Last week, I took part in a fascinating event, the Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change, just a few minutes’ walk from my home in south east London, which was organised by two local organisations, the Brockley Society and the St. John’s Society. This was the talk I gave, which I wrote in a 90-minute burst of concentrated creative energy just beforehand. It distils my feelings about the current rise of racism and xenophobia in the UK, the narrow victory for leaving the EU in the referendum in June, and the terrible indifference to the current refugee crisis, which is taking place on a scale that is unprecedented in most of our lives, and I examine the dangers posed by an “us” and “them” mentality, laying the blame on cynical politicians and our largely corrupt corporate media, whilst also asking how and why, on an individual basis, people are becoming more and more insular, and what, if anything, can be done to counter these dangerous trends.
I was asked to join this event today because I’ve spent the last ten years — nearly eleven now — researching and writing about the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, telling the stories of the men held there and working to get the prison shut down, because it is, to be frank, a legal, moral and ethical abomination that should ever have existed.
Discussing Guantánamo here today wasn’t of particular relevance to most of the problems facing people in Britain right now, as the last British resident in Guantánamo — a rather lovely man named Shaker Aamer — was released over a year ago. I could have talked about Britain’s complicity in the existence of Guantánamo, and how we replicated part of its lawlessness here in the UK, holding foreign nationals without charge or trial, on the basis of secret evidence, and subjecting British nationals to a form of house arrest and/or internal exile, but I thought it would be useful to look at a key aspect of Guantánamo that has relevance to so many of the things happening in Britain today that are so deeply troubling to so many of us; namely, the rise of racism.
It doesn’t take a genius to look at Guantánamo and to realise that everyone held there since the prison opened in January 2002 is a Muslim. And because of all the disgraceful rhetoric about terrorists and the “worst of the worst,” Americans have been encouraged to accept that. But imagine if there was a prison run by the United States where people were held without charge or trial, and subjected to torture, and everyone held there was a Christian, or Jewish. There would be an unprecedented uproar. Read the rest of this entry »
This coming Sunday, November 20, I’ll be talking about “Demonising the ‘Other’: Tackling the rise of racism and xenophobia” at a fascinating one-day festival, the Festival of Ideas for Change, organised by the Brockley Society and the St. John’s Society. The festival is taking place in the Mural Hall at Prendergast Hilly Fields College in Brockley, London SE4 (the address is Adelaide Avenue, SE4 1LE, but the Mural Hall is actually in the main building at the top of Hilly Fields). Entrance is free, but you do need to book here, via TicketSource.
I’m one of 17 speakers during the day, and we’ll each be speaking for ten minutes in four different sessions — ‘Participation and democracy’ at 10.30am, ‘A fairer world’ at 12 noon, ‘An inclusive society’ at 2pm (at which I’ll be speaking), and ‘Building a new economy’ at 3.30pm, and there will be questions and discussion after each session.
This is something of a first for me, and I’m looking forward to it. Regular readers will know, of course, that for over ten years I have focused most of my work on Guantánamo and related issues, although I have always made room for involvement in and commentary about other issues, particularly involving the takeover of politics by largely interchangeable parties devoted only to the enrichment of the rich, and to putting the greed of banks and corporations above the needs of the people. Over the last six years, a major focus of my non-Guantánamo work has related to the cynical age of austerity implemented since 2010 by the Tories, targeting the unemployed, the disabled and immigrants. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’re in London — or nearby — and interested in hearing me talk about Guantánamo and the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, and/or to see my band The Four Fathers play our mix of politically-infused rock and roots reggae, then I’d be delighted to see you at any of the events taking place in the coming weeks in south east London.
First up, on Saturday December 12, is a free 20-minute set at Brockley Christmas Market, on Coulgate Street, next to Brockley station, in London SE4. This is a free gig, as part of an afternoon of music to accompany the market’s plentiful stalls selling great food and drink, and arts and crafts for Christmas. We’re playing at 2pm, and amongst the other acts playing is my son Tyler, who will be beatboxing at 3.30pm.
Two events are taking place on the following Friday, December 18. First up, at 5.30pm, is a free half-hour set at the Honor Oak Christmas Experience, a Christmas event on the Honor Oak Estate, at 50 Turnham Road, London SE4 2JD.
We then rush down the road to Deptford to set up for an event at the Deptford Cinema, a great community cinema at 39 Deptford Broadway, London SE8 4PQ. There’s a bar, and the doors open at 7pm, when there will be some mingling followed, at 8pm, by me delivering a talk, “Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo, Torture and the Struggle for Human Rights,” followed by a Q&A session. The Facebook page for the event is here, and if you can come, please sign up. It costs £5/£3.50 concs. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’re in London on Saturday and can get to Brockley (SE4, two stops from London Bridge, three stops from Canada Water), I’ll be showcasing another of my interests, in addition to being a human rights journalist and campaigner — singing in a band, playing the campaign song I wrote for the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched with Joanne MacInnes two weeks ago.
My band The Four Fathers are playing at the Brockley Christmas Market, on Coulgate Street, right next to Brockley Station, from 1.30 to 2pm, and everyone is welcome. The event is free, and there will be loads of welcoming stalls selling Christmas presents, food and drink.
The We Stand With Shaker campaign seeks to secure the release from Guantánamo, without further delay, of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held, despite being cleared for release in 2007 and 2009, and despite the British government’s official position — that it is seeking his release and his return to his family in London. Read the rest of this entry »
Suddenly, Snow: Brockley at Night, a set on Flickr.
The opportunity to take these photos of the streets of Brockley in the snow, with the pavements empty of people and the streets almost empty of traffic, came to me unexpectedly at 2.45am last night. As I was about to go to bed, I noticed, through a window, that the outside world looked white, and, on closer inspection, discovered to my delight that it was snowing.
Five minutes later, I was dressed and venturing out into the night, discovering that the snow had been falling steadily for a few hours, and was settling, although I also discovered that it was very wet, and that the chances of it lasting beyond the morning were vanishingly remote. Read the rest of this entry »
Mostly Camberwell, At Night, a set on Flickr.
Recently, I’ve been posting a variety of photos from my visit to the US in January, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 11th anniversary of the opening of the prison (see here, here, here and here), my more recent visit to Brighton for another Guantánamo event (see here and here), and the huge protest in Lewisham on January 26 to save the hospital from butchers in NHS management and the government (here and here). As a result, I have rather neglected my project to record the whole of London by bike, which I began last May, although I continue to cycle and photograph the city, and now have an unpublished archive of at least 10,000 photos, which, realistically, will only be made available if I make the project into something more formal than it is at present. Any advice on this — leads, contacts, funders — is most welcome.
To make amends for my distraction regarding my London project, I’m posting my 75th set of London photos, which features photos I took at night just two days ago, and I’ll follow up soon with other London sets, interspersed with more photos of New York from my US trip, and a last set — for now — of Brighton. Read the rest of this entry »
London in the Snow: Brockley and New Cross, a set on Flickr.
On January 20, 2013, as London became enveloped in snow — the second snowfall in two days, and this time much heavier than the first — I visited Hilly Fields, the hill-top park on Brockley, in south east london, where I have lived for the last 13 years, to take my son Tyler sledging, and to capture some photos of Londoners at play, which I published here.
I then walked with Tyler down to Brockley station, where we parted ways. He went round to a friend’s, and, after a quick coffee and a muffin at the Broca coffee shop, I cycled north, through Brockley, and on to New Cross and Deptford, as the snow grew heavier and heavier, and the cars and pedestrians began to disappear. Read the rest of this entry »
Hilly Fields in the Snow, a set on Flickr.
On Friday, when the snow began falling on London — something that is not even necessarily an annual occurrence in the UK — I took a tour by bike around Brockley, my home in south east London, and also visited Ladywell, Lewisham and Greenwich, taking photos as the first snow fell.
I posted the first set of photos yesterday, and was planning to post the second set, featuring Greenwich, today, but then it began snowing again, more heavily than before, and I spent this afternoon on another photographic trip — first of all, taking my son sledging in Hilly Fields, the hill-top park in Brockley that is one of my favourite places to visit, and then cycling through Brockley and on, via New Cross, to Deptford, capturing one of my favourite urban environments in the snow. Read the rest of this entry »
First Snow in London, a set on Flickr.
This photo set, the 72nd in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, rather sprang upon me yesterday (January 18), when, while still sleep-deprived and rather jet-lagged after returning from my ten-day visit to the US to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on the 11th anniversary of its opening, I had to make a visit to my local hospital in Lewisham, in south east London — whose A&E Department, and other frontline services, are currently under threat of closure — and was thrilled, in an inner-child way, to discover that it was snowing.
After taking a few photos en route, I reemerged after an hour or so to find that the snow was still steadily falling, and so, after pushing my bike back up the hill to Brockley — to mend a puncture I had received during the short journey to the hospital — I set out to capture some photos of my wider neighbourhood in the snow, taking a well-worn route down the hill to Lewisham, along the River Ravensbourne to Greenwich, and then down to the River Thames and back, a two-hour journey, at the end of which I was half-frozen. Read the rest of this entry »
Christmas in London, 2012, a set on Flickr.
Best wishes for the holiday season to those following my work, or to anyone who has just stumbled across it. This is a selection of Christmas-themed photos that I’ve taken over the last month during my journeys around London, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began in May this year.
This is the 69th set of my London photos, and it was fun to go through all the photos I’ve been accumulating from my almost daily journeys, large and small, over the last month, picking out those with a Christmas theme — from locations in north London, in central London and the City, on the Isle of Dogs and at various places in south east London, where I live — including my home in Brockley, and also Blackheath, Camberwell, Deptford, Greenwich, Honor Oak, Lewisham and Rotherhithe. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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