Monday 31 January 2011

Asian Voices in theatre: the first British-Asian Hamlet

Interesting interview on Theatre Voice:
"Asian Voices: Dharmesh Patel. The first British-Asian Hamlet talks to Suman Bhuchar about making his Shakespearean debut in the RSC's 70-minute young people's version of the play, which is touring Britain and will arrive at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in February. Recorded at the Roundhouse, where he is also playing in the RSC's The Comedy of Errors and As You Like It."
In the interview he admits, "The last Hamlet was played by David Tennant so it's a lot of pressure...". One piece in The Guardian said "Dharmesh Patel's Hamlet is lean and expressive, believably full of angst and fantastically choreographed in the fight scenes." Following their recent tour of London schools as the "Young People's Shakespeare", Patel's Hamlet will be at the Courtyard, Stratford-upon-Avon from 1 May. Box office: 0844 800 1110.

If you liked that, you might also like this interview:
"MEERA SYAL The actor, writer and comedian talks to Suman Bhuchar about her role in Willy Russell's 1986 classic Shirley Valentine (Trafalgar Studios), her film and writing career, and her advice to aspiring actors. Recorded in her dressing room, Trafalgar Studios" (October 2010)
though her run as Shirley has now finished I think.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Austerity bites

Our local MP, Clive Efford, has been speaking out and is in the national press.
He has responded to the following suggestions by Commons Leader Sir George Young that 'Austerity' might be a popular girl's name.
"On his blog, the wealthy baronet wrote: ‘Looking at the New Year Messages from our political leaders, tough times lie ahead. The Victorians gave their daughters Christian names resonant of the spirit of their time – Charity, Patience, Chastity, Grace and Prudence.

‘Having read the predictions for 2011, I predict that The Times list of the most popular girls’ names for the year may include a new one – Austerity." 
 The Daily Mail report continues:
"Former taxi driver Clive Efford, Labour MP for Eltham, South-East London, said: ‘The grim effects of the Government cutbacks are not some Victorian parlour game. Many people are genuinely fearful for the future of their jobs, families and livelihoods in the coming months. I am sure Sir George does not mean to sound patronising and uncaring, but I’m afraid that’s how he comes across.’ "
Well put, I thought, though an alternative girl's name suggested in the 'Comments' is 'Pennyless'...

Saturday 29 January 2011

Protests against Government cuts proposals

Got to acknowledge the big marches due today in London and Manchester:

From the Guardian: "Thousands of students, union activists and tax avoidance protesters are expected to take to the streets across the UK this weekend in anti-cuts demonstrations."

There will be "simultaneous London and Manchester against the rise in tuition fees and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

"Organisers of [the] demonstrations, which are supported by several unions including Unite, the GMB and the University and College Union, say they expect several thousand people to attend in both Manchester and Leeds... The march in London will start at midday and is due to finish with a rally at Millbank...".  (It's a shame though that that Guardian piece had to harp on about the negativity surrounding the November marches and choose the 'wrecked' Millbank photo with which to illustrate it).

Good luck to them today for an effective and peaceful protest. I'll be grateful to them for one, if they are successful in conveying something to this government about the strength of feeling of ordinary people about the damage that will be caused to the infrastructure of our public services. I know from first hand how the funding proposals for higher education will totally change the university landscape, and not for the better. The cuts are too much, too soon, and smack of another agenda.

And watch out tomorrow for the various tax avoidance campaigns (many in SE London areas), linked to UK Uncut, which are hoping to repeat the protests that shut Vodafone and Topshop branches last year.  The Guardian continues: " least 30 different tax avoidance demonstrations are planned by UK Uncut. Using the Twitter hashtag #ukuncut, the fast-expanding group has become a rallying point for opponents of the government's cuts.

A spokeswomen for the group, Danny Wright, said Sunday's action aimed to "up the ante". She said: "We are trying ... to show how systematic this injustice is. It is not just these companies that are the problem, it is the system that allows this to continue. We want to show this government that despite what they keep telling us we are not all in this together, these cuts are not fair and there is another way."

Egypt speaks, Mubarak in de-nile and Twitter works (for some)

I've been watching the serious events in North Africa over the last week, first Tunisia and now Egypt. Will this turn out to be the Arab world's 'Berlin Wall' or is it just some restlessness? The protesters want economic and social reform. The outside watches tensely - happy to support western-style 'liberal democracy' but fearful of what the current regime might be replaced by and not wanting another 'Palestinian result'.

It's fascinating that we could be watching history in the making. The events are moving fast - earlier tonight the Egyptian President Mubarak finally made a statement ('ok, I'll sack the govt if you insist but I'm not going, and I'm definitely going to carry on dying my hair jet-black'), and just now President Obama ('there must be reforms, but we still like Egypt very much though we could cut off the military aid we give you, and oh, this is a 'moment full of promise'). Many protesters are currently breaking the night-time curfew imposed.  Good to see a female Egyptian commentator on Newsnight just now (Mona somebody, from the USA) - to look at the thousands on Cairo's streets you'd think no women lived there...

Again, as a relative newbie to Twitter, I found that the rapidly-developing Egyptian situation was a  good instance of where Twitter really worked for me, feeding me the latest developments from a range of sources. Sadly of course this wasn't available to Egyptians where the internet was 'shut down' during (their) Friday night - interesting article here about the mechanics and philosophy of that. There was much Twitter praise for live coverage by the Al Jazeera English TV channel - part of that must be that it was easily (and freely) accessible on the net.

Aside from the serious stuff, I enjoyed these more light-hearted tweets:

Derek Brower
Is it appropriate to note that Mubarak seems to be in de-nile?

James O'Malley
by darryl1974
I bet in the middle of the demonstrations in Cairo, there's still a beardy SWP bloke selling the Socialist Worker, like all protests.

David Schneider
by greenwichcouk
Amazing scenes from Egypt. I just hope Prince Charles' driver doesn't decide the best route to the theatre is via Cairo.

and finally on a more serious note, if you want to make your feelings known tomorrow in London about Egypt:

sunny hundal
Marches galore! RT @: Protest supporting people of Egypt tomorrow, London. From Marble Arch, 11am. Egyptian Embassy 12pm.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Eltham cash machine users beware

A warning to Eltham cash machine users from the police, via This is Local London:
"PEOPLE using bank cards in Eltham have been advised to stay vigilant after criminal devices were attached to cash machines in the area. 

Police say the ‘loop’ device, used in Eltham High Street, prompts unsuspecting customers to re-enter their PIN into the cash machine.

After several unsuccessful attempts, the customer finds that the machine will not return their card, wrongly believing that the cash machine has retained it.

In reality the thief, posing as another frustrated customer memorises the PIN and removes the device and card once the victim has left."
Terrible. Though I'm not sure yet whether I can be bothered to respond to the bitter and racist 'your say' comment at the end of that Local London piece....

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Wine Club tonight at Tudor Barn, Eltham

The Tudor Barn in Eltham says:
Wine Club tonight  - we may have a space or two but phone early to book, £30 includes 3 course dinner (on Twitter at )

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Lewisham cinema, BBC Radio 4 on film and a bit of Bollywood

Following my post the other day about South East London cinema, I was happy later to see this co-incidental post at Brockely Central about old cinemas in Lewisham. They've linked to the Brockley Film Club's fantastic digital recreation of the old cinemas of Lewisham, placing them in their modern day contexts - they've got recreations of:

- The Obelisk, 12 Loampit Vale. Opened in 1912, closed in 1923
- Gaumont Palace, 1-5 Loampit Vale. Opened in 1932, later renamed Odeon, closed in 1981 and demolished in 1991.
- Prince of Wales Cinema, 210 Lewisham High Road. Opened in 1922, closed in 1959 and later demolished
- King's Hall, 15 High Street. Opened in 1912, bomb-damaged during the second world war
- Rex Cinema, later renamed Studios 6/7, 15 Lewisham High Street. Opened in 1950, closed in 1986 and demolished in 1988.

What a lot of cinemas in that borough. I'm not surprised in a way because, in yet another bizarre co-incidence, I happened to be listening to a fascinating Radio 4 programme last week about early cinema and just how much a part of ordinary life was "going to the pictures" (it might have been this programme).  It turned out that BBC Radio 4 are at the moment having a season on the history and impact of cinema. You might still be able to catch some of the radio programmes in BBC iplayer.

If you can't be bothered with that, you can at least tune into this next Saturday:

"as the film season draws to a close, in a special Archive On 4, there's another chance to hear highlights from the Brief Encounters series in Brief Encounters: A World View Of Cinema. As well as an omnibus selection, listeners will hear from filmmakers and film experts who will be their guide to the global consumption of cinema (Saturday 29 January, 8pm)."

Sounds good to me.

And finally (as they say), a British-Asian writing about film and not mentioning Bollywood? Let me correct that - here's one of my early musings on 'Coming out about Bollywood'.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Fatal fire in Eltham, SE London last night

Just heard about this terrible event in this quiet residential area in Eltham which I walk down most days:
"A man had died and another has been seriously injured at a fire in Grangehill Road, Eltham in the early hours of this morning. A woman escaped from the fire before the Brigade arrived and both have been taken to hospital by ambulance crews. Four fire engines and around 20 firefighters fought the fire, which badly damaged the first floor and roof of the two-storey house. The cause is being investigated. The Brigade was called at 0401 and the fire was under control by 0530, crews from Eltham, Lee Green, East Greenwich and Woolwich fire stations attended the incident."
 Text from London Fire Brigade

UPDATE: some more information about those involved, the Johnson family, here - a terrible tradgedy for them. I hope the son recovers from this terrible event.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Cinema and film clubs booming in South-East London

From time to time I've written about alternative cinema events around South-East London ( and here). Well now there's a new blog which will keep us up-to-date with all the cinema action.

'South East London Film Clubs' says it's a "a portal for South East London film clubs & societies and community cinemas". It covers cinema clubs such as the Brockley Jack Film Club, Café Crema, Crystal Palace Pictures, Deptford Film Club, Dulwich Gallery Film and the Hither Green Hall. It usefully collects together all the up and coming films at these venues, with a nice little write-up too. (Update: Ah, I see now elsewhere that the South East London Film Clubs blog is run by the Brockley Jack Film Club)

Then while I was reading on this site about the lack of a single cinema in Crystal Palace, lo and behold an article popped up on the East London Lines website about how Bromley Council have just given the go ahead for a cinema there to Future Projections, a cinema development company.

Sadly we are without a cinema in Eltham now. There used to be three apparently. The first was the old 1930s Coronet cinema on the Well Hall Road roundabout which has been closed for ages now and there are plans to redevelop it, though possibly with some sort of cinema included. The second, the original Odeon cinema on Eltham Hill, opened in 1938, and which has long been a bingo hall. There is a wonderfully detailed account of the Odeon here, with great old photos, by Eltham's well-known historian John Kennett.  I wonder where in the Eltham the third cinema was?

Thursday 20 January 2011

Eltham's Grove Market Place developers try again

Eltham residents are being urged to object to the latest Grove Market Place development proposals, reports the New Shopper.  I blogged about their previous proposals last year.

The developer Eltham Renaissance have reduced their proposals to a hotel, supermarket (which one unspecified) and 71 flats. The deadline for comments on the plans is 4 February. Comments should be emailed to at Greenwich Council.

I haven't looked closely at their plans but I know that locals think it would be too imposing and would add to the traffic. I do think that it's been a waste of a prime site over the many years it has lay unused.

I remember in the early 1990s often meeting friends on a Saturday lunchtime at the very agreeable cafe there, getting over our Friday night clubbing hangovers (well before getting hitched and having the kids I hasten to add...). The cafe was next door to the original location of the Stylistics hairdressers (now on Well Hall Road, near the police station). There was also a dodgy shop round there, I seem to recall, with blacked out windows, where men emerged clutching magazines and videos...we just gave it a wide berth. Oh, and also a Fads on the corner of Grove Market Place which was always good for a wander around. Gosh we knew how to live back then...

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Eltham Leisure Centre set to cool jazz

Have you ever wondered what the inside of the Eltham Leisure Centre looks like (obviously for those who've not been) - go on, you know you have.

Well, I came across this bizarre little cool-jazz-soundtracked video clip of a walk around the Eltham Leisure Centre. It was obviously taken around the time of the opening a few years ago, and well before the infamous fire at the Centre in February 2010 closed it down for a few months.  Well, it's all open now (though they took their time; the car park's only been open a couple of weeks) and I'm back to spending several hours a week there, taking my children to their swimming classes, borrowing books and DVDs (fantastic for Bollywood DVDs, I think I'm their only Bollywood customer, hooray), eating in the kind-of-okay Cafe (the kind where one hard-pressed member of staff at this sub-contracted-out cafe does both 'cooking' and serving). Sadly I don't have the free time to hone this body down to further perfection at the gym, as if further perfection were possible (ahem...).

The Centre has a fairly utilitarian look and, if you look up above, the way that the galleried walkways are set out give it a panopticon feel. Despite it's Foucaultian elements, I really like the Centre - it feels clean, bright and efficient (mostly). In fact, I've developed a great affection for it. Libraries do that, don't they. Make you feel very warm inside. I really like that all the various services are available under one roof - I can have 15 minutes of the best part my week (in the library) while the kids are swimming. But I also like that the 'old library' has retained its original (?Carnegie-era) character, including the infamous historical original doorway onto Eltham High Street (it was the subject of much debate at the time whether it should remain usable - it did, hooray.)  It's all quite pertinent given the current threat to so many of the country's libraries due to cuts to Council budgets by the the Tory-led coalition government. More on that another time.

The video clip is attributed to 'new labour' and 'elthamlabour'. Just thought someone out there might be interested in this - it's the second clip on the list...

Eltham Leisure Centre, 2 Archery Road, Eltham London SE9 1HA
020 8921 4344

Tuesday 18 January 2011

30th Anniversary of New Cross Road fire

Today is the 30th anniversary of the tragic fire at a New Cross Road house party in 1981, as a result of which 14 young people died. I blogged in December about a commemorative event at the Albany Theatre. Much has been written in the press and blogs, much better than I can express here, notably Transpontine's posts, Darryl's post at 853 and a Radio 4 interview, with one of the survivors of the fire. I just wanted to acknowledge the anniversary. 

Also I was pleased to see our local MP, for Eltham, Clive Efford, sign Joan Ruddock's Early Day Motion:
"EDM 1289

Ruddock, Joan
That this House records the tragic events of 18 January 1981 when a fire broke out at a birthday party resulting in the deaths of 14 young black people: Patrick Cummings, Andrew Gooding, Peter Campbell, Gerry Paul Francis, Steve Collins, Patricia Johnson, Rosaline Henry, Lloyd Hall, Humphrey Geoffrey Brown, Owen Thompson, Yvonne Ruddock, Glenton Powell, Paul Ruddock and Anthony Berbeck; regrets that no condolences were sent from Parliament or the Prime Minister; notes that the prevailing racist attitudes of the times resulted in an inadequatepolice investigation, an inconclusive coroner's hearing and a lack of respect and empathy for the bereaved families and injured survivors; and further regrets that 20 years later the re-investigation by the Metropolitan Police and the reopened inquest did not result in a conclusive verdict, but believes lessons learned contributed to greatly improved community relations in Lewisham and London as a whole and a determination that never again would the black community suffer such discrimination."

You can read more about that at the OBV post.

Today was also the day when some small ray of hope out of this terrible tragedy was celebrated. The New Cross Awards, which were set up in 2005 as the result of an initiative by Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, to find a way of commemorating the fire of 1981, were announced. A substantial bursary was given to each of two deserving Lewisham students to study at Goldsmiths, University of London for degree programmes. Many of the relatives of the New Cross Fire victims were also present. This seems a pretty appropriate, albeit small, tribute to the lives which were so sadly cut short. It may not seem much but reading the back story of these two students, they have really struggled against the odds to get to university. Good luck to them.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Left unity: is it desirable and possible?

A comment on my Netroots UK post yesterday posed an important criticism of such initiatives:

the idea that the left should work together is to my mind at least, truly absurd, that would be like asking cameron to team up with nick griffin (well, perhaps until we have PR anyway). “ (from hilly)

For me, the idea is not absurd but the question is whether, what and how it is achievable. Greater minds have, of course, been preoccupied with this question over the previous century and at a far more sophisticated level than I can offer (and it has sustained many a degree course seminar!). But let me try.

The Tory-led coalition government is committed to deep cuts, ideologically targeted at undermining public services and the welfare state. Those against this, which we might call ‘the left’, can at least unite, or let’s say organise at least, in opposition to this. It was done in 2003 for opposition to the then-proposed Iraq war - though that didn't have the achieved result that time, 2m people can at least say that they spoke forcefully and in unity (however strange some of the temporary bedfellows).

The left of course covers a whole host of groups and aims. I appreciate there will be elements of the ‘People’s Judean Front’ here, and much depends on what is meant by ‘unite’ - that’s still to be explored.

As far as yesterday’s event goes, I think it was an excellent initiative. Whilst ‘online activitism’ will not include or suit everyone, the event was at least useful for rallying and organising existing supporters (eg. here’s one presentation from yesterday, by Luke Bozier, about local online organising). And of course, opposition to government policies cannot exist online alone but they are useful for including people do not physically attend meetings and demonstrations.

Personally I’m with the approach that recognises that ‘the left’ needs to exist in the real world, rather than idealised one. The Labour Party itself was planning significant cuts in the next parliament - we cannot oppose all cuts. But I’m with those who believe that public services and the welfare state should be preferenced (yes, having the cut the fat and bad practices which do exist in these areas - I’ve seen them - I work in a public sector-related area!) over ‘fat cat’ bonuses and tax avoidance by big business.

At a minimum, all the various ‘anti-cuts’ actions, meetings, demos etc. could be more co-ordinated. For some, this smacks of corporatism and the ‘trimming the grassroots lawn’ (as Penny Red said in her tweet) but for others it means that in this media-PR controlled world, and one where Middle-England’s horses have not to be frightened (if we are to take some of them with us), the anti-cuts message is more likely to be understood. Co-ordination also means that groups wanting serious dialogue and engagement will lead rather than those who prefer anarchy.  (Sorry to have gone on when a shorter reply might have done!)

Saturday 8 January 2011

Netroots UK: online left activists talk and tweet

Netroots UK conference hall during morning session. photo credit
The big event today for political activists and their followers was the Netroots UK conference in London. The conference aimed to bring together 'progressive' and 'grassroots activists' for a day of workshops, discussions and networking activity.

The programme of speakers included Brendan Barber (TUC), Sunny Hundal (Liberal Conspiracy), Sunder Katwala (Fabian Society), Polly Toynbee (The Guardian) and Clifford Singer (False Economy) amongst others.

The day focused on "how to use social media to inform, energise and mobilise people for progressive causes" though it was not just about blogging and twittering.  Discussions were about tactics for opposing the cuts agenda of the coalition government. As you can imagine, this is a huge challenge given the rainbow of groups which will need to be accommodated within the tent. Some just want to save their local library whilst others are aiming for revolution.

I posted recently about being a newby to Twitter and mused about its benefits - well today I was able to dip in and out of the live tweeting from the conference which was pretty entertaining, sometimes informative (and certainly voluminous!) and gave me instant links to longer write-ups.

The event is just about finishing now - they're having a 'networking session' (aka drinking lots of wine), though well-deserved I'm sure after what reads like an intensive day.  An early report from the New Statesman says that "Hackitivists of the world, unite!" was the main message and that "Despite its focus on technology, the overall message of the event was a more traditional one: to fight the cuts, the left needs to work together." Sounds good to me and is what I was trying to say in this post last year about cuts in the Borough of Lewisham.

I'll be watching with interest what comes of today's event. I very much support the broad agenda and hope that a role can be articulated too for those who cannot be 'active activists' (due to work and family commitments, and the onset of middle-age...)

You can read the Twitter feed (if you have lots of time!) or view video recordings of some sessions, when uploaded some time soon hopefully.

For now, I rather liked this top tweet from the barbed pen/cursor of Penny Red:

was amused by this one:
Christie Malry RT by DavidWhe
@ while they were all at arguing that all property should be collectivised I was round their flats nicking their iPods

Thursday 6 January 2011

Eltham train fare increases 2010

The usual New Year train fare increase is not good news for most people but Eltham-ites face a particularly steep rise. The Bexley Times has this take on it today :
"Commuters from Eltham faced the third highest season ticket price increase across the capital at 12.8 per cent, Erith was fifth with 12.71 per cent and Sidcup was seventh, bringing their season ticket from £1,272 last year to £1,432 this year.

Train company Southeastern — responsible for 540 miles of train-track and 179 stations in the south-east — blamed the increases on reduced government subsidy."  Read more...

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Charity Eltham minibus stolen

I know all property is supposed to be theft, but this theft really is below the belt. From the New Shopper today:
"MEMBERS of the Sunshine Club are desperately trying to find their stolen mini-bus.

The bus was stolen from Glenure Road, Eltham at some point between December 17 and 20.

Hundreds of elderly and disabled people who depended on the services of this mini-bus have lost their means of transport between the club’s events and their homes.

Mick Shanks, a volunteer mini-bus driver for the club in Bercta Road, Eltham has taken it upon himself to have 300 leaflets printed.
He will distribute them to shops and people along Eltham High Street in the hope that someone will have seen the bus or knows its whereabouts.........." Read more

What should a diary be?

Nice little piece which might interest bloggers, since many of us are writing diaries of a sort, aren't we?

From the BBC: Point of View: The art of the diary
"... Perhaps Virginia Woolf, whose own diaries are exhilaratingly wonderful, sums up best what a diary should be.

"What sort of diary should mine be," she writes. "Something loose knit but not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk or capacious hold-all in which one flings a mess of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back after a year or two and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced..."

Monday 3 January 2011

Catford prefabs to be demolished

More random South-East London news - this time, from the Guardian today:

"The UK's largest surviving estate of postwar prefab houses, described by conservationists as a unique slice of 20th-century social history, is set to be bulldozed and replaced by modern housing.
Only six of the 187 compact bungalows, erected from factory-built panels by German and Italian prisoners of war in 1945 and 1946, will be saved, after they received Grade-II listing last year. The remainder of the Excalibur estate in Catford, south-east London, will be demolished, along with its tin-roofed prefab church, St Mark's, believed to be one of a kind.

Campaigners say the planned redevelopment, formally approved by Lewisham council in September, will destroy a key piece of history from the aftermath of the second world war. The estate is the biggest surviving remnant of an ambitious project which saw 160,000 prefabs hurriedly erected during an acute housing shortage...."
It's a shame in a way but on the other hand hopefully something usable can be built in their place - people have got to live and work somewhere.

My children's primary school in Eltham also has some listed prefabs in their playground which I believe they are not allowed to demolish (even if they had the money) - the kids have their early morning band practice in them (including my daughter on clarinet, ahem) - what a sound emanates from them!

UPDATE: this situation seems to have caught the national eye even more. A Comment is Free piece by Simon Jenkins here argues very persuasively in favour of saving the estate despite Catford lacking 'pzazz', while the BBC today (15/1/11) features a gallery of wonderfully evocative photographs, giving some touching personal narrative to this story.

The New Shopper reported on this story as early as last August saying that "More than 56 per cent (114 votes) were in favour of the estate's regeneration while 89 people were against the proposals and 21 did not vote at all. "

Sunday 2 January 2011

Sarfraz Manzoor gets married

This British story of love, "inter-racial", "cross-religion" marriage, class difference, marrying out etc. managed to pass me by this autumn...

Sarfraz Manzoor, Guardian and Observer writer and increasingly 'commentator' on TV and radio, writes quite movingly, and surprising frankly, about his own personal life.

Last September in the Guardian, "My mother and siblings were angry that I had fallen in love with a non-Muslim white woman" but would they attend the wedding?

Manzoor updated the story last December when I caught it, in 'what happened next...The writer's marriage in the summer to a white non-Muslim split his family"

In the post-article comments he gets it from all angles - 'it's wonderfully moving',  he shouldn't be diluting his culture, he's not diluting it enough, he's racist towards white women, he's sexist towards Muslim women, he's 'marrying out' up the ethnic ladder.  Personally I found it a fascinating story - he may or may not be a bit or all of these things, but the story is true and seems honest.

In these days of mixed societies the story will have some resonance for many readers. As a brown Brit (nominally Sikh) married to a white man (nominally Christian) I can empathise with the situation in some respects. I wish them the best.