The SUS laws were a Victorian piece of legislation allowing the police to pick up a suspected person ‘loitering with intent’. Throughout the 1970s, there were growing concerns at the high percentage of black youth being stopped and searched under this law.
The Institute of Race Relations submitted evidence to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure in 1979 and it painted a pretty unhappy picture. The police were accused of “overmanning” black events; raiding black clubs and meeting places and what was taken to be punitive or revenge action against black communities.
A police tactic called “fire brigade policing” – where most police officers patrolled in cars directed from a central mobile reserve – was believed to be resulting in overreactions to minor events in black areas. Has to be said this way of policing is now commonplace and long ago replaced the trusted face of the bobby on the beat.
The West Indian/African Association in Deptford was one of many organisations that campaigned to scrap SUS. There were meetings between the black community and police liaison officers but nothing ever seemed to be resolved. Things weren’t improved by the fact that black police numbers were so low. Recruitment campaigns intended to redress this didn’t seem to have the desired result for whatever reason.
Pauline Black – I had the honour of meeting the queen of ska five years ago when I was writing Neville Staple’s biography and she wasn’t a disappointment. Since then, I’ve had several encounters and she’s a truly amazing and very nice woman.
Luckily for all of you – The Selecter is touring again and they’re as good as ever. So get some tickets. Pauline has also brought out her biography – Black By Design, which is doing a roaring trade.
Here she is on the front cover of Record Mirror – thirty years ago.
In 2011, the paperback of my biography of Neville Staple was published by Aurum Press. I’d spent countless hours with Neville and also many of his close friends to write Original Rude Boy.
This had involved popping up to Coventry and sitting with Nev in his living room reliving the glory days of 2Tone but also discussing his youth and friendships. I found that Neville was very passionate about his family, especially those in Jamaica he had been forced to leave behind as a child – including his own mother.
I think it’s fair to say that Neville has a Jamaican soul. Though he’s also a Coventry lad and has led a life in music that has taken him all over the world. But he has never forgotten his roots and crucially those people who were always there in the good times and the bad. In that respect, one would have to single out Trevor and Rex, childhood buddies who went on to tour with The Specials – officially as roadies but a bit more than that.
Together with Neville, Trevor and Rex brought a black British street-wise sense to The Specials. This was something Bernie Rhodes understood was essential during his short time managing the band. This trio gave The Specials a flavour that set it apart from other 2Tone offerings.
Though of course, one cannot ignore the towering genius of Jerry Dammers. He had recognised in the old ska sound from Jamaica something that could speak to young people at the end of the 70s. They were tough times. Unemployment was high, poverty was increasing and hope was giving way to frustration and despair.
Jerry’s interpretation of ska with Neville’s ability to “toast” about the realities of everyday life in the decaying auto city that was Coventry was an incredible combination. Hope I helped to capture this in the book. Speaking to Huffington Post journalist Salvatore Bono, Neville said some kind words about yours truly.
He knows how to talk to people, knew how to talk to me. And I want to do a follow up about the touring with the Specials and stuff we left out before – and he’s the man because he knows what I’m like.
You can read the full review HERE on the HuffPo.