Neil Martinson’s Hackney photo archive

Neil got in touch recently to say that he’s uploaded many of his photos documenting working class life in Hackney in the 1970s and 1980s to his website.

There are sections covering protest, Jewish life, work, street scenes, homelessness and more. Well worth a look!


I first saw his work in the second of the excellent “Working Lives” books published by Centerprise. There is a great interview with Ken Jacobs who wrote the text of the books over at the Yeah Hackney website.

Neil mentions working with Centerprise as well as the Hackney Flashers in the brief “about” page on the site:

I first started taking photographs in 1970 around Hackney with a Zenith E while I was still at school. [...] By some kind of fluke I went to Newport College of Art to do a Documentary Photography course led by David Hurn of Magnum. It didn’t work for me and I came back to Hackney where I had been working with a local publishing project called Centerprise. I set up Hackney Flashers with Jo Spence and started to take more photographs in Hackney, especially around work. With a group of photographers and local historians we published a book called Working Lives Volume Two, a collection of personal accounts of work accompanied by documentary photographs. It has been very much inspired by A Fortunate Man by John Berger and Jean Mohr and, in a more subliminal way, the work of the Farm Security Administration photographers in the United States in the 1930’s.

I am hoping to get the chance to speak to Neil about his life and work soon.

Sunday: Hackney Flashers collective at Chats Palace

Hackney Flashers was a radical feminist photography collective, which I’ve previously written about here.

They have recently launched their own website, which is great to see:

There will be a 40 year anniversary event about the group (and its relevance / resonances with today) at Chats Palace this Sunday:

HACKNEY FLASHERS EXPOSED: 40th Anniversary of a Women’s Photographic Collective, 1974-1980

Sunday 12th October 2014, 2-5pm
Chats Palace, 42-44 Brooksby’s Walk, London E9 6DF

The Hackney Flashers Collective was active as a feminist agitprop group in London 1974 -1980. The group produced two photographic/graphic exhibitions addressing complex ideas about women’s lives as workers and as mothers, inside and outside the home:  Women and Work and Who’s Holding the Baby.

To mark the recent launch of the Hackney Flashers website the group are calling a meeting of the generations: how did they work as a collective in the 1970s? How is the struggle for the most basic of women’s rights being carried on now, forty years later?  A rare chance to see some of the exhibition panels from  the time and to discuss work still to be done. Free and open to all. Should be exciting!

@Hackney Flashers

The event is part of the East London photography festival Photomonth and will take place at Chats Palace Community Arts Center, a venue which has a history of radical community arts involvement.

The People’s Story of Woodberry Down


“A project to help uncover and celebrate the history of the Woodberry Down Estate over the past 60 years.”

Contents so far include some great photos of residents in the 1950s, an open invitation to attend their “Memory Shop” and share experiences of living on the estate.

In May, a Guardian feature on the recent radical transformation of Woodberry Down entitled “The truth about gentrification: regeneration or con trick?” produced a very defensive response from the council.

The People’s Story of Woodberry Down is being run by Woodberry Down Community Organisation “in partnership with Eastside Community Heritage, Manor House Development, Genesis Housing Association, Berkeley Group and Hackney Council.” So it will be interesting to see how critical of the council, housing associations and regeneration process the project will be.

10th Sept – Resistance to World War One: Radical History Network meeting

Radical History Network meeting: Resistance to World War One

In the build up to the first world war and throughout the war years there were strikes and industrial disputes, anti-war campaigns, conscientious objections and mutinies. These are the stories of resistance to the war that the official commemorations will not tell you.

What can we learn from those inspirational struggles which might help us to oppose and prevent the obscene wars for profit and power throughout the world which governments and military blocs are continuing to wage 100 years after the so-called ‘war to end all wars’?

Wednesday 10th September, 7:30pm
Wood Green Social Club, 3 Stuart Crescent, N22 5NJ
(off the High Rd, near Wood Green tube)


Nick Heath (Anarchist Federation) “Resistance to World War One”

Jennifer Bell (Hornsey Historical Society / Haringey First World War Peace Forum) “We will not fight! – Conscientious objectors in North London”

PLUS: Discussion on all aspects of local (NE London) resistance to the war as well as the wider national and international context.

Sound Kitchen: Britain’s first recording studio for women


The image above was posted on the Bishopsgate Institute facebook page.

This snippet in The Wire magazine (March 1987) reveals that the studio was underneath the Rio Cinema:


“Sound Kitchen” is a fairly common name for a studio, so it’s hard to find out more. Leave a comment or drop me an email if you used the studio, or have more information!

(thanks once again to Neil Transpontine for the tip off)

I’d encourage everyone to support The Rio (I’m a member) – local independent cinemas are a rare and special thing in 2014. They regularly show films that will be of interest to readers of this blog (for example “Breaking Ground” about the London Irish Women’s Centre in Stoke Newington).

I’d also suggest people to boycott Hackney Picturehouse as part of the campaign for workers at The Ritzy in Brixton to be paid the living wage.

Deaths in custody: Songs for Colin Roach

Colin Roach died of a gunshot wound in the foyer of Stoke Newington Police Station on the night of the 12 January 1983. The subsequent protests and community investigation are covered in the book Policing In Hackney 1945-1984.

There were also cultural responses to this tragic and still unresolved death…

Benjamin Zephaniah – Who Killed Colin Roach? (live recording, 1983)

Who killed Colin Roach?
A lot of people want to know
Who killed Colin Roach?
Dem better tell de people now,

What we seek is the truth,
Youth must now defend de youth
Who killed Colin Roach?
Tell de people now.

Murder, murder, some a shout
Some of you might have your doubts
But what about our liberty
We want public enquiry

Benjamin Zephaniah was a Hackney resident at the time of Colin Roach’s death and was present at some of the protests outside the police station about it and the subsequent treatment of the Roach family by the cops.

Some recollections from him at the 4wardever site.

(And yes, this is a poem rather than a song, strictly speaking.)

The Special AKA – Bright Lights (1983)

I got down to London and what did I see?
A thousand policemen all over the street
The people were shouting and looking at me
They said ‘Colin Roach’s family demand an enquiry’

The track was originally released on the b-side of the group’s “Racist Friend” single which got to number 60 in the UK pop charts. It then appeared as the first track on the “In The Studio” album, which also featured their “Nelson Mandela” anthem.

Demon Rockers – Iron Lady (1985)

Now the council they a take a big liberty
Them a give black people the worst property
Like Nightingale and Kingsmead seh inna Hackney
Me no want fi go end up inna bad property
They killed Colin Roach inna the place Stokey

Demon Rockers was part of the Clapton based reggae soundsystem Unity Hi-Fi and went on to be half of the jungle/rave duo the Ragga Twins.

Some of his concerns about housing had been borne out by this report by Commission For Racial Equality too.

Macka B – We’ve Had Enough (1986)

They said Colin Roach shot himself just for nothing

Macka B rose to fame in the Birmingham reggae scene in the early eighties but appears here on Mad Professor’s south London Ariwa label. The track names the large number of black people who have died in police custody in England when it was made in 1986. It was re-released a few years ago when David Emmanuel (formerly UK reggae artist Smiley Culture) died during a police raid on his home.

Linton Kwesi Johnson – Liesense Fi Kill (1998)

You can’t ask Colin Roach if him really shoot himself

Dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson on a similar note, with a (slightly grainy) video showing the victims alongside footage of protests.

With thanks to History is Made at Night

Next RaHN meeting, May 7th: Political Policing and Surveillance

Radical History Network (RAHN) meeting Wednesday May 7th


How and why are the police used to try to suppress public dissent and any challenge to the capitalist ‘status quo’?

What tactics have protestors and campaigners developed to successfully defend public rights and struggles for a better society?


Kevin Blowe from Newham Monitoring Project on community campaigns resisting oppressive policing and seeking to hold the police to account.

Dave Morris on London Greenpeace – possibly the most infiltrated group in UK history. Despite that it was a highly effective campaigning organisation – the group initiated the Stop ‘The City’ anti-capitalist mobilisations in the early 1980s, and the global anti-McDonald’s and McLibel campaigns in the ’80s and ’90s.

John Eden on campaigns against police corruption in Hackney in the 80s and 90s.

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

Wednesday May 7th
7.30pm, Wood Green Social Club
3 Stuart Crescent, N22 5NJ  (off the High Rd, near Wood Green tube)