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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Black Sheep Housing Co-op: the book

Black Sheep Co-op: the book

53 Cross Street: Biography of a House

Many thanks to Zenpunk for spotting this…

Pic of 53 today from article


Peter Gruner on how a punk squatter peeled back the years of his 18th-century home and helped ­compile a fascinating history of a north London house

FORGET your castles and palaces full of antiquities – when it comes to finding out how people really lived, you can’t beat looking over an old house.

So when art lecturer and punk squatter Martin King moved into 53 Cross Street, Islington, in 1989, he realised that this was a house full of ghosts from the past.

He began peering into the pitch black coal- strewn cellar, under filthy floorboards, and peeled away layers of dusty faded wallpaper. He discovered that the five-storey Georgian property, a stone’s throw from busy Upper Street, was built in 1785.
He thought that one day he’d love to write a book about the place.

Today, 18 years later, and thanks to collaboration with Islington historian Mary Cosh and architectural photographer Pauline Lord, his remarkable project is finally complete. 53, Cross Street: Biography of a House, is published this month with a brief history by Ms Cosh and more than 40 colourful photographs by Ms Lord.
In one room, beneath seven layers of wallpaper which had to be carefully scraped away, Martin found an original 200-year-old stencil wall painting.

Under the bedroom floorboards early in 1994 he came across a postcard dated March 13, 1897, addressed to “J Tiley Esquire.” From a visit to the Public Records office in Chancery Lane he was able to establish that Tiley was a “brass en­graver and letter marker”.
Martin later met modern descendants of the family and found out that John and Elizabeth Tiley had 11 children and two lodgers and one child at least had died in the Boer war. He also discovered that there were examples of Mr Tiley’s work in St Paul’s Cathedral and Union Chapel in Canonbury.

And so the historical adventure continued. Martin, with his then housemate Mark McAuley, discovered 19th-century ink bottles, bits of brass, a 19th-century iron, and fragments of pots and clay pipes.
Behind shoddily built 1950s partition walls, they came across the original scullery containing a copper boiler. They uncovered an old fireplace, plus six dustbin bags’ worth of soot and three pigeon skeletons.

Under floorboards walnut shells were discovered. Martin was told that walnuts and watercress were an 18th century workmen’s staple diet.
One day he opened the nailed up living room shutters, closed for a hundred years and still with their 19th-century soot covered brown paint. Shining a torch through the wall cavity he found an ancient pair of stockings. Inside one was a message believed to have been written by the original builder: “George Shaw went to Aameica (America) March 1785.”

For Mary Cosh, writing her history of the house, the saddest decades were from the beginning of the 1950s when it was left in an increasingly forlorn condition.
She writes: “The floors were covered with layers of worn lino, disfigured by stiletto marks. Signs of children (who lived there) in the 60s were shown by small lost possessions – a tiny plastic coin in old currency, a tinier plastic mouse, both fallen through the floorboards of Martin’s bedroom, and a broken stiletto; while a number of film spools in the basement suggested that it might have been used as a darkroom. All of it lost or abandoned rubbish; everywhere signs of neglect.”
In 1978 Islington council compulsorily purchased the property, but were unable to afford restoration. So for the next half dozen years the house, one in a row of four, remained empty, occasionally squatted.
Then “cowboy developers” moved in, writes Mary, and converted the whole row into bed sits, by the “simple expedient of covering up old features, nailing up of shutters and boarding over the cellar walls with wood chip.”
In 1983 the council handed 53 over to the Blacksheep Housing Co-op - a bunch of “punk anarchists” who set about much needed repairs. Martin, who became a member of the co-op, moved in nine years later.

In between delving into the house’s history, and lecturing at Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, Martin launched a campaign to give the squatters permanent tenancy. He organised impromptu tours of the house to show how the squatters had made it habitable and enlisted the help of former local MP and then Minister for Culture Chris Smith, now Lord Smith of Finsbury.
But Islington council decided to put the house up for sale in 2003. It was sold to a developer for £600,000 who sold it on to a businessman, presumably at a huge profit.
Martin said: “I was unhappy about moving out and really worried about some of the historical features I was leaving behind, particularly the stencilled wall painting.”
But fortunately the developer was of a “sensitive disposition” and as far as possible maintained the historical features.

Martin added: “The stencil was covered in protective Perspex and as far as I could see he’d made a good job of protecting the features of the house.”
As for all the artefacts discovered at Cross Street, they will all be donated to Islington Museum when it officially re-opens at its new centre at the Finsbury Library in March next year.
Meanwhile the book will be an essential purchase for anyone planning to investigate the history of their home.

If there is a criticism, it is that although an interesting and colourful read, there is insufficient detail about the people and personalities who lived at 53 Cross Street over the years. Perhaps that’s the subject of another book.

53 Cross Street: The Biography of a House
Author: Mary Coshj, Martin King, Pauline Lord
ISBN: 9780954849009
Year Published: 2007
Extent: 72pp
Casing: Paperback
Status: Newly catalogued, not yet in stock
Our Price: £21.00

Mouse - A Renaissance Woman

I/ we (Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective) first met Mouse in 1981 at the Wapping Autonomy/ Anarchy Centre. Mouse was with Alex and both were dramatically dressed all in black with totally white faces - the first Goths? I am not quite sure how, but strong connections developed and Mouse became part of the KYPP Collective.

Rather than waffle on, here are some words in praise of Mouse. Many thanks to Gavin Semple of http://www.fulgur.co.uk/ for passing on the link. The main topic concerned David Tibet.

Photo of Mouse taken by Val.

It's a bit unfortunate that Mouse is remembered largely as a bass player in other peoples' bands, as she was something of a Renaissance woman in what is now generally termed "magical artistry" - an intense and often catalytic personality who wrote poetry and prose, drew, played and wrote music and songs, and took photos - all in concert with her magical preoccupations and all of them rather well. She was one of those people who formed a link between the musical and occult "scenes" and apart from her own accomplishments was something of an "invisible influence", responsible for many an introduction between people which would bear fruit elsewhere, later down the line.

Her bass-playing was fluid and serpentine, sadly constrained in the PTV recordings by the demands of musical director Alex Fergusson, but heard to better advantage in the recordings of her own band Feast of Hunger in the late 80s - concurrent with and post-PTV. After that she recorded and played live with her first husband Matthew Stevens (ex-Act of Faith) and Liverpool's Royal Family & the Poor. 'Blood on the Snow' mentioned above was one of her compositions, recorded during her stint in Fire & Ice. Mouse also played a mean free-jazz clarinet, as heard on her piece with Monte Cazazza when he supported PTV at their Xmas do in Heaven (December '84 if I'm not wrong, and probably on the live vinyl from the event).

Mouse was a prolific poet and published work in Joel Biroco's Kaos and Stephen Sennitt's Nox, and her 'Ciphers in Flesh', complete with introduction and Eliot-style notes of commentary appeared in Starfire - either issue 4 or 5, the one with the grey cover anyway.

It was through Mouse's friendship with Jan Fries that the latter's Visual Magic came to be typed (by Mouse) and brought to the attention of Mogg Morgan at Mandrake, thereby gaining Fries a publisher and his readers years of entertainment, challenge and insight. Both Mouse and Fries participated in the European Maat Network along with Tanith and Alistair Livingstone (the latter keeps the banner of dissent flying gallantly, btw, through his blog at http://greengalloway.blogspot.com)

Mouse also gave a talk on magical creativity at the 1992 Chaos Magic Symposium in London, which was admired by, amongst others, Andrew Chumbley. She left London in around 1995 to live in the country with husband and cats, and appears not to have been publicly active in the arts of late. Last public sighting was her photo of Letchford in Fulgur's Study for a Portrait of Frank Letchford (2003), credited under her real name, Sharon Beaumont.

As for OTO involvement, that was evidently limited to a few personal friendships, and late-night sessions in the Bloomsbury pubs used by various luminaries of the London occult scene during the 80s/90s, where meetings such as The Forum and Talking Stick were held. Oh, happy long-gone days - when "refurbishment" at the Bloomsbury Tavern meant new strips of gaffer tape on the bar stools!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Revolting Jacobites

Feel free to ignore this. Just latest part of an ongoing creation of history.

Maxwell's mixed voting record is matched by that of his fellow commissioner, Robert Johnston of Kelton. Johnston, who represented the burgh of Dumfries, was also later considered to have strongly opposed the Union (as celebrated by the words “unioni fortiter opposuit” on his gravestone), yet abstained from several key votes. [Whitelaw: 1007]. However unhappy Maxwell may have been with the Union of 1707, anticipating a Jacobite challenge to the Hanoverian succession, he took the lead in organising a south-west Scotland anti-Jacobite alliance. The first meeting of this alliance took place at Dalmellington in 13th March 1714. Here, along with Thomas Gordon of Earlston ( whose Covenanter father Alexander had fought at Bothwell Brig) and Alexander Fergussson of Craigdarroch (whose father had died fighting against Claverhouse at Killiecrankie), Maxwell passed

resolutions to the effect that a general correspondence be entered into among the well- affected nobility, gentry, and citizens "within the shires of Clydesdale, Renfrew, Ayr, Galloway, Nithsdale, and the Stewartries and bailiaries thereof;" that meetings be held in each of these districts, for furtherance of the common object; that each district shall be invited to send representatives to general quarterly meetings, the first of which was fixed to be held at Dalmellington; that intercourse by letter or otherwise be kept up with their friends in Great Britain and Ireland; and that " it be earnestly recommended to each of the said particular meetings to fall upon such prudent and expeditious methods to put their people in a defensive posture, in such a manner as they shall see most proper and conform to law." [McDowall:1886, quoting Rae:1718]

Mackenzie [1841] adds that “these various gentlemen, well affected to a Protestant Government... raised considerable sums of money; and; having provided arms and ammunition, they took care to see the people instructed in military exercises. Many peoples in both districts [Galloway and Nithsdale] assembled regularly to accustom themselves to the use firearms under the specious pretence of shooting for a prize.”. Shortly afterwards, under the pretence of attending a horse race at Lochmaben in Annandale, there was a similar gathering of local Jacobites.

Upon Saturday, the 29th of May, 1714 [the anniversary of the Restoration], there was a great confluence of gentlemen and country people at Lochmaben, on the occasion of a horse-race there. Two plates, which were the prizes, had peculiar devices: the one had a woman with balances in her hand, the emblem of justice, and over the head was Justitia, and at a little distance Suum cuique. The other had several men, with their heads downwards, in a tumbling posture; and one eminent person, erected above the rest, with that Scripture, Ezek. xxi. 27, ` I will overturn, overturn, overturn it : and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.' After the race, the Popish and Jacobite gentry, such as Frances Maxwell of Tinwald, John Maxwell, his brother, Robert Johnston of Wamphray, Robert Carruthers of Rammerscales, the Master of Burleigh (who is under sentence of death for murder, and made his escape out of the tolbooth of Edinburgh a little before he was to have been execute), with several others I could name, went to the Cross, where, in a very solemn manner, before hundreds of witnesses, with drum beating and colours display'd, they did upon their knees drink their King's health,” the Master of Burleigh prefacing the toast by invoking perdition on the heads of those who refused to drink it. [McDowall:1886, quoting Rae: 1718] Also see http://www.antique-silver.com/des/2959.htm

Unfortunately it is unclear from Rae's account if the proposed 'quarterly meetings' at Dalmellington were continued through 1714 and into 1715. Szechi [2006:107] mentions that 'Associations' for the defence and support of George I were formed in late July 1715. However these 'armed zealots' seem to have alarmed George and his ministers almost as much as the Jacobites did and so their offer of support was politely declined. This account of official disapproval conflicts with Rae, who states that towards in August and September 1715 a Major Aikman visited Galloway and Nithsdale and reviewed assemblies of volunteers and made arrangements for their deployment in the event of 'the Pretender' landing at Kirkcudbright or Loch Ryan. The absence of “dissenters from the Church of Scotland” I.e. McMillan's Cameronians and Hepburn's Hebronites from these reviews may explain why Major Aikman was able to treat with these volunteers. If Colonel William Maxwell was involved in the organisation of these volunteers, this would also have provided reassurance. That Maxwell was considered a Hanoverian loyalist is shown by his appointment as 'Governor of Glasgow' [Reid:1898:29]on 2nd October 1715. On 12th March 1716 the Town Council of Glasgow presented Maxwell with a service of silver plate to the value of £35 1s 8d “ as a mark of the town's favour and respect towards him for his good service in taking upon him the regulation and management of all the Guards that were kept in the city, quhich, during the rebellion and confusion were judged necessary to be kept for the security thairof...” [Reid:1898: 31, quoting Minutes of Glasgow Town Council]

Meanwhile, the southern Jacobites under the leadership of William Gordon, the 6th Viscount of Kenmure raised their standard at Moffat on 12th October. This move had already been anticipated by the government. On the 8th of October, Adam Cockburn, Lord Justice Clerk, had written to Robert Corbet, the Provost of Dumfries:


Having good information that there is a design framed of rising in Rebellion in the Southern parts, against His Majesty and the Government, I send this express that you may be on your guard: For what I can rely upon , their first attempt is to be suddenly made upon your town. I heartily wish you may escape their intended visit. I am Sir, etc

Ad. Cockburn [Mackenzie : 1841:366]

At the same time, William Johnston, marquis of Annandale, acting as Lord- Lieutenant for Dumfriesshire and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright appointed Alexander Murray of Broughton, Thomas Gordon of Earlston, William Muir of Cassencarie, Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie, Robert Johnston of Kelton, Nathaniel Gordon of Carelton, Adam Craik of Arbigland and Robert Maxwell of Hills as Deputy Lieutenants of the Stewartry, with orders to assemble all the 'fencible (militia) men' of the Stewartry at Leathes Muir (near present day Castle Douglas on the Old Military Road to Dumfries) on the 11th of October. Rae claims 5000 assembled, but this must be an exaggeration. A similar gathering, which had already been rehearsed in mid- September, took place near Closeburn in Nithsdale on the same day. On the 10th of October, the ministers of Tinwald and Torthorwald had assembled a group of armed parishioners at Locharbridge, just outside Dumfries, and offered their services in defence of the town. On the 12th October a company of armed volunteers from Kirkcudbright, led by their provost, arrived in Dumfries.

The Jacobite forces, which amounted to only 153 armed horsemen, had reached within a mile and half of Dumfries on the afternoon of the 12th October before becoming aware that they had lost the element of surprise. They then retreated to Lochmaben and continued heading east into the Borders via Langholm , Hawick and Jedburgh before crossing over in to Northumberland where they joined with a group of English Jacobites at Rothbury on the 19th October. This joint force then crossed back over into Scotland to meet up with a force of 1500 Highlanders led by Mackintosh of Borlum at Kelso on the 22nd October. With the support of these reinforcements, the Jacobites decided to make another attempt on Dumfries. On the night of the 31st of October, an advance party of 400 Jacobite horsemen came within 3 miles of the town, but once more retreated on learning that the town was now fortified and defended by 1500 fully armed volunteers under the direction of 7 'half-pay' officers. Additional support was given by a similar number of volunteers equipped with scythes blades attached to long poles. A few of these primitive weapons can still be seen in the Dumfries Museum.

After much debate, the Jacobites then decided to invade England, getting as far south as Preston where they surrendered on the 14th of November. For 16 of those who surrendered at Preston, a Galloway or Dumfriesshire connection can be established, of whom 6 were Roman Catholic Maxwells:

William Maxwell, earl of Nithsdale

John Maxwell of Stielston

Edmund Maxwell of Carnsalloch

William Maxwell of Munches

George Maxwell, his brother

Charles Maxwell of Cowhill

William Gordon, viscount Kenmure

Robert Dalzell, earl of Carnwath

John Dalzell, his brother ( their sister Mary was married to William Gordon)

William Grierson of Lag

Gilbert Grierson his brother (sons of Robert, persecutor of Covenanters)

Andrew Cassie of Kirkhouse

Walter Riddle of Glenriddle

Robert McClellan of Barscobe

Robert Douglas of Auchenshinnoch

Basil Hamilton of Baldoon

Significantly, although it was feared that the the Roman Catholic tenants of the Maxwells, in the parishes of Caerlaverock, Troqueer, Terregles and Kirkgunzeon might support the Jacobites, these fears proved groundless. Indeed, at least some of the Maxwell, Gordon and Dalzell tenantry “were in arms at Dumfries, and manifested a great deal of zeal against the Rebellion”.[Rae: 1718] But whilst William Gordon of Kenmure and William Maxwell of Nithsdale led the Jacobites, the 18 year old Basil Hamilton of Baldoon was the wealthiest of the southern Jacobites in 1715. The estate Hamilton forfeited in 1716 had a total rental value of £1494 (of which £1225 was cash rent ). Maxwell's was worth £803 (£749 in cash rent), Gordon's £600 (£538 cash rent) and Greirson's £424, all in cash rents. [Mackenzie: 1841]. Had the southern Jacobites been able to recruit their tenants as foot soldiers in the Jacobite cause, as their northern compatriots were able to, they would have posed a substantial threat to the rear of Hanoverian army led by Argyll.

That their tenants chose to resist rather than support their feudal superiors seems to have infuriated the southern Jacobites, who then threatened to make Galloway a 'hunting field'. This threat was a reference to a 'let them eat cake' quip by James II 's queen, Mary of Modena who said “Scotland will never be at peace until the southern parts are made a hunting park”. [Morton: 1936] The implication being that the methods of Graham of Claverhouse and Grierson of Lag had been insufficiently forceful. Only the wholesale clearance of the insolent and rebellious Whigs from the land would create a satisfyingly peaceful wilderness. Although uttered in the heat of war, the Jacobites' words were not forgotten by those who had volunteered to defend king George in the late rebellion.

For, although the battles of Preston and Sherrifmuir ended the Jacobite threat at national level, the Hanoverian forces involved were part of a professional army. In south-west Scotland, the Jacobites had been, if not defeated, at least 'seen off' by groups of volunteers without even the official status of a 'militia'. The Marquis of Annandale, who had the authority to call out the militia, returned from Dumfries to Edinburgh on 20th October 1715. On the 22nd October the magistrates of Dumfries were advised that the Jacobites gathered at Kelso and now including Mackintosh of Borlum's Highlanders, were advancing towards Dumfries. Acting on their own initiative, the magistrates urgently requested help from their 'friends' in Galloway and Nithsdale. “ In answer to these urgent requests, two thousand well-armed men volunteered their services for the protection of the town. “ Since the militia of the county were not yet raised, “Dumfries had to depend for its defence on volunteer soldiers alone.” [ McDowall: 1886]. It was at this point (30th /31st October) that John Hepburn of Urr and 320 of his armed Hebronites arrived to volunteer their additional, but conditional, assistance.

In its local context then, the events of 1715 were part of a long drawn out civil war between pro-and anti- Stuart forces. Back in 1640, Robert Maxwell, the 1st earl of Nithsdale had held his castles of Caerlaverock and Threave for Charles I . Opposing Maxwell were Covenanting forces raised, amongst others, by Alexander Gordon of Earlston as a member of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright's War Committee of the Covenenters. Seventy five years later, Alexander Gordon's great-grandson Thomas helped raise, train and arm the force which opposed William Maxwell, 5th earl of Nithsdale (Robert Maxwell's great-great nephew) and James Stuart, grandson of Charles I . In those seventy five years, the ebb and flow of the Stuart family's fortunes had seen a revolution, a restoration, another revolution and now a counter-revolution aimed at a second restoration. The fates and fortunes of many families across south-west Scotland had followed those of the House of Stuart. The 'Killing Times' of 1685/6 may only have created 80 or so martyrs graves but thousands more had already died in battles fought far from home and hearth. The father of Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, who raised an anti- Jacobite volunteer force in Nithsdale in 1715, had died fighting 'bluidy Clavers' at Killiecrankie. (In 1746 Craigdarroch House, built for Alexander by William and Robert Adam in 1726, was looted by the retreating army of Charles Edward Stuart).

For others, the memory of fines and forfeitures imposed on those Presbyterians deemed less than loyal to an originally Episcopalian, now Roman Catholic, House of Stuart would not have been forgotten. Given this history and the contemporary ( if relative and genteel) poverty of, for example, William Maxwell [Maxwell Stuart: 1995], the practical fear that a Jacobite victory in 1715 would lead to subsequent 'land grab' must be recognised.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Recuperating chaos magick

How amusing. How droll. The last words of Hassan i Sabah, as whispered to Bill Burroughs, have become part of a new Xbox etc game.

What are the main influences - both gaming and non-gaming - when making Assassins Creed ?

It may look quite strange but I would say there's a direct connection between our inspiration for the story and the setting and the game mechanics. A book called Alamut was an influence. Though this book is a fictional work, it's based on the Historical Clan of Assassins and it prompted the team who were passing the book around to do further research about the Assassins and their time period - the 3rd Crusade. The more we discovered about these people, the more we wanted to make a game about them. Even the Assassin's Creed "Nothing is True, Everything is permitted" fits the game medium perfectly and eventually became the game's title as well as inspiration for a new type of gameplay. Is there a better setting for crowd gameplay that narrow streets from the epic time of the Crusade?

You can apply the creed to the game itself - traditional game design rules that enforce linear level design and restricted gameplay are thrown away. The player is given the freedom to experience this adventure in a manner that fits their individual play style.

Black Monday and Tuesday: 21/22 Jan 2008

Is there a link between economy and 'culture'? Was punk, at least in part, a response to late seventies/ early eighties economic problems?

If it was, then maybe we are in for a punk revival...

Investors hit by volatile trading
18 minutes ago [Tuesday 22 January 2008: 11.26]

Investors are experiencing a roller-coaster ride after London's FTSE 100 Index swung wildly in volatile trading.

After a dramatic early 4% fall for London's leading shares following Monday's slump, the Footsie moved back into positive territory as bargain-hunters looked to snap up cheap stocks.
Heavy overnight losses in Asian markets triggered the early sell-off as fears over a US recession shook global exchanges.

But the Footsie - already trading in a 300-point range - could be set for further jolts when US markets open. On Monday, the Footsie lost £77 billion - its worst one-day fall since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. CMC Markets analyst James Hughes said: "It's crazy - it's hard to fathom what is going on. Sometimes when these things happen it is overdone, but the markets can't stand uncertainty and uncertainty is what we've got.

"People are sniffing around the carcasses trying to pick something up but whether they are brave enough to do that in any depth remains to be seen."

Mining firms remained among the Footsie's biggest casualties but banking stocks such as Lloyds TSB and Halifax Bank of Scotland clawed back earlier losses to move into positive territory.
The Footsie is currently 14% below its opening mark for 2008 in the worst trading start to a year since records began.

Markets across Europe also spiralled downward with the Footsie, with early falls seen on French and German exchanges. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed nearly 9% lower - its worst performance in more than six years.

Chaos not music: part two

Think of this as a window into punk.

This is from  http://www.militantesthetix.co.uk/punk/Punkcomb.html

Punk cannot be understood by simply narrating its events in chronological order, as Jon Savage did in England’s Dreaming. Its determinations can only be unpicked by examining the latest developments in the contradictions it exploited, which means understanding the current relationship of capital and commodification to musical truth.

That is why Jon Savage’s narrative betrays and tames the very movement it sought to explain: it projects back the success of Punk into its history, and therefore presents yet another cosy and positive tale of rags-to-riches. Since this is also the story of Jon Savage, now a successful member of the Popsicle Academy, we are really reading autobiography in drag.

One way of blowing apart the dead inevitability of history written with hindsight - its placid affirmation of the status quo - is Walter Benjamin’s method of seizing on a significant detail. This was actually a development of Benjamin’s reading of Marx’s Capital. Benjamin’s hallucinogenic focus on a single detail jolts a moment from its place in a preordained sequence of events, and lets in the multivalent possibility inherent in human action. As Hegel said in the smaller Logic, para. 143, ‘Viewed as an identity in general, Actuality is first of all Possibility.’ [G.W.F. Hegel, Logic, 1817/1827, translated William Wallace, 1873, Oxford: OUP, 1975, p. 202].

This is an insight that Savage never dreamed of. The Punk story told in terms of chart placements and fame immediately puts Punk back in the pop logic it was a protest against, whereas reveries about shopping schemes, council tenancies, bondage and Day-Glo can take us back into the first moments of Punk’s immediacy, its shock and exhilaration - the heretical idea of living historically instead of at the behest of the needs of capital accumulation. No past, no future, no capital, no mortgage payments.

Apart from his absurd tease that the Sex Pistols were not a punk band, Stewart Home's analysis of punk - because it has some relation to dialectical non-affirmative concepts - has been the most helpful. In maintaining that its root politics were either anarchist or fascist - by which he means irretrievably petit bourgeois and individualist - he breaks out of the narrow view that pop may only be discussed in its own terms: a stupid and inert reflection of the economic categories of its primary distribution.

If music is not real unless it reaches the charts, if there is no everyday life outside practices which allow capital to realise surplus value, then there is no escape from ideology, everything is a sequence of deracinated images, and when I take a shit, I don't exist.

This is not the consciousness addressed by Punk. Indeed, Punk refurbished chart music and mass celebrity as potential sites for critique, bringing back into social dialogue drives and ambitions which would otherwise have been driven underground into daydreams, classical revolutionary politics or backwater academia. In Home's analysis, Punk is seen as a radical art practice, and it is made to stand or fall by reference to the most advanced ideas of that milieu, which means those of the Situationists.

However, in performing his ideological critique of Punk, Home steers dangerously close to an idealism which underestimates the intelligence of the real, and only pays attention tthose who treated Punk as a soapbox for political broadcast. Situationist rhetoric was dependent on the particular situation of artistic radicals in post-war Paris: an artistic world capital that was losing hegemony to New York, a left establishment which had made a historic compromise with Communist state-capitalism in Russia, and a surrealism deaf to the claims of music as a truth-testing of social repression.

Once transplanted to London, situationist ideas entered into a completely different relation to the establishment. There was no question of organising advanced artists to take seriously a surrealist objection to bourgeois social relations, since modern art in Britain - Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and Frank Auerbach - was a parochial parody of the movements which had swept Rome, Moscow, Paris and Berlin, utterly uncomprehending of the continental avantgarde’s anti-art dynamic

Interiority is the last refuge of the petit bourgeois.What Home objects to as the ‘anarcho-fascist’ politics of Punk is actually the ideology of individualists and careerists - music journalists, record-company men and petty academics - who refused to accept that Punk begged questions about the wider class struggle. At the time, Rock Against Racism was not an option anyone could refuse who was attendant to confusions created by McLaren’s use of the swastika.

Of course, it is now common knowledge in Cultural Studies that Rock Against Racism was manipulative, racist and oppressive to minorities, a historical revision which could only be undertaken by people who never found themselves in a punk club ordering drinks at the bar next to a British Movement organiser who is wearing a union-jack-plus-swastika sticker, and harassing the Sikh behind the bar.

Home is these days gleefully separating himself from anarchism and calling himself a council communist, but his situationist-derived fear of Leninism - a misconstruction, since Guy Debord’s polemics were directed against the French Communist Party, not the SWP - meant that he could not endorse Rock Against Racism at the time. Having argued himself out of the swamps of anarchism, Home faces a stark political choice between Leninism and liberalism (in the absence of any contemporary current, his claim to be a "council communist" amounts to political abstention).

Historically, "radicals" like Crass who refused to take sides soon revealed themselves as petit-bourgeois parasites eager to finance their own lives of "individual freedom" in Ongar, Epping Forest - and, in the case of the Poison Girls, the Sierra Nevada - through the proceeds of their musical activities. Unlike subsequent imitations such as Red Wedge and Live Aid, Rock Against Racism was not organised in order to promote stars and sell records. It used the generalised impact of Punk - the formation of countless bands looking for places to play - and struck bargains where a band’s desire for exposure was exchanged for an explicit stand against racism.

Of course, there was much confusion and debate about race and class and integrity in these bargains, but the emergence of Two Tone proved that the idea of punky-reggae parties - usually a couple of punk bands and a sound system - resulted from real social interaction rather than marketable imagery. A comparison of the revolutionary politics of Two Tone and On-U Sound - labels dedicated to racial miscegenation - and, say, Factory or Creation Records, demonstrates how even tacit racism holds back political consciousness in popular music.

Chaos instead of Music

As respite from listening to Bristol punks Disorder on KYPP, listening to Shostakovitch’s 5th Symphony . Shostakovich apparently said of this symphony that `The idea behind my symphony is the making of a man. I saw him, with all his experience, at the centre of the work, which is lyrical from beginning to end. The Finale brings an optimistic solution to the tragic parts of the first movement.'

The symphony is also commonly subtitled `A Soviet artist's reply to just criticism'. This was not Shostakovich's own subtitling, but apparently suggested by a journalist. In any case, it is a clear response to the stinging attack made on Shostakovich (and in particular on his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtensk) in January 1936 in Pravda. The article " Chaos instead of music" was not signed, but it seems that the attack was written on Stalin's direct authority.

Chaos instead of music
(From Pravda, January 29, 1936)

With the general cultural developement of our country there grew also the necessity for good music. At no time and in no other place has the composer had a more appreciative audience. The people expect good songs, but also good instrumental works, and good operas.

Certain theatres are presenting to the new culturally mature Soviet public Shostakovich's opera Lady MacBeth as an innovation and achievement. Musical criticism, always ready to serve, has praised the opera to the skies, and given it resounding glory. The young composer, instead of hearing serious criticism, which could have helped him in his future work, hears only enthusiastic compliments.

From the first minute, the listener is shocked by deliberate dissonance, by a confused stream of sound. Snatches of melody, the beginnngs of a musical phrase, are drowned, emerge again, and disappear in a grinding and squealing roar. To follow this "music" is most difficult; to remember it, impossible.

Thus it goes, practically throughout the entire opera. The singing on the stage is replaced by shrieks. If the composer chances to come upon the path of a clear and simple melody, he throws himself back into a wilderness of musical chaos - in places becoming cacaphony. The expression which the listener expects is supplanted by wild rhythm. Passion is here supposed to be expressed by noise. All this is not due to lack of talent, or lack of ability to depict strong and simple emotions in music. Here is music turned deliberately inside out in order that nothing will be reminiscent of classical opera, or have anything in common with symphonic music or with simple and popular musical language accessible to all.

This music is built on the basis of rejecting opera - the same basis on which "Leftist" Art rejects in the theatre simplicity, realism, clarity of image, and the unaffected spoken word - which carries into the theatre and into music the most negative features of "Meyerholdism" infinitely multiplied. Here we have "leftist" confusion instead of natural human music. The power of good music to infect the masses has been sacrificed to a petty-bourgeois, "formalist" attempt to create originality through cheap clowning. It is a game of clever ingenuity that may end very badly.

The danger of this trend to Soviet music is clear. Leftist distortion in opera stems from the same source as Leftist distortion in painting, poetry, teaching, and science. Petty-bourgeois "innovations" lead to a break with real art, real science and real literature.
The composer of Lady MacBeth was forced to borrow from jazz its nervous, convulsive, and spasmodic music in order to lend "passion" to his characters. While our critics, including music critics, swear by the name of socialist realism, the stage serves us, in Shostakovich's creation, the coarsest kind of naturalism. He reveals the merchants and the people monotonously and bestially. The predatory merchant woman who scrambles into the possession of wealth through murder is pictured as some kind of "victim" of bourgeois society. Leskov's story has been given a significance which it does not possess.

And all this is coarse, primitive and vulgar. The music quacks, grunts, and growls, and suffocates otself in order to express the love scenes as naturalistically as possible. And "love" is smeared all over the opera in the most vulgar manner. The merchant's double bed occupies the the central position on the stage. On this bed all "problems" are solved. In the same coarse, naturalistic style is shown the death from poisoning and the flogging - both practically on stage.

The composer apparently never considered the problem of what the Soviet audience looks for and expects in music. As though deliberately, he scribbles down his music, confusing all the sounds in such a way that his music would reach only the effete "formalists" who had lost all their wholesome taste. He ignored the demand of Soviet culture that all coarseness and savagery be abolished from every corner of Soviet life. Some critics call the glorification of the merchants' lust a satire. But there is no question of satire here. The composer has tried, with all the musical and dramatic means at his command, to arouse the sympathy of the spectators for the coarse and vulgar inclinations and behavior of the merchant woman Katerina Ismailova.

Lady MacBeth is having great success with bourgeois audiences abroad. Is it not becuase the opera is non-political and confusing that they praise it? Is it not explained by the fact that it tickles the perverted taste of the bourgeois with its fidgety, neurotic music?

Our theatres have expended a great deal of energy on giving Shostakovich's opera a thorough presentation. The actors have shown exceptional talent in dominating the noise, the screaming, and the roar of the orchestra. With their dramatic action, they have tried to reinforce the weakness of the melodic content. Unfortunately, this has served only to bring out the opera's vulgar features more vividly. The talented acting deserves gratitude, the wasted efforts - regret.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Guy Debord's films

Several documents on Guy Debord's films have just been added at the Bureau
of Public Secrets website

Technical Notes on Debord's First Three Films

Letter about Debord's Film "On the Passage of a Few Persons..."

Original Announcement of Debord's Film "The Society of the Spectacle"

The Use of Stolen Films

The Themes of Debord's Film "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni"

Instructions to the "In girum" Sound Engineer

Debord Chronology

Debord Filmography

Texts Relating to Debord's Films

* * *

See also Guy Debord's "COMPLETE CINEMATIC WORKS", translated and
edited by Ken Knabb and published by AK Press, which includes the scripts to
all six of Debord's films plus 62 illustrations and extensive annotations --

For online excerpts from the filmscripts, along with the latest information
on the films themselves, see

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Academic anarchy centres

Looking for stuff on the Centro Iberico I found this photo of William Orbit there circa 1981 on his website and then this bit of text - although it misses out quite a few e.g. Rosebery Avenue, Molly's Cafe, the Bingo Hall, the Ambulance Station, the Hope and Anchor - and the original - the Parallel Universe at St. James Church, Pentonville Road.

Also- what about the many Peace Camps and Free Festivals?

So it goes.

Reflections on the UK Social Centres Movement Paul Chatterton / Stuart Hodkinson Leeds, October 2006


Paul Chatterton (p.chatterton@leeds.ac.uk) and Stuart Hodkinson (stuart.hodkinson@gmx.net) are both members of the Commonplace Social Centre (www.thecommonplace.org.uk) in Leeds and are working together with Jenny Pickerill at Leeds and Leicester Universities on a solidarity research project called Autonomous Geographies (www.autonomousgeographies.org) that aims to support the development of autonomous spaces in the UK.

Since the dawn of capitalist society in the late 1400s and the beginning of land enclosures in the UK, the (re)claiming of space from private ownership by popular movements to re-collectivise their lives and fight the commodification of land, labour and life has had a long and rich history. Key tendencies of these popular movements have been ‘autonomy’, defined here as the desire for self-legislation for both the individual and the collective at the level of social institutions, and ‘anarchism’, the desire to live free of government rule. Many resistance movements have born these imprints such as the Diggers of the 17 th century and proto agrarian and intentional communities, as well as more confrontational urban movements such as the mass post-war squatting movement, or the Stop the City demonstrations of the early eighties, Reclaim the Streets and the ‘J-18’ Carnival Against Capital in the late 1990s, which sought to consciously confront capitalism by shutting down financial districts in mass street parties.

This experience contrasts starkly with urban resistance movements in other European countries who have politicised and confronted the use and control of public space as part of a broader contestation to the enclosure of everyday life. The most spectacular has been Italy’s Occupied Social Centres movement, which was founded in mid-1970s by the non-parliamentary ‘antagonist’ youth movement seeking to improve their social conditions but rejecting both ‘capitalist work’ and the socialist parties who had abandoned working class struggles for a share of state power. Occupied social centres turn unused or condemned public buildings and factories into self-organised cultural and political gathering spaces for the provision of radical social services, protest- planning and experimentation with independent cultural production of music, zines, art, and pirate micro TV. The social centre idea has gradually spread across Western Europe with the exception of Britain where autonomous movements have been weak and the socialist left has generally refused to embrace the practice of physically reclaiming public spaces for political, cultural and community use.

Since the emergence of what has become popularised as ‘global anticapitalism’ since J-18 and the Battle of Seattle in 1999, a discernible growth has occurred in the number of occupied and legalised social centres in the UK, along with dozens of other self-organised, radical spaces that we cannot include here due to space constraints (like infoshops, squat cafés, protest camps, convergence centres, eco-villages). Yet with the exception of Lacey (2005) and a small number of activist debates (Anon 2003a; 2003b; Rogue Element 2004; Text Nothing, 2005) virtually no critical engagement with this phenomenon exists. Our aim in writing this pamphlet is to begin to address this deficit by discussing the origins and role of social centres. We begin by briefly reviewing the social centre scene in the UK since the early 1980s before identifying the main activities and political orientation of contemporary spaces. After moving on to some of the key challenges facing these spaces, we conclude by offering some propositions on their future strategic direction in the development of autonomous social movements in the UK. We’ve included a resource section at the end listing the reading that influenced and informed our analysis, as well as some useful websites, addresses and email lists.

Social Centres and their Precursors in the UK
Although the term ‘social centre’ does not appear to have been used until the past few years, in the early 1980s a string of similar experiments emerged out of the intense and confrontational anarcho-punk movement. Generally known as ‘Autonomy Clubs’, these radical spaces were both the symbols and centres of punk’s second wave, which fused anarchist politics with a wider DIY counter-culture among an angry and non-conformist youth generation alienated by the political project of Thatcherism. Key political struggles revolved around the Claimants’ Unions and the unemployed, anti-fascism and animal liberation.

Set up and run by collectives of anarchists or communists and strongly politicised anarcho-punk bands like Crass and The Apostles who helped fund their existence, Autonomy Clubs mixed live music with “book fairs, fanzine conventions, discussion groups, films, debates and political workshops” (Martin 1994). Probably the first were the occupied 1-2-1 Centre in Brixton (1980-1997) and the rented Autonomy Centre in Wapping (1982-3); others included The Station in Gateshead (early 1980s), squatted spaces like the Centro Iberico (1982) in West London, or collectively owned premises such as the 1 in 12 Club in Bradford and the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE) both of which still exist today (see Table 1)

The 1990s brought another surge of social movement mobilisation around the injustices of the Poll Tax, the repressive Criminal Justice Act and the Tory Government’s road and airport expansion programme. A new generation of activists emerged more focused on deep green politics fused with the ‘party and protest’ attitude of rave culture. Organised around the ecological direct action network, Earth First!, and inspired by Hakim Bay’s idea of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), numerous squatted rural protest camps appeared with the aim of halting road building such as at Newbury and Twyford Down. In the urban environment, precursors of social centres sprung up in the form of Squat Cafés like the Anarchist Teapot in Brighton (1996-99), the OKasional Cafés in Manchester (1998-2003) and Eclectic City in Newcastle (2000-2002) offering cheap organic vegan food, DIY cultural events and a living example of anarchist politics.

[Pamphlet continues for a few more pages}

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Free Festival Greenham Peace Camp 1982

This is going to have to go in Greengalloway and Kill Your Pet Puppy. But it will take a bit of time to tease out the connections. But have a look at link below here for starters.

This photo of punks at Greenham came from the site.

The mini-free festival at Greenham in July 1982 [ there may have been a smaller festival in March 82 at Greenham - the vegitation in photo looks more like March than July ] - when the very first ‘Peace Convoy’ travelled from Stonehenge to Greenham was critical point where counter-cultures collided.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nor a situationist


What is counterculture?

A countercultural action or expression communicates disagreement, opposition, disobedience or rebellion. A counterculture rejects or challenges mainstream culture or particualr elements of it.

This might mean:

  • Protesting against a particular situation or issue
  • Rebelling against the accepted or acceptable way of doing things
  • Struggling for liberation when you are oppressed or marginalised
  • Finding new ways to represent yourself when you are misrepresented or simply not represented
  • Creating your own culture when you are dissatisfied with the culture that is made for you

In the 20th century, countercultural points of view were commonly expressed as action. The countercultural pamphlets, flyers, posters, newsletters and independent newspapers, fanzines or magazines are therefore the ephemera or 'remains' of a larger active expression. Often they were originally meant to serve immediate, sometimes urgent, purposes: to promote action, gather support or inspire change.

The 'unacceptability' of any countercultural expression is always short-lived. Sooner or later avant-garde aesthetics are embraced by the producers and consumers of mainstream culture and abosrbed into the 'normal'.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I am not a trainspotter

I just like this engine. One of forty of Bulleid's Q1 'Austerity' class 0-6-0's built for Southern railways in 1942. All scrapped apart from one, which is now at National Railway Museum in York.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pink Fairies in print

Just got this book