December 4, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

How grim was Britain in 1979?

2 min read
The black British boxing champion Errol Christie describes racism in Britain in 1979 and how he used his fists to combat it on the streets

Thirty years after 1979, I filmed with the black boxing champion Errol Christie in a boxing ring getting him to share some robust views of Britain at the end of the 1970s. The language is a bit raw – I must warn you. The video is below.

I filmed Errol in the boxing ring at Gymbox in Holborn talking about his memories of racism, street violence and fascist thuggery. In 1979, his amateur boxing career seemed unstoppable but at the same time that he was a teen sensation on TV, he was fighting skinheads on the streets in his home town of Coventry.

DISCOVER: 2Tone bands the 1981 Coventry riot

Errol didn’t tend to mince his words about Britain in 1979. He talks about using his fists to remove the teeth from skinhead racists and the white girlfriends he had that annoyed white racists intensely.

I co-wrote Errol’s 2009 award short-listed biography No Place To Hide and it covered all this violence and racism in blow-by-blow detail. He chose the title for the book because he said, there was literally no place to hide from the pressure of the outside world and the misery at home in Britain around 1979.

Sadly, Errol died of lung cancer in 2017 having never smoked in his life. But he always complained to me of having to box as a youth in smoke filled halls and driving around in a van where everybody was puffing away. He was only three weeks younger than me and it’s a terrible loss to all his friends and his family.

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