THE BATTLE OF BRIGHTON: MODS VS ROCKERS IN 1964
Fifty Five years ago in 1964 has become famous as the peak of the Mods and Rockers riots, as large groups of teenagers committed mayhem on the rain-swept streets of southern resorts like Margate, Brighton, Clacton and Bournemouth. Extensively photographed and publicised at the time, these disturbances have entered pop folklore: proudly emblazoned expensively and recreated in the 1979 film Quadrophenia.
Yet, as ever when you're dealing with tabloid newspapers, things are not quite what they seemed. What was trumpeted as a vicious exercise in national degeneration was to some extent, pre-hyped by the press. It was also not as all-encompassing as the headlines suggested: although an estimated 1,000 youths were involved in the Brighton disturbances, there were only 76 arrests. In Margate, there were an estimated 400 youths involved, with 64 arrests. While unpleasant and oppressive, this was hardly a teen take-over.
The cycle had begun six weeks or so earlier, during a dull and unseasonably cold Easter weekend. Up to 1,000 or so young Londoners had descended on Clacton, a smallish resort on England’s eastern coast. Bored with the bad weather and limited facilities, groups had separated according to their tribe: there were scuffles and stone-throwing, and the generally threatening appearance of teenagers en masse, barely restrained by an underwhelming police presence.
The worst of the violence was seen in Brighton, as families were trapped in a shocking showdown which sparked moral panic about the state of British youth. Tensions had been rising for some time. Rockers were usually in their 20s or 30s; Elvis-loving bikers rooted in 1950s Teddy Boy culture.
The teenage Mods which flourished in the early 60s, was based on continental clothes, Italian Vespa’s and Lambretta scooters and the music of soul and jazz musicians.
After that, trouble flared from Bournemouth to Margate, up to the bank holiday of August 1964. But Brighton’s Whitsun clash was the most notorious, thanks to sensational headlines and its immortalisation in Mod flick Quadrophenia.
Battles ran well into the night but although there were weapons – knives, chains and makeshift knuckle dusters – most scuffles involved fists and boots.
The youth of Britain went mad. If you believed the newspapers, that is, who went with screaming headlines like ‘Battle of Brighton’, and ‘Wild Ones 'Beat Up' Margate’ . Editorials fulminated with predictions of national collapse, referring to the youths as 'those vermin' and 'mutated locusts wreaking untold havoc on the land'.
The Battle between Mods & Rockers is now over or is it.......!!!!!
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