Sunday 25 September 2011

St Ives Festival Heaven 2011: Artists & Tate Balloons

Martin Creed's balloon installation in the Tate St Ives mezzanine

Denise and Steve Ingamells at Tate St Ives

Jan Jefferies and Charles Shaar Murray

Charles Shaar Murray

Clare Wardman & Anna Chen, Porthmeor Studio 7

View from Porthmeor Studio 7

And not forgetting the visual artists exhibiting in St Ives and a couple of concepts that worked.

Martin Creed's balloon installation was simple but effective. With the balloons filling the Tate's Rotunda mezzanine level higher than head-height, it's like walking into a wall, except the wall is full of air so you experience the instinct to duck, flinch or push the obstacle out of your way, and the conflicting pleasure in the softness. It's a dreamlike feeling. And it makes your hair stand on end with the static.

Tate St Ives got through 165,000 balloons when they'd budgeted for 120,000, but inflatable latex shrinks and pops. There was the time a series of mini-explosions could be heard and, after a search, a small boy was discovered sitting on the floor wielding a sharp pencil ... He's lucky he wasn't in an inner city or some magistrate might have jailed him for months for riotous behaviour. The balloons had the power to transform adults into kids, as well as releasing the child's inner child, such as the 65-year old pensioner who decided to surf the balloons from the window ledge. Alas, the Tate's mezzanine is no mosh-pit and she was carted off with a broken clavicle, bruised face and maximum embarrassment factor.

We caught the last few days of Roman Ondak's Measuring the Universe. Everyone who enters the room is invited to be measured and the wall marked up with height-line, name and date. Those of us who are of average height watch the markings disappear against the black of months-worth of previous measurements. Only the very short and tall survive the black band of the average. The gallery was due to paint over the wall yesterday, but we are now all part of the patina for years to some.

I like Clare Wardman's work so much that I have a small one at home. She works alongside her husband — artist Iain Roberston — who shares Porthmeor Studio seven with her. They made lovely interviewees for the Radio 4 programme.

St Ives Festival 2011: Intro and "Kicking A Dinosaur" video
St Ives Festival 2011: "Big Society: on a conversation in the Foundling Museum" video
St Ives Festival 2011 pix: The Island and St Nicholas Chapel

A big thank you to Jan Jefferies and Charles Shaar Murray for taking many of the pix of me on my Panasonic Lumix TZ20.

St Ives Festival Heaven 2011: The Island

Jan Jefferies and BBC producer Chris Eldon-Lee on The Island overlooking St Ives.

St Ives Festival 2011: Intro and "Kicking A Dinosaur" video
St Ives Festival 2011: "Big Society: on a conversation in the Foundling Museum" video
St Ives Festival 2011 pix: Artists & Tate Balloons

St Ives Arts Festival heaven 2011: Porthmeor Beach

Anna with Steve Ingamells on the balcony of the flat he and Denise were renting.

Here, for your pleasure, a selection of pix from my stay in St Ives during the Arts Festival. More to come.

St Ives Festival 2011: Intro and "Kicking A Dinosaur" video
St Ives Festival 2011: "Big Society: on a conversation in the Foundling Museum" video
St Ives Festival 2011 pix: Artists & Tate Balloons
St Ives Festival 2011 pix: The Island and St Nicholas Chapel

Anna Chen's poem about the cuts: Big Society

A little bit of politics, laydees an' gennelmen with "Big Society: on a conversation at the Foundling Museum".

Recorded at Café Art during the St Ives Arts Festival September 2011. Written in June 2011.

St Ives Festival 2011: Intro and Kicking A Dinosaur video
St Ives Festival 2011 pix: Artists & Tate Balloons
St Ives Festival 2011 pix: The Island and St Nicholas Chapel

St Ives poetry: Anna Chen reads Kicking A Dinosaur

Madam Miaow is back from St Ives ... and this time it's personal.

I had a delightful time in St Ives but it was an odd one. It got off to a disastrous start with me trashing my utterly reliable X-reg Ford Focus on the A30 on a foggy Bodmin Moor, aquaplaning into the back of a Jeep when the traffic came to a sudden stop due to an accident.

The damage was light enough for us to be able to complete the journey but the insurance declared it to be a write-off due to the age of the car — an estimated £1.500 repair bill for smashed bonnet and light plus suspected trouble with the suspension.

So, of course, unless we wanted to end up sitting on the street with a ton of luggage, our return required a hire-car which required both parts of the driving licence plus utility bill which, luckily, like everyone else, I always carry about my person. Only joking. Said paperwork was locked up in the filing cabinet at home in London which required my mailing keys to a friend who had to mail it back recorded delivery, and then there was the expense of the hire-car ... it was a right mess.

Sometimes, though, the universe requires a sacrifice in order for wonderful things to happen. Steve McIntosh got me a little gig at the new Café Art (see video above) on top of my regular appearances at Bob Devereux's Norway Square and the Big Frug, plus I did a lively set for Charles Shaar Murray and Buffalo Bill Smith at their St Ives Arts Club evening.

Another unusual element of the my stay was making a programme for BBC Radio 4 on the town: St Ives and Me. My lovely producer Chris Eldon-Lee stayed with us so we could record and show one aspect of what the town is about from the inside. It was great fun and I found out a few more facts I'd never heard in a lifetime of visiting and living there, all of which will be in the programme (broadcast 11.30am Thursday 1st Dec 2011).

I may not have had the R&R time on the beach relaxing and reading a book that I usually try to squeeze in, but there were plenty of activities to make up for it. I took part in the St Ives School of Painting all-night drawing marathon — a cabaret of talent from locals and professionals and professional locals, which we had to draw. Have you ever drawn moving subjects? I hadn't but I did a good enough job for one of my drawings to sell the next day in the art sale of the night's work. A whole tenner! I have officially sold in St Ives. Whoop!

I waded through a sea of balloons at the Tate, tried out the numerous local ciders competing for attention in some booze festival, fetched fish from Newlyn for a fish blow-out including one of Denise's awesome paellas and, best of all, hung out with dear friends. And, as the ultimate postcard, I'll have my radio programme sharing the experience to remind me of my stay.

I'll be posting pix soon.

St Ives Festival 2011 pix: Artists & Tate Balloons
St Ives Festival 2011 pix: The Island and St Nicholas Chapel
St Ives Festival 2011: "Big Society: on a conversation in the Foundling Museum" video
Steve McIntosh's festival blog and pix here.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Total Politics Blog Award results 2011: Madam Miaow scores three places

Thanks to the hard-working scamps at Total Politics for the tough job of hosting the 2011 blog awards, counting and ranking all us deserving politicos.

I'm again number 52 in the left-wing blogs category, but I'm amazed to find that I've ranked twice elsewhere, too: number 31 in Top Media Bloggers and at 46 in Top Non-Aligned Bloggers. [Edit: I find I am also No 71 in Top Labour Blogs, oddly, and No 125 in UK Top Political Blogs overall.]

So, a big merci to all the readers who bothered to vote for me. And do try out some of my friends who also feature in the awards:

Splintered Sunrise
Harpy Marx
James Bloodworth (Obliged to Offend)
Laurie Penny (Penny Red and The Staggers)
Andy Newman (Socialist Unity)
Carl Packman (Raincoat Optimism)
Paul Mason
Dave Osler
Nick Cohen
David Allen Green (Jack of Kent)

Oh, yeah ... one mo' thang. Where's me brag badge? WANNIT! WANNIT!! WANNIT!!!!

BTW, this is a comforting consolation prize as my car is smashed in from aquaplaning on the A30 on the way down to St Ives on Friday during fog on Bodmin Moor.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Seumas Milne on 9/11: some comrades more equal than others

Anna Chen, anti-war press officer (Pic Sukey Parnell)

Seumas Milne writes in today's Guardian about the 9/11 attacks and the shameful silencing of voices who spoke out against the anti-Muslim hysteria. Anticipating the Bush administration's cynical use of the tragedy as an excuse to settle business in Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, many of us were active in opposing the coming war on Iraq.

The anti-war movement was proven correct. There were no weapons of mass destruction. As awful as the West's old ally Saddam was, he had nothing to do with the attacks.

Seumas also writes that: "... Arab writer Rana Kabbani warned that only a change of policy towards the rest of the world would bring Americans security (for which she was grotesquely denounced as a "terror tart" by the US journalist Greg Palast)."

This all sounds very noble, but Seumas's selective solidarity has always puzzled me.

I had been doing some publicity on Greg Palast's excellent book, The Best Democracy Can Buy. Now, Greg is more often than not on the side of the angels but he does suffer the odd brainfart. I took him to task over his comment: as did, I believe, his wife and at least one of his assistants. However, Seumas thought Greg's comment a good enough reason to courageously phone me at home in order to tear into me personally.

What was interesting was how this confirmed that some comrades are more equal than others.

I'm glad that Seumas emphasises in his piece how important it was to speak out at the time. I had also been a sister in the anti-war movement, single-handedly establishing and then — with one other person writing some of the press releases — running the anti-war press office under the Socialist Alliance, Media Workers Against The War and the Stop The War Coalition and getting results. Working for no pay while Seumas's friends leading the left organisations drew wages — many of them the same politicos who had assured me there was no point in engaging with the media because "the bourgeois press ignore us" — I went into debt to ensure we had a press operation: my credit cards paid for the anti-war publicity machine leading up to the huge demonstration of February 2003. I put my own career on hold because I believed that trying to prevent a bloody war on Iraq was the important issue of the time. Seumas knows I did the work because he was one of the regular recipients of my press releases.

While it's touching to see Seumas defending his mates, I did wonder why he was never moved to defend the grunts actually doing the work, challenging the monolithic perspective in the media, putting information out there while, among other things, being whacked in the face with a balloon by one of his mates (OK, only my pride was hurt), ripped off for wages and otherwise abused. (Being a working -class ethnic woman places you at the bottom of the left's food chain — we will always be trumped by middle/upper-class ethnic women and 57 varieties of men.) It's all very well for Seumas to bleat, " ... my column in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was a particular target of hostility ..." as if soliciting our sympathy, but this has to be two-way traffic, without Seumas himself playing traffic cop.

The princes and princesses of the left don't like being on the receiving end of "hostility". Well, no-one does ... especially when it's gratuitous. But this only applies to them. Since making strides in the media for our side in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, not only have I received no solidarity, but I appear to have been banned by Seumas's comment page and Comment Is Free, something they have in common with the Great Firewall of China (which has banned my blog). As they say, your opponents are in front of you but your enemies are behind you. It's a pity I had to find out the hard way.

We often wonder why the left is nowheresville now that the rivets are popping and capitalism is creaking into decrepit old age. I'd advise searching no further than the actual practices of this wannabe ruling-class-in-waiting.

Gary Younge: Can the US get beyond the narcissism of 9/11? The war on terror has been disastrous abroad and divisive at home.

Saturday 3 September 2011

English Defence League pig march on East End mosque

How touching that the much maligned and misunderstood English Defence League should insist that they are not racist to anyone who'll listen, especially in the wake of their admirer Britvic's shooting skirmish in Norway. Nope, not racist at all. I stand corrected.

Here's a video of the respectable EDL preparing to march on a mosque in London's East End in order to prove their non-racist credentials.

Wasn't quite sure who it was the police were protecting, but I'm sure they had fun and lovely overtime.