Does anybody remember a campaign in 1982 to keep Croxteth Comprehensive open in Liverpool? The closure of this school gave the impression – along with dozens of other policies – that the Tories in Westminster didn’t give a damn about inner city areas. It’s hard to imagine now – with our more touchy feely Tories – how Thatcher made it abundantly clear what she thought of Scotland, the North and traditional working class areas. They were not part of her future.
At this time, the Croxteth district of Liverpool had over 90% youth unemployment. I remember those official statistics of the time that showed how bleak things were – let alone the unofficial stats. The Crocky wasn’t just a school – it was a community facility, a beating heart in an area beaten up by recession.
Emptying out my parents’ attic as they downsize, I opened a tatty plastic bag and out fell a load of political badges from the 1980s. These were worn with pride on my lapels at various demos back in the day. They date from about 1979, when I’d have been 16 years old through to around 1984 and the miners’ strike. As a snapshot of what we fought, cared and fretted about – they’re truly fascinating. And the language now seems a bit dated on some of them.
Take a look at the photos below and I’ll just chat through some of them. Nuclear arms – big obsessions. There were surveys at that time where most young people honestly believed there would be a nuclear catastrophe in their lifetime. Remember we had the Soviet Union versus Uncle Sam and in 1981, I went on the massive CND demo to Hyde Park. I remember one old dear screaming at me that I was as bad as those Hitler loving pacifists in the 1930s Peace Pledge Union. Another big demo that year was the People’s March for Jobs and you can see a big badge there for that.
The 1981 Brixton riots put the focus on the SUS laws – stop and search by police, which impacted on black kids a lot more than white. And it’s still an issue today – how depressing! The anti-racist badge saying “will you choose to abuse” seems a bit patronising and corny now – your views? Note the brilliant badge with Home Secretary William Whitelaw and his detergent that would whitewash police tactics over Brixton – still think that’s amusing.
On the global front – you had Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship and of course we all know how much Thatcher liked him. There’s also a Polish Solidarnosc badge as the movement against Stalinism in that country took hold – then faltered. Spain had emerged from the Franco dictatorship and the socialist party – the PSOE – was about to take power. Though the promised socialist revolution never materialised. Rhodesia gave way to Zimbabwe at the end of the 70s and you can see a badge there. Ireland and the ‘Troubles’ were a constant feature with bombings in the north and on the mainland UK. In 1979, Lord Mountbatten was blown up. Thank goodness that all seems like ancient history now.
Above all else – there was a visceral hatred of Thatcher. When I watch all these 80s progs saying we were all yuppies in that decade, it makes me furious. Nobody who was there would recognise that narrative. We were heavily polarised as a country. You either loved Maggie or hated her – and your style of dress and badges reflected that.
The Kings Road in Chelsea had experienced a hiatus in the swinging 60s then got a new shot in the arm with the advent of the futurists, new romantics and poseurs in the early 80s. Ordinary kids from the suburbs flocked to the old thoroughfare to gawp at Vivienne Westwood’s latest offerings at World’s End of just sashay up and down the strip.
I remember starting in a pub at one end of the road, being handed some or other pill and then – in black shiny leather pants, dyed hair and eye liner – asking “where’s the party?” to any passerby and unbelievably getting in to all kinds of house parties.
It’s all gone. But here it is to remind you if your memory stretches back that far.
If you’re still wondering what to get somebody for Christmas – then why not get a copy of Neville Staple’s no holds barred ska biography! Still shifting copies to 2Tone fans the world over – recently translated into Italian. And you can get a copy HERE on Amazon.
This was filmed on my iPhone about a month back in Chelsea – Neville Staple of The Specials on fine form. And if you need a 2Tone Xmas stocking filler, then remember Nev’s biography – Original Rude Boy – still available on Amazon.
Here’s a video telling you how to survive a nuclear war – from the late 1970s