Was #riotcleanup fascism in action?

Q: Was the #riotcleanup(1) after the August 2011 riots fascism(2) in action?

A: No(19)

1. #riotcleanup was a response to the burning and looting of small shops(3) and people’s homes(4) during riots(5) across London. Started on Twitter(6), it mobilised up to 12,000 people(7). They cleaned up local independent shops(8) to help them reopen.
2. Fascist movements venerate the state(9), are devoted to a strong leader(10), and an emphasis on militarism(11).
3. Retailers lost 30,000 trading hours(12) and damage to businesses across London cost £100 million. 48,000 businesses suffered financially as a result of the riots.
4. At least 100 homes were destroyed during the riots, mostly flats above shops(13).
5. The riots left five people dead(14), and 14 people injured, including a 25 year old Malaysian student(15) and a 75 year old lady. Ten firefighters were also injured. A 13 year old was raped during the riots.
6. The first Tweet was sent around 10.30pm on Monday night. Around a dozen events were subsequently arranged, and the hashtag was added after midnight. A number of people built websites, set up Facebook events and organised their own events under the #riotcleanup banner. On the ground, people who gathered organised themselves, without leaders.
7. It is, of course, impossible to judge the class and ethnicity(16) of all 12,000, let alone their motivations(17). It is probably that they represent a broad a spectrum of society, with diverse reasons for getting involved.
8. For every pound spent in independent shops, over 60% stays in the local economy; with larger stores, less than 40% stays local.
9. As before, it is impossible to attribute this love of the state to all 12,000 people involved in #riotcleanup.
10. #riotcleanup had no leaders, and was organised by hundreds of people, independently and without the permission of any authority. That style of organisation is anarchy(18).
11. The broom, as used by those involved in #riotleanup, is an unlikely weapon(19).
12. Many people employed in shops will be on contracts which left them with no income while their shops were closed.
13. Presumably, not lived in by particularly wealthy people. The Riot Relief campaign, an offshoot of #riotcleanup, collected donations of food, clothing, toys and household goods to help people who had lost their homes.
14. Trevor Ellis was shot, Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir died in a hit and run and Richard Mannington Bowes was killed by a mob.
15. Ashraf Rossli was beaten and then robbed twice by looters emptying his rucksack.
16. One photo, used to suggest that a white middle class were clearing the streets, was subsequently found to have been cropped to remove black people.
17. It is, of course, equally impossible to say why people rioted in the first instance. There were no protest banners or flags, so it is only by an act or arrogance that a commentator can say this was an anti-capitalist(20) or anti-elitist protest.
18. Billy Bragg said “The people who spontaneously came out to help tidy up, that’s anarchy. Anarchy is people organising themselves for the common good in some way, without anyone coming round and giving them orders.”
19. Although it is used by Gandhi’s Shanti Sena (or Peace Army), who have cleaned up after riots in India, as a gesture of peace.
20. And, if it was an anti-capitalist protest, it does rather beg the questions of why were rioters so keen to take symbols of capitalism, such as branded trainers or widescreen televisions.


Picture1I was talking to an artist today, who’s doing some work inspired by #riotcleanup. I recently got access to my Twitter archives and it’s quite interesting reading back the Tweets from the first night of #riotcleanup, and seeing how it pulled people together, organising without an organisation.

This isn’t comprehensive; by the nature of Twitter, there’s a lot of repetition and side-channel chat (I’d be happy to let somebody better with spreadsheets than me pull out all the relevant Tweets). But this sequence of Tweets shows how #riotcleanup unfolded:

2011-08-08 15:27 Sounds like London has decided riots are inevitable tonight; watching Tweets from all over about shops shutting up, Police lining up ready

2011-08-08 17:42 RT @loudmouthman: what if everyone ;  the adults, the responsible, the true protesters for peace swarmed the streets and blocked the rio …

2011-08-08 17:50 @loudmouthman @masakepic We need ‘we’re for peace’ hi-vi jackets – or UN-blue hats

2011-08-08 18:27 Police have obviously lost control of Peckham; my grandad’s home turf

2011-08-08 18:58 Scares me more than anything yet RT @spider0246: Plz Mr prime minister send in 3 sqn RAF Regiment and the Para? (cont) http://deck.ly/~Bz87A

2011-08-08 19:23 Police reporting spectators getting in the way; Twitter showing lots of people struggling to get home after work. Maybe not spectators.

2011-08-08 20:10 Police have lost control of London. There don’t seem to be that many rioters. What’s gone wrong?

2011-08-08 20:24 Time to recall Parliament. Cameron coming back is a start; we need govt to show it’s in control

2011-08-08 22:12 Tomorrow we need to work out how to help independent retailers who’ve had businesses destroyed in all this. A minor thing, but must happen.

2011-08-08 22:46 @james_eggers Insurance will take weeks or months; small business will need help from tomorrow

2011-08-08 23:11 Empty Shops Network Facebook group; can we mobilise volunteers to help small business tomorrow? http://tinyurl.com/dm54dc

2011-08-08 23:13 Can we volunteer to help local shops tidy up, clean up in the morning? Can we help find #popupshop premises? http://tinyurl.com/dm54dc

2011-08-08 23:24 @CamdenTownUnltd think we can mobilise volunteers to help shops clean up; can you and your shops use them?

2011-08-08 23:34 @forgetcape I’m trying to match volunteers with local shops – would love your help

2011-08-08 23:35 Looking for volunteers to help clean up and support local shops in the morning in Hackney #londonriots

2011-08-08 23:36 @madeinhackney Thanks – will try and send people your way. Maybe we should just ask volunteers to meet at a certain time, certain place?

011-08-08 23:41 @Avery_Delany If you can, that would be fantastic – hope to find a volunteer to co-ordinate in each area affected

2011-08-08 23:48 Can anyone around Camden help me manage volunteers there, if we can get any?

2011-08-08 23:54 We have a hashtag – thanks to @commonacademy for #riotcleanup

2011-08-09 00:09 Getting the clean up together – Meet outside Tackle Shop, Roman Road, hackney 9am in the morning to help local shops clean up.  #riotcleanup

2011-08-09 00:10 Second clean up is at Camden; meet outside Camden tube 11am to help local shops, follow @jinacreighton @CamdenTownUnltd for more

2011-08-09 00:35 #riotcleanup Tackle Shop, Roman Rd, Hackney 9am; Chalk farm Tube10am, Camden Tube 11am; take bin bags, brooms, whatever you can #londonriots

2011-08-09 00:36 #riotcleanup Peckham, meet outside library at 8am. take bin bags, brooms etc. Follow @phoeberoberts for updates #londonriots

2011-08-09 00:42 #riotcleanup Clapham – meet outside the Falcon pub, 9am. Follow @silv3r for updates

2011-08-09 00:58 Clapham – #riotcleanup starts at 9am outside the Falcon pub. bring gloves, black sacks, brooms

2011-08-09 01:08 Croydon #riotcleanup – meet East Croydon Station, 10am – thanks @lucyorlulu for this one, follow her

2011-08-09 01:10 Lewisham #riotcleanup at 9am – meet outside Lewisham Shopping Centre – follow @drwhofreak for details

2011-08-09 01:17 Camberwell #riotcleanup starts 10am, corner of Walworth Rd/ East St with @darwinslibrary

2011-08-09 01:19 @Tonsko thank you – if you can take times/ locations from my feed that would be great – really appreciated

Britain’s best high streets; Strutton Ground

Strutton Ground is a small, hidden street, somewhere between Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Victoria Station. It’s full of simple shops selling things we want and need.

The street is, I’d guess, mainly Victorian and the architecture is plain with lots of yellow brick. One stretch is 1950s modern, and probably replaced some bomb damage. The street is all one level, no raised kerbs, and is laid with traditional brick not tarmac.

It’s the perfect setting for some great shops. There’s Gordons The Jewellers, a couple of clothes shop, and a proper, independent hardware store full of useful things that are hard to find in central London. There’s a dry cleaner, a chemist, a newsagent and a general store – all the shops that, in too many places, have been replaced by a supermarket.

There’s an Oxfam Bookshop with all sorts of unusual old books; and the Book Warehouse which has practical, no-nonsense racks in the windows to display new stock. It’s impossible to leave Strutton Ground without books.

Luckily, there are plenty of places to sit and read them. There must be ten cafes, full of people that work locally and residents from the nearby Peabody Trust estate. My favourites are the Express Coffee Co who make good, old fashioned Italian coffee and filling, unfussy lunchtime food, the traditional fish and chip shop next door to them, and the Stiles Bakery which has been in the street for 60 years.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s a daily market too. There’s a cracking fruit and veg stall, another selling plants and flowers, an assortment of clothing stalls and more good coffee from Flat Cap Speciality Coffee.

There are a few familiar names, too – a small Jessops, a Costcutter and a Subway.

So everything that you need in a high street, with independents and well-known names side-by-side.

But what really makes Strutton Ground special is the atmosphere. The combination of real London buildings, a market, no cars and lots of life is special, and I don’t know anywhere else in the country that feels quite like it. There are people from high-flying Westminster jobs and media types from the nearby Channel 4 building, mingling with great London characters, dapper old men in three piece suits and ladies who ‘put their face on’ before going to buy the week’s veg. And tourists, who’ve found a piece of real, traditional London that’s not unlike Albert Square. There’s even a pub, on the corner, The Strutton Arms.

I run the Empty Shops Network, working with community groups who want to fight for their high streets, so I’ve visited over thirty towns across the country. I help people set up ‘pop up’ projects in empty shops, and have written a book, Pop Up Business For Dummies.

Strutton Ground doesn’t have any empty shops, and has permanent businesses, not pop ups. It’s exactly what we all think of when we say ‘High Street’ – and it’s exactly what every town needs.

Originally written for the Daily Express ‘Save Our High Streets’ campaign

England riots

England riots. It has a history of rebellion, revolt and rough protest.

In 1381, the peasants rose up, murdering tax collectors and bishops. Under Wat Tyler, the mob marched from Kent to London, where they looted palaces. For nine days, the peasants were in control.

In 1649, Gerrard Winstanley led people unable to pay high rents to landlords, and the rebellion took over wastelands to build their own self-sufficient community. The good life.

In 1782, workers marched into Birmingham, calling for regulation of food prices which had risen. Marches, riots and looting were commonplace at the time.

In 1812, Luddites rose against unemployment, and fought the owners of businesses who were making huge profits while their workers starved.

And on, and on. Chartists and CND, suffragettes and the Skeleton Army, Poll Tax Riots and anti-nazi protests, Boudicca burning down Colchester to Cable Street – this is the history of the people of England, alluded to in Danny Boyle’s marvellous Olympic Opening Ceremony this month. The world is regularly turned upside down. And when it’s righted, the people have made another incremental change to the order of society.

The riots of August 2011, though, stand separate from this tradition. For sure, they can be explained in the same terms; there is great poverty in England, and the gap between rich and poor is wide. Unemployment is high, while the richest take big bonuses. 500,000 forgotten families currently ‘bump along the bottom’ of society. And trust in the Police is low.

But this time, there wasn’t a challenge to the rich, a call for equality, or a riot to support a political manifesto. Instead of ransacking palaces, rioters smashed local shops, and burnt their neighbour’s homes down. 50% of the people prosecuted have been charged with ‘Acquisitive’ crimes such as looting or burglary. And altogether, only around 12,000 people are estimated to have taken any part in riots.

So people responded, and not in a way that was ‘anti’ the riots but in one which was firmly ‘pro’ the community. Everybody knows that England is in trouble, but only 12,000 rioters in a nation of 62,641,000 people felt that looting local shops was the answer.

The most visible of the things that happened after the English riots, and one which gave energy to the others, was #riotcleanup. I’m proud to have had some part in that, starting #riotcleanup just after midnight with a single Tweet and by the end of the day being one of perhaps 100,000 who got involved via Twitter, Facebook and out on the streets.

The opposite of  fashionable anonymous protest, #riotcleanup was a visible, public show of support for local community and was about real people. Even the iconic #broomarmy photo is taken from inside the crowd. It makes you part of the action, not a spectator.

After #riotcleanup came a relief effort, fronted by Kate Nash, which saw vanload after vanload of clothes, food, toys and other essential items delivered to the families whose homes had been burnt down. #riotrebuild mobilised the building trades, and saw Siva’s grocery store in Hackney reopened within weeks. Fundraising campaigns, started online in the days after #riotcleanup, raised tens of thousands of people and helped where the official Riot Act compensation failed to appear.

And here, a year on, the work to address the deeper problems the riots highlighted carries on.

The Guardian’s Reading the Riots and the Riot Communities & Victims Panel report both provide a valuable insight into why the riots happened.

Peckham’s Peace Wall was a spontaneous gesture at the time, a transient sea of Post It notes written on by local people saying why they loved their home. One year on, notes scrawled on paper have become a permanent memorial and been commemorated in a limited edition artwork.

Retail Ready People has just been launched by vInspired and Retail Trust. It has its roots in the riots too, in a campaign run by Retail Trust called #highstheroes to help independent businesses. And now it will train over 300 young people, many working in retail’s lowest-paid jobs.

In Lambeth, one man has set up the Team Lambeth Boxing Club, to give young people a structured way to get rid of their aggression.

The #reverseriots campaign shows the good that young people are doing in society, to counter the myth that the younger rioters across England were representative of a whole generation.

I love MCR and I Love Tottenham are two local campaigns, both allowing people to show pride in the places they live.

Happiness in Tottenham, funded by the crowd, looks at why Tottenham has a history of riots, and at whether there is an architectural solution that could help the area.

And #wewillgather is the direct descendant of #riotcleanup. It will let people get together to do good things in their community, creating flash mobs of volunteers who come together in one place, for a short time, to do some good.

They’re just some of the things happening, one year on from England’s riots. I’ve worked in community arts, been a street-based youth worker, and tried to reclaim our privatised town centres for community use. So starting #riotcleanup didn’t feel like a big step away from my everyday work.

It has, though, changed my life. And I think the projects that have started since then, all addressing the big issues in some little way, might change the lives of others, too. The pro-community work didn’t stop with hundreds of brooms in the air, the problems haven’t been swept under the carpet, and the effort that everyone made when they helped clean up certainly hasn’t been wasted.

Crisis Skylight Cafe; Inspired Streets I

London’s E1 is a contradictory place, and the streets around the Crisis Skylight cafe make a mixed-up neighbourhood. There’s the gentrified Spitalfields, where rusty old metal chairs and battered suits fetch top dollar, alongside the gloriously unreconstructed Petticoat Lane. And there’s Toynbee Hall, a Victorian settlement house which has pioneered new ways of working with communities since it was founded. So it’s the perfect neighbourhood for Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, and their Skylight Cafe project.

The area moves from fast food takeaways and greasy spoons to more hipster hangouts, and the Skylight Cafe is in the middle of the market, with some bare brick, scattered furniture and a dash of people working on laptops. There’s a warm smile when you walk in, and prompt, polite service. There’s also a pot of decent tea for a quid which is rare in London.

But, without shouting about it, the cafe is about something much more interesting. It’s a training centre, with a clear, well-trodden path to take people back to work and it’s been doing that since 2004. There are around a dozen trainees running the cafe, working 2-3 shifts a week, and each trainee is with the cafe for four months. Every month, at least two trainees leave the cafe to go back to work. They’re helped by a job coach, working alongside them during their four month training.

The Skylight Cafe is a social enterprise, and is about to become more sustainable as external catering contracts pick up and increase the cafe’s income – and it’s a model Crisis have already replicated in Oxford and Newcastle.

As our old town centres become less useful to big business, there’s been a lot of huff and puff about the unstoppable rise of the charity shop. That’s only because charities have stuck to a tried, tested and often tatty model. Charity shops are a pale imitation of real shops, and often add little to the life of towns. The Skylight Cafe shows another way for charities to use the high street; not just for fundraising, but to pursue their real aims and change people’s lives.

This is one of an occasional series of posts looking at different ways the high street is being used. It’s part of a forthcoming project for V Inspired and the Retail Trust.

Building on #riotcleanup

As Worthing’s magnolia trees are in full flower, and a small patch of snowdrops has emerged in the front garden of Thompson Towers, I can’t help but reflect on something Tim, from The Beekeepers, said a couple of years ago; we love the blossom so much because it’s temporary, because it has a short life.

He was likening blossom to pop up shops, but it a good thought about any temporary intervention, occasional use of space or momentary action.

I’ve always favoured temporary, nomadic and transient projects; not through any fear of commitment, but because I like the way they inspire other people to follow them up with their own acts. Pop ups unlock the potential of people and places.

Last August, a month when the late summer heat hazed the South Downs and I spent the summer holidays swimming with my children in the sea, I started something which lasted a day but has rippled through the subsequent months.

#riotcleanup was a simple, open, honest response to the riots that had spread across London and then were imitated across England. I asked my friends on Twitter to help their local shopkeeper, if they had been affected by the riots. Get a broom, I Tweeted, some black sacks – nothing complicated, nothing political just an hour of helping somebody else. Sophie Collard, a travel writer with an abnormal interest in train travel, added a hashtag, #riotcleanup. And musician Sam Duckworth started a Twitter account to help to amplify the message.

An incredible number of people heard it, of course, and the images have become iconic; this week #riotcleanup is on the front cover of the Riots Communities & Victims Panel report into August’s unrest and last week it was light entertainment in an Omid Djalili dance for Sport Relief.

Looking after the place where I live is something I’ve always done; on the council estate where I grew up, proud ladies swept their garden paths, tidied away rubbish from communal areas and berated us children for our untidiness. Later I organised neighbours to clear up neglected green spaces on the Maybridge Estate. And during heavy snow in 2009, I mobilised residents to clear packed snow and ice from a footbridge. I’m not interested in becoming a ‘volunteer’ for somebody’s organisation, but am more than willing to stand up when my community needs help.

So, seven months after the riots, one of the ripples has hit the shore with an amazing opportunity. NESTA, with the Office of Civil Society, are investing in projects with the potential to increase in the giving and exchange of time, assets, skills, resources and money.

They’re supporting an idea Sophie and I had in discussions at the RSA in the weeks after #riotcleanup. So in the coming months, we’re developing #futurecleanup – a website which will use Twitter and Facebook to help people organise small, local, community actions all year round.

The same things that happened on the Maybridge Estate, many years ago, but with the power of the networks behind it. I went back to the estate, last week, to be photographed for the Worthing 50 project; the redbrick 1948 houses still look magnificent in the sunshine. But even more glorious is the blossom on the trees edging the streets.

Billy Bragg on #riotcleanup

During the week of #riotcleanup, I wrote about why the Broom Army was the best of anarchy. It didn’t get much notice from the anarchists or lefties, although oddly enough, David Cameron read it. I don’t mind him talking about it, but I wasn’t the leader; I was just the chap with a megaphone and a whiteboard.

However, Billy Bragg did:

“The people who spontaneously came out to help tidy up, that’s anarchy.

Anarchy’s not smashing windows and taking tellies, anarchy’s not setting light to branches of McDonalds. That don’t change nothing.

Anarchy is people organising themselves for the common good in some way, without anyone coming round and giving them orders.

That’s the thing I’m most proud of’

(Billy Bragg on Dermot O’Leary, BBC Radio 2, 15/10/2011 – you can listen here, it’s 41:35 in)

No Librarians So Charming

It seems the lunatics have taken over the asylum. Bethnal House Asylum, to be precise, which was converted into a library in 1921.

I was there last week to speak at No Furniture So Charming, a London Word Festival event billed as ‘a playful battle’. Artists, writers and thinkers were invited to present their personal visions of the future of the library.

Nine of us did. We all had very different ideas; and our differently quirky but all playful presentations reflected this.

Kirsten Campbell, for example, was interested in how important the mobile library is to rural communities. She spoke about her childhood, her librarian hero dad, and imagined future mobile libraries where there was  space for community, conversation and coffee alongside books and computers.

Nicky Kirk took an architectural approach, looking at the flow of people through libraries and how to create zoned spaces within a library which allow different types of activity, including architecturally quietened spaces for contemplative reading.

Trenton Oldfield discussed the importance of keeping public, shared space in community ownership and presented a six-point manifesto to do just that, which including breaking the current coalition government.

Rachel Coldicutt explored ways that libraries, by narrowing choice and suggesting alternative routes, are more effective at educating people in their reading than online systems like Amazon, which suggest more of the same.

Taking a stranger tack, Jon Stone and Kirsty Irving created a leftfield oldschool computer game to show how people might interact with libraries.

So each speaker took a different slant, and used an example (with five minutes per person, it’s all you can do) to highlight a different theme. These were very briefly torn apart by the expert panel, Nora Daly (British Library), Charles holland (FAT), Chris Meade (UnLibrary) and Philip Jones (The Bookseller magazine). Author Travis Elborough kept a loose, light hold on proceedings as compere.

But  the response from the Old Library Faction in the audience (let’s call them for now The Librarians, though I haven’t checked their credentials) was overwhelmingly negative (which has continued online). Now, it’s not for me to suggest that all librarians lack creative imagination – although my attempts to house an arts festival in Worthing Library led me to exactly that conclusion. But the Old Library Faction in the audience were unable to look beyond the superficial – they were angry at a book being stamped was used to mark the end of each person’s five minutes, for example. And incredibly cross (during the question and answer section, one started shouting) that the people making presentations were all interested in the future of books and not the library profession. There was some indignation that anyone that curated a collection of books could call themselves a librarian; no, you must have qualifications to get the namebadge.

So angry were they at the trivial, that they missed the underlying themes of the evening. Here were people outside the library profession, being passionate in their support for libraries; enough to have taken time to think, write and prepare presentations. The themes were important; recognise that the things libraries do best are around books, find different ways to get communities interested and use library spaces, allow citizens to curate library collections and share knowledge, break down the barriers between the professionals (who’ve got the library system into such a mess) and people who have a Do It Yourself attitude and might just have some interesting solutions.

Did the Old Library Faction think for a moment ‘hey, some people that could help us save libraries – let’s get them involved’?

No. Faced with people who get up and do (everyone on the panel has a record of doing, not talking) the librarians shouted them down, belittled them and obsessed about the unimportant trivia of the presentations. Which might just be why the library system is in such a state of dissolution. The lunatics, ladies and gentlemen, and they’re running the asylum.

All the artists

Image by Dean Barwell - Revolutionary Arts, Pop-Up Gallery

This could take a while, but I’m compiling a list of all the artists we’ve worked with in ten years of Revolutionary Arts. I haven’t listed all the artists who took part in the successful open house schemes we ran in Horsham and Worthing yet…

  • Alice Angus
  • David Armitage
  • Eugenie Arrowsmith
  • Sue Baker
  • The Bamboo Band
  • Ben Barker
  • Dean Barwell (photo – top)
  • Pearl Bates
  • Nathan Bean
  • Dan Belton
  • Big Chill Recordings
  • Nic Blair
  • Steve Bomford
  • Ed Boxall
  • Russ Bravo
  • Robin Brenchley
  • Bob Brighton
  • Tessy Britton
  • Brenda Brooks
  • Caroline Brown
  • Chris Brown
  • Faye Brunning
  • Buckler’s Reel
  • Buzz Theatre
  • James Caldicott
  • Maria Carapeto
  • The Caravan Gallery
  • Steve Carroll
  • Nikki Cheal
  • Sin Mui Chung-Martin
  • Naomi Clark
  • Clothkits
  • Andrew Collins
  • John Collins
  • CoMA Sussex Ensemble
  • Louisa Cook
  • David Cottingham
  • Janine Craye
  • Adrian Crick
  • Anthony Cropper
  • Culture Quarter Programme
  • Susan Cutts
  • Abigail Daker
  • Luna Davenport
  • Harriet Davies
  • Lloyd Davies
  • Michelle Dawson
  • Alexandra Dipple
  • Bianca Donnelly
  • Bill Drummond
  • Lou Durham
  • Melissa Ede
  • Caroline Elderfield
  • John Evans
  • John Farmelo
  • Pete Fijalkowski
  • Christine Forbes
  • Becca Foster
  • Leanne Foster
  • Mark Gaynor
  • Susanna Gibson
  • Gimpo
  • Gerald Glover
  • Kenn Goodall
  • Gary Goodman
  • Dave Gorman
  • Wendy Greene
  • Justine Grice
  • Sheila Guyatt
  • Sue Harding
  • Sally Harris
  • Katherine Haynes
  • Ned Hoskins
  • Sonia Hunt
  • The Ice Prince Orchestra
  • Alison Ingram
  • Sarah Johnson
  • Jessica Jordan
  • Susie Kershaw
  • Christiane Kersten
  • Fozia Khaliq
  • Olga Kohutek
  • Eva Lauermann
  • Hugh Lloyd
  • Sian Lloyd
  • Sam Lock
  • Rose Mackew
  • Daniel Martin
  • Natalie Martin
  • Linda McVeigh
  • Meanwhile Project
  • Natasha Middleton
  • Alison Milner
  • Alison Milner-Gulland
  • MLA
  • Moor Arts
  • Hazel Mortley
  • Paul Munson
  • Blanca Negro
  • Patricia Neve
  • Jonathan Nyati
  • Nick Orsborn
  • Edith Pargh Barton
  • Michael Parkes
  • Nell Pascoe
  • Fred Pipes
  • Geoff Plant
  • Ingrid Plum
  • Ivan Pope
  • Michael Radcliffe
  • Linda Rainbird
  • Rainbow Shakespeare
  • Dayna Richman
  • Tim Riddihough
  • Steve Rowland
  • Joanne Rowling
  • Linda Rush
  • Trevor Rush
  • Justin Sainsbury
  • Ben Salter
  • Sarah Sherry
  • Nirmal Singh Darman
  • Chris Slade
  • Micki Slade
  • Pete Slight
  • South Kilburn Neighbourhood Trust
  • Spacemakers
  • Steve Speller
  • Martine Spencer
  • Spilt Milk Dance
  • Belinda Stephenson
  • Hannah Stewart
  • Teresa Stewart-Goodman
  • Elizabeth Stiles
  • Textile Arts Forum
  • Theatre Akimbo
  • Dan Thompson
  • Netta Thompson
  • Nigel Thompson
  • Tracey Thompson
  • Duncan Thrussell
  • Maggie Tredwell
  • Richard Vobes
  • Clive Vosper
  • Andy Waite
  • Helena Weaver
  • Lisa Weller
  • West Sussex Writers’ Club
  • Caroline Whiteman
  • Georgina Williams
  • Jan Williams
  • Sarah Young
  • Debbie Zoutewelle

2010 in lists

Selected highlights from a frankly fabulous year
Moments in time:
  1. Students protests, London
  2. Pier Day, Worthing
  3. Sean O Hagan’s Music for Sixty Ukuleles and Sixty Children premiere, Wukuele Festival
  4. Tracey Emin ‘I Never Stopped Loving You’ switch-on, Droit House, Margate

Shops and cafes:

  1. Secondo, Brixton
  2. Green Cuisine, Worthing
  3. The Book Ferret, Arundel
  4. Tin Angel, Coventry
  5. Crafty, Belfast
  6. Bookcase of Carlisle
  7. Made In Belfast
  8. Foxes, Carlisle


  1. Surface Detail – Iain M Banks (Orbit)
  2. A Guide To The New Ruins Of Great Britain – Owen Hatherley (Verso)
  3. Alec – Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf)
  4. Alphabets, a miscellany of letters (Black Dog Publishing)

Places to sit and think:

  1. Worthing Pier
  2. Coventry Cathedral
  3. Carlisle Cathedral
  4. Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials
  5. Old Fort, Shoreham Beach

Empty shop projects:

  1. Theatre Absolute, Coventry
  2. ReFound, Belfast
  3. Slack Space Colchester
  4. LET, Pennine Lancashire
  5. ARKLab, Cardiff


  1. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
  2. Best Coast – Crazy For You
  3. Dirty Revolution – Before The Fire
  4. Sleigh Bells – Treats
  5. Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation
Places to stay:

Laughing in Peel Precinct

The square could be a filmset. There’s a pub on the corner, a row of shops (flats above), a park and the Oxford Kilburn club, the school a few doors down. An empty film set now, waiting for the crew, lights, actors, props. A script, of course, and a script.

All London life is here. The whole estate, eleven blocks, 170 floors, tilts up from the square. Rises from the central point, a CCTV camera post, out to the edges – the broad sweep of the train tracks out of Euston, the gentle terraces and Tin Church of Kilburn Park Road. Rises, packed with people; more people than the architects, throwing out the better standards of the Housing Manual 1949 in favour of high-rise living with a bonus for each extra floor built can ever have imagined.

The estate is like Babel after the fall, everyone speaking a different language: English, Somali, Arabic, Portugese, Filipino, Amharic, Yoruba, Albanian, Urdu. And where there should be a noise, a joyous noise unto the Lord, a babble… instead is silence. Nobody talks, everyone walks quietly, quickly. Heads down, hoods up.

Except for two beautiful girls in headscarves, giggling and smiling, chatting and texting, meandering through this and that. They’re the life of South Kilburn. The point, the purpose. Despite the crushing weight of the tower blocks tilting in, the paranoia of the CCTV camera in the centre of the square, the fear of the shops’ shutters, they’re laughing. Happy to be here, today, in Peel Precinct.

Tell me about Oswald Denniston

A week ago, I joined a small group of other people running organisations exploring meanwhile projects and temporary spaces, to see how we could work together and collaborate.

One of the ideas I put forward was a touring project, creating a local history exhibition in one week. Underpinning the week’s work with artists would be workshops, meetings and mentoring – so that while publicly the project would end in a one day exhibition, underneath it even more artists would be introduced to the skills needed. Quick thinking – swift marketing – speedy planning. All essential when the opportunity to use an empty shop may come around quickly and be gone in a week, but not skills that every artist can understand.

So a week later, with support from the Meanwhile Project, I’m running a live project in Brixton called ‘Tell me about Oswald Denniston’.

Oswald Denniston was a passenger on the Empire Windrush when it docked at London in 1948, and in the early 1960s became the first African-Caribbean trader in the Granville Arcade, now known as Brixton Village. He passed away in 2000, after becoming a pillar of the local community during a life which took in signwriting, market trading, cycling (he was the first black cyclist in the Herne Hill Cycling Club) and reciting epic verse.

We’ve taken a small unit in Granville Arcade (nowadays known as Brixton Village), set up tables and chairs, and we’re ready to talk about Oswald. It’s a battered, dirty unit among the busy food stalls and near the ‘Brixton Party Shop’. It used to be Taj Textiles; Oswald’s stall in Granville sold fabric. I like that coincidence.

Come and join the conversation at Unit 73, Brixton Village on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday and see the finished exhibition, featuring work by artists including Alice Angus and The Caravan Gallery’s Jan Williams, on Saturday 6th February.