Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Ustad Sammi - God Is Not A Terrorist

The  75 year old Ustad Naseerudin Saami  is a master of the unigue Pakistani vocal style known as  Surti which is characterised  by its use of microtonals, and is widely regarded as the very last master of the khayal (Arabic for "imagination"), a pre-Islamic predecessor of Pakistani qawwali music which has been handed down by his ancestors for over a thousand years, but currently on the brink of extinction. It is multilingual (Farsi, Sanskrit, Hindi, the ancient and dead language of Vedic, gibberish, Arabic, and Urdu) music.
But because his style of music is regarded as blasphemous and considered haram, impure and resented, as they do anything else pre-dating Muhammad, and have made threats on his  life for simply performing the ancient art. This has seen in Pakistan many musicians being murdered since the turn of the century. notably the assasination of the famous qawalli Anjad Sabri in a hail of bullets in 2016 and the numerous attacks  on Sufi Pakistanis. Sadly, like in  in Mali,this distrust has seen a violently imposed break from anything outside the doctrine and history of Islam which has resulted in the ritual burning of instruments and a ban of most musical forms.
Master Ustad Naseeruddin Saami's however  has spent his entire life mastering the nuances of every given note, in order to keep Surti alive, and it is important to acknowledge, that when he passes, the music may die with him. While many others would be  cowed into silence, Saami remains defiant, literally risking his life daily in Pakistan.
I have finally managed to get hold of a copy of  ' God Is Not A terrorist '  which was produced by acclaimed Tinariwen producer and Grammy Award winner Ian Brennan. Vol.5 of Glitterbeat’s  Hidden Musics series and was recorded in one single night session during which the musicians present continuously chewed paan (a preparation combining betel leaves with areca or betel nuts found in South Asia, South-East Asia and Taiwan and chewed for its stimulating and psychoactive effects) until their teeth turned a fiery red. The session yielded 5 tracks, all featuring the harmonium or pump organ (an instrument introduced in Asia by Christian missionaries and banned on the Indian and later Pakistani radio for the longest time) in the leading role.
The record is a delight, the music is dense and rich and full of wailing that bends and weaves throughout, hypnotising, raw and haunting, powerfully carrying a contemporary message celebrating peace and diversity that is truly universal. You do not need to understand the lyrics to enjoy the singing, with his soaring voice it's a truly electrifying listening experience. I especially  love the message in the title track, "to sing is to listen" The highlight for me has got to be the almost twenty-minute long closing track 'Longing'.  A truly mesmerizing homage to a disappearing musical tradition! Long may this music live on freely. As the Sanskrit proverb says;" If one has a diamond in their chest, it will shine on their face."Despite opposition, Master Ustad Naseeruddin Saami  chooses the light.

1, God Is
2. My Beloved Is On The Way
3. Twilight
4. Hymn
5.War Song
6. Longing

Get it here :-  https://glitterbeat.com/product/god-is-not-a-terrorist-by-ustad-saami/

God Is Not A Terrorist (Trailer)

Ustad Saami - Longing 

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Relentless Endurance ( My first attempt at Rap)

I can't rap, in fact i'm rather crap
a light weight snowflake, not hardcore,
my poetry can arrive like a hallmark card
overworked rather tired, ever so scarred,
uninvited not making people beg for more
but sometimes brutally honest when I soar,
with a revolutionarty message to it's core
after smoking bud, mind starts to flow,
words arrive not from god or allah
from deep inside my heart to catch ya,
under the influence am not falling yet
beyond poetical rules  this is what you get,
i'm not sorry, I  just can't  fake it
unleashed take a stand against  bullshit,
cutting like razors, releasing inner edge
get too deep, don't know when to stop,
renegade thinking ,growing and knowing
rhymes released, just my way of showing,
on the battlefield  try to protect peoples rights
bewildered by what I see fight against injustice,
stand wth the kurds, the palestinians,  anyone not free
on the streets, on the page this is my reality,
love can arrive to act like a tranquiliser
a passion that oozes when  fuse is lit,
making me stronger easing the pain
through the haze and smoke, pouring rain,
releasing my songs of pride and devotion
this is me, please accept my contradiction..

Friday, 26 April 2019

Take the ration challenge :Refugee Week

The year 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The UN General Assembly therefore decided that 20 June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day from 2001 onwards.
Since then Refugee week is now a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and promotes better understanding of why people seek sanctuary. Anyone can take part by organising, attending or taking part in activities.
This year during  Refugee Week we  are invited to discover the experiences of displacement that are found in our families, neighbourhoods and history. The theme of Refugee Week this year is, ‘You, me and those who came before’, and is an invitation to explore the lives of refugees – and those who have welcomed them – throughout the generations. people escaping war and persecution have been welcomed by communities in the UK for hundreds of years, and their stories and contributions are all around us. From the Jewish refugees of the 1930s to people fleeing Vietnam in the 1970s, Kosovans in the 1990s to those arriving today; they are part of who we all are.
This year during World Refugee Week, June 16-23, 2019,  people are also invited to join the Ration Challenge. You are asked to commit to eating and drinking the same rations as a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan, and the money raised will  provide food, medicine and education for refugees and people living in poverty around the world.
It’s a tough challenge but  you will be joining  others raising money and awareness for refugees and showing  that your with them, and not against them.

Take the Challenge

For more information about Refugee  Week visit http://refugeeweek.org.uk/

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Mass Trespass : Kinder Scout

The  celebrated story of the mass trespass by hundreds of young working people from Manchester and Sheffield on Kinder Scout, to establish the 'right to roam', is remembered today with pride.
But younger generations enjoying the freedoms of the Peak District and other green areas of the countryside may have little knowledge of how hard-won these rights were. A short film, 'Mass Trespass' by WellRedFilms, helps set this right.
It tells the story of the mass action lead by a group of ramblers, including Benny Rothman, a 20-year-old Communist activist from Cheetham in Manchester.Benny was the son of Romanian Jews, an errand boy in the motor trade who lost his job after selling copies of the Daily Worker.
It shows wonderful old footage from the mass trespass itself and discusses its significance with local environmentalists today, including some relatives of the original trespassers. One narrator describes how young people working long hours in the factories of the surrounding cities longed to get out onto the green hills of the Peak District.The young men and women who took part in the Kinder Scout mass trespass on 24 April 1932 were escapees from a world we can barely imagine now. Workers and labourers in the grim factories and mills of Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, they saw the moors and fells of the Peak District as their weekend salvation: a land of greenery, fresh air, big skies and freedom.
The main target for generations of campaigners was Kinder Scout, the dark, brooding plateau of rugged moorland lying between the industrial conurbations of Manchester and Sheffield. It was this proximity to large populations of young and politically aware factory workers that made Kinder the symbolic battleground for the struggle between the feudal landed gentry and a militant working class, a struggle that began in earnest in the late 19th century and continues to this day. Individuals had long trespassed on the moors, often walking long distances from Stockport and the outskirts of Manchester just to get to the hills, desperate to enjoy these open spaces, during their precious time away from the factories and furnaces. Rambling as a national pastime arose out of this desire.

Yet there was a problem. Ever since common land was appropriated by the rich landowners of England during the 18th and 19th centuries under a succession of Enclosure Acts, the upland moors of the Peak were largely prohibited, mainained by wealthy landowners and reserved for the privileged few who used them for a dozen days  each year for the short grouse-shooting season. The rest of the year they were deserted, save for a few gamekeepers, ever ready with sticks and sometimes guns to repel any commoner who might deign to step on to the hallowed peat uplands.
Lengthy negotiations had been taking place between the Ramblers Association and the landowners, but many were becoming impatient with this process. Members of the Communist Party British Workers’ Sports Federation in Manchester became increasingly frustrated and decided to force the issue. The video shows how Benny Rothman stepped up to the plate. In the presence of police he urged the 400 protesters to set off for the top of Kinder, thus breaking the law. Once they reached private land higher up, gamekeepers employed by the Duke of Devonshire , and armed  with sticks were waiting to block their way. The leader of Hayfield parish council also attempted to read the Riot Act, while police focused on what  would be called ‘kettling’ the trespassers to prevent them gaining access to the Kinder approach routes. But the walkers managed to break  through and streamed across Hayfield cricket pitch and onto Kinder Road, ‘singing the Red Flag and the Internationale’.The police were much less fit than the trespassers and unable to keep up with their pace, allowing them to regroup in a quarry at the foot of Kinder, they then marched past the reservoir, onto the slopes of Kinder and into the history books. Six of the leaders, including Benny, were arrested and charged with affray.

The trial of Benny Rothman and the others is convincingly re-enacted in the video in black and white, giving a sense of the arrogance of the ruling class and landowners of the time. Rothman's court speech defending himself is the highlight of the video. His words, are as inspirational today as they were more than 80 years ago. Indeed it was the court case, rather than the act of mass trespass, that focused nationwide attention on the denial to workers of access to the countryside.
Rothman said: “We ramblers, after a hard week’s work in smoky towns and cities, go out rambling for relaxation, a breath of fresh air, but we find, when we go out, that the finest rambling country is closed to us, just because certain individuals wish to shoot for 10 days a year.
Our demonstration on April 24 was a peaceful demonstration to gain support for our contention of the right of access to mountains.”
After his term of imprisonment in Leicester, Rothman was jobless. The arrests and imprisonment of the activists  however proved to be a turning point in public opinion. Ordinary members of the public were horrified at the sentence and were swayed  in the trespassers’ favour.
The Kinder Scout trespass was one of the most audacious and important direct actions in British labor history. Its cultural and political impact was profound. Over  the following days and weeks much larger trespasses were held and three weeks after the trespass, some 10,000 ramblers held a protest rally at nearby Castleton; the right-to-roam movement was on the march. Mass Trespass  records how the working-class ramblers’ defiance of the law led  to the creation in 1951, to the creation of the first national park. Fittingly, it was the Peak District, described as the "lungs of the industrial north". In 2000, freedom-to-roam legislation was passed, in the Countryside Rights of Way Act   finally making lawful what Rothman and his comrades marched for.
But decades later there is still a distance to walk in the battle against landlordism and enclosure. As Benny Rothman himself was fond of saying, democratic rights are like public footpaths — if you don’t use them, they become hidden, get ploughed up or fenced off, one day to be built over and vanished.
The film makes the point that we can never be complacent about the rights won by the mass trespass and its aftermath. Benny's son, Harry, says that if his father and friends were alive today they would be campaigning against fracking below our green spaces and joining the fight for clean air and against other threats to our environment.
The 20 minute  film,  is punctuated in parts by folk singer Ewan MacColl singing one of his most famous songs, ‘The Manchester Rambler’, 'I may be a wage slave on Monday/ But I am a free man on Sunday’  he also acted as the self-proclaimed press officer, ensuring full coverage in the Manchester Evening News and Manchester Guardian
An inspirational moment in a continuing struggle as the film doesn’t  just tell the story of how Rothman and around 400 ramblers from industrial Manchester and Sheffield defied gamekeepers and the police to walk as free people on the moors and hills of Derbyshire’s Peak District for their recreation. It’s also about now, about the attempted industrialisation of the countryside for profit by the likes of fracking firms ,also rightly warns us  how those rights won in the past are under threat today, there  still remain significant areas of the country where access is restricted, threatened or resisted, with landowners such as the Duke of Westminster fighting every inch of the way.Lest us forget that today around 0.6% of the population owns over 70% of the land. Over a third of this is in the hands of the aristocracy – a legacy of the Norman Conquest. The issues of land inequality still so important, and the message in the film so relevant urging us to continue to fight for the land we want, after all this land is ours. .  

Chelsea Manning denied release from jail

Former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning will  cruelly remain in jail after a federal appeals court on Monday denied her request to be released on bail, and upheld a lower court's decision to hold Manning in civil contempt for refusing to give evidence before a grand jury. She,now faces another further  16.5 months  of incarcernation. 
The ruling is a blow to Manning, who has been  jailed since March 8th for refusing to collaborate with the government's long-running investigation into Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.https://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.com/2019/03/free-chelsea-manning-again.html
Manning was convicted by court-martial in 2013 of espionage and other offences for furnishing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks while she was an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
Former US President Barak Obama in his final days in office, commuted the final 28 years of Manning's 35-year sentence.
Manning has tried to fight the grand jury subpoena in the Assange case, citing her First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights under the Constitution.  Manning's lawyers lawyers argued that the government was abusing the grand jury process, since she'd already disclosed everything she knew during her court-martial proceedings years ago. Following Assange's arrest, her legal team released a statement saying that holding her in jail any longer "would be purely punitive."
Manning also argued that the government should be required to reveal if they had her under surveillance, and that the district court judge had wrongly sealed parts of her contempt hearing in March. According to Manning's court briefs, a prosecutor told her lawyer that the government believed Manning gave false, contradictory, or incorrect testimony during her court-martial, and Manning's lawyers took this to mean the government had "intercepted, misunderstood, and misattributed electronic communications."
The 4th Circuit rejected all of her arguments. Manning can now ask a full sitting of the 4th Circuit to reconsider the three-judge panel's decision, or she could petition the US Supreme Court to take her case — the press release from Manning's legal team on Monday indicated she was considering both options.
 "We are of course disappointed that the Circuit declined to follow clearly established law, or consider the ample evidence of grand jury abuse," Manning's attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen said in a statement., Moira Meltzer-Cohen, suggested prosecutors were abusing "grand jury power", and that "the likely purpose of her subpoena is to help the prosecutor preview and undermine her potential testimony as a defence witness for a pending trial".Her lawyers have also argued that the courtroom was improperly sealed during substantial portions of the hearing.Manning had been held in "administrative segregation," also known as solitary confinement, for nearly a month after the contempt finding, which her lawyers protested. Her support team tweeted from her account on April 4 that she'd been moved into general population at the Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia.
In a comment released by a spokesman, Manning said that while disappointing, the appeals court ruling will still allow her to "raise issues as the government continues to abuse the grand jury process". "I don't have anything to contribute to this, or any other grand jury. While I miss home they can continue to hold me in jail, with all the consequences that brings. I will not give up. Thank you for your love and solidarity through letters and contributions,"
The fact that Manning is still in jail is one of the clearest signs that federal prosecutors are still investigating Assange and WikiLeaks and mulling additional charges. Assange was arrested by United Kingdom authorities on April 11 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, in part because he faces an indictment in the United States that charges him with conspiring with Manning to hack into US Defense Department computer systems in 2010.

Donate to Chelsea's legal defense here


And write her a letter of support here

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning
William G. Truesdale Adult Seention Center,
2001 Mill Road, Alexandria
VA 22314

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

40th anniversary of the murder of Blair Peach

 Blair Peach  died from a broken skull on the 23rd of April 1979, as a result of  being struck on the head  by a truncheon wielding policeman from the Special Patrol Group during a demonstration outside Southall Town Hall, people will march in his honour in London, near a primary school that's named after him. A plaque  will also  be unveiled in memory of him and Gurdeep Singh Chaggar, a local man who was killed by a racist gang in 1976.
Clement Blair Peach was born in New Zealand on the 25th of March 1946.  He studied at Victoria University of Wellington and was for a time co-editor of the Argot literary magazine with his flatmates Dennis List and David Rutherford. He worked as a fireman and as a hospital orderly in New Zealand before moving to London in 1969 and started working as a teacher at  the Phoenix School in Bow, Towe Hamlets, East London, a special needs school.
Peach was no stranger to radicalism and protest; he was a member of the Socialist Worker’s Party, as well as the Socialist Teacher’s Association and the East London Teacher’s Association, both within the National Union of Teachers. A committed anti-fascist.In 1974 he was acquitted of a charge of threatening behaviour after he challenged a publican who was refusing to serve black customers. He was also involved in campaigns against far-right and neo-Nazi groups; he was well known for leading a successful campaign to close a National Front building in the middle of the Bangladeshi community around Brick Lane. He was also arrested in April 1978, outside a public meeting held by the NF in an East London school. The police had arrested a fellow demonstrator, who was black and female. Peach instinctively placed himself between the woman and the arresting officer and said, “Leave her alone, she has not done anything.” He was arrested, and pleaded not guilty but was convicted, receiving a fine of £50.
Peach was elected President of the East London Teachers Association in 1978. Twice that year he was attacked by supporters of the National Front as he cycled home from teaching at the Phoenix School, and he suffered black eyes, bruising and cuts. According to the East Ender newspaper, “Doctors fear permanent damage may have been done to one of his eyes. His finger has been bitten through to the bone shredding the nerves.” Even before 23 April 1979, Peach was putting his body on the line in the cause of the struggle against fascism.
On St. George’s Day 1979, the fascist National Front held a meeting in Southall Town Hall. The Front had almost no supporters in the area, but was hoping to gain publicity by bulldozing its way through the Asian districts of outer London. The Anti-Nazi League held a counter demonstration outside the Town Hall. Peach was one of 3000 people to attend. The demonstration turned violent; over 150 people were injured, and 345 arrests were made.
Peach sustained a blow to the head from a weapon by a police officer at the junction of Beachcroft Avenue and Orchard Avenue, as he tried to get away from the demonstration. that left him staggering in to a nearby house. The impression is sometimes given that Blair Peach died instantly in the street but in fact he was still conscious though very dazed and finding it hard to speak when the ambulance arrived a quarter of an hour after the injury.  There was no blood or external trauma but it’s clear that he was suffering from a swelling in the brain, what’s termed an extra-dural haematoma. Blair Peach died in an operating theatre at the New Ealing District Hospital at 12.10am. He was only 33 years old. At least three other anti fascist protesters were hit so hard to the head that their skulls were fractured.
Peach’s death struck a chord amongst the communities he had stood up for, and across the city as a whole. A few days after his death, 10000 people marched past the spot where he was fatally injured. His funeral was delayed by several months, until the 13th of June, but that was also attended by 10000 people. The night before his funeral, 8000 Sikhs went to see his body at the Dominion Theatre in Southall.
In the aftermath of Peach's murder, protesters were everywhere, flyposting, speaking, organising, discussing the lessons. The police were around, in very large numbers, but they did not dare to stop people from organising. It was almost as if the police were shamed by the enormity of what they had done. June 1979 also saw a 2,000-strong first Black people’s march against state harassment through central London.
Police investigated themselves in the aftermath of Blair Peach's death and identified  6 cops, 1 of whom administered  the fatal blow. No one has ever been charged.. 

The death of Blair Peach was the dire outcome of a double-edged state racism. The police that day staunchly protected a racist gathering in a predominantly Asian community, while unleashing militarised measures of control and punishment on demonstrators looking to oppose the fascists (Institute of Race Relations, 1979).http://www.irr.org.uk/
Blair Peach’s death became a focal point for those who questioned the nature of the Special Patrol Group and the general lack of police accountability which that force epitomised. And, from the agitation of Blair’s family, especially his long term partner Celia Stubbs, about the inadequacy of the inquest system and the secrecy surrounding the coroner’s court and the evidence withheld from the family, was created the organisation INQUEST.
The Metropolitan Police commissioned an internal inquiry into what happened, which was led by Commander John Cass. 11 witnesses saw Peach struck by a member of the Special Patrol Group (SPG). The SPG was a centrally-based mobile group of officers focused on combating serious public disorder and crime that local divisions were unable to cope with. It started in 1961, and was replaces in 1987 by the Territorial Support Group, which also has a less-than stellar reputation amongst activists.
The pathologist’s report concluded that Peach was not hit with a standard issue baton, but an unauthorised weapon like a weighted rubber cosh,or a hosepipe filled with lead shot. When Cass’ team investigated the headquarters of the SPG, they found multiple illegal weapons including truncheons, knives, a crowbar, and a whip. 2 SPG officers had altered their appearance by growing or cutting facial hair since the protest, 1 refused to take part in an identity parade, and another was discovered to be a Nazi sympathiser. All of the officers’ uniforms were dry-cleaned before they were presented for examination.
Cass concluded that one of 6 officers had killed Peach, but he couldn’t be sure who exactly, because the officers had colluded to cover up the truth. He recommended that 3 officers be charged with perverting the course of justice, but no action was ever taken. The results of the inquiry were not published, and the coroner at the inquest into Peach’s death refused to allow it to be used as evidence, despite making use of it himself. Two newspapers, the Sunday Times and the Leveller, published leaks naming the officers that had travelled in the van that held Peach’s killer. They were Police Constables Murray, White, Lake, Freestone, Scottow and Richardson. When the lockers of their unit were searched in June 1979, one officer Greville Bint was discovered to have in his lockers Nazi regalia, bayonets and leather covered sticks. Another constable Raymond White attempted to hide a cosh. The failure of the authorities to adeguately invstigate Peach's murder left a huge feeling of resentment. Celia Stubbs, said: "This report totally vindicates what we have always believed - that Blair was killed by one of six officers from Unit 1 of the Special Patrol Group whose names have been in the public domain over all these years."
An annual award  has since been  presented by the UK's National Education Union to teachers to carry on Blair Peach's  memory  and after his death a number of writers have dedicated poems to his memory, including Chris Searle, Michael Rosen and Susannah Steele, Louis Johnson, Edward Bond, Sigi Moos, Sean Hutton and Tony Dickens, and songs including  the following  by dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson  in Jamaican patois.


Everywhere you go its the talk of the day,
Everywhere you go you hear people say,
That the Special Patrol them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
The SPG them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
Cos they killed Blair Peach the teacher,
Them killed Blair Peach, the dirty bleeders.

Blair Peach was an ordinary man,
Blair Peach he took a simple stand,
Against the fascists and their wicked plans,
So them beat him till him life was done.

Everywhere you go its the talk of the day,
Everywhere you go you hear people say,
That the Special Patrol them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
The SPG them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
Cos they killed Blair Peach the teacher,
Them killed Blair Peach, the dirty bleeders.

Blair Peach was not an English man,
Him come from New Zealand,
Now they kill him and him dead and gone,
But his memory lingers on.

Oh ye people of England,
Great injustices are committed upon this land,
How long will you permit them, to carry on?
Is England becoming a fascist state?
The answer lies at your own gate,
And in the answer lies your fate.

Campaigners are now  demanding a fresh inquiry into Blair Peach's death Gareth Peirce, the lawyer who defended many of those arrested in 1979, said: “Unquestionably a public investigation is required as to what happened and why it was covered up for so long. A man was killed, wholly innocent people were convicted and evidence against them fabricated.
The police went out to deliberately inflict injuries on innocent people and were being provocative and racist. An onslaught of violence was unleashed on the Southall community and other protesters. The Hillsborough inquiry shows that reopening investigations into incidents that happened in the past is not only important but achievable.”
Darcus Howe  writer and anti racist activist remarked: “The death of Blair Peach is a lasting injustice. But it is also a pressing issue because there is no evidence that the policing mistakes that led to the death of Blair Peach have been consigned to the past.
It is sad  that  battles which were fought against state-sanctioned violence and far-right racism are still the battles being fought today, and we should not forget that Blair Peach wasn’t the first person nor the last to be killed by the  police, since his murder Mark Duggan, Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes; are some other people who have  had the misfortune of being famous because they were killed by the Metropolitan Police. The fight for justice goes on, as does Blair Peach's legacy who  believed in the inclusion of everyone no matter what race, religion or educational ability. We must continue to  confront and resist the forces of fascism and racism everywhere.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Earth Day 2019

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. The idea was to raise awareness about our role in protecting our natural world.
It originally started out as more of a political movement, though today it has become a popular day for many communities to clean up litter, plant trees, or simply reflect on nature.
It was in 1970, that Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and an activist John McConnell separately asked Americans to join in a grassroots demonstration. McConnell chose the spring equinox (March 21, 1970) and Nelson chose April 22.
Earth Day continues to be widely celebrated. The focus of Earth Day 2019 is protection of Earth species. The Earth Day Network, which runs Earth Day, claims that we are now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate.
Insect populations have decreased by more than 45% worldwide, 40% of the world’s bird species are in decline, and beekeepers report annual hive losses of 30% or higher.
Many species will disappear before we learn about them or the benefits they bring to our ecosystems and our planet. The loss is so great that the welfare and future of the human species are threatened. Earth Day 2019 is marked by extreme contradictions. Scientists around the world agree that climate change, caused by an increase and trapping of greenhouse gases within the earth’s atmosphere, is our reality.  Ocean temperatures and acidity, sea levels, and coastal flooding are on the rise because of temperature shifts. As a result it is the greatest existential crisis facing humanity today.
According to Guardian Columnist George Monbiot, capitalism is destroying the earth and we need a new human right to fight for future generations https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/15/capitalism-destroying-earth-human-right-climate-strike-children and only rebellion will prevent an ecological apocalypse https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/15/rebellion-prevent-ecological-apocalypse-civil-disobedience
Today’s planetary ecological crisis is due first and foremost to the increasing scale of the capitalist world economy. Capitalism is a system totally reliant on the exploitation of nature, whether that be sacrificing our clean water to frack for hydrocarbons or sacrificing our children to the production line. We must deelop new ideas of what a different future may look like outside the  constraints of both capital and fossil fuels in order to move forwards to a sustainable future for humanity, instead of one of catastrophe.
Meanwhile  inspiringly protests calling for the UK government to declare a climate emergency have entered a second week.Activists have stopped traffic in a series of demonstrations across London since Monday with actions including fixing a boat at the junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street, occupying Waterloo Bridge and disrupting the Docklands Light Railway by climbing on a train.
A total of  963 people had been arrested as of 7pm on Sunday while 40 have been charged in connection with the protests, the Met Police said.
A spokesman for the Extinction Rebellion movement said there would be no escalation of activity on Earth Day, but warned that the disruption could get "much worse" if politicians were not open to their negotiation requests. The activists are holding a "people's assembly" at Marble Arch today between 3pm and 5pm, to decide where they go next.This will be followed by a feast celebrating "life, community and collectivity". Everyone is invited, and attendees are encouraged to bring throws and flowers to decorate tables.
We should keep demanding a system change not Climate Change. There really is no Plan B, not yet at least. This world is all we have. Earth Day is a day to recognize the richness of our planet and, as its trustees, do everything we can to protect it. Happy Earth Day.

The Mekons - Deserted

The Mekons, a band that I have long loved, first emerged from the 1977 British punk scene, and progressed from socialist art students with no musical skills to the prolific, raucous progeny of Hank Williams. They have been releasing music  which  has combined politics with post-punk, folk and country music for  the last 40 years as radical innovators of both first generation punk and insurgent roots music.  For years continuing while staying true to the punk ethos. Political provocateurs. Social agitators. Punk's reigning contrarians willing outcasts, exuberant luddites the Mekons have been called all this and more. The late Lester Bangs  called them “the most revolutionary in the history of rock’n’roll” the Mekons were notorious, as critic Greil Marcus notes, for being “the band that took punk ideology most seriously.
There story began at the University of Leeds, where a politicized student body was further ignited by the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” tour of ’77. Out of that flashpoint came one great band ,Gang of Four and a group of incompetent malcontents who picked up Gang of Four’s instruments when the group wasn’t looking.
They were from the outset highly principled stating ”That anybody could do it; that we didn’t want to be stars; that there was no set group as such, anybody could get up and join in and instruments would be swapped around; that there’d be no distance between the audience and the band; that we were nobody special
They  called themselves the Mekons after a sci-fi movie villain from the popular 1950’s comic The Eagle . releasing singles on a variety of labels and their first album, The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen, was recorded using a friends bands instruments. Due to an error by the record company art department the cover featured pictures of, fellow Leeds band, Gang of Four by mistake.
The group’s first iteration was a purposefully sloppy mix of mangled power chords and ideological messages, some of them aimed at the punk revolution itself; the Mekons answered the Clash’sWhite Riot” with the reality bites of “Never Been in a Riot.” They played benefits for striking miners and fought hard against the short sharp shock of Margaret Thatcher’s domestic policies.After The Mekons Story compilation in 1982 the band called it a day, with Langford forming The Three Johns, and that seemed to be that.
However they soon returned and began pumping out album after album again on a multitude of labels and even at one time making it onto a major though the resulting album was a commercial flop and though it was loved by the fans they were soon dropped like the proverbial hot potato and cut adrift again.
The band’s discovery of folk music and honky-tonk in the early ’80s recharged them for the long run; The band's longtime members - Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh, Dick Taylor( a greying elder who’d been in the very first Rolling Stones lineup) and Kevin Lycett - had added a superb fiddle player Susie Honeyman, an accordionist Rico Bell, multi-instrumentalist Lu Edmonds formely of the Damned. and a professional drummer, Steve Goulding (from Graham Parker's band, the Rumour), whose beat steadied the band somewhat, and then  Sally Timms arrived, her voice wicked with the weight of class warfare and long nights drinking at the local.
The albums of this era — from “Fear and Whiskey” (1985) to “I [heart] Mekons” (1993) — are majestic works of roots-rock entropy, angry and exhausted, daring and funny. Their track
Robin Hood”, interspersed choruses from Percy Bysshe Shelley with attacks on Winston Churchill as villain “shooting down/the South Wales striking miners”,  and they occupied roughly the same musical space as the Oysterband. When they recorded  ''Fear and Whisky,'' the Mekons had been transformed by exposure to American music, especially honky-tonk country and Cajun music; both are connected to British and Celtic traditions from the home front.
With abundant good humor and dark irony they  released The Mekons Rock ’n’ Roll” in 1989  it was recieved very favourably  . 'Rock-and-roll'' turns up all over the album. The sprightly ''Club Mekon'' links rock to sex, but not in the standard way; for the Mekons, each is ''a commodity, to be bought and sold.'' In ''Learning to Live on Your Own,'' a ballad, Ms. Timms sings that she'll ''throw a rock-and-roll song on the fire''; in ''Amnesia,'' a jumble of images from the 1960's, band members bellow, ''any old army high on drugs/ fight that rock-and-roll war.''Not that rock-and-roll is the only target for the band's skepticism. ''Empire of the Senseless''
Over the years and after the band had learnt to play their instruments their musical style transformed and The Mekons were now famous for playing country and folk music as well as brief forays into rock and even dub reggae. With around twenty albums to their name plus untold amount of singles and EP’s as well as appearances on dozens of compilations
For more than four decades they’ve been a constant contradiction, an ongoing art project of observation, anger and compassion, all neatly summed up in the movie Revenge of the Mekons, which has ironically brought an upsurge in their popularity around the US as new audiences discovers their shambling splendour. That the band is still with us nearly four decades after its founding, the only one of British punk’s class of 1977 still standing , is remarkable in itself. More endearing is that the Mekons’ shaggy, jaded-but-jovial communal ethos still holds strong, embracing alt-folk, country-punk, pub-rock, leftist rage, boozy humor, a rotating cast of men and women, and a dedication to taking nothing seriously but the music and the moment.
Critically and cultishly adored The Mekons deserve to be much more well known as they continue to make innovative original music  while staying true to the punk ethos. After a bit of a  hiatus these beloved survivors are back with Deserted, their first full studio album in eight years. Their new album was recorded in the desert environs of Joshua Tree, California after,the group’s bassist The Baron (aka Dave Trumfio) set up a studio in  the Yucca Valley, where the Mekons  became inspired by the surroundings, leading to the writing and recording of Deserted. “There are deserts everywhere. We took time to ponder the vastness and the weirdness of the desert. Going to the country to get your head together is a ripe old rock cliché. We went to the desert to have our brains scoured… We went from one desert to another. A more hopeful place where we arm ourselves with spikes and endure" main man Jon Langford has said and their new album is  every bit as bold, raw and imaginative as the work that’s established them as one of the most revolutionary groups in punk-rock history.

They have managed to craft something very much in keeping with their surroundings.and is drenched with widescreen, barbed-wire atmosphere and hard-earned (but ever amused) defiance. Deserted is still rooted in their dual comfort zones of raucous post-punk and rollicking alt-country, folk balladry, sea shanties and whatever else strikes their creative fancy.
The formidable opening track  “Lawrence Of California”, is inspired by the guitarist Tom Greenhalgh wandering in Joshua Tree National Park, it arrives on a swell of feedback that erupts into a shout-along gang vocal that  remind us  they’ve lost none of the firebrand punk spirit on which they were originally founded.

The next song “Harar, 1883” imagines the patron saint of punk poetry, Arthur Rimbaud’s time spent in the area of Harar, where he, “…was not troubled in the least / To give up writing poetry.”
The almost pastoral  'How Many Stars' ' sees Tom Greenhalgh’s deadpan vocals unravel a magical and occasionally mystical tale, which looks to the massive desert night sky pondering the universe and the hereafter while  in the harshness of the environment. As beautiful and moving as this song is, there is still humor in a line like “For I am pickled, I am done.” Yes, it’s a folk song about death. 

In The Desert”, Sally Timms sings about a shattered statue half sunk, a “creature of Bush and Blair”, a reference to the Gulf War and sees her quoting from the closing three lines of Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.
The raucous 'Mirage’ follows and is anything but a dreamy number.It's raw and exciting.Calling out Mark E Smith’s name in  a brightl lit alley, as guitars grind away like buzz saws amid cries of “Where you hiding?“ This is as good as it’s going to get/Between the mirage and the sunset.”
The beautiful"Weimar Vending Machine ” makes a direct reference to “Alabama Song”by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (also known as “Moon Of Alabama”), a song that The Doors covered  turning into  a delightful David Bowie tribute “That starts off about Iggy Pop in Berlin,” Langford explains. “There’s a story that he went to a vending machine and saw the word ‘sand’. He put his money in and a bag of sand came out.”
Then there is  the gorgeous  rambling “Andromeda”,  with a jaunty reggae beat that  is undercut  by Langford’s echoey, distorted vocals and really lovely violin playing. It’s as left-field as The Mekons can get. The album ends with the atmospheric ‘After The Rain’. It has a dark and haunting sound, a cinematic, elegiac farewell that finds the Mekons on top of their game.

The Mekons are without a doubt still passionate, it's embedded into everything that they do. Upon the whole the album looks like a musical landscape, that is monumental but is subject to chaos.The LP sounds fresh and not out of time.  Deserted  is a joy and  marks the welcome  return of one of the planet's most essential rock and roll bands that after 40 years still have something to say. Deserted is the Mekons at their finest, and is a proud addition to their catalog. It's folk music by folks who are pissed and disillusioned, lost and longing to be found, but only on their terms. It’s a testimony to resilience, showcasing a band still as creatively vital as when they first formed, living up to their reputation ' as the only band that matters.' The Mekons still  treading their very own idiosyncratic path and because of this the musical world is a much better place for bands and albums like this.Viva the Mekons.

 CD Track List
  1. Lawrence Of California
  2. Harar 1883
  3. In The Sun/The Galaxy Explodes
  4. How Many Stars?
  5. In The Desert
  6. Mirage
  7. Weimar Vending Machine/Priest?
  8. Andromeda
  9. After The Rain

Deserted’ is released by Glitterbeat

Friday, 19 April 2019

Easter Bunny Threatens to Strike Against Cages


Across the UK, millions of farmed animals are  crammed into tiny cages with no personal space. Rabbits  for example are denied their most basic needs such as solid ground under their feet, room to move, fresh air and sunlight, and grass to eat. They are kept in cages that are barren, cramped and deny the animals space to move freely, unable to express their natural behaviours   or adopt normal postures such as lying stretched out, sitting and standing with their ears erect (species typical “look out” posture) or rearing up to explore their surroundings. They cannot move normally or comfortably, and some don’t even have enough space to perform a single hop. This is bad for their mental well-being, and the lack of exercise can also lead to weakened bones. It is cruel and completely unnecessary as well as being  unaccepteable.
As a result of all this  the Easter bunny is threatening to go on strike in protest at the Governments   lack of response  to the followng petition, that calls on the UK government to end this inhumane practice by banning all cages for farmed animals.
There's not a moment to lose so please add  your name to the following and show the Easter Bunny that humans do want to stop cruel caged farming, he's counting on your support.


Thursday, 18 April 2019

Penguin Modern Poets


Over 30 years or so wandering though charity shops and bookshops I've been drawn to editions  of the Penguin Modern Poets, picking up the odd one here and there, they've long been treasured and have been a huge influence on me. Some have been easy to find, but others have been elusive and hard to find, I didn't actively seek them out, just waited for them to appear before me but am pleased to say that this week I have finally completed the set, wonders of wonders ..
When the Penguin Modern Poets series was launched in 1962, it's goal was to introduce conpemporary poetry  to a much wider audience than had previously been the case. Prior to their release, verse was often published in large and expensive, rather off-putting volumes not readily available to less affluent readers. The Penguins, however were slim, inexpensive and therefore readily available to all; as well as being much less intimidating to look at, with beautiful colourful covers, with  Alan Spain, Roger Mayne and others creating a distinctive look for them, giving  each one it's own collectable identity.
Each anthology covers three poets, and a total of eighty one writers  containing a large proportion of the most important names in British and American poetry, starting with Lawrence Durrell, Elizabeth Jennings, R. S. Thomas and ending with John Ormond, Emyr Humphreys and John Tripp, were showcased in the series's  twenty-seven book run. Each book was numbered except for one title (the 10th one),The Mersey Sound, which received a full name. They contained no biographical material or critical apparatus  and simply encouraged readers to sample widely and deeply and to compare the merits of the poetries on display. taking in every school of poetry.The series promoted loyalty to modern poetry in general, and of course loyalty to the publisher that championed it.
The anthologies became  very popular, the tenth collection, The Mersey Sound included the works of Liverpool poets Roger McGough, Brian Patten, and Adrian Henri and went  on to become one of the best selling poetry collections of all time.
I have personal favourites , the Corso, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg and the Bukowski, Lamantia, and  Norse are particularlywell thumbed, and the Penguins have introduced me to the distictive work of  the late Lee Harwood, Kenneth Rextroth, Adrian Mitchell and B.S Johnson whose poetry since have truly appreciated .I must say however that each individual title though stand on their own merit, I love them.Ok  darn guess that makes me a materialist, I like wine too but simply adore turning a page, and I return to these Penguins time and time again.

Astonishingly all mine are still in rather  good nick, since so many of these Penguin’s had glued spines that exploded into dust,  have had to replace a few here and there, since former acquaintnces with sticky hands have lifted them, can't really say I blame them, but rather careful nowadays who I let through the door. Though I confess i'm a bit  of a hoarder, friends have been free to borrow if asked, , I'm really not that possessive, though.
They were followed by a second series of 13 new "Penguin Modern Poets" in the 1990s, and yet another series had its debut in 2016, and has now reached its seventh volume. I only have one of these, a collection that includes the poetry of one of my favourite writers Iain Sinclair. These collection are no doubt equally worthy, but they somehow lack the excitement of the original series.

Anyway all power to poetry and the poets that create them.
Here’s a list of the books and poets:

1. Lawrence Durrell, Elizabeth Jennings, R. S. Thomas

2. Kingsley Amis, Dom Moraes, Peter Porter

3. George Barker, Martin Bell, Charles Causley

4. David Holbrook, Christopher Middleton, David Wevill

5. Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg

6. George MacBeth, Edward Lucie-Smith, Jack Clemo

7. Richard Murphy, Jon Silkin, Nathaniel Tarn

8. Edwin Brock, Geoffrey Hill, Stevie Smith

9. Denise Levertov, Kenneth Rexroth, William Carlos Williams

10. Adrian Henri, Roger McGough, Brian Patten (entitled: The Mersey Sound)

11. D. M. Black, Peter Redgrove, D. M. Thomas

12. Alan Jackson, Jeff Nuttall, William Wantling

13. Charles Bukowski, Philip Lamantia, Harold Norse

14. Alan Brownjohn, Michael Hamburger, Charles Tomlinson

15. Alan Bold, Edward Brathwaite, Edwin Morgan

16. Jack Beeching, Harry Guest, Matthew Mead

17. W. S. Graham, Kathleen Raine, David Gascoyne

18. A. Alvarez, Roy Fuller, Anthony Thwaite

19. John Ashbery, Lee Harwood, Tom Raworth

20. John Heath-Stubbs, F. T. Prince, Stephen Spender

21. George Mackay Brown, Norman MacCaig, Iain Crichton Smith

22. John Fuller, Peter Levi, Adrian Mitchell

23. Geoffrey Grigson, Edwin Muir, Adrian Stokes

24. Kenward Elmslie, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler

25. Gavin Ewart, Zulfikar Ghose, B. S. Johnson

26. Dannie Abse, D.J. Enright, Michael Longley

27. John Ormond, Emyr Humphreys, John Tripp

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Palestinian Prisoners' Day, April 17 2019

On 17 April each year, Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian people, and supporters of justice and liberation for Palestine all over the world express their support to Palestinian political prisoners and mark the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners.On this day, and throughout the year, families of prisoners often hold protests and vigils holding photos of their imprisoned family members to keep their stories alive.
Commemorated since 1974, when the first Palestinian prisoner, Mahmoud Hijazi, was freed in a prisoner exchange with the Palestinian Resistance, 17 April is a day of protests, rallies, marches, forums and more to commemorate the struggle of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli occupation jails and demand their freedom.
In Palestine, political imprisonment is a central feature of Israeli Apartheid with over 20% of Palestinians facing imprisonment in their lifetime. Palestinian Prisoner Day was founded to remind the world of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners imprisoned in Israeli prisons or detention centers without charge or trial for extensive periods of time. The number of Palestinian detainess increases as Israeli occupying forces continue to wage campaigns of arbitrary arrests, while Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails continue to be subject to wide-ranging violations of their rights and dignity.Approximately 6,500 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including approximately 300 children and nearly 550 held under administrative detention, a form of detention without charge or trial that Israel uses to hold Palestinians indefinitely on secret information.
Since Israeli began its military occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip in 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been abducted and imprisoned by Israel.  This figure represents 20% of the total Palestinian population and 40% of the Palestinian male population. It also includes 10,000 women imprisoned since 1967 and more than 200 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons as a result of torture and lack of medical care.Furthermore, 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested since 2000.Each year, some 700Palstinian children  undergo military  detention in a system where ill-treatment is widespread and institutionalised. For these young detiness, few rights are guaranteed  even on paper. After release, the experience of detention continues to shape and mark former child prisoners path forward.

Palestinian prisoners held in Israel have  recently called off a hunger strike that lasted a week after some of their demands were met by Israeli authorities, official Palestinian media and prisoner representatives said.Hundreds of inmates began refusing food on April 8 after negotiations with prison authorities broke down.

A statement from the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, a  non-governmental organisation said an agreement had been reached to end the recent strike.There was no immediate reaction from the Israel Prison Service. Prisoners had a list of the demands and their strike was supported by all major Palestinian factions.Hamas, which rules Gaza, in particular has objected to new electronic jammers installed in some of the prisons, to block mobile phone reception. The Prisoners' Club said the Israeli side had agreed to stop the jammers.Official Palestinian news agency Wafa said it had been agreed that public phones would be installed in the prisons.

Despite the difficult conditions of their detention, and against incredible odds, Palestinian political prisoners actively campaign for their individual and collective rights. In the absence of adequate judicial remedies, Palestinian prisoners and detainees regularly resort to hunger strikes as legitimate peaceful protest to highlight their plight.

Fears had been raised of a repeat of an 800-person hunger strike in 2017, which drew attention to prisoners' conditions.In 2017, 1,578 prisoners participated in the hunger strike overall. That protest lasted for 40 days until the Israelis conceded to one of the main demands of the prisoners. They agreed to two family visits a month for the prisoners instead of the one.

Palestinians, living under occupation and oppression, have been targeted for mass imprisonment and detention by the Israeli occupation, and nearly every Palestinian household has been impacted by political imprisonment.Investigations have revealed that prisoners are regularly ill-treated, tortured, and denied family visits subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including poor detention conditions and denied family visits, not forgetting  the policy of administrative detention as a method of arbitrary detention, which results in the jailing of people without trial, on the basis of confidential evidence and without providing a reason and justification for the detainees and their attorneys. These  practices contravene fundamental standards of justice and represent Israel’s blatant disregard and violation of international conventions and norms anchored in international humanitarian law and international human rights conventions. in violation of Israel's obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

Under international law and conventions, including the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (the Third Geneva Convention), the Fourth Geneva Convention obliges Israel, as an occupying power, to provide allowances for Palestinian detainees, as enshrined in Articles 98 and 81 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel does not honor this obligation. Instead, Israel is punishing the Palestinian government for providing allowances to the families of Palestinian prisoners by pirating Palestinian tax revenues.

Every day, Palestinian prisoners are on the front lines of struggle, facing relentless attacks on their rights , despite their difficult circumstances, the Palestinian eople and the prisoners are still full of hope that their days of freedom will come.

All of the above are reasons why I continue to support the Palestinian  prisoners, and continue  to support the international communities efforts to ensure the immediate and effective measures to ensure that Israel releases all unlawfully detaned prisoners, and ensures that conditions of arrest are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law.

 Palestinian Prisoners’ Day is  also a time where  we must reaffirm that there is nothing normal about occupation, apartheid, and mass incarcernation, in any context,  and .to continue to stand against state and corporate complicity with Israeli imprisonment of Palestinian political prisoners.and an end of Israel's arrest campaigns, aggressiveness and occupation of the Palestnian territories.

The following  link offers the latest facts, figures, and statistics about Palestinian prisoners.


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

It's Strange

It's strange
each day the same as the last
millions dying of hunger
profiteers counting their cash,
daily people getting exploited
man made crisis and refugees denied
racism and homelessness on the rise
the grains that still fall, full of doubts and fears.

It's strange
there is no end in sight
ecosystems on the precipice of extinction
sea levels rising, the planet in peril,
the shimmering light of tomorrow dissapears
dark hands of fate, twist the knive
trouble keeps brewing, spreading strife
no matter what we do, we are betrayed.

It's strange
tears of humanity lingering long
releasing sadness, breaking hearts
remember though, this pain we must share,
but moving round in circles
can be done with little fuss
a solution surely can be retrieved
beyond us, no more anguished  memories.

It's strange
how love still tears us apart
as we weep to remember
what it once contained,
some people two faced
only interested in self and position
no radiance have these people
they are stagnant and void.

It's strange
how life can weigh heavy
are we not all at times afflicted
let us share the wealth of our affliction,
salvage some hope, tear down the chains
messages of human kindness, instead of greed
in this odd little world, we can search for a new reality
let's  all try and continue until the day we die.

Above poem can now also be found here 18/4/19


Monday, 15 April 2019

Hillsborough: Liverpool Marks 30 Years Since Disaster That Killed 96 Fans

April 15 will always remain one of the most sombre days in English football. On this day in 1989, 96 Liverpool went to a game of football and tragically never came back. The terrrible events of that day at Hillsborough remain as heartbreaking now as they were 30 years ago. 
Liverpool will fall silent today for a minute today, traffic will stop in the Mersey tunnels, ferries will sound their horns and the town hall bells will toll 96 times,  to mark the anniversary of the disaster at 3.06 today the time the FA Cup semi-final  with Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough, was halted, that touched so many lives and changed the face of English football forever. .
Images of the victims printed on banners, along with the words Never Forgotten, have been put on display at the front of St George's Hall in the city. From Monday morning, 96 lanterns with lit candles will also be displayed on the steps of the hall, where members of the public will be able to pay their respects and leave tributes.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, who will lay a wreath on behalf of the people of the city, said: "The 96 have never been forgotten and even though this city is divided by our footballing allegiances, we have been united in supporting the families and Hillsborough survivors for the past 30 years, and will continue to do so.
"St George's Hall is our city's gathering place, whether to celebrate or commemorate, and I can think of no better venue to host a temporary memorial."The banners adorned with the images of the 96 will be especially powerful, and the lanterns will serve as a reminder that this city will never forget them."
A memorial service is due to be held at Liverpool Cathedral at 2.45pm. The Kop at Anfield will be open between 1pm and 4pm for anyone who would like to sit for a period of reflection.
Liverpool FC paid tribute to the 96 during their 2-0 victory against Chelsea on Sunday, holding banners and flying flags in commemoration. Other clubs and players, including former Liverpool forward Michael Owen, also paid tribute to those who died on social media.
Plans for a public commemoration event on the steps of St George's Hall were cancelled after a jury failed to reach a verdict in the trial of match commander David Duckenfield, who is charged with the gross negligence manslaughter. The Crown Prosecution Service has said it will seek a retrial, which Duckenfield is expected to oppose, at a hearing scheduled for 24 June.
The jury reached a a majority verdict to convict Graham Mackrell, Sheffield Wednesday’s then secretary and safety officer, of failing to take reasonable care of Liverpool supporters’ safety, by allocating only seven turnstiles for 10,100 people with tickets to stand on the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough.
The offence, under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, is punishable by a fine. Mackrell, who sought in his defence to blame  Liverpool supporters for the dangerous congestion that developed at the turnstiles, will be sentenced on 13 May.
Of the 96 people who died, 37 were teenagers, most still at school, many attending their first ever away football match supporting Liverpool. Seven of the dead were girls and women, including one mother, Inger Shah, whose children Becky and Daniel were teenagers at the time. Twenty-five were fathers; altogether, 58 people lost a parent in the disaster.
Former ​Chelsea star Pat Nevin was quick to remind, more than 96 lives were irreparably damaged on that day. Many survivors still struggle to come to terms with the mental and physical wounds of the incident. It's so horrible  to think of going to a match and not returning, never mind it being covered up and being blamed for the tragedy as well. From the onset survivors of Hillsborough  spoke of how they were intimidated and threatened by  police and left feeling traumatised, accused of wasting police time because they did not like their evidence, because it did not fit into their versions of the event. 
The Police, the Conservative Government of the time, the Stadium management and the press,  all  colluded to keep us from what actually happened at the tragedy that was Hillsborough, they were lied about, especially  by the police, the scum newspaper, the dead were vilified and labelled,  and demonised. Thatcher's Conservative Government created a culture of impunity, who needed a partisan police force, because they wanted to protect their own self interests Remember too, that 164 police officers lied, 14 of whom were awarded millions of pounds of compensation between them, the Hillsborough familres have not recieved a penny. Also since this terrible occasion some Police Officers were even  promoted to senior positions.
The propaganda pumped out in the first two years after the disaster coloured public opinion. The Scum newspapers ‘The Truth’ headline, falsely pointing the finger at Liverpool fans, set the tone. The coroner’s dismissive verdict was an official endorsement of the lies. The dead, their fellow supporters who tried to save them and the bereaved were dehumanised, demonised and dismissed with the complicity of the state, .the Police, the Conservative Government of the time, the Stadium management and the press,  all  of whom colluded to keep us from what actually happened at the tragedy that was Hillsborough.

 Kevin McKenzie editor of the Scum at the time , sanctimonious git supremeo, sanctioned the making up of 'quotes'  he then  repeated the same lies time and time and again, a pathetic , wretched individual who only made  half apologies in order to further his own self interests. Shame , shame, shame.  
Because of this, The S*n, as it is referred to in Liverpool, became an instant target. 30 years on and the paper remains unwelcome in the city, the effect of which has led to big supermarkets and small newsagents all over no longer stocking it. Remembrance is thus not only conducted as a vigil for the lives lost, nor the want for it to be rubber stamped in the history books. It is an inherently political act and one which seeks to build solidarity with campaigns fought on similar lines elsewhere.
 Margaret Aspinall, the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose son James, 18, was one of the 96 people killed, said the 30th anniversary would be overshadowed by the ongoing legal proceedings. She said: “We lost our loved ones at a football match, then for 30 years we’ve lived in the past. It has taken a huge toll on all the families. There are children born since, even grandchildren, and all they have ever known is Hillsborough.”
Is crucial that there is accountability and transparency in public life. At a time when members of the Government flippantly spread misinformation and lies because it suits their political viewpoint, the search for the truth is more important than ever. 30 years on it is only natural for people to pursue justice. On this raw emotional day the memory of the 96 will not be forgotten. My thoughts remain with the survivors and those affected by the tragedy as the city of Liverpool comes together to mark this sad occasion.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907 - April 14, 1964) - The Sea around us

Rachel Carson died on this day in 1964, having revolutionised science and culture.
She was born on May 27, 1907, the youngest of three children. Raised in a rustic farmhouse just outside the Allegheny River town of Springdale, Penn, USA, she had ample opportunity to experience the natural world. She credited her mother with instilling in her the lasting love of nature that flows through her writing like a rising tide.
She read biology at Pennsylvania College for Women and carried out graduate work at The John Hopkins University.. She then taught at the University of Maryland and at John Hopkins. She was a marine biologist and subsequent editor-in-chief of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and a pioneer of the conservation movement in the 1960s. She wrote the classic template for the ecological movement with " The Silent Spring " in it  she delivered a bracing and alarming story of how pesticides and other toxic chemicals were poisoning the Earth. Carson's terrifying yet inspirational message instantly became a call-to-action for anyone who picked it up. Silent Spring, which drew its name from the prospect of a poisoned world in which no birds sing  opened up a  ferocious debate and found herself the target of vicious attacks. But she stood her ground. "Man's attitude toward nature," she said, "is today critically important simply because we have acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is credited with waking the world up to the threat we humans pose to our environment, and  ignited an environment movement that continues to spark change today.
The book captured the attention of President John F. Kennedy and was pivotal in the banning of the commonly used pesticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane) in 1972. It led to a grassroots movement questioning the safety of pesticide use and public calls for greater governmental control of the industry. Even now, both the book and the author herself remain icons of how a single individual can change the course of a nation’s history.
Carson’s legacy still looms large. As for whether her concerns were “hysterical and alarmist” as her detractors have consistently claimed, or a sobering warning about the impact of human ingenuity, there can be little question that the past 50 years or so  have vindicated her. She taught us that no  matter how desperate things seem, it’s not too late.
While "Silent Spring" is Carson's most famous book, she published several other books, in 1929 as a 22-year-old summer researcher with the Marine Biological Laboratory. She also worked for the Bureau of Fisheries, and conducted research at its station in Woods Hole. In 1949, Carson became the first woman to go to sea on its research vessel, the Albatross III. Her trilogy of books, “Under the Sea Wind,(1941)” “The Sea Around Us,(1951)" and “The Edge of the Sea (1955)” were all influenced by her first summer in Woods Hole and her many years working at the Bureau of Fisheries. Carson gained knowledge about the ocean and environment during her years spent there. The Sea Around Us has been  described as one of the most successful books written about the natural world, it is a poetic narrative about the life history of the oceans.
 Carson’s legacy still looms large. As for whether her concerns were “hysterical and alarmist” as her detractors have consistently claimed, or a sobering warning about the impact of human ingenuity, there can be little question that the past 50 years or so  have vindicated her. She taught us that no  matter how desperate things seem, it’s not too late.

I conclude with a brief extract from The Sea around us.

'FOR the sea as a whole,the alternation of day and night, the passage of the seasons, the procession of the years, are lost in its vastness, obliterated in its own changeless eternity. But the surface waters are different. The face of the sea is always changing. Crossed by colors, lights, and moving shadows, sparkling in the sun, mysterious in the twilight, its aspects and its moods vary hour by hour. The surface waters move with the tides, stir to the breath of winds, and rise and fall to the endless, hurrying forms of the waves. Most of all, they change with the advance of the seasons. Spring moves overthe temperate lands of our Northern Hemisphere in a tide of new life, of pushing green shoots and unfolding buds, all its mysteries and meanings symbolised in the northward migration of the birds, the awakening of sluggish amphibian life as the chorus of frogs rises again from the wetlands, the different sound of the wind which stirs the young leaves where a month ago it rattled the bare branches. These things we associate with the land, and it is easy to suppose that at sea there could be no such feeling of advancing spring. But the signs are there, and seen with understanding eye, they bring the same magical sense of awakening.'

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Let's not forget Tryweryn / Cofiwch Dryweryn

Dyfed-Powys Police have said they are  investigating criminal damage to the Cofiwch Dryweryn memorial  which has stood as a political symbol on the A487 just outside the village of Llanrhytsted , on the way to Aberystwyth commemorating the drowning of a village near Bala.
Stones from the upper half of the wall appear to have been knocked from the structure, destroying the top half of the message. Officers are aware that the memorial has been repeatedly damaged with graffiti over the last few months and that this is causing significant distress both locally and nationally. The wall has also been targeted numerous times in the past, including in 2008 when the words were altered to "Anghofiwch Dryweryn" (Forget Tryweryn).
Officers are currently at the scene gathering evidence. Inspector Chris Fraser is leading the response and has said: “I understand the strength of feeling about the Cofiwch Dryweryn memorial, and that repeated damage to it has caused significant upset in the community.
I want to give reassurance that we are taking this matter seriously, and will carry out a full investigation in to this mindless damage.
I’d also like to appeal for anyone with information about the criminal damage to come forward and speak to us by calling 101.”
If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference 55 of April 13.
Assembly Member for Ceredigion, Elin Jones, tweeted that the vandalism was "a disgraceful affront to our history," and asked "what is the solution" to protect the wall.
Delyth Jewell AM added " Shameful. There is something distinctly barbaric about the fct that vandls smashed through the word Remember, A nation is made up of its memories, good and bad. Any attempt to erase that is an attack on far more than just a wall of stones."
There have been calls for a permanent Tryweryn monument as well as calls on the Welsh Government to take steps to safeguard the Tryweryn mural.
Cofiwch Dryweryn has been painted on the wall since the early 1960s in a reference to the Welsh village near Bala that was flooded to provide water for Liverpool.
The ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ slogan was originally painted by the academic Meic Stephens, who died last year at the age of 79, and Rodric Evans.

Actor Rhys ap Hywel is also known to have re-painted the wall as a schoolboy.
This  year on the  21st October marks the 54th anniversary of the opening of the controversial resevoir in the Tryweryn valley to supply drinking water to the residents of the city of Liverpool, it will be marking a day of grave injustice.
The battle began in 1955 when the City of Liverpool were seeking a new water supply. In the summer of that year Liverpool'sWater Committe announced its intention to drown the valley of Dolaneg, where the shrine of Ann Griffiths, the Welsh saint and hymn writer, stands. This of course, provoked uproar.
Magnaminously Liverpool bowed to Welsh demands and said they would flood the Tryweryn valley instead. This proved to be a carefully planned scheme to hoodwink the Welsh into thinking they were dictating where a resevoir could be built.
In 1956, a private members bill was put before parliament seeking permission. The bill was bought forth by Liverpool City Council, which  allowed them to by-pass the usual criteria for planning permission to the relevant  landowners in the area. It would involve disrupting railway lines and road links, and at the heart of it, the flooding of the village of Capel Celyn. This  was one of the last bastions of Welsh speaking settlements, which had its own school, the site of Wales first Sunday school, post office, a chapel, cemetery  and a number of farms and homesteads, it was  a community in every sense of the word.
Feelings were naturally instantly aroused to fever pitch as the notion of the English drowning out the Welsh, made the symbolism of the creation of the resevoir even more potent. But to members of Liverpool council, the farms that they were drowning were no more than convenient stretches of land along a remote valley floor that could be put to a more convenient and productive use to supply its own citizens with water, but to many was just an arrogant misuse of power, a flooding used primarily as a way of boosting profits.

                                  Capel Celyn 

 It would be fiercely opposed, such was the passion aroused, on November 21, 1956, the people who had supposedly given Liverpool permission - in fact the entire community of Capel Celyn including their children, marched with banners  through the streets of Liverpool  protesting against the plan. It would  also see a number of individuals being compelled to take direct action against the plan, between 1962 and 1963 there were attempts to sabotage the building of the resevoir,  in acts of desperation, since previous passive demonstrations had failed. On Saturday September 22nd 1962, two men were arrested attempting to destroy the site, and then on February 10th 1963 an explosion took place at the site. It  remains to this day, the greatest symbol of the struggle of the Welsh language, a way of life destroyed on the whims of a Conservative Government without consultation by Welsh authorities, its people, or  the support from Welsh M.Ps, who were to wage an 8 year battle against it. Opposition to the scheme received the backing of the vast majority of the Welsh people, with the backing of trade unionists, and cultural and religious groups.
Control over its own water became and has remained an inflammatory issue here in Wales. The political parties were to be united in their opposition to the scheme because it was considered such an affront  to the people of Wales, because such valuable resources were being stolen away from the country. The agricultural value of the land  was rich compared to some land  that could have been considered. A feeling of great sadness because a community was being shattered and families who had lived in the area for generations were being forced to lose their homes.

When  on Thursday, October 21st, 1965, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool  came to open Tryweryn dam ( built at a cost of £20 million) where every house and tree had dissapeared, to be met by a vast crowd of protesters,  in 19 October 2005 Liverpool City Council finally issued an apology, but many thought it was just a worthless political gesture that had arrived far too late.
The tragic lessons of Tryweryn and it's reverberations are still felt to this day. The place names like bells still ring out- Hafod Fadog, Y Ganedd Lyd, Cae Fado, Y Gelli, Pen Y Bryn Mawr, Gwerndelw, Tyncerrig, Maesydail. These bells now ring underwater and are heard by no one. An evocative image, forever stitched in time, which remembers the bells of Cantre'r Gwaelod and the loss associated with inundation. It would also feed the flames of a resurgent nationalism, re-igniting the imagination, peoples identity and defence of the language? Y iath, and would pave the way for devolution, and the strengthening and protection of the Welsh Language alongside the growth of Cymdeithas Y Iaith /The Welsh Language Society. 

There is now a memorial on the side  of the lake and a memorial garden and the grave stones  from Capel Cemetry have been moved here.
At the end of the day it was not just a stretch of land that was flooded against the people of Wales's will, but a whole community of people, a culture and a language because of colonial arrogance and misuse of power. Tryweryn remains as a byword for shame and a grave injustice. Years later it would inspire the Manic Street Preachers to ask " Where are we going"?" in their song " Ready for Drowning, " and the following much anthologised poem by R.S Thomas.
A tragic story that we must continue to share. Reminding us of our history and our land, and how it has been exploited to serve the interests of others.

R.S Thomas -  Resevoirs

There are places in Wales I don't go:
Resevoirs  that are the subconscious
Of a people, troubled far dwon
with gravestones, chapels, villages even:
The serenity of their expression
Revolts me,  it is a pose
for strangers, a watercolour's appeal
To the mass, instead  of the poem's
Harsher conditions. There are the hills
Too; gardens under the scum
Of the forests, and the smashed faces
Of the farms with the stone trickle
Of their tears down the hills' side.

Where can I go,  then, from  the smell
Of decay, from the putrefying of a dead
Nation? I have walked the shore
For an hour and seen the English
Scavenging among the remains
Of our culture, covering the sand
Like the tide and, with the roughness
Of the tide, elbowing our language
Into the grave that we have dug for it.

Campaigners are currently fundraising to rebuild the Cofiwch Dryweryn mural. A GoFundMe page was set up by Elfed Wyn Jones, one of those who had repainted the mural erlier this year with members of Aberystwyth's Cymdeithas y Iaith after it was defaced with the word "Elvis" It had raised almost £2000 in a few hours.
Following yesterday’s vandalism Elfed Wyn Jones said “I’ve had enough of the Welsh Government being supine and unwilling to protect this mural. They jumped at the chance to save that Banksy in Port Talbot."
This Mural is an important landmark in Welsh history which symbolized the hurt and pain that the drowning of the village of Tryweryn caused in the 1960s,” the fundraising page says.
After the mural was desecrated numerous times in the last few years, we want to make sure it’s secure and protected for future generations. “Please donate to our cause!”
The message of 'Cofiwch Dryweryn' is such an important one to Welsh people, and it should never be forgotten, a poignant  symbol of when overwhelming voices were ignored by Westminster.

Huw Jones - Dwr ( inspired by Tryweryn)

Cofiwch Dryweryn/Remember Tryweryn