Riot 111 – subversive radicals

Riot 111 – subversive radicals

Riot 111 set up on the back of a truck outside Avalon studios. Lead singer Void is second from left.

Anarchy in the Hutt Valley

Avalon television studios, at that time the nerve centre for local television, faced an unusual protest in 1982 over the alleged banning of a New Zealand music video.

One Thursday in July, staff rushed to the windows to see punk rockers Riot 111 playing on the back of a truck, powering their home-grown buzz-saw sound with a generator.

The Wellington-based band were protesting against Television New Zealand's (TVNZ) refusal to screen the video clip for their single 'Writing on the wall' on Radio with pictures, the only locally broadcast video show. The song included the line, ‘You’re all waiting for 1984, but we all know it’s here’.

Featuring images of clashes between police and protestors during the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand, the video was rejected for its ‘inference and recreation of police violence’. Riot 111 called the decision ‘stupid and dangerous censorship’.

As the band blazed away at high volume at the front of the Avalon studios, staff lobbed toilet rolls from upstairs windows. Punk supporters painted ‘Remember Riot 111’ in blue across the front lawn and hoisted an A for Anarchy banner on the flagpole.

Riot 111 had been closely involved with the Springbok tour protests. Their first single, '1981',  borrowed from the famous 'Ka mate' haka and the 'Amandla' (Freedom) chant universally adopted by local anti-tour marchers.

The band did its own recordings. Like those of other garage bands of the day, the quality wasn't the best. After the Avalon protest made the front page of Wellington newspaper the Dominion, TVNZ's head of entertainment said he would have screened the clip ‘if the music and sound recording had been of a higher standard’.

Letter from TVNZ

The rejection letter from TVNZ’s head of entertainment that sparked the protest.

Newspaper report of protest

The Dominion carried a front-page report on the protest.

Community contributions

3 comments have been posted about Riot 111 – subversive radicals

What do you know?

Sean Shadbolt

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Thats the way it was , information was pretty hard to come by then but Void was right on to the situation . The channels were tightly controlled and restricted. Radio ratings were a sick joke as it was all so tightly controlled by a few middle aged white men. I saw that video and it was pretty tame even by the standards of the time . New Zealanders would not have liked what it reflected but it really was Void and others experience. And expressed reaction to the way they saw things were in the same way they were so uncomfortable with the Maori version of events then , and to a large extent still are.

Mark Webster

Posted: 14 May 2009

Good post, Void. I had the guilty pleasure of being mistaken as belonging to a Wellington band in the ’80s because nobody expected an Auckland band to be political, as ours always was. Good work - inspirational, timely, and much needed in the 1980s, as ever.


Posted: 24 Sep 2008

Dear public record, called history: No one has bothered to be interviewed me over the protest action: There was multiple reasons, far larger than my bands brused objections which led to the taking over and blocking the lower levels of television New Zealand's high-rise then blasting them with the sounds of the streets of Wellington. First was the conceited letter from Tom Parkinson. These commissars of entertainment arguments for our exclusion were false. Firstly, the album was recorded at marmalade studios by the owner, marmalade studios 24 track was the most expensive studio in Wellington at the time. The video clip, was shot and edited completely by RADIO WITH PICTURES staff member from Tom Parkinson's Department. Whether passe? Becomes a direct reference to members of his staff, and his ability to employ people, it was their decision to include pictures of police violence. Considering what New Zealand had just gone through, the largest policing social unrest since the Maori wars and that those images played daily on the news .To consider that these images needed to be banned from use in the music art form or protected from the eyeballs New Zealanders watching late-night television really shows how incompetent and arrogant Tom Parkinson was. Anyone can not like the songs. That's a matter of his taste. But to discount records which are in the top twenty, home-grown...front page of the music press, supporting international acts, representing the artistic output of a large youth musical social section is ludicrous. But yet another example of the oppressive atmosphere most New Zealanders artists work under either from state institutions or New Zealanders cultural small mindedness. The final trigger for me to organise Wellington independent music tribe to protest about this smug bureaucrat was the refusal to play 'OHMS' latest soundtrack/ clip, a harmonic folksong?!. Then from my investigations in three years, no Wellington and Christchurch, Auckland, unsigned independent music clip had been allowed to be played on state television since 1979. And this man and department were directly responsible for blocking the rights of New Zealand citizen’s access to their state television monopolistic music program. I was prepared to not let them get away with it and embarrass him and his state hypocrisy with protest action and smoke bomb, chaos for all the free musicians of New Zealand. Considering we rang the police to remove the protest, smoke bombed the lower foyers of a high-rise building, blocked access in out of television New Zealand during a working day and screamed at them for a number of hours through a large PA….and this action, never made it to the New Zealand television news… 2 channels??? And there isn’t belligerent censorship in New Zealand…wake up to yourself. Ake Ake Ake VOID of RioT 111