Friday, 6 December 2013

Close encounters with New Left luminaries

This is a kind of footnote to my post about Stuart Hall and the Kilburn Manifesto. It prompted a couple of friends to share their memories of accidental meetings with Hall and other leading lights of the New Left.

First Tom Deveson:

A memory from about March 1967. I am invited out to lunch by Raymond Williams' son who lives on my staircase in Trinity. We arrive in the restaurant and the other people at the table are Raymond, Edward Thompson and Stuart Hall who are writing and proofreading the May Day Manifesto (first-ever version). I feel very young in their company - I was not yet nineteen. 

And from a different decade, Damian Counsell:

Weirdly, long before I met Norm, and completely by chance, I lived in NW6, first as a physics postgrad at Imperial, but also for some years afterwards, in a flat above Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, who were both intellectual foes of Norm and personal mates with Stuart Hall. It was only when I first answered the door to Stuart Hall (a frequent visitor) with the immortal words: 'You're Stuart Hall, aren't you?' that I had any real idea who the people downstairs were.

Tom claims that Damian has the better punchline, but I think he's being modest. Tom's experience was surely equivalent to walking into the Red Lion in Great Windmill Street on an evening in 1848 and coming across Marx and Engels arguing over the wording of the Communist Manifesto. Or finding yourself, some time in April 1917, on the 3.15 to the Finland Station and watching an intense, goateed man in the seat opposite putting to the finishing touches to the speech he would make on his arrival.

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