Archive for the ‘hackney’ Category.


Radical History Network public meeting

Wednesday May 7th
7.30pm, Wood Green Social Club
3 Stuart Crescent, N22 5NJ
[off High Rd Wood Green, near Wood Green tube]

– How and why are the police used to try to suppress public dissent and any challenge to the capitalist ‘status quo’?
– What tactics have protestors and campaigners developed to successfully defend public rights and struggles for a better society?


– Kevin Blowe from Newham Monitoring Project on community campaigns resisting
oppressive policing and seeking to hold the police to account.

– Dave Morris on London Greenpeace – possibly the most infiltrated group in
UK history. Despite that it continued to be a highly effective campaigning organisation
The group initiated the Stop ‘The City’ anti-capitalist mobilisations in
the early 1980s, and the global anti-McDonald’s and McLibel campaigns in
the ’80s and ’90s.

– John Eden on campaigns against police corruption in Hackney in the ’80s and ’90s.

All welcome to come and share experiences, anecdotes, photos, archive material and general thoughts.

February updates


An interview I did with Hackney-based producer Spatial is now published exclusively and for the first time at The Liminal.

This piece was originally intended for issue 5 of Woofah, but has been fully updated. (It’s the last outstanding thing I wrote for Woofah, which makes me a bit smiley and a bit weepy!). Spatial is an interesting guy and is well worth checking.



Idwal Fisher did a lovely review of my Turbulent Times fanzine, along with other publications.

The zine now has its own page if people are interested in ordering it or knowing about distributors etc.

I have properly started work on the new issue but can’t say when it will be out!


radical hackney





3rd Official Trailer for A Noisy Delivery, by Pete Cann from GX Jupitter-Larsen on Vimeo.

Eastman Connection

Uncle Dugs on Rinse FM with a blazing 1991 selection.

But even better than that, he gets Kool FM founder Eastman in for an extended interview. (interview commences at about 1:37:00)

Some proper history, covering North London reggae soundsystem, early raves, Jungle Fever, and the full story of Kool FM.

An amazing bit of oral history, loads of details and tales of scrapes. If you liked “Tape Crackers”, this is the side of the story told by the station crew rather than the listeners/punters.

Kool FM is about to celebrate 20 years in the business.

Thanks to Mikus for the tip off!

The Story of Lovers Rock film

“The STORY OF LOVERS ROCK is a feature length documentary tells the story of an era and a music that defined a generation in the late 70s and 80s. Lovers Rock is romantic reggae that was uniquely British. It developed from a small UK scene to become a global brand through the likes of UB40 and Maxi Priest.

Lover’s Rock is a uniquely black British sound that developed in the late 70s and 80s against a backdrop of riots, racial tension and sound systems. Live performance, comedy sketches, dance, interviews and archive shed light on the music and the generation that embraced it. Lovers Rock allowed young people to experience intimacy and healing through dance- known as ‘scrubbing’- at parties and clubs.

This dance provided a coping mechanism for what was happening on the streets. Lovers Rock developed into a successful sound with national UK hits and was influential to British bands (Police, Culture Club, UB40) These influences underline the impact the music was making in bridging the multi-cultural gap that polarized the times. The film sheds light on a forgotten period of British music, social and political history.”

I saw a rough cut of the film a while back and wrote about it here. I am really looking forward to seeing the finished version at Hackney’s Rio Cinema on Friday.

It is also showing at the Brixton Ritzy and Peckham’s Peckhamplex on the same day, and possibly elsewhere – check your local indy cinema for details.

The official website has exceded its bandwidth, which is annoying but a sign that there is a lot of interest in the film!

A more general release and DVD are planned.

Grievous Angel and I did a Lovers Rock megamix a while back to get you in the mood. A second installment is in the can and will be available in due course.

The secret Ska history of Stamford Hill by Malcolm Imrie

Stamford Hill is right at the northern end of the London Borough of Hackney, bordering Haringey/Tottenham. I’ve lived around there for about 15 years now and have always had an interest in its history.

Last May, Richie (Maharishi Hi-Fi / Musical Fever) hosted another one of his excellent nights, this time at the Mascara Bar (previously Panagea Project, opposite Morrisons Supermarket). I’m no die-hard Ska or Rocksteady expert, but Richie’s nights are always excellent (see reviews here and here). I’ll happily leave the selections to Richie and his favoured DJs any time – an amazing night for the old and young is standard.

Riche also has an uncanny habit of organising great events within about 2 minutes of my flat, which is most definitely to his credit. This time one of my favourite reggae writers of all time, Penny Reel, was on the bill – and there was a local history angle. I was sold.

It was an education, musically and socially. I had the pleasure of meeting Nick Kimberley, who published the world’s first reggae fanzine, Pressure Drop, with Penny Reel in 1974. I get very excited about things like that and the connections/differences with Woofah. Before that night I didn’t know anything about the R&B Records operation. Naturally there were tunes aplenty and further help was on hand in the form of a text produced especially for the night by Malcolm Imrie, who has kindly allowed me to republish it here:

R&B Records

Bunny Lee: “The main t’ree people was when I come a Englan’ forty odd years ago, right, was who now. . .? Mrs King. . . and. . . husband name Benny. Benny use’ to come a Jamaica too, yunno, an’ put out — a get record. Him use’ to put out anyt’ing wha Ken Lack [Caltone imprint] make, Rita an’ Benny, y’understan…”

Rita and Benny King, R&B Records?

“Yes, Rita an’ Benny, right. Them did ‘aye a big distributing place from — dem was powerful people inna the business. Mrs King was a force to reckon with. Them use’ to have a place inna Stamford Hill. If she na sell the record is better yu come outta the business.”


“When she talk everybody jump!”

Interview with Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee by Pete I on


In 1959, Stamford Hill was a lot livelier than it is today. A good place to be a teenager. Full of cafes, like the popular E&A salt beef bar on the corner of Clapton Common and Stamford Hill or Carmel’s kosher restaurant a few doors further down on the other side of the street (oddly, the newish shop there is still called Carmel). Even Windus Road (just round the corner from the Mascara Bar) had three milk bars — you can still see the sign of one of them outside what is now a Hassidic pizza takeaway.

A lot of people would hang out and play pinball in “the Schtip”, the Yiddish name (I think it means ‘taking money’) everyone used for the amusement arcade almost next door to the E&A (it’s still there, with a different name and no pinball). As well as the grand Regent (where Sainsbury’s now stands), soon to be the Gaumont and finally the Odeon, you could take your pick of around eight other cinemas within half a mile.

Three years earlier, ten-year-old local girl Helen Shapiro was singing in a group called Susie and the Hula Hoops, along with a boy called Markie Feld, later to change his name to Marc Bolan. Two years on, in 1962, she’d have two number one hits. In ’59 she and Markie were both members of Stamford Hill Boys and Girls Club in Montefiore House (now replaced by a block of flats just south of Holmleigh Road), as were Alan Sugar, one day to get knighted for services to himself, and Malcolm Edwards, soon to become Malcolm McLaren.

And in only a few months’ time, they are about to get the first ten-pin bowling alley in Europe (watch its gala opening here or below)

Exciting times.

All that was missing was a good record shop, and in 1959 a Jewish couple called Rita and Benny Isen who had just changed their surname to King decided to open one. Rita and Benny: R&B Records. I read somewhere that earlier they sold records from a stall in Petticoat Lane but have no idea whether it’s true. For the first ‘few years the shop was at 282 Stamford Hill (now a builder’s merchants), and then it moved a few doors up to 260 (now Top Pizza). By about 1963/64 they weren’t just selling records, they were releasing them on their own labels — first the parent label, R&B, and then a whole sprawling family of others, including Giant, King, Ska Beat, Hillcrest, Caltone, Jolly, and Port-O-Jam. Their most bizarre label was surely Prima MagnaGroove, devoted exclusively to the output of the Italo-American swing artist Louis Prima (slogan: Stay on the Move, With Prima MagnaGroove). That’s Louis singing ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ in Jungle Book — the king of the swingers.

At first their catalogue was an odd mixture. Their only big hit in the UK was Irish c&w Larry Cunningham’s ‘Tribute to Jim Reeves’ in 1964. They did a bit of gentle pop, including “His Girl” by the Canadian band The Guess Who? which managed to get to number 45 in 1966:

It’s been claimed they even released surf music but I haven’t found any trace of it.

But that isn’t why they were so special. What was really important about R&B Records was that Rita and Benny were among the very first to release Jamaican music in Britain. Ska and rock steady. Scores of great records on pretty much all their labels, from 1964 onwards. Artists included: Laurel Aitken, Dandy Livingstone, Jeanette Simpson, Junior Smith, The Itals, The Wailers, The Wrigglers, Jackie Opel, The Maytals, The Skatalites, Lee Perry, The Blue Flames, The Clarendonians, Delroy Wilson, Derrick Morgan, Don Drummond, Stranger Cole… and many, many more. You can find the (incomplete) catalogues of some of their labels on [and Tapir’s site – JE]. While Benny looked after the shop, Rita traveled to Jamaica to meet the musicians and buy the tapes.

Until the late 1960s there were very few places in Britain where you could buy records of Jamaican music, and R&B on Stamford Hill had all the new releases, and not just on their own labels. So their shop became a mecca for young blacks, not just from Hackney but from all over London and well beyond. Barry Service, who worked in the shop from 1970 to 1980, says that when he started there the place was packed on Friday evenings and all day Saturday, with people buying music and listening to music — it seemed like a club as much as a shop. And Rita, with her beehive haircut, presided over it all, like a queen. The shop also became very popular — because they liked ska — with the early Mods. Penny Reel, who grew up here, convincingly claims that Stamford Hill was the birthplace of Mod:

“The grandfathers of these young stylists [Markie Feld and his friends] toiled in the tailoring sweatshops of Fashion Street fifty years earlier and their fathers own small outfitters in Kingsland Waste, so it is not at all surprising that their clothes are at the forefront of fashion and in the most modern Italian and French styles. In fact, this crowd refer to themselves as “modernists” and they are the forerunners of the gentile “mods” who emerge over the next few years with their sharp bri-nylon anoraks, scooters and op art imagery, and cause headlines at the Easter weekend holiday in Clacton in 1964.”

Certainly there were a lot of Mods, Jewish and gentile, in and around Stamford Hill. They would go to music venues further up towards Tottenham, like Loyola Hall (now some sort of Christian mission centre) where The Who played early on, and the Club Noreik at Seven Sisters, as you can see at the end of this clip of Unit 4+1 playing there in ’66:

Rita and Benny’s shop lasted for 25 years. They finally closed it in 1984, partly, it seems, because of ill-health. Barry Service kept in touch with them for a short while but doesn’t know what became of them. Nor do I. There’s only one photo I’ve found of Rita, thanks to Penny Reel, and one of her and Benny with Larry Cunningham in Billboard magazine’s archives. I’d like to know more. Black music in Britain owes quite a lot to them, and it is about time they were celebrated. Stars of Stamford Hill. One day there should be a Blue Plaque outside Top Pizza…

Malcolm Imrie

Grime responds to the riots: ‘They have to take us seriously’

Hackney riot notes


The Hackney One Carnival was due to commence at midday with a parade from Ridley Road Market to Clissold Park. We met some friends en route and saw stewards but no sign of the parade. One of the stewards told us he’d just been informed that the whole thing had been cancelled by the police.

The Hackney Gazette later reported that the police feared “that certain elements were planning on attending the Hackney Carnival intent on a repeat of last night’s violence”. Certainly there seems to have been some noise on facebook about it, but it’s impossible to say whether this was just testosterone fuelled bravado or not.

We went to the park anyway and had our picnic. The tents, stages and stalls for the carnival had clearly all been set up, but were now being dismantled. We sat by the new skateboard park and watched as four or five policemen stopped and searched every male teenager in the vicinity. No arrests were made while we were there, so presumably they found nothing of interest. It started raining, so we headed to the pub.

That night there was some disorder in Dalston, with the Argos being looted. This was generally eclipsed in the media by coverage of events in Enfield.


Photo by Dave Sfx

Rumours started circulating from around midday that trouble was brewing. Shops closed up all over the borough on police advice and council staff were sent home.

There were reports of young people from the Pembury Estate gathering around Hackney Central, The Narrow Way etc. The Pembury is notorious and was the site of huge dawn raids earlier this month, which I can only assume some people are still pissed off about.

Seems like nothing much happened until about 4pm when a stop and search of two black men aggravated the situation and then damage was done to a police car under the railway bridge at the top of Mare Street:

After this there was some damage to shops, minor looting, stuff chucked at the police etc. This was all clearly visible to me via the helicopter footage live BBC news feed which I watched at work whilst trying to figure out my route home. I took the long way round via Finsbury Park and saw this on the bus shelter:


There’s a lot of coverage of what happened next over at The Guardian. More looting, a few vehicles on fire, people pushed by police away from the top of Mare Street back to the Pembury Estate or down south towards Cambridge Heath.

Photo of burning car on Pembury Estate by Dave Sfx

As night fell, this woman provided a bit of a reality check and became an overnight internet sensation:

But her words fell on deaf ears…

Photo of interior of a looted shop on the Pembury Estate, by Dave Sfx

Then more fires, more looting, more violence. See The Guardian live blog again.

Twitter went mental, suggesting there were gangs and rioters on virtually every inch of the borough. Someone said the off licence at the end of my road was being looted, then said 20 people had rushed it and left without paying, then said the whole thing had been a misunderstanding and in fact they had been tweeting things their friend had been telling them, wrongly.

People love talking these things up. Earlier this year I was outside Hackney Town Hall at a protest against the budget being set. It was a reasonably peaceful protest with a lot of standing around, but some passersby took great pleasure in tweeting that they had “ended up in the middle of a riot in Hackney”. Then it looked silly, but this week these exaggerations became distinctly unhelpful.

The net is littered with people saying there are riots happening all over the UK where there aren’t, saying that shops are closing down on police advice when in fact they are closing because of internet rumours. There is a further rumour that the Tottenham rioters on Saturday were circulating the rumour that Mark Duggan had been executed by the police. I’m not sure what this means.

I’d be pretty surprised if anyone managed to give my local offy a going over. They are great guys in there, but hard as nails also. A few years back some crackhead tried it on with a replica handgun, but it seems they recognised it as being a fake and leapt over the counter for a full and frank discussion before the police turned up. The Turkish community in Dalston were out in force on Monday to defend their shops, apparently telling the police that everything was under control and no assistance was needed:

There seemed to be scattered outbursts of disorder in places like Clapton and other parts of Hackney, but nothing too major. Elsewhere things seemed to be much worse, with shops and flats being burned out in Peckham and footage of a huge fire in Croydon looping endlessly on the TV.

In Clapham, the fancy dress/party supplies shop right next to Dub Vendor went up in flames:

Fortunately their lovely staff are all OK and the shop itself doesn’t seem to have fared too badly either.

Some other accounts from Hackney on Monday:

The Quietus

The Commune


If you see others with a focus on Hackney, please leave a link in the comments box below.


More rumours, more boarded up shops, but not much happening. I saw sporadic and unverified reports last night of things being set on fire in Tottenham again. Indeed, a friend who is a fireman reckoned last night was one of the worst times he’s ever seen – lots of relatively small fires to put out, all over the place.

In the evening we dropped off some clothes and other bits at Tottenham Green Leisure Centre, the collection point for donations to people who have been burned out of their homes and lost everything. The guys manning the operation asked where we heard about them and when I replied “on twitter” they remarked that everyone was saying that – and that obviously it wasn’t all about organising riots…

I’ve tried to stick to the basics of what happened and when, there are already far too many people commenting on why it all happened and what should be done about it.

Smiley Culture RIP: Day 26

A slightly odd article by Dr Perry Stanislas has appeared in The Voice entitled “Why We Must Not Rush To Judgement Over Smiley Culture’s Knife Death”.

It’s odd because it wastes no time in arguing for the case that David Emmanuel may have killed himself and pouring scorn on others who say he may have been killed by the police. Which seems to be in direct contradiction of its title.

Let me be clear here in saying that I do not know how David Emmanuel (aka Smiley Culture) died. I wasn’t there – only the police and David Emmanuel were.

Dr Stanislas also mentions his involvement with the campaign following the death of Colin Roach by a gunshot wound in Stoke Newington police station in 1983. I’ve not been able to establish the extent of his involvement because he isn’t mentioned in my main source about the case: “Policing in Hackney 1945-1983″ commissioned by The Roach Family Support Committee.

The book does not conclude that the police killed Colin Roach:

The Inquiry does not commit itself to an alternative explanation of how Colin Roach died. What it clearly and incontrovertibly shows is that he could not have died in the way the police and the inquest say he did. The Report does not say or suggest, for example, that Colin Roach was shot by the police in their own station. But it does show convincingly that he did not shoot himself with a gun which he carried into the station: which is what the police and the inquest asked us to believe.

Was Colin Roach shot by someone else, in or outside the foyer of the station? The Report does not say definitively that he was because it does not know. However, it does remind us — as the inquest did not — that this is not quite so implausible a story as it appears at first.

[…] The police are not in a position to challenge this argument, says the Report, because they never investigated it. From the first to last, the police behaved as if the ‘fact’ that Colin Roach’s death was a suicide was a foregone conclusion. The police certainly advanced an account of what they said or thought happened. But they conducted no investigation.

It seems strange to me that Dr Stanislas has come to a conclusion about the Colin Roach case which are at odds with the campaign he was involved in.

The “Policing in Hackney” book also includes details of how Colin Roach was attacked by the press dept of the Metropolitan Police and the media after his death and how people protesting about his tragic demise were persecuted by the police when marching peacefully through Hackney. That is the context in which the investigation of Colin Roach’s death took place.

Smiley Culture’s family have stated that they were not aware of any reason for him to commit suicide.

They have asked that his mysterious death be investigated properly and promptly so that the truth about it can be revealed. That is all they have asked for, and I think most people would agree that their request reasonable and proportionate.

The family of Colin Roach did not get the benefit of a proper and prompt investigation and neither have the family of Ian Tomlinson. So the Emmanuel family can hardly be blamed for being suspicious about the process, or seeking to draw attention to it so that it is subject to a high level of scrutiny.

Speculations about the cause of David Emmanuel’s death are understandable, but they – and Dr Stanislas’ article – are a sideshow.

Hackney Downs reggae

(Original LP released by Santic in 1974)

“London was more forward as well because music that was recorded back home… some of them were reaching here long before they were released in Kingston. I put together the ‘Harder Shade Of Black’ album in London from the singles and put it out with Bert… I never knew I was going to release an album! The lady on the cover is my first wife. She’s the mother of three of my kids. I actually took the photograph myself. It’s Downs Park in East London…”

Leonard Chin – quote from the sleevenotes of the reissued version by Pressure Sounds.

“Hackney-ites – seckle! Stoke Newington – seckle, Tottenham posse – easy! Finsbury Park and Wood Green posse – easy!”

Hackney Downs was also the site of an open air soundsystem session in 1985 by Sirena Hi-Fi featuring guest appearances from Saxon MCs Tippa Irie, the late Miss Irie, Papa Levi and Daddy Colonel as well as Cinderella, Chargan and Banton Irie.

You should still be able to download the audio from this session at Who Cork The Dance. Someone else sent this to me a while back, but I’ve forgotten who it was – so apologies and thanks to them. Saxon do what they do best here – tuff lyrics over Studio One and other riddims – marred by the odd technical problem. You can hear Tippa’s take on the Heysel Stadium disaster (May 1985), so the dance must have been after that… (includes mild homophobia and general slackness)

It also looks like Saxon played Hackney Downs the year before in August 1984. There is video of this floating around but it’s a huge file so I dunno if my rubbish connection will cope. If a kind person could stick it on youtube or something that would be great.

It’s also likely that some of north east London’s reggae, jungle or hip hop stars were educated at Hackney Downs school…

Colonel Gaddafi’s Kentucky Fried Britain

Jez: Look Mark, I’m a musician, in case you’d forgotten. Yeah? I answer to a higher law. The law of “if it feels good, do it”.

Mark: Oh, that’s a great law isn’t it? What’s that, Gaddafi’s law?

Jez: It’s the musician’s law. Colonel Gaddafi could not lay down a bass hook, Mark. That should be clear even to you!

[Peep Show Series 3 – with thanks to Bandshell on Dissensus for the quote and for inspiring this post]

Hopefully Gaddafi will be gone by the time this post goes live. I certainly won’t miss him, but I will grudgingly admit that he brought a certain erratic charm to international politics.

In the eigties and nineties fascist idiots like Nick Griffin and Blood Axis’ Michael Moynihan fell for this charm, distributing the Colonel’s Green Book - seemingly in the belief that he was a profound thinker.

fascist loons Nick Griffin and Derek Holland pose under a Gaddafi portrait in Libya

fascist loons Nick Griffin and Derek Holland pose under a Gaddafi portrait in Libya

Griffin actually went one step further and headed off to see Gaddafi in the hope that he’d be able to tap him up for some funding for the National Front. Apparently this didn’t come to anything (unsurprisingly!), but the episode is certainly worth remembering now that Griffin has gone pseudo respectable and rabidly anti-Islam.

More enjoyable by far were the punks who recognised that Gaddafi’s charm was more about his flamboyant mentalism than any insightful philosophy.

God Told Me To Do It were a Hackney-based band would be universally recognised as being rubbish, were it not for their genius sense for the controversial and a neat turn in slogans. Their artwork was liberally reproduced in Vague back in the day and they were notorious for winding up the po-faced.

Having used the Colonel’s image on a few flyers, the group noticed in 1986 that the Libyan Embassy in London was temporarily  vacant, presumably in the aftermath of WPC Yvonne Fletcher being shot by one of its occupants whilst policing a demonstration outside…

[All GTMTDI images found via Kill Your Pet Puppy.]

Gaddafi also makes an appearance alongside some “loony left” tabloid bugbears in Stewart Home‘s black-humoured “Kill” which is available on the classic Stewart Home Comes In Your Face CD. The tune was later re-versioned as “Islam Uber Alles” by Blackpool psych-punk legends The Ceramic Hobs, but here is the original in all its dumb boot-stomping glory:

More recently (and less interestingly), MIA has described Gaddafi as “always being one of my style icons”, and Asian Dub Foundation made an opera about him.

Here’s hoping that Libya will shortly become “the land of the free” and with that Gaddafi will become history.