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: 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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The Truth Lies in Rostock and Despite the Sun at ASA14 Decennial: Anthropology and Enlightenment conference

asa14_longScreening of the documentaries The Truth Lies in Rostock and Despite the Sun are schedule for the ASA14 Decennial: Anthropology and Enlightenment conference running on Saturday 21 June and Sunday 22 June in the city of Edinburgh.

Both films, Despite the Sun (1986), an investigation into the year-long dispute, which shook the print industry, and The Truth Lies in Rostock (1993), one of the rare documents about the riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen in August 1992, will be shown on Saturday 21 as part of the film programme ‘The truth of memory and the fiction of history: the politics of representation at the interface of anthropology, art and film making’. Furthermore, there will be a third screening of Spectres (2011), a film essay by Sven Augustijnen that explains one of the darkest pages in the colonial history of the Belgian Congo, around 1960.

This film session focuses on recent anthropological works that have argued that standard anthropological accounts can be inadequate to engage with contemporary socio-economic and political transformations. In questioning standard ethnographic practices, anthropologists have started to explore the relationship between facts and fictions, between truth and representation, and between individual and collaborative or collective projects. These new strands at the convergence between art, anthropology, history, film making and literature raise important issues concerning the limits of the production and representation of anthropological knowledge. This session aims to engage with these debates by presenting three films that in different ways respond to many of the wider conference themes.

The screenings will be followed by a talk and discussion with Mark Saunders, film maker and director of Despite the Sun and co-director of The Truth Lies in Rostcok. All film sessions will take place in the Lecture Theatre of the Symposium Hall.

 

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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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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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Bread & Roses film festival screens Battle of Trafalgar – free event

Despite TV documentary Battle of Trafalgar will be screened  Monday 30th April at 7pm during Law & Disorder followed by a panel discussion at the new film festival at Bread & Roses in Clapham. The event  pays tribute to the 100th anniversary of the 1912 strike, led by female textile workers in Massachusetts. Marching for better pay and working conditions, the workers chanted the slogan “We want bread, but we want roses, too!”, a line borrowed from the James Oppenheim poem which became an emblematic catchphrase in the history of socialism.

Bread & Roses celebrates the centennial of this key moment with a selection of films questioning capitalism, and tackling workers rights, social activism and immigration. Family Unite, Unpaid Internships, the Arab Spring and Law & Disorder are some of the daily themes that have been chosen to structure the festival.

Channel 4 commissioned Battle of Trafalgar from Despite TV in 1990 during the poll tax riots; the film documents the mass protest held on Saturday 31 March in central London against Margaret Thatcher’s controversial measure. From the unfair aspect of the tax system to the partiality of mainstream media and the violent policing of the demonstration, the film’s topics specifically resonates in today’s socio-political context, and justify its screening to Bread & Roses’s committed programme.

Bread & Roses festival is organized by Natasha Caruana and Afshin Dehkordi, the two artists behind StudioSTRIKE: a creative space launched in 2010 on the top floor of the last union-owned pub in London, the Bread & Roses – the name inspired the idea for the festival.

The free festival, supported by the BFI and Film London, will run in various venues around Lambeth from April 27th to May 10th. Some of the films presented during these two weeks will include the classic The Grapes of Wrath, the Oscar-nominated documentary If a Tree Falls, and a recent project on the August riots titled My Child The Rioter. The festival will also encompass a live music event, Q&A sessions, and art installations.

To order a DVD of Battle of Trafalgar

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