We began our tour prep with a last minute screen printing session at Kebele with good mate Kepa who very patiently helped Richy & Nick go printing mad. With everything ready, we met at Mivart and suddenly started collectively scratching our heads as we tried to squeeze the food in after a particularly liberating big shop. This was compounded by punk post deliveries (Fin!) as we nearly reached a critical mass of food in the car, but luckily as we headed to Brighton the hive appetite kicked in and we made some space in the car via our bellies.
We arrived at the Cowley Club and were treated to a delicious spag bol to get us in the mood for Italy. It was awesome but we may have to give the final verdict after tasting the real deal! Primeval Soup dazzled as usual overcoming technical problems we are so used to being a big part of Spanner’s “sound”, getting the dance floor going. It was really good to meet up with old friends and comrades, and always a pleasure to link up with the Brighton Anti Fascists and their stall – everyone seems fired up and ready for to take the streets on the 27th. Fascist scum best stay at home.
We had a short sharp shock of a set respecting the Cowley curfew, 1 minute short – how well behaved are we?! As they say it’s just like riding a bike. It was a benefit for the Cowley Club, a place we always like to visit especially before we cross the channel and we were proud to be asked – respect to everyone involved. Good people and always a good dance and good to see them still going strong. We retired to our home away from home with mates Holly & Joel for a cup of tea and a little chat ready to sleep, the next big adventure nearly on us.
We woke up with a spring in our step, ready to head to Dover with Primeval Soup. The very poor standard of mushy peas on the ferry was made up for with a little Time Crisis action and we left satisfied from the self service. After a little drive around Gent’s one way system we arrived at Landhuis in good time for some alfresco cuisine courtesy of Kokorellen, a local anarchist catering collective who served up some mighty fine seitan around the campfire. We were very pleased to be playing a benefit for them as we understand the need for a well fed movement, and a well fed tour!
The Landhuis is a squatted land project where local people make use of reclaimed land for growing food. As is often the case with such amazing liberated spaces, it is facing imminent eviction, in this case for a new gas pipeline. They’ll be able to hang onto the land but will loose their house and as the saying goes “one door closed, many more open” and we’ve no doubt that this crew will find the gaps in the kraaks!
The gig was put on by the local very active anarchist gig crew ‘Freedom in Fire’. The gig space was one of those raw places where you feel like anything can happen. Local bands Lobotomy? and Mind Collapse blew us away and Primeval Soup had a stormer. The crowd was well up for it and we decided to inflict our epic 1hr 30min set on them as the time was right and this was a no curfew gig. 90 minutes later we left the stage sweaty and content, ready to mingle both in the kitchen and on the dance floor. It was great to see old friends Niels from Cop on Fire, the Lost Union crew and Kristel from the Gent anarchist info shop. It was nice to meet new friends as well – Happy Birthday Froker! At 5am the compost toilets were overflowing and it was decided it was time to go to bed, ready for Le Quesnoy with the promise of a fry up from Niels, we slept well.
After a late night partying in Gent we woke up in a leisurely fashion and relaxed in the nearby fields drinking coffee and testing out competitive grape catching skills. The sun was shining and it could only mean one thing – time for an impromptu training session!
Some technical assistance was provided to help get the Primeval Soup car on the road again and we said our goodbyes at the Landhuis and headed into Gent for a late breakfast at the local anarchist info shop via a short spree at a Bio Mart where we stocked up on much needed supplies. Niels from Cop on Fire cooked us an incredible meal featuring aubergines fried in sweet soy sauce and curry powder – a new favourite of the spanner crew. Soon however, it was time to get on the move again and head to Le Quesnoy for a show at Le Cactus Bar put on by old mate Tof Ska from Les Villains Gamins, a busy and fun loving local gig collective.
Once in town it soon became apparent there was time for some football on the ramparts with local punks and bands mixing with only one bloody nose and a few near misses into the moat. The fun continued as the pool table was dominated by Woody and Joel from Primeval Soup who soundly saw off Richy and Ben. Then some vegan sandwiches filled the spot for dinner. Ulrikes Dream (featuring Hans from the Usual Suspects) smashed it and it was pretty late when we played and there was carnage on the dance floor as our host for the night suffered a nasty knee injury and had to be carried out by a punk posse. Primeval Soup closed proceedings in style playing a stormer of a set leaving the crowd wanting more, and after much late night socialising we headed to Adeline & Germain’s for some night caps for some and some much needed sleep for others. An excellent day!
After saying goodbye to Adeline & Jordan we started the day with a picnic on the 13th century ramparts surrounding Le Quesnoy, making good progress into the spanner travelling larder. Once our hunger was satisfied we were dazzled by the big kicks and tekkers of the Primeval football squad making good use of the space (ie. the moat).
The drive to Paris was accompanied by our eclectic soundtrack, with the bass driving us onwards, as one band member quoted “I felt that from my arse to my oesophagus”, however Richy was unimpressed by the “unsuitable drum’n'bass” as we entered Paris. The gig was at Le Miroiterie squat, a long standing punk venue we were pleased to return to. It’s been going since 1999 and, you guessed it – is under threat of eviction. Are you beginning to see a pattern?
In a nearby bar, euphoria set in for Joel from Primeval Soup as Liverpool went to the top of the league, soundly thrashing Tottenham leaving a bitter taste in Woody’s mouth. Back at the venue local legends Catherine & Papy had done it again with a spread magnifique! Pizza with dangerous levels of mustard, good old seitan in the bourgignon and generous amounts of drink got us in the mood for a great night. We caught up with some old friends from previous visits, and it was a great surprise to see Thierry from General Strike Records. This is where the punk shopping begun as he’s always got the right stuff!
We were pleased to meet the lovely people from Julie Colere (“angry Julie” – top band name!) and were pleased to see that Davey from the Monkees was reincarnated and found his place in his real band (there was more than a passing resemblance!). After some back alley deals and coin tricks (did you see what we did there guys? ) we played before Primeval Soup and had one of the best shows of the tour so far. A strap malfunction saw Woody on his knees until a timely intervention from Richy reinstated his proper stance.
There was a lack of plumbing know how from our band plumber who failed to find the flush, contributing somewhat to the ambience of the post apocalyptic punk toilets, needless to say we were ready to enjoy Primeval Soups last show with us, and we were joined by Brighton friend Lia in the pit. Nick & Ben seized the moment and the mic for a bit of gang vocals in ‘One World Riot’ with only a minor bit of sabotage of the mic stand, with the Soup playing a zenith of a gig to finish of their tour. We just want to say we feel really proud to play with such a top band and great people, even if they did keep the football (Phil!).
After the gig we said our goodbyes to old friends and new (they have a punky too here in Paris, every town should have one!) and it was time for some final frolics with the popcorn challenge during which we met a new friend, George from Cape Verde who instigated a street percussion session before leading pied piper style to a near by bar where there was a right old session going on with some really talented musicians. And then. Someone suggested the Spanner crew were clearly up for and attempted Afro-beat version of ‘Freedom Fighters’. Some were confused, some were shocked and strangely George disappeared! He came back half an hour later, presumably hoping everyone had forgotten he was the one who invited us, but no long term damage done and we left with big smiles all round, agreeing that was the highlight of the night. It was nice to get a glimpse of a different community to the punk diaspora and they’ve got a really good thing going on. We hope to catch George’s band ‘Tous Couleurs’ (All Colours) next time we’re in town and maybe we’ll do a bit of a practice for an acoustic set on our next visit.
Then it was back to Papy’s for some late night socialising with Primeval Soup, Lia and Papy until the small hours. Bon Voyage boys!
We said goodbye to Lia & Papy and began the long journey south on the autoroute du soleil. The escape from Paris was fairly comfortable and there was plenty of snoozing on the way to Dijon, where we spent the night. Dijon is very pretty city and we had everything we wanted for a night off in one street. Top Lebanese for dinner, a friendly bar and the local Libertaire where we stayed the night. Many thanks to our hosts from Maloka for our bed for the night.
We woke up in Dijon not feeling too worse for wear after a reasonably early night and headed to the local lake for some rest, recuperation and running. Woody & Richy patronised a local cafe whilst Ben & Nick did a lap of the lake. Next up was St Etienne and we headed south. As we entered the city out first impressions of the town were marred by a road rage punch up and some fascist graffiti on the hill side, however once we got to the venue and met some locals from La France Pue Collective (‘France Stinks’ – it certainly did after Bens visit to the toilet!) our faith in humanity was quickly reinstated. This crew have been organising gigs since 1998 and this was their 291st gig! The bar L’Assomoir hosts a lot of punk gigs and the men’s toilets were especially punk – we’re all up for no separation between bands and audience but no door on the shitter is a bit too close for comfort.
Playing with us tonight was Lyon based Ayatollah, who were playing their first gig. Their brand of heavy sludge would make the Bristol crust punx quake, and hopefully we can get them over some time. We played another long set which seemed to go down well in a city of crust hardcore fans. After some late night mingling by the bar fuelled by ska classics we headed to the local punk house. This place is amazing and their hospitality, gig history on the walls and the food provided by them at the gig was jaw dropping. Yet again. We spent the night chatting politics, music and declaring our shared love of bad movies with a really good bunch of people who clearly understand the need to make punk a threat again.
The day started with a much needed lie in for some and a bit of spanner removals help for some of the local punks. Any continent, any time!
The punk house was a very difficult place to leave but we eventually got going for a visit to the local anarcho social centre, “La Geulle Noire” (The Black Face). This place, going since 1998, has all the trimmings – Gig space, bar, library, free shop and lots more, including a fully fledged martial arts gym complete with proper boxing ring! They host international antifascist tournaments and have regular sessions for the rebels learning to fight well! We were hugely impressed with this place and next time we’re keen to play there!
Comrades here told us a story that is so familiar, about an economically depressed city, with no jobs, decimated industries and the rise of the far right. In the local elections a few days ago the Front Nationale won 19% of the vote here, a situation that is reflected nationwide in many places. In nearby Lyon the fascists are especially strong and the antifascists face a very difficult fight, with regular attacks and violence against them and apparent impunity from the law. Plus ca change.We heard some harrowing stories and our solidarity goes out to the antifascists of Lyon and France as a whole. More positively, in St Etienne, home to a large immigrant population and a solid antifascist movement, recent attempts by fascists to get a foothold have come to nothing. We were pleased to hear about one particular bonehead who got attacked three times in an hour by three different groups of people as he made the mistake of trying to do his shopping here.
After a goodbye to our host, Silvain, we headed for the Alps and Italy! As we were running late by this time and the hanger was kicking in, the onboard sandwich bar was opened for business! Sadly, it was during this leg of the tour that we ran out of miso relish.
The beauty of the alps stunned us as we passed through the mountains but the tolls started to piss us off, culminating in a near toll rage incident at the Frejus tunnel, where they rinsed us for over 40 euros! As we entered Italy we had a welcoming committee of some armoured police trucks at the first service station and we didn’t like the cut of their jib not one bit!
After a long drive we arrived at El Paso squat, the oldest squat in Italy, where we were welcomed by the great people there and an Italian feast of next level proportions and quality! We had a quick tour of the building, and a peak at the infoshop, gig space, gym and arts room, and of course the dining room! This is a place where art meets living space, incredibly beautiful, a testament to squatter creativity and with the politics all over the walls. It’s a fine example of what can be achieved with long established autonomous spaces and is clearly a crucial part of anarchist politics and organising in the city and beyond. There was plenty of top banter as we shared plenty of giggles and chortles late into the night with new friends and comrades.
Right then. This is where it gets difficult to give a summary of the big and amazing conversations we had with people in Turin. The day started with an authentic Italian white knuckle ride through Torino with one of our hosts, Gabri. She would be our getaway driver of choice. We must have been a hilarious sight squeezed into a tiny Renault 4, weaving our way in and out of the loud and lairy traffic on the way to the market to pick up food for dinner. The market was massive and totally authentic, and offered our first chance at pickpocketing practice to keep each other on our toes whilst getting some choice phrases from local stall holders. After shopping in a nearby cafe we heard more from Gabri about the escalating oppression of social movements in Italy and it seems like prison is a normal part of being an anarchist in Italy and Europe. Gabri herself is facing a heavy prison sentence and friends and comrades from Torino and other cities are facing potentially many years on trumped up bullshit terrorism charges. Anyone that seriously gets in the way of corporate “progress” or the phoney democracy of the EU and state can be labelled a terrorist.
Nearby to Turin is a massive EU sponsored mega project (the TAV), forcing a high speed train line through the beautiful Val di Susa, displacing local communities and drilling through mountains full of Uranium, Asbestos and polluting the ground water supply for the whole region. The toxic particles will be carried by the winds far and wide giving local people a corporate windfall – the gift of cancer. There has been incredibly strong and determined local resistance for over 20 years and anarchists have been heavily involved in organising to defend the land alongside local people. It is here that we see the state repression most clearly, and with the winding down of the Afghanistan war the Italian government has seen fit to redeploy the returning troops to the Val di Susa, effectively creating a heavily militarised zone.
There are 4 comrades, Chiara, Mattia, Claudio & Nicco who were arrested last December on terrorism charges and are now in high security sections of various prisons, spread across the country and facing many years inside if convicted. They have been subjected to an incredibly harsh prison regime designed to isolate them from their families, their comrades and to break their spirits. There is massive support for them on the outside and we have seen that they are not forgotten or alone. We heard about some other comrades in Val di Susa who were made to pay damages to the company of €230,000, which was raised within 2 weeks by the movement. It’s obvious this is a campaign that looks after it’s prisoners and has widespread support. Solidarieta e tutti liberi. Viva la resistenza anti-TAV!
After some power naps, table football and helping in the kitchen it was time for a feast of epic proportions. All the locals were excited about the pizzocherri, a much revered local pasta. The dining hall was buzzing with around 40 people sitting down together to eat and after some sage advice from local food etiquette expert Theresa we tried everything separately in an impressive show of self discipline.
Sandro, the local silver fox of a sound engineer who was seemingly unflappable did us proud as we got our big set out for the debut in Italy. We played at half 12 for about an hour and a half and we couldn’t have hoped for a better first gig in Italy. Some strategic local lingo from the stage kept the crowd amused and many thanks to Raff & Guido, our tour organisers who we met for the first time today, and who helped with translations and so much more. Woody and Richy had their first gripped by the grappa experience and Richy was last one out of the bar. Cracking start to our Italian adventure!
We started the day at El Paso, and split our forces for a spanner lie-in and spanner breakfast, with the breakfast swiftly followed by more sleep for some. We knew we had to leave soon, so made time for some cracking revolutionary shopping at the distro, which was made nearly impossible by Gabri and her anti-money interventions – like all anarchists she doesn’t make a very good businesswoman! We managed to pick up some fine Radio Blackout tshirts – a local radical radio project which has been running for ages and has loads of support, as well as diverse participation from many people in the city. It’s very well organised and transmits everyday news about popular struggles, analysis and loads of good music.
After saying our goodbyes and making plans for the future with the El Paso crew, we headed to the coast in convoy with new friends and comrades for the next show in Savona. We arrived at the Rude Club, a local hangout for antifascists and rebellious youth. The space was a shell of a building that local activists have turned into a really nice gig space and social club.
The local antifascist football firm ‘Working Class’ have a strong presence here and after meeting some of their crew and members of The Clan (no cause for alarm – spelt with a C!) a Milano folk punk band, we headed to a seafront hotel generously laid on by the gig organisers. After an intense tour report session we headed back for sound check and more pasta. We were pleased to see a well stocked anarchist info stall from new friends in Alpi Liberi next to our pitch.
Alpi Liberi is a relatively new but well solid anarchist organisation based in the mountain towns of Northern Italy. They run a couple of social centres, organise discussions, radical printing projects and direct action. They spend a lot of effort making anarchist ideas accessible and one of the ways they do this is through monthly walks in the mountains with local people having discussions along the way. We feel like we’re constantly saying this, but we’ve been really impressed and inspired by the commitment and integrity of the anarchists we’ve met here. Now’s the time to mention an amazing, strong woman we met from the Basque Country who’s husbands been imprisoned for anarchist actions for over 18 years. We can’t begin to imagine how hard her life must be, but it was great to share some beautiful times, food, dances and conversations with her. Adelante Compañera!
Back at the gig The Clan got it going with stomping folk punk, and we followed them, battling with a wonky stage giving it loads to a raucous dancefloor. The crowd appreciated Ben’s explanations of our songs in Italian and ItaliEnglish and after we were pleased to get it going on the dancefloor, attempting to dance rock’in’roll, swiftly followed by getting a full skank on aided by local beverages and ska. The Spanner Dancefloor Bezerka Squad was in full effect tonight alongside the Alpi Liberi Dancefloor Faktion. Quote of the night was “boys, can we go home now” from our host, at 5am, as we occupied the dancefloor and were showing no signs of abating or going home quietly. This was a proper Friday night Italiano style, our only regrets are that the football got munched by a dog before we could have a proper kick about. Savona rude crew, stay rude, thank you for your amazing hospitality – we’ll see you again! Tutti Antifascisti Sempre!
We started the day in various ways and states, a run along the beach for some, coffee for others before heading back to the Rude Club to pick up the gear and say our goodbyes to Gabriele, one of the local rude boys who plays guitar in 5 Minutes of Riot. A leisurely lunch was in order at the recently recce’d local very impressive coastal fort which provided us with a place for contemplation and digestion having fantasies about holing up here for the zombie apocalypse.
We headed along the coast east to Firenze through beautiful Tuscany, stunning mountains lining our route occasionally interrupted by industrial marble quarrying for the kitchens of the bourgeoisie. Next up was the CPA (Centro Populare Alto Gestitto – Self Managed Popular Centre), a huge ex school and an extremely well organised Communist squat. This group has been going for 25 years and in this building for the last 12. We were treated to a full tour by our hosts who were obviously and understandably very proud of their social centre. In the complex there is a full blown cinema, theatre, bike workshop, practice rooms, an incredible archive of radical publications from around the world spanning two rooms and many decades, a library, info shop, a small gig space, a much larger one, an outdoor stage, huge kitchen and eating space, football pitch, park, outdoor cinema, one the most impressive gyms we’ve seen and too many bars to count. There’s probably more we’ve missed – they’ve got a lot going on! They host all sorts of talks, activities and sessions, but Ben & Nick were miffed that we weren’t given the keys to the gym for a session.
When we asked how relations are between anarchists and communists (we had to ask!) they said they work together when they can, but there have been problems. We got the impression that they’re on the more radical end of communism, less sectarian than many on the left and are clearly up for working with anarchists. They explained to us that they have ongoing problems with the Italian Communist Party, preferring a more combative direct action, street based style of communism which the left in the UK could learn from.
After the school dinner bell sounded, close to 100 people sat down to eat together a sumptuous vegan meal of pasta, salad and potato spinach rissoles. Some of the comrades told us how they have formed their own self owned and run football club, SC Lebowski, named after a founding member with a striking resemblance to The Dude. They are disaffected Fiorentina fans and play in the ninth tier of Italian football, bringing flares, rowdy songs and fun back into the game. Against modern football, forza Lebowski!
Tonight we were playing with Pisa based “Causa”, who lean towards the ska punk! Energetic young bucks who give it their all with plenty of high jinx. It was really good to see a crew of professional sound engineers volunteering for their centre and doing a great job both behind the desk and behind the bar. We had a good gig and the locals showed the right sort of party spirit! After the gig, we had yet more free drinks at the bar, under the sober and commanding gaze of Marx, Lenin and Che. Then they left us with the keys and the run of the place! More thoughts of zombie attack ensued as we headed for bed in classroom 2b. We didn’t get to meet the Headmaster.
School’s out! Squatters in!
Day 11 and 12
We woke up in Florence on a day off, had some lunch by the River Po and then headed to Rome for a bit of feet up and beach time. We had our first taste of authentic pizza and were not disappointed.
We had a sprawl out at the beach the next day and got lobster looks all round, made friends with some shifty looking geezers on the beach before an attempted culture experience, a hearty supermarket sweep and the inaugural spanner ping pong tournament, which got pretty ferocious and frantic. Richy decided against the Limoncello.
Day 13 and 14
Right, here’s some things we don’t like about Rome: too many tourists, too many cops, no obvious music shops, a particularly stupid English tourist passing on his fear of poor people to his young son, a truly hideous version of EMF’s “Unbelievable” which had us running out of the shop, appalled, statues of mass murderers, the Vatican. But it’s not all bad.
Here’s some things we like about Rome: lots of evidence that empires don’t last, ruins, old stuff, pretty buildings which will one day be awesome squatted social centres, burly blokes dressed as Roman centurions, lots of street culture, top graffiti and of course… Forte Prenestino and all the amazing people there. An old 18th century fort, squatted for nearly 30 years had us walking round with jaws to the floor, with wow factors round every corner. From screen printing workshops and almost daily cafés to a kid’s playground and numerous bars and stages, with loads of great stuff like monthly local produce markets, martial arts, dance, fitness language and computer classes, this lot have been doing the business for a long time. No wonder they have such huge support from the surrounding communities. Everyone we met was so friendly and we felt immediately at home. In the old barracks, store rooms and trucks the people who live here, together with many who work and play here have shown what is possible when we take back space and use anarchist principles to build a solid community of resistance. We were all agreed that we know which side of the walls we’d like to be on if the bad guys ever dared to try to evict this place.
After a good look around at the gardens and graffiti and clocking the trash karaoke for later we had a fantastic dinner and played a gig to a fun loving crowd. DJ Tukano kept it lively afterwards with what’s known locally as a “riot DJ set” and the dancefloor was hopping. A cracking night and big thanks to our brilliant hosts, the champion cooks and the highly organised and up for it bar and sound crew. We look forward to raving with new friends, the unstoppable Alessia and Francesco in the hopefully near future. Last off the dancefloor once again, we headed to our barracks for a good bit of r & r. Our only regret of the night was missing the karaoke due to high commitment levels in the dance. Next time…
Next day was spent relaxing in the sun, enjoying the beauty of the fort and the people there. Ben finally got a much sought after great session with some local, very tasty martial artists. A good meeting of minds was had and we’re definitely happy these guys are on our side. After a whopping sandwich from the taverna we headed out to the Rebel Store for a bit of anticapitalist shopping and a farewell drink with the brilliant Alessia. A dopo, Compagni. Forza Forte Prenestina!
Here’s a very cute little duck we met while lakeside lounging.
Ah Bologna. The top trump of revolutionary Italy – large euro squat, tick, vibrant squatter culture, tick, 10 rebellious social centres, tick, revolutionary graffiti all over the walls, tick, long history of solidarity and revolutionary struggle, tick.
We were playing tonight at the XM24 squat, another long standing Italian mega squat situated in a working class area of Bolocina. One of the most impressive murals we’ve ever seen greeted us and the local squatters explained how they are using it as a shield from eviction due to it’s widespread fame. It’s all in there: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, vegan power, squatters vs cops, bike jousting hordes, burning barricades and diggers sabotaged by flying melons. What more could you ask for.
As usual, the XM24 faces eviction but it’s clear they won’t go quietly. Our top hosts Rocco, Milvio and Machno then took us on an anarcho sightseeing tour of the town. First up was a block party with sound system, live graffiti, food and counter info. Local anarchists are doing good work fighting the gentrification of their neighbourhood. It’s a sign of their confidence and strength that they were openly painting the walls with anarchist graffiti in broad daylight. Here we met Deco, a Brazilian street artist and friend of the mighty Autonomos FC from São Paolo.
Next up was a solidarity demo for the much respected Atlantide LGBTQ squat which is preparing to resist eviction. We got a good look at how the squatters and anarchists here come out for each other. We reckon there were around 1000 people, old, young and diverse, in festive and noisy spirit, with samba band, brass band, sound system and lots of ringing bike bells. Apparently this was a small demo! Atlantide non si toca!
We had to leave the demo early as we had to prepare for the gig and eat dinner. Back at the squat there was a sizeable antifascist meeting with around 50 participants, discussing experiences, tactics and strategy of militant antifascism. It was interesting to see the dynamics of an openly organised, self facilitated antifascist meeting. After a delicious dinner we checked out the dancefloor instigating “Los Kitanons”, an Italian Balkan band with not a small amount of enviable talent. A hard act to follow, but we pulled out all the stops and made a little bit of uproar on the dancefloor ourselves. After the gig we were treated to a round of rousing and uplifting rebellious chants as the locals mobbed up and took the floor to project strength. It was great to hear and see and they were happy to teach us some of their songs, and in return we took over the sound system for a little bit of silliness.
We woke up at the XM24 where Ben’s attempts of occupying the gym were thwarted as he was swiftly evicted by the yoga class. After another unsuccessful attempt to find an open drum shop (dr drum where where were you?) we headed off to Milan. We arrived at the Ripa di Malfattori, a great little recently reopened anarchist space, where we met Marco and Melissa aka Drowning Dog and Malatesta.
We were excited to be playing in a small gig space where we knew the energy would be bouncing off the walls and we looking forward being reunited with our new friends The Clan. It didn’t take too much cajoling to get Chiara and Laura from the Clan to join us on a number on whistle and fiddle after a swift practise. The Clan tore it up and we had a ripper in the Ripa. Much thanks to Marco and his first and unexpected live band mixing experience. Full respect to Milan’s black dog of anarchy, the absolutely huge Hugo, asserting his right to be lazy by crashing out on the dancefloor. After sampling some of the dangerously tasty homemade licqueurs and a bit of rowdy chanting with the locals we head back to local anarcho legends, Andrea and Gaia’s lovely appartment for some late night spaghetti (our first in Italy!) and some chinwagging. Great people.
We started the day with a rip roaring tour of Italian punk (omfg check out “Tear me down”! Do it now!) enjoyed with anarchist cooperative made coffee. We were overloaded with presents from our hosts, and Andrea just stopped short of giving us the shirt off his back! In return we offloaded some of our favourite music on them with future promise of more important cultural exchanges. We heard about their anarchist worker’s printing cooperative, Eleutera, and they gave us a beautiful graphic story of the life of Malatesta for the Kebele library. A very hard house to leave, but we finally managed to drag ourselves away as a busy day lay ahead.
First stop was a phenomenal vegan cafe, Universo Vegano. Horror set in when we saw it was closed but the good woman, a friend of hungry vegans, averted a food riot by opening up especially! In reality she probably just took pity at our sullen faces at the window. The food was a great accompaniment to some good conversations with the lovely DDM crew. We heard about their efforts to organise in their neighbourhood, where drugs and violence are rife. Full respect is due for the comrades challenging mafia organised drug dealing and trying to radicalise the neighbourhood beyond mass squatting as a housing solution. DDM live in one of several huge squatted blocks and we were treated to a sneak preview of some tracks from their forthcoming album. Sounding good and we look forward to hearing it and helping with UK distro.
Just down the road there is a memorial plaque to Dax, an antifascist who lived here. On the night of 16th March, 2003, he was stabbed to death by fascists outside a nearby pub. The police, locally known as “Sbirri di merde”, prevented the ambulance from getting to Dax and his comrade, who was also critically injured. They provoked a riot by taunting comrades who arrived at the hospital and then carried out indiscriminate beatings in the hospital, of course with total impunity. Everywhere we go Dax is remembered and his face is on murals in many cities. As they say here, “Dax vive nelle lotte”; “Dax lives on in the struggles”.
Last stop was a fleeting visit to the Clan HQ and well kitted out recording studio. We wished we’d had more time to hang out there and we look forward to seeing the Clan again.
The road to Lugano was short but lengthy and saw our first stop by the rozzers, at the Swiss border. The Carabinieri rejects / wannabes were outraged that we didn’t respond or roll over when they whistled at us like dogs so we got a punitive pull. They seemed annoyed that we weren’t showing signs of fear or deference to their authority and offended that we were pissed off and letting it show. Quote : “This isn’t Mexico. Why don’t you trust us!” We had to commiserate the poor sniffer dog for having to spend it’s life with these self important idiots. They received a few colloquialisms but there was plenty more that was probably best left unsaid. We were already well late for the gig.
We arrived at Il Molino squatted social centre unfortunately too late for the presentation by Alpi Libere, but we were really happy to meet up again with our top new comrades. After a quick and lovely dinner we played a fun gig to a small but well up for it crowd. This was the third consecutive night of gigs here but dancefloor champs were still going at it all through both our hour and a half set and the impromptu / inevitable Spanner DJ set that followed. As Leo the sound engineer left he said “Just party as long as you want and turn off when you’ve finished”. Chas and Dave went down as well as Operation Ivy, some ska classics, Prince and Queen.
An unexpectedly late and uproarious night, finished off with a drive to our hosts’ house by a massive lake surrounded by immense and stunning mountains and another late night nosh up. Very nice too! We like these people!
We were greeted by the sun and the beauty of the Ticino region of the Swiss Alps, ready for “a day of relaxation and quiet”. We spent some quality time with comrades from Lugano by a beautiful lake with an absolutely top notch picnic. The naked vanguard had it’s first and last outing of this tour plunging into the icy alpine waters and Spanner’s answer to the legendary pants man turned a few of the local’s heads but thankfully didn’t put us off the delicious risotto.
Before we knew it we had to drag ourselves away for the drive into the Alps, with an uneventful border crossing, in convoy into the breathtaking mountains comrades are fighting so hard to save. As Richy would say, “It’s a bit like the Mendips innum!”. We arrived at the ‘Barbaria’, one the Alpi Libere bases in this region and an important centre for the Val di Susa rebels. We were treated to a phenomenal dinner including vegan chocolate cake, as well as locally made booze of various descriptions and calibres. Outside the snow capped mountains glowed in the light of the full moon, and inside the local anarchist choir were in full voice, accompanied by a tuba, some guitars and a fiddle. This was an extremely powerful moment for us, hearing such a solid bunch of people singing together, keeping the resistance folk songs alive and sharing them with us. They certainly have a strong connection with their histories of struggle and each other, and this shone through all night long. We were invited to join in and everyone was really happy as we sang ‘The Diggers Song’ with them, before joining in some of their old Italian revolutionary and partisan songs, with, interestingly, not a “Bella Ciao” in sight. They asked us to share a song with them so we obliged with ‘A World Turned Upside Down’. They were surprisingly pleased and the whole room was singing as one. We were very happy that it came out loads better than our previous attempt in Germany!
For a day off this was totally momentous. Despite some seriously fierce spirits and stronger booze this will be a night to remember for a long time to come and we were really glad to grab a pizza the action!
Ah, where to start?! Well, how about waking up in an old mountain village with the sun shining and the birds singing, with chocolate cake for breakfast?! Then it was a tour of the village, checking out their traditional oven where the collective bakes bread once a week to sell in the local area. Heads were dunked in the mountain stream and to add to the off the scale ice cream headache experience Nick nutted himself on the spring pipe! A foraging session in their collective garden and surrounds yielded nettles aplenty for a soup we made to go with Sicilian pasta, salad and some of their brilliant bread. Our new friends were bemused by our salad dressing and didn’t seem to know what to do with it. Sitting under the fruit trees of the comrade’s garden, with a full spread to get through, it was straight out of a Dolmio advert, but without the Dolmio and lots better!
After lunch a short but relentlessly steep walk up the mountain path with our amazing and beautiful hosts, Luciana, Nicoleta and Princesa, gave yet more incredible views. But then some berks came and stuck a military fort and prison on the mountain, in the seventeenth century! What an eyesore! We learned how the women of the village in that time rolled big boulders down the mountain at the army which was cutting down their forests. Bould women indeed! In this tradition, the women of the neighbouring Val di Susa are at the forefront of the resistance against the occupying forces today and this combative attitude to authorities continues. When the police arrived in the valley they were given cups of tea by the local women. After a vicious police beating of activists as they slept in their tents an extra ingredient of strong laxatives was added to the tea, which had progressed from a peace offering to an art of war style attack! Local activists told us how after so many years of trying all the “proper channels” and seeing that they don’t work for us, people from Val di Susa have come to accept sabotage and militant tactics as an important part of the struggle.
Now we have been blown away by all the people and the places we’ve seen on this tour, but this was the gig we were especially excited about. Organised by comrades at short notice, and a benefit to support the anti TAV prisoners, at a supportive bar in Val di Susa itself, everyone was buzzing.
We were proud and happy to be accompanied by Nicoleta on the drive up the gob smackingly beautiful valley through her favourite part of the mountain and she had lots to say about the place. Further up the valley we saw two hideous blots on the landscape: an exclusive ski resort enclave, Sestrieres, built by the super rich Agnelli family as a playground for the elite and the eyesore remnants of the 2002 Winter Olympics; an abandoned ski jump, derelict buildings everywhere and mascot statues winning the gold medal for corporate ugliness. These bastards have a knack of using public funds for private gain, leaving a legacy of nothing for local people and wrecking beautiful places.
Camp Venaus is the biggest and oldest of the protest camps in the valley and an important base for the campaign. It was built after the land was occupied in 2005. Waiting there for us were comrades from Torino and beyond, as well as locals who were pleased to greet us with a huge and fabulous feast.
As we ate, they taught us an important local phrase: “Sará dûra!” – “It will be hard!” We were pleased to understand that by this they mean hard for the enemy, not us! However, faced with such quantities of great food, it was a struggle to get through it. We’ve been totally rumbled as food fanatics this tour. On the first night it was commented, about a certain band member, “He can eat for 4!” By the second night we overheard “He can eat for 5!” They’re getting to know us! We heard that the people of this area were declared ungovernable by the king of France in the 14th century and for around 300 years people were left to run things themselves without interference from centralised authority. Big up the Middle Ages massive!
We played to a room full of new friends and comrades and some sound issues didn’t quieten spirits. No cabs? No problem! General uproar arose with some exemplary crowd surfing and some serious shape throwing on the dancefloor. The fun continued with power rock and AC/DC appeared to be local favourites. Woody took the controls for a sweaty DJ set and delivered what the people wanted! Star of the dance tonight was young Francesca, a One Direction fan who enjoyed a deviation and a proper Brit boy band without having to shell out €80! After several hours of mayhem and hilarity we said emotional goodbyes with one last photo with as many of us as we could fit in before a moonlit drive up winding mountain roads to an alpine village where we spent our last night in Italy. We won’t forget these people and we’ll be back really soon.
As many days on this tour, we woke up – however, this was a big day as we said our last goodbye (for now!) to our alpine comrades, and began the long drive north to Dijon. We were sent of with one heck of a packed lunch that fuelled us all the way. This would be our last gig on tour, at the mighty Les Tanneries, punk rock bastion of France. As stated, it was a long drive punctuated with banter, food and sleeping.
As we arrived we met the good guys from Blood or Whiskey who we were playing with and promptly pinched their football for a kick about with some local talent. Ady is one cool kid, effortlessly rinsing and nutmegging us at football, and clearly loving it with a cheeky grin from ear to ear. 15 years old and full of plucky charm, he was clearly excited to meet us and show us his boxing skills on the focus mitts – the kids got talent! We were also playing tonight with the Marshmellow Mushies, an anarcha feminist band from Dusseldorf and very good people, and it was great to spend the last night of tour hanging out in the yard together, eating and having fun.
The Mushies played a great gig and showed much patience trying to teach Ben and Ady a particularly good cup trick. Needless to say Ady got it a lot quicker and faster! Nofun and Boris from Les Tanneries know what they’re doing with the sound, we had a lovely surprise to see Eric from Paris accompanying the Mushies and for one final night we played our hearts out and played a really fun gig. Seeing Ady in the pit well past his bedtime, loving it hard and playing air guitar was a total gem. We intend to hold him to his promise that next time he’ll join us on stage busting some of his hiphop rhymes! Ben broke a record breaking 3 strings in one gig, but that didn’t stop us from having a big one. Blood or Whiskey poured out their ferocious brew of folk punk and we took the opportunity to have a bit of a bop around to their set. Cool heads prevailed and we had a relatively early night in preparation for the long drive home the next day to Bristol.
Many thanks to Dede and all the Maloka/Les Tanneries crew for welcoming us and making the last gig of the tour such a great night.
Thank you to the lovely folk of Les Tanneries who made an extra special effort to get up early with sore heads and make us a lovely breakfast, ready for the days long drive first to the ferry (which we made! Em!) and then to Bristol town.
Now is the time to say thanks to all the amazing people we’ve met and who helped make the tour such an incredible experience and to all those working and fighting so hard, you know who you are and we won’t forget you. Every time we come back from a tour we are completely inspired and overwhelmed by meeting so many dedicated and determined people. Everywhere we went we heard about increasing repression of social movements, and literally just now on the road home we have heard that one of our comrades has been sent down for 6 years in yet another show trial designed to break the will and the fighting spirit of the animal liberation movement. It won’t work. Fight on and stay solid, comrades everywhere – you are not alone. Love & Solidarity to Debbie.
The hour is late when we arrive back in Bristol, but we are looking forward to getting stuck right in and fighting alongside our friends again.
Here’s some links for great bands we played with:
Mind Collapse: facebook.com/mindcollapsepunk
Ulrike’s dream: http://ulrikesdream.net/
The Clan: facebook.com/theclanirishband
Marshmallow muschis: https://myspace.com/marshmallowmuschis
Blood or Whiskey: https://bloodorwhiskey.ie
…and here’s some for great comrades and their spaces:
Freedom in Fire collective: http://freedominfire.wordpress.com/
Gent anarchist infoshop: http://anarchie.be/infotheek/info.php
Les Vilains Gamins crew: http://314crewlesvilainsgamins.wifeo.com/
La Miroiterie: http://lamiroit.free.fr/
La Geule Noire: http://lagueulenoire.org/
La France Pue: http://lafrancepue.org/
El Paso: http://ecn.org/elpaso/
Radio Blackout: http://radioblackout.org/
No TAV: http://notav.info
Anti repression: http://informa-azione.info
Rude Club: https://facebook.com/pages/Rude-Club/192595897478807
Forte Prenestino: http://forteprenestino.net/
Bologna antifascists: http://assembleantifascistabologna.noblogs.org/
Ripa di Malfattori: http://malfattori.noblogs.org/
Drowning Dog and Malatesta: https://facebook.com/pages/Drowning-Dog-and-Malatesta/194179347295901
Des Tanneries: http://tanneries.squat.net/