History of RAR
Thirty years ago, a group of musicians and political activists in the UK came together to form Rock Against Racism. It was a movement formed in reaction to rising xenophobia and racism fuelled by Nazi organisations like the National Front.
Rock Against Racism stood for "Rebel music, street music. Music that breaks down people's fear of one another. Crisis music. Now music. Music that knows who the real enemy is. Rock Against Racism. Love Music Hate Racism."
RAR was first conceived as an idea for a one-off concert against the rise of racism in the early 1970s. According to Huddle, "it remained just an idea until August 1976," when Clapton made a drunken declaration of support for former Conservative minister Enoch Powell (famous for his anti-immigration Rivers of Blood speech) at a concert in Birmingham.
Clapton had said that England had "become overcrowded," and implored the crowd to vote for Powell to stop Britain from becoming "a black colony." Huddle, Saunders and two members of Kartoon Klowns responded by writing a letter to NME expressing their opposition to Clapton's comments, which they claimed were "... all the more disgusting because he had his first hit with a cover of reggae star Bob Marley's 'I Shot the Sheriff'".
At the end of the letter, they called for people to help form a movement called Rock against racism, and they report that they received hundreds of replies. Further support for RAR came after David Bowie stated in a Playboy interview that "Britain is ready for a fascist leader", and by allegedly making a Nazi salute while riding in a convertible.
Bowie later retracted the fascist comment, claiming that the statement was a result of substance abuse. He denied making a Hitler salute, arguing that a photographer caught him in the middle of waving.
RAR's first activity was a concert featuring Carol Grimes as lead artist, and the group also launched the fanzine Temporary Hoarding. In spring and autumn 1978, RAR organised two major music festivals with the Anti-Nazi League, to counteract the growing wave of racist attacks in the United Kingdom.
It has been reported that 80,000 people marched six miles from Trafalgar Square to east London (a National Front hotspot) for an open-air concert. The concert featured The Clash (as seen in the film Rude Boy), The Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, X-Ray Spex, The Ruts, Sham 69, Generation X and the Tom Robinson Band. An audience of 25,000 came to the Northern Carnival in Manchester, for a concert featuring The Buzzcocks, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Misty in Roots. In 1979, a concert was held at Acklam Hall in London featuring Crisis, The Vapors, and Beggar...