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Food and Frontlines: An Audiotour

6 / 12 Rest your saddles between Tasty Buds and Pak Butchers

Perch between Tasty Buds and blood-red Pak Butchers. The stalls thin out around a raised platform. There’s space to watch a performance.

This scene comes from 1947, a typical Sunday evening in Ridley Road Market. At that time, Pak Butchers was the Ridley Arms pub. In place of halal meat, pork scratchings. The Ridley Arms was a fascist haunt. The fascists, led by Oswald Mosley, prepared to preach in the open air. Hitler gave them a bad rep, so they needed to rebrand.  They wore neat grey trousers and called themselves patriots.

The fascists didn’t realise they were being watched. Spies from a Jewish resistance movement – the 43 Group – had infiltrated the fascist ranks.  They had eyes, ears and undercover operatives all over Hackney. Morris Beckman, one of the original 43, was waiting in Amhurst Road for their reports.

The words of Morris Beckman, author of The 43 Group (performed by Barry Davis), and Bernadette Halpin (editor), conjure up weekly battles between fascists and the Jewish resistance movement in the late 1940s.

Afterwards, we move from street battles to cultural meetings, with memories from Claudia Manchanda (who ran the Centerprise café with Erita Crawford), Michael McMillan (publishing worker), Oleander Agbetu (lover of the Centerprise roti) and Manju Mukherjee (editor of Breaking the Silence).


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Cover of The 43 Group, 1993 © Centerprise
Strangers from Breaking The Silence, Writing by Asian Women, 1984 © Anna Sherwin
Manju Mukherjee spearheaded Breaking the Silence, 2016 © Sophie Polyviou