Thursday 28 October 2010

Anjali Joseph says 'no labels' please

A quick mention of a nice piece in last Sunday's Independent about one of the authors included in the DSC South Asian Literature Festival ( The piece is about Anjali Joseph, author of first novel Saraswati Park, and is quite interesting on identity and 'diaspora writing'...

"Anjali Joseph: 'Stop trying to label me!'

Born in Bombay, educated in Cambridge – and dismissive of tags of nationhood for her debut novel, Anjali Joseph makes a combative case for a better understanding of modern, fluid identity.

Back in 1985, when I was seven, my family moved to England from Bombay. My father was a research scientist. He was going to teach at Warwick University. In his first week, a colleague offered to take him to the cafeteria at the campus arts centre. There were sandwiches, salads, baked potatoes, and something else, which the colleague indicated: "Have you tried these? They're called samosas. They're rather good...." Read the rest here.
The novel, and the author, sound intriguing - definitely one for the ever-growing reading list...

By the way, discovered this nifty 'browse this book' site where you can read the first 53 pages or so, on the publisher's website naturally.

Kind of related posts:
A new Anthology of British Asian writing
Indian authors writing in English
Monica Ali on Fiction
Anita Desai and Kiran Desai in conversation
'Chick Lit'

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Halloween annoys me

Halloween really, really annoys me. Why do we have it? What is it about? I really don't remember it being as big and all pervasive when I was younger.  Just ignore it, I hear you say.  This is the worst thing, I can't just ignore it - I have primary school-aged young children. And you know what that means - they 'do Halloween' at school, with well-meaning relatives, with cub scouts, with friends, in the shops and all over the media.  What Halloween actually is, is another device to keep the capitalist machine turning. It is another excuse for a consumer spend-fest, nicely spaced for retailers between summer hols and Christmas, where maximum guilt power can be exerted if you insist on your kids opting-out. Loads orange and black plastic junk being marketed everywhere.

Now I wouldn't mind the pagan roots of Halloween being acknowledged, just as I wouldn't mind the true meaning/history of Christmas being acknowledged (despite my being an atheist). But when everything is reduced to some vacuous ritual performed by bored individuals, it annoys me. What a bah-humbug I am today. But of course our kids have the costumes, the face paints and glow-in-the-dark fangs at the ready. And I'm sure hubby will even carve a lovely pumpkin as he did last year (photo above)....

Anyways, if you have kids who are really excited by it, or you just can't get enough, here's some local stuff going on (sorry for strange formatting which I don't have time to perfect!):

23 - 31 October
Halloween Skies, Royal Observatory, Greenwich
12.45 and 4.15pm. Go along and find out what the night sky has to off
er this Halloween in this live planetarium show, presented by an astronomer. Charges apply. Booking is required. For more information go to or call 020 8312 6632. 
29 - 31 October
Halloween Costume Workshop, Greenwich Market
11am – 5pm. Take part in this Halloween costume making workshop where you can be a witch, Dracula, goblin, fairy or zombie. There will also be face painting to complete your look and you will have the chance to take part in a scary fashion show and win a prize. There will also be a chance to take part in a cup cake decorating workshop. For information go to
Avery Hill Park cafe
Saturday 30 October, 2pm to 4pm
Halloweeny-witchy activities, face-painting (£2 I kid you not) but 'free' colouring (that's kind). Avery Hill Park, Bexley Road, London SE9

Conjure up spells and potions at magical events at the National Maritime Museum.

Witches Hallowe'en Star Party
Friday 29 October - Saturday 30 October,
various times.

The Observatory and Queen’s House are open to all budding wizards and witches. Dress in your finest robes for an enchanting day out.



Saturday 30 October, 7.30pm 

A walk on the dark side

batsHear terrible tales of grim ghosts, ghastly murders, sinister events and other dark deeds as Greenwich Tour Guides present a special Halloween walk.  Greenwich
Get more information about A Walk on the Dark Side on the Visit Greenwich website.

Charity Hallowe'en Ball

pumpkinStrut your stuff at the Tudor Barn in Eltham and help support the Demelza House Charity.

Tickets cost £15 and include a buffet, live band and disco.

Friday 29 October,  7.30pm - 1am
Tudor Barn, Eltham

Find out more about the Charity Ball, including booking information, at the Tudor Barn website.


Charlton's House of Lost Souls

Meet Charlton House's ghost and former residents at The House of Lost Souls  - a 90 minute tour that allows groups to walk around the house on a specifically designed route.

GhostSaturday 30 and Sunday 31 October
7pm - 9pm
Charlton House

Adults £10, children (aged 12 upwards) £7.

Family ticket £26 (two adults, two children).

Book tickets for The House of Lost Souls on the Greenwich Theatre website.

You can also buy tickets from Greenwich Tourist Information Centre.

Children's Hallowe'en Workshop (free)

maskDiscover the true meaning of Hallowe'en at this FREE drop-in workshop where you can make mysterious masks and puppets.

Saturday 30 October
10am - 11.30am and 12 noon - 1.30pm
Charlton House

Suitable for children of all ages, children must be accompanied by an adult
Sunday 31 October, 10am to 4pm
Tour and crafts at Eltham Palace
castleTake a ghostly tour of Eltham Palace and then get messy with a craft session just for kids. Wear fancy dress and you could win a prize!
Eltham Palace.
Find out more about Hallowe'en Crafts, including ticket prices, at the English Heritage website.

Development of Eltham's Conservative Club?

I came across an online petition which has been started to 'Stop the development of Eltham Conservative & Unionist Club'. What's this I thought - there is no description of the development nor of the objection by its signatories (currently numbering a lonely 5) - is this the same large Conservative Club with its front entrance onto the Eltham High Street, next to Whitewoods the removal people?

A little search revealed that it sounds as though it is. Here's how the Greenwich Council website describes the proposals:
"Refurbishment of the Eltham Conservative Club including the construction of a two storey side extension, ground floor side and rear extension, first floor side extension and new car park layout. The proposal also includes the development of the site to provide 13 houses (12 x 3 bed and 1 x 4 bed) and 8 flats (2 x 1 bed and 6 x 2 bed ) with associated car parking and vehicular access (off Footscray Road), provision of a Community Hall, relocation of bowling green, associated landscaping and refuse storage provision."
I once lived not too far away from this location. I never realised the site was that big (I mean, 13 houses?). The Greenwich website shows the "target date for decision" as 18 October 2010 but also that "this case has not yet been decided". Wonder what happened and why people felt strongly enough to start a petition?

Sunday 24 October 2010

Grove Market Place public consultations

A local site in Eltham which has lay disused for years might finally be redeveloped. Developer Eltham Renaissance has planning permission to build a mixed-use development at the former Grove Market Place site (off Court Rd) kind of opposite the Eltham Post Office.

But there has been strong local opposition to the original proposals - part of that was, I think, that the development would be too high and therefore out of keeping with the local area.

Now this developer is consulting the public over the next few months.

The next public consultation will be held at Passey Place, Eltham on Friday 29 October (between 11am-8pm) and Saturday 30 October (10am-4pm).

The ACE website says that:
"The planning permission allows for a 7 storey building comprising 129 residential units, 4 restaurant/cafes, a GP's surgery, private amenity space and basement car parking. The planning permission also allows for the re-development of 60 Eltham High Street to provide a retail unit.

The scheme is currently being reviewed by the developer who expects to submit a revised planning application in summer 2010. It is understood that the new scheme may contain provision for a small budget hotel along with residential and commercial units, though it is anticipated that the size and scale of the building will be in keeping with the previous planning permission."

But I don't know if these are the exact plans over which Renaissance are now consulting - so go along and have your say.  For more information visit

Saturday 23 October 2010

'Germany has failed multiculturalism not vice versa'

I really liked a piece I read this week countering Angela Merkel's claims last weekend that multiculturalism in Germany had 'utterly failed'.

Failed? Jenny Bourne, writing for the IRR, argues that "Germany has not even tried it." She argues:
"Germany has until recently not extended citizenship rights to its many Turkish residents, or even to the descendants of the Gastarbeiter who were born on its soil, unlike the UK which gave citizenship automatically to its black commonwealth workforce. Germany has never provided support in its education system to those who did not have German as their mother tongue, unlike here where there were classes for those with English as a second language and special funding for areas with particular needs emanating from ethnic minority pupils. Germany has been slow in implementing any national plan against racism and fast to divert part of the funds set aside to fight Neo-Nazis (a serious and increasing threat) to fight leftwing and Islamist extremism."
It matters when what are supposed to be responsible leaders, yes that's our politicians, sink to divisive depths for reasons of winning political ground - in Merkel's case she is fast losing ground to the German Greens. So, much like in times of economic recession, you turn on the 'immigrants'. Bourne comments on this aspect:
"The minute a politician says we do not get on, it creates those conditions for us not to. It puts a kind of imprimatur on people's worst feelings, gives the green light to treating people as inferior, to demonising their difference as a threat. Politicians in my view have a duty to educate, to be ahead of the herd not to echo its worst, uneducated and populist sentiments."
It was also good to read her articulate so eloquently the problem with the term 'multicultural' which I grappled with in a post a couple of weeks ago ('Rethinking Black History Month?'):
"Terms like multiculturalism and integration are not scientific. They do not actually describe something measurable. That is the problem. They are subjective terms, describing in a superficial and generalised way a particular aspect of a society. Thus it can be extended to be just a feeling about society that someone has. 

And look at Merkel's way of arguing, it gives everything away. At first, when they came in the 1960s, we thought they would soon go back where they came from. So it is not about a cultural clash then but the presence of foreigners altogether. Then she changes tack to say if they spoke German then they could get jobs. Well first what efforts has the federal state made to teach foreigners German? And what has being in the workforce to do with multiculturalism in fact. 

What Merkel and others are actually talking about is not integration (which implies a cultural accommodation on equal terms) but the fact that foreigners, and particularly Muslim ones, have not assimilated. If they cannot look German, they can at least act German - speaking its language, holding to its values, worshipping in its way, wearing its clothes."
You can read the rest of Jenny Bourne's piece here.

New Avery Hill Park Cafe opens tomorrow, formally

I've just spotted this on the New Eltham Residents' Association website - a bit of nice news in these gloomy times: 
Formal Opening of New Avery Hill Park Cafe

The formal opening of our new park cafe will be on Saturday 23rd October at 10.30am when representatives of the council and press will be present. We hope you will be able to join us to celebrate this occasion. In case you’ve not visited the park before the cafe is next to the children’s play area just below the Winter Gardens. The car park is a short walk away near the Winter Gardens. Follow signs via the entrance arch in Bexley Road or via Reinickendorf Avenue from Avery Hill Road. 

Hooray! Locals will know that there's been quite a to-do about the cafe over the previous year or so. This is a really welcome development. Well done to those who made it happen.

Other Avery Hill posts:
  Avery Hill Park Cafe protest
  Festivals in SE london: an embarrassment ...

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Eltham Lights Up again

The Eltham Lights Up Procession and Fireworks takes place this year on Thursday 18 November. This great event has fast become an Eltham tradition. It'll take place along the length of Eltham High Street which will be pedestrianised for this event.

Entertainment from 16.30 and the lights will be illuminated during the parade which will start at 18.00. Charity stalls will be based at Passey Place and a number of shops will be staying open late for Christmas shopping. There'll be a rooftop fireworks finale by EEAFx from 18.30 onwards (last year off the top of the M&S roof).

Emergency Exit Arts play a leading part in the event and tell us this about the theme of the event:

"Old Father Time sheds some light on the past, present and future at Eltham’s annual winter festival. EEA’s five metre high giant mechanical puppet, Old Father Time, will lead the procession with over 600 children and their families carrying lanterns. This year these handmade illuminations will be inspired by the past and the rich heritage of the borough and the present, celebrating the diversity, creativity and talents of local people and the future, looking forward to 2012 and beyond in a celebration of invention and aspirations."

We've regularly attended this event with our two young children - you can read my review and see photos of last year's event here. It's quite spectacular watching the giant, ghostly, lit-up figures processing across the (mock) tudor buildings to the sound of hypnotic, beating drums (my photo above). The shops usually stay open late especially, but parking is hell, be warned. But sadly I won't be able to go myself this year - I'm on a residential event with my university where the words 'Browne Review' will be writ large....

The Independent trumpets 'Asian music uprising'

There's a bit of a ding-dong going on about an Independent article. The article by Ian Burrell in the Indy last Friday starts:

"The tastemakers bank on an Asian music uprising
British record labels have traditionally lumped all South Asian-inspired pop into a one-size-fits-all category. But now, says Ian Burrell, that could be about to change

Seven years ago, after a night out with Jay Sean, Rishi Rich and Juggy D culminated in that trio performing to a heaving and euphoric crowd at Ministry of Sound in London, I was convinced things were finally about to change for Britain's Asian music artists.
And, indeed, much has happened since. Jay Sean, then primarily a rapper, has gone on to top the US Billboard charts as an R&B singer. But he achieved that extraordinary success only after splitting from his British record company, starting up his own Jayded label, and then being signed by the American outfit Cash Money Records. Meanwhile, BBC Asian Network, which in 2003 was a year-old adventure on national digital radio, has been shut down....."  Read the rest here.

But one website has taken issue with some of the content. points out that
"BBC Asian Network may not be as it is now, it is likely to be broken down into regional stations, but it has certainly not 'Shut Down'".
 A more serious gripe is the choice of artists features in the article, while others think has the website Desihits is not quite as prolific as the Indy prominence to to might suggest. 
I think it's good to see a positive and thoughtful piece about British-Asian in the mainstream media, albeit a bit of a puff piece.

Monday 18 October 2010

Anti-Slavery Day today

18 to 29 OCTOBER 2010

"This exhibition at City Hall features photos of victims of modern day slavery around the world and marks the UK’s first annual Anti-Slavery Day on 18 October.

The collection of portraits by South East London photographer Pete Pattisson is being hosted by the London Assembly to highlight the individual consequences of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation that millions of men, women and children continue to suffer.

The exhibition will run for two weeks in the Chamber, 2nd floor at City Hall."

A worthwhile campaign, and exhibition.

But the name got me thinking - it rang a bell. If I'm not mistaken I think this may be the same Pete Pattison who contested the Lewisham East seat for the Lib Dems - and lost to the Labour candidate Heidi Alexander. Good luck to him in this work.

Sunday 17 October 2010

BFI London Film Festival 2010

The BFI London Film Festival started last week, running to 28 October. What an absolute smorgasbord of film offered all over London. It's a feast and I just wish I had a week off to indulge myself. Here's some quick picks of films on India  /diaspora-related themes which will prove an antidote to Bollywood  -though there's plenty else on offer:

Dhobi Ghat 
This debut feature by Kiran Rao takes us into the multi-layered world of modern Mumbai, where its inhabitants, separated by class and culture, rarely interact in a deeper way. Successful, reclusive artist Arun (played by India's most popular actor, Aamir Khan) looks to find new inspiration, moving to an apartment... (image above from this film)

Pink Saris
Pink saris are worn by the Gulabi Gang, a group of women vigilantes in Northern India. From the untouchable caste, they resist being condescended to as the lowest social class. They have a champion in the form of the formidable Sampat Pal, who takes up their cases of social injustice...

Gripping filmmaking, Aamir Bashir's tale throws you into the heart of the conflict in Indian Kashmir, often dramatised by Indian cinema but rarely shown from the perspective of the common man. Rafiq is a sensitive, young Kashmiri man haunted by the loss of his elder, photographer brother, who has disappeared...

Just Another Love Story
Acclaimed Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh moves in front of the camera to act in Kaushik Ganguly's film, which unashamedly shakes the foundations of contemporary Indian sexuality. Abhiroop (Ghosh) is an openly gay filmmaker from Delhi intrigued by the story of 70-plus Bengali performer Chapal Bhaduri, famous for playing roles as...

The Nine Muses
Sharing some thematic and aesthetic ground with his widely acclaimed gallery piece Mnemosyne, but developing and extending the focus, this new feature work confirms John Akomfrah as one of the UK's most singular and visionary filmmakers. In this work of uncommon intelligence, a vast array of archival material is combined...

The Good North

The people of a remote Yorkshire village come to terms with the recent beating of a young Asian lad (a 7min short)

Paan Singh Tomar
Leading character actor Irrfan Khan (BAFTA-winning The Warrior), breathes life into this action-packed biopic of Paan Singh Tomar - a real-life athlete who turned into a feared bandit king. Wild-eyed villager Paan Singh joins the army with dreams of serving his country, but his unpredictable nature doesn't sit well with...

The Indian Boundary Line

Comerford's essay maps a historical demarcation which originally divided Native American land from that which was ceded to white settlers in 1812. Modern life has obscured the traces of this history in the current Rogers Park district of Chicago. Juxtaposing past with present, footage shot along this formerly disputed territory...

Why Colonel Bunny Was Killed 

An exploration of turn-of-the-century colonial life along the Durand Line, the frontier between Afghanistan and British India (now Pakistan). Remarkable period photographs are closely analysed as we listen to reports of exchanges between westerners, natives and mullahs written by missionary doctor TL Pennell.

A Cannes selection in Un Certain Regard, this debut feature by Vikramaditya Motwane offers a new, cool image of middle-class India. Rohan and his 17-year-old fun-loving buddies get into trouble at public school for the last time, and are all expelled. Unlike his richer mates, Rohan must return to a...

Saturday 16 October 2010

Eltham in TIME magazine

Little ol' Eltham was mentioned in TIME magazine this week. An article about the opening on 13 October of the Bob Hope Memorial Library, by New York's Ellis Island Immigration Museum, refers to one of Eltham's most famous sons, the comedian Bob Hope. The article goes on to describe how this 'immigrant', who died in 2003, made his way to the USA from Eltham, in 1907:
"... He was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, England, and sailed with his family to New York City when he was 4. They traveled in steerage on the S.S. Philadelphia, his mother dressing Les and his five brothers in three layers of underwear, socks and shirts — so they would have more to wear and she would have less to carry. The family settled in Cleveland, where Les made money selling newspapers and giving dance lessons before breaking into vaudeville (and changing his name to Bob), then moving on to Broadway, radio, motion pictures, television, Academy Award–show hosting — pushing his way to the top of each of those endeavors, the most broadly successful entertainer of the 20th century...."  Read the rest here.
He was a controversial figure for some, on the Vietnam war, but also for feminists for his comments at the 1970 Miss World contest ("I’m very happy to be here at this cattle market tonight") which was famously 'flour-bagged' and disrupted. Still, he is part of Eltham history and there is even a flourishing theatre dedicated to him. Originally formed in 1943, the 'Little Eltham' Theatre was renamed the 'Bob Hope Theatre' much later after Bob Hope saved them from certain financial extinction - he even visited the theatre in 1982.

Photo above, 'Bob Hope as a boy in Eltham, England' (courtesy of TIME and AP)

Friday 15 October 2010

DSC South Asian Literature Festival 15 - 24 October 2010

DSC South Asian Literature FestivalThe DSC South Asian Literature Festival takes off today - it takes place in London from 15 - 24 October 2010. 

It's billed as a festival "dedicated to showcasing the rich and varied cultures of the South Asian subcontinent, from India and Pakistan through to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal" and "showcasing a cast of well-known personalities from the worlds of literature, journalism and performing arts."

The festival certainly has an eclectic programme. Two of my quick picks are:
Sunday 17 Oct, 1pm:
Newsreader and writer George Alagiah joins TV presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli and author Geoff Dyer to share in their travelling experiences throughout the South Asian subcontinent. Ticketed event.
At Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London, E1 6LA. Full details & map
and, in a rare convergence of the place I live and my Brit-Asian interests:
Monday 18th Oct, 7pm:
Eltham Library – Climbing the Coconut Treeless

Nikesh Shukla, a London-based author, film-maker and poet, launches his debut book, Coconut Unlimited, set in Harrow in the 1990’s. It follows the adventures of three hapless, hip-hop obsessed Asian boys in an all-white private school who form a band. Hear Nikesh read extracts from his book and discuss what inspires him to put pen to paper.

at Eltham Library, 181 Eltham High Street, London SE9 1TS.  Free.
For further information and to purchase tickets please contact the library directly on: 020 8850 2268

Thursday 14 October 2010

Apple Day at Woodlands Farm, Sunday 17 October

An event local-ish to Eltham...

A variety of activities, including crafts, a treasure hunt, archery, and pressing apples to make juice. There will be stalls selling local produce, including honey and home-made jams and cakes, and lots of different varieties of apples to try and buy. Free admission. 11am to 4pm.

The Woodlands Farm Trust 
331 Shooters Hill
DA16 3RP
02083 198900

And BBC Countryfile has a countrywide map of 'Apple Day' events, for those really into their apples.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Greenwich day by day

I came across a real labour of love at the Greenwich Guide website - a collection of day-by-day happenings in and around Greenwich. Greenwich Day by Day is written by David Male (Copyright © 2005 David Male).

Naturally it focuses on Greenwich proper but there are two mentions of Eltham, both occurring in the current month of October:

Oct 23
Frankie Howerd Centre named 1988. One of the UK's best-known comedians, Frankie Howerd, lived in Eltham from the age of two and a half, at 19c Arbroath Road and 5 Legatt Road, Eltham, attending Woolwich County School (today's Eaglesfield School, Red Lion Lane, Shooters Hill), returned to rename St Barnabas Church at Rochester Way as "Frankie Howerd Centre".

Oct 25
a) Geoffrey Chaucer d. 1400. ... It is said that Chaucer may have lived in or near Greenwich between 1385 and 1399. ... Chaucer's day job was Clerk of Works to Richard II. There is a story of Chaucer setting out from Westminster to pay the workmen at Eltham Palace. When he reached New Cross he met Richard Brerely and three others who robbed him. Chaucer returned to Westminster where he again collected the workmen's wages and set off once more for Eltham. This time he reached the "Fowle Oake" at Hatch End where he had the misfortune to run once more into Richard Brerely and his gang. They took not only Chaucer's money this time but his horse as well!
Be warned, the listing is very addictive once you start reading...

Monday 11 October 2010

"How Fair is Britain?" asks a EHRC report

Co-incidentally following on from my previous post, I saw this article in the Observer yesterday - it was about a report due to be published today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on fairness in Britain and especially one chapter about an education system in 2010 that is "deeply divided". 

The piece, by Anushka Asthana, summarises that "the inequalities emerge at nursery, carry on into primary school and secondary education, and then university and beyond. Some relate to race, others to poverty, disability and the problems experienced by Britain's boys" - it shows how these "remain crucial factors in determining how British pupils succeed at school - and beyond".

The article goes on:

"Once it was a story of black and white, in which racial discrimination was a major driving force. But in tomorrow's report, the story of ethnicity is a complicated one – in which poor black boys underachieve, as do those from Irish Traveller families, but poor Chinese girls overachieve"


Commenting on a headteacher who suggests that the part of the problem is that teachers worry about being accused of racism, "Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, a leading race equality think tank, said [...] "My worry is the race to say that racial discrimination is never a problem," he said. But tomorrow's report makes clear that ethnicity still matters – even if you control the factor of class, he added. So it is a little early to declare "mission accomplished".

I haven't read this EHRC report itself, but this article made me think about the points of the 'Rethinking Race" writers (which I wrote about yesterday, 'Rethinking Black History Month?') because it revisits some of the same arguments. The "story of ethnicity" is certainly complicated and we do need to listen to anyone who wants to help (i.e. the headteacher above) but it seems that Rob Berkeley of Runnymede comes to pretty much the same conclusion as I did in that piece.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Rethinking Black History Month?

It's October again and time for, let's be honest, an increasingly uncomfortable Black History Month. For me, it's become uncomfortable because it has become inextricably linked to the ever-louder voices against multiculturalism.

It cannot be an accident that the cover feature of the October edition of Prospect magazine is 'Rethinking Race: Has multiculturalism had its day?". This edition uses the device of commissioning four 'non-white' commentators  to 'question the assumptions of some official anti-racism" - this device supposedly giving more weight to their arguments which cannot be so easily dismissed as "ignorant, naive, or unwittingly prejudiced". The writers are Munira Mirza (adviser to the Mayor of London for arts and culture), Tony Sewell (former teacher, now consultant and director of a charity), Swaran Singh (professor and consultant NHS psychiatrist) and Sonia Dyer (artist, writer and commentator).

Rather than racism, for different combinations of these writers, it is class and socio-economic group which are more potent causes of disadvantage (eg. Dyer on artistic success); for others it is an inherited and liberal-encouraged culture of victimhood (eg. Sewell on why black male pupils don't succeed) and for others it is the immigrant experience itself (e.g. Singh on high rates of mental health amongst black people).

If some people are a bit cautious about embracing such writers and views, something which Mirza herself acknowledges (she puts it down to the dominance of a 1980s anti-racist mindset), it is because there is an unease about declaring too soon 'the end of racism' (a la Daniel Bell's 'The End of Ideology'). Whilst arguing that racism is not what what it used to be ('Race is no longer the disadvantage it is often portrayed to be', Mirza), some of these writers warn against "a new kind of racialising", one which is paternalistic and where one's ethnicity is stressed all the time, for good and bad.

The "depend on yourself and get on with it" attitude is one which appeals to me. It's what our immigrant parents did after all. And so whilst I agree with some of the sentiments in the Prospect feature - much progress has unquestionably been made - I do question whether we might be in danger of throwing our the baby with bathwater. Another problem for me is taking a position on multiculturalism. It's something which I've always thought I was in strong favour of. Yet those who want to call the 'end of multiculturalism' seem to be working to a different definition of it, and come from a variety of perspectives, some pretty unsavoury. This captures a problem - what exactly do we mean by multiculturalism? A BBC piece here captures some of the varying definitions.

If I take one of the least left-leaning of the commentators in that BBC article, Ruth Lea, and use a definition which she'd support:
"...where people have their own cultural beliefs and they happily coexist - but there is a common thread of Britishness or whatever you want to call it to hold society together".
then I think I'd be pretty happy with that - and find no problem with celebrating different cultures.

I leave you with the beginnings of my BHM post last year:

"Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Black History Month: Good or bad thing?

October heralds the onset on Black History Month in the UK. This month (or so)-long collection of events, talks, and performances started in the UK in 1987 but has its roots in the American beginnings of this event launched in 1926 as Negro History Week.

Some knee-jerks leap in each year with the reaction 'what about white history month'? This gang are usually synonymous with those who think that all immigrants are getting houses, jobs, benefits etc... Are they kidding? We live in White History Life. Turn to the History Channel, look at the overwhelming majority of any school syllabus, look at government funding of the majority of cultural and artistic organisations look at politics, look at...need I go on? And maybe that's to be expected, that's life, life is eurocentric - or at any rate, those with power are. But when some small-minded people object to one measly month of wonderful activities, mostly for families and many for free, then I've got to defend BHM.

BHM also has its detractors from the 'liberal centre/left' who argue about the further 'ghettoisation' of black people, and that such demarcations continue to mark black people out as different and maybe detracts from where the real fight is - for example, see Deborah Orr's scathing piece a while ago in the The Independent ('Why we should bin Black History Month: It's wrong for all the reasons that multiculturalism more generally is wrong')........."   Click here to read the rest of this post.

'Uprisings' of the '1980s revisited'

An interesting event coming up at the British Library (especially in view of the current Black History Month - more on that another time...):

Our memories of the uprisings: The 1980s Revisited

Black History Month
Mon 25 Oct 2010, 18.00 - 19.30
Conference Centre, British Library, St Pancras, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB

Price: £6 / £4 concessions

Book now here
Frequently characterised as 'racial riots', the uprisings of the 1980s in Bristol, Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side were significant reactions to the politics of late 20th-century Britain. This event will bring together witnesses to offer memories of the uprisings and reflect on their context and legacy. The audience will have an opportunity to share their memories and discuss the socio-historical background to these events.
Speakers include Linda Bellos OBE, Wally Brown CBE and Kunle Olulode.
The run time for this event includes a post-talk reception.  Presented in association with LB Camden Black History Forum.
This event seems to concentrate more on the African-Caribbean experience of the 1980s - 'uprisings' also took place, of course, in west London in Southall where there was an Indian community which was doing battle with racist parties. I've touched on some of those events in these past posts:

Blair Peach and Southall on Newsight now...

A Town under Seige: p.s. to the Southall Story

The Southall Story

Coming out about Bollywood

Kwame Kwei-Armah: a Southall boy

International Market , Eltham, Sunday 10 October

The Association for Commerce Eltham (ACE) has been promoting this market in Eltham tomorrow - the weather's not going to be bad so it should be worth a look:
International Market Eltham Sunday 10 October"If you are missing the flavours from your foreign travels during the summer, come and enjoy some Al Fresco shopping at Eltham’s International market which is taking place on Sunday 10 October between 10am to 4pm at Passey Place.

The market will offer a range of Continental and International specialities as well as local produce, including cheese, charcuterie, olives, baklava, Turkish delight, organic dried fruit & nuts, vegan bakery and wines/ciders from France. Other delicious products will include Malaysian noodles, and for the sweeter tooth there’ll be French crepes with a range of toppings.

Also on sale will be pashminas, bags and silver jewellery, ideal for some early Christmas presents.

Jourdan Le Melle who coordinates the market invites you to come along and sample the produce and enjoy the great cosmopolitan atmosphere. For more information, telephone 0782 777 8704."

Greenwich in the Story of London

Ok so I've totally failed to blog in time about the 'Story of London' festival 'celebrating London's past, present and future'.  I've been clinging on to the Time Out programme for the last couple of weeks.

But I thought it was still worth mentioning. Lots of the events look interesting even if they would have happened without this Mayor of London-organised festival - that has provided a convenient badging for a number of these events (eg. the Gandhi in London walk which I blogged about the other week.)

There's still one event, and a FREE one at that, to catch for us south-east Londoners:
Sunday 10 October:

Exploring the Archaeology of Greenwich Park

Take a guided walk around Greenwich Park, examining the fascinating archaeology while considering the 21st century usage of the Park, including the 2012 Olympic Games. The walk will start with the unique geological, topographic and prehistoric position of the park within London.

Explore the sites of the buried Romano-Celtic Temple, Anglo-Saxon barrow cemetery, medieval castle and examine the Baroque formal landscape, designed for royalty and today enjoyed by everyone. 
A handout will be provided with information about the sites visited and further reading.  The walk is limited to 30 people. 

Start time: 10:30.    Cost: Free

Meet Outside the Pavilion Tea House, in the centre of Greenwich Park, London, SE10 8QY

To book:   or  Tel: 0207 973 3738

Friday 8 October 2010

Stephen Lawrence Centre Family Day, 9 October

Taking place at the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford on Saturday 9th October 2010 is a Family Fun Day full of entertainment and activities.

The event will run on Saturday 9th October from 12-4pm and will consist of face painting, a bouncy castle, balloon animals, candy floss & popcorn machine, costume sumo wrestling and much more.

The Stephen Lawrence Centre, 39 Brookmill Road, London SE8 4HU
T: 020 8100 2800 .     E:

Johnny Depp in Greenwich

Plenty of other local blogs have been following the progress of Johnny Depp's current filming of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film at nearby Greenwich and the Royal Naval College in particular. But I have to cave now and feature something about this intriguing man when I learnt yesterday that Captain Jack Sparrow and fellow pirates made an apparently 'surprise' visit to children at a local school, Meridian Primary School, delighting them in full costume. Whether or not it was a surprise or PR arrangement, I admit it raised a frisson of excitement in me and will be something the children (and staff) will remember for a long time.

You can see some (amateur?) footage below and read about it here.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Peepli [Live] - India's entry to the Oscars

A film purporting to be "Bollywood meets arthouse" and an "anti-Slumdog Millionaire" has recently been chosen as India's entry to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language film category.

Peepli [Live] is a social satire with an unstarry cast yet it opened in August to rave reviews. The film is produced by well-known actor, and latterly producer, Aamir Khan and directed by Anusha Rizvi. It differs from the usual Bollywood fare because rather than romance and melodrama, it explores the topic of "farmer suicides" and the subsequent media and political response.
The Times of India summaries the plot:
"Enter Peepli, a small village in the hinterland where a farmer duo, Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Budhia (Raghuvir Yadav) are struggling to hold on to their land. Threatened by extreme poverty, they fall upon a novel plan. Natha decides to commit suicide to avail of the one lakh [rupees] compensation package doled out by the government. But before he can do that, the news spreads like wildfire.

The unknown hamlet soon becomes the favourite hunting ground for the voyeuristic news channels, hungry for TRPs, unscrupulous politicians, eyeing their vote banks, fumbling bureaucrats, foxed and clueless about the strange turn of events...Can the farmer's family hope for succour? Is India equipped to handle its swelling population of forgotten and marginalised citizenry? Does Natha survive? Good questions.... "
People have been raving about the film. It certainly sounds intriguing on many levels. A good counterbalance to the glitz, money and controversy around the current Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The film opened in the UK on 24 September. You can check here to see where it's showing.

Some reviews and the trailer (in English):

- Spiked article, by Felix Holmgren

Monday 4 October 2010

Child benefit cut

Wow - they've really gone for it despite the massive u-turn it represents on everything the Tories said during the election about such universal benefits. The cut in child benefit announced today for households with a £44k p.a. earner is being digested everywhere tonight.

Sadly, me and mine come in at just over the wire and therefore we will be losing the £134 approx. monthly we currently get for our two children.  Just to remind you at the back, you get £20.30 a week for your eldest child and £13.40 a week for each of your other children.  That's assuming the ConDem coalition makes it to 2013 - if they think it's so good why wait until then? The truth is that the child benefit cut represents a very small part of the deficit and therefore it must be mainly a symbolic gesture. Chancellor George Osborne had to balance out his £26,000-a-year cap on the total value of benefits received by unemployed households with this perceived 'attack on middle-class benefits' such as the universal nature of the child benefit.

More lucid analysis to be found, well, almost everywhere, but especially the links below.

In the meantime, I was amused to read that the love-in begun during the election between online mums and David Cameron, has sadly come to an end:

Siobhan Freegard, the co-founder of Netmums, an online forum for mothers, has apparently said: “This proposal is a direct strike on those families who have worked hard to get themselves into a position where one parent is the breadwinner while the other is a stay-at-home parent.”

Child benefit cut will hit women hardest

How might the Benefit cuts really add up?

Tory Child benefit U-Turn – Super Furry Animals perspective

Friday 1 October 2010

Anyone for tennis in Eltham?

Wimbledon is a distant memory I know but if you're interested in outdoor tennis lessons in the area, I noticed that courses are offered at the courts at Eltham Park South (Glenesk Road, Eltham, SE9 1AG).  There are 7-week courses for juniors (4+, £27 to £31) and for adults.

I've been trying to tempt my kids into signing up! You can check out the details for Greenwich City Tennis here.