Sunday, January 28, 2007

New Cross Fire

It's that time of year to mark the anniversary of the New Cross Fire in 1981. As described in Deptford Fun City: "On Sunday 18th January 1981, 13 young black people, all between the ages of 15 and 20 years old, were killed in a fire at a birthday party at 439 New Cross Road. The police reported initially that the fire was caused by a firebomb, and many believed that it was a racist attack. On the following Sunday a mass meeting was held at The Moonshot Club, attended by over 1000 people. From that meeting there was a demonstration to the scene of the fire, which blocked New Cross Road for several hours.

The New Cross Massacre Action Committee organised weekly mass meetings in New Cross. It also called the Black People's Day of Action on Monday 2nd March 1981, the biggest mobilisation of black people ever seen in Britain. 20,000 marched over a period of eight hours from Fordham Park to Hyde Park with slogans including: 'Thirteen Dead and Nothing Said', 'No Police Cover-Up', 'Blood Ah Go Run If Justice No Come'.

Ever since the Fire, the police have leaked stories about breakthroughs, but have never charged anybody. Perhaps it will turn out not to have been a racist attack, but this was not the only issue at the time. The slogan of 'Thirteen Dead and Nothing Said' was a response to the official indifference to the deaths".

The tragedy was commemorated in a number of reggae songs and poems at the time. Sir Collins, whose son Steven died in the fire, recorded an album 'New Cross Fire' (sleeve pictured). Benjamin Zephaniah recorded '13 dead' and Linton Kwesi Johnson, ‘New Craas Massahkah’. Johnny Osbourne released '13 dead and nothing said' on Simba records (see label here).

Listen to Johnny Osbourne’s '13 dead and nothing said'

See also Don't Let it Pass You By

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