About the blog

Contact: tonymcmahon@rostraconsulting.org

Who would have thought we would see a return to mass trade union action, waves of strikes by workers, civil disobedience, and even the revival of socialist ideas. Hmmmm….when did this last happen? Join me and learn some lessons from the past to inform the future. Climb aboard the Thatcher Crisis Years time machine and find out about Britain during the last period of major unrest!

This blog is mainly focussed on the years 1979 to 1983 – the first turbulent years of Margaret Thatcher. It was by no means assured that she would get another term in office – something that’s obscured by her later terms in office when she seemed totally triumphant.

Why run a blog on this?

Because they were stormy years very similar to the time of transition we are now experiencing. 1979 was when Thatcher started to dismantle the post-war consensus and usher in a period of neo-liberalism that may now be ending. It was an epochal moment.

But it wasn’t just the right wing in politics that hungered for change. Many on the left believed that fundamental upheaval was required. Thatcherism was faced with a new and bolder socialist opposition in the labour movement. The result was combustive.

Combine that political scenario with the amazing music of the period: ska, reggae, punk, new wave, rockabilly, NWOBHM, disco, new romantic, futurist, electronic, etc, etc. And a revolution in fashion with one youth fad after another. What’s not to be interested in?

My name is Tony McMahon and I have a vast collection of 70s and 80s memorabilia.  Heaps of music mags, newspapers, political stuff and general trivia. It was a volatile era that seems increasingly relevant to the political storms we are now experiencing. So let me be your guide!

Some other bullet points about me:

  • Co-author of two biographies set back in the  early 1980s: Neville Staple, vocalist in The Specials, and Errol Christie, ex-professional boxer (the latter book put up for two major literary awards). Both books published by Aurum Press/Quarto. This involved years of research, mainly in Coventry where both Staple and Christie grew up. I became thoroughly immersed in the 2Tone scene and Neville’s book was published as The Specials reformed and toured in 2010
  • In 2008, I optioned a screenplay “Ghost Town” about four young British blacks trying to get out of Coventry via music and sport. We had the life rights for Neville, Errol, Pauline Black and footballer Garry Thompson – represented by Blake Friedmann, optioned by EMU Films
  • In 2010, Errol Christie was the boxing consultant and trainer to the play Sucker Punch first staged at the Royal Court Theatre in London and starring Daniel Kaluuya who went on to become a Hollywood star
  • Author of Quest for the True Cross – published by Bertelsmann in Europe, a historical fiction that led to me becoming a regular on-screen contributor on Discovery, History, Smithsonian and documentaries on other TV channels
  • Author of The Battle For British Islam published by Saqi Books and reviewed in The Sunday Times, New Statesman, CNN, BBC, Sky News and other global media
  • Former BBC news producer
  • Print journalist for 20 years
  • 1984/85 Deputy President, Liverpool University Guild of Students
  • Early 1980s – Labour Party activist
  • I run the Beardy History website and appear on history programmes as a pundit on everything from the Tudors to the Templars!

Went through every youth cult of the late 70s and early 80s with varying degrees of enthusiasm from New Wave to New Romantic. The university student paper once said “Tony McMahon should decide if he’s a dedicated Marxist or a decadent disco kid”. I chose to be both!

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6 thoughts on “About the blog

  1. Hi Tony
    Do you know who owns the copyright for the County Hall image – London’s unemployed 1981?
    I’d like to use it in a community publication and on a blog telling the story of the pensioners movement in Southwark.

  2. Hi Tony,
    I used to subscribe to the magazine SKAN, and even wrote a couple of controversial pieces for them. Do you have any idea where I might find pdfs of the mag?

    1. Hi – Sorry for the late reply – you could try the TUC library, which used to be in Holloway. They have lots of 70s posters and leaflets in rows of folders. Trouble with that era is that with the punk ethos, stuff got thrown away and not archived. When I co-wrote the biography of Specials front man Neville Staple ten years ago, I couldn’t even get back copies of the NME from….the NME. They told me nothing was kept in the late 70s. It was like nihilistic attitude of – oh well, that was late week, move on comrades! Tony

    1. Chris – I’ve neglected this blog for a while and looking through the feedback came across your message. I’m rubbish at checking the feedback so apologise if I didn’t get back to you last year. Austin was a great guy – big influence on me at the time. They were magical, effervescent times in Liverpool as I’m sure you know. I always remember walking across some waste ground in Everton with Austin in typically sardonic, philosophical mode turning to me as a southern middle class git: “You wanna be part of all this – I wanna fucking get out”. I know he was just winding me up. He passed away just a month after my mother died after a long and awful illness so my head was in ten places. Austin and I drifted apart in the 1990s for no particular reason – just one of those things. And I only found out about his death when I tried to contact him about Pete Burns passing in October 2016. When I saw Austin’s obituary online I just felt crushed. Obviously you and the family must have been devastated. All my love to the Muscatellis and rest assured, he will always occupy a large part of my memories! Best, Tony

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