Hackney Gazette story on the Colin Roach Centre

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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.

 

 

Who Killed Aseta Simms? 1972

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

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

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

PREFACE

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

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

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CHAPTER ONE

Her Daughter Speaks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CHAPTER TWO

The coroner’s Hearing St. Pancras

Coroners Chambers

Police Doctor from WOOD GREEN

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

DOCTOR FOR Police commission

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

EIder DAUGHTER Says

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

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COUSIN Relates

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

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

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CHAPTER THREE

THE BIG COVER-UP!

Mrs B. Archer

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

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

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

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

STOKE NEWINGTON POLICE

G.196, KING

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

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

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

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G.227.

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

Sergeant G.81.

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

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

Sergeant G.78.

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

WOMAN POLICE H.345. LEMAN STREET

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

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INSPECTOR

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

The CORONER retired with the jury

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

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

Verdict

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

CHAPTER THREE

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO RIGHTS – NO OBLIGATIONS.

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

HCDA banner at Chats Palace Spycops meeting

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:

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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

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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;

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

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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;

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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;

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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;

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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

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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

HCDA on the Hackney poll tax riot, 1990

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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:

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Hackney Trade Union Support Unit report 1988-1990

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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.

Roach Family Support Committee – Bulletin 3, 1983

Colin Roach died of a gunshot wound in the foyer of Stoke Newington Police Station on the night of the 12 January 1983. The subsequent protests and community investigation are covered in the book Policing In Hackney 1945-1984.

The bulletin below gives a flavour of the protests and campaign for a public inquiry about Colin’s death.

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Roach_Bulletin_3 [pdf version]

Scans courtesy of the comrades at Mayday Rooms.

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TIME FOR WHITELAW TO STOP DITHERING

At the start of the campaign for an independent public inquiry into the death of Colin Roach, the Roach Family Support Committee wrote to Home Secretary William Whitelaw. RFSC called on the Home Secretary to set up a PUBLIC INQUIRY into all the circumstances surrounding the death of Colin Roach in Stoke Newington Police Station. Numerous other organisations and individuals also wrote to Whitelaw making the same demand.

In response, the Home Secretary accepted the need for a “full independent and public inquiry into the matter.” However, he argued that such an inquiry would be provided by the inquest. This latter argument is fallacious and has been thoroughly discredited.
Firstly, the Coroner, Dr Douglas Chambers, publicly stated that his inquest was not a public inquiry, that the Home Secretary was wrongly and badly advised. He demonstrated this by pointing out that in the case of Kevin Gately who was killed by the National Front, both an inquest and a Public Inquiry were held.

Secondly, when the Coroner went to the High Court over the venue of the inquest and the interested party Status of Hackney Black Peoples Association, he was rebuffed by Mr Justice Woolfe on both counts. In his judgement, Mr Justice Woolfe said,

“Although AN INQUEST IS THEREFORE AN INQUIRY WHICH IS TO BE HELD IN PUBLIC, IT IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A PUBLIC INQUIRY, USING THAT PHRASE AS REFERRING TO THE TYPE OF INQUIRY WHICH THE HOME SECRETARY HAS BEEN ASKED TO SET UP.”

Given those circumstances, the Home Secretary also has to bear in mind that over 100 members of Parliament have signed two Commons Motions calling for, an Independent Public Inquiry.

The Home Secretary cannot dither any longer. Now is the time for him to announce the setting up of the Independent Public Inquiry, regardless of whether it is held before or after the inquest.

RFSC calls on all individuals and organisations who support our central demand to write to the Home Secretary again on this matter.

Letters should be sent to:
William Whitelaw M.P. Home Secretary
The Home Office
Queen Anne’s Gate
London SW1

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THE INQUEST AND THE CORONER

The inquest on Colin Roach was resumed at 9a.m. on April 18th at St. Pancras Coroner’s Court. The Coroner immediately adjourned it until Monday April 25th again at St. Pancras.

The family’s lawyer asked that it should be adjourned as the family were all prepared for it to go ahead. The Coroner did not even consider this.

Lawyers acting for Hackney Council and Colin’s family asked that the inquest be transferred to Hackney Town Hall so that all the people who wanted to attend the inquest could do so. The police opposed the transfer of the inquest but refused to say why in public. They would only give their reasons in secret. They said they would produce Affidavits later in the day.

After listening to the lawyers the Coroner decided that he would not transfer the inquest.
The lawyers acting for Colin’s family were puzzled as to why the police were producing Affidavits. These were clearly not needed in the Coroner’s Court as the Coroner had already announced his decision as to where and when the inquest would be held.
Later that day (18.4.83) summonses were delivered to the family’s solicitors, to HBPA, to Hackney Council, and to the GLC. The Coroner was going to the High Court to seek a Declaration that the GLC could not order him to move the inquest. The police Affidavits were to be used by the Coroner to support his case that the inquest should not be moved.

This raises a number of questions –

  • How did the police know the Coroner was going to need the Affidavits?
  • Was there collusion between the police and the Coroner over the weekend before the inquest resumed?
  • Was the Coroner’s application to the High Court a deal cooked up by him and the police before the inquest even started?
  • If so, that means the Coroner is colluding with the police and the hearing on April 18th was a charade because the police and the Coroner had taken all the decisions beforehand.
  • If so, that would mean the Coroner was in the pocket of the police, and the police were telling him what to do and what to say.
  • If so, have they already told the Coroner what verdict he has to produce at the end of the inquest?
  • If the Coroner is colluding with the police, how can he be regarded as independent?
  • If the Coroner is not colluding with the police, why did he go to the High Court to stop the inquest being moved? Why didn’t he let the police do it?
  • After what has happened no one can have any faith in the independence of the Coroner and no one can have any faith in the inquest.
  • Why won’t the Coroner let Colin’s family see all the evidence he has collected?
  • What is the Coroner trying to hide?
  • Is he trying to protect the police by suppressing evidence?The inquest is just another part of the cover up. Don’t be fooled.

Who Killed Aseta Simms?

(Reprinted from BLACK VOICE, VOLUME 2, 1971.)

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Mrs. Aseta Simms, while in the custody of police officers from Stoke Newington police station, received multiple injuries of which she later died.

These injuries must have been inflicted by someone inside Stoke Newington but unknown to the community, except the police.

At the Coroner’s hearing on 10.6.71, a police doctor from the Wood Green area says this:
“I examined the body of Mrs. Simms and found that she was a well-nourished coloured woman. There was swelling and bruising above and below the right eye. There !vas deep bruising over her head but no fracture, but the brain was swollen. The heart was not the cause of death. There was no evidence of alcoholic poisoning. There was little evidence of inhaling vomitting. I cannot say what was the cause of her death. “

With this evidence given by a police doctor. The racist Coroner, Douglas Chambers in his hasty quest to cover up the murder of this black woman; took over both roles in the hearing of Coroner and jury: claiming that he had the right to do so under some unknown home office rules. He went and sat with the jury, returning a verdict of ‘Death by Misadventure’ meaning that this black woman murdered her own self.

The family of Mrs Simms is not going to allow her brutal murder to go unpunished, Black people in Britain and outside Britain are not satisfied either. We are determined that these murderers will be weeded out and be punished by the people. We, members of the Black Unity And Freedom Party shall give every assistance to the family in their struggle for justice.

This is a part of our general struggle against this rotten, racist, capitalist system. There is no force in the world more powerful than a determined people. If we allow the perpetrators of this brutal murder to get away with it. Then we all know surely as day follows day; they are going to murder us all the following day.

WE CHARGE WITH COMPLICITY OF MURDER:
1) Insp. Barton of Stoke Newington
2) Coroner Douglas Chambers who sat on the hearing as judge and jury.
3) Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham or Quintin Hogg.
4) Commissioner of Police, Waldron, under whose commission this crime was committed.
5) The two doctors who gave evidence in the coroners’ hearing.

INQUEST SET FOR JUNE 6
Coroner Dr. Douglas Chambers who officiated in the Aseta Simms case is also the Coroner in the Colin Roach inquest.
He has set the date for the resumed inquest for Monday June 6 at the Clerkenwell County Court 33 Duncan Terrace, Islington N1.

STATE CRACKS DOWN ON RFSC SUPPORTERS
For those people arrested while campaigning for the Independent Inquiry, a hardening of attitudes by Magistrates at Highbury Corner is manifesting itself.

In particular, all those people who appear before Magistrate Mr. Johnson have no chance of being acquitted however diabolical the police evidence.

To date, every person who has come before Mr. Johnson have been convicted and sentenced very severely.

He appears to come into court with his mind already made up, with a blind faith in the total sincerity and total unemotional involvement of the police.

Two most disturbing cases are those of Merville Bishop, a RFSC Steward on the 12 March demonstration, and the case of Fred Chitole who was not taking part in the demonstration, was not taking part in it, but happened to be on his way home when police attacked the last RFSC March.

For performing his duties as a Steward, Merville was physically assaulted and arrested. He was sentenced to 28 days imprisonment by Mr. Johnson.

Fred Chitole was not demonstrating. He had been to Woolworths to buy batteries, then to Rumbellows to buy a cassette. He was on his way to Boots the Chemist to buy shampoo when he was arrested.

Fred Chitole was convicted by Mr. Johnson and sentenced to six weeks imprisonment.
Both cases are subject to appeal.

WIDESPREAD SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC INQUIRY
The campaign for an Independent Public Inquiry has received widespread local and National support.

Here, we publish a sample of the letters received by RFSC.

Brothers & Sisters,
Hail I, and Greetings. I will be on the march on May 14th. I have participated in previous marches and have witnessed the provocative behaviour of the police. In my own case, I was pushed and dragged for no reason.
My previous experience with the police leads me to believe that the police are engaged in a cover up over how Colin Roach met his death. In November 1982, my brother was being arrested by the police – ten minutes after leaving home, for allegedly committing a mugging up the Narrow Way.
As a Youth Worker, I tried to explain to them my concern and the impossibility of him being involved.
They abused me verbally, used violence to arrest me, then charged me with assault, criminal damage and obstruction. My brother was released without any charge. I am now awaiting trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
The circumstances of my arrest and the charges against me are similar to what happened to a number of the people arrested on the previous marches.
We must not give up! We must continue to fight for our rights! We must keep on fighting until we get the independent public inquiry we are campaigning for. That is the only way we will know the truth.

Sister Asher

Dear Brother / Sister,
We are writing you in order to send our support for the aims of your committee. We have urged the Sunderland Polytechnic Students’ Union to send a formal letter of support, on behalf of all its members, to you.
We would further like to show our support by marching with you in solidarity at your forthcoming national march. We therefore ask that you please send us the relevant information (date, time, place etc).
We are presently arranging a collection, among the students, for your financial appeal. If there are any other ways in which we could be of assistance, please let us know.

Radical Black Students Society Sunderland Polytechnic

Dear Sir / Madam,
First of all, I would like to express my deepest sympathy to Colin Roach and his family, in what they have been through. I feel that we (meaning S.P.E.A.R.) would like to contribute our support in any way we can to help to promote your cause.
S.P.E.A.R. (which stands for, Solidarity of Pupils in Education Against Racism), is a political and cultural body in our school that was formed to promote the issues that affects Black people in general and Black interest as a whole. It is at present very successful, in that we have successfully amalgamated every Black conscious pupil as well as white sympathisers, into organising themselves on issues that arises such as your cause. I feel as the Colin Roach Committee is a newly set up committee, it is important that S.P.E.A.R. can play an important part in your campaign for justice, for Blacks in Britain, by opening the eyes of both the whites and Blacks of our school and our community, in order to do that, we need your help.
S.P.E.A.R. would like to help:
(1) Distribute leaflets about the case of Colin Roach
(2) Would appreciate a speaker to come up to our school and talk to us about the case
(3) Would like to organise an activity e.g. sponsored walk in order to help fund your cause.
In order to do so, I feel that we need you to open our eyes to the realities that affects us all, and in doing so, I feel that we need your presence at our school

Yours faithfully,
President of S.P.E.A.R.
Leyton Senior High School for Girls

Dear Friends,
The Students of Warwick University Students’ Union, a considerable number of whom come from the south and east of London, have instructed me to write to you expressing our support for you in your fight to fmd the truth surrounding the death of Colin.
In recent years too many people, white as well as black, have died in similar mysterious circumstances while in police custody. It also can no longer be ignored that Black youth in many of our cities are continually. harassed and intimidated by police Officers.
Good Luck in your struggle.

Yours fraternally,
General Secretary
Students Union, Warwick University
Dear Friends,
Having recently learned of the tragic death of Colin Roach, we wish to extend our condolences to his family. We also wish to offer our support to your campaign.
We have discussed the leaflet which you have produced and would like to write to William Whitelaw to request that a full and proper inquiry (into the circumstances leading to Mr Roach’s death) is carried out.
If you think it would be helpful to you we will write to the Home Secretary in support of you, and provide you with a copy of the letter. Please write and let us know.

Yours sincerely,
Helen Best
Secretary, Tameside Immigration Campaigns Support Group.

Dear Sir,
RE: COLIN ROACH
I am writing this letter to point out to you and your colleagues that I was particularly impressed with the measure of codification and discipline demonstrated on Saturday at the March and Rally re: the above-mentioned brother’s death.
It is a fact of life and we have the ability and capacity to delineate concretely that we Blacks can expose the lie rather the mendacity and the myth, that we are unconstructive and un-productive.
As the Superintendent minister for Stoke Newington, I would like you to be assured of my Circuit support at all times. Not to mention my personal conviction, commitment and dedication to the total and whole liberation of oppressed and indigent people.
May the inner need and power of solidarity and that deep and penetrative love for each other motivate us at all times, to work, plan, demonstrate, and move towards that degree of human audacity, that when fully and truly translated means justice, freedom, unity, and liberation.
May the eternal light of love ie concrete human love and brotherhood keep you and your committee contiguously.
Please keep me posted and do feel free to call on me anytime for my support.
Yours in the struggle for the creation of peace, justice, love, brotherhood and manumission.

Yours sincerely,
Rev. Robinson Millwood
The Methodist Church
Stoke Newington Mission Circuit

Dear Sir / Madam,
The following resolution was passed by the National Executive of the N.C.B.T in its meeting held at the Institute of Education, University of London, on Wednesday 16th March 1983.
The N.C.B.T give their full support to the Colin Roach Campaign in their fight against systematic attempts on the part of the police to cover up and to obstruct any investigation in the event under which Colin Roach’s death took place.
We support the demand for an official inquiry.

Yours faithfully,
Co-ordinating Secretary
National Convention of Black Teachers
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I am writing on behalf of the Hackney branch of the Confederation of Health Service Employees to express our support for the PUBLIC INQUIRY and for the activities of the Roach Family Support Committee.
We wish to extend our sympathy to the Roach Family and to support the campaign in whatever they
We wish to extend our sympathy to the Roach Family and to support the campaign in whatever way we can. We have supported previous demonstrations and will have members on the May 14th March.
Could you please let us know if there are any other activities we can take to support you.

Yours in Solidarity,
Andrea Campbell
Branch Secretary
Dear Friends,
We are a West Midlands based Community Magazine, with Readership of about 1500.
The current issue as you see includes a short article about the death of Colin Roach, publicising your Committee and the ‘suspicious’ circumstances of Colin’s death.
May I offer our support to your campaign and its aims. If there’s any other way we can help publicise your activities etc, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best Wishes
Abdul Sheir
For Musique
Moseley, Birmingham B13

A PERSONAL VIEWPOINT
It is very important for Black people to find out the truth of How and Why Colin Roach died.

I think there is going to be trouble or some-thing big before there is a Public Inquiry.

I think everybody should know the truth. There have been too many deaths of Black people in mysterious circumstances. Colin Roach is one too
many.

A Public Inquiry may help to settle the arousement of some people even though the whole truth might not come out But I don’t see how even half the truth can come out at an inquest.

COLIN ROACH ARRESTS
Outrageous Sentences At Highbury

Since the untimely death of Colin Roach on 12 January, a total of 84 persons were arrested over five major demonstrations. Demonstrators have campaigned for and INDEPENDENT PUBLIC INQUIRY into all the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Colin Roach in Stoke Newington police station.

Eight persons were arrested on. January 14, seventeen on January 17, twenty-five on January 22, ten on February 12 and a further twenty-four on March 12.

Magistrates at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court have bent over backwards to convict people. To date, there have been 18 convictions and 14 Acquittals.

The sentencing policy of the Magistrates is outrageous. In the case of Delray Thompson, he was charged with threatening behaviour and having an offensive weapon. Despite being found not guilty on the offensive weapon charge, he was nevertheless convicted of threatening behaviour. He was sentenced to seven days imprisonment by a Magistrate who appears to have his eyes, ears and brains closed to anything but police witness statements.

An immediate appeal was lodged. Delray is now on bail pending appeal. He told a
reporter, “I knew Colin Roach. I don’t believe that he would go into a police station to kill himself as the police would have us believe. I took part in the first demonstration because I support the demand for an independent public inquiry. I know the truth will never come out at an inquest.”

roachpol

Another, outrageous sentence was that imposed on Chas Holmes, a young student at North London Polytechnic. On January 22, he saw someone being arrested. He asked for the person’s name and address. This is not illegal. He was arrested and charged with obstruction.

In their evidence, police claimed that Chas grabbed a policeman by the neck. If that was true, he would have been charged with assaulting the police. Despite pictures disproving the false evidence given by the police, Chas was found guilty of OBSTRUCTION, fined £100 with £125 costs. This case is also subject to appeal.

The Roach Family Support Committee is co-ordinating the defence of all the people arrested. RFSC has pointed out that the police strategy is to criminalise anyone who dares to protest publicly against the racism and violence which pervades Stoke Newington police. Their intention of driving the Roach campaign off the streets has failed. RFSC plans to begin counter charges of conspiracy to arrest, to use violence against peaceful demonstrators and to break up peaceful protests against the local police.

Most of the seventeen people convicted are appealing against conviction. RFSC will meet the legal costs of these appeals where legal aid is not granted.

Defendants. are appearing in court on the following dates and support and solidarity is needed at these court appearances.
MAY 17 Highbury Juvenile Court
MAY 17 Old Street M.C.
MAY 18 Highbury Corner M.C.
MAY 19 Highbury Juvenile Court
MAY 19 Highbury Corner M.C.
MAY 23 Highbury Corner M.C.
MAY 24 Highbury Corner M.C.
MAY 25 Highbury Corner M.C.
MAY 26 Highbury Corner M.G.
MAY 27 Highbury Corner M.C.
MAY 31 Highbury Corner M.C.
JUNE 1 Old Street M.C.
JUNE 1 Highbury Corner M.C.
JUNE 2 Old Street M.C.
JUNE 14 Seymore Place J.C.
JUNE 20 Old Street M.C.

IN SUPPORT OF THE ROACH FAMILY

At this phase in our campaign because many of us have different levels of involvement and therefore different levels of understanding and consciousness, it becomes important that certain basic principles should be spelled out clearly.

A Black family – the Roach family – have suffered a devastating loss. The death of their son Colin Roach, killed by a shotgun blast in Stoke Newington police station on 12th January this year, has caused the Roach family great pain and distress and has fired anger and outrage in our community. This much we all know. But more times we have to remember the basis of the Campaign.

There can be no doubt that this Campaign is unique. Because of its various dimensions it is a major issue for Black and other people. And once this is over we will have learned how effectively Black people in this community can rally round and organise.

Many of us are aware that the first two demonstrations were organised by Black and white youths from Tower Hamlets and Hackney. Those demonstrations on 14th and 17th January called for an independent public inquiry. Those demonstrations were characterised by a mass presence and peaceful protest. Those demonstrations were mainly co-ordinated by members of Colin’s family and friends. The family called for an independent .public inquiry and initially took the demand onto the streets. This is how the Campaign began.

The Roach Family Support Committee was only launched after Mr and Mrs Roach, Pauline Roach and Patrick Roach had agreed with representatives of Hackney Black Peoples Association that there be a Campaign in and co-ordinated from Hackney. This means that from the beginning – the Roach family, a Black family decided the basic terms of how the Campaign should go. They wanted an independent public inquiry and as part of the Campaign for this, demonstrations were necessary. But only peaceful protest demonstrations would allow us to mobilize people, publicize our concerns and present our case. This is not to say that if we are attacked we should not defend ourselves – we should always defend ourselves when attacked. But it means that if we are to be successful in our Campaign we should not consciously cause any unnecessary confrontations.

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BLACK COMMUNITY AND A BLACK FAMILY IN THEIR HOUR OF CRISIS?
At any time in our life times there are always difficulties which confront Black people. This is because we are oppressed – downpressed. Oppression is the condition of our existence. This means that if we are seriously concerned about unity amongst Black people when any one of our families is under threat or suffers intense hardship, we must rally round. We must come together, we must organise, we must unify around that family.

That is unity and that is strength.

This is how we are supporting the Roach family in this Campaign. And every Black person, young and old, man and woman, should feel shame if they do not support the Roach family and support us. This is the only way the Black community can be strong because it is we who are taking the lead. This is why we have decided that no white individual, group, politician or political organisation will set the terms or tell us what to do in this Campaign. Although we respect the fact that there will be white people and their organisations involved in this Campaign – they must support us on our terms and not on their terms.

WHAT SORT OF CAMPAIGN ARE WE IN?
It must be said time and time again that we are campaigning for an independent public inquiry -this is one major and original objective of the RFSC. We have to make a case for an independent public inquiry. This is why we are campaigning for an independent public inquiry. What we are demanding exists in law. Under Section 32 of the Police Act 1964, the Home Secretary can exercise his discretion to authorise an independent public inquiry into an area of policing – the death of Colin Roach is an area of policing.
This is what we are campaigning for and it is clear that the police have been frightened by our campaign because they are eager to put a stop to us. But they will not put a stop to us because we intend to campaign and support the Roach family – a Black family – until we win.

RFSC BENEFIT
with
Saka Dedi & Stepaz Dance Group
UNKNOWN QUANTITY
SHARON FOSTER
K. K. KHAN
IMRUH CAESAR ASHER PLUMMER
Friday 20th May at 8pm
at Chats Place, Brooksbys Walk
Homerton, London E9
Admission £2.00 Unwaged £1.00

VIDEO: WHO KILLED COLIN ROACH?
Three students from St. Martins School of Art Film School have made a film of the RFSC campaign. Entitled “Who Killed Colin Roach”, it shows the campaign in its various dimensions, from marches to pickets, poetry, music, interviews, press conferences etc.

During the course of filming, all three members of the film crew were arrested. Two were charged and one was released without being charged.

The video is available from RFSC and can be used for showing at meetings, youth clubs, schools and colleges etc.

Details from RFSC, 50 Rectory Road, London N16 7PP Telephone: 01-254.74- 80

Published by RFSC,
50 Rectory Road, London N16 7PP.

Also on this site:

Policing In Hackney 1945-1984

Deaths in custody: Songs for Colin Roach

Workers’ Playtime on the death of Colin Roach and “community policing”, 1983

Mark Metcalf on the 2011 riots – and the Colin Roach Centre

Caribbean House, Hoxton 1976-1988

Caribbean House postcard

Caribbean House postcard

postcardbk

I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Caribbean House prior to watching the Somewhere In Hackney film from 1980 courtesy of the British Film Institute. That film largely concerns itself with Free Form Arts Trust, who decorated the front of the building (see the section from 6:45-8:00 minutes), so I was curious about what went on inside.

caribhouse1

There’s not a huge amount of information about Caribbean House available online, so this post is mainly based on a book published in 1985 by its founder, Rev Dr Ashton Gibson:

ashtongibsonbook1

Ashton Gibson – a black Robin Hood?

Gibson was born in Barbados in 1927. By his own account he was “barely able to speak” when he began school at the age of eight and didn’t do particularly well educationally until his father moved him to a fee-paying “prep” school, where he excelled. After school he worked in a variety of different jobs, (teacher, newspaper sub-editor) as well as embracing Catholicism and committing unspecified “anti-social acts”. In 1952 at the age of 25 Ashton’s mother paid for his passage to England to keep him out of trouble.

Like most Caribbean immigrants of this era, Ashton was forced to take up jobs that were more menial than those he done in his home country. He worked as a kitchen hand, a driver and an office cleaner, using his spare time to train as an accountant. The racism of 1950s England eventually got to him. He began to hear voices.

God was apparently speaking to Ashton and informing him that “the Church had money enough to solve the problems caused by poverty among his people”. He began what can only be described as a campaign of radical wealth redistribution, initially by going from church to church and pleading poverty. The resultant funds were then donated to organisations dedicated to the welfare of West Indian immigrants like himself. In the book, Ashton is at pains to say that none of the money he acquired went into his own pocket.

Nevertheless, the authorities took an interest in him. After a couple of referrals for psychiatric treatment Ashton was eventually sentenced to two years in prison for obtaining money by false pretenses. He shared a cell with a safe cracker, and perhaps inevitably put his newly acquired skills to use on release. Church safes up and down the country were relieved of their contents, although once again Ashton states forcefully that any money obviously set aside for charities was untouched and that he never used the loot for his own gain.

After further brushes with authority, Ashton became involved with slightly more conventional community work – volunteering at the Black House set up by Michael X and the Racial Action Adjustment Society (RAAS) on Holloway Road, then launching the Melting Pot Foundation in Brixton (“with £30,000 of his own money”) – a garment factory aimed at giving West Indians work opportunities/experience. The Melting Pot also branched out into finding places to live for homeless black youth.

The book makes it clear that Ashton’s own upbringing and experience of the the alienation brought on by a racist society and education system inspired him to try and improve the lot of black people in the UK.

Westindian Concern Ltd

Gibson resigned from the Melting Pot Foundation when it became more established, receiving funding from Lambeth Council and support from the wider voluntary sector. He was paid off to the tune of £20,000 and used this to set up a company called Westindian Concern. The launch was held in a church in the City of London on 22 July 1975. The emphasis was on black (or West Indian) self-help – a black-run charity which encouraged black people to develop the skills and networks they needed to survive in the UK. Various locations were sought for premises before the right one was found:

“Three derelict buildings were found near New North Road on the borders of Islington, Hackney Boroughs in Hoxton, North London. The three terraced houses, 76-80 Bridport Place, were all adjacent to one another, making conversion into a single unit relatively simple. But the overwhelming advantage to these premises, dwarfing the many problems raised by their unpromising condition, was that they were cut off from the residential area. This meant that the organisation stood infinitely more chance of succeeding in its long term aims, which naturally included acceptance in the local community. In particular there were no neighbours to complain of noise when social or recreational activities took place. As an added bonus, unimpeded view across Shoreditch Park afforded some pleasure to the eye in a heavily built up and neglected area. The London Borough of Hackney, to whom the property belonged, was persuaded to make a gesture to its large Westindian population; a five year lease was granted to Westindian Concern for the proposed community centre and hostel.”

bridportmap

Caribbean House

After extensive renovation work, undertaken by people from the black church movement, the centre opened during Easter 1976.

Initial problems included funding issues and an article in Private Eye suggesting that Ashton Gibson was using the centre for his own financial gain. More seriously, a fire broke out in the building, gutting 78 and 80 Bridport Place. Arson was suspected, with reasonable suspicion being leveled at supporters of the National Front, which had a lot of support in the area at the time and would open its headquarters in nearby Great Eastern Street in 1978.

caribhouse2

Repairs were made and funding issues resolved. Activities and work undertaken at Caribbean House included:

  • A children’s hostel
  • A family-centred child care service, with emphasis on the reconciliation of children with their parents where there had previously been conflict
  • A social club for the elderly
  • An Education Unit, helping children with school work – as well as courses for social workers, teachers, probation officers to assist them in better understanding of issues faced by black people.
  • Career advice, and a job-finding scheme
  • A food co-op
  • Music workshops
  • Cricket and dominoes teams
  • Westindian Voice – a newspaper (which admittedly only lasted for 7 months)

Bazil Meade gives a flavour of what Caribbean House was like in his book when describing rehearsals of the London Community Gospel Choir there:

“Soon our rehearsals became like mini-concerts themselves. Caribbean House was a busy place where people came to socialise with their friends. When they heard us rehearsing they would wander into the hall to listen, and before long the hall was full and people were spilling out of the doors, clapping and singing along…”

(from Bazil Meade & Jan Greenough: A Boy, A Journey, A Dream. Monarch Books, 2011. P111)

Policing and “Homeward Bound”

Ashton Gibson gave evidence on behalf of Caribbean House and Westindian Concern to the Scarman Inquiry which was set up after the Brixton riots of 1981. His submission is reproduced in the book. He stops quite a way short of saying that the riots were an understandable reaction to a racist society in general and the institutional racism of the police in particular. Instead he sees prejudice developing as a result of two well meaning groups of people who happen to originate from cultures that do not quite understand each other.

Indeed, most of Gibson’s criticism is leveled at the black community. “Badly run late-night clubs” attended by teenagers are singled out as a source of inter-generational conflict and the breakdown of families.  The “black leadership” in Brixton is criticised as being “very poor… Few of the leaders of those organisations funded and supported by the authorities have any grasp of the problems besetting this area.”

To put things in context, It is worth bearing in mind that the police in Hackney were widely viewed as being intensely racist at this time. Hackney Black People’s Organisation had been set up in 1978 as a result of racist violence and policing, specifically the death of Michael Ferreira. (Ferreira was a black teenager who was stabbed by National Front sympathisers in Stoke Newington. He was taken by friends to Stoke Newington Police Station where he was then questioned by the police about the incident rather than receiving medical assistance. Michael eventually died in an ambulance on the way to hospital.) The tensions between the community and the police would increase throughout the eighties with the killing of Colin Roach inside Stoke Newington police station being just one notable flashpoint.

Ashton Gibson receiving a cheque in 1984 from the Police Property Act Fund via Hackney Mayoress Bella Callaghan

Ashton Gibson receiving a cheque in 1984 from the Police Property Act Fund via Hackney Mayoress Bella Callaghan

Six months after the 1981 Brixton riots, Caribbean House launched its “Homeward Bound Fund”, “to enable Westindians with little hope of adjusting to life in Britain to be resettled in in the Caribbean or other region of their choice”. The fund was severely criticised by Hackney Council for Racial Equality, Darcus Howe (then of the Race Today collective) and even Melting Pot, the organisation in Brixton which Gibson had set up. Essentially the critics felt that the fund was a capitulation to the right wing press and “send them back” racists like the National Front and Enoch Powell.

There are some lengthy rebuttals to these criticisms by Ashton Gibson in the book. He suggests that the fund was a purely humanitarian venture that was intended to help Caribbean families who were “at breaking point”. Its critics are portrayed as “White Liberals and their Black lackeys in the Race Relations Industry”. The fund was abandoned shortly after its launch, having amassed £2,000.

The criticism of the fund also included various people demanding that funding for Caribbean House be reviewed. Although it is unclear how successful this lobbying was, it does seems that there were some real difficulties with resources when A Light In The Dark Tunnel was published in 1985. The book concludes with an appeal for funds which notes that the Greater London Council (GLC) was to be abolished in 1986 along with its extensive funding of a huge array of community groups (the London Irish Women’s Centre in Stoke Newington would be just one other example). Coupled with this, other sources of funding from local government were due to expire.

Ashton Gibson seems to have been very talented at courting those in positions of influence and power – the book includes numerous testimonials from politicians, bishops and members of the House of Lords. Unfortunately this did not prove to be enough to sustain his organisations through funding cut backs.

I’ve not been able to find much material about the dissolution of Caribbean House. This Youtube clip suggests that it managed to survive its problems with funding until 1988:

The clip also has some great footage of the interior of Caribbean House. However the comment below is slightly ominous:

THAMES NEWS 6.9.88.CARIBBEAN HOUSE,HACKNEY IS IN DEBT; DR. ASHTON GIBSON,WHO RUNS THE HOUSE,IS ACCUSED OF STEALING THE CHARITY MONEY TO RUN THE HOUSE FOR A HOTEL IN BARBADOS._x000D_

 

Bridport Place now

Bridport Place today

Westindian Concern was wound up as a company in October 1988. King Bee Music Academy were based at 76-80 Bridport Place from 1988 “to provide the urban youth of Hackney with the belief and knowledge that music builds self-confidence, and encourages people to play a positive role in their community… “

The building was listed as “an empty commercial property” by Hackney Council in 2011. And seems to have been sold for £2,861,000 in 2012 (BBC PDF linked from this story). It looks like it was divided up into 8 flats later that year. And the company doing the conversion was busted for health and safety offences in 2014.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to get into the nitty gritty of the funding, administration, or legacy of Caribbean House. Whilst I only have the rather uncritical book which is co-authored by Rev Dr Gibson to go on, I will say that trying to provide essential support and resources for marginalised people in a prejudiced society is a noble aim. I’m sure large numbers of people were helped by the work of Ashton Gibson and the many others who organised and contributed to the activities at Caribbean House.

There are echoes of the controversies about funding, administration and the relationship with the state in the recent furore about Camila Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company.

If you have any memories of Caribbean House, feel free to leave a comment below, or get in touch.