Cable Street and the Public Order Act of 1936.


The British Union of Fascists (BUF) was launched in 1932, just as Hitler was beginning his own ascent into power. It was led by Sir Oswald Mosley, an establishment figure with an aristocratic background who had served as an MP for both the Tory and Labour Parties. (German and Rees, p. 198). The BUF gained much support from the lower middle classes in areas such as Hackney and Stoke Newington from people who resented the growth of large Jewish communities in these areas. As well as this, the BUF also gained support from figures such as Lord Rothermore who owned the Daily Mail. In January 1934 a Daily Mail headline read: ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts.’ (German and Rees, p. 198).

The BUF held an enormous fascist rally in 1934 at Olympia. 5,000 demonstrators led by the Communist Party disrupted the rally in protest. (German and Rees, p. 198). This rally took place before the Public Order Act of 1936 which banned the wearing of political uniforms in any public space or meeting and required the permission of the police for political marches to take place. A great deal of violence ensued in which black-shirted fascist stewards beat up anti-fascist hecklers. As well as this, in 1936 a Fascist march at Cable Street in Stepney was met with 100,000 protestors who succeeded in preventing the black-shirts from passing. These events sparked huge debates over the legitimacy of dissent and protest in public politics and the role of the police and law at political meetings and demonstrations. Lawrence argues that, ‘ultimately the reaction against fascist violence led to a significant increase in the state’s role in this traditionally private sphere of political life.’ (Jon Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) It is worth analysing in more detail then because it is relevant to the theoretical study of social movements.

The pretentious Mosley proclaimed The Olympia meeting to be the largest indoor meeting ever held  with an audience of 15,000, and used an audacious array of lighting and mass speaker systems. (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) Jon Lawrence argues that ‘many of the most interesting aspects of the Olympia controversy were less about the rights and wrongs of fascism than about where to draw the line between ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ behaviour within democratic politics. To what extent should politicians tolerate disorder and organized protest as part of the rough and tumble of popular politics, and how should they go about controlling the excesses of the political crowd?’ (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) Mosley fully believed in and condoned the mobilisation of huge private forces. However, this was considered intrinsically ‘un-British’ and after the Battle of Cable Street a political consensus emerged which allowed the Public Order Act to be passed. Lawrence argues that up until this point, politicians and the public had ‘balked’ at the using of police to maintain order at indoor political meetings. (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) This is because at the time, the nature of political meetings and peoples’ reactions to political violence were very different.

During the Edwardian and Victorian period, force within politics was widely accepted. Rowdiness and disruption at political meetings was common place. Lawrence explains that as late as 1908, ‘Sir George Radford (Liberal, Islington East) described political disorder as “a form of sport which was as well recognised as football”; while Will Thorne (Labour, West Ham) simply argued that if they wanted to stop disruption “It was for those who organised the meetings to make proper provision”’ (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) People felt that they had the right to speak out at political meetings and it was widely accepted, that the political party who held the meeting, would mobilise their own stewards to deal with any trouble. The police were in complete agreement on this issue. Such a culture though, played a direct role in the birth of Mosley’s para-military BUF. However, Mosley had not picked up on the change in attitude towards such behaviour that was occurring, and this would ultimately lead to the downfall of his black-shirts. Lawrence confirms: ‘An important factor in Mosley’s failure was his refusal to recognize that political sensibilities had hardened against disruption and disorder in the years since the First World War.’ (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) Although, this was eventually recognised by Mosley, the threat of Fascist violence, and the chaos of the Cable Street Riots all led to a political consensus that favoured the increase of state regulation in British politics. (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.)

Despite official leaders of the labour and Jewish movement being against militant mobilization against the black-shirts, the Communist Party, the Independent Labour Party and some elements of the Jewish ex-servicemen’s organisation and the Jewish youth were prepared to resist the blackshirts, and on October 1936 they assembled a mighty 100,000 protestors to flock Cable Street. (German and Rees, p. 198.) Although not all of the leaders of leftist movements were entirely ‘United’ in their their goal, Bill Fisherman, who was a member of the Labour Youth League, commented that the mobilisation ‘seemed like an act of solidarity because, on the same day, the Republicans in Spain were also preparing to defend Madrid against General Franco’s nationalist forces.’ (German and Rees, p. 199.) The crowd that assembled considered themselves ‘United’ and certainly represented themselves with ‘Numbers’ worthy of a united social movement. Protestors were carrying banners proclaiming ‘No Pasaran’ which was the slogan taken from the Spanish Republicans which meant, ‘They shall not pass.’ (German and Rees, p. 199.) This symbolic use of ‘repertoire’ is evidence of the Left aligning itself together, making connections between each others ‘claims’ and identifying a common enemy. Fisherman recalls further:

‘The tension rose and we began chanting, “One, two, three, four, five! We want Mosley dead or alive!” and “They shall not pass!” Mosley encountered his first setback from a lone tram driver. About 50 yards away from me at Gardiner’s Corner, I saw a tram pull up in the middle of the junction — barring the Blackshirts’ route from Aldgate to Whitechapel. Then the driver got out and walked off. I found out later he was a member of the Communist Party. At that point the police charged the crowd to disperse us. They were waving their truncheons, but we were so packed together there was nowhere for us to go.”’ (German and Rees, p. 199.)

The police continually charged at the crowds with significant use of force in an attempt to disperse the anti-fascist protestors, but failed to do so. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Philip Game, directed Mosley and the fascists to go through Royal Mint Street and Cable Street but the communists used loudspeakers to direct their own crowd and form more barricades which the police simply could not dismantle. Violence continued to escalate and eventually the police had to instruct the blackshirts to abandon the march. This defeat is widely considered to be the beginning of the end of Mosley and his blackshirts. (German and Rees, p. 200.) It is important to note that all of Charles Tilly’s social movement criteria applies to the BUF as well. They had their own repertoire and elements of WUNC. What is interesting though is how the movement failed after laws were put in place that prohibited the actions of their repertoire. Like any successful social movement, the BUF’s repertoire worked in accordance with their aims and objectives. The reason Mosley was so pro political-violence was because, ideologically, fascism, will not tolerate political dissent. Their repertoire had to contain elements of intimidation, and violence because their ‘claims’ were to completely overhaul political freedom and democracy. When they were no longer able to apply such tactics, the movement lost any sense of purpose and deteriorated.

Although due to time constraints this issue will not be covered in much depth, but the importance of space and place is essential here. The BUF battled for control of public space in the east end of London. Both sides, Communist and Fascist, ‘thought explicitly in terms of the conquest or defence of ‘territory’, conceptualizing their struggle through the metaphors of war.’ (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) When the BUF announced plans to step up its East End activities in the summer of 1934, it openly acknowledged that the ‘Reds’ would be ‘very annoyed at the invasion of the East’, because for years they had ‘looked upon [the district] . . . as their own’. (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) The blackshirts were almost trying to claim back territory that they claimed had been lost to Jewish communities. The space itself was the object of the ‘claim’ that the movement was making. Contentious politics tend to take place in urban social spaces because they are a resource, not only to mobilise ‘numbers’ in, but they serve as a site in which symbolic activity can take place and ‘communities of interest’ can develop in particular areas which cultivate groups with collective ‘identity claims.’

The Cable Street Riots took political violence onto the streets on a massive scale, and many feared that it posed an immediate threat to public order. (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) People were aware of the brutal street politics that were taking place on the Continent and did not want it at home. As a result, Lawrence states that ‘most on the Left were prepared to accept tougher controls on political meetings and demonstrations in return for sweeping legislation to limit fascist activities on the street.’ (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.) Organisations could no longer form para-military wings and the fascists right to march had been curtailed. As well as this the Right won tougher powers to control political disruption and public protest in general. (Lawrence, pp. 238-267.)

It was after Cable Street then that the state had an increased role in controlling public protest. The 1936 Act stated that police permission was needed for a march to take place. This is an extremely significant historical moment. Michael Lipsky claims that, ‘police may be conceived as street-level bureaucrats who represent government to the people.’ (Michael Lipsky, p. 78) With this in mind, the police with power to control public protest, can enforce a particular agenda for the government. Such changes in legislation came about as a response to the real threat of militant fascist violence. Such a threat no longer exists and so, it could be argued that the excessive amount of police force and state control over political demonstrations these days, which includes an enormous amount of surveillance and information gathering which is used for the purpose of sabotage and the restriction of resources, is an encroachment of peoples constitutional rights of freedom of speech and rights of expression and is therefore unconstitutional and undemocratic. Allyson MacVean and Peter Neyroud back this point up explaining how the Public Order Act of 1936 led to the Public Order Act of 1986 which ‘introduced greater measures to control disorder from demonstrations and protests.’ (MacVean and Neyroud, p. 91.)  ‘The 1986 Act requires protest groups intending to march or protest to give notification to the police at least six days in advance of the event taking place, allowing the police to prohibit or place conditions on the event… It is only with the authority of the Secretary of State that the police can prohibit a march.’ (MacVean and Neyrou, p. 91.) 

It is worth remembering this when studying any form of protest because if the targets of a movements ‘claims’ are the government, then they have to consider the extent of how much the state will control and shape the nature of their own protest. Repertoires, in order to be effective, have to take these facts into consideration, and be formed in ways that can avoid excessive state control. This is why the study of culture is essential to social movement theory, because it can be an effective way of bypassing conventional forms of protest that the state has tight control of.


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Unite The Union Banner


The Unite the Union banner is a disobedient object that embodies in many ways the ideas of Social Movement theory. It contains ‘symbols, identities, practices and discourses’ that Vera Taylor and Nella van Dyke consider essential to ‘pursue or prevent changes in institutionalized power relations.’ (Taylor and Van Dyke, p. 48).

The actual object is in itself an act of defiance. It is a protest banner designed for a march in Manchester (2013) in support of the NHS.

The key word here is protest. The very fact that this banner is used for a protest indicates the contentious nature of the politics. Contentious politics is always the result of ‘individuals, groups or organisations that have no direct control or access to the power or decision-making apparatus.’

In this particular case, the ‘activists’ have no way of staking their ‘claim’ through the usual channels of political protocol and so make a ‘claim’ to the ‘power holders’ contentiously through the means of either indirect persuasion or coercion. Michael Lipsky succinctly states that: ‘Protest is a political resource of the powerless.’ (Lipsky, p. 56).

This banner was taken out on a march to protest against the privatisation of the NHS. It is part of the movements ‘repertoire.’ A movements repertoire is, according to Charles Tilly’s methodology for studying social movements, a number of activities available to a movement that allows them to express ‘claims’ within a ‘campaign.’ In fact, in order to qualify as a social movement in which this methodology would apply, the movement must be a ‘campaign.’ A campaign is ‘a sustained and organised public effort, making collective claims on target audiences,’ it must have a ‘repertoire’, and also publicly display elements of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment. (W.U.N.C). The Unite the Union banner allows us to see how the movement in which it was made for, displays all three of these elements and thus qualifies to be studied using Tilly’s methodology.

Even the name of the movement, Unite, demonstrates one of the elements of W.U.N.C. Unity is essential for social movements and indeed the images on the banner are geared towards demonstrating such displays of unity. At the front of the picket line is a banner within a banner declaring that: ‘Unity is strength’. This banner was specifically made for the South Yorkshire Community Branch of Unite, but the symbolism seeks to place the South Yorkshire branch into its place within a much larger united organisation. The banner mentions the 1980 steel workers strike, the 1984-5 great strike and the 1984 battle of Orgreave. It also visually demonstrates the victory of the Poll Tax rebellion with more banners within banners and in the same way illustrates the Barnsley women against pit closure strike. This particular strike in support of the NHS then is not being presented as an isolated strike. The symbolism is designed to indicate that this event is part of a much larger social movement in which the badges, banners, costumes, emblems and synchronized movements (all explicit on the banner) serve as a kind of gel. This obviously lends more weight to the movement, which in turn gives more weight to the claims that they make to the power holders. Numbers are also demonstrated in the banner.

The banner is busy. The crowds are packed and full of energy. The banner depicts a real physical presence which is in itself a goal of any social movement and also a factor that qualifies it to be studied as a social movement. In the banner we can clearly see people finding strength in numbers as a form of protest. In social movement theory this is known as ‘the logic of numbers.’ A show of strength, unity and solidarity ‘undermines the perceived power of the regime.’

It also shows that a significant portion of the public strongly disagree with something. This is also a concern for power holders at times of elections for it could draw attention to questionable policies or interfere with campaigning. There are also potential drawbacks though, for example, huge numbers could create fear and end up alienating the public, however, this is the challenge of a social movement, to weigh up, and balance exactly which parts of their repertoire they should use at certain times and where. It is this behaviour by social movements which in fact sheds light on the conditions of the time which is of much use to historians.

Commitment is also demonstrated in the banner. The symbolism of the raised, clenched fist is extremely powerful. Commitment is an essential part of W.U.N.C because visible sacrifice and dedication highlights to the power holders, and indeed the ‘subjects’ how committed they are to their cause which in turn lends weight to their claims because it increases pressure. A form of commitment that is clear with the Unite the Union banner, is the quality of the art work: ‘Working from his south London garage, Hall hand-stitches the banners himself, and estimates that this piece took about 150 hours to complete.’ (

This is not a banner then that was designed to be used for one march and then disposed of. It is a symbol. A unifying cultural item that members of a movement can relate to and find strength in. The sheer number of hours it took to hand stitch is also a clear indication of the longevity, dedication and also the importance of ‘performance’ within a social movement. The actual physical maneuvering of this banner on a march is all part of the movements repertoire as a means of persuading or gaining leverage over decision makers. The banner also depicts lots of people occupying and filling spaces.

Space is an essential idea within social movement theory. Don Mitchell explains: ‘In public space … organisations can represent themselves to the larger population and through this representation give their cries and demands some force. By claiming space in public or by creating public spaces, social groups themselves become public and, in this sense, public spaces are absolutely essential to the functioning of democratic politics.’ (Mitchell, p. 23).

Movements and contentious politics ‘emanate from’ urban social spaces. The space has some bearing over the formation and development of the movement.

This it is why it is essential to apply appropriate methodologies for analysing spatial elements of protest.

Henri Lefebvre created a methodology for understanding how social space is constructed called the ‘Conceptual Triad of “Social” Space’ in which there is perceived space, conceived space and lived space. (Lefebvre, p. 47).

Perceived space is the actual real, physical space that people occupy all the time, conceived space is the way in which the perceived space is designed and ‘theoretically shaped by those charged with controlling the space and with managing interactions between people and space, and finally, lived space is the way that ‘perceived space is shaped and created by the people who interact with it and how the use of the space is influenced by those interactions rather than the way it is designed.’

This is significant to the formation of social movements because if the power holders are the ones who control conceived space then they will design it in a way that suits their own interests and determines the way subjects will interact with that space. Therefore, it is a political act if lived space is interacted with in a way that the power holders did not intend. This could be using a public site for protest (however, there are cases in which power holders design space with this in mind so as to control public protest) or ceasing to use a space conceived to be a site of ‘exchange’ and instead reasserting the ‘use’ of a space. It has been argued that ‘space of flows’ has replaced the ‘space of places’. This is a theory in which ‘divisions between separate spaces of ‘production’, ‘consumption‘ and ‘exchange’ are broken down to allow capital to flow freely between spaces.

This means that peoples work, leisure and home life become interlinked with ‘exchange’ and thus become trapped in a pernicious process of commodification and consumerism. However, in the Triad of Social Space theory there is ‘lived space‘ in which one can interact with the space on their own terms. One can choose to reject the idea of boundless (capitalist) flow and ‘use’ the space in a different way.

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Trashmouth Part 3 – ‘Yuppies Out Manifesto.’

Skip to 3:10 for Meatraffle’s ‘Yuppies Out,’ but you may as well check out the last bit of the last song!
A predominant and unifying thread that runs throughout this movement is the anti-gentrification slogan, ‘Yuppies Out.’ Trashmouth signees Fat White Family started the ‘Yuppies Out’ protest group and have organised various demonstrations that have turned this movement into more of a coherent ‘campaign.’ A ‘campaign’ in this context is a sustained and organised public effort, making collective claims on target audiences. This campaign has built up a ‘social movement repertoire’ and demonstrates public displays of Worthiness, Unity, Numbers and Commitment (W.U.N.C).
The pictures below are of a ‘Yuppies Out’ protest in Brixton. It is important to note that this was not just one isolated ‘performance.’ It is part of a larger series of ‘episodes’ that are interconnected so as to apply more pressure on the power holders. This particular ‘performance’ was specifically against a new champagne bar called ‘Champagne and Fromage’ that opened in October 2013. Lots of locals in this working class area struggling to make ends meet are getting priced out of the Brixton area because rents are shooting up. ‘Yuppies Out’ posted on the demonstrations facebook event page:  ‘A dark cloud is ominously looming above the once pure skys [sic] of Brixton … this cloud is called CHAMPAGNE AND FROMAGE and from the 15th of October it will rain on us until we drown in a sea of estate agents, champagne swilling yummy mummies and the so called “fizz fiends”… cunts! WE WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS. DEATH TO CHAMPAGNE AND FROMAGE! YUPPIES OUT!’ 
Worthiness is demonstrated: mothers can be seen protesting with children as demonstrated in the photos below. Unity is demonstrated with the use of synchronised movement (chanting) and ‘Yuppies Out’ and ‘Champagne and Fromage Out!’ banners. Numbers are demonstrated; the space outside the bar was occupied by a crowd 50 strong and finally, commitment is also demonstrated. This movement adopts much ‘against the odds’ behaviour. For example, ‘Yuppies Out’ is illegally scribbled in all sorts of contentious places and has gained for itself quite a sacrificial and formidable reputation. ‘Contentious’ is a key word here though for it is certainly a form of contentious politics.
According to Vera Taylor: ‘Protests are sites of contestation in which bodies, symbols, identities, practices and discourses are used to pursue or prevent changes in institutionalized power relations.’ (Vera Taylor, p. 67.) Contentious politics is always the result of having no direct control or access to the power or decision-making apparatus. This is the only way that ‘activists’ can have some bearing on the process of gentrification because the ‘activists’ have no way of staking their ‘claim’ through the usual channels of political protocol and so have to make a ‘claim’ to the ‘power holders’ contentiously through the means of either indirect persuasion or coercion. In this instance, we see both persuasion and coercion. Michael Lipsky succinctly states that: ‘Protest is a political resource of the powerless.’ (Lipsky, p. 56.) There are certain logics though that underpin exactly how this protest is played out.
The logic of numbers: Gathering large numbers of activists inevitably demonstrates a show of strength and solidarity.  It shows that the movement has the ability to disrupt civil society and even undermine the power holders perceived strength. It also shows that there is a significant proportion of people who are residents of Brixton who do not like the gentrification that cafes such as ‘Champagne and Fromage’ embody. However, it must be said that this could work the other way, for indeed, the aspirational middle class professionals who also live in Brixton might well be pleased that cafes such as this are opening and creating a more affluent neighbourhood. It is not in their interests then for every day life to be disrupted. The aggressive rhetoric of ‘cunts! WE WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS. DEATH TO CHAMPAGNE AND FROMAGE! YUPPIES OUT!’ might also alienate those who are sympathetic because it creates a sense of fear, but also could well have the effect of making the movement appear unserious. It is also unlikely that any small hints of irony or complexity would be understood and thus, only serve to discredit the movement.
The logic of disruptive and violent damage: The last photo of this blog shows the graffitied slogan, ‘Yuppies Out’ sprayed onto a Foxton’s estate agents. This has both a symbolic and instrumental effect. It is symbolic in the sense that news agents symbolise gentrification. When an area becomes gentrified estate agents move in. As ‘Yuppies Out’ said themselves: ‘it will rain on us until we drown in a sea of estate agents…’ It is also symbolic in its complete disregard for authority. Such an act is illegal but has been considered as the right strategy for the right movement at the right time because there is an ‘instrumental’ value. Causing such a news agents a financial loss, or smearing their reputation, even if it be in a miniscule way, shows the vulnerability of the targets. This is the goal and incentive for assembling the right repertoire: Demonstrate the vulnerability of the target. However, such acts could alienate less radical members of the movement or population. The aggressiveness and disruption, although demonstrating commitment, could also cause an increase in oppressive actions by the authorities. Fat White Family and ‘Yuppies Out’ would argue though that radical behaviour is necessary for people to take notice. The economic forces that drive gentrification are a relentless, hegemonic tide so a completely legal repertoire would probably be ineffective and would not be taken seriously at all. However, I must admit, that certain choices that have been made and the way this movement has conducted itself at times has also lost the movement credibility.
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‘Thinking about moving to Hastings.’ Trashmouth Part 3 – ‘Yuppies Out!!!!!!!!’

This compilation album was released by Trashmouth at the end of last year. The title of the album gives an indication of the strong ‘anti-gentrification of London sentiment’ that is expressed by many bands in this movement. It is an ironic title. Many artists being priced out of London have to consider leaving to comfortable alternatives such as Hastings.

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Bat-Bike Part 3 In relation to these bands and this movement, an examination of subcultural authenticity and resistance is essential. David Muggleton explains in his book, Inside Subculture: The Postmodern Meaning of Style that: ‘In a two-way process, authentic stylistic resistance occurs through bricolage, an act of transformation by which a new and original style is formed through plunder and recontextualization as a challenge to the hegemony of the dominant culture.’ (Muggleton, p. 131.) Such radical creativity is then incorporated through media and commercial exploitation through a process of either defusion or diffusion. Through the process of ‘defusion’, the subversive potential of the subculture is sanitized as the dominant culture begins to commodify the subculture into a commercial form. Diffusion on the other hand is when the original nucleus and message of the subculture finds its way to a mass public with its subversive potential still in tact. (Muggleton, p. 132.) Already at this early stage in this social movement, unfortunately a process of ‘defusion’ seems to have started. To some extent the biggest band on the Trashmouth roster, Fat White Family, have begun to dilute their message.    Having accepted an NME award now, The Fat Whites are playing the NME award tour with, what might be considered a rather tame and commercial band called Palma Violets. It is said that the Fat Whites scrawled Yuppies Out’ in the Palma Violets recording studio last year in a protest against mediocre bands and a mediocre music industry, and what people thought perhaps, a mediocre NME. However, Fat Whites have been embracing the NME and now they seem to be embracing a band they were once critical of. Are they being swallowed up by the dominant culture? Only time will tell? Thankfully, Bat-Bike are the real deal though!

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Trashmouth: Part 2 – Bat-Bike

1377425_787712834632820_6524945325330584748_n  10696390_722870937783677_64135480786139522_n Bat-Bike’s night, ‘Chubby’ can be seen as a movement culture. The night is steeped in ideas that try to tackle and resist a form of cultural hegemony that serves to support the position of the power holder in society. Bat-Bike consider the power holders to be mainstream major record labels that have cornered the market and squeezed the excitement and authenticity out of music. They are particularly concerned with how this process is manifesting itself in London. In fact, every band in this movement is London based, and is directly concerned with the cultural and economic hegemony at play in London. As J Bat, (member of Bat-Bike) explains himself: ‘HAAAAY!!! the 1st ina series of nites we are gona try host in deptford of good music..none of that knock off koolness, we are lookin for the realdealmccoylivinitforlife type thing…if u bring ur shit to the night or an east london attitude its time to repent and see there is another way full of love and beautiful music thats got some death in it but its mainly love and some death…’ What is meant by this ‘knock off koolness’ and ‘east london attitude?’ There are massive hints of anti-gentrification here. This is a serious attack on a predominant attitude that is absolutely everywhere in London at the moment: ‘tha lights in london getting 2 big and no-one gives a penguin about guitars anymore…they all wana play MACBOOK jeyboards and speak really quiet in small clothes they pretend are their nans but I knw the truth that u bought them off a dying rich boi who just moved into the avant garde tower in shore ditch…’ Shoreditch is specifically mentioned here. Shoreditch was one of the first gentrified areas invaded by middle class hipsters who, as Alex Proud says in his article in the Telegraph, ‘in their quest to be different, have wound up virtually identical. Go into any hipster venue and you’ll see. From the microbrewery ales and ironically-drunk mass-market lagers to upcycled furniture and jumble-sale ’70s suburban art, they’re all cool by numbers. The people dress the same, they eat the same and the conversations sound the same.’ (Alex Proud) This then, is a formula, a brand and a process of commodification determined by the forces of the market place. ‘It’s as much a part of mainstream consumer culture as iPhones and Sky TV and as global as Starbucks.’ (Alex Proud) J Bat very astutely observes: ‘they all wana play MACBOOK jeyboards and speak really quiet in small clothes they pretend are their nans but I knw the truth that u bought them off a dying rich boi who just moved into the avant garde tower in shore ditch…’ This is spot on. There is a fashion to wear retro clothes that look as if they might have been bought for £2 in a charity shop, but the truth is, these clothes are expensive.  When relating this idea to the music industry things look much more worrying. This same ‘hipster’ scene creates the perfect malleable and gullible target audience that the music industry preys on. As Billy Corgon from the Smashing Pumpkins explained in an interview to NME: ‘My caveat is that now we have a system of middle-of-the-road non-risk-takers that seem to be risk-takers but aren’t really,’ he added. ‘It’s systemically rewarding the wrong end of the art world.’ ( ‘Hipsters’ appear cutting edge, but in reality they are middle of the road non-risk takers, more than happy to adhere to the dominant culture which serves the dominant ideology. This inevitably squeezes anything that’s different, or contrary into the fringes. This is a very basic explanation of the cultural hegemony in London. I am fully aware that many of these scenes enjoyed authentic beginnings, however, what is of interest in this study is how cultural and social movements are responding to this process of cultural hegemony. Bat-Bike do not charge an entry fee for ‘Chubby:’ The night is FREE obviously…we cant jump on the money train that is quickly destroying london and leaving lots of young and old people confused as to where to put their energy and time…please come down, we would all really love it if u came a shared the night with us.’ This is one way that a social movement can prevent their cultural messages from being too diluted or appropriated by the dominant culture. They have clearly recognized the way in which culture is being commodified and in an attempt to reaffirm the ‘value’ of their art, they refuse to put a financial ‘price’ on it. The same can be said for the nine albums that Bat-Bike have released and made available for download. Pretty much all of them are free: Movement cultures can influence change in a number of ways. Bat-Bike here, are diffusing their message into society, not just via the content of their material, but by the form of what they are doing. They are communicating their message by giving it away for free. Their repertoire then, matches their message which is always a goal for social movements so as to earn credibility. The content of what they do is also by its very nature anti-establishment. The song ‘THUMBS UP’ is a good example: ‘I eat chocolate eggs at Easter, cos he’s dead, that’s why he died for our sins. I watch X-Factor cos my life doesn’t matter, that’s why he died for our sins. I care who shot Phil Mitchell, it matters, thats why he died for our sins.’ This song is the definition of irony. It is funny and playful, but also full of anger. It is sheer disillusionment with commodification, music being sold as a form of consumerism and competition (X-Factor) and meaningless soaps that feed back into culture an apathetic way of life that people consciously or unconsciously emulate because it is being shown to them on TV. The Sitar guitar solo is surely confirmation of the irony. On Tuesday night, this song was played live in it’s electric punk form. It was much more angry and full of vitriol. At times Bat-Bike are more specific in their political goals: 10850243_1568391096739053_4281255846054348153_n J Bat has ‘NHS’ on his chest. He is making a stand against the privatisation of the NHS. Being on stage gives a performer a platform in which they will be seen. Stripping down into your boxers is a reaction against convention in itself, but scribbling NHS on your chest is a more direct act of protest. Small gestures and symbols such as this are part of the movements ‘repertoire.’ A movements repertoire is, according to Charles Tilly’s methodology for studying social movements, a number of activities available to a movement that allows them to express ‘claims’ within a ‘campaign.’  This is an act of contentious politics. Contentious politics is always the result of ‘individuals, groups or organisations that have no direct control or access to the power or decision-making apparatus.’ In this particular case, the ‘activists’ have no way of staking their ‘claim’ through the usual channels of political protocol and so make a ‘claim’ to the ‘power holders’ contentiously through the means of either indirect persuasion or coercion. Michael Lipsky succinctly states that: ‘Protest is a political resource of the powerless.’ The Chubby event posters are also full of contentious symbolism. Much like the poor spelling and grammar and generally scribbled nature of the Chubby bio, these posters seem very ramshackle and thrown together. They could have run their writing though a spell check, or written a more refined version, but, they want to present something honest and authentic. This in itself could be seen as part of Bat-Bike’s repertoire. In a world of slick, inoffensive advertisements, air brushed by graphic designers to conform to what is considered fashionable, these posters seem quite radical. They show a disregard for slickness. Slickness, does not, and should not matter. They are showing that the substance, not the style, is what is important. In todays market, style is definitely favoured over substance and so these posters are a breath of fresh air. They look like they were just bashed out on Microsoft Paintbrush in a few minutes but have more humour and intent than much of the promotion you see in mainstream music: 10917325_774202459317191_1252640379772365191_n    1470178_751422261595211_5627788554465433967_n There are pound signs crossed out with the childish crayola font, Sauron’s all-seeing eye looking down from the Shard onto an Islamic terrorist with Boris Johnson breathing crayola flames whilst David Cameron looks on in double vision looking rather pleased with himself. Cameron and Johnson have been cut out from magazines badly. The top of Johnson’s head is gone and red background can be detected behind Cameron’s head. To some, this would look like a shoddy design, but Bat-Bike are talented art-school graduates who could design a slick, hip poster if they wanted. But what would be the point? They are putting across an attitude that effects how the content and form of their political message are being received by the audience. There is a ramshackle, DIY attitude that sets the tone of what the night is about. It is about resisting the conventions that are imposed on you by a dominant ideology and finding a way of asserting the value of culture as opposed to the price. Even just going along to this night and soaking it up is a form of protest because it shows that people don’t need popular culture in order to be entertained or feel a sense of belonging. ‘Chubby’ shows that you can bypass the popular culture that is imposed on us. Perhaps this is a post-post punk idea, but this is a very specific scene based in a very specific place, Deptford. Therefore, it is very much in a grass roots stage. Grass roots is a key word here because it feels that this particular night, ‘Chubby’ is about staying grass roots. It is about refusing to compromise authenticity and never conforming to the pressures of the market place in a way where there is still humour, playfulness and innocence so as to not simply become reactionary, but angry and aware of the hostile economic forces that control and squeeze the life out of culture. 1377425_787712834632820_6524945325330584748_n   10712700_730603397010431_2413782409867965578_n

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Trashmouth: Part 2 – Bat-Bike Part 1 : ‘MICRO MEDIA’

Below are the facebook details of the first three ‘Chubby’ events put on by Trashmouth’s Bat-Bike. There have only been three, the third in fact was two nights ago. I have pasted each nights bio at the beginning of this blog because these contain the most important written evidence.  Analysis will continue in the next blog. Night 1:
Night 2: ‘IM SRY IM SRY as Boris Johnsons innocence jumped out the window on the shards top floor…its calm though cos he’s got half a million metal tank bikes named after him and can ride them to remember that he runs this shit…though it would be better if he could look like a don while doing it…than pretending he didnt run it…when he does and looking like he dnt knw whts up…looking like the GOD FATHER OF LONDON…and then the piss started filling up the toilet and I was like…jeehze gotta put on a nite of music thats got no piss and some innocence left in it or all the tank bikes and new london buildings are gonna kill me and everyone else…so come on down to the birdsnest ranch and put ya feet up on someone sleeping drunk sad and sad and mourning for london…gona be some great music…every band gots mainly life in it and thats the best u could hope for.’
Night 3: ‘we dont knw!! you dnt knw!! if you do please fucking tell us cos we just spinn out here playboi…tha lights in london getting 2 big and no-one gives a penguin about guitars anymore…they all wana play MACBOOK jeyboards and speak really quiet in small clothes they pretend are their nans but I knw the truth that u bought them off a dying rich boi who just moved into the avant garde tower in shore ditch…Its time to play dirty and start cutting up ballz and breasts….here IS SOME MUsIcK!! FOR YALL THAT is trying for something of love and greatstuuff….fuck everything else…this is the shit.’
AN IMPORTANT POINT ABOUT THESE FLYERS: David Muggleton states in Inside Subculture: The Postmodern Meaning of Style that ‘micro-media, such as fanzines, listings, posters and flyers, are … integral to the networking process of assembling individuals as a crowd for a specific purpose and imbuing them with a particular identity.’ (Muggleton, p. 135.) This sense of identity is tangible in this movement. A closer examination will also continue in the next blog but below is all the content Bat-Bike published on social media site facebook.
Subculturalists proclaim their authenticity according to Muggleton, ‘against a subcultural ‘Other.’ (Muggleton, p. 136.) Muggleton is concerned with how subculturalists see the role of the media in the construction of inauthentic ‘Others.’ ‘“Others” are denigrated as mass-media-influenced.‘ (Muggleton, p. 137.) A subculturalist as might be expected then, inverts this relationship ‘when referring to themselves, disparaging the mass media (a sure sign of “selling out”), yet championing micro-media such as fanzines as an authentic, grass-roots means of communication, thus confirming an earlier finding by Lull, that flyers and fanzines were “trusted sources of information.”’ (Muggleton, p. 137-138.) Such a form of ‘micro media’ is demonstrated in the following Bat-Bike flyers. Muggleton stresses this subcultural, authentic/false polarity. In a study of the punk movement, Muggleton explains how his interviewees constantly distinguished between ‘authenticity’ and ‘falsity:’ ‘Note how Matt characterizes the visual evidence of those first gigs as “the real photographs”, thereby suggesting their authenticity, presumably in relation to the “falsity” of the mass media.’ (Mugleton, p. 138.) In this way, Bat-Bike are aligning themselves against a form of popular culture and mass media in order to preserve the authenticity that affords their subcultural movement longevity. Muggleton explains: ‘Many subculturalists fully recognized the pervasiveness of the media and the inevitability of its influence on people’s lives. But consistently with findings in the previous chapters, media effects were most usually attributed to others or retrospectively to a point in one’s own past in order to authenticate a more recent situation … one’s own heterogeneity and originality is first contrasted to the relative lack of such qualities in a subcultural or conventional “Other” or past situation. Various media are then positioned and defined as mass or otherwise on the basis of this contrast. Their relative “massness” is therefore derived from the homogenization of the “Other”, not in terms of any pre-defined formal qualities.’ (Muggleton, pp. 139-140). This is a process that Bat-Bike demonstrate.
Bat-Bike’s poster (which can be found below) of Jessie J demonstrates a playful contempt for the commercial singer who sang the supposedly anti-materialistic line ‘it’s not about the money, money, money’ in her song ‘Price tag.’ Jessie J is the ultimate ‘brand’ who showed a willingness to curtail to the rules of the music industry and the forces of the market place. The song claims that its message is about the un-importance of money and the embracing of individuality, but, the formulaic pop song structure along with the way the Jessie J brand has been marketed show that the single was obviously calculated to get the most radio plays possible and make as much money as possible. The lyric should have been, ‘it’s all about the money’ because the machine she is working in is all about generating as much profit as possible at the expense of other fringe, ‘individualistic’ artists. This is significant to us in this context  because of the flippant and symbolic way Bat-Bike expose such hypocrisy. As Muggleton suggests, the claims for authenticity that subculturalists make are ‘conditional upon the “mass-media” -influenced inauthenticity of others. Bat-Bike are using Jessie J as ‘other.’ (Muggleton, p. 140.) 10712700_730603397010431_2413782409867965578_nMore analysis of style and symbolism in next post. See micro media below:
Cover Photo

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10686763_783789791691791_3636993266266430203_n Iggy Pop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!****£££$$$$$

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Trashmouth: Part 1 – An Introduction


This is the first of a series of blogs that will set out to analyze the emerging sub-culture that is Trashmouth. Trashmouth is the name of an independent, London based record label that has signed an array of London (it is really very difficult to define these bands with the mere use of words so please excuse my crude description), art-school, post-punk psychedelic freak out bands that in their own right, display many theoretical features that qualify them and their own communities as ‘sub-cultures.’ Trashmouth has tied them all together though, bringing them all underneath one umbrella. This has had the effect, from a theoretical point of view, of changing the goals and the way the sub-culture is diffusing its message into the mainstream. It has highlighted the shift from each individual bands own sub-culture that they practiced in relative obscurity to a different form of cultural resistance and so is an opportune moment to conduct a case study. As a unified sub-culture, there is now a greater ‘repertoire’ and certainly a more ambitious goal. Whereas before many of these bands sought to subtly subvert the dominant culture, they are now part of a larger structure that has larger boundaries that has within it a different set of particular ‘activities’, ‘focal concerns’ and ‘territorial spaces’ that they use and associate themselves with, as a way to bring about change. (Hall, p. 7.) These three elements are according to Stuart Hall, part of the make-up of a sub-culture, and I plan to study how Trashmouth and certain particular bands signed to this label, demonstrate these elements, showing how they qualify as a form of cultural resistance, and exploring how the different ways they go about their ‘activities’ and presenting their ‘focal concerns’ sheds light on the conditions of the dominant culture and the socio-economic foundations on which it is a product of.


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A little word about the approach…

For this project I plan to apply the theoretical apparatus set out by Charles Tilly in his books Social Movements 1768-2004 and Social Movements, Old and New and will give a brief description of the framework in this first blog, seeing as I intend to apply it throughout the course. Tilly claims that the fundamental elements making up a social movement are as follows:

  • Power Holders (objects) i.e. Those that hold power such as governments.
  • Activists (claimants) i.e. the leaders, participants and supporters of those making the claim
  • Subjects (beneficiaries) i.e. those who stand to benefit from an activists claim despite not being involved in the claim making.

Most importantly though Tilly suggests that there are three fundamental factors that have to be in play in order to qualify as a bona fide social movement:

  1. A ‘Campaign’ – i.e. a sustained and organised public effort that makes collective claims on target audiences.
  2. A ‘Repertoire’ – i.e. the employment of means in order to express claims within a campaign.
  3. Public displays of W.U.N.C which stands for , Worthiness, Unity, Numbers and Commitment.

These Tilly claims developed in the West after 1750 and are the common link that makes a social movement a social movement. He defines ‘social movements as a distinctive form of contentious politics – contentious in the sense that social movements involve collective making of claims that, if realized, would conflict with someone else’s interests, politics in the sense that governments of one sort or another figure somehow in the claim making, whether as claimants, objects of claims, allies of the objects, or monitors of the contention.’ (Tilly, p. 3.) As well as Tilly’s theoretical structure it is also worth considering what analysts and participants began calling ‘new social movements’ (NSMs) after 1968. (Calhoun, p. 173.)

These NSMs ‘worked outside formal institutional channels and emphasized lifestyle, ethical, or “identity” concerns rather than narrowly economic goals.’ (Calhoun, p. 173.) NSM theorists are not concerned with the nineteenth and early twentieth century working class or labour movement because the world we live in now, it could be argued, is a post-modern and post-industrial industrial period in which ‘the transcendence of capitalism is no longer plausible’ and people enjoy a relative affluence and high standard of living. (Calhoun, p. 178.) People and social movements now then are not concerned with fundamental social transformation as they used to be, but are geared towards more specific isolated goals, such as ‘the gay movement, the animal rights movement and the antiabortion and prochoice movements,’ for example. (Calhoun, p. 173.) NSM theorists then would claim that the ideas of Tilly are out of date for studying social movements of the 20th century. However, in ‘‘New Social Movements” of the Early Nineteenth Century,’ Craig Calhoun argues that NSMs instead of being an isolated phenomenon of the late 20th century, do actually apply usefully to social movements of the early nineteenth century as well. So there is some sort of a cross over here.

In fact, ‘all movements in their nascent period-including the labour movement and social democracy-tend to fit certain aspects of the NSM model.’ (Calhoun, p. 174.) By not isolating such a study into a postmodern or postindustrial framework one can understand more widely the whole modern history of social movements. Calhoun turns specifically to a list of the most widely cited distinguishing features of late 20th century NSMs and gives examples of how such features are in fact also relevant to earlier social movements:

  • Identity, Autonomy and Self-realization
  • Defense Rather Than Offense-defensive orientations
  • Politicization of Everyday Life
  • Non-Class or Middle-Class Mobilization
  • Unconventional Means
  • Partial and overlapping Commitments

There is not enough space to go into detail but Calhoun comments on how identity politics were also a feature of earlier feminist ideology. Indeed, Mary Wollstonecraft was concerned with a redefinition of gender and the claiming of an autonomous identity. So too was Owenite socialism. Within, the ‘Identity, Autonomy and Self-realization’ category Calhoun also cites the New England Transcendentalists, early 19th century nationalism and the Marxist identity of a ‘worker’ as historical examples of how the NSM model also applies to older social movements. (Calhoun provides many examples for each category.)

Seeing as there is some sort of theoretical flexibility here, I will choose to use Tilly’s theoretical framework as my main basis for the historical study of London social movements but also (maybe) incorporate elements of NSM theory if necessary. Having now read this Calhoun chapter, I think it could end up being extremely useful to incorporate certain elements, such as Identity politics, the politicization of everyday life and indeed all the above categories listed by Calhoun that make up NSM theory into my research if relevant.

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