Anarchists & Underdogs

I read a post a week or two ago, pointed out to me by an anarchist friend, on the British Culture Archive web site, posted there last March, Anarchists & Underdogs | Images of Social & Political Graffiti in the UK and as well as sharing the link with you, thought there were also a few images I took in the 1980s of similar material.

It was one thing thinking that, but since I had no real idea of when I might have taken the pictures they were not that easy to track down. I’ve never really concentrated on taking pictures of graffiti, though in more recent times I have photographed some of the more colourful images on walls in Leake St underneath Waterloo Station, a route a sometimes detour through when I’ve just missed a train home and have 22 minutes to wait for the next, in Shoreditch, London’s graffiti capital, and elsewhere, not forgetting Hull’s great Bankside Gallery. But these are more murals than graffiti, and the earlier examples, both in the BCA article and here are simple text statements, usually of a political nature.

‘George Davis is innocent, OK’ appeared on walls across London, and is one I’ve written about before, though I can’t remember where. It was so common it hardly seemed worth using film on, unless there was a little more to it. Of course he was probably innocent of this one particular charge but otherwise a prime villain. Police had deliberately held back evidence that would have led to his acquital and the identification evidence was unsound and the huge campaign over his sentence led to early release in 1976 although the conviction was only finally quashed in 2011.

Many of us knew that such things happen – and I was later openly threatened with being “fitted up” by a police office back in the 1990s – but the George Davis case brought it out into the open in a way that hadn’t happened before. But what made me photograph this particular instance was the anti-nuclear figure with a CND symbol  next to it and the location. I didn’t even feel it necessary to include all of the G.

Housing was an issue back in the 1980s as it is now, with London Councils being accused of racism and social cleansing. Of course things have changed. Then the councils were building council housing – if not always doing so in a way that really met local needs, and clearing largely privately owned slums, often in very poor condition, though some were structually sound and could better have been refurbished. Now they are working with property developers to demolish council estates and build properties almost entirely beyound the means of the council tenants who are being displaced by the new developments and mainly for private sale at market prices, under the banner of ‘regeneration’. Tower Hamlets, traditionally Labour, came under Liberal/SDP control days before I took this picture by a majority of twoin a low (35%) turnout.

Joe Pearce was, together with Nick Griffin, one of the leading members of the Nazi National Front; together they took over the party in 1983, and reorganised it from a racist political movement into a racist gang based on young poor working class urban youth, particularly skinheads. Pearce had set up the NF paper ‘Bulldog‘ in 1977 when he was only 16 and in 1980 became editor of ‘Nationalism Today‘. He twice served prison sentences for offences in his wiriting under the 1976 Race Relations Act, in 1982 and 1985–1986. In 1989 he was conveted from Protestantism and membership of the Orange Order to become a Roman Catholicism and, according to Wikipedia, “now repudiates his former views, saying that his racism stemmed from hatred, and that his conversion has completely changed his outlook.”

I took all of these pictures in London’s East End in May 1986.

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