Poison Girls – “I’m Not A Real Woman”

“Poison Girls” were a Brighton formed anarcho-punk band fronted by the late Vi SubversaDespite TV produced this music video for Poision Girls’ 1984 single “I’m Not A Real Woman” – which was later re-released on Poison Girls’ 1995 compilation album “Real Woman”. Poison Girls’ 1984 single “I’m Not A Real Woman” was released via X-N-Trix Records. The song explores themes of sexuality and gender roles, influencing feminism and punk in the UK. This video is one of few music videos from Poison Girls, and features singer and guitarist Vi Subversa – who also features in the Spectacle produced documentary film “She’s A Punk Rocker”.

The Poison Girls, originally from Brighton but later relocating to Essex – which also played home to punk band Crass, whom they performed with frequently. The Poison Girls were influential at the time, challenging sexuality and gender roles in both post-punk culture and wider society. Poison Girls were also involved in “Aids – The Musical” and formed their own label “X-N-Trix”.

Vi Subversa – the band’s lead singer and guitarist – was very prominent in punk due to her radical and anarchic punk lyrics. She continued to perform outside of the Poison Girls, with her show Vi Subversa’s Naughty Thoughts. Subversa also had two children, Gem Stone and Pete Fender; who went on to join punk bands Fatal Microbes and Rubella Ballet.

This video features the band performing “I’m Not A Real Woman”, which will go down as iconic punk history.

The full video is available for free here

The full version of Despite TV 5 is available here and includes a US Embassy demo and an East End History Project with Bill Fishman.

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Sari Squad- the Afia Begum campaign

The Sari Squad were a group of activist women, mostly South Asian, who helped to defend multicultural clubs and gatherings from racist attacks in the early 1980s. Based in East London, they campaigned to raise public awareness for Afia Begum, a young Bangladeshi widow who was deported from London with her child, Asma, in 1984, despite there being no concrete justification for such action. Her treatment was harsh, described by the European Parliament as ‘callous and showing the racist and sexist nature of the United Kingdom immigration laws’. In April 1984, the Sari Squad took their case to the European Commission of Human Rights. However, in the same year, and before the Commission could rule, the UK Government arrested Afia in a dawn raid and deported her.

In a Commons sitting on 11 June 1984, MP Harry Cohen condemned this deportation as a ‘disgraceful action’. He pointed out how the Home Office’s haste to deport Begum, and their total disregard for her situation (recently widowed after her husband died in a slum fire in Brick Lane) reflected how she had become a ‘victim of prejudice of the worst kind and at the highest level.’ Responding to Cohen, David Waddington MP essentially dismissed all the issues raised as missing the point, arguing that ‘the vast majority of people do, however, accept the need for immigration laws and for adequate machinery to enforce the control required by these laws’

Just what he means by ‘adequate machinery’ is unclear, but if this recent interview with Benjamin Zephaniah for The Guardian is anything to go by, it wasn’t so much machinery but bigotry in the form of attacks, especially from the National Front, that operated to control immigration. Retaliation was a means of survival (‘we still had to fight them on the street’), and Zephaniah praises the ‘legendary’ Sari Squad for the way they fought against racism.

In this extract, taken from our video magazine, Despite TV 3, various members of the Sari Squad discuss how they go about fighting for tolerance and justice, and why Afia Begum’s case is so important to them. Although the footage was shot in the 80’s, it remains just as current today, in our increasingly unsettled, multicultural, yet ironically intolerant society. The post-Brexit climate of casual racism and violent racist attacks makes it all the more crucial to raise awareness that this kind of intolerance is just as prevalent and unjustified today as it was then, and we must continue to raise awareness.

This video is available to watch on Vimeo, and is part of a new series of archive material from Despite TV, which will be re-circulated over the coming months.

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Joi Bangla Video

From Joi Bangla’s first music video, produced by Ageliki at Despite TV in 1986, here is the introductory trailer for this local East London duo. Active since 1983, Joi Bangla (now re-named ‘Joi‘) represent the second-generation Bengali immigrant population, whose parents came to Britain in the 50s and 60s. The two brothers, Farook and Haroon Shamsher made up some of the first Bengalis to refuse to keep their heads down in a land they now called their home and fought to promote the multi-culturalism of East London’s Brick Lane which was, at the time, a hotbed for “paki-bashing” fascists and the activities of The National Front. The Brick Lane of the 80s openly sold the Young National Front’s fascist newspaper, The Bulldog: the antithesis of the white-washed history this street commonly holds today. Joi Bangla were the marching band to win their neighbourhood its brand new reputation through their enterprising contribution to the growing Asian dance scene of the early 80s.

By Tamsin Amantea-Collins

The full film is available to buy here

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LGBT History on Film: Pride 1991

Twenty five years ago Despite TV filmed the documentary, ‘Out of Line’, on the subject of London Pride 1991. Having already taken an interest in documenting the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) political struggle as it was happening (Despite Clause 28 – 1988). This longer documentary film takes a celebratory approach to the community’s political and social wins.

The events of 1988 seem almost forgotten as 25,000 LGBT activists and allies gathered in London to take part in Pride 1991. The event, a march through the streets of central London ending with a party in Kennington park, had grown in popularity since 1988, thanks to activist groups such as LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and Stonewall who worked hard to achieve greater acceptance, giving more people the courage to come out, even if just for one day.

Opening with footage of the celebrations on the streets of London, the film gradually takes on a more political tone, interviewing individuals about their experiences of homophobia and discrimination. The filmmakers talk to the Lewisham Lesbian Mothers group, who march in the parade with children and babies in tow. One woman is interviewed about her struggles conceiving and raising a child as a lesbian mother – a subject rarely discussed in the early 1990s.

The film also incorporates several interviews with BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) LGBT individuals and groups, who discuss the particular challenges they face living at the intersections of numerous forms of oppression – often facing homophobia in Black communities, and racism in LGBT communities.

As well as being an insight into London Pride from 25 years ago, the film succinctly summarises the struggles still faced by LGBT people in 1991, and the social and political strides they had made in changing a society which dismissed them.

The full film is available to rent or buy here.
A DVD of the film is also available here.

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LGBT History on Film: Despite Clause 28 – 1988

LGBT History on Film: Despite Clause 28 (1988) from Spectacle’s Archive.

Despite Clause 28 (1988) Trailer from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

In the late 1980s and 90s, Despite TV, a collective of filmmakers founded by Mark Saunders (Spectacle Media) specialising in social and political issues, took an active interest in documenting and raising awareness of state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) persons in the UK.

In 1988 Despite TV produced a short campaign film, ‘Despite the Clause’, in response to the proposal of Section 28, a typically Thatcherite Local Government act proposed in 1986 and passed in 1988 which banned the “promotion of homosexuality”. The bill was proposed by the Conservative Party during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and purported to fear-mongering, homophobic tropes which portray LGBT people as deviant.

Section 28 was to have a damaging affect on LGBT individuals and, in particular, LGBT political and community groups, forcing them to limit their vital contributions to their communities, and in some cases shut down entirely for fear of legal backlash or censorship.

Despite the Clause features appearances from high profile activists including co-founder of Stonewall UK, Sir Ian Mckellen and Michael Cashman and M.P. Diane Abbott. In the film, Abbott, who was present at the proposal of the clause in the House of Commons, describes it as “A horrible, hysterical witch-hunting debate.” She also states that “The spirit behind Section 28 is a spirit of violence and intolerance to anybody that doesn’t conform, to anybody that’s different.”

Despite the best efforts of activists, Section 28 was ultimately passed and not repealed until 2003. Nonetheless, activists describe the resistance built against it as having a positive effect in establishing solidarity between LGBT people across the UK. Stonewall and other activists fought continuously for it’s repeal for over twenty five years. This campaign film subsequently remains a significant piece of LGBT history.

The full film is available for free here.

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Despite the Sun showing at Tate Liverpool

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Despite the Sun will be showing at Tate Liverpool’s exhibition ‘Keywords: Art, Culture and Society in 1980’s Britain’, which is running from 28th February until 11th May 2014. The film investigates the state of the media and the context in which over 5,000 print workers, clerical staff, cleaners and secretaries lost their jobs. It was produced in 1986 by Despite TV, predecessor to Spectacle, both founded by Mark Saunders, documenting the dispute over Rupert Murdoch’s decision to relocate his printing operations from Fleet St to Wapping. There is also a new website dedicated to the strike where there is a lot of information.

“…Despite TV’s ‘Despite the Sun’… was shot on VHS at night, so it’s full of comma tails and smears and it was shot colour, but actually there was insufficient light, so it comes out as a greyscale, that’s I think one of the most gripping pieces of political documentary to be made in this country in the last 50 years, it’s a phenomenal piece of work. It was using the aesthetic of both the recording equipment and the playback, the immediate circulation for ‘Despite the Sun‘ were people in the immediate area of the dispute over moving the Murdoch group newspapers down to the Isle of Dogs and the famous picket lines. The BBC crews, which they interviewed, weren’t allowed through the police lines, but these guys were all locals, so they all went scooting round through people’s houses and so on to get stories that the national media weren’t getting, and it’s a fabulous piece of work, but it was designed to be shown locally and distributed through the library service in Tower Hamlets, so they were expecting domestic TV and VHS playback, so it was pretty raw, and also released very swiftly, I think they cut it in less than a week from about three weeks of shoots. So it was very important aesthetically as well as in terms of its politics.”

You can buy the DVD or read more here: Despite the Sun

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“Now I know – you know, we all know – that the fans were right.”

 

With the recent revelation of the true events of the Hillsborough disaster, new accusations are flying…

‘So, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has instructed solicitors to demand an ‘apology and recompense’ from South Yorkshire Police over the newspaper’s discredited reporting of the Hillsborough disaster’ writes Granville Williams on the CPBF web site www.cpbf.org.uk . ‘It really is the most amazing cheek for him to portray himself as a ‘victim’. Disgusting in fact…’

 

Read more

Despite the Sun is an investigation into one of Rupert Murdoch’s scandals back in 1986:

In January 1986, Rupert Murdoch moved his printing operation, News International, from Fleet St to Wapping in East London. Over 5,000 print workers, clerical staff, cleaners and secretaries were sacked in one day.

 

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Plebs and Peasants

Despite the Poll Tax

In September 2012, Mr. Mitchell, Chief Whip said to a policeman:

“Best you learn your fucking place…you don’t run this fucking government…You’re fucking plebs”.

Wobbling off on his bicycle he called over his shoulder.

“you haven’t heard the last of this”

From official Downing Street police log.

In June 1381, King Richard II retorted to villagers:

“You wretches are detestable both on land and on sea. You seek equality with the lords, but you are unworthy to live. Give this message to your fellows: rustics you are, and rustics you will always be. You will remain in bondage, not as before, but incomparably harsher. For as long as we live we will strive to suppress you, and your misery will be an example to posterity”

As described by one contemporary chronicle.

Nothing has changed in seven centuries.

Interested in what happened in 1381 and its consequences nowadays? Check out our documentary Despite the Poll Tax:

If questioned at all in the media most of the discourse about the inequities of poll tax concentrated on its economic injustices. Despite the Poll Tax however dug deeper into the largely ignored social and civil liberties implications of a colonial tax system whose earlier versions were considered unacceptable in the middle ages, leading to the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and were the original basis of the Pass Laws of apartheid South Africa.

 

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News Corp launches Amplify educational unit, with help from AT&T

Murdoch’s influence on the police and politicians having being thwarted here in the UK, he now seems to be having a go at the kids in the US.

http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/23/news-corp-launches-amplify-educational-unit/

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Screening of Battle of Trafalgar on May 7, 4:30pm – Free event

There is a new screening date for the Despite TV documentary Batttle of Trafalgar about the poll tax demonstration this Monday May 7th 4.30 pm. The screening is part of the Bread & Roses Festival organised by studiostrike.

Date: May 7 2012 (Monday, Bank Holiday)
Time: 4:30 pm
Venue: 68 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4 6DX
Or you can refer to this eventbrite page.

The Battle of Trafalgar gives an account of the anti-poll tax demonstration on 31st March 1990, one that is radically different from that presented by TV news. Eyewitnesses tell their stories against a backdrop of video footage showing the day’s events as they unfolded. This is one of the UK’s first camcorder activist films, made from amateur and freelance footage, unseen at the time and portraying a chillingly different vision of events from that shown in the media at the time.

Demonstrators’ testimonies raise some uncomfortable questions: Questions about public order policing, the independence and accountability of the media and the right to demonstrate.

Two decades later and these issues cannot be more prescient. With the rise of new social media and widespread recording technology, as well as increasingly repressive laws and policing powers and a pervasive 24-hour news culture – the relationship between the media and police in relation to the right to protest and the medium of film have only become more complex and problematic, as can be seen through the recent media representation and prosecution of student protesters and rioters.

Click here to order a DVD of Battle of Trafalgar.

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