7th May: A Hackney Biography app and book launch

This just in from the organisers:

You are invited to the launch of the
A Hackney Autobiography mobile app & book
Sunday 7 May

You are invited to celebrate the launch of A Hackney Autobiography: a mobile app and website and the publication of The Lime Green Mystery: An oral history of the Centerprise co-operative.

When: Sunday 7th May, 5 – 7 pm

Where: Sutton House, 2 and 4 Homerton High Street, London E9 6JQ. Map here.
Booking essential.

Contact: info@on-the-record.org.uk to reserve your place.

Before the party, there’s a unique chance to preview one of the audiowalks featured on the app as a group. Meet at 3:30 at Homerton station and RSVP asap as places are booking up quickly.

What: hear a roundtable of speakers who are engaged in cultural and community activities in related fields, reflect on the history of Centerprise as re-presented by a hackney autobiography and join the discussion. Receive a free copy of The Lime Green Mystery, preview the app and get help downloading it.

Speakers include: Toyin Agbetu from Ligali, Vivian Archer from Newham Bookshop, Nana Fani Kayode, teacher and radio producer, Gary Molloy from Core Arts, Marie Murray from Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and representatives from the Young Historians’ Project.

Event organised in collaboration with Pages bookshop

More details on the app, book and audiowalk below.

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Through the memories and reflections of many of the people involved, The Lime Green Mystery charts how the Centerprise co-operative (1971 – 1993) attempted to put radical ideas about education, culture and community work into practice. It explores issues of representation, power and collective management and will appeal to those interested in radical community organisations, grassroots bookselling and publishing, the adult literacy movement, London’s social history, and to people involved in community-based cultural and co-operative initiatives today.

Pre-order your free copy now by emailing us with your address. Limited numbers available, pre-ordering is encouraged to avoid disappointment. Donations to cover the cost of postage appreciated but not essential.

The Inside Out Homerton Audiowalk

The walk explores birth, madness and creativity, inside and out of The Institution. This 45 minute immersive audio walk blurs boundaries between auditory hallucination and external sound. This is a unique opportunity to experience a hackney autobiography, with the people featured in it.

To book a place on the Inside Out Homerton audiowalk, please contact us by 21 April. Later bookings will be accepted if places remain available.People who don’t like smart phones are welcome!

A Hackney Autobiography app

Poetic sat-nav, mapping Hackney through the writing and memories of its people. A hackney autobiography features:

  • four audio walks, each with original illustrations and music
  • over fifty bite-sized stories about creativity, education and resistance in Hackney.

All content was published or inspired by Centerprise, a radical cultural and community project (1971-2012).

The app and website will be launched at the end of April and will be at http://ahackneyautobiography.org.uk

Hackney Peoples Press, 1975 + Hackney Mental Patients Union

My HPP archive is missing the issues between the debut in 1973 and the ones below, but a previous post highlights an edition I don’t have from 1974.

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Both of these issues are about 3 quarters A4 size. The May issue is 12 pages and the July one (below) is one sheet bigger at 16 pages.

The May issue is essentially “the health special” with pieces including:

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Abortion – opposition to a private members’ bill seeking to disallow abortions except where a doctor agreed that there was a risk to a woman’s life or health. (Like a lot of these bills, it didn’t go anywhere. Hard to say whether that is through resistance or lack of support). Also the lowdown on the difficulties faced by women seeking abortions in Hackney.

Hackney Helps Hoteliers – on the huge subsidy (£450,000 a year) paid by the council to the owners of bed and breakfasts so they could house 155 homeless families. Hackney was the top borough in London for this at the time. The article rightly points out that the money would be better spent on building or acquiring council houses. Nearby Camden had purchased several thousand homes for this purpose over the previous few years, compared to 189 by Hackney in 1974 – and 37 in 1973.

Hackney Reading Centre – a new joint adult education venture between Centerprise and City and East London College.

Centerprise – funding difficulties and a deficit had built up. The council had refused to increase its £1000 a year grant.

Hackney Health Guide – a four page feature on health facilities in the borough – and also the issues they faced.

Stop The Road – opposition to proposals for a huge new road from Dalston to Hackney Wick.

Marsh Festival – taking place in July with a “Hackney Marsh on Sea” theme – Punch and Judy, donkey derby, etc.

Groups / Contacts – everything from Gamblers Anonymous to playgroups and 3 branches of Hackney Young Socialists.

Also a feature on Hackney Mental Patients Union, which was then based in a “democratic community”-run house at 37 Mayola Road, Lower Clapton. The group named the building “Robin Farquharson House” after the mental health activist of the same name who had recently died as the result of an arson attack on his home in Kings Cross:

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Photo of Andrew Roberts at doorway of Farquharson House

Photo of Andrew Roberts at doorway of Farquharson House

There is a wealth of information about Hackney based mental health campaigning at Andrew Robert’s website:

http://studymore.org.uk/mpu.htm

(There is quite a lot of text on the page so you will need to press CTRL + F on your keyboard and do a search for “Hackney” – or anything you fancy…). The following is of interest:

Friday 6.5.1974 4.30pmFirst meeting of Hackney Hospital MPU

“Alan Hartman explained what kind of things the mental patients union does. Refusing treatment, cruelty to patients, clothes grants, fighting against being discriminated against in jobs… Alice ill-treated by nurses…”

“Resolved that a branch of the Mayola Road M.P.U. be formed in Hackney Hospital. proposed Alan Hartman, seconded Alice. 15 for – none against. Alan Hartman elected chairman..”

The meeting was adjourned after the senior nursing officer attempted (unsuccessfully) to break it up.

Hackney Gazette 6.8.1974 MENTAL PATIENTS UNION IS NOW RECOGNISED

The Hackney hospitals branch of the Mental Patients Union is the first in the country to achieve recognition. Psychiatric wings in both the German and Hackney Hospital are affected.

The MPU aims to bring about a better deal for patients in mental hospitals, and improved status.

Mr Andrew Roberts, of the Hackney branch, claims that several patients in Hackney Hospital psychiatric wing had spoken of better treatment by staff since the branch was recognised on July 18.

People’s News Service 1.6.1974 “MENTAL PATIENTS’ UNION MEMBER ESCAPES COMPULSORY DRUG TREATMENT.

Last week Tony O’Donnell moved into the house of the Mayola Road Mental Patients Union in East London after a long struggle to find a place where he could live without having to undergo injections of modicate, an extremely strong drug used on people diagnosed as schizophrenic…”.

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Joan Hughes recalled Robin Farquharson House in 2006:

We ran the Robin Farquharson House in Mayola Road for three years. This was divided into individual rooms that were entirely under resident’s control, but it also had an office which served as a crash pad in emergencies. We often had people staying who were going through a crisis and who were supported by other residents. We also helped and advised people by telephone and letter, and there were any visitors from all over the country as well as from abroad.

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The July issue is still a bargain at 5p – especially with the extra pages! Features this time on:

Hoxton Hall – 80 years of its role as a hub for working class culture and education.

Stop The Road – the proposed Dalston to Hackney Wick road was refused by the council, but there was concerns it could still be pushed through by the GLC.

Barbauld Road: Cheaper to Stop the Bulldozers – Opposition to the demolition of houses in south Stoke Newington. The argument was that it would be £2million cheaper to renovate the existing homes. (I assume that this advice was ignored and that the estate on Barbauld Road is what happened?)

Health on the Cheap – a critical article about the reorganisation of Hackney hospitals by an anonymous doctor who had worked in them.

Abortion: the fight goes on – report on a demonstration against the proposed amendments to abortion law covered above. And the general lack of access to abortions for women in Hackney even without it.

Hackney Women’s Aid – short feature on women’s refuges etc. The absence of funding from Hackney Council is very troubling.

Nursery Nurses Win – negotiations culminate in an agreed 36 hour week and backdated pay rise.

Repairs: Who carries the can? – The state of the 26,000 council homes in Hackney. HPP conducted surveys amongst tenants in De Beauvoir and Stonebridge – a number of issues were identified.

Also groups and contacts (pretty much as above, but now includes Hackney Committee Against Racialism), a call for help with the paper, various upcoming events.

and:

A round up of housing news including housing association / council skullduggery and some properly horrible stories about housing situations people in Hackney had to endure.

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Plus! Music on the back page!

Music makes money. The star system produces glamorous performers on the one hand and passive consumers on the other. It’s not just that the music industry is a business – ruled by profit – the star system corrupts everybody learning or creating music. The motivation for learning or making up music is too often dreams of fame or fortune, not creating something for our friends, workmates or comrades to express the realities of our lives.

I’m not sure they would have been fans of the X-Factor… I should point out that I don’t agree that music fans are necessarily passive consumers (some of them put quite a lot of effort into it, whether “it” be active listening, involvement in fan communities or simply dressing the part when they go out). I also think that whilst music that expresses the “realities of our lives” is needed, that it would be quite boring if that was the only music around. Sometimes we need sounds that help us escape, or imagine new realities…

Having said all that, Hackney Music Workshop looks like it did great work!

(At some point I would also like to cover the Hackney Musicians Collective and their now unaffordable 1981 LP – any info welcome…)

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Issue 19 would appear in May 1976…

Who Killed Aseta Simms? 1972

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A small (A6ish) pamphlet published by the Black Unity and Freedom Party in 1972. There is an overview of the history of the BUFP by Professor Harry Goulbourne here. Ken Worpole mentions the group having regular street sales in Ridley Road market.

Aseta Simms is one of an inexcusably large number of people to have died in suspicious circumstances in Stoke Newington police station. Mrs Simms’ death was also a front page story in Hackney Gutter Press.

Aseta Simms is often mentioned in lists of deaths in police custody but it’s harder to find the context. The text is reproduced below (with some small corrections for consistency etc) alongside the original pages so you can see the presentation of the original.

PREFACE

Will we ever know? Mrs Simms was certified dead in Stoke Newington Pig sty. It is very strange that of late, people seem to be leaving everywhere else to die and end up on a cold slab in the Pig-Sty. For our part, the answer is very simple. There is a plot to commit Genocide against our people. The pig-police hands are stained with the blood of our people. They are the hatchet men of the racist fascists.

Printed and Published by Black Unity And Freedom Party c/o 31, Belgrade Road, Stoke Newington, ISSUE No.1. London N.16. 1972.

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CHAPTER ONE

Her Daughter Speaks

“My mother was picked up outside the gas station (Manor Road), at approximately 11.30pm. She was brought to the local police station (Stoke Newington), and died at approximately, between 12.00pm and 12.30pm [Hackney Gutter press (link above) report this as having happened on 13th May 1971. The later times in this sentence should probably read 12:00am and 12:30am, i.e the early hours of the 14th May – Radical History of Hackney note].

Here the police stated that she was too drunk to find her way home, and she could not tell the police where she lived. But a white girl who live in one of her houses in Brighton Road, Stoke Newington, had a piece of paper on which my mother had written my sister’s name, her telephone number, her addresses etc. The police claimed they did not see this note. WHY NOT?

The girl, Mrs Archer, said she saw my mother fall. WHERE? She also had my mother’s bank book. Where did she get it from?

On the same day, my mother had a rental Tribunal Case with the Archers. The Tribunal gave them a week in which to leave the house.

Mrs Archer said that my mother was drunk. How did she know? Mr. Archer said that my mother and his wife left the house at the same time and went to the Off Licence. He said further that my mother bought a bottle of Whisky and his wife bought a bottle of Guinness. He showed me the bottle of Guinness. But in the afternoon my mother had bought a bottle of whisky. So therefore; she couldn’t have bought a bottle of whisky when Mr Archer said so.

The police said they laid my mother on her tummy, so if she was sick, it would not stifle her. They said they watched her until she died. What did she say before she died? NO ONE KNOWS!

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CHAPTER TWO

The coroner’s Hearing St. Pancras

Coroners Chambers

Police Doctor from WOOD GREEN

“I examined the body of this coloured woman, and found that she was a well-nourished woman. There was swelling above the right eye and bruising below. There was deep bruising over her head but no fracture, but the brain was swollen. The heart was not the cause of her death. There was no barbitrates in her organs. There was alcohol in the blood stream. It is arguable that some people might die with this level of alcohol in their blood stream; but we have had people with much higher levels who are still alive today. The bruising was consistent with someone falling about or with someone who had been beaten. There was very little evidence that she had inhaled vomiting, but this was not the cause of her death. I cannot truthfully say what was the cause of her death.”

DOCTOR FOR Police commission

“I received two samples said to be taken from the body of this dead coloured woman: Samples of blood and whisky. The blood samples showed 479ml grammes of alcohol and this concentration may be considered lethal; but there is no firmly established level to equate with death. The level found in the blood samples could only have arisen if a full bottle of whisky was drunk quickly.”

EIder DAUGHTER Says

“I saw my mother last alive at 2.00pm on 13/5/71, it was polling day of the local council elections. She was sober and alright. She had eaten some fish and chips earlier on. About once every other week my mother would buy some drinks. My mother was fine and healthy. I knew my mother died while in police custody. I saw her at St. Leonards hospital after she was dead, and noticed that she had a lot of bruising over and below her right eye, which she did not have before.”

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COUSIN Relates

“She came by my place about 1.30pm on the day she died. We then left and went to Archway and then to Tottenham. She ate some fish and chips. She did not drink before she came to my place. But while we were out the day before 12/5/71, she bought a bottle of whisky on the way back to my place at about 5.00pm. We had two drinks each that evening before she left for home, leaving the whisky behind with me. On the day that she died, she took the bottle which was 3/4 full and put it in her bag and left at about 9.00pm to go and look after her children. She had some grown up children and another four aged from 12 years old down-wards. She often came round to my place to leave money for her daughter to pay the mortgage. She had a tribunal case on that day. I have never seen her drunk. When I went to the police station the drinks (whisky) was not there, but I was shown an empty bottle. I cannot say what has happened to the 3/4 bottle of whisky which she left with, for she never drank in the street. It is still a mystery to me where she could have been between the time she left and when I saw her body in the police station. The woman (Mrs. Archer) who lived upstairs had her bank book”

The coroner, Douglas Chambers interrupted quote “We can-not take such evidence.”

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CHAPTER THREE

THE BIG COVER-UP!

Mrs B. Archer

“I have lived at 47, Brighton Road, for over a year. Mrs Simms and I never did get on. I have seen Mrs Aseta Simms worst for drink before, but I cannot really say when. When I returned from the tribunal hearing I saw Mrs Simms..”

The coroner interrupted and said “This is the period which the daughter cannot fill in.”

“I saw Mrs Simms fall near the Post Office in Brighton Road, we picked her up and I went into the Off Licence. She did not bang her head or anything. She then got onto the bus stop, she would have got a shilling fare to go home. She was walking unsteadily. I last saw her at about 10.30pm. She didn’t buy anything in the Off Licence; but when she fell, I saw a bottle of whisky fall out. I have never seen her so drunk.

Mrs Archer was taken to and from the coroner’s court in a police car.

STOKE NEWINGTON POLICE

G.196, KING

“I was a passenger in a police car, we were following a bus; as we went over the junction, I saw a coloured woman lying on a forecourt in Manor Road, N16. She was shouting and supporting herself on one arm. I went to pick her up; She became terrible violent, grabbed my belt and began twisting it, after a struggle, we got her into the van. We lifted her into the van and laid her out onto the floor; she was still kicking out. She forced herself onto her bottom. I then held both her wrists and P.C.227, held her ankles. She was still being violent.

At the station, we carried her into the charge room and placed her on the floor. She was not capable of standing; her knees were badly bruised. I didn’t see any bruising over her eyes; come to think of it, I did see bruising over her head. We then put her on the floor in the cell. I couldn’t get through to her. She was left semi-prone, she was calm and snoring quite loudly. While in there the snoring began to diminish, I thought she was asleep.

I went back to arouse her, but I could not. Sergeant Barker and I then tried to give her respiration but failed. An ambulance was then sent for. We did not send for any doctor. She was not lying on anything; just the bare floor.”

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G.227.

“I was with officer G.196. She was lying between cars and swearing, she appeared to be drunk even from a distance. She kicked me two or three times. We lifted her into the van and she fought her way back onto her feet. In the charge room I was to accept that she was very violent. Two hours later, I went back to where we had picked her up and found a whisky bottle leaning against a wall with some whisky in it.”

Sergeant G.81.

“I was on patrol duty in another vehicle when I received a radio call for assistance. When I got to the scene, I saw her on the floor of the van with two officers holding her arms and legs. She was very violent. At the station several of us carried her into the station. Inside I tried speaking to her but she didn’t understand. I did see bruises on her head.

I saw her body later in the back of an ambulance, well she was very drunk. I cannot say exactly when the doctor arrived, but about shortly before 11.45pm.”

Sergeant G.78.

“I was on duty earlier on in the evening, I was driving a car in the Stamford Hill area. I received call for help. I went there and saw her being restraint. I didn’t see any injuries. I saw her being carried into the charge room kicking and struggling; she could not stand. She was crawling about on the floor. Mrs Simms, as I now know was incapable of doing anything. I assisted P.C. G.196 to carry her into the charge room. I held her by the left arm, she was struggling. She was breathing normally, I then left. I returned later and saw P.C. G.196 sitting outside-on the stairs with head in hands and he told me that Mrs. Simms had stopped breathing. I immediately commenced respiration until the ambulance came. The police doctor arrived and examined the body.”

WOMAN POLICE H.345. LEMAN STREET

“I got to Stoke Newington police station at 11.45pm, I went into the cell and saw lying face downwards; I was then called away. I was then told that she was dead.”

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INSPECTOR

“I was on duty and I saw events as stated and knew. I did not know the deceased. The doctor was sent for at 11.55pm. Doctor arrived same time as the ambulance. It was normal procedure to have drunken people in that manner. Tries were made to get other doctors before but this failed. ”

The CORONER retired with the jury

“She was violent. She died with an amount of alcohol in her blood stream. The Home office says that the coroner has a choice to sit or not to sit with the jury in special circumstances. There are special circumstances in this hearing, therefore under the Home office rules for coroners’ courts, I shall sit with the jury .

How, when, where or why the person or persons should be charged with murder or manslaughter; under the circumstances, there is no such accusation. No question of the verdict to have civil liabilities . A rider could be put in to prevent repetition of this kind of deaths. Some reasonable people would assume that the bottle found, was the same one from which she had consumed whisky until she was found between the cars. She could not be charged because she could not have understood.”

Verdict

“The verdict is death by misadventure, there is no rider.”

CHAPTER THREE

Conclusion

WE DEMAND AN IMMEDIATE PUBLIC ENQUIRY IN TO THE BRUTAL RACIST ACTIVITIES OF THE POLICE AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE.

We know this Black sister Mrs Simms was murdered by the racist police. This much we have no doubt of. In the face of the evidence given at the coroner’s court held on 10/6/71, at St Pancras. The coroner, Douglas Chambers went and sat with the jury; claiming he had power to do so under some unknown Home Office rules. Now ask yourselves, why did he found it necessary to sit with the jury? The smell left from this inquest bears too potent a stench to be tolerate, even by the greatest appeasement inclination.

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BLACK PEOPLE IN BRITAIN MUST WRITE TO THEIR LOCAL MPs, DEMANDING AN IMMEDIATE PUBLIC ENQUIRY INTO THE DEATH OF MRS. SIMMS AND INTO THAT OF THE BEHAVIOUR OF CORONER DOUGLAS CHAMBERS DURING THE INQUEST.

This is only the beginning of the campaign. We shall not rest until the pig-police who have murdered our sister, Mrs Simms are weeded out punished. We shall organize, demonstrate and use any means necessary.

IF WE ARE SO FOOLISH TO ALLOW THIS BRUTAL MURDER OF OUR BLACK SISTER TO GO UNPUNISHED: SURELY AS DAY FOLLOWS DAY: WE SHALL BE MURDERED IN OUR BEDS.

UNLIKE THE JEWS IN GERMANY, WE HAVE NO INTENTION OF LYING IDILY BY. WE SHALL RESIST AND COUNTER ATTACK EVERY INCH OF THE WAY TO THE GAS CHAMBERS. [NB: I don’t think this point is well made – there was significant Jewish and other resistance to the Nazis. Also, as a bad as 1970s Hackney was, a comparison to Nazi Germany, gas chambers etc is well over the top – Radical History of Hackney note]

WE HAVE A DUTY TO OUK CHILDREN , OURSELVES, BLACK PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER AND TO HUMANITY TO STRUGGLE CEASELESSLY UNTIL THESE RABID, RACIST POLICE ARE DEALT WITH.

NO RIGHTS – NO OBLIGATIONS.

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Aseta commemorated on a Hackney Community Defence Association banner, as seen at a meeting about Spycops earlier this year:

HCDA banner at Chats Palace Spycops meeting

Hackney Peoples Press – the first three issues, 1973

Hackney People’s Press was a local left-leaning community newspaper published regularly from 1973 until 1985.

An interview with HPP contributor Charles Foster is available elsewhere on this site. As you can see from the masthead below, HPP was formed by the merger of Hackney Action and Hackney Gutter Press, who were both publishing in the early 70s and have also been covered here previously.

Charles has very kindly donated his archive to this site. The plan is to gradually upload an overview of Hackney People’s Press, year by year, alongside the many other things I want to cover.  I won’t have time to scan every single page, and the combination of oversized tabloid pages and the scanner I have occasional access to will mean that some details are missed out. Nevertheless I hope this gives a good flavour of the HPP project and the radical culture of Hackney in the late 20th Century…

The issues below are all large tabloid format – click on the images for a full size version.

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The debut issue – 5 pence, worra bargain! As you can see from the introduction on the cover, the plan was to publish monthly and to hold open public meetings for contributors. The issues I have from 1973 suggests that this schedule was kept to initially. (Although the page count went down from 12 to 8).

We kick off with an excellent lead story on parents in De Beauvoir seizing some vacant land to use as an adventure playground for kids. The author, Crispin Aubrey, was an interesting figure who was later prosecuted under the official secrets act for interviewing a former GCHQ worker.

(The De Beauvoir Association has published an archive of the “De Beaver” newsletter from the 1970s and 80s which is well worth a look and also covers this).

Other contents:

A critical account of a Hackney Trades Council meeting, in which various union leaderships are criticised for not seeing the wisdom of bringing down the Tory government and establishing socialism via the Labour Party. The meeting “erupted into what was at times an extremely violent violent argument between a small contingent from the Socialist Labour League (Trotskyist) and a much larger number of Communist Party (Stalinist) members.”

Learning Exchange: a free service which puts people interested in learning the same subject in touch with each other. (c/o Centerprise).

Support for striking teachers campaigning for an increase in the London Allowance (and concern that rising housing, prices etc mean that teachers were leaving London – just like now).

After Six in Hackney: full page piece on an advice service for homeless people, operating after 6pm every evening.

An article on closing cinemas with the overly dramatic title “Who Raped Our Screens?” – “Hackney now has only 6 cinemas amongst a population of over 200,000, and one of those, the Dalston Tatler, is for members only. The Stamford Hill Odeon closed only a few months ago, largely on the pretext that the Dalston Odeon has been converted into 3 separate screens. At the same time, prices at Dalston have gone up to a minimum of 55p…”

Homes Saved From Ringway: 1,000 properties no longer being demolished because of the collapse of plans for a big road through Dalston and Hackney Wick following protests.

A double page spread on Kingsmead Estate which is critical of the Tenants Association, but more positive about the work of the Claimants Union on the estate – a representative is quoted on their work to get people the right benefits, help make sure repairs are done by the council and demands for police patrols to sort out menacing kids with airguns attacking people. Also: “We would not let anyone on the estate be evicted without one hell of a fight. We will organise barricades, cordon off the estate if necessary. The days when they could come in and evict someone in relative peace are all over.” (did this ever actually happen though?)

Also interesting to see the council criticised for making Kingsmead into a ghetto, concentrating black people, OAPs and benefit claimants there, the implication being that other estates were reserved for white, relatively more affluent types?

Haggerston Food Co-Op is introduced (but more on them below).

Perhaps slightly jarring with the community articles is a press release about the Stoke Newington 5 (originally the Stoke Newington 8).

Tony Soares (who ran the Grass Roots bookshop in Ladbroke Grove) writes about being convicted for “incitement to murder persons unknown“. Which is as mad as it sounds. Turns out Tony had reprinted the Black Panther Party’s “On organising self-defence groups” article: “The police conceded that there probably would have been no prosecution had it not been for a complaint from Jack Backsi, the Community Relations Officer for Hackney”. Backsi apparently referred the publication to Hackney’s then MP Stanley-Clinton David, asking him to raise it in parliament. Soares was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, which suggests that everyone agreed that the threat he posed was minimal – but that this sort of politics was not welcome in the UK.

There’s a story about some black youths being hassled by the police because one of them was carrying a walking stick – and how this was falsely reported as “Mob Storms Police Station” by the Hackney Gazette.

Also two pages of contact info for community and political groups, and a back page piece by Ken Worpole on William Morris and the meaning of May Day.

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Issue 2 leads with a story about a mother and 4 young kids being evicted from an empty house that they had squatted after waiting for 4 years on the council list. The 3 other squatters who helped her to re-occupy the property were charged with assaulting the police.

Hackney Playbus: Fran Crowther on why it’s needed and an appeal for drivers. (Previousl also covered in an issue of Hackney Action, see here for a scan.)

Unhealthy Health Report – NHS understaffing, infant mortality 33% higher in Hackney than the average for England and Wales, drop in ante natal care sessions, criticism of factory inspectors (2,546 factory premises in Hackney!), etc.

Hackney School Students: participated in a demonstration about democratising school councils. Also uproar at Cardinal Pole school about a DIY students magazine called “Vision” – four of the student contributors were suspended. (Any more info on that would be greatly received!)

“1972 – A Year of Increased Repression”: Overview of The National Council for Civil Liberties annual report, with references to state attacks on the underground press (Oz and IT magazines), republican sympathisers, the Angry Brigade trial, prisoners rights, moves to restrict jury trials and the right to protest, increased arming of the police, etc:

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Mike Knowles of Hackney Trades Council is given a full page right of reply to the drubbing they got in the first issue. Alongside the correction of some errors in the original article, the general tone is that it’s alright for lefty activists to hold forth about a general strike and socialism but the real issue is how to actually get there – especially if it’s not possible to organise a one day strike on May Day as was being mooted.

Also groups and contacts:

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The back page is a heartwarming story about some guerrilla street theatre performers and how they were received around the borough:

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Issue 3 leads with the a story on the closure of the inspiring Haggerston Food Co-op which has been previously covered on this site by this excellent video:

There is an edge of bitterness to the story, the obvious frustration of not being able to get the community sufficiently involved to keep the co-op going when the activist who ran it solo was rehoused elsewhere. (An all to common problem with community politics but getting all narky about it in print isn’t the solution eh?)

Page 2 covers the trial of the squatters featured on the cover of issue 2. Five charges of breach of the peace were dropped as the cops couldn’t produce their lead witness. Two women were found guilty of obstructing the police (the sentence/fine isn’t mentioned). More happily it’s also reported that Anita Keating, the mother who was evicted, was now squatting successfully in Islington with her kids.

Page 3 reports on a Hackney Young Teachers Association meeting on “West Indian Problems” i.e. racism and cultural differences and the detrimental effect they were having on the education of black kids: “The condescending attitude of some middle class educationalists towards the language of working class children and parents, black and white is partly due to a misunderstanding of the theories of Basil Bernstein, which then makes the sad equation that poor language equal working class impoverishment in a never ending circle. This attitude is doubly tragic because it helps to maintain the exam system in all its immorality and because it checks the child-centred advances made so bravely by our infant and nursery schools.”

The centre pages contrast the Matchgirls strike of 1888 with a strike by Ministry of Defence contract cleaners in 1972.

Also:

  • A report on a family of squatters who have had to move 11 times in the last 8 years.
  • An update on De Beauvoir playground which seemed to be doing well despite council indifference.
  • Hackney and Islington World Development Group – concerned with global poverty, development, trade.
  • Workers Education Association music workshop, Learning Exchange, listings.

The back page reports on some incredible community direct action. After getting nowhere with the police or the council, Stonebridge residents move cars which have been dumped on their estate into the middle of Kingsland Road, causing a traffic jam, but resolving the issue!

Echoes of this sort of thing were later seen with Reclaim The Streets, where old bangers were driven into the middle of big roads as a way of blocking them off before a party commenced. Hackney Independent Working Class Association were still shaming the council about dumped cars in the south of the Borough in the early 21st Century.

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Angry Brigade / Stoke Newington 8 posters and leaflets

Purloined from the characteristically fascinating but expensive new catalogue from Beat Books – “specialists in the Beats, Sixties CounterCulture & the Avant-Gardes”

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More material about the Angry Brigade / Stoke Newington 8 is available on this site here.

Hackney Archives and the struggle for equality at Percy Ingle

I spent a great afternoon in November at the Hackney Archives’ “Occupy The Archives” event as part of the Antiuniversity series.

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I was very impressed with the dedication of the staff, the contributions of other attendees and the general atmosphere. It was great to meet some people who’d seen this site too.

There was perhaps predictably too much stuff to take in, but my eye was drawn to a particular file which included notes, minutes and letters from various protest groups – many of which had postal addresses courtesy of Centerprise:

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This material has been used to update a previous post on Centerprise’s radical mailboxes.

If I get another spare afternoon then I’ll be straight back to Hackney Archives to do some more digging for this site…

The archives do good twitter too, if that is your thing: @archiveshackney

In the meantime, drop me a line or leave a comment below if you were involved with any of the above – particularly the Percy Ingle campaign.

 

The Provisional IRA in Stoke Newington

The Angry Brigade are not the only bombers to have lived in N16…

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1970s: Balcombe Street siege

An Active Service Unit of the IRA wreaked havoc during a 14 month campaign in London in 1974-1975. Hugh Doherty, Martin O’Connell, Eddie Butler, Brendan Dowd, Henry Duggan and Liam Quinn were responsible for 40 explosions and 35 deaths.

Their targets included pubs frequented by the armed forces, military barracks, Harrow school (no injuries), expensive restaurants in the West End and the house of Prime Minister Edward Heath.

The group also killed “Record Breakers” star and right wing political activist Ross McWhirter, who had offered a £50,000 reward for information leading to convictions for the bombings (as well as campaigning to make it mandatory for all Irish people in Britain to have to register with their local police station).

After the Metropolitan Police’s Commissioner Robert Mark made an appeal for help, a member of the public tipped off the cops about some suspicious people in a flat in Stoke Newington…

On 6th of December O’Connell, Butler, Duggan and Docherty stole a Ford Cortina and drove past Scott’s Restaurant in Mayfair, firing shots through the window. They were pursued by the police, eventually going to ground in a council flat in Balcombe Street, Marylebone, taking its two residents hostage and demanding safe passage to Ireland. The Balcombe Street Siege would last for six days before the hostages were freed and the four IRA men surrendered.

O’Connell and Duggan lived in a flat at 99 Milton Grove, Stoke Newington, which was raided by the police on 17th December 1975.

Here is a photo of the bath in the Milton Grove flat – explosives and bomb making equipment were stored underneath it:

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(NB: I couldn’t get the Getty Images “embed” function to work, so grudging apologies to them).

Notes suggesting a wide array of possible future targets were also discovered at the flat.

During the trial at the Old Bailey, Martin O’Connell made a speech from the dock to explain the actions of the group – and also to state that the recently imprisoned Guildford Four were innocent and had been falsely convicted for bombings that he and others had committed. The Guildford Four remained in jail despite this, eventually having their convictions overturned in 1989 after fourteen years of campaigning.

The “Balcombe Street Gang” received sentences of at least 30 years each, but were released from prison in April 1999 as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

1990s: Bombing of Harrods

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14th November 1992 – A large blue lorry was stopped on Stoke Newington Road by two police officers. The lorry contained 3.2 tonnes of explosive – the largest IRA bomb at that time. After some confusion and a chase in which one of the police officers was shot, an Irishman named Patrick Kelly was arrested. He pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder of a police officer and conspiracy to cause explosions. He was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years.

January 28th 1993 – An IRA bomb was detonated in a rubbish bin outside Harrods causing extensive damage to the building and injuries to four people – it was shortly before opening time. (NB: The IRA had bombed the shop 10 years previously with more devastating results).

2nd March 1993 – Following the release of CCTV images from outside Harrods, police raided the basement flat of Patrick Hayes in Walford Road, Stoke Newington. They found 22lb of Semtex, hand-guns, a sock full of bullets, several electronic detonators and timing devices, and keys to a lock-up garage in Muswell Hill from which home-made explosive were later recovered. Hayes and Jan Taylor were arrested in the flat – Taylor fired three shots at the policemen, but missed.

This (silent) news clip has footage of the exterior and interior of the flat from 1:19 onwards:

And this one includes an eyewitness account of the raid by a passerby:

May 1994 – Hayes and Taylor were both sentenced to 30 years for the Harrods bombing (and of a Victoria to Ramsgate train). Hayes was also linked forensically to other bombings using lorries, such as the one causing £350 million damage to the Baltic Exchange. Hayes announced in the courtroom that it was he that had been driving the lorry which was stopped by the police in Stoke Newington in November 1992 and that Patrick Kelly had been falsely imprisoned “on the basis of his nationality”.

Coverage of the trial focused on Hayes’ nationality instead – he was English, an usual background for an IRA bomber. He was also a member of Red Action:

In Hayes’s flat, police found literature associated with Red Action – a splinter of the Socialist Workers’ Party, founded in 1981 – and a copy of the Irish Republican News, as well as anti-fascist material.

The Independent

More precisely, Red Action was formed by militant working class anti-fascists who had been expelled by the SWP for “Squaddism” (i.e. physically confronting fascists) in the early eighties.

A further article in The Independent from a few years later covers the group’s forthright support for anti-fascism, Irish Republicanism and pro-working class politics – as well as Hayes’ membership.

Indeed, Red Action included a transcript of Hayes’ speech from the dock on the cover of the next issue of their paper, alongside a photograph of him kicking a fascist in the 1980s:

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(All issues of the Red Action paper are available as PDFs at the Red Action archive along with other material. The short autobiography of the group might be the best place to start.)

Whereas Martin O’Connell’s testimony about the innocence of the Guildford Four is now widely accepted, Hayes’ revelations about Patrick Kelly seem less definitive.

All I have been able to discover is that Jeremy Corbyn MP (whatever happened to him?) would successfully campaign in 1996 to get medical treatment for Kelly’s skin cancer which had been neglected by the prison authorities. Despite this intervention, Kelly seems to have died a year later – and was celebrated as an IRA Volunteer in 1998.

Like O’Connell and the Balcombe Street Gang, Hayes and Taylor were also released from prison in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement.