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Book Reviews

Left-wing youth activism and the celebration of unity with reggae & punk

By Jo Manby

Crisis Music: The cultural politics of Rock Against Racism by Ian Goodyer. Manchester University Press: 2009

(Local Classification: AR.8.00/GOO)

November 1976. Rock Against Racism (RAR) holds its first gig in the Princess Alice pub in the East End of London. Young people are rallying against the far-right National Front.

Two years later, April 1978. Victoria Park in the East End of London. A huge crowd gathers for a day-long outdoor concert headlined by Tom Robinson and The Clash. It was this concert, organised by Rock Against Racism, that helped to radicalise a generation and gave punk a reason to be something more than rebellious nihilism.

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Events and Activities Great Lives

Ian Macdonald QC 1939-2019

It is with great sadness that we heard of Ian Macdonald’s passing in November 2019. The ‘Father of Immigration Law’ was an anti-racist defence lawyer who worked his whole life to promote justice and equality in the UK.

Black and white scan of a newspaper article, with a photograph of Ian Macdonald
Article from The Guardian, 1990, held in our archive in the Legacy of Ahmed collection.

Ian first published the textbook Immigration Law & Practice in 1983. Now in its ninth edition, it remains the leading work on this subject. Many of the anti-immigration campaigns he supported are represented in our archive, including that of Cynthia Gordon, Nasira Begum, Jaswinder Kaur, and Nasreen Akhtar.

For those unfamiliar with Ian Macdonald’s life and work, the causes he championed and the ideas he promoted are now mainstream in society. For example, Ian’s work with the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) was instrumental in the enactment of the 1968 Race Relations Act and the establishment of the Race Relations Board, which laid the foundations for the Equality and Human Rights Commission we have today.

red front cover of Ian Macdonald's book
Ian Macdonald’s monumental book, Immigration Law and Practice, now in its 9th edition.

Ian Macdonald was also counsel in many high profile cases relating to prejudice within the criminal justice system. These include the trial of the Mangrove Nine (a group of British black activists tried for inciting a riot at a protest, in 1970) and the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (representing Stephen’s friend Duwayne Brooks).

This year marks 30 years since the publication of Murder in the Playground. Ian Macdonald was commissioned by Manchester City Council to conduct a public inquiry into racism in the city’s schools, following the murder of schoolboy Ahmed Iqbal Ullah in 1986. The report identified patterns of institutional racism that contributed to the circumstances surrounding Ahmed’s death. The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre is named in Ahmed’s memory. The legacy of his death and the investigation that followed will always hold an important place in the work that the Centre does.

black front cover of book with white and blue writing and a black and white photo of ahmed iqbal ullah
This book can be found in the Manchester Local History section of the AIU Centre library.

Ian Macdonald was also a trustee of the George Padmore Institute (GPI) in North London, which was founded in 1991 by political and cultural activists. The GPI is an archive, library, educational resource and research centre which, much like the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, houses material relating to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) experiences in the UK.  Ian was actively committed to the development of this Institute until the last.

We send our condolences to Ian’s family and friends. He was an inspiration to us all and will not be forgotten.

Categories
Book Reviews Great Lives Opening the Archive

Ours is a Very Active Life

In preparing for our Paul Robeson hands-on session next Wednesday (details on our website and Facebook) I keep coming across the name Wilf Charles. He was one of a small group who established the New International Society in Moss Side in 1946, an organisation that promoted anti-racism locally but also supported international causes, including many championed by Robeson. As a result of this relationship Robeson came to sing at the Society in 1949, but more about that another time…

Wilf Charles is mentioned, in passing, in literature about Len Johnson (Manchester’s black boxing hero), about the International Brigade and the Spanish Civil War, the Communist Party and the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester.

Who was this radical chap?

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Book Reviews Roving Reader

Only 12 Years a Slave?

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

Have you seen Steve McQueen’s Oscar and BAFTA-winning film 12 Years a Slave? If yes, you’ll know two things: one, it’s based on the true story of abducted free Black American Solomon Northup in the 1840s, and two, it’s not a barrel of laughs.

So to cheer you up, as an addendum to my last post, I’d like to highlight a couple of people featured in The Skull Measurer’s Mistake who made a stand against the kind of abuse Northup was subjected to – Granville Sharp and George Cable.

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Book Reviews Roving Reader

The Skull Measurer’s Mistake

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

This title caught my eye: The Skull Measurer’s Mistake. Skull measurer? Mistake? What could this mean? We know it’s not great to measure our waists inaccurately, as we burst out of our clothes if they’re too small. But skulls?

Image of book covers

Once I’d picked up Skull Measurer (published 1997) I was hooked. The rest of the title tells you why: and Other Portraits of Men and Women Who Spoke Out Against Racism. Concisely and deftly Sven Linqvist navigates the intellectual currents around the ethnic stereotyping that characterised popular imagination on both sides of the Atlantic during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and those who opposed it.

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Book Reviews Our library

Education for All?

Over the coming months our cataloguer and book reviewer Jo will be profiling sections of the library. First up, the Education section…

image of teaching resources on shelf

The Education section is of primary importance in some ways since the driving force behind the original founding of the Centre and the Trust was the commemoration of the life of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah, the 13 year old Bangladeshi student murdered in a racially motivated attack in a Manchester school playground, 1986.

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Our library Thinking about collections

Reblog: The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Centre

Just been reminded of this great post about the Centre, based on an interview with our founder Lou Kushnick. It was written in 2011 by Arwa Aburawa for the always-interesting Manchester’s Radical History blog.

Read about our humble beginnings and the Lou’s vision!:

Manchester’s Radical History blog: The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Centre