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Articles from the Peace News log: Culture

Articles from the Peace News log.
For articles in this category from the whole site, look here

A play written and performed by Tayo Aluko. 

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Piano accompaniment by Michael Conliffe. Directed by Olusola Oyelele. Designed by Phil Newman. 4th-20th May 2012. Warehouse Theatre, Dingwall Road, Croydon CR0 2NF. £12/£11. Box office 020 8680 4060. Further performances: 26, 27 August, Greenbelt Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse.

If you get off a train at East Croydon, you may well gaze around and wonder which of the towering office blocks is the infamous Lunar House that ‘processes’ foreigners and refugees; the building that decides who is welcome in this land and who is not. Look around and you will find, overshadowed by the rise of concrete, The Warehouse Theatre. “Oh look” you’ll say, “a proper theatre”. It is intimate, adventurous, has no Corporate Identity. It is a place of Art in the making.

Showing here until Sunday 20th May is ‘Call Paul Robeson’, a profoundly moving one-man play written and performed by Tayo Aluko. An elderly Robeson looks back at the trajectory of his life through a super-star singing career, academic and intellectual achievements and his love of women, humanity and justice. His political commitment was first stirred by talking to Welsh miners in London and led him to his understanding that the struggles of 1930s British workers were just as much a product of capitalism as the African-American slavery his own father was born into. It was his statement, “The Artist must take sides, he must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative” made in support of the Spanish Republicans that defined his intellectual and creative life. For this commitment he was ‘called’ by the Committee on Un-American Activities; was harassed and persecuted by the US government; not welcome in his own country but forbidden to leave.

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Review of 'Three Weeks in Wales', a tour in solidarity with the Bradley Manning who lived and went to school in Wales.

ImageWISE Up for Bradley Manning is a loose network of groups and individuals in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England (WISE) taking action for Bradley Manning, the young US military intel. analyst with Welsh roots who has been held for almost two years without trial accused of blowing the whistle on war crimes and revealing other truths the US would have preferred to keep buried. Bradley Manning has been tortured and denied his constitutional rights. President Obama, Commander-in-Chief of the military, has already said he broke the law and has therefore irrevocably prejudiced the upcoming court martial as well as breaking – not for the first time – his election promise to protect whistleblowers.

We call for all charges against Bradley Manning to be dropped and for his immediate release. Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime!

When we heard that Tim Price’s new play The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning was to be performed by National Theatre Wales in Pembrokeshire, Cardiff and Flintshire during April, starting with Tasker Milward, the school Bradley attended as a teenager in Haverfordwest, it seemed an ideal opportunity to organise a series of solidarity actions and events to coincide with these performances. Our aim was to raise awareness of, share information about and generate support for Bradley across Wales.

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Patrick Nicholson reviews the new play at the Tricycle on nuclear weapons.

ImageThe Bomb: a partial history, in two parts. Directed by Nicholas Kent. Tricycle Theatre, London, 9th February – 1st April 2012. www.tricycle.co.uk

Reviewed by Patrick Nicholson

The Tricycle Theatre, “Britain’s leading political playhouse” according to the Times, is running a season of events examining nuclear weapons and the nuclear debate. A centrepiece of this season is an ambitious two-part, five hour sequence of ten new short plays exploring nuclear issues, the performances punctuated and complemented by verbatim readings, archive footage and images.

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Background info on PN's Clown Training Workshop in March 2012.

ImagePeace News is hosting a clown army training weekend 3-4 March in London. It will culminate in waddling off to do an action. Welsh hero of the nation, Capten Cyboli will be present.

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Tony Telford writes on brain structures and western thinking

All is one

All is one

Back in July, Le Monde Diplomatique carried a fascinating article by Guillaume Pitron. It was, of all things, about gum arabic, the resin of the acacia tree. Gum arabic is mentioned in the Qu’ran and the Bible. These days, labelled as E414, it’s an essential additive in many sweets, medicines, cosmetics, textiles, foods and drinks. It’s an especially important ingredient in Coca-Cola. Without this resin, the black colouring in Coke would rise to the surface. So every can and bottle of Coke contains tiny quantities of a substance which was used in the mummification of the pharaohs.

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Charlotte Potter-Powell reports on the solidarity day at Dale Farm on 27 August

Dale Farm in Essex is the UK’s largest Travellers’ community. The residents have been fighting for ten years to remain there but now 90 families of 500 people, many of them children, face eviction from 31 August. The Conservative-led Basildon Council has set aside £18 million for an eviction which could take weeks, while supporters have set up a solidarity camp at the site.

The community at Dale Farm are predominantly Irish Travellers and many have lived there for 30 years. They own the site but planning permission has refused because the land, a former scrap-yard, is designated “green belt”. Residents point out that the council has over-ridden green belt status elsewhere for development. They consider that the eviction is disguised ethnic cleansing, pandering to hostile neighbours. The Travellers have been refused alternative culturally appropriate sites, and Amnesty International argue that “Basildon Council has not engaged in genuine consultation consistent with international human rights standards”.

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ImageI was very intrigued when I first heard about the Piccadilly Community Centre. To someone who works in community centres, knows what value they provide to individuals and communities, often fights to keep them open and despairs at how many are now closing, the opening of a new community centre in central London was very exciting.

When visiting it on opening day it was obvious that money had been spent on the project. For example the signage outside the building was brand new and gleaming, there were about six new computers for use, there were free teas, coffees and biscuits provided, there was specialist equipment throughout the building together making for a good facility. As I made my way around I asked who is paying for this. I was hoping the answers would provide a strategy for keeping other community centres open. But I couldn’t find any written information about the background to the project, who was running it or how it was funded. Everyone I spoke to was evasive. I left puzzled.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the Evening Standard newspaper some days later to find, ‘The Piccadilly Community Centre’ reviewed as an art project by Christoph Buchel and run by Hauser and Wirth, the art gallery who own the building in Piccadilly. Reviews called the project a “Sardonic take on the Big Society” (2, June 2011). On further investigation I found several more reviews of this art project including one calling the centre a “pop up”, (http://londonist.com/2011/05/preview-pop-up-community-centre-at-piccadil... ) all agreed that the project was making some negative comment about The Big Society. (See also Adrian Searle, Guardian, 30 May, 2011 and Georgina Adam, FT, June 10, 2011)

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Adam Weymouth on his walking from England to Istanbul, challenging xenophobia, the fear of strangers.

ImageAs I walked along the European bank of the Bosphorus, I stumbled upon a small group of fisherman who were coming to the end of their dinner. They called me over, offering me grapes and raki, and I explained in my smattering of Turkish what I was up to. “Londra, Istanbul,” slap legs, mime walking. “Sekiz ay” (“eight months”).

Throughout my whole journey I had been offered hospitality to an extent I could never have imagined before I left. I had been invited to sleep in peoples’ homes, in bars, in barns, in churches and in mosques. I was fed in restaurants and at mountain passes. I was given friendship and support at times when I really needed it. Yet I assumed I would have been anonymous in a city of thirteen million people. But as we finished eating they told me proudly that the only way to see their city was from the water, and invited me out in their boat. For Muslims, they told me, the duty of hospitality is not a duty only to the stranger, but one to God.

One intention I had when I began, 3,500 miles earlier, was to challenge the culture of fear, the distrust of strangers, that seems to be a given in a world where we are increasingly denied the opportunity to interact with the unknown. With its speed and its fear, our culture robs people of the very chance to offer hospitality. Walking through villages I felt like a rare beast, and found people almost eager to invite me into their houses, to hear my story and to tell me theirs.

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Russ McPherson responds to an article on Metalkova social centre in Slovenia in PN 2535 with his own experiences in Australia

ImageSpread across 10 acres of land in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, is the Ceres Community Environment Park. Pronounced “series” the name has several connotations, the most appropriate perhaps being with the Roman goddess of agriculture.

Dotted with wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels, Ceres certainly lives up to its founding principle to “initiate and support environmental sustainability and social equity.” The 4 hectare park includes a farm, community gardens, a café selling delicious vegan food, a market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings which sells organic foods and handmade/recycled crafts, a training kitchen, educational nature trails, a volunteer-run bicycle repair group, and various sustainable water and permaculture projects.

The EcoHouse demonstrates sustainable living retrofit options, while other buildings are designed to contribute to a wider knowledge of indigenous cultures and lifestyles. It was in one of these that I discovered the aboriginal map of Australia, which illustrates more than anything the diverse culture that was lost when the white man came.

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