Flowers of Flesh & Blood
Thames Beach (Gabriel’s Wharf)
London – 26/9/15
When last week rumours began circulating of a proposed gathering of punks somewhere along the Thames near the Southbank and Waterloo that was to be hosted by comedian, presenter and political satirist Mark Thomas and included live sets by Scottish Oi/Punk/anarcho legends Oi Polloi and London punx, Flowers Of Flesh And Blood, it was debatable whether this would be allowed to happen in one of the busiest tourist areas of South London.
Yet, sure enough, come the day the event had been revealed as ‘Trespass – Oi Polloi On The Beach Of The Thames’ and as we walked down to Gabriel’s Wharf, next to Oxo Tower, onto that small beach area where I had previously built sandcastles with my kids (up the punx), a huge hardcore punk roar was already rising from the beach area up onto the bank and Flowers Of Flesh And Blood were housed on a small stage in the sand, surrounded by two hundred or so punx as the band carved through a tight set of metallic anarcho thrash to bemused and amused looks from the tourists looking down on the beach.
We quickly headed down and joined the crowd, bumping into many friends equally bemused by the surreal situation as Flowers kicked into a Minor Threat medley of ‘Filler’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear It’ as the sand-mosh-pit exploded. There’s a small girl on the beach building a sandcastle, she flattens it with her shovel. Up on the bank two young kids with giant teddy bears make them pogo in time to the music. An old fella looks down onto the crowd of punks falling over in the sand, laughing and grinning from ear to ear. The atmosphere is great, pure fun. There are no police here yet, no trouble. The organisers had the foresight to hand out a few yellow ‘official’ looking security vests to give the appearance of some kind of official organisation, which amazingly, works.
But there is a point to all of this. As Mark Thomas takes to the mic, among many jokes about gammon nonce David Cameron, he talks about how it’s people, not buildings and corporations that make cities and we have every right to reclaim public areas for protest and events to cheers from the crowd as Oi Polloi take to the sand and kick into ‘Resist The Atomic Menace’ from the first single back in 1986. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Oi Polloi (probably not since the early 90s), but they’re as good as they ever were. Frontman Deek is irrepressible, funny, charming, energetic yet still railing against the world.
As ‘Punks Picnic’ bellows from the PA, there’s still no sign of any police to break up the party and as the sun starts to descend and the booze is flowing, Oi Polloi inspire bedlam in the sand as the pit reaches fever point and the crowd piles in, singing along to every word, punching the air as the tourists above take photos and film what they can to take back home to their friends and family…”you’ll never believe what we saw in London today”.
Then later that evening, the so called ‘Fuck Parade’ organised by Class War, kicked off in Shoreditch. A supposed protest against the gentrification of London, it saw an angry mob of so-called anarchists target an independent business and scare, frighten and intimidate people. A total contrast to the positive, fun vibes felt earlier in the day by the river where the message was delivered in a good and uplifting way, educating the public and making them think. ‘Fuck Parade’ was an ugly event that achieved nothing but to terrify the public by acting like thugs. A sad end to a righteous day of protest and music but the fun memories will remain for those that rocked on the beach that day and the public that stumbled across it.