Jiu-Jitsu police attacks, housing co-ops and Bob Marley all contributed to Islington’s Journey to Justice
PUBLISHED: 16:46 05 June 2019
Suffragettes learning jiu-jitsu to fight cops, an MP going behind fascist lines to deliver vital medical aid and Britain’s first black community centre where Bob Marley filmed Is This Love – are all part of Islington’s rich history.
Remarkable people from the borough played leading roles in the struggle for civil rights - have you heard their stories?
During the 1970s, Tricia Zipfel volunteered with Ann Power and others at Friends Neighbourhood House, in Lonsdale Square, where she helped run Islington's first playgroups.
They encouraged local mums to train as play leaders and set up playgroups, leading to Islington Play Association - which still provides six free facilities in the borough - forming in 1971.
The town hall at the time wanted to clear "slums" in areas like Westbourne Road, where many families connected to the playgroups lived.
"It was a Conservative Council," Tricia told the Gazette. "And they struck a deal with landlords, which ended up with the tenants being winkled out by compulsory purchase.
"Families were rehoused by the GLC [the former Greater London Council] and scattered across London. As a result Ann Power and I found a way to enable people who had roots in the area to create strong communities and support networks."
They wanted to protect the housing that needed renovation and repair work, rather than let it be "bulldozed".
To this end, they set up the Holloway Tenants Co-operative, which was the first community run management co-op in the UK, in 1972.
"In 1972 the first two families were rehoused in Regina Road," said Tricia. "And then incrementally it grew to well over 300 or 400 properties.
"I ran the co-op initially and we organised the letting, rent collection, the repairs, we set up playgroups. It was all so the community didn't have to be in insecure private accommodation or get dispersed across London." The co-operative was supported by Circle 33, which has since become Clarion.
Tricia and Ms Power later took the co-op model to estates across the country and it helped influence the more than 300 tenant management organisations that exist today.
Journey to Justice Islington is the latest incarnation of a travelling collection that tells the story of community heroes alongside figure heads of the civil rights movement, such as Rev Martin Luther King. The free multi-media exhibition is running at Resource for London in Holloway Road until Monday.
"It's a unique exhibition," said project coordinator Mike Butler. "And a real window into the lives of some remarkable people.
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"It's history on your doorstep.
"This brings it to life and makes it and, I think, it's relevant as there has always been struggles and it doesn't stop.
"If you take your eye off these things we have achieved and the actions of the people we've celebrated - things can go back."
The exhibition stars six Islington-specific case studies, including Tricia and Guyanese architect Oscar Abrahams who set up the Keskidee Theatre Worshop, in Gifford Street, in 1971.
The pioneering centre, which was the only dedicated space for upcoming black actors, playwrights and technicians, had the motto "a community discovering itself creates its own future".
"Reggae icon Bob Marley shot that seminal video there in 1978.
"Black music, literature and culture is now more mainstream," said Mike.
"But in those days it wasn't, so having someone like him to set up that centre, and for Bob Marley to then turn up there and record, was incredible."
He added: "One of the people I'm most drawn to is Edith Garrud because the image of her and her female bodyguards tackling police is a pretty amazing one."
Ms Garrud was born and bred in the borough and became a key figure in the suffragette movement by women to defend themselves while protesting.
She led a 30-woman bodyguard charged with protecting the Pankhurst sisters from arrests, and often outfoxed the cops when it came to this security detail.
Then there's Leah Manning, MP of the former Islington East constituency, who defied Labour's non-intervention policy during the Spanish civil war by taking medical supplies to the war-torn hospitals.
She sent a telegram to Labour leader Clement Attlee in May 1937, describing the carnage created by fascist general Franco, who was supported by German Luftwaffe aircrafts.
It read: "Constant air raids on the city. Guernica feared any day. If lives of thousands of women and children are to be saved National Joint Committee must act rapidly."
She was secretary of Spanish Medical Aid Committee during this period.
Resource for London is at 356 Holloway Road, N7 6PA. The Journey to Justice exhibition is open 9am to 5pm daily until Monday.
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