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.
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…
I would like to add that Box 13 was for An Phoblacht, the newspaper for [Sinn Féin -ed] the political wing of the IRA.
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.
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…
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.”
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.”
Box 7: Hackney Broadcasting Authority – community pirate radio on Saturday afternoons. (late 1986)
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: North Hackney Anti-Nazi League (late 1970s)
Box 10: Anti Racist Action (early 1980s) “An organisation not run by trendy middle class lefties or by guilty patronising farts. Or even by political parties.” – from the sleeve notes to the 1982 “Blow It Up, Burn It Down, Kick It ‘Til It Breaks” EP by The Apostles (see Box 4 above).
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 17: Hackney Campaign for Equal Opportunities in Percy Ingle Shops.
Box 22: ELWAR – East London Workers Against Racism
Box 22: Tube Watch (1988-?) – Class struggle and public transport in London.
Box 24: Unity Group (1990s) “Promoting unity between anti-fascist groups.”
Box 26: Spare Change Press (book publishers – punk fiction and others) / Mad Pride (anarchistic mental health protest group) (1990s/2000s)
Box 31: Hackney Police Monitoring Group (early 1980s).
Box 32: Between the Lines (1990s) Humorous and slightly heretical left-wing fanzine. Also organised “looney left football tournaments” and discussion meetings.
Box 33: Hackney Big Flame (early 1980s) (socialist group influenced by Italian autonomism)
Stop Thorp Campaign (1990s) Opposition to new nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Sellafield.
Box 38: Stoke Newington Rock Against Racism (late 70s / early 80s)