Charlie and the Fear Factory

O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other, not that ye may despise each other – Verse 49:13, Surat I-hujurat (The Dwellings) The Holy Qur’an

The terrifying events in Paris last week have been pounced upon by the political mainstream and many social media users to declare commitment to freedom of speech and vilify Muslims and Islam.

People in Britain have taken to social media to express solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo magazine. ‘Je Suis Charlie’ they say, but had you heard of this magazine before last week? People who have surely never read the magazine are so profoundly moved that not only are they willing to declare sympathy, but en masse have declared that they are in fact Charlie Hebdo.

World leaders flew to Paris to jostle for position at the front of a solidarity rally. Our war mongering, arms selling Prime Minister was there, a man who once ordered the Guardian to destroy hard drives containing information given to them by Edward Snowden.

And there too was the prima facie war criminal Binyamin Netanyahu, a man with the blood of thousands of Palestinian innocents on his hands, whose own government cracks down on free speech within its own borders and in the territories it occupies. Surreally, along from Netanyahu was Mahmoud Abbas, presumably the most uncomfortable man in Paris that day, marching alongside a man unquestionably responsible for the deaths of over 500 children in Gaza last summer during Israel’s ongoing infanticide.

Uncomfortable
Credit: AFP

WC

The list goes on and the point is that these leaders are demonstrably indifferent to the sanctity of life and freedom of expression.  What they are interested is pushing their own agenda, an agenda of fear and perpetual war that does not benefit the majority of people now proclaiming to ‘be’ Charlie.

Charlie Hebdo magazine is part of a mainstream political culture that increasingly seeks to vilify and marginalise Muslims and Islam, failing to provide details of the context in which events take place. The cartoons they published were knowingly offensive and deliberately blasphemous. Why? Political satire should empower the weak and maligned, not target them.

To support freedom of expression is one thing, but widespread support for a racist, Islamophobic publication is something else. The right to freedom of speech comes with the responsibility not to deliberately attack, disgust and provoke ordinary people.

Muslims are the biggest victims of terror in the world today. Not one government represents a majority Muslim country with any distinction and most are dictatorships that act to shore up American economic ambitions. One of the biggest killers of Muslims is US President Obama, who is in charge of the broadest terror campaign in history; the US drone programme.

And the geopolitics of all of this violence affects us here in London. Our politicians, like the murderers in Paris last week have much to gain by dividing us. Both of these groups, who rely on violence for their power and status, are opportunistically seizing on events in Paris to recruit people to their cause and maximise their own power and control. Muslims will be the primary victims of this. Muslims are a minority, an easy target. The mainstream media constantly, daily links two words: ‘Muslim’ and ‘terror’. Slowly but surely these ideas are being internalised and normalised and this is the real threat to our freedom.

Islam is a religion of peace and grace, from which we can learn so much about our common humanity. It never has been and never will be our enemy. The real enemy remains those who seek to disseminate violence, terror and division. They have to work tirelessly to divide us.

The historical precedents are too obvious to mention; in 2015, let’s make sure we embrace our glorious diversity so that we may know each other, not despise each other. The choice is ours.

 

by Tom Charles

Urban Dandy was at…

East Pop is a touring showcase of East End artistry. The brainchild of Red Gallery, producers of “East End Promise” an exhibition recording the transformative work s of 1985-2000, the current show explores today’s art scene. Last week we visited the show’s West London incarnation.  This show has currently reopenend as “East Pop Red” as part of the Frieze Art Fair at Red Gallery from 12-18 October before gearing up for further roadshows in Edinburgh and Berlin for starters.

This is an all encompassing event bringing together every form of artist and designer imaginable in a sprawling industrial space. Performance artists, films, an interactive art disco, furniture, installations, prints, painting, musicians, photographs, educational activism, video specs, found art and more including a six-foot orange jumpsuited rabbit “walking the plank”.

Urban Dandy’s visit began tentatively gathering a sense of the exhibit then transformed in to an extraordinary evening. Most artists were on hand and the works are so disparate and well spaced that conversations occured naturally and even privately. It was a strange, almost organic and highly personal event that echoed each visitor’s engagement.

UD donned video-glasses throughout recording every glance and conversation including a discussion about the role of activism in education. Dancing at the art disco, discovering strangely set rooms, curtained off films and provocative installations made for a stimulating time while the banquettes, outdoor seating and even children’s paint area provided ample space and the right atmosphere to digest and rehash.

Too many individual works to cover but participating artists include: Hackney WickEd, RAX, Carl Burgess, Browse, Pure Evil, The Dark Times, Adam Dant, Le Gun, Metric Collective and Gerard Puigmal’s Escapism series amongst others. Red Gallery London successfully deliver a challenging venture transplanting a cavalcade of East End creative talents in a new milieu: the sum
of which is more than an exhibit it’s a proper one-off experience.

Unknown Hell – Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

Pic at Bourj al Barajneh camp, Beirut, which inspired the title 'Unknown Hell'. Graffiti in foreground is of the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
 

In February 2011 a group of British Labour MPs joined a Parliamentary delegation to Lebanon, home to 400,000 Palestinian refugees. They live in hell, but it is never mentioned in the mainstream media. Click here to read the findings of Gerald Kaufman, Michael Connarty and Jeremy Corbyn.

Unknown Hell

Huffington Post’s London Launch

It is a fantastic time for online journalism as illustrated by the arrival of  The Huffington Post on this side of the pond.

From left, Kelly Osbourne, Shami Chakrabarti, Richard Bacon, Arianna Huffington,Kate Burns,Alastair Campbell,Celia Walden and Jon Gaunt attend the launch event for The Huffington Post UK at The Millbank Tower London. Courtesy The Huffington Post UK Launch

July saw the launch of the collaborative blog that encourages independent and lively debate at the Millbank Curzon in London.  A fine evening hosted by Richard Bacon attendees enjoyed drinks, canapés and forthright opinions from Alistair Campbell, Shami Chakrabarti and Arianna Huffington amongst others throughout the evening.

A fine new Addition to Portobello Market

Portobello Premier Farmers and Fine Foods Market launches a new speciality food market this weekend.  In future this addition will be open Fridays-Sunday (10:30-17:30)with produce reflecting the ethnic diversity of the capital.  Alongside top UK produce (rare meats, fresh fish and organic farming) you’ll find delights from Poland, Spain and France. Opening day is Saturday June 18th and includes interactive activities for kids and adults alike – get down there for the wine tasting, music and more! 4-8 Acklam Road (at the Portobello junction)

In Quest of Conscience: History lost in Translation @Finborough Theatre – 2*

by J. Cavanagh

In Quest of Conscience brings the interviews of extermination camp Nazi Commandant Franz Stangl to the stage.   An intriguing, devastating subject matter yet Gitta Sereny’s interviews, so real on paper, translate poorly to the “boards”.

The four-piece production, made up of Stangl (Martin Buchan), Sereny (Phillipa Peak) plus a male and female chorus (Patrick Knowles & Siubhan Harrison,) fails to augment the text in this adaptation. Stangl’s reflections on his time in command of Sobibor and Treblinka come across as impersonal.  Buchan and Peak do their best to channel their characters but their efforts come across as “acted” and at times under-rehearsed.

The simple set with the leads in conversation across a table from each other in the Dusseldorf jail following Stangl’s extradition from Brazil could provide a stark contrasting backdrop for strong emotion.  The chorus re-enact scenes from Stangls’ past re-creating third party memories: his wife in interview, a priest, a daughter, etc.  The chorus is an effective tool – accent challenges aside – and the play would benefit from Stangl interacting with his revisited past. The chorus, Knowles in particular, energises proceedings but more is required to bring this death laden play to life and connect us to the horrors committed and rationalised by this man.

Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road
London, UK, SW10 9ED
http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

Sundays & Mondays until 28 June 2011

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes including interval

Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd: 50 Years for a London Premiere @ The Finborough Theatre – 3.5

The Finborough, a sure bet for fringe theatre, currently delivers top drawer musical enjoyment with a revival of “Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd”.

Beamish (left) & Ashforde (right) in The Roar of The Greasepaint, The Smell of The Crowd - The Finborough Theatre

Set in the smallest Big Top I’ve ever seen the story is ultimately one of class struggle between the portly officious “Sir” (Oliver Beamish) and the threadbare hungry-eyed “Cocky” (Matthew Ashforde). These two are engaged in an absurd game of hopscotch with ever-changing rules to ensure the upper-hand of the upper-class.  The competition is followed throughout by a chorus of “urchins” part-mice, part-Pierrot who provide dazzling support for whichever player takes the lead.

The 60’s original never gathered the UK momentum required for a West-End run but instead was exported straight to Broadway where the class tale and setting translated as a huge success for its resonance with the struggles of the great depression.  Undeniably dated, stereotypical comedic fodder is provided briefly by “The Negro” a caricature with little more than a hayseed stance and guffaw.  Nice then that Terry Doe, assuming this small role, stunned the room with his show-stopping delivery of “Feeling Good”.

The true standout performance of the evening is delivered by Matthew Ashforde who takes on “Cocky” with gutsy relentlessness. As engaged with the audience as his fellow cast members he embodies the painful trials and pathetic triumphs of this role. His eye-catching panache brings to the production a magnetic pull that kept us drawn to the storyline of reinvention and hurdles.

Superior numbers, tight performances and terrific choreography elevate the night’s entertainment.  The cast deliver with such vivacity that from the very outset we were captivated.  The chorus of singing and dancing urchins outdo themselves with exuberant routines in a set that can barely contain them.  Hoots of hilarity and shouts of bravo echo after each number proving this production a delightful, rollicking evening with an entertainment value exceeding many despite the half-century wait for its London opening.

Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road
London, UK, SW10 9ED
http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

Until 2 July 2011

2 hours including intermission.