August 2020 updates

The rigid conservatism of the Museum of the Home has thankfully been outpaced by East London’s Sir John Cass Redcoat School which has now been renamed Stepney All Saints CofE Secondary School. The name change recognises the role John Cass played in the slave trade.

This summer statues of John Cass were removed from St Botolph’s Church (Aldgate High Street) and the Sir John Cass Institute (Jewry St). Cass’ connections to Hackney are documented in a previous post here.

Mark Metcalf, formerly of this parish – and Hackney Community Defence Association, Colin Roach Centre and many other great initiatives – has uploaded scans of some relevant documents to his website.

These include PDFs of Hackney Union News from the late 1980s, a number of Hackney Community Defence Association pamphlets and three issues of Revolutions Per Minute – a cultural magazine produced by the Colin Roach Centre.

Sparrows Nest in Nottingham have subsequently also uploaded the October 1993 issue of Hackney Trade Union News as part of their huge online archive too.

I am conscious that personal websites can get hacked or go offline for various reasons, so have taken the liberty of arranging for these documents to be added to the archive.org site alongside dozens of other radical Hackney documents from the seventies to the noughties.

Radical History of Hackney tentacles also extend to a Soundcloud page with audio content or a Youtube channel if you prefer that.

The comrades at Libcom have uploaded an article about gentrification in Hackney at the turn of the century from the anarchist Black Flag magazine: “You Can’t Live On A Web Site” – Privatisation and Gentrification, Reaction and Resistance, in Hackney’s ‘Regeneration State’ – Libcom’s “Hackney” tag is well worth a browse through also.

July 2020 updates

The usual update of recent radical Hackney films, books, campaigns and other things that have caught my eye over the last month…

Above is a lovely life-affirming film of John Rogers‘ walk from Hackney marshes to Stoke Newington earlier this year. John is the author of The Other London: Adventures in the Overlooked City and worked with Iain Sinclair on his London Overground film. The walk includes his compelling commentary about the areas he is navigating and his Youtube channel has a bunch of great films to check out.

This month I have also been enjoying two beautifully produced publications from Rendezvous Projects:

Lightboxes and Lettering: Printing Industry Heritage in East London looks at the premises, processes and people who printed all sorts of things in Hackney, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Clerkenwell. There are excellent chapters on radical and community presses (inlcuding Hackney’s Lenthal Road and Calverts) as well as a look at the changing gender roles in the industry. More generally the book is an intriguing overview of the changing face of work in East London.

Sweet Harmony: Mapping Waltham Forest’s dance radio stations, record shops & venues, 1989-1994 is obviousy less focussed on Hackney, but should be of interest to ravers old and new. Many of the pirate stations covered will have had listeners in Hackney and the Dungeons venue on Lea Bridge Road was the site of many a messy night for Hackneyites.

Both publications include a tonne of quotes from people and are lavishly illustrated wth maps, photos, graphics etc. You can order them here.

soon to be removed statue of slave trader John Cass on Jewry Street

Earlier this week Hackney Council announced that the park Cassland Road Gardens would be renamed by local residents. As I’ve pointed out previously, Cassland Road (the site of the gardens) is named after slavetrader John Cass. The renaming of the roads around the park is a longer term project and residents are being invited to put forward their thoughts as part of the council’s wider review.

There is less good news from our neighbours in the generally less progressive City of London. Our comrades at Reclaim EC1 have uncovered a wealth of information about City dignitaries including Lord Mayor of London William Russell recently paying homage to John Cass – and subsequently trying to cover their tracks.

The Happy Man Tree, July 2020.

The Happy Man Tree on Lordship Road is under threat of destruction by property developer Berkeley Homes. The tree appears on the Ordinance Survey map of the area from 1870 and so is at least 150 years old.

As the community campaign to save it points out:

This beautiful London plane tree grows on the public pavement on the North End of Lordship Road on Woodberry grove London N4.

It has survived a century and a half of building development, two world wars, road widening schemes with the arrival of the motor car and, so far, Berkeley Homes. But now, in this latest intervention, this majestic and much – loved tree has been condemned to be cut down by Berkeley homes & Hackney Council.

There is an alternative plan.

Viable alternative plans developed with local people would have allowed the development to go ahead whilst keeping the tree. These were rejected by Berkeley Homes as either too expensive or too complicated.

I’d certainly recommend a visit to the tree and a conversation with the campaigners – or a visit to https://www.thehappymantree.org/ where you can add your name to the petition and find out other ways give your support.

There is currently a petition, a legal challenge and perhaps the prosect of more direct action orientated protest, judging by the nice tree house.

Hackney Gazette story on the Colin Roach Centre

screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-17-50-30

Link to Gazette feature.

Good to see our main local paper covering some radical history and mentioning current struggles around spycops. Hackney Community Defence Association and the Hackney Trades Union Support Unit were both based at the Colin Roach Centre.

Hackney number one for squatters, says Parliament (1993)

This is from Hansard, December 17th 1993:

Mr. Pike To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the cost to local authorities of dealing with squatters in the last 12 months for which figures are available.

Mr. Maclean I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that this information is not recorded centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Pike To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimates he has as to the number of squatters there are currently in England; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean The nature of squatting makes it impossible to assess the number of squatters with any degree of accuracy, but estimates as to the total number of people squatting in England and Wales generally range between 30,000 and 50,000. More precise information is, however, available about the number of local authority dwellings under unauthorised occupation: on 1 April 1993 there were 2,963 local authority dwellings so occupied, of which 88 per cent. were in inner London: Hackney—1,152; Lambeth—327; Tower Hamlets—232; Camden—153; and Islington—135—being among the areas worst affected.

David Maclean is a Tory who campaigned vigorously for fox hunting, and against the Freedom of Information Act applying to Parliament. Oh, and for keeping MP’s expenses secret, which would have meant we never knew about his tax-payer funded flat screen TV and quad bike). He stepped down as an MP in 2010 and was made a life peer shortly afterwards.

Peter Pike was the Labour MP for Burnley from 1983-2005. It’s unclear what he had against squatters, but I’ve not been able to find any expenses scandal linked to him.

Another source estimated a total of 3,500 squatted properties in Hackney in the late 80s / early 90s. (i.e including council property and other types).

It’s probably worth pointing out that the high point of squatting in Hackney would have been the mid 1980s. Any more statistics welcome.

ITN: raw footage of Hackney poll tax protest

Woo! Check this out

http://www.itnsource.com/en/shotlist/ITN/1990/03/08/CR0803900002/

It’s not possible to embed the films on the ITNsource site, but I have taken some screenshots. This is a 73 minutes of unedited footage of anti poll tax protests outside English Town Halls in March 1990.

The last half an hour is all from the Hackney protest. It includes the police setting up as well as a lot of pushing, shoving and chanting during the protest itself. There are arrests and de-arrests. Paddy Ashdown is called a wanker during an interview – and a more reasonable protestor remonstrates with him about police violence.

There are also shots of the much missed Samuel Pepys pub and the Narrow Way etc as you haven’t seen them for some time…

It’s not brilliant quality but it is still an amazing thing to see.

Below is the index text from the ITN site (with some TV jargon included) – you can scroll through the footage to get to the timings indicated:

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 21.37.42

41.13 Bus full of police along; police load crowd control barriers into van; bus carrying police along past Town Hall; police off bus; another bus full of police along; police carrying barriers along road; man along road with placard; pile of anti poll tax placards on pavement; large group of police along pavement;

44.02 GV Town Hall; police outside Town Hall; boarded up windows; policemen on roof; CS ‘London Borough of Hackney’ logo PULL OUT to boarded up windows of Housing Office; security officers at entrance door to Town Hall; man enters Town Hall after showing police ID card; line of police outside Town Hall; NIGHT/EXT

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 21.37.58

46.19 Demers with placards outside Town Hall; demers chanting; Green Party anti poll tax banner; demers chanting; police standing on steps of town hall facing chanting crowds; crowds trying to push past police as anger builds and chants of ‘Maggie Thatcher’s Boot Boys’ become louder; crowd surge forward trying to push past police; two policemen discussing tactics; crowds throwing missiles at police as scuffles begin; police making arrests;

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 21.39.18

54.05 Intvw Paddy Ashdown outside Town Hall; young man begins to argue with Ashdown;

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 21.24.48

56.27 GV crowd outside Town Hall ZOOM IN to police in midst of crowds as scuffles occur; police making arrests; fight breaks out as police and crowds clash; missiles thrown at police; man appears on balcony to cheers from crowds below; man on balcony unfurls flag ‘Pay No Poll Tax’ and waves it to crowds below;

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 22.02.18

63.10 Crowd throwing missiles at police, police pursue offenders; ambulance along road; police retreating as mass crowds throw missiles and placards at them; police rush towards crowds who speedily retreat; police make arrests;

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 22.03.36

66.12 GV police under seige at entrance to Town Hall; scuffle breaks out (good clear shots) and police make arrests; injured man with blood on forehead helped by crowds; blood spattered on ground; police making arrests;

68.21 CS poster advertising “People First Rally” with Paddy Ashdown as main speaker;

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 22.05.48

68.32 Arrested man led away by police; CS broken window of Town Hall; INT: officials inside Town Hall; intvw Paddy Ashdown inside Town Hall as shouts of “We Wont Pay the Poll Tax” heard in b/g; EXT/NIGHT

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 21.34.15

70.40 Injured man on stretcher lifted into ambulance; crowds cheer as ambulance away; police making arrests; crowds dispersing as demo ends; VS EXT Woolworths and pavement outside strewn with broken glass; EXT McDonalds with smashed windows; EXT Midland Bank and broken windows; man sweeping up glass; CONDENSED RUSHES CR2128

ENDS:74.24

November 1990: Hackney leads poll tax non-payment league

image016

After the riots, Hackney was the number one borough for non-payment of the Poll Tax too.

An article in the Guardian on 1st of November 1990 stated:

The latest survey by the Guardian shows almost half of eligible residents in Hackney have not paid the poll tax.

The east London borough of Hackney has replaced Liverpool as the bastion of non-payment in the Guardian’s latest monthly survey of the community charge in 20 local authorities.

Forty-four per cent of residents liable for the poll tax have so far paid nothing, compared with 42 per cent in Liverpool.

But Hackney has managed to obtain more revenue than Liverpool, which has pulled in only 30 per cent of the money it ought to have received by now, and is heading for severe financial problems.

Hackney has reached 55 per cent of the target.

This is partly because Liverpool, after political and printing delays and an industrial dispute in the poll tax department, has only just started to issue 93,000 final notices to non-payers and has not yet started taking people to court.

Hackney, however, has obtained more than 4,000 liability notices from magistrates, and has already asked bailiffs to take action in 2,000 cases. Some other Labour authorities, by contrast, are using bailiffs as a last resort, or not at all. […]

Poll Tax

A proud legacy!

People burning their bills, Clissold Park

People burning their bills, Clissold Park

HCDA on the Hackney poll tax riot, 1990

0803199001

I’ve now added this document in a more readable format to the Hackney Community Defence Association section of the site:

A peoples’ account of the Hackney anti-poll tax demonstration on March 8th 1990.

Lots of eye-witness accounts of conflict with the police outside the town hall, shops being vandalised on the Narroway and even an attack on Hackney police station. With guest appearances by Paddy Ashdown and Glenys Kinnock.

(Not to mention the usual sterling work by HCDA in assisting people who were falsely arrested and fitted up).

 

Spycops meeting, HCDA and Hackney Trade Union Support Unit publications

HCDA banner at Chats Palace Spycops meeting

HCDA banner at Chats Palace spycops meeting

The recent meeting about spycops at Chats Palace was disturbing and inspiring in turn. Disturbing because of the level of state-sanctioned emotional abuse suffered by activist women – and inspiring because of their dignified and tenacious campaign for justice.

“Alison” (formerly of the Colin Roach Centre) and Helen Steel (formerly of London Greenpeace, McLibel etc) were joined on the platform by Graham Smith (founder member of Hackney Community Defence Association) and Mark Metcalf (formerly of HCDA, Colin Roach Centre, Hackney Trade Union Support Unit etc).

It was good to see the Hackney Community Defence Association banners in action once again (see pic above – “Alison” understandably did not want to be photographed, hence the empty stage).

Even better than that was the diverse cross-section of Hackney radicals who were present – I reacquainted myself with people from my union branch, Hackney Independent, Hackney Anarchy Week, various radical history initiatives and from doing zines in the 1990s.

Attendees were all given a useful HCDA timeline, which I have now added to this site.

The meeting picked up coverage in the Hackney Gazette amongst other places.

The ongoing campaign is ably covered by Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS).

Since the meeting, Mark Metcalf has republished scans of two pamphlets of interest on his blog:

tusu1

Hackney Trade Union Support Unit report 1988-1990

0803199001

HCDA’s “A peoples’ account of Hackney anti-poll tax demonstration on March 8th 1990”

I’ve not had much time to work on this site recently, but will steal both of those and add them here in due course. In the meantime, do check them out on Mark’s blog alongside his other writing and see what he has to say on twitter.

Also since the meeting, Graham Smith has written an interesting blog entry on Undercover Policing, Democracy and Human Rights which covers HCDA and the forthcoming Pitchford enquiry into undercover policing. Graham can now be found on twitter here.

The Provisional IRA in Stoke Newington

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

balcombe-st-siege-10th-december-19751

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:

bath

(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

harrods

harrods2

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:

ra1001cover

(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.

Centerprise’s radical mailboxes

Centerprise, 1980

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…

cuts cover

Box 1: Hackney Against the Cuts (early 90s)

Box 2: Anarchist Communist Association (late 70s)

Box 3: ?

ap6

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.”

tbw003

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.”

hackney

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).

Box 11: Hackney Jewish Socialist Group (1990s)

htuc
Box 11: Hackney Trades Union Council (2000s)

Box 12: ?

Box 13: An Phoblacht – newspaper of Sinn Féin.

Box 14: News From Everywhere / Campaign For Real Life (1980s/1990s) Communist publishers of books, pamphlets and texts – with a tinge of the situationist / “ultra-left”.

lpa

Box 15: London Psychogeographical Association / Unpopular Books / Workers Scud / East London Association of Autonomous Astronauts (1980s-1990s)

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’.”

IMG_2564

Box 17: Hackney Campaign for Equal Opportunities in Percy Ingle Shops.

IMG_2563

Box 22: ELWAR – East London Workers Against Racism

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 14.32.58

Box 22: Tube Watch (1988-?) – Class struggle and public transport in London.

Box 24: Unity Group (1990s) “Promoting unity between anti-fascist groups.”

madprid4

Box 26: Spare Change Press (book publishers – punk fiction and others) / Mad Pride (anarchistic mental health protest group) (1990s/2000s)

Box 32: Between the Lines (1990s) Humorous and slightly heretical left-wing fanzine. Also organised “looney left football tournaments” and discussion meetings.

Box 33: Stop Thorp Campaign (1990s) Opposition to new nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Sellafield.

IMG_2562

Box 38: Stoke Newington Rock Against Racism (late 70s / early 80s)

Box 39: Hackney Anti-Deportation Campaign

Box 44: Melancholic Troglodytes (1990s/2000s) internationalist council communist pamphleteers.

hmpa

Box 48: Hackney Mental Patients Association (1980s)

BANNER03

Box 48: Hackney Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) (late 90s, 2000s) Community politics in South Hackney. Later became Hackney Independent.