Leaflet distributed at a Reclaim The Streets party in South London in June 1998, to place the event in context, and explain the radical history of the South London area.
Reclaim the Streets,
Today Reclaim the Streets are planning to turn part of South London into a free festival zone for the day. Most non-residential streets in South London are dominated by bumper to bumper traffic with nothing much to do except shop. RTS parties are about creating our own space where we can dance, play, eat and drink - all without any money changing hands.
Space and time in South London
So much South London space is covered in tarmac, covered in cars. It’s no surprise that we suffer from the worst pollution in the UK. The building of new roads has slowed down, with the plan to destroy Oxleas Wood in south-east London abandoned because of the threat of mass resistance. Now is the time to start taking back some of the space already lost to roads.
But roads aren’t the only problem. Green space is also being enclosed to build supermarkets or, like at Crystal Place, corporate leisure centres. Meanwhile urban space is increasingly controlled, with our every move watched by CCTV cameras.
Out time too is being taken away from us more and more, as people are made to work longer hours and the unemployed are forced to take low paid jobs by New Labour’s New Deal.
Reclaim the World
A party in the road is not going to change all this on its own, but it does give us a glimpse of a different way of life. By linking up with other communities of resistance across the world we can begin to reclaim more of our space and time from a system that sucks life out of human beings and the planet for the financial benefit of a tiny minority.
Since the first RTS party in Camden in 1995 the idea has spread throughout the country and internationally. A few weeks ago (May 19th) simultaneous street parties were held across the world. In Birmingham where world leaders met up for the G8 summit, 10,000 people took over the city centre for an RTS party and protest. Roads were blocked everywhere from Toronto (Canada) to Tel Aviv (Israel), Stockholm (Sweden) to Sydney (Australia). Our time is now.
Down our way
People have been resisting and trying to create a better world for hundreds of years. Here’s just a few highlights from the South London area. We are thinking of putting out a longer pamphlet, so if you’ve got anything to contribute write to Practical History c/o 121 Railton Road, SE24 (e-mail [email protected])
Battersea: 1906 - riots as local people defend the anti-vivisection Brown Dog statue against attacks by medical students.
Clapham: 1984 -women occupy the South London Women’s Hospital to try and stop it being closed down.
Crystal Palace/ Norwood: 1896: in C.Palace Bridget Driscoll becomes the first person in the world to be killed by a car. 1966: the World Cup is stolen, but is found by a dog on Beulah Hill.
Brixton: 1974 - gay centre squatted in Railton Road, holding one of London first regular gay discos; 1981 - Brixton riots after massive police harrassment on black people; 1985: more riots after a black woman is shot by the police; 1990: several big demos against the poll tax including a march on Brixton prison. .
Kennington: 17th/18th century: public executions on Kennington Common, including nine Scottish rebels hung, drawn and quartered in 1746; 1848 -massive Chartist demonstration in Kennington Common demanding the vote for working men; 1977: squatters in St Agnes Place occupy Lambeth Town Hall after the council threatens to demolish their houses.
Elephant and Castle: 1886: unemployed riots in London as crowds call for "Work, Bread or Blood". At the Elephant 5000 block the roads before being driven back down New Kent Road by the police; 1926: during the General Strike, crowds block the Elephant and Castle every day to prevent the movement of scab vehicles.
Walworth: 1986 - hundreds of squatters successfully resist mass evictions on Pullens Estate.
Borough/London Bridge: 1450: Jack Cade leads the Kentish rising against excessive taxation of the common people. They set up HQ in the White Hart pub in Borough High Street, before being defeated in a bloody battle on a burning London Bridge. 1780: rioters free inmates from the Old Clink prison near London Bridge. 1987/88: Shoom (Southwark St) and RIP (Clink St) become London’s first acid house clubs.
Bermondsey: 1937 - barricades are built as 15,000 people try and stop a British Union of Fascists march to Southwark park.
South Bank: 1959: major strikes at Macalpine’s building site after 4 workers are killed constructing the Shell building.
Honor Oak: 1897 -crowds pull down fences at One Tree Hill to stop the open space being enclosed by a private golf club.
New Cross: 1977 - police use riot shields in Britain for the first time during an anti-National Front riot which starts in Clifton Rise (next to what is now the Venue); 1981 - after 14 black people are killed in a fire 15,000 march from New Cross in the Black People’s Day of Action protesting at police handling of the affair; 1990s - Urban Free Festival held every summer on Fordham Park but the Council stops it after 1996.
Deptford: 1497 - 15,000 Cornish rebels march on London in revolt against a new tax to pay for the king’s planned invasion of Scotland. The rebels are defeated in a battle at Deptford which leaves 200 of them dead.
Blackheath: 1381 - 60,000 rebels from Kent set up camp during the peasants revolt against a poll tax. The revolt is crushed with the deaths of thousands of rebels including their leader Wat Tyler who is killed by William Walworth- after whom Walworth Road is named.
Greenwich: 1848 - William Cuffay, a Black Chartist, is arrested with other members of the Greenwich Chartists’ Wat Tyler Brigade and accused of plotting an uprising. He is transported to Tasmania.
Welling: 1993: after several racist murders, 40,000 people march against the British National Party HQ and clash with riot cops.
Taken from the Practical History website.