1985 TV news report: Police charm offensive in Hackney

Another new upload to the excellent dorlec01 YouTube channel.

This short report covers a lot of ground – the background of the killing of Colin Roach in Stoke Newington Police Station, Hackney teacher Blair Peach being killed by police at an anti-fascist demonstration and of course the general racism and brutality of police in Hackney at the time.

These factors lead to the Hackney Teachers’ Association calling for the Police to be excluded from schools. Their position is summarised in the extremely convincing Police Out of School document which is also available on this site. As you can hear in the report, their proposals were taken up by 18 (about a third) of Hackney’s schools.

The lack of an acknowledgement from police representatives of the deep seated issues in their own force is troubling, but perhaps not surprising: “what has happened to us in the past – is in the past. We must look to the future”.

It’s hard to say in retrospect whether people actually believed that cops spending time disco dancing with kids whose older brothers and sisters still faced daily racism would achieve anything or whether it was a PR stunt. But we do know that serious police brutality and corruption in Hackney continued well into the 1990s.

The Real World War 1

Some friends and comrades have started work on an initiative to put forward a radical history of the first world war.

There is (inevitably) a blog http://therealww1.wordpress.com/ including a very good “about” page and reading list.

Other activities are planned…

If I get time I will try to put something together on the war and Hackney – any suggestions or contributions would be welcome.


Haggerston Food Co-Op opposes market forces, 1973

An incredible short documentary about a food co-op providing cheap food to estate residents – and being opposed by local shopkeepers.
Note the copy of Hackney Peoples’ Press on the wall at the 6:57 mark.

The dorlec01 Youtube Channel has a bunch of material of interest, which I’ll return to soon I think!



Radical History Network meeting February 12th 2014


Jazz agers, beatniks, mods & rockers, hippies, punks, ravers, riot girrls, revolting students, 2011 rioters and other youth-influenced movements here and abroad – what did they do to challenge the establishment and to put forward alternatives, and what can we learn from them today?

Wednesday February 12th
7.30pm, Wood Green Social Club
3 Stuart Crescent, N22 5NJ (off the High Rd, near Wood Green tube).

All welcome to come and share experiences, anecdotes, photos, archive material and general thoughts…

Note: Future discussions proposed include:
* Political policing and surveillance, and resistance to it.
* The 1983-4 miners’ strike – 30 years on
* Decent homes for all
* Radical childcare
* Resistance to World War One


“Breaking Ground” showing at The Rio, 23rd Feb


Breaking Ground is a documentary film about the London Irish Women’s Centre which was based on Stoke Newington Church street from the eighties until 2012.

I’ve previously covered the film here (including a trailer).

It is showing at The Rio Cinema, 107 Kingsland High Street E8 2PB at 11:00am, Sunday 23rd February.

Tickets are £6.50/£5.00 and can be bought online direct from The Rio.

Hackney Action (1972) – a community newspaper

Hackney Action was founded in June 1972 by Centerprise, who aimed to “promote a people’s paper. One that will reflect the feelings and attitudes of the people in the borough of Hackney.”

To me, it seems more community-minded and less overtly “militant” that the Hackney People’s Paper which had been published the previous year.

There were five issues of Hackney Action. The two I have (courtesy of Charles Foster) are tabloid six-pagers:

(click on the images below for larger versions)


Issue 2′s front page features the beginning of lengthy article by Centerprise’s Ken Worpole debunking the council’s “Hackney Cares” slogan.

“What is happening in East Bank” looks at the proposal to make the street in Stamford Hill a “general improvement area”. There’s a handy guide to the pros and cons for tenants and property owners:


  • “How I started a playgroup” by Barbara Berks
  • Demand for a public enquiry into a recent death from pneumonia and hypothermia at  childrens’ home “The Beeches”.
  • Green Lanes Tenants Association
  • Contacts/Ads (Centerprise, Legal Aid, Off Centre – a consultation service for young people, MP surgeries, Hackney Claimants Union, Hackney Multiple Sclerosis Society, Half Moon Gallery exhibition)
  • An in-jokey “fable” which might be a dig at some local characters.


Page 5 (above) is particularly good:

Daphne Morgan on Hackney Committee Against Racialism: “formed in March 1970 when Enoch (Rivers of Blood) Powell was making racialism respectable and threatening the whiter-than-whites with a rising tide of black babies”. Their activities thus far included producing leaflets, having a presence and banner at various demos – including a picket of a meeting of the far right Monday Club in Islington, and quizzing local election candidates (“none of the Tories replied”).

After the election, the group focused on lobbying the council about improving conditions on “ghetto estates” and challenging institutional racism: “We have still had no satisfaction on the question of discrimination in housing. No official or councillor has been been able to explain why so many immigrant families end up in the worst and oldest estates, whereas more modern ones such as George Downing are almost pure white.”

An article on the Hackney Playmobile (still running in 2014 as the Hackney Playbus!) by Pauline Weinstein. She places the playmobile as part of a wider upsurge in working class communities organising or demanding facilities for children after a freeze in nursery places by the government in 1960.

Pauline has reflected recently on the playbus, the importance of archives (hear hear!) and her life in this article for the Planned Environment Therapy Trust. She is now involved with the Working Lives of Older People archive.

The back page of this issue is an article about Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal in Stratford E15, emphasising its links with the community and funding problems.


Issue 3 came out after a respectable three months gap in October 1972. The lead article is about a rent increase for council tenants of 90p, which will have many of our readers choking on their cornflakes in amazement – but that is about £11 in today’s money. The article names and shames councillors who voted for implementing the rise (31) and those who voted against (27). It also mentions a proposed two week rent strike.

This theme continues on Page 2 with an article by Bob Darke, Secretary of Hackney United Tenants Federation entitled “Fight The Tory Rent Bill – It’s a class act directed against one section of the community – the working class”.

A previous entry on this website covers Darke’s involvement in and rejection of the Communist Party in Hackney in the 1950s. I was pleased to see he was still active in the 1970s.

Also this issue:

  • Poems by black youth Vivian Usherwood
  • Education in Hackney by Ruth Silver (against school closures and selective entry).
  • Two cheap recipes, including “Mackerel egg and sweetcorn pie for five” (a precursor to “A Girl Called Jack” perhaps?)
  • Hackney Trade Council Action Committee: against entry into the Common Market (“a new way of organising Europe in the interests of the Boss Class”), opposing the Industrial Relations Act, campaigning to make “Hackney a better, cleaner, healthier and more beautiful place to live and work in”
  • A back page feature on the Geffrye Museum by its curator Jeffrey Daniels

Page 4 of this issue is given over to notices and contact details (click on the image for a larger version. And apologies for there being a bit chopped off, an inevitable result of some covert scanning at someone’s workplace):


According to the Hackney Archives (who have copies on microfilm), Hackney Action transformed into Hackney Peoples Press in 1973.

Standing up to corporal punishment, 1904

An article by Dora B Montefiore, which appeared in the journal New Age in February 1904.

There were 28 Board Schools in Hackney at that time – it’s not clear from the article where this small bit of resistance took place. (See below for some notes on Board Schools)


Women’s Interests
Corporal punishment

Humanitarians, among whom I trust are many women, owe a debt of gratitude to Arthur Hall, aged 13, who on January 13 at the Board school, Hackney, vindicated by passive resistance his right as a human being to refuse willingly to submit to the indignity of corporal punishment.

If mothers held in the State the position which is their right, it is scarcely believable that these degrading exhibitions of violence inflicted on those still too weak to resist physically could continue. If a boy or girl of thirteen has the moral courage to offer the example of moral resistance to the terror of violence, which hypnotises for the time being his or her companions, that child, properly treated, has the makings of a Hampden, a Josephine Butler, or a Wilberforce.

According to the report in the Morning Leader, the North London magistrate, Mr. Fordham, “compared the boy to a jibbing horse, and said most people would hold that it was not cruelty to thrash a jibbing horse into submission.” As far as I have seen, no one has protested in print against the insolence of this magisterial pronouncement. Putting aside the very doubtfully effective cure in the case of horses (the most highly nervous and sensitive amongst animals) of brutal and senseless thrashings to induce them to submit to the will of man, I would ask Mr. Fordham by what right he dares, in his magisterial capacity, to compare the children entrusted by their parents to the teachers in the Board schools for physical, mental, and moral training to jibbing dumb animals, and advises and approves of their being treated as such?

I would remind him that Board school teachers and magistrates are paid servants of the people, and that they are entrusted with their offices in order that they may train, educate, and influence the children of the people in the highest ideals of good citizenship, and of morality based on the sanctions of what is best in socialised action, not that they may degrade and brutalise those children through the terrors of corporal punishment.

The Facts of the Case

As presented to the public in the newspaper reports, the facts of the case are as follows:- The Chief Technical Instructor at the Board school blew a whistle for the boys to fall into line, “but at that moment another boy had struck at Hall with a knotted rope, and missed; Hall laughed, and the instructor ordered him to stand out for two ‘handers.’.” It was then that Hall, feeling he had done nothing to deserve punishment of that sort refused to submit to the indignity, and the head master, who was then called, must have felt more or less in sympathy with the boy’s attitude, for the report says he advised the boy to submit.

Most lads would have submitted, would have taken the two “handers,” and would thereby have lost force and independence of character. All honour to Hall that he still passively resisted, and refused to hold out his hand to receive the traditional and conventional indignity, which, be it remembered, when all the forces of the powers that be are arraigned against a luckless youngster, is so much easier to submit to than to resist. “He would not, however,” says one of the reports, “be persuaded or forced into submitting to take a punishment which he did not consider he deserved,” and six times he was forcibly held over a bench while he received in silence six blows with a stout cane.

Nine days after the thrashing severe bruises were found by the police surgeon on the boy’s body. Do mothers realise that the bodies of their children are their own flesh and blood, and, that each blow inflicted on those tender organisms is a blow struck at their own personal dignity and at their own motherhood?

The senselessness of the punishment

To take no higher ground, but arguing merely from the comparison of the jibbing horse, which appeared appropriate to the magistrate before whom the case was tried, I am prepared to maintain from experience that more horses are made confirmed jibbers by thrashing than are cured of the habit by the use of this too often senseless method.

In Australia, where horseflesh is cheaper, where colts are seldom handled till they are rising four, and where the methods of breaking are sharp, senseless, and brutal, the young animal, not understanding what is required of it, often becomes sulky and inclined to jib. The only panacea known to the ordinary bushman is thrashing, and more thrashing, and still more thrashing. Sickening scenes, that have made my blood boil, and caused me to feel ashamed for male humanity, are the result; and Australia possesses a record number of jibbers.

Just as in old convict days what were known as obstinate convicts both in Tasmania and Australia were on several occasions flogged to death, so nowadays wretched, nervous, terrified horses, flogged into stupidity, lie down and die on dusty bush roads, the victims of men in whom the germs of senseless cruelty have doubtless been sown by previous cruel treatment.

From personal experience on two occasions with young horses, pronounced confirmed jibbers, and sold for a song, I can affirm that kind and understanding training and handling can change these poor obstinate dumb beasts into affectionate willing friends, eager to respond to the slightest turn of the wrist or pressure of the muscle of the leg when being driven or ridden.

I therefore deny Mr. Fordham’s assertion that it is necessary and not cruel to thrash a jibbing horse into submission, and I protest in the name of human dignity, of advanced morality, and of scientific pedagogy against the methods of discipline advocated by that gentleman, and carried out by the head master of the Board school, Hackney.


From: http://www.marxists.org/archive/montefiore/1904/02/corporal-punishment.htm


Dora B Montefiore (1851-1933) was a communist and suffragette.


Board Schools

The London School Board was created under the Elementary Education Act 1870 to set up schools in the area covered by the London County Council.

The Hackney division of the school board for London included Shoreditch and Bethnal Green and had offices at 205 Mare Street. The board was warned in 1872 that compulsory attendance could be achieved only after a building programme in the poorest districts, where absentees were “of such a low order” as to be unfit to mix with children in regular attendance.

From: ‘Hackney: Education’, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 10: Hackney (1995), pp. 148-165. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22718

Corporal Punishment

From Wikipedia:

In state-run schools, and also in private schools where at least part of the funding came from government, corporal punishment was outlawed by Parliament with effect from 1987.

In other private schools it was banned in 1999 (England and Wales), 2000 (Scotland) and 2003 (Northern Ireland).

(However in 1993, the European Court of Human Rights held in Costello-Roberts v. UK that giving a seven-year-old boy three ‘whacks’ with a gym shoe over his trousers was not a forbidden degrading treatment.)