In which The Author goes out for his birthday
I’ve mentioned the Students Union at Brunel University a few times over the course of this blog. I had some good times in that place during my first first year. Sunday night was always Alternative Cabaret, with the best up-and-coming acts of the scene performing live in an intimate setting (and lit by the Dream Team of Duncan P. and Yours Truly.)
Saturday night was Disco Night, which I went to now and again – and even danced a few times, which will shock anyone who knows me now.
And Friday night was Band Night. There were some good bands on the circuit at that time, and I saw a fair number of them: The Poison Girls, Shriekback, Aswad, Serious Drinking, to name just a few who stick in my memory. And there was the St Patrick’s Day gig.
It didn’t actually take place on St Patrick’s Day, because of the way the dates fell. Instead it happened on the Friday before. Andy Stubbs, the Entertainments Manager, had pulled off a real coup and managed to book two of the premier Irish/rock/punk bands in the UK for the event: The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. At four quid it was a real bargain. My birthday is the day after St Patrick’s Day, and with my Celtic heritage it would have been rude to miss it. In retrospect, I should probably have stayed away.
The day dawned and the building was filling up rapidly by the time I got there. The first band – a trad diddly-dee outfit – were singing maudlin ballads of the Emerald Isle while the other two sets of musicians were ‘warming up’ in the Green Room. Apparently The Pogues had a rider in their contract asking for a crate of Guinness each. It was clearly going to be a messy night.
The guys on the door were looking out for anyone who might be out to cause trouble. The IRA had failed to blow Thatcher up only a few months previously, and there was a strong republican presence around places like Kilburn, within easy shouting distance of Uxbridge by Tube. The National Front had been running out of steam for a few years, but some of their diehard followers were still around. We had a feeling that there might be a bit of trouble.
First of all I popped my head into the office to say ‘hello’ to everyone. Stubbsy was there with the rest of the committee, sharing a bottle of Jameson’s to mark the occasion. Jane’s brother had come over from Ireland especially for the weekend, having smuggled a bottle of poteen into the UK to add to the fun. We had a chat for a minute, then I bought a pint and tried to find a decent spot to watch the bands. Duncan was looking after the lights. A couple of the girls from our course were there, so I chatted to them in between songs. Shab, our Persian mate, was in the DJ booth as usual. The place was filling up rapidly. There was no sign of anything untoward happening.
The Men They Couldn’t Hang were midway through their set when all hell broke loose. Thirty years on I can’t remember very much about it; even the following morning things were a bit of a blur. As soon as the violence started I took refuge in the office. I do know that Shab came in with blood pouring from his nose after somebody’d given him a clout. I remember Jane crying to her brother. I vaguely recall a couple of us sitting on a very-pissed Stubbsy to stop him from driving Shab to Hillingdon Hospital, just behind our campus.
The following morning I called round there to help clear up the mess. Shab had a broken nose; I think a couple of guys (non-students) had been arrested; everyone else was feeling generally sorry for themselves.
I hadn’t even got to see any of The Pogues’ set before they abandoned the gig. It wasn’t how I’d have chosen to spend my first birthday away from home, to be honest.