The wonderful Queenie Watts video I posted the other evening has made me look up a half-remembered news story from my childhood.
I found it in a Guardian obituary of Ted Johns from 2004:
One Sunday night in early 1970, Ted Johns, who has died aged 71, turned to thinking about what would happen if the Isle of Dogs, the East End area he represented on Tower Hamlets council, followed the example of another London district, as portrayed in the 1940s Ealing comedy Passport To Pimlico - and opted out of Britain.
Soon afterwards, came the Isle of Dogs' unilateral declaration of independence, which cut the island - as it always called itself - off from the rest of London for more than a week, catapulted it on to the front pages of the national press and elevated Johns to the status of "president". Indeed, the foreign media, flocking to his council flat in Manchester Road, treated him as if he were the head of state of a small independent nation. He was not, of course, but he was the single most important grass-roots leader the East End produced in the last half century.
Aware that at some point the UDI joke would wear out, Johns maintained a skilful balance between ridiculing those in authority and exposing the island's isolation and political decline. Lack of transport, education and shops were key issues, and almost immediately - alongside official denials that anything was wrong - improvements began to be made.There is more about this episode - party Ealing Comedy, part 1960s radicalism - on Isle of Dogs - Past Life, Past Lives.