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  • Miles Hedley

SURGE at the Albany

Close to the Albany stands a house where, in 1981, a fire killed 13 black youngsters and injured many more during a 16th birthday party. The murderous inferno sparked an outcry against the government and police (later to be officially branded institutionally racist) and led to mass protests – but nearly 40 years on no one has ever been held responsible.

Acclaimed poet and activist Jay Bernard told the story of the NewCross massacre and its aftermath in a performance version of his latest work Surge which he presented solo at the Albany over three nights using spoken word, song, rap and dance accompanied by archive film from 1981.

In the most heart-wrenching sequences of his show, Bernard gave voice to the ghosts of some of the victims to drive home the terrible truth about the levels of race-hate in Thatcher’s Britain. But he also spoke for the grieving relatives and brilliantly manifested their sense of rage in the face of official indifference.

And in a powerful denouement, he brought the grim reality of race relations right up to date by linking that indifference to the appalling treatment still being meted out to the victims and survivors of the 2017 Grenfell Tower.

It made for an event that was not only intellectually and emotionally stunning but also politically and historically important. If you missed it, I urge you to go to and buy a copy of the award-winning book. You won’t regret it.

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