Friday, 30 November 2018

My thoughts have been replaced by moving images...

I can no longer think what I want to think. My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.”

-George Duchamel, Scenes de la vie future (1930)

 A Situationist International detourned poster representing the society of the spectacle.

The Duchamel quote above was also used in Walter Benjamin's book Illuminations [1968]. It refers to people who have their own thoughts replaced by those introduced by mass media.
The idea of détourning existing comics with often ironic sayings came about in the 60s Pop Art movement but was also used by French Situationists in the late 60s.
The Situationist International was formed in 1957 as a merger between the international movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, headed by Asger Jorn and the Lettrist International headed by Guy Debord.
The Situationists were highly politicised at a time when it was fashionable for avant-gardes to separate from social revolt.
Guy Debord’s (1931–1994) best-known work, La société du spectacle (The Society of the Spectacle) (1967), is a polemical and prescient indictment of our image-saturated consumer culture. The book examines the “Spectacle,” Debord’s term for the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena; advertising, television, film, and celebrity.
Debord defines the spectacle as the “autocratic reign of the market economy.” Though the term “mass media” is often used to describe the spectacle’s form, Debord derides its neutrality. “Rather than talk of the spectacle, people often prefer to use the term ‘media,’” he writes, “and by this they mean to describe a mere instrument, a kind of public service.” Instead, Debord describes the spectacle as capitalism’s instrument for distracting and pacifying the masses. The spectacle takes on many more forms today than it did during Debord’s lifetime. It can be found on every screen that you look at. It is the advertisements plastered on the subway and the pop-up ads that appear in your browser. It is the lists telling you “10 things you need to know about ‘x.’” The spectacle reduces reality to an endless supply of commodifiable fragments. For Debord, this constituted an unacceptable “degradation” of our lives.
We all like to think we’re in control of our perceptions and decisions. but every day we are unconsciously being .manipulated.  Because we’re human, the very things that make us human in the first place, like empathy, emotion, and exhaustion to name a few, give those who are unscrupulous, desperate, or egotistical an edge when it comes to distorting our thoughts and judgments, especially by governments.
And in certain ways the problem is getting worse. Information overload is one reason we’ve grown more vulnerable to manipulation. Research .suggests that we receive five times more information now than we did 30 years ago, and daily we are bombarded. This is the Spectacle that Debord  warned us about. Hitler himself said, “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” We must discriminately keep awake and aware. Be careful and beware. Be weary  of your thoughts being replaced and dominated by moving images, that dull and passify you, best to stay awake, with your life in your own hands, move away from the spectacle that seeks to control you.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed by the United Nations on 29 November each year, in accordance with mandates given by the General Assembly in its resolutions 32/40 B of 2 December 1977, 34/65 D of 12 December 1979, 56/34 of 3 December 2001, and other relevant resolutions.
Special commemorative activities are organized by the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat, in consultation with the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The date of 29 November was chosen because of its meaning and significance to the Palestinian people. On that day in 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181(II), which came to be known as the Partition Resolution. That resolution provided for the establishment in Palestine of a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”, with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under a special international regime. Of the two States to be created under this resolution, only one, Israel, has so far come into being.
 This United Nations decision unleashed a catastrophe whose reverberations Palestinians continue to experience until today. Three-quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs—who were the majority of the population of historic Palestine, fled for their lives after experiencing or learning of massacrs by Zionist paramilitary organizations, or were expelled from their homes during the ensuing Arab-Israeli war of 1948. By the 1949 armistice, the original partition lines had shifted violently so that Israel’s footprint became much larger than envisioned by the roposed partition plan, itt was accorded 55 percent by the plan, but sized and additional 25% of Palestinian territory. At present, the drastically reduced Palestinian land continues to be occupied by the Israeli military and Jerusalem is occupied and divided with Israel controlling and limiting access to religious sites. Palestinians originally displaced during the Nakba (the Arabic word for Catastrophe—what the Palestinians call the 1948 war when they lost their homeland) are still prevented from exercising the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel. And contrary to the resolution (and to the Fouth Geneva Convention )     Israel has  continued to expropriate additional vast tracts of Palestinian territory for its own use and especially for the building and transfer of its own Israeli citizens to illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
The Palestinian people, who now number more than 8 million, live primarily in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, part of which is now administered by the Palestinian Authority; in Israel; in neighbouring Arab States; and in refugee camps in the region.
The International Day of Solidarity has traditionally provided an opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine is still unresolved and that the Palestinian people is yet to attain its inalienable rights as defined by the General Assembly, namely, the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced.
This year’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People takes place at a time of turmoil, trouble and torment. The decades-long Palestinian struggle for self-determination, independence and a life of dignity faces numerous obstacles, including: continued military occupation of Palestinian territory; ongoing violence and incitement; continued settlement construction and expansion; deep uncertainties about the peace process; and deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions, particularly in Gaza. The prolonged Palestinian struggle against dispossession and the fragmentation of the State of Palestine has resulted in the aggressive displacement of many Palestinians seeking refuge mainly in the Middle East. In the past decades, civilians have been denied their dignity and fundamental rights to free movement, education, healthcare and even the right to life.They have had their land, livelihood, and lives taken away. They have been killed for resisting the illegal occupation of their homes and their country. They have been denied their independence.
With each passing day, the number of Palestinians in need of humanitarian assistance increases. It has therefore become clear that the conflict between Palestinian and Israel feeds into the wider regional dynamics by having a negative effect on peace, economic development, socio-political progression and security throughout the entire region.
We should  remain concerned and condemn the continued illegal settlement expansion by Israel which constitute a contravention of international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. The ongoing Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories is a fundamental obstacle to a return to negotiations and a grave threat to the very existence of a future Palestinian state as well as a safe and secure Israel.  We should also call for the effective and immediate implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), which reaffirms that Israeli illegal settlements have no legal validity.
Many  believe  that the only way to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East is to have a two state solution for Palestine and Israel based on the international recognition and independence of the State of Palestine, based on the 04 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, functioning within recognized and secure borders and living side-by-side in peace with Israel and its other neighbours as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
So today lets reiterate our solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination, as well as support for a free and sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and an end to the illegal  occupation of the Palestinians land, .towards  building a future of peace, justice, security and dignity for  the Palestinians.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Harry Leslie Smith - R.I.P (25/ 2/1923 - 28/11/2018)

Heartbroken to hear of Harry Leslie Smith's passing at the age of 95. He was a brilliant polemicist and author, an inspiring activist, for social justice and peace a loving father, and much much more. A shining light among the darkness of our times., one of the giants whose shoulders we all stand on. We should all carry his fighting spirit forwards. Rest in Power
The socialist campaigner rose to fame with a speech praising the NHS and had devoted his last years to visiting refugee hotspots. He was also a supporter of Palestinian rights, and of the right to non-violent resistance in the form of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)
The Labour campaigner was taken ill in Canada following a fall earlier this month, and his son John had been keeping followers updated on his popular Twitter account.
"At 3:39 this morning, my dad Harry Leslie Smith died. I am an orphan," he wrote.
Mr Smith, who was in the RAF during WWII and lived through the Great Depression, had become a vocal advocate for socialist policies, arguing neo-liberal forces had degraded the welfare state built during his lifetime.
 Nicknamed the "world's oldest rebel", he rose to prominence after making an impassined speech in support of the NHS at Labour's 2014 conference, calling his childhood, before public healthcare, a "barbarous time" and criticising government austerity.
Mr Smith had devoted the latter years of his life to visiting refugee hotspots around the world, documenting the suffering caused by displacement in the hope that his age and following could create a "rallying cry" for action.
Born in 1923 in Barnsley, Yorkshire, he grew up in poverty after his coal miner father became unemployed, watching his sister die at the age of ten, and turned to writing in later life after working as a carpet trader in Toronto.
He described his book Harry's Last Stand as a "rallying call", telling the younger generation of the need for a "social safety network" giving all the right to good housing, further education, healthcare, a living wage and dignified old age.
"I am not a historian. But at 91 I am history, and I fear its repetition," he said.
Mr Smith's son tweeted that he would "follow in his footsteps" and "endeavour to finish his projects", including publishing some of his father's later writing.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Hymn to Gaia ( A poem inspired by the Extinction Rebellion )

Sand art, Poppit Sands, West Wales, 24/11/18

Hymn to Gaia

Rebellion is like a flower
it starts with a bud then spreads,
so necessary in the times we live
as the planet burns, firing catastrophe,
sea levels rising the world getting hotter
fossil fuels damaging the ozone layer,
the scientists keep saying it's going to get worse
it's all too much, such a fracking disgrace,
everyone needs fresh water and air to survive
but daily polluted by capitalist industrial complex,
in this age of destruction, hear the earth groaning
writhing and screaming from deep below our feet,
times is running out, but it's not to late to save her
together wild and free, lets protect mother nature,
on  bruised land, become rainbows of defiance
with cunning, tenaciousness, hands of resilience,
existence is resistance, carrying the scent of change
to invest in the future of the planet, we must rearrange,
with common goals, with so much desire to protect
it's our last chance to stop the damage, the willful neglect,
gaia  needs defending,with all our love, and all of our care
with action, stop the eco-system from being stripped bare.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Bruce Lee - Philosopher, Poet ( November 27, 1940 – July 20, 1973)

Bruce Lee whose given name was Lee Jun-fan, was born on  November 27, 1940,in San Francisco's Chinatown in the hour and year of the Dragon,  Lee died tragically at the extremely young age of 32  But in the 32 years that Bruce Lee walked this earth, he left his mark on not just America, where he was born, but also the rest of the world.His presence continues to be felt in fields ranging from film to academia, martial arts to racial equality.
 Lee was raised in a bi-religious household. His mother was a Catholic and his father an opera singer fro Hong Kong was a Buddhist who had moved with his family in the United States in 1939, in search of a new beginning. During his short but active life, he appeared in numerous films, contributing to the change of the way in which Americans perceived Asians, and became widely considered by critics, media and other martial artists to be one of the most influential martial artists of all time, and a pop culture icon of the 20th century.
Despite the pop simplicity of Lee’s image, emblazoned across a million posters and T-shirts, there is almost nothing about the man that is easy to summarise. His life took a twisty route through childhood dramas in Hong Kong, short-lived television shows in America, periods of great hyperactivity and of terrible inactivity, until it arrived at The Big Boss (1971) and the action films that brought him immense fame. Bruce Lee, meaning “strong one” in Gaelic, moved back in Hong Kong at the age of one, where he spent his teenage years and expressed his love for acting. He appeared in 20 films as a child, learned dancing, but also entered a street fighting gang in 1953, where he revealed his martial arts skills and also started learning kung-fu to perfect his technique.
In 1958, Bruce defeated the three time amateur boxing champion, Gary Elms in the Hong Kong Inter-school amateur boxing Championship and managed to get into trouble with the police in the following year, for a violent street fight. He flew to America to pursue a higher education, although it is believed that his mother made the decision and sent him to live with their relatives outside Seattle in order to keep him away from the bad environment he was involved in.
He graduated in Edison, Washington, and chose a major in philosophy at the University of Washington. Although of an artistic nature, Bruce focused on his main love, martial arts and got a job teaching Wing Chun to his fellow students. In 1964, he started out his own martial arts courses and also found his partner, Linda Emery, whom he married.
Shortly after, Lee moved to California, where he opened two schools and taught a martial arts technique called Jeet Kune Do. During that same time, a controversial fight with Wong Jack Man, an expert in special fighting techniques in Chinatown boosted Bruce’s popularity. Blamed for teaching martial arts to non-Chinese, Bruce confronted Wong and won after three minutes, revealing his efficient tactic and expertise.
Bruce Lee started his acting career by starring in the television series The Green Hornet, aired from 1966 to 1967, where he portrayed Kato, the hornet’s loyal sidekick. Although, Bruce’s theatrical appearance was much more complex than those of other Asian actors at that time and was based on real and fine fighting technique, certain stereotypes and producer’s wish for him to embody them, made him to move back to Hong Kong with his wife and two children, in 1971.
Back home, Bruce launched his own production company, Concord Pictures and starred in movies, turned box office hits in Hong Kong, such as The Chinese Connection or Fists of Fury. Although the productions had poor critics in America, Bruce Lee became a movie star in Asia and was determined to conquer the American public as well. He is noted for his roles in five feature-length films: Lo Wei’s The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Way of the Dragon (1972), directed and written by Lee; Warner Brothers’ Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death (1973), both directed by Robert Clouse. Bruce Lee was the first actor to bridge East and West. He was from Hong Kong and the U.S. He understood how to speak to both audiences in a way that no one else ever had. Enter the Dragon was the first film co-produced in Hong Kong and Hollywood. This meant Asian landscapes and characters weren’t constructed by American filmmakers. More importantly, Chinese filmmakers had some control over how they appeared on screen. (Compare that to some of the decade’s more problematic depictions of Asian people, particularly films about the Vietnam War.) Part of Lee’s ability to break out across racial and cultural divides had to do with the universal nature of the themes in his movies.
Beyond martial arts, Bruce Lee also had a personal, more philosophical life to himself.He claimed that martial arts was only an extension of his philosophies in life, and claimed that any type of knowledge will ultimately lead to self knowledge. Lee also had an avid love of reading and had an extensive library of over 2,500 books. A self proclaimed  atheist, Lee claimed that he did or believe in God and that he had no firm religious beliefs at all. His philosophies loosely mirrored Buddhism and Taoism.  Lee's most intently philosophical work may have been the series of letters he wrote to himself under the heading "In My Own Process" in 1973. The piece underwent nine drafts but was never finished, and is a first-hand look at Lee's thought process during a tumultuous time in his life. In 2017, it was shared for the first time on Brain Pickings with special permission from Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, and the Bruce Lee Foundation. In fact, philosophy was so essential to Bruce’s life that he went on strike for two weeks when producers temporarily cut most of the philosophical dialogue from Enter the Dragon.
He also happened to be a fantastic poet, of such beauty and depth. Lee started writing poetry when he moved from Hong Kong to the U.S. at age 18. He wrote poetry to express his feelings of contemplativeness, love, melancholy, and oneness with nature. The poetry was a way to process and understand his own feelings. Bruce also wrote poems and letters to his wife Linda expressing love and gratefulness for her. Linda  has said  that she can still feel the warmth of his love through his writing. Bruce Lee was a masculine man of action who also had a very integrated feminine side. He was always cultivating both Yin and Yang, that were also at the core of his fighting style. His poetry carries the tone of dark, brooding poets such as Robert Frost. He utilised the  use of free form poetry, and displayed it powerfully.Within  his poetry resides his philosophy of martial arts and life itself. His most famous quote sums up his feelings regarding fighting and his poetry itself.  "Empty your mind," he said. "Be formless; shapeless, like water. Now, if you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend." His poetry was originally jotted down on handwritten pieces of paper and later publihed by John Little after being released by his wife in the book, Bruce Lee: Artist of life. The book contains 21 original poems found within Lee's personal archive. The poems, Little writes, "are, by American standards, rather dark -- reflecting the deeper, less exposed recesses of the human psyche... Many seem to express a returning sentiment of the fleeting nature of life, love and the passion of human longing .
Lee died under suspicious conditions on July 20 1973, at only 32. The autopsy revealed a strange brain edema, caused by a reaction to a painkiller he had taken for his back pain. To this day, his death is wrapped in mystery and the exact cause is yet to be known. His legacy lives on in his films and words. Here are a few examples of his wonderful poetry.Enjoy.


Black clouds,
Fallen blossoms and pale moon,
The hurried flight of birds
The arrival of lonely autumn
The time for us to part.

The clouds above are floating across the sky
Swiftly, swiftly passing,
Or blending together.

Much has been said, yet we have not
Come to the end of our feelings.
Long must be this parting, and
Remember, remember that all
My thoughts have always been of you.

The good time will probably never come back again.
In a moment---our parting will be over.
When days are short and dull nights long

Read this poem I leave you, read it
When the silence of the world possesses you,
Or when you are fretted with disquiet.
Long must be this parting, and
Remember, remember that all
My thoughts have always been of you.

All streams flowing East or West

All streams flowing East or West
Must flow into the sea;
The current from the middle land
Sweeps by the lonely island.

Gold and silver pebbles mingle,
Seaweed and kelp interlace.
Streams born from mountain snows
Grow to swelling wave.

The full-blown arc of quew moves
In race against the grey
Caps of white like beats of heart
Are pulled within the wave.

The wave from mountain peaks becomes
Hammer to sculpture rocks,
To leave chiseled shapes and polished surfaces.
From boulder to rock to sand.
And with the final thrust the sun
Throws wave upon the shore
The jellyfish in weariness
Nestles in a pool.

Night Rain

Sadness broods
over the world
I fear to walk in my garden,
lest I see
a pair of butterflies
disporting in the sun
among the flowers.

The Dying Sun
The dying sun lies sadly in the far horizon.
The autumn wind blows mercilessly;
The yellow leaves fall.
From the mountain peak,
Two streams parted unwillingly,
One to the West, one to the East.
The sun will rise again in the morning.
The leaves will be green again in spring.
But must we be like the mountain stream,
Never to meet again?

Though The Night Was Made For Loving

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon.

And so the time flies hopefully
Although she’s far away.

Other thoughts may come and go,
But the thought of you,
Remains deeply in my heart.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Music: A Vehicle for Social Change

Music has long been a vehicle for social change. An integral part of human nature, music has the potential to connect and unite people. Music can bring people together in safe and inclusive communities, and musicians can lend their voices on behalf of the voiceless. Artists as diverse as Billie Holiday, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Gil Scot Heron,Aretha Franklin, Fela Kuti, Robert WyattLowkey, David RoviksYoussour N’Dour, Jerry DammersP J Harvey, Le Trio Joubran, M.I.A, the Clash. and Roy Bailey ( who I posted about yesterday) have all used their access to audiences to speak out on social injustices around them.
Their creativity has inspired people to think differently about the world,and the combination of the right lyrics, rhythm and instruments can build a group identity, stir strong emotions, engage audiences and with a level of influence and reach in society to convene and  amass people to take action.Some have even risked their careers to stand up for what they believe in. From the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement to Black Lives Matter, musicians have heralded major political movements that have helped change the world with their art.The civil rights movement had a number of borrowed songs from civil war era spirituals that both motivated and unified its audiences. A classic examples being 'This Little Light of Mine.' A more literal example in its lyrical content would be Sam Cooke'sA Change is Gonna Come ' along with others who wrote anti-war and protest songs that gave a voice to the dissenters.
The great Fela Kuti used his music as a weapon to be wielded against tyranny, with much potency, singing against tyranny and social injustice, and through his music took sides with the downtrodden.
Jerry Dammers while in  the Special AKA  recorded the anthemic ' Free Nelson Mandela 'which established itself as a worldwide anthem for the growing demand of the jailed African National Congress leader to be be released by the apartheid South African authorities. Not someone either to shy away from making political statements Patti Smith  has used her music to as a means of political activism, condemning war and human rights abuses. On a more uplifting note, her song 'People have the Power' is a powerful reminder to not sit passively but rather work to create the world we want to live in. Recently the uprisings collectively known as the Arab Spring saw music take on on a major role in galvanising the masses and stoking public anger.In the UK, musicians continue to speak out about injustice, Stormzy's electrifying takedown at the Brits awards recently of Theresa May and her lack of support for Grenfell.
Music is a form of artistic expression that uses  a universal language that we can all understand, that as well as breaking down barriers, borders, transcending nationality or religion, it  can also educate. As a cultural right  it can also help to promote human rights, whether they be civil, political,economic or social.
K’naan, the Somalian rapper behind the World Cup theme song “Wavin’ Flag,” has not only released music raising awareness of the violent Civil War in Somalia, but also performed at humanitarian benefit concerts, both in America and abroad, and has recently returned to his war-torn homeland to do even more good.
Le Trio Joubran – the Palestinian masters of the oud through their mesmerizing music, have been hey honouring the struggles and oppression of indigenous peoples not only in the Middle East but around the world and especially affirm that their music should be a part of the struggle of the Palestinian people for recognition and liberation.
Music can  be used to provoke and  empower people to become bold enough to fight against forces much greater than themselves.Music can have a huge influence on what we think and how we view the world, especially now that it is so easily accessible and transferable via social networking and Youtube. Unlike so many great promoters of peace, social justice and equality, many musicians are blessed with the fact that millions of people already are listening to their songs. With that much influence, it only seems logical that they would choose to write about something worthwhile.
The ongoing censorship of some musicians is evidence of the power of  music to affect social change and the real threat that oppressive regimes feel when artists speak out. Some musicians have been met by state sanctioned violence and even murder. Pussy Riot's Punk Prayer saw them arrested and sent to remote gulag-like prison authorities, and creative expression through music can still be met with jail time in many places in the world.The band Young Fathers was recently censored for supporting Palestinian rights. But more  than an attack on self-expression, censorship and persecution are attacks on the power of music to connect and create communities.
Musicians Without Borders works with musicians around the world to build nonviolent, inclusive communities. And stands with musicians around the world for human rights and social justice— through music. It is a global network organization that uses music for peacebuilding and social change. Using music as a tool to build connections, foster empathy and shape communities. Studies have shown that music is a powerful tool that can influence behavior, shape culture and strengthen social bonds. Musicians Without Borders uses music as a means to address the needs of societies divided and affected by conflict.
Since 1999, Musicians without Borders has been using the power of music for peace-building, connecting people, empowering musicians as social activists, and training local youth as change-makers. Long-term commitment allows the participants the time to develop skills and talents, process grief and loss, and build bridges of reconciliation in societies divided by recent or ongoing conflict.
On May 4, 1999, Laura Hassler conducted a memorial concert in her hometown in the Netherlands. At the height of the Kosova War, Laura had decided to extend the traditional Dutch remembrance of the second world war to those suffering and dying in the wars raging in Europe at that very moment. The performers dedicated their program of traditional Balkan songs– lullabies, love songs, songs of hope and mourning– to ordinary people everywhere, longing for the same things yet always caught between the firing lines.
Moved by the concert’s message, the musicians began talking about using the connecting power of music not only to express the tragedy of war, but also to do something about it. That summer, they visited Kosovo refugees in the Netherlands, singing and playing songs people knew and loved, making music with the children, providing musicians who had lost their instruments with replacements.
A few months later, the group was in Sarajevo, Bosnia, performing and running music workshops with children in a refugee camp. In January 2000, they registered as a charitable foundation, under the name Musicians Without Borders. Laura coordinated a small office, gradually reaching out to peace and human rights organizations and building a network of musicians, while raising funds and support for a new, innovative approach to peace building through music.
Where war has raged, people need everything to return to life: food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine. But more than anything, people need hope. To reconcile, people need empathy. To heal, people need connection and community. Music creates empathy, builds connection, can convey important messages and ideals that people can truly listen  to, that gives hope  allowing people to come together and  become  powerful forces for change. The  music of change is blowing through all Continents.

Learn more at: Musicians Without Borders

Musicians Without Borders : War Divides Music Connects

Patti Smith - People Have The Power

Carry The Earth ( featuring Roger Waters) - Le Trio Joubran

Fela kuti - Sorrow, Tears and Blood

Aretha Franklin - A Change Is Gonna Come 

"Music is above the law. Music can get through the cracks and infiltrate places where other things just can go" - Peter Wallenberg

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Roy Bailey Radical Socialist Folk Singer , R.I.P (20 October 1935 – 20 November 2018)

Sad to hear of the passing of this legendary folk singer at the age of 83. The following message was posted on Roy Bailey’s website yesterday:

"Many of you will know that Roy has struggled with heart failure for over 30 years. Sadly today his condition finally claimed him. His last few days were peaceful and filled with love, family and friends whilst being cared for by the amazing folk at St. Luke’s hospice in Sheffield.
 Professor Roy Bailey – a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, singer, academic and humanitarian – 1935 – 2018. "

Turning to music while serving in the British military in 1954, Bailey helped to form a folk club while attending Leicester University. Initially inspired by the industrial folk songs of Pete Seeger and the Weavers, he increasingly veered toward political topics. He studied Marxism at Leicester University and had his convictions strengthened by three socialist students he met at Further Education College in Southend. With the encouragement of Ewan MacColl, he became the musical voice of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Bailey's first career break came when he was invited to replace Martin Carthy in Leon Rosselson's band, the Three City Four. Planning to begin teaching in a London college, he quickly changed his career direction and agreed to join the band. He left the group in the late '60s after accepting a position as lecturer of sociology at Bradford University. In 1972, he transferred to Sheffield University, where he headed the sociology department until 1989.His first solo album  one of many was released in 1971. and for   nearly 50 years he  sung in folk clubs, concerts and festivals the length and breadth of England, Scotland and Wales and from Sydney to Vancouver, from Cape Town to Stockholm. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts in 1989.
 He contributed vocals toChumbawamba's 2008 album The Boy Bands have Won, on the track "Word Bomber", a song about the London suicide attacks in 2005. He also joined the band on stage to sing the song, on their farewell Leeds show in October 2012.
His career has been hailed as representing “the very soul of folk’s working class ideals… a triumphal homage to the grass roots folk scene as a radical alternative to the mainstream music industry.” (Colin Irwin, MOJO)
He has been described in the Guardian newspaper as being the possessor of one of the finest voices in the folk world and has a large, widespread and very loyal following worldwide.
 In 2003, Roy together with Tony Benn were awarded ‘Best Live Act’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, for their hugely successful programme ‘Writing on the Wall’named after Benn’s book on a history of British radical dissent. Tony Benn cited Roy as ‘the greatest socialist folk singer of his generation’. In the 2000 Honours List, Roy received the MBE for services to folk music. On the 23rd August 2006, he returned the MBE in protest at the UK government’s foreign policy with regard to Lebanon and Palestine and issued this statement:
As a life-long supporter of the Labour Party I am so appalled at the government’s foreign policy that I have decided to return the MBE I was awarded for “services to folk music.” I can think of no better way, lawfully, to express my horror and opposition to our failure to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Lebanon and to our complicity with the USA’s policy of supporting Israel’s actions in Palestine.Tony Blair’s support for these policies is for me a betrayal of all I took the labour party to stand for. The death and destruction on all sides and the chaos in both Iraq and Afghanistan is the result of such decisions. The parliamentary party and the constituency parties, by remaining supportive of these policies, are discredited as far as I am concerned.
I am not so foolish as to expect any government to be able to deliver all its manifesto promises. I understand and accept that compromises have to be made. However, when it comes to waging an illegal war in Iraq, the killing of innocent people in Afghanistan, Iraq and now, the Lebanon, I can no longer accept as an “Honour” a recommendation supported by the prime minister, that I be awarded the MBE.
Tony Blair insists his decisions are in support of democracy. We cannot bomb people into accepting democracy any more than we could slaughter people into accepting Christianity.I understand many people within the folk music community have applauded such awards as a welcomed recognition folk music makes to our common culture. I trust they will understand my reasons for now rejecting and returning that award.
Roy Bailey
Roy Bailey,was a legend of the British folk scene. who performed his last ever concert last month, from his love of traditional songs and the stories they tell, on to developing a unique repertoire of songs of dissent and hope, spending decades using his music to explore issues including poverty, war and inequality, political repression, and continually championing the underdog, fighting against social injustices and political repression. Singing songs of ordinary people that  touched and resonated with many people, a man who always stuck to his principles.
His  dedicated social conscience always underpinned all his work and he remained committed to his life-long principles of equality, liberty, justice and internationalism.Like Roy, I strongly believe that folk music can be a “powerful vehicle for contemporary social criticism”. He is responsible for inspiring many young protest singers of today, a legacy that will continue. Am fortunate to have seen him perform and I will long treasure his recordings. His voice of protest has never been needed more than in the days we live in right now.A wonderful inspiring man. Rest in Power Roy Bailey.
He is survived  by his wife Val, his daughter Kit,son David, and brother, Ron.

Palaces of Gold - Roy Bailey

Calling Joe Hill - Roy Bailey

Bread and Roses - Roy Bailey

Palestine - Roy Bailey

Flying high , Flying Free - Roy Bailey

Meet Harry Leslie Smith, The World's Oldest Rebel.

Deep respect to this noble gentleman, author and Labour Party activist who has been an inspiration to all who seek a fairer and better world. Currently very ill in a Canadian hospital after a fall.
Harry Leslie Smith  95 is a great British stalwart. A survivor of the Great Depression, a Second World War veteran, a lifelong Labour supporter and a proud Yorkshire man, Harry's life has straddled two centuries. As a young man, he witnessed a country in crisis with no healthcare, no relief for the poor, and a huge economic gulf between the North and South. After the war he saw the refugee crisis at the end of the conflict with his own eyes. Driven to act, he's spent the rest of his life meeting with and advocating on  behalf of refugees in Canada and around the world. As well as this  he has been a tireless campaigner against poverty.
From the deprivation of 1930s Barnsley and the terror of war to the creation of our welfare state, Harry has experienced how a great civilisation can rise from the rubble. But at the end of his life, he fears how easily it is being eroded. His book 'Harry’s Last Stand' is a lyrical, searing modern invective that shows what the past can teach us, and how the future is ours for the taking.
 “Harry is not in a good way,” the 95-year-old’s son John wrote on his father’s Twitter account.
“Harry is in A & E and not in a good way,” the post read. “He asked me to inform you in case things don’t work out. I will keep you posted.”
Earlier this afternoon Leslie Smith told his Twitter followers that he was on his way to hospital.
“Bugger of a day, had a fall and now I am in hospital. It’s nothing, just low blood pressure, but signing off for the next few hours.”
On Saturday, Leslie Smith appeared in video by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees speaking on the refugees he saw in Europe at the close of the second world war.
Crying, he said: “There was a stream of hundreds of thousands of refugees coming south. I can still still see them, absolutely pitiful, starving.
“It doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is, or what your education was, or whatever your job was before you came here, you are now Canadian.”
As well as travelling the world advocating for rights of refugees, Leslie Smith has also been a tireless critic of the Tories and austerity, and has  campaigned relentlessly for the NHS in an attempt to keep it in public hands..
His latest book, Don’t Let My Past Become Your Future, serves as a stark warning as to what life could be like without a publicly funded NHS, which is free at the point of use.
We owe this great man so much. Lets continue to keep him in our thoughts and prayers, we could do with many more people like Harry
For more  updates see Harry's twitter feed

Monday, 19 November 2018

Joe Hill ( 7/19/1879 -19/11/15) - Last Will

Joe Hill was executed by a state of Utah firing squad on November 19, 1915  at dawn framed for a murder that many believe he did not commit.An innocent man condemned to death for his passion. Many historians have come to recognise it as one of the worst travesties of Justice in American history. After a trial that was riddled with biased rulings and suppression of important defence evidence and other violations of judicial procedure, which was characteristic of many cases involving labour radicals.
Born Joel Emmauel Hägglund on Oct. 7, 1879, the future labor "troubadour of discontent" grew up the fourth of six surviving children in a devoutly religious Lutheran family in Gävle, Sweden, where his father, Olaf, worked as a railroad conductor. Both his parents enjoyed music and often led the family in song. As a young man, Hill composed songs about members of his family, attended concerts at the workers' association hall in Gävle and played piano in a local café.
In 1887, Hill's father died from an occupational injury and the children were forced to quit school to support themselves. The 9-year-old Hill worked in a rope factory and later as a fireman on a steam-powered crane. Stricken with skin and joint tuberculosis in 1900, Hill moved to Stockholm in search of a cure and worked odd jobs while receiving radiation treatment and enduring a series of disfiguring operations on his face and neck. Two years later, Hill's mother, Margareta Katarina Hägglund, died after also undergoing a series of operations to cure a persistent back ailment. With her death, the six surviving Hägglund children sold the family home and ventured out on their own. Four of them settled elsewhere in Sweden, but the future Joe Hill and his younger brother, Paul, emigrated to the United States in 1902, where he changed his name to Joseph Hillstrom.
After several years as an itinerant worker - a 'hobo' working at a wide variety of back-breaking jobs, trying to make his way in this new country. In 1905 he joined the IWW (The International Workers of the World) becomming a well known and successful organiser .As a writer, a man of wit and insight, he knew how to craft songs that informed, inspired and inflamed. He followed a template for songwriting that was used from the American Revolution to Woody Guthrie to the Southern Civil Rights Movement, taking well-know tunes and writing new words that made the songs leap to life in a new and changing world. Soon  his humorous and biting political songs like "The Preacher and the Slave" were being sung on political lines across the country. His songs, appearing in the IWW's "Little Red Song Book," addressed the experience of vitually every major IWW group, from immigrant factory workers to homeless migratory workers to railway shopcraft workers.
In 1911, he was in Tijuana, Mexico, part of an army of several hundred wandering hoboes and radicals who sought to overthrow the Mexican dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, seize Baja California, emancipate the working class and declare industrial freedom. (The invasion lasted six months before internal dissension and a large detachment of better-trained Mexican troops drove the last 100 rebels back across the border.) In 1912, Hill apparently was active in a "Free Speech" coalition of Wobblies, socialists, single taxers, suffragists in San Diego that protested a police decision to close the downtown area to street meetings. He also put in an appearance at a railroad construction crew strike in British Columbia, writing several songs before returning to San Pedro, where he lent musical support to a strike of Italian dockworkers.
The San Pedro dockworkers' strike led to Hill's first recorded encounter with the police, who arrested him in June 1913 and held him for 30 days on a charge of vagrancy because, he said later, he was "a little too active to suit the chief of the burg" during the strike. On Jan. 10, 1914, Hill knocked on the door of a Salt Lake City doctor at 11:30 p.m. asking to be treated for a gunshot wound he said was inflicted by an angry husband who had accused Hill of insulting his wife. Earlier that evening, in another part of town, a grocer and his son had been killed. One of the assailants was wounded in the chest by the younger victim before he died. Hill's injury therefore tied him to the incident. The uncertain testimony of two eyewitnesses and the lack of any corroboration of Hill's alibi convinced a local jury of Hill's guilt, even though neither witness was able to identify Hill conclusively and the gun used in the murders was never recovered.
The campaign to exonerate Hill began two months before the trial and continued up to and even beyond his execution by firing squad on Nov. 19, 1915. His supporters included the socially prominent daughter of a former Mormon church president, labor radicals, activists and sympathizers including AFL President Samuel Gompers, the Swedish minister to the United States and even President Woodrow Wilson. The Utah Supreme Court, however, refused to overturn the verdict and the Utah Board of Pardons refused to commute Hill's sentence. The board declared its willingness to hear testimony from the woman's husband in a closed session, but Hill refused to identify his alleged assailant, insisting that to do so would harm the reputation of the lady.
From his jail cell on  November 18, 1915, Joe Hill wrote his last will, which has since become a prized piece of poetry in the heritage of the American Labour Movement. That same day, he sent a telegram to fellow IWW member Bill Haywood telling him “Don’t waste time mourning – Organize!” a line that became a slogan of the U.S. labour movement.The state wanted to silence Joe Hill, in defiance, he goaded his executioners with his last words . 'Fire -go and fire! Hill died as he lived a true rebel.
After a brief service in Salt Lake City, Hill's body was sent to Chicago, where 30,000 mourners heard Hill's "Rebel Girl" sung for the first time, listened to hours of speeches and then walked behind his casket to Graceland Cemetery, where the body was cremated and the ashes mailed to IWW locals in every state but Utah as well as to supporters in every inhabited continent on the globe. According to one of Hill's Wobbly-songwriter colleagues, Ralph Chaplin (who wrote the words to "Solidarity Forever," among other songs), all the envelopes were opened on May 1, 1916, and their contents scattered to the winds, in accordance with Hill's last wishes, expressed in  the poem that follows. Hill became, and he has remained, the best-known IWW martyr and labor folk hero, more famous now in death than in life Hill is also a revered figure in his native Sweden where he has been commemorated on postage stamps and where his childhood home is reverantly preserved as a museum, he has appeared in fiction, poetry and plays and has inspired several works of art. Most notably in linocut posters hand produced by Wobbly artist, poet and editor Carlos Cortez.

   My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan -
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”

My body? — Oh! — If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will.
Good luck to all of you.
   Joe Hill

Steve Earle reads Joe Hill

The poem, "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night," written by the British writer Alfred Hayes in 1925 and set to music in 1936 by Earl Robinson, has been performed and recorded by scores of musicians and translated into 15 languages; it is still sung by workers throughout the world,as an inspiration dor organizing labor and other community movements.In 1958 Paul Robeson performed a version at his Carnegie Hall concert. Ideas and songs can never die.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill Last Night  - Paul Robeson

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.

"In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."

"The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe," says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die."

And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Says Joe, "What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize."

"Joe Hill ain't dead," he says to me,
"Joe Hill ain't never died.
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side,
Joe Hill is at their side."

From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill -
Where working men defend their rights
It's there you'll find Joe Hill.
It's there you'll find Joe Hill.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead",
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Patrick Duff live at the Cellar Bar, Cardigan/Aberteifi - A beautiful form of magic.

Went to see Patrick Duff play last night, in the Cellar Bar, Cardigan, ably supported by  fine local musician called Joe Couzens. Formerly the lead singer in the cult alternative rock band Strangelove, who I'd last seen whilst tripping  of my box at Glastonbury in  1992, fond memories bought back vividly. He has since forged a career as a singer songwriter who after a turbulent history marred by addictions , without doubt, now puts his life and soul into his music.
He was  here to launch his new record Leaving My Father's House, a  rather disappointing turnout with only a smattering of people, but this did not dampen the gig, it kinda helped because Patrick delivered a passionate performance in what was one of the most intimate gigs I've experienced  for a while. Engaging and charismatic he regaled us with many a tale, funny too with an eye for detail, commenting on how lovely the venues slate floor was.
He truly captivated with everyone listening to every sound and word. Delicate crafted songs of real depth folksy, poppy, psychedelic, spiritual and whimsical, full of heartbreak and emotion combined with graceful melodies, sprinkling each and every song with magic. I'm pretty straight but he certainly captured my heart, as he bought us an intense magical moving experience, utilising pulsing drone atmospherics, experimental sounds to heighten our senses. A beautiful singing voice, expressive, soulful and hauntingly mesmerising , timeless and of pure quality. I would consider him to be a poet. He also capably span wonderful tales of rich imagination, telling us a lovely story about spending time in a Bhuddist retreat, meditating in silence for days, and another one about a tryst he once had on Brighton beach. The audience really appreciated him, he'd sure get a warm welcome if he returned.
He finished the night with a masterly cover version of the Doors  'The End ' that he made his own,pure quality. Spoke to him after gig, utterly charming, and devoid of  any pretense and ego, an inspiring bloke of immense talent.
As for his new record I'd strongly recommend it, and his back catalogue well worth checking out too, all truly memorable.
Please support your local music venues, they do so much to  enliven and enrich our communities. The Cellar Bar is always worth visiting, for performances like this one,and the superb atmosphere, the guy who runs the place, Steve, quite a character too. A really friendly warm welcome is guaranteed to all who enter it's door.

Patrick Duff sings the jaw droppingly beautiful Maria in session

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Whispering True Words.

Kindness can't be beaten
and the water within us sings
lets words be spoken, released on tonque
makes new spaces, for us to hang out and spin
where eyes have seen oppression
where hearts have ridden waves of pain
time travels, wants our voices to be heard
stories to be shared freely with the world
with inks running with honesty
tries to show people what we have seen.

Across the Universe the Beatles once sang
currently  people finding it hard to breathe
so gather round, and help these pulses flow
to turn again, to become sparks in the afterglow
a dazzle in the rain, singular defiant voices rising
songs across the land, blazing with truth
creating and destroying, tearing up old  rules
feeding new ideas, needed for survival
allowing the weight of the world
to come  tumbling, crushing down.

Remember, all the beauty of this earth
follow sources of diversity, all the ways of life
caught and captured on the winds to refresh
beyond the closed systems, against intolerance
truth is simple, glides carefully from one heart to another
can nourish us as we wait, for iniquities to pass
with a rich tapestry of dreams within us
searching beyond interwoven balls of worry
allowing all to keep pushing, soaring, roaring
waiting patiently for something to change.

Whispering true words, of simplicity
with individual choruses of surfacing reason
against hopelessness, despair, and fear
the lies and discourse that taint and smear
pendulums of justice infusing memories with shame
putting obstacles in the way, pointing fingers of blame
words carve a path to the futures corridor
bringing fresh hope, for all voices to explore
wading through days of stumbling confusion
the past is pinned down, reaches for conclusion.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Palestine Underground

 Palestine Underground  is a 25 minute documentary released by Boiler Room yesterday that  documents the flourishing underground music scene in Occupied Palestinian Territory, the West Bank, one of the most conflicted regions on earth.
Undeterred by political restrictions, building bridges through a shared sound and identity.
The  film takes place primarily in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank region, and opens with a scene of local DJ and producer Oddz  sneaking over the wall from Ramallah to play Anna Loulou in Jaffa, one of Israel's few nightclubs, which is described as a place where "everyone is welcome." Well, except Israeli soldiers. One of the few techno DJs in Palestine, Oddz, regularly defies the apartheid wall and checkpoints to play in Palestinian-owned venues in Israel, risking three months imprisonment if caught.. .
From there it cuts between interviews with members of the Jazar Crew, a Palestinian DIY music and art collective that provides a safe-space dance floor for Palestinian youth.With their revolutionary parties around the region, they have built bridges between the Palestinian underground scenes in Haifa, Ramallah and beyond, whose first party happened to take place on the the night of Egypt's Arab Spring in 2011, and Sama', Palestine’s first techno DJ. She's credited with introducing Detroit and Berlin techno sounds to Palestine.
Palestine Underground follows a week in the life of these artists and friends, culminating in June 2018, when Boiler Room  hosted its first ever party in Ramallah. Live streamed to an international audience of 260+ million, the daytime outdoor party hosted by Jazar Crew and friends showcased an underground music scene peacefully reacting against one of the toughest political feuds in history.
The Palestinian artists are blossoming in their creativity despite enforced constraints from the Israeli government, and although their movements are restricted and there is a midnight curfew, enforced by the Palestinian authority, the Palestinian music scene refuses to dwindle, as seen in the film's interviewees, who are brimming with musical passion and freedom of expression. By defying spatial and social restrictions imposed on these artists, they provide hope and inspiration to their audiences.Despite the hardship of living in a war-torn nation, Palestinian youth have found a way to create a sense of normalcy.
Living in what he calls a “stagnant” political situation, the "godfather of underground hip hop scene in Ramallah," Muqata’a sees his music as a "disruption" to the status quo. Which is dire—Israel has for decades pursued a policy of building Jewish settlements in Palestine, including the West Bank and Gaza. Music is therefore a "therapy for the Palestinian identity crisis," a way of peacefully rebelling against a regime that they see as pursuing the systematic erasure their culture.
“We resist in our music, together we are the revolution,” an interviewee says.
‘Palestine Underground’ offers a fresh and different insight into the lives of a minority of young Palestinians and subverts the Western media narrative surrounding Palestine. Produced by Boiler Room's Anais Bremond and directed by BBC and Channel 4 documentary filmmaker Jess Kelly, Palestine Underround " connects the dots  between club culture and cinema to stretch the boundaries of what a film experience can be", recording a musical subculture that is little known in the West. There's also a succinct historical explanation early on in the film, so anyone not well-versed in the region's complicated past won't feel lost.

A part of Contemporary Scenes - uncovering underground collectives, artists and subcultures from across the world. https://contemporaryscenes.boilerroom...

Subscribe to Boiler Room's YT channel:

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Aung San Suu Kyi stripped of Amnesty International's highest honour over 'shameful betrayal '

Amnesty International has withdrawn its most prestigious human rights award from Aung San Suu Kyi, following what it described as a “shameful betrayal” of the values she once stood for.
It is the latest in a series of accolades to be withdrawn from Aung San Suu Kyi, including the US Holocaust Museum’s Elie Weisel award and Freedom of the City awards, which were revoked by Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle. Canada revoked her honorary citizenship last month.  Calls to revoke Suu Kyi’s 1991 Nobel Peace Prize have so far been rebuffed by the committee that oversees it.
 Aung San Suu Kyi received the ambassador of conscience award in 2009, while under house arrest, for her role in championing peace and democracy,after spearheading the opposition movement to the feared military junta..She was described as “a symbol of hope, courage and the undying defence of human rights” by Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s then secretary general.
On 11 November, Amnesty's General Secretary General Kumi Naidoo wrote to  inform her the organisation is revoking the award. Half way through her term in office and eight years after her release from house arrest, Naidoo expressed the organisations disappointment that she had not used her political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or  equality in Myanmar, citing her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and increasing intolerance to freedom of expression. Saying in the letter that her ambassador title could no longer be justified.
“Our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself,” Naidoo wrote in the letter.
Today the Myamar authorities and citizens leapt to her defence calling the move 'childish.' But institutions that once showered Suu Kyi with titles are rapidly distancing themselves from a leader they argue is doing little in the face of the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya  muslim minority. Suu Kyi has also  been widely accused of being apathetic or complicit in the plight.
More than 700,000 Rohingya people remain in Bangladesh, having fled a brutal military crackdown that began in August 2017. UN investigators said that during the campaign, Myanmar’s military carried out killings and gang rapes and arson with “genocidal intent”, and called for the commander-in-chief and five generals to be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law.
Yanghee Lee, the UN special investigator on human rights in Myanmar, said she believed Aung San Suu Kyi was in “total denial” about accusations of violence.
 “Without acknowledgement of the horrific crimes against the community, it is hard to see how the government can take steps to protect them from future atrocities,” said Naidoo.
Amnesty International added that Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration had stirred up hatred against Rohingya by labelling them “terrorists”, obstructed international investigations into abuses, and failed to repeal repressive laws used to silence critics. ''Her government has sgielded the secrity forces from accontability, stirred up racial hatred and denied the scale of the atrocities.
In September, Aung San Suu Kyi defended the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists who were given seven-year jail terms after investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Rahkine state. The sentences were widely condemned by international governments, human rights groups and the UN as a miscarriage of justice and a symbol of the major regression of freedom of expression in Myanmar. She is yet to comment on Amnesty’s decision herself but has in the past arrogantly  shrugged off questions about withdrawn awards.

Time to strip her off her Nobel Peace Prize too. Please sign the following petition.

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Universal Credit Crisis: Panaroma

I'd urge you to watch BBC Panorama's The Universal Credit Crisis , especially  if you’re a Tory that’s hellbent on forcing through Universal Credit. Some revelations will shock people outside of their normal political bubble. Hard to watch and upsetting. A complicated system leaving the vulnerable behind, mission accomplished as far as the government is concerned. These decisions will come back and hant them and  cost them more votes than they think.
Universal Credit combines six benefits, including housing benefit, into one monthly payment.
Housing benefit now goes directly to the claimant, but the Local Government Association is calling for it to be paid directly to landlords – as it was under the old system.
The programme finds people owe two and a half times more than on existing benefits. Universal Credit claimants are forced to sell their possessions in order to survive. Universal Credit was introduced in 2013 and continues to cause hardship, debt and food bank use across Britain - while the Tories and DWP remain in denial.
As the government's controversial new benefits system, universal credit, is rolled out, Panorama is with families as they struggle with their claims. The programme follows one council as it deals with mounting rent arrears and tenants in crisis. The government has responded to criticism of the new system by announcing more funding, but is it too little too late?
I don’t think there’s any question  that it is, food bank use has already  gone up 13% due to problems with universal credit. And the top reason for people using food banks has been delays and problems with getting benefits. lets be honest  nobody seems to know what's going on anymore. Claimants across the country are finding their payments being arbitrally cut month in, month out, with no explanation. Random debts  are imposed and retrieved with minimum information. Already as it is claimants, living on a shoestring, this process I fear will make things far worse.The Conservatives claim UC is designed to help help people into work by ensuring they are better off working than the unemployed  but whatever they say the number of families who are in work but still living below the poverty line is continuing to rise. As a result, inequality increases too, with the poorest among us being left behind. All because of their policies.
The programme reveals that in Flintshire in North Wales, one of the first areas in the UK to receive the new system, the amount of rent owed to the council by people on Universal Credit is £1,424 in average – or six times the amount owed by those on the existing system.
The local authority says evictions in the county are up by 55% compared to the same time last year, and it has spent an extra £270,000 on advice staff to cope with the increasing numbers of people needing help. The figures were based on Freedom of Information responses from around 130 councils that manage social housing.
The programme really scraped the surface on the design faults within this policy, many things are changed as an after thought because the policy wasn't properly thought through and the administration is so bad as is the training which means that those that should be helping have not got a clue  about the constant changes and are misinforming claimants causing further chaos with long waits on the phone which campaigners call the 'Vivaldi Line.'
Currently too.Esther McVey and her department  are trying to make charities and private contractors that work with the DWP sign gagging orders preventing them from criticising McVey or damaging her reputation, but Universal Credit is a disgrace especially as we are one of the richest countries in the world.It is simply a recipe for disaster that is only fit for the waste basket.The government is coming under very serious pressure because of universal credit, and I hope this programme adds to it even more.
If you missed the programme, here it is.

Earlier post on Universal Credit here

Sunday, 11 November 2018

In Memorium : Lest We Forget

In fields of horror
the poppy flower now grows,
as superficial patriotic threads spread
profiteers fill their bellies on the dead,
bereft of life, cruel futility flows
cities of blood built, destruction grows,
fresh graves tended, full of nameless corpses
peaceful branches torn, children left as orphans,
salted tears soak the earth on the edge of memory
in every sense of direction, the screaming roars,
on fields of slaughter, visceral anathema shed
but the white bird of peace flies, lest we forget,
fluttering on the winds, it's seed will always blossom
showering the world with gentleness,
high above the ruins, reason grows strong
choruses sing in unity, embracing humanity,
touching, stirring beyond the futility of it all
an enduring battle of survival, to make us secure,
away from indiscriminate killing, the slaughter of war
primal forces degenerating, a new age is born,
lessons learnt, history provides the ammunition
with hope we can turn swords into plowshares.

Above poem can also be found here:-

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Vision Of Jacob Epstein (10/11/1880 - 19/8/1959)


To many people the very name  of Jacob Epstein is synonymous with controversy. He was seen as an untamed man systematically destroying all that was traditional in art. No sculpture of the twentieth century in England aroused so much interest, certainly none articulated such vehement discussion and opposition to his work. His work was such that even the  most untrained were unable to see his work without a definite reaction. Eccentricity alone could not produce such an emotion. I t is the test of great art. Epsteins work imprints itself vividly on the imagination. It is disturbing. It cases the artistically lazy to readjust their values. You either like Epsteins' work, or hated  it. Neutrality  was out out of the question.
Born in 1880, on the East Side of New York to Polish-Jewish parents who had escaped anti-Semitic pogroms in Poland. When the family moved to a more respectable neighbourhood, he chose to remain amongst the ‘Russian, Poles, Italians, Greeks, and Chinese’ who clustered in what was then a very unfashionable part of the city.It was here that the earliest formative influences  made themselves felt  on his art. He attended the School of Students League, and did modelling in the evening. His first work was a book dealing with Jewish types in New York.
In 1902, he moved to Paris, then the world capital of art. to study at the city's famous art schools/ Yet in 1905 a trip to the British museum in London, with its treasure trove of art from all parts of the globe, persuaded him to settle in Britain. The country became his home, and in 1911 he acquired British citizenship.
 His first two years in London remain relatively obscure, but in 1907 the architect Charles Holden invited him to execute a major commission for the new headquarters of the British Medical Association in The Strand (now Zimbabwe House). He was given forteen months to do eighteen colossal figures. This was the first time his work was described as dangerous and immoral. the BMA apparently had envisaged decorative, allegorical figures or famous names in medical history. However Holden and Epstein were united by their enthusiasm for Walt Whitman’s poetry, and they agreed that 18 large figures celebrating the seven ages of man should be carved for the building’s façade, celebrating nakedness in the spirit of Whitman’s poems. Epstein himself announced that the scheme would celebrate ‘the great primal facts of man and woman’, and he managed to fuse the ‘medical’ side of the commission with his own most personal preoccupations: erotic delight, mortality, motherhood, virility and above all an uninhibited celebration of humanity in dignified nakedness.He was ever an outsider, as one critic described him "a sculptor in revolt."

 Jacob Epstein: Scandal on the Strand

It’s hard to track down images of the originals but above is a shot taken at the Henry Moore Institute, where the plaster casts were exhibited.

The statue representing Maternity  came in for severe criticism.One Father Bernard Vaughan, a member of the moralistic National Vigilance Society, led the attack against the statues, a member of the moralistic National Vigilance Society, led the attack against the statues. ‘As a Christian citizen in a Christian city’, he pontificated in the Evening Standard, ‘I claim the right to say that I object most emphatically to such indecent and inartistic statuary being thrust upon my view’. While ‘the sacred subject of maternity has been treated a thousand time with idealistic beauty’, he complained in another article, the Strand mother (shown here) suggests ‘merely brutal commonplace’. With tabloid self-righteousness, the Evening Standard warned that Epstein had erected ‘a form of statuary which no careful father would wish his daughter, or no discriminating young man, his fiancée, to see’. Inevitably, people came flocking to see it . London, declared Epstein, ‘had become sculpture-conscious’. Most people deemed them immoral, with the fact they were nude being one of the main  provocations. The complaints also disliked the fact they were too sexual, but at the same time too ugly, the depictions were humans at different stages of life so it seemed that the image of sagging skin was too much to bear. The sculptor himself wanted to portray figures with realism, to have them contain deep human feeling rather than just being decoration on architecture.
He said “The Study of the human being is frightfully important.”
However an equally vehement press campaign in Epstein’s defence saved the statues from immediate demolition. Eminent artists and critics praised his innovations, and after some deliberation, the British Medical Association decided to stand by him and preserve them, but a combination of two events sealed their fates.In the 1930s The Rhodesian High Commission bought the building and were not fans of their new home’s decoration and in 1937 a section of the Portland Stone (worn by acid rain and London’s smog) fell onto the street, conveniently giving a pretext to destroy the sculptures. They could undoubtedly have been repaired, but in  the reactionary political mood of the 1930s, Epstein’s Jewishess, and his reputation for outlandishness, weighed against him. The art establishment may not deliberately have persecuted him, but nonetheless, they washed their hands of him. Now to our loss,we can only see the butchered remains.
The resulting scandal damaged his reputation, discouraged potential employers, and threatened the very works themselves. It disrupted Epstein’s life, forcing the persona of provocateur on a man who preferred, as he claimed, to work in peace. Yet the volcanic eruptions of disapproval also deposited a fertile soil for the growth of a British school of avant-garde sculpture, sown with Epstein’s pioneering ideas, and sheltered by his willingness to face the critics first. His originality made sculpture newsworthy in Britain to an extent it had never been before. The vandalism still visible on the front of Zimbabwe House serves now as a prominent warning against artistic censorship, and a reproach against the British for their failure to cherish Epstein’s work.
Epstein's friends campaigned for him to become a government war artist during the First World War This idea was rejected by the authorities and in 1917 he was conscripted and became a private in the Jewish 38th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He was discharged in 1918 without leaving England, having suffered a mental breakdown.
The Risen Christ, produced as a result of his experiences in the war caused problems when it was exhibited in 1920. Epstein considered the figure to be an anti-war statement and declared that he would ideally like it to be remodelled and made hundreds of feet high as a "mighty symbolic warning to all lands." In his autobiography Epstein wrote :"It stands and accses the world for its grossness, inhumanity, cruelness and beastliness, for the First World War...The Jew- the Galilean - condemns our wars, and warns us that Shalom, Shalom, must still be the watchword between man and man. By pointing a finger towards the stigma on his palm, he brings the viewers attention to the idea of suffering, Neither his face, nor his body, bears any emotion. The Christ depicted here could be any human being. In a metaphorical way, the "Risen" Christ here "rises" against the cruelty of war.

                                                        The Risen Christ

The Oscar Wilde memorial at Pere La Chaise Paris, was his next difficult task, for cemetery sculpture imposes severe restrictions. Epstein  worked in England on a 20-ton block of Horston wood stone, and conceived a vast winged figure, a messenger swiftly moving with vertical wings, giving the feeling of forward flight.

                                 Jacob Epstein - The Tomb of Oscar Wilde
One might expect the city of the can-can, a city teeming with sex traffic, to be more open-minded than the uptight metropolis of London. However, nothing causes the upright authorities to take quick action than the sight of an uncovered male member. The order of the Préfet of the Seine and the head of the École des Beaux-Arts was sent out to fashion some kind of  fig leaf and someone was given the unenviable task of slathering the exposed genitalia with plaster, covering the offensive sight. The act of censorship happened even before Epstein had completed the finishing touches on the memorial. The eighteen figures of 1908 had been protected from such incursions by their height from the street, but the Winged Sphinx was at ground level, easily reached. Epstein had to witness at first hand the fear of full frontal male nudity, a fear still present in society today. He said, “Imagine my horror when arriving to the cemetery to find that the sex parts of the figure had been swaddled in plaster! and horribly.” Worse was to come, the tomb was covered with a tarpaulin, with a gendarme on patrol to prevent its removal. Although Epstein attempted to complete his work, he was not allowed to remove the cover. Without the artist’s consent, a bronze fig leaf was fixed to the offending member and the tarp was whisked away.  The bronze butterfly covering did not last long, stolen by “a band of artists and poets from the Latin Quarter,” and the penis and testicles were soon revealed to the world, at which point, the Great War began and the authorities had better things to do with their time.
After the War, the world had changed and Epstein’s statue was now quaint and old-fashioned and receded from art world concern. The tomb became a place of pilgrimage and thousands of fond fans of Wilde fondled the now exposed parts until they shone like jewels. According to urban legend, two (English) ladies, offended by the unseemly shine, attacked the hanging genitals of the unfortunate Sphinx and severed the penis, a strange impulse for 1960. Existing photographs of the original sculpture indicates that there was nothing offensive or even remotely obscene, but this sculpture had the power to move people very powerfully. Now shorn of its proud possession, the statue’s appeal only increased–coincidentally or not–and over the years, thousands of visitors began kissing its surfaces.
 In 1922  Epstein was commissioned to create the Hyde Park memorial to the naturalist writer W.H. Hudson. The memorial was unveiled to the public in 1925; carved in Portland Stone the relief represented Rima, a character from Hudson's book Green Mansions who was both human and bird.
Rima highlights Epstein's thoughts on humanity, sexuality, and gender as well as his ideas on how the concept of 'beauty' was subjective and often restrictive.  The panel  likewise was roused in a storm of contoversy, though today it's difficlt to see what people found wrong with it. At the time Rima was the subject of hostility from those opposed to what they viewed as his 'ugly' and 'unfeminine' portrayal of the female body. His sculpture was defaced and the Daily Mail campaigned for the removal of the sculpture. Epstein was also subjected to antisemitic abuse and in 1935 the Independent Fascist League defaced Rima with swastikas. Much of the opposition to Rima as a piece of artwork went hand-in-hand with racist formulations of Epstein as an 'alien' outsider and his artwork as unEnglish. The storm of abuse eventually died away and the strange elusive beauty of this small panel blends perfectly in its green sanctuary.


Night and Day likewise set the critics baying.  The entire work merged easily  into the horizontal courses of St James' Park Station. They were not meant to be seen in isolation. Divorced from their context and viewed at a wrong angle, it was natural for them to appear distorted. Night came in for major criticism through the poplar naturalistic conception that Epstein should have portrayed it by an attractive lady with a sad face and dressed in flowing black drapery.
Epstein commented that he always turned to Egypt for inspiration for architectural or monumental sculpture and the influence of Egypt and other cultures is clear in these abstract figures. Egyptologist Flinders Petrie protested about the style of the sculptures, denouncing them as 'part of the modern system of Jazz' and racialising them as a 'primitive product of a race'. Petrie was only one of a number of people who publicly protested; the classical archaeologist Percy Gardner felt the sculptures lacked 'morality' and there was consternation about the length of the boy's penis on Day.

                                  Night and Day

 His religious subjects, including the Madonna and Child, 1927; Riverside Church, New York, Jacob and the Angel, 1940-1; Tate, Genesis, 1929-31; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, and Adam, 1938; Harewood House, provoked particular ire as being created by a Jewish sculptor.
Genesis  flooded the art world with comment. The statue carved in a block of Servezza marble, portrayd the symbolic truth of the eternal primeval feminine, the mother of the race. A storm of protest rose from women who complained that their sex had been insulted. It was tantamount to saying that art should be clad in the demure habilments of a Mother Superior. To refuse Epstein the right to create Genesis in the way he did would have denied sculpture the right to exist. In elementary terms, sclpture is the form given to a thought... the sculpture's thought, not that of the moralist or the art critic.

 It is amazing to recall the virulent hostility (and anti-Semitism) that his work aroused. Even the Royal Academy participated in the mutilation of his public commissions. Following the exhibition of his controversial Adam (1938) the statue was sold off for next to nothing and later displayed in a Blackpool funfair. Visitors were charged a shilling entry to view its enlarged genitals as a form of pornographic amusement. It is now a prime possession of the Tate Gallery. As history has shown us, that which is ridiculed in one era is hailed in another.
The same fate befell his next major work, Jacob and the Angel (1941), his most famous creation. Rendered in glowing alabaster, streaked with veins of pink and brown, it depicts two muscular figures locked in a sensual embrace, it  has since been rescued and is now in the relative safety of the Tate Gallery.

                                           Jacob and the Angel 

 From 1912 onwards, Epstein was inundated with portrait commissions, and portrayed distinguished subjects throughout his career including Albert Einstein, Joseph Conrad, Winston Churchill, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Lucian Freud.He participated in the Festival of Britain 1951 but by this time he was being outflanked by younger contemporaries such as Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, and Lynn Chadwick.
 When Jacob Epstein completed the following  sculpture in 1928, Paul Robeson was enjoying huge success in London, both in the English production of Show Boat and in a series of triumphant concerts. Lionized by English society, he was experiencing an acceptance hardly imaginable by blacks in America: "Everyone wanted to know Paul and to be seen with him," said a fellow cast member, "especially some of our so-called society ladies." His wife wrote to a friend that they both were feeling "as though at last we are at the end of a long journey. Paul . . . is tickled to death and greatly relieved."

                                               Paul Robeson

 Epstein was a  pacifist and he joined with other left-wing artists and writers, including David Low, Henry Moore and Eric Gill  to form a National Congress organised by the British section of the International Peace Campaign. He was also involved in the Artists' International Association's efforts on behalf of the Poplar Front government during theSpanish Civil War. He was furious when the Foreign Office refused Epstein a visa when he wanted to visit Spain in 1937.
 He completed further commissions for religious figures, notably on the re-built Coventry Cathedral, but his final secular work was the magnificent war memorial that stands in front of TUC headquarters at Congress House in London. The work is a memorial to Trade Union victims of the two World Wars A mournful evocation of loss, a lone woman supports the limp naked body of a dead soldier. It was carved from a 10 ton block of Roman stone and was originally backed by green Carrara marble running up to the roof; this decayed and has been replaced by green tiles as an economy measure. The statue was unveiled and the building opened on 27th March 1958. 

 Despite being married to and continuing to live with Margaret Dunlop, whome he had wed in 1906, Epstein had a number of relationships with other women that brought him his five children: Peggy Jean (born 1918),Theo (1924–1954), Kathleen (1926–2011), Esther (1929–1954) and Jackie (1934–2009). Margaret generally tolerated these relationships – even to the extent of bringing up his first and last children. In 1921, Epstein began the longest of these relationships, with Kathleen Garman, one of the Garman sisters, mother of his three middle children, which continued until his death. Margaret "tolerated Epstein's infidelities, allowed his models and lovers to live in the family home and raised Epstein's first child, Peggy Jean, who was the daughter of Meum Lindsell, one of Epstein's previous lovers. Evidently, Margaret's tolerance did not extend to Epstein's relationship with Kathleen Garman, as in 1923 Margaret shot and wounded Kathleen in the shoulder.
Jacob Epstein was knighted in 1954, but his later years were marked by personal loss. His son died of a heart attack in 1954, and his daughter committed suicide later the same year. 
 When Jacob Epstein died of a heart-attack on 19th August 1959 in Kensington, the sculptor Henry Moore wrote: " . . . I first met Jacob Epstein in the mid-Twenties, a time when I was unknown and he was the most famous sculptor in Britain . . . He took the brickbats, he took the insults, he faced the howls of derision with which artists since Rembrandt have learned to become familiar. And as far as sculpture in this century is concerned, he took them first."
He is buried  in Putney Vale Cemetery. Major retrospectives of his work have been held at the Tate, 1953, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, 1980, and a touring exhibition in 1987, which included Leeds City Art Galleries and the Whitechapel Art Gallery. His work is held in major public collections around the world including Tate, National Portrait Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and the Pompidou Centre.
Jacob Epstein remains one of the most significant British artists of the twentieth century; specialising in sculpture, particularly public sculpture, his pieces both challenged and influenced British art conventions. Despite having a number of supporters, Epstein's work though was often criticised by the public and the media; often this opposition was purely antisemitic and nationalist. Despite this his life, like his art, might have been the stuff of myth, but in his large works, shaping the endless struggle of human life, Jacob Epstein was at his best. Any attempt to gauge the full value of Epstein's art forces us to realise how imperfect a vehicle of expression is language when it attempts to explain the significance of another art medium. This much we can say. Epstein introduced a new creative intelligence with his uncompromising, radical sculptural vision. His art is still capable of provoking.
 I sum up in his own words : I rest silent in my work .... words superb in finality.