No Lions in England

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UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s latest offensive remarks triggered fresh calls for his sacking. But Johnson’s attitude is not exceptional. His callous comments on Libya are indicative of a mendacity towards the Middle East and North Africa that runs deep in the Conservative party and the UK’s wider political establishment.

At a fringe event for business people at the Conservative party’s annual conference, Johnson outlined his belief that Libyan city Sirte has the potential to emulate Dubai. He claimed to have met of “a group of UK business people, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte…all they have to do is clear the bodies away”. Johnson chuckled at his own wit. Continue reading

North Kensington Children Honoured

Two London-based community organisations honoured the young people of North Kensington at the weekend. At an event on Ladbroke Grove, local children affected by the 14th June Grenfell Tower fire and its aftermath showcased their creative skills and public speaking abilities.

The children were given a platform to reflect on their experiences of the summer after the Grenfell disaster. Many of them had benefited from trips away from West London, funded and organised by Baraka Community Association (BCA) and Worldwide Somali Students & Professionals (WSSP). The trips included a residential at Hindleap Warren, visits to Legoland, Chessington, Butlins and Thorpe Park.

Over a hundred days have now passed since the unprecedented fire on the Lancaster West estate, which claimed scores of lives, including friends of the children present.

The young people were set the task of designing posters to express their feelings experiences during summer 2017, presenting them to a panel of judges that included Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad. Contestants were judged on their artistic ability, literacy and presentation skills.

After much deliberation and disagreement, the cash prizes went to:

Third prize: Aisha, aged nine, for her poster ‘Asia, Africa’.

Aisha reflected on getting far away from North Kensington to Dubai, Kenya (which she described as ‘boring’ – sorry Kenya) and Somalia. Aisha gained the judges’ praise for her lively, confident presentation.

Aisha
Aisha, 9, with Emma Dent Coad MP

Second prize: Abdullahi M, aged nine, for his poster ‘My Sad but Amazing Summer’.

Abdullahi described the events of 14th June as they had unfolded for him, talking about his mother’s tears, and the united local community. He ended his presentation with the words “peace and love for the community of North Kensington”.

Abdullah
Abdullahi with Emma

First prize: Hussein, aged 13.

Hussein received first prize for his combination of a brilliant design and a very eloquent presentation, outlining how each section of his picture linked together, and explaining the abstractions to the audience and judges.

 

Winning Entry
‘Summer 2017’ by Hussein

The prizes were awarded by Emma Dent Coad MP, who hailed the organisations involved and the families in attendance, noting that they were doing “what we all want to do: making the most of ourselves and our children”.

The event showcased the effectiveness of well-established and well-connected community groups. Already up and running and filling in gaps in provision long before the Grenfell fire, these organisations were in place to provide much-needed support and relief when North Kensington was shattered by the events of June 14th. When government services were most needed, they were found wanting, but the community was able to provide some essential presence.

WSSP’s Director Kasim Ali said: “The aim was to help children cope with the Grenfell disaster by talking about it and expressing themselves artistically. At the same time they learned lifelong skills such as design, presentation and public speaking”.

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The other talented children taking part and so close to winning were:

  • Sahra
  • Maryama
  • Sharifa
  • Muna
  • Yasin
  • Ayman
  • Abdullahi E
  • Ibtisam
  • Abdirahman

 

 

As Abdullahi M said: “peace and love for the community of North Kensington”.

 

 

By Tom Charles

@tomhcharles

Aisha and the Sea

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Oh! Sea you are so powerful

I am so small

Waves rush past me,

like the fleeing

Gently receding, pulling sand over my toes

embedding me once more into this earth,

 

Innocent unpolluted air filling, cleansing my lungs

from the dark soot of pain

that clings to my soul

like limpets upon rock

for fleeting seconds

I forget that beacon of despair

it is washed from my mind,

feeling one with nature, the sea

 

Staring towards the horizon

reclaiming, restoring my hopes, my dreams

nightmares briefly extinguished

by this planet’s womb-like amniotic waters,

everything so perfect here

Mother smiling with her eyes

that sparkle again

twinkling like the sun’s glistening rays in the surf,

 

I am a child again!

No longer old before my time

Oh! Sea you are so beautiful

I am so small…

 

M.C. Bolton, September 2017

 

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I’m Spartacus

 

Herded into the arena

bloodied by poverty’s lash

sand soft between our toes

as we march into the stadium of despair

mentally chained by our delusion of freedom,

divided into race, faith, nation, class

then pitted against each other

For our rulers’ pleasure

 

But many refuse to fight

Us – the truly dangerous ones

instead pointing upwards to the audience

of those that truly despise and fear us

 

Yet you who plunder our homes, invade our streets,

Women who tightly clutch their handbags

staring at the pavement in terror

for surely we are all vagabonds, cutthroats and thieves!

Suited men who’s bowels loosen

when passing our urban-talking youth

who defend their postcode by the same extreme violence 

that the state metes out to them with impunity,

 

We who are crushed on every side

surrounded by avarice and greed

by disciples of the latest fad,

drinking alfresco skinny lattes on Westbourne Grove

the need to be scenes,

our wrath slowly being squeezed

accused of sour grapes, lacking aspiration,

Yet it’s our blood that makes your wine

with which you wet your lips

as you toss us your scraps,

we who slowly devour and destroy one another,

 

But Spartacus is rising

resurrected like a phoenix in the flames

our sight restored by tragedy

injustice the fire that burns brightly

inside compassionate indignant hearts,

shaking those who’s God is mammon

 

Yet it’s not your eye of the needle wealth we wish to pillage

but your fraudulent sense of privilege, entitlement, arrogance and ignorance

hiding in your bunker-like basements

whilst above, homes, communities are destroyed

 

as we stare at our Stalingrad-like monument,

united under the banner of hope and faith,

love for our children will ever be our shield,

God’s wrath will be stirred

by the death of his innocent ones

 

Millstones will be prepared,

the sea’s depth beckons

those that hide behind their cloak of guilt

for this slaughter ignited a fury in our hearts

we’ll stand against your legions

we’ve buried our dead

but we will never let you bury the truth…

 

 

LW2

M.C. Bolton, September 2017

 

Review: Matt Okine at Soho Theatre

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At first glance, it is difficult to imagine Matt Okine having the discipline and drive to rise in the early hours for three straight years to host a national radio breakfast show. His easy style and unflustered lyricism belie what must be a fierce work ethic and creative urge. But this is what Okine does: laziness is his mask, the lie that he uses to present his truth.

The Australian is much decorated and lauded for his acting and stand up, and is a serious all-rounder: he presents a cookery programme on TV and raps as part of Boilermakers. Okine’s success sees him sell out comedy shows wherever he performs and now he is back in London at Soho Theatre, ostensibly talking career changes, but there is much more simmering under the surface in his show ‘We Made You’.

The opening night at Soho saw Okine in full flow for a full hour. This was a comedian who delivers with clarity and panache. Virtually non-stop, the intensity of his performance was complemented by his laid-back style, giving him an authentic edge, sympathetic and apparently very real.

There was a conspicuous lack of confrontation during Okine’s hour on stage, with any aggression reserved for rants at potatoes, crabs and other sources of nourishment and irritation – food being his favourite subject. His charming, disarming ease with the audience meant the Soho Theatre was quickly relaxed, with plenty of laughing out loud, while Okine kept an emotional distance, never quite straying in to vulnerability, although he hinted at pain throughout the hour.

Matt Okine’s light touch works as a layer above an undercurrent of tension. He expressed a struggle between the real person and the personality adapting to the modern world and its absurdities. The silliness of mainstream popular culture formed the basis of Okine’s act: exotic crisp flavours, eight-hour binges on TV cookery programmes, social media and the rest. All this was done without criticism, Okine being the passive and innocent consumer, with the effect of him being far funnier than any comedian attempting to intellectually deconstruct consumer culture.

Okine occasionally juxtaposed his light-hearted observations with revelations of his inadequacies and insecurities: body image, hair loss, ethnic identity and facing his contradictory relationship with his father. What can you say and what can’t you say? Again, the tension between being authentic and adapting to modern life, with the mask of a media savvy, successful 30 something.

There is something of the nihilist in Okine. Or perhaps it is that he reveals a strange western digital age mass nihilism in which we have so little control over our lives and environments that we sink into the minutiae of our particular preferences and irritations as a way of avoiding the facts of our mortality and the moral bankruptcy and degradations of consumer society.

Whatever, he’s very funny, a natural, and this show is highly recommended.

See Matt Okine: We Made You, at Soho Theatre, London until 29th August.

http://www.mattokine.com/

http://www.sohotheatre.com/

 

By Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Grenfell: Some Relief for Some of Us

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Ten-year olds in North Kensington have seen more than they should ever have seen. Heat, fire, pain and death from the Grenfell Tower; Slowly inhaling the dust of the lost. 

A mutilated building stands as a constant testimony to the mass incineration of June 14th. As they look down the street, between houses, the Tower appears, as they travel through the concrete jungle, Grenfell is there, on their skyline and their minds.

The children of North Kensington lost faith in the safety of the world, and any sense they May have had that the role of government is to support the population. Profound trauma, with parents’ availability to provide emotional support severely reduced by having to fill the space vacated by government in the disaster response.

Waves

But for some of us there has been some release. In Devon my 10 year old was finally freed from weeks of the oppressive atmosphere of disaster. As the waves crashed in, she ran away, then chased them back into the sea, shouting at them. Her shouts turned to screams, pure joy and liberation…

Nature was safe again, the world was suddenly the right place to be after weeks of questions about cladding, fire, safety and the inhumane treatment of people. Re-connected to her original source, this child was at one with the water, sand, the vast sky and the cold wind.

To see her lose her ‘self’ and be her pure, true self in those moments was to regain my own faith in life. But most North Kensington children have not yet had such a moment.

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Housing

As of that day, 2nd August, 12 households from the Tower had been rehoused – a statistic that tells much of the story about the re-traumatisation of victims by way of bureaucracy, political decision and incompetence in the richest borough on the planet, with its 1,400 empty dwellings.

If there is to be a restoration of faith, it will not be courtesy of Kensington and Chelsea council or Theresa May’s government.

Genuine relief is provided by local charities and community organisations, quietly organising weekends away, holidays and residentials for families. Here in North Kensington, there are creative, sporting and communal activities to lighten the burden on parents.

Power

The community has stepped in to provide what the council cannot – humanity. What none of these organisations can provide is what the council can, but aren’t, providing: housing, the only way to dignity. And as such the dignity of the victims, survivors and the wider community is not being honoured. On the contrary, it is being threatened and trampled daily.

Individual stories in North Kensington tell a bigger story of dehumanisation and some of these will follow on Urban Dandy. In the meantime, I’m relieved that I had moved away from the Lancaster West estate to safety, and that my traumatised daughter could connect with Blessed nature, arriving home again.

 

Tom Charles

Grenfell – Night Thoughts

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As the sweet summer breeze

blows through this petrified charcoal edifice

stirring the parched remains of the perished

inside this crematorium created by man’s greed,

 

We who are in temporary sleep

slowly inhaling the dust of the lost

unlike God, offering not the breath of life

Yet not forgotten, becoming part of us

 

Fused into our very being

scorched into our souls

as the seared conscience

of those that govern

offers no honour, shame, guilt

or Judas-like, intestine-spilling torment!

Instead scurrying like rats

under the tarpaulin of fear

 

Light exposing their hidden deeds of darkness

that atomized men, women and children before their time

those who’s bodies can no longer cast shadows

 

Your eternal flame

forever burns brightly

shining like stars

guiding both seeker and wise

along the narrow path

in their quest for the truth…

 

 

M.C. Bolton, 28th July 2017

Photo by Hugh