Monday 29 April 2013

A Dame of Thrones: Bowie weekender at the V&A Museum with Charles Shaar Murray and Barry Miles

My birthday celebrations (30th April, if you really must buy me a drink) got off to a cracking start on Saturday with the Bowie weekender and two days of mostly free events at the V&A museum augmenting their stunning Bowie Is exhibition.

Charles Shaar Murray and Barry Miles gave four talks on the 1960s counter-culture of which David Bowie was a part in Soho in London.

Miles (he's mainly known by his last name) ran the legendary Indica Gallery and bookshop and was one of the major players in the underground scene. In 1966 the gallery hosted newcomer Fluxus artist Yoko Ono's first exhibitionsIntruction Pieces and Cut Piece — where she famously ran into a certain musician named John Lennon.

Miles said, "We didn't know we were in this thing called 'the Sixties', it was just us and we thought it was just the way things were." Soho was the centre of the vibrant post-war cultural world with its plethora of clubs, cafés, recording studios and cheap eats. Carnaby Street was the centre of the wholesale schmatte trade where young designers created fantasy clothes and budding rock stars would go hunting for the latest floral frillies and flared strides.

"All that artistic activity was able to come about because conditions allowed it," he explained.

Ah, there's that cultural superstructure emerging out of the economic base, again.

"Rents in central London were affordable and you could easily get work. I came out of art school and wandered up Charing Cross Road and within an hour I had a job in a bookshop." And he never looked back.

Charles Shaar Murray said that everyone was a busy bee in those heady days. "Bowie was absorbing 1960s counter culture while Marc Bolan was collecting phone numbers."

Bolan was the first of the glam-rockers to gain success but Bowie soon overtook him. Why, premature death in a Barnes car crash notwithstanding, did that happen?

"Bowie championed the power of the imagination, left Bolan in his backwash. Bolan was John the Baptist to Bowie's JC but made same record over and over." David, as we know, was a magpie: he observed everything, experimented, read loads and refracted the whole gamut through himself.

I've been around the exhibition three times and I've discovered something new on each visit — don't miss his tiny coke spoon. It's definitely one to savour as there's so much. It's so rich, I just don't see how anyone can do it in the 45 minutes estimated by the museum, so allow for a good 1-2 hours if you want to suck it dry.

I'm going to start calling writer Paul Morley Tungsten Nuts because he must have an ego of steel.

Over Saturday and Sunday, Morley became an installation in the V&A's Grand Entrance (what else!?), writing a book about Bowie, inspired by cards filled in by the visitors. Look how he's captured the gen-yew-ine orfenticity of yer average wordsmiff's desk clutter. But the most cruel and unusual aspect was that his computer screen was projected immediately behind him, revealing every keystroke, idea, rethink, deletion and amendment like a champion squealer grassing him up to his audience.

There was a lot of staring at the screen — at times it was like having Jack Torrence in the building. And with Paul Morley, you never know ... I look forward to seeing what he got out of the experience.

Elsewhere, poet Jeremy Reed read from his collection, Piccadilly Bongo; the grand piano rang out Bowie songs in the restaurant; DJs played Bowie-related music; face-painting got done with the Aladdin Sane lightning flash being popular; and loads, LOADS more.

The cherry on the icing on the cake of my weekend was being joined by mates Gary Lammin (Bermondsey Joyriders), Hi Ching and Deborah Evan-Stickland. Hotshot bluesman Stephen Dale Petit (whose groovy new album Cracking the Code is out in weeks), found the rhino horny.

Sorry that my friends Paul Anderson, Steve and Denise Ingamells, and post-punk Piaf, the Duchess of Brooklyn Patti Palladin, had to pull out at the last minute. Dammit, guys, I really wanted you there.

Previously unseen pix of David Bowie by Brian Duffy.

I'll be performing at the Morning Star Revolutionary Sounds event on May Day in Kilburn.

Friday 26 April 2013

The Book of Mormon review: South Park creators' gentle mayhem in London

Here's my review of The Book of Mormon for the Morning Star Thursday 25th April 2013.

The Book of Mormon may not represent the much-heralded death of satire but, with full-page ads taken out in the show programme by lampooned subjects The Lion King and the Mormon church itself, this effervescent musical inches us ever closer to the abyss.

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are equal opportunity offenders, transferring their gleeful lack of respect for everyone and everything to Broadway and the west end with the help of co-writer Robert Lopez.

Race, gender, colour, creed and the do-gooding leftism they so despise: if you are an identifiable type, you will be done over by these libertarian scamps. Show them a sacred cow and they'll skewer it and serve it back to you with BBQ sauce.

These caveats in mind, if this is the sort of thing you like then you will like this thing very much. If not, look away now.

Odd-couple Elders Price and Cunningham (ace Broadway imports Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner) are paired up to save souls in Uganda as soon as their Salt Lake City training as "latter-day saints" is completed. They're assigned to a miserable village under threat from local warlord General Butt Fucking Naked (basso-profundo voiced Chris Jarman) whose mission is to subject all women to clitoridectomies.

Demolishing a slew of clichés straight out of the charity handbook, everyone has AIDS; one character shags babies; and the doctor is forever singing, "I have maggots in my scrotum" when the chorus isn't belting out, "Hasa Diga Eebowai" (Fuck You God).

The dispirited Mormon posse of clean-cut all-American fabulously repressed gays share the "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream", inhabited by Jeffrey Dahmer, Saddam Hussein, Genghis Khan and Johnnie Cochran: "I got O J free".

Elder Cunningham inadvertently twists Mormon history out of shape from its patently absurd mythical beginnings — shades of South Park's most excellent Scientology take-down with Tom Cruise "in the closet" — and finally wins over the villagers. They agree to be baptised after staging an outrageous parody of the show-within-a-show scene in The King and I, including a monstrously priapic Jesus.

Goal achieved, the Mormon proselytisers celebrate with a cheery rendition of "I Am Africa" hilariously satirising imperialist wet-dreams of the benevolent kind.

The all-singing all-dancing cast kick up a storm. More than half the actors are black, as is the leading lady love interest, the multi-talented Alexia Khadime.

Puerile, offensive and rude, The Book of Mormon acts as a welcome reboot of faculties numbed by moralising authoritarian edicts substituting for political solutions. What's not to like?

Prince of Wales Theatre, London W1
Runs until January 11th 2014

Thursday 25 April 2013

A Bad Case of the Trots and Stop the War: current anti-feminism has VERY deep roots in the left

I'm reposting my article, A Bad Case of the Trots, which was published in Tribune magazine, September 2003 following my time establishing and running the Socialist Alliance (SA) and Stop The War Coalition (STWC) press offices. (Also on What Next? Journal.)

In the light of the recent rape allegations and attacks on feminism in the far left, it's not surprising to learn that working-class non-white women who are also bright sparks, aren't allowed to have their input acknowledged on the left and in the histories. Indeed, any pioneering work is airbrushed out or relegated to background maid status, serving the dull white folk who, quite frankly in this instance, hadn't made any public impact before a methodical and robust engagement with the gatekeepers of the mainstream media took place.

Ian Sinclair, author of The march that shook Blair, the history that isn't written by STWC, and the second to contain interviews from "press officers" who weren't the ones who fought the battle at the media coalface, says:
"I was not aware of Anna’s contribution or testimony until after my book was published. No one I spoke to - over 70 face-to-face interviews and 50 written interviews - mentioned her. I do not recall seeing her name mentioned in any of the written documents or articles I read in my research."

Wow. At least maids get paid. Butterfly McQueen in Gone With the Wind received better billing than me.

For the record, I worked from 8am till gone midnight for no wages, going deep into debt to ensure the STWC anti-war movement had a press office. Both my physical and intellectual labour was appropriated and expropriated by the white middle-class males who dominate the far left organisations ... and their lady friends.

It's clear that my practise of not propelling myself to the forefront (like certain Princess Pushies) but making sure that others had their names emblazoned all over my press releases, was far from wise. So I'm making sure that an accurate representation of events are on the record and safe from airbrushing mitts.

Anyone who only wants the "official" version had better look away now ...

Paul Foot called me the "best press officer in the country".

Mike Marqusee, who wrote most of the press releases for the SA and STWC and worked closely with me on both campaigns, stated that, for the Socialist Alliance, I’d done single-handedly the equivalent of the Countryside Alliance’s 6 full-time paid press officers and their support with “flair and imagination”. So I was pleased to repeat the teamwork for STWC — with him writing most of the releases and me battling on the media frontline to get us heard.

Weekly Worker called my unprecedented press successes “uncanny”.

John Rees described my task as being like turning a tanker around mid-ocean, or mining for diamonds.

Charles Shaar Murray has commented that he saw me work: "... on a day-to-day basis from the start, and observed the effect it had as the media slowly responded and swung around from a position of hostility; witnessed how pleased many of your [Ian Sinclair] interviewees were with the results — notably John Rees and especially Mike Marqusee who got the starring role in all the press releases she sent out — I’m shocked with the way she has been Stalinised out of existence in your accounts."

Apart from the Amazing Disappearing Act, this was what I was up against when it came to fighting against war with Iraq: read The BBC and Iraq ten years on

I was pleased to spearhead the anti Iraq War press campaign (more details of what that entailed here) and delighted to get it relatively coasting — at which point various parties saw there was something up for grabs and have claimed credit for themselves — not very socialist, you might think.

I've now dug out my emails from the 2000-2003 period, which have been an effective refresher for me.

I'd forgotten that I got Ken Loach on board the STWC in October 2001, and won him interviews in the media right up until the huge million-strong demo in February 2003. I have a written eyewitness account, from writer and broadcaster Dale Reynolds, of the Football Match for Peace the weekend before the big demo, in which Americans Against the War played a team of Iraqi students in north London and which I turned into a national media even and warm-up event for the Feb 15th March. I'll be posting that soon.

Another example of the sort of work I was doing: in the course of my work as the STWC press officer (when no-one else apart from Mike Marqusee thought this important, as it was only the “bourgeois press” and “they never take any notice of us”) I tackled the problem of the BBC's under-reporting of demo attendance. After 2001, as well as regularly sending our press releases to Richard Sambrook,head of BBC news, I also wrote to him whenever we had a march (including pre-9/11 demos), challenging the figures they gave, which were invariably the same as the police’s 15,000. Equally invariably, he ignored them.

When, after one Media Workers Against the War (MWAW) meeting, I and one other person drafted a letter then signed by Lindsey and Pilger among others, the BBC’s response was to not only ignore us, but to report an even lower 10,000 for the next demo, which I thought was pretty dirty pool.

Because I then pursued other avenues (Rees always did say he liked my creative and lateral thinking), I finally got Sambrook on the back foot and received my first reply from him, a defensive missive showing that he was stung. After being belligerent for so long, it was a huge turnaround. He even wrote: “The relevant pages on BBC News Online were also updated. I accept we ought to have known your higher figure a little earlier.”

And so on, in the same vein.

I forwarded this email to Lindsey German and other esteemed leaders, asking them who would like to respond. No answer.

I then wrote to them again asking whether they wanted me to pursue this or if they would prefer to deal with it themselves. Again, nothing. Which is when I realised that all their bleating about the awful way the media and BBC in particular was covering the anti-war movement was nothing more than hot air.

This particular brand of "left" is too stupid to look after their assets and our achievements. The blokey blokes who write the histories of the movement [excluding Ian Sinclair 'cause he didn't do it deliberately] only skate on the surface, reluctant to dig deeper. In other words, a complete shower. With serious consequences.


The Left's Invisibility Bomb

The People's Assembly led by the same characters who destroyed the Socialist Alliance (People's Assembly MkI) when it suited them, and Respect.

More SWP rape accusations: "a dangerous place for a woman"

SWP Sex Implosion

Sunday 21 April 2013

How to tie a scarf in 25 ways: yes, I frikkin' need this!

Politicians go screw yourselves, THIS is what I am caring about tonight!

And, no, it's not a bloody blinkin' metaphor uneless this is done with piano wire to the runts in charge!!!

Saturday 13 April 2013

Glenda Jackson on Margaret Thatcher: parliamentary speech

Saying it loud and proud, MP Glenda Jackson telling the truth in the face of Thatcher's hypocritical hagiographising in Parliament even from Labour.

Friday 12 April 2013

Thatcher dies, Judy Garland banned: BBC asks Wizard for brain, courage and heart

Flying monkeys force Wizard of Oz to ban "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead". Munchkins furious and appeal to Glenda the White Witch to intercede.

Judy Garland banned, the Lollipop Guild crushed. Rainbow privatised and handed over to the chaps in the Emerald City.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the right in general and the Daily Mail in particular, with their foaming at the mouth over the widespread lack of respect for Baroness Margaret Thatcher on her demise, as rebel Munchkins respond with raucous celebrations rather than a frenzy of forelock tugging.

Yes, I know that Thatcherism lives on but her spawn have left us so few opportunities to feel happy, that it would be a shame to waste this one.

We're crashing into the limits of free speech as the BBC bans all but 5 seconds of Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead on their Radio 1 Chart Show this weekend. An innocuuous piece of material has become subversive through the meaning its listeners give to it, not what it actually is. Suck on that, Tom Stoppard!

It's the greatest bit of recontextualisation since Stanley Kubrick's "Singin' in the Rain" in A Clockwork Orange.

Double and triple standards all round as Thatcher's funeral is mostly paid out of the public purse instead of being put out to tender to the lowest bidder — funny how it's always socialism for them and capitalism for us. And, even though the market has propelled Ding Dong into the charts, the state has decreed that we can't hear it on the the radio. 'Cause we have, like, you know, freedom of expression in this country ... unless they don't like what it is that's being said.

So three cheers for Edgar Yipsel Harburg, the leftist who wrote the lyrics for The Wizard of Oz. Let's see the Mail string up THAT name with his own piano wire.

Let us show the respect due at her funeral. There should be no violence on Wednesday. Just line the route and sing the Thatcher Death Song.

Here's my poem for the occasion.

Margaret Thatcher Died at the Ritz
8th April 2013

Margaret Thatcher died at the Ritz.
It fits. Her blitz on the poor,
national assets thrust into the mitts
of corporate bandits.
Wealth trickled-down like a horse shits
undigested grain for birds that flit
round what it is its rear end emits.
Compassion deficit, dried out tits,
the country in bits, run by greedy gits.
Her fans omit the price
of crimes her class commit.
Her legacy is the pits.
(And she closed them as well.)

Thatcher's blue touchpaper stayed alight
til the nation was run by her acolytes;
she took a look round at pauperised Brits,
said, "My work here is done," and called it quits.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Eat The Rich star takes to her paints: Al Pillay's Demented Divas exhibition

You've seen her living the dream and wreaking revenge on the expoiting fat cats making our lives a misery in Eat the Rich. Now see Al Pillay's artwork in north London's L'Absinthe Restaurant. On until 1st May, International Labour Day and the day after my birthday when I am 37 again.

Demented Divas is a celebration of some of the most colourful and gifted female stars of the 20th and 21st century, in the opinion and as seen through the eyes and perceived in the mind of the demented diva that is Al Pillay. Al has been drawing her divas in the same style and from the same hand from the tender age of 10.

“These were the women I related to and many of them in my mind appeared to be of undetermined gender themselves but it didn’t matter, they were my glittering sign posts on the road to Damascus and my rescue from a miserable childhood and an abusive early life. I was made to feel as welcome in society as a revolting tumor. As a sensitive and flamboyant teenager born amongst the neon lights and fish heads of dull parochial Grimsby Town in the 60s, with all its regional and generational racism and homophobia, I took refuge in my demented divas as a survival mechanism in order to block out a dismal and hostile outside world where only ostracism, flak and ridicule appeared to prevail. I felt that at least my microcosm of the Demented Diva world could provide colour, glitz, glamour and a fun bizarreness to an otherwise naff and generic external world, I preferred planet Demented Diva.

"I am so thrilled to be sharing them now especially in this dark and unempathetic political and fiscal climate. All I urge is that every one regardless of gender, as i don’t believe in that either, connects with their own inner Demented Diva as it’s the only way to stay sane. Now enjoy and embrace being zany and insane. Thank You! NO I MEAN THANK YOU!"

Al Pillay unless you have been engaged in a coma for the past two decades is known and revered by the hip and cool clued-up brigades as a star of every idiom theatre, film, radio, television, film, chart recording star, Stock Aitken and Waterman’s Disco Diva in 86 with a PISTOL IN MY POCKET, and guest artiste on Gary Clails HUMAN NATURE with two appearances on top of the pops regaling the nation with the couplet “Let the Carnival Begin Every Pleasure Every Sin”.

Al starred along side French and Saunders in the ground breaking The Comicstrip Presents on Channel 4 television in the 80s and was the star of the feature film EAT THE RICH in the lead role of Alex along side Paul McCartney, Angie Bowie, Robbie Coltrane, The Pogues, Nigel Planer and Adrian Edmondson. Al is in demand as a cabaret performer and critiqued as a great interpreter of the lyric and a hybrid of Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne, Noel Coward and Little Jimmy Scott, additionally Al received five star rave reviews at the Edinburgh festival 2012 for portraying Roger Moores second wife the welsh singing super star DOROTHY SQUIRES Mrs Roger Moore, Al also has a NVQ diploma in make-up artistry and can be booked to create a special bespoke make-up for red carpets and bridal anytime, and works in conjunction with Diana Thompson The movie Eat the Rich can often be seen on film 4,uk gold or just youtube it!.

There is a brand new album of original songs writen by Barney Ashton and Chris Green called PILLAYDIUM availiable through Amazon and a brand new John Jenkinson movie called PELICANS due for release this summer. Plus Al has a brand new App out called RIGHT IN YOUR FACE which is a non-evasive surgical face lift yoga workout for your facial muscles to keep you looking younger for longer. Go to for more information.

L'Absinthe Restaurant, 40 Chalcot Road, London NW1 8LS. 
T: 020 7483 4848
Until 1st May 2013

Monday 8 April 2013

Woman who taught the food industry to sell air to children dies: Margaret Thatcher poem

Look upon my works, ye poor and vulnerable, and despair.

The Baroness hung on until the new financial year, took a look around at the devastation, said, "My work is done," and expired.

It was Margaret Thatcher who sold off our utilities, which is why our electricity, gas, water and rail are in run by private business (and not even British companies) with the inevitable profiteering and everything that entails.

Large swathes of former public housing stock are now in the hands of private landlords whose soaring rents are subsidised by the public purse.

She would have made the poorest pay the same poll tax as millionaires. British manufacturing was plunged into steep decline. A man's woman (eyes of Caligula, lips of Marilyn Monroe, and ankles that fed Alan Clarke's masturbatory fantasies), she notoriously failed to advance the rights of women.

The great fillip to her failing first term as prime minister came from an unnecessary war over the Falklands/Malvinas Islands on the South American continental shelf.

She denied there was such a thing as society and introduced the law of the jungle where it's the survival of the fittest with the winner taking all.

She was not a positive force in any sense of what a civilisation is supposed to be for its citizens.

Here is a poem.

Thatcher is dead

Margaret Thatcher died at the Ritz.
It fits.
Her blitz on the poor,
national assets thrust in the mitts
of corporate bandits.
Wealth trickled-down like a horse shits
undigested grain for birds that flit
round what its rear end emits.
Compassion deficit, dried out tits,
the country in bits, run by greedy gits.
Her fans omit the human price
of crimes her class commit.
Her legacy is the pits.
And she closed them as well.

Another poem, this one from Red Mike.

Glenn Greenwald: Margaret Thatcher and misapplied death etiquette