Dare to Dream: this was anarchy 1990

Here’s a rare thing: a documentary about anarchism that treats the movement with respect, not as a bunch of terrorists or soppy idealists. In 1990 a student from Goldsmiths’ College named Marianne Jenkins contacted London Greenpeace to find out if one of supporters would like to appear in the film she was making. I don’t remember exactly what happened except she turned up one Thursday at the group’s office  and I ended up appearing.

She gave me a VHS copy and it was shown at a London Greenpeace meeting later that year to celebrate the group’s 20th birthday (we later discovered it was only 19 years old, oh well…) and at one or two of the fairs we organised at Conway Hall in the early nineties. Then it was forgotten about. A few years ago I transferred it to DVD and today, finally, it has gone online where everybody can see it.

Dare to Dream was made on a shoestring budget and it shows. Production values, especially by 21st century standards are low, but the amateurish look gives it real charm and a very DIY anarcho-punk feel redolent of its era.

The film tries to tell two stories. First, the history of anarchism in the UK (not just England, despite the title) and beyond, and this it does successfully with a wealth of good period footage that goes back over 100 years. Second, it looks at the state of the movement in the year it was made, 1990. This was the tumultuous period when the poll tax uprising led to to insurrection across the country – notably the famous riot in Trafalgar Square – and eventually the downfall of Thatcher in November of that year.

Also examined are certain currents within anarchism, such as animal rights, feminism, squatting/social centres and music, with a good punk soundtrack as well as some more surprising choices. The cultural side of anarchism isn’t neglected either with poetry and an interview with the artist, Clifford Harper. He is one of several heavyweight talking heads featured, along with Albert Meltzer, Vernon Richards, Nicholas Walter and Philip Sansom, all of whom are no longer with us.

Then there’s the “younger generation”, the people from groups like DAM, Hackney Solidarity Group and the 1 in 12 club and Common Ground social centres. Interesting to hear Norman describe how the miners’ strike fundamentally altered the anarchist movement and take it in a more class struggle direction and away from “animal libbers and peace activists”. There was a real feeling in the late eighties and early nineties that working class revolution was a distinct possibility, particularly with the crushing of the poll tax.

Dare to Dream hasn’t been publicly shown for over 20 years. The world is a very different place now yet the spirit of anarchy is still with us, dim and flickering perhaps, but alive all the same.

Watch it here: http://www.veoh.com/watch/v94827459ga8FZZCM 

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