Footage of the Battle of Lewisham, believed lost for 25 years, has been rediscovered by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The film depicts the infamous events of 13 August 1977, when a National Front march through South East London led to clashes with anti-fascist groups, and later between demonstrators and the police.
The footage shows the first time police deployed riot gear on the UK mainland and provides vital evidence about the demonstration and its aftermath in which over 100 people were injured.
With testimony from eyewitnesses varying, and often contradicting official reports, the battle has become a contested historical event. The discovery will help researchers answer questions about who was there, how events unfolded, and how the police reacted.
Among the events captured is the Bishop of Southwark’s speech to the anti-fascist protesters in Ladywell Fields before the march, the National Front march being escorted through New Cross by police, and the clash between protesters and police in Lewisham town centre.
Originally distributed on VHS to anti-racist groups by Albany Video in Deptford in the 1970s, the highly sought after footage had been considered lost or destroyed.
It was recently discovered in the archive of production company Spectacle Films by the London Community Video Archive – a Goldsmiths-based group salvaging and archiving community video footage shot between 1970 and 1985.
The film will be screened for the first time in 25 years at a special event on Saturday 12 August at Goldsmiths Students’ Union in New Cross, to mark 40 years since the Battle of Lewisham. The commemorations will continue on Sunday 13 August, when representatives from Goldsmiths and dignitaries from Lewisham Council will unveil a maroon plaque on 323 New Cross Road on Clifton Rise, where the demonstrations began.
Read more about events marking the anniversary.
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 are able to commemorate the events with the screening of this film and the unveiling of the maroon plaque in New Cross.”
The London Community Video Archive is supported by a £76,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.