Steve Bentel

We’re excited to welcome Steve Bentel to Placecloud. Steve is a cultural historian of 20th Century London at the Queen Mary University of London. He studies everyday interactions between Londoners of different races, from concert halls to curry houses, between the mid 1960s and early 1990s. 

Steve will be publishing 12 viewpoints in June:

Hammersmith Palais 

This venue located in Hammersmith had a decades-long run as one of London’s most important entertainment venues from being one of London’s most prominent jazz clubs to an entertainment home for West London’s increasingly diverse communities.  

Brixton Academy 

The Brixton Academy rose from an abandoned cinema in a struggling district in the early 1980s to NME’s venue of the year twelve times in the 1990s and 2000s.  

Upper Cut Club  

The Upper Cut Club in Forest Gate embodied the cockney spirit in its 1960s heyday. Owned by a local prize-fighter, the club drew high profile celebrities and underworld figures. The club’s brief run introduced African American acts including Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, and Nina Simone to East London youth. It is believed that Hendrix wrote the iconic ‘Purple Haze’ backstage.   

Frestonia 

During the London squat boom of the 1960s and 70s, one squat community stands above the rest, the Republic of Frestonia. This community declared independence from the United Kingdom to avoid ‘slum clearance’ by the GLC. The diverse community elected leaders and even petitioned to join the United Nations. Their legacy is preserved in a digital ‘national archive’ and an arts centre.  

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre 

The Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre was the UK’s first indoor shopping centre. As it evolved over time it came to reflect the increasingly diverse South London community it served. The shopping centre closed in 2020 and will soon be replaced by a housing development.  

Tabernacle Community Centre 

The Tabernacle Community Centre in Notting Hill sits within a 19th-Century chapel. In the 1960s squatters and hippies teamed up with local Afro-Caribbean activists to save the chapel from the bulldozer. Their victory turned the building into a community centre that has reflected the changing demographic profile of the neighbourhood from its inception.  

South Bank Mandela Statue 

There is a bronze bust of Nelson Mandela on London’s South Bank. When it was commissioned by Labour GLC leaders, Mandela was imprisoned as a terrorist by the South African regime with strong ties to the Conservative government in Westminster. The bust is representative of how the GLC used the South Bank as a staging ground to showcase competing visions of Britain across from Thatcher’s parliament.  

Victoria Park  

Victoria Park in East London was the site of Rock Against Racism’s Carnival Against the Nazis in 1978. This was staged in response to racist attacks against East London’s Asian residents and featured an iconic performance by The Clash.  

Brockwell Park  

Brockwell Park was the site of Rock Against Racism’s second Carnival Against the Nazis. This event struggled with logistical problems stemming from National Front counterprogramming.  

South Africa Embassy Continuous Picket 

The Continuous Picket at the South African Embassy was a site of constant protest in the 1980s. The City of London Anti-Apartheid Group championed the picket, and the confrontation it produced led to tension with the larger Anti-Apartheid Movement. 

Original Morley’s Fried Chicken 

Morley’s is a South London institution. The restaurant was part of the post-KFC fried chicken boom and embodied its shift from a middle-class corporate-American snack to a key symbol of multicultural London.  

Clapham Common  

Clapham Common hosted the United Artists Against Apartheid Concert in June 1986. Tens of Thousands of people attended to see a diverse array of artists ranging from Peter Gabriel and Elvis Costello to Gil-Scott Heron and High Masekela. This event helped to set the scene for the globally broadcast Freedom at 80 Concert at Wembley Stadium  

Leave a Reply