Knuckle Sandwich and Sore Thumbs
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In 1975 I became involved with a group of community activists who tried to set up an ‘alternative’ youth and community centre on a large rundown GLC (Greater London Council) estate near King’s Cross. The project was largely inspired by the romantic populism of the Libertarian Left’ of this period. But if we had hoped to build the New Jerusulem in this most unpromised land, we were quickly disillusioned by the local realpolitik. The derelict pub which we had occupied and converted with the help of a Council grant became a battleground for a whole range of competing interests all claiming to represent ‘the community’. Our uncomplicated vision of cultural negotiation was no match for a tactical alliance between local villains who saw the chance of some easy pickings, and conservative elements amongst the council tenantry alarmed at the prospect of their young people being corrupted by long-haired lefties from Liverpool Road. One night, shortly after it had opened, the pub burnt down under mysterious circumstances, and the tenants’ association acquired enough insurance money to build the bingo palace they really wanted.
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