A film of the historic halting of a racist march by a community which was believed to be lost for 25 years has been found in time for commemoration events.
Goldsmiths, University of London in New Cross has revealed its researchers have just discovered footage from “The Battle of Lewisham” which it is to screen as part of this weekend’s events to mark the 40th anniversary of the incident.
The battle, in which the National Front supporters were prevented from completing a march for the first time on August 13, 1977, was a pivotal moment in the history of Lewisham and race relations in the country.
It featured clashes between NF members who intended to march from New Cross to Lewisham town centre and counter demonstrators in addition with those with the police.
The footage, only discovered in the past few weeks, confirms the incident shows it was the first time police deployed riot gear on the country’s mainland.
Among the events captured is the Bishop of Southwark’s speech to the anti-fascist protesters in Ladywell Fields, the NF march being escorted through New Cross by police and the clash between protesters and police in Lewisham town centre.
The film was recently discovered in the archive of production company Spectacle Films by the London Community Video Archive, which is based at Goldsmiths and is working to salvage and archiving community video footage between 1970 and 1985.
The film is to be screened for the first time in 25 years as part of a special event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham at Goldsmiths Student Union on Saturday night from 7pm until 11pm.
The Spirit of ‘77 Protest Films event is free but pre registration is required. Highlights of the weekend also include the unveilling of a Lewisham council maroon plaque by Councillor Joan Millbank at 314 New Cross Road, opposite Clifton Rise where the resistance to the march began, on Sunday at noon.
Dr John Price, head of history at Goldsmiths, said: “We have been looking for a film like this ever since the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham in 2007.
“We are very excited to have found such vital footage that helps shed some light on the often-disputed events of that day, and shows the first use of riot gear in the UK.
“The Battle of Lewisham can sometimes be forgotten in the light of riots in Notting Hill, Southall and Brixton in the same era, but it is a crucial moment in the history of both race relations and police practice in the UK.
“I am very pleased that we at Goldsmiths and Lewisham council are able to commemorate the Battle with the screening of this film, the unveiling of the maroon plaque and the numerous events planned to take place over the weekend.”
There is a range of events for the 40th anniversary, including live music, talks, exhibitions, screenings, history walks and more Most are free but pre registration is required for some.
Goldsmiths is hosting the Spirit of ‘77 Protest Poetry and Song tonight from 7pm until 11pm for which tickets cost £5.
On Saturday Dr Price is to lead free walks around the battle’s key locations throughout the day. People are also invited to view the ongoing exhibition of iconic photographs of the Battle of Lewisham at the university which is open daily from 9am until 9pm.
The Albany, in Douglas Way, Deptford, is hosting free events on Sunday from 1pm including a community festival with DJ sets from Roger Huddle and Soft Wax, the chance to hear first hand accounts from four decades ago.
The day is to culminate with the paid for Battle of Lewisham 40th Anniversary Gig in which Love Music Hate Racism presenting live music from Afro B, IQ, YGTV and Smokey Joe from 7pm until 10pm for which tickets cost £10 each. For more information or to register visit www.gold.ac.uk/events/battle-of-lewisham www.thealbany.org.uk/whatson.