Hereford’s radical history: ‘The Archenfield Review was as scurrilous as it dared to be’

Archenfield ReviewOne night in the 1980s, animal rights demonstrators attacked the cattle market café, breaking windows and spray painting ‘Murderers’ across the face of the building.

It was a shock to quiet, conservative Herefordshire, the loyal home of the clandestine Special Air Services and the kind of place where rumours of roughings-up down at the nick were taken as a matter of course.

There had been some early radical rumblings: the co-founder of International Times, Jeff Nuttall, had lectured at the art college and played jazz trumpet down at The Booth. A travellers support group had been formed in the late 1970s (Gypsies bore the brunt of local racism) and a Ross CND shortly after.

As Margaret Thatcher became the century’s longest serving prime minister and the West Mercia drug squad played cat and mouse with local dope heads, frustrated libertarians founded a welfare rights drop-in (they met at The Red Door in Maylord Street), a branch of the National Council for Civil Liberties and a gay rights group. There was even a small, sympathetic team of lawyers on hand giving free legal advice.

Coverage by the local media was dire and so the Archenfield Review arrived in the early 1980s. The title (Archenfield was the pre-Norman Herefordshire district) reflected founding editor David Adams’ interests – he had previously set up Herefordshire County Life, devoted to the county’s quirky past and present.

AR, broadly modelled on the alternative West Highland Free Press, was communally run and as scurrilous as it dared to be. Editorially to the left, its Private Eye-style news featured leaked information (such as the frequency of Bulmers’ courtesy drinks van to the incumbent mayor’s office), gossip on locals like ‘Slippery Sam’, a solicitor with a penchant for property deals, councillor ‘Basilballs’ Baldwin and the machinations of ‘Liberal boy wonder’ (then councillor) Paul Keetch. There was a what’s on (‘the Mosquitos – a legend in their own drinking time’), poems, agitprop (‘Give Peace a Dance organised by the Legs Against the Arms Race’) and adverts for Gaffers, Fodder and the Hereford Council for Voluntary Services which eventually became the AR base.

Early issues featured hand-written pages by Geof Newsom and that inky workhorse of the parish press, the Gestetner duplicating machine involving long nights of cut and past layouts, wayward stencil sheets and direct printing on sheets of A3 – collation was a nightmare.

Later editions such as ‘No 6, Nov/Dec 1984 involving M. Pavey, S. Isles, P. Miles, Alison Maclean, Judith Dixon, P. Baines, J. Sant, D. Freeman, Toni Hastings, J. Munro & Phil Miles’ were professional printed in Kingstone and delivered for sale everywhere from local newsagents to the Fountain Inn at Orcop (although on one occasion, the police confiscated the Fountain’s entire delivery).

AR eventually ran out of volunteer steam, but its demise was not in vain. “Our campaigning for the arts led to the council appointing its first arts officer,” recalled one contributor, relishing the memory of apprehensive councillors nipping across from the town hall to WHSmith to grab their copy as soon as it arrived.

Bill Laws

Freedom Paper in a spot of bother

Britain’s anarchist movement newspaper is in a spot of financial difficulty, after 125 years – taken from Freedom Press.

Now that we’re bust and what we’re going to do about it

As many comrades are aware, Freedom has continued thanks to a significant donation in 2005. This not only enabled us to keep the paper going, but also to publish large print runs of important anarchist classics and undertake work to the building such as moving the shop downstairs. It has also meant that we have been able to pay people (albeit at very low rates) who are doing work which prevents them getting gainful employment elsewhere. This has enabled the political transformation of Freedom Press from a group with a particular viewpoint within anarchism to a resource responsible to the broad movement. We don’t want to return to a situation where Freedom is run simply by those with spare time or money who then determine its politics.

While we can’t have an ideal accountable structure (the undercover cop federation would end up in charge) the Freedom collective includes comrades from The Anarchist Federation, The Solidarity Federation, Corporate Watch, Anarchist Black Cross, Liberty and Solidarity, Advisory Service for Squatters, Action East End, Anti Fascist Network, Legal Defence and Monitoring Group as well as non-aligned comrades – be fair you can’t expect Donald to set up a new group at 84.

However, the 2005 donation has now run out. This is not unexpected of itself, but it has happened sooner than we anticipated because of the Beating the Fascists photograph saga. When we published this book in 2009 it was illustrated with photographs supplied by the authors. Unbeknown to us, these included pictures taken by David Hoffman which were still under copyright. We have ended up paying him £4,000 for the use of these pictures rather than face legal action. While this was a stupid mistake by us, it’s very disappointing that someone who claims to support anti-fascist politics and made money from their photographs, while enjoying protection from the far right on demonstrations, should chose to extract money from a radical publisher for a genuine mistake. The result is that we have had to reconsider the future far sooner than we thought.

We will still be able to carry on at 84b with the shop and distributing books and, of course, all the offices, meetings and other activities in the building. However we are going to look seriously at continuing producing a hard-copy paper. Freedom is (and for a long time has been the only) regular paper of the anarchist movement in this country, yet the number of subscribers (around 300) and groups/individuals distributing it (about 10) is tiny. The exact size of the anarchist movement is known only to the Box and the Branch, but given that the London Anarchist Bookfair attracts around 3,000 people, they can’t all be undercovers. Thus we know only a minority want to read and an insignificant minority distribute Freedom. This could be because printed newspapers have had their day as a form of propaganda, or it could be the paper’s rubbish. Nothing we can do about the former, but fixing the latter will be down to more comrades writing better stuff. However before considering shutting the paper down we want to explore the possibility that the majority of the movement simply haven’t considered the possibilities of using Freedom to spread the anarchist message. Even if comrades don’t want to spread the anarchist message, they can at least make a few bob selling it. Freedom is printed for free by Aldgate Press out of their historic loyalty to the movement. However we still have to pay for layout and folding, admin and postage. Subscriptions would need to rise to around 500 to break even, or raise the UK subscription to £36. It seems a shame to give up such a resource as free printing for the movement, so if we discontinued the hard copy of the paper we would ask Aldgate if they would be prepared to do any other stuff either free or discounted.

 In reality. The only test that we can do to decide whether to continue with the paper is to see if there is practical support in the movement for it. This has two elements. Financially, at the current level of subscriptions we would need £4,000 in donations a year to keep the paper going. Obviously there are many good causes competing for comrades’ money and if you or your group think that the cash should be spent on other projects then that’s well and good. More significantly, does the anarchist movement think that producing and distributing Freedom is beneficial to the anarchist cause and is it prepared to do so. If the situation remains as it is now we will end the hard copy version in October on its 125th Anniversary and put out some guff about it transforming into a digital entity for the online age.

Appeal and public meeting at the Bookfair

Hence we are launching an appeal for donations towards keeping the paper going and to get more people to take the paper on sale or return. We will keep comrades informed both in print and on the website how it’s going. We are having a meeting at the London Anarchist Bookfair so comrades have a chance to discuss the future of the paper face to face.

This article appears in the July 2012 issue of Freedom.

International Workers Day 2012 – In Pictures

Here’s a few snapshots of May Day protests from around the world…

Anti-Workfare protesters close down stores on Oxford Street, London

Thousands join May Day rallies in Spain

Riot police flank revolutionary left-wing May Day demonstration in Germany

Protesters try and tempt police with doughnuts. Montreal, Quebec

Anarchists get stuck into stores in Downtown Seattle, USA

Flag waving anarchist gets water cannoned in Santiago, Chile

A lighter shade of policing. Bogota, Columbia.







Hereford radical history Part 2: Hereford’s Counter Culture

Growing up in Hereford in the 70s I was surrounded by alternative radical influences. Hereford had a thriving music scene that grew out of the hippie era–and Hereford was well known for its hippies! There were gigs at the Flamingo, at the art college and various venues. A place for meeting up and hanging around was Buzz Music in Widemarsh Street (now a car park; how unsurprising!) This brightly painted music shop was a candle to us young impressionable moths. You could go in and listen to records all day, drink coffee, smoke and smoke, and still not buy anything. There were real rock stars coming and going and as Buzz Music expanded into PA hire for major rock tours there was a real feeling of being at the centre of the counter culture. Once Buzz closed down there were all sorts of rumours that the PA hire was more to do with smuggling for a certain Mr H Marks (nice!).

There were several pubs that took on the role of centre of counter culture too. The Saracen’s Head was famous for its cheap cider and hash dealers, as were a few others in the town. There was a real feeling in the air as the 70s progressed, that the ‘straights’ were losing the argument … and then punk happened! All of a sudden, instead of a few long haired hippies noodling on guitars representing our counter culture, we had aggressive loud youths shouting about it and how anarchy was going tear down the state! Youths were getting political. The punk movement faded into the mainstream but from it came a new kind of political awareness, namely that the ruling classes are corrupt and full of self serving rich crooks getting richer! This was a radical view in ’77, but today it’s what most people think.


Article first published in Hereford Heckler 13

Hereford radical history: the Whitson riot

At 5 O’clock in the morning on the Tuesday of Whitson week 1605 the vicar of Allensmore, Richard Heyns, was woken by a commotion in his church yard. What he saw from the window of the vicarage was forty to fifty heavily armed people carrying out an illegal funeral ceremony. The deceased was Alice Wellington, who, being a Catholic, had been excommunicated from the church and denied a burial.

England at this time was rife with anti-Catholic feeling due to the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation involved the replacement of the corrupt leadership of the Vatican with equally dodgy people closer to home. Herefordshire had become something of a safe haven for Catholics, particularly along the border with Monmouthshire and the edge of the Black Mountains. Life for the vast majority of people living in this part of the county was extremely hard. Protestants and Papists alike, living outside the fruit growing area, survived by spinning flax and hemp, begging and scrumping. This was a world away from the decadent lives of the privileged land owners and religious leaders.

Reverend Heyns, being part of the privileged ruling class, rushed off to Hereford to tell the Bishop what he’d seen. In those days the authority in Herefordshire rested with the church, the head of which was Richard Bennett, the Bishop. Bennett’s reaction to the commotion in Allensmore was to send the High Constable, and his aides, to arrest those that had taken part in the illegal burial.

After a struggle in which some of the constables were injured, Leonard Marsh was arrested in Hungerstone and lead back to Hereford for questioning. As the group passed Belmont they were ambushed by forty armed men. Due to being threatened with more than just a bloody good hiding, the constables released Leonard Marsh.

When news of these disturbances reached London, the King demanded that an example should be made of the ‘Herefordshire-men’, even if that meant spilling blood. This news emboldened the ‘rebels’, but worried the Bishop and his magistrates who feared provoking a wider uprising. And so followed ‘a state of lawlessness’ that lasted for six weeks, in which a game of cat and mouse was played between the Bishop’s men and the locals. The constables often rode into deserted villages while looking for the supposed ringleaders. The communication network that existed in order to evacuate these villages is an example of the high level of organisation that prevailed during the ‘disturbances’.

It eventually became clear that the Bishop of Hereford was unable to reassert his power over the people, so the Earl of Worcester was given the task. Being a Catholic gave the Earl the influence he needed to convince the people to get back in line, and with minimal effort the rebels of south-west Herefordshire were subdued. As with most uprisings, a suitable scapegoat had to be found. That person was William Morgan of Kilpeck who was sent to the Tower of London for supposedly organising, what is now called, ‘The Whitson Riot’.

This article referenced Whitsun Riot by Roland Mathias (1963) Bowes & Bowes London

Article first published in Hereford Heckler #12