Ken Livingstone versus Sir Horace Cutler – both leaders of the defunct GLC


There could not have been a greater contrast on a personal and political level between the outgoing Conservative leader of the GLC Sir Horace Cutler and incoming Labour leader Ken Livingstone. I’d almost liken Cutler to a royalist and Livingstone to a roundhead.

Cutler had the demeanour of a cheerful Victorian cad and villain. Livingstone was the earnest supporter of oppressed minorities. So when the two faced off on TV, there would be no overlap of views or areas of compromise.

 

Wood Green Riot City – sorry, Shopping City


Wood Green is dominated by a great red brick hulk of a 1970s shopping centre, called Shopping City (or at least it was when I lived there in the 1990s). It’s been Riot City in the past. One major disturbance was in 1977 when the far right National Front marched through an area that then, as now, was ethnically mixed and very cosmopolitan.

The result was inevitable. Throughout the late 70s, fascists and anti-fascists faced off up and down the country as racist parties thrived in an atmosphere of economic decline and growing unemployment. The Wood Green clash led to fifty arrests and thirteen injuries as a result of broken bottles, stone throwing and smoke bombs. Reportedly, something resembling a bullet was fired through a shop window and one witness claimed a National Front marcher had been aiming at two black children – an unsubstantiated allegation I should point out.

One press report said the Wood Green incident was the biggest “race demonstration” since a notoriously violent fracas in Red Lion Square in 1974 when a student was killed fighting the NF. In Wood Green, the police line broke several times and demonstrators got to lash out at each other at close range.

During the 1979 General Election, the NF continued to be a very vocal presence and provoked a riot in Southall, London. But after the Thatcher victory, the NF diminished as a force and after various splits and fall outs, the British National Party would eventually emerge as the main far right party.

The local paper wonders if fascism could triumph
The local paper wonders if fascism could triumph
Two page spread on the riots
Two page spread on the riots
Local councilors demonstrate
Local councilors demonstrate
National Front demonstrators on the day
National Front demonstrators on the day

Birmingham in 1981 – postcard from a long lost world


BrumThe British city of Birmingham has been spruced up in recent years but thirty years ago, it was a mix of post-industrial destruction, 1960s flyovers and underpasses and sky high unemployment.

Let’s see what we can remember from Birmingham in 1981:

Spaghetti Junction – an interchange of eight roads layered one over the other where the Expressway leaves the M6 motorway to take drivers who could figure out where they were going in to the centre of the city.

Opposite Lock – centre of Brum’s pub rock circuit.

Holy City Zoo – the club that bravely put on new romantic nights in the middle of heavy metal country.

Rum Runner – similar to Holy City Zoo.  Owned by Paul Berrow in 1981 – Brum’s answer to Steve Strange.

Crown and Cushion – which hosted the ‘Sounds of the Future’ night.  The man behind this was John Tully who had been the driving force behind the legendary Barbarella’s – a punk venue that had launched The Beat and Ranking Roger on the world.

St Martin’s Rag Market – where new romantics went to buy their clobber.

Kahn and Bell boutique – another haunt for new romantics and futurists.

Bingley Hall – huge cavernous venue where the likes of Roxy Music entertained Brummies.

Frighted Horse – reputedly a pub where Handsworth rastas and local cops rubbed shoulders on friendly and distinctly unfriendly terms.  Or so the story goes.

 

 

Klaus Nomi and all that Berlin thing


Klaus Nomi had grown up in post-war Berlin lapping up the art scene, the gay scene and the thrill of being in a city divided between western and Soviet control.  I had friends who used to go over to Berlin imagining they were Bowie recording ‘Low’ or the long lost members of Kraftwerk.

There was a lot of that Weimar thing going on.  Think Cabaret meets Bertolt Brecht with a whole load of camp thrown in and you’ll be close.  I suppose we felt like Britian had been taken over by a dictator – a female one and no little moustache in her case – so the whole Weimar underground feeling had its attractions.

Nomi did some rather interesting if slightly tongue in cheek electro numbers.   I really like this one.  Unfortunately, he didn’t make it out of the 80s succumbing to full blown AIDS in 1983.