Friday, 21 December 2018

BBC's The Long Story - The Enslaved With Agency

Just finished watching BBC’s excellent The Long Story and had to smile despite all the sadness and violence running throughout the story, within the story there is much to smile about and the end leaves us with the black folk having both dignity in their lives and power over their destiny.

The Long Story is told within the history of the end of slavery in Jamaica. It touched on many of the well-worn themes and tropes of slavery:  the rape of enslaved black women taken as mistresses and concubines, the precarious lives of gentle white women challenged by the barbarity of life in the colonies in contrast to elegance and gentility they had left behind in England and the unforgiving sugar crop, harvested through the relentless physical and economic violence metered out before and after the end of enslavement

The theme that kept me engaged me, which kept me watching, was that of the enslaved with agency, who through big and small acts reaped their revenge on their masters and mistresses in the big houses. In doing so showed how enslaved were not passive, indifferent, accepting, they did speak or act out and did say NO! both overtly and covertly, sometimes to devastating effect for both black and white. 

I don’t wish to give the many examples that run throughout the three episodes - I urge you to view them – all eminently watchable. The scenery and cinematography are stunning with many brilliant, often innovative, moving drone shots and novel POVs,  again I won't share as that would risk giving the plot away - watch and enjoy!

Tamara Lawrence as July aka Margarite fills the role with power, pathos and much wit, Tamara is surely a star in the making,

I recommend The Long Story unreservedly: Five Stars.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Be The First You

Anthony Ekundayo Lennon (Image: @Lennon_Anthony/Twitter)

I was asked in a WhatsApp group of fellow black men to give my views on Anthony Ekundayo Lennon case which was sensationalised by the Daily Mail and denounced, accused of a tak[ing] away opportunities from black artists and creatives by many of those who like Ekundayo claim to be black.
Up to now I have been reluctant to comment as my partner does not agree with my views on the case, so I did not want to create further division or controversy. Now having been asked to comment and slept on the matter I am going to give my thoughts.
I believe identity is a construct.
Who you are is what you believe you are, your identity is what you believe yourself to be.
Look how artists invent re-invent themselves – Picasso, Bowie, Prince – each lived life on their terms on how they want or wanted to be, despite the consequences often leaving themselves open to ridicule only to be found later to have been right to have remained faithful to their beliefs.
That freedom of our autonomous mind to declare who we are is rooted in Descartes’s  I think therefore I am your thoughts are you, you are your thoughts. That individual freedom of thought has been the basis of the modern world for past 200 years dating back to Kant’s view of the Enlightenment Dare to know – think for yourself. You do not have to let others tell you how to think you, you are free to think for yourself.
This is especially important for our youth who I urge to be the ‘first of you’ not to be the you that society tells you you should be.
There is of course self-reflection and reality checks along the way to finding out who you are, it is a very personal journey.
The journey begins with having a world view which one interrogates, challenges, questions to find one’s place, using imagination challenged by critical thinking to establish who one is. The model continues to question and challenged by the self to ensure that we are being who we believe we are – remain true to oneself.
I urge all young and old to be the first you – be who you want to be not what others say you should be or want you to be.
The reaction of some to Anthony Ekundayo Lennon is deeply troubling to me  as he was faithful to himself he wanted to be bringing value to himself and others, which to  my measure of success defined as the amount of happiness you bring to others and yourself – he was a success, true to himself.
His belief in himself and his identity he summed it well saying:
I will not allow anyone who can’t accept or understand my life to be relevant to my existence.
This is a mantra for those who know who have worked out who they are and will not accept others telling them who they are or who they are not. Like Ekundayo they have actively created their identity I urge that we should all do this, I urge all to be the first you.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

BREXIT: The Peoples March – I Was There.

"Can you make up your mind what you want please?" That’s what a friend demanded via WhatsApp when he saw that I’d been on the People’s March.

I had voted to REMAIN but have accepted BREXIT but wanted it done - in Macbeth’s words on the killing of King Duncan ‘It were done ...t’were well it were done quickly’

What I didn’t, and don’t want is this onimshambles of a negotiation which has divided the country potentially splitting the Union.  I was for ‘Bring it on’,  ‘Just do it’ not this death by a thousand options, another day another summit, another proposal, yet another option: Chequers, Canada, Norway and so on and each with a light or plus sometime even plus, plus option…

The march had been in my diary for some time, when the date eventually came I around I went not with the enthusiasm and commitment I had signed up with, nevertheless I went. 

Reports of the costs, difficulties and resistance and a second referendum not to mention what would be the question or questions had impacted me, weakening my resolve. Yes, I still wanted a second vote  but did I believe it would actually happen? 

I went to the march to have my faith renewed, my belief reenergised.

The signs on the march were numerous and witty, the people many and polite , the police were orgainsied and ready. 

However I had the feeling we were going thought a process, I didn’t detect much anger. I sensed people were doing the right thing in a very English way, marching for decency and integrity with earnestness, with wit but there was none of the anger of the Poll Tax marches As another friend , this one with me on the march, and I reflected “were not throwing rocks – were just pointing fingers”. The speeches reflected that finger pointing - lacking any anger.

Sadly I was minded of Ian Duncan Smith’s ‘quiet man’ analogy – all words no action. This was all march – despite the numbers – no action. 

I went to be energised I came away resigned -  the march was pointless. We’re just too polite to throw rocks – physical or metaphysical - the paving stones are safe and slander lawyers not needed. The march was a token, the onimshambles continues

Yes I still want a second vote -  will it happen in this political climate? It might with the confusion of 'the options' and a vote in Parliament to come - anything is possible. My hope is that the internal rock throwing of the Tories by the DUP, Johnson and Rees-Moog et al coupled with the visceral weakness of May will result in a General Election, then all bets are off - we’ll have a real, meaningful, informed vote People's Vote on BREXIT.   

Friday, 16 February 2018

BREXIT ? Some Good News

Fishmongers in Folkestone Fish Market
Shopping for scallops - my very favourite sea food - on a recent trip to Folkestone Fish Market with Ebun who assured the me the fresh scallops on sale were local, I was not so sure.

Having completed the purchase of four lovely, large scallops, We fell into conversation with the fishmonger and two other chaps in fishmonger's shop. One of them was a fisherman who looked askance when I asked if the scallops were local: 'you can see their shells just there' he said, pointing to the harbour steps.

Ebun, a Folkestone local, was in total agreement with the fishermen but I reminded incredulous until we went down the harbour steps and low and behold there were several plastic boxes full of empty scallop shells, along with other detritus from preparing fresh fish for sale!

I was so amazed at food so fresh, so local I went back to the fishmongers. To register my amazement, in this day and age with food coming from all over the planet I was surprised and delighted to find something I enjoyed, so local.

EU Referendum Vote
As fishing was one of the items on BREXIT negotiations list, I had to ask - Shepway (Kent) was 62.2% to 37.8% to leave - how he voted: he was very happy to have voted leave. Belgium and Spanish ships have a greater quota than he had so they could catch more fish from what he considered British waters. He was glad to see the back of the EU. Once we are out of the EU, UK fish prices should drop he claimed, which means my very favourite scallops will be lower in price - the fisherman assured me that would be the case!

So, there's a piece of good news from BREXIT: scallops down in price!

To whet your appetite for those low cost BREXIT British scallops to come, here's my recipe for scallops today - my very favourite starter:

Scallops with Bacon and Rocket

Scallops with Bacon  (double portion)

Ingredients (per person)
  • Knob of Butter
  • One large scallop
  • One rasher of cooked smoked bacon
  • Rocket
  • Grated parmesan cheese.
  • Black pepper to taste
Gently (everything should be done gently)
Melt the butter in a (skillet if you have one) frying pan
High heat to seal quickly
Put the scallop in the butter
Turn heat down cook slowly
Turning every 60 secs for 4 mins
Sprinkle with black pepper

Serve on a bed of rocket and bacon
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

Sunday, 5 February 2017


Lodge Lane washhouse by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Interred me Mum’s ashes in me Dad’s grave, yesterday.

It was our Anthony’s suggestion 
Before the interment 
Let’s drive Mum around Liverpool 8 one last time 
Together we drove Mum through the Liverpool 8 Mum grew up in , worked in and lived in
Back then L8 was a Community
We drove past the WashHouse on Lodge Lane
Abandoned, demolished, grassed over, long gone 
Our Martha and me Mum went every week
In their wellies and aprons pushing a pram pilled high with our dirty washing
They’d spend the day scrubbing and washing amongst friends & neighbours
Chattering Gossiping Nattering 
The Wash House on Lodge Lane has gone 

The Community's gone

They’ve all got their washing machines now
They can’t chat to their washing machines 
They can’t gossip with a washing machines
They can’t natter to a washing machines

The Community’s gone 
.........but they’ve all got their washing machines

February 2nd 2017

Site of Lodge Lane Wash House Feb 2nd 2017

112 year History

Wash House Plaque now in Liverpool Museum
1878 August Lodge Lane Baths and Wash House opened.
1928 August Lodge Lane Wash House reconstructed and modernised.
1969 Lodge Lane Wash House modernised
1982 April Lodge Lane Wash House converted to minor sports hall.
1990 April 3rd Lodge Lane closed.

John Duvall March 2, 2016 at 12:30 pm (Facebook)
My granddad used to sell soap powder and keep an eye on the prams women brought their washing on at Lodge Lane. My dad was the stoker in the boiler house

Bath and Washhouse Historical Archive

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Apple has the Courage to be Diverse

It was not Apple’s self aggrandisement  at its recent keynote session launch claiming ‘courage’ for doing away with the head phone socket on the iPhone7 but for me it was its diversity on stage and on screen.

No more mono cultural white male presenters and images but woman and minorities shared the stage as well as being seen on screen throughout the two hours – a first for Apple.  Particularly appropriate  at a time when we are celebrating Startrek’s 50 years of Diversity.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Knife Edge Promenade

The reminder email the afternoon before I was to see  Knife Edge from The Big Houseproduction company at the Pond advised that I should prepare myself for a ‘promenade performance’ and  to ‘travel light’ added to my expectation

Through the making of theatre The Big House provides a platform for young people who’ve been through the care system and being challenged by life, an opportunity to have their voices heard, in KnifeEdge we certainly hear their voices!

I was shocked by the directness and frankness of those voices the plays language pulled no punches in making manifest the anger the youth felt about the way they’d been treated  by society - it was full-on, frank and foul. I was left in no doubt at the young people’s resentment, mistrust and suspicion, rejection being their experience and expectation. They in turn rejected many of those sent by society to care for them; a line from the play that reflected that  despair and mistrust  for me was one directed to a carer  ‘You only care ‘cos you’re being paid!’

The acting was without exception powerful and emotional, I had the sense these guys were not acting but living their lives before us. - the words came from their own lives.

The settings were brilliantly innovative as we – the audience moved around the restaurant from sets depicting a Nando’s restaurant to a kitchen to a living rooms and the street. The lighting was particularly inventive much use being made of  plastic water bottles and  LED light strips – you have see it to believe how magical it made the various sets as we were led from one scene to another around the entire restaurant space.

As the play moves form one scene to another, the young people are on an emotional journey  from one life changing event to another  we the audience followed their story  through a physical journey as we moved  from set to set .

Knife Edge’s ending is as powerful as moving as its beginning as we the audience complete our promenade as we are invited to share a meal with the actors - cannot speak highly enough of the Hawaiian style fish – sharing food , Knife Edge and their lives.

I very much enjoyed the meal both the food and  meeting and sharing with the actors and The Big House production team ,  the meal was also a chance to network with other like minded folk concerned about the life outcomes of our young people leaving the care service.  I was minded of Cameron’s statement that children in care have been 'let down for too long' something had to be done by Government,

To conclude my Knife Edge promenade showed me that there is hope as young people from care despite set backs can ‘make it’ but we can certainly do more to help them on their promenade.

Knife Edge - a great evening's entertainment with good food and good company and a strong message - recommended !