“They Hate Us, We Hate Them” – Resisting Police Corruption and Violence in Hackney in the 1980s and 1990s

‘They hate us, we hate them’ (1)
Resisting police corruption and violence in Hackney in the 1980s and 1990s (2)

‘The community hated us and we hated them. It wasn’t a black thing. It wasn’t as complex as that. If you went out in uniform or plain clothes you could feel the hatred’.
Detective Constable Declan Costello (3).

‘The officers involved in these atrocities can do this because they are not accountable to anybody. They cover up their crimes by picking on the weak – unemployed and uneducated people who do not have any knowledge of the law. There are no rights for black people, and if you are poor it’s worse; as far as the law is concerned you have no place in society. You are a dog; when they kick you, you move’.
Hugh Prince, victim of Hackney police (4).

Hackney is a borough in the North East of London which will be familiar to Datacide readers as the birthplace of both Industrial music (via Throbbing Gristle, based near London Fields) and Jungle (more contentiously via Shut Up and Dance, who grew up in Clapton). The background to the development of these two musical genres includes the cheap housing which attracted both bohemians and West Indian immigrants to the district from the 1950s onwards.

It is easy to mythologise Hackney. I certainly used to. Reading fanzines like Vague in my home county’s bedroom in the 1980s conjured up vistas of squats and social centres inhabited by occultists, anarchists, artists and deviants – all of which was immensely attractive to a sheltered teenager. And whilst later I found there was some truth to my fantasies, the majority of the borough was of course composed of working class people living characteristically hard lives – the squats were only possible because of a crumbling infrastructure and a local council that was either indifferent or overstretched.

Moving to North London revealed the murky underside of Hackney and the story of ordinary people attempting to resist it, which was far from glamorous but perhaps all the more inspiring because of that. Like a lot of inner city areas, Hackney residents had particular difficulties with the police. But what is interesting about this case is the scale of police wrongdoing, and the community’s responses to it.

In November 1982 (5), Hackney Black People’s Association demanded an independent public enquiry into the conduct of the police in Hackney. Their concerns were specifically about corruption, and violence against black people (6). These concerns were widespread at the time but would soon intensify in a fairly horrible way.

colinroach

Who Killed Colin Roach?

Colin Roach died of a gunshot wound he received in the foyer of Stoke Newington police station on the 12th of January, 1983. He was a 21-year-old black man. The precise time of death was never established, but it was between 11:30 and midnight.
Colin’s father James arrived at the police station, looking for his son at 12:15 pm. The front doors were taped off as a crime scene, so he was taken to the rear of the station and lead to a room upstairs. Mr Roach was questioned until 2:45 am before the police revealed that his son was dead. James Roach was held at the station until 4:45 am and was not permitted to see Colin’s body. [Read more →]

Paul Sullivan, Remixology: Tracing The Dub Diaspora (Reaktion Books, 2014) (Book Review)

Paul Sullivan,
Remixology: Tracing The Dub Diaspora,
Reaktion Books, 2014

remixology

Apart from the ubiquitous Bob Marley, reggae and its variants were under-represented on bookshelves a decade ago. These days there seems to be a book being published every couple of months. Dub in general and King Tubby specifically have been relatively well catered for by Michael Veal’s heroically detailed Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae (Wesleyan University Press, 2007) and dub’s post-punk variants are examined well in Dub In Babylon (Equinox Publishing, 2010 – reviewed in Datacide 12).

Sullivan’s book begins with the now well-known story of the accidental invention of dub as a mistake in the studio, and its successful implementation as a way for Jamaican soundsystems to keep ahead of their rivals. But after the first few chapters he spreads his net gratifyingly wide to look at how the studio techniques of Lee Perry, King Tubby, Scientist et al (and other JA soundsystem techniques) spread like a virus across the globe. Whilst doing this, he doesn’t shy away from the fact that the music is a product of struggle, that the diaspora is a by-product of colonialism. Nor does he overdo it – the focus is always primarily on the music and the people who make it.

The first stop is London, where Jah Shaka, Lloyd Coxsone and Fatman are given their due as influential soundsystems of the late 70s and 80s. Sullivan recycles the usual sources here (Lloyd Bradley, that NME Soundsystem Splashdown article that I put on uncarved.org) but has also done some great interviews himself, notably with Mad Professor, deejay U Brown and Dennis Bovell. This method is continued throughout the book, with the author’s interviews generally adding new and thought provoking information rather than retreading old ground. The ‘(post-) punky reggae party’ of groups like Killing Joke, The Pop Group and On-U Sound rounds off this section (and is a good read, but obviously not as detailed as Partridge’s Dub In Babylon). [Read more →]

Genesis P-Orridge, G.P.O. V G.P-O (Primary Information, 2013) (Book Review)

Genesis P-Orridge,
G.P.O. V G.P-O
(Primary Information, 2013)

Genesis_POrridge_GPO

Reprint of a dossier originally published in the mid 1970s. The title is an abbreviation of ‘General Post Office vs Genesis P-Orridge’ – the book concerns a legal case resulting from some of Gen’s mail art being seized by the sinister Post Office Investigation Division in 1975 (i.e. towards the end of Coum Transmissions and just before Throbbing Gristle).

I first read about this in Stewart Home’s Assault On Culture back in the late eighties, but had never seen a copy until now. The format is all reproductions of documentation, with minimal commentary or editorial. The reader must therefore piece together the story from Gen’s written statements to the Post Office and courts, reproductions of the offending postcards (one of which famously featured a photo of bare arse superimposed on an image of Buckingham Palace), media coverage and other correspondence. This is very effective and one does get a sense of how stressful and frustrating it must have been for an impoverished Genesis to be prosecuted for something so ludicrous.

There are interesting guest appearances in the form of letters to and from William Burroughs and Pauline Smith (of the rather stupidly named ‘Adolf Hitler Fan Club’ mail art project) alongside a cast of lawyers and art word dignitaries who are solicited for support. As the trial approaches a lot of fundamental questions are raised – what is the difference between art and pornography? What is indecent? And some more straightforward ones about the nature of mail art and Gen’s method/intent.

Genesis was eventually found guilty of violating the 1953 Post Office Act. The back cover of the book is an advert in which he offers some of the offending (and now infamous due to press coverage) mail art for sale to cover the costs of the fine.

Paul Huxtable, Al Fingers and Mandeep Samra: Sound System Culture – Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems (One Love Books, 2014) (Book Review)

Paul Huxtable, Al Fingers and Mandeep Samra: Sound System Culture – Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems

(One Love Books, 2014)

1-sound-system-culture-cover_o

If Canada came off badly in the review above it’s purely because it seems slightly less exciting than the reggae scene in one town in the north of England. This is an impressive book: 10 inches square (same size as a dubplate), hardbound, thick paper. But most of all, lots and lots of amazing photos of Huddersfield soundsystems and the groups of people who ran them back in the day. The scene is set with some introductory text about the history of Jamaica and migration to London along with the usual photos of Windrush and sharply dressed first generation immigrants. It pains me to say it, but there is too much London in this book, worthwhile as it is. The first section does include a lovely shot of a 1976 dominos contest at the Derby West Indian Association though.

But all this is just preamble for the main event: Lush photos of blokes looking sharp. Blokes in garish 1970s living rooms, blokes fiddling with amazing gnarly pre-amps, groups of blokes styling for the camera at the beginning of a night out. All black, working class, dedicated to the hard work of humping speaker boxes around town, putting wires together, selecting tunes that will smash up a dance. The smiles and fashion of the portraits are in stark contrast to the drab shots of 70s and 80s Huddersfield town centre. If London was alienating for black kids at that time, the provinces (as I shall rudely call them) must have been doubly arduous. Michael Moore (aka Bones from Jah Lion sound) relates how he left Jamaica solo at 14 to come to Huddersfield to be reunited with his younger brother and mother, neither of whom he had seen for 4 years. And it was cold. Hard times. [Read more →]

Emencified Shrill Out: Nomex at the Controls

Interview by John Eden

Nomex should need no introduction to Datacide readers, but here goes anyway. One of the organisers of the seminal “Dead by Dawn” parties held in the mid nineties at Brixton’s 121 Centre, Nomex contributed visuals, abstract/harsh performances and much more besides. His releases on his own Adverse label have included everything from vinyl abuse to the sounds of bones in the Paris catacombs. The Nomex discography also includes output on Praxis, Cavage, and Reverse amongst others. Despite performing across the globe (from Teknivals to art galleries) he is still a purposely-obscure figure to most. What follows is the only print interview I am aware of.

Were you involved with any music/sound projects before Nomex?

That’s not music”

 Yes – many! [Read more →]

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