BM Blob on the tensions on All Saints Road, West London.
All Saints Rd was (is?) of course, the nerve centre of Notting Hill and has been for many a year. Even in 1958, it was the centre of the race riots and in the late 1960s the scene of attacks by the then famous gob-bolt of speed, PC Pulley (now a gun toting embassy cop). After the 1981 riot, which took place surprisingly at the very end of the July riots, a slow process of attrition began to unfold. Suddenly there was an air of mortality about the place.
The central pub, The Apollo, was closed in the summer of 1981 on police orders because of the grass dealing that went on there. It had been an OK dive despite the many nights of depression in there caused by absent life. And if it has been missed, it was only because pub life in general has gone from bad to worse in the area. Black and whites mixed freely and there was ganja everywhere and the Guv'nor- an ex Irish Guardsman - who had once owned a small pig farm back on the old sod, just let things go though he could be tough at times. Of course the place was full of bollock-aches too: all 57 varieties of lefties, alternative comedians, alternative this, that and the other and dumbo rebel musicians were there in over plus. Befitting strategies of recuperation in Notting Hill, a graffiti board was placed on the bog wall in the gents. There was one memorable comment. Replying to Engels' remark that had been scrawled up: "drink is the quickest way out of Manchester," some wit had written underneath: "suicide is the quickest way out of Birmingham..." But the closure of The Apollo in 1982 marked a moment. Other pubs have been shut down in London by the cops for short periods since so that a clean up could take place, (e.g. the 1987 closure of the Golden Cross on Portobello Road or the refurbishment of The Atlantic in Brixton) but the drastic, complete shut down of The Apollo is probably unique.
Things suddenly began to get very edgy. Houses in the mews running up to All Saints were being really smartened up as the trendy rich started to buy some of them. The siege of rapidly rising property prices was beginning and the place was becoming full of dizzy contradictions. For people with little or no room for manoeuvre, the short fuse they were on got shorter, imploding as much as exploding. A Scottish alchi in a semi-squat and normally a neat quiet guy, flipped and took away part of the head of his best mate – a former Irish building worker- with a broken cider bottle. The reason: his Irish pal wouldn't switch the light off when asked. Instantly sobering up, the Scot who had always been so friendly couldn't believe what he had done. Shell-shocked and walking slowly, he was led away by the cops, who gave him the gentle touch calling him "Jimmy". He received a murder rap and was locked away in a high security mental asylum for twenty years. For the rest of his life Jimmy's dreams will be plagued by that nightmare evening. Mental? What's more maddening than gentrification, which catastrophically erodes the social life of the poor and the necessary warmth of contact. Gentrification proceeded literally through murder in this instance.
But on the other hand, many young Blacks (All Saints was basically a 'black' street) began to resist the invasion and growing police pressure because their small-time, dope-dealing livelihood was threatened. Resistance was not merely resistance to a trade that was under threat. There was also the ideology of Rastafari, while a few doors away the menace of the growing community worker/Afro-Caribbean, black small business scene around the Mangrove restaurant. The Mangrove had been able to keep its radical image throughout the years because of a stupid policy (stupid from the state's point of view) of police harassment of black business in the summer of 1970.
In short, it gave the aura of radicalism to a fledgling black middle class who in their turn in the 1980s, were threatened by something uncontrollable below as they fearfully but patronizingly tried to encompass the lively street scene - even encourage it - whilst also wanting to see it pacified and brought under their control. The Apollo was re-furbished, with the aim of turning it into a black co-operative workshop of various handicrafts and small businesses. It even acquired a post-modernist architectural arcade! Despite all the bullshit connected with Rastafari (return to Ethiopia/ dislike of Lesbians and Gays) it nonetheless had an ideology of community, an ideology of sharing, of the abolition of exchange. For quite a number of Rastas on All Saints Road, this initially meant going out of their way to keep the rest of the local community sweet, like being nice to the poor whites and those older, straighter blacks who'd never had a joint stuck between their lips. "Where've you bin' all Christmas my man" etc, was a regular greeting after a traditional festivity to someone not part of the street scene but who nevertheless lived there.
There were many truly enjoyable and crazy aspects to life on the street. In terms of the protection it offered it was like a north London Casbah. If you were black you could escape to it and be safe. Simply disappear into the rabbit warren of tunnels connecting cellars. No cops would dare follow. On one memorable occasion, an LBC newsflash reported a stolen car in North London flying through the streets pursued by cop cars, its occupants heading for All Saints. The car made it, crashing into a lamppost. Wild cheering! The occupants dived into the nearest pavement lights trapdoor leading to the cellar warrens and away.
Of course there was an atmosphere of Black Nationalism in these warrens but in practise it did not prove all that strong. White women were allowed in but no other whiteheads. ...Until one night in a basement shebeen in All Saints, some Glaswegians (who else?) not to be excluded from an all hours drinking party barged in, their Clydeside camaraderie quickly breaking the ice. After that they kept coming back, night after night. Indeed at times, All Saints seemed to be like a scene out of a classic Glaswegian slum. Young black guys holding meat cleavers and machetes would regularly square up to each other urged on by their followers. There would then follow a ritual quadrille to and fro across All Saints liberally peppered with the most basic of insults. Generally they were ritual duals and the cleavers rarely sank into flesh. It was really a matter of honour being seen to be satisfied without loss of face.
Then there was the Nigerian woman who sold household groceries. The tins on the shelves were rusty with mildewed labels and the fruit and vegetables were mostly rotten. Even the newspapers were a day or two old. When a customer complained, she replied: "well they are only a day late". In the back of her shop was a big tin bath and every so often she'd collar the Irish and Scots alchis' who lived in the squat above her shop, put them in the tin bath and scrub them. They would emerge from the shop all clean and shiny looking for the next swig of cider. They would return at midnight attempt to break into her shop to pinch the cigarettes. But the big Nigerian woman did not mind too much: a break-in meant an inflated insurance claim. In any case, the groceries were merely a sideline for a small-scale grass trade. The Insurance Companies quickly got very wise to the constant burglaries/ fire raising on All Saints. Plain clothes coppers were always asking locals if they had seen this or that hoist. The locals usually kept schtum. A couple trying to get enough dosh to keep their shop open faked a robbery. The guy knocked the girl around a bit then tied himself up. Because it was so lamentably executed it failed and thus he got banged up for six months.
The street never closed, except possibly for a period from six to nine in the morning; in that sense it had more of a New York than London flavour. Midnight football matches were a regular event. On one occasion a truckload of cows passing by All Saints broke down and the cows escaped, legging it down All Saints. One black guy went up to a cow and said; "want same grass man?"
But throughout, the cops were ever-present and there were literally countless incidents of bottle and brick throwing. The cops generally tended to arrest people in the streets leading to All Saints and they were mainly punters who wouldn't kick up untidy. Only occasionally would the cops attack the main drag directly but when they did, all hell would let loose. The bookmakers, E W Kensington, was a kind of centre and it was often raided as the cops looked for ganja. It would provoke uproar. The bookies cheekily responded by having tee shirts printed sporting the logo "E.W. Kensington, bookmakers to the Ghetto." One daft community copper tried single handed to change the atmosphere by being especially nice. He would say "hello" to everybody, virtually forcing people to say "hello" back. But he ended up getting his truncheon and helmet nicked - sobbing openly in the street. He was never seen again!
During the miners' strike of 1984 and early 1985, though the separate, but connected terrains of urban riot and strike action never came together except in the pit villages clearly the impulse was there. The summer battles of Gascoigne Wood, at the heart of the Selby super pits complex, was shown on T.V. news and all the blacks in Bibs restaurant on The Saints shouted and. whistled for the miners. Other blacks, mainly older, would say to some whites on All Saints "we support the miners". For the young blacks, it was the sheer violence against the police they identified with, rather than the need for some conscious inner-city rioting/ striking miners unity, (which didn't happen in 1984 partly because the state seemed to have told the cops to cool it in the inner-cities).
However the atmosphere generally was going from worse to desperate. The delightful aspects which also made insurgent outbreaks rich and strange were fading from the scene. The ideology of Rastafari was corning under severe strain and falling apart and reggae was going disco. Yuppie colonization and incoming designer style were taking a heavy toll. The Yardies, the gun toting hard drugs dealing, Mafia-like mob from Jamaica who initially were created to guard Jamaica's ex lefty PM Manley, for a while moved in on the Saints. They frightened the shit out of those 'English' (can one say this?) Blacks who dealt ganja as a means of topping up dole payments. Basically, they just did not want to be a part of a 'mob' network like that. There were unsubstantiated reports that guys, who tried to muscle in on the Yardies scene, were tortured in the basement warrens by applying electric wires to the genitals. Whether the rumour was just rumour, the Yardies, for the moment have left Notting Hill for more lucrative business elsewhere in London. 1
It was portent though of the ugly times ahead. A designer style began to take hold of All Saints and the street atmosphere deteriorated as it ate into the heart of the rebel stronghold. Not that designer style in itself was either better or worse than what had gone on before it. After all, working class people to compensate for a life lived on the margin, need to feel good and wearing the latest fashion can give the appearance of having come out on top. The real trouble lay in the putting into practise of what designer style symbolised - aggressive go getting and love of money as the key to all possibilities vacated by the failure to transform life. Designer style advertising was a pressurised hot sell, of a brittle scream to "take me, take me" and on the street it scarcely mattered whether that freedom from restraint meant trashing a store front or nicking from a defenceless kid.
Elsewhere on All Saints Road, black and white artists (particularly the latter) were increasingly moving in being given favourable leasing or letting terms by the Notting Hill Housing Trust. Dixon the junk sculpture furniture maker and cretinus 'inventor' of 'salvage art' (seventy years after Duchamp's readymades) of colour supplement fame, acquired on that basis, a large studio. From this he knocks out at least one chair a day which one can't even sit on, never mind taking any pleasure in looking at and which go for £1,000 a time in plush west-end galleries. During the 1985 Carnival, Dixon as a public relations ploy - even though he is very snooty - opened up his studio for a little party. Carnival stewards were at the door vetting entrants; these latest and for the moment untypical museum attendants were ready at a moments notice to stop a riot breaking out.
All Saints was becoming a trade street, pure and simple. Trade in art. Trade in dope. Forget the good times! Money was a serious business....just weeks before serious money was to become serious debt for a lot of rich finks. The place seemed to acquire something, somehow, of that pre-crash freneticism and though it was only a shadowy connection because no "serious money" was being made, the war of one against all on the street was at times like a sink version of a futures market-trading floor. People living in the vicinity who used the street daily, were told to get the fuck off the street if they didn't want to buy dope. And this coming from white trash and the white artists were looked up to and left alone. Then the muggings started to increase becoming nastier by the day as heroin and cocaine appeared on the street. (C/f on Carnival1987) Most of this was carried out by designer oriented blacks - those who wanted the flash gear, identifying with the value system that went with it and nothing else.
American style, pass-it-on, that monetarist interjected disregard for 'fair' exchange -wanting to possess everything immediately as commodity - became relatively commonplace as BMX bikes were whisked away from underneath young kids, often from poor families who were playing in the street. However in condemning these forms of muggings, one must recognise that before the great stock market crash - and which may see the end of such a trajectory - money grabbing was on the verge of becoming a kind of social relation/ central axis of society. A polite veneer, getting even thinner, merely disguised the fact that it was also a form of mugging but without the brutal honesty of the street, (e.g. the New York "house slaves" prepared to sell every aspect of themselves including lying proclamations of love in order to move in with a partner while looking out for more lucrative bodies to pillage who owned larger apartments.)
Increasingly cut off from surrounding social basis of support a cornered frenzy on All Saints would leap out half- crazed from doorways. Links with this basis were always somewhat tenuous on All Saints but now it was becoming completely lost. More and more punters had their dope money stolen from them, which just invited retaliation. And sure enough a black guy - who just happened to be there - got savagely knifed by a ripped-off punter in one of the side streets. By early summer 1987 as many as three mini-riots a day were breaking out. At the same time, there were also in Notting Hill, quite a few skirmishes of a far higher quality. On All Saints, it had become largely self-destruct having lost its out-going, laughing, communicative edge. So often it was just ugly as the sun glanced off flashing knives, though to be accurate when rioting broke out, it was purely anti-cop. But by now, the cops were getting heavier too as a particularly nasty crew known as the "Midnight Watch" got down to their dirty work. It was becoming all very contradictory and not a simple, beautiful charge as it had been in 1976 or, on a countrywide level, the heady days of July 1981.
Then came the big clamp down on July Ist 1987. The cops descended in droves and they came to stay. Within days it had a name: Operation Trident and it was much bigger than the police curfew after Crumpet's death. Though largely drawn from the southwest and Devon and Cornwall amongst there mass presence could be heard Scottish and Northern accents. The typical divide and rule. Send the Met to Yorkshire when there is trouble and vice versa. Play on regional hostility between North and South! For many locals amongst both the black and white working class though it was a relief. The muggings, the burgling of poor households stopped overnight. The heroin was gone, or rather dealt in a more clandestine fashion.
However when the cops do something or in this case put a stop to something, the truth is left to rot unnoticed. What wasn't revealed in the newspapers/ T V during the following days was that most of these arrested for hard drugs were white and not black. A minority of black street kids who had done the dirty dealing, who had gone cynical with the collapse of Rasta ideology (which was anti hard drugs) were only mug workers for the White big boys. In the weeks to follow (surprisingly, considering cop vindictiveness) most of those arrested for ganja or hash over the Notting Hill area as a whole, were released without charge. The rest, including the whites arrested for dealing smack, were kept inside. The Labour party - even the most dissident - supported the clearing of All Saints and were willing to talk to the cops. Like the locals they wanted rid of mugging and heroin but behind it too, there was the orderly petite bourgeois ideology of the quiet suburban street; of early to bed and early to rise ready for an honest days wage-slavery. There is a history to such one-sided, killjoy responses in Notting Hill. During the era of Rachmanism, tenants' committees, somewhat commandeered by the Labour party and justly attacking rapacious private sector landlordism, then went on to an indiscriminate taming of the area's wild life. Since the 1950s high on the list of tenants' committees, were the proposals to close down shebeens. Sure a basement shebeen can be a damn nuisance especially when a good night's sleep is essential, just in order to get through alienated work and leisure. But these reproaches were aimed at cutting the top off all highs in favour of a monotonous normality. It does happen to be true there exists a creative dialectic between the 'good' and the 'bad' in areas. Recognition of this does not mean justifying the 'bad' merely in dealing with it one does not impose a stifling watch committee mentality. 2
On the Saints, the day's work over, the cops continued to stay. One got the impression, they were just so country, that they had been brain-washed during briefings to believe that Notting Hill was jungle-bunny land, inhabited also by crazed white fiends with jacking-irons sticking permanently out of their veins. What a tale to tell back home over a pint of scrumpy with the farm lads in The Barley Mow! On the streets of Notting Hill their country bumpkin eyes were opened wide. They tried to get friendly not because they were told to do so but because of their country manners. One sensed they were beginning to enjoy the place.
It was not just a military-style operation either. The police tried to work on the division between blacks and other locals. Within days, plain-clothes cops (who pretended to be other) went around to every house in the vicinity of All Saints to suggest setting up a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme - the pet project of the new head of the Met, Peter Imbert. Also a huge police mega truck moved in, open to all those in the area who might be interested in beating crime. They got few customers. To top it all, despite the yuppie inroads, the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme failed and not one of the familiar stickers appeared in a window except in the very low-rise flats in Tavistock Crescent. No doubt this still testified to the anti-cop inclination of Notting Hill, although there must have been many punters who didn't subscribe to it out of fear of neighbourly retribution. It was a relief, although it should be pointed out that many Neighbourhood Watch stickers are cynically put in windows because house insurance premiums are cheaper that way. 3
But coppers will be coppers. No matter how washed up and disintegrated they don't change their spots. In the following days and weeks sitting in their riot trucks all over the district (not just All Saints) they began to turn their attention onto the local community who had blinkedly but understandably welcomed them, in the first instance,( rather like the Northern Ireland Catholics who welcomed the British Army in 1969). One agreeable side to Operation Trident. Most of those arrested were yuppies nicked for driving over permitted alcohol levels. But pubs were turned over to. An Irish plasterer had his half finished pint of Guinness snatched out of his hand at closing time and an Irish girl, with a fast food fetish, finishing off her twentieth hamburger of the day, had her feast snatched of her mouth. All over people in pubs were arrested for being drunk even though they weren't.
Divide and Rule and the Media
An Inner-City Big Bang?
There was an ugly twist to the pub raids. Blacks were separated from whites then searched. The tactic was an attempt at a racist divide and rule like had never been known before. Over the years the tabloid press had tried to ferment racial trouble in Notting Hill by scandalously distorted reporting (c/f Mikkelson). Throughout the 1980s it has got horrible and to verify this, just consider two of the worst excesses.
Sometime in 1986, a white guy on crutches died of a heart attack on Golborne Road, on the way to the fish and chip shop. Without checking any facts, The London Standard and LBC picking up on an unsubstantiated rumour, immediately proclaimed he'd been mugged by blacks. A chill went through the area. Was it true? All day fearful blacks everywhere went out of their way to nod and smile at whites whom they only knew as familiar faces. It was a horrendous lie but it took days for the calumny to be exposed and then only as a footnote in the press. It had been the same three years earlier in 1983 when a teenager, the lovely Belinda Greaves was diabolically murdered by a black psycho-killer. From the front page of The London Standard there screamed a headline stating that a black guy had killed a white girl. What it did not say was that Belinda's dad came from the Caribbean although her mother was white. In both incidents, The London Standard's slanted report could have led to revenge attacks, which was probably the intention. That media provocations failed, is down to the on going and long time inter-racial unity built up in Notting Hill (and now elsewhere) over the years that has come about among the oppressed of all race.
If these didn't work, neither did Operation Trident even though Blacks were singled out, as never before by the cops. Black school kids, having a shing-dig the day summer term ended and larking about with foam silly-string, were pushed against the wall and separated from their white mates by the boys in blue. Anti-police hostility grew. Why were they staying? Was it to satisfy the hated yuppies? Maybe the off spring of some top bod in Whitehall was now living in Notting Hill and wanted the place cleaned up to look like Chalfont Latimer? Maybe this mandarin had button-holed Hurd, the Home Secretary, one day in the corridors of power and asked Douglas to do something about it. "After all, old boy we knew each other at Eton."
An inter-racial anti-cop unity, common to Notting Hill came once more into the open. Whites protested at the way blacks were being treated. There was a memorable incident outside The Colville pub on Portobello Rd when some blacks tried to free a white guy shoved in the back of a police transit van. They rocked the van but failed to push it over. As for those blacks who had become cops black street kids called them "black bastards". And as their quisling presence tended to provoke, rather than pacify riot, they had been kept away from All Saints. Fragmented trouble broke out all over Notting Hill but it was all disparate, unconnected and failed to come together into a party.
Black Cop and Rasta. Carnival '87.
As for All Saints, opening the door one morning it was staggering to find a black guy, ticking-off share ratings in The Times', financial index. From dope dealing to potential insider dealing, as quickly as it takes for a cop to truncheon a skull! Was this, as it was, 'the dark side' of popular capitalism: a species of born-again mugging, providing the opportunity to get rich quick. It strikingly brought out the combined power of Thatcherism and post big-bang as an international, inter-racial, inter-class force able to suck in broader and broader layers of 'the people', especially in the south east, even able to make inroads into the subterranean depths. (However, "fair shares all round" - the monetarist version of social egalitarianism - was shortly to have its nemesis on Oct 19th 1987, revealing starkly that capitalism had in-built barriers to its popularity.)
Then came the expected liberal lefty official protests. Bernie Grant and Paul Boateng, the recently elected black MPs, at a House of Commons press conference criticized the police swamp without of course mentioning the real nitty-gritty, which led up to the swamp in the first instance. What had happened previously on All Saints was largely glossed over, and no one dared speak the truth for fear of being accused of racism. The heroin trade, apart from a few comments by Frank Critchlow - boss of the Mangrove restaurant/ community work scene - was particularly glossed over. He said he would have been able to control it - which he wouldn't .The muggings were passed over in total silence and not surprisingly, because these meetings were basically social workery, guilt-ridden, hand wringing affairs. The Trotskyist SWP in Socialist Worker went along with all this garbage, their account, being so wide of the mark, it made one doubt even the factual veracity of their reports on industrial disputes throughout the UK - the only reason to read the maazine' - even though you have to ignore their ideological slant in any case.
A white middle class, feminist, social worker, whom had quit Notting Hill a long time ago for owner occupation elsewhere in north London, did her do-goody, but very influential bit. In the past to prove how hip she was she'd had a kid by a black guy, though the blacks she'd hung loose with on The Saints, were those on the up. Guys like Jerry Rawlins - the man who was to become the populist army captain and Ghana's head of state. In short, the same old power-as-an-aphrodisiac trip and never a serious relationship with an estate Leroy. It's very different to what happens when working class individuals - with an attraction or love for each other - get together. They don't spectacularise their offspring, which as it were, happen along the way. They don't wear their mixed race children like a race-relations badge as the lefty-professionals do. 4
Then suddenly the occupation ceased only three weeks before the 1987 Carnival. But one felt revenge was going to be meted out at Carnival because the word had got out everywhere - what are the police doing in Notting Hill? And just before the Carnival, the cops' presence increased with random searches with arrests in Basin St and elsewhere. As for All Saints the silence continued and has only been broken since by small disturbances somewhat encircled by the Mangrove scene: Critchlow, in his Maida Vale pad, didn't need to worry too much how to play it. His hands were clean. In the interests of black small businesses he'd opposed the cops. Nonetheless, since the trauma of Operation Trident, disturbances have begun to take place again in Notting Hill in 1988, partly because the cops really want to punish set-backs - and punish hard. (And if it's anything to go by the cops aren't probably going to play it cool like in 1984).
A Council Estate Spillover?
But if the occupation, had ceased in Notting Hill, it has also patchily intensified elsewhere, simply because some of the drug dealing migrated to the danger spots of the Mozart and Lisson Green estates, in the neighbouring Borough of Westminster. Here the police presence had to be low profile. Even so, having cracked down hard in Notting Hill, in the long term, they had only aggravated their problems elsewhere. We can be thankful for police wisdom, in not letting sleeping dogs lie. Irritation at their constant interference can only swell the furore, which is breaking out in Westminster, over the Tory council's ruthless plan to get rid of half the council housing stock there.
So far much of this opposition has been orchestrated, by the very marginalized Westminster Labour party, (which has more than a few members with Bennite leanings, who lived in NottingHil1 recently.) It hasn't amounted to much beyond disrupting Council meetings, councillors arrested and miserable nighttime candle-lit processions, protesting the closure of St. Mary's Hospital on the Harrow Road. This hospital has been sold off to property developers with apartments earmarked for sale at an average £200,000 each. With the stock market crash, they wont get anywhere near that price. Such actions provoke a murderous rage, so it's extremely doubtful if the Labour party can in the long term, contain the mounting anger. The last thing they want is a Broadwater type explosion on the Mozart, which they continually predict will happen, and which they're doing everything in their power to prevent happening. The Tory council are stupid enough to think the opposition are trying for another Broadwater Farm, but it is the Tories themselves who will succeed in doing this. Lisson Green is about to be sold off, at cut-price rate. Mortgages won't mean anything there, as most of the tenants are unemployed. Plenty evictions are sure to follow and that could be social dynamite in triggering things off there.
Both the giant Mozart and Lisson Green estates are late 1960s early 1970s Town Planners creations and both have turned out quite differently to what the bureaucrats intended. The systems built deck access Lisson Green, completed in the mid 1970s was more or less earmarked for respectable working class tenancy. Within a few years it rapidly became a sink estate and all who found themselves sinking rather than swimming were re-housed there. Largely tenanted by poor white and black, it recently has received a huge influence of Moroccan families. The Mozart was supposed to be more auspicious than Lisson Green, as it was low-rise and largely brick-built. Many expected it to blow during the rioting Autumn of 1985 and rumours, some probably true, ran wild. Recently however Westminster council has set about demolishing the deck access and it has been mooted (though not confirmed) that the better part could be sold off. Selling off Lisson Green and the Mozart isn't so daft, considering the up-market, American style facelift by Regalion properties (re-named Falcon Towers) on formally, unspeakably awful point blocks in Clapham Junction.
Certainly tenants on the Mozart are very edgy and ever ready to attack the council and anything else that gets in the way. Over the last few years there's been a lot of patchy flare-ups on both the Mozart and Lisson Green estates. The inhabitants of the latter ("the Lisson Green Posse") were blamed for rioting in Praed St Paddington, during the miners' strike in summer '84. There is however a hierarchy of estates, which is pretty effective in stopping inter-estate solidarity. For instance, the brick-built Scott Ellis estate close to Lisson Green, obviously regards itself as being a cut above its neighbour. It is tenanted by people like low paid civil servants, precisely the types who were originally designated for the Lisson Green, Which they keep well of...And would either of these two estates feel solidarity with the squatters on the football terrace like, construction of Rowley Way estate, half a mile away and now being evicted by leftist Camden Council?
All one can say for the moment is this: the situation in London has deteriorated to such an extent that solidarity action, in response to renewed rent strikes, due to cuts in housing benefit or, the new Housing Act, and potential riots, is now more likely, even though unprecedented. Also one must not forget that council workers in London, in response to savage attacks on their conditions of employment, are seething with anger, the likes of which, hasn't been seen for ages. If ever.
The photo of the above graffiti was initiated by Brim Fuentes, a New York subway artist from the South Bronx. It may look like rebel art but in fact was done with the consent of Chelsea and Kensington Council as were other sites in the area. This remedial, halfway house, between the street and the gallery system does not exist in the States to the same degree as the UK. In some cases here the local State and local education authorities (e.g. Wolverhampton) fund such schemes. Actually New York subway graffiti was a response of outcasts to the failure of radical currents in America. It changed appearances not social relations. Looking back, it marked the recovery of the visual, which from clandestine beginnings on subway trains, became ever more neutral as it spread out over and upwards, replacing the aural as the dominant aesthetic of containment. The transition from street artist to gallery is symbolic of this process.
- 1If any further evidence were needed this proves yet again, how gun-toting, political heavies always fall into horrible, money-grubbing rackets. The Yardies are the worst, that's all.
- 2This historically is what happened to Storyville in New Orleans when, a hellfire, lascivious puritanism put an end to all that was creative about the place. In spite of the gangsterism, organized prostitution and scramble to make a buck any-which-way, there was just something unrepeatable and exceptional about those wailing train whistles taking the blue note from the dance halls into the marshalling yards.
- 3Like the Leftists they are, Class War has recently proposed a strategy of entrism into these para-state bodies. They dream of kicking out the cops from these cop-initiated Neighbourhood Watch Schemes, a vangardist fantasy doomed to failure but which may help to boost the image of these schemes amongst the poor and confused. Such entrism is an imagined short-cut, a substitute for the harder task of initiating some anti-mugging, anti-cop, anti-heroin, anti- rapist etc project completely independent of the State. It's about as subversive as the Trots whose delirium leads them to believe the Labour party can be turned into a Bolshevikh party; that the state can be turned into a "Workers' State."
- 4All Saints after all had an image and a past and aspiring, populist, lefty Third World politicians, would in days gone by, pay frequent visits there, before becoming famous elsewhere. For example, Maurice Bishop, the assassinated head of the New Jewel movement in Grenada, decimated by Reagan's paras, used to drink in the Apollo. Amongst all this though, was one truly sad incident vis-à-vis the day-glo desperate life of rebel stars. It was on All Saints, that Jimi Hendrix -perhaps the greatest jazz/rock guitarist of all -on the eve of music entering into total eclipse, either o/d or committed suicide, leaving behind his dying-to-be-loved, final farewell on a piece of paper.