The Tale of the Third City
The Battle of Bedford Street
By seven o'clock that evening, the crowd outside the Ulster Hall had grown well past the fifteen hundred mark. It’s an image that I and I dare say the many others who were there that night will never forget! Kids from all over the city; scattered the length and breadth of Bedford Street, including the surrounding side streets which were, by then, crawling with kids, like I said, as young as fifteen.
If I am being truthfully honest, most of whom would've found by then, some tiny little alcove or another, just out of sight, in case the law turned up and confiscated their precious carry outs but on saying that. I wouldn’t want the thought of drink clouding over your opinions here. Yes, alcohol had been flowing that evening, but I can assure you, this army of underage drinkers were on their best behaviour and I mean each and every one of them. There were no groups. Not even a single solitary individual showing any sign of aggression. What I am basically trying to say is, there were no signs of the usual sectarian hatred. No flexing of muscles in any way shape or form, nor any attempts to show any kind of superiority and I know this maybe hard to believe, considering it's Belfast we are talking about but honestly, there was none of the usual bullshit that this city – country is renowned for.
It was quite the opposite, in fact from where I stood there was nothing more than a friendly party atmosphere filling the autumn air in Bedford Street that night. Anyone passing by would have seen that for themselves. These kids weren’t looking for trouble, although I will grant you, whenever you seen a crowd off this size gathering in the streets of Belfast, around that time. It does usually mean it is about to kick off and yes, there are those who say it did just that, but I myself, wouldn’t exactly agree with them.
These kids came to party; plus the majority of them where from middle class suburban families, they weren’t your typical ‘battle hardened’ Belfast teenagers. The kind which hail from war zones such as the Shankill or Falls Road, granted therer may have been ones from thoughs kind of area's but the majority of them certainly weren’t prepared for street war. Believe me, that wasn’t the kind of entertainment these kids were looking for! They were out to have a good time, to forget the political and religious situation that surrounded them, even though it was for one night only, but at least it was a start. So could no one see that?
So go on force yourself, try and imagine the scene. All those kids laughing and joking with one another, some were singing while others were being more boisterous, you know the kind. The ones, who are always shouting at the top of their voice, the ones always wanting to be seen and heard but even so, after all has been said and done. They were just doing what excited kids do best, they were enjoying themselves, having fun, something which the kids from this city hadn’t done for some time. That’s why I just can’t understand it? Why pull the plug, I mean did they really expect us to run riot to smash the place up?
It's a sight I will never forget, a t just sixteen years old I had never seen so many cans of beer, bottles of old English cider, Mundie’s and Drawbridge wine, you name it was there! I ask you; is it any wonder the atmosphere outside that famous old venue was electrifying. We were all having fun, no one had a care in the world, which again, is quite strange considering there were so many kids from so many different backgrounds and, of course, so many different areas. Catholic’s and Protestants, from gays and straights to 'hay little rich kids' mixing with middle and working class hooligans and like I said, with very few ever experiencing the troubles. Yet they were all gathered in one place at the same time and all with the same thing in common!
I think this is a good enough time to point out to our friends from outside Northern Ireland that here in Ulster, large crowds usually came with a shit load of police. Rewind the clock a few months earlier and I can remember going to away matches, travelling across town 5 – 600 strong, all full of aggression, waiting and wanting for it to all kick off with rival supporters. On those occasions there was usually one copper to every three supporters, but not this time and believe me; I have asked myself time and time again, as to why that was? I have thought to myself, could it simply have been a case, I was so wrapped up in all the excitement, in the atmosphere to have not even noticed them? For years I have wrecked my brain, I have thought long and hard about it but my answer has always been no they weren’t there. I have even asked the friends whom I went with and they have all said the same thing.
At the very start, there were no police presence, nor was there any sign of trouble brewing within this young crowd. So what was there problem, what made them come to such a hasty decision, to cancel that gig and at such short notice?
There were no army Landover’s, like Johnny Green put it, with the machine guns mounted on the back, this was Belfast not Beirut, and as for that kind gesture from the Clash, supposedly, handing out free badges? Well let me tell you, my mates and I were right outside the front doors, among the earliest to arrive. Yet we – I, what am I saying, no fucker seen anyone coming out with any badges nor any scramble.
The same goes for the army patrol and the spontaneous riot, they were all fabricated in Johnny Greens little head. Lies created in a hotel room probably, designed to point out how great he and the Clash were for coming to a war zone to entertain us poor deprived and ungrateful kids. Honestly; Phil Crossey, a journalist, working for the Newsletter and living here in Northern Ireland believed such crap, he used his quotes in an articale he wrote on the subject thirty years later. To me that is a sin, a sackable offence in my eyes and you call yourself a journalist.
Yes a few bottles and tins were thrown; I know that because I myself threw an empty bottle of Drawbridge which smashed against the exterior wall of the Ulster Hall, but to come off with. The kids went mad and started smashing all the windows in the venue is complete and utter bollocks. Let me tell you; if any windows were smashed, it would have been no more than one and the reason I say this with total confidence. Is simply because all the windows at the front of the Ulster Hall, back then, were all boarded up, to prevent any damage from the constant threat of explosions. In fact it’s only been recently, what in the past 10 years or so that those boards were taken down, so if they were boarded up how the fuck can you smash the fuckers?
Phil Crossey’s article in Belfast Newsletter 19th October 2007. http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/battle-of-bedford-street-that-kick-started-punk-era-1-1860484
These extracts have been taken from first daft chapters, although they are displayed on this site they may not necessarily appear in the book, but I can assure you without any doubt whatsoever, they are most certainly part and parcel of the "Trilogy Story"!
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