Posts Tagged ‘Metropolitan Police’

The Royal Albert Hall, Miss World and the Angry Brigade in 1970

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Eric Morley, the creator of Miss World, noting down some important vital statistics.

There were two separate protests at the Royal Albert Hall on 20 November 1970. One of them, the iconic flour-bomb demonstration directed at the Miss World contest by a group of young feminists, has become part of popular social history. The second, a potentially more serious event (something similar would certainly be taken as such today), has almost been completely forgotten.

At around 2.30am, on the morning of the Miss World contest, a group of about four or five young people had gathered around one of the BBC’s outside broadcast lorries that had been parked at the side of the Royal Albert Hall. They slid a home-made bomb under one lorry and ran off quickly down Kensington Gore in the direction of Notting Hill. A small amount of TNT, wrapped in a copy of The Times, exploded a few minutes later waking up residents in a nearby block of flats, one of whom saw the youths running away.

The small explosion was mentioned in the press the following day but it didn’t compare to the huge publicity the women’s liberation demonstration garnered, not least because of the unbelievable popularity of Miss World at the time. The 1970 contest, in the UK alone, had almost 24 million viewers – the highest rated television programme that year.

It was in the middle of the contest when about fifty women and a few men started throwing flour bombs, stink bombs, ink bombs and leaflets at the stage wile yelling “we are liberationists!”, “We’re not beautiful, we’re not ugly, we’re angry” and “ban this disgraceful cattle market!”. The whole world took notice.

We're Angry, Very Angry

Protestors outside the Royal Albert Hall, 20th November 1970

The protest inside the Albert Hall

"Resignation is only abdication and flight, there is no other way out for women than to work for her liberation."

Bob Hope, who was to crown Miss World and was performing when the protest started, certainly noticed and he quickly tried to flee the stage as the missiles flew by. He was hampered by Julia Morley, the wife of the organiser Eric Morley, who grabbed hold of his ankle in a desperate attempt to stop him leaving. It only took a few minutes for the police to restore order but the women’s movement had in one fell swoop established itself as part of the seventies.

Meanwhile a clearly shocked Hope was persuaded by Morley to get back on stage where, for once, not reading from idiot boards, he said:

These things can’t go on much longer. They’re going to have to get paid off sooner or later. Someone upstairs will see to that. Anybody who wants to interrupt something as beautiful as this must be on some kind of dope.

The Sun, which the day before had stated ‘we’re in for a long, hard winter’ because the ‘lovely Miss World girls have abandoned the mini-skirt for the midi’, rejected the ‘cattle market’ comparisons wittily declaring ‘If you can’t stand the cheesecake, stay out of the market.’ The Daily Mirror, not wishing to be accused of comparing women with cattle, wrote ‘you couldn’t ask for a field of shapelier fillies than those coming under starter’s orders tonight for the grand Miss World stakes.’ The Mail described the demonstrators as ‘Yelling Harpies’ and asked what was ‘degrading about celebrating the beauty of the human body?’

The world’s most famous beauty contest had started just twenty years previously in 1951 when an ex-squadron leader called Phipps was in charge of publicity for the upcoming Festival of Britain. He rang a former RAF friend, who was now running a catering and dancehall company called Mecca, asking for ways to add some “razzamatazz” to the rather sedate festival plans. He was quickly told “My man Morley will come up with something”.

A few days later, over lunch at the Savoy, Eric Morley, who was already responsible for coming up with ‘Come Dancing’ for the BBC in 1949 and went on to popularise Bingo, suggested a ‘Miss World Festival Bikini Girl contest’. It went ahead and become a huge hit – a Swedish woman called Kiki Hakansson won the first prize of £1000.

When Miss Universe was launched in America the following year Morley successfully persuaded Mecca to make Miss World an annual event. The only change being that bikinis were to be banned, a strange decision by Morley, as a year previously he had said “Even a girl with big hips can be made to look good in a bikini.” He was later to describe the kind of girls he was looking for:

Girls between 17 and 25, ideally five foot seven, eight or nine stone, waist 22-24″, hips 35-36″, no more no less, a lovely face, good teeth, plenty of hair, and perfectly shaped legs from front and back – carefully checked for such defects as slightly knocked knees.

The first Miss World at the Empire Rooms on Tottenham Court Road, 1951

Eric Morley helping with a jammed zipper in 1955

Eric Morley checking no contestants had big hips in 1955

Twenty years later in 1970 the Miss World bomb, as far as the perpetrators were concerned, had been a success although it was overshadowed by the feminist ‘cattle market’ protests. However it was just the latest incident in an anti-establishment bombing and shooting campaign in the UK by an as yet-un-named loose group of anarchists. They had been in existence, in one form or another, since 3 March 1968 when two bombs exploded at the Spanish Embassy in Belgrave Square and the American Officers Club in Lancaster Gate. However the bombing campaign reached another level when a bomb that was left outside the house of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Waldron on 30 August 1970. He was sent a letter signed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

The letter sent to the Police Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Waldron

Just ten days later another bomb exploded at the London home of the Attorney General, Sir Peter Rawlinson in Chelsea. Another ‘communique’ was released obviously from the same source as the commissioner’s bomb but this time signed by The Wild Bunch. The young anarchists that were responsible for the bombings were utterly confused with the lack of publicity so far. They assumed, almost certainly correctly, that there was a conspiracy of silence on behalf of the establishment in case urban guerilla activity became fashionable.

On 4 December 1970, just two weeks after the Miss World bomb, a car drove around Belgrave Square and machine-gunned the Spanish Embassy. The young student militants again found there was nothing in the papers after the attack and still suspecting an establishment conspiracy they decided to issue more Communiques to the underground press and for the first time they were signed ‘The Angry Brigade’.

The International Times December 1970, does anyone know what the 'Dramatic Half-Face' graphic means?

The name was thought up after a drunken Christmas party and may have came from the ‘We Are Angry’ placards at the Miss World protest. Although Stuart Christie, an anarchist and connected with The Angry Brigade, later wrote that they had toyed with the name ‘The Red Rankers’ in deference to the speech defect of the former Home Secretary ‘Woy’ Jenkins.

Members of the Angry Brigade 1970

So far the relatively unreported bombing campaign had utterly mystified the police. They were completely confused as to who the perpetrators were but they successfully managed to keep the bombs and the shootings relatively under-reported (the Miss World bomb was an exception). The situation immediately changed when on January 12 1971 a bomb exploded at the home of the Right Honourable Robert Carr, Secretary of State for Employment (and chief advocate of the hated (by many) anti-union Industrial Relations Bill). The Angry Brigade released another of their communiques stamped with the distinctive children’s John Bull printing set, and, with this particular incident too serious to be brushed under the establishment’s carpet, the Angry Brigade suddenly found that they had reached the nation’s consciousness.

The aftermath of the Angry Brigade's bomb that exploded at the home of Employment Minister Robert Carr on 12th January 1971

The Python-esque name chosen by the disparate group of anarchists was grabbed gleefully by the popular press, America had the Weather Men, Italy the Red Brigades, Japan the Red Army Fraction, Germany the Baader-Meinhof gang but in the UK they had the Angry Brigade. The newly monikered urban terrorists managed six more bombs including an explosion on May 1 1971 inside the fashionable swinging London boutique Biba in Kensington Street which the ‘Angries’ saw as exploiting sweatshop labour. They quickly released Communique 8:

`If you’re not busy being born you’re busy buying’.
All the sales girls in the flash boutiques are made to dress the same and have the same make-up, representing the 1940′s. In fashion as in everything else, capitalism can only go backwards — they’ve nowhere to go — they’re dead.
The future is ours.
Life is so boring there is nothing to do except spend all our wages on the latest skirt or shirt.
Brothers and Sisters, what are your real desires?
Sit in the drugstore, look distant, empty, bored, drinking some tasteless coffee? Or perhaps BLOW IT UP OR BURN IT DOWN. The only thing you can do with modern slave-houses — called boutiques — IS WRECK THEM. You can’t reform profit capitalism and inhumanity. Just kick it till it breaks.
Communique 8 The Angry Brigade

Miss Selfridge girls dressed and made up the same and no doubt contemplating that capitalism can only go backwards.

A few months after the Biba bombing the police raided a house at one end of Amhurst Road in Stoke Newington where they found various explosives, ammunition and guns but most damning of all a John Bull printing kit with the words ‘Angry Brigade’ , rather incriminatingly, still set out. The police soon arrested eight supposed members of the Brigade and they quickly became known, rather imaginatively by the press, as the ‘Stoke Newington Eight’.

The Bomb Squad, Commander Robert Huntley, Commander Ernest Bond, Detective Inspector George Mould and Detective Constable Ron Smith

The Angry Brigade’s campaign came to a definite end after the longest criminal trial in English history (it lasted from May 30 to December 6 1972) – they were accused of carrying out 25 attacks on government buildings, embassies, corporations and the homes of Ministers between 1967 and 1971. At the end of the trial a majority verdict of guilty for conspiracy ‘with persons unknown’ meant that four of the defendants, John Barker, Jim Greenfield, Hilary Creek and Anna Mendleson each received prison sentences of ten years despite the jury’s request for clemency. It was difficult for the jury to deliver anything but guilty verdicts after the judge Mr Justice James explained that active participation was irrelevant; mere knowledge, even “by a wink or a nod”, was sufficient proof of guilt. He went on to describe the Angry Brigade politics as ‘a warped understanding of sociology’.

Hilary Creek in 1971

Anna Mendolson

Other defendants, however, were found not guilty including Stuart Christie, who had formerly been imprisoned in Spain for carrying explosives with the intent to assassinate the dictator Franco, and Angela Mason, who went on to become the director of Stonewall and the Government’s Women and Equality Unit and who was awarded an OBE in 1999.

Time Out magazine in 1972. A lot of people were, well angry, after the guilty verdicts at the Angry Brigade trial

All the contestants of the 1970 Miss World pageant

Receiving a $1200 tiara and $6000 in cash for her troubles, it was the 22 year old Miss Grenada, Jennifer Hosten, who eventually became Miss World and the first black winner of the contest in 1970. In fact it another black contestant – Miss Africa South, a Pearl Gladys Jensen – came second.

Miss Africa South isn’t a typo by the way, that year Eric Morley, hoping to placate the growing disquiet about apartheid South Africa, decided he would admit to the contest a black and a white contestant from the country. Jillian Elizabeth Jessup, the white South African, and who was allowed the sash with the real name of her country, came fifth.

Miss Africa South and Miss South Africa 1970

Jennifer Hosten

I was wrong when I said there was two separate protests at the Royal Albert Hall forty years ago. There was also a third, but this time it wasn’t about the exploitation of women but a collective disapproval of the result. After the Miss World contest had come to an end many of the audience gathered outside the Royal Albert Hall to protest and started chanting ‘Swe-den, Swe-den’. The BBC also received numerous protests with accusations that the contest had been rigged.

Four of the judges, it later came to light, had given first place to the Swedish entrant, a twenty year old model called Maj Christel Johansson, although, rather oddly, she came only fourth overall. However Miss Grenada, the eventual victor, only got two first place votes from the judges. Was it more than a coincidence that one of the judges, a Sir Eric Gairy, was the premier of Grenada? Had he influenced the other judges who incidentally included Joan Collins and Glen Campbell?

The judges of Miss World 1970 including Sir Eric Gairy.

I wonder if Maj ever got to meet Agatha Christie? I suspect not.

Miss Sweden, who was the favourite to win before the contest, probably didn’t help her cause when two days earlier she had denounced the Miss World event saying that she would have walked out if she wasn’t under contract to the organisers:

I don’t even want to win. I was warned the contest was like a cattle market and I’m inclined to agree. I feel just like a puppet.

Jennifer Hosten was far better at toeing the Miss World party line:

I do not really know enough about what they were demonstrating against, all I know is that it has been a wonderful experience competing for the Miss World title.

Julia Morley in the early seventies

Four days after the contest, Julia Morley, although insisting that no vote-rigging had occurred, resigned from her post as organising director of Miss World after intense pressure from the British press. Luckily her husband ran the Miss World organisation and, after the fuss had died down, she was reinstated a few days later.

If all this anarchist and feminist politics is a bit much. Here’s Lionel Blair and his dancers opening the Miss World show at the Royal Albert Hall 20th November 1970, without a protest in sight; although almost certainly there should have been.

Finally, in case you want to know, Jennifer Hosten’s vital statistics were 36-24-38, which meant that her hips were two inches larger than Eric Morley’s ideal Miss World shape. He probably wished she was wearing a bikini.

Because they have been largely forgotten this Angry Brigade chronology is absolutely extraordinary.


Marie Lloyd, Dr Crippen and the Bedford Music Hall in Camden

Friday, August 14th, 2009
Marie Lloyd at home in 1921, a year before she died.

Marie Lloyd at home in 1921, a year before she died.

There is a strange, but rather brilliant documentary, directed in 1967 by Norman Cohen, called The London Nobody Knows, the beginning of which features a slightly incongruous James Mason, in very smart polished shoes, gingerly stepping over the literally putrefying remains of an old music hall theatre.

The building was the Bedford Music Hall on Camden High Street and it was said to be Marie Lloyd’s favourite place to perform. Unfortunately the theatre closed permanently in 1959 and the sad, rotting building was eventually demolished ten years later. Two years after nearly ruining James Mason’s brogues.

Excerpt from The London That Nobody Knows

At one point in the film James Mason mentions, with a wry smile on his face, that an early regular performer at the Music Hall may well have still been haunting the place – a local singer called Belle Elmore.

Elmore’s stage career was relatively unsuccessful and her name is unknown to most of us today, especially as a Music Hall artiste. However, after her death in 1910 she achieved notoriety throughout the land, not as a singer, but as the murdered wife of the infamous Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen.

The Bedford Theatre in 1949

The Bedford Theatre in 1949

Belle Elmore in 1900, ten years before she was murdered by her husband.

Belle Elmore in 1900, ten years before she was murdered by her husband.

Dr Crippen

Dr Crippen

Before the infamous Doctor had murdered Elmore and subsequently burnt her bones in the oven, dissolved her internal organs in an acid bath, buried what was left of the torso under bricks in the basement and placed her decapitated head in a handbag which was subsequently thrown overboard on a day-trip to Dieppe, the married couple lived at 39 Hilldrop Crescent. It was quite a salubrious address about a mile from the Bedford Music Hall.

Hilldrop Crescent near Holloway in 1910

Hilldrop Crescent near Holloway in 1910

Dr Crippen is notorious, of course, for being the first murderer to be arrested with the use of telephony when, during an attempted escape to Canada on the SS Montrose with his young lover Ethel Le Neve, Captain Henry George Kendall sent a telegraph back to England saying:

Have strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers. Moustache taken off growing beard. Accomplice dressed as boy. Manner and build undoubtedly a girl.

Chief Inspector Dew, who had already once interviewed Crippen and initially decided that he was innocent, took the faster White Line steamer – the SS Laurentic – to Canada. On the 31 July 1910 the Inspector greeted the couple when they met him on the ship:

Good morning, Dr Crippen. Do you know me? I’m Chief Inspector Dew from Scotland Yard.

After a pause, Crippen replied,

Thank God it’s over. The suspense has been too great. I couldn’t stand it any longer.

Crippen then held out his arms for his handcuffs. Dew later recalled:

Old Crippen took it quite well. He always was a bit of a philosopher, though he could not have helped being astounded to see me on board the boat. He was quite a likeable chap in his way.

Chief Inspector Walter Dew

Chief Inspector Walter Dew

Dr Crippen being led off the SS Montrose, seemingly by one of the Thompson twins but more likely by Chief Inspector Dew

Dr Crippen being led off the SS Montrose, seemingly by one of the Thompson twins but more likely by Chief Inspector Dew

Ethel Le Neve circa 1910

Ethel Le Neve circa 1910

The final resting place of a bit of Belle Elmore

The final resting place of a bit of Belle Elmore

The Hallway at 39 Hilldrop Crescent

The Hallway at 39 Hilldrop Crescent

Crippen and Ethel Le Neve were tried separately by the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey and Crippen, likeable philosopher or not, was found guilty after just 27 minutes by the jury and subsequently hanged at Pentonville prison in November 1910. Ethel Le Neve, however, was acquitted and only died in 1967 – not long after James Mason was filmed exploring what was left of the Bedford Music Hall.

The Old Bailey during the trial of Dr Crippen August 10th 1910

The Old Bailey during the trial of Dr Crippen August 10th 1910

James Mason in his piece about the old theatre in Camden failed to relate that only nine years after Marie Lloyd’s fiftieth birthday celebrations (which were incidentally held at the Bedford), and seven years after her death in 1922, the comic-actor Peter Sellers actually lived at the Bedford with his mother and grandmother in a rented flat above the entrance in Camden High Street.

Sellers’ mother was performing at the Bedford in a production called ‘Ha!Ha!!Ha!!!’ along with his father. When the revue finished, Peter’s father Bill suddenly decided to leave home forever, leaving Peter, his mother, and grandmother to totally fend for themselves while still living upstairs at the theatre. Sellers may well have been still living in the flat above the Bedford when he performed, at the age of five, with his mother in a revue called Splash Me! at the Windmill theatre in Great Windmill Street.

The Bedford Theatre’s fortunes eventually declined and, like many other theatres and converted cinemas in London, it eventually capitulated to its unavoidable fate when it fell dark completely in 1959.

Bedford House on Camden High Street

Bedford House on Camden High Street in 2007

Dr Crippen’s old address, 39 Hilldrop Crescent, was spared the indignity of being demolished at the whim of a sixties Camden council planning meeting, but only because it was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War. It was replaced, like so many other buildings, by a nondescript block of flats. Another nondescript block was built to replace the Bedford Theatre. It is still known as Bedford House though.

39 Hilldrop Crescent today

39 Hilldrop Crescent today

Marie Lloyd and Claire Loumaine 1913

Marie Lloyd and Claire Loumaine 1913

If Heat magazine, or perhaps Perez Hilton, had existed before the First World War they would have surely printed the picture above which features a 43 year old Marie Lloyd embracing and kissing a woman called Claire Loumaine. The photograph was taken on 25th April at Paddington Station where the music hall star had gone to meet Loumaine on her return from Australia.

Does anyone know who Claire Loumaine is? I can’t find anything about her at all.

Nine years after Marie Lloyd greeted her close friend off the train at Paddington the music hall star collapsed on stage during a rendition of one of her most famous songs I’m One of the Ruins That Cromwell Knocked About a Bit. The crowd continued laughing thinking that the staggering around that preceded the fall was all part of her act. Lloyd was desperately ill however, and died soon after on 7th October 1922. One hundred thousand people were reported to have attended her funeral five days later in Hampstead.

A twenty year old Marie Lloyd in 1890

A twenty year old Marie Lloyd in 1890

Marie Lloyd – A Little Of What You Fancy Does You Good