan at the Roundhouse, 13 December 2023.

21. Palestine demo, Carnaby Street, 23 December 2023

Sunday, December 24, 2023

'Do not play acid' - London club listings October 1988

London Club Listings from a local paper in October 1988 (Westminster and Pimlico News) in the midst of the acid house upheaval. KISS FM crew 'know how to make a rave swing' at Second Base at Dingwalls 'but steer well away from acid'. Meanwhile at Memphis/Legends DJs Rajan and Tim Archer 'do not play acid' but do mix in some Chicago House with their P-funk and r'n'b. Cafe de Paris offers 'salsa, soul and Balearic beats for a packed dancefloor of sloanes, trendies and those who know the doormen'. ACID! very definitely promised though at Asylum at the Harp Club (later the Venue) in New Cross with 'total mayhem, surprises and visuals'. Not sure of the exact music policy  at The Rok at Brixton's Fridge but there's 'delecatable deejays' and 'dishy dancers'.

('Top Twenty' chart here is just a pop listing from HMV, not representative of club sounds from the time).


Friday, December 22, 2023

'How to produce a feminist magazine': Bad Attitude - radical women's newspaper (1992-97)

Bad Attitude was a London-based radical women's newspaper that ran from 1992 to 1997. It was put together by a group of women (mostly friends of mine) operating for much of this time from an office in the anarchist squat centre at 121 Railton Road, Brixton. The paper was an ambitious project, aiming for high production values and international coverage while having no funding and no paid staff. Unsurprisingly it eventually ran out of steam but not before many great interviews, news stories and other articles.

The story of Bad Attitude is told in some documents in the 56a infoshop archive, which also has a collection of the paper. The first document is a letter promoting Bad Attitude to potential sellers (bookshops etc). It promises that it will be 'wicked, witty and wild' and 'will inherit and expand the success of Shocking Pink and Feminaxe - members of the collective worked on both these publications... with a mission to overthrow civilisation as we know it Bad Attitude will put blander publications in the shade'. Distribution was handled by Central Books, originally set up in the 1930s to distribute Communist Party publications.

Five years and eight issues later the collective issued a 'Bye Bye Bad Attitude' letter to subscribers. 

 'BA brought a class struggle, anti-state approach to feminism that is scarce in any nationally distributed publication, and we managed to have few laughs along the way. It was  something worth fighting for! But life is change and the core of BA members have moved on in different ways — in  some cases, out of London. Lack of enough money and lack of energy have re-inforced each other, though our low overheads have enabled us to carry on longer than others. 

Most imporant, we're feeling the knock-on effect of changes in the benefits system. It's no   easy to sign on, keep going with the odd earner on the side and devote yourself virtually full-time to a project like BA. With wage cuts, pressure on low-rent housing and squatting and all the other survival hassles, it's also become more difficult to live on  part-time employment. This has made it difficult to find new collective members who can make the commitment to a regular publication on the scale of BA... Still for the overthrow of civilisation as we know it'

The group hoped that others would pick up the torch and with this in mind they 'How to produce a feminist magazine or how we did BA' with various practical points and 'advice from burnt-out baddies':  'Don't be over-ambitious. When we started as a bi-monthly. we roughly kept to schedule for a year. We also got ill! In retrospect. this sense of burn-out hung over the rest of the time we published. even as we went to quarterly. to bi-annual. to....non-existent.  It's better to start off with a publishing schedule you know you can stick to without giving up the rest of your life. 

At the same time, photocopies won't get the word out. Printing an attractive. well-produced publication makes it more accessible to those who don't already have a determined mission to read extremist tracts. And remember partially-sighted women will be interested too in what you've got to say. Try and get as many people as possible involved from the very beginning. We started off as a group of five or six, with the idea of involving more women when we published. But women coming in often didn't feel quite the same commitment. even though we tried to work out ways of including new volunteers. When we were overstretched we got stuck. We didn't have enough women to work regularly and train new volunteers which made it difficult for new women to get involved. which meant we didn't enough of us to  open the office. put out the paper and train volunteers...and so on'.

Bad Attitude benefit party during Hackney Anarchy Week 1996, held at the Factory Squat in Stoke Newington (more details of the Week at Radical History of Hackney)

Bad Attitude stall at Pride, Brockwell Park, 1993 - with Rosanne Rabinowitz (left) and Katy Watson

See previously:

Remembering Katy Watson (Bad Attitude collective member)

Friday, November 24, 2023

Muzik magazine issue One: 1995 club listings and Drexciya

Muzik magazine was launched with this June 1995 issue by IPC magazines, the publishers of NME and many other established publications. The mainstream music press had been caught hopping by the massive dance music explosion of this period, outflanked by magazines like Mixmag, DJ and Jockey Slut. Muzik was IPC's attempt to get a slice of the pie, and to me it felt a bit of a step backward. Or what I no doubt ranted about at the time as a musical counter revolution applying usual culture industry techniques of elevating cover star music makers out of the relatively anonymous masses of DJs, dancers and producers. It was all about 'proper' musicians (even if electronic ones), making proper albums filed neatly into product categories of techno, garage, house or even, as in this issue, hardbag. Of course Muzik didn't start the 'superstar DJ' trend but I think they went further than before in separating out the music from the experience of dancing to it - it was less clubbing focused than say Mixmag.

Still there's extensive record reviews and the club listings are evocative, even if very far from the 'definitive club listings' promised on the cover. Here's an extract for a weekend in May 1995 with some of the many places (the more obvious ones)  I was going to at the time: Leisure Lounge in Holborn, the Cross at Kings Cross, the Mars Bar,  Ministry etc.

The Techno reviews section does at least include a critique of the state of music from the late James Stinson of Drexciya:

'Too many people focus on what label a record comes out on, rather than what the track actually sounds like. To me, that means there's something wrong. I remember the days when nobody cared if you were on Warner Brothers or Booty Up, just so long as what you were doing was good. When you throw a party, what are you spinning? Are you spinning the middle of a record where all the writing is at or are you spinning the wax? You know what I'm saying? When a group comes to perform, who's up on the stage? Is it the business people punching their little computers or is it the artists themselves? 

Drexciya won't be putting records out for a while now. We'll still be making music, but not records. We won't allow this form of music to just stop where it's at, but we're not even satisfied with the quality that we are producing. And I have to say that I really wish people wouldn't follow us. Be inspired, sure, but please don't follow. The minute we hear footsteps following us, we switch our style. We'll totally abandon what we're doing. We won't release any records or perform anywhere until things change'

I believe the magazine continued until 2003, and having fiddled around taking photos of my one surviving copy I see that Dance Music Archive have scanned in the lot. So if you want to read more go there!


Friday, October 06, 2023

100 years of anti-fascism in Britain

Mussolini's ascent to power in Italy in 1922 was the start of a terrible period in European history, followed by similar far right dictatorships in Germany, Spain, Romania, Hungary and other places - leading to war and genocide. Mussolini's admirers in Britain set up their first organisation, the British Fascisti, in 1923. There was opposition from the start, so 2023 marks the centenary of  both organised fascism and anti-fascism in Britain.

In his excellent  history of 'Anti Fascism in Britain', Nigel Copsey dates anti-fascism here from efforts to disrupt the founding meeting of the British Fascisti in London's Hyde Park in 1923: 'The roots of Britain's anti-fascist tradition can be traced back to 7 October 1923, when Communists disrupted the inaugural meeting of the British Fascisti (BF). This rally of Britain's first fascist organisation, attended by some 500 people, ended in 'pandemonium'. Two further meetings, both held in November 1923 in London's Hammersmith, were also disrupted'. These early British fascists were a wannabe paramilitary outfit with a main focus on anti-communism and defending King, Country and Empire (with anti-semitism never far behind). 

Their public launch in October 1923 followed several months of secretive organising but it was described in the Daily Herald (8 October 1923) as 'British Fascisti's Comic Show' interrupted by hecklers:

There does seem to have been a slightly earlier anti-fascist effort in London associated with the milieu around Sylvia Pankhurst's Women's Dreadnought (later Workers Dreadnought) paper. Sylvia, the most radical of the famous suffragette family, had by this point helped established a Communist Workers Movement independent and critical of the mainstream Bolshevik inspired Communist International.

In March 1923 Sylvia Pankhurst spoke at 'A protest meeting against the fascist reaction in Italy' held at Signor Dondi's Club in Clerkenwell (Eyre Street Hill).  Also on the bill was Pietro Gualducci, a long term anarchist exile in London  who had once been jailed in Italy for singing anarchist songs.The paper also advertised 'Il Comento', an Italian anti-fascist newspaper. 

In May 1923 it was reported that 'An Anti-Fascist Organisation, specially appealing to young people between 15 and 30 has been formed. It proposes to attend demonstrations, carry banners. collect, sell literature, and so on  on. It will organise classes and meetings for the young. A Red Shirt uniform is being discussed. Secretary, Mr H . T. Noble. 157 Church Street, Stoke Newington'. Copsey dates the first anti-fascist organisation to 1924 when the People's Defence Force was established in Soho, but this seems to predate that. How long it lasted is unclear but this does seem to be the first specifically anti-fascist organisation in Britain.

Interesting to see that the Dreadnought crew held a series of jazz dances in this period at Circle Gaulois in Archer Street off Shaftesbury Avenue. The fascists too were dancing, with a Black Shirt Gala Ball  held at the Cecil Hotel in the Strand with Italian fascists and their supporters  in February 1923.

[sorry to have missed Alfio Bernabei’s exhibition “Sylvia and Silvio” is at the Charing Cross Library earlier this year, which covered some of the above - see his article here]

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Sheffield Gramophone Shops

Sucker for old gramophone record sleeves, advertising the shops they were bought in. I found these examples in a Peckham charity shop, both of them from Sheffield I'm guessing in the 1920s. Cann the Radio Man sold musical instruments and record players as well as records, while Goddard's Pianos in the same city clearly also sold instruments too. If you want to know more about these places check out the exhaustive Sheffield Music Archive.



Saturday, September 16, 2023

Birmingham Stop the City 1984

We've previously covered the Stop the City demonstrations in London of 1983/84 when a couple of thousand  people, mainly young anarcho-punks, attempted and partly succeeded in bringing chaos to the financial centre of the city. The biggest event was in March 1984, by September 1984 heavy policing more or less shut it down with nearly 500 arrests. 

The idea spread around the country. Leeds Stop the City in August 1984 was by all accounts quite successful with around 400 people taking part, 100 of whom were arrested. Later, in 1985, there was a decentralised Stop Business as Usual with events happening simultaneously in different towns and cities.

But the attempted Birmingham Stop the City on October 11th 1984 was generally viewed as a dismal failure. Less than 200 people turned up and were contained by a large police operation, only occasionally managing to break away to little effect. Getting nicked in the Tesco meat department by plain clothes cops was not my finest moment. The night before some doors were glued up at banks and there had been some graffiti too.

Report from Black Flag, 10/12/84: ' 'We decided to meet at Chamberlain Square on the way noticed many banks had excessive numbers of security guards, shops had their windows greased to prevent paint getting on. A few people marched into Barclays to leaflet but got escorted out quickly. Leafletting was done on many matters. Several supermarkets had meat thrown about, people filled trolleys and either dumped them or took them to the cash register and refused to pay, saying no South African goods'.

Report from Green Anarchist, November 1984 - "Stop the City: we couldn't even stop a public loo"

The night before eight people who had travelled from London for the protest were arrested when their van was stopped by police. Charged with conspiring to cause a public the case dragged on for many months, with a committal hearing at Birmingham Magistrates Court in July 1985 and a trial at Birmingham Crown Court in December 1985 (I haven't been able to find out outcome of trial - does anybody know?).

'The so called evidence in relation to this charge is that the eight travelled together to Birmingham the night before Stop the City and during their stay in police custody the eight refused to co-operate and some shouted and sang for much of the time. During this time the police found a leaflet on the police station floor, not even on or near any of the defendants. The leaflet suggested actions for Stop the City such as sit-ins, blockades and causing damage to oppressive property. It went on to suggest that if arrested disruption should continue, non-cooperation with police and making lots of noise in the cells. The police are trying to claim that because the eight were  'carrying out' the second part of the leaflet they must have been intending to carry out the first and disrupt Birmingham so cauusing a public nuisance... if the eight are found guilty this will mean that to conspire to cause a public nuisance you need only to travel with others to a demo where anything like this might happen'

Black Flag 12 August 1985

Freedom, December 1985

See previous posts:

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Stop the City, London, September 1984

1983/84 saw a series of anti-capitalist 'Stop the City' actions focused on the financial centre of London and other cities too, including Leeds and Birmingham. In London, momentum built with large protests in September 1983 and March 1984 (I've written about the March one here). A fairly half hearted one in May 1984 didn't amount to much, but a more serious attempt to organise and mobilise led up to the action on September 27 1984. By this point though the police had got used to this mode of protest and had developed their own tactics for dealing with it - largely mass preventative arrest. 470 people were arrested, most of them later released without charge. A high proportion of people came from the anarcho-punk scene, but there was advice to dress in more casual clothes to avoid being singled out by the police. I did so, not sure I would have passed for a city gent but I didn't get nicked!

There were occasional short lived breakaways from police lines, as reported below: 'There was a small rampage not far from the Stock Exchange where windows were smashed and cars jumped on and later Barclays Bank off Cheapside had windows broken'. I recall somebody stepping up on the window sill of a bank and kicking the window in. Other than these brief moments there was a lot of wandering around aimlessly.

Dave M, who helped organise the London events as part of London Greenpeace, summarised the day as follows:

'On Sept 27th, maybe 2000 came - mostly anarchists and unemployed, as well as some peace and animal rights campaigners. Police repression was well organised and strong. It was impossible to gather at the City centre (St Paul's and the Bank of England, used previously, were cordoned off). Individuals and isolated small groups who were 'looking for the demo' were threatened with arrest, and soon left, disillusioned. Anyone looking like a punk was particularly harassed. 470 were arrested and held hostage (only 35 were charged) to break up the collective strength.

However, many people who'd organised into independent groups were able to do quick actions all over the place (graffiti, smashing bank windows, a quick occupation etc). 2 or 3 times 3-400 people came together for a march into the centre… Hundreds who were dressed up smart continued to float about (giving out leaflets, passing messages, doing actions...). But generally the City became a no-go area almost for us. Many demonstrators therefore decided to go to Oxford Street, and Soho in central London and were able to make quite a few effective protests at various banks, offices and stores etc.' (A Brief Account of the Stop the City Protests)

Report from Green Anarchist, November 1984

There was quite a lot of soul searching afterwards. The following chronology from anarcho zine Socialist Opportunist (October 1994) ends up asking 'People put months of planning into all this. Was it worth it?'

The general consensus was that it was 'time for us to move on, having learnt from Stop the City' as expressed in this response written on the day:

(there a couple of other responses in the same issue, full copy of which can be read at the excellent Sparrows Nest Archive).

Press coverage

Evening Standard calls for police to move in on the organisers

Guardian: 'Police swamp  City's 2,000 anarchists'

Benefit Gig

The night before there was a benefit gig for the Stop the City Bust Fund in Camberwell at Dickie Dirts, featuring among others Conflict, Subhumans and Stalag17. The venue was an old Odeon cinema that for a while had been a Dickie Dirts jeans warehouse before being squatted.   I think there may have been some Stop the City planning meetings in the same venue.

There's a little confusion about the Conflict/Subhumans gig, the flyer is clear that it was the night before Stop the City though some people (mis?)remember it as being on the night of the protest. 

Earlier that Summer Subhumans had recorded a song Rats about Stop the City, having taken part in the previous London actions. As lead singer Dick recalls:

"We're talking about thousands of people — a lot of them punk rockers, hippies, alternative types — all turning up, dressed up, making a lot of noise... bells, whistles and drums, that sort of thing. It was an angry party atmosphere, and it was just really refreshing. It was one of the first protests I'd been to that wasn't a CND march, and it felt slightly more relevant, more 'everyday' than a protest for nuclear disarmament. That was a one-subject protest, but this was against the exploitation of people across the world by the people who press all the buttons and control all the money — it was about the very  hold that money and profit and greed have got on society in general. It felt more urgent to be there. I went up there on my own, and met up with lots of people. I remember the band Karma Sutra from Luton were there.  At one point, people were being violently thrust around by the cops, and I overheard one of them say, 'If you act like rats, you'll get treated like this... ', which became a line in the song and is the reason the song's called 'Rats' , which may not be an obvious name for a song about protesting against capitalism" (quoted in 'Silence Is No Reaction: Forty Years of Subhumans' by Ian Glasper).

The lyrics of the song do capture the feeling of those days (maybe especially the line  'Co-ordination was not so good, But everyone did just what they could'!):

A sense of enterprise is here, The attitudes that conquer fear
Stability, togetherness, The feeling cannot be suppressed
Hand in hand we had our say,  United we stand but so did they
Hands in handcuffs dragged away, To cheers of hate and victory!

We fought the city but no-one cared, They passed it off as just a game
The city won't stop til attitudes change, Rats in the cellars of the stock exchange

Co-ordination was not so good, But everyone did just what they could
Unarmed with inexperience, We had to use our common sense
If you act like rats you get treated like this,  Said a policeman like we didn't exist
When the force of law has lost it's head, The law of force is what you get

We fought their calculations, Money gained from third world nations
All that money spent on war, Could be used to feed their poor
The papers played the whole thing down, Said there was nothing to worry about
The rats have all gone underground, But we'll be back again next time round

See also:

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger interview (1978)

An interview with folk singers Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger from 1978, published in the socialist  newspaper Militant (28/7/1978) after the couple had played at a Militant Folk Night at Wallasey Labour Club.  The interview includes  McColl's reflections on the mass trespass movement of the 1930s:

'The earliest songs I wrote were for factory newspapers, from 1928 onwards. At one time I was writing satirical political songs for five different newspapers. Only some were folk songs, but by the time I wrote "The Manchester Rambler' in 1933 it naturally slipped into that style. I wrote four songs for the Mass Trespass that we organised over Kinder Scout [in 1932]. One was for the Ramblers rights Movement, which was affiliated to the British Workers Sports Federation- but that's history now. the only one that survived was the "The Manchester Rambler' Another one started:(sings)

"We are young workers in search of healthy sport, We leave Manchester each weekend for a hike, Oh 'the best moorlands in Derbyshire are closed, to us, we ramble anywhere we like. For the mass trespass is the onlv way there is to gain access to mountains once again".

It's a very crude song as you can hear- but expressed our feelings. Nearly all the open areas were closed off. There were more than 3 million unemployed, and nearly half a million were young workers or had come straight from school at 14 on to the dole... A big hiking movement developed out of the young unemployed and from this all the best of the young militants came'


Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Marcuse - the barricade and the dance floor

Happy 125th birthday Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) , born 19th July 1898 and still spooking fascists from beyond the grave - see how he features in their ridiculous 'cultural marxism' conspiracy theory.

Marcuse took a more positive view of the counter culture and the radical movements of the 1960s than some of his Frankfurt School contemporaries, as he articulated in his 1969 'An Essay on Liberation':

'the hatred of the young bursts into laughter and song, mixing the barricade and the dance floor, love play and heroism. And the young also attack the esprit de serieux in the socialist camp: miniskirts against the apparatchiks, rock ‘n’ roll against Soviet Realism. The insistence that a socialist society can and ought to be light, pretty, playful, that these qualities are essential elements of freedom, the faith in the rationality of the imagination, the demand for a new morality and culture – does this great anti-authoritarian rebellion indicate a new dimension and direction of radical change, the appearance of new agents of radical change, and a new vision of socialism in its qualitative difference from the established societies?'.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Radio Citta Futura 1976

 1976 article about Italian radical radio station Radio Citta Futura (Radio Future City) from Red Weekly, paper of the International Marxist Group in the UK. The Rome-based station began broadcasting regularly in that year and played a role in the tumultuous events of that period. It was temporarily closed down by the state while covering the riotous demonstrations of the Movement of '77, as was the another Rome based station,  Radio Onda Rossa. In 1979  five  women involved with the station's feminist programme Radio Donna were shot and seriously injured in a fascist attack on the station.

The scan of the article is incomplete but there's some interesting information including the daily schedule for the station. This includes 'The Night of the Comrades' a late night programme where  'each worker on the station in rotation can broadcast what he/she wants' ('the freakier part of the station') and 'Programme for night workers' based on taped interviews. As mentioned in the article the proliferation of 'Free Radio' followed a court decision in 1975 that ended the state's monopoly on broadcasting - leading to the legal creation of commercial stations as well as political projects like this one. The interviewee - Sandro Silvestri - estimates that at this time there were 800 new radio stations 'in the whole of Italy and there are 52 in Rome alone... at least 120 stations are openly declared to be left wing stations, calling themselves "democratic" radio'.

The station is still broadcasting online (its correct name is Citta Futura not Future as stated in this article).

Other radio posts:


Thursday, June 29, 2023

Feminist discos/male violence (South London 1977)

An account of violence against women in the vicinity of feminist discos 'in the South London area'  in 1977. Slightly frustrating for a South London based historian that there are no details of the location or venues, but I guess the point is this was happening in many places.

Source is Women's Voice, August 1977. The women's magazine of the Socialist Workers Party was controversially closed down by the Party leadership in 1981 as it sought to centralise its control.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Speed (and other club listings), i-D 1995

Club listings from i-D magazine,  no. 135, April 1995, covering lots of places in Britain and Ireland, but with the photos all from legendary drum'n'bass club Speed, including shots of DJ Kemistry and Goldie. I remember dancing to the former there alongside the latter on the dancefloor. 

Tony Marcus writes: 'For the last couple of months, Speed (Thursdays at Mars, Sutton Row, W1) has been playing London's most futuristic, raw, experimental and sci-fi grooves. Resident DJs Fabio and LTJ Bukem spin the latest drum'n'bass sounds on dubplate for a crowd that regularly includes junglist heads like Goldie, 4 Hero, Nookie, DJ Rap, DJ Ron, DJ Crystl, Deep Blue and A Guy Called Gerald. The sounds are immaculate: divine harmonies and crystalline breaks that wash, float and massage the dancefloor. A few stray hippies and tantric types take the floor for some wildly expressive dancing, while small groups of skinny boys lean against the speakers and solemnly nod to the rhythms. The vibe is relaxed, chemical-free and unites musicians, music lovers and dancers for a few hours of sonic bliss. And at times it looks like a scene from William Gibson, as sci-fi skate and B-boy fashions collide under sounds for the next millennium. Recommended'.

i-D, April 1995, cover star Nikki Umbertti

Speed reviewed by Dom Phillips in Mixmag, January 1996:

'Speed was the brainchild of a young man called Leo, formerly employed in the dance department of A&M Records. He met Bukem hanging out in the legendary Basement Records in Reading, through breakbeat producer and shop owner Basement Phil. "Just basically wanted to hear the music I was into  under one roof," explains Leo. "l didn't want no big PR, just word of mouth. Because musically it's intelligent and it's Central London, you're gonna get the people you want".

So you get an older, more mixed crowd, into the music, there to dance, not show off nor take their shirts off. At  |Speed there's a quiet, determined appreciation of the  best drum n' bass has to offer and the hands and feet are  frequently flailing in delight come midnight. No attitudes,  just good vibes and even better sounds. No wonder   peed is perhaps the best midweek night London has got. 

"It's a personal thing down there," says Leo, paying respect for the hard work put in by his resident DJ crew of Kemistry and Storm, DJ Lee and of course Bukem and  Fabio. "l didn't want to turn it into a trendy West End  thing. It was just a room that felt good. I was lucky because I knew [club owner] Nicky Holloway..." 

[post last updated 18/12/2023 with added Mixmag article]

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