Sunday, February 24, 2013

Idle No More: Round Dance Revolution

The Idle No More movement for indigenous rights started out in Canada last year, and has been marked by protests across the country and similar actions elsewhere, including in the United States. One of the tactics used has been the staging of flashmob round dances in shopping malls and other public spaces.

Last week the movement reached Salt Lake City in Utah, with 75 people staging a dance in the Capitol rotunda in protest against official approval for tar-sands minining in the state (pictued below).

Source: City Weekly, 21 February 2013
One of the biggest actions took place on January 13 2013 at West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America. According to Indian Country, 'a good 3,000 people showed up for an Idle No More flash mob at the West Edmonton Mall, staging a full-scale Grand Entry, the ceremonial procession that opens pow wow gatherings. Led by an eagle staff, equivalent to a national flag for many First Nations, the giant procession included rows of dancers three people wide, many in full traditional regalia and clothes, wrapped all the way around the mall's ice skating rink. These were followed by hoop dancers and accompanied by pow wow drumming'. In another action in December 2012 people drummed and danced in the Southgate Mall in Missoula, Montana. Supporters have talked of the movement as a Round Dance Revoltion.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A shrine to a pirate

On Redcross Way SE1 (near to London Bridge station), the site of a paupers' graveyard was discovered during construction of the Jubilee line on the London underground in the 1990s. Crossbones has become a remarkable unofficial shrine where people gather on the 23rd of every month to remember the outcast dead buried there, and also their more recently departed loved ones.

Going past last week I noticed a notice in memory of Jason Fisher (1979-2011), aka Angryness and Brimstone - evidently a pirate radio stalwart from South London and Kent. The notice also says 'Pirate Radio is Good for Your Mind'.

'Brimstone' was particularly associated with Essence FM, broadcasting in Kent from the early noughties (FM 105.1 - 105.0, 2000-2007). According to farstep in a discussion at Radionecks, Essence 'used to broadcast from Thanet (usually from tower block flats in Margate or Ramsgate) used to be a great little station playing UKG, DnB, Happy Hardcore, House etc. ... anyway was nice to hear it when it was about and to date its been the only one that was audible in Thanet/Kent which is a bit sad to say the least as we need something on round here. There was briefly Sweet FM which went on for one night from a farm in Ramsgate but sounds to me they got dobbed up and never returned. Friend of mine did a set on Rival FM but I dont think that lasted long either so Essence was really the only driving force around these parts'

This prompted an interesting reply:  'Hi everyone, I'm "Brimstone's" dad. First of all I like to say how much I and family and friends miss him. I believe he started Essence FM in around 2000 with Frantic and Mr Woo was also involved and this went on till about 2005. He built rigs at one time then did repairs then designed and built link boxes and audio limiters of high quality. He left radio behind and then he was into computers and built his own website. He was quite well known in the pirate world around London, Essex and Kent. He did pirate radio proud. He was a genius...  I am writing a book on his life and collecting any info about his radio days if anyone feels they have a story please let me know'.

Radiocommunications Agency press release (31 January 2003) descirbes Fisher's arrest at the top of an aerial:
'Two pirate operators were convicted at Camberwell Magistrates Court on 27th January 2003 for offences under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. Jason Fisher of Priestwood House, Drummond Road, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 and Michael Pruce of Philip Walk, Peckham, London, SE15, both 23, were each given 18 months conditional discharges and ordered to pay £150 costs after being found guilty of participating in the running of a pirate radio station calling itself Essence FM.

28 September last, the two defendants were caught at the top of a 180ft-cell phone aerial with tools and radio transmitting apparatus. When questioned they stated they were enjoying the aerial views. However, they subsequently admitted the offences when interviewed. The court ordered the seized equipment be forfeited'.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Global dance protest says no to violence against women

On Valentine's Day last week, there were flashmob dances and similar actions in at least 190 countries as part of One Billion Rising, a call to 'strike, dance, rise' and 'SAY NO to violence against women and girls':

'One in three woman on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.... One billion women violated is an atrocity. ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION.

On V-Day's 15th Anniversary, Feb-14-2013, we are inviting one billion women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the worlds to see our collective strengths, our numbers, our solidarity across borders. Join V-Day and ONE BILLION RISING today and SAY NO to violence against women and girls'.

One Billion Rising in DR Congo

Dancing in the rain in Miami

Dancing in New Delhi

Jill Filipovic in The Guardian:

'It's our bodies that are violated. It's our bodies that are politicized and subjected to laws about what we can or can't cover or how we can or can't reproduce or what our families should look like.It's our bodies that are blamed for the harm that comes to us, when we're told that we were hurt because we're too tempting, too sexual, too ugly, too loud, too easy, too feminine, too manly, too vulnerable. It's our bodies that too often feel like the enemy, when our own self-worth is worn down by cultural myths that we're too fat, too dark, too poor, too awkward, too shy, too sexy, too female, too masculine, too strong, too weak, too big, too little.

And so it's with our bodies that we should act. When our bodies have been politicized, targeted and defined for us, there's power in the simple enjoyment of that body. When women are supposed to be small and inoffensive, taking up public space is a radical act. It's unladylike. Dance, OBR reminds us, is both free and freeing. Will dance save the world? Of course not. And it certainly won't end violence against women. But any worldwide movement that focuses on the appalling levels of violence that women face and crafts a national day of action to push back against that violence is fine with me'.

And the biggest news story on that day? Another woman killed by her boyfriend. In Pretoria, 'No Killing of Women and Children' featured on another protest a few days later - outside the court where Oscar Pistorious was accused of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.

Monday, February 11, 2013

HMV 1932: Radio-Gramophone Demonstration

The latest news on threatened record shop chain HMV is that administrators Deloitte have announced that 66 of the 220 shops will close when stocks run out - with no clear rescue plan for the remaining shops.

Here's a document from an earlier period in the company's history. The first His Master's Voice shop opened in London's Oxford Street in 1921, but seemingly in the early 1930s many people still needed persuading that recorded music was worth buying. The 'Programme of His Masters Voice Record and Radio-Gramophone Demonstration' is from a November 1932 event at the YWCA in London.

Seemingly the programme consisted of playing records by among others Gracie Fields, Yehudi Menuhin and the Masses Bands of the National Band Festival at Crystal Palace (as it happens I came across this programme in Haynes Lane market in Crystal Palace last week).

'Recorded music gives entertainment which is obtainable by no other means, for the programme can be made entirely to one's own taste and mood'.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Join the EDL and BNP

No I don't mean the racist idiots of the English Defence League and the British National Party... they are yesterday's news. I refer of course to the anti-racists of the English Disco Lovers and the Bass National Party.

This EDL launched on facebook last September, with the following statement:

'The English Disco Lovers is a counter movement to the English Defence League. We aim to promote equality, respect and disco. We intend to be more popular that the English Defence League. This involves replacing them as the top result when "EDL" is searched on Google, as well as having more like than them on Facebook.

Earn Baby Earn, the respect of others by respecting them, Earn Baby Earn, Disco Inferno.

It's fun to practice the e-qua-li-ty, it's fun to practice e-qua-li-ty (to the tune of YMCA by the Village People).

But if you're thinking' about my baby, it don't matter if you're black or white.

People all over the World (everybody), join hands (join), start a love train, love train.

Who the funk is James Brown? He's a Soul Man.

Hate Racism, Love Disco'

They have already generated lots of international press coverage (including this Guardian article) and overtaken one of the main  EDL pages on facebook. Now up to nearly 25,000 facebook followers, people are talking about taking it out into the material world with t-shirts and club nights.

Now, inevitably, the Bass National Party has been launched on a similar 'Bass trascends race' basis:

Monday, February 04, 2013

Bowie in Dunstable 1972

The Civic Hall in Dunstable, later renamed the Queensway, was built in 1966 and demolished to make way for an Asda supermarket in 2000. Growing up in neighbouring Luton, which despite its size had no decent sized music venue, the Queensway was the nearest place where bands of any national repute came to play. Sadly I was just a little too young to catch iconic gigs by The Sex Pistols and the Jam (October 1976 - only 80 people were there on the Anarchy in the UK tour), The Clash (May 1977 and January 1978) and Blondie (March 1978), and when shortly after a school friend's biker older brother took us to a couple of gigs there it was to see ex-Deep Purple heavy metal acts Ian Gillan Band and Whitesnake. In my school days we had to travel further afield for the good stuff, coach trips from Luton Bus Station to Aylesbury Friars to see Echo and the Bunnymen  (with Blue Orchids, Apri 1981) or the Undertones (May 1981), or to St Albans City Hall to see Hawkwind and Motorhead (the acceptable end of the metalist spectrum).

Still looking at photos of the building now it has the retro-futurist appeal of a lost space age classic and the appropriate place for gigs by Pink Floyd (February 1967 and November 1969) and most famously of all David Bowie.

The Civic Centre/Queensway Hall, Dunstable

Bowie in Dunstable
On the June 21 1972 Summer Solstice, David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars (supported by no less than the Flamin' Groovies) played a 'Midsummer Night's Dream' in Dunstable. Somebody filmed it, and the footage is now a Youtube favourite for Bowie fans - the original silent images having been cleverly synched with sound from another gig on the same tour. Songs featured include Ziggy Stardust, Moonage Daydream, Suffragette City, Andy Warhol, Song for Bob Dylan, Star Man, Waiting for the Man, Queen Bitch, Space Oddity, Hang onto Yourself, and Jacques Brel's Amsterdam.

Bowie's album 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders and Mars' had been released just two weeks earlier, on 6 June 1972. The album and tour gave rise to full scale Bowie-mania, with an army of fans going on to imitate his Ziggy style. What's great about this Dunstable footage is that it shows a cross section of the audience experiencing this moment directly, plainly enraptured in many cases, but not yet having becoming 'Bowie kids'.

So Dunstable shoppers, next time you're in Asda pause to remember that this also has been one of the wonderful places of the earth.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Fire at Freedom

Sad to hear that Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel High Street was damaged last night in an apparent arson attack. The anarchist centre in Angel Alley has been a fixture of radical London life for decades - Freedom Press dates back to the 1880s, and I believe the current centre to the late 1930s. The place has been reinvigorated in the past few years as a base for various groups such as the Advisory Service for Squatters, and the scene of various social and cultural events under the banner of the Autonomy Club.

Last time I was there was back in September 2012 for an event during their William Blake: Visionary Anarchist exhibition, featuring shamanic poetry from John Constable and music (photos below).

It seems that most of the damage last night was to the ground floor bookshop space, though I can see a stack of Kropotkin's Mutual Aid undamaged there on the right. Some things are indestrucible!

Back in 1993 there was an arson attack on Freedom, the culmination of a campaign of fascist intimidation linked to wannabe paramilitaries Combat 18. Suspicion is that similar motivations were behind last night's incident.

People are invited to come down and help clear up tomorrow (Saturday) from 1 pm, and donations are also welcomed - details here.