|The crowd at County Hall on June 10 1984 (photo from Tony Hollingsworth on flickr -|
I believed he was one of the organisers of the event)
|Morrissey, GLC Leader Ken Livingstone and Mari Wilson at Jobs for a Change|
(photo from the excellent UK Rock Festivals site)
Socialist band The Redskins played too, and while they were on stage a largish group of neo-nazi skinheads stormed the stage and attacked people in the crowd. Although the fascists were massively outnumbered by the festival goers, many of the latter fled in panic. Indie kids were never known for their streetfighting skills! I wasn't very handy either but I did end up with a group of punks, anarchists and Red Action members chasing the nazi boneheads round the South Bank, and who knows in the scuffles that day I may have had an encounter with the late Nicola Vincenzo Crane.
|Jobs for a Change 1984 poster|
By this time Crane had become notorious for his role in a string of racist and other violent attacks. Born in Bexley and growing up in Crayford, by the late 1970s he was living in Plumstead and working on the bins - and had become Kent organiser for the Hitler-worshiping British Movement. Kelly describes some of the events he was involved in, including two major attacks in Woolwich:
'The skinhead gang marched in military formation down the High Street clutching iron bars, knives, staves, pickaxe handles and clubs.There were at least 100 of them. They had spent two days planning their attack. The date was 28 March 1980. Soon they reached their target - a queue of mostly black filmgoers outside the Odeon cinema in Woolwich, south-east London... The Woolwich Odeon attack of 1980 was described by a prosecutor at the Old Bailey as a "serious, organised and premeditated riot". After their intended victims fled inside, the skinheads drilled by Crane began smashing the cinema's doors and windows, the court was told. A Pakistani man was knocked unconscious in the melee and the windows of a nearby pub were shattered with a pickaxe handle. In 1981 Crane was jailed for his part in an ambush on black youths at Woolwich Arsenal station. As the judge handed down a four-year sentence, an acolyte standing alongside Crane stiffened his arm into a Nazi salute and shouted "sieg heil" from the dock'.
As Kelly mentions Crane was gay and by the mid-1980s was being spotted out at London gay clubs such as Heaven. To start with he continued his involvement with the far right but in 1992 he not only came out as gay on a TV programme but renounced his previous nazi beliefs. The following year he died from AIDS.
Kelly's implies that it was Crane's increasing identification with the gay scene that led him away from the homophobic far right. That may be true, though Crane certainly wasn't the only gay man in the British neo-nazi scene in the 1970s and 80s. Another key turning point was doubtless in 1990, when Crane got a taste of his own medicine when he was knocked unconscious by Anti Fascist Action activists in the vicinity of an Irish demonstration in Kilburn. A mostly wasted life, but at least he doesn't seem to have died a nazi.
Nicky Crane: The secret double life of a gay neo-Nazi by Jon Kelly, BBC News Magazine, 6 December 2013
Gerry Gable's comments on this article at Searchlight
John Eden's article on Crane from 2004 (in case anyone thought that the BBC article contained anything really new)
(I note from Wikipedia that Crane also used to sometimes frequent The Bell, a gay pub in Kings Cross I sometimes went to in late 1980s, so maybe our paths crossed there too)