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Youths on Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, 1958 (by Don McCullin)

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Tags (All lower case. Use " " for multiple word tags): don mccullin
Albums: Historical Images of Finsbury Park Town

Comment by Sean Boyle on August 30, 2019 at 5:48

Isn’t this a Don McCullin photo?

Comment by Hugh on August 30, 2019 at 10:33

Sean, I think you may be right. Thank you for adding this attribution. I should have thought to check myself. I was aware of another more famous image he shot in Finsbury Park that supposedly launched his career. Published in the same year and entitled The Guvnors, it was shot on the corner of Seven Sisters Road and Campbell Road (aka The Campbell Bunk).

I referenced The Guvnors and wrote briefly about McCullin's links with Finsbury Park here.

When it was sent to me, I was unaware that the photo above was also by McCullin. Once you raised the possibility, I reverse searched it and, although only one result is returned, it seems likley that you're right. In which case my apologies to Mr M. I've now asserted his authorship by adding his name to the title. 

It was possibly published under the title Opposite Grey's Dance Academy and I understand that it also shows The Guvnors gang

In checking out the authorship of the image above, I stumbled across a third McCullin photo from Finsbury Park in 1958

Comment by Sean Boyle on August 30, 2019 at 12:45

I’m fairly sure this photo was included in the recent McCullin retrospective* at the Tate, (as was the other one you found, ‘My new neighbours’). As you say, it’s one of the series taken around his home turf that got him noticed. The location is Seven Sisters Road at the junction of Berriman Rd N7. That’s The Bedford pub just visible in the background.

(*For anyone who missed it, it’s at the Tate Liverpool next summer, and it alone would amost justify the trip).

Comment by Hugh on August 30, 2019 at 14:18

Thanks for the extra info. It always seems to be the case that when I miss something or get something wrong, it leads to a much greater level of discovery than would otherwise have been the case. 

I looked up your reference to the The Bedford and then searched a bit on Grey's Dance Academy.

It seems like that establishment was rather notorious. Amongst the regular clients were the Kray Twins. I found the following two references that paint a very vivid picture of life in Finsbury Park at the time. In the first excerpt, I am assuming that the 'rival gang' referred to was The Guvnors.:

The 1950s were rounded off with the hanging of twenty-five year old Ron Marwood at Pentonville on 8 May 1959. Marwood and the Angel gang had been drinking heavily and got into a number of fights, culminating in a brawl with the rival Finsbury Park gang, outside Grey's Dance Academy in Seven Sisters Road. When PC Raymond Summer tried to arrest him, Marwood stabbed him to death.

From: Gangs of London: 100 Years of Mob Warfare, Brian Mcdonald

PC Raymond Henry Summers was still serving his probation in the MPS having joined following three years service in the RAF. He was 23 years old and engaged to be married. On the evening of 14th December 1958 he was patrolling alone when he came across a group of men fighting in Seven Sisters Road, Holloway. They were armed with axes, knives, broken bottles and a knuckle duster. PC Summers tried to arrest one of the ringleaders but was stabbed in the back and collapsed.

Ronald Henry Marwood was hanged on 8th May 1959 for the murder of PC Summers.

From: Metropolitan Police Federation website

More at www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/rmarwood.

Comment by Sean Boyle on August 30, 2019 at 16:24

The Krays got about, didn't they? Like Dickens in his day, many self-promoting establishments wanted to claim their patronage.

The murder of PC Summers has sad contemporary parallels.

Marwood was one on the last few people to be executed in London. Some more details of his role are given in http://www.britishexecutions.co.uk/search.php?year=1959&subpage...

"The murder took place late at night, he had been out drinking all day and had had 10 pints to drink and ended up at Greys Dance Hall on Seven Sisters Road, Holloway. He got involved in a street fight with several other people in which he was hit on the head with an axe, but it was only a minor wound and he walked away.

However, he then noticed his friend being talked to by a policeman and went over to intervene as he believed his friend was being picked on. The policeman was Raymond Summers and he pushed Ronald Marwood away. Then Ronald Marwood said he pushed Raymond Summers back but in fact he stabbed him and he was dead shortly afterwards.

He was questioned the next day but there was no evidence to charge him and so he was released, however, he later returned to the police station and confessed to the murder."

and a lot more detail here: http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/rmarwood.html

The 1957 Homicide Act had already removed the automatic death penalty for all murders, though exceptions included the murder of a police officer. It seems he was expecting a manslaughter charge, not capital murder. The case attracted a lot of attention at the time and was an important one in the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty.

Comment by Alan Stanton on August 30, 2019 at 19:01

There's a lot to learn from Don McCullin. Someone, it seems to me, of self-knowledge, humility, and compassion.

YouTube is a pretty good source for clips and documentaries. In one he mentioned how The Observer initially refused to believe he'd taken the gang photos in Finsbury Park.

Though I was disappointed not to find online (yet) the 1989 BBC "Newsnight" documentary. McCullin coming home from war zones was shocked at the growing problem of London’s homeless people on London's streets. He called it a “social war and imbalance” on the streets of his own city.

A problem which is once again highly visible.

He said: “I photograph them because no body else is taking any interest. I would like to find a way to show people about the situation but sadly people are not really interested in the photographs I take of a rather depressing side of our society. They don’t want to know about it and they’re quite happy to turn their back on it. So these people, their plight is going absolutely nowhere.”

His 1989 film included comments from one of the agencies working with homeless people:

"There's been a dramatic deterioration in the situation faced by young homeless people in the last two years. The most significant thing that's happened is the big changes in the Social Security system which were introduced last year. Really you could chart this big rise in the problem - you could pin it to those dates. Immediately the system changed, young people had to pay, more young people were sleeping rough."

"And at the time the Government talked about wanting to end the dependency and the benefit culture for young people. And those are laudable objectives that I think everyone would share. The problem is that the way they've gone about it is that they've replaced the benefit culture with a street culture. And the street culture they've created is far more damaging and far more dangerous than the benefit culture ever was."

A phrase McCullin used about photographers in war zones was the need to use "a teaspoon of light" if that's all there was to show what was happening to people. It seemed to me then that he was always ready  to use a teaspoon of light to illuminate truth. Whether in words, photos, film or on paper.

Here's another quote from McCullin - from a BBC Radio interview with John Tusa.
§ BBC Radio 3 interview John Tusa Interviews Don McCullin.
 And quite honestly, my house is full of pictures of devastation, and pain and suffering. And I published a book a few years ago and I called it, Sleeping with Ghosts, because I know that when I’m in my house and I’m down one end of it asleep, down the other end there’s all these filing cabinets with this raucous noise going on down there.
 I mean, obviously it sounds to you as though I’m slightly barking, but I’m not. I’m totally in control of myself, and hopefully, I’ll try and play some part in my destiny. But I know that living in that house, there is some mischief going on, down where those filing cabinets lie. You can’t have that material, that energy in a house or in a place, without something going on down there."

P.S. If anyone comes across a link to the 1989 BBC documentary film, please let us know.

Comment by Alan Stanton on August 30, 2019 at 20:38

And, Hugh, here's the Don McCullin photo in a YouTube video with some more recent Finsbury Park footage. 

(Perhaps it's advisable to remove your "Curated By" tag.)

Comment by Hugh on August 30, 2019 at 21:13

Thanks Alan. 

(I can’t remove the watermark without deleting the photo and all the comments.)

Comment by Alan Stanton on September 2, 2019 at 11:41

The inexplicable rise and rise of curates and their eggs!

Comment by TerrySilvester on September 19, 2019 at 11:03

 Hi my name is Terry I have just joined this group the main reason I have joined is to point out some mistakes in the comments made on the subject of the photo of the Lads standing outside the Amusement Arcade in Seven Sisters Road Holloway, I am the lad in the doorway with Fag hanging from my mouth and hand up to my throat. The Arcade was one of our hangouts as was the Bedford Pub on the other corner and Grays Dance Hall opposite. In those days 1950s/60s Dance Halls were very popular and rays Dance Hall was a very popular place, it did not have a notorious reputation, if there was any gtrouble it was quickly sorted out by the Bouncers one being Bert Assarati World Champion Wrestler. I was at Grays the nigh the Policeman sadly lost his life.  Ronnie Marwood and the so called Angel Gang had not been out drinking and fighting with others all day they had come to Grays because one of their members had been insulted in another Dance Hall at an earlier date and thats how the fight had started outside Grays, at first insults were thrown then fighting started between the two groups then the Policeman came along and during the Fracas he sadly got stabbed. I knew Ronnie  Marwood and was talking to him before it kicked of and I swear to this day that he didnt do it. All the Lads at the scene that tragic night were not hardened criminals they were all hard working lads. We were all War Kids so had come through very very hard times. There were Gang fights but most lads were hard working lads who spent a fortune on their clothes. I am still in touch with Sir Don and although he is a couple of years older than me he is still traveling the World doing his photography. He had a great Exhibition at Tate Britain earlier this year which he kept telling me had thre photos of me i n it inclucding the one above.

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