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PhD student’s research into music and anti-fascism turned into book

Rick Blackman Monday 30 October 2017

PhD student Rick Blackman’s research into music and anti-fascism in post-war Britain has been turned into a book. 

Forty Miles of Bad Road: The Stars’ Campaign for Interracial Friendship and the Notting Hill Riots of 1958 has been published by Redwords, and is now available on Amazon.

Rick said: “In the late summer of 1958, racist violence broke out on the streets of Notting Hill, west London. At its origin were many complicated social, economic and political factors. Against a backdrop of slum housing, concerns over employment and interracial marriage, was a nascent racism against the newly arrived African-Caribbean and Asian communities. This had been exacerbated by a renewed fascist movement around the Keep Britain White campaign orchestrated by the White Defence League and Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement.

“The Stars’ Campaign for Interracial Friendship was founded by musicians in the aftermath of the riots. Stars including Lawrence Olivier, Peter Sellers, Paul Robeson, Harry Seacombe, Tommy Steele, Lonnie Donegan and others, got involved, leading to celebrity-led gigs and interracial evenings at local clubs to promote understanding. It was the first of its kind, and the start of celebrities really getting involved in politics and social comment. Music and entertainment was recognised as a way to give a social message.”   

While the campaign only lasted for 16-months, it set a precedent that was followed in the 1970s by Rock Against Racism, which saw artists come together to take on the National Front, who had made it to third place in elections with a campaign based on the issue of repatriation of black and Asian people.

The Clash, Elvis Costello, Bob Marley, and Pete Townshend were all involved in Rock Against Racism, resulting in a gig for 100,000 people.

Rick has interviewed Marty Wilde and Hylda Sims as part of his research, which was originally carried out as part of his MA in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society.

Rick is expanding his study for his PhD by tracing the history from 1958 up to the present day, looking at Rock Against Racism in more detail and the more recent Love Music Hate Racism – whose supporters include Stormzy, Rudimental, Ed Sheeran, and Birdy - and which has a yearly conference and programme of awareness-raising events.

Rick’s love of music history comes from his own experience, growing up in London very close to the unrest of 1958.

Rick also plays in The Fred Hampton Appreciation Society, who play music of black origin and soul and have an album out now.

Rick is currently teaching modern History at Liverpool Hope, having previously taught in Further Education.

Rick added: “It’s now commonplace for musicians to get involved in social movements. I hope that my research will shed light on the origins of that connection, its lasting impact and where it could go in the future.”

Forty Miles of Bad Road: The Stars’ Campaign for Interracial Friendship and the Notting Hill Riots of 1958 

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