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Voice35Years: Black players make a breakthrough

RISING STAR: John Barnes appeared in a football feature called ‘Black Attack’ after being chosen to play in a friendly against Germany at Wembley

THE ARRIVAL of 'The Voice' newspaper to the news stands in August 1982 meant that black Britain finally had a medium in which to challenge the national press over the bias reporting and smear campaigns that had been dished out against the community for years without any fear of reprisals.

It didn’t take long for The Voice to make its presence felt in the media landscape however, as by its seventh edition on October 16, 1982, the front page lead story headline read: ‘Naughty, Naughty – The Sun newspaper gets its finger burnt by the Press Council’.

The story was in reference to the top-selling daily at the time being rapped by the press regulatory body for its unfair reporting of the Black People’s Day of Action march from Lewisham to central London the year before in protest against the deaths of 13 young people in a house fire in New Cross, which many felt was a racially motivated arson attack.

The Voice reported that the case came before the Press Council after a number of community groups complained about The Sun’s front page headline ‘Black Day at Blackfriars’, and its strapline, ‘Rioting and looting as marchers run wild’.

The Press Council condemned the paper’s aggravated and sensationalist reporting of the march which had attracted more than 30,000 people. The Press Council also ruled that The Sun’s lack of sensitivity was damaging to race relations.

Reacting to the ruling, Lewisham’s senior community relations officer Asquith Gibbs said:

“We have now written to the editor of The Sun offering to make arrangements for him and his journalists to get some race relations training.”

By highlighting the story on its front page The Voice was sending a clear message that it was there to stand up for the rights of the community, expose the bias news coverage of the black community in the national press and give black Britain a platform for its voice to be heard.


The front cover also featured a picture of US soul singer Melba Moore who was on a promotional tour of the UK and The Voice had caught-up with her for an interview that was featured in The Buzz section.

The lead story on page two was headlined: ‘Hackney Muslims fight on’ which reported on the defiant speech by Councillor Shuja Shaikh at the Council’s monthly meeting hitting out against the prejudices meted out to Muslims by the council.

Another story on the page which carried the headline: ‘Wandsworth attacked’ spoke of the racial disadvantages evident in the borough following a report by the council’s equal opportunities officer who highlighted weaknesses in the council’s policies.

Over on page three, the lead story carried the headline: ‘Black kids do better than whites’ in reference to a new report which said black pupils were out performing white students in gaining more ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. A survey of 12 inner London schools carried out by Professor Michael Rutter at the London University Institute of Psychiatry, showed that nine per cent of black children gained five or more O-Levels compared with five per cent of white students. Ten per cent of black children gain at least one A-Level compared with six per cent for whites.

Also in this edition, The Voice carried a double-page spread on pages 14 and 15 headlined ‘Black Attack’, which focused on the rise in the number of black players who were now being selected to represent the national team under the new England manager Bobby Robson.

Among the players mentioned in the feature were, John Barnes who played for Watford, Ricky Hill from Luton, Cyrille Regis from West Bromwich, Luther Blissett from Watford, Viv Anderson from Nottingham Forest and Mark Chamberlain from Stoke City.

All six players were selected for a friendly match against Germany at Wembley.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your The Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the hashtag #Voice35Years. Each week we will be digging into The Voice archive and publish a front cover from its first year of publication as we look back over 35 years.

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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