Mortarhate flyer for the gig
I had been meaning to post something on this gig for a while but today I was prompted to do so by on seeing an Instagram post from Steve Ignorant on this anniversary.
In April 1987 I was 18 years old and for the past twelve months or so in a position to travel up to London gigs from home in West Sussex. Prior to this 'coming together of minds gig' in Brixton I had seen conflict and a couple of the other anarcho bands that were regularly hosted by the Richmond Hotel in Brighton. I used to go with a mate who, like me, lived in Burgess Hill (10 miles north of Brighton) and for both of us the necessity of getting up to this gig was not so much that Conflict were headlining, but the fact that Steve Ignorant would be on stage with them and Crass songs were in the offing. Neither Matt or myself had got to see Crass, who had split in accordance with a long established strategy three years before in 1984.
Announcement of the gig in 'Sounds'
To be honest Matt was a bit more clued up than me on the anarcho scene, having been going to see Conflict at Woolwich Poly and Eltham, AYS, Poison Girls, Rubella Ballet etc etc in London. You see, he was the youngest of five.... so he got to do far more than me at a younger age.... still bitter after all these years!
Arriving in Brixton, there was as we expected a healthy turnout from Conflict's friends of the Metropolitan Police, but inside the venue, initially all was calm. I do not remember many of the bands that played prior to Conflict, other than Thatcher on Acid and Benjamin Zephaniah, the poet. For the first part of the Conflict set I was at the front thrilled to be hearing those Crass songs. 'Banned From The Roxy' renamed as 'Banned From The UK', which turned out to be more prophetic than anyone originally imagined, 'Big A Little A' and 'I Ain't Thick It's Just A Trick'. This was a big occasion that saw buses from all corners of the UK bringing punters down to London for the event. Later I moved back.... that's the wonderful thing about the Brixton Academy, the sloping floor means that even a short arse such as me can see the stage from further back.
Out of the joyous ruck at the front, the mood further back in he venue was a little darker in places. Conflict never shied away from calling out other band's that they had issues with. There were spats with The Exploited, Oi Polloi (if I remember correctly) and most publicly New Modal Army, whose appearance on Top of the Pops in 1984 with Justin sporting an 'Only Stupid Bastards Use Heroin' triggered a war of words between the two prominent 'protest bands' that culminated in Conflict releasing an album entitled 'Only Stupid Bastards Help E.M.I.', a dig at NMA for signing to the major label.
To my left were a group of punks baying for blood.... 'Kill Colin, Kill Colin!'.... well they were a bit too far away from the stage to do him any serious damage! The gig ended before schedule due to people on the stage so Matt and I decided to make an exit. The atmosphere outside was not so conducive to 'Anarchy and Peace' so we made a beeline for Brixton Tube Station and Victoria.
It was only next morning that we heard on the radio that something of a riot followed the gig with 50 plus arrests and four policemen injured. It turned out that luck had been on our side and we had just managed to make it onto the Tube before the London Transport Police made the decision to close it along with bus routes in and out of Brixton in an attempt to contain a crowd containing elements that were looking for confrontation with the police.
Gig review in 'Sounds'
If Conflict thought that they had been in hot water before the 'Gathering' the fall-out proved how bad thinks could be.
'Sounds' April 1987
News of the live album and detailed reportage of the gig from the Daily Mirror!
Reading through this stuff again, some 30 years after the event, some of the claims made that this was always intended to be an harmonious night in which 'to forget our troubles' may have being stretching credibility a little too far. I never saw any leaflets appealing to people to take the opportunity to riot, but there was certainly information available that pinpointed the locations of all butchers, bookies, burger bars, the Police Station, Boots the Chemist and even the local Conservative Club!
I still have the 'Ungovernable Force' gig shirt with the date on the back that I bought from Rough Trade in Portabello Road a couple of weeks later. It would be rather snug now but who knows after 3 months of housebound isolation....