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Voice35Years: Brash new approach pays off

BY THE time the 10th edition of The Voice rolled off the press on November 6, 1982, it was promoting itself as the UK’s top selling black weekly newspaper, outselling its rivals at the time. This was due mainly to its brash new approach to news coverage as well as its bold design which made it stand out alongside the main stream tabloids on the news stand.

The front page headline in this 10th edition shouted ‘Assault Mystery’ after two police officers were acquitted of charges of assaulting a 53 year-old black man, Alfred Rose, and conspiring to pervert the course of justice in an Old Bailey trial which left many unanswered questions. It followed an earlier trial in 1981 at Acton Crown Court when it was Rose who was cleared of assaulting the officers after he was beaten up by the police during an incident in August 1980.

The Voice report said the Old Bailey trial failed to clarify exactly happened on the night of the incident when Mr Rose was beaten up to such an extent that he ended up with a broken nose and left unfit for work for nearly two months. The article quoted the solicitor for one of the officers as saying, “It’s oath against oath”, while one of Mr Rose’s solicitor said: “Somebody is telling lies.”

Also promoted on the front cover was a picture of Fela Kuti, Africa’s most famous musician, in support of The Voice’s exclusive interview with Carlos Moore, the author of Kuti’s biography which was being published inside on page 21. The story would reveal Fela the man, the legend and the myths around this African music icon.

Moore, a Cuban journalist, had spent a decade with Fela in Nigeria and this allowed him to write the biography of the only African known from coast to coast as the king of Afro Beats. Until this biography, only the dramatic events in Fela’s eventful life were known to the outside world.
In the interview with Gama Mutemeri, Moore reveals everything about the man, his rise to fame, his spiritual life, his music, politics, smoke and even his sexual life.

The biography reveals that Fela was married 27 times and also talked about the many times he was arrested by the Nigerian police and brought before court. In short, the book sets the record straight about one of Africa’s most creative musicians who had become a living legend.

Over on page two, The Voice’s broad base coverage of minority ethnic news was reflected here as the lead story headlined: Sikhs find support in Redbridge’ reported that the Redbridge Community Relations Council in Essex had written to three MPs asking for support in opposing discrimination against Sikhs living in the borough.

This had been prompted by a decision in the Court of Appeal that Sikhs are not an ethnic group and therefore not covered by the 1976 Race Relations Act. One Councillor was quoted as saying: “if Jews are protected as an ethnic group, so should be the Sikhs.”

Also featured on page two was a follow up to the Chalk Hill estate murder of a 25 year-old Indian woman, Aseema Devani which had been The Voice’s front page lead story a week before.

The Voice reported that the senseless murder had brought condemnation and dismay from the local residents in Wembley. Local councillors and groups including the Kingshaven/Chalk Hill Tenants Association and Community Service said if anything, the tragedy had strengthened the resolve among the people of Chalk Hill to achieve a situation where all can live in security, peace and harmony.

On page three, remnants of the 1981 Brixton riots were again featured here as The Voice reported that six original SPG officers who were charged with assault during the riots appeared at the former Horseferry Road Magistrate Court and they were joined by a seventh member.

All seven were remanded on bail and suspended from duty after being charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice by misleading police officers investigating the case by making untrue statements. The Voice also reported that journalists covering the case had to search the building for the hearing as the courtroom was switched at the last minute.

Also on page three was the news that Labour’s Harriet Harman had won the Peckham by-election in Southwark by a comfortable majority. The lawyer and civil rights activists was a staunch supporter of Tony Benn and she also saw off challenges in the seat from rivals including the National Front. The Labour majority was 3,931 votes.

The lead story on page four greeted the news that two black-owned greeting card companies had come together in a new joint venture to get their cards distributed nationally and into high street chain stores. Crown Occasions and J A Image Bank, publishers of greeting cards for black people in Britain headed by Winston Collymore and Mike Blythe, came together initially to exchange stocks, but discovered a compatibility of skills and ideas to make their business get national distribution.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years

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