Clapham? I cheered as well…

An email conversation the other day got me looking for a picture I remembered I had of my radical youth.

It was of me in a rowing team for a charity competition proudly wearing a Nicaraguan Solidarity Campaign t-shirt. I also used to wear it to play cricket.

And then the e-conversation turned to other activism I used to get involved in. Standing as a political candidate, badgering shoppers on behalf of Greenpeace, attending Marxist get-togethers and generally fighting the powers that be.

So far, so unmusical.

But I also remembered this.


The Artists Against Apartheid concert at Clapham Common combining my two favourite things at the time – marching for something and music.

I persuaded two friends, Simon and Alison, to go along too. Simon travelled down from Bath and Alison was already in London.

I had been a big fan of the AAA Sun City song released the previous year, absolutely loved Big Audio Dynamite and thought the whole thing looked a bit of a hoot to be honest.

I don’t recall much about the rally, but the march was slow and ridiculously hot with lots of entrepreneurial people along the way selling cans from bins packed with ice.

At Clapham Common an absolutely massive crowd had gathered, bigger than anything I’d ever seen before and it seemed to overwhelm the facilities on offer. Now I’d be looking round and thinking `I’ll give this an hour…’ but then it was marvellous to be involved in something that had drawn so many people for such a good cause even if from the middle of the throng there was no chance of going anywhere and even less chance of finding your friends again if you did.

From the printed line-up I can vaguely remember Sting , Boy George looking an absolute state in what was later revealed to be the middle of a dangerous period of drug addiction – a story that would become a tabloid frenzy that summer – and getting much nearer the front late on for some B.A.D action. I’m pretty sure Paul Weller also made an appearance in what I presume would be his Style Council days and Peter Gabriel performed an emotional version of Biko.

Two years later a Mandela Concert at Wembley was a much more corporate affair. Bigger, but worse, bands, more promotion and probably a bigger impact.

I watched it on the telly.





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