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The Northern Rock Against Racism Festival .




Rock against Racism

Northern Carnival.

Alexandra Park ,

Manchester .

13th July

Graham Parker and the Rumour

Saturday July 15th 1978.

Steel Pulse, Buzzcocks, Exodus and China Street.


Crowd at Manchester Park 1978- composite photo reworked by GW Shark © Geoff Brown/Bernie Wilcox/Chris Hewitt,

All photos and images unless stated © Chris Hewitt

   On the Saturday around 35,000 people watched Steel Pulse, Buzzcocks, Exodus and China Street after a massive Anti Nazi League Rock Against Racism march through Manchester.

   We had to complete the build of the stage early for the Thursday the 13th as Graham Parker wanted to rehearse for his forthcoming support slot at the Blackbushe concert with Dylan on the Saturday- we took all the stage and backstage compound and generators and PA from Alexandra Park up to Deeply Vale after the RAR concert on the 15th July at Alexandra Park

Chris Hewitt, OZIT records


      The festival was jointly organised by Rock Against Racism (RAR) and the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) and was conceived by Bernie Wilcox of RAR and Geoff Brown of the ANL as they travelled back from the original Carnival Against the Nazis in London's Victoria Park at the end of April 1978. They were both inspired by the London event that they wanted to bring the whole atmosphere to Manchester and the northwest. They'd set themselves a very tight timetable of just 10 weeks from the initial conception to the day itself.
   There was a lot of debate as to where to hold the concert with some of the organisers wanting to hold it in a traditional inner city, white area to better connect with the white youth but there weren't any really suitable parks for a concert in those areas. Moss Side's Alexandra Park won out because it had such a wonderful natural arena of mature trees that framed the crowd so well.
    It was thought by some that the carnival was timed to coincide with the Moss Side by-election which was due on July 13 but the organisers didn't know about that when they set the date. Chris Hewitt and the guys from Tractor Music in Rochdale had offered to provide the stage and PA that they were going to use at the Deeply Vale Festival a week later and it was the Deeply connection that sealed the date.

    Unfortunately, Dylan had decided to play his first UK concert since the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969 on the very same day. The organisers were worried about Dylan swamping the Northern Carnival in the music and other press and this did happen. However, every cloud has a silver lining and this one was in the form of Graham Parker and the Rumour, at the time the darlings of the music papers, wanting an open air practice session prior to supporting Dylan at Blackbushe. Parker's people approached RAR and asked if they could do a set on the Thursday before the carnival proper on the Saturday.The organisers were obviously keen to have him but had to get the City Council's permission. They sold it to the council as a low key dress rehearsal and the city fathers were fine with that.

Hangin' in the park before the show © Geoff Brown/Bernie Wilcox/Chris Hewitt
    A further "fill-in" gig was held on the Friday at the UMIST Students' Union with the Rich Kids (Glenn Matlock's post Pistols band with Midge Ure) with the Fall in support. In the end, the Parker gig wasn't too well attended due to the last minute nature of the thing but they played a great set that really pleased the fans that turned up. The Rumour were complete with Brinsley Schwartz on guitar, former Brinsley's keyboard player Bob Andrews, John "Irish" Earle on sax (who played on Thin Lizzy's live version of Dancing in the Moonlight). Albie Donnelly from Liverpool band Supercharge came on as a guest.

     Saturday began with a rally at Strangeways Prison and after a series of short speeches by various luminaries 18,000 marchers made their way to Moss Side and began arriving at the park at around 2.30. Such a large crowd took a long time to arrive at the venue and this caused a bit of friction backstage- the usual rock and roll tantrums thrown by managers. In addition, one of the bands was arguing about the running order, but eventually all egos were satisfied. The order finally arrived at was: Exodus ,Buzzcocks ,China Street and Steel Pulse

     By the time all the marchers arrived, boosted by those who simply were there to see the bands, it was estimated that around 40,000 were present. Local Moss Side reggae band, Exodus played a somewhat subdued set, the Buzzcocks who were at the peak of their punk-pop popularity went down a storm, Lancaster-based white reggae band Chinastreet set the scene for Steel Pulse, at the time, Britain's leading indigenous reggae band who finished the day with a superb set. The encore 'Klu Klux Klan', was a combined effort – with members of Chinastreet, Exodus and the Buzzcocks playing together – all united against racism.

Courtesy Chris Hewitt

Constructing the stage © Geoff Brown/Bernie Wilcox/Chris Hewitt,

     The whole thing went from conception to performance in 10 short weeks. 40,000 people had a lovely day and for weeks before and for months afterwards you couldn't walk through Manchester without seeing tons of kids wearing anti racist badges which had a major effect on how they thought about racism and probably changed their views and in turn, that of their kids forever.
     Saturday's event was filmed by Bob Jones and Tosh Ryan but sadly the film was wiped due to radio taxi interference on the soundtrack however Chris Hewitt has some audio of the Saturday gig along with an audience cine film of two Parker numbers from the Thursday !

     Fast forward a week later to Deeply Vale and RAR were given the Saturday of the 6-day festival to put on RAR supporting bands including Misty in Roots, The Ruts and the Fall.

Bernie Wilcox.


© Geoff Brown/Bernie Wilcox/Chris Hewitt,


Bob Jones onstage at the RAR show, he filmed this and the 1981 concert .



The Buzzcocks at Alexandra Park, the Deeply Vale Free festival stage was used to host the bands.


A Buzzcock at Alexandra Park 1978


35.000 watch the Buzzcocks in the park

Graham Parker onstage at Alexandra Park © Chris Hewitt


Afterwards, the usual rubbish left to clean up...

composite photo reworked by GW Shark © Geoff Brown/Bernie Wilcox/Chris Hewitt,


Northern Carnival Against the Missiles 1981

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