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: