Conspiracy Chickens Roosting

Conspiracy definition: “the act of conspiring together” 

The Coronavirus crisis has been fertile ground for the conspiracy theorists among us. Yesterday 260 people died from the virus in the UK, but some people still refuse to take it seriously. Before, they were bores, now they’re dangerous, to themselves and their communities.

There seems to be a high concentration of conspiracy enthusiasts in Notting Hill and North Kensington – I’ve listened to them banging on for years, with fantasies about global control from the masons to the Illuminati to alien lizards. The focus on outlandish, sci-fi conspiracies is troubles me, especially when there are so many actual conspiracies in the world that they could give their energy to.

Actual conspiracies are usually plans to increase wealth or power for a small group, with destruction, violence or misery for other resulting… Continue reading

North Kensington: Urgent Awakening to Reality

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Published with permission: “People have got to take this seriously x”

 

When prime minister Johnson announced new measures and recommendations aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus last night (Monday 23rd) I thought the message was clear: the government will maintain certain freedoms, but we all need to do our bit – if we don’t, then harsher, more dictatorial measures are inevitable. I thought this would be widely understood, but judging by what I saw on Ladbroke Grove today, I was completely wrong. Without an urgent awakening to reality, our remaining freedoms will be lost and we will be on full lockdown. And in these surreal times, we might need to rely on the most unlikely sources to help us through.

Socialism is Here

Overwhelmed by crisis, Johnson and his cabinet mutate daily into Britain’s first socialist government, exercising extensive state power in the face of COVID-19. The Tories are now adopting policies unthinkable to them a few weeks ago such as nationalisation and increased social security. Capitalism as we knew it is over, sweeping emergency socialist policies prop up the economy and society – austerity is gone. 

But this is no social democracy. It is a country in a state of emergency in which the now all-powerful government have spent so long waving flags while cutting back essential services – nurses, doctors, police –  that they have left us all enfeebled.

North Kensington

Given that the health service is teetering on the brink, it is all the more important that citizens do their bit to stop the spread of a virus which has killed 87 people in this country in the last 24 hours alone. Continue reading

From Madrid

My name is Marta and I live in lockdown in Madrid with my husband and our three children aged 14, 17 and 19.

From 2012 to 2014 we lived in North Kensington, London. As the Coronavirus transforms everyday reality in these two cities, I send a contemporaneous account of life in Madrid…

This is the twelfth day we have been locked down, although it is the eighth without leaving home for anything (only one of us goes out to the closest food store every two to three days). A feeling and experience at first so unreal has become a natural routine in our lives. Everything has happened so fast that our mentality has been changing practically from one day to the next, from absolute nonchalance to becoming aware of the risk and it being real and very close to us. From lack of concern we moved to an awareness of our own community responsibility not to spread the virus, then the knowledge of cases nearby and the subsequent alarm when starting to hear that acquaintances or their relatives were dying or in critical condition.

To illustrate this evolution, I will go through the last days through memory:

Sunday, March 8th: With my daughters, my sisters and their children I attend the Women’s March. It is full of people. We proudly tell ourselves that we will not be intimidated by fear of the virus. We do not want the march to fade after the unprecedented success of the event last year in Spain. The celebration is like a bustling holiday.

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International Women’s Day Rally, Madrid, March 8th

Monday, March 9th: I speak to my father (a retired doctor who lives on the Mediterranean coast) on the phone and he asks me to take precautions and try to avoid unnecessary trips from home. I tell him that we are not a risk group, and he replies that it is a community emergency, so it is time to think about the community and not in personal terms. His comment makes me think and I begin to consider limiting our outings. That afternoon I go to a department store and when I’m in line to pay I hear a couple saying that tomorrow will be the last day of class because the government has decreed the closure of schools and universities from Wednesday in Madrid for two weeks.

Wednesday, March 11th: with the closing of the schools, teleworking is promoted at companies. Some after-school clubs and sports competitions are maintained. Some university students and entire families travel to their places of origin or to the beach as if a national vacation had been declared. Most people have not yet become aware. I ask my daughter not to go to her rugby training. She fears her coach will see it as a lack of commitment. Even though I am aware, I still leave the house for an hour a day to walk in the park. I do a mental calculation of the number of people who may need intensive care for the virus. Experts say the virus will affect 60% of the population. Only 10% of that 60% will need intensive care at the hospital, that is, around three million Spaniards. Spain has around 5000 Intensive care beds. I am aware of how important it is to prevent the rapid spread of viruses to prevent the collapse of the healthcare system and the death of many patients.

Thursday, March 12th: I feel a desire to go into myself, to withdraw from the outside, from the media noise and from collective anxiety. People around are recording videos, holding online gatherings, sending thousands of messages to WhatsApp groups. Meanwhile, I just want to be with myself, and with my family. I have enjoyed these first days spending 24 hours with my children and husband. I feel a nice connection and unity. In the morning I think that I like my family and I celebrate that my children are living the confinement with such naturalness and responsibility. That afternoon sparks arise between them. I realise that the closure is not going to be so easy or that romantic.

Friday, March 13th: My market research contracts are cancelled. I run out of projects. I anticipate that it will be a couple of months without work or income. I decide to focus on writing a book that until now was only in my mind as a vague project. I look for the bibliography and start reading.

Saturday, March 14th: The government closes public parks and prohibits non-essential outdoor trips. We spend the day reading or listening to news or experts about the coronavirus. It is like a drug. We cannot stop watching, reading and sharing news. We receive the first calls and messages from friends in London and the USA. We start hearing the first news about homes for the elderly where the virus has spread, killing several people.

Sunday, March 15th: A week ago we were looking at Italy feeling worried for them, but with the distance and complacency of those who feel safe and believe that this will not really affect us. Our perception is now completely transformed. From our window I see the military stopping people and asking them for their identity cards, their address and their reasons to be in the street. Some get fined.

Monday, March 16th: After some days of confinement we already have our own ‘rituals’. At 7:30pm, my brothers and sisters, their children, my parents and my household meet in a videocall and try to cheer up my parents, who are alone. We all talk at the same time; we do not listen to each other, but at least we are together. The call lasts till 8,15pm approx. At 8pm, we all go to our balconies or windows, together with the rest of Spain to applaud the national health system and all its staff who are working so hard for all of us. We like to do the clapping together, even if we are far away from each other (one of my sisters lives in the US). It is a very warm and exciting moment. A boost of energy and hope. Every day at 8pm, I feel like crying with joy.

Tuesday, March 17th: We cook a lot from scratch and try new recipes. We are enjoying eating together. We also watch some TV series together. We begin to hear about the first cases of Coronavirus nearby. There are students and teachers infected in the girls’ secondary schools and at my son’s and husband’s university. Every day we hear of some Spanish politicians or celebrities who have contracted the virus.

Wednesday, March 18th: A close family member has symptoms. She calls the allocated emergency Coronavirus phone number and is told that they will not test her unless the fever is very high. The health services are overwhelmed.

Thursday, March 19th: My father, 83 years old, asks us not to take him to hospital if he gets the virus. He says that in the face of a shortage of resources, doctors will prioritise saving a young life, so he will be safer at home. We keep hearing about tragic job losses and company closures. The economic crisis, they say, is unprecedented and incalculable.

Friday, March 20th: I participate in an initiative to write letters to prisoners, who are now suffering double confinement (visits are not allowed, and they cannot interact among themselves either). There is a similar initiative to write to Coronavirus patients isolated in hospitals. The initiative is a success. The week has been full of small occupations despite not leaving home. My reading for my book has not always been productive. Today for the first time I experienced tedium. I am starting to know about people close to us who are in serious condition (friends’ parents, an acquaintance who is my age…) or who have died (a chancellor of my husband’s university, the former president of Real Madrid football club, a well-known journalist, a friend’s mother…)

Saturday, March 21st: The virus is no longer something alien or intangible. For the first time we feel fear and we see that “people like us” are also affected. The President announces that the worst is yet to come and that we have not yet reached the peak. There are some ‘spontaneous’ protests from some balconies questioning the government’s management of the crisis. The protests generate rejection in me. I feel like this is a time to be united. I do not want noise that does not serve to unite us.

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Madrid, March 22nd

Sunday, March 22nd: Today I feel it is hard for me to focus. I practice meditation. I feel I need some fresh air, although I keep calm. The government has just announced that confinement is extended for two more weeks. No one is surprised. We know it will be long and we are prepared for it.

As I finish typing this for my friends back in England, I note that 1753 people have already died in Spain.

 

 

Marta Delgado

Event: Housing and Land in RBKC

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One week after the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower atrocity, local residents and campaigners are holding a day of talks, workshops and film screenings about the housing crisis in Kensington & Chelsea.

The event takes place at Kensington Town Hall and will be hosted by Save Earl’s Court Supporters Club; Save Silchester; T.H.I.N.K., Westway 23 and supported by the Radical Housing Network. Below is their summary and here is the link to register for a free ticket: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/housing-and-land-in-rbkc-tickets-62845738295?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Two miles from Grenfell Tower lie 22 acres of empty land that used to be the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. A venue that brought over £1 billion a year into the economy. Knocked down to make way for a luxury housing development. Public land given to private developers to build for the property speculators on and off-shore in a Borough where public land is constantly under threat from the council and private developers. A development with zero social housing planned whilst families from Grenfell still live in temporary housing. How is a council that has failed to react to the housing crisis going to deal with the climate crisis? All development and buildings now take place in the context of the climate crisis.

This event asks the questions; how did we get into this situation? In the context of the climate crisis and Grenfell how should our land and housing be used? What does our community need?

Sessions Include:

The Attack on Public Housing

Safe Homes

Housing , Land and the Climate Emergency

Community and Co-operative Solutions

Older People Forgotten Victims of the Housing Crisis

Speakers confirmed so far include:

Stuart Hodkinson Academic, author of Save as Houses: Private Greed, Political Negligence and Housing Policy After Grenfell

Phil Murphy. Fire safety expert. Manchester Sustainable Communities

Danielle Majid, Tower Blocks UK

Richard Lees, Just Space

Land Justice Network

Alison Bancroft, Housing Association Residents Action

Joe Delaney

Lizzie Spring, Long term K&C resident who writes and campaigns on whole neighbourhood resident-led approaches to housing

Emma Dent Coad MP

Cllr Linda Wade

Melanie Wolfe

Tony O’ Brien, author: Tackling the housing crisis

Community Matters – Free Music Event for North Kensington

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This Saturday evening, as part of the Trauma Matters weekend at the Tabernacle to mark the two year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, WeCoproduce CIC is hosting two hours of soulful sounds & soothing rhythms by female artists.

Saturday 15th June, 7-9pm,

The theatre, upstairs at the Tabernacle.

Free entry for all, no need to book.

The show will be entirely led by a diverse range of brilliant female artists as a nod to the essential rol played by women in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire.

The music will be preceded by a book signing by the renowned speaker, author and trauma expert Dr Gabor Maté at 5pm and the launch of the Writing from the Roots North Kensington EZine at 6pm. Tickets for Gabor Maté’s workshop have sold out, but tickets for day two of Trauma Matters are available, with a limited number of free tickets for North Kensington residents. Please email jane@wecoproduce.com.

Lineup for the Community Matters music event:

The Grime Violinist is a unique artist. Classically trained, she is currently the only violinist in the world dedicated to grime and the first violinist to release her own original grime tracks. The Grime Violinist has worked with artists including Giggs, Lethal Bizzle, Mr Eazi and Lady Leshurr. Her performances have ranged from Glastonbury, Wireless and Boomtown Festivals, to The Royal Albert Hall, Hammersmith Apollo and Roundhouse. TV appearances have included performing on BBC 1, ITV, SBTV and Channel 4 on the Big Narstie Show.

@grimeviolinist / thegrimeviolinist.co.uk

Desta Hailé‘s music is influenced by jazz, reggae, soul & the many places she has called home. She has worked an eclectic range of artists, from Joe Bataan to Zap Mama, and recently opened for Sara Tavares at Jazz Café.

@destahaile / soundcloud.com/destahaile / facebook.com/destamusic

Helen McCookerybook was born and raised in Wylam, Northumberland, Helen was the bass player/singer with Brighton indie band The Chefs and guitarist/singer with Helen and the Horns in the 1980s. Both of were favourites of BBC Radio 1’s John Peel. After a break to raise a family, she returned to the stage as a solo artist with a new set of songs, and since then has toured the UK regularly, releasing four solo albums. She has recorded with artists such as Gina Birch of the Raincoats, Vic Godard, Lester Square, Martin Stephenson, and Arrest! Charlie Tipper, and been played regularly by Gideon Coe on BBC Radio6

mccookerybook.com / helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/the-sea / facebook.com/Helen-McCookerybook

Ishani is breathing new life into the Trip Hop genre. She has recently been made a BBC Introducing artist by Bobby Friction and is instantly recognisable by her distinctive vocals, and incisive and often challenging lyricism. Brooding, hypnotic and sensual, her songs offer comfort as a shoulder to lean on; a cathartic electronic outpouring of personal relief. “Poetic, magical realism mixed in with Trip Hop” Bobby Friction BBC Asian Network.

ishanimusic.com / @IshaniChakra / 

Kinetic Minds is a two-piece collective from W11. Exploring the relation between feelings and motion through sounds, simple and complex dialogue, Kinetic Minds is a tribute to the edge of our culture in the pop landscape.

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by Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Hillsborough & Grenfell – Proximity & Pain

Warning: Some of the content of this article may be upsetting to people. This is a personal exploration of the impact of two major events in English history: the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire.

 

 

Hillsborough and Grenfell are two names that will forever be associated with disaster, atrocity and horrific, needless loss of life in England. In both cases, the victims were abused and dishonoured by the British establishment including the government, police and media. Following Hillsborough, the establishment abusers included Margaret Thatcher’s government, South Yorkshire Police and The Sun newspaper; after Grenfell, it has included the government (local and national), the London Review of Books and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

In both cases, the abuse appeared reflexive, a perverse survival instinct on the part of these establishment pillars. Lies, cover-up and dehumanisation over Hillsborough; it is a similar situation regarding Grenfell. Human vulnerability and mortality are met by a system that wants to survive.

Hillsborough

I reflected on the Hillsborough disaster through my own eyes, those of a 10-year-old child on April 15th, 1989. Hillsborough being possibly my favourite place on earth at that time, somewhere I had been going for years and that had captured my imagination with its noise and camaraderie, a place of fun, release and excitement, all the drama of football. It was edgy but safe.

On that day my team wasn’t playing as it was being used as a neutral venue for the Liverpool v Forest FA cup semi-final. The way football fans were treated in those days – penned in, pushed around – was indicative of the attitude of the authorities to the majority of the population, especially in restless industrial areas like Sheffield. And Liverpool.

The news coming in over the radio, then the pictures on TV, my family talking about it, then all the talk at school on the Monday morning, then visiting the stadium to pay our respects on the Tuesday all caused confusion in my young mind. Those children that died were the same as me, I realised that immediately. The sense of injustice that pervaded Sheffield in the 1980s suddenly became bigger – it was no longer just a sense; it was 96 innocent lives.

I moved on, as you do when you’re 10, but I remained profoundly affected.

Grenfell

Twenty-eight years on, I saw what was once the tower block next to my flat burn. I had lived on a so-called ‘finger block’ underneath Grenfell Tower until 2014. On June 14th, 2017, I saw my view, my estate and my neighbours engulfed. The same palpable feel in the air as when I visited Leppings Lane in 1989. Of course, there is sadness, but there is also much more.

Unlike Hillsborough, there has been very little relief from the trauma. It is only now, after two years, that I can start to think that I have moved on. I live in North Kensington and Grenfell permeates everything here. Working in the third sector, having to deal with Kensington and Chelsea council and having a personal commitment to honouring the victims have all added to the ongoing presence of Grenfell in my mind.

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Media Lens

In both cases, I find it very difficult to accept hearing about them through a media filter, sanitised and commodified, adjusted to fit into a ‘news agenda’ or presented rationally as part of the ‘news cycle’. On top of the media gloss, I find it offensive that people try to worm away from justice in the face of death, scorning the sanctity of life. Thatcher, South Yorkshire Police, The Sun, RBKC, KCTMO and the rest…

Thinking about my reaction brings to mind the American Professor Norman Finkelstein describing his mother’s hysterical reaction to seeing coverage of the Vietnam war on television. She saw that human life is sacred and should not be presented in this dry, ‘rational’ way. She had experienced the Nazi holocaust and so the reduction of human suffering to a news item, or even entertainment was beyond her capacity to deal with.

My brain might be similar. Any approach to these disasters that omits emotion is impossible for me to passively consume. When the Hillsborough atrocity has been in the media, I have become tense and uptight, then I feel rage swell up. I then have to switch off. It is the same with the Grenfell Tower.

Where does this rage come from? How much of it is healthy, rational and necessary? How much is something else?

The rage is real and fully alive. It makes my mind work in a different way and my calm demeanour is gone, overpowered. I live in the space between the two extremes of raw pain and peace. I do not want to suppress what needs to come out, to manifest and find expression.

And so, I am left with this class-based rage. I do not want it, it is not freedom, but it may be a healthy thing to learn to express and fathom.

The writer and activist Audre Lorde talked of anger’s utility as a pathway to change: “We have to learn to orchestrate these furies so that they do not tear us apart.” Many in North Kensington could take heed, especially us men.

If this article is crossing the narrow lines of self-indulgence or self-pity, I hope it might also serve to encourage a few men to accept or examine their own trauma. Like many people in North Kensington, I tell myself I haven’t really suffered, there are hundreds and probably thousands of people worse off than me within a mile. The victims’ families and close friends, my old neighbours on the Lancaster West estate, the fire fighters, young local children and the elderly.

In North Ken, I see men with the stiff upper lip and I see the rage coming out sideways, and of course I see that I am maybe better off – at least geographically, I’m slightly removed from Grenfell, and I am learning ways to understand and express my trauma; I can even help people a little bit. But trauma isn’t a relative thing. The fact that others have suffered more doesn’t make my pain easier to bear for me.

To express pain and anger is to express life itself. It is a necessary process.

 

by Tom Charles @tomhcharles

The Trauma Matters weekend is on at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill, 15th-16th June, for more info and free tickets for North Ken residents, click here.

Let’s Talk Law – Briefly

Caveat

I’m not a lawyer, I am not an advocate of law and this is not legal advice so do not be advised by any of this or act upon it. In fact, maybe just skip to the next article if you are not sure.

I hope this serves as an admonition of non-admonition to the reader. And I hope it pleases those who are paid to turn simple words into time served in a cell so that a single authoritarian view remains.  It’s just my private thoughts for consideration. 

This is really a prod in the brain for all those that consider themselves British and free in this land and also feel that they are above the constraints of prejudice regarding colour, race, religion, and class; in truth, you are not.  Even assuming so is the key reason why your rights have been taken away, allowing ‘assumptions’ to become your law.

In many ways, this is an invitation for us to seek a deeper understanding of three things: law, religion, and science but the intricate details are a whole other story so we will simplify it if it is possible. Maybe an example is needed.

In the world that religion recognised before it became a swear word, there was a duty for people to believe in the unseen. Of course, today that sounds like looking out for a bearded man descending from the heavens on a white horse while striking people down for violating the Sabbath. But if you can momentarily bridge your mind and put your prejudice aside, you will actually see that seeing the unseen is simply referring to mentalism – a validated science.

Our reality actually does all begin with the thought, then the expression of the spoken word to form the material world. Today, for us, that word is Brexit. And out of NOTHING came all of this.  Continue reading