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…”.

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…

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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Hackney Action (1972) – a community newspaper

Hackney Action was founded in June 1972 by Centerprise, who aimed to “promote a people’s paper. One that will reflect the feelings and attitudes of the people in the borough of Hackney.”

To me, it seems more community-minded and less overtly “militant” that the Hackney People’s Paper which had been published the previous year.

There were five issues of Hackney Action. The two I have (courtesy of Charles Foster) are tabloid six-pagers:

(click on the images below for larger versions)

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Issue 2’s front page features the beginning of lengthy article by Centerprise’s Ken Worpole debunking the council’s “Hackney Cares” slogan.

“What is happening in East Bank” looks at the proposal to make the street in Stamford Hill a “general improvement area”. There’s a handy guide to the pros and cons for tenants and property owners:

Also……..

  • “How I started a playgroup” by Barbara Berks
  • Demand for a public enquiry into a recent death from pneumonia and hypothermia at  childrens’ home “The Beeches”.
  • Green Lanes Tenants Association
  • Contacts/Ads (Centerprise, Legal Aid, Off Centre – a consultation service for young people, MP surgeries, Hackney Claimants Union, Hackney Multiple Sclerosis Society, Half Moon Gallery exhibition)
  • An in-jokey “fable” which might be a dig at some local characters.

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Page 5 (above) is particularly good:

Daphne Morgan on Hackney Committee Against Racialism: “formed in March 1970 when Enoch (Rivers of Blood) Powell was making racialism respectable and threatening the whiter-than-whites with a rising tide of black babies”. Their activities thus far included producing leaflets, having a presence and banner at various demos – including a picket of a meeting of the far right Monday Club in Islington, and quizzing local election candidates (“none of the Tories replied”).

After the election, the group focused on lobbying the council about improving conditions on “ghetto estates” and challenging institutional racism: “We have still had no satisfaction on the question of discrimination in housing. No official or councillor has been been able to explain why so many immigrant families end up in the worst and oldest estates, whereas more modern ones such as George Downing are almost pure white.”

An article on the Hackney Playmobile (still running in 2014 as the Hackney Playbus!) by Pauline Weinstein. She places the playmobile as part of a wider upsurge in working class communities organising or demanding facilities for children after a freeze in nursery places by the government in 1960.

Pauline has reflected recently on the playbus, the importance of archives (hear hear!) and her life in this article for the Planned Environment Therapy Trust. She is now involved with the Working Lives of Older People archive.

The back page of this issue is an article about Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal in Stratford E15, emphasising its links with the community and funding problems.

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Issue 3 came out after a respectable three months gap in October 1972. The lead article is about a rent increase for council tenants of 90p, which will have many of our readers choking on their cornflakes in amazement – but that is about £11 in today’s money. The article names and shames councillors who voted for implementing the rise (31) and those who voted against (27). It also mentions a proposed two week rent strike.

This theme continues on Page 2 with an article by Bob Darke, Secretary of Hackney United Tenants Federation entitled “Fight The Tory Rent Bill – It’s a class act directed against one section of the community – the working class”.

A previous entry on this website covers Darke’s involvement in and rejection of the Communist Party in Hackney in the 1950s. I was pleased to see he was still active in the 1970s.

Also this issue:

  • Poems by black youth Vivian Usherwood
  • Education in Hackney by Ruth Silver (against school closures and selective entry).
  • Two cheap recipes, including “Mackerel egg and sweetcorn pie for five” (a precursor to “A Girl Called Jack” perhaps?)
  • Hackney Trade Council Action Committee: against entry into the Common Market (“a new way of organising Europe in the interests of the Boss Class”), opposing the Industrial Relations Act, campaigning to make “Hackney a better, cleaner, healthier and more beautiful place to live and work in”
  • A back page feature on the Geffrye Museum by its curator Jeffrey Daniels

Page 4 of this issue is given over to notices and contact details (click on the image for a larger version. And apologies for there being a bit chopped off, an inevitable result of some covert scanning at someone’s workplace):

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According to the Hackney Archives (who have copies on microfilm), Hackney Action transformed into Hackney Peoples Press in 1973.

Hackney Peoples Paper: 1971

Charles Foster has very kindly donated a large quantity of Hackney radical newspapers from the 1970s and early 1980s. I shall do my best to document them, or at least give a general flavour.

The first set seem to be three issues of Peoples Paper, from 1971. According to the official Hackney Archives this publication began the previous year as Stoke Newington Peoples Paper.

As you will see, the wording and design of the masthead was a bit, er, fluid. Each issue is tabloid (A3) and is an elegant four pages (i.e. front cover, two inside pages, back cover).

Click on the images below for larger versions:

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Issue 4 has an open letter on the front page to the Hackney Labour Party (who had just regained control of the Council) demanding that they pursue a socialist agenda. Specifically by:

  • Opposing the Industrial Relations Bill, and Immigration Bill.
  • Freezing rents on Council housing (and building more)
  • Abolishing fares on public transport for old people
  • Supporting claimants

“We intend to remain the only independent Socialist paper in Hackney, and we’ll support you when you remain loyal to the people, and we’ll expose you when you behave like tories!!”

Also this issue:

  • The immigration bill: a slaves charter,
  • Why do prices rise? [economics, including a note saying The Peoples Association intend to hold a series of classes on economics and for interested people to get in touch]
  • Housing and Welfare Rights [claiming for free school meals / exposing local mortgage and furniture hire purchase adverts]
  • Poetry from local children
  • Snippets [Centerprise publications, lack of new health centres]

And a list of local groups and contacts:

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Issue 5 leads with a story about the declining quality of medical care for mothers in the borough, including four case studies.

The front cover also includes “Insite: from the diary of a mad building worker” on how builders should unionise and organise against the Industrial Relations Bill.

Inside this issue there is a full page on “What Are Claimants Unions”, and a smaller piece on The National Organisation For the Defence of Prisoners And Dependants.

There’s some gloriously snippy sectariansim too. The Hackney Gazette is taken to task for not mentioning Hackney Peoples Press, and the Labour affiliated Hackney Young Socialists are mocked for appearing in its “Spotlight on Youth” feature, as opposed to being seen “in the places where it counts – on the streets among the people!”

Oh yes and the open letter to the Labour Party from the previous issue doesn’t seem to have gone down too well either. The only response seems to have been from Alderman Martin Ottolangui who dismissed it as “a sneering attack”.

Also racism at Finsbury Park bowling club, with one member quoted as saying “There isn’t actually a colour bar, we just discourage them from joining”.

And some snippets on deaths in custody, a strike at Walpamur Distributors (Boleyn Road), local contacts, and the economics classes are up and running every Tuesday evening at Centerprise: “It’s best to be well informed when arguing with the silly buggers – including trade union ‘leaders’ who claim that there’s not enough cake to go round.”

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Issue 6 is the last I have. It leads with a story about a popular playgroup leader being sacked.

“A word from our sponsor” is about the group who produce the paper and reveals that they have a print run of 1,000 copies. Donations are requested and some criticisms are addressed (mainly that they are a small group and so can’t know everything about what is going on, which is fair enough!)

“Finally and most importantly, let there be no misunderstanding about where we stand. We want a total transformation of society – to socialism. We do not believe that the transformation of this society to one where we are not born merely to work for others for the rest of our lives, will be a peaceful one. It is the experience of the whole socialist movement that no ruling class in history has ever given up power to the working class. How we fight to make them give up is the history of our movement; the time has come to make our own history rather than read about it”.

Another report states that the story in the previous issue about maternity care was taken up in the national press and “created quite a stir” (but was ignored by the Gazette and Hackney Labour, it seems).

Also

  • Support for workers in dispute (The Upper Clyde Shipbuilders specifically, who held a “work in” to demonstrate the viability of their jobs which were threatened)
  • Homelessness in Hackney
  • Some poems
  • A quote from The Communist Manifesto
  • Ulster (how the 1924 Special Powers Act screws civil liberties)
  • An attack on councillors in the Defoe ward for being useless.
  • Illustrations from anarchist Arthur Moyse.

Not bad for 3p! (Which was also the cost of a 1st class stamp or half a pint in 1971.)

Hackney People’s Press: interview with Charles Foster

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Charles Foster worked on more than 90 of the 109 issues of Hackney People’s Press published between 1974 and 1985. He got in touch after reading a previous post here on Hackney People’s Press and very kindly offered to discuss his experiences of the project.

Can we start with how and when you arrived in Hackney?
Really by accident. It was round about May 1974. I had a friend who lived in Stoke Newington so, when I saw an unfurnished flat in N16 advertised in the Evening Standard, I knew where it was. I was working in Borough at the time (another now trendy spot, but distinctly not then) so I reckoned the trip to work wouldn’t be too bad.

The same friend had done a small amount of work for Hackney People’s Press and so knew Crispin Aubrey. He rang her up one day trying to get her to do more and she recommended me. Because I was working for a publisher doing advertising design and book production, I thought I might be able to help with the layout etc. So I went to meet Crispin and got roped in.

What were your first impressions of Hackney in the seventies?
It’s difficult to recall what my first impressions were. I lived in Farleigh Road, which is in the very south of Stoke Newington and it was still full of rented flats and bedsits. There seemed to be a small number of middle class enclaves elsewhere in the borough of Hackney – the bits of Stoke Newington closer to Clissold Park, bits of Dalston off Queensbridge Road, De Beauvoir (which is where Crispin lived), some of the terraces near Victoria Park (although that was a long way from me). Farleigh Road was not really in that league.

Finding a newsagent near me who stocked the Guardian was not that easy, for instance. And if you spotted someone else buying or carrying it, you sort of nodded at them, recognising them as someone a bit like you.

Were you involved in any political/community projects prior to Hackney People’s Press?
No. I was pretty politically naive. There were a number of people around who seemed to spend a lot of time selling their own newspapers (Socialist Worker, Morning Star, Red Weekly or whatever.) I didn’t really know what the differences were between them, and why they all hated each other.

Can you describe what HPP was? What were its aims and who was involved? Was there a defined audience for it?
It grew out of people involved in Centerprise. If you’ve seen Ken Worpole’s writings about that time it gives you a pretty good flavour. I came in just when the earliest people such as Ken had stopped, which is why Crispin was struggling keeping things going virtually on his own. We worked on two or three issues together, along with a few other people. Then Crispin stopped, and it ground to a halt for about nine months.

Then I got two or three people together and started it again, with a big plea for new people to come along and help. A few did, and we kept it going pretty much every month for the next ten years or so.

Other than me, the people involved changed several times over the course of those ten years – I was the only one to stay with the project right up until we stopped. But the basic way of working didn’t change much. We used to do the production over a weekend, finishing off on a Monday night. Then I would take the boards to the printer on Tuesday morning on the way to work and we would get finished copies back by the Friday night in order to do the distribution over the following weekend.

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I’m interested in the basics of production and distribution –how many were printed? How was it funded? How did you get it out to people?
In the early days the production was all done at Centerprise. This was pre-DTP days, so we did all the work with columns of text typed on a golf ball typewriter, and headings done in Letraset, pasted onto large white sheets of card. We used Ken’s IBM golfball typewriter for the text and Letraset for the headings. Later, we acquired a golfball typewriter of our own, after one of our then collective went to Holland and raised some money from people there who were interested in helping inner city projects in London.

We then started producing the paper at a printers called Trojan Press. This was a new co-operative which had been set up by a few local people including the same guy who went to Holland. In the early days they also made badges including the “I read Hackney People’s Press” badge. The paper was never printed by Trojan as their machines were too small, but it was a very convenient place to do the layout.

A lot of the production equipment – scalpels, Cow Gum, metal rulers etc – I used to bring from my work. Letraset was expensive. When we had some spare cash, we bought a few sheets. As far as I recall, we printed 1000 copies.

In Crispin’s day, the paper was made up of A3 sheets, stapled together on the left hand side. I didn’t like that as I thought it looked unprofessional, so when we relaunched in I cut the format down to 8pp A4, and then later 12pp A4. After a while we found a printer who could print on A2 sheets, so we started producing the paper as 8pp A3. I was quite chuffed when we did that and thought we were on our way to becoming a “real” paper, which was always my ambition.

We had a network of 20 to 30 newsagents in Hackney who would take the paper on “Sale Or Return” terms. I don’t think any took more than ten or twelve copies, some took as few as four, so it was a fairly futile exercise. It would take me several hours on a Saturday to deliver to them all. The main outlet was Centerprise. In the early days they would sell more than a hundred copies. Maybe even 150-200 some months.

A few people would take copies to sell themselves. Some councillors would even sell it at Labour Party meetings.

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Finally we used to sell papers ourselves on a few estates, on Sunday mornings. De Beauvoir and Holly St were the most regular ones we went to, but we used to try a few others at different times. Not everyone was too happy about being woken up at 11 on a Sunday morning by a bunch of hairy lefties, but we probably got rid of 30 or 40 copies most times.

Events like the Hackney Marsh Fun Festival were also good places to sell papers. I seem to recall six or eight of us getting rid of over 100 papers one year there, which we were very pleased about. Occasionally we would get people wanting to advertise. The Communist Party for instance would put in regular advertisements for the Morning Star. A lot of people probably thought that we were a CP front, as they were quite into community politics at the time, but no one regularly involved in the paper was actually a party member.

Were there any notably successful campaigns?
I don’t recall us initiating any campaigns of our own, so I don’t think this applies. We tended to report on campaigns which ranged from major national things through to very local stuff.

Any agonising cock ups you can recall?
I’m sure there were loads of things we got wrong, but I don’t recall anything so bad that it is still seared into my brain.

Was there any friction with the authorities – the Council, police, etc?
Not really with the police, although I was hit on the head by a policeman while reporting on the 1981 riots in Dalston. I don’t think, however, he was targetting me as a HPP representative. We had a run in with one particular councillor, who we inadvisedly referred to as having ‘racist views’. Not surprisingly he took exception and threatened to sue everybody including our printers. He wanted a large sum of money paid to charity but in the end we paid £100, which we raised through a public appeal.

How did HPP change during the time you were involved?
There were always a very loose group of people involved at any one time. Often people were around for a number of years and then just drifted away. The paper inevitably reflected the interests of those who were around at the time and I suppose as the one who (a) was around the longest and (b) put in the most time in the production process, I must have had a dominant effect.

So, as I progressed over the years from in 1974 being an ill-informed idealist to in 1983 joining the Labour Party (just after the general election), the work I did for the paper also changed. By then the council was controlled by a soft Left grouping, with which I was broadly sympathetic. They were then ousted by a harder Left grouping. I remember being particularly annoyed with myself that I didn’t predict this. With the benefit of hindsight I now see this much more clearly. The notion of community politics was something I used to enable me to write about or report on things that basically I found interesting. And the same probably went for other people who were involved in the paper. So we were a self-selected group who wrote about self-selected issues.

It’s interesting to reflect that over the 100+ issues I worked on I can’t recall anyone ever saying that we shouldn’t be covering a certain subject. Basically if someone wanted to write about something it went in. So, as the group of people producing the paper changed (and matured!), the paper itself changed.

And why did it stop?
I’m not sure why. Just general tiredness I suppose. I had moved jobs in the autumn of 1984, going to work for the GLC no less. This seemed to take up a lot of my time. We produced an issue in June 1985 – and then nothing happened! I would usually ring everyone to set up a meeting, and I suppose I never did. A few people did ask me when the next issue was coming out, and I would say I didn’t know. I supposed a few people missed us. We used to pay the printers when we collected the paper, so we didn’t have anyone chasing us for an unpaid bill. So… we just stopped.

A bit sad after 109 issues, but there we are.

There is a complete set of papers in the Hackney Council Archives department, along with some of the photographs used in the paper over the years.

Charles can be contacted via charlesjfoster@gmail.com

Crispin Aubrey died last year at the age of 66. The Guardian’s obituary is a very interesting read.

Hackney People’s Press issue 10

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Hackney People’s Press #10 (April 1974).

Tabloid-size newspaper, 8pp. Illustrated. A local paper formed by a merger between Hackney Gutter Press and Hackney Action in 1973. Front page story on the upcoming trial of five women who were evicted from their squat at 190 Amhurst Road in May 1973. Also: working conditions at Ford’s Dagenham plant (illustrated with a graphic which borrows Jame Reid’s spoof ‘Fraud’ logo); reports on homelessness and squatting; more

[stolen from here – anyone with more info on Hackney People’s Press or copies that can be included on this site should get in touch]

From the National Archives site:

The Hackney People’s Press was an amalgamation of two earlier radical newspapers – Hackney Action and Hackney Gutter Press. Hackney Action was founded in June 1982 by Centerprise, who aimed to ‘promote a people’s paper. One that will reflect the feelings and attitudes of the people in the borough of Hackney.’

Hackney Gutter Press was founded circa 1971 ‘by a group of people who are involved in organised activities such as Claimants Unions, squatting, Womens Liberation, playhouses for children, food co-ops.’

The first issue of the People’s Press, was issued in May 1973. Run by a collective, the paper reported on local and relevant national radical issues, but from the early 1980s experienced difficulties in keeping enough people involved to produce and distribute the newspaper.

The collective produced 109 issues (including the first five from Hackney Action), the last of which appeared in June 1985. [link]

Text from the scan above:

BROADWAY MARKET SCHEME: THE PLANNERS MOVE IN

The Greater London Council nave taken over a shopfront at 28, Broadway Market to explain to the people living nearby what their plans for their area are. And to get their participation.

It’s a bit late, isn’t it? For many years now, the authorities have deliberately allowed the Broadway Market to run down and have been compulsorily purchasing houses since the mid sixties. They now own over half the houses in the area. Where did the idea of re-development come from? Why couldn’t there have been meetings of local people to discuss the future of the area and to decide the form the planning should take?

THE PLAN

The re-development area stretches from Queensbridge Road to London Fields covering an area of 39 acres; with 600 houses, around 2500 people, 100 shops, 6 pubs and 23 factories or workshops.

The GLC sent round a survey to less than a third of the families, asking them whether they wanted re-housing in Hackney or not. They never asked them if they woutd like to stay where they were. Or whether the area should have been made a General Improvement Area like De Beauvoir, and houses done up by the landlord or council.

Area allowed to run down

And now it’s too late! The GLC has bought up so many houses and left them empty that the whole area is “run down”, so that people want to get out. Their excuse is that the Public Health Officer declared some houses unfit. But with proper maintenance and money spent, improving the area, the houses would be attractive and yet another com-munity would not have to be des-troyed. That’s their scheme! To make sure the area wants redeveloping by making it unbearable to live in. It doesn’t matter to the planners that most of the people living there have lived their all their lives. and have relatives and neighbours and good friends in the next streets. Two thirds of those answering the GLC survey had relatives in Hackney and over half wanted to stay.

It doesn’t matter to the planners that people being “cleared out” to make way for new houses won’t be able to afford the rents. The planners say – “They can get a rent rebate.” But it’s council policy to house you in accommodation they think you can afford without a rebate.

How high the rents?

Hackney Peoples Press asked various officials of the GLC what the rents would be.

They said they don’t know.

They are saying that people will be able to move back to the area, but we suspect that with the City being so near the rents will be well out of reach.

Why are they doing it? We were unable to get a sensible answer from them. They did tell us that when completed the area will house less people than it does now!

Given the acute housing shortage, it seems crazy to be planning less housing rather than more.

How high the cost?

Again, were unable to get anything tangible from the GLC. They do admit to paying over £4 million for the land alone. The officials working at the Exhibition referred us to Mr. Dean of the Valuers Department. He said: “What relevance has it got whether it is £20 million or £200 million: it’s just a figure.” A figure made up from our rates. We feel that it should be publicly available information how much they are spending on destroying a community to provide less housing. How much would it have cost to rennovate the empty houses, and put a bathroom and a larger kitchen in every house that is going to be demolished? We can’t know for certain because they won’t tell us, but it would surely only be a fraction of what its going to cost to rebuild the whole area.

‘Going up in the world’

What wIll the new houses be like? In the exhibition they look very glamorous. It seems as though each house is separate and each has its own garden. In fact, there will be long rows of identical terraced houses with a strip of garden – separated between houses by chains! CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

[Broadway Market has of course seen its fair share of planning/gentriciation scandal in this century also – see Hackney Independent for more on that]

Amhurst Road Squatters on Trial

The trial began on Wednesday of 5 women who were evicted last May, from 190, Amherst Rd. where they squatting.

On that day the police arrived, led by Inspector Hilliard (previously attatched to the notorious Special Patrol Group), and with the help of a local builder, evicted the women inside by force. The women were subsequently charged with assault. This was necessary (from the Police point of view), since the police are not legally entitled to evict squatters: their case is that they were present merely to prevent a breach of the peace, and the assault charges must therefore be seen as a smokescreen to cover their own illegal activities.

So far in the trial, we have had three days of prosecution evidence, and Mr. Hughes (who summoned the police in the first place) has admitted under cross-examination that his intention was to enlist their aid in forcibly evicting the women. (He himself had no authority either from the owners of the property, or from anyone else, to forcibly evict anyone from the premises, where he was merely under contract to do some redecorating work.)

The police continue to maintain that their role was purely to stand by, in case of need to prevent trouble, though their evidence, vague on many points and conflicting on others, is beginning to look less and less realistic, despite their being professionals in the witness-box.

They are relying on lurid accounts of how they were attacked by the defendants, in order to cover up their own illegal action and the use of force and violence on the six women brought to trial.

This is an important case, for if the police are allowed to get away, with this kind of operation once, they will no doubt feel freer to harras people in the future.

[359 Amhurst Road was raided by the police in 1971 in connection with Angry Brigade activity]

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