Friday, 18 November 2016

Rapid Reviews: Walls Come Tumbling Down by Daniel Rachel

One of the best books I've read this year, Walls Come Tumbling Down charts the period between 1976 and 1992 when politics and pop music came together in an attempt to make the world a better place, challenging racism, sexism and the class divide under Thatcher's abhorrent Tory government.

Written by Daniel Rachel, the book explores three specific movements; Rock Against Racism, which formed as a direct result of the inflammatory comments made by Eric Clapton in support of Enoch Powell and black repatriation during a concert in Birmingham, Jerry Dammers' 2 Tone, which continued to break boundaries in terms of racial equality being represented in music and culminated in the release of Nelson Mandela, and Red Wedge, a collective of artistes who attempted to influence Labour party policy and inspire young people to vote.

The book is a series of interviews with the key proponents of each movement, including Billy Bragg, Rev Richard Coles, Jerry Dammers, Cathal Smyth, Red Saunders, Neil Kinnock and Annajoy David to name but a few (along with archive comments from Paul Weller and others), offering their first hand accounts of their attempts to improve society and end the ignorant, bigoted and austere politics of the National Front and the Tory party. If I had one minor criticism it is that, at 530 or so pages, it can sometimes be hard to recall just who each interviewee actually is and I often found myself returning to the start to check how they were and what their role was. Perhaps the inclusion of a photograph - taken during the period itself - next to each statement would have helped my memory? This is just a tiny gripe though it what was a fascinating and inspiring read which reminded me of the great work people can do when they seek to rally like-minded people closer and change the negative, harmful opinions of others. It also left me feeling that, in the present world of Brexit, UKIP, Theresa May, and Trump, we need Rock Against Racism, the Anti Nazi League, 2 Tone and Red Wedge again. And we need them now.

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