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…

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

Box 2: Anarchist Communist Association (late 70s)

Box 3: ?

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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.”

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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.”

Box 7: Hackney Broadcasting Authority – community pirate radio on Saturday afternoons. (late 1986)

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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)

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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”.

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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’.”

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

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Box 22: ELWAR – East London Workers Against Racism

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Box 48: Hackney Mental Patients Association (1980s)

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

 

film – Somewhere In Hackney (Ron Orders, 1980)

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http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-somewhere-in-hackney-1980/

A great 50 minute documentary at the British Film Institute site that covers a wide array of the community and cultural groups active in the Borough in 1980, including:

There’s also  lots of great footage of bits of Hackney which have since disappeared or aged gracefully…

Thanks to Good News Hackney on twitter for flagging up this up.

A few screenshots:

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Caribbean House

Lenthall Road Print Workshop and Hackney Womens' Aid

Lenthall Road Print Workshop and Hackney Womens’ Aid

Centerprise, 1980

Mary Wollstonecraft in Hackney

Sunday’s radical history walk around Newington Green was an excellent afternoon out – and very well attended, with over 50 people.

Past Tense have a map of radical Newington Green available (scroll about three quarters down the page). They are also now on Facebook, so “like” their page if you are interested in future walks.

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The walk reminded me that I have failed to write anything about 18th Century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft on this site.

Wollstonecraft is best known for her book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), which is often claimed to be the first major feminist work in the English language. She has a couple of significant connections to Hackney:

Mary’s family briefly moved to Hoxton in 1774, when she would have been about 15 years old.

In 1784 she opened a boarding school for girls in Newington Green along with her sister Eliza and friend Fanny Blood. She also attended the Green’s radical Unitarian Church (which is still there) and befriended its minister Dr Richard Price. The freethinking community of Newington Green at that time meant that Mary was also able to debate with people like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Joseph Priestley.

Newington Green was also where Mary started her career as a writer.

The Mary on the Green Campaign is fundraising for a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft to be built and placed in Newington Green.

It was argued persuasively on the walk that Wollstonecraft was written out of feminist history in the 19th Century because of her supposed immoral behaviour, including having children out of wedlock, having affairs etc. London is generally lacking in statues of women, too.

In the meantime there is a less traditional memorial to her on the outside wall of the Unitarian chapel by local artist Stewy:

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Hackney Suffragettes and the 1866 petition

Is it safe to mention the Suffragettes again, now that the moralising about voting in the election is over? 🙂

2009-06-11-1116-06(Petition image from Ann Dingsdale’s 1866 Suffrage Petition Women site, which aims to trace and document the 1,499 women signatories.)

In 1866, a group of women organised a petition that demanded that women should have the same political rights as men*. The women took their petition to Henry Fawcett** and John Stuart Mill, two MPs who supported universal suffrage. Mill added an amendment to the Reform Act that would give women the same political rights as men. The amendment was defeated by 196 votes to 73.

In the wake of this defeat the London Society for Women’s Suffrage was formed. Similar Women’s Suffrage groups were formed all over Britain. In 1897, seventeen of these individual groups joined together to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

– British Library “Dreamers And Dissenters

*There had been a previous petition on the subject in 1832.

**Henry Fawcett later became the MP for Hackney from 1874 until his death in 1884 and would continue to campaign for votes for women. His wife, Millicent, was the Mrs Fawcett on the banner in the photo below:

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Elizabeth Crawford has now traced five of the signatories on the 1866 petition to South Hackney. Her fascinating blog post covers the five’s personal biographical information as well as early participation in the Suffragette movement, Communism and Vegetarianism:

http://womanandhersphere.com/2015/04/28/suffrage-stories-the-1866-petition-j-s-mill-and-the-south-hackney-connection/

A previous entries on Elizabeth’s site is also of interest: The Women’s Freedom League Toy Factory At Hackney, 1915.

Any further tip offs about Suffragettes and other early feminists in Hackney would be very welcome.

“Englarged Lives” exhibition of feminist silk-screen posters at Chats Palace

Looks great:

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Jess Baines (formerly of See Red feminist print workshop) has written a really good text explaining the background and history of the print workshops and the posters they produced at the ever-excellent What Is Chats Palace site. (There are also lots more scans of great posters to look at there).

See Red has its own archive website too:
https://seeredwomensworkshop.wordpress.com/

Chats Palace, 42-44 Brooksby’s Walk, London E9 6DF

Hackney Gutter Press issue 5, September 1972

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Update Jan 2020: a full PDF of this issue can be viewed here.

This issue:

Cover story on council rent increases.

Dock strikes – dockers sold out by the union.

A Cautionary Tale – The eviction of a family squatting on Sandringham Road E8. “There is no such thing as squatters rights” […] “if we organise ourselves, the sky’s the limit: we can defend whole streets of squatters, as they started to do in Bride Street Junction: we could take over blocks of flats, new hotels, as they have done in Italy (and did in England after the war). We could stop communities like De Beauvoir and Mapledene being ‘redeveloped’ into luxury flats, and the poor being pushed out into new towns…

“Many of us have squatted ‘successfully’ – without being evicted – for a long time now. But it’s not enough: we haven’t won until there’s no more homeless, until the system that made us homeless and makes profit out of empty houses, that puts the rich in palaces and the poor in overcrowded ghettoes is TOTALLY OVERTHROWN.”

“There are squatters meetings every week in a different house: contact CENTERPRISE  to find out when and where the next one is. CENTERPRISE, 34 Dalston Lane E8”

A Living Income For All“I’m not interested in the right to work, what must come is the fight for a share of the wealth that’s going”

Shitting Bricks – builders’ strike.

Strikers and the SS“The Social Security is the biggest strike fund of them all! Strikers are beginning to realise this on a large scale and organising with Claimants Unions to make sure they get their benefits”

Antisocial Insecurity – on how protest movements have forced welfare concessions from the state.

Courting the Union – the continuing saga of three Claimants Union members who were charged with criminal damage after a protest at the Lower Clapton Social Services office the previous February. The three defended themselves and challenged the jury selection process (rejecting managers from standing and challenging the lack of black jurors).

The main allegation was that the defendants “smashed up two cubicles and kicked open the door separating staff from claimants”.

The defendants countered this by highlighting discrepancies in the prosecution witnesses testimony and pointing out that “people had been waiting for over four hours, how the office was packed with about 80 claimants, how many of these claimants had been deprived of their rights, how the SS clerks stopped working apparently because of the noise and how one SS clerk, John Fawcett, hit a claimant in the face and smashed his camera. They all said that [defendant] Chris Ratcliffe had been sitting in the waiting area at the time of the damage and [defendant] Eddie Rose didn’t arrive until well afterwards. The defence witnesses described how the cubicles were smashed up by about 20 or 30 angry claimants.”

One defendant was acquitted, the other two were found guilty and conditionally discharged and ordered to pay £20 costs each.

Laughter in Court – another set of Claimants Union activist on trial, this time following a demonstration at Bonhill Street Social Security the previous March. 3 of the 4 defendants were women. One of them was pregnant and asked for an adjournment because she felt ill. This was refused and resulted in the defendants disrupting proceedings until an adjournment was granted.

Women and the Tory Rent Act – being disproportionately effected by rent increases.

Asian Invasion – against the Powellite racism against immigrants from Idi Amin’s repression against Asians in Uganda.

Plus updates on the Stoke Newington 8, attempted eviction of squatters by Acetel Housing Association and the usual classified ads (click to enlarge):

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Despite the “this could be the last time” story on the back page (see above,) there was at least one further issue of Hackney Gutter Press.

After this the paper merged with Hackney Action to form the much longer running Hackney People’s Press. More about which in due course…

Hackney Gutter Press issue 3, June 1972

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Update January 2020: a full PDF of this issue can be viewed here.

Issue 3 included a cover story about some Irish republicans being arrested in Hackney, extradited to Belfast for interrogation and then returned to London where they were charged with possession of arms and ammunition. After the four had been in prison on remand for eight months, the charges were dropped as it turned out they had been fitted up by a special branch spy cop.

Also:

A one page article on the the beginning of the trial of the Stoke Newington 8. Apparently there were 137 other “Angry Brigade” suspects.

A report back from a meeting of “between two and three hundred women… at the London College of Furniture in Commercial Street in Stepney”. Topics included wages for housework, campaigns to get better wages for cleaners, abortion, contraception, housing struggles.

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“If he dies it will save us the expense” – apparently the words used by social security staff in response to a campaign to get a 74 year old man some essentials like a dressing gown in readiness for a hospital visit. You can read the full text of the article above.

Kick The Bastards Out – on dole snoopers.

Black Tenants Fight Back – on racist attacks against black families on Haggerston Estate, and a call for white tenants to show solidarity.

Squatting:

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The Story of One Man’s House“Hackney, it seems, has become the centre of interest for the mobile middle class. As everyone who has walked along the streets of the area in the last few months is aware, houses in Hackney have become the latest in fashion. The news has even got as far as the pages of the ‘Sunday Times’ who ran a story in the Magazine several weeks ago in which Stoke Newington, Hackney and Dalston were named as areas that are likely to become fashionable in the next few years. This is even more amazing in that the area has not got a single tube line going through the area, and if the GLC and British Rail have their way there will be one more motorway and one less rail line. The area is however beside the fashionable Islington and it is in direct line between the West End and the proposed new airport.”

The article goes to relate the story of someone trying to purchase a house on their road for £3,400 but getting gazumped by a developer who gives it a lick of paint and puts it back on the market for £13,000. Google says the same house is currently valued at £600,000…

Dockers and Containers – on the dockers’ strike and continuing picket of the Midland Cold Storage co, Waterden Lane (Hackney Wick, now slap bang in the Olympic Park).

Also poems, details of folk clubs, letters (including one of the Grosvenor Avenue arrestees referred to in the previous issue, who got a one year suspended sentence), small ads, an appeal for more people to get involved with laying out and distributing the paper.

Hackney Gutter Press issue 2, Spring 1972

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Update January 2020: you can now view this issue (and others) as a complete PDF at the Sparrows Nest Archive.

According to the National Archives:

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

The Hackney Gutter Press magazine seems more confrontational and subcultural than Hackney Action, which was being published at the same time. Gutter Press articles were sarcastic and sweary and already assumed a certain amount of scepticism of “the pigs”.

I have four issues (I’m missing issue 1) which all seem to have been published in 1972. (It seems that there were at least six issues in total.) Each of the ones I have is slightly larger than A4, with either 12 or 16 pages printed in a variety of coloured inks on paper in various colours. This has slightly tested my scanning skills, so apologies in advance.

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Issue 2 contents include:

Planners, Tenants and Bulldozers – Hackney Council proposing to knock down over one hundred houses in Sandringham Road, Downs Park Road, Cecilia Road, Ferncliffe Road and Mountford Road – without telling the people living in them (because apparently, unlike their landlords, they had “no interest” in the properties).

The Slippery Sands of Housing Associations“Housing associations were set up by the Government a few years ago as an attempt to do something about the housing situation. It was a situation that appealed mostly to the Tories, as Housing Associations were neither council housing which the Tories don’t like, nor private housing – although they could be turned into private housing later on.” – criticises housing associations for buying up properties and evicting the existing tenants. Second Actel Housing Association and its owner Mr Sands come in for particular scrutiny.

Ello Ello Ello – some general criticism of the police and a cynical and probably not very practical guide to making complaints against them. “Pig of the month: PC N399 from Kings Cross. He hangs around Shoreditch. Watch him. He’s nasty.”

Special Patrol Group in street-fight “A couple of months ago five people, all members of Claimants’ Unions, were arrested following a street fight in Grosvenor Avenue, Stoke Newington, involving members of Scotland Yard’s riot trained Special Patrol Group. Three police, in a large transit van, pulled up as three people left number 29. They began to question the driver, Chris Ratcliffe, as to who the owner was, was he insured, had he got a licence, etc. Chris went into 29 to fetch the owner who came out with the relevant documents and assured the police that Chris was in legitimate possession of the vehicle. Within half an hour there had been a fight, a raid on the house and five people arrested…between twenty and thirty police searched the house and smashed up some furniture.”

The five represented themselves in court. Three of the charges were thrown out. Two men were given suspended sentences (it doesn’t say for what) and a woman was remanded on bail for using obscene language. The Hackney Gazette reported the incident as “Incidents near Angry Brigade HQ*” which “the people involved consider… a malicious libel… they are taking legal advice.”

*29 Grosvenor Avenue is described as a commune in various reports. Jake Prescott of the Stoke Newington 8 is said to have lived there. It included a radical print shop in the basement.

Sexual Planning, Sexual Nightmares – women share their experiences of the dehumanising family planning clinics in the borough.

Hackney Hospital Horrors – women share their experiences of the dehumanising maternity and post-natal care in the borough – and campaign for basic stuff like a play room for kids in the ante-natal clinic and longer visiting hours.

SS found guilty – and about time too“As reported in Hackney Gutter Press No. 1, on Thursday, February 17th, the staff of the notorious Lower Clapton Social Security Office provoked a riot where claimants showed their anger by smashing up the barricaded cubicles. It was soon after this event that 3 Claimaints’ Union members were selected by the Social Security (SS) staff to be arrested and charged under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 – maximum penalty is 10 years!”

In summary – a member of Hackney Claimants’ Union tried to take a photo in the dole office and was punched in the face by a social security clerk and his camera smashed. The police came and arrested three Claimants’ Union members. The clerk was found guilty of assaulting a claimant. The charges against the claimants were adjourned. There is more on the case in future issues, as well as other material about the seemingly quite militant Hackney Claimants’ Union… to be continued!

In what would appear to be an unrelated story on the same page, a female Claimaints’ Union member was charged with assaulting the police by throwing a piece of chocolate (!) and was acquitted.

Collar Your Landlord – tips on taking him to a rent tribunal.

Plus – Brixton prison (“any man over the age of  21 living in Hackney and remanded in custody will almost certainly be sent to Brixton prison”), public transport (vs private cars), Who Killed Stephen McCarthy?, Hackney Workers Education Association meetings to discuss the Housing Finance Bill. And some small ads:

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More Hackney Gutter Press material to follow…

Weds December 10th: Activism and the under-fives – Radical History Network meeting

As soon as the women’s movement started, so did campaigns for more and better childcare…

The next meeting of the Radical History Network of NE London group will focus on how pressure was put on institutions and local authorities to provide cheap, good quality provision.

There is also an important story to be told about how alternative provision was set up outside the mainstream, while sometimes the two approaches overlapped.

Come along and share your experiences, and discuss how this connects with campaigns today.

Speakers will include:

Gail Chester – The struggle for council and community nurseries in Hackney from the 1970s onwards

Ivor Kallin – When Islington nursery workers shared a platform with the miners

Andrea Francke – History of nursery campaigns at the Royal College of Art and London College of Communication

+ other contributors from campaigns in higher education and community settings

Wednesday 10th December 7.30 p.m
Wood Green Social Club 3 Stuart Crescent, N22 5NJ

(off the High Rd, near Wood Green tube)

Free to attend, all interested people welcome.

http://radicalhistorynetwork.blogspot.co.uk/

image by Hackney Flashers

Sunday: Hackney Flashers collective at Chats Palace

Hackney Flashers was a radical feminist photography collective, which I’ve previously written about here.

They have recently launched their own website, which is great to see: http://hackneyflashers.com/

There will be a 40 year anniversary event about the group (and its relevance / resonances with today) at Chats Palace this Sunday:

HACKNEY FLASHERS EXPOSED: 40th Anniversary of a Women’s Photographic Collective, 1974-1980

Sunday 12th October 2014, 2-5pm
Chats Palace, 42-44 Brooksby’s Walk, London E9 6DF

The Hackney Flashers Collective was active as a feminist agitprop group in London 1974 -1980. The group produced two photographic/graphic exhibitions addressing complex ideas about women’s lives as workers and as mothers, inside and outside the home:  Women and Work and Who’s Holding the Baby.

To mark the recent launch of the Hackney Flashers website the group are calling a meeting of the generations: how did they work as a collective in the 1970s? How is the struggle for the most basic of women’s rights being carried on now, forty years later?  A rare chance to see some of the exhibition panels from  the time and to discuss work still to be done. Free and open to all. Should be exciting!

@Hackney Flashers

The event is part of the East London photography festival Photomonth and will take place at Chats Palace Community Arts Center, a venue which has a history of radical community arts involvement.