Rock Against Racism on film


This May 2020 video says about itself:

LIVING ROOM Q&As: White Riot with director Rubika Shah and host Mark Kermode

The 13th in this season does something a little different… As well as a live Q&A with director Rubika Shah, Mykaell Riley (Steel Pulse) and Zak Cochrane (Love Music Hate Racism), hosted by Mark Kermode, we’ll also have a live musical performance from rapper Lloyd Luther.

On 19 September 2020, I went to see the film White Riot. It is about the late 1970s Rock Against Racism movement in England.

There was the racist neo-nazi National Front party. There was police racism. And there was racism by established rock musicians like Eric Clapton.

The film is extensively about Temporary Hoarding fanzine of Rock Against Racism. There was no internet then. It helped bring together fans of mainly black reggae and ska bands, and of punk bands, to fight racism together.

At the very first Rock Against Racism concert, punk band 999 played.

It made Jamaican British reggae musicians feel they were not alone in their fight against police brutality.

Punks also benefited. Many English local councils banned punk concerts. RAR concerts were sometimes the only way for punk bands to play there.

Not only African Caribbean people were targeted by racism. So were South Asian immigrants. Punk was sometimes depicted as a purely white movement. Wrong. There was the Pakistani London band Alien Kulture, featured in the film. Their name was derived from a dog whistle racist quote by Conservative party leader Margaret Thatcher. Alien Kulture played a bit Clash-like songs.

This is their 1979 song Asian Youth.

This is their song Airport Arrest, with lyrics.

Also in the film is Somali British singer Poly Styrene and her band X-ray Spex. Very correctly so, as she played a big role in breaking down racist and sexist prejudices.

I had hoped very much to see the London band Verdict in the film. They played scores of gigs for Rock Against Racism all over London. Two girls in that band had been founding members of the first punk band of France, also the first-ever all-women rock band in whatever genre in France: the Lou’s. These two were Eurasian Dutch drummer Sascha de Jong and French saxophone player Raphaelle Devins. In 1981, in Leiden, the Netherlands, Sascha founded the Miami Beach Girls. Raphaelle became saxophone player in Cheap ‘n’ Nasty.

The film concludes with a big anti-racist concert in London, in which Jimmy Pursey of Sham’69 joined the Clash in singing White Riot.

Dutch daily Trouw wished that the film, about the late 1970s in England, had shown more links to 2020 issues. Though the last lines of the film warn that the anti-racist fight cannot be over yet.

1 thought on “Rock Against Racism on film

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.