Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Cable Street Day

The Cable Street day started early, bumping into the already tired looking march organiser Steve Silver on his own, mooching round the Cable Street Mural, waiting on the stage to turn up. He wandered off to show me where his grandparents used to live on Cable Street itself and to talk through some of the detailed history of the day, which he is still finding more about. Down at Wilton's Music Hall the stalls were starting to be set up, volunteers from the Cable Street Group were already busy. Pippa Hennessy and Blake Griffiths (together with me and Myra Woolfson making up the Five Leaves team) were there before me, having left Nottingham at 6.30am - they would not get back until 1.30am the next day. Don't mention the European Working Time Directive.
Among the first people to visit our stall was a man with a photo of his father treating one of the injured at Cable Street. Crikey - all the publications about the day recycle the same images. This was completely new to me. He was one of many people sharing family memories of the day, though the number of actual Cable Street veterans able to attend is now limited. At our later book launch I was pleased to see Max Levitas (who spoke at the rally), Beatty Orwell and our own Bill Fishman. There were many stalls including from our friends at Brick Lane Bookshop, Housmans and Freedom and we were well entertained by street theatre and music, including by strolling actors in period costumes rallying the crowds "to Aldgate".
The march - initiated late - passed by. It was led by a number of Bangladeshi groups and our friends from the Jewish Socialists' Group. The Indian Workers Association was strongly represented, as were local trade union branches, the Woodcraft Folk with a brilliant hand made Cable Street banner, and the Connelly Association contingent was a reminder that so many of those at Cable Street were London Irish dockers, who used their work tools to prize up paving slabs to make barricades in 1936. The stall was too busy to leave to see the young musicians of the very multicultural Grand Union Youth Orchestra though I'd sneaked in for their rehearsals.
The next event was the book launch of our five Cable Street books. Maggie Pinhorn of Alternative Arts, the main organiser of the day, had said it would be busy and perhaps 300 people attended. Jil Cove of the Cable Street Group spoke first, followed by Andy Croft who had written the introduction to the late Frank Griffin's October Day. He was followed by Frank's daughter, Josephine Clark, who read from the book. David Rosenberg, who is doing more events based on his book Battle for the East End than anyone thought possible, read next. Alan Gibbons was unable to attend because of family reasons, so I read a little from his young adult fiction book Street of Tall People. Fittingly, Roger Mills ended the launch by reading from his Everything Happens in Cable Street. By now our piles of books - over two stalls - was going down fast. This was the best day of bookselling we have had. Period (as Americans say).
Astonishingly, about 125 people came to our panel discussion on rebel writers from the 1930s, to hear Mary Joannou, Andy Croft and Ken Worpole have a friendly disagreement of the impact of the literature of the 1930s. There was no time for audience participation, though Stephen Watts managed to chip in. Stephen was one of those reading (from our AN Stencl book All My Young Years at the previous night's Cable Street party organised by Jewdas. Leon Rosselson had the next set - I was on stall duty but I got his latest four CD collection and agreed to put on a Rosselson gig sometime in Nottingham. We used to talk about publishing a Leon Rosselson songbook, but somehow that never happened. My fault, not Leon's.
At six we turned into pumpkins and the stall was packed away, or what remained of it. It was time to be civilians, and attend the evening gig. The excellent compere was Ivor Dembina followed by Michael Rosen (one of whose poems had its first book outing many years ago in a Five Leaves/Jewish Socialists' Group book). I can't list the whole cast of those appearing on the magical old music hall stage at Wilton's but the people who stood out for me were the comedian Shappi Khorsandi, the band The Men They Could Not Hang and, finally, on great form, in front of a packed and appreciative hall, Billy Bragg. All of the artists performed gratis, all events were free, and the bucket collection will be used to shore up Wilton's and to pay for all the publicity and other costs. Anything left over will be used to further honour those who fought to defend their area on that extraordinary day on 4th October 1936 under the slogan of No Pasaran! They shall not pass! Five Leaves was thrilled to be part of such an extraordinary day, marking the 75th anniversary of such an extraordinary event.
Map by John Wallett

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thrilled indeed - it was an amazing day.