Monday, November 23, 2009

Brixton, Bookmongers and Black Panthers

Last weekend I wandered round my old Brixton stomping ground for the first time in ages. Pleased to report that the market arcade is as busy as ever, had a snack at Rosie's cafe and then went to a Little Bazaar craft/jumble sale at the Rest is Noise (the town centre pub run by the people behind the Amersham Arms in New Cross). Best of all, the second hand bookshop on Coldharbour Lane - Bookmongers - is still going strong. A proper second hand bookshop with piles of books everywhere, shelves of bargain paperbacks, and generally more tomes than you could possibly have time to look through on one views.

Remembering Olive Morris

But there's always been more to Brixton that shops, another strand being its history of radical community politics. In celebration of one its past activists there 's a new exhibition just opened at Gasworks in Brixton. Do you remember Olive Morris? 'uncovers the largely untold history of Brixton-based activist Olive Morris (1952-1979)... In her short life, Olive Morris co-founded the Brixton Black Women's Group and the Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent (OWAAD) and was part of the British Black Panther Movement. She campaigned for access to education, decent living conditions for Black communities and fought against state and police repression'. Various events are taking place alongside the exhibition, which coincides with the opening of a permanent Olive Morris collection at Lambeth Archives.

More details at the Remembering Olive Collective blog, where I also found a link to an interesting article about the Black Panther movement in London. The Black Panthers in London, 1967-72: A Diasporic Struggle Navigates the Black Atlantic by Anne-Marie Angelo (Radical History Review, Winter 2009 includes an account of the Oval House incident in August 1970 when police and Panthers clashed at a Panther-organised dance in Kennington (the slogan 'Get out, fascist fuzz' was apparently shouted!). Three people were later convicted of 'riotous assembly'.

'Police Everywhere, Justice Nowhere' meeting

A similar spirit motivates a public meeting being held this week (Tuesday 24th November, 7pm) at Brixton St Vincent's Community Centre ((off Railton Road, SW2 1AS). They say 'We are a group of Lambeth residents who believe that the problems within and between our communities can be solved by communicating with each other, and co-operating to find long-lasting solutions.We believe that the increasing powers, and abuse of powers, of the police and the authorities serves only to undermine our ability to live and work with each other' . Issues to be discussed include the 'increased presence of armed police on the streets of Lambeth'; surveillance and stop and search. More details from

The next night (Wednesday 25th November 2009) there's a folk-themed fundraiser in Brixton for London No Borders, a group fighting migration controls. Acts appearing at The Windmill (22 Blenheim Gardens, SW2 Niall Kelly, Emily C Smith, and Mark Ridout. Doors: 7.30pm, Suggested donation: £3.


Anonymous said...

Olive Morris features on the Brixton Pound too.

Jeanie said...


The British Music Experience at O2 presented by the Co-operative, in association with OOM Gallery will be showcasing an exclusive exhibition of 38 rare photographs celebrating legendary black musicians working in the UK.

Using a simple camera photographer Pogus Caesar followed the musicians and singers around the famous venues producing a collection that celebrates a style of black music that brings together the UK, the US and the Caribbean.

From Stevie Wonder in 1989, Grace Jones in 2009 and Big Youth in 2011, this unique exhibition documents how black music, in its Reggae, Soul, Jazz and R&B tributaries of sound, has changed and renewed itself over the decades.

Journeying from Jimmy Cliff to Jay-Z via Mica Paris and Mary Wilson of The Supremes to David Bowie's bass player Gail Ann Dorsey, these images conjure up an alphabet of the music of the Black Atlantic.
The photographs selected from OOM Gallery Archive are also as much about the clubs and venues, as it is about the singers, producers and musicians. The Wailers at The Tower Ballroom, Sly Dunbar at The Hummingbird Club, Courtney Pine at Ronnie Scott's, Cameo at the Odeon Cinema, Ben E. King at the Hippodrome and Soul II Soul's Jazzie B at BBC Pebble Mill, many venues now lost to regeneration or renewal, and only recalled through memory and imagery.