Wednesday 30 June 2010

Empire State of Mind: Let's hear it for Southall

Regular readers may know that though I've been a South-East Londoner for 20-odd years now, my early and schooling years were spent in and around Southall, an outer West-London suburb with a large Asian community.  So I thought I'd share with you this funny, and actually quite good, parody of J-Zee's Empire State of Mind by Humili-Asian:
"...cos baby I'm from Southall
Concrete jungle where dreams are broken
There's nothing you can do
Now you're in Southall
These streets will try and sell anything as long as its faking
Lets's hear it for Southall, Hounslow, Harrow..."

Click here to check out my other posts about Southall.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Bubble at Eltham Palace

A quirky, local (and Free!) event worth checking out for those not at the Greenwich & Docklands Festival: 
Sunday 4 July 2010  
Greenwich World Cultural Festival, Eltham Palace

12.30–4.30pm. Eltham Palace & Gardens Court Yard, London SE9 5QE
A day of dance, theatre and circus workshops and performances, curated by Greenwich Dance. The unusual venue is a blow-up portable pavilion that's touring various London sites this summer. Raumlabor’s bubble will host a variety of dance workshops and performances throughout the afternoon as part of a vibrant, free programme of dance, theatre, circus and music.

This celebratory afternoon out is presented by Greenwich Council and curated by Greenwich Dance and Greenwich Theatre to animate the beautiful grounds of Greenwich’s iconic Eltham Palace and Gardens. For more information or to book workshop spaces call Greenwich Dance on 020 8293 9741 or or log on to or

You can check out other local happenings at Eltham/Greenwich Events and Places.

Monday 28 June 2010

Greenwich & Docklands International Festival, until 4 July

The Greenwich & Docklands International Festival is happening now! It started on 24 June and goes on until 4 July. Music, parades and amazing street entertainment. Some happenings this weekend:

Sat 03 Jul:2:00 Bolero Remixed  Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf
Dancing City  Canary Wharf
15:30 Whose Hair Dares Cutty Sark Gardens
15:45 Fishing for Shadows Monument Gardens, Old Royal Naval College
16:30 Le Cercle Peter Harrison Planetarium, Royal Observatory
16:35 Cascade Jubilee Plaza, Canary Wharf
17:00 Brainwave Monument Gardens, Old Royal Naval College
18:00 3rd Ring Out Greenwich Park
Oxymer Deard’s Landing, Millwall Outer Dock

Sun 04 Jul:
15:15 Home Monument Gardens, Old Royal Naval College
15:30 Whose Hair Dares Cutty Sark Gardens
15:45 Fishing for Shadows Monument Gardens, Old Royal Naval College
16:30 Le Cercle Peter Harrison Planetarium, Royal Observatory
17:00 Brainwave Monument Gardens, Old Royal Naval College
17:00 Slot Cutty Sark Gardens
18:00 3rd Ring Out Greenwich Park

Click here for more photographs of the events so far. I've been to some of the G&D Festival events in past years and they have been inspiring - not sure yet what we'll get to this year (now that we have 'family responsibilities' and cannot wander around like we used to!). Let me know what you think if you manage to get to any of them.

You can check out other local happenings at Eltham/Greenwich Events and Places.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Woolwich Mela 2010

Well, managed to pop down to the Woolwich Mela in the sweltering 31c heat. It was on Woowich Common off Ha-Ha Road, south-east London. We got there about 11.30am - it was advertised from 10am, with 'children/women's activities' (I kid you not, like they are the same thing!) supposedly taking place at that time until noon. I'm afraid we found little going on apart from people quietly setting up.  Granted that there was lots of promise in the air, with the music stage (photo above left) banging out some rocking bhangra tunes (as they say...) and food and book stalls (above right) being set up, but I think they went for too early an opening time.  We were approached by a rather keen young man, in shirt and tie (poor thing) eager to sell us some private education tuition for our kids - I wonder how many bookings they'll make with the stereotypically keen Indian parents.

Anyhows, we left after about 45 minutes - having paid £4 for the kids for the bouncy castle and then some more for ice-creams for us all. At least the bouncy castle man was all sorted with a flat screen TV to watch the England vs Germany World Cup game later at 3pm (it was 4-1, ouch..) I expect it did liven up in the evening with the live acts but we had to get to a family birthday party and so couldn't get back later which was a shame. Must try to catch some live music at another mela this summer - try this list to pick a festival near you.

There's a review, in a similar vein, of the Woolwich Mela by another South-East London blogger with Indian roots over at Plummy Mummy...

Saturday 26 June 2010

Tudor Barn Summer Arts Festival 24-27 June

There is so much going on locally that it would be easy to keep entertained all summer at London's free arts festivals. So I make no apology about going overboard on the 'what's-ons' at the moment, especially after the politics-fest earlier in the year.

So here are details about an Eltham event, much of it free, in one of my home town's beautiful and historic settings - sadly I couldn't get round to posting it earlier, so there's only tomorrow left to go...

"Local artists and arts organisations are taking part in a Summer Arts Festival at the Tudor Barn in Well Hall Pleasaunce between 24-27 June.

The event launches on the evening of Thursday 24 June with the Wine Tasting Club, which includes a three course meal with wine. This is followed on the Friday evening with a Gala Night of Jazz and Poetry featuring Gill Manly, London's greatest jazz Diva. Tickets for both these events can be obtained by telephoning the Tudor Barn on 0845 459 2351.

Over the weekend of 26/27 June the Tudor Barn will host exhibits of some of the finest artists within SE London, including art, sculpture, embroidery, flowers, music, dance, workshops and design. Entry is free.

In addition there will be musical performances in the park between 2-4pm on the Sunday afternoon by pop/rock band "Beer Pressure".

For full details of the Arts Festival visit

You can check out my other local happenings at Eltham/Greenwich Events and Places.

(Also sadly this Eltham event clashes tomorrow with the Woolwich Mela and my nephew-in-law's birthday party and the England vs. Germany match ...another busy day then)

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Camping it up again

I've just got back from three days of 'family camping' - yes, we did that crazy, strange thing again that I wrote about last year:

"More recently, the family and I have been - are you sitting down - 'camping' (I can only ever imagine that word said quizzically and in my mother's Indian-accented English). Yes, camping is where you work very hard most of your life to pay for and equip a lovely home with luxurious mod cons (well, we have, er, two TVs) and you leave it all behind to cook and sleep in...a field....". Read the rest here.

This year though, our 'family team' actually won one of the competitions. Each group was given an A2 piece of paper and had to use natural and rubbish materials only to make the flag of the world cup country which they had drawn. We had Spain - so bands of yellow and red leaves, with a little fancy-shmancy work by hubby to make the shield. It was good, if I do say so myself. (pic to be added when downloaded) and so were the others (eg. 52 daisies set out and stuck down on a blue background for the stars in the USA flag).

Tuesday 15 June 2010

A New Anthology of British Asian Writing: call for submissions

I came across this interesting call for writing from those who identify themselves as 'British' and 'Asian':

"Tindal Street Press is excited to announce that submissions are now open for a new anthology of British Asian writing.

Deadline: 30 June 2010

Working title Asian Enough? is an anthology of short stories, to be edited by Tindal Street author Kavita Bhanot, which will be published in October 2011.

Kavita says of the project:
“This anthology is not a disparate collection of literary stories by writers who identify themselves as British and Asian, but a recognition that we share something in common, whether it is influence, experience, or the expectations of others. It is also a protest, a shared agenda to resist these expectations and pressures.

So you won’t be told that your story is not Asian enough or that it’s too Asian for this anthology. You don’t have to write a funny story about an arranged marriage, about the culture clash between parents holding onto ‘outdated’ traditions while their children just want to be ‘British’, or a drama about being a ‘normal’ Muslim in a time of religious fanaticism. Because these are not the only stories that we have to tell.

But it is OK if this is what you want to write about, because these might be aspects of our realities, as long as you do it from the inside, with compassion, understanding and freshness, showing other perspectives, since the stories that we see again and again reflect only one angle. We’re looking for well-crafted stories with wisdom, depth, complexity, energy and detail. You write about what you care about, the story you want to tell.”

Stories are for an adult literary readership, between roughly 3000 and 5000 words. Apart from correspondence concerning the finally selected stories, there will be no individual feedback to authors on stories submitted, although all submission will be read. If you identify yourself as British Asian send one story only, by email, with a short covering letter, to, with the subject heading: British Asian Anthology

Deadline for submissions: 30 June 2010
Final Selection: October 2010
Publication: October 2011"

Incidently, the top image is from the hardcover jacket of 'British Asian Fiction: Framing the Contemporary' Neil Murphy (Editor), Wai-chew Sim (Editor), Cambria Press (2008).

Monday 14 June 2010

Asian Melas 2010: 'Coming of Age'

It's mela season all over the UK! No, it's not a fruit. A 'mela' is a word from various northern sub-continental languages traditonally meaning a kind of rural fayre. These days, and especially in the UK, it's come to mean a kind of festival of music, dance, food, etc. - some small, some grander. And get this - as if that were not enough, these events which will be taking place all over the UK in the coming months, are overwehlmingly FREE.   They will take place in the parks, commons and squares of many of the UK's major towns and cities.

To coincide with the mela season an exhibition and book has been launched which celebrates 21 years of Melas in the UK.  Coming of Age kicked off at the end of May at the New Arts Exchange in Nottingham - it will show there until 24th July 2010. It will be open to the general public at Cartwright Hall in Bradford from 7th August to 7th November 2010. The press release of the book describes the importance of melas like this:
"In 21 years of mela history in the UK, Asian music and arts have become very much part of the style, fashion and fabric of mainstream Britain. Jay Sean has become an international R’n’B star; artists like Madonna and Kylie Minogue famously styled themselves around Indian themes; and Bollywood has started to appeal to western audiences with films such as Moulin Rouge and Bride and Prejudice taking influence from them, and more recently ‘My Name is Khan’and many more being financed and distributed by Hollywood Studios. Asian music has also been sampled by Hip-Hop / Rap musicians, most famously with the Bhangra beat behind Missy Eliot’s 'Get Your Freak On’ and Jay-Z and Punjabi MC’s ‘Beware of the Boys’; British Asian artists like Talvin Singh, Black Star Liner, and Nitin Sawhney have all been nominated for, and won the Mercury Music awards, and gone onto gain critical acclaim. One of Britain’s most respected visual artists Anish Kapoor, has just unveiled his plans for a definitive public sculpture as part of the Olympic Stadium, another example of how British Asian personalities are recognised and constantly coming to the fore.

British Asian culture and especially youth culture has become ‘Cool’. Very different to the negative image of bigoted, fundamental extremists; the image the public often sees as representations of Asian youth in national tabloid press.
This journey from an often invisible community with no significant voice in Britain, to a community that has a significant say in Britain’s artistic, cultural, political and economic landscape is explored in a new book Coming of Age. Mela festivals have been central to this growth, as an outlet of expression for Asian culture, values, and understanding between communities." Read the rest here.
The BBC Asian Network are going big on covering this summer's Asian melas (a last hurrah?). For more information on the BBC Asian Network’s Summer of Melas, you can visit –

I've tried to put together the definitive list of every UK Asian mela I can find details about, with the relevant links (though I've some tidying to do..) - let me know if I've missed any and I'll add them. But importantly, if you go to any melas, let me have your review:

Sunday 20 June - Glasgow Mela, Kelvingrove Park
        ["It’s been estimated that a record number of people, approximately 40,000, descended upon the festival which was celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Glasgow Mela is known as Scotland’s biggest multi-cultural festival...." Rest of the review here]

Sunday 27 June - Woolwich (London) Asian Mela, 10am to 8pm, Ha-Ha Road, (off the South Circular), London SE18 4UK (between 10am and 12pm is 'children and women's activites' (!) - you've got to love 'em)

Sunday 27 June - Oldham Mela, 12 noon to 8pm, Alexandra Park, Queens  Park [cool website]

Saturday 3 - Sunday 4 July - Rochdale Mela
Sunday 11 July - Eastleigh, 11am to 6.30pm
Saturday 17 July - Southampton Mela Festival, 12 noon - 9pm, Hoglands Park, Southampton
Sunday 18 July - Leicester Belgrave Mela, Leicester City Centre (Eastenders and Bend it Like Beckham actress Preeya Kalidas, launches her pop career at this mela with her first live UK performance.)
Sunday 18 July - Nottingham Mela
Sunday 18 July - Tunbridge Wells (Kent) Mela, from 12 noon, at Calverley Grounds
24/25 July - Manchester Mega Mela
24 July - Liverpool International Mela, 12 noon to 7pm, Princes Park, Liverpool
31 July to 1st August
- Newcastle Asian Arts & Music Mela, Exhibition Park, 12 noon to 7pm
Saturday 31 July - Swindon Mela 
[Slough Mela - whenever it was to be, is cancelled for the 3rd year running]


Sunday 1 August - Croydon Mela, 1pm to 8pm,  Lloyd Park, Croydon

Sunday 1 August - East London Mela, 12noon to 8pm, Barking Park, Longbridge Road, Barking IG11 8AT. Unusually, this one is charging.Gates open at noon and close at 8pm. Tickets are £5 for adults, £3 for children under 12.
It's being hosted by BBC Asian network presenter Sonia Deol. Among the big names is singer and EastEnders actress Preeya Kalidas (who plays Amira in the BBC soap). Others include Imran Khan, Mumzy Stranger, Abbas Hassan and Raghav.
[Apparently 18,000 people turned out - see review here at]

? 1 August - Leeds Mela (2009 site here)
? 1 August - Luton Mela
6th-8th August - Edinburgh Mela Festival at Leith Links
Sunday 8 August - London Mela, 1pm to 8.30pm, Gunnersbury Park, Ealing, London W5 [the 'big one'...]
Sunday 8 August - Cardiff Multicultural Mela, Roald Dahl Plass, Cardiff Bay
Sat 28 & Sun 29 August - Belfast Mela, Great Lawns, Botanic Gardens, Belfast

Sat 11 to Sun 12 Sept - Maidstone Mela

Thursday 10 June 2010

Can the progressive British Left learn to love football?

I'm sitting here having come across the opening night concert for the World Cup - one of the performances was John Legend dueting with Angelique Kidjo on a cover of 'Move on up', wow.  Other acts included Shakira, Alicia Keys and Black Eyed Peas.

While thinking about football, I remembered the piece this week by Gary Younge which touches on lots of interesting points about which team to suppport in the World Cup if you're young, British and black. For him "as a young black boy in 1970s Hertfordshire, English patriotism was inextricably bound up with far-right politics and racism, not least in the beautiful game." Lots of his points struck a chord with me - I remember my brother (we're brown, Brit-Asian btw) playing football in the 1970s, in Northolt (a north-west London suburb) only to find that the next day, some of his seemingly-friendly white 'team mates' would be be rolling with the NF skinheads trying to catch him and spit at him. Younge seems to have made peace with football and has found a way of suppporting England which makes sense to him. And actually my brother is a big England supporter now. Though if India (or Barbados for Younge) were in the competition (fat chance), what then? Let's not go there - I'm sure the coalition govt would come up with some test 'a la Tebbit' once they'd finished teaching spouses English.  Read Younge's article here.

As a counter to Younge's piece reconciling himself to supporting England, Laurie Penny has written today on why she despises the world cup - "Who cares about a bunch of misogynist jocks tossing a ball around? Football is commodified nationalism that excludes more than half the population."  She makes a lots of points with which that I totally agree.  Just because it's easy to target Penny as a 'humourless parody' (in the words of some knee-jerk commentators) does not mean that her points have no validity - the point about the South African women's football team player having been raped and murdered is a deadly serious one.

Saturday 5 June 2010

'Jimmy Day' in Eltham

I saw a poster up in the cafe at Eltham Park South yesterday about this event tomorrow:

'Jimmy Day'
The first of an annual event in support of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation

Sunday 6 June
Eltham Park South, Glenesk Road, Eltham, London SE9 1AG

Noon to 7pm

A festival of fun - building communities. The event includes:

Live music stage * Rides * Inflatables * Games * Face painting *Artist sketching * Competitions * Volleyball * Table tennis * Badminton * Free tennis and football training with qualified coaches * Full BBQ and refreshments including Pimms tent.

There are no pitch charges for stallholders - make a donation to the foundation on the day. Stall holders wishing to take part please make contact to reserve a space.

Family table top sales - turn up on the day with your own table

For more info: 07833 256124 or

You can check out my other local happenings at Eltham/Greenwich Events and Places.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Isle of Wight beckons again

Greetings from the Isle of Wight where we are spending the half-term week. Until I get a chance to write again, here's my previous post about visiting the Isle of Wight...

"....We've visited during the last two May-half term weeks. For those who don't know it is a little, very little, island off the south coast of England, kind of opposite Portsmouth, Hampshire. It is known for - how can I put this - being a little England stuck in the past, somewhere in the 1950s mostly. All deck chairs, ice-creams and ladies in hats. But many mainland families are attracted there because of its beaches, its holiday feel and its places to visit. So I set off for my next 'cross-cultural' experience of holidaying like the English....." Click to read the rest.