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Former East London Advertiser reporter recalls Wapping dispute 25 years on

15:17 26 January 2011

Pickets during the Wapping dispute

Pickets during the Wapping dispute

Nic Oatridge

A FORMER East London Advertiser reporter has recalled how he wrote one of the first stories about media giant Rupert Murdoch’s plans at Wapping.

Wapping dispute, photographed by Nic Oatridge

Mike Jempson, who worked at the Advertiser in the 1980s, spoke at a meeting to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Wapping dispute which pitted unions against management.

He described how he had been ferreting around trying to find out what the plans were at Wapping but had been told by unions that they didn’t know what he was talking about, the plans were so secretive.

At the lecture at St Bride’s Institute on Tuesday evening, he remembered Michael Delaney, the 18-year-old who died after he was struck by a lorry at the junction of Whitehorse Road and Commercial Road during the dispute.

Mr Jempson lived in Thomas More Street, Wapping, and described the atmosphere there during the year-long dispute.

He said: “The people from the local estates sat down on the picket lines and played a crucial role, because we were behind the (police) lines. At that time the gates cut us off and we were an island.”

Mr Jempson, now a senior lecturer in journalism, remembered how residents with a bird’s eye of the dispute used walkie-talkies to let others know the progress of vehicles in and out of “Fortress Wapping”.

St Brides’ Institute, off Fleet Street, was packed with former print workers at the event organised by the National Union of Journalists and the Campaign for Press and Broadcast Freedom. But Mr Jempson was probably the only speaker who had been on the picket lines dressed as a clown.

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