Tag Archives: peace

Crass and anarcho-punk symposium, June 28 2013

No Sir, I Won’tReconsidering the Legacy of Crass and Anarcho-punk

Friday 28 June 2013

Organised by Oxford Brookes’ Popular Music Research Unit (PMRU)

in association with the Network of Punk Scholars (NPS)

Stations of the Crass, patch30 years since legendary anarcho-punk group Crass released their highly challenging LP Yes Sir, I Will, this symposium will explore the impact and long-lasting legacy of Crass and anarcho-punk. Crass are widely perceived as ‘reluctant leaders’ of the anarcho-punk scene; an ironic title for self-proclaimed anarchists, of course. The central question, for this study day, is: were Crass and anarcho-punk scene significantly effective politically or, alternatively, was the anarcho-punk scene surreptitiously more about clothes, music, image and ‘symbolic rebellion’ (to use Adorno’s term)?

Newspaper articles, journalist/fan publications and a growing body of scholarly work on Crass and the anarcho-punk music scene has been keen to celebrate the fact that such groups sold many thousands of records (more than a million in total in Crass’s case, reportedly), contributed substantially to the rise of anarchistic strategies on the Left and the revitalization of CND in the UK, drew the attention of the UK establishment including the House of Commons and were eventually prosecuted under the Obscene Publications [A]ct.

Recent scholarly work on punk has challenged classic academic accounts of punk such as Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style. Querying the legitimacy of such accounts has been a specific intention of the nascent Network of Punk Scholars, for example. This symposium, however, would offer a counter-challenge to post-Hebdigean scholars: what is the meaning and politics of punk? What have bands such as Crass done, beyond the ‘bricolage’ which Hebdige describes? What are (were) the limits to their efficacy as agitators? Was/is anarcho-punk really about more than music? If so, was music the best possible vehicle for the forms of agitation which Crass undertook?

Within the study day, in addition to presentations from members of the Punk Network of Scholars and any other interested parties, an afternoon panel combines the views of Penny Rimbaud (the vociferous drummer of Crass), Sarah MacHenry (Crass fan, 1in12 member and ex-Witchknot/Curse of Eve drummer) and George McKay (author of Senseless Acts of Beauty, discussing examples of correspondences he had with Crass in the early 1980s).

Themes for papers might include (but are not limited to):

  • Penny Rimbaud and George McKay in conference discussion, Salford 2008

    Penny Rimbaud and George McKay in conference discussion, Salford 2008

    Specific discussions of Crass

  • Discussions of other bands from the anarcho-punk milieu
  • Comparisons between anarcho-punk and other punk sub-genres
  • Anarcho-punk as a subculture
  • Anarcho-punk as a political ‘culture of resistance’
  • Continuities between hippies, punks, ‘eco-warriors’, ravers and so on
  • Music versus Politics
  • Anarchism versus Marxism
  • Underground versus Mainstream
  • Pacifism versus Violence.

The deadline for proposals for papers is Monday 15 April.

The symposium will be free of charge and will run all day. A free lunch will be provided. However, spaces are limited and interest is expected to be high so it is recommended that you book a place early to avoid disappointment. Those interested in giving a paper or wanting to book a place should contact Dr. Pete Dale at Oxford Brookes  University, pdale@brookes.ac.uk c/o School of Arts, Richard Hamilton Building, Headington Hill, OX3 0BP. Please do not hesitate to contact Pete if you are at all interested in this symposium event.

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Radical Gardening at Housman’s Bookshop, London, 18 April 2012

Thanks to all who made it to the event on Wednesday night. A packed house, good discussion, books sold out, lots of interesting people there doing great things with private, public, squatted gardens. Now, as someone suggested, when and where are we planting Kropotkin’s Garden?…

 

 

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I am delighted to be doing a talk about the book at perhaps the best-known radical bookshop in London, Housman’s. (More soberingly, Housman’s describes itself as ‘one of Britain’s last radical bookshops’.) This is in a series of weekly talks about politics, culture, contemporary society organised by STIR magazine (alliterative strapline: ‘ANGER. ANALYSIS. ACTION’).

Housman’s has a hugely interesting history, related to and a pivotal part of the peace movement since the 1930s:

Housmans Bookshop originally opened on 26 October 1945. Its roots, however, go back to the great upsurge of the British pacifist movement in the 1930s, marked particularly by the founding of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) by Dick Sheppard in 1934….

In 1958, thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of Tom Willis and other Peace News supporters, it became possible to acquire a freehold building at 5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross. After renovation of the then almost 100-year-old premises, Peace News moved into the upper floors during the summer of 1959, and Housmans resumed as a fully fledged bookshop. Dora Dawtry publicly declared the shop open, in the presence of Vera Brittain, at a ceremony on 20 November, to coincide with the Peace News Christmas Bazaar held nearby.

A definite fillip to the Housmans business was the emergence of the vibrant nuclear disarmament movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s, with CND and Committee of 100 material, and a proliferation of other pamphlets and literature, in stock. The shop also served the local community as a general bookshop, greeting cards stockist and stationery retailer. Endsleigh Cards (named after the street in which the PPU offices stood), another trading brand of Peace News, were regularly stocked, especially useful for sending to imprisoned COs all over the world on Prisoners for Peace Day, 1 December each year.

 

Do come to the talk! And ask a question or make a comment. 7 pm, Wednesday 18 April, Housman’s Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX (just round the corner from the British Library).

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