Update Jan 2020 – you can now view each of these issue (and more) as PDFs on archive.org
Another instalment in a very occasional series which looks at a year in the life of radical community newspaper Hackney People’s Press. We last saw HPP in 1975, with a focus on health, Hackney Mental Patients Union and lots more.
The paper was itself in good health in 1976, managing to publish four issues after a brief hiatus caused by a lack of people getting involved:
The May issue is the skinniest at 8 pages, covering:
A demand by the Hackney Nursery Campaign for More Nurseries – “There are 4000 children under five years old in Hackney whose parents both work (or in the case of single parent families, whose one parent is at work). To cater for this immense need, there are 379 Council day nursery places at the moment…” the campaign emerged from discussions between Hackney Under Fives, Council nursery workers and the women’s subcommittee of the Trades Council.
As well as more nurseries, demands included:
- Negotiated pay scales for nursery workers
- Hackney Council to convert houses and large flats on estates to use as nurseries
- Speed up long term plans for purpose built nurseries.
This was to be an ongoing issue and was part of the reason for the emergence of radical nurseries such as Dalston Children’s Centre in the early eighties.
Hackney Private Tenants Association – “Tenants of private landlords face some of the most difficult housing problems in Hackney. Housing conditions are terrible. 1 in 3 has no hot water. 1 in 2 has no access to a bath or shower. 1 in 3 share a toilet. Only 1 in 5 of the 30,000 plus households living in private rented accomodation have all these facilities. In return they pay enormous rents. Illegal evictions and unlawful harassment are widespread. Often tenants have to fight long drawn out niggling battles to get even minor repairs done.”
“In the words of a local newspaper reporter: ‘It’s a story when someone in Hackney is living in decent conditions’.”
Membership of the association was 5p a year and most of its work revolved around raising awareness about bad housing with councillors and MPs and taking up individual cases. But “we recognise that, in the long run, the housing crisis can only be solved when the economy is run for the people not for profiteers – and landlords become extinct.”
Unfortunately landlords are very much still with us 41 years later, so this sort of campaigning is still sorely needed. Luckily we have Hackney Renters to take up the gauntlet.
Homerton Project: new life in and old library – A centrespread on plans for a community centre being developed in the old library building on Brooksby’s Walk. The old library had been closed in 1974 when the new library opened (it’s still there on Homerton High Street). The Citizens Advice Bureau had been using the old library building but the article mentions an impressive array of plans for educational, social and cultural activities. Many of these did actually take place as the old library reopened as Chats Palace later in 1976.
Plus – The Marsh Mail launched (a magazine started by users of the Hackney Marsh adventure playground), Abortion – opposition to the James White Abortion Amendment Bill, listings of local groups, Hackney Marsh Fun festival announcement. Centerprise five year birthday celebrations,
Things hot up in July with an expanded 12 pages.
Cover feature / lead story on the National Front in Hackney:
The piece covers the work of Hackney Committee Against Racialism and also covers NF activity in the borough:
In the general election of 1974, NF candidates received 1044 votes in Hackney North and 2544 in Hackney South and Shoreditch (the latter being almost 10% of the vote). After this they announced that fascist grandee John Tyndall would stand for MP in Hackney at the next election (which he did in 1979, with reduced vote share of 7.6%).
Inevitably, fascists did not just stick to the ballot box. The article also highlights racist stickering, attempts by NF members to get involved with tenants associations, NF leaflets being delivered to Hoxton residents as well as a more general increase in day to day racist abuse on the streets. And worse: “On Colville Estate black tenants have parcels of faeces and burning paraffin soaked rags pushed through their letterboxes. Some black women recently took out a summons against Derek [sic] Day – the local NF boss who lives in Hoxton – for assault. […] In Hoxton market, the locals say that there are some stalls which only sell vegetables to white customers.”
Four hundred local trade unionists and anti-racists marched through Hoxton (taking in the market and Derrick Day’s house). There was a small NF counter protest which stuck to shouting racist slogans.
You can read the full article by clicking on the image above. There was a lot more work to do. In 1978, the National Front opened its headquarters, Excalibur House at 73 Great Eastern Street in Shoredtich.
Also in this issue:
Pollution: The Socialist Answer – a report on the inaugural meeting of the Socialist Environment and Resources Association.
Bad Deal for Backward Kids – a slightly excruciatingly worded article by today’s standards, but obviously well meaning. Cuts to resources and bad planning at the new “Educationally Subnormal School” at Nile Street in Hoxton.
Broadway Market Is Not A Sinking Ship – It’s A Submarine – attempts by squatters and other locals to reclaim some waste ground opposite Brougham Road and Brook Road which was due for redevelopment by the GLC. The hope was that the space could be turned into an adventure playground.
Highway Robbery on the Buses – fares go up, even though there are less buses. A mixed bag of proposals including mention of the Italian “autoreduction” campaign in which unions issued passes to passengers at the old prices, which were endorsed by drivers. Less excitingly there is also talk of trade councils passing resolutions and sending letters of complaint to the London Transport Executive.
Law Centre open – (at 236 Mare Street, where it was for many years before becoming Hackney Community Law Centre and moving to Lower Clapton Road.)
And: Health cutbacks and closures, Claimants Union, appeal to rebuild a hospital in Ky Anh Vietnam to treat victims of the war, listings, Hackney Marsh Fun Festival.
Another 12 pager, with a cheeky insert inciting people to bunk the bus fare and arrange and ad hoc credit account with the London Transport Executive:
Themes from previous issues continue- cuts to health services, unemployment up, nursery provision down, benefits claimants get a poor deal.
Workers Sacked for Striking – The Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centre was a Hackney based organisation that helped “ex-mental patients find their feet in society”. Its staff had a number of grievances with the trustees, including no written contracts or pay scales, no grievance procedure, poor communication, etc. They unionised and were about to strike when they were dismissed. There is an account of a discussion with PRA Director John Wilder and some rebuttals to his account from workers. The PRA became the Centre for Better Health in 2010 and is now based on Darnley Road off Mare Street.
The End of the Line for Hackney? – redevelopment of Liverpool Street station including office blocks. Also some proposals for more stations and their impact on the local community.
Hackney Committee Against Racialism reports on canvassing local residents, removing NF graffiti and demanding that the Council ban fascists from using public property to pedal racialism including markets. Gay centres in Shoredtich and Finsbury Park were vandalised by fascists and a Labour Party anti-fascist canvasser was beaten up near Manor House.
There’s a bizarrely fish-themed parody of the Hackney Gazette on the back page:
Rounding the year off with another 12 pages:
- Junior Doctors put out a statement pointing out that the situation is already pretty dire – “Conditions are so bad at F Block, the psychiatric block at Hackney Hospital that the Royal College of Nursing won’t allow student nurses to train there.”
- Occupation of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in central London.
- Health Hierarchy – a more analytical piece about the power imbalance in the NHS and calls for more democratic control.
- Hackney Abortion Campaign and the effect of the cuts on women.
GLC Tenants in Slum Housing: conditions on the Pembury Estate: “whole blocks of flats empty, boarded up, vandalised and left to decay. One block, Adisham House, has been empty for three years.” Also general disrepair for flats which are occupied – by residents which the article notes are primarily BME, squatters or former squatters.
Exposed! Who Are The Hackney Flashers? A great one page introduction to this feminist/socialist women’s photography group:
People Before Roads – opposition to a new road from Hackney Wick to Highbury.
Christmas Award – for the architect of the Trowbridge Estate for putting a “french window” door into a flat with a 14 floor drop on the other side…
Also – opposition to education cuts, campaign against Dublin anarchists Noel and Marie Murray being hanged for robbing a bank, Regents Canal – a new walk in Hackney, Friends of the Earth forms, Half Moon Theatre, Hackney Women’s Aid asking for furniture etc for new premises, Gingerbread (assistance for single parents) plea for donations.