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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Stop the City 83 to G8 05

Bollocks. Just spent a good hour writing an introduction to this complete with links to folk who have posted comments/ given feedback- and then computer froze up so I had to restart.Fair enough, poor old thing has been on line for 12 hours non-stop, but damn annoying none the less.

So rather than repeat myself, here is the next episode, but only gets to Bath road protest in 1994 .

I will do continuation as separate blog, just in case .

thanks to all who have posted/ e-mailed me at AlistairLiv@aol.com (good anti spam so far- lets see what happens now!)


From Stop the City 1983 to Solsbury Hill 1994 - and on to Gleneagles G8 2005 - but not yet!

This is Pinki's history so its more of a herstory.

It begins in Trafalgar Square, New Year's Eve, 1979. That night Pinki realised that if she stayed in London, she was unlikely to still be alive to see in 1981. So after two years of being a punk in London, aged 17 she went home.

Not sure how keen her parents were on this.They had moved from Gloucester to Cam, a small village outside Dursley in the Cotswolds. I think there had been Pinki related problems with the neighbours. Anyway, Pinki signed up to take English and History A levels at Stroud Technical College. Then, summer of 1981, having got her A levels she took a work experience course and started doing office work for Stroud CND. As an aside, Barry Miles in his book "In the Sixties" describes living in Stroud in the early sixties as an art student. Possibly/ probably some of Stroud CND were of that sixties generation.

In late 1981, November I think, Stroud CND all went to Greenham Common. The peace camp there had only just been set up and was still mixed, although women were already the majority of the 'campers'. The rest went home, Pinki stayed. For the next few years she threw herself into the anti-nuclear Peace Movement as vigourously and whole heartedly as she had punk.

Amongst the many actions and protests she took part in was a walk in the summer of 1982 from Faslane nuclear submarine base in Scotland to Greenham. She didn't do so much of the walking, but travelled with the support bus, organising food and shelter for the walkers. Her ability to feed the 5000 on wholesome vegitarian and/or vegan fare from a bag of dubious vegetables, a jar of miso and lots of brown rice was developed that summer. She also had amusing tales of chasing goats round the Birmingham ring road and how irritating Bhuddist monks ansd nuns could be when they had to start drumming and chanting at 5 am every day...

In those long ago days, when the GLC had become a radical organisation ( the same GLC whose anti-punk stance had created a classic punk single by the UK Subs "GLC, GLC, GLC, GLC your full of shit, shit, shit shit shit."), the peace walkers were given a house in Hackney. It had no hot water and a barely functional toilet and, as Pinki said, she had lived in better squats, but it was a house.

In late 82/ early 1983, Pinki used it as her London base for a while, sharing it with Dave Morris of London Greenpeace and ? another woman from the walk. It was in the hosue that the idea for Stop the City emerged. The idea was to take the struggle to its source- to the City of London itself as the true heart of darkness. [Literary allusion- Joseph Conrad's 1904 novel about Belgian colonisation in Africa].

Do I need to go into all the details? The first Stop the City was Thursday 29th September 1983. About 4000 'anarcho-punks' turned up. I was there, where were you? [Mekons song reference].

Not that I did anything. I found a bench near a bit of Roman London and spent a few hours thinking bloody hard. I didn't get arrested, didn't see anything but the City itself. I tried to understand what "The City" was, how it worked, why it worked - and what 'stopping it' might mean. Could 'it' be stopped? If 'it' was stopped, what would happen then?

Money makes the world go round. Well not quite, it is gravity and physics, but you know what I mean. If the money stopped flowing, would the world stop?

Pinki got arrested. She was nine months pregnant with Sky (born 8th October at the Mother's Hospital in Hackney) . She was released without charge rather than risk her going into labour in a police cell. Back at Greenham six months before, she had been kicked in the stomach by a bailiff, then arrested and then started bleeding in the police cells in Newbury. [Documented- see Biban Kidron/ Amanda Richardson's film 'Carry Greenham Home']. She got arrested again at the second Stop the City (there were four altogether) in March 84. She had been running a creche and doing her best not to get arrested, but was anyway.

Which is when I met Dave Morris- Sky as a small baby had been in the creche, when Pinki had failed to collect him (due to being arrested) Dave had taken him home. Pinki was frantic, not knowing where Sky had gone, but after I had made some phone calls we tracked him down to Dave's house and went round to collect him. At that point our relationship became established. Pinki would carry on being the activist, but I would be the sensible one, looking after the child/ children (as it became- Pinki had four children eventually) and not doing anything stupid like getting arrested. Which I never have.

Fast forward ten years. The M11 extension, part of a £23 billion plan to create the biggest road building development since the Romans. I have a flyer from then, showing how Hackney would have been cut up by these roads. Between where we lived in Upper Clapton and our nearest park- Hackney Downs- the dual carriage way Lea Bridge Road would have been cut through towards Islington.

Pinki had carried on campaigning: Stonehenge in the late eighties, the Poll Tax in 1990. (Which is another story, involving Ian Bone of Class War and us joining the Green Party). The first part of resitance to the M11 extension took place in Wanstead. We went along, plus four young children. By this time, Pinki had started studing international law at SOAS [School of Oriental and African Studies]. From the the Freston Road/ Frestonia west London squats of the late seventies, the idea to declare independence for 'Wanstonia' emerged. Pinki went off and came up with a four page legal briefing, based on international law and quoting the relevant sources. I will type it up for this blog one day.

Wanstonia got evicted. Pinki, along with a journalist whose name I forget was locked on upstairs in one of the houses. The stairway had been taken out. A police man came up a ladder. "Either you get down the ladder, or I will throw you down" he said. She looked into his eyes and from long experience realised he meant it. She unlocked herself and climbed down.

Next came Claremont Road. (Actually there was a bit in between, but I can't be bothered with it).
Claremont Road was ace. It was like a street long Cento Iberico. That much fun. But as eviction drew nearer, it got stupid. The wonderful Art House was trashed- not by them, but by us. The idea was to make it as hard as possible to easliy evict, but as I quipped to Pinki "Flame-throwers would get 'em out". She was not amused. Or rather she was, but told me to shut up.

She made friends with the security guards. A group of them were from Africa(Nigeria?) and they picked up on her witchyness. One used to give her a lift home and told her she was like the river-goddess priestesses he knew from back home. Respect.

Aside - one of her friends and a neighbour from Hackney came from Ghana. Pinki first met him on a bus. He was a bit drunk and roundly cursing all white people so naturally she brought him home with her. He came to her funeral and at the party afterwards told me off when I said it would be difficult to forget such an amazing person. He told me that in Ghana, when someone dies , their friends and family do not try to forget the dead person, but actively 'take on' the positive aspects of the dead person's character and so keep the spirit of the person alive in their lives for benefit of the community.

Next came the Bath road protest in 1994. Pinki went off to this on her own, and managed to get herself arrested. The court case was supposed to come up in July, so the whole family went - all six of us. For her defence, Pinki had gone through her international law sources again. She wanted to argue that she was not breaking the law, but upholding it- given the UK's commitmment to various treaties aimed at reducing air-pollution and that even ultra-conservative Lord Hailsham had argued that international law was part of UK/ English law. I will type her legal defence up this up and post it on this blog. The court case was delayed, so she never got the chance to try it on.

What I remember is sitting up on Solsbury Hill (as in Peter Gabriel song) which is also possible site of Arthurian battle of Badon Hill on a hot summer night. A security guard told young Alistair (4 at the time) that the world was going to end- a comet was about to hit Jupiter. Which it did, but we survived. I could see the line of the new road creeping out across the valley of the Avon towards the hill. I flashed back to Stop the City. "Too late". By the time the bulldozers were on site, it was too late. By the time things have got physical it is too late.

But is it? See Merrick's comment to previous blog.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to the Stop The City's in the early 80's and was at some of the squats you mention (Bingo hall, Ambulance Station, Zig Zag) they were good times and seem along time ago now. I have boxes of clipping from then on Crass, Conflict, Flux & Stop The City as well as Stonehenge etc.

I'll get some on the web some time.

2:55 pm  

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