1977: A Year in the Making of Multicultural Ealing 

By Dr. Piotr Stolarski  

Photo showing a multicultural Southall Broadway, c1977

             Above: Multiracial Southall Broadway in 1977 

How did Ealing’s multicultural society come into being? What circumstances, interests, tensions, and policies shaped its birth? And which past events and issues remain prominent in the consciousness of today’s ethnic groups, having helped influence the outlooks of Ealing people more generally? 

More and more researchers at the Ealing Local History Centre are asking about sources of information for the history of ethnic minority groups. Southall history, in particular the history of immigration and Asian residents, has become increasingly popular as a research topic. Both Jonathan and I have undertaken talks and research work to facilitate and highlight the histories of groups such as Black and Asian people, Polish people, Gipsies, and Muslims. This post, looking back 40 years to 1977, highlights some of the newspaper material relating to the London Borough of Ealing’s immigration, race relations, and ethnic minority issues. It was a time when attitudes were in flux and tensions were not far below the surface.  

Article about a racist attack; Acton Gazette, October 1977

     Above: Racist attacks, such as this one on the Black community bookshop Bogle
     L’Ouverture, Chignell Place, Ealing, were not uncommon in the 1970s.  

Local Newspapers as Sources for Community Relations in 1970s Ealing 

There can be little doubt that the 1970s were especially crucial to the development of multicultural Ealing. Indeed, immigration and race-relations were the most prominent issues appearing in 1970s local newspapers in the London Borough of Ealing: the Middlesex County Times (Ealing and Southall editions), the Acton Gazette, and the Midweek County Times/Midweek Gazette. 

The reason for this prominence is straightforward: the composition of the borough (Southall in particular) had – by the later 1970s – changed considerably since the late 1950s, with the settlement of large numbers of people born outside the British Isles. These had travelled from the Commonwealth countries of the Asian sub-continent (chiefly India and Pakistan), Africa, but also from Europe (Ireland and Poland), to find work. Their arrival, however, especially in Southall, occasioned considerable local tensions, of a gravity unheard of before or since.   

Southall first came to national prominence as an area of rising immigrant population in the early 1960s, with the opposition of the Southall Residents’ Association (SRA) to mass immigration. The SRA cited problems such as overcrowding, the perceived impact of immigration on education, and alleged immigrant misconduct. It seemed to some pre-existing residents that Southall was being taken over by immigrants at an alarming rate. 

1968 saw the anti-immigration ‘rivers of blood’ speech by Conservative MP Enoch Powell, which resonated with many white British people, including in Ealing and its environs. Later, the bussing issue took centre stage. Ealing Council deemed it necessary to transport Asian children aged 5-11 and considered to have poor English skills from Southall to schools throughout the borough. A fixed quota of ‘immigrant children’ (40 per cent in any given Southall school) was established to ease the perceived burden on teachers and non-immigrant pupils. This practice of ‘bussing’ however (initially accepted by many Asian parents, and in force between 1963 and 1981) met with rising opposition by the early 1970s, with many Asians considering it to be racially discriminatory. By then more Indian children had been born locally, and thus fewer had ‘poor’ language skills to justify the policy. 

The Sikh custom of wearing turbans had already become a contentious issue in the work place in the 1960s (and remained so in the 1970s), and more so in the context of attempts by some Sikhs to wear turbans in place of helmets when riding motorcycles. The law was duly changed after Southall MP Sydney Bidwell’s private member’s Bill passed in 1976.  

Photo showing a demostration in Southall about the killing of Gurdip Singh Chagger, 1976

   Above: Demonstration after the killing of Gurdip Singh Chaggar in Southall, 1976.
   Conservative MP Enoch Powell became a focal point for both ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ immigration
   sentiment in 1970s Ealing.  

Racial tensions rose further during the 1970s, with Skinheads and Asian gangs facing off, and prominent local immigrants (and their supporters) becoming increasingly vocal and strident about perceived racism, and the inflammatory rhetoric of the National Front. Racist attacks and graffiti against ethnic minorities escalated. A rising radical Marxist agenda and the emergence of the Black Power movement were contributory factors to a more confrontational attitude among some immigrants at this time. Yet the untimely death of school boy Gurdip Singh Chaggar (1976), and that of the New Zealander Blair Peach at the Southall riots (1979), indicated the extent of broader social unrest bubbling beneath the surface. 

Nevertheless, the ‘Asian community’ of Southall (itself internally diverse) was not simply beleaguered and victimised: immigrants could be politically savvy, articulate, hard-working, and proud of their culture and identity. Some of the positive interaction between people of different backgrounds, often at cultural events and in schools, was recorded in the local press. 

More negatively, some immigrants also caused crime and wreaked violence or intimidation against the pre-existing population. Offences against the immigration laws and threats of deportation were also commonly reported in the local press. Moreover, rapid cultural change was difficult to come to terms with for older (white, English) residents, whose views cannot always be boiled down to prejudice and discrimination. 

Yet at the same time, through all this, the beginnings of progress were being made with airing and tackling issues of race-relations, particularly by the Ealing Community Relations’ Council (ECRC) and its affiliated organisations – including local churches and political parties. (Yet the ECRC remained a controversial body which was seen as politicized and pro-immigrant by some Ealing residents.) Increased participation of Asians in the running of ECRC and progress in local government representation by the later 1970s were also significant developments.  

Photo of Liberty Cinema in Southall, 1977.

            Above: Liberty Cinema, South Road, Southall, in 1977. The pace of cultural
            change in Southall could be hard to deal with for some pre-existing residents,
            who objected to Asian-language only cinemas and, fairly or not, the ongoing
            deterioration of the local built environment and street cleanliness.  

In an era before the Internet, 24-hour televised news, and mobile telephones, the local newspapers were the key opinion-forming fora – devoting considerable space to the views of the pre-existing English population and those of the recently settled. These views concerned everything from politics, customs, religion, housing, integration, arranged marriage, to gang violence and racial discrimination. The letters pages were thus replete with opinions and debates linked to the issues of immigration and racerelations, their local significance, and their wider ramifications. 

Newspapers also reported on a wide range of related community events, as well as on issues such as Police-immigrant relations; the activities of the prominent Ealing Community Relations Council (ECRC); those of the Indian Workers’ Association (IWA); and Ealing Council policies pertaining to immigration. At times many of these bodies or others, such as the National Front, were embroiled in ongoing discussions and exchanges. The opinions of local councillors and MPs were also frequently shared. 

Many of the newspaper features covered contentious issues such as bussing, the Muslim burials controversy, attitudes towards local Gipsies and Gipsy camps, and the Sikh motorcycle helmet issue, in considerable detail (far more meticulously than current newspapers) and reveal ways of thinking at odds with today’s accepted norms. Unlike in the present day, when a widespread consensus exists about the inherent positive value of ethnic and cultural diversity, in the 1960s and 1970s views were far more polarized and confrontational.  

Photo of shoppers in Southall Broadway, 1977

            Above: Shopping in Southall High Street (1972). What we might celebrate today
            as a multiethnic society was only coming into being in the 1970s – not without
            many social adjustments and political tensions.  

Contemporaries were only learning to deal with ‘diversity’, much of which they did not see as positive. Parties such as the National Front or Union Movement existed and tapped into such sentiments. Language, assumptions, preconceptions, stereotypes, and a shifting sense of fairness, were all involved in this process of accommodation. Yet, luckily for the historian, local politicians, community leaders, and residents of the day seem to have been far more engaged in the issues concerned and more open about their views than today’s people might be. The papers therefore reflected these concerns with a similar level of intensity. As such, they constitute an invaluable local source of information about these issues, and are indispensable to any researcher of related subject matter.   

The following excerpts from the local newspapers shed light on the ‘making of multicultural Ealing’. Some are startlingly ‘of their time’ in content or outlook. The references have been taken from my book, ‘Ethnic Ealing’: a comprehensive index to local newspaper material concerning Ealing’s immigration, race relations, and ethnic minority issues (1970-1979). Ethnic Ealing may be consulted at Ealing Local History Centre.  

1977 – A Year in Twelve Newspaper Reports 

January: ‘A free ride for turban man’  

Photo of Baldev Singh Chahal; he won court case to not wear a helmet over his turban.

Baldev Singh Chahal, campaigner for the right of Sikhs to wear turbans rather than helmets on motorcycles. 

‘The man who defied the law by riding his motorcycle wearing a turban has been cleared from paying £130 in fines for convictions. 

 But Mr. Baldev Singh Chahal, president of the Turban Action Committee UK, will not get a free pardon. 

 Mr. Chahal was convicted before the Government’s Act exempting turban wearing Sikhs from wearing crash helmets was passed last November. 

 The Religious Exemption Bill, which has now become law, was introduced by Mr. Sydney Bidwell, MP for Ealing Southall. 

 The Home Office has recommended the Queen to exercise the Royal Prerogative to Mercy – meaning that Mr. Chahal will not have to pay the fines, but the conviction will be recorded. 

 Mr. Chahal, of Downley, High Wycombe, who has been charged by police more than 40 times for riding without a crash helmet, refused to pay the fines because he said that would be admitting guilt. 

 He has denied the charges since 1974, and spent one month in prison for refusing to pay a £50 fine after being convicted at Ealing Court. 

 Mr. Chahal has been leading a campaign to exempt motorcycling Sikhs from wearing crash helmets since June 1973, when wearing crash helmets became law.’ 

(Ealing Gazette, 21 January 1977, p. 1) 

February: ‘Ban on Right-Wing Extremists’ 

Photo of Alderman Peter DownhamAlderman Peter Downham, Labour Chairman of Ealing Council, opposed far-right groups’ use of Council halls in 1977. In 1979, the Southall riots broke out after National Front members were permitted by the Conservative Council to use Southall Town Hall for a meeting.

‘Ultra right-wing political groups will not be allowed to hold meetings in Ealing Council halls, it was finally decided this week.

 The council chamber vote, after a lengthy debate, was a rebuff for the National Front, the National Party and the Union Movement, who had all applied to use municipal halls. 

 Tory members all voted against the resolution as did Labour councillor Michael Lourie. 

 Cllr. Eleanor Withers, an Acton Conservative, said: “This is nothing to do with left versus right, only the high principle of freedom of speech.” 

 Three times in her lifetime – in Germany, Italy and Russia – she had seen the suppression of free speech result in tyranny, she said.

 Labour Alderman Peter Downham replied: “We must appreciate the true nature of these parties. They are totalitarian and preach racial hatred and religious intolerance. 

 “If any achieved power in this country there are many members on both sides of this chamber who would find themselves in very serious trouble.”  The question of free speech, he said, was a red herring. 

 “There is nothing to stop these groups holding their meeting on street corners or hiring cinemas.”

 “But the town hall is publicly-owned by the ratepayers. Can we allow a small group of people to utilise municipal property to incite racial hatred?”  His party colleague, Cllr. Michael Lourie, disagreed. 

 “It would be a sign of weakness, he claimed, to ban certain organisations.   “Debate is the lifeline of freedom. We must allow lunatics to say what they like, where they like, so long as they come within the law. 

             “It is not for this council to make the law, but to lay down the guidelines.”

 “Tory opposition leader Cllr. Robert Hetherington said: “It is suddenly attractive to be anti-fascist in a district where one relied on the coloured vote.”  Labour Alderman John High replied: “They have a right to speak, but there is no need for us to provide them with a platform.”

 His colleague, Cllr. John Telfer, said: “This is a multi-racial community and it is our first duty to foster better relations and oppose anyone who will incite problems.”

 Ald. Mrs. Marianne Elliott, chairman of the amenities committee which recommended the ban, told the council: “The committee did not come to this decision lightly. There was a lot of heart-searching by all members. 

 “We are charged with inhibiting democratic principles but these are doctrines we do not want upheld in our halls.”

             The vote was then taken and the resolution passed by 42 to 29.’ 

(Acton Gazette, 3 February 1977, p. 5.) 

March: ‘Issue is Clear – This is a ban on Free Speech’ 

Photo of E J Hamm

E. J. Hamm, Secretary of the Union Movement, and Bedford Park resident, challenged the Council’s ban of far-right groups from Council halls in 1977. 

‘Any references to “Labour councillors” in this letter exclude the fair-minded Cllr. Lourie and another who must remain nameless because he telephoned me in confidence to express his disapproval of the ban of free speech imposed by his party.

 That is the only issue and all the red herrings are in Ald. Downham’s basket, not in mine. The refusal to grant a hall for a public meeting to a ratepayer is contrary to all natural justice, probably the law and certainly the Declaration of Human Rights to which Britain subscribes as a member of the United Nations. Further action in this matter on such lines is now being actively considered.

                         [….] Labour is now exposed as the party of humbug, hypocrisy and petty tyranny. Let us hope that no-one who value freedom will ever vote for it again.’ 

(Letter of E. J. Hamm, Secretary, Union Movement, in Acton Gazette 10 March 1977, p. 8.)  

April: ‘Report on plight of young blacks. MPs accuse police in race relations probe’ 

Article about jobless minority youths in Southall, 1977

Unemployed youths in Southall (1977). Racial discrimination and educational difficulties affected Black and Asian young people’s chances of finding work. The end of the 1960s’ employment boom made things harder for all jobseekers.  

‘Police harrassment and widespread discrimination against young West Indians are harming race relations, says a special report. 

 And things are being made worse by poor school performances and substandard child care, the report claims. 

 An all-party Commons Select Committee of ten MPs, including Mr. Sydney Bidwell, from Ealing-Southall, has spent a year studying the West Indian community in Britain. 

 Its findings are contained in a strongly-worded report released last week.   It says allegations of racial prejudice by the police are common and accepts that some harassment takes place. 

 “More important though is the recognition of the antagonism and growing hostility between the police and sections of the West Indian community.”

 The report quotes a statement from the Community Relations Commission which says relationships between young blacks and the police have broken down to a large degree. 

 [….] Mr. Bidwell said: “We have made several suggestions which we hope will be acted upon. 

 “This report is the result of a year’s work. We toured Jamaica, Barbados and St. Lucia as well as areas in Britain with a high West Indian population.

             He said things should improve with the second generation of West Indians. 

 He said: “The immigrants have been regarded as outsiders ever intruders. The second generation were born in this country and know no other.   “They are British people who happen to be black.”

 (Midweek Gazette, 5 April 1977, p. 5.)

May: ‘The killers of Chaggar get 4 years’  

Article from Gazette about murder of Guerdip Singh Chaggar

 Southall schoolboy Gurdip Singh Chaggar was killed in a gang clash in 1976. His death, and that of Blair Peach at the 1979 Southall Riots, were not directly caused by racist attacks, but have become emblematic of the whole decade’s fraught community relations.   

‘The teenage killers of Sikh student Gurdip Chaggar have been jailed for four years by the Old Bailey. 

 Jody Hill, a 17-year-old clerk from Southall, and Robert Hackman, a parttime male model of Kensington, both stood impassively in the dock as the sentence was announced. 

 They both admitted manslaughter yesterday on the ninth day of the trial after previously pleading not guilty to murder. 

 And the judge, Mr. Justice Neil Lawson told them: “If you were older you could go to prison for a very long time.

 “I am quite satisfied that neither of you was activated by feelings of racial prejudice. This was basically not a racial killing.”

 The court has heard how Hill and Hackman, 18, had got involved in a scuffle between gangs of white and Asian youths in The Green, Southall last June. 

 Both youths had been to the Soul City disco at Southall Football Club and were carrying sheath knives which they had used to stab Chaggar, 18, of Florence Road, Southall to death. 

 Mr. John Blofeld QC, defending Hill, said there was no indication that the white youths had planned any action against Asians. 

             He added: “There was no undercurrent of planned racial violence. 

             “Hill says he did not cause the fatal blow.”

 Mr. Blofeld said Hill had probably drunk a bit too much at the disco.   He added: “When the fight started he behaved not merely stupidly but criminally and has ended up in this court a very frightened young man. 

 “He is a likeable young man who needs to grow up a little. He is in no way influenced by racial prejudice.”

 Detective Inspector Alec Marsden said Hill had previous findings of guilt for theft and driving offences. He left school at 15 and worked at Heathrow. 

 Mr. Perry Harris QC, defending Hackman, said the fact that the victim was coloured was incidental.

 He added: “There was no wish on Hackman’s part to hurt a coloured boy. There was no anti-black or racial prejudice. Many of his friends as the time were coloured.”

 He said Hackman’s parents had separated several years ago and he had not seen his mother for about seven years. 

 Hackman had lived in hostels and accommodation provided by local authorities. At the time of the incident he was living in a community settlement at Kensington. 

Mrs. Rhanny O’Brien, director of the hostel, said Hackman had black friends.

She added: “They regarded him as a ‘soul brother’”. 

 Hill and Hackman were both sentenced to six months each for fightling unlawfully and making an affray and another six months for having knives as offensive weapons. Both sentences will run concurrently. 

 Still in the dock are five other youths who have all denied fighting unlawfully and causing an affray. 

 On Friday, Felix Hanrahan, an 18-year-old gas fitter from Northolt, was discharged after the prosecution said there was not sufficient evidence on a charge of fighting unlawfully.’ 

(Article by Gary Gurmeet in the Midweek Gazette, 3 May 1977, p. 1.)  

June: ‘Police move to smash race gangs’ 

Photo of Superintendent Norman HirdSuperintendent Norman Hird, Ealing Community Liaison Officer, attempted to tackle racist attacks in the borough in 1977. Police-Ethnic minority relations in Ealing were still challenging in many cases, however.  

‘Details of a big police operation to stamp out gangs of racist thugs who are terrorising Asian families in the borough have been revealed to community leaders.  Superintendent Norman Hird told the annual meeting of Ealing Community Relations Council that 25 officers were involved in the crackdown on the hooligans.   Supt. Hird, Ealing Community Liaison Officer, said police had spent a lot of time on surveillance of Indian and West Indian premises in Southall, Greenford and Ealing. 

 He told the meeting at Ealing Town Hall: “We are giving you the best of attention in police manhours.”

 The pledge followed a question from an ECRC member on what steps had been taken to protect families from persistent attacks. 

 Senior Community Relations Officer Mr. Martyn Grubb said: “We have been particularly concerned about the harassment of coloured people by hooligans. The attacks include the throwing of stones, breaking of windows and the continual hounding of a family.

 “The Police Liaison Committee has been able to do something in that sphere but it is a constant worry.”

 Mr. Grubb said after the meeting: “One man has had at least 20 attacks on his house. I know that police spent a great deal of time on one particular case in South Ealing. 

 “It is very worrying because the number of attacks mean that people who have brought themselves a nice house are forced to give it up and move back from outlying areas to Southall where they feel safer. It is usually a case that one particular family will be continually harassed.”

 Mr. Ajit Rai, President of the Southall-based Indian Workers’ Association, said: “I spoke to Supt. Hird a few weeks ago and told him that there are lots of things going on here. We need more police protection to arrest things like breaking of windows and physical attacks, including snatches of bags.

             “I welcome the news that police are taking this seriously.

 Supt. Hird said after the meeting: “I do not want to give the impression that these officers are working the whole time on this problem. 

 “Over the past year we have turned the particular attention of about 25 officers to these attacks. They are beat officers in Ealing. 

 “The attacks usually occur on the periphery of Southall-Greenford, Northolt and South Ealing.” 

(Ealing Gazette, 3 June 1977, p. 1.) 

July: ‘Paint vandals hit race HQ’ 

Photo showing building housing Ealing Community Relations Council

The ECRC was the body principally involved in tackling race relations issues in the borough in the 1970s. Not all residents agreed with its policies, however, and its Ealing Green headquarters were daubed with graffiti in 1977. Nevertheless, it arguably did more than any other organisation to improve community relations.  

‘Police are investigating a series of attacks in which Ku Klux Klan symbols have been daubed on shops and homes in the borough. 

Symbols were sprayed in red paint on the front door of the Ealing Community Relations Council’s offices in The Green, Ealing. 

 And a Hounslow community relations officer who lives in Ealing had similar signs daubed on his garage.

Ku Klux Klan stickers were plastered on the windows of the Bogle L’Ouverture bookshop in Chignell Place, West Ealing, last weekend. 

 Mr. Eric Huntley, who wife Jessica is manager of the shop, said they had also received threatening phone calls. 

 He said: “They said that if we did not get out they would bomb the shop.”  Chief Inspector Derek Gosse, police community liaison officer for X Division, said: “We view this with some concern but it was no that serious. This may just be come local hounds.

             “There is no evidence of a Ku Klux Klan organisation in the area.”

 The ECRC office and the bookshop were both hit by similar attacks in February.’ 

(Midweek Gazette, 26 July 1977, p. 1.) 

August: ‘Race leader’s warning’ 

Photo of family in Southall who lived in one Room, 1976

Mr. and Mrs. Ali and their seven children lived in one room in Southall in 1976. Housing was a major social and political issue in 1970s Ealing.  

‘A race leader had warned that overcrowded homes are breeding tomorrow’s criminals. Last week a mini-census confirmed that one in ten of the borough’s houses were sub-standard and Southall’s problems were especially bad. 

 Miss Amarjit Khera, Southall Community Relations Officer, has warned: “Housing is one of the biggest pressures on family life in Southall. It helps to exaggerate family problems so that you may have a husband and wife having a violent scene in front of young children. Many families are living in one room.

 “In the long term family violence is going to breed young criminals and this is a direct result of the poor housing in the area. I have worked here for five and a half years and I have been saying that conditions are getting worse and worse. I am glad that the council had at last taken the initiative themselves to see just how bad things are. 

 “It will be impossible to solve these problems unless central government gives Ealing more money to cope with them.” She added that the majority of her work is helping families with housing and matrimonial problems and claimed that the crowded living conditions make social lives impossible for many families. 

 The sample census, commissioned by Ealing Council, found there were nearly 10,000 homes in the borough without hot water, bath and inside toilet. A report said efforts must be made to wipe out overcrowding, especially in Southall, which also had a higher level of unemployment and more unskilled workers than any other part of the borough.’ 

(Midweek Gazette, 23 August 1977, p. 5)

September: ‘Shop-floor goddess angers the Hindus’ 

Kali Safety Poster

This tactless safety poster angered the Hindu community in 1977. It shows how lack of cultural awareness and casual racism were fairly common in 1970s Ealing.  

‘Hindus have demanded a ban on a safety poster which depicts their goddess Kali as a messenger of destruction. 

And they warn that it will harm race relations. 

The poster, which Hindus at Southall say is insulting and humiliating, shows a half-naked model of Kali hung with skulls and human hands, eating £5 notes.             

It has been issued to factories by the British Safety Council.

 It reads: “How much does Kali cost you? Kali – goddess of destruction – devours profits, delights in accidents, damage and injury.”

 Mr. Brijmohan Gupta, an active member of the Hindu Temple at Southall said: “By hurting the feelings of others they have done more harm than good.  “It cannot be successful if a certain section of the community is humiliated and insulted by it.

 “We must all respect the feelings of all groups living in this country. Things like this will take us right back to where we started. They are not good for harmony.   “Pressure should be brought down on them so they are forced to withdraw the poster. In future they should make sure none is going to be insulted or hurt.”

 Mr. James Tye, director general of the British Safety Council, said: “Kali has six arms, five of which represent destruction, and the other indicates learning. Out of learning comes safety, security and perpetual life.”

 “Every 20 seconds a worker dies as a result of an accident in the world. Once we get over the size of the problem we shall see the role of Kali’s sixth arm.”

But Mr. Gupta explained that Kali meant something different to Hindus.

He said: “We worship somebody who is super human. Kali is part of that super human body. Kali is a word which means energy. In her various manifestations she does all that sort of work.

            “The poster is about the whole Hindu religion and is in very bad taste.” 

(Midweek Gazette, 13 September 1977, p. 3.) 

October: ‘Gala of all peoples’ 

Article about multicultural celebrations in Southall, 1977

Multicultural events such as this one paved the way for a ‘diverse’ Ealing and improving community relations. While the papers published far more on tensions and controversies, much positive interaction and dialogue was taking place across the borough, e.g. in schools, youth clubs, and at social events

‘People of all ages, religions and races joined together at Greenford Hall on Friday for an evening of cabaret and dance. 

More than 250 people attended the event, which marked the start of the Ealing Community Relations Council annual “People to People” festival.

Entertainers included the Mavis Whiting accordion band, which played favourite old time numbers. 

The talented and colourful Millennium Polish Dance Company gave a lively display of national dancing. 

Dancers from the Shree Sorathia Prajapati youth club, from Southall, presented a selection of Indian dances, and Miss Dorothy Palmer did a solo limbo dance in the middle of the floor. 

Stars of the evening were the well-known Ebony Steel Band from Acton, who provided dance music until after midnight. Indian and West Indian food was available during the evening.

 The Mayor of Ealing, Cllr. Mrs. Margaret Lorde, and the Mayoress, Cllr. Mrs. Olive Barlow, attended, and the Mayoress announced the winners in the ECRC Silver Jubilee competition.

First prize – £150 – was won by Mr. Piara Kabra, the ECRC treasurer. 

On Sunday, members of several different religions attended a special service for racial unity at St. Anselm’s Catholic Church, The Green, Southall. Prayer was led by the parish priest Father Michael Hollings.’  

(Ealing Gazette, 7 October 1977, p. 13.) 

November: ‘Fury at the Front’ 

Article about clash between anti racist and national front supporters in Acton 1977

National Front and Left-Wing opponents clash in East Acton. The National Front and Union Movement were marginal political forces in 1970s Ealing, but Skinheads were active in the area, often stirring up trouble for ethnic minorities.  

‘A woman police officer was kicked in the head during a violent clash between the National Front and Left Wingers on Tuesday night. 

The plainclothes officer was hurt during a punch-up at the Oak Tree Pub in East Acton where the NF had booked a hall. 

More than 200 Front supporters had travelled from all over West London to hear National Organiser Martin Webster speak.   But about 30 protestors were mingling there. 

Trouble erupted when the WPc was holding a man who she claimed had thrown a bottle into the hall. 

But the suspect escaped as a result of a scuffle between the Front and their opponents.

Kicks and blows were exchanged in the battle. 

Earlier manageress of the Oak Tree Club Mrs. Frances Cassisa said she would not cancel the Fronts meeting even though the hall had been booked under the name of the British Heritage Society.

 Earlier the meeting had been criticised by councillors, Ealing Community Relations Council and an MP.

Sir George Young, Tory MP for Ealing-Acton, said the National Front had been active in Acton for 10 years, fighting the by-election tin 1968 and contesting the GLC election earlier this year. 

He said: “The only way to beat the National Front is through the ballot box – not by outlawing their meetings or trying to muzzle them.”

The meeting was organised by the newly-formed Shepherds Bush National Front Group who plan to form a youth branch as they are given the go ahead.

One in six of the group’s present members are aged under 21 and so could join the Young National Front. 

Group organiser Martyn Heale maintained that as soon as the national party produced a constitution for the YNF a branch would be formed. 

Shepherds Bush National Front Group was formed in June this year.   It claimed to have a list of 1,600 subscribers to National Front News, the party’s monthly magazine.’ 

(Article by Jo Brind in Acton Gazette, 24 November 1977, p. 1.) 

December: ‘Amnesty for illegal immigrants criticised’ 

Photo of former Ealing Acton MP, Sir George Young, 1977

Sir George Young, MP for Ealing-Acton (shown in 1977). He made efforts to enlarge the support for the Conservative Party among immigrants, including the Asian and Polish residents of his constituency. He nevertheless opposed the 1977 amnesty for illegal immigrants.  

‘Several protests that the Home Secretary’s immigrants amnesty is unfair have been made to a local MP – and the criticism is coming from immigrants themselves.  The amnesty allows immigrants who entered Britain illegally before January 1973 to stay here, and to bring their wives, husbands or children under 18 to join them.

The Home Secretary says that the amnesty will eliminate scope for blackmailing those who entered illegally with help from racketeers. 

But Sir George Young, Conservative MP for Ealing-Acton, said on Wednesday: “This will undermine public credibility in the Government’s whole approach to immigration.

“I have already had protests from immigrants in my constituency who have had to wait to get here. I am deeply concerned about this second amnesty – which seems to be a recurring event – because I think it is unfair on those who have waited in their own countries and taken their turn in the queue for immigration vouchers.  “These people have been queue-jumped and this will encourage others to do the same.”

Sir George said the amnesty was also unfair on the British people “whose hospitality has been abused by illegal immigrants, who are now free to stay on.”’ 

(Ealing Gazette, 2 December 1977, p. 18.)  


These articles help to demonstrate the centrality of race relations, immigration, and ethnic minority issues to the development of Ealing in the 1970s. The London Borough of Ealing absorbed large ethnic minority communities in Acton and Southall upon the boroughs’ amalgamation in 1965, and had to deal with pressing issues such as housing, education, political polarisation, and rising unemployment. All these exacerbated the social and cultural tensions within its populace.

Yet violence was uncommon and many efforts were made by bodies such as the ECRC, churches, trades unions, schools, youth clubs and associations, to encourage mutual respect and dialogue. Community relations have improved markedly since the 1970s as a result of these and ongoing endeavours. Yet 1977 was not an atypical year in that decade and we have many more sources which shed light on these issues.

My book, Ethnic Ealing, references over 2,500 stories from four local papers of the period, and is available to consult or purchase at Ealing Local History Centre. Stories can be viewed on a microfilm reader, and normally printed out (30p per page). All researchers of related subject matter are very welcome to get in touch with the local history team at Ealing Central Library.  

Further Reading: Sources for Ealing’s Ethnic History (available at Ealing Local History Centre) 

  • Oates, Jonathan, ‘Gypsies in Ealing’, typescript of forthcoming talk (2017)
  • Oates, Jonathan, ‘John Alexander Barbour-James: A Black Imperialist in 1920s Acton’, typescript of Black History Month talk (2016)
  • Oates, Jonathan, ‘Riots in Acton and Southall’, typescript of talk (2016)
  • Oates, Jonathan, ‘Black people in Ealing, 1739-1979’, typescript of Black History Month talk (2015)
  • Stolarski, Piotr, Ethnic Ealing (2016) – Newspaper index for the 1970s
  • Stolarski, Piotr, Polish Ealing (2016) – a history of the Ealing Polish community, 1945-2015
  • Stolarski, Piotr, Christian Ealing (2015) – chapter 5, ‘Beyond Secularisation: Ecumenism and Multiculturalism, 1970-2000s’
  • Stolarski, Piotr, Ealing in the 1960s (2013) – chapter 9, ‘Immigration and Race’
  • Local History blog – for posts on Muslim history, Polish history

In this section:

What's On Guide & Ealing Highlights

Sign up for our e-newsletter

Get regular updates by email on events and activities in the borough. Simply join the mailing list.

Click here