Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cush Jumbo - Lewisham's finest

Sad to see the final ever episode of The Good Wife, one of the best programmes on TV in recent years. The last series was enlivened by the character of up and coming lawyer Lucca Quinn, played by Cush Jumbo.  Took me a while to realize that the actress hails not from Chicago, but from Lewisham! Her performing career started off with tap dancing lessons in the 'sham, and she went to Cator Park school then  Brits.

Cush will be starring in a Good Wife spin off series, centred on her character and Diane Lockhart, played by Christine Barinski. So you might not spot her in Lewisham McDeez for a whle.

Cush Jumbo reading to kids at Deptford Park Primary School in 2014


Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Mighty Scheme - Graham Fagen

A couple of weeks ago (12 June) I went to a live performance by Ghetto Priest and Adrian Sherwood at Dilston Grove in Southwark Park.  The event was part of the 'The Mighty Scheme' exhibition by the Scottish artist Graham Fagen, taking place at Dilston Grove and at the nearby CGP gallery in the park.

I went back today to check out the exhibition in full. Its centrepiece is a four screen film and video installation 'The Slave's Lament', featuring Ghetto Priest singing Robert Burns' anti-slavery song of that name accompanied by strings. In the dark, cool space of the ex-church it is beautiful and mesmerising. 

The only other object in the church is a haunting rope tree, with its echoes of lynchings. Fagen is interested in the relationship between Caribbean history and Scottish identity. Burns, central to the latter, not only wrote about slavery but planned at one point to move to Jamaica. Ironically if he had succeeded it would probably have been to work on a slave plantation. He couldn't afford to make the trip, and then found success as a poet which made his escape from a precarious financial position in Scotland unnecessary.

Outside is one of Fagen's neon works 'Come into the Garden and forget about the war', while there is a series of connected work in the CGP gallery just across the grass. 

Tomorrow - Sunday 26th June - is your last chance to see this exhibition - both galleries are open from 11 am to 5 pm, admission free.

Natural Anarchy - Graham Fagen

Monday, June 20, 2016

Brexit, lexit and Lewisham: why I am voting 'Remain'

Political divisions arising from the EU referendum are shaking all political parties, and a little earthquake has rumbled the Lewisham left with a split in 'Lewisham People Before Profit'.  The group seems to have originally adopted a position of not taking a position on the referendum, but then 'People Before Profit decided at a special meeting on Wednesday 25th May to abandon it's previous "no policy" stance on the EU in favour of actively supporting the Leave campaign' (LPBP website). Among those who resigned as a result was Nicholas Long, the party's parliamentary candidate for Lewisham East in the last General Election. He is a supporter of 'Another Europe is Possible' which argues for a Remain vote on a left wing basis.

The row also seems to have precipitated the departure of another prominent member, the controversial Ray Woolford, who announced on twitter that he had resigned because of the way 'the EU vote was called and key activists forced out!'. Not sure if they've made up since, but Woolford is actually a keen advocate of the Leave campaign.

The precise details of this aren't really relevant, but this is a small local episode in the wider tragi-comedy of the 'Lexit' campaign - those on the left who are arguing for a vote to leave the European Union. By no means all the left beyond the Labour Party is supporting this position - the remains of the SWP following its 2013 rape allegation crisis and splits are pro-Brexit, while some of its more thoughtful ex-members take the opposite view (see for instance respected activist Jonathan Neale's passionate call).

Not sure I believe that the sky will fall in whatever the referendum result next week, the rich will still be getting richer, the poor will still be poor, there will still be housing shortages and refugees will still be dying in the Mediterranean. I can see why some people think it's not worth voting at all. I certainly don't think the EU is some paradise of peace, harmony and human rights, it is quite right to criticise, among other things, its approach to the thousands of deaths of migrants trying to reach its shores. It has played a highly dubious role in the imposition of austerity in Greece, even if technically this relates to the country's membership of the Eurozone common currency rather than the EU as such.

However, I can't see how any of this will change by leaving the EU. In the UK it is precisely the political forces who are most anti-refugee and pro-privatisation who are leading the Brexit campaign and likely to benefit from a Leave majority. In any event, the current state of global capitalism is not the result of a conspiracy by institutions like the EU - a go it alone UK would still be tied into all the other international relations of the market and its crises, like every other country in the world. The notion that a vote against the EU represents some kind of vote against 'neo-liberalism' seems to be a delusion, and as the referendum approaches its real political content has increasingly become about immigration, immigration and immigration.

There is one group of people who are going to be immediately affected in a negative way by a Brexit vote and that is people from other EU countries who have made their lives in this country, doing all the usual things like working, falling in love, sending their kids to the local school. I can think of many neighbours, friends, work colleagues etc. who this applies to, not to mention lots of people working in essential services (like this Dutch GP in Lewisham). I am sure they would not all be kicked out the day after a referendum, but they will be living with insecurity and ultimately if the same rules were applied to them as to people from other parts of the world (based on an income of £35,000+), around 80% of them would not qualify (see 'What Happens to EU Citizens Living in the UK If We Leave?' by Joseph Finlay). While some have hailed anti-EU sentiment as some kind of working class rebellion, the actual working class includes a high proportion of migrants, not to mention the descendants of previous generations who were born outside of the UK.

This applies more so in London than anywhere else in the country, and out of basic solidarity with my neighbours I have decided to vote to remain. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Limonious Night in New Cross with Paul Gilroy, Dr Lez Henry, Charlie Dark and more

Following the recent exhibition at the South London Gallery of work by Jamaican reggae/dancehall record sleeve artist Limonious (featured at Transpontine recently), there's a very interesting sounding event tomorrow night in New Cross with some great speakers and music:

'One Love Books in conjunction with Sound System Outernational (Goldsmiths) and The Wire invite you to SHOULDER MOVE, an evening of talks and music in memory of Jamaican artist Wilfred Limonious

Saturday 11 June 2016, 6pm–3am @ The Amersham Arms, 388 New Cross Road, London SE14 6TY,, 6–8pm, guest speakers

- William 'Lesley Lyrix' Henry (Introduction)
- Christopher Bateman and Al 'Fingers' Newman ('In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art Of Wilfred Limonious' presentation and book preview)
- Paul Gilroy ('Labels, Album Covers and the Black Public Sphere')

8–10pm, break for England vs Russia (Euro 16)

10–3am, Sound system session with Virgo High Power Discotheque

Selectors Al Fingers and Charlie Dark playing LPs and 45s designed and illustrated by Limonious

Saturday, June 04, 2016

NHS 'Bursary or Bust' Protest

Student nurses, midwives and associated health professionals marched in London today against Government plans to scrap bursaries for NHS students and replace them with loans. Protestors sat down and blocked Waterloo Bridge during the demonstration

Outside St Thomas Hospital
(photo from @LondonNurse2015)

Sit down on Waterloo Bridge (photo @NHAparty)

Waterloo Bridge (@LondonNurse2015)

Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich National Health Action Party banner
(photo from @cambsmeridian)
Speakers include Vivienne Westwood:

photo from :@TheUniPaper

Unison says that 'the net result will be

- Student nurses, midwives and other vital NHS staff graduating with nearly £50,000 worth of debt.
- Fewer potential health workers entering training due to the burden of debt (especially when the starting salary for many of them is relatively low).
- That in turn will lead to universities being worse off (as fewer students take their nursing courses) and potentially even the end of some nursing courses altogether.
- And rather than this cut saving money (as the government claims), few health workers will repay the entirety of their student debt over the course of their working lives – and the burden of additional agency staff (and overseas recruitment costs), thanks to a continued and worsening nursing shortage, means this ham-fisted attempt to save money will end up costing the taxpayer more money'.

Dizzee the ginger tom comes to Brockley

As part of the burst of new street art associated with this month's Brockley Max festival, Kirstin Wood (@kirstinpainter) has painted Dizzee the ginger tom on the hoarding in Crofton Park - corner of Brockley Road and Sevenoaks Road SE4. Dizzee has apparently appeared before in the Surrey area where Kirstin lives.