Ealing Rises Up - Outdoor Display
Ealing Rises Up - Outdoor Display
Past national and international programme archive
30 November 2021 - 1 July 2022
Gunnersbury Park, London
Visit the Ealing Rises Up outdoor display in Gunnersbury Park to learn about the stories and experiences of people connected to anti-racist activism and resistance in Ealing. The display includes replica portraits from the National Portrait Gallery Collection, archive material and new art work from Ealing Rises Up artists Asia Ahmed and Narvir Singh. Key moments and figures in West London’s anti-racism history are explored including the Barbour-James family, Eric and Jessica Huntley and the 1979 Southall riots. The display features first-hand accounts from people including film director Gurinder Chadha and Misty in Roots manager Clarence Baker, along with research produced by some of the project’s local Citizen Researchers.
Southall - 23 April 1979
On 23 April 1979, the National Front held a meeting in Southall, home to one of the UK’s most significant Asian populations. With a racist platform calling for migrant repatriation, the presence of the NF in Southall was a clear provocation to the local community.
The borough of Ealing had previously declined to authorise the NF to use its public spaces. But by running a candidate in Southall in the 1979 general election, the NF’s right to organise a public meeting in the constituency was protected by national electoral law.
No amount of pleading or protest from local community leaders could prevent the meeting from taking place.
The local community, with support from anti-racist organisations from outside the area, organised peaceful protests against the NF meeting.
Police, including Special Patrol Groups armed with riot shields and truncheons, were called in to maintain order and permit the NF to meet in the face of local resistance.
Police cordons were set around the Southall Town Hall to prevent the community from accessing the ‘public’ meeting. Police on horseback, in transport vans, and on foot, cleared demonstrators by force.
Witnesses described what happened:
Crowds of locals trapped between police lines.
Officers wantonly destroying property in cherished community institutions.
SPG advancing on crowds in full riot gear.
Mounted police charging into crowds of demonstrators.
Police hitting unarmed protestors with truncheons.
Youths launching projectiles at police lines.
Thugs smashing windows and looting.
In the Peoples Unite collective, recording equipment and musical instruments were intentionally destroyed by police clearing the building.
Clarence Baker, the manager of local reggae band Misty in Roots, was left in a coma.
Blair Peach, an anti-racism activist from East London, was left dead.
342 people were arrested.
National press described the events of 23 April as unruly ‘riots’. But many locals remember the day as an act of resistance. This was a decisive moment when the community united to rise up against the National Front and the institutional racism of a police force that would brutalise the people of Southall to protect the NF.
Anti-racist activism and acts of resistance
Artists Asia Ahmed and Narvir Singh have produced a series of short films taking themes from the Citizen Researchers and their own research to tell the story of anti-racist activism and acts of resistance connected to Ealing. The films feature archive imagery and new oral history accounts telling the story of Ealing Rises Up from the 1950s through to the 1990s.
Asia Ahmed – Inner State
Inner State collages together archival images and film footage alongside a reading by Irfan Master telling the story of the riots in 1979 and the death of Blair Peach.
Asia Ahmed – Bussing
Bussing focuses on the policy of bussing school children in Ealing out of the borough and the impact this had on those who experienced it, including former police officer Gurpal Virdi and artist Shakila T Maan.
Narvir Singh – Southall 79
This film contains descriptions of racism and police brutality which may be triggering for some viewers.
Narvir focuses on the riots in Southall in 1979 and explores in detail what took place that day. Using recounted memories and experiences in the present day locations, Narvir sensitively maps the death of Blair Peach and the attack on the Peoples Unite Centre whilst sharing a message of hope and solidarity when a community stands together.