Beggar at the Acklam Hall Rock against Racism gig, 1979.
Attack at the Acklam Hall, Ladbroke Grove, London, Friday June 29th, 1979
We were the main supporting act at a Rock against Racism in June, 1979, which also featured the soon-to-be-one-hit-wonders The Vapors (remember, 'Turning Japanese'?), a mellow reggae band called The Samaritans and political punksters, Crisis.
Low-tech ticket for the night
The venue was the Acklam Hall, a down at heel gig popular with post-punk bands under the Westway flyover.
Acklam Hall: a bit of background
"The Acklam Hall stinks. Like some scummy old school hall, it lacks atmosphere,
facilities, everything. Ironically, it remains one of the solitary few places in the big
city where crowds of little known quality bands can assemble and present their
ideas to open minded punters."
Chris Westwood, Record Mirror, 1979
The venue was a regular haunt for acts such as the Raincoats, Stiff Little Fingers, the Psychedelic Furs and the Monochrome Set, with reggae acts like People Unite Ruts/Exodus/Satellites, and featured one Roots Encounter Prince Far-I/Bim Sherman/Prince Hammer and Creation Rebel playing there.
Other noted acts to play the club include The Clash and Joy Division.
The venue changed its name in the 80s to Subterrania and is now known as 'Neighbourhood.'
Anyhow, back to 1979: inside the hall that night the temperature had been rising all night, and the supercharged atmosphere got us playing our set faster than usual - or maybe it was the sense of impending doom that gave us the motivation to get off stage quicker!
Although our punky/mod stuff had gone pretty well with the well-scary, heavy duty skins in the crowd, reports of trouble in the area earlier had left everybody a little jumpy.
Things came to a head when Crisis took to the stage, and before long chairs and bottle were arcing stagewards with fights breaking out in the audience.
Within minutes all hell broke loose as a gang of hornet-angry skinheads tried to force their way into the building.
It turned into a hell of a battle - we were barricaded inside trying to defend ourselves with chair legs and anything else we could find - while the skins were battering in the windows, doors and skylights.
I remember one guy inside was so scared he was literally crying in the corner with fear, while the rest of us were running around trying to keep the building - and our instruments - safe from the mob.
Fuck knows how long it went on for - it seemed like an eternity - but the bit I'll always remember is when we went in to The Samaritans' changing room to check that they were OK.
Despite the pitched riot going on all around them, the band - bless 'em - were stoned out of their heads and nonchalantly spliffing away on jumbo-sized joints, oblivious to the sounds of breaking glass, splintering wood and shattering skylights.
The night's events made the music press, with news reports from Sounds and Melody Maker reproduced below:
The excellent historytalk.org website has a long history on the Acklam Hall, and here's how it recounts the events of the night:
"In 'Cranked Up Really High' Stewart Home seems to have started a red skins v NF
'Grove skins' mini/'punk riot', during a Crisis gig at Acklam Hall, that spilled over into St
In 'Like a Summer with a Thousand Julys' the Wise brothers insist that
the 'Gate skins' were non-NF/racist, if not 'commie skins', who frequented All Saints
In most other accounts they were authentic enough NF, but co-existed with the
Rastas, like their Ted forbears did - most of the time - with the original rude boys.
...Nick Knight's 'Skinheads' photo-book features a picture of a skin's bloodied head at an
Acklam Hall Oi gig: Oi was an early 80s punky skinhead sub-cult championed by Garry
Bushell, then of Sounds, later the Sun.
Like Crisis (later Death in June), Bushell's pop
career covered the political spectrum: In the 'Windrush' book he appears in his former
socialist worker incarnation. The accompanying 'Skinheads' caption recounted the fate
of East End skins who found themselves besieged by the west London Kids United;
'The locals knew they would be there and a massive group of sail (soul?) boys,
skinheads, Teds, Rastas, whatever, from the area had gathered outside the hall.
At about 9.30 they came steaming in.
The skinheads inside threw anything that
could be lifted (including the band's gear) at the door they were coming in
through. After a short time the doorway was blocked by a huge pile of debris.
police didn't show up for 25 minutes though, by which time the locals were
breaking through the roof."
Here's another take on the 'mini-riot,' from the London Class War website:
"In some areas there is a more permanent tie up between skinheads and blacks. Not for nothing are the London Notting Hill skinheads called 'commie skins' by others belonging to the hell fire fraternity.
This does not mean they have been infiltrated by the local CP or Trot group, or even felled by the general liberal/left ambience of the area. Something of the sort has brushed off but chiefly they are pretty unique amongst skins when it comes to articulately defending their point of view.
They were for instance maligned as an NF contingent in '79 when members were denied entrance to a 'Rock Against Racism' gig at Acklam Hall.
They hit back fiercely wrecking amongst other things a couple of sound system transit vans. A RAR rep described them as racist thugs. But outside Acklam Hall there was no such clear cut racial demarcation.
As skins, punks, rude boys and rastas slugged it out, most of the older and heavier blacks collected on the steps outside of the garage/sound system repair shop stood impassively by watching the fun and games and expressing no preference for either side.
The Gate skins were so incensed by the coverage in the musical press that they wrote a collective letter of protest to The New Musical Express denying any involvement in racist groups. To no avail.
The liberal/left anti skinhead consensus meant they were cast as NF boot boys in an attack on (presumably) Acklam Hall in the film Breaking Glass starring the nauseating Hazel O'Connor whose street credibility consisted in knowing how to use show biz connections to cast herself as a rebel punk superstar."
Comment from the urban75 bulletin boards
Linerider: "I was at the Acklam Hall and I remember it a bit differently from how the papers reported it, the BM did attack and only got beaten back when a gang of local rastas came to our rescue, not only that but was also involved in the fighting at Kings Cross, which was very violent and took a week or so to get sorted out (we got all the squatters together and kicked the nazi cunts out of the area) the trouble makers were known locally as the Jock Mcdonald skins."
Linerider: "I was on the door (some things never change)we had an idea that something might happen as there had been a bit of a kick off down the road that afternoon, and although around that time we always expected trouble this was crazy, if I remember rightly the skins had smashed the windows of a rasta cafe down the road on their way to the hall, which meant that the local black youth were quick to organise."
Bun: "Was there with Crisis. Mainly inside, trying to stop those attacking getting in. One very quick dash to the van that got trashed to pick up such musical instruments as a baseball bat and a chain. Not the most relaxing concert I have been to. Also kicked off in one of the local hospitals later amongst the wounded!"