Facing down the fascists of Dalston
6th October 2015 - Jo Bloom
Born of an Orthodox Jewish family, Monty Goldman has lived in Stepney all his life. For novelist Jo Bloom, an encounter with Monty at a funeral was to prove the inspiration for her latest novel, Ridley Road. He was campaigned and fought alongside the 62 Group, a Jewish organisation which was formed in 1962 to confront the resurgence in British fascism, and her novel, a love story set against elements of this political background, takes the reader back to that time, and into the coffee bars, clubs and streets of Soho in the early sixties.
Here, Jo asks Monty about his memories of growing up in the real Ridley Road in Dalston, east London.
“When I was a child I used to go with my mum to do the shopping at Ridley Road. It was a wonderful market, one of the finest shopping places in the East End. Second only to Petticoat Lane market. We didn’t have refrigeration back then, so we’d shop there every other day. There was all the old original Jewish businesses, mainly the kosher butcher shops like Glass, where the bagel shop is now, on that parade. And Jewish bakers like Kossofs, which wasn’t far from Glass, and Jewish delicatessens like Joseph’s. The clientele was mostly Jewish which was why the stalls and shops catered mostly for Jewish people. Most of the stalls sold things like linens and the street wasn’t short of a café to have a cup of tea. And not like now, where a cup of tea costs you £1.80!
"As I said, I’ve lived in the East End all my life and I learned the ropes when I was young. I remember the growth of fascism before the war and reading anti-semitic statements in the local press, stuff about No Jews or Irish need apply to jobs. I was too young to go into the 43 Group (a leading post war anti-fascist organisation set up by Jewish ex-servicemen). They used to want to get rid of me. I annoyed them! But I was the runner. I got them information about where the fascists were.
"I went down to Ridley Road every weekend, regular as clockwork, and I was very active until I went into the army in 1950. The fascists held their meetings in front of Woolworths, on the corner of Dalston and Ridley Road. They thought they owned the place every Sunday. But the communists organised the protests and the 43 Group were the protectors. Although I remember one Sunday witnessing a disabled ex-serviceman being arrested in front of one of Jack Barden’s electrical shops off Ridley Road. All he was doing was opposing the fascist infiltration!
"I always tried to keep out of getting hurt. I was sensible. If I missed our crowd of people, I wasn’t going to be a hero and fight ten blackshirts on my own. I didn’t mind one to one, there was nothing barred. You kick ‘em where it hurts! But I never used a knuckle duster or a knife. Just my bare hands. Some of the non-Jewish stallholders supported Mosley’s blackshirts. Mainly fruiters, actually. They didn’t mind doing trade with Jews, that was their clientele, but when it came to politics, they weren’t friends with the 43 Group, or the 62 Group, or the communist party or any of those fighting against fascism."
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