From weekly anti-war demos at Finsbury Park during WW1 [photo] , to the location of the HQ of the Socialist North Herald League on Green Lanes, to Communist rallies at the Arena and Paul Robeson singing, as well as attempts to kick start the revolution in Fairfax Road; anti-fascist activity in the 1930s against Mosley's blackshirts (in which they often came off the worst) and the 1970s against the National Front, not to mention anarchist picnics in Finsbury Park, it's clear that Harringay has long been a hotbed of radical activity.
In tracing these threads across the history books as well as reading biographies of leading radicals of the 20thC, I was long convinced that Sylvia Pankhurst, the left-wing rebel daughter of Emmeline, must have come to Harringay but I was never able to find a photo or reference to her being here.
That is until this week, when Tottenham-based historian Keith Flett tweeted the above picture advertising a dance in Harringay at the Fairfax Hall in Portland Gardens, now the Kurdish centre, the history of which Hugh has written about here.
Short of funds as ever no doubt, the Socialists put on a concert and dance lasting all afternoon and evening in 1916. The war had been going for about 18 months and in January that year the Military Service Act had introduced conscription to the UK, calling up all young men between the ages of 18-41. It is likely that many of the young Socialists at that dance would go on to resist conscription and some would languish in prison when they were caught by the authorities, leaving their families to struggle both with poverty due to the loss of the main worker and the societal bullying that went with being conscientious objectors.
Sylvia was there to give a speech, getting top billing, and, no doubt, to speak out against this new development in the war. Unlike the rest of her family who joined the war effort ( a stance that horrified her), she was fiercely resistant to the war and often suffered beatings at rallies for her principles. She also campaigned to defend soldiers' wives and ran campaigns to oblige the government to take into account the poverty of the women left behind when their men went to fight.
I was very excited* to see this little advert. It's always nice when a hunch turns out to be right.
(*History nerd. What I wouldn't give for a ride in the Tardis to that afternoon in February 1916 to see and hear her speak here in Harringay)
Photos via Keith Flett on Twitter and Wikipedia
Yes, Sylvia's politics were very different from her mother's and sister's and she had a radically different view of how women's suffrage should be won which meant including working class women and men in the battle. She was a champion of the very poorest, especially the women of the East End and was implacably opposed to the war, Empire and fascism, while her mother and sisters threw themselves into the war effort - her sister Christabel apparently travelled to Russia to try and persuade them to stay in the war, was an ardent supporter of internment and conscription before becoming an evangelical Christian in the US. Her other sister Adela ended up founding the Australia First proto-fascist movement. Her mum stopped speaking to her because she wouldn't marry the father of her child.
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