First of all, Hackney Miscarriage couldn’t have been produced at the school because it would have been very heavily censored. We were trying to be anti-establishment, in our own little way. And to do that, we did it outside, and yet the irony is I believe that some of our English teachers were involved in it as well. So they were probably, I dare say, at risk of losing their jobs if they had been found out. So the whole thing had the feeling of a sort of clandestine, secret operation about it and I think that’s what made it attractive to people … the times we were living in then were very uncertain: we had the three-day week that followed on, but we had a lot of austerity. We were not well off. We were sort of finding our way. We were challenging established ideas and concepts and probably challenging authority a little bit and I think we were just sort of pushing the boundaries by using the magazine to see where we- where it would go.
Neil Littman describes how important Centerprise was to him as a teenager growing up in Hackney in the early 1970s.
Neil was an avid reader who had grown up in a house with few books. In Centerprise on Dalston Lane he found a friendly haven to hang out in and treated the bookshop like a library, discovering there the Liverpool poets like Roger McGough, whose writing ‘resonated’ with him. He also spent time sketching his friends, playing records on the turntable and performing with his band. He describes himself and his friends as young and innocent with a ‘rebellious streak’: ‘we were sort of proto-hippies. And we all thought we were being alternative. We all wanted to make our mark. And our way of doing it was, if looking by today’s standards, fairly innocent, it was through the written word. And in a way it shows that we thought we could change things.
Produced with the help of Centerprise, the counter-cultural magazine Hackney Miscarriage provided a focus for Neil and his friends’ spirit of rebellion. Run off on a Gestetner, Hackney Miscarriage was distributed clandestinely and written under pseudonyms. The magazine caused a huge storm at Hackney Downs School, and was banned, even though some teachers at the school had secretly been involved.
Neil didn’t feel the same about Centerprise when it moved to its new, larger premises on Kingsland Rd, it was more commercial and had lost its ‘cozy feel’. He was then moving on to a new phase in his life, went to art college and later worked in artwork and design.
Interviewed by Maggie Hewitt