Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Violence in Brixton follows poll tax protest' (March 1990)

Twenty five years ago today, on 31 March 1990, one of the largest demonstrations of the 20th century set off from Kennington Park to protest against the Conservative government's planned new poll tax (officially known as the 'community charge'). The demonstration ended up in Trafalgar Square and was followed by rioting throughout the West End. By the end of the year, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been ditched by her own party, worried at its seeping popularity.

A few weeks before the March 31st demonstration there had been lively protests at Town Halls throughout the country where Councils were setting their local poll tax rates. One of the biggest was outside Lambeth town hall in Brixton on Friday 9 March 1990.  I was on the demonstration, I remember people heading from the Town Hall, down Coldharbour Lane and along Electric Lane (which then ran down the back of Woolworths) in an attempt to get around the police. I stopped off for a drink in the Railway Tavern, others went on to Stockwell Road which I think is where a police car got turned over (pictured below).

Pat G.S. commented at a previous post here: 'After the gathering at the town hall... everyone turned and walked down Brixton Road, through the traffic. It was a happy, positive, almost celebratory event. No trouble, or even any sense that there would be trouble ... until the walkers were directed down Stockwell Road, round the back of the Academy - and straight into a wall of riot police. Immediately, all hell let loose - I had no idea that people could actually just pull up paving stones with their bare hands.  My boyfriend (now husband) and I legged it away from the trouble and towards home back up Brixton Road, which had now been closed to traffic by the police. Unbelievable how quickly they'd done that. And then, while we were walking as quickly as possible up the road, we heard this deafening - terrifying - sound behind us and, looking back, saw a line of police on horses who were stamping their hooves on the ground to make as much noise as possible. Oh yes, we felt threatened. That was a heavy day - and an exhilarating one, too. And Maggie didn't get her way'.

photo © Adrian Lord on flickr

Here's a newspaper report from the next day:

'Violence in Brixton follows poll tax protest (Independent, Saturday 10 March 1990)

Violence erupted in Brixton, south London, last night after a peaceful and good-humoured mass demonstration against the poll tax outside a Lambeth borough council budget meeting.

As the meeting began to break up, paint bombs and bottles were thrown towards speakers and police guarding the town hall. A festive atmosphere, with a band playing Caribbean music and protestors dancing and singing anti-poll tax songs, quickly evaporated.

Organisers made appeals to the 2,000 people to leave quietly, but hundreds tried to get to the centre of Brixton, and the police callled in reinforcements and repeatedly charged to clear the scene amid a hail of missiles. Two police were taken to hospital, a Panda car with a WPC inside was overturned, and six of the crowd arrested, as the skirmishing continued for half an hour or so'

'protestors in the south London borough of Lambeth hang an effigy of Margaret Thatcher from a bus shelter,
 before burning it and celebrating over the ashes'
(click to enlarge)

See also:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Music Monday: Live at the Montague Arms

When the Montague Arms  (289 Queens Road SE15) closed in late 2011, many people feared it was gone for good.  Stan and Bet, who had been working there for many years, had passed away, and the famous contents of the pub had been put up for sale  Today though the pub is going strong having been 'resteamed, rebooted, repunked' as it says outside -  it remains a good music venue with a different but equally idiosyncratic style.

Meanwhile the memories of its previous incarnation live on, not least in a series of remarkable albums put out in the 1970s. Thanks to my friend David W. who has found copies of them in various SE London charity shops.

Live at the Montague (1971)

A sleevenote on the back of this first album by Peter Latham, BBC presenter, says 'New Cross may not be within the sound of Bow Bells, but you can certainly find more than a touch of Cockney in its pubs. The Montague Arms, featured on this record, is not only in New Cross, its also vibrantly alive... the 'Mont' has the secret of making you forget the drab day's grind, the dismal weather and the disastrous news'.

The sleevenotes also instoduce the two musicians who were in effect the house band at the pub.  Peter Hoyle, the Mony's landlord and drummer, is described as looking 'like a wilder edition of Peter Ustinov and plays the drum like a demon'. Peter London on organ and piano and vocals is said to be 'blind and works with music in Braille', his musical career including recording with his wife Marilyn as 'Man and Wife' (including the single Who Shot the Piper Man?), and being Musical DIrector for the BBC TV series STRAMASH featuring Lulu

On this and the next three albums the two Petes are also joined by comedian/compere/singer Jimmy Jones.

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Two (1972)

More great cover versions, with Peter London now adding a moog to his keyboards. Songs include The Beatles 'A Day in the Life' and Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again Naturally.

The crowd photo on the back is great, very evocative of early 1970s pub life:

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Three (1972)

I haven't got the sleeve of Volume Three, only the vinyl (anyone help me?).  Another diverse offering - Eleanor Rigby rubs up against Elgar's Nimrod and Jimmy Jones' comedy routines. Note that the recording engineers are listed as John Hassell Recordings. The Barnes-based Hassell assisted many people to self-release records and is now justly celebrated for his role in pressing dub-plates for the UK reggae scene.

Live at the Montague Arms - Volume Four (1973)

The semi-psychedelic cover art stands out on this one.

Recording engineer this time is Bob Auger, who worked as sound engineer with The Kinks, The Animals and many more.

The two Petes pretty much invented the look for the guys from Abba didn't they?:

Once again the crowd picture is a 70s fashion classic:

This album also has a gatefold sleeve, with the inside promoting the King and Queen, Kimmeridge Road, SE9 - described as the 'The Biggest Live Strip Comedy Scene in London' (the Montague Arms also featured strippers at this time). I think this pub/disco in Mottingham was run by the same people.

Live at the New Montague Arms (1977)

Note the address is given on the back as Queens Road, Peckham on the back - the confusion about whether the pub is in Peckham or in New Cross continues to this day. I guess as it's on the border it can be said to be either.

The picture in the top left of the cover shows, I believe, Bromley's Christopher Greener (1973-2015) - at the time Britain's tallest man - standing next to the pub's Stan Pownall.

The duo continued to perform in the Montague Arms, as the Two Petes, into the 21st century. I saw them many times on Sunday lunchtimes - who can forget their version of Wonderwall!

Are there any more albums?!

Here again is their version of MacArthur Park/Popcorn, which I put together with some pictures of the pub (see also their version of America):

Peter London

Before his Montague Arms days Peter London released the single 'Bless You' on Pye records in 1965, produced by the legendary Joe Meek

Who shot the Piper man? by Man and Wife (Peter London and  his wife) was released on CBS in 1970

Update (2 April 2015): Jimmy Jones's account

In his autobiography, 'Now this is a very true story' (2011), the comedian Jimmy Jones mentions working with Peter Hoyle (pub owner) and his brother-in-law Stan (the bar manager) to get the Montague Arms going as a venue, and describes how the records came about:

'We would have strippers on Monday and Wednesday nights, and Sunday nights we'd put on drag acts... Peter Hoyle noticed that there were more and more punters coming in just for my comedy routines. And he had a very bright idea. 'Wouldn't it be nice', he siad, 'if we had something to sell all these lorry drivers who are spreading the word about you'... No stand-up comedian had ever released a vinyl long-player of adult material before. So we recorded 'Live at the Montague Arms' relased on the Montague Arms label. It was very popular, we sold thousands of copies of them in the pub. Bill Wyman certainly bought a copy. We finished recording five stand-up LPs from the Montague Arms. '

Jones mentions that all of the Rolling Stones with the exception of Mick Jagger came down to see him at the Mont, as did other other comedians including Mike Reid, Roy 'Chubby' Brown and one Cameron Davidson from Blackheath - soon to launch a successful career not uninfluenced by Jones' 'adult' comedy routines as Jim Davidson (he also performed at the Montague Arms).

By Jones' account he fell out with Hoyle after he started getting success and offered gigs elsewhere. A dispute about royalties from the records led to a court case, with Jones claiming that 'No one was buying those records to listen to the drums and keyboards'. As is often the way it became 'a very nasty and expensive court case which - to be honest with you - neither of us won'.

Jones also says that when Hoyle 'opened a second pub, the King & Queen at Mottingham' he [Jones] opened it for him with my dear friend Dave Lee Travis, the DJ, and an act who became very close mates of mine, a dwarf cabaret act known as the Mini Tones - Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis who went on to be in Star Wars as R2D2 and a Jawa'.

Update (8 April 2015)

Just came across this article from The Independent (29 June 2008): The Entertainers: 'The Two Petes' are the house band at The Montague Arms. Peter Hoyle says: ''I've been the proprietor for 40 years. My brother-in-law and sister run it now. It's changed a lot over the years. In 1978 we refurbished and now there are moose heads on the walls, a zebra head, skeletons, a penny farthing". Peter London is quoted: 'We go for stuff people know: the Stones, Beatles, some Ray Charles. We've also dabbled with Oasis, a bit of Ronan Keating. You’ve got to give people what they want. One song that has always gone down well is "Whiter Shade of Pale"... You can't buy atmosphere. In modern pubs, you don't feel welcome. Customers here know they're going to get called "love" when they come in. It's just like home.'

The Two Petes in 2008

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Goldsmiths Occupation

Goldsmiths students are occupying the college's Deptford Town Hall building in New Cross Road, part of a wave of occupations that has also seen similar protests at Central St Martins (University of the Arts London) and the LSE, among others.

The full list of demands is as follows:

Goldsmiths occupation demands

Counselling services:
-          Recruit more counsellors to meet demand.
-          We want to see a tangible reduction in the waiting list for the service
-          Resist the planned restructure
-          Secure jobs within the service, and stop any redundancy

-          Resist any cuts to the Disabled Students Allowance
-          Demand more investment in making the university accessible to students with disabilities
-          Bring all services in-house and put an end to all outsourcing

Sustaining Goldsmiths:
-          Establish an all union (UCU, Unison, Unite, GSU) committee to oversee the implementation of the sustaining goldsmiths plan.
-          Resist any increase in student numbers without matching it with an increase in resources.
-          Freeze Senior Management pay for five years and reduce their pay before anyone elses is.
Lack of space
-          Move the Senior Management Team to Warmington Tower to free up their spacious offices for teaching space. 

-          Curriculum should be organised by students alongside academics, and not from the top-down. Open forums should be held to consider what the students want to learn
-          Transparency in the department- including better communication with students
-          The DSC system is a broken mechanism for communicating between students. The DSCs are overloaded with work, not respected by management and this leads to students to feeling alienated and disempowered from their departments 

Wider Aims:
-          A commitment to working towards a Free University of London
-          Full financial transparency
-          A radical reduction in the pay disparity of University staff, at the maximum of 6:1
-          Cut ties with unethical companies in regards to funding including those complicit in fossil fuel 
-          Liberation: zero tolerance policies on all forms of prejudice, discrimination and oppression. One way we think this can be achieved is for annual funding to be provided for a full-time Women’s Officer who would be tasked with campaigning on Women and Liberation issues
-          Police not welcome on campus
-          Free Education
-          Fight marketisation and privatisation of higher education
-          Workers’ rights for everyone who works at Goldsmiths
-          All on-campus staff including security to be brought in house, receive a living wage as minimum and solidified union recognition.
-          Solidarity with LSE, UAL, University of Amsterdam  and King’s College London who are all in occupation

There's lots of talks and other events happening, check their twitter account for further details

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Creating Commons in New Cross

As reported here before, The Field opened last year in Queens Road, New Cross, as an 'experiment in collective local research, education and action' based around doing up a semi-derelict building.

Now the plans for its large garden are taking shape, and people are being invited to contribute to a 'a project to collectively design, fund, build and maintain a new common resource – a public garden in New Cross with facilities to support local self-organised activities, events and projects. This isn't just a community garden! This is an experiment in the act of collectively creating new common space, in negotiating its use, how its run and maintained so it can to meet the diverse needs and interests of everyone who uses it.

After a year of research: consultations, surveys, design workshops and public meetings, we have developed a picture of how the garden of 385 Queens Road can be best put to use. We found, from those conversations, that people in the area want:

- A place for different people in the neighbourhood to come together and meet each other.
- A public place we feel a sense of ownership over.
- A productive garden, where skills relating to food growing, health, environment, resilience and self-sufficiency can be learned and shared.
- A place with the resources to facilitate diverse public events, activities and projects.
- A relaxing outdoor space away from the main road running through New Cross'

Plans include buiding a workshop, glasshouse, outdoor kitchen and covered social area, as well as growing spaces.

For further information and/or to pledge a contribution see: http://www.spacehive.com/creatingcommonsinnewcross

Monday, March 09, 2015

Music Monday:Jude Woodhead

Forest Hill based Jude Woodhead has a new EP out (available here on bandcamp and on soundcloud). 'Deep Transport' includes five of Jude's own tracks plus a remix of a King Krule track. 17-year-old Jude, who plays keyboards and trumpet as well as producing, is also one of the contributors to the new photography/art/music blog Essy (SE, gettit?). There's a bit of a Burial influence on some tracks, but the soundscape is more diverse than that might suggest. 'Ambient', 'Electronic', 'Hip Hop' are some of the tags that Jude uses to describe his music, I would add 'Cinematic', with samples including a speech from US radical black activist Angela Davis.

Jude's previous EP, last year's Nights in the City, included a couple of SE-referencing tracks - 'New Cross, LEWI' and 'Night Bus. N171'. Another track on that EP, Finger to the Moon, has recently been used as the basis for a track by 'influential in Brockley' grime artist Koder. The track Hand of Gold, which also includes singing from Pia Morris, has been getting played on BBC1Xtra and is included on Koder's new Naked EP. The start of this collaboration was when Koder introduced himself to Jude when the latter was playing the piano outside Forest Hill station!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Rebel Girl - A Kathleen Hanna Disco

The Canterbury Arms in Brixton remains open despite planning permission having been granted to demolish it and replace it with flats. Ian from legendary indie-pop night How Does it Feel? is putting on a series of one-off club nights there until the bulldozers steam in. The next one is tomorrow night (Friday 6th March) and it sounds like a good one: 'Rebel Girl - A Kathleen Hanna Disco':

'That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood

- I got news for you, she is!

'Inspired by the incredible documentary, "The Punk Singer", we'll be playing lots and lots of songs by Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin, plus associated bands, and our usual mixture of indiepop and northern soul. Our guest DJs for the night are Sandy and Karren of Stolen Wine Social. Hurrah! As always, there's a guest list competition. To stand a chance of getting in for free, simply complete this phrase: "I love Kathleen Hanna because..." Best ten win! 

We will play: Bikini Kill * Le Tigre * The Julie Ruin * Sleater-Kinney * X Ray Spex * The Slits * Delta 5 * The Raincoats * Trash Kit * Huggy Bear * Sonic Youth * The Runaways * The Go-Gos * The Shangri Las * The Smiths * The Supremes * Belle & Sebastian * Camera Obscura * Orange Juice * The Ronettes * Allo Darlin' * Dusty Springfield * and loads more'.

Details: Canterbury Arms, Canterbury Crescent, Brixton SW9,  9pm-2.30am. £6 non-members. £4 members, £6 advance ticket. Membership is free from membership@howdoesitfeel.co.uk. Advance tickets - http://www.wegottickets.com/event/310845

I love Kathleen Hanna because... she once crashed at my friend Katy Watson's squat in Brixton (no. 2 Saltoun Road - Katy had interviewed her for feminist paper Bad Attitude). Also because she made a couple of my favourite tracks of all time (Deceptacon and Rebel Girl).

Monday, March 02, 2015

Cat Video Film Festival

A Cat Video Film Fesitval on the Big Red Pizzeria, Deptford, on 25 April 2005. Book free tickets here. That is all. 

Yes I know, what has happened to Transpontine? More cats and old photos than radical critique and breaking news! Other activities and projects currently exhausting energy but stay tuned... for more cats and old photos.