Hackney Anarchy Week reviews/responses 1996

Hackney Anarchy Week flyer

Coverage below from:

  • The Observer
  • Earth First UK!
  • Gridlock discussion list
  • Goal! Magazine
  • The Fifth Times Book of Best Sermons

“Anarchy puts its house in order”
The Observer (UK) 26 May 1996

What do the following have in common: Ronald McDonald, a sandpapered testicle, a three-sided football match, Luis Bunuel and space travel? The answer is that they are all on the agenda at Hackney Anarchy Week.

This is a celebration of DIY culture that marks new interest in an ideology most had written off as dead or – in the year the Sex Pistols re-formed – sold out. Not true, say the ‘organisers’ of Britain’s biggest anarchist bash, who promise activities as diverse as a punk picnic, an anti-fascist football-match (no right-wingers) and a workshop on the Unabomber manifesto.

The McLibel Trial will be discussed, along with sexual freedom and the Operation Spanner case.

Anarchy – they insist – is alive and well and living in the UK. from the Twyford Down, Newbury and M11 protests to the anti-veal campaign, to the new frontiers of cyberspace, a new kind of anarchy is abroad – one that would have Tolstoy, Emma Goldman, Bukanin or the Barcelona syndicalists spinning in their graves.

Earth First UK
Action Update 28 June 1996

As part of the Hackney Anarchy Week in London there was a Reclaim The Streets action to draw attention to the fact that the Borough of Hackney has one of the lowest proportion of people owning cars in the country, yet still suffers from the ecological and social consequences of all the commuter traffic that passes through the area every moming.

A road blockade was planned and on Thursday 30th May an assortment of cyclists and pedestrians met at 7.30am to try to block rush hour traffic. About fifty people walked to a point where the road was due to be blockaded. Unfortunately the police had discovered the tripods and they couldn’t be used. Despite this everybody closed the main road and then walked and cycled slowly around the area.

There was a comparatively large police presence, both from local Hackney police and also quite a few from the Forward Intelligence Team there to gather infonnation about people involved.

Remember to keep your diary free on Saturday 13th July for the Reclaim The Streets festival in London. Contact Reclaim The Streets on: 0171 281 4621 for more information.

ANARCHY IN HACKNEY?
its coming some time, maybe?
(Nicked from here)

For ten days from May 24th Hackney anarchos enjoyed a festival “celebrating subversion in East London”.

It included a bookfair, a punks picnic, poetry, comedy, music, workshops and actions. Hundreds came to hear Ken Loach speaking about his films. A Reclaim the Streets action disrupted the morning rush hour traffic. There were different musical events every night. McDonalds was picketed. Class War won the football tournament (after nearly having a punch-up with the North London Buddhists). The workshops were interesting, varied and generally well attended. Our squat cafe was open and busy every night. Altogether it went really smoothly and was much appreciated by a lot of people. people came from France, Belgium, and even South London. the only intervention of Stoke Newington cops (who should have been more involved as they break the law more than any anarchos) was to trash two punk gigs, beat people up and nick them.

In many ways it could be interpreted as something of a barometer on the state of the anrcho scene in Hackney. All the known groups and individual organisers in the area had been contacted and invited to organise something. The resulting programme reflected the current range of interests and activities.

Few people were interested in organising actions apart from around environmental issues. Most wanted to put on cultural events which invariably cost money but were pretty good.

We received glowing coverage in the Hackney Gazette:

“(the organisers) are hoping the special week will highlight their positive work”

“CYCLISTS SHOW WAY. Pedal-pushers brought anarchy to Stoke Newington on Saturday……. one of the highlights of Hackney Anarchy Week.”

It seems that anarchism has become a recognised and relatively respectable position.

But what has all this got to do with revolt, revolution, transforming our lives and our world? Not a lot I’m afraid. There’s a lot of struggles going on in Hackney and elsewhere, and plenty to be angry about, to rebel against, and you don’t have to be a fulltime activist to be involved. The problem is to get together those who are fighting and who want to fight, who want to find a way to rebuild the world, to find what we really have in common instead of hiding behind labels and scenes that are scared even to confront internal problems.

The Anarchists’ Ball – 3-Sided Football
Report by Michael Hodges
Goal! Magazine 1996

Three goals, hexagonal pitches…The rules have changed over the years, but FIFA would have a field day with this lot. Goal shrugs off the shackles of organised leagues and hangs out with the anarchists.

It is unlikely that Luther Blissett is even aware of the fact that he’s the inspiration behind three-sided football, a form of the game that ‘deconstructs the mythic bipolar structure of conventional football’. But then Watford is not a hotbed of class war and, although it is rumoured that he organised a three-sided football league during his playing days, Blissett probably isn’t attending Hackney Anarchist Week in east London. Goal is, however, and it is here that we encounter the Luther Blissett 3-Sided Football League, named after the man himself. The game has been further developed by anarchist group the London Psychogeographical Association (LPA).

Played on an hexagonal pitch between three sides, each defending one goal, the aim is not to score the most goals, but concede the least. Goals are conceded when the ball ‘is thrust through a team’s orifice’, so dissolving ‘the homoerotic/homophobic bipolarity of the two-sided game’. Put simply, three-sided football is, ideally, an exercise in co-operative behaviour, with one side persuading another to join in a campaign against the third – thus breaking down the very basis of capitalist organisation – and all before teatime.

Hmm. Today’s game involves fellow anarchists the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA) who are developing an independent space-travel project based on the premise that all we require to travel the universe is imagination and a map of another planet. Accordingly, today’s match is to be played on the surface of the moon, or Hackney, depending on who you believe.

Gathering in St. Barnabas church hall, the assembled anarchists, amateur astronauts, baffled hacks and the merely curious are asked to form three groups, autonomously of course, and issued with Bartholomew’s maps of the moon’s surface.

John Eden of the AAA joins our side, Group One. “We’re going to the moon now to find a suitable site to play three-sided football. We’re starting from one of the lunar seas, the Mare Heraculem.” So, we begin milling around looking for a football pitch and resisting all bourgeois notions of imposed order. Consequently we fail to get anything together. Perusal of the map suggests that the north end of the moon is flattest, and thus more suitable for a pitch. Eventually, following what suspiciously sounds like an order to get on with it, we start out, and immediately get lost. No wonder. According to the map, we are in a 20-mile crater with no obvious way out.

A friendly local stops to offer assistance. “What you looking for mate?” The north end of the moon. Unimpressed, he walks off to the pub, muttering. It’s tempting to join him but at that very moment one of our number finds a street corner and, according to the map, Apollo 13’s landing site. Appropriately, the American flag is found – or at least a pair of trousers on a line. Beneath them, uncannily, at some point in the past goalposts have been painted on the wall. John looks triumphant; his plan (sorry, autonomous collective decision) is working. Sadly, if not strangely, the playing area is only the width of an east London pavement. Defeated, we return to the Mare Heraculem (let’s call it the church hall for convenience).

Groups Two and Three report back. A serious and politically committed conversation ensues, punctuated only by the mobile phone of another journalist. He is, perhaps, a man who hasn’t got the hang of the property-is-theft side of anarchism. Group Two report that not only did they find a spaceship (to be expected on the moon) but also a ‘No Ball Games’ sign, which is something of a blow to our hopes.

The third group have found a part of the moon which bears astonishing resemblance to Grove Street Park. One astronaut thinks carefully, “It’s probably better to play on grass.” Conventional? Probably. Bourgeois? Perhaps. Sensible? Definitely.

We head for the park. Richard Essex of the LPA gives us a short lecture. “Three-sided football offers unique problems. How do you keep your team together? What is your identity? The very boundaries of what a team actually is can loosen; we can discover new ways of organisation.”

It is at this point of anti-hierarchical anarchist debate that the correspondent from another football magazine chooses to ask Richard Essex if he is in charge. This really is the wrong question. Essex, kindly, lets it go and continues. “This is not just a case of scoring goals and its not just about footballing skills, other skills are required, too.”

Mainly, it seems, the skill to trick people from another team into thinking you are going to form an alliance with them. This is illustrated early on in proceedings when Jason Skeet of the AAA, calling for the ball, takes delivery of the pass and promptly scores in the goal of the side the pass came from. Embarrassingly, this is the end that Goal is defending. More embarrassingly, it is one of our representatives who has been so obviously and completely duped. Worse still, it’s me. It has taken a very short time to realise that with three sides playing one is going to be picked on. It is us.

Both the other two groups press towards our goal, indulging in an orgy of free-scoring libertarian collectivism. The attempt to defend is made all the harder by not knowing any of the people on your side, while furthermore most of them are turned out in gear that could best be described as ‘New Age’. Gradually I recognise the man with the purple spiral on his head as being on my side. We start to develop an understanding down the right-hand side. Unfortunately, it isn’t an understanding of three-sided football.

We remain under the cosh and the score reaches 4-0-0. But then Group Three let in a goal and suddenly the wisdom of their pact with Group Two seems less sure. Tentative steps are taken to reform the on-pitch alliance, but talk of oppressive structures and fascistic centre-forwards gets us nowhere. Then a burly Australian in a rugby shirt, who’s come for the fun, barges through and lays it on. The goal may be no more than a discarded Cure T-shirt and a smelly black jumper, but it’s there in front of me. I shoot, I score, the Australian cuddles me. We’re 4-1-1 and the game is anyone’s.

A singular feature of three-sided football is that casual passers-by are as entitled to play as the original participants. Before long an Italian runs on and proceeds to push, dig, goal-hang and score with all the flamboyance and petulance his footballing heritage can muster. Ignoring one third of the pitch, he’s either a fascist or he doesn’t see the third goal, but as his only words of English are “Goal! Goal!”, it’s difficult to find out which.

The man runs riot and soon the scores are in the region of 5-3-6, but no one is really sure. The more professional of the anarchists respond to the challenge in a suspiciously organised way. John, however, maintains a rigorously un-ordered democracy, regularly swapping keepers and giving the ball away whenever the build-up looks promising. Jason, in Group Two, has no such qualms, taking advantage of a pitch which allows him to be both libero and striker.

The correspondent from another football magazine, unable to play because he is wearing an Armani suit of doubtful provenance, looks on from the sidelines, baffled. Our Italian guest, unaware of three-sided football’s commitment to the non-fostering of aggression or competitiveness drifts off when it becomes apparent that everyone else is ideologically unwilling to fight for victory at all costs, or in my case, simply too knackered to carry on.

The cure T-shirt is recovered, breath is regained, and ‘homoerotic/homophobic bipolarity’ declared soundly beaten. We head off autonomously and literally, over the moon.

Christmas, King Herod and Anarchist Football
Rev Mike Starkey
Appears in The Fifth Times Book of Best Sermons (Cassell, 1999), edited by Ruth Gledhill

[Needless to say this includes some dubious 3rd hand reporting embellished with some outright nonsense about goals being ripped down, which of course didn’t happen at Hackney Anarchy Week. Just goes to show you can’t trust a man of the cloth!]

One of my favourite stories from the Hackney Gazette this year was their report on the annual Anarchists’ Five-a-side Football Tournament. No, this is serious. Every year the local Anarchist community celebrates Hackney Anarchy Week. And the centrepiece of the week is a grand picnic in the park and football tournament. Now, you might think the idea of Anarchist football is a contradiction in terms. After all, anarchy means the absence of order or rules. It comes from the Greek word anarchos which means ‘without a ruler’. And all my fears were confirmed when I read the Gazette’s account of the games.

During the football matches, said the reporter, ‘anarchy prevailed’. It all came to a great climax as the matches ended with the goal posts being symbolically ripped down. Presumably by way of protest against people dictating to them where they ought to be kicking, or drawing oppressive distinctions between real goals and missed goals. Far better, thought the Hackney Anarchists, to rip down the goals altogether so that everybody could do their own thing.

I enjoyed the report. This was partly due to some unintentional irony. The reporter informed us that all the Anarchists wore ‘bright Mohican hairstyles’ and ‘trademark safety pins’. Now I find it oddly heart-warming to think of Anarchists having a rigid dress code, or trademark anything. Anarchist uniform does rather seem like a contradiction in terms. I would have thought any consistent, self -respecting group of Anarchists might wear a chaotic mixture of pinstripe suits, cassocks, boiler suits and pyjamas- the only ‘rule’ being that there are no rules. If I were an Anarchist leader (which, of course, I couldn’t be since they don’t have leaders), I’d excommunicate as a heretic any member who dressed remotely like another one.

But there was a deeper irony afoot. Before the event, posters went up around Hackney promoting it. And on these posters the event in the park was billed as a ‘celebration of subversion in east London’. The young anarchists were claiming to be subversives: in other words, challenging the basic values of our society, undermining all that the rest of us hold dear. In fact, their soccer tournament turned out to embody, in miniature, all the central values of their generation. It was another utter act of conformity. Why do I say that?

Well, we need to look at what these anarchists were claiming: through their attitudes, their doctrines, and even the way they played football. They were claiming that no external authority should have power to determine people’s lives. They were saying that there are no absolutes in life. They were saying that the only morality or rules are whatever we can piece together for ourselves. And that’s what you’d expect them to do-because that’s what Anarchists have always stood for. The problem is, to say these things just isnt radical or subversive anymore. To most of todays young adults, the ideas behind behind Anarchism – that authority is oppressive, there are no absolutes, the only morality is what we concoct for ourselves – these are no longer subversive. Theyre simply the new common sense. Its what practically all my contemporaries were bought up to believe. Its what most academics in our universities believe. Its what most of our media promotes. Its what most of our neighbours in Finsbury Park believe as well.

We live in a culture today where all the old certainties of the past are crumbling away. People no longer automatically trust the police, the monarchy, the judiciary, the social services, the Church. All the moralities of the past are questioned too. Our culture works on a supermarket shelf model of truth, where you simply cobble together whatever works for you, whatever happens to make you feel good. We like a personally-defined truth, which prefers words like relative to words like absolute. It prefers words like rights over words like duty or obligation. And ours is a society whose favourite concept is freedom of choice.

So you see why it struck me that the Hackney anarchists seem rather safe and predictable. Theyve chosen to make a political ideology of something that most of my contemporaries believe anyway. Wheres the radicalism in that? Let me suggest what a real celebration of subversion in East London might look like. How about this: an event which undercuts everything my generation has been bought up to believe, which challenges our most basic assumptions from the roots up. An event held in honour of a great King, who has supreme authority. An event which announces uncompromisingly that he alone is Lord, and that to him every knee should bow in service. It would be an event which tells us the only sure path to freedom is complete submission, putting yourself out of the picture and putting others first.

One thought on “Hackney Anarchy Week reviews/responses 1996

  1. Pingback: Film: Hackney Anarchy Week 1996 | The Radical History of Hackney

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s