Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Matchgirl’s Song

In 1888 the match women from Bryant and May’s East End factory were on strike for the right to organise a union.
In Roy Palmer’s 1974, Poverty Knock, Roy Palmer collected songs and ballads, along with contemporary accounts of industrial life in the 19th century.
I recently met with Louise Raw who wrote a history of the strike, Striking A Light.
Tim Wells, Emily Harrison and Janine Booth will be reading at the Matchwomen’s Festival in Canning Town in 2015.

Recollections of Samuel Webber (born 1874) in a 1971 interview with Roy Palmer from Poverty Knock…

“When they went on strike they walked through Bow, all the way up Mile End Road, Whitechapel Road and Leadenhall Street, and straight through to Trafalgar Square. And all the way through Leadenhall Street particularly they used to sing (to the tune of John Brown’s Body):

We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
We’ll hang old Bryant on a sour apple tree,
As we go marchin’ in.
Glory, glory, hallelujah, glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
As we go marchin’ in.

And while they were marching along, the people in the offices overhead would throw some coppers (coins) down; and then there’s be a scramble among the girls to get these coppers up. That caused a bit of an interlude from the singing; and when they’d picked up all the coopers, on they’d go again, singing and marching.”


Tim Wells and Louise Raw

Suedehead Times

Suedehead Times was one of the sussed skinhead ‘zines that proliferated after Hard As Nails had set the tone. It ran from 1985 through 1986.
It was put together by Tony Smith from Chesterfield, Derbyshire. As most of the ‘zines had it focused on good reggae and soul music with a dash of Oi, smart dressing and a distaste for glue sniffing gumby racism that much of the punk end of skinhead had descended into.
I was a young suedehead myself, making me one dapper ranting poet.
Suedeheads were the smarter, stylish end of the skinhead fashion; brogues and crombies rather than boots and braces.
Cheers to Matt McAteer, keep on keepin’ on.


from Suedehead Times, No.2, 1986

from Suedehead Times, No.3, 1986

Asher Senator – Abbreviation Qualification

from Sounds, Sept 29, 1984. Singles reviewed by Tibet.

Asher Senator ‘Abbreviation Qualification’ (Fashion)
My introduction to the world of MC-rapping, and an eye-opener it is too. I swear to Jah I’ve never heard anyone sing as fast as this – excepting Steve Ignorent of course – and I admit to being mightily impressed.
Even better: I only noticed one mention to The Weed.

LKJ and the British Black Panthers

In the Past Tense pamphlet In The Shadow of the S.P.G Racist Policing, Resisitance, and Black Power in 1970s Brixton, 2014, there is quite a bit about the British Black Panthers, who included Farrukh Dhondy and Linton Kwesi Johnson.
The quotes below come from a section looking at how the Panters educated people.
Farrukh Dhondy has an active career in which he has written a biography of CLR James, the comedy series Tandoori Nights, translated Rumi, written children’s stories and the Bollywood film Mangal Pandey and been commissioning editor for Channel Four.

“I had the idea, right at the beginning, that culture was the only way out of this mission to complain. The mission to complain was , you know, ‘we are poor, sad blacks, beaten down, you discriminate against us, racism, racism, racism, complaint, complaint, complaint”, and that wouldn’t end until one said ‘Look, forget about the sadness, here’s what I can do.’ We could have an intellectual culture, and I’ve always thought that was the way forward…” Farrukh Dhondy

Militant as it was, Black Power activities also had a strong cultural element – dances, with sound systems, poetry groups… On the one hand this helped to draw people in, but the participation in the movement also opened people’s eyes to their own cultural heritage, as Linton Kwesi Johnson relates:
“My real interest in poetry began when I joined the Black Panthers. Joining the Black Panthers was a life-changer for me because for the first time I discovered black literature, because going to school here I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that black people wrote books. In the Black Panthers they had a library and all of a sudden I discovered all these wonderful books written by black people. One book in particular was a book called ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ written by an African American scholar by the name of W.E.B DuBois. And this book was not a book of poems, it was prose, but it was a very poetic prose and the language was very moving. And that book just stimulated my interest in poetry, and made me want to discover more poetry, and made me want to try to articulate in verse how I felt, and how the black youth of my generation felt about our experiences growing in this racially hostile environment.
I learnt a lot about my culture and I was able to locate myself in the world, and to understand myself more fully. Who I am, where I am coming from, and why I am where I am now.”


Provisional Southend Poetry Group

This inspired lads were a couple of sussed skinhead herberts, Paul Barrett and Ian Fry.
Paul had previously sung with The Sinyx.
Ian did a few ranting gigs and was a pretty good cartoonist. Paul and he were responsible for crucial skinhead ‘zine Hard As Nails, which set the tone for smartly dressed, good music loving, anti-racist skinheads.



The Railway Hotel, Southend, Saturday May 7th, 1983

Ian says: “I remember that ‘Railway’ gig particularly well – the “real” Southend Poetry Group turned up (all beards and real ale) and we had them jumping around to the bands by the end of the evening. Also recall some scooter-boys and psychobillies who’d turned up to “get the skins”, now that’s what I call edgy poetry!”


Paul Barrett


Ian Fry