Man of Rags – Easter Story 2018

I wear this suit – this tie

to really mask the lie

that truly deep inside

I’m just a poor lowly simple man of rags!


Travelled up and down this land

this briefcase in my hand

full of sorrow, poverty and pain

seen soldiers asleep in doors

who once fought your foreign wars

Just a poor simple lowly man of rags…


Gazed upon children, used abused

to drown in drugs n’ alcohol confused

Just a poor lowly simple man of rags…


Heard the cries of a mother who’s lost her mind

her teenage son dead before his time

Just a poor lowly simple man of rags…


I walk these city streets

mankind sleeping at my feet

at night I see the dead

arising from their beds

then return back to their graves

like a vampire – to dawn, a slave…

Just a poor lowly simple man of rags…


Tomorrow I will die

hung from a tree so high

this poor lowly simple man of rags…


Yet these rags belong to you

that is very true

But with God I have arranged

your old clothing to be changed

into silk and linen garments fine

so for eternity we can dine

eat the bread – drink the wine

no longer poor lowly simple

men and women dressed in rags…


Photo by G

M.C.Bolton, March 2018

The Curious Case of the Council & Canalside


On becoming leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council a month after the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, Elizabeth Campbell promised change. In a brief speech to fellow councillors and victims of the fire in July, Campbell used the word ‘change’ eleven times. Considering Campbell’s own role in the council’s sustained asset strip of North Kensington, the words were never convincing. But they were rendered meaningless in January when the council tried to sell a vital community building to property developers to build flats for the rich. In failing to push through the sale, the Conservative council now looks weaker than ever.

Early this year K & C council were moving full steam ahead with their plans to sell Canalside House, home to numerous local charities, community groups, small businesses, and a hub of support for victims of the June 14th fire. Plans to sell the historic building on Ladbroke Grove and move its residents to a wholly unsuitable replacement on Latimer Road were put on hold following the fire, after resident organisations pointed out to the council that they had been filling in the gaps vacated by the local authority in providing emergency relief work and supporting the North Kensington community.



How do we know about the plans to sell? A council scrutiny committee meeting was filmed and posted online (the Canalside section starts after two hours). The details are in this Urban Dandy article.


An Executive Decision was issued by the council: Canalside was to be sold to developers to build flats, none of which would be social housing or realistically affordable for most people.

In addition, the move, which was instigated in 2016 by the sleight of hand of disgraced former deputy leader of the council, Rock Feilding-Mellen, was an existential threat to most of the Canalside residents as they would be unable to operate in an absurd hot-desking arrangement, in a small building, away from decent transport links. 

The 2018 decision to sell Canalside represented a resumption of long-standing policies of asset-stripping community resources and properties in North Kensington. After a short post-fire hiatus, the council’s true agenda was back: a shock doctrine for a community reeling and traumatised.

At the January committee meeting, the council, represented by Deputy Leader Kim Taylor-Smith, Councillor Matthew Palmer and Director of Corporate Property, Richard Egan, told a series of lies to try to push the sale through. They lied about having consulted residents, they lied about the residents’ feedback, they lied about the state of the building. They closed ranks and derided the whimper of dissent from the Labour councillors present as “a banal conversation”. Drawing on vast reserves of conceit, they huffed at the tepid opposition, they puffed at the questions, but they could not blow Canalside House down…or strip it from the community and gift it to property developers. Behind the bluster, something was wrong, something had changed.

Divine Right

The three men at the council meeting displayed the presumption of divine right that Conservative Party toffs love to lord over their supposed inferiors. The bullying tactics they employed were as chilling to observers as the decision itself.

Following a tyrannical templete: they attempted to achieve something clearly against the interests of the population; behaved as if it was in the interests of the population; ridiculed any opposition to the plan; hung on to the last possible moment; then when the diabolical plan was no longer politically viable, abandoned it and stated that there was never any intention of doing it really, claiming that they are in fact wholehearted, community-minded folk just like you ‘n’ me.



How did these people survive, politically, the national disaster of the Grenfell Tower fire and their botched response? They were propped up by the desperate minority national government, no doubt. But these individuals, remarkable only in their unremarkableness, have clung to power in Kensington, despite being apparently responsible for a political agenda that wrapped Grenfell Tower in highly flammable material in pursuit of profit, threatened legal action against residents who warned of the fire risk, and then left the community itself to marshal the emergency response.

What makes these well-to-do politicians want to stay in what is, ostensibly at least, pubic service? The answer may be that they are broken people, empathy driven out of them first by the private education system, then by a fanatical belief in capital and wealth. Kensington became a goldmine, rather than a community. To retain a sense of self, and to maintain their positions of power, which come with lucrative spin-off careers, these politicians are required to tell lies to their constituents on behalf of the people they truly serve: the obscenely wealthy, often referred to as the one percent. The council of Kensington and Chelsea are the class enemies of most residents the borough, certainly those in North Kensington.

Before we are accused of descending in to a speculative polemic, let’s get back to what is not up for debate…

How the Sale was Stopped

The residents of Canalside House and the Kensington and Chelsea Social Council wrote to the councillors expressing their unanimous rejection of the plans to sell the building and relocate residents. On the evening of Thursday February 8th, Urban Dandy published the story, detailing the objections of the residents and exposing the deceit of the council. The article was soon disseminated by local activists and there was a furious online response from the local population.

2018-02-09 Joint CH Statement

Overnight, the council did a 360. High level meetings were cancelled; concerned people of power expressed their alarm to RBKC, and soon anybody involved was receiving emails like this:

I don’t know where they got my email address from, but the message was understood: stop telling people the truth. The propaganda I received came as a relief. Canalside was no longer being sold and the council publicly committed to its refurbishment. The building’s virtues were extolled by the same local government that had, so recently and so avariciously, written it off.

Dandies 1 Tories 0 
So, the lies told to try to force the sale of a vital community asset were followed by lies so transparent as to lead concerned local residents to ask what is really going on. Why don’t they just state that they would love to sell off North Kensington’s community spaces but politically it is no longer viable? A whole community, seen as heroic by many after the response to the Grenfell fire, is being fobbed off with press releases and propaganda. They are trying to ‘manage’ us and our expectations. But we are not to be managed…

If Urban Dandy and a few committed community organisations can scare the Tory council into abandoning a multi-million pound property plan, think what North Kensington can achieve if it speaks with one voice. The council’s conceit was exposed: not only do they lack the talent and vision to run the borough, but they are also seriously wounded, politically, and now is the time to make demands and set an agenda for creating a thriving North Kensington for us and our children. Now is the time for vigilance and reckoning.

While the community has been forced to put in the hours to save Canalside, demand justice for Grenfell and hold the council to account, RBKC’s cabinet has continued to waste their lives in service to a rapacious agenda they probably cannot even identify, so profoundly internalised has it become. It is known to many as neo-liberalism, and it is deadly.

The local council and the Tory media want to “regain the trust” of the North Kensington population, but that is an unrealistic and ultimately meaningless goal. The issue is not trust, it is power. The Canalside capitulation tells us two things about the Conservatives in Kensington:

– They cannot be trusted
– They are weak and scared of your power

Kensington and Chelsea council have repeatedly claimed to have changed tack following the Grenfell Tower disaster. The community has called their bluff, and we have our collective foot on their neck. They can be booted out of office at the local election on May 3rd if enough people register to vote.

Perhaps, in a desperate late attempt to cling to power, the council leader will invoke the concept of change another eleven times. For her it is an abstraction, a word to be used to manipulate and deceive. For the North Kensington community, change is something we need and it is now something we now hold in our hands.


By Tom Charles


Thanks to Jen

Exodus for the Soul

I seek a burning bush

deep inside this internal wilderness

blazing sun the canvas

upon which vultures circle

over dry bleached skulls

of the eternal lost

who’s spirits are forever imprisoned

in this arid haunt of demons and jackals


Oh! Lazarus salve my tongue

with just one drop of your tears

as slowly I wander amongst these ever-changing dunes

crawling over rocks that were once thrown

by men without pity or grace

along with memories of scorpion-like words

that once pierced my heart…


Yet still no ignited shrub

giving purpose – offering hope

to a man who’s fist clenches time’s sand

which slowly seeps through his fingers

like his dreams

blown into heavenly halls

by divine life-giving breath

my mind boiling like mutton

a feast for an old toothless lion

who has only his roar!

Like Moses searching for the promised land

that flows with milk and honey

always eluding me


Darkness falls – I play games with the stars

that have shone on greater men

in the distance I spy a dancing flame

surely it doth burn so bright

bringing light into the hidden places

where only the bravest soul dare venture…




©M.C. Bolton, February 2018

Urban Dandy Meditation #1


Urban Dandy Meditation #1 was on 15th February 2018.

A new venture, aimed at people from our community and further afield to engage in the practice of transcendental meditation and to stimulate discussion and creativity.

A theme of ‘Who are we, really?’ guided us through the hour – the class were told:

Urban Dandy’s writers look at context, we explain things, point out pertinent detail, tell the truth and discern. But, Urban Dandy is for the whole human, which means we’re interested in looking beyond context. If we let go of this role of journalist, poet, or whatever label we could pin to ourselves, what remains?

Discomfort might be one thing…

The class was led into the first few minutes of meditation practice,

The brief instruction: Sit, feet flat on the floor, an upright spine, ‘when the body is still, the mind is more likely to follow’, focus ahead – still eyes,

First reading

“When we sit down to meditate it is as if an old friend sits down with us, a life-long friend, a friend who accompanies us everywhere and who is so close to us as to be practically indistinguishable from the ‘me’ or the ‘I’ that we habitually call ourselves. That friend is the moving mind, which in Sanskrit goes by the name of manas”.

“Manas is our friend and can help us in all sorts of ways but it has one abiding fault: it never knows when to stop talking and so makes it difficult for us to hear anything else. We spend most of our waking hours listening to the chatter of manas ceaselessly commenting and judging – judging not only our own actions but the actions of others as well”.[i]

Then a discussion: How was the practice? ‘It went quickly’ – ‘it went slowly’. Who are we? We cannot be manas – our thoughts.

The second practice

Suggestion: Do not worry about the wandering mind, that is what the mind does, there is no failure. The mantra is the hand rail when you want to come back.

What is a mantra? A sound, repeated silently, inwardly, preferably not in one’s mother tongue. What is meditation? Different participants had different ways, but the class was in transcendental meditation, in which the practitioner transcends their physical, mental and intellectual selves and touches pure being. Here, the meditator begins to open up to the question ‘Who am I really?’

Second reading

“Every single time we return to the practice, we are overcoming ancient innate tendencies of the mind to flow outward. Every time we come back, we are reminding ourselves where to look, and it gets deeper each time. This is why it’s said that what matters isn’t how many times we go away, but how many times we come back…”[ii]

Letting go

(To become who we truly are we first have to come out of being what we are not).

Naturally, because of life and its demands and preoccupations, context came in to the conversation – the heaviness of life, this was a gathering of people with heavyweight life experiences and no little wisdom, but the question was worth coming back to, to taste that bliss, to lighten the burden: Who are we, really?
Glimpsing some light and following it, discovering that I am indeed part of that light and it is part of me… Good night everyone, thanks for coming, and we leave.

But the truth remains and will be touched again, always available.


Urban Dandy Meditation #2 will take place on Maundy Thursday, 29th March, same venue same time – The Library, Downstairs, Essex Unitarian Church, Notting Hill Gate, 7:30-8:30pm


By Tom Charles

For Brian – ‘it is always there’


[i] From the booklet ‘Beginning to Meditate’, The School of Meditation

[ii] Krishna Das, ‘Chants of a Lifetime’, Hay House, 2010, p.54

Writing/Poetry Workshop with Local Children


During half-term, Urban Dandy delivered a writing and poetry workshop to children at North Kensington charity Baraka Community Association. Eighteen children from local primary and secondary schools attended and explored methods for self-expression through writing short articles and poems.

As it was the 14th of the month, children considered memories and feelings evoked by the Grenfell Tower fire, eight months on. The group mind mapped their experiences during and since the fire. They then shared their memories of that day and how they have seen it affect their community, from the surreal experience of attending school on the 14th June to how people coped over the long summer.

Producing a piece of writing, the young people were free to choose their subject. Many went for Grenfell, but others wrote on other aspects of their lives. In both cases, the focus was on expressing ideas and feelings from their own experiences, rather than conforming to ideas about what they should write.

As the workshop was designed to be off-curriculum, the children heard about finding their voices, how to have a real impact, identifying a ‘hook’ for their pieces and writing for an audience, not a teacher.

London’s finest poet, Mark Bolton, then explained the process of writing poetry, and his own poetic journey. He read out his first ever composition, followed by the much more recent Aisha and the Sea, which was written in the aftermath of the fire.

Inspired and encouraged to open up, the kids then set about writing their own poems, and the workshop ended with everybody reading out loud what they had produced.

A number of the children took their work away to develop it and complete it. We hope to be able to publish a few pieces on Urban Dandy soon…

Writing workshop 6


By Tom Charles