Monday, June 12, 2006


Almost 30 years ago a group of political activists got together with a group of musicians in Britain to form Rock Against Racism. It was a movement formed in reaction to rising xenophobia and racism fuelled by Nazi organisations like the National Front.

Bands like The Clash, Steel Pulse and the Tom Robinson Band helped create a political movement among music fans. The most memorable event was the April 1978 “Carnival against the Nazis”. A huge rally of 100,000 people marched the six miles from Trafalgar Square through London’s East End – the heart of National Front (NF) territory – to a Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park. The concert and march spelled the beginning of the end for the NF in the face of a young and diverse mass movement.

The Rock Against Racism gigs of the 1970s demonstrated that a mass movement of music fans and musicians could help beat back rising xenophobia and racism fuelled by Nazi organisations like the National Front.

A new movement, Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR), was launched in the summer of 2002 in response to rising levels of racism and British National Party electoral success, particularly in the north west in former mill towns like Burnley. Since that time there have been over 200 LMHR events, from large outdoor festivals to local gigs and club nights.

The goal of LMHR is to create a national movement against racism and fascism through music.

The following article comes from London Student and reports on a LMHR event held in April.

Love Music, Hate Racism

On the day that London got its first timid glimpse of the sun, 50,000 young people gathered on Trafalgar Square for a demonstration of unity against racism. Love Music, Hate Racism, taking place just a few days before local council elections in which the fascist BNP were standing, featured a multiracial array of bands, from rock giants like Belle and Sebastian to rapper Lethal Bizzle and up and coming bands like the Mentalists and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. The aim was to unite people through their love of music, which, argues the organisers, can beat the false divisions created by racism.

The show began at noon, and the line up was impressive: Apart from the musicians, there were many political speakers such as representatives of the family of racially motivated murder victim Anthony Walker. Some artists like Little Bizzle performed songs and skits that directly related to the issue of racist abuse, and even the bands whose songs did not made very critical statements: “Racism is a big issue in Hull, which is where we’re from, and we really hope to do something against it by playing here,” said Lloyd Dobbs from The Paddingtons.

By 2pm it was clear that the eagerly anticipated Pete Doherty wouldn’t show up for the Babyshambles gig (he’d been arrested earlier in the day). Bassist Drew McConnell played an acoustic version of Down In Albion, but thousands of fans could not hide their disappointment at Doherty’s absence. Martin Smith, one of the organisers, knew how to raise their spirits: “Shouldn’t the police be going after Anthony Walker’s murderers rather than arresting Pete?” to which the crowd cheered and the police officers scattered around Trafalgar Square looked vaguely embarrassed.

By this time, the square was brim full with a multicultural crowd, some of which were, much to the dislike of the police, happily bathing in the fountains and awaiting the last performance of the day - Belle & Sebastian.

Trumpet player Mick expressed his approval for the event: “We don’t have anything of this scale in Glasgow and music is a fantastic way of sending a message against racism.”

Martin Smith, who has been organising Rock Against Racism since his activist time in the 70s, wanted students to know about the importance of fighting racism: “When I was in school, kids would get beaten up because of their skin colour, and I wanted to see the situation change. Students, there is something you can do against racism. If you don’t like the world you live in, then go and change it. Don’t just sit on your sofa - go out and demonstrate.”

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