Archive of the Month: Hackney Gutter Press

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There is a good summary of the HGP at:

Hackney Gutter Press, No.01

Details and pdf here 


Hackney Gutter Press Issue 1 was published in April 1972 at Centerprise bookshop in Dalston . It draws an image of a borough both dilapidated and alive: empty and run down homes are turned into squats and community spaces. The rowdy and righteous citizens of Hackney – from the women’s liberation movement, to the claimants union, local kids and parents, squatters, the local tenants association, and anyone else who is ANGRY- are coming together to remake society. This is their paper. “We want it to be used as a WEAPON TO FIGHT FOR OUR OWN CONTROL OF HACKNEY.”

The plan is beautiful, tiny, ramshackle: “Food co-operatives; setting up stalls for old clothes, etc. in the market; people’s transport – free bus/van service (or almost free – make the SS pay for the running costs!); play groups; helping each other shopping; painting each others’ homes; gardening, looking after old people; minding each others’ kids; growing food; road safety; people’s pubs and cafes; squatting; rent strikes; peoples’ theatre and art groups; starting up light industry; helping workers occupy factories and put production in the hands of the people; anti-pollution; dances and carnivals.” This is a revolution of everyday life, in which elements from the feminist movement, children’s rights movement, housing movement, and unions came together to collectively make a society as they wanted it.

The paper’s main protagonists are the local Claimants Union, who crop up in a number of articles. Alongside collectively going to the benefits claims office, they one day smash the place up, and dump old smelly furniture in it. There’s a cartoonish dynamic in which the irreverent people’s plans for the borough are constantly interrupted by stupid and pointless officials, from the violent police, to the racist magistrates, to councillors who only want to keep order, who are all put back in their place. 

Occasionally a view opens on to the wider world. An article argues for the defence of the Stoke Newington 8 (the “Angry Brigade”) who had been arrested in the borough the previous year. Claimants demand a universal income and universal free housing. Defendants in a court case demand a minutes silence for those massacred in Derry on Bloody Sunday. 

Right now, as people are reorganising themselves into mutual aid groups in their boroughs, there are lessons and stories here on how to organise in your communities. Sometimes the demands haven’t changed. We still need rent strikes and guaranteed incomes, no more racist police, an end to benefit sanctions. Get reading!

Hackney Gutter Press, No.02

Details and pdf here 

“As soon as they started to fight back they started to WIN” 

Issue two of Hackney Gutter Press promotes fighting back through taking control of the local state. Following the stories of everyday interference from bureaucrats and the police, the paper proposes that local people challenge these local institutions, while questioning the poor provisions that they offer, and offering practical advice on how to do this. 

This issue of the paper discusses the recent invention of housing associations, and how capitalist were using them to profiteer from funds that ought to have been used to help poor people get housed. It explains how to challenge evictions, how to fight back against the evictions they were causing, and how to use the rent tribunal to reduce your rent. It gives similar advise on how to complain about the police, and even follows a private prosecution against a member of staff in the social security office. 

The principal is that where the state causes you and your community grief, you should come together and fight back. And you should collectively use the instruments of the local state to defend yourself, while demanding better, community controlled provisions be made. 

This issue also contains an extended discussion by women of their experiences in family planning clinics and maternity wards. “It’s like a doctor’s waiting room, so we play “patient” and our sexuality is a disease which doctor’s prescription will cure. THIS IS DEATH: YOU ARE YOUR BODY.” Questions from women’s liberation movement shift into conversations of how to attack the bureaucracies that attack local life. 

But in the background are ever more pressing questions of authoritarian and violent social control: from the new Special Patrol Group who had raided an activist house, to the the dire conditions in Brixton prisons (where members of the Stoke Newington 8 were held on remand), to the police killing of a young Irish man, and the campaign for justice by those around him.

Hackney Gutter Press, No.03

Details and pdf here 

“Don’t grumble – SHOUT Don’t hide COME on out Don’t be trampled – STAMP your feet Get TOGETHER on every street. LIGHT BONFIRES”

Suddenly things are more serious. The rumbling backstories of state repression are illuminated centre stage: a house of five Irish republicans who have been targeted and fitted up by Special Branch. One is forced to confess with a police pistol shoved in his mouth, as the colonial policing of internment was brought home and quietly used on the mainland. Then there are the Stoke Newington 8: on trial at the Old Bailey as this issue went to press in June 1972. Their story of being fitted up by Special Branch isn’t so different. 

Alongside the irreverent street culture, the squats and playgroups, and tussles with the police and the social security office, there is an outbreak of state violence. Meanwhile the there are strikes in docklands as warehouses get demolished to make space for fancy new apartments. Intervention means defending yourself by defending each other. Don’t trust trade unions or lawyers. 

And then there is evidence of a left resurgent, robustly addressing the great social issues of the day. A mass meeting of women in East London at the height of the Women’s Liberation Movement, discussing everything from the structure of the wage and conditions of work, to contraception. They are addressed by May Hobbs, leader of the Nightcleaners, whose campaign had featured prominently in the issue of Shrew from the previous December, and who would be immortalised in the film by the Berwick Street Collective. 

The question of housing remains: substandard, derelict, and rising in price. Landlords a blight on Hackney’s poor. And finally evidence of new campaigns arising out of the struggle: the first meetings of the Hackney Gay Liberation Front are announced, and a struggle against the violent racism experienced by black families who had recently moved to the Haggerston Estate, with solidarity offered by the British Black Panthers. 

They were right: LIGHT BONFIRES!

Hackney Gutter Press, No. 4

Details and pdf here 


This issue of Hackney Gutter press, published in July 1972, demonstrates a truly confrontational movement. Much of the issue deals with changes in the law: the “Fair Rents Act”, which would lead to a doubling in the price of council house rents, and new laws on policing set out by the Law Commission. All of those elements of the community described in earlier issues of the paper – from squatters to children, from feminists to claimants, from striking workers to prisoners – are brought together in this battle with the state. The tactics are squatting, taking what you need from wherever you can, causing mischief, and taking out private prosecutions against state officials. 

There are reports too of racist police violence: the story of Aseta Simms, who died in suspicious circumstances (her body apparently beaten by the police) after a night in Stoke Newington police station in May 1971. The coroner recorded a verdict of death by misadventure. A letter to the issue from a local black man, Emile Bill Toussaint, describes how he had become subject to police harrassment after making a complaint about a violent assault by a police informant. 

Elsewhere the old stories continue: there are updates on the cases from the Claimants Union brought before the corrupt Hackney magistrate McElligott, a report from the Hackney Gay Liberation Front, including a description of the Abersham commune, and continued stories of the struggles at the docks and in the new container warehouses. 

One article from the claimants union also discusses how spies and snoopers from social security were watching the houses of women, in order to claim that they were not entitled to benefits because they were cohabiting. “WE SAY: We want to live independently – sleep with who we want to when we want to and not be forced to beg money off every man we sleep with.”

There is evidence of a growing movement of these confrontational local papers. The new Islington Gutter Press, which would long outlive the Hackney paper, is advertised. Meanwhile there is evidence of instability. The Gutter Press had lost its printing facilities, and was looking for a new home.

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