Ten years of Loving Music and Hating Racism

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In preparation for the tenth anniversary celebrations of Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR), I looked through my old folder of political memorabilia. There I discovered a copy of the first ever Temporary Hoarding magazine produced in 1977.

Adorning the front cover was a simple but powerful message: "We want rebel music, street music. Music that breaks down people's fear of one another. Crisis music. Music that knows who the real enemy is."

I believe that spirit is kept alive today through the work of LMHR.

Temporary Hoarding was produced by the activists behind Rock Against Racism (RAR). The late 1970s were bleak times. A Labour government presided over soaring unemployment and falling wages and the fascist National Front (NF) were on the streets. Alongside the Anti Nazi League, RAR played a pivotal role in breaking the back of the NF in the late 1970s.

If you fast-forward the film 20 years to 1997 many were hopeful about the future. Remember when Tony Blair's New Labour government marched into 10 Downing Street with the song "Things Can Only Get Better" ringing in our ears? But they didn't get better: the dreams came crashing down. The weak and vulnerable were all victims of Blair's Britain.

Scapegoating

The Labour government vilified asylum seekers and scapegoated migrant workers. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the "war on terror" brought with them the dramatic rise of Islamophobia. Blair and Brown created the foundations for Cameron's attacks on multiculturalism and Muslims.

This created the perfect breeding ground for the British National Party (BNP). In 2002, three BNP councilors were elected in Burnley. Something had to be done. LMHR was launched. Like RAR, LMHR attempted to fuse music and culture with politics to create a powerful anti-racist message that connected with the young and not so young.

In culture as in history, nothing is fixed, rigid or definitive. That's why the "Rock" tag had to go. Our new slogan was: Hip hop, indie, drum 'n' bass, reggae, punk and grime - Love Music Hate Racism.

Our ethos was simple - we mixed different musical genres in order to create both musical and physical black, white and Asian unity.

We held our first gig in Burnley and followed it with the Manchester Carnival in September 2002. The line-up included Ms Dynamite, the Doves and Billy Bragg. It attracted a large number of young people, who hated the BNP but were alienated by official politics.

We tried to create a mass cultural movement that would oppose the poisonous lies being peddled by the politicians. We utilised artists who could reach large numbers of people, hopefully in new and exciting ways.

The following year Unite Against Fascism (UAF) was launched, with the backing of most trade unions, many Labour Party activists and the Socialist Workers Party. We disagreed on much, but all agreed we needed unity to stop the BNP. The next four years were hard ones for the anti-fascist movement. By 2008 the BNP had two MEPs, a Greater London Assembly member and 55 councillors. A year later the racist English Defence League (EDL) spewed onto the streets.

LMHR supplemented the campaigning work of UAF. We took the anti-fascist message deep into the heart of the community and areas where the BNP were organising. In the run-up to the 2005 council elections we organised a 40,000 strong carnival in Trafalgar Square in central London. Estelle, Roll Deep and Pete Doherty provided the music and the politics were delivered by Tony Benn and Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman. This was followed by a massive 100,000-strong carnival in Victoria Park in 2008, and carnivals in Stoke, Barnsley and Liverpool.

Impact

The political impact of these carnivals should not be underestimated. In Barnsley the BNP held a regular Saturday stall in the town centre. On the day of the carnival the tables were turned. One young reveller told Socialist Worker, "Suddenly there were hundreds of us walking past them, shouting 'Nazi, Nazi' at them.... When they saw us coming all they could do was shut up and pack up."

Again after the Stoke Carnival one BNP supporter phoned the LMHR office to complain that we were wrecking his family. Apparently his daughter who went to our carnival came home and called him a Nazi and refused to talk to him. The mayor of the city said the carnival played a "crucial role in undermining support for the BNP in the city".

I am not the only one who believes that LMHR played a part in fusing indie music with the emerging drum 'n' bass and hip hop scenes. Lethal Bizzle said at one LMHR meeting, "One minute I was playing to a predominantly black audience - then thanks to LMHR's unity message, I was performing in front of white kids in skinny jeans."

In 2007 we collaborated with the NME to produce a free CD. They also ran a cover and six-page feature on LMHR. Just as exciting, the NUT teachers' union supported the project and helped produce a free download. We took our message into hundreds of schools and colleges.

LMHR was never just about the big carnivals. We adopted the punk DIY ethic. We encouraged local bands and activists to organise their own events. In 2011 there were over 350 local LMHR gigs.

Bit by bit and along with others we helped erode the BNP's support in places like Barking, Stoke and Barnsley.

It's right that on 15 September we are going to celebrate LMHR's tenth anniversary in style. We will be holding a one-day event in East London, with film, music, poetry, comedy and a host of political speakers.

But we can't be complacent. When Ed Miliband says Labour got it wrong on migration, when you see fascist parties making significant electoral gains in France and Greece and when you see the street thugs of the EDL marching through the streets.... YOU KNOW YOU NEED MUSIC THAT KNOWS. WHO THE REAL ENEMY IS!


10 years of LMHR

2002
May BNP stand 67 candidates and win 3 council seats in Burnley.
June LMHR is launched in Burnley. Chumbawamba headline.
September Manchester LMHR carnival (Ms Dynamite, the Doves and Billy Bragg).

2003
May The BNP field 217 candidates in the council elections and gain 13 seats.

2004
March The Libertines and the Buzzcocks headline the LMHR gig at the Astoria, London.
May The BNP win 14 more council seats.

2005
May LMHR Trafalgar Square Carnival 1 with Estelle and Pete Doherty attracts 40,000 people.
May BNP field 41 candidates in 18 councils. In Barking's Goresbrook ward they made a major breakthrough gaining 52 percent of the vote.

2006
May Day LMHR Trafalgar Square Carnival 2. Belle and Sebastian, Roll Deep and Lethal Bizzle play to 50,000.
May Council elections see the BNP win 33 seats - 12 in Barking, 3 in Stoke on Trent, 3 in Epping Forest, 3 in Sandwell, 2 in Burnley, 2 in Kirklees, 1 in Bradford, Havering, Solihull, Redditch, Redbridge, Pendle and Leeds.

2007
October NME/LMHR collaborate to produce a double CD against the BNP. The artists involved include Bloc Party, MIA, Hard Fi, Charlatans, Babyshambles and Lethal Bizzle.

2008
April Over 100,000 people attend the LMHR Carnival in Victoria Park, east London. Artists performing included The Good, the Bad and the Queen, Jerry Dammers, Poly Styrene, Jay Sean, Roll Deep and Akala.
May The BNP win a seat in the GLA elections and now have 55 councillors across the country.
September Rotherham - Kaiser Chiefs and Reverend and the Makers (4,500 sold out).

2009
May Stoke LMHR Carnival (held at Stoke City football ground) - Reverend and the Makers, Pete Doherty, Kelly Rowland, Roll Deep and Wiley play to 24,000 (see pic above)
June BNP win 2 seats in the Euro elections. The EDL formed.
October Nick Griffin appears on the BBC's Question Time.

2010
January EDL members rampage through Stoke.
March EDL protest in Bolton - thousands gather to oppose them.
April Barking council allow LMHR to hold its first event in the borough. King Blues headline.
April Barnsley Carnival - Chipmunk, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Roll Deep and Neville Staples of the Specials (8,000)
May BNP lose 26 seats. It's a wipeout in Barking and Dagenham where they lose all 12 seats.

2011
February The EDL promise to hold their biggest protest ever in the city of Luton. They end up being outnumbered by anti-racist protests called by UAF and the local mosques.
May BNP lose 11 of the 13 council seats they defended, including all 5 they had in Stoke on Trent.
September Thousands support the UAF demonstration in Tower Hamlets and stop the EDL marching in the borough. LMHR provides a sound stage. Nitin Sawhney, Pandit G and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly perform. The night before LMHR hosts a sell out gig at the Rich Mix, East London.

2012
May The BNP lose their only seat on the GLA.
September LMHR will celebrate its tenth anniversary at the Rich Mix.