April 30th 1999 – The Admiral Duncan Bombing

The Admiral Duncan Pub

It’s somewhat hard to believe that it has been 13 years already since the bombing of the Admiral Duncan Pub in Soho, London. As a London boy who left when a child, I try to get back there as often as possible, and whenever I do Soho and Camden are the two places I cannot miss out on.

I actually attended the Admiral Duncan pub shortly after it reopened a few months after the bombing, while the London Gay Pride march was being held. I was stunned by the crowds of people there, all eager to go inside and buy a pint in support of the venue and those who had been maimed and killed in the blast. It was an amazing sight to see the entire street packed with people drinking out of plastic cups, all there for one reason – to show solidarity with the community in London and those hurt in the atrocity.

April 30th is the day it happened, the third nail bomb to explode in London, with Brixton attacked on the 17th of April, Brick Lane on the 24th, and finally Soho on the 30th.

At the time no one really knew what it was all about. This was a city which had seen its fair share of terrorism already, with the IRA constantly threatening the people of the capital, but this was the first time it was seemingly targeted at specific groups of people. Black, Asian and Gay people were the focus, leading to a lot of speculation.

Of course, after this third explosion it was soon asserted that the perpetrator of these crimes was a neo-Nazi.

David Copeland was the name of that coward. He was the one who was responsible for walking in, leaving an explosive device hidden in a bag, and then running away like the vermin he is to escape the destruction he had planned.

Four died minutes later when his nail bomb tore through the pub. Andrea Dykes, 27 and her unborn child, John Light, 32 and Nik Moore all passed away, with more than 80 people injured.

As we remember that event, we have to also ask ourselves where we are now as a society. I remember that back then, as I watched it unfolding on the news, the local community rallied around, that many more were likely saved by the fast response of the police, the ambulance staff, the neighbors of the venue and passing pedestrians. The support the community displayed after that attack was one of the most uplifting things I think I have seen.

There is no doubt that we are in a better place now than we have ever been when it comes to social cohesion. But, we should also use caution. In France, the National Front party (traditionally a racist and homophobic organization) has reached third place in the first stage of their national elections.
In Norway, the far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik is currently on trial for the racially and religiously motivated mass murder of 77 innocent people. In St Petersberg, Russia, new laws recently came into effect banning discussion of GLBT issues and comparing them to the promotion of pedophilia.

While we should certainly mourn and spend some time contemplating those lost on April 30th 1999 in the Admiral Duncan bombing, we should also consider that, while society may be moving forward in many respects, extremism has not declined.

On the 30th April 2012, there will be a ceremony held to remember all those killed and injured in the three attacks. More information can be found on the Facebook group – Facebook group 17-24-30, and an event page too.

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