Posts Tagged ‘Bristol Evening Post’

The Torygraph Pours Scorn on Corbyn at Glastonbury Festival

June 28, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn was one of the guests at the Glastonbury Festival last week, introduced on stage by no less a man than Michael Eavis himself. Corbyn gave a roaring, impassioned speech, inveighing against the Tories’ attack on the welfare state, their privatisation of the NHS, and their forcing of millions into poverty. If I recall correctly, he also mentioned how the Grenfell Tower fire was a direct result of decades of Tory policies dismantling health and safety legislation for the benefit of private landlords. He ended with a rousing passage from Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy, urging the British people to rise up ‘like lions’ ‘for ye are many, they are few.’

And the crowd loved it. They cheered, and there were spontaneous chants of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!’ This graphically showed the popularity of the Labour leader, at least with a section of the young and not-so young people, who can afford to go to Glastonbury.

Needless to say, the Tory press hated it. The I newspaper yesterday carried a quote from the Telegraph, in which they moaned that it was ‘the day that Glastonbury died’, Eavis was going to lose tens of thousands of visitors and supporters of his festival by inviting Jeremy Corbyn on, and what did it say about the Labour party anyway, when it’s leader was cheered by metropolitan liberals able to afford the exorbitant entrance and camping fees.

Actually, it says that the countercultural spirit of Glastonbury is alive and well, that Eavis has always been against at least some of the policies the Tories espouse, and that the Tories contemplating the spectacle of the young and hip supporting Labour are nervous about their own future.

Michael Eavis was awarded an honorary doctorate or degree by Bristol university at their graduation ceremony a few years ago. Bristol uni is rather peculiar in the conduct of these ceremonies. While other universities and colleges allow the person awarded the degree to make a speech themselves, at Bristol it’s done a special orator. The orator describes their life and career, while the person being so honoured stands by, smilingly politely, until they are finally given the scroll, when they say ‘thank you’. The orator in his speech for Eavis said that he was basically conservative, who shared the work ethic.

Well, perhaps, but I can remember the 80s, when the local Tories down in Glastonbury hated him, the hippies and the other denizens of Britain’s counter and alternative cultures, who turned up to the pop festival with a passion. They were trying to get the festival banned at one point, citing the nuisance and frequent drugs violations.

As for Eavis himself, I can remember him appearing in an edition of the Bristol Evening Post, in which he made it very clear what he thought about Reagan and Thatcher’s new cold war, and the horrors committed in Nicaragua by Fascist death squads trained, equipped and backed by Reagan’s administration. Accompanying the article was a picture of him wearing a T-shirt with the slogan ‘How Can I Relax with Ray-Gun on the Button?’, which mixed a reference to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s notorious disc, which had been banned by the Beeb, with the American president’s ‘Star Wars’ programme for a space-based anti-missile system.

As for the hip young dudes cheering Corbyn on, whom the Torygraph sneered at as ‘metropolitan liberals’, this is the crowd the Tories, and Tory organs like the Telegraph, would desperately like to appeal to. These are wealthy people with the kind of disposable incomes newspaper advertisers salivate over. These people also tend to be tech-savvy, which is why the Torygraph imported an American technology guru a few years ago to try and make the rag appeal more to a generation increasingly turning to the Internet for their news and views.

It didn’t work. Sales continued to decline, along with the quality of the newspaper as a whole as cuts were made to provide the savings needed to fund the guru’s wild and fanciful ideas. The young and the hip are out there, but they ain’t reading the Torygraph.

And their also increasingly not joining or supporting the Tory party. Recent polls have shown that the majority of young people favour Labour, while the Tories are strongest amongst the over fifties. For any party or other social group to survive, it has to appeal to young people as well as those of more mature years. And the Tories aren’t.

Lobster a little while ago carried a piece on the current state of the Tory party, which reported that a very large number of local constituency parties really exist in name only or have very, very few members. The membership is increasingly elderly, and several local parties responded to inquiries by saying that they were closed to new members. In short, the Tory party, which was at one time easily Britain’s largest party with a membership of 2 1/2 million, is dying as a mass party. Lobster concluded that it was being kept alive, and given millions in funding, mainly by American hedge fund managers in London. It should be said here that the party is also benefiting from extremely wealthy donors elsewhere in industry, and the very vocal support of press barons like Murdoch, Rothermere, and the weirdo Barclay Twins.

The Telegraph’s attitude also seems somewhat hypocritical considering the attitude of the press to the appointment of a Conservative editor of Rolling Stone magazine way back in the 1990s. This young woman praised George Bush senior, stating that he ‘really rocks’. This caused a murmur of astonishment amongst the media, amazed at how a countercultural pop icon could embrace one of the very people the founders of the magazine would have been marching against back in the ’60s and ’70s. The magazine was accused of selling out. It responded by replying that it hadn’t, it had ‘merely won the revolution’.

Nah. It had sold out. As one of the French philosophers – Guy Debord? – wrote in The Society of the Spectacle, capitalism survives by taking over radical protest movements, and cutting out any genuinely radical content or meaning they had, and then turning them into mere spectacles. This is what had happened to Rolling Stone. And as Glastonbury became increasingly respectable and expensive in the 1990s, there were fears that it was going to go the same way too, at least amongst some of the people writing in the small press culture that thrived before the advent of the internet.

I don’t remember the Torygraph saying that Rolling Stone had ‘died’ by appointing a deep-dyed Republican as its editor. And I imagine that it would have been highly excited if Eavis had called on Theresa May to appear on stage. Now that would have killed Glastonbury. But the appearance of Corbyn on stage shows that Glastonbury hasn’t yet become a cosy item of bourgeois entertainment.

Corbyn is one of the most genuinely countercultural politicians in decades. He stands for policies which the political establishment, including the Blairites in the Labour party itself, loathe and despise. Until a few weeks before the election, all the papers were running very negative stories about him, as well as much of the TV news, including the Beeb. Corbyn is a threat to the free trade policies that the Thatcherite political establishment and media heartily support, and so they attack him every way they can.

But as the mainstream media attacks him, ordinary people support him. Much of the support for Jeremy Corbyn came from ordinary people on blogs and vlogs outside corporate control. Counterpunch a week or so ago carried an interview with one of the ladies behind Corbyn’s campaign in London. She described how they set up apps for mobile phones, to show volunteers for his election campaign which wards were marginal so they could canvas for him in those vital areas. She said that they had so many people volunteering that they had to turn some away.

And youth culture was part of this mass movement. Kids were mixing his speeches in with the music they listened to on their ipods, so that there were movements like ‘Grime4Corbyn’. Again, this was being done spontaneously, outside party and corporate control, by ordinary kids responding to his inspiring message.

Glastonbury is now very expensive, and unaffordable to very many of the people that Corbyn represents. But this does not mean that it is only wealthy metropolitan liberals who support him, or that the well-heeled souls, who sang his praises at Glastonbury at the weekend were somehow fake for doing so ‘champagne socialists’, in Thatcher’s hackneyed phrase. Corbyn also has solid working class backing and the support of the young. He is genuinely countercultural, and so had every right to stand on stage.

And he certainly does share some of the ideals of Michael Eavis himself, at least in the ’80s. As I said, Eavis made his opposition to American imperialism and war-mongering very plain. Corbyn has said that he intends to keep Trident, but in other respects he is a profound voice for peace. There is a minister for peace and disarmament in his shadow cabinet, and he has said that he intends to make this a proper ministerial position.

And so Corbyn stood in Glastonbury, with the support of the crowd. A crowd which the Tory party hoped would support them. They didn’t, and it’s frightened them. So all they can do now is moan and sneer.

Rachael Kiddey at Bristol University and the Archaeology of Homelessness

January 17, 2014

A few years ago I went to a talk at Bristol University on the archaeology of homelessness in the city, presented by Rachael Kiddey, John Schofield and some of the homeless people, who had helped them and whose lives they had investigated. Kiddey was a former archaeology student at Bristol University, who was now living in Stokes Croft, the part of Bristol which was at the centre of the project. John Schofield is a very senior archaeologist and a member of the Council for British Archaeology. Among his other works is the book with John Vince, The Archaeology of British Towns in their European Settings, published by Equinox.

The project was Kiddey’s idea. She had been angered by plans to demolish the grain store in Stokes Croft. This was a listed building, and one of the few remaining warehouses from the 19th century left in Bristol. Stokes Croft is one of Bristol’s inner city suburbs. It’s been described as ‘bohemian’. It has an ethnically mixed population, including many students and artists. Although it dates from the 19th century, it has suffered considerable economic decline. It was one of the areas in Bristol hit by the anti-Thatcher riots in 1981. As she has pointed out in other presentations on the project, as a historic part of Bristol Stokes Croft enjoys the same level of official protection as the far wealthier and more respectable Clifton. In practice, however, the situation is very different, and despite their legal status Stokes Croft and its buildings were given very little protection from neglect, decay and demolition by the city’s authorities. From what I can remember, the Grain Store was destroyed as part of a project to build luxury flats on the site. Kiddey was angered by this attack on the city’s working class heritage, and the destruction of this building had been so important to the city’s working people, in order to benefit the wealthy middle class. Her study of the city’s homeless grew out of her campaign against the destruction of this old, industrial building.

The project was deliberately set up to be socially inclusive. She quoted EU legislation, which states that every section of society should have the right to participate in the production of culture. This, she made very clear, also included the homeless, a marginal and excluded group. As she started to develop her ideas, she befriended a number of homeless people. They were initially suspicious, but after she had managed to assure them she was genuine, and not a police spy, they gave her considerable support. They took her with them on their journeys across the city, showing her where they lived, visited, and some of the places where they could get a meal, a bed for the night or simply a sympathetic ear.

One of the first things, she found out being taken around the city by them was that they were certainly not lazy. In their journeys about Bristol they walked about six miles a day. When one her homeless friends showed her the makeshift camp he had made underneath a wall or fence, she remarked on the strong similarity between it, and the remains left by ancient hunter-gatherer peoples around their rock shelters. These were camps set up underneath a rock overhang, which gave them some protection from the elements. The homeless people she spoke ate a particular Caribbean cafĂ© in Stokes Croft. This was one of the few places that would serve them. They also respected it as the owners would not tolerate any trouble from their customers. If someone ‘kicked off’ in there, the staff would throw everyone out, leaving the troublemaker to face the ire of the other diners. They also had a lot of respect for a community of nuns in the area. Although the Sisters would not give them money, they would listen to them, something which the city’s destitute appreciated. They also gave her information about the area’s homeless shelters and their experiences with them. Conditions in one of them were actually so bad that one homeless man went back on the streets as this was a better alternative to the squalor he found in the shelter.

Kiddey managed to get support for the project from Schofield, who was very pleased to give it. He appreciated its novelty and the way it expanded and challenged ideas about archaeology and what it can do. Archaeology is not just about the distant past. It can also cover the very recent and contemporary. One of the other female students at Bristol University, for example, was researching a Ph.D. on mobile phone masts.

Kiddey’s study of homelessness in Bristol is part of a wider study of homelessness by archaeologists around the world. In America this is led by Dr Larry Zimmerman, an archaeologist and professor of Museum Studies at Indiana University – Perdue University Indiana. In an interview with one of the staff at Indianapolis public library, Zimmerman states that archaeology is not just about what happened a century ago, but also what occurred only ten minutes previously. He has stated that the study of homelessness benefits archaeology, as it prevents it from becoming socially irrelevant. Few people are directly touched or affected by academic’s study of the people’s of the distant past. Zimmerman developed his interest in the archaeology of the homeless when excavating the mansion of one of Indianapolis’ wealthiest citizens. He found evidence of homeless people squatting and occupying the site going back over a century to the 1840s. Since then, other archaeologists around the world have followed Zimmerman in studying homelessness, both in the present and in the ancient past. Zimmerman’s fellow researcher, Jessica Welch has personally experienced the problem. She was homeless drug addict for many years, until she managed to turn her life around, get of the street and into university.

The archaeologists studying the homeless used a number of professional techniques to record their lives. This included mapping their movements around the city, recording their rubbish and other material culture left at the places they visited and occupied. In the winter of 2009-10 the university excavated ‘Turbo Island’, a traffic island in Stokes Croft used by the homeless. This got its nickname from a brand of strong lager they drank there. Other sites visited and recorded included phone boxes and the ‘Bear Pit’. This is a circular public ‘square’, sunk below the level of the main roads surrounding it and reached by underpass in Bristol’s Horsefair. It lies at the entrance to Stoke’s Croft in Broadmead.

What came out most strongly from the talk is how immensely hard these people’s lives are. Many of the individuals studied and who spoke at the talk had severe mental health problems, or problems with alcohol and/or drugs. Much of the material remains recovered from the sites were drug equipment, including ‘pins’ – hypodermic syringes – and ‘spoons’. These were the bottoms of drink cans, which had been cut off and shaped so that they could be used for cooking heroin. At least one of them had fled onto the streets to escape a brutally abusive home. From what I can remember, their lives could be extremely short. Homeless people are often the victims of unprovoked attacks and violence. There’s a report on Youtube from America about ‘Bum-bashing’. This does not, unfortunately, refer to some kind of harmless horseplay involving striking the buttocks, but attacks on the homeless by young men, simply for some kind of sick fun. Kiddey also spoke about one of the other derelict buildings in Stokes Croft occupied by the homeless. She stated that its former lift shaft was full of discarded mattresses. Furthermore, if someone died there, then their body would also be thrown down it. Their death would not be reported to the police, as the cops response would be to come and clear the building. One of the homeless speakers described how she had managed to turn her life around and get into social housing. She described how she had lived in this building with her other homeless friends. She described with a kind of amazed horror one evening she had shared with another three, when they were nearly all out of their minds on drugs and alcohol. One of them had became paranoid and was suffering a panic attack, as he had heard a police siren and now thought they were coming for him. What this girl found particularly amazing now is that at the time she thought it was normal.

It was a truly excellent presentation that really did challenge my own perceptions of the city’s homeless, and opened my eyes to their problems. I have to say I went to the talk with some scepticism about such deliberately socially inclusive projects. It’s all too easy to take up the views of some of the more Conservative journalists and pundits that projects like this were a superficial product of the Blair administration’s insistence on ‘inclusivity’. It can be all too easy to accept the attitude of the Daily Fail and other Right-wing rags that the homeless are just feckless scroungers, a social nuisance, who should be moved on and who deserve little pity or sympathy. This project showed the complete opposite. Their lives are bitterly hard. They are not on the street through idleness, but often through simple misfortune, or from mental health problems that have left them unable to hold down a normal life. As I mentioned earlier, at least one of them was on the streets because of horrific abuse in the parental home. These people do not the deserve the scorn and hatred as some kind of the threat to decent society. Rather, they should be given sympathy as people, who are more often than not severely unfortunate. Rather than tabloid attacks, they should be given proper help from the governments and charities so they can pick themselves up and live some kind of safe, normal, reasonable life. Unfortunately, thanks to the Coalition’s austerity policies and their attitude that if you’re unemployed or poor, it’s your fault, the chances of this are becoming increasingly small.

In this clip from Youtube below, Rachael Kiddey talks about her project with the homeless in Bristol. Warning to Bristol Evening Post readers: she makes no secret of her contempt for the newspaper, describing it as the Evening Fascist. As it is partly owned by the Daily Mail, some people would argue that’s the correct description.

Since then, Rachael Kiddey has moved on to do a Ph.D. in the archaeology of homelessness at York University. Here are another few videos from Youtube about the archaeology of homelessness in that ancient city.

This is part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

This is a video, also from Youtube, of Jon Barnes’ interview with Larry Zimmerman at Indianapolis Public Library.

This an ABC news report on ‘Bum Bashing’ assaults on the homeless.

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This is the address for a webpage on the Archaeology of Homelessness

http://archaeologyofhomelessness.wordpress.com/

This site gives further information on Larry Zimmerman’s and Jessica Welch’s work researching the archaeology of homelessness in America.

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1602577/archeology_of_homelessness/