THE WEEK of marching, shouting and activity is over. I'm back in my hometown having lost pounds
of weight and half my voice somewhere on the road to Blackpool; I'm now hanging around, like millions
of others on the dole.
A week ago I thought of starting this report with a list of statistical horror-stories from Tory
Britain '81, but the hundreds of thousands of unemployed kids don't need telling of the viciousness of life.
What is worth telling is the sense of achievement that the march gave me and a thousand others.
Down in ink this report will give you some of the actualities but only part of the feeling. I'm still
speeding on protest. That buzz should hit home more than the rest of the week's issue's calculated
passion - if not, I've failed, not the Right To Work march.
This article is rougher than the rest. I could have sat down with my stick of Blackpool rock and
my mind spilling with incidents and piled the style onto the fuzzy memories, but, but written as
a diary the mood of every one of the ten days is accurately reflected. The jagged stuttering of
the piece is simply how I felt, marching over one hundred and eighty miles to picket Thatcher.
Remembering the march is remembering the highs and lows - the slogging alone in the country and
then taking over the precincts and high streets of the next town to contact and relate.
The ten days were in a way predictable. But whereas the routines of life on the dole remind you of your
position on the muck heap, the routines of life on the march strengthen your anger and make that
anger positive - gives a sense of hope, a realisation of power and friendship.
What the march says is: make that collective power a continual part of life on the dole by
organising as those out of work and cementing the links with those fighting for their jobs.
Make the fight for the right to work a fight for the right to live.
BACK TO the day before the march. Buses and coaches end up at a church hall in Liverpool: Waiting
around to sign on for the march; don't need reminding that you're on the dole. Unfortunately, some
people do need reminding that there are over three and a half million unemployed, that jods are being
destroyed at over a thousand a day. Here in Liverpool hundreds and hundreds of unemployed youth
have come together to remind not only Thatcher and her government but also those in positions of
influence with access to the media who have shirked their responsibilty.
They may order us from DHSS office to Job Centre to dole queue, they may pay us poverty wages and go out
of their way to avoid telling us of our rights to extra claims, they may make us feel like shit and all
but run our lives ... BUT THEY CAN'T REGULATE OUR ANGER.
"TO HELL WITH POVERTY..."- Gang Of Four
The SWP sponsored march hasn't started but already the optimism is there - the sense of collective power.
Sure, it isn't 1974 there is little evidence of any fightback but because of this the crucial importance
of the Right To Work march is sinisterly amplified. These Skinheads in combat gear, these leather-jacketted
punks and Pavlov's pups are taking on Thatcher while Micheal Foot and the TUC tackle metaphors.
"IT'S UP TO YOU" - The Specials
Get up at 7.00am after no hours' sleep. Spirits are, understandably, smack-high. For the first time in many of the marchers'
lives they are part of a large group of organised unemployed.
Usually the unemployed see each other only once a fortnight beneath the antiseptic fluorescent glare of the dole office.
In the '30s, the last marching era, the unemployed signed on daily, saw
each other down the dole and on the streets every day. Now unemployment
is personal drudgery - sleeping in till two pm and watching the box till tea. (Some drudgery - Ed.).
This morning, with 600 of us together in one room, organised, the nature of unemployment changes.
It is alive and awake.
In comparison, the march out through Liverpool is subdued. Pass through Toxteth: burnt out buildings and abrupt
contortions of the city panorama. The Rialto is now just a space where a cinema stood, the dairy floats
once used as mobile petrol bombs are now lined up in their depots. The physical graffiti that is left reasserts
the threat of dole riots. The force was erratic, the gesture one of despair but now when the unemployed
march we know our power.
"THE FORCE WAS BLIND" - ATV
Photographer Kevin Cummins drives down to the start of the march,an outsider,
someone with a joband expensive cameras. Not much to snap, only dismal weather and the dismal Scouse skyline.
By dinnertime (a cup of soup and a piece of bread) we're still in Liverpool. The orange jackets
crawl off up the road and we carry our banner (York Unemployed Workers Union) holding it high for the
photographers that buzz around the side of the orange column. It's sixteen miles to St Helens and we've
only reached Huyton. Tower blocks like blisters on the wasteland, crumbling and sickly. Remember
what three and a half million dole means:
Walking and chanting. Talk to the nearest marcher and think about your own feet. You can only see a section
of the march in front of you: skins, punks and ex-shop stewards hidden behind orange jackets and one
slogan, 'RIGHT TO WORK MARCH'. But when a hill appears beneath your boots, you can see the length of the
march caterpillaring above and below you. The feeling of power is fantastic, an incentive to march as one of this
massive body. The realisation is most intense when we march down into the town of St Helens. The noise of the marchers
is huge and enveloping, the size of the column amplified.
Schoolkids shout back from the playground: "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie ... OUT OUT OUT!" enthralled by the surging
chants that reply to their cries. The welcome is heartfelt. No civic reception and bloated, bluff friendliness
but a ral solidarity.
Old men and women line the streets, adding money to the collection buckets. Shoppers stand inawe, some in admiration,
some in disgust, bit the presence of the march is enormous.
Marching for miles along dual carriageways, crawling all the way round long, slow roundabouts, is
justified when we reach the towns. The response to the noisy anger from the high-walled streets and wide-eyed kids
is phenomenal. Reverberate, reciprocate: "Kick The Tories Out!"
After the trek we croud into tonight's accommodation - a floor in a YMCA hall, More queues, more waiting hours; trying
to relax and enjoy. The marchers lie down, stretch out, still vocal and proud. The march sleeps but Glasgow chants on.
Before we'd set off, workers from the Staffa factory in London's East End spoke to the march. Facing redundancy they
occupied their factory and barricaded themselves in. There too you can sense the sudden, fragile
realisation of strengh; an amused nervousness. In a few hours they experienced their own ability
to to decided, their own capacity to control their lives. It's a precious knowledge.
The march is like an extended demo; novelty and drudgery, workhouse food and dole-age queues.
Waiting and walking. The numbers are incredible, an army in orange jackets. The food is food for
up to a thousand; 45 gallons of tea are brewed on the first night. Hundreds of sleeping bags are
strewn on the floorboards after the hours of waiting for the end of the slog, waiting for the road
signs to St. Helens to stop and the street signs to appear. And then as soon as the slogging ends,
wishing you could keep marching, keep singing.
WAKE UP after a cold night to full-blast heating. Drag myself to another queue for food, queue
to wash, queue for the bog. The plate of porridge, like the plate of beans the morning before,
brings me round. The taste doesn't matter, the simple pleasure of eating is satisfying. The march
starts after the morning meeting outlining the route and enjoying the local and national press
reports on this outrageous band of vociferous youth.
And then the legs start driving up the hill, out of town, and the chants greet the early morning.
We're soon in the countryside, the feet are soon suffering. All the time young rebels in orange
jackets walk ahead collecting money, leafletting, visiting factories to win shopfloor support...
We stop for dinner at Newton-le-Willows' Labour Club - yet another group of workers extending their
hospitality and friendship in the face of antagonism from local middle class hooligans. Lancashire
Labour County Council has fought hard to provide for us, just as numerous Labour Councillors have
stuck their necks out, against a storm of hostility and arrogance from Tories and local dignitaries.
We march past the Bold colliery where that morning outgoing NUM President Joe Gormley was addressing
not only the pit's miners but also an unexpected presence; those orange jackets again. Predictably,
Gormley, a denigrator of the Right to Work Campaign, had nothing to say on how to save jobs and stop
the destruction that is causing the unemployment he and other Trade Union Leaders are so fond of
bemoaning. Unfortunately for Joe, the miners delegated to the march by their lodgesin Yorkshire,
Scotland and South Wales related far better to the Bold miners than this tired, old cardboard
cut-out Trade unionist.
When we get to Warrington the police give the stewards false directions, ensuring that we're unable
to march through the town centre. We're forced back to the schools where we're sleeping and save the
songs we've been writing all day in our heads for tomorrow morning.
Before we head off through sheets of rain to accommodation in another school's gym, we pack into a primary school hall. An FBU
official welcomes us to Warrington, jokingly referring to his members, Cheshire and Merseyside firemen, as the "soft underbelly of
the Trade Union Movement". Other speakers talk of success in winning a 35 hour week for metal workers in the area; proof that the fight against
unemployment can be won if fought for.
All through the meeting I had wondered at the schoolkids' paintings covering the hall. Everywhere, in 57 varieties, was the message
'goodbye'. At the end of the meeting we were told how we came to stay in this school. After the march has left, this school will remain empty.
No more teachers will work here and no more kids will be taught in the classrooms because the school is closing due to cuts. Schools, hospitals
and old-aged people's homes don't impress our American alies as much as a fistful of nuclear weapons.So now the school's bare except for the same,
sad repeated message from the kids who have left.
"IT'S WRITTEN IN THEIR RULES TO PUT MISSILES BEFORE HOSPITALS"
--Six Minute War
7.30AM START again. Queue again. Porridge again. March for the right to work out of Warrington, through the town centre into the City of Salford.
Dinner by a swimming pool, talking to journalists from Socialist Worker and listening to stories of the May 81 People's March from a skinhead
in the Communist Party. We leave and the escort of cops changes over again as more schoolkids echo our chanting and two girls run out of a house
to join the march.
I borrow a guitar from one of the kids from Glasgow and strum on the move. We sing 'Great Balls of Fire' and 'Guns of Brixton' and forget about
the road ahead for a while. Take turns carrying the banner and finally reach a modern Poly for fried eggs, beans and chips on real plates.
Another queue but it's more than worth it.
Skin is falling away from my right foot and blisters are growing on both. The flesh looks like melted cheese but the soreness disappears
when the medics tape wads of padding over the yellow mess. They feel OK for a while - until the padding slips.
No need to walk to Manchester Poly for the gig as transport is provided. A chance to see the first bands on the 'Anger On The Road' Tour after
nights of RAR discos.
A Travolta disco floor (spotlights and grids) hangs from the ceiling and a massive RAR banner with Thatcher painted as a chicken under the
slogan 'RUN THATCHER RUN!' is draped behind the stage.
Harlem Spirit slip on for some "Moss Side jazz funk". 'CheckOut The Disco' and 'Love Game' win me over and I have to smile. "OK, we move you
gently into reggae." Maybe it was the bass beat or maybe the first pint of Tetley's (don't gimme
no Moscow Mule!) I'd had in days, but Harlem Spirit were uplifting. The pint lasted a few seconds
but the band keep buzzing and humping as the fluorescent RAR sign burnt on at the back of the hall.
The Distractions were great. The songs don't matter; the singer swayed and shuffled in bow tie and
suit (black) and the music bounced.
While they swing, I talked to Paul, an unemployed chippie from Harrogate. Above the noise he says
he wishes he'd gone on the People's March, "Too much music on the Right To Work march," and then he
grinned while I tried to act serious, ask seriously. I asked why he doesn't try for building jobs
abroad. "I'm married, tied down. I've got responsibilities ferchrissake," he jumped back at me.
"I go down the Job Centre every day. They have notices for interviews I've been to still pinned up
days after the job's gone. It makes it look as if there are more jobs going." His last job working
on Harrogate Conference Centre, a fine example of Tory insanity. "They say the actual cast is
£26 million but the real cost with all the interest from banks is something like £80 million. It
makes you sick."
Twelve marchers from Denmark who had arrived the day before say the situation
is all too similar in Denmark, where the national rate of unemployment
is almost identical. Their (darker) orange jackets become a regular sight
over the duration of the march; a different slogan but marching alongside
us for the right to work.
The smell of grass and the sound of Black Roots getting heavy brings me
back to the music. The banner on the wall says; 'LOVE MUSIC - HATE RACISM'.
The band jog up and down in safari suits and harmonize. Bristol Rock goes
well with a day's marching - the music jerks at tired feet and becomes part
of the march. Sing and sleep.
Lie in till 9.00 am and then up for tea and toast. Frank Allaun, Labour
MP for Salford pops in over breakfast and says "thanks" to us for taking on
Maggie. You don't usually meet a friendly MP in your bare feet but then
this week was always going to be different.
We're shuttled in Transits to Salford Tech, where the other half of the
march slept, after wandering round the wastelands of Trafford looking for
postcards. Christ, if you think your town is bad, go take a look at someone
Wind driving at the column - leaning into the gust, the banner an uncontrollable
sail. We visit Lawrence Scott's, where workers have been in occupation for
over forty weeks. The massive (obscenely massive) police presence reminds you
what the sides/stakes are. The West Ham crew come into their own and shake
the cops with noise: "Marchers in! Bailiffs Out."
We wander around and find Coronation St. two blocks down from Hovis St. (!) Later
we discover the Granada set of Coronation St. boarded up with only a peephole to
spy at the Rover's Return. The rest of Manchester dozes through a Sunday
afternoon and the windy storms.
A lad nearby is trying to shift leaflets to a well-dressed woman at the side of the road. She
refuses to take one, claiming indignantly that she's a Tory. The lad replies, "No hassle,
missus. I'll read out all the big words for you!" Crack up and march on to U.M.I.S.T.
That night there's meetings, films and a disco. A few of us walk in on a RAR meeting already
in progress, interrupting an argument over bands flirting with fascism.
We talk about fighting the Nazis with Oi! bands and the involvement of new
groups in the RAR movement.
There's quite a few bands involved in the march. No Swastikas sponsored
the march before they split up and half of Nevous Disorder are going the
whole way to Blackpool. One of the Scottish punks turns out to be from
Paisley RAR band XS Discharge, nearly famous for their Groucho Marxist
We talk about the need to expose the racist/nazi tag attached to skins
and argue over who are the villains and who are the angels of Oi! before
we head off for another meeting.
Steve Longshaw, from Lawrence Scott's, gets loud applause when he admits
that it is the women workers at Scott's who have been the strongest fighters.
Avtar, president of the Indian Workers' Association gets massive cheers
when he replies to Enoch Powell's suggestion that black people should be
paid £2,000 to go 'home(?) by declaring, "WE ARE NOT FOR SALE!"
But it is Dave Green, the young convenor from Staffa, who hits home hardest.
The bailiffs have already tried to burst into the occupation. "If I have to
go to hospital protecting Staffa or I get sent to Brixton or Pentonville
or wherever the bastards want to put us, I'll go!" His youth and energy win
over the unemployed kids on the march. "They have been planning how to sack us
for months. We found these documents telling management not only how to lie
to workers but also how top management should lie to middle management. At the
top of the document it said: 'IMPORTANT! Do not leave these documents lying
around!' Unfortunately they didn't tell the bosses how to hide things properly!"
I talked to Dennis Skinner, the Beast of Bolsover, after he'd made a magnificent speech.
"People say that Thatcher's gone wrong, that she doesn't know what she's doing.
She knows exactly what she's doing. Ok, maybe she was going to get the Rolling
Stones back from tax haven in the US...maybe she was going to help a few small
companies from getting smaller and smaller and smaller...by not pushing VAT forms
through their letterboxes. There's a lot of firms that'd like a letterbox to have
a VAT form pushed through!"
"RING! RING! IT'S 7AM" - The Clash
Cold Corridors. Waking up on top of someone else. Rush a game of pool and dribble
out of Manchester, still arguingand questioning.
Billy, a New Romantic who's just finished a YOPS course, has to go back due to
problems at home but he's keen to put the record straight about YOPS. "They put
me straight into labouring work but I wouldn't accept it. I think I'm worth better than that."
He reckoned the problem was that most kids just accepted what they were told; "Of course,
they kept on hassling me to go back; the YOPS people don't care about any of the kids.
They're only interested in the labouring side and say kids haven't got any potential
for anything else."
"DO YOU WANNA MAKE TEA AT THE BBC?" - The Clash
The day's march shoots by with no more blisters; no pain just the dull thud of feet.
We reach Bolton Tech and down two pints of free beer, courtesy of Bolton Rock Against
There's baggage all over the place and marchers all over the floor.
John Deason, Secretary of the Right To Work Campaign, collars the York delegation
and asks us whether we've had the experience of making cheese sandwiches...
After our stint down the cellar with the catering crew, we set off for the 'alternative
accommodation', Spinners' Hall, an AUEW buiding. Having walked half way round Bolton to find
the engineering union's hall, we walk round the other half to catch the last five minutes
of the 'Anger On The Road' gig at Bolton Institute of Technology. The name of the band
might be Razor Cuts. They fall over whilst trying to look menacing. The guitarist plays
the intros he has worked out in his bedroom to all the punk anthems: the first eight bars
of 'Anarchy', the first eight bars of 'Alternative Ulster', 'Neat Neat Neat'... it's chronic.
And the bar's shut.
We leave to go back through the second half of Bolton a second time.
The lights in the hall are soon out, so I'm forced once again to crouch in the corridor, where
at least I can see what I'm writing. By now people are beginning to realise I'm writing
something about the march and tend to accept this lunatic sat on the floor in the corridor,
scribbling away at half past two in the morning.
Carol, one of the marchers from the West of Scotland section, comes up and tells me what an
incredible week it's been for her. I talk well into Tuesday, overpowered by her enthusiasm.
FREEZING FLOOR beneath frozen trousered-legs inside a sleeping bag. An AUEW official comes into tell
us to go away. The engineering union has never been particularly hospitable to its own members,
let alone unemployed workers, but as if to remind us of our unwanted presence, he turns the
water off at the mains. I'm caught with my face covered in soap, my teeth still bitter after
a night of late smoking. We run round the labyrinthine corridors until we find a Ladies to
I'm grateful for the ice-cold trickle of water and the paper plateful of watery porridge after
the wash. The food is not the main sustenance of the march; gorge yourself on argument, the
endless dialogue, the exchanges of experience and lifestyle. Enthusiasm is the strength that
drives the legs. Sure, the hills drag and rain has only to crash down for five minutes and any
comfort is lost for the rest of the soggy-trousered trek, but the day's walking is increasingly
something to look forward to. The march is a time to pause and think, to relax even.
The feet don't stab pain up the legs anymore but the padding for my blisters is now compacted and digs hard.
Banners and chants sag for a while and then suddenly, as predicted, the police provoke The incident.
One of the West Ham crew chants 'Animals' and he's nicked. The front of the march pile in to save him;
only two of us run up from the back. We surround the cop and drag the marcher away, running him
to the back of the march and changing his leather jacket for a blue cagoule.
Another marcher is wrenched from the cops but the fickleness of the stewards and the inexperience/
ineptitude of the majority of the march means that one lad from Preston gets lifted. Standing near
the back of the meat wagon, he is suddenly grabbed by the boys in blue and thrown into the van.
He's later charged for assulting a police officer.
Same old story. Same old tactics. At every stage of the charging process the original incident
is amplified until some kid nicked for loitering wonders whether he did actually start the revolution
that the court is discussing.
"HA! HA! FUNNY POLIS!" - Paisley
Anti-cop chants for the next two miles. Deason whispers to a close-packed audience over dinner-
'How to cope with the fegs...'
We start off: speed up the pace and slow down on the anti-police chants. Remember this is a protest
against Thatcher first.
Steep hills all the way to Blackburn, steep hills in the town. I get dragged off with a crew of
red skins to do security at the Blitz/Mo-dettes RAR gig tonight. we do a tour of the fire exits
in Blackburn's King George's Hall and come back to guard them after a meal in a cafe. The venue looks like the
Hippodrome and smells like the Palladium - RAR Oi! gig in plush surroundings.
More contradictions. Sit around backstage most of the night so Attack are just a throbbing noise.
The Mo-dettes got in a pile-up on the motorway and couldn't make it to Blackburn, but Blitz did
make it and I did get to see them.
Would that there was a mass working class rock subculture, aggressive and militant, to challenge
the poseurs ... the music business ... the government ... But the sad truth is that Oi! is not.
While The 4 Skins may have had a certain novelty (who else has started a full scale war?) and
infa-Riot do have a commitment to their protest, Blitz come accross as non-league amateurs. The
lurching skunks that they've brought with them gob at the Clockwork Orange white boiler suits and
bowler hats onstage but to me they're the UK Subs without the humour. No joke; this is a lost
After rumours all night of waiting hordes of Nazis outside in the cold, ready to attack from all sides
(usual RAR gig paranoia), we search out the truth and return having found only a late-night chippie.
Return to base through police-laden streets. Avoid arrest, and the chance of a warm cell, to lie
bent double on a cold school corridor floor. Do we care ... ?
Wake at 6.45 to the sound of stirring porridge. The catering crew jump around as only those who
haven't been to bed can. I need two cups of tea and two plates of porridge to wake me up, only to
fall asleep again waiting for a game of snooker.
We slug out into the cold outside for a marcher's meeting. Rise and shine and People's March sectarianism.
It's in everyone's interests for the two marches to unite but the People's March organizers set off
two hours before the agreed time in an attempt to leave us behind. For once the police stop the right
person and the sixty marchers (twenty five of them stewards) who are the 'official' protest (making
the thousand RTW marchers 'unofficial') aren't allowed to leave Blackburn.
'NO COMMUNISTS IN THE KREMLIN' - Crisis
Down the road, through the posses of shoppers and out into more winding, walled roads and straight, forested
hills. Stop for soup and sandwiches and wait for the People's March to catch up. They wait half a
mile down the road in a pub - ever been jilted?
On to Preston, to the market square and a break. An hour free! I head of for a piss and a phone box.
Ring Tony Stewart of this august journal; the first contact with the non-marching world ... He could
not have realisedit, but talking to him was both exhilarating and acutely strange. It was that alien
trying to converse with someone who hadn't been a part of it all but warming to hear more interest
Walking round a Co-op store was similary unnerving. We eat,meet, go buying comics, march to a school,
eat again and head off for the gig . I'm stewarding again with the same crew but this time at Preston Ploy in a
compact, modernist theatre.
Dislocation Dance and Tarzan 5 play civilized. The carpetted warmth and intelligent pop make for
a smooth evening. Relax the raggedness and chat. Stewarding is easy: no threat, no trouble. Again
we talk through the early morning - a different group on different subject matter. The Mekons and
Restricted conversation and punks lolling on mushrooms outside the women's toilets where I end up
writing my diary. Dan Dare; Yeah! Yeah!
15 OCTOBER THURSDAY
The last day's march starts with vans to another school. The last day's march starts sluggishly.
The column drags but walks on, even those now on crutches (One lass from Newcastle hopped the whole way
on steel sticks). On this march there are no liberal hurdles for the disabled to tackle.
Seeker, a guide dog, has led his partially blind owner all the way from Liverpool. Dog and man have
been on nearly every unemployment march organized from the early Right To Work marches to this May's
People's March. Hundreds of miles of protest but then you don't need eyes to see the madness of
I find John Deason and chat about the march and other initiatives on unemployment. He's very upset by the
determination of the People's March organizers to split the two demonstrations in spite of repeated
attempts to link with them.
But he is thrilled by the phenomenal success of the Right To Work March 1981. "It's the biggest
march we've ever had with the most political and militant kids we've ever had. What's particularly
exciting is that the unity of this demonstration means that the racial and sexual prejudice of
some of these kids is soon combatted. They're learning all the time.
We talk and march. I worry about the come-down after the charged political energy of the march and
wonder how kids that have been rapidly politicized during the week will cope with going back to the
life on the dole in their own areas.
We stop in a layby for food. The smell is either silage or the stench of marchers having relieved
themselves. Leaving the layby, gaps appear and stragglers straggle. Lethargic and tired. But then
houses acne the skyline and Blackpool approaches. Hail the seaside resort, small-time Tory suburbia
housing the big-time Toryconference circus.
Cars' horns sound, fists and waves stretch out from the local workers to the alien unemployed. The
cops niggle and niggle waiting for the excuse to wreck tomorrow's demonstration. Lancashire's
Highway Patrol CHIPS brigade finally leave off and buzz off (one of them falls off too). We squeeze
into a school, teachers hurrying away and kids hanging around to spy on the orange jackets. We set
up for the night, borrow a gym mat and crash, having had not one hour's sleep to soften the twenty
The last march meeting. The last twisted press reports to be read out, with quotes from the mysterious
march spokesman who never existed. Only last minute phone calls saved our accommodation tonight. A
Tory on the Local Education Authority had rung up the school saying we'd left the school in Preston
this morning in a state of chaos. When the Preston headmaster was contacted he praised the self-discipline
of the march and welcomed us back for another year! Whatever we do, it seems we the unemployed are
"PARIS MAQUIS QUOTIDIEN, UN JEU TRUQUE OU TU PERDS" - Metal Urbain
Tony Cliff addresses the marchers but the RAR crew leave for an early tea and transport to the gig
at Blackpool's Squires. Downstairs in this pub that takes in all the rejects other pubs have turned
out, the DJ plays rock 'n' roll. Upstairs Personal Column kick off the
last night of the Anger On The Road Tour. They huff and puff and joke their way through the set.
Their breathless pop songs encompass the nastiness of the 1980's and the
singer plays with the titles ('Blood and Guts', 'A Woman's Place?', 'British
Style', 'Ignorance is Bliss?'...) "This isn't Birmingham? So you mean your'e not the rock 'n' roll capital
of the world?". Pump and pinch.
The Out might as well be playing Brum; they've no presence here. They
play cabaret pop - no pinch. Only their shiny-pants girlfriends dance.
Neat sound, babe.
Coup de Grace offer no dialogue either. They are Blackpool (joy) division
four - their way is feedback. Give me The Distractions. Give me some swing.
Convert me to pop. The singer, white suit this time, talks back, "It's
funny how the Prime Minister and the Queen always have to be protected
from their loyal subjects." Celebrate with Manchester pop.
One of the drivers, who I've got to know over the week, comes up and tells me
he's just been nicked ferrying marchers back from the gig to tonight's
residence. We find out that panda cars have been following our transport
in order to charge us for overloading. Fancy spending a night wandering
the streets of Blackpool?
The answer is simple: we tell the police that if they don't let us transport our marchers back, then
all one thousand of us will march back through the town at two in the morning.
They back down. Just as they will search and lift straggling marchers but never risk busting in on
us at night for a mass search, they dare not take on all of us at once.
Celebrate; Make Blackpool Rock!
Shaking limbs in a frozen fit. Kicked out at 6.30 and walk, face dripping with cold water, through the bitter
frosts that spikes Blackpool's morning air. Trail past the endless cordon of bed 'n' breakfasts
following a group of orange blurs in the distance. Queue outside a methodist hall - no drizzle to excuse the cold.
No porridge to sympathize over; only boiled eggs. I eat a couple of eggs but I'd rather throw them at Thatcher.
We celebrate after breakfast and go through the last day's procedure. A RTW delegation has already
been jogging with Lord Thorneycroft along Blackpool front. They couldn't catch him but then Thorneycroft
wasn't slowed by walking 180 miles beforehand.
Another group of marchers had already been down to the Winter Gardens, where the Tory Party were
gigging this last week. A handful of orange jackets pay an early morning visit to the conference
and the cops panic - they seemed to think that this was the Right To Work March. Let them wait.
Marchers go through the highlights of the week. The lorry driver who turned up to a RTW picket and said he'd never
crossed a picket line in his life and wasn't going to now. The company who said it was their policy
not to let convenors out to meet the march failing to impress the RTW delegation who said it was our
policy to picket them out. (And out they came).
I talk to a group of Futurist YOPS kids from Blackpool who joined the march. They were told they'd
lose pay if they went on the march. "We told them we were going on it anyway and stuff YOPS. Now
they say they'll sack us". Who said fluffy fringes can't be militant?
This is D-Day. Seige Day. Action Day. Everyone bops around. One quiffabilly (Gene Vincent Lives'
next to 'Kick The Tories Out') says it feels like Christmas. Don't buy me a present, give me struggle
John Deason jaunts and grins, friendly and confident. Today the march hits home. After all the
harassment (arrests, complaints, sectarianism, searches and sniffer dogs). We've arrived.
"ASSEMBLE IN HATE/HOT UP AND DEMONSTRATE/SCHMUCK. YOU'VE THE CHOICE/THIS IS THE PEOPLE'S VOICE" - Redskins
March from the station; orange jackets everywhere. A thousand rebel unemployed, nine thousand trade
unionists and militants. The loudmouths sing the whole repertoire. Every chant thrown up during
the march is now thrown out at the audience. Rally and circle the Winter Gardens. Cameras click
and roll - press everywhere (but not a report in sight). Another army, blue-uniformed and stupid,
glare back with macho-moustache stares. Three thousand law and order merchants protecting our very
own Prime Minister from her electorate.
Six angry, articulate kids (only six?) are allowed through the barriers to swap pleasantries with
Norman Tebbit, who tells us to, "Relax. Hang around for two years and then maybe there'll be a job
This time we march in the sunshine and the Tories are suffocated by numbers. The best-dressed
marchers infiltrate the Monetarist temple, the scruffy hooligans point the finger at the cops and learn.
There is no great climax - nothing could rise above the high of the last ten days. The soaring moment
will come afterwards; another year, another place. For now, savour the struggle we have been a part
of and remind yourself of the ingredients of the militant cocktail for when you step off the coach
home into the weekend. Keep mixing; shaken and stirred.
To see what the NME readers thought of X Moore's article click on the following link - NME Letters 7th November 1981