Hackney People's Press 1977

Part of an excitingly sporadic series, charting the radical history of Hackney through its community newspapers…

HPP started 1977 as a quarterly A4 newsletter and finished it as a tabloid monthly. This meant that an impressive six issues were published.

You can now view all six editions from this year in full as PDFs on archive.org  (and all the ones from 1976 too)

Each issue included listings for community and political groups which make fascinating reading.

Here are some other highlights from 1977:

HPP23-Feb-77cov

Issue 23‘s cover includes some dizzying references to price increases – Hackney People’s Press itself undergoing a two pence increase to 7p – and unhappiness about the rent on Hackney’s 26,000 Council homes going up by £2.50 a week. Whilst inflation means that these increases were fairly dramatic at the time, what is more interesting is that people felt that price increases should be apologised for – or resisted. These days they are often seen as a natural phenomenon like rain or the sun rising. Indeed the centre pages include a detailed account of several Labour councillors resigning – or being expelled – from Hackney Labour over protesting the rent rises.

Other bits in this issue:

  • An expose of the prospective GLC election candidate for Hackney Liberal Party, his connections with the National Front and views on immigration.HPP congratulates John Pilger on his cover story for the Daily Mirror on the state of Hackneys hospitals – including “fungus on the walls”
  • Hackney Women’s Aid open a new refuge.
  • Chats Palace – a new community centre in Brooksby’s Walk
  • Hackney Law Centre – a critical review of its first year.
  • An emergency supplement about the prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act that would become known as the ABC Trial. Crispin Aubrey, a founder of HPP, was one of the three journalists prosecuted.

Finally, a great cartoon on the back page encouraging people to get involved:

HPP23-Feb77-back

Issue 24 lead with a story on the forthcoming GLC elections and included a handy centre-spread on who not to vote for (National Front). Joan Margaret Morgan, Labour candidate for Hackney South was campaigning on a platform including “A Chelsea – Hackney Tube line” which sounds a bit like the Dalston Overground (opened 2010):

HPP24-May-77cov

Also in this issue:

  • “March Against Beynon’s Bill – Tory MP (and Hackney property owner) William Beynon wanted to restrict the upper limit to abortion to 20 weeks. (It is usually 24 weeks at the moment)
  • Hackney Homeworkers organise
  • More on Crispin Aubrey’s official secrets prosecution
  • Rio Cinema – “a concerted effort is being made to buy the Rio Cinema in Kingsland High Street. The idea is to turn it into a Centre for the arts and entertainment for the people who live in and around Hackney”
  • Hackney Marsh Festival
  • “Winkling” – property developers putting pressure on tenants to vacate
  • A letter from the allegedly racist Liberal Party member exposed in the previous issue
  • Concern about plans for a new lorry park in the borough
  • Friends of the Earth campaign for more allotments
  • Expansion of Haggerston Park – could some of it be given over to Gypsies?
HPP25-May-77-cov

The main story in issue 25 was a report on a demonstration opposing an election meeting held by the National Front in Shoreditch School on 30th April. At the time schools and other council buildings were obliged to allow their use for election rallies. An advert for the meeting in the Hackney Gazette lead to a walkout of journalists. Teachers, parents and other locals picketed the meeting. According to Dave Renton (in Never Again: Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League 1976-1982), there were about 500 protestors. Later that summer the NF would face serious protests when attempting to march through Lewisham.

An irreverent “Page 3” focussing on the cost of the Royal Family

Also in this issue:

  • Squatters under attack by the council free-sheet The Hackney Herald. The council rep interviewed by HPP doesn’t want to comment on how many empty homes there were in Hackney at the time.
  • Tenants on Morningside Estate getting a raw deal in the run up to the widening of Morning Lane.
  • Tenants on Frampton Park win control of their own community centre.
  • Looking back on the Metropolitan Hospital 1836-1977.
  • Hackney Teachers fight compulsory transfers
  • Poems from Hackney Writers Workshop (Centerprise)
  • A look back at “The People Take Back The Land” story from HPP issue 1.
  • Programme for Hackney Marsh Festival.

The September issue (the last of the bi-monthlies) leads with an arson attack on Centerprise – just two days after the National Front tried and failed to march through Lewisham.The article mentions other attacks on community bookshops at the time. Six weeks previously the shop had been vandalised with racist slogans and the locks glued.

Also:

  • “After Lewisham” on the anti-NF protest and its implications.
  • Critical support for the council’s “Health in Hackney” guide, distributed to all households – but reservations about funding cuts and rundown facilities
  • Fire Station on Brooke Road, Stoke Newington to become a community centre
  • An epidemic of apathy at Hackney Hospital Radio
  • Evening classes – Hackney Workers Educational Association
  • “Hackney Gasbag” – 8 page insert produced by Hackney children – squatting, hooliganism, skateboarding, Centerprise, National Union of School Students, Hackney history, live music reviews, puzzles, fashion – all the good things in life, basically.

November marked the first tabloid edition of HPP in a new monthly format – along with an apology for another price rise, up to 10 pence! The cover featured Hackney’s biggest march against racism and the National Front. This would be a long (and of course ongoing) battle – the NF opened up its National HQ in Shoreditch in the following year.

Other stories:

  • Homelessness – proposal for the formation of Hackney Community Housing Action Group to survey empty homes in the borough
  • Lenthal Road print workshop’s funding difficulties.
  • Latin America Centre opens in Hoxton Square.
  • Kingsmead tenants fight for renovations
  • Campaign to restore Wiltons Music Hall in Stepney
  • Longsight News, a community newspaper in Manchester being sued for libel by a policeman
  • Walking down the River Lea

1977 finished up with issue 28.

Lead stories on the Fireman’s strike, the council collaborating with anti-abortion hostel on Kyverdale Road, Stoke Newington, the possibility of a £5m grant for Hackney and Islington from central government – HPP is sceptical of the council’s ability to seize this opportunity.

And:

Cuts to pensioners organisation, Task Force, homelessness, criticism of John Pilger’s coverage of Hackney hospitals (also notes that the infant mortality rate in Hackney was 25% higher than the national average – “a crime against the people of Hackney”). Looking back at the first year of the Food For All on Cazenove Road (still there!) and the opening of a Womens Centre in the same building. Kids review comics.

Previously on this blog:

Hackney People’s Press: interview with Charles Foster

Hackney Peoples Press, 1976 – opposing the NF

Hackney Peoples Press, 1975 + Hackney Mental Patients Union

Hackney Peoples Press issue 10 1974

Hackney Peoples Press – the first three issues, 1973

Hackney Action (1972) – a community newspaper

Hackney Gutter Press 1972

Hackney Peoples Paper: 1971

Bob Darke on how to fight racism in Hackney, 1979

Bob Darke is best known for the 1952 book The Communist Technique in Britain about his disaffection with the Hackney Branch of the Communist Party. That’s been previously covered here.

Darke criticised the CP for its subservience to Stalinist Russia at the expense of working class issues in Hackney. So it was hardly surprising that after he left the party he continued to work as a bus conductor and focus on trade union and tenants issues:

I live in Nisbet House, Homerton, a block of council flats in the Borough of Hackney, where washing is always hanging on the lines on the verandas, and there are bicycles and prams in the tiled hallways and sheds. Such a block of flats in the East End is a world of its own, closer-knit than the luxury flats in the West End where, I imagine, a man can lock his door on his neighbours. But if, in the East End, you can’t keep your own business from the neighbours that also means that your circle of friends is all the wider.

The Communist Technique in Britain, p7

In the clip above he makes the case for strong tenants organisations being bulwark against racism and the spread of organisations like the National Front. 

Enoch Powell in Dalston

Enoch Powell’s infamous racist “rivers of blood” speech was delivered in Birmingham in 1968.

Despite, or perhaps because of this, he was President of Hackney South and Shoreditch Conservative Association in 1973. It seems like the presidential position was elected, so he was clearly popular with Hackney’s Torys at the time (if not with the party leadership).

The borough’s Torys invited Powell to deliver a speech in 1976 – even though he had left the Conservatives to join the Ulster Unionists two years previously:

powell

Powell would later inspire the “Enoch Powell is Right” Party – a split from the National Front which stood in Hackney Council elections in 1981.

Working Class History Podcast: John Barker on the Stoke Newington 8

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“Working Class History” has existed for a few years as a social media feed highlighting often neglected events from the past to inspire us now.

They’ve just launched a new podcast. The debut episdode covers the Grunwick strike and is a great listen. It was particularly good to hear some critical discussion about the strike is being absorbed into mainstream history whilst being shed of some of its collective radicalism.

The latest edition is the first half of an interview with John Barker on the Angry Brigade/Stoke Newington 8. As usual John is very insightful and I enjoyed hearing him talk about his early life, political development and the sixties/seventies counter culture generally:

You can get more information about the project on its website:

https://workingclasshistory.com/

(The site also has links to their twitter, Facebook and Youtube feeds as well as a Patreon page for financial support)

You can also subscribe to the podcast on Itunes.

Hackney Peoples Press, 1976 – opposing the NF

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:

hpp76may

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,

hpp76july

Things hot up in July with an expanded 12 pages.

Cover feature / lead story on the National Front in Hackney:

hpp76-nf

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.

hpp1976septoct

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:

hpp76fares

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:

hpp76agony
hpp76novdec

Rounding the year off with another 12 pages:

Health cuts:

  • 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.

Fighting Sus: Resisting and Repealing Stop and Search 1970-81

On The Record concluded an excellent oral history project about Centerprise this year with the publication of a superb book, audio tour and other resources.

brixton-riots2-sus

They now have a new project on the notorious “Sus Laws” which empowered police officers to stop and search people purely on the grounds of “suspicion”. The effects of this at a time when the police were institutionally and endemically racist should be fairly obvious. The Sus Laws were infamously used to search 1000 black youth in Brixton as part of “Operation Swamp” in April 1981, triggering the Brixton riots…

On the Record is recruiting a freelance Youth Coordinator for their exciting new project Fighting Sus: Resisting and Repealing Stop and Search 1970-81. We are looking for someone with experience of both youth work and drama production.

Download the application documents here and read the project’s press release here.

Please send queries and applications to us at info(at)on-the-record.org.uk

They are also interested in hearing from you if you are:

– A 16-25 year-old interested in taking part
– Over 25 years-old with memories of the ‘sus’ era
– A theatre, school or community group interested in hosting or helping with the performance.

The press release (linked above and well worth read) starts with a poem from Hackney / Antiguan poet Hugh Boatswain:

‘Hey boy, what have you just done?’
‘Me officer – nat a ting.’
‘Why you running then?
‘Late sa’, gotta meet de dartah?’
‘Sorry son, going to have to take you in,
lots of crimes in this area
come on down to the station for questioning.’
Nex’ morning black boy come from station,
No bookings, no charges, just a heap full of bruises.’

The Sus Laws were also covered by Boatswain’s fellow poet Linton Kwesi Johnson:

History Workshop Journal: Feminist squatting in Hackney

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The current issue of HWJ includes an excellent article by Christine Wall titled “Sisterhood and Squatting in the 1970s: Feminism, Housing and Urban Change in Hackney”.

Fortunately for us non-academics, the piece can be read in its entirety online rather than being stuck behind a paywall:

https://academic.oup.com/hwj/article/83/1/79/3862507/Sisterhood-and-Squatting-in-the-1970s-Feminism

There is a particular focus on the area around London Fields / Broadway Market:

By the late 1970s an estimated fifty women-only households were scattered throughout the streets behind Broadway Market, including one continuous terrace of seven women’s squats on Lansdowne Drive. The majority of these women identified as lesbians.

But squatting communities in Ivydene Road and Amhurst Road are also mentioned, as well as some very readable recollections of feminist squatting culture and activism.