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Northern Carnival against the Nazis: 40th Anniversary project

Northern Carnival against the Nazis: 40th Anniversary project

POSTER DESIGN: DAVE KING

Manchester Digital Music Archive has received investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a digital and physical music heritage project in Manchester.

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 Manchester and beyond. The 15,000 people who marched and the 40,000 people who danced in Alexandra Park that day didn’t just make racism no longer respectable. They made it uncool.

Co-organised by Geoff Brown (the Anti-Nazi League) and Bernie Wilcox (Rock Against Racism), the carnival featured incendiary live performances by Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, Moss Side reggae band Exodus and China Street. They were joined by post-punk bands Gang of Four, Frantic Elevators and others, who played on trucks to accompany the marchers.

But what inspired this unprecedented coming together? 1970s Britain was a hotbed of racism with TV sitcoms and standup comedians openly using words like 'wogs' and 'coons'. In London, the National Front - the forerunner of today's British National Party and Britain First - polled more votes than the Liberals in the London elections and in music, stars like Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton, who had made careers out of playing and singing black music, wanted to kick black people out of the country.

From his concert stage where he'd just performed Bob Marley's 'I Shot The Sheriff', Clapton ranted, 'Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white.'

Into this atmosphere stepped the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism and it is no exaggeration to say that their actions changed the political and cultural climate of the country.

Our project will comprise:

A physical exhibition

We'll curate an exhibition of unseen images from the carnival and march, alongside a selection of posters, fanzines and flyers. As with all MDMA projects, we'll also be asking our online community to get involved and contribute their images and memories. This exhibition will tour 3 key community venues/art spaces in Manchester. We will be exploring non-traditional methods of image reproduction and display, such as projections, printing on moveable boards, recreating fanzines to give out, or using a fly-posting approach in underground galleries, in keeping with the period we are celebrating.

A digital community exhibition & interviews

We will work with volunteers and the local community to source material for a permanent digital exhibition, hosted by MDMA, containing images and memories, plus essays from organisers and attendees. Memories will be captured as text, audio and video.

Launch event

We will launch the project with an 'In Conversation' event and presentation with organisers supported by the Ahmed Iqbal Race Relations Resource Centre at Central Library on Saturday July 14th. More details to follow.

Were you there?

We would like to speak to anyone who attended the march or carnival. We are looking to capture memories, images, flyers and footage for our exhibitions. If you can help, just get in touch: info@mdmarchive.co.uk

About the 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. www.hlf.org.uk.