The politics of protest: The emergence of an ‘alternative’ breed of protester

19 Apr

26 March saw several thousands of people from all backgrounds protest on the streets of London. Organised by The Trades Union Congress (TUC), many came from near and far to voice their disdain over the government’s manhandling of UK public services.  With protesters ranging from students to pensioners, 26 March exhibited the kind of unity last seen in the anti-Iraq war march of 2003. People from all kinds of professional and political persuasions stood shoulder to shoulder to voice their anger and to, ‘March for the Alternative’.

Deemed as an all-round success, no one can deny that the events in the day were mostly peaceful and paid tribute to the stella organisation skills of the TUC. However as the day moved on, a more aggressive form of ‘protest’ developed. We’ve all read about the backlash and many heard of the ammonia filled light bulbs that were thrown at the police.

As shocking as this was, this violent undertone of protest is unfortunately nothing new. There will always be a violent aspect to larger protests whether from a minority  group of ‘protesters’ or the aggressive actions of the police, Ian Tomlinson being a fitting example among many others.  People looking to cause trouble will always gate crash other people’s causes and use it as a platform to justify their own violent behaviour.

However can the same be said for the minority involved in the Black Bloc movement, a masked group who vandalised symbolic property throughout the march?  Their anonymous interview in the Guardian was telling. Far from the yobs and misfits the government would have us label them; they spoke articulately about their cause and motivations and were able to voice this to the mainstream media without sacrificing their anonymity.  And for the group to do something seemingly spontaneous (although this is a bit too hard to believe) and still out-fox the police indicates that this required more than a black hoodie but actual brain power.

As misguided was these actions were, they brought the demonstration and the nature protest to the top of the agenda. Granted, with up to an estimated 500 000 people protesting for such a topical and important cause; it was always going to attract media attention. But rightly or wrongly, to what extent would this have happened without the actions of these alternative movements such as the Black Bloc?  Although for the most part the media was clear that the main demonstration was a success, the debate that lingered was over the nature of the violent protests. What does this say about our society when it is violence and damage that attracts more headlines?  Do you remember the fire-fighter’s protest last September or the recent protests in Germany against nuclear power? These were peaceful protests that didn’t stay in the media spotlight for long, presumably because respectful people protesting in the streets en mass and then going home isn’t sexy media fodder.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to don my balaclava (and in this weather?!) and hoist a paintball gun on my back. I saw the damage done to those shops and the fear these actions inflict on others who have nothing to do with the government. Despite the Black Bloc’s intention to, ‘send a message’ I couldn’t help wonder who they actually thought they were hurting.  Something tells me that Phil Green isn’t about to roll up his sleeves and start scrubbing the paint off the walls of Topshop. It’s the underpaid worker that has to deal with it which only maintains the vertical structures we live in where the ‘poor’ cleans up after the mess of the rich. Continue reading

Requiem for Detroit? Film review + musings on urban agriculture as art

14 Apr

From 'Detroit in Ruins' by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

The important thing about this film is the question mark at the end of its title. At first, watching Requiem for Detroit? (2010) was like taking a walk through a post apocalytpic novel. With a soundtrack that crams in all the musical references you’d expect from a film about this particular city, directed by music video and documentary man Julien Temple. That’s how I felt anyway when I watched it with barely woken eyes at 10am at the Rich Mix for 6 Billion Ways. But then I gave it more thought, and I realised (or maybe read into it), that it’s actually quite a positive film about creativity. Although it starts off with insightful post capitalist wasteland-esque gloom, it leaves its audience with a strong sense of the utterly inspirational burgeoning creativity (artistic, musical and urban-agricultural) of Detroit’s pioneering citizens, old and new.

From 'Detroit in Ruins' by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

The film opens with vintage news reels about early 20th Century Detroit as the ‘city of champions’ Continue reading

Voices that Shake: young people in arts, media, race and power

28 Feb

Check out this short video for the excellent Voices that Shake project, which brings together young people, artists and campaigning.  It is a collaboration between Platform London, an organisation that merges art and campaigning on social and environmental issues, and the Stephen Lawrence Centre.  My friend, excellent poet, fellow writer, and co-creator of this blog, Selina Nwulu, was involved in the spoken word and poetry side of the project, which also included music and filmmaking.  They had a preview performance at the Arcola Theatre last Saturday, which was pretty sick.  Check out the video, made by production company/social enterprise Chocolate Films, and hear Selina’s skin-tinglingly good poetry here:

Voices that Shake,

Lyrix Organix, Rich Mix 26th February

16 Feb

Lyrix Organix
Lyrix Organix, who I reviewed late last year, and whose presence at Glastonbury this year looks set to be pretty amazing, have a show coming up at Rich Mix, East London on the 26th Feb. The event will be as live hip hop, spoken word, and lyrically and acoustically infused as you’d expect, though it’ll be probably be even better than that. Plus it’s all in aid of MSF. I met Dan, who organises these events (though I haven’t met anyone else involved, so sorry if I’m missing you out!),and all I’m saying is that you can pretty much tell straight away that he does all this for the genuine next level love of showcasing artists with talent and passion. He’s one of those people who works in a full time day job and does all the Lyrix stuff he does on the side, and makes it so good. I’m really not sure how he does it, it’s pretty amazing. Last time I went the show really had a unique inimitable vibe, and from reading other reviews and comments it seems previous shows seem to have had the same effect on people. Or maybe this is the kind of thing that just couldn’t be more up my street which is why once again I’m struggling not go overboard with the superlatives. Here’s some of the line up for the night:

G.R.E.E.D.S , who’ll be backed by the Remedies, Ed Sheeran’s band:

Dean Atta , award-winning poet and writer

and brilliant UK Spoken Word artist HKB Finn

Buy tickets here:
And visit the facebook page here:!/event.php?eid=134777389919547

Film screening: Videocracy at the Frontline Club

11 Feb

The Frontline Club is screening Videocracy, a documentary by Erik Gandini about Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s TV Empire tonight. If I could I’d go. I studied Italian, and had a chance to watch some of the most shockingly dire neurotoxic crudely sexified Berlusconi-owned TV I hope never to see again.

You can watch the trailer here, though in my dim-witted state of morningness I find it a bit confusing:

And here’s a review.

Racialicious: Black Monsters/White Corpses: Kanye’s Racialized Gender Politics

23 Jan

Kanye West has had his fair share of planned and unplanned controversy. His latest misdemeanour comes from the leaked video teaser of his song, ‘Monster’ from his latest album, My Dark Twisted Beautiful Fantasy.

The teaser, from, is only 40 seconds long but still gives a pretty vivid impression of the general tone of the video. In it are dead women, stripped down to their underwear, hanging by chains around their necks. There are also women who appear to be either dead or drugged sprawled out on the sofa.

Courtesy of www.adiosbarbie.comI am all for freedom of expression as much as the next creative but what kind of message is being sent out in a video where Kanye makes sexual advances to dead and drugged women propped up on a bed? If this was done by anyone else in any other capacity, would we be as forgiving or as passive? Why is it somehow OK if you’re a rapper and have a gold tooth? Kanye’s derogatory views about women are well noted in his songs but as Kanye holds the decapitated head of a woman in this video, I can’t help but think this is chillingly dark new territory which does nothing but create gratuitous controversy.

Latoya Peterson writes a brilliant and insightful piece about this and how the video links in to racialised gender politics. Although it’s clear that Kanye’s video comes from a long stream of misogynistic music videos built on derogatory values, Peterson picks up on another interesting point. All of the dead women in the video are white whereas the black women in the video tend to fulfil fearsome, beast like roles in which they mimic werewolves and eat live flesh. This disturbing video not only unearths the time old depiction of black women as one-dimensional and barbaric but is also unapologetic in its sexualisation of violence. Continue reading

Creative quote of the day

19 Jan

I don’t know too much about the dude who said it, but this quote makes a lot of sense.  And leads on quite well from my previous post, an RSA Animate video about changing education paradigms.

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms: embracing creativity and collaboration in education

18 Jan

This is a great animated video about changing our perception of education, creativity, the Arts and the rise of ADHD. It’s adapted from a talk by Sir Ken Robinson at the RSA, an ‘education and creativity expert’. For more information on his work click here. Brilliant and a must see for all you genius creatives who didn’t like school.

The Big Fish Fight – Review + ways to get involved

18 Jan

So who’s been watching Channel 4’s The Big Fish Fight documentaries on overfishing? The series, with it’s adjacent campaign, has been utterly brilliant.

Click the image below to read about and get involved in the the campaign, or carry on reading for a brief explanation of the documentaries.

Watch Hugh's Fish Fight hereHugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight documentary focused the practise of discarding in the EU (see video above, a must see). Fishermen are forced to throw up to half the fish they catch back into the sea, whether this is endangered cod or other species. Total waste. It also focused on the fact that we buy almost exclusively three types of fish, two of which are on the verge of extinction (blue fin tuna and cod). The aim of the film was to get us to eat less endangered types of fish, and to sign the petition to lobby the EU to stop the practise of discarding.

Hugh’s been criticised for raising a lot of awareness and public anger (rightly so) but not offering enough in terms of solutions, but at the moment I’d say making so many viewers aware of the issue who may not otherwise be aware of it is already a huge achievement.

The Big Fish Fight on

Watch Shark Bait hereShark Bait, presented by Gordon Ramsay, focused on the trade in shark fins for shark fin soup in China. We were exposed to the reality of how sharks are caught for their fins, with their fins often hacked off while the shark is still alive, only for the still moving body to be dumped back into sea since the rest of its meat is worthless in monetary terms. Many of these sharks are on the verge of extinction, and are caught before they’ve reproduced. Truly shocking, sad and enraging, and refreshing to have it presented by a celebrity chef rather than watching a Greenpeace video on it. If I was to be really fussy, I’d say it was annoying they didn’t have a Chinese tranlsator for Gordon, as sometimes his blunt questioning of shopkeepers in English (and not their own language), seemed a bit brutish. But the documentary definitely served its purpose.

You can see some of Jamie Oliver’s more ethical Fish Supper suggestions here:

Jamie's Fish Supper

John Pilger’s ‘The War You Don’t See’ – Where does the truth begin and the spin end?

15 Jan

Journalist John Pilger’s film, The War You Don’t See, is a fearless exploration of the media’s role in war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Dating back from the First World War, Pilger examines the relationship between the government and the media and the origins of propaganda and government spin.

Much like the First and Second World Wars, on some level we’ve still  been conditioned to associate war with heroism and a fight for a ‘greater good’ and the war in Iraq was no exception to this. Behind the tired rhetoric of threats of weapons of mass destruction was very  little actual evidence and a growing and disproportionate number of Iraqi war casualties.  Pilger questions why the  media, particularly in the UK and America, allowed itself to be manipulated by the government and become the mouth piece for its dishonest agenda.

It’s sickening food for thought when you think about the extent to which the news we read is filtered and how the ‘selected’  few  set the agenda while the rest of us either create or fall victim to the spin. Also without a public framework of accountability, it’s shocking to consider the level of political immunity that exists which sends the message that as long as you’re in a suit and have an Etonian background, you can pretty much get away with anything (Tony Blair, anyone?) Continue reading