Shots fired at Hackney Council meeting, 1986

Glasgow Herald, October 23rd 1986

Glasgow Herald, October 23rd 1986

There is a news report about the incident here, which includes a recording of the ruckus:

The reporter expresses his surprise at the calm response of the Sinn Féin delegates. I think some context would probably explain that:

The speaker, Alex Maskey, joined the Provisional IRA at the outbreak of The Troubles in 1969. He was a barman and amateur boxer (losing only four times in 75 fights).

Maskey was interned twice in the 1970s and went on in 1983 to become the first Sinn Féin member to sit on Belfast City Council during the troubles. Whatever you think of his politics, being a lone voice on the council and a very public member of Sinn Féin at that time must have taken some balls. Indeed Alex Maskey survived nine genuine assassination attempts, which puts Pierre Royan’s starter pistol into perspective.

Cllr Maskey became Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2002 and was involved with brokering the ETA ceasefire in the Basque region in 2006. He remains active in politics, having recently commented on austerity and the rise of food banks.

Alex Maskey – Wikipedia page

Alex Maskey – The Making of a Mayor

Pierre Royan’s political career looks rather more subdued in comparison. He was elected as a Liberal councillor in Hackney’s Moorfields ward in May 1986, followed by the incident with the starting pistol in October of that year.

According to Wikipedia a by-election was held in March 1987 in Moorfields ward because of Royan’s disqualification as a councillor. I’m not sure if discharging a weapon in the council chamber was the cause of this disqualification, but it doesn’t seem unfair to speculate that it might have been…

Centerprise, An Phoblacht – and a suspect package

Former Centerprise worker Maggie Hewitt writes about our Centerprise mailboxes entry:

I would like to add that Box 13 was for An Phoblacht, the newspaper for [Sinn Féin -ed] the political wing of the IRA.

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In December 1980 or 81, a time when there were quite few IRA bomb scares, there was an incident when just before Xmas we received a package that was clearly not newspapers but  much heavier and box like.

We carried it out of the building and put in in the outhouse at the back of the courtyard outside our building.

The next morning was the Saturday before Xmas, our busiest day for the bookshop, so before opening we contacted the police who arrived within minutes who then contacted the bomb squad who then evacuated the building so we were standing outside the Rio  while they cordoned off the street.

It turned out the possible bomb was a box of  tapes by Christy Moore,  a very political Irish singer who often performed at the Hackney Empire. I think he would have appreciated the story.

Maggie has also contributed some recollections to the excellent A Hackney Autobiography project which is documenting Centerprise.

There’s a lot more to be said about the radical history of the Irish in Hackney. More posts on that eventually I hope – any pointers welcome.

Centerprise’s radical mailboxes

Centerprise, 1980

As well as being a meeting space, café and bookshop, Centerprise allowed community, and political groups to use the building as a mailing address.

“Box X, 136-138 Kingsland High Street, London E8” would appear regularly in radical publications from the seventies until the shop closed a few years ago.

Below is an incomplete list of groups that used Centerprise as a contact address throughout its life. (Some boxes were used by different people at different times – where I believe this has happened I have given each user a new line.)

Please comment below or send an email if you can fill any of the gaps or have anything else to add…

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Box 1: Hackney Against the Cuts (early 90s)

Box 2: Anarchist Communist Association (late 70s)

Box 3: ?

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Box 4: The Apostles (controversial anarchist punk band, 1980s) / Academy 23 (experimental music group, 1990s) / UNIT (prog rock, pop and improvisational music, 2000s) also SMILE magazine and other publications.

Box 5: The Black Women’s Network (1990s)  “is organizing SOJOURN II, sponsoring visits by black activists to Zimbabwe, India and Nigeria. Sojourners will study the role of women in relation to land use and ownership, and network with health workers (in order to better understand issues like AIDS, female genital mutilation, and nutrition). The Black Women’s Network publishes a regular international magazine called Linkages.”

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Box 6: Theatre of Black Women (1980s)  “Theatre is a powerful mode of communication and Theatre of Black Women is the only permanent Black women’s theatre company in Britain. As such we concern ourselves with issues such as Black women in education, health housing, feminism in history and in the Arts. Our theatre is about the lives and struggles of black women and provides an opportunity for Black women’s voices to be heard positively through theatre. We use theatre to promote positive and encouraging images of Black women as individuals, examining and re-defining relationships with men, living independent lives, giving and receiving support from other Black women, discovering their own Black identity, celebrating their Black womanhood.”

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Box 7: Hackney Not 4 Sale (2000s) opposition to Hackney Council’s post-bankruptcy sell-offs of property and community facilities.

Box 8: ?
Box 9: ?
Box 10: ?

Box 11: Hackney Jewish Socialist Group (1990s)

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Box 11: Hackney Trades Union Council (2000s)

Box 12: ?

Box 13: An Phoblacht – newspaper of Sinn Féin.

Box 14: News From Everywhere / Campaign For Real Life (1980s/1990s) Communist publishers of books, pamphlets and texts – with a tinge of the situationist / “ultra-left”.

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Box 15: London Psychogeographical Association / Unpopular Books / Workers Scud / East London Association of Autonomous Astronauts (1980s-1990s)

Unpopular Books: “Purveyors of proletarian literature since 1983. Peculiarly pertinent portrayals of proletarian pressure to usher inouternational notions that negate normal ideological identifications in a no nonsense way. In particular, publishers of London Psychogeographical Association material along with such gems as ‘Black Mask’ and Asger Jorn’s ‘Open Creation and Its Enemies’.”

Box 24: Unity Group (1990s) “Promoting unity between anti-fascist groups.”

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Box 26: Spare Change Press (book publishers – punk fiction and others) / Mad Pride (anarchistic mental health protest group) (1990s/2000s)

Box 32: Between the Lines (1990s) Humorous and slightly heretical left-wing fanzine. Also organised “looney left football tournaments” and discussion meetings.

Box 33: Stop Thorp Campaign (1990s) Opposition to new nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Sellafield.

Box 44: Melancholic Troglodytes (1990s/2000s) internationalist council communist pamphleteers.

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Box 48: Hackney Mental Patients Association (1980s)

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Box 48: Hackney Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) (late 90s, 2000s) Community politics in South Hackney. Later became Hackney Independent.

 

film – Somewhere In Hackney (Ron Orders, 1980)

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http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-somewhere-in-hackney-1980/

A great 50 minute documentary at the British Film Institute site that covers a wide array of the community and cultural groups active in the Borough in 1980, including:

There’s also  lots of great footage of bits of Hackney which have since disappeared or aged gracefully…

Thanks to Good News Hackney on twitter for flagging up this up.

A few screenshots:

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Caribbean House

Lenthall Road Print Workshop and Hackney Womens' Aid

Lenthall Road Print Workshop and Hackney Womens’ Aid

Centerprise, 1980

Dalston radical history walk: Thursday 23rd July

Once again from the crowded desk of our comrades at Past Tense:

Dalston radical history walk

Thursday 23rd July

meet 6.30pm in Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ

including:

  • housing struggles and gentrification
  • campaigners against police violence and oppression who got infiltrated by guess who
  • anti-fascist hairdresser
  • centres for community, for working class history, for refugees, for struggle …
  • culture
  • riot

and more……. Bring your own histories

Audio: Radical community arts centres in 1970s and 1980s Hackney – what legacy?

Below is a recording of some talks and discussion at Open School East in 2013:

It covers the origins of spaces like Centerprise (Dalston, 1971-2012), Chats Palace (Homerton, since 1973) and Cultural Partnerships (De Beauvoir Town, 1983-1999) and current projects geared at recording or re-presenting their histories.

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Open School East is based in a former library in De Beauvoir and describes itself as:

a unique space that brings together:

  • A free study programme for emerging artists;
  • A multifaceted programme of events and activities open to all.

Open School East was founded in 2013 in response to spiraling tuition fees and student debt. It was instituted as a space for artistic learning and production that is experimental, versatile and highly collaborative.

Central to Open School East’s approach is a commitment to foster cultural, intellectual and social exchanges between artists and the broader public. We do this by opening our study programme outwards, responding to our locality and providing an informal environment for the sharing of knowledge and skills across various communities – artistic, local and otherwise.

The OSE archive also includes recordings on of other past talks on topics including “Architecture of the De Beauvoir Tow Estate: A discussion between Wilson Briscoe and Owen Hatherley”

They have a whole bunch of interesting activites planned, including a talk by anthropologist Nazima Kadir on “The Dutch Squatting Movement and Self-Organised Groups” on Thursday 25 June 6.30-7.30pm.

Well worth keeping an eye on and supporting.

“Stand Up And Spit”: Tim Wells and Hackney ranting poetry

Attila The Stockbroker with Tim Wells

Attila The Stockbroker with Tim Wells

Long-time Hackney resident Tim Wells is heading up a project to document the ranting poetry movement of the 1980s. This was poetry done by working class people inspired by the DIY snottiness of punk.

His Stand Up And Spit blog is a great collection of documentation of ranting poetry, including 1980s fanzines and music press excerpts and some current interviews and reminiscences from former ranters (and some that never stopped).

A recent entry includes some excellent dub poetry by Hugh Boatswain on racist policing in Stoke Newington in the 1970s. Boatswain was part of a group of young people who met at Centerprise.

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Janine Booth

Also worth checking out is this piece by another Hackney resident, Janine Booth, on her time as a ranting poet, and why she gave it up to become a trade union activist. She has recently returned to poetry though, and has published an anthology called “Mostly Hating Tories”.

Stand Up And Spit events/gigs are happening in London too:

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Tim’s own anthology “Rougher Yet” includes a number of poems about growing up in Hackney and how the borough is changing…