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‘Mindless Hatred’: Far right festival averted

The Talbot social club admits it was due to host the two day event that was cancelled following an investigation into the gig promoter behind it

The owner of a Blackpool club due to host a two-day neo-Nazi gig in Blackpool says he is “let down” by its cancellation following an investigation by campaigners.

The event dubbed the Real Rebellion was due to be held on 2-3 August, to coincide with the non-political Rebellion Festival, but was cancelled by its organiser this month after campaign group Hope Not Hate reported on it.

The two-day gig was being organised by Britain’s most prominent Nazi music promoter, Chad Charles (pictured).

The Real Rebellion had not advertised a venue for the event publicly but Nick Lowe, owner of the Talbot social club, confirmed to The Blackpool Lead that organisers had booked his venue months ago. The club has hosted the event several times over the years.

The Talbot social club was due to host the Nazi gig

Lowe said that, following an initial booking, he hadn’t received confirmation for this year’s event so had since booked a wedding on one of the days it was due to be held.

He added that he has been made aware of the Nazi associations of the gig in the past but that the crowd don’t cause trouble so he has been happy to continue to book the bands.

“It’s nowt to do with me. I just rent the room out,” he said. “I’m not racist at all but I have to make money somehow.”

Rebellion Festival has warned neo-Nazis not to turn up at the established punk music event, which will take place at the Winter Gardens on 1-4 August.

Director of Rebellion Jennie Russell-Smith said people of all political leanings come to the festival each year and “leave their politics at the door” but that neo-Nazis and “mindless hatred” will not be tolerated.

Our worry was that 200 skinheads and far-right activists would be drawn to the area and cause disorder.

Hope Not Hate exposed Charles’s plans to run the gig, earmarked to bring in between £8,000 and £12,000, as well as running a Nazi merchandise business while claiming benefits. Charles cancelled the gig hours after the investigation was published on 14 March.

“This proves how important it is that we expose the Nazi gig scene to stop them from operating,” Nick Lowles, CEO of Hope Not Hate, told The Blackpool Lead. “Our worry was that 200 skinheads and far-right activists would be drawn to the area and cause disorder.”

The Real Rebellion has cropped up intermittently, at the Talbot on Milbourne Street, on the same weekend as Rebellion for around a decade. It provides an extreme-right alternative to the family-friendly punk festival at the Winter Gardens.

“The draw is Rebellion – they put it on the same weekend to try and poach people out of our festival,” said Russell-Smith. “While I would hope that there isn’t a huge proportion of our audience who are interested in that, I think that there are a few people who get led down the garden path with it.”

Among the bands set to play the Real Rebellion were the Canadian band Battlefront, which describes itself as “nationalist skinhead”. Their album, In The Storm, has a German soldier throwing a hand grenade on the cover and includes songs such as Aryan Soldiers, Pride is our Will and String ‘em Up.

Another band, Combat BC from Germany, were likely to be accompanied to Blackpool by “a sizeable contingent of German Nazi skinheads”, according to the Hope Not Hate report.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Police said: “We are aware of the event and officers respond to any incidents accordingly.”

Those earmarked for the Real Rebellion included London Breed, whose band members are veteran Nazis, and Code One, an openly Nazi band long associated with Blood & Honour.

Lowles said that international bands are likely to avoid racial hatred charges while British bands circumvent them.

“The more extreme bands were those due in from abroad,” he said. “The British bands moderate their lyrics to avoid falling foul of the law. The British bands due to play were a mixture of far-right bands and non-political Oi bands.”

But those earmarked for the Real Rebellion included London Breed, whose band members are veteran Nazis, and Code One, an openly Nazi band long associated with Blood & Honour – a neo-Nazi music promotion network and right-wing extremist political group.

Lowe said he had not dealt directly with Charles and the gig has had various organisers in the past. He said it was originally organised by small-time music promoter Jade Griffiths. Griffiths also ran a merchandising company called Unstoppable Hate Distro. Promoters in subsequent years have been less extreme, he said.

“One organiser wasn’t like that at all because someone did a Nazi salute on stage and he went and banjoed him,” he said.

In 2018 the Talbot was set to host a far-right meeting called White Victims of Multiculturalism. Speakers included neo-Nazi activists, National Front members, Holocaust deniers and members of the White Nationalist Party and BNP.

Lowe cancelled that event at the final hour following backlash. Booking it, he told The Blackpool Lead, was “a mistake” and he would “never take them again”. He added he would no longer book the Real Rebellion either, only because he has been “messed about”.

“It’s just a revenue exercise to me. I’m not into punk music and I can’t decipher what they’re singing about – it’s just noise. But I don’t particularly want that in here,” he said.

“If anyone else wants to come and book the room who are decent people, please do. I’d rather give it to decent people than racists.”

Councillor Jon Bamborough has campaigned against Nazi gigs in Blackpool and warned venues not to book gigs with far-right associations.

“If somebody books them and doesn’t know they’re nasty bands then you can’t blame them,” he told The Blackpool Lead. “But once they’ve been educated about that fact, if they still want to book them, they’re on a hiding to nothing.”

He welcomed the news that the Real Rebellion had been cancelled.

“A lot of credit goes to Hope Not Hate which has been tirelessly campaigning against this group,” he said, but added he didn’t believe that Charles had sold enough tickets to go forward with the event anyway.

Bamborough said it’s “difficult” for the council and the police to get involved once gigs are booked.

If they went anywhere else they would stand out but they don’t so much in Blackpool.

“I’d be reluctant to try and get their gig cancelled once they’re coming because what we don’t want is a load of extreme right wingers, with hotel accommodation booked, all coming to Blackpool anyway and then being really annoyed that they have nowhere to go.

“That’s only going to go one way so I would rather them go to the gig, do what they’re going to do in their obscurity, and then go home.”

Bamborough said that while there is a small “local element” to neo-Nazism, largely these people visit from out of town.

“It’s easy for them to come here and be lost in the crowd and fit in,” he said. “If they went anywhere else they would stand out but they don’t so much in Blackpool. Blackpool’s always going to attract different groups of people, including undesirables.”

Russell-Smith said security at Rebellion will be “well primed” to spot and turn away neo-Nazis from the festival. T-shirts supporting the Blackpool-formed white power skinhead band Skrewdriver, Nazi tattoos such as the number 88 – the numerical code for “Heil Hitler” – swastikas and other Nazi symbolism are all cause for alarm.

“We keep a really close eye on it, especially since these gigs started happening,” Russell-Smith said. “We’re really lucky – a lot of our security are old punks and they knew the score and what to look out for.

“I have no problem with genuine skinheads and street punk people who are not on the far right but there’s a difference and security has become really good at spotting that. We’re right on it and we don’t tolerate it at all.”

If Rebellion does refuse entry to neo-Nazis, Russell-Smith added, police will be informed that they have been turned away into Blackpool town centre.

“These people are radicalised and it’s fictitious what they’re standing against – it doesn’t exist. I’m hoping that now their gig’s been cancelled they just won’t come.”

This article was originally published in The Blackpool Leas. Sign up to their newsletter here.

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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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