70s kids obsessed with outer space


Growing up in the 70s meant looking up at the stars and wondering when we’d find alien life. We started the decade with the last few manned flights to the moon by both the United States and the Soviets. Astronauts and cosmonauts competing to plant their flag on its surface.

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Copyright: BBC (fair use)

This generated a deeply nerdy fascination among many kids in the whole subject of space travel. Whether it was buying models of space craft, reading sci-fi comics or watching TV dramas about UFOs and extra-terrestrials – the 70s wanted us to focus on galaxies far, far away.

Teatime viewing after school could have involved The Tomorrow People on ITV – a rather baffling show about young people with special powers in a disused London Underground station solving galactic mysteries. For a while, it featured a character played by the drummer of a real-life pop band called Flintlock.

While over on the BBC, you could fly into outer space with our very own answer to Star Trek – yes, I give you Blake’s 7. At the time, it seemed amazing. On a re-watch, it’s like a group of Shakespearian actors condemned to roam the solar system harrumphing at each other.

There were an astonishing number of outer space related movies from the obvious E.T and Star Wars through to Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes, Death Race 2000, Alien, Logan’s Run, The Andromeda Strain and so on… Plus the 70s gave us a heap of conspiracy theories with the movie Capricorn One, for example, illustrating how the moon landings never happened.

Meanwhile, as a kid in the London suburbs, I collected Brooke Bond picture cards of space related stuff and stuck them into the album supplied. Found the album the other day and it’s such a cool, retro piece of 70s kitsch. God I loved that decade!

 

Ken Livingstone – always at the centre of controversy


You’d have to be a certain age now to remember Ken Livingstone’s first political incarnation as leader of the GLC – the Greater London Council – in the early 1980s.

I was at college in Liverpool in the early 80s coming back to London for the holiday breaks. The Left in Liverpool and most of the north had what some might term a “workerist” perspective – it was all about class unity and trade unions. Ken and much of the London Left were more into a kind of identity politics or rainbow coalition approach. It was less about “the class” and more about building alliances of “oppressed” “minorities”.

He took up some causes that now are completely mainstreamed – women and LGBT rights in particular. It’s hard to believe but standing up in public and saying gay people should be treated equally in the early 80s was a one way ticket to being demonised in the tabloids. Attitudes on race were, needless to say, shocking by today’s standards.

Where Ken went a bit off piste from the point of view of this ex-workerist scribe was his associating with Irish Republicans and other groups whose political positions weren’t even necessarily on the left. And as a Trotskyist, I rolled my eyes as he invited Soviet representatives to County Hall (now a Marriott hotel near the London Eye but then the GLC HQ).

Where we all supported Ken was his decision to drape a huge banner across the front of County Hall with the current number of unemployed emblazoned across it. It was normally somewhere between three and four million. Official figures and our figures were always at a massive variance.

Thatcher eventually got her revenge by closing down London’s elected body, the GLC. There wouldn’t be another democratic body running London until the Blair government set up the GLA. And then guess who got elected mayor taking up where he had left off……Ken Livingstone!

Here’s the Daily Mail, then, fulminating against Ken for inviting a delegation from the Soviet Union.

Greenham Common, CND and no nukes


Seems like another epoch but you may remember the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp which saw an all-women permanent protest outside the RAF Greenham Common military base for nearly two decades. It started in 1981 at what was a high water mark for CND activity. I went on the huge demo that year in Hyde Park and it really felt like we were making a huge difference.

You have to remember this was the era of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. We also had nuclear friendly Margaret Thatcher as prime minister. The issues have changed massively now but the threat of a nuclear incident is always with us. Here’s anti-nuclear poster I found in my attic that might jog your memories.