The Main Event – 2nd April 1988
In 1988, Blood and Honour was pushing new boundaries with the musical resistance. The official magazine had just over 5,000 subscribers and was being released bimonthly. Official 28 concerts were being held every two weeks, predominantly in London and the Midlands but also in the North East, under the direction of Skullhead and Unity. Meanwhile Scotland, Wales and the South East coast did their own thing. The scene was booming and added to our events, Oi! bands with a pair of bollocks, those not afraid to address the real problems facing our daily lives and nation, were playing weekly.
The main London skinhead shop and prominent meeting point for skinheads had been the Last Resort. It was the main distributor for RAC merchandise. Skrewdriver material of all kinds was its main seller, all sold from “under the counter” to avoid attention from Reds and the media.
Invariably on gig days the Ten Bells pub adjacent the shop was often used as a redirection point. Hundreds of British and foreign comrades would visit the shop to stock up on clobber or music before a political event or concert, hence it was an intrinsic part of the day’s events.
After years of skirmishes (admittedly caused by skinhead firms going “hunting” in the lane-ways and back alleys of the surrounding area) and enduring prolonged intimidation and slander campaigns by the media, local Government and left wingers, the shop was finally forced to closed due to exorbitant business rate demands.
“Yes, the original LP cover was to be the Crucified Skin surrounded by National flags of those who support us, but we felt (Ian Stuart, Micky French) while it was originally seen as defiant and used as a sign to show we would fight and stand whatever, we felt it was now being used by poseurs and such as bit of a sign of victimhood. We aren’t anyone’s victim. We came up with the idea of the United Skin, a symbol of pride and unity that would resonate with nationalist patriot Skinheads around the world.”
Ian Stuart, Skrewdriver interview, “Skinhead Pride” fanzine January 1985.
With massive revenue to be made in RAC and Oi! merchandise, a new shop called Cut Down was launched in one of London’s most iconic areas, Carnaby Street. It was the first shop to exclusively sell skinhead clothes and records. Like its predecessor, The Last Resort, Cut Down was also adjacent to a skinhead pub, The Store, whose patrons defended the shop whenever the middle class students of the left held a little protest outside.
Manned by two 28 founders, the shop that originally had been a mail order only outlet saw profits go through the roof. With global interest from media around the globe, Skrewdriver and 28 material held main-sway everywhere. Laughably Asian owned shops in the area like Sherry’s and The Merc became carbon copies of Cut Down, selling all the RAC they could get their hands on. When Cut Down was eventually forced to relocate and then close, The Merc continued to sell RAC merch from a “specialist back room”, under the management of Chinese Jimmy, who would openly tell anyone it was his best seller!
With profits sky rocketing, the financial backer, business entrepreneur Andrew St John decided to put on a massive Oi! concert in one of London’s premium musical venues, the Astoria on Charing Cross Road. Under advice from the Cut Down staff, St John booked bands which he knew would draw a massive crowd – Oi! bands which had all played with Skrewdriver or had RAC connections. These included Condemned 84, Vicious Rumours, Section 5 and the Business from South London who, while not RAC, had a singer who held a lot of prestige at that time and was a firm favourite amongst the RAC crowd.
The police and local authorities were immediately up in arms about the planned concert and many consultations were called with the organisers. The venue even demanded a written guarantee Skrewdriver would not be playing in any shape or form. Along with numerous threats, restrictions of one ticket per person and the advance notice of fines and penalties due to extra policing, the concert was still touch and go. In a move designed to placate the police and left wing detractors who were loudly describing the event as a clandestine “Blood and Honour event” and “right wing festival”, St John, despite continued advice that it was guaranteed to cause trouble, added Angelic Upstarts to the bill, with Judge Dread as compère.
The overweight Dread, complete with bald head and mullet, was seen by skinheads as an archaic joke figure more associated with dress up ska events than the real deal. The Angelic Upstarts, a punk band from the North of England, had a vocally National Front associated start and made regular trips to the 100 Club to watch Skrewdriver, Combat 84 and Ovaltinees. They had by this time however regressed to regularly playing Anti Fascist Action gigs and Socialist Workers events, which attracted and catered to predominantly left wing middle class punk rockers rather than any decent skinhead. Many still surmise this invitation was more a set up than serious invite.
With the morbidly obese lead singer, Mensi, now known for mouthing about extreme left wing shite totally at odds with any patriot, smashing up the Upstarts had become a celebrated past time of skinheads the length and breadth of Great Britain. From the first time the band and their manager Keith Bell were hospitalised in Wolverhampton 1979, it became a common occurrence – Sunderland, Nottingham, Basingstoke etc – forcing the band to only play punk gigs, gay pride events and other left wing “safe spaces” where skinheads wouldn’t likely be a threat. On two occasions of note, Mensi was even put on his arse by skinheads while on stage in front of his audience – once at the Adam and Eve in Leeds and in a more spectacular fashion at the Ad Lib in London.
With this info at hand trouble was not only coming – it was guaranteed.
“Rivers of Hope” Fanzine footage
1500 tickets were quickly sold out before the event and on the day of the concert, Carnaby Street was heaving with skinheads literally queuing around the block to go into Cut Down, while Ian Stuart rallied an estimated firm of 300 in The Store. One German firm, hearing it was going to kick off, made the journey from Stuttgart to join the festivities.
The concert proceeded and all the bands played a fantastic set. Judge Dread was tolerated. When the Angelic Upstarts finally came to the stage surrounded by Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) minders, Mensi gave it a bit of gob and tried to appease the hostile crowd by playing some of their older right wing leaning songs that he knew the skinheads would like – i.e. Teenage Warning, Never Ad Nothing and Guns For the Afghan Rebels. All the while Ian Stuart stood directly in front of the stage in Mensi’s direct view, surrounded by loyal skinheads.
Eventually, the full scale assault was launched. Skip to Ian Stuart with Mensi’s mic stand in hand, trying to club Mensi and his red minders with it. A hilarious tug of war ensued but eventually the skinheads managed to scale the security barriers and five foot high stage to confront the band and AFA stewards.
The band and AFA security ran and locked themselves in a dressing room, barricading themselves in, while skinheads invaded the back stage area looking for any reds who had been unable to hide. In the auditorium, any left winger and clown punks fool enough to be in the area were dealt with until the police arrived and closed the event. Fighting continued outside with 16 arrests being made, as skinheads tried to get in through the back entrance of the venue to get hold of the Upstarts and any AFA present.
With rumours circulating in advance across skinhead circles all over Europe that the Upstarts were gonna get done, a film crew attached to the Belgium fanzine “Rivers of Hope” managed to film all the action for posterity, from Carnaby Street to the Astoria and beyond. Enjoy. Cede Nullis 28!