Thursday, June 06, 2013

Walworth radical history walk

Interesting radical history/geography walk last weekend from 56a InfoShop in Crampton Street,  around the the top end of Walworth Road and the Pullens Estate SE17 courtesy of Past Tense.

How the poor die

One theme was who gets remembered and who get forgotten in the official record, with reference to Orwell's How the Poor Die. We were reminded of Ayikoe Atayi, found dead in 2006 in the cupboard where he had been living in Perronet House SE1 while working as a cleaner sending money back to his famiy in Togo.

Reminded too of Richard O'Brien, a 37 year old father of seven who 'died in April 1994 after being pinned to the ground by three officers who said they were arresting him for being drunk and disorderly... Mr O'Brien's family say that his pleas that he could not breathe were ignored, and alleged that officers shouted anti-Irish abuse at him. Mr O'Brien suffered injuries in 31 areas including 12 cuts to the face and head' (Guardian 14 May 2002)

O'Brien was arrested while waiting for a taxi outside English Martyrs Catholic Social Club and taken to Walworth police station. A jury found that he had been 'unlawfully killed' by the police, but in 1999 three police officers were found not guilty of manslaughter. Nevertheless after being found liable for his death under the Fatal Accidents Act, the police finally paid £324,000 compensation to O'Brien's family in 2002.

Walworth Working Men's Lecture and Reading Rooms

There was also some reflection on the parallels between the 56a InfoShop -  a radical bookshop and archive in the area since 1991 - and an earlier local institution, the Walworth Working Men's Lecture and Reading Rooms in Camden Street. The poster from the 19th century invited people for lectures, discussion meetings, 'all the best of the periodicals' and 'books lent from the library' - all for 'one shilling per quarter'. Though don't think we would want to advertise today 'take your Wife that is, or is to be'!
'Just the place to go when work is over, you can see there all the news of the day'
(not sure of the date of this, though the place was certainly going in 1855)

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