Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Pamphlet from Past Tense

(Reprint/new edition of a 1980s classic)


The 1981 Brixton Riots

ISBN: 978-0-9565984-7-9


“Between Friday, 10th April, 1981,  and Monday April 13th April 1981, serious disorder occurred in Brixton... when large numbers of persons, predominantly black youths, attacked police, police vehicles (many of which were totally destroyed), attacked the Fire Brigade, destroyed private premises and vehicles by fire, looted, ransacked and damaged shops...”

After more than a decade of repeated attacks, arrests, harassment, beatings, racist provocations by the local police and the Special Patrol Group, Brixton erupted in a massive uprising. The riot - followed by more in July, part of a nationwide wave of disorder - shocked the British state. Though quickly labelled ‘race riots’ by the press, in fact blacks and whites had fought side by side, in the first anti-police riots for more than a century.

We Want to Riot, Not to Work (originally published in 1982) combines rip-roaring personal accounts of the riots from unashamed participants, with a radical analysis of their causes, and the response of the authorities.

This publication can be bought online with paypal, at: tense publications

or by post:

write to
past tense
c/o 56a Info Shop
56 Crampton Street,
SE17 3AE

enclosing a cheque for £7.00 (including £2.00 Postage/Packing).

please make cheques payable to Past Tense Publications.

BULK ORDERS: If you would like a few copies to sell to your mates, your local bookshop or for a book stall, let 
Past Tense know, and they’ll do you a discount deal.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

They’ve Taken our Ghettos: A Punk History of the Woodberry Down Estate

Introductory Essay by Exhibition Organiser [Guest Blog]

Updated with slight edits by the author, September 13 2018

They’ve Taken our Ghettos: A Punk History of the Woodberry Down Estate
My inspiration for organising this exhibition (and the accompanying book of the same name) is seeing the redevelopment of the Woodberry Down Estate in North London. This seems part of an endemic scenario in London, where banal environments are increasingly constructed for the wealthy, forcing out people without means and destroying the physical, social and historic fabric of the city in the process.
(Illustrations supplied by the author)
I photographed the redevelopment that was taking place. Memories of an intense period of my life as a teenage squatter on the estate over twenty years ago flooded back. I remembered a life which, although dystopian at times, was the closest I ever came to unbridled freedom and communality, not to mention a lot of laughs. It felt like a real alternative to the alienating pursuit of money popularised during Thatcher’s decade.
A conversation followed with some of the original squatters on the estate swapping stories and anecdotes. Several of these people are now practicing writers and artists. This exhibition and publication includes their illustrations, prints, comics, collages, photographs and stories. Together they form an alternative, punk narrative of life on the estate.
In the late 80s, many of the flats in Woodberry Down were neglected and left vacant by the council, and were subsequently squatted by a community of young punks. The sharp rise in squatters during this time has well documented links to the contemporaneous increase in homelessness in London, which arose from Thatcherite policies, such as the Right to Buy scheme (introduced in the Housing Act 1980)[1]. For my own part, this was a time when I had no alternate accommodation, no means to secure a deposit in the private sector and was not eligible for social housing.
While my motivation for squatting was initially practical, other reasons manifested themselves as time went on. Squatting meant relinquishing a former identity and creating alternate means of financial, social and practical support. I had casual jobs cleaning and waitressing. Other people took on low paid jobs such as street cleaning where they didn’t have to compromise their look, attitude or lifestyle. Some claimed benefits and then drank their giros away. Others refused to sign on as a point of principle, not because they had a moral objection to it, but because they wanted to live self-sufficiently outside of any social controls. Others still went busking and generally got by on very little money. Generally, refusing the pressurised treadmill of capital accumulation and the necessity to pay extortionate rents provided a chance to experience and enjoy life outside the usual societal parameters.
"Conquest, Colonisation and Social Cleansing"
Now that the extreme ideas being touted in the 80s have been entrenched over several decades, the climate is even harsher for young people without means. The sale of social housing estates by London councils has drastically reduced the net social housing.[2] The Woodberry Down Estate sell-off is not the worst culprit for this, as the number of social renting units will remain the same. However, the new, private sector component has been substantially increased, meaning that the proportion of social housing will be cut from 67% to 41%[3]. This creation of two-tier housing, with new wealthier tenants distinguished from social housing ones, breaks up the community and breeds resentment. The tenants have described being cast aside like ‘social rubbish’.[4]
More generally, excessive rent rises, coupled with housing benefit caps mean that vulnerable tenants are being rehoused out of the capital in places where they have no social or historic link. On the Woodberry Down Estate leaseholders have not been compensated at market value for the forced loss of their homes.[5] The developers meanwhile stand to make a fortune (3 beds are marketed at 1.2 million). London is becoming a lifeless ghetto for the rich - a depository for money from foreign investors.
The destruction of the estate sparked reminiscences about what was being lost. But, while some nostalgia was involved in putting together this exhibition, the intention is not to idealise squatting. Surviving on very little money and living in temporary, usually inadequate, buildings can be hard going. At times alcoholism and drug use infected too many people. But living as part of a wider squatting community also meant that resources were often shared. There was plenty of mutual support. There were squatted vegan cafés and gig venues with crèche facilities.
Some of the tenants on the estate seemed wary or were hostile towards the squatters. They might well have suffered from the seemingly endless parties and disregard shown by some. Then again, tenants sometimes joined in with the partying. I knew squatters who helped tenants to fix things up around their homes, when they’d had no joy with the council, or who did shopping for elderly residents. I knew others who voluntarily cooked and brought food to HIV sufferers who didn’t seem to receive any state or charity support at that time.

Overall, this project aims to avoid promoting stereotypes of squatters as either reckless dossers or romanticised utopians. Instead, the aim has been to put together artistic and written expressions of aspects of an existence that allowed freedom and independence through dissent.

Rebecca Binns, 2015.

They’ve Taken our Ghettos: A Punk History of the Woodberry Down Estate. Exhibition Launch Party, Thurs, 2 Jul, 6-11pm, Free Entry. Bar by Craving Coffee (card/cash), Food by Pink Cactus (cash only). Exhibition Runs 3-26 July
A book of the same name will be available to buy via Active Distribution from early July.

[4] See

July listings update

To explore, in no particular order..

Shuffle Festival
behind St Clements Hospital site on Mile End Road. Programme from 24th July:
"The journeys, movements, resettlements, discoveries and upheaval of communities to new places and new lands has been the abiding story of humanity... In Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, where many people in East London have come to rest beneath the blanket of trees, we tell the stories of where we came from, where we are and where we are going."
This year a (possible) first with a real live "history" event:
Breaking Histories is a showcase of new insights into the past. It aims to get the public excited about history by demonstrating that historical research and practice is breaking boundaries, breaking conventions and should be breaking news! Come along and hear about the historical discoveries and projects that are uncovering hidden histories. BREAKING HISTORIES TALK SERIES
TOWER HAMLETS CEMETERY PARK  as it’s now called, perhaps one of London's hidden gems in need of a radical history?

Saturday 1 August  An evening walk round the Cemetery to end Shuffle.


On the 6th August anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, CND has organised a free screening of the 1965 BBC film, The War Game, in central London.
Join us at The Light Euston in Friends House, where we will be joined by Michael Bradsell, who edited the film in 1965, for a post-screening discussion.
The BFI describes the film as 'a controversial and harrowing film which, after the BBC had reluctantly allowed a cinema release, garnered huge critical praise internationally, winning a number of prizes, including an Academy Award.'
However, 'the nuclear war drama was withheld by the BBC - possibly as a result of political pressure - and remained unshown for nearly twenty years, finally being transmitted on 31st July 1985.'
2015 is the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, the 50th anniversary of the filming of The War Game and now 30 years since it was first screened on the BBC.
  • 6 - 8pm, Thursday 6th August
  • The Light Euston, Friends House, 173 - 177 Euston Road
  • REGISTER: The screening is free but please register as spaces are limited.

Film showing – Rudolf Rocker
Sunday 5th July

"Adam Kossoff’s documentary 'The Anarchist Rabbi' shines a light on a notable figure in Britain’s newly resonant legacy of insurrectionism." By Sukhdev Sandhu.


Thursday 2nd -  Thursday 9th July, 10am - 6pm, MDR Reading Room

Schooling and Culture Residency

Schooling and Culture was a collaboratively produced journal published during the 70s and 80s between a group of radical left educationalists and young working class school students in London. 

MayDay Rooms currently houses a collection of the journals and this week long programme seeks to further socialise this archive. Since December 2014, convened by Russell Newell, a group of educators/artists/organisers and some of the original contributors have been meeting at MDR to discuss the
potential of reactivating the journal, what it would look like [...]
MayDay Rooms
88 Fleet Street
London,  EC4Y 1DH
United Kingdom
Tel: 020 3691 5230


Matchwomen's festival

The Matchwomen's festival is back and bigger than ever! With speakers such as Caroline Criado-Perez, Kate Hardie, Sara Khan, Siana Bangura, Shabana Kauser, Miranda Yardley and LOADS more as well as surprise guests.
Live music from Maddy Carty, Steve White and the Protest Family and Thee Faction. Poet provocateurs Shagufta Iqbal, Janine Booth, Tim Wells. 
*Exclusive- The hilarious Week in Sexist News will this year come LIVE from the Festival!* 

This year we are at a new venue - Canning Town Caravanserai - a fantastic in and out-door venue in a fabulous setting. With hot food from Masterchef's Alec Tomasso, cakes, snacks and drinks all day and night! **Under a fiver if booked in advance! Kids Free**

Saturday 4th July

2:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Address: 100-116 Silvertown Way, London E16 1EA

"In the summer of 1888, 1400 women walked out on strike over management bullying and appalling, hazardous working conditions. The women and girls working at Bryant & May’s match factory in London’s East End shocked the world, and ultimately changed it.
Working-class women at this time were supposed to be seen and not heard, especially if, like many matchwomen, they were of Irish heritage. Instead, the matchwomen paraded the streets of the East End, singing songs and telling the truth about their starvation wages and mistreatment by the firm.
They marched to Parliament, and their strength and solidarity won them better pay, safer conditions, and the right to form the largest union of women and girls in Britain.
They were an inspiration to other groups of workers up and down the country and throughout the world. The modern movement for workers’ rights had begun, and the matchwomen were at the forefront of it.
The first Matchwomen's Festival marked the 125th anniversary of the Matchwomen's Strike."


Dalston radical history walk

Thursday 23rd July

meet 6.30pm in Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ

  • housing struggles and gentrification
  • campaigners against police violence and oppression who got infiltrated by
  • guess who
  • anti-fascist hairdresser
  • centres for community, for working class history, for refugees, for struggle …
  • culture
  • riot
and more....... Bring your own histories


WAKEFIELD NEWS: Opposing the National Front  

WE ARE WAKEFIELD had a well attended meeting on 8th July at Lightwaves Leisure Centre.
The meeting had been called because the Nazi National Front are planning to march through Wakefield on Saturday 25 July.
The latest information is that the Nazis will assemble at the Wakey Tavern (6 Lower to Wetherspoons) at 11am and will be marching to the "Springs" at 12 noon.
WE ARE WAKEFIELD have support from faith groups, community groups, political parties, community organisations, trade union branches etc.
They are organising a protest demonstration and also an event in the city centre through the day that will celebrate the diversity of Wakefield.
Their next organising meeting is on Tuesday 14 July at 7.15pm back at Lightwaves Leisure Centre.
Those of us who attended last night were asked to publicise as much as possible the events being organised to oppose the NF...please pass the message on........

From Wakefield Socialist History Group


In the late 1830s and in the 1840s the Chartists sought to unite a host of radical groups with their call for democratic reform of the political system.

Their People's Charter demanded adult male suffrage, equal electoral districts, annual Parliaments, vote by ballot, abolition of the property qualification for MPs and also payment of MPs.

The idea was that a democratic electoral system would transform the composition of Parliament.  Once workers were the majority at Westminster the Government would have to rule in their interests.

On Saturday 18 July, the WAKEFIELD SOCIALIST HISTORY GROUP are holding a meeting about "THE CHARTISTS...AND THE DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT TODAY."  The meeting is at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield.  It starts at 1pm and admission is free. A free light buffet is provided.

The speakers are Ken Rowley (ex Vice President of the NUM), Shaun Cohen (Ford Maguire Society) and Paul Feldman (Assemblies for Democracy; author of book on the state and democracy).

"Chartism is defined in terms of three great Petitions to Parliament -in 1839, 1842 and 1848.  However there was a fourth, often forgotten, Petition collected in the spring of 1841.
Mark Crail (2015) points out that on eof the newly formed National Charter Association's priorities had been to continue campaigning for the release of John Frost, William Jones and Zepheniah Williams, the leaders of the Newport Rising.
In the early months of 1841 -whilst William Lovett and Feargus O'Connor were still in jail- Chartists secured 1,339,298 signatures backing a pardon.
The Chartist and Republican Journal reported that on 25 May 1841 some 18 stone masons from the "new Houses of Lords and Commons" carreid the "tun-like petition" along Fleet Street, the Strand, past Charing Cross and Horse Guards onto Westminster where it was "rolled onto the floor like a mighty snowball."
There the petition was debated.  When it came to the vote it was 58-58. The Speaker voted against.  The Petition had been rejected -but only by the deciding vote of the speaker."

 And next month

They will be organising a guided walk to commemorate the Kinsley Evictions in West Yorkshire.
The walk will start with short speeches at the "winding wheel" outside Fitzwilliam Railway Station at 2pm on Sunday 9 August.
The guide for the walk itself is John Gill and the route (approx. 2 miles) will be through Fitzwilliam Country Park.
The walk will end with a pint at the Kinsley Hotel.
Free bottled water will be provided and stout footwear is recommended.
For more information call 07931927451.  


IWCE Events
Saturday 19th September
10.00 - 16.00 Brunswick, London (tbc)
This session will begin with Researching and Archiving,
move on to Women, Work and Trade Unions, and
conclude with Lessons for Today.
Please get in touch if you would like to make a
presentation or just attend.
Email Keith Venables
Jane Martin and IWCE Team.

World to Win Events.
The Barnsley Residential was full of life and ideas (and an Actions
for IWCE will be available on Website soon).
Edinburgh 17th and 18th August
Leicester 30th September Seminars.
The pamphlet "Class Struggle Adult Education for 21st Century"
can be bought via the Website.



A second showing of The Brixton Tapes has been arranged, due to the popularity of the first night:

So, another chance to see the long lost and excellent documentary on the 1981 Brixton Riots with an introduction from our very own Alex (121/ Past Tense).

Tuesday 28th July
at Whirled Cinema,
259 Hardess St,
Loughborough Junction
London SE24 0HN

Doors open 7pm. Film showing 8.30pm. There is a bar there so come early...
£5 non members £3 members.


Marxism 2015: Ideas for Revolution

The timetable for Marxism 2015 in London from 9-13 July is available online - there are so many critical meetings on offer on a wide range of subjects

“They’ve Taken our Ghettos: A Punk History of the Woodberry Down Estate” 
Craving Coffee, The Mill Co Project, Gaunson House, Markfield Road, South Tottenham, London N15 4QQ
Exhibition Launch Party, Thurs, 2 Jul, 6-11pm, Free Entry
Food & drink available for purchase
Exhibition Runs 2-26 July
This exhibition brings together prints, illustrations, photographs and text, created by a diaspora of punks who lived as squatters on the Woodberry Down Estate in the Manor House area of London in the 80s and 90s. This show was conceived in response to the estate’s current redevelopment, which recognizes only consenting voices in its gentrification process.
This timely exhibition portrays aspects of an existence built on dissent, autonomy and communality, as an alternative to the neo-liberal values of ruthless individualism which held sway at that time. While the lifestyle was far from idyllic, at times dystopian, at its best it offered unmediated freedom and a real alternative to its participants.
Reflecting the principles of the community itself, no distinction is made between professional and amateur art and writing. And while some of the contributions are by known artists, writers and musicians, the rationale behind the exhibition is to present an expression of a life lived from those who lived it.
Opening party on 2 July, with the bar also open for craft beer, cocktails, wine and food.
(Facebook event)
WCML, Salford

Spirit of '45 exhibition and talks
The Library's exhibition Spirit of ’45: from warfare to welfare runs until 25 September.
Following the end of the Second World War the people of Britain elected a Labour government. It was a landslide victory. Seventy years later we recall the achievements of that government and explore what remains of its radical reforms.
Open during our drop-in times, Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5pm and the first Saturday of the month 10am-4pm.

and events

Wednesday 8 July 2pm
Cancellation of Pat Thane's talk 

Many apologies, but we have just heard that Pat Thane cannot come to give her talk tomorrow (8 July).  We will be happy to welcome her instead on Wednesday 16 September at 2pm, to talk to us about the 1945 welfare reforms. 
(Pat is Research Professor in Contemporary British History, Institute of Contemporary British History, King's College, London).

Wednesday 22 July 2pm
Keith Flett talk - 'A History of 1945: beyond Ken Loach'
Keith is a socialist historian and a prolific letter writer in the British press.

A Hundred in One Hundred Minutes
On Sunday 5 July at 2pm there will be a fundraising event at the Library. A Hundred in One Hundred Minutes will offer us songs, poems and tales from 100 years of working class struggles with ballad singer Jennifer Reid and Manchester University’s Michael Sanders.
Price £10 - tickets to be booked in advance by emailing


SHS meeting - Diggers, Ranters and Fifth Monarchy Men

Socialist History Society Public Meeting
Date: Saturday 18th July 2.00 p.m.
Diggers, Ranters and Fifth Monarchy Men: An Overview of the Revolutionary and Radical Sects in the 1640-60 Era
Speaker: Professor Bernard Capp, University of Warwick
The speaker is author of numerous works on 17th century social, political and cultural history including The Fifth Monarchy Men (1972); Astrology and the Popular Press: English Almanacs 1500-1800 (1979), Cromwell's Navy: The Fleet and the English Revolution (1989) and When Gossips Meet: Women, the Family and Neighbourhood in Early Modern England (2003 )
Professor Capp is a fellow of the British Academy.
Venue: Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green
Attendance is free of charge.