Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Summer Days, Drifting Away…

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

One of the best things about being home here in the UK has been dropping straight in to festival season, I really couldn’t have timed it better. So, as the weather turns and we head into spooky autumnal October, I thought I’d reflect on my best bits of summer.

My Top 3 of 2016:

Bluedot 22nd June-24th June, Jodrell Bank

Wow! Right, ummm. Bluedot was all about the science. SCIENCE! Being up at the site of the Lovell Telescope was mindblowing. The festival was basically perfect for me, with exactly the right balance of science, music and comedy. Plus a whole bunch of stands where actual IRL physicists were answering questions, at whom I just shouted SCIENCE through sheer exhilaration at being in their presence.

There was a beautiful, pop-up planetarium, fashioned out of wood triangles and tent, which was an exact mathematical dome, even though it was hand-built and portable. I also ate the best cheese toastie of my life. Bluedot was a field full of nerds, my favourite genre of people. The only negatives were there were only chemical toilets and the festival was very majority white men.

Highlights: Planetarium Show with history of Jodrell Bank, Large Hadron Collider demo, Pulsars & Explosions talks, 65 Days Of Static, Public Service Broadcasting, Gwenno, camping right next to a mini radio telescope.

Afropunk 24th September, Alexandra Palace

A poc, feminist, queer-friendly event, Afropunk was one of the best things I’ve ever been to. Re-entering the patriarchal, white supremacist world again after just a few hours in Ally Pally was strange and scary after that wonderful feeling of a world without those oppressive aggressive forces. I cannot imagine what it would have been like for all the black and brown people whose space it was. I’m super grateful that I was able to go to this event, a celebration of black music and culture. The set-up was perfect, with two main stages alternating acts and a second room full of stalls and another stage.

All the music was brilliant and all the fashion and dancing was amazing. As one Vice journalist recently wrote “Afropunk made Fashion Week look like trash”. There were no negatives at this event for me.

People often ask how they can be better allies, or what they can do to “help” oppressed groups. I have been guilty of asking this kind of question before. As a person with a great deal of white privilege and some gender privilege. The best answer I’ve ever heard is “just shut the fuck up and listen”.

Stop asking the question, stop interrupting, stop trying to help people who don’t need any help, stop inputting on conversations that are not yours, stop trying to prove how ‘good’ you are. This is not your space, this is someone else’s space. Show up, be counted, stand next to people and do not let hate happen in your presence. But mostly Shhhhhh. Listen. That’s all.

Highlights: Big Joanie, Skinny Girl Diet, Young Fathers, Lady Leshurr, Youth Man, Nova Twins, Laura Mvula.

Supernormal 5th August-8th August, Braziers Park

Set in the stunning grounds of an activist commune, this festival had visual and aural experiments everywhere. The sparse programming left a lot of time for thought and reflection, collaboration and creation. The night skies were stunning and I felt pretty honoured to be able to be there in the company of nature and such weird and wonderful artistic minds. The site was covered in beautiful hand-built structures made only days before the festival. The only negative at this one for me is that there is a lot of class privilege within the activist worlds and the artist worlds, so gathering those two worlds together, I didn’t find my own sense of belonging.

Highlights: SamSam Big Band, Melanie Clifford, Moonseer, Graham Dunning & Lina Lapelyte & Angarad Davies.

Films, Music, Films

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

I’ve spent my days so far wandering the streets again, going on long bus rides on my own, seeing all the old buildings I missed while I was away, and reconnecting with close friends.

My first week-and-a-half back in London coincided with BFI Flare. I can’t say this was pure coincidence. Queer Christmas, as it is comfortingly called by some of my favourite queers, is an annual celebration of what it means to be LGBTIQ+ in London. There are films galore and DJs play most of the nights in one or both of the bars.

So some of my evenings have been mis-spent, in the best possible way, at the BFI surrounded by gorgeous sexy people of all genders and sexualities.

Femme Brutal is a documentary about an Austrian burlesque troupe based in Vienna. The documentary included interviews with groups of two or more of the seven performers. These interviews were conversational and relaxed, showing the humour and shared chemistry between the people involved in the brutal, kinky burlesque shows.
Interspersed was footage from performances, shot as artistically as possible, with close-ups of bodies and the performances adjusted to work to camera, which ensured the people watching the film were as involved and included as if they were in a live audience. The final sequence was an elaborate power-play of sexiness between two of the performers.

I left flabbergasted, overwhelmed with joy at being home where I belong.

That weekend I went to the Roundhouse to see some performances as part of Roundhouse Rising, most of note was a stunning improvised collaboration between sound artist Gawain Hewitt and countertenor Patrick Terry, based on the theme of ‘water’. The set-up included a bowl of water containing a hydrophone, into which Patrick sang, and a large soundboard with waves painted onto it where the triggers were.

I couldn’t believe it had been improvised, the whole piece was so perfectly delivered.

I was lucky enough to be able to visit some of the young people’s pieces of work down in the Roundhouse Studios too. Audio Collective, made up of 11-25 year olds, has been working over the last few months on some sound art of their own, developed around the idea of water. The three pieces of art I saw were stunning and in great contrast to one another. It was easy to imagine them all within a gallery context, being interacted with and critiqued by pretentious art-types. My favourite was a piece created from sine waves and hospital drips, it was genius.

Then, back to the BFI for a night of three short films as part of the Glitter, Slush, Neon, Cake selection.

The first was a beautifully touching German story about a young teenager spending the summer with her younger maths tutor and her older ballet teacher. The second was a trashy Brazillian high school drama full of magic and lust.

The final film of the evening was a perfect honouring of femme sex workers set in a fictional American building called The Palace. It was just so wonderful, I wanted to dive into the film and spend the night adventuring with them.

Creativity is born of revolution

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Post-2010 election and the future of this country’s cultural community hangs in the balance.

Yesterday, following a Tory/Lib-Dem coalition and the announcement of the new cabinet that includes Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt *rhyming slang anyone?*, a £66 million cut in budget for the DCMS (Department for Culture Media and Sport) was reported in the national press.

Where this cut will likely be made will be to the Arts and arts funding.

So, why should this bother me?

Unable to avoid sounding like a cliche, “the Arts” is my life. My entire life. Creativity, music and performance are everything I have ever known and everything I have been able to do since I can remember. I don’t know about a lot of things, I have built my whole adult existence around music making and creating opportunities for others to make music.

But that was my choice surely?

Yes, I chose to do a variety of work that doesn’t pay very well in a field that I am passionate about. I chose to give myself the freedom I need in order to write the music I want to make. I chose to commit myself to work I believe in. But I am not a doctor, a scientist, a soldier, a psychologist, a classroom teacher, a policewoman, a plumber or a builder. If I was in the balloon I would be the first to be thrown out. I am not claiming that this is a worthy profession.

Music is all around us. It can change our mood instantaneously and unpredictably. It urges us to move, to dance, to celebrate, to cry, to sleep, to breathe differently, to rise up, to ritualise, I could go on and on.

Art is everywhere. It is what our brains do when we’re not thinking.

When did you last read a book? When did you last see a film? When did you last see a postcard or a painting that you loved? When did you last watch some people dancing or singing? When did you last pretend or lie? When did you last create, however small, even a doodle on a pad or whistling a tune? When did you last write something for work and think really hard about picking the right words? When did you last take a photograph?

What will happen?

I can’t predict the future (as you all know I’m pretty good at it though!). High end, high cost, high brow art will be largely unaffected. Yes, sure there will be cuts to the biggies (the national theatres, ballets, operas and musicals) but they will stay open and the ticket prices will go up to cover any lowering of funding.

The people who will be affected are people like me, individual artists trying to earn a living doing the only thing they are any good at. People who didn’t inherit any money to put them through private education, people who might or might not have a degree and might or might not be classically trained. Also, disabled artists, who face additional barriers to their music making and performance, this might be because of mental health difficulties, cognitive, sensory or physical impairments.

Talented, committed and incredible, unique people who have a right to express themselves through their art and have a right to be heard and seen.

In a capitalist society we all have to earn a living, we all have to contribute whatever we can to the world. I only have this. Music. This is all I have to give.

Creativity is born of revolution

I am unclear what this looks like at the moment, it is too close to yesterday’s announcement for me to feel anything other than distress. I have fire in my belly though and with time (not much time!) I will be able to express better what I mean by the above statement.

If you have anything creative in you, do it. Let it out.

Here’s some stuff that might help:

  • Any of the links on the right hand side of here will take you to stuff that can inspire you.
  • This was posted on Twitter by Futurising a while ago, it’s about just getting on with it.
  • Drake Music is a music organisation that I work with.
  • You can write to Jeremy Hunt and tell him what you think of him, in fact why not write to that awful woman Theresa May at the same time.

Late Entry

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Although it is very near to the end of the year, today I added another entry to the top films I saw in 2009.

Waltz With Bashir is one of the best films I have ever seen. The art, animation and direction is beautiful. It is accompanied by a gorgeous soundtrack and perfectly suited and accurate sound design. It follows an amazing story.

This is horrific and traumatic to watch and shows better than most films and books the truth behind war. “In order to survive war you have to go to irony and dark humour to go on with every day life”

It is very easy to sit here and preach about the horrors of war and about the injustices by the ‘powers that be’ without ever having any direct experience of it. This film examines from a first person soldier’s account (and other individual soldiers’ accounts) the truth of war.

The interview with the filmmaker, which is an extra feature on the DVD, highlights the impact the film has made on his own life and on others who have seen the film. He tells of since the film release, how he now goes to parties or events and ends up sitting alone in the corner of the room and one by one people come to him to relay their own terrible war stories and experiences. He has opened other people’s memories up to them.

Thousands of lives would have been saved if someone, anyone in power stopped the massacre at Sabra and Shatila happening. It could have been stopped at any point. As with the conflicts around the world that continue today.

Ari Folman is a hero, not for his actions in war as a 19 year old novice soldier, but for his actions afterwards as a 40 year old filmmaker.

Robotics and Anansie Spider

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Can’t sleep because I am so excited for Saturday, (solo gig number 4); it is an amazing experience for me to be playing at a Lexapalooza event and the line-up is awesome. I still can’t quite believe I’m on the bill – I am half expecting to arrive at the venue with my gear and someone to go “what’s all that stuff for?  you’re not playing here”

This week has been very busy. I’ve been working my boobies off getting a wonderful Limited Edition CD together for all of you lovely people. It is called Robotics and has some home recordings and a couple of live tracks. There’s only going to be 150 in existence. A good friend has done some gorgeous artwork for the front and I’m really pleased with how it all sounds.

The best big brother in the world took me to see Skunk Anansie on Tuesday night in Brighton. It was a small warm-up gig to their big reunion tour and it was amazing to see them performing. Apart from the blokes looking a little older, you couldn’t really tell that they’d been away for so long and they played a couple of really good new songs as well as playing all of their main back-catalogue. One of the new songs we didn’t like (but the crowd seemed to so that will probably end up being a single or something). It was a really great gig. Some of you will already know how significant their music was to me during my teenage years (especially those of you who had to live through my awful attempts to sing their stuff!) so it was brilliant to get to see them live now.

The support band was a bit weird – A Human. The drummer and keyboard/backing vocalist were good musicians but the frontman was like something straight out of some early 90s band. He looked, sounded and danced as if he wanted to be in The Wonderstuff/Ned’s Atomic Dustbin/Sultans etc etc. He even did a really awful Brett Anderson impression for a whole song.

Hope to see you all on Saturday! Do come and say hello – (mine’s a vodka & diet pepsi).


Fourth Plinth Politics

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

As part of Anthony Gormley’s One & Other project, my big brother had an hour slot on Tuesday 29th July. I tracked his preparations online through his Tweets and went down to the plinth to join the CROWD!

You can watch the hour again here. Chris didn’t censor himself and stood with integrity. This was a brilliant opportunity for Chris to not just “preach to the converted” but reach a wider politically mixed audience. I just hope someone in power was listening.

Of course, my favourite was Plague on Both Your Houses which, although written a few years ago, is accurate and relevant every time you pick up a paper and read of any type of religious war and the innocent victims.

look in the mirror and make a change

Monday, June 8th, 2009

The day after Obama was elected in the US, I joined Amnesty. I had always kept up to date with their work through their mailing lists and when I was a child, my parents were both members. I remember the yellow envelopes arriving regularly and all of us typing or writing out the template letters to send off in protest of human rights violations, my parents explaining carefully to us what the situation was so that we might make our own decisions and opinions only sending letters if we wanted to.

Political activism was encouraged in my childhood home, along with self-education.

My older brother and sister both went to regular protests both local and national. I naturally followed in their footsteps and protested a number of issues including supporting  nuclear disarmament and protesting against the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

In fact the very first proper gig I ever went to was an anti-racism march run by the Anti-Nazi League; I was 11. This annual event later turned into the Rise Festival which has now been abolished by the Conservative Mayor of London (nb: who is also now claiming to support the diversity of the capital – eh?! – he is an idiot).

Following the empowering change earlier this year for the world and progressive movement forward for the whole of the United States, I felt pushed into doing something, anything to help make a difference. Obama will make positive changes not just for the States but for the whole world, he is an international citizen, as are we all.

It is not all positive “over the pond” though. California, (the state I would live in if I ever lived anywhere but London and home to San Francisco, gay/hippy capital of the world) made a ruling to pass Proposition 8, outlawing gay marriage. This did really come as a shock, a country moving positively away from racial discrimination but negatively towards sexual discrimination. Particularly there of all places; first they stupidly elected Arnie and now this.

A few weeks ago, I watched on i-player an interview Jonathan Ross (@wossy) did with Martin Sheen (Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez). Martin Sheen is a very active political campaigner and has been his whole life. It was a hugely inspirational (if too short) interview and his humble and honest accounts of his strong political views and actions despite over 60 arrests spurred me on to find out more. As Ross said has “inspired me to be a better person”.

Finally, last night Britain took a turn for the worst. Yes, today is a very sad day for all British people. We have until now been ahead of the rest of the world in our politics and social diversity. Our country has generally been a step towards socialism than the rest of the world and our political parties tend to be further left-wing of their foreign counterparts. But, with yesterday’s vote there are now two members of a fascist, neo-nazi party sitting on the european parliament and it looks as if the next general and local elections will follow this shift to the right. Today I joined the Green Party.

The impact of the right-wing and racist influence on government has yet to be seen. I live in a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-disability, multi-orientation, multi-gender society and I fear for all of our freedom. I cannot begin to show in text how the result of this vote makes me feel.

So, what are the next steps? To move home, but where? No. To become socially and politically active as a society, all of us, together. To take a stand. To look in the mirror and make a change, however small, to help move our piece of the world forward again.