Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Frank O'Hara : Poet of intensity and passion.(27/3/ 1926 - 25/7/1966)


In the early morning of 24 July 1966 the poet Frank O'Hara was struck and gravely injured by a passing jeep on the beach of Fire Island, and tragically died the following day of a ruptured liver, aged only 40...
Frank O’Hara was born Francis Russell O’Hara in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts. In order to hide the fact that he was conceived out of wedlock, his parents led him to believe that he was born in June while in reality he was born in March.After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he graduated from Harvard University with a degree in English in 1950 and received his M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1951. He then moved to New York City and began his advancement through creative society.becoming  employed by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). selling postcards, where he would eventually work his way up to the Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture position. 
His quick ascension speaks to the passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm he had for the New York City art world, a world that was thoroughly infused into his writing. During the 1950s and 1960s, O’Hara befriended and championed the new downtown artists, curated exhibits, wrote monographs and catalog copy, writing introductions for exhibits and tours and expressed his various and unusual ideas about the art world in his own poetry.
"I can't even enjoy a blade of grass," he once wrote, "unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life." O'Hara was deeply involved in the New York art scene, particularly with the work of abstract expressionist painters such as Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock,Jasper Johns and Franz Kline.  Between 1953 and 1955 he worked as editorial associate for Art News, for which his poet friends John Ashbery and James Schuyler also wrote.  In 1955 he rejoined the staff of MOMA, where he was appointed assistant curator in 1960.
In fact, O’Hara famously wrote Lunch Poems (largely regarded as his most brilliant and important work) during his lunch breaks at the MoMA. Published in 1964, Lunch Poems, according to John Ashbery, destroyed “the congealed surface of academic poetry.”
During his lifetime he was known as "poet among painters," part of a group of such poets who seemed to find inspiration and support from the painters they chose to associate with.He attempted to produce with words the effects those artists had created on canvas.
O'Hara is best known for his   poems, such as 'A Step Away From Them', 'Why I am Not a Painter', and 'The Day Lady Died' (an elegy for Billie Holliday, but some of his later longer poems, in particular 'In Memory of My Feelings' and 'Biotherm (for Bill Berkson)' are equally effective, and have proved influential on a host of younger poets.)
He was a catalytic figure at the intersection of writing, art, dance and music at a seminal time in the US that post war moment when American artists began to assert originality after long being overshadowed by Europeans.
In an essay entitled "Personism: A Manifesto," O'Hara sheds some light on his views towards poetry, declaring that "Nobody should experience anything they don't need to, if they don't need poetry bully for them." In essence, O'Hara wanted poetry to be a personal, spur-of the-moment spontaneity in which abstraction is ruled out in favor of an expression of the artists personal voice or style. A poet of intensity and immediacy, his voice confessional  guided by an unchecked passion. I love his work.
Known throughout his life for his extreme sociability, passion, and warmth, O'Hara had hundreds of friends and lovers throughout his life, many from the New York art and poetry worlds. O'Hara was openly homosexual at a time in which this was less acceptable, and often wrote about his sexuality. For example , the poem "At the Old Place" describes dancing at a gay bar. Furthermore Lunch Poems is dedicated to his friend and lover Joe LeSeuer, with whom he lived for about 11 years until his death.
O'Hara published six books of poetry from 1952 until his death. He is buried in Springs Cemetery on Long Island.Since his death  his mystique , and the seductive power of his work, combined  with  the depth and richness of his achievements as a poet and art critic have been recognized by an international audience. His work constantly popular with readers and never out of print.
Here are a selection of some of my favourite poems, by him, difficult choice, so many to chose from.

Why I'm not a painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES. 


The Day Lady Died


It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton   
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun   
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets   
in Ghana are doing these days
                                                        I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)   
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life   
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine   
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do   
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or   
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and   
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue   
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and   
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

My quietness has a man in it, he is transparent
and he carries me quietly, like a gondola, through the streets.
He has several likenesses, like stars and years, like numerals.

Melancholy Breakfast

Melancholy breakfast
blue overhead blue underneath

the silent egg thinks
and the toaster's electrical
ear waits

the stars are in
"that cloud is hid"

the elements of disbelief are
very strong in the morning

A True Account of Talking to The Sun On Fire Island

The Sun woke me this morning loud
and clear, saying "Hey! I've been
trying to wake you up for fifteen
minutes. Don't be so rude, you are
only the second poet I've ever chosen
to speak to personally

so why
aren't you more attentive? If I could
burn you through the window I would
to wake you up. I can't hang around
here all day."

"Sorry, Sun, I stayed
up late last night talking to Hal."

"When I woke up Mayakovsky he was
a lot more prompt" the Sun said
petulantly. "Most people are up
already waiting to see if I'm going
to put in an appearance."

I tried
to apologize "I missed you yesterday."
"That's better" he said. "I didn't
know you'd come out." "You may be
wondering why I've come so close?"
"Yes" I said beginning to feel hot
wondering if maybe he wasn't burning me
anyway.

"Frankly I wanted to tell you
I like your poetry. I see a lot
on my rounds and you're okay. You may
not be the greatest thing on earth, but
you're different. Now, I've heard some
say you're crazy, they being excessively
calm themselves to my mind, and other
crazy poets think that you're a boring
reactionary. Not me.

Just keep on
like I do and pay no attention. You'll
find that people always will complain
about the atmosphere, either too hot
or too cold too bright or too dark, days
too short or too long.

If you don't appear
at all one day they think you're lazy
or dead. Just keep right on, I like it.

And don't worry about your lineage
poetic or natural. The Sun shines on
the jungle, you know, on the tundra
the sea, the ghetto. Wherever you were
I knew it and saw you moving. I was waiting
for you to get to work.

And now that you
are making your own days, so to speak,
even if no one reads you but me
you won't be depressed. Not
everyone can look up, even at me. It
hurts their eyes."
"Oh Sun, I'm so grateful to you!"

"Thanks and remember I'm watching. It's
easier for me to speak to you out
here. I don't have to slide down
between buildings to get your ear.
I know you love Manhattan, but
you ought to look up more often.

And
always embrace things, people earth
sky stars, as I do, freely and with
the appropriate sense of space. That
is your inclination, known in the heavens
and you should follow it to hell, if
necessary, which I doubt.

Maybe we'll
speak again in Africa, of which I too
am specially fond. Go back to sleep now
Frank, and I may leave a tiny poem
in that brain of yours as my farewell."

"Sun, don't go!" I was awake
at last. "No, go I must, they're calling
me."
"Who are they?"

Rising he said "Some
day you'll know. They're calling to you
too." Darkly he rose, and then I slept.                         



Heart

I'm not going to cry all the time
nor shall I laugh all the time,
I don't prefer one "strain" to another.
I'd have the immediacy of a bad movie,
not just a sleeper, but also the big,
overproduced first-run kind. I want to be
at least as alive as the vulgar. And if
some aficionado of my mess says "That's
not like Frank!", all to the good! I
don't wear brown and grey suits all the time,
do I? No. I wear workshirts to the opera,
often. I want my feet to be bare,
I want my face to be shaven, and my heart--
you can't plan on the heart, but
the better part of it, my poetry, is open.                         

Monday, 24 July 2017

Dear Nick Cave


Dear Nick Cave who I  truly have long admired, are you really happy to appease the Israeli regime, like Radiohead recently did, to the anguish of their many fans, because at moment this state is now executing a genocidal war against 2 million Palestinians (most of them children) in besieged Gaza:
"At least 30 hospitals, 70 primary health care centres and a blood blank are at risk of full or partial closure due to continued power outages and not enough fuel or spare parts for back-up generators" https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170722-who-gaza-health…/
Israel openly uses culture as a form of propaganda to justify its illegal occupation of Palestine. Just as South African anti-Apartheid activists called for an international boycott which led to the downfall of the Apartheid regime, Palestinians are asking for a boycott of Israel as part of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Thousands of artists across the world now refuse to perform in Israel.
The cultural boycott of Israel continues to grow, despite the efforts by Israeli promoters to ignore it.
More than 1,200 UK-based artists and cultural workers have signed Artists for Palestine’s online pledge to refuse to perform or exhibit in Israel and nearly 460 have signed a similar pledge in the US.
In New York City alone, nearly 300 artists have endorsed the cultural boycott.
I urge  you  to to read Ben Ehrenreich's 2016 book 'The Way to the Spring', and Max Blumenthal's 2015 book 'The 51 Day War, so that you can understand the reality of the situation for Palestinians under occupation'.
Pease add your name to the list and respect the boycott.


Sunday, 23 July 2017

Johnny Cash - Sunday morning coming down.


Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I'd smoked my mind the night before
With cigarettes and songs I'd been picking.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Playing with a can that he was kicking.
Then I walked across the street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone frying chicken.
And Lord, it took me back to something that I'd lost
Somewhere, somehow along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothing short a' dying
That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.




Friday, 21 July 2017

No apologies


Frozen moments preserve my presence
Time keeps tumbling on and on,
Slowly but surely I trip over the fear
Clouds are passing over wounds,
Medication soothes the brain
The rain releases the gift of affirmation,
Laughter escapes from the darkness
Out of the silence  trust engulfs,
To allow the cultivation of breath
Inner reason that speaks the truth,
Continuing journeys of navigation
Avenues of concentrated imagination,
To allow destruction to disappear
For peace to visit  my sanctuary,
Though life will always be a struggle
Friends I will always  respect,
Mind occasionally exhausted
Will be rebellious, offers no apologies.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Anais Nin (21/2/03 - 14/1/77) - You have a right to experiment with your life.


" You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too. No, I think there was too rigid a pattern. You came out of an education and are supposed to know your vocation. Your vocation is fixed, and maybe ten years later you find you are not a teacher anymore or you're not a painter anymore. It may happen. It has happened. I mean Gauguin decided at a certain point he wasn't a banker anymore; he was a painter. And so he walked away from banking. I think we have a right to change course. But society is the one that keeps demanding that we fit in and not disturb things. They would like you to fit in right away so that things work now.”    

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The taste of magic (After Tinariwen, Cardigan Castle 15/7/17)


Fierce calm descended
Near a brimming river,
African guerrillas released magic
Sky donned its celestine cloak;
People danced and swayed
Sipping wine, feeling nourishment,
Shadows stole kisses of friendship
And the scent of  memories.
Devotees captivated under moon
Danced together in space,
Rhythms soothing, licking minds
Haunting music carrying treasure,
From the Sahara sharing subtle beauty
Songs of dignity, freedom and unity,
Dispensing to all rolling guitar
Music flooded into souls,
From Mali, desert blues uplifting
Love has no ending.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Lost Songs of Palestine


Despite the precariousness of the peace that exists in the region,  the Palestinian voice still resonates.
Lost Songs of Palestine is a collection of traditional folk songs which have been sung by generations of Palestinians, but which have been recently overshadowed after years of occupation. With an outstanding performance by the world music group ANATOLIA, Lost Songs of Palestine captures the essence of a time long past and a future long awaited. Lost Songs of Palestine is a masterpiece which will inspire both Arabic and non-Arabic listeners.
The CD features both solo improvisations (taqasim) as well as ensemble works (both vocal and instrumental) representing traditional Palestinian urban and village music. Some of the songs are found in other parts of the Arab world where they are sung in popularized versions. But for Westerners, Lost Songs of Palestineis a new opportunity to learn about the culture and rich musical heritage of an ancient people.
ANATOLIA is a western Massachusetts-based group of talented musicians whose love and dedication to Middle Eastern music has earned them wide acclaim from both ethnomusicologists and audiences at sold-out performances. The musicians of ANATOLIA perform on authentic Middle Eastern folk music instruments including kanun (zither), baglama (long neck lute, also known as saz), divan sazi (large baglama), ud (short neck lute, also known as oud), klarnet (clarinet), keman (violin), nay (end blown flute, also known as ney), bandir (also known as deff), riqq (tambourine), mazhar (large tambourine), darbuka (dumbek), tabla, zills (finger cymbals) and vocals.
Lost Songs of Palestine includes: Weyn A Ramallah, Arrozana, Dommak Doom, Ya Meet Masa, Marmar Zamaani, Ala Dal'oona, Ya Hweydalak, Housnak Ya Zeyn, Mouwashshah Lamma Bada Yatathanna and Al Yadil Yadi.
ANATOLIA's first CD Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World was released in 1996. Lost Songs of Palestine was released in February, 2001. Middle Eastern Songs and Dances for Children was released in 2005.
Founded in 1994 and directed by Edward J. Hines, ANATOLIA is dedicated to the preservation of folk, classical and dance music traditions of the Middle East. The musicians of ANATOLIA strive to bring a new understanding of Middle Eastern cultures to Western audiences, while celebrating music and dance traditions its members have known since childhood.
From Edward Hines Music :- http://www.hinesmusic.com/Anatolia.html.

Friday, 14 July 2017

China's Nobel Laureate ,dissident leader and human rights hero Liu Xiaobo dies.


Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate and writer Liu Xiaobo, who was imprisoned since 2009 for calling for more freedom in his country, has died. He was recently released into hospital for treatment after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer but died yesterday from multiple organ failure whilst under heavy armed guard.
The death of the 61-year-old dissident and veteran of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 has sent shockwaves through China’s activist community and among human rights campaigners across the world. In Hong Kong, about 100 democracy activists  protested outside China's liaison office.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said Mr Liu was a "courageous fighter for civil rights and freedom of expression", while the Norwegian Nobel Committee accused Beijing of having a “heavy responsibility for his premature death”.
Rex Tillerson, the United States’ Secretary of State, expressed condolences over the death of Mr Liu and called on Beijing to release his wife, the poet Liu Xia, and allow her to leave China.Mr Liu's wife  had been placed under house arrest in 2010, but was allowed to see him at the hospital  as her husband's health deteriorated over the past couple of weeks  before he died. Rights groups and Western governments have mourned Liu Xiaobo's death and also called for authorities to grant his wife Liu Xia and the rest of his family freedom of movement.  Her fate will now be the centre of concern among human rights groups.
Amid increasingly desperate calls from supporters for him  to be granted his dying wish to receive treatment for his condition abroad, Mr Liu remained in China where he died on Thursday evening, local officials said.His friends claim China’s refusal to allow him to travel overseas was an attempt to shorten his life, and ensure he could not criticise Beijing in his final moments.Beijing had repeatedly dismissed foreign criticism of its treatment of Mr Liu, saying that it is an internal affair.
Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The Chinese government’s arrogance, cruelty, and callousness are shocking – but Liu’s struggle for a rights-respecting, democratic China will live on.”
Mr Liu was born to an intellectual family in Jilin province in China’s northeast and led a life of fearless activism.The former professor of literature at Beijing Normal University wrote about the value of individual freedoms and nonviolent resistance.
He was influential at the Tiananmen Square protests, which ended when tanks rolled into central Beijing killing hundreds, possibly over a thousand protesters.Mr Liu was said to have saved the lives of many students when he negotiated between the army and protesters as they ended their occupation of the square.
Liu Xiaobo was one of China’s preeminent dissident writers and activists.Devoted not only to the end of China's one-party rule but also to the absolute necessity of replacing it with a democratic system, he was committed to non-violent protest. He was arrested in December 2008 on the eve of the release of Charter 08,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_08 an extraordinary declaration he had co-authored calling for political reform, greater human rights, and an end to one-party rule.
This bold manifesto, which was signed by more than 10,000 people after it went online, calls for the protection of basic human rights and the reform of China's one-party system.
- Words seen 'as crimes' -
Western governments, rights groups and fellow activists repeatedly called for his release.
Charter 08 specifically demands the abolition of subversion as a criminal offence.
"We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision," it says.
"We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes."
Liu was subsequently held under ‘residential surveillance’ in a windowless room for more than six months. In June 2009, he was formally charged and transferred to the Public Security Bureau Detention Centre in Beijing,where he reported an improvement in his conditions; he was allowed outside and had detainees in his cell with whom he could talk. On 25 December 2009, Liu was convicted of ‘incitement to subversion’ for his role in Charter 08 and for several online articles. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Liu  spent much of his adult life as a target of the Chinese government. He played a crucial part in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, staging a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square in support of the students and leading calls for a sustainable democratic movement. He helped  negotiate the safe exit from Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators on the night of June 3-4, 1989 when the military bloodily suppressed six week-long protests in the heart of Beijing.Despite spending two years  in prison for his role, he continued to speak out in favour of freedom of expression and democracy. As such, he spent an additional three years in a re-education-through-labour camp (1996-1999) and was regularly detained and harassed until his most recent arrest.
Liu had been a prominent member of PEN http://www.pen-international.org/ and served as president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), which does on-the-ground advocacy work in China despite constant pressure from the authorities. In 2010 Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his long and non-violent struggle for human rights in China. Liu was the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Peace Prize and one of only three people to have won it while detained by their own government. He was the second Nobel laureate to die in custody after German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital under the Nazis in 1938.
"I want to tell the regime that is withholding my freedom: I have no enemies," Liu wrote in an essay that was published worldwide in 2010. Liu included police officers, public prosecutors and judges in his statement. "I do not accept your surveillance, your confinement, your judgements," he wrote. "But I do respect your professions and your personalities." He added: "Hatred corrodes the wisdom and the conscience of a human being. Demonizing others can poison the spirit of a nation, destroy tolerance and humanity, and block the path to progress and democracy. I hope to be able to respond with best intentions to the hostility of the regime, and to defuse hatred with love." 
The text was read out on the stage when Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2010. The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored Liu for his long and non-violent fight for fundamental human rights in China. An empty chair sat where he would have were he not in prison.
This is a sad moment  for human rights, but Liu Xiaobo leaves behind a powerful legacy to inspire others to continue the struggle for human rights in China and around the world.
A poet, scholar, and courageous advocate, Liu Xiaobo dedicated his life to the pursuit of democracy and liberty. With courage and dignity he inspired millions. I hope he is the last victim in China's long record of treating words as crimes. It's leaders should bow their heads in collective shame.

Liu Xiaobo -  One letter

one letter is enough
for me to transcend
and face you to speak

as the wind blows
past the night
uses its own blood
to write a secret verse
that reminds me each word
is the last word

the ice in your body
melts into a myth of fire
in the eyes of the executioner
fury turns to stone

two sets of iron rails
unexpectedly overlap
moths flap toward lamp
light, an eternal sign
that traces your shadow

Happy Birthday Woody Guthrie ( 14/7/ 1912 -3/10/1967) - Folk Revolutionary


Today marks the  birthday of legendary left-winger, songwriter, poet of the people and musician Woody Guthrie. A man who celebrated the little guy, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised.
Tragedy first struck when Woody was still a young child. His father was a land trader, and soon made enough money in oil-mad Okemah to build a nice six-room home for the family; yet shortly after the Guthries moved in, the house burned down. By then, the depression was already beginning to bite, and his father couldn't afford another one. For the next few years, the Guthries moved from house to house as their fortunes got worse; and as if the falling family fortunes weren't enough, human tragedy struck too. Woody's favourite sister, Clara, died after being horribly burned by the explosion of an oil stove.
 Not long after, this  Woody's mother suffering from Huntingtons disease was sent to a mental asylum where she later died. A saddened and a broken man, Woody's dad did his best to keep happiness alive in the broken family: he would sing to his children, but, remembered Woody, "I could tell by the sounds of his voice that he was not singing to make his own self feel good, but to try and make us kids feel better." Then the family home burned down for the second time.
A growing youth by then, Guthrie  overcame his own  personal hardship and tragedy and set of to seek  his fortune far from the sad memories of his childhood. Hitch-hiking across America with a guitar on his back and paintbrushes in his pocket, he made for  California, joining the crowds of Okies seeking a better life in the West. He mixed with the migrant farm workers, and learned their trade, singing about it in some of his finest "Dustbowl Ballads"; He became a spokesman for those Americans affected by the Great Depression and the dust storms. and sung out to sufferers of the Depression, the Dust Bowl era, and the second World War. He advocated the unions and scorned the corporations. But the formulas for writing the “people’s songs” didn’t rest in social justice alone; Guthrie’s wit, humor and home-spun vernacular attracted too and avoided pretension.
In the 1930s, Guthrie was among the many who climbed out of the western states’ disastrous Dustbowl; he brought with him original songs that catalogued the sights and emotions of the day: “So Long, Its Been Good to Know You”, “I’m Blowin’ Down This Old Dusty Road”, “Talking Dust Bowl Blues”, among many more. Once in California, Woody soon learned that it was no land of milk and honey. However, instead of toiling in fruit orchards, he became a radio performer, offering his old-timey and topical music to the southerners who’d migrated to the West Coast. While the station manager tried desperately to hold Woody to the country standards, somewhere in the mix was an original called “Mr. Tom Mooney is Free”. This 1939 composition told of the recently pardoned labor activist, a cause celebre in Left circles, who’d been wrongly imprisoned for 22 years. Very soon, he got a reputation as an outspoken defender of the poor and the exploited, and a well-armed enemy of those who exploited them. "I saw the hundreds of thousands of stranded, broke, hungry, idle, miserable people that lined the highways.... I heard these people sing in their jungle camps, and I sang songs I made up for them," he wrote.
Soon, Woody was renowned as a militant labor unionist, a champion of the public cause against private greed.In 1941, he was taken on by the Bonneville Power Administration, a state-run organisation, to help them win public approval for two vast dam projects on the Columbia River. The BPA project was hotly contested by the owners of private power companies, who did not want to lose their monopoly over the electricity supply in the region. Woody's collection of "Columbia River Songs" is a major contribution to the social history of the American West in the 1930s and early 40s, fixing in song and poetry the trials of a generation of rural Americans. In part thanks to Woody, the dams were built.
From his first song, “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya” which he wrote about a huge dust storm while living in Pampa, Texas, Woody Guthrie chronicled the changing world that he saw.
He could describe the deprivations of migrant workers but still insist that "pastures of plenty must always be free.” his songs touch on issues ranging from immigration (“Deportee”) see earlier post, about this song here, https://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/the-continung-relevance-of-woody.html


to corrupt financial institutions (“The Jolly Banker”)


to the plight of the working class (“Union Maid”) — age-old problems that continue to dominate the modern news. He re-wrote some of his songs, lambasting the racist developer/landlord, Fred Trump, father of the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. A developer who made a fortune, not only through the construction of "public" housing projects but also through collecting the rents on them. Woody used his songs and other creative works as social commentary, promoting social justice issues such as treating all people fairly no matter what colour or economic status, political belief or place of origin.
The radicalism he brought into his songs was seldom forced; it was organically and seamlessly connected with a kind of humanistic appreciation of working people’s everyday struggles. He was, in his own words, “out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world.” songs that were made for you and me. Although he was unblinking in the face of suffering and injustice, he had a persistent streak of optimism. He seemed really to believe that music could change the world for the better, confidently writing on his guitar, “This machine kills fascists.” He was a radical, a revolutionary who believed if imperialists raised their ugly heads, it was time to battle them in bloody struggles. To the Fascists, he sent the ultimate warning:

“I’ll bomb their towns and bomb their cities
Sink their ships beneath the tides,
I’ll win this war, but till I do, babe,
I could not be satisfied.”

Guthrie’s ‘machine’ indeed ‘killed Fascists’. And he appealed to human reasoning through radical folk renditions that founded the landscape of protest music worldwide. And he never faltered from why he needed to sing what he did.

Woody Guthrie - Tear the fascists down.
 

Woody Guthrie - All you fascists Bound to lose. 


Woody Guthrie is also remembered for “This Land is Your Land”, his anthem reclaiming America for ordinary people. It was his own contemptuous response to the success of “God Bless America. It is often considered the nation's second national anthem



Many of the things he concerns himself with in song in the late 1930s are still with us today and though its disconcerting to know we haven’t solved those things, at the same time it’s reassuring that Guthrie’s music is still there to shed light on these issues. During hard times, people who are struggling to find a emotional accessible moral philosophy that can give hope can still find it in the words of this poet of the people Woody Guthrie. He taught us that an artist must not be confined to the world of imagination alone. The battlefield is an unequal world and the war against injustice is absolutely on. Until that war is won, the artist must not be satisfied!
In the 1950s, Woody was one of the many artists and writers to fall victim to the MacCarthyist witch-hunts for supposed "Communists". Publishers gave up publishing his collections, and his most famous songs, such as "This Land is My Land", were presented as "anonymous".
By the late 1940s, Guthrie's health was declining, and his behavior was becoming extremely erratic. It was finally determined that he was suffering  himself from Huntington's disease, this terrible se, a genetic disorder inherited from his mother.Increasingly unable to control his muscles, an incurable victim of a slowly spreading paralysis he  was hospitalized at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris County, New Jersey, from 1956 to 1961, at Brooklyn State Hospital (now Kingsboro Psychiatric Center) in East Flat Bush until 1966, and finally at  Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, New York, until his tragic death in 1967 aged only 55. During the last years of his life, he lay in bed, a dying hero, forgotten by many but regularly visited by a small band of  faithfull , many of whom were later to make sure that after his death, Woody would not be forgotten.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a new generation of young people was inspired by folk singers such as Guthrie. These "folk revivalists" became more politically aware in their music than those of the previous generation.  By the time of his death, his work had been discovered by a new audience, introduced to them through the likes of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Ramblin Jack Elliot,
Thank you Woody Guthrie, a folk revolutionary who continues to inspire and strike a chord or two. His songs and time remain eternal.

Revolutionary Mind - Woody Guthrie


Night is here again, baby,
I'm stretched out on my bed
Seeing all kinds of crazy notions
Running through my head

I need a progressive woman;
I need an awfully liberal woman.
There ain’t no reactionary baby
Can ease my revolutionary mind.

One hand is on my pillow,
One hand is on my head,
I see a million nightmares
Tearing around inside my head;

I need a progressive woman
I need an awful liberal woman
I need a social conscious woman
To ease my revolutionary mind.

If I could only make you see, babe,
I ache and pain and bleed,
I know you’d come a runnin;
If you blistered both your feet.

I need a progressive woman
I need an awful liberal woman
I need a social conscious woman
To ease my revolutionary mind.

All you fascists bound to lose  - Woody Guthrie


I’m gonna tell you fascists
You may be surprised
The people in this world
Are getting organized
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose

Race hatred cannot stop us
This one thing we know
Your poll tax and Jim Crow
And greed has got to go
You’re bound to lose

You fascists bound to lose.
All of you fascists bound to lose:
I said, all of you fascists bound to lose:
Yes sir, all of you fascists bound to lose:
You’re bound to lose! You fascists:
Bound to lose!

People of every color
Marching side to side
Marching ‘cross these fields
Where a million fascists dies
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose!

I’m going into this battle
And take my union gun
We’ll end this world of slavery
Before this battle’s won
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose!



Thursday, 13 July 2017

Not ready yet


In losing I knew what  I'd lost
Still recognising the joy and pain,
By the rivers edge, death called
Beckoning me to come closer,
No, I gently replied I'll bide my time
My spirit for now seeks existence,
Even when shadows darken
And my heart has been broken,
Still finding solace on this earth
Got lots of things to get done,
Guess the end will have open door policy
This is life's promise, it's simple honesty,
I'm simply not ready yet.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Ciwan Haco - Gula Sor (Red Flower)


"Gula Sor" ("Red Flower" in Kurdish) is a song by Ciwan Haco about the Kurdish lives lost to the wars and oppression in the Middle East, and in particular, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Kurds have a legend about the red flowers that decorate various places in the mountains and hills of the geographical region of Kurdistan and that, in some cases, grow during all four seasons. The legend goes that the flowers get their color from the blood of the Kurdish martyrs. The song is dedicated to these martyrs and describes the flowers as a memory of their simple human desire for freedom and the love that they and all people have for their native lands.
For the past five centuries the Kurds of Central Asia have been forced to live under oppressive regimes and to seek refuge out of their traditional homeland. The oppression the Kurds have experienced, combined with the suppression of their language has led many of them to believe that they are among the most hated peoples of the world. The Kurdish proverb, “Kurds have no friends,” expresses that sentiment. Despite the suffering the Kurds have endured, they remain a culturally distinct people.
Ciwan Haco born in 1957 near Qamishlo in Syria. He is a descendant of the Kurdish noble famaly, Haco Agha, from the district of Mardin. As a result of repression after the rebellion of Shaikh Said 1925, the family left the region of Mardin. They settled down in Ciwans Birthplace .
After finishing high school, he left for Germany in order to continue his studies. He studied music at the University of Bochum for three years. He is now residing in Sweden.. He is most famous for successfully combining traditional Kurdish music with modern jazz, rock, pop and other genres. His earliest work consists of traditional Kurdish songs and songs about love and social and political hardships that Kurds have endured in the Middle East.In his songs, he has  repeatedly expressed with pride that he is closely linked with the suffering and struggle of his people in Kurdistan. Very popular with the Kurdish diaspora as well as with the Kurdish people in Kurdistan. He has played many concerts across Europe.
"Gula Sor" is from one of Ciwan Haco's earlier albums and is performed in a Kurdish language called Kurmanci, which is spoken by the majority of Kurds.

Kurdish/ Kurmanci Lyrics

Hay gula sor, hilbû jor, bîn da dor
gula sor, gula sor
li paş çiyayê kaf şîn bû
alem jêre evîn bû
bi me xweş, da me heş
em bi bîna wê sermest
emê pê şa bin serbest
 
hey gula sor, hilbû jor, bîn da dor
gula sor gula sor
hay gul, gula sor gul
gul gula sor, gula sor gula sor
 
nezanîn, xemrevîn, xemilîn
pê zemîn
gula bi kelemê di nav baxê îrema
hey gula sor, alem li dor
bicivin û bînbikin dor bi dor
 
hey gula sor, hilbû jor, bîn da dor
gula sor gula sor
hay gul, gula sor gul
gul gula sor, gula sor gula sor

English Translation - Red Rose

Hey red rose, grew high and spread its smell around
Red rose, red rose
Your place is behind the Kaf mountain
The world fell in love with it
Is a source of enjoyment for us and brought us to a reason
With its smell we became ecstatic
We found life and became free
 
Hey red rose, grew high and spread its smell around
Red rose, red rose
Hey red rose, red rose
Rose red rose, red rose, red rose
 
Ignorance, comforter and smartened itself up
On this earth
Branchy rose in the Garden of Eden
Hey red rose, wrapped all around
Come together and smell it all around
 
Hey red rose, grew high and spread its smell around
Red rose, red rose
Hey Red rose, red rose
Rose red rose, red rose, red rose


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Remembering Srebenica


Thousands have  gathered in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica to commemorate Europe’s worst atrocity, a genocide unprecedented in Europe since the Second World War.
The remains of 71 recently identified victims were laid to rest at Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery, to join 6,504 white gravestones  as mourners observed the twenty-second anniversary of the massacre.
We remember the more than  8000 Bosnian fathers, brothers and sons were systematically separated from their wives, mothers and daughters, taken away, executed and dumped into hastily dug pits (so inappropriate to call them graves).
Every year, new bodies are discovered and the remains are identified through DNA analysis before being buried at Potocari.Thousands of activists each year attend massive marches to remember the genocide victims.
Srebrenica had been declared a UN safe zone, to which thousands of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) had fled during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. However in July 1995, General Ratko Mladić and his Serbian paramilitary units overran and captured the town,  Dutch  UN peacekeeping forces were at the time accused of  failing to do enough to prevent the massacre.The Muslim men and boys were told by the Dutch peacekeepers they would be safe and handed over to the Bosnian Serb army. They never returned. The Netherlands  has since been found  partly liable for the deaths of 300 Muslims killed in the Srebrenica massacre, a court recently confirmed.The Hague appeals court upheld a decision from 2014 that ordered the Dutch state to pay compensation to the victims families.
Srebrenica  happened during a war with seemingly few rules of engagement, bitter fighting, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and systematic mass rape. Essentially a territorial conflict, one in which people of difference looked back on times of peaceful coexistence, however fragile, and forward to ethnic separation, exclusion and to living apart.
In March last year, former Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, was convicted of war crimes for his role in the Srebrenica killings and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Prosecutors at The Hague war crimes tribunal have called for a life sentence to be imposed on the Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, for genocide and crimes against humanity committed by his forces during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Yet for many Serbs he is still regarded as a hero of his people and is celebrated.
Humanity has lived through the darkest of times, but few events have stained our collective history more than the Srebrenica genocide.Today we remember the victims, survivors and those still fighting for justice. Let us continue to unite against forces of hatred. We must continue to learn lessons from this tragic event, never forget and recognise the dangers of what can manifest when racism, prejudice,  religious-hatred and discrimination go unchallenged and ethnic divisions are exploited by political leaders.

Here is a link to the official site of rememberance.:-

http://www.srebrenica.org.uk/

Erich Mühsam ( 6/4/ 1878 - 10/7/ 34) - The Revolutioner


Yesterday  in 1934 Erich Mühsam, German anarchist poet,cabaret performer, who achieved international prominence during the years of the Weimar Republic for works which, before Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, condemned  Nazism and satirized the future dictator.was found dead at the Orianenburg concentration camp. He had been murdered during the night by Nazis.The nazis claimed that he committed suicide. Many details and many testimonies proved that he was coldly killed by the SS. 
Miihsam was the son of a pharmacist. In his first collections, which included The Desert (1904), he depicted the world through the eyes of a lonely hero. He published topical verse in satirical journals. In its thematic content, Mühsam’s poetry was similar to the rebellious antiwar lyric poetry of left-wing expressionism. For the first time in 20th-century German democratic poetry, Miihsam created the heroic figure of the revolutionary.
Erich Mühsam represented the idea of ​​nonviolent anarchism and characterized anarchists as follows:
"An anarchist never enters into voluntary commitments that can  affect self-determination or subordinate him to authority."
The way he lived shows how consistently he followed his credo, formulated in 1918: "And if they slay me, to obey is to lie!" Mühsam tried repeatedly to unite all left-wing parties in solidarity against the war and with these pacifist efforts he was a thorn in the eye of the imperial empire. After a counterrevolutionary coup in Munich, he was arrested and remained in prison until 1925. When, after his release, he and his wife arrived at the Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin, thousands of comrades were waiting for him singing the Internationale, for which they were attacked by the police.
In 1929, the Jewish-born Mühsam warned the SPD and the KPD that the fascists were planing a coup.In the night of the burning of the Reichstag, 27th to 28th February 1933, Mühsam was arrested and taken to jail. His plan to escape the next morning to Prague did not work out. He was held in various prisons and concentration camps and suffered  repeatedly months of beatings and torture.
In his satirical play Weather for All (1930; published posthumously), he exposed the behind-the-scenes collusion of the Nazis, industrialists, and the German military clique and the conciliatory policy of the right-wing Social Democratic leaders.
After his death he was buried on 16 July 1934 in the cemetary of Dahlem. The following  is a short account of his life, work and subsequent  martyrdom.:- https://libcom.org/library/erich-m%C3%BChsam-his-life-his-work-his-martyrdom-%E2%80%93-augustin-souchy

The Revolutioner - Erich Mühsam, 1908 (Original in German)

Dedicated to German Social Democracy

A guy for revolution screamed
Who as civilian lanterns cleaned
Marched like chased by Lucifer
With all the revolutioners

And he cried: “I revolute!”
His revoluting hat so cute
Tilted over his left ear
Felt most dangerous, oh dear!

But the revoluters roved
In the middle of the road
Where usually, without dismay
He cleans the lanterns every day

The revolutionary crowd
Began to tear the lanterns out
The pavement disarrayed
They built a barricade!
The pavement disarrayed
They built a barricade!

Our revolutionary cried:
“People, I’m the cleaning guy
Of this lamp, so kind and warm
Please, don’t do it any harm.”

“If we take away their light
The citizens won’t see at night
Spare these lamps, I do deplore
Or I won’t play with you no more!”

The revolutionaries laughed
And the gas lanterns they smashed
And the lampman slid away
Cried so bitter in dismay

So he stayed at home
And wrote a mighty tome:
Called: How to revolt
and still scrub lanterns to the last bolt


Monday, 10 July 2017

Don't live in fear


Don't live in fear. Live your life.It is our responsibility to break down these walls of indifference, to shatter these conspiracies of silence,to stand up and be counted and not look around to see whoever else is standing before we make a judgment to do so, because in the world in which we live, there are few people prepared to stand, let alone be counted.
So open up the borders, give refugees a safe welcome, oppose war, fight injustice, stand with others in solidarity. Together we can make a difference. In the words of the philosopher Edmund Burke ’the surest way to ensure that evil will triumph in the world is for enough good people to do nothing.’ 
United we can bring about a better society, we can cheer one another on  in pursuit of love, truth, justice and freedom. 
People standing together, gain strength, I believe in people  power,the more of us standing together, raising the call for justice and equality, the louder our voice. United we can take on the might of governments, corporations, and the media , holding forces of tyranny and oppression that brutalizes and dehumanises to account. With a shared inclusive identity in which all have a stake, we can build another world. Never be complicit through silence. And as for Jayden K Smith they can simply piss off.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

River poem


( no apologies, another poem for Jane , 9/5/ 60 - 8/1/17)

We sat together by the river teifi
My dear friend and I,
As life floated on by
Onwards  into eternity,
We held hands, consumed by love,
As waters moved  so feely
We had so much in common,
Our laughter rippled
As tidal currents flowed on and on,
We smiled and consoled one another
Trusting the forces of nature,
Gliding and glistening
Our love was real,
Reflections of the past
All belong to this earth,
As time rumbles on
Waters deep hold a common treasury
The future will always, belongs to us all.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Hold HSBC to account.


The first week of July has seen lots of activities for the Stop Arming Israel campaign across the country, coinciding with the third anniversary of the brutal military assault on Gaza. In the summer of 2014, Israel carried out its deadliest ever massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, killing more than 2,300 people. Over 550 of these were children.
HSBC holds shares and provides loans to military and technology that sell weapons and equipment to Israel used in the abuse of Palestinians’ human rights,. HSBC’s complicity in Israel’s militarised oppression includes Elbit shares worth £3.64m and  holds £180m of shares in BAE Systems, a key company involved in manufacturing the F-16 fighter jets used by Israel to attack Palestinians in Gaza. HSBC also holds £102m of shares in Boeing, who have provided Hellfire missiles, F-15 Eagle fighter jets, MK84 2000-lb bombs and Apache helicopters used in Israel’s devastating attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Since the summer of  2012, HSBC has also been involved in syndicates with other banks that have provided loans to arms companies supplying weapons to Israel worth around £19.3 billion.The bank was also involved in providing loans to Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are used to demolish Palestinian homes.
BDS campaigners said HSBC policy appears to state that the bank should not give financial support to the arms trade. Riya Hassan of the Palestinian BDS national committee said: “By investing in and providing loans to the arms companies that help Israel to oppress Palestinians, HSBC is lending its support to Israel’s violations of international law.“HSBC is profiting from the armed violence and repression that lies at the heart of Israel’s system of oppression over the Palestinian people.”
The anti-poverty charity’s senior militarism and security campaigner Ryvka Barnard said: “HSBC holds shares in, and arranges loans to, a number of companies that sell weapons and military technology to Israel, used in the abuse of Palestinians’ human rights, including war crimes.
“If HSBC is serious about a commitment to human rights, its first step must be to immediately end its business relationship with companies that sell weapons to Israel.”
Please keep  calling on HSBC to immediately end all forms of support for arms companies that help Israel to oppress Palestinians and violate international law. People will be taking further action in due course to pressure HSBC to end its complicity with the Israeli arms trade.
We must urge them to end its complicity in Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian rights.
Do not let  HSBC and Elbit Systems look away from the consequences of their continued dealings with the Israeli military. Arming any country in my opinion in this unethical way, is simply wrong. 

https://secure.waronwant.org/page/11112/action/1?locale=en-GB

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Magic


(was not sure whether to share this, but arrived a moment ago, as mood descended,  as it made me feel better I thought id share it.)

I have not forgotten, that out of the darkness
An individual arrived, put a spell on this earth,
A faraway voice nearly seven months gone,
(in my head,  still  keeps an eye on us)
Releases rainbow lakes  into which I dive,
In slow motion her hands outstretched move devotion
Allow my fears to disappear from this troubled world,
In the storms calm descends, her eyes appear illuminating 
Casting  captivating rays in every town and city,
Walking beside us, a little flower of heaven
With compassion on her lips, an inspiration of magic,
Though faraway, still releases  beauty
Putting smiles back on  faces, allowing flowers to bloom  
As stars shine down feel the magic.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Happy 69th Birthday NHS


Nye Bevans legacy came into the world 69 years ago this morning, when he opened Park Hospital in Manchester at a time of rationing and shortages, when we were nearly bankrupt, a jewel  that the war generation left us with, a proud legacy, for us to all to continue to share.For the first-time doctors, nurses, opticians, dentists and pharmacists all worked under one organisation, free at the point of use. A healthcare service which is available to everyone for free is what separates us from the US. It offered for the first time a free healthcare system for all, and has since  played a vital role in caring for all aspects of our nations health. It has been the envy of the world ever since. My own father served it well for nigh on 40 years.Remember we paid for it, so it is owned by us, it is our precious commodity, it must survive, we must tear the vultures hands from it.
It wouldn’t be possible to run a 7-day NHS, caring for millions of people day-in-day-out without the hard work and dedication of its staff. Despite all the adversity that’s thrown at them: poor pay, bursary cuts, hospital parking fines and staff shortages to name a few; they continue to become stronger and relentlessly deliver fantastic healthcare to the nation .Recent tragic events that have taken place in London, Manchester and Grenfell Tower have once again highlighted the strength, professionalism , dedication and bravery of our healthcare staff. It is truly inspiring to see how amazing the staff handled the awful situation and it was a testament to every healthcare worker throughout the UK. They  are a credit to our nation and we couldn’t be more proud.
The NHS  here in Wales employs close to 72,000 staff which makes it Wales’ biggest employer. I can never forget the compassion they gave to my dear departed, the staff always managing to keep her spirits high, never once showing any dereliction of care.Dedicated, compassionate staff  are under increased pressure, leading to low moral. Recent figures have emerged that 2/4s of hospitals have been warned about dangerous staff shortages.
As the Tory's and their rotten hearts seek to dismantle it,  we should not forget Nye's words who said ' It will last as long as their are folk with enough faith to fight for it. We  cannot reach the day again where people make a profit out of our sickness.On its birthday we should also join the call for fair pay for all NHS staff - scrap the cap ,Public sector pay has been capped for too long. This is despite rising inflation and increased living costs. Workers in the UK are on average £1200 worse off a year than in 2008. It's not OK that NHS staff like nurses are resorting to food banks to get by
We are now standing at a precipice: the NHS has been severely damaged by underfunding and privatisation .But remember we paid for it, so it is owned by us, it is our precious commodity, it must survive, we must tear the vultures hands from it.As the Tory's and their rotten hearts seek to dismantle it,  we should not forget Nye's words who said ' It will last as long as their are folk with enough faith to fight for it.' We  cannot reach the day again where people make a profit out of our sickness . The NHS is a shining example of how a caring society can create   good and safe care based on social solidarity., making such a great contribution towards social and health equality.    
Please sign the following  birthday card to Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt a message - It's time to care for the NHS

http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/actions/happy-birthday-nhs



Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Toxteth Uprising of July 1981.


The Toxteth uprising of July 1981 was a civil disturbance in Toxteth, inner city Liverpool which arose in part from long-standing tensions between the local police and the black community. They followed the Brixton riots earlier that year. At the same time there were outbreaks in Birmingham's Handsworth, Chappletown in Leeds, and Manchester’s Moss Side.
Underpinning these outbreaks were the themes of discrimination against black people in an increasingly precarious economy, bitter hostility in the inner cities to the government of Margaret Thatcher and several years of assaults on black and Asian communities by the National Front, which had in turn provoked the formation of the Anti-Nazi League, street-fighting by anti-fascists and, in 1977, the "Battle of Lewisham" in London. The 1976 Notting Hill carnival had ended with running battles between the police and black youths chanting: "Soweto, Soweto", after the uprising there and repressions in apartheid South Africa earlier in the year. Strong cultural currents flowed through the period, including the influence of American ghetto soul music, and arrival of songs by Bob Marley especially, gave young people  living in the inner city a sense of the justice denied them, as well as strength and purpose.

Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Dont give up the fight!
Most people think
great God will come from the sky
Take away everything
Make everybody feel high
But if you know what life is worth
You’ll look for yours on earth

.
 2-Tone music from bands such as the Specials and Selecter fused elements of ska, punk rock and reggae also provided much of the soundtrack to these years.  In their songs, British reggae bands like Misty in Roots, Aswad and Steel Pulse linked the tribulations on the streets at home with struggles in Africa and elsewhere.
But the overt reason for the serial disturbances was the ubiquitously appalling treatment of black youths by the police. Harassment, intimidation and wanton arrest were integral to the fabric of young black life, invariably applied by flagrant abuse of the so-called suspected persons, or "sus" law, a section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act that permitted police officers to arrest anyone loitering "with intent to commit an arrestable offence" – which in Britain's ghettoes had come to mean almost anyone between the ages of 13 and 30.
This combined  with the activities  of the Mersyside police force which had, at the time, a poor reputation within the black community for stopping and searching young black men in the area, under these "sus " laws .Perpetually, young men of different races and black citizens were complaining about how the authorities were treating them. Prior to the uprising, there were lots of incidents of harassment, drug planting, people being criminalised for trivial reasons and heavy handed policing.
One of the other root causes was that with the economy in recession. unemployment in Britain was at a 50-year high in 1981, and Toxteth had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.Liverpool 8 had long suffered a range of social, economic  problems, also official figures confirm that out of 22,000 people working for Liverpool City Council at the time of the riots, only 169 were black. It was estimated that unemployment was running at something like 60% in the black community and in areas where blacks had been employed elsewhere in the UK, like public transport, there was hardly a black face to be seen. In Liverpool’s schools, only two governors were black and poor academic performance was endemic.Liverpool's black population was concentrated in Toxteth. Many feeling a sense of abandonment.
This combined  with the activities  of the Mersyside police force which had, at the time, a poor reputation within the black community for stopping and searching young black men in the area, under these "sus " laws .Perpetually, young men of different races and black citizens were complaining about how the authorities were treating them. Prior to the uprising, there were lots of incidents of harassment, drug planting, people being criminalised for trivial reasons and heavy handed policing.
On the evening of Friday July 3rd the police had attempted to arrest a young, black motorcyclist at the junction of Granby and Selbourne Street. An angry crowd had gathered, leading to a fracas during which the motorcyclist escaped but a different black youth, Leroy Cooper whose brother had been acquitted on what the local community regarded as a trumped-up charge in the Crown Court only the day before, was arrested for assault on a police officer.Incensed by what they had witnessed  they started  name-calling, this grew into jostling and within minutes there was a full-scale fracas that saw three police officers hurt..It did not stop there. Police mounted extra patrols in the area and early the following evening, July 4, there was more trouble when they came under attack from a crowd armed with bricks and petrol bombs.
The existing tensions between police and people had already been noticed by respected local magistrate and councillor  Chairman of the Merseyside Police  Committee, Margaret Simey  She worked ceaselessly to hold the police force and its Chief Constable to account for their methods, both before and after the riots.  She once remarked that in the face of such conditions the people of Liverpool 8 would have been ‘apathetic fools’ if they  didn't protest".
It  was the events of Sunday 5 July that launched ‘Toxteth’ (as outsiders commenting on the events always called the area) into the national headlines. Over the days that followed, disturbance erupted into full-scale rioing, with pitched battles between police and youths in which petrol bombs and paving stones were thrown. During the violence milk floats were set on fire and directed at police lines. Rioters were also observed using scaffording poles to charge police lines. The Merseyside Police had issued its officers with long protective shields but these proved inadequate in protecting officers from missile attacks and in particular the effects of petrol bombs. The overwhelming majority of officers were not trained either in using the shields or in public order tactics. The sole offensive tactic available to officers,the baton charge, proved increasingly ineffective in driving back the attacking crowds of rioters. At 02:15 hours on Monday 6 July Merseyside police officers fired between 25-30 CS gas grenades for the first time in the UK outside Northern Ireland. The gas succeeded  in dispersing the protestors but should never have been deployed on crowds of people.
In all, the rioting lasted nine days during which 468 police officers were injured, 500 people were arrested, and at least 70 buildings were damaged so severely by fire that they had to be demolished. Around 100 cars were destroyed, and there was extensive looting of shops.Further serious rioting occurred on 26-28 July when, at the time of the royal wedding of Charles and Diana, a young local disabled man from Wavertree  boy David Moore was killed  a police van dispersing rioters. Police officers were accused of his manslaughter, although they were eventually acquitted. . Such was the scale of the uprising in Toxteth that police reinforcements were drafted in from forces across England including Greater Manchester Police, Lancashire , Cumbria, Birmingham and even Devon to try to control the unrest.




A second wave of rioting began on 27 July 1981 and continued into the early hours of 28 July, with police once again being attacked with missiles and a number of cars being set alight. 26 officers were injured. However on this occasion the Merseyside Police responded by driving vans and land rovers at high speed into the crowds quickly dispersing them. This tactic had been developed as a riot control technique in Northern Ireland by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and had been employed with success in quelling the Moss Side riots by the Greater Manchester Police.
The riots, like those around the same time in Brixton, Handsworth, and those in 1980 in Bristol were generally seen as race riots, but there are many reports of similarly frustrated white youths travelling in from other areas of Liverpool to fight alongside Toxteth residents against the police.
One facility looted in the riots was a sports club called the Racquet Club, which was opened in 1877 on Upper Parliament Street, when Toxteth as an upper-middle-class area. When the riot started, the clubhouse included 3 squash courts  and 12  bedrooms e riot, the clubhouse and all of its facilities and records was burnt and destroyed, and it did not reopen until 20 May 1985, in another building.
Dozens of senior citizens were evacuated from the Princess Park Hospital during the riots.
Thatcher sanctimoniously condemned the rioters, denying any link between the uprising and social conditions. Nevertheless, Michael Heseltine, then the darling of the Tory Conference, was rushed to Merseyside as a new Minister for the area.He launched a garden festival site, which is now a wasteland. Millions of pounds were poured into the area but with little or no effect in terms of jobs for native Liverpudlians. In 1981 Liverpool, amongst other cities, was given the “benefit” of an Enterprise Zone. Companies were offered relaxed planning requirements, exemption from rates for non-domestic property, and 100 percent capital allowances for industrial and commercial properties. Liverpool’s Development Officer at this time declared: “With no rates to pay, it is a tremendous bargain”. Those who benefited were mostly “out of town” contractors with their own specialized labor. Patches of green field were laid down throughout the Toxteth area and plenty of trees were planted. Moreover, what was given with the one hand was more than cancelled out with the other.
The subsequent Scarman report , though primarily  directed at the Brixton Riot of 1981 recognised that the riots did represent the result of social problems, such as poverty and deprivation. Acknowledging  "racial disadvantage that is a fact of British life" and concluded that "complex political, social and economic factors" created a "disposition towards violent protest". Lord Gifford, tasked to report on Liverpool, found that racial discrimination had been "uniquely horrific" in the city.
10 people (including three police officers) were injured in a second riot in Toxteth on 1 October 1985, after gangs stormed the district's streets and stoned and burnt cars in response to the arrest of four local black men in connection with a stabbing. The Merseyside police Operational Support Division was deployed into the area to restore order and were later criticised by community leaders and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, Derek Warlock for their "over zealous and provocative tactics" which including the drumming of batons on riot shields.
The riots took place whilst The Specials song "Ghost Town" was topping the UK singles chart , the song had been written earlier in response  to  riots in Coventry and was released at a time when unrest had broken out in several parts of London and the rest of England.

The  Specials - Ghost Town




Two songs by local bands responded to the 'uprising' of 1981 shortly after the event: Public Disgrace's hardcore punk 45, "Toxteth",

Public Disgrace - Toxteth (1982)



and Cook Da Books' 12" single "Piggy in the Middle Eight", its haunting dub side, "Gone to Black", with reggae producer Dennis Bovell at the controls, including many theme tunes from TV cop series. Both records were issued on Liverpool's Probe Plus label.

Cook Da Books - Piggy in the Middle Eight



Cook Da Books - Gone to Black  ( Dennis Bovell mix )

 

A lot of healing has since gone on in Liverpool 8 , a story of hard work and optimism, people looking ahead, while painfully being aware of the past.We should  remember that uprisings/ Riots do not happen for no reason, they are usually spontaneous responses to a simmering resentment to how people have been treated for a number of years. People with a sense of worthlessness, disenfranchised and dissaffected in times of desperation and social deprivation with nothing left to lose will respond and kick off. Currently poorer members of inner city communities feel rising anger in the sense that they have been abandoned once again.Lets hope the Tories don't drag us back to riot scenes like those from the 1980's.

Liverpool 8 Documentary exploring the 1981 Riots 1999              

documentary in about 1999, it's a reflection of what happened during the 1981 riots. Much of the commentary, comes from perspectives of Liverpool 8 community members, their thoughts and what they witnessed. (originally broadcast as part of Channel 4's - Untold Series) John Longman