Tuesday, February 21, 2012

121 Centre in Brixton: 1990s flyers

The 121 Centre in Brixton, variously known as an ‘anarchist centre’, ‘social centre’ and ‘squatted centre’, was a hub of international radical activity and much else throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The house at 121 Railton Road, SE24 was first squatted by a group of local anarchists in 1981 and was finally evicted in 1999 (it is now private flats). Its four storeys included a bookshop, office space, printing equipment, kitchen and meeting area, and a basement for gigs and parties.

Over 18+ years it was the launchpad for numerous radical initiatives, some short-lived, others having a more lasting impact. Many groups used 121 for meetings and events, including Brixton Squatters Aid, Brixton Hunt Saboteurs, Food not Bombs, Community Resistance Against the Poll Tax, Anarchist Black Cross, the Direct Action Movement, London Socialist Film Co-op and the Troops Out Movement. Publications associated with 121 included Shocking Pink, Bad Attitude, Crowbar, Contraflow, Black Flag and Underground.

There was a regular Friday night cafe and many gigs and club nights, including the legendary mid-1990s Dead by Dawn (which I've written about here before). 121 was a venue for major events including Queeruption, the Anarchy in the UK festival and an International Infoshop Conference. It was, in short, a space where hundreds of people met, argued, danced, found places to live, fell in and out of love, ate and drank..

This is the first in a series of posts featuring flyers from 121:

September 1995 - a film night with HHH Video Magazine featuring recent events including the Battle of Hyde Park
(anti-Criminal Justice Act demo), the McDonalds libel trial, the 1994 'levitation of parliament; and the Claremont Road/M11 road protest. In the pre-web 2.0/youtube era, videos like this were a key way in which visual information from different movements circulated.

Wonder what the 'Russian Techno Art Performance' was?

February 1995 - a benefit night for the 56a Info Shop in Elephant Castle, with Difficult  Daughters,
Steve Cope & the 1926 Committee, Mr Social Control and others.

Martin Dixon remembers playing the song  'Animals' at 121: 'Steve Cope and the 1926 Committee arose from the ashes of The Proles. I used to play trumpet with them on this one song. Invariably the last song of the set I remember getting on stage with them in the packed basement of the squatted 121 Centre in Railton Road, Brixton. Every time I lifted the trumpet a dog would leap up barking wildly. “Whenever they need to segregate, experiment or isolate, or simply to humiliate,
they’ll call you animals ”.

Mr Social Control was a performance poet, he used to sometimes have a synth player
 and rant to Pet Shop Boys style backing. 

August 1995: punk gig with Scottish band Oi Polloi and PMT, who came from Norwich.

August 1995 'Burn Hollywood Burn' video night. Riot Porn was always popular at 121,
in this case film of the Los Angeles uprising, as well as squatting in Brixton, Hackney and Holland.

1992: Burn Hollywood Burn again! LA riots plus video of Mainzer Straße evictions in Berlin (1989).
The benefit was to raise funds for an early computer link up with the Italian-based
European Counter Network (ECN) amd the Amsterdam-based Activist Press Service (APS),
via which radical news and information was circulated.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dancing Questionnaire 23: Luc Sante

Luc Sante is the 23rd person to complete the Dancing Questionnaire. Luc has written extensively on New York cultural history, and much more, and as you might expect has savoured much of that city's legendary nightlife as well as clubbing in Paris and elsewhere.

1. Can you remember your first experience of dancing?

In 1963, when I was around 9 years old and in St. Teresa's School, Summit, New Jersey, our teacher would take us once a week to the adjacent Holy Name Hall to teach us square dancing. The tune was invariably "The Old Brass Wagon," and Mrs. Gibbs may have sung it herself--I don't remember a record. One week, though, she plugged in the jukebox and played "My Boyfriend's Back," by the Angels, and encouraged us to frug. I'm not sure the experience was ever repeated, but it left a permanent mark on me.

2. What’s the most interesting/significant thing that has happened to you while out dancing?

Oh gosh, that's a tough one... Possibly it was meeting Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Mudd Club, probably late 1978. I swear I knew at first glance that there was something exceptional about him. He moved in with one of my friends, and then another, and he and I were good friends until he became famous, circa 1983.

Basquiat at the Mudd Club in 1979
3. You. Dancing. The best of times…

From 1977 to 1982, roughly. Isaiah's, a reggae club in an upstairs loft on Broadway between Bleecker and Bond  approx. '77-'79; the Mudd Club from its opening on Halloween 1978 until it started getting press three or four months later (and then there would be huge crowds inside and out); Tier 3 on White Street and West Broadway (tiny, but excellent sounds), 1980-81; Squat Theater on 23rd Street around '79-'81, irregular as a dance venue but *the* place for the all-too-brief punk-jazz efflorescence; the Roxy around 1982--a roller disco that once a week would become a sort of hiphop-punk disco, often with Afrika Bambaataa on the decks. And sometime around '77 or '78 a gay friend once took me to the Loft, which I'm sure you've read about; it fully lived up to the hype.

4. You. Dancing. The worst of times…

White people attempting to dance to white rock, pretty much always the case until 1973 or so, when a great many people of my acquaintance suddenly "discovered" James Brown. And then the last three decades, when dancing opportunities have been few and far between.

5. Can you give a quick tour of the different dancing scenes/times/places you’ve frequented?

My first real dance experiences were all in gay discos, early '70s (I'm straight, but had a gay best friend): the (old) Limelight on Sheridan Square, Peter Rabbit's on West Street, and the amazing Nickel Bar on 72nd Street - where Robert Mapplethorpe, among others, would go to pick up young black men, and where the level of the dancing was so amazing I didn't dare attempt to compete.

Summer of 1974 in Paris: Le Cameleon on rue St.-Andre-des-Arts, a tiny African disco in a barely ventilated cellar - but it was the summer of "Soul Makossa." Nine years later I was back in Paris and Le Cameleon had moved to a much larger aboveground space--an exhilarating experience.

Also, besides the venues noted in #3, the Rock Lounge (sleazy, but good music) succeeded in the same space on Canal Street by the Reggae Lounge, circa '82; the World on 2nd Street a few years later (too sceney for words, but you could shut your eyes); assorted after-hours spots such as Brownie's on Avenue A (not to be confused with the legit rock club of the same name that succeeded it), although drugs were more of a priority than dancing or music in those places. Post '83 I can only remember the short-lived but excellent Giant Steps--a jazz disco--and a series of retro-soul clubs (don't remember their names, alas).

6. When and where did you last dance?

The New Year's Eve before last, a private party in Tivoli, New York, a pretty good techno mix.

7. You’re on your death bed. What piece of music would make your leap up for one final dance?

Tie: "One Nation Under a Groove," Funkadelic; "Got to Give It Up," Marvin Gaye.

All questionnaires welcome, just answer the same questions - or even make up a few of your own - and send to transpontine@btinternet.com (see previous questionnaires).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Nostell Priory Festival 1984

Nostell Priory Music Festival was held near Wakefield in West Yorkshire in 1984, a commercial festival with performances from Van Morrison, The Band, The Danmed and many others. It was also the scene of a violent police operation against the Convoy of festival travellers that prefigured the notorious Battle of the Beanfield in the following year.

The Convoy had emerged from the UK free festival scene in the late 1970s, as a nomadic community moving between festivals in trucks, vans and converted buses. For many travelling became a way of life all year round, not just in the summer festival season with the term New Age Travellers being invented to describe them. The name 'Peace Convoy' became attached to the Convoy as the peace camps at Greenham Common and Molesworth cruise missile bases became added to the itinerary. For instance in 1982, the Convoy arrived at Greenham and occupied land for a 'Cosmic Counter-Cruise Carnival'.

Thus the Convoy was lined up in the Thatcher Government's sights as part of The Enemy Within, along with striking miners, peace campaigners, Irish republicans and other dissidents.

At Nostell Priory, as at many other festivals including Glastonbury in that period, the Convoy has established its own more anarchic area on the edge of the commercial festival. As the festival came to an end, riot police raided the site, arrested 360 travellers (almost all present) and trashed their tents, benders and vehicles. Many of them were remanded in custody for up to two weeks - including in an army prison - before being convicted by magistrates on various trumped up charges.

There's a good interview with the late Phil Shakesby by Andy Worthington which describes what happened. Here's an extract:

'It was the time of the miners’ strike, and the police had been herding them off into a field and battling it out with them. When the police steamed into Nostell Priory, they were fresh from beating up this bloody mega-wodge of miners. The first we knew of it was about half past eleven, when Alex came steaming past my gaff shouting, ‘The Old Bill’s coming up!’ As I leapt outside and looked up this huge field, there was these great big blocks of bobbies, just like the Roman epics, at least four or five hundred of them. And they came charging across the field towards us, with these batons banging on their riot shields, shouting a war cry. Oh, my goodness!

They surrounded us just right of the marquee. At that point we were well and truly sorted. As I say, they had these mega bloody riot sticks, and wagons chasing through the site running into benders. Now they didn’t know whether there was anybody in these benders, and they’d run into them at high speed, just loving the way that they exploded. The tarp and all the poles would blow out, scattering the contents all over the place'.

Interestingly in terms of what we are beginning to find out about police infiltration of movements in this period, Phil recalls that undercover police were also active in The Convoy:  'The other thing that went down: these guys that looked just like us — there was about seven of them. They’d infiltrated us that summer and done a bloody good job. They’d been wheeling and dealing along with some of the other lads that did that kind of thing. As we’re surrounded, people are getting these lumps out of their back pockets and shoving them to one side. They were arresting us — arm up the back — and filing us out through the crowd and pushing us into the main bulk of the bobbies with the tackle'.
The following contemporary account comes from Green Anarchist magazine (Nov/Dec 1984) at the time:

'Previously the Convoy had been told by the police that there would be no trouble, as long as they moved on peacefully and got out of Yorkshire. It then seems likely, after a report that the Yorkshire police chief said that "they were powerless to act against the Convoy" that Thatcher hit the ceiling, and demanded action. Next morning at 5 am, 3 coaches and 10 van loads of riot police surrounded the camp. As the Convoy retreated to the Marquee the police trashed their vehicles, smashed windows, tearing out wiring with the excuse of looking for guns. There were no guns.

They then demanded to talk to the Convoy's leader 'Boris'. They had got that wrong too. Boris is the goose. The Convoy started quacking. But they were surrounded... [later] Back at the site, a scene of wreckage, the Convoy who had just donated to the miners, were helped by them with food and tools to mend the vans and 45 gallons of diesel, and gave their addresses for bail' (Convoy Arrested, Green Anarchist, Nov/Dec.84).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Snakes for a Rave & other Ludicrous Valentine's Tales


'The Delhi Police on Monday busted a gang of snake smugglers and recovered four cobras and about half-a-litre of venom after a tip-off from an NGO People For Animals (PFA). According to police, the venom extracted from these snakes was to be used in high-end raves planned for Valentine's Day in and around the national capital.

So far, snake smuggling for skins or species value was common. However, smuggling cobras for venom meant for raves has alarmed the police. They have arrested two alleged smugglers and booked them for illegally carrying cobras. According to police, venom and snake bites are preferred by drug addicts in raves these days. They suspected that the four cobras were being smuggled to bite junkies.

Police said this new found drug is popular in Delhi raves. Snake bite thus joins morphine, cocaine and the rest as a sort of exotic stimulant. Apart from four cobras, the police also recovered a dead snake. They were investigating the matter further. PFA got information about the smuggling of snakes and it consequently informed the police leading to the arrest of the accused.

PFA activist Gaurav Gupta said, "We had information that some cobra snakes and their venom were to be smuggled to Delhi from Rajasthan so we laid a trap to catch the smuggled snakes. Cobras are killed in large numbers and their venom is smuggled to Delhi and NCR to be used in rave parties for doping purpose," Gupta added.

(India Today, February 13 2012)


'Police will be deployed to guesthouses in Phnom Penh today, and at least one school has asked authorities to crack down on flower sellers in a bid to prevent young lovers indulging in Valentine’s Day activities including . The Phnom Penh municipal authority announced yesterday it would order “all guesthouses and hotels in Phnom Penh” to strengthen security to avoid “anarchy” on a day that is increasingly popular across Cambodia.

Mak Hong, police chief of the capital’s Sen Sok district, said he would send officers to guesthouses and Phnom Penh municipal police chief Touch Naruth has ordered owners to ensure couples who check in today are over 18. “We just want to prevent anarchy,” Touch Naruth said.

Chhun Sarom, director of Wat Koh high school, said truancy rates on Valentine’s Day had increased in recent years, but he hopes a video supplied by the Ministry of Education will encourage students not to skip school with their sweethearts today... Chhun Sarom has also asked police to ban flower sellers near his school'.

(Phnom Penh, 14 February 2012)


'Islamic morality police have arrested at least five couples in a Malaysian city for being intimate on Valentine's Day, local media reported on Tuesday. It follows similar operations in previous years.

The Star, the country's largest newspaper, reported that the couples were arrested at budget hotels in the Malaysian city of Petaling Jaya in the state of Selangor. The raids began at 12:30 a.m. local time and continued throughout the night, concluding at around 4 a.m. local time.

The five couples were arrested by officers from the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) for alleged khalwa, an Islamic law that prevents unmarried Muslims from being alone with someone of the opposite sex. Those arrested were identified as men and women between the ages of 20 and 30, the report said. If convicted, those arrested on Tuesday face a jail sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to 3,000 Malaysian ringgit ($984).

Last year, during an operation called Ops Valentine, Islamic morality police in Malaysia also arrested more than 80 people for alleged khalwa. Another 61 people were also hauled up for 'indecent behavior' and were enlisted for counseling sessions with the department. In 2005, Malaysia's Islamic authorities issued a fatwa to prevent Muslims from celebrating Valentine's Day since it is associated with vice activities that are prohibited in Islam'.

(Channel6 News, 14 February 2012

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Kraftwerk at the Lyceum, 1981

BBC Radio 6 have been having a Kraftwerk-themed weekend, based on the rather slender premise that it is the 30th anniversary of The Model getting to the top of the British singles chart. The track was actually recorded in 1978, but got a new lease of life and a number one hit in February 1982 on the back of the British synth-pop boom - which Kraftwerk were of course a big influence on.

I saw Kraftwerk play in that period and it was certainly one of the most memorable gigs I have attended. Live performances by the band in Britain were rare, and their gig at the Lyceum on 28 June 1981 was their first appearance in London since 1976 (and indeed only their fifth gig ever in the city). They were in the country as part of their 'Computer World' tour, the album of that name having been released in May. Four London gigs took place - one at the Hammersmith Palais and two at the Hammersmith Odeon, but it was the first at the Lyceum that I went to.

Poster for Kraftwerk's 1981 London shows

I can still vividly remember scenes from this gig, starting with the line of glamorously dressed new romantic blitz kid types outside the venue. There were the screens showing railway tracks during Trans Europe Express; the mannequins on stage during The Robots and most of all Pocket Calculator, where the four members of the group came from behind their machines and stood at the front of the stage with miniature electronic devices. In an act demystifying electronic music making they let people in the crowd generate sounds by tapping the keys on a wired-for-sound calculator. Arguably this was the group at their creative peak on the back of three classic albums - Trans-Europe Express, Man-Machine and Computer World - all of which they drew from at the gig.

Mary Harron reviewed the gig in the Guardian: 'On stage Ralph, Wolfgang, Karl and Florian stood before their synthesisers, dressed severely in black, backed by a wall of computers. As they proceeded serenely through their greatest hits video screens flashed bright geometric images and flashing lights put the audience in a pleasant state of trance... their concert was less like a visit to Metropolis than a store filled with marvellous clockwork toys'.

Review of the gig in The Guardian
Those marvellous toys had a fascination of their own - in that period most of us had never seen a computer outside of a special room at school. Synthesisers were becoming more accessible, but were still relatively rare. The school friend I went with actually made his own synth from a kit. I haven't seen him for years, but a quick search shows that he is now a professor at Oxford University with research interests including 'Phonetics, speech technology, laboratory phonology and computational linguistics' - how Kraftwerk is that?!

Steve McMahon, who was also at that gig, recalled: 'The Royal Wedding was about to happen and the riots in Toxteth – when me and my school mates went to see Kraftwerk play at the Lyceum in London. I seriously think that barring Iggy Pop a year later, at his drug addled most bizarre, this was one of the best gigs I ever went to'. 

Like Laibach later, Kraftwerk played around with totalitarian imagery such as uniforms which sometimes confused those who didn't perceive how they were subverting it with a critical intelligence. In a rare UK 1981 interview with Manchester's Beacon Radio, Ralf Hütter gave an insight into their thinking at that time: 'unfortunately a lot of control-oriented people have been using computers to store other people's data and take advantage of it. We didn't like that too much. In Germany there's very strong state control, a very strong bureaucratic system. The BKA have, I think, millions of people's data stored. This made us very upset. We're more concerned with working with computers in other directions: more creatively or productively, and not leave it to these kind of people who are only into compensating for their lack of love or personal acknowledgement. We are more interested in cooperating with computers as an extension of the creative side of the human being. Which I think is more the way society should be going: being more productive in expressing your ideas and fantasies and wishes, or visions. Anything that could help in making society a better place to live in, you know? And we feel we're only just starting to go in this direction, with the help of musical machines, computers or whatever it takes to put ideas across to other people. Communication between people in the technological society is what we are about'.

In the same interview he described 'The Man Machine' as being partly about 'certain aspects in society where people are mechanically reproduced, or bought and marketed, or robots: the original Russian word "robotnik" means "worker". That's really our identity, what we are'. Intriguingly he also said 'we're very much into situationists, so what we do now, and the next few steps, is what we're concerned about'. In 1981, nobody was name-checking the Situationist International in the media - was this really who Hütter was referring to? I wonder.

If Kraftwerk's influence in 1981 was particularly felt in the post-punk electronic scene (the Human League, Soft Cell, Cabaret Voltaire etc.), it was soon to spread even wider. A year or two later I remember hearing Afrika Bambaataa's Kraftwerk-sampling Planet Rock for the first time under the Westway at Notting Hill Carnival. Electro-funk, techno and so much more was to follow - but that's a whole other set of stories.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Vienna: in the fascist ballroom

The WKR-Ball in Vienna is an 'The annual ballroom dancefest of Austria’s pan-Germanist, far right student fraternities in the former Imperial Palace and official residence of the Austrian president in Vienna' (Martin Jordan). It has been going on for more than fifty years, and this year fell on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January), a date that also marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Guests included Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party, and Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front. The venue was protected by riot police from counter-demonstrators who blocked streets, delaying guests gettting to the ball.

Anarchistische Gruppe Freiburg report that 'A large coalition of leftist and radical leftist groups mobilized on the same evening with a mass demonstration held against it. From Germany, several buses were organized to Vienna. The bus from Frankfurt was pulled shortly after the border in Salzburg by a large contingent of police... All passengers were searched and photographed. On the left-wing demonstration, which went from Westbahnhof to the Hofburg, about 1,800 people took part...  At the end of the demonstration.... [there were] numerous direct actions, blockades and attacks on fraternities, Ball guests and neo-Nazis... In total 21 people were taken into custody'.

''No WKR - every year the same shit'

Austrian fascist leader Strache has sparked outrage with comments he made at the ball,  comparing the protest to the nazis' "Kristallnacht" pogrom and telling his supporters "We are the new Jews!". 

A placard on the demo declares 'Don't dance on my grave!
In the name of my great-grandfather... murdered in Auschwitz in 1944'

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Teenbeat Monthly was one of the wave of 1960s UK magazines published as part of the beat boom (see also Rave magazine).  A friend found a copy of the 1966 Teenbeat Annual in a skip in New Cross and passed it on to me. The Annual promised the 'Big Beat Star Parade', and featured The Rolling Stones, Beatles and Kinks on the cover, with features inside on them and many other bands from that period (Swinging Blue Jeans, Searchers, Yardbirds etc.).

Teenbeat was edited by Albert Hand, who also edited Elvis Monthly and the Elvis Special Yearbooks.

Every band featured seems to be composed entirely of white blokes, hardly reflective of some of the great music of the day. Still I love this great picture of The Kinks.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Remembering Bloody Sunday 1972

On  January 30th 1972, the British state killed 13 unarmed demonstrators on the streets of Derry (a 14th died as a result of their injuries a few months later). The dead, who included seven teenagers, were:

John (Jackie) Duddy (aged 17)
Patrick Joseph Doherty (31)
Bernard McGuigan (41)
Hugh Pious Gilmour (17)
Kevin McElhinney (17)
Michael Gerald Kelly (17)
John Pius Young (17)
William Noel Nash (19)
Michael M. McDaid (20)
James Joseph Wray (22)
Gerald Donaghy (17)
Gerald (James) McKinney (34)
William Anthony McKinney (27)
John Johnston (59)

The Bloody Sunday massacre of 30 January 1972 came after four years of popular insurgency in the north of Ireland, sparked by the civil rights marches of 1968. The immediate lead up to the day was described in the text  'From Bloody Sunday to Trafalgar Square' which I had a hand in producing following the 1990 London poll tax riot:

"What became known as Bloody Sunday then has often been, and frequently still is believed to have been, an act of undisciplined slaughter perpetrated by blood-crazed Paras. This assumption though is wrong and to a large extent lets the British establishment off the hook. By assuming that soldiers "ran amok" it puts the blame on individual soldiers who pulled triggers and killed people. Bloody Sunday was a planned, calculated response to a demand for civil rights, designed to terrify organised protesters away from protesting. It fits easily into the catalogue of British involvement in Ireland as a quite logical and even natural event" (Fred Holroyd, ex-British Army Intelligence Officer.)

In August 1971 internment without trial was introduced. On the tenth, Operation Demetrius was launched. 342 people were arrested and nine people killed by troops. In this period experiments in sensory deprivation torture were carried out on some people arrested, with the aim of psychologically breaking them. With hoods placed over their heads, they were made to stand spread-eagled against a wall balanced on their fingertips. They were kept like this for four or five days, being bombarded with white noise and beaten if they moved, denied food, drink, sleep, or access to toilets. At intervals they were taken up in a helicopter and thrown out while just a few feet off the ground having been told that they were hundreds of feet up (they were still wearing their hoods).

In protest at internment, a rent and rates strike was organised which attracted the support of some 40,000 households. By October this had escalated to non-payment of TV, radio, car licences, road tax, ground rent, electricity, gas and hire purchase (this a good idea that we should imitate- after all why stop at not paying the poll tax?). In response to this crisis the Payments of Debt Act was passed, allowing debts to be deducted directly from benefits- no doubt our rulers remembered this idea when they dreamt up the poll tax.

The introduction of internment was accompanied by a 12-month ban on all demonstrations. Despite this, on January 30 1972 tens of thousands of people attended a demonstration in Derry. The state's response to this act of defiance was a cold-blooded massacre. CS Gas and water cannon had already been used by the time the Parachute Regiment came onto the streets and opened fire on the crowd. The Army claimed that they were returning fire, but forensic tests on the 14 people killed showed that none of them had had contact with weapons and no weapons were found anywhere near the bodies'.

The official Bloody Sunday Inquiry eventually concluded in 2010 that the dead were innocent. But for years, the authorities attempted to hide the truth, with an earlier official investigation (the 1972 Lord Widgery report) including all kinds of smears and false claims that the soldiers had come under attack from gunfire and bombs. The fight for the truth was carried on for years by the victims' relatives and their supporters in the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign.

1990s Bloody Sunday Marches in London

For many years the main mobilisation of the Irish solidarity movement in Britain was for the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration march each January. I went on these marches in the 1990s, they typically attracted between two and five thousand people and started or finished in a north London area with a high Irish population like Kilburn or Archway.

Report of 1991 London Bloody Sunday demo from An Phoblact, 7th February 1991. The march went from Kilburn to Hyde Park, stopping at the Paddington Green police station in Edgware Road, notorious as the place where many people were taken after being arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Speakers included Paul Hill, one of the Guildford Four who has been framed for bombings in the 1970s and released after a long campaign in 1989.

A feature of the Bloody Sunday marches was that the far right (BNP etc.) often mobilised to oppose them, so that in the pubs and streets surrounding the demonstrations there would be skirmishes between anti-fascists and racists. In 1990 for instance, three Anti Fascist Action (AFA) members were jailed after notorious Nazi skinhead Nicky Crane was dragged out of a taxi in Kilburn in the vicinity of the Bloody Sunday march.  The biggest trouble was on the Bloody Sunday march in 1993, when hundreds of fascists attempted to attack the march at the assembly point in Hyde Park and then again along Edgware Road. 376 fascists were arrested before the march made it to Kilburn where the speakers included Gerry Duddy, whose brother Jack was killed in 1972. 

1993 flyer for march called by Bloody Sunday March Organising Committee
(Troops Out Movement, Irish in Britain Representation Group, Women & Ireland Network,
Black Action and the Wolfe Tone Society)

Report of the 1993 Bloody Sunday March in London 
(written at the time by European Counter Network, London)

'On Saturday 30 January 1993 around 2000 people took part in the annual Bloody Sunday march in London. The march commemorates the day in 1972 when 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators were shot dead by British paratroopers in Derry in the north of Ireland.

This year the British National Party and other fascist groups had announced their intention to stop what they called an "IRA march". For weeks before the march they leafleted football matches and other venues in an attempt to mobilise support.

On the day more than 350 fascists were arrested by the police, although only five were subsequently charged. The police delayed the start of the Bloody Sunday march, supposedly because of the fascist presence along the route. Eventually the march organisers informed the police that the demonstration was going to start, whether the police allowed it or not. At this point the police backed down and made no further attempt to stop the march.

As the march made its way from Hyde Park to Kilburn, small groups of fascists made occasional pathetic attempts to attack and provoke the march. However nobody was injured, and no demonstrators were arrested.

At the rally at the end of the march there were a number of speakers. These included the brother of one of those killed on Bloody Sunday, a speaker from Sinn Fein, Jim Kelly from the Casement Accused Relatives Committee (whose son is serving life imprisonment in relation to the killing of two soldiers at a Belfast funeral in 1988), and a speaker from the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism who compared the situation in Ireland to the rise in fascist attacks in Germany and elsewhere'.

1994 demo leaflet

The 1994 London Bloody Sunday demonstration

Report of 1994 demo with speakers including Ken Livingstone MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Hossein Zahir of Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (from An Phoblact, 4 February 1991)

1998 London demo flyer

1998 demo in London

Martin McGuinness speaks in London on 1998 Bloody Sunday demo

Bloody Sunday March in Manchester 1995

In 1995 the national Bloody Sunday march took place in Manchester. I noted at the time: ‘The march went well, it was as big as any of the recent London ones (about 2000), and there were four flute bands from Scotland. Two of them were right next to each other which made an amazing soundclash especially when we stopped under bridges'. There were clashes between AFA and fascists in the Clarence pub and along Oxford Road.

'Justice for the Casement Accused' banner in Manchester - an infamous miscarriage of justice case in Belfast.

Derry 1992: the twentieth anniversary 

In Ireland, one of the biggest remembrance mobilisations was in Derry itself in 1992 on the 20th anniversary. I was there and wrote this report for the 56a Info Shop Bulletin (May 1992):

'My first real taste of the British military presence came when the bus bringing us from Blefast was stopped at an army checkpoint outside of Derry. Troops boarded the bus, with one soldier walking slowly up the bus pointing his rifle at the heads of passengers.  In Derry itself the 'security forces' were keepong a low profile (by Irish standards), presumably because of the large international press presence. A low profile involved three helicopters in the sky, armoured police land rovers following the march and heavily armed RUC officers overlooking the route.

The march, organised by the Bloody Sunday Initiative, came at the end of a week of events in the city on the them 'One World, One Struggle' to mark the anniversary of the massacre. Thousands of people marched from the Creggan Estate, through the Bogside and into the Guildhall Square in the City Centre - the planned destination of the 1972 demonstration. As well as contingents from different parts of Ireland, there were supporters from Britain, Germany and elsewhere. A huge 50-foot long banner proclaimed 'We are the people of struggle, ours is the culture of chnage'. Relatives of those killed in 1972 marched at the front, and pictures of the dead were carried by marchers, as well as being displayed on murals along the route). At the end of the route a large crowd listened to speeches from Gerry Adams and Bernadette McAliskey.

Young children threw bottles and stones at the police vehicles (already colourfully decorated by paint bombs), but apart from this traditional local custom there was no trouble. However on the way back to Belfast, a window was smashed in our bus by Loyalists. Two people had to go to hospital to have their eyes examined for glass injuries. Within ten days of the demo three people had been killed by an RUC officer at Sinn Fein's Falls Road offices in Belfast, and five more people had been killed by a pro-British loyalist gang in a bookmakers shop in Belfast's Ormeau Road'.

Relatives lead the 1992 Derry march
So is Bloody Sunday now only of historic interest? No, it is a reminder of the murderous ruthlessness of the establishment when it thinks it may be losing. Prime Minister Edward Heath and the top brass of the army sent the soldiers in that day, and none of them were ever held to account. And in these times when we are supposed to believe that all soldiers are 'heroes' and to welcome the army without question into our schools and our streets, we should not forget that one of their historic functions is to kill civilians when the police lose control.

Bernadette McAliskey told the 1992 rally: ' I remember coming down that hill on that day 20 years ago. People were thinking "What can they do to us?", we are still here after internment and after gassing. But Billy Gallagher said to me "There will be murder in this town before the day is out'. And there was... On that day we knew real, naked fear for the first time. When the bullets were fired, people dived to the ground and crawled away like dogs in fear of their masters... Something else, an innocence died on Bloody Sunday. It was then that we realised that governments kill people'.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

The best known song referring to the events is U2's somewhat ambivalent Sunday Bloody Sunday. John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded a different song with the same name on their 1972 album Some Time in New York City:

Is there any one amongst you
Dare to blame it on the kids?
Not a soldier boy was bleeding
When they nailed the coffin lids

Bloody Sunday (This is a Rebel Song) by Hot Ash (1991):

At the Free Derry Corner the slaughter began
Some people fell and some people ran
Our civil rights banner was stained bloody red
At the barricades there they shot three people dead

[post updated 10 June 2022 with additional photos - I have donated photos, leaflets etc. to the Mayday Rooms archive, who are collecting material related to the Troops Out Movement and related Irish solidarity organisations].

Sunday, January 29, 2012

1980 Leeds Nightlife

247TopCat has done a great service to social and cultural history by putting some old 1980s photos on youtube, including this series taken at Belinda's, a club in Leeds, in 1980.

Entrance to the club in Leeds, on Briggate
(see discussion at Secret Leeds)

I've never been out dancing in Leeds, but these images are very evocative of the whole British early 1980s soul/funk/disco scene. 247topcat has also posted similar photos/films of an all-dayer at another Leeds club, Tiffanys in 1983 and at various other places at that time

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winston Riley (RIP) and Stalag 17

Reggae producer Winston Riley died this week. Plainly not everybody liked him:

'Winston Riley, an innovative reggae musician and producer, has died of complications from a gunshot wound to the head. He was 65. Riley died Thursday at University Hospital of the West Indies, where he had been a patient since November, when he was shot at his house in an upscale neighborhood in the capital of Kingston, his son Kurt Riley said Friday. Riley also had been shot in August and was stabbed in September last year. His record store in Kingston’s downtown business district also was burned down several years ago. Police have said they know of no motives and have not arrested anyone'.

But you've got to love the man who produced this...

...and this:

...not to mention this...

Stalag 17

Riley's Stalag 17 Riddim has been used as the basis for these and countless other reggae, dancehall and indeed hip-hop tracks (see for instance list at Jamaican Riddim Directory). I believe the original Stalag 17 track, recorded by by Ansell Collins and produced by Riley, dates from 1973. Riley himself put out a compilation album of versions called Stalag 17, 18 and 19, and later there was a tribute album Stalag 20, 21 and 22.

An intriguing question is why the orginal instrumental track was called Stalag 17 in the first place. Clearly it took its name from the 1953 movie about US prisoners of war in a German camp during World War Two; the film in turn taking its name from a real POW camp at Krems in Austria.

I suspect that the name simply reflected the continuing importance of World War Two in popular culture in that period. In England, children in the 1960s and early 70s grew up on a never ending diet of war movies and no doubt it was similar in Jamaica, from where thousands of people had left to fight in the war. Other Jamaicans had travelled to work in US factories and farms during the war - incidentally some of them being detained in camps and punished for 'breaking contracts', a policy that led to a 1945 riot by 1,000 Jamaican and Bahamian workers in Camp Murphy in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Of course The Skatalites had previously covered the theme tune to another war movie, The Guns of Navarone, getting a UK hit in 1967. Later, in 1978, The Clash reworked the theme tune from Stalag 17 - Johnny Comes Marching Home - as English Civil War.

Anyway, there's a sweet irony in the name given by the Nazis to a prison camp being appropriated by people they would doubtless have regarded as 'racially inferior' for not just one track but a whole sub-genre of African Caribbean music.
Billboard obituary here

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Copyright and Capital

Well I was going to join today's 'internet strike' and close down the site for the day in solidarity with the movement against SOPA  - the proposed US Stop Online Piracy Act with its repressive measures against file sharing. Maybe I would even leave a cool message like this one from Libcom:

But I couldn't work out how to do it on Blogger, so instead I'm just going to write a little about it. One of the features of the 'enterntainment industry' campaign to reinforce copyright on the internet and elsewhere is the obligatory wheeling out of musicians to argue that they need punitive laws like SOPA to protect their livelihood. It may be true that in some cases the enforcement of copyright means that musicians earn more money, and like everybody else they have to make a living. But copyright laws aren't there to protect musicians/artists/cultural workers, they are there to protect the interest of property owners - record companies rather than musicians. The copyright laws also work against musicians, as many discover when they realize that their contracts mean that 'their' work actually belongs to the company.

I was reminded of this when I came across this story today from Zimbabwe:

'Gospel musician Kudzi Nyakudya was last Friday arrested after he was found selling 200 pirated CDs of his own music. The diminutive Kuwadzana-based gospel artiste spent the weekend in police cells and was only released yesterday after his recording company, Diamond Recording Studios, withdrew the charges. Selling pirated CDs is illegal as it contravenes the Copyright Act, which makes it a criminal offence to duplicate or photocopy CDs, books and any form of intellectual property without permission. In an interview yesterday, Kudzi confirmed the arrest, but said his actions were largely influenced by the recording company’s weak distribution strategies... “Look, I have been getting a raw deal from the company (Diamond Studios), and I just could not starve, so I ended up duplicating my own CDs for resale,” he said' (Nehanda Radio, 17 January 2012).

For the musician, what starts out as free activity can be turned into labour for the record companies in which the musician becomes a 'cultural proletarian' whose 'product is from the first subordinated to capital and intended only to utilize capital' - or to give the full Marx quote:

'The same sort of work can be ‘productive’ or ‘unproductive’. Milton for instance, ‘who did the Paradise Lost for £5’, was an ‘unproductive’ worker. The writer, however, who turns out factory hack-work for his book-seller, is a ‘productive worker’. Milton produced Paradise Lost for the same reason as that which makes the silk-worm produce silk. It was an activity wholly natural to him. He later sold the product for £5. But the cultural proletarian in Leipzig who churns out books (such as compendia of economics, for instance) under the direction of his book-dealer, is a ‘productive worker’; for his product is from the first subordinated to capital and intended only to utilize capital.  A singer who sells her singing on her own initiative is an ‘unproductive worker’.  But if the same singer is engaged by an entrepreneur who lets her sing in order to make money for him, then she is a ‘productive worker’: for then  she produces capital’ (Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Vol. 1).

(quote via John Hutnyk, whose lectures on Capital I am currently attending; for a few more Marx and Engels quotes on music see this article by Mark Lindley - there aren't that many)

[Incidentally it is interesting that Marx describes labour for capital as 'productive' as opposed to 'unproductive' free activity - since it is common today to fetishise 'productive' as good as as opposed to the negative 'unproductive']

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Luton New Year's Day 1944

A facebook found object for my digital collection of old flyers and tickets - this one is for a 1944 New Year's Day Saturday night dance at the George Hotel in Luton.  'Please note - This Pass is not transferable and must remain in your possession AT ALL TIMES. If you leave the Ball-Room you must obtain a Pass-Out and on re-entry present it with this Ticket'.

The George Hotel, Luton, pictured in around 1935

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jill Allott RIP

A  while back I posted about the death of Katy Watson, feminist, Brixtonite, and radical (among many other things). Sad news today from my friend Roseanne of the death of somebody else from that scene:

'With great sadness I’m writing to let people know about the death of Jill Allott, a former stalwart of Brixton squatting and a wonderful friend. Jill died last Friday on 6 January from a secondary brain tumour, though she had fought off two earlier bouts of cancer. She was surrounded by family and friends.

Some of you might know Jill from the 80s and the 90s in Brixton, where she lived on Brailsford and Arlingford Roads, Sandmere Road, Brixton Water Lane and Mervan Road. Like many women involved in squatting communities, Jill trained in a manual trade and became an electrician. She generously shared her skills and knowledge, whether in Brixton or further afield when she trained women electricians in Nicaragua. Later, she studied to become a Shiatsu practitioner. She was always helping people – opening squats, wiring up houses, giving Shiatsu treatments or simply being there as a friend.

Jill’s enthusiasm boosted many anarchist, feminist, lesbian/gay and community projects. She helped at 121 Bookshop in the early 80s, and played a major part in organising women’s café nights and gigs there. She galvanised resistance to evictions, helped produce the women’s zine Feminaxe, and took part in actions against Clause 28 and the Gulf War.

Jill was also a talented drummer who played in bands such as the Sluts from Outer Space and Los Lasses. She loved a good party, especially if it involved dancing to reggae. Her birthday parties were among the best in Brixton.

The Sluts from Outer Space (late 80s), with Jill on drums

In the late 1990s she moved to Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. She had two children – Corinne and Finley – and continued to play an active part in communities there. Always a fighter, Jill helped form a support and action network for women affected by cancer. She worked as a Shiatsu practitioner in projects offering treatment to drug users and women facing health and mental health problems.

Many people through the years have known Jill and loved her. Our lives and struggles have taken us many places and scatter us throughout the world; often we move on and lose touch. But hopefully everyone who was close to Jill will read this, share our sadness but also celebrate the life of a great friend, activist and mother'

Las Lassies - Jill bottom left
I didn't know Jill very well personally - she was more of a friend of a friend in my Brixton days - but like many people around at the time I can say 'Thanks for fixing my electricity Jill'.

[photos by Jill's friends from Roseanne's facebook wall - hope that's OK]

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Malatesta Club in Soho

1950s Soho clubs are one of the enduring obsessions of this site, but I didn't realise until recently that there was a specifically anarchist club there during that period - the Malatesta Club in Soho, named after the famous Italian revolutionary.

The club seems to have first opened on May Day 1954 and 'was run by the London Anarchist Group from 1954-8, seven nights a week. Habitues used to write songs and poetry and perform them at the club, which also had a resident jazz band' (Ian Walker, Anarchy in the UK, New Society, November 1979). Walker's article includes reminiscences of 'Justin', a veteran anarchist, who recalled  '"I used to make up songs - sort of sing and shout, to a drum. Couldn't play anything used to hammer away on the drum . . . it was really something, all run completely voluntarily". The anarchists' coffee house (it never had a licence) was called the Malatesta because he was the only anarchist writer the group could agree on. 'Some were Kropotkinists and some were Bakuninists, but we all agreed Malatesta was a good guy.'"

According to The University Libertarian (1955), 'Founded two years ago with much honest sweat, the Malatesta Club provides a meeting place and social centre' (University Libertarian 1955).

Among the founders was Philip Sansom (1916-1999), one of those put on trial in 1945 for their involvement in the anarchist paper War Commentary. and Donald Rouum, a prolific cartoonist for the journal Freedom for many years.

Philip Sansom in 1945

Donald Rouum in a 1952 portrait by Frank Lisle 
on display in Wakefield Art Gallery

Among those who went to the Malatesta Club at various times were the later socialist feminist writer Juliet Mitchell, author Colin McInnes; gay Labour MP and possible spy Tom Driberg  and libertarian architect and writer Colin Ward. The club was clearly a key portal into the anarchist movement for the curious and the committed. John Rety, who went on to edit Freedom in the 1960s, was a Hungarian Jewish refugee who started out on the Soho literary scene publishing magazines such as Fortnightly  and the Intimate Review. His collaborator John Pilgrim went to the Malatesta Club to do a report for the Review and both he and Rety were drawn into the movement.

In his book The Consul (2002), the sometime English situationist Ralph Rumney mentions that  ‘in Soho, I found the Malatesta Club, the final redoubt of old English anarchists’, and the writer Michael Moorcock has said that ‘Listening to old guys at the Malatesta Club talking about the Spanish Civil War’ was one of the influences on his anarchism ('Mythmakers and Lawbreakers – anarchist writers on fiction', AK Press 2009). It is mentioned in passing in his London novel King of the City  where a character says  'my grandad used to complain that the anarchists (he never missed a meeting at the Malatesta Club, Red Lion Square ) had been sold out to the communists who had lost the Spanish Civil War'. Moorcock and Rumney also both hung out at the Gyre and Gimble coffee house, though not sure if they knew each other.

I'm still a little unclear about where the club was. In some references, it appears it may have started out in Holborn before moving to Soho (maybe that's why Moorcock mentions Red Lion Square). In 'Inventing ourselves: lesbian life stories' by Hall Carpenter Archives (1991), Sharley MacLean recalls her first lesbian sexual experience was with someone she 'met through the Malatesta Club which was an anarchist cafe, a dingy cellar in Charlotte Street'. But Colin Ward  recalls that it was in Percy Street, which runs off Charlotte Street, so maybe it was near the corner.

As an interesting aside, the Club may have had a role in UFO history. As reported in Fortean Times (January 2011): 'In Flying Saucerers (Alternative Albion, 2007, p74), David Clarke and Andy Roberts relay a quaint eyewitness account from historian Laurens Otter. In early 1954, a drunken taxi driver entered a meeting at the anarchist Malatesta Club in Soho, and asked for Sam Cash, a fellow cabbie. Learning that Cash was expected later, “…the tired and emotional taxi driver lay down across some chairs and promptly fell asleep.” At the end of the guest speaker’s talk, the chairman asked if there were any questions. Whereupon "the taxi driver suddenly woke, asking, ‘How do I make a mill­ion pounds?’. Robinson [the chairman] took the question in good humour and speculated the best way to make a fortune was to found a fake religion. A discussion about how best to do this ensued with Otter opining that a much better idea would be to get in on the flying saucer craze. Robinson concurred, suggesting that the two ideas could be combined for best effect. […] A few years later, Cash told Otter that the drunken taxi driver, whose name was George King, had taken his advice about melding religion with flying saucers, and it had worked. The rest, as they say, is history".

George King founded the Aetherius Society, claiming to have been contacted by the 'Space People' with the message 'Prepare Yourself! You are to become the Voice of Interplanetary Parliament'.

(well that's all I've been able to find out so far - would love to know more, including - what was the exact address? what kind of activities happened there? I've seen mention of chess, meetings and jazz- was there dancing? If you have any more information, or even personal recollections, please comment).

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Some London free parties and clubs 1995

Came aross this fragment in a letter I wrote a the end of January 1995, seemingly I had  had a busy month:

'me and Toby went to Taco Joes's for a Shambhala sound system party which a friend of Toby's was involved in. It was OK, but there were some odd people there including some who had been mixing their drugs in a new and dangerous combination - steroids and ecstasy. There was one bloke in particular stripped to the waist and taking up lots of room on the dancefloor with his excessive muscles and Arnie-style chest. As well as looking like Brixton bodybuilder of the year he was going round shaking everybody's hand and introducing himself in happy E-head style. Still it's better that he was doing that than getting pissed and smashing people's faces in with his little finger.

For my birthday I went  to Final Frontier at Club UK in Wandsworth... The flyer said 'Rejoice as the old institutions and cornerstones crumble under the onslaught of pagan techno culture'...

The week after I went to the Far Side at the Robey with Kim and Vanida and then we went on to a free party in a huge squat in Brewery Road (off Caledonian Road, but not the same place as New Year's Eve). Downstairs was a big smoke filled warehouse type space. All you could see was a single beam of light and shadows dancing - the sound system and the DJs (Virus sound system who did that party we went to at London School of Printing) were invisible but you could feel a wall of earbleeding noise from their general direction. Upstairs was a bit more laid back with another dance floor and loads of rooms to chill out in.

I also went one week to 'Up to the Elbow', the queercore club where Katy (DJ KT) does her stuff. It had moved from the Bell (which has been bought by the Mean Fiddler for heterosexualisation) to the Freedom Cafe in Soho. There were a couple of good bands playing - 'Mouthfull' who were a bit Nirvana-like but did a great punkified version of 2 Unlimted's No Limtes and 'Flinch' who were more in the Pixes/Throwing Muses mould'.

Explanatory notes: Taco Joes's was a cafe/bar in Atlantic Road, Brixton (strangely I remember dancing to Perplexer's bagpipe-sampling Acid Folk at that party); the Brewery Road free party was in the next road to Market Road where I went to another free party on New Year's Eve 1995; the London School of Printing free party in 1994 was in a squatted building by Elephant and Castle; The Bell was a famous indie gay pub by Kings Cross, later became the Big Chill Bar.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Battleship Potemkin

Well you can now watch the whole of Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film Battleship Potemkin for free on youtube. If you don't know the story - the disgusting soup is the final straw prompting a mutiny by sailors on a battleship in the 1905 Russian revolution; the death of a sailor prompts an outpouring of support for the revolt in nearby Odessa; soldiers massacre demonstrators on the Odessa steps; rebellious sailors respond by shelling the opera house; the fleet is sent in to attack the Potemkin, but the sailors on the other ships join the revolt. THE END. All this plus the great scene where the man who shouts 'Kill the Jews' gets attacked by angry sailors and an early positive portrayal of disability as a man with no legs leaps down the stairs during the massacre.