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

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


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

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

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

Please send queries and applications to us at info(at)

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

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

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

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

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

Hackney Gazette story on the Colin Roach Centre


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.



7th December: Daniel Rachel and Ken Worpole on Rock Against Racism

This just in from The Broadway Bookshop, 6 Broadway Market…

in conversation with KEN WORPOLE
Wednesday 7 December 2016 at 7 p.m.

We are delighted to announce that Daniel Rachel will be appearing at the shop on Wednesday 7 December to read and talk about his new book WALLS COME TUMBLING DOWN (published by Picador).

Daniel’s remarkable oral history – which brilliantly captures the mood on the streets of British cities before and after the epoch-changing rise of Rock Against Racism – will be introduced by writer Ken Worpole, who remembers when Hackney’s streets were on the front line.

Tickets £3 (includes glass of wine). For booking please RSVP: or call 020 7241 1626. For further information please see below.


About the book:In August 1976, Eric Clapton made an inflammatory speech in support of Enoch Powell and ‘black’ repatriation, sparking an anti-racism campaign that would soon radicalise an entire generation. The following sixteen years saw politics and pop music come together as never before to challenge racism, gender inequality and social and class divisions. For the first time in UK history, musicians became instigators of social change; and their political persuasion as important as the songs they sang.

Through the voices of campaigners, musicians, artists and politicians, Daniel Rachel charts this extraordinary and pivotal period between 1976 and 1992, following the rise and fall of three key movements of the time: Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone, and Red Wedge, revealing how they both shaped, and were shaped by, the music of a generation.

Consisting of new and exclusive in-depth conversations with over 100 contributors, including Pauline Black, Billy Bragg, Jerry Dammers, Phill Jupitus, Neil Kinnock, Linton Kwesi-Johnson, Tom Robinson, Clare Short, Tracey Thorn and many more, Walls Come Tumbling Down is a fascinating, polyphonic and authoritative account of those crucial sixteen years in Britain’s history, from the acclaimed writer of Isle of Noises.

Walls Come Tumbling Down also features more than 150 images – many rare or previously unpublished – from some of the greatest names in photography, including Adrian Boot, Chalkie Davies, Jill Furmanovsky, Syd Shelton, Pennie Smith, Steve Rapport and Virginia Turbett.

“We were trying to change the world in our tiny way by stopping the rise of fascism amongst youth with the power of music.” – Red Saunders, founder of Rock Against Racism.

‘An amazing oral history’ Billy Bragg


Daniel Rachel wrote his first song when he was sixteen and was the lead-singer in Rachels Basement. He was first eligible to vote in the 1992 General Election and now lives in north London with his partner and three children. Daniel is the author of Isle of Noises: Conversations with Great British Songwriters – a Guardian and NME Book of the Year – also published by Picador, and a regular guest contributor on BBC Radio 5.

Ken Worpole is a writer and social historian, whose work includes many books on architecture, landscape and public policy. He is married to photographer Larraine Worpole with whom he has collaborated on book projects internationally, as well as in Hackney, London, where they have lived and worked since 1969.

Ken is Emeritus Professor, Cities Institute London Metropolitan University, and has served on the UK government’s Urban Green Spaces Task Force, on the Expert Panel of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and as an adviser to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.

RaHN meeting: Sylvia Pankhurst and the East London Suffragettes and Ireland

Next meeting of the Radical History Network of North East London

Wednesday 29th June 7.30 p.m., Wood Green Social Club

In October 1912 Sylvia Pankhurst climbed onto a wooden platform outside an old baker’s shop on Bow Road, and painted the words ‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’ in golden letters above the door. What began as a simple recruitment drive for the Women’s Social and Political Union soon sparked a rebellion in the suffragette ranks, and launched a mass movement for equality in the East End.

Our meeting will look at Sylvia Pankhurst’s life and legacy – both in London and internationally.


Sarah Jackson is co-author of ‘Voices From History: East London Suffragettes’ and co-founder of the East End Women’s Museum –

Geoffrey Bell is the author of the recently published ‘Hesitant Comrades – The Irish Revolution and the British Labour Movement’, described by one reviewer as “a fine example of politically committed scholarship”, and by another as “this fascinating book”. Bell has also written a recent article in ‘History Ireland’ on Sylvia Pankhurst and Ireland’s 1916 Rising and its aftermath.

Plus discussion:

  • How does this history connect with campaigns today?
  • If everyone loves the suffragettes, why are women still struggling for equality?

Wednesday 29th June 7.30 pm
Wood Green Social Club, 3 Stuart Crescent, London N22 5NJ
(Off the High Rd, near Wood Green tube and buses 329/121/141)

Free to attend, all welcome.

Stoke Newington Suffragettes

I’m very grateful to the History of Stokey twitter feed for posting these two images. (I’ll even let them off calling it “Stokey”).

First of all an amazing poster for a meeting in 1906:


The space the meeting was held in is still used by the Library for exhibitions and events.

Millicent (or Mrs Henry) Fawcett and her husband have been mentioned in a previous post about Hackney Suffragettes and the 1866 petition.

Also an image of Suffragettes outside Stoke Newington station in 1899:


Any further pointers or information about the women’s suffrage movement in Hackney, Stoke Newington or Shoreditch would be gratefully received.

Hackney Gutter Press issue 3, June 1972


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.


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.


“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.



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


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.


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:


More Hackney Gutter Press material to follow…