EastCast Show Extra – The Aftermath of The New Cross Fire

I produced this segment using some materials I collected while doing creating a documentary for Reggae TV that was never released.

Background

The New Cross Fire happened on Sunday 31st January 1981 and cost the lives of 14 young people and touched the lives of many more.  The fire happened at a house in on New Cross Road, very close to the station and the news travelled around the country with great speed.  There were public messages from many organisations and people across the nation, sent to comfort the families.  However, the official response by the authorities angered a community that had been under attack.  Black people in the UK had faced: discrimination in the provision of housing and services, racist violence including petrol bomb attacks and systematic harassment from the Police.  When the tragedy occurred there was no sympathetic statement from a prominent government figure.  In fact, victims of the event were treated poorly by the Police.  All of this negativity caused outrage in both the black and wider community and, the organisation of events in the aftermath of the fire, can be considered a significant milestone in the history of race relations in the UK.

For me the New Cross Fire was a significant but distant event. It happened a year before I was born and was as foreign to me as the story of Dr. Martin Luther King or the Tuskegee airmen.  I grew up in Reading with parents that had experienced racism in its most violent forms in the 1960s and 1970s.  They had tried their best to give me a historical and political grounding and I was aware that in January 1981 a fire had happened involving a group of young black people at a party in South London but I did not now much more.  The narrative had been set: there was a racist attack on this group of young people, a mysterious tragedy that was yet to solved or resolved in any satisfactory fashion.  So when Nubian Jak decided to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the event, I knew that I had to be there to record what I could.

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