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Created by Abigail

Exhibition

We Are Dynamite! Northern Carnival 1978

Curated by Abigail Ward. The Northern Carnival against the Nazis, a rally and concert held on 15 July 1978 in Moss Side, Manchester, was a defining moment in establishing anti-racism in the city and beyond. Dubbed ‘the day it became cool to be anti-racist’, the Carnival galvanised North West communities against racist groups, including the National Front. A rally of 15,000 people marched all the way from Strangeways prison to Alexandra Park joining a further 25,000 for an afternoon of music, dancing and unity. Co-organised by Geoff Brown of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) and Bernie Wilcox of Rock Against Racism (RAR), the Carnival featured incendiary live performances by pop-punk superstars Buzzcocks and Steel Pulse, the UK's leading reggae band of the period. Support came from Moss Side reggae band Exodus (later X-O-Dus) and China Street from Lancaster, who had released a single on EMI called ‘Rock Against Racism’. This exhibition of unseen photos and ephemera aims to highlight the passion and excitement of the day whilst inspiring visitors to reflect upon a new era of challenge for people opposing messages of racism and division across the world. #NorthernCarnival1978 @MDMArchive * In 1970s Britain a climate of racial intolerance and division prevailed. Popular TV sitcoms and stand-up comedians regularly used racist language. The National Front polled more votes than the Liberals in the London elections, and in music, rock stars like Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton, who had made careers out of playing black music, wanted to kick black people out of the country. On 5 August 1976, from his concert stage where he'd just performed Bob Marley's I Shot The Sheriff, Clapton ranted: ‘Are there any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. W*gs, I mean. I'm looking at you. I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall. Leave our country. I don’t want you here. I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the w*gs out. Keep Britain white.’ Outraged by Clapton’s outburst, Sunday Times photographer and political activist Red Saunders penned an open letter of protest to the music press: When I read about Eric Clapton’s Birmingham concert I nearly puked … You’ve got to fight the racist poison otherwise you degenerate into the sewer… We want to organise a rank and file movement against the racist poison in music... we urge support for Rock Against Racism. Three hundred people wrote back to support the letter’s call to arms. The Rock Against Racism (RAR) movement was born with a series of concerts in London, spreading across the UK by 1977. The campaign involved promoters and musicians staging multi-racial gigs with an anti-racist theme in order to discourage young people from embracing racism. In June 1976, 18-year-old Sikh, Gurdip Singh Chaggar was stabbed to death by a white gang in Southall, Middlesex. John Kingsley Read, founder of the National Front splinter group, The National Party, and newly-elected Blackburn councillor, remarked publicly, ‘one down, one million to go’. In August 1977, the National Front attempted to march through Lewisham, an area with a high concentration of immigrants. An estimated 4,000 local and national anti-racists turned up to oppose the march. Police used riot gear for the first time on the UK mainland. The battle of Lewisham dealt a devastating blow to the NF. Journalists Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons wrote about Lewisham in the NME, the UK’s leading music paper. NME adopted an anti-racist stance, explicitly linking music and politics. Other music papers followed suit. This helped Rock Against Racism to thrive. The Anti Nazi League was launched in November 1977 to combat the rise of far-right groups in the UK. A large number of MPs, union leaders and well-known figures in sport, the arts and academia signed the ANL founding statement. * Original exhibition credits: Curator: Abigail Ward Inspiration and curation: Geoff Brown and Bernie Wilcox Graphic design: Lee Baxter Décor: Rod Connolly and Hannah McLennan-Jones Project volunteers: Drew Ellery and Toni-Dee Paul Exhibition installation: Mark Wilson for People’s History Museum Photography: John Sturrock, Geoff Brown, Phil Ramsell, Roseanne McNamee, Richard Bundy Ideas and support: NIAMOS Film: Antony Morris Guidance: Ramila Patel, Debbie Golt, Ruth Gregory, Ely Grey Supported by: Heritage Lottery Fund, Futura Consultants, Ahmed Iqbal Race Relations Resource Centre, People’s History Museum Supported by by Heritage Lottery Fund Thanks to National Lottery players, Heritage Lottery Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Supported by Futura Futura are the north's leading Rec2Rec headhunting specialists. Established in 2001, they provide experienced recruitment professionals to the very best recruitment agencies in the country.
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Buzzcocks, X-O-Dus (Exodus)
Alexandra Park
Photograph, 1978
Photo Red Saunders the Northern Carnival 1978 © John Sturrock

In 1970s Britain a climate of racial intolerance and division prevailed. Popular TV sitcoms and stand-up comedians regularly used racist language. The National Front polled more votes than the Liberals in the London elections, and in music, rock stars like Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton, who had made careers out of playing black music, wanted to kick black people out of the country.

On 5 August 1976, from his concert stage where he’d just performed Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff, Clapton ranted:

‘Are there any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. W*gs, I mean. I’m looking at you. I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall. Leave our country. I don’t want you here. I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the w*gs out. Keep Britain white.’

Outraged by Clapton’s outburst, Sunday Times photographer and political activist Red Saunders penned an open letter of protest to the music press:
When I read about Eric Clapton’s Birmingham concert I nearly puked … You’ve got to fight the racist poison otherwise you degenerate into the sewer… We want to organise a rank and file movement against the racist poison in music... we urge support for Rock Against Racism.

Three hundred people wrote back to support the letter’s call to arms. The Rock AgainstRacism (RAR) movement was born with a series of concerts in London, spreading across the UK by 1977.

The campaign involved promoters and musicians staging multi-racial gigs with an anti-racist theme in order to discourage young people from embracing racism.
Buzzcocks, X-O-Dus (Exodus), Geoff Brown (Anti Nazi League)
Alexandra Park
Photograph, 1978
Photographer unknown.

A photo of Anti Nazi League activist Geoff Brown - one of the driving forces behind the Northern Carnival 1978 - scrubbing our racist graffiti.

Geoff writes:

The idea of the Northern Carnival against the Nazis was born on 30 April 78, as 80,000 made their way home from the London Carnival Against the Nazis - 2,500 of them on fifty coaches and minibuses from Greater Manchester.

I've asked a number of people if they remember stumbling blocks. The only ones I can think of are:

1. The decision made at the weekly editorial meeting on Tuesday 11 July 78 in the Manchester Evening New office not to cover the carnival. This could be because of the MEN having a close relationship with Greater Manchester Police and its reactionary chief constable, James Anderton. In the event the vast majority of those attending were young and probably not MEN readers and came because friends, school, college and workmates, pub buddies, fellow trade unionists, etc, told them about it. The coverage from Granada Reports was also very good, not least thanks to the entire Granada Reports team signing up to the Anti Nazi League.

2. The hiccup which came when the director of Manchester Parks Department briefly withdrew permission for us to use Alexandra Park because he thought we had breached an agreement that there should only be one concert. His attention had been drawn to a poster for a 'concert' by Graham Parker and the Rumours on the Thursday, 13 July.

He took some persuading that this was only a rehearsal as it indeed was. Parker was supporting Dylan at Blackbushe Aerodrome on the Saturday and wanted to practise an open air gig, he'd never done one before. The director watched several thousand of us sitting on the grass in the park listening to the rehearsal with the actor-writer Ernie Dalton, who compered the carnival, saying repeatedly 'This is just a rehearsal' and all was fine. Some cynics suggest that fear of those who might turn up on the Saturday to find the concert cancelled and seek to take it out on those responsible for the cancellation also played a part in his decision.

There was of course a great deal of preparation. People were making special banners, placards and badges and if need be booking coaches, selling tickets. At the Manchester Poly Students Union volunteers were working on thousand of sticks made from sawn up ply wood to be to be stapled to yellow ANL cardboard discs to make the lollipops by which the ANL was known. A deal had to be cut to avoid any hassle over fly-posting with Tosh Ryan, Manchester's fly-posting king. Tosh saw it was a good idea to avoid a flyposting war and to offer to fly-post for the carnival. There weren't as many posters as we wanted as the fascists had firebombed the office in London.

Flat back wagons had to be begged and borrowed and diesel generators hired to put on the back of them to power the amps for the half dozen or so bands that played from Strangeways to Alex Park. There was a lot of work approaching trade unions and sympathetic businesses for funds, making donations and buying space in the brochure we produced for the carnival. People had to get up at six in the morning on the 15th to get to Strangeways and persuade people that this wasn't a good day to park there.

The day itself went according to plan. The police had nothing to do. The aftermath was a long and sometimes difficult one as with the police killing of Blair Peach at the demonstration against the fascists in Southall just before the May 1979 general election. The carnivals gave us the confidence that we could win and we kept on till we defeated the NF Later in the 1990s we had to do the same with the BNP and more recently with the EDL. Now it's the Football Lads Alliance and the former EDL leader Tommy Robinson, now released from jail, we need to fight.
Buzzcocks, X-O-Dus (Exodus), Bernie Wilcox (Rock Against Racism)
Alexandra Park
Photograph, 1978
Photo © Geoff Brown

(L-R) Pete the Punk and Bernie Wilcox.

Bernie Wilcox writes:

My memories of 1977 were that the NF were gaining ground strongly with them polling over 5% of the vote in that year's GLC elections which was over 120,000 votes. They were very confident and people just didn't associate them with Nazis although there were pictures available of their leaders, Webster and Tyndall, dressed up in Nazi uniforms. They were not only on the streets but they were making physical attacks on the left, Jews and people of colour including regular petrol bombings.

Into this atmosphere, Eric Clapton went on a rant at a concert in Birmingham. It's worth repeating his whole rant because it's just so shocking.

“I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country,” Clapton said. “Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the w*gs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. F***ing wogs, man. F***ing Saudis taking over London. Bastard w*gs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black w*gs and c**ns and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking… don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black w*gs and c**ns living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want f***ing wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country. What is happening to us, for f**k’s sake?”

That rant started off Rock Against Racism but the anti NF protest at Lewisham in 1977 was pivotal in aligning the music press with anti racist politics. Tony Parsons and Julie Birchall were the punk reporters on the NME and they persuaded the editor to do a middle page spread on the Lewisham protest. Melody Maker and Sounds fell into line and all the music press were all of a sudden, interested in politics and were anti racist.

It's interesting to read Tom Robinson's lyrics of his Winter of 79 track released in early 78 which gives a flavour of where the left were at that time. We really did feel like we were on the back foot.

The first Carnival in London changed all that. We felt for the first time in ages that we were far bigger and stronger than the Front. Both we and the Front were amazed that we mobilised 80,000 anti racists onto the street and it was a massive shot in the arm for us. We suddenly felt like the wind had changed direction. After he played 79 at the first Carnival, Tom said, "I wrote this about what I thought was going to happen in 1979, but after today, it hasn't got a chance."

It had a massive effect on me and Geoff as well. We had three coaches that went from my Manchester overspill estate, Partington that day, but I managed to miss all of them and ended up bumming a lift on the special train back to Manchester where I sat with Geoff. I can't remember if he said it to me or I said it to him, but we agreed that we'd have to do one in Manchester.

Even (or maybe in particular) on the left, politics was very London-centric then and those in the capital didn't really understand that not every anti racist from Burnley or Preston or Salford wanted to travel to London. We wanted a Carnival of our own as The Clash might have sang.

It seems incredible now with all the rules and regulations we have that we could put together such a massive march and free gig in just 10 weeks, especially as both Geoff and I had full time jobs. Of course, you could get away with doing very little in those days. I was working as a structural engineering designer at Shell Carrington and I basically spent my day doing a nominal bit of work and organising the Carnival and other RAR gigs plus other protests like a campaign against education cuts in Trafford where the Tory council were threatening to close the local youth club in Partington. In a place with a population of 7,000 that had just 3 pubs and a last bus that left Piccadilly at 11 at night, the youth club was the only place for the kids to go to and the Tories wanted to take that from them.

The guys in the office used to answer my phone saying, "Bernie's carnival office."

Of course, it wasn't just me and Geoff. There were loads of great people who did lots of work getting things organised and I had a credibility issue being just 22 at the time. I only owned one suit and it was brilliant white. We went for a meeting at the town hall to get them to give us permission to use Alex Park. Geoff took one look at me and said, "Christ Bernie. How are we supposed to get them to take us seriously when you turn up looking like John Effing Travolta?" Saturday Night Fever had just been released but I'd had my suit for about a year before that.

Everyone wanted to do something to help and we had phone calls every day from activists and people quite new to politics wanting to lend a hand.

In the weeks leading up to the Carnival things just mushroomed. There was a massive buzz around the city and the punk thing about wearing badges had transferred to the population in general, and they were all wearing our badges!

NF = No Fun, skateboarders against the Nazis, Gays against the Nazis, Firemen against the Nazis. Loads of different ones. It seemed like everyone walking down Market Street on a Saturday was wearing Anti Nazi badges.

Getting the bands was pretty easy apart from the Buzzcocks who just wouldn't commit at all. We definitely wanted the Buzzers. Not only were they part of the original punk movement but their punk pop had breached the ramparts of the regular music scene with them appearing on Top of the Pops and releasing their second Top 40 single just a few weeks before the Carnival. Mark Smith asked them for me to no avail and then as luck would have it, I bumped into Pete Shelley coming out of a musical instruments shop on Oxford Road. I collared him there and then and asked why they wouldn't commit to the gig. He was great, committed there and then and their manager called me the next day to confirm. Phew!
The other problem was every other band wanted to play and we couldn't have them all. Some got a little upset about it including The Fall. It was difficult because playing to 200 people at The Squat wasn't the same as 40,000 in the open air and many of the bands that wanted to play just didn't have the experience or the presence to carry it off.

As you can imagine, I was a bit busy on the day pulling things together and trying to resolve ego issues. Even the photographers were arguing about who had the best spot and there was a discussion about who should play last. The Buzzcocks said that they thought that Steel Pulse should get the top slot which was very nice of them because although Steel Pulse had just supported Marley on tour, they weren't anything like as big as the Buzzers then.

What difference did it all make?

When I look at my kids and their friends today, racism is just something that they won't tolerate. Watching City, there used to be lots of racist comments about black players. These days, the crowd would shut those people up. I hope that in our little way, the people who attended the Carnivals, the gigs, the protests and marches, have brought their kids and their kids' kids to be naturally anti racist and have contributed to the progress we've seen so far.

The battle isn't won however. I still see Facebook posts from people supporting Tommy Robinson's right to be in contempt of court or reposting some nonsense from Britain First. I've been in the recruitment industry for 35 years and I still see candidates with obviously black or Asian names not getting the same chances as those with white names. Although we have lots of black footballers we have very few black coaches and managers.

Some musicians and fans in Manchester have organised a gig in commemoration of the Carnival and it's great to see 20 year olds interested in politics and getting things together. We can't ever relax on this stuff.
Buzzcocks, X-O-Dus (Exodus)
Alexandra Park, Hyde Town Hall
Press, 1977
Article taken from Women’s Voice magazine, 1977.

In October 1977, National Front leader Martin Webster staged a one-man march in Hyde, protected by an estimated 2,000 police officers. A counter-protest was carried out by 20-year-old Ramila Patel of Bolton Asian Youth Movement, who walked in front of Webster carrying a placard that read (on the rear): ‘This man is a Nazi’. Ramila managed to walk about 80 yards before a policeman grabbed her placard and broke it in half.

Geoff Brown can be seen on the image to the left of Ramila.

Following her brave stance against National Front leader Martin Webster, Ramila Patel, aged just 21, addressed the rally at Strangeways that preceded the Northern Carnival against the Nazis at Alexandra Park in 1978.

Recalling her address to the carnival crowd of 15,000 at Strangeways, she says: “It was very moving to see the massive crowd in front of me who were there to oppose the National Front. We were united by our love of music and hatred for racism. At the end of the rally we danced to the music blasting from the trucks in front of us all the way to Alexandra Park. Waving our Anti Nazi League lollipops, the journey from Strangeways to the Carnival was memorable. I will never forget the thunderous welcome from the huge crowd that had gathered in Alexandra Park. It was an emotional moment and I felt an acute sense of solidarity with the crowd.”

Bringing music and politics together in such urgent need, embracing the aesthetics and spirit of the punk movement and fostering support across generations, the Northern Carnival Against The Nazis is widely seen, by organisers, attendees and historians, as having had a long-lasting influence on attitudes towards diversity and race in the city and beyond.

A longer piece about the NF marching in Hyde and Levenshulme, and the resistance they met, can be found here:
livesrunning.wordpress.co...
Buzzcocks, X-O-Dus (Exodus)
Alexandra Park
Fanzine, 1978
SKAN (School kids against the Nazis) fanzine issue Number 3. SKAN had a presence at the Northern Carnival 1978.

Excerpt from the Noah blog:
noahny.com/blogs/news/the...

School Kids Against Nazis was a youth-led spinoff of the Anti Nazi League that put the idealism and hopefulness of the youth against the bigotry and hatred of adults. The adults who felt the need to scapegoat their problems, take from the disadvantaged, and strike up support against minorities really couldn’t stand the idealistic youth trying to fight for a better tomorrow. While there were many ANL spin-offs, School Kids Against Nazis, or SKAN, were unique for their integration into the lives of younger people. SKAN distributed newsletters within schools with information about how to stop Nazis, informing their peers that words alone would not be enough, but that the Nazis must also be faced in the streets. Many found it hard to believe that Nazi ideology existed within schools. The idea that hate and politics doesn’t reach into schools wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. Where hatred grows, it can and should be confronted.
Buzzcocks, X-O-Dus (Exodus)
Alexandra Park
Photograph, 1978
Photo © John Sturrock, 1978

Amongst the speakers at the Northern Carnival rally was Ramila Patel, then a 21-year-old from neighbouring Bolton. Like many other Asian youths facing the multiple threats of advancing racist groups like the National Front and growing unemployment, Socialist Workers Party member, Ramila became involved with the Anti Nazi League and helped to form a Rock Against Racism club in Bolton.

She was chosen to speak at the rally because of her defiant solo march in front of Martin Webster, the National Front leader, on the streets of Hyde, Tameside in October 1977. Parallel to racist events unfolding on the streets, Strangeways Prison in Manchester had a notorious reputation for employing prison warders who were members of the National Front, therefore the Anti Nazi League planned to begin the Northern Carnival against Racism outside Strangeways Prison.

Recalling her address to the carnival crowd of 15 000 at Strangeways, she says: “It was an emotional moment and I felt an acute sense of solidarity with the crowd. Being part of the Socialist Workers Party and working with like-minded people against the government's cuts and pay freeze, the so-called 'Social Contract' was the way to defend working class organisation.

“It was very moving to see the massive crowd in front of me who were there to oppose the National Front. We were united by our love of music and hatred for racism. At the end of the ally we danced to the music blasting from the trucks in front of us all the way to Alexandra Park. Waving our Anti Nazi League lollipops, the journey from Strangeways to the Carnival was memorable. I will never forget the thunderous welcome from the huge crowd that had gathered in Alexander Park.”