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Gateshead squat gig – 1984

January 22, 2022
From Tyneside Anarchist (UK)

“April 1984, and in the sheer joy of creating temporary autonomous spaces local anarcho punks would squat the old Robert Kelly Coal Merchant building in the centre of Gateshead at  High St West, for the purposes of putting on an all day gig. “I helped to organise this gig, me & S found the empty building and checked it out, lots of people worked together to do it. Was just a fuck you sort of carry on to the government, showing we could do what we wanted, was lots of squat gigs around that time in unusual places – Barnsley one was good n all. We could have used the Bunker or Station but just thought why not do a squat gig, nothing more to it than that really.”[i] Local anarcho bands, including Reality Control, Blood Robots, and the Famous Imposters played alongside those from further afield from Yorkshire, namely, Chumbawamba and the Passion Killers. Friends remember nearly blowing up petrol generators with candles, cutting carrots by candlelight for the shared mass vegetable stew, smokey fumes, near darkness, and the visit from a lone policeman who was disinterested in the proceedings.[ii]

Asked whether the gig was put on for any ‘political reasons’?

“I really can’t remember other than  there were the zigzag squat gig and later the Leeds squat gig (we played at , and how we got to know Chumbawamba and others ) so I think it was about doing one here – to show it can be done I guess! Went to ones in Leeds, Barnsley later that year and the following year one in Middlesbrough. I believe there was one in Whitby round then too.   Temporary autonomous spaces eh, good times.”[iii]

Rare picture of squat gig -Reality Control with some Famous Imposters (pic from MS)

Writing on the later (October 1985) Middlesbrough squat gig, local Teesside band Join Hands would give us more of an explanation;

“Squat gigs mean freedom. Freedom from the barriers so many gigs hold these days. They are organised and set up by everybody so it’s up to you to make them work. No rip-off entrance fees to make agents and manager’s fat and the bands are not making vast amounts of money at your expense. No age restrictions so the doors are open to everybody, young or old. No bouncers deciding you are upholding the rules of his bosses club and who they can or can’t admit. A squat gig was set up in Middlesbrough not so long ago, for quite a lot of reasons but mostly as a protest at the none existence of alternative venues for bands to play and to add a splash of colour and life to the cold, grey steel town. All went well for the first couple of hours, lots of people peacefully co-operating and making it all work, lots of food (all vegan), fanzines, records and in general an atmosphere of love and happiness. Then as usual the police found out that somebody was actually enjoying themselves on their patch and decided to put a stop to it. They came and stopped the gig by illegally entering the building, and then they proceeded to take everybody outside for searches and questioning. Flexing their muscles and flaunting their power they halted everything we had created, so much for our squatter’s rights.”[iv]

“The police turned up in riot gear minus any batons n shields. There was some resistance to keep them out but they forced entry… A bit clueless what to make of it, they ended up kicking us all out and nicking a mate for theft of a generator as he didn’t have the receipt from the hire place on him! I suppose they wanted to impress their superiors with at least 1 arrest for their trouble. He was later released without charge”[v]

[i] A participant.

[ii] Other participants !

[iii] Another participant.

[iv] Join Hands. A4 leaflet / handout. Middlesbrough. 1985.

[v] A participant.

The above is taken from our 508 page book – still available Anarchism in North East of England 1882 – 1992.

You can also listen to half of the gig below.. the first 20mins or so is the Famous Imposters from Sunderland, then the Passion Killers from West Yorkshire

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