Capturing the history of RAR

No definitive history of Rock Against Racism exists, but many of us who were involved at the time have been sharing our memories and thoughts, digging out our memorabilia, and contributing to the various books, films, exhibitions and events which try to capture the spirit of the age and celebrate and/or analyse what the movement achieved.

I was one of many people interviewed by author Daniel Rachel for his brilliant book Walls Come Tumbling Down: the music and politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge.The photos below were taken in December 2016, at the British Library Punky Reggae Party event, chaired by Daniel Rachel (part of the British Library Punk 1976-78 Exhibition), where we discussed the history of Rock Against Racism.

Lucy (centre) on the panel at the British Library Punky Reggae Party event 2016

Lucy (centre) with (L to R) Daniel Rachel, Tom Robinson, Kate Webb, Dennis Bovell

Other books about Rock Against Racism include Reminiscences of RAR: Rocking Against Racism 1976-1982, edited by two of the founder members, Roger Huddle and Red Saunders (which includes a chapter by me); Never Again: Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League 1976-1982, by David Renton,  and Syd Shelton’s incredible photographic record, Rock Against Racism.

I was invited, along with other former RAR activists, to put together a substantial display about Rock Against Racism as part of the No Turning Back exhibition at the Migration Museum in London 2017/2018; the Victoria Park RAR/Anti-Nazi League Carnival in 1978 was chosen as one of seven “migration moments” which have helped to shape modern Britain.

We organised an event at the Migration Museum in April 2018 to mark the 40th anniversary of this Carnival.

Invitation to Carnival anniversary event

Ruth Gregory, one of the original RAR activists and a co-designer of Temporary Hoarding, created the artwork below (making use of the badges we have treasured over the years) which she named 'There ain’t no black in the union jack', after Paul Gilroy’s book of that name.

There ain't no black in the union jack. RAR flag by Ruth Gregory

Some RAR oldies have set up a Rock Against Racism Research ‘n’ Archive group (rar-rap). We are hoping to mount further exhibitions and events to celebrate RAR. If you have memories, memorabilia or artefacts to share, join our rar-rap Facebook group, or email .

In 2013 I contributed to an oral history project about anti-racist and anti-fascist activity in London in the 1970s and 1980s, run by Eastside Community Heritage. Extracts are available here.

Films about Rock Against Racism, the Anti-Nazi League and the anti-fascist struggle of the late 1970s include:

Nazis are No Fun, a film in 3 parts (21 minutes altogether), made by John Dennis and Wayne Minter (RAR activists) circa 2008 . 

Who shot the sheriff? Another film in 3 parts (19, 32, 14 minutes) made by Alan Miles circa 2005. 

Divide and Rule Never, The Newsreel Collective, 1978, (41 minutes) Young people talk about race and identity, racism and fascism.

Aug 13: What happened? (41 mins) This is a film about the Battle of Lewisham, which took place on 13 August 1977, and led to the formation of the Anti-Nazi League, and also to the idea for the Carnivals, as a way to “take back the streets” in a joyful way, revelling in our multi-culture and demonstrating the strength of feeling against the fascists.

Rock Against Racism (10 mins) Film celebrating the achievements of RAR, and  Leeds RAR in particular, made by Paul Furness in 2018

30 April 1978 Carnival Against the Nazis (7 mins) Film made by Asya Gefter in 2018, based on her interview with RAR co-founder Red Saunders about the Victoria Park Carnival.