Category Archives: London

Fragments of Peter de Rome

A trailer for Ethan Reid’s film Fragments: The Incomplete Films of Peter de Rome.

Finally! I have managed to upload a film clip to my blog. I wanted to add this to the de Rome piece that I published last month but couldn’t work out how to do so. But, seemingly, I have managed to do so tonight. Phew.

So please enjoy this trailer to Ethan Reid’s film.

For more information about Peter de Rome, Ethan Reid and this film, why not follow Fragmentsderome on Twitter

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December 3, 2012 · 11:59 pm

The ecstatic peace of Peter de Rome

Last week my interview with director Ethan Reid discussing his recent film, Fragments: The Incomplete Films of Peter de Rome, was published online by Glass magazine so I thought I’d add a link to it here and write a little more about him here as, in my opinion, at least, Peter de Rome is one of the most fascinating figures in film-making whose output (which is vast and remarkable) has recently been rediscovered and, only now, gaining the acclaim and exposure it deserves. And also Ethan Reid’s film about him is an accomplished and affectionate piece that is a valuable documentary providing a fascinating overview and exploration of de Rome’s life and times.

Sometimes referred to as the “Grandfather of Gay Porn”, de Rome is a prolific film-maker and a pioneer, having made around 100 films (some finished, some not … hence the “Fragments” in the title of Reid’s film), de Rome, now aged 88,  is finally being recognised as one of the most important gay film-makers of all time. British-born, but having moved to the US in the late 1950s to work on a film project for David O Selznick that stalled, de Rome took up directing for his own amusement and pleasure and then his friends’, making short films, beneath the censor’s radar, throughout the ’60s until the ’70s.

And despite winning awards, (Best Short in the 1971 Wet Dream Film Festival in Amsterdam for Hot Pants) and being reviewed (bizarrely) in the Financial Times and the Times, and his collection, The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome (released in 1973 and comprising six short films) which opened at the Lincoln Art Theatre in New York, and which was subsequently screened in all the major cities in the US and influencing film-makers such as Jack Deveau (who he was to collaborate with) and porn-legend Kristen Bjorn,  until recently, de Rome’s film career and output had drifted into obscurity, with many of his films having never been seen. This situation was reversed this year when he was re-discovered by the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and all his output is now all included in the BFI archive.

His films, which centre around hardcore and explicit imagery, explore his sexual and erotic fascinations with an unabashed aplomb and confidence and yet which also have a dreamy, experimental wry and witty quality which lends them a transcendental quality rather than being purely material to be used to arouse (although, of course, this function is not to be derided or belittled). De Rome claims to have been uninfluenced by any other films, does, however admit to being impressed by Jean Genet’s Chant d’Amour and there is a strong Maya Deren-esque quality to some of his work – especially Daydreams from a Crosstown Train (1972) and Double Exposure (1969).

I am posting some more images from his films that Glass couldn’t use below. All images are courtesy of the BFI who have produced a DVD The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome which also contains Ethan Reid’s Fragments.

Hot Pants. (US 1971, Peter de Rome).

Hot Pants. (US 1971, Peter de Rome).

Daydreams from a Crosstown Bus. (US, 1972, Peter de Rome).

Scopo. (US, 1966, Peter de Rome).

The Fire Island Kids. (1970, US, Peter de Rome).

Peter de Rome in London this year.

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Filed under BFI, Ethan Reid, FIlm, Gay Film-makers, Jack Deveau, London, New York, Peter de Rome, Peter de Rome

Shearsman Books poetry reading tonight

I realise it’s short notice, but tonight (Wednesday November 14)  there is a reading by some poets on the Shearsman imprint: Andrew Jordan, John Welch and Michael Zand which should be really worthwhile attending.

The event starts at 7.30 pm at Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way London WC1A 2TH and is free


Shearsman reading at Swedenborg Hall, Bloomsbury, London.

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Filed under Andrew Jordan, John Welch, Literature, London, Michael Zand, Performance, Poetry, Publishers, Reading, Shearsman

Dream, baby, dream

I spoke to Doran Edwards, the front man of the London-based band Weird Dreams, a while ago for Glass Magazine. Sometimes referred to as psych-pop core, or melodious melancholics (I particularly like that, being inclined to melancholy myself) and also labelled, or stereotyped, as “jangly power pop” –  journalists have always loved a snappy handle for ease of reference.

But I’m always wary of an off-hand, throwaway categorisation, no matter how much wit it’s served with.  I think it’s hard to describe good things in a few words, pithy though they may be. It diminishes somehow. But, ahh, but that’s why we have literature

Sorry, I’ve drifted.

Weird Dreams are good.

The interview was published yesterday here

Weird Dreams play at Birthdays, Stoke Newington Road, N16 London on Friday, October 26.

Craig Bower (left) and Doran Edwards (right)  from Weird Dreams

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Filed under Gig, London, Music, Tough Love record label, Weird Dreams

Spiral scratch – Heliacal revisited

Today I caught up with the curator of Heliacal, Rachel Thomson of Imbroglio magazine, (whose work is also included) the show taking place at the 13th century St Augustine’s Tower  (Hackney’s oldest building) to find out how the show has gone and how it has been received, just before it closes this week. “We have had about 900 visitors over the two weeks that the show has been on which I am very happy about,” Rachel told me. “It’s really good and far in excess of the number of visitors that I have had for other shows I have curated in Vyner Street, for instance. The show has had a great amount of interest from very different kinds of people, not only those purely interested in the arts. We have also had a great mixture of people attending. Everyone thinks the location and the work sits really well together and is hugely impressed by both. ‘Breathtaking’, a ‘fantastic experience’ are just a few of the comments we have had.”

Rachel has also uncovered an intriguing resonance between the title of the exhibition and its location itself. “I originally called the show ‘Heliacal’ as the word means ‘belonging to or relying on the sun’ as I like to work just using sunlight and the other photographers in the show use sunlight in the same way to create their images. An artist creates something from nothing. The artists in this exhibition choose to create their work with inexpensive found materials, such as leaves, twigs, insects and discarded rubbish and by exploiting direct photographic (cameraless) processes that rely purely on sunlight.

However, Rachel has since discovered that the word can refer to a spiral as well, which is very appropriate as St Augustine’s Tower, where the show is held has a spiral staircase connecting the floors to each other.

Rachel also has plans for a new show at the tower, provisionally entitled, Come Up and See My Etchings.


Here are some images from the Heliacal show.

The Hunters by Tessa Farmer. Photograph by Avalon Hale-Thomson

Warumpi Tryptich by Miriam Nabarro. Photograph by Rachel Thomson

Living Echoe III by Rachel Sokal. Photograph by Dawn Craig

Living Echo by Rachel Sokal. Photograph by Dawn Craig

Plastic Bags by Rachel Thomson. Photograph by Dawn Craig

Heliacal I by Rachel Thomson. Photograph by Rachel Thomson

Heliacal II by Rachel Thomson. Photograph by Rachel Thomson

The exhibition closes tomorrow (Thursday, October 18).and is at  St Augustine’s Tower, The Narroway, Hackney E8 1HR

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Filed under Art, Art exhibition, Artist, Hackney, Imbroglio magazine, London, Miriam Nabarro, Photography, Rachel Sokal, Rachel Thomson, Screenprinting, St Augustine's Tower i, Tessa Farmer

I love Chatsworth Road! Magazine launch and photo exhibition

I love Chatsworth Road magazine front cover

Tomorrow night (Friday) sees the launch of photographer Jorn Tomter‘s magazine, I love Chatsworth Road. It is at the Dentist, 33 Chatsworth Road E5 from 6pm-9pm.

The exhibition is on Wed-Sun, 12pm-6pm until October 28.

From the introduction to the magazine, Jorn: “Once there were green fields and big detached houses all over our neighbourhood in Clapton. Glorious days! Then came the purpose-built market street Chatsworth Road with all its surrounding streets and houses. Clapton became part of the city. It changed, and it hasn’t stopped changing since. A couple of wars came and went. Some of the buildings were bombed and became playgrounds for kids while gradually being replaced by estates and tower blocks. Many moved to Essex to get a tan after sunbeds were invented, and new people moved in to the Chats area. Tasty jerk chicken became the new smell of Sunday.

When everyone started to shop at supermarkets, the market suffered and eventually closed down a couple of decades ago. Squatters came and went. The mafia came and went. The Murder Mile came and went. Elizabeth Taylor came and went. The cheap houses attracted low-income families, dreamers and creative people. Today the cheap houses are not so cheap any more and the coffee is probably as good as in Sydney. The market is back to please rather than as a necessity.

Who knows what will happen. Some will praise it. Others will complain and say it was much better before. It’s part of human nature to long for what once was. One remembers the good bits and neglects the bad experiences. I suspect that not all the owners of the farms and mansions welcomed the growth during the 19th century.
I love the community here and the majority of the people I talk to seem to like it too – simply because they feel it is a strong sense of community. I also love photography as a medium to record and as a reason to approach strangers. I started to document the area the first time I came here – it was like entering a timewarp and I knew it was going to change – plus I also fell in love with the people. I have learned that who I once thought were dodgy guys in hoodies coming out of the Pedro club can be sweet daddies and have a keen interest in what I am doing.

I don’t represent any shops or individuals, but I only have a strong curiosity to explore. What you find in this paper is a taster of what contains – the website I use as a platform for all the stories I come across and the photos I take. If it is well received and I don’t lose too much money, I will make another one. The aim is to publish it once a year or biannually and include some local young people in the process. Hopefully some of them might like to help out with producing this paper.

Thanks for all the support and to those who said “Yes” to being in front of my camera!”

Jørn Tomter
Photographer and Creative Director

Do you want to be photographed or do you have a story to
suggest? Please email:

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Filed under Art, Art exhibition, Hackney, I love Chatsworth Road, Jorn Tomter, London, Photography, Private view, Shops, The Dentist Chatsworth Road, The Dentist Chatsworth Road, Uncategorized

Heliacal – a group show at St Augustine’s Tower, Hackney

Heliacal – a group show at St Augustine’s Tower, Hackney from October 6-18

A  fascinating show of intriguing new artworks by a group of highly talented artists is opening in an equally intriguing location, Hackney’s oldest building, dating back to 1275, the Tudor St Augustine’s Tower in the Narroway, Hackney. The private view is tomorrow from 6 pm onwards. See you there?

Presented and curated by Imbroglio magazine,  Heliacal, a group exhibition of new work by Rachel Sokal, Tessa Farmer, Miriam Nabarro and Rachel Thomson.

In this exhibition, a series of delicate and ephemeral artworks are shown that reveal an artistic fascination with the power of the sun, concerns about our part in it’s environmental impact and the parasitical order inherent in natural systems.

A hunt for the miniscule, bewitching ‘fairy’ sculptures of Tessa Farmer, constructed from roots, leaves and dead insects, invites a journey up a spiral staircase through the cobwebbed rooms of Hackneys’ medieval clock tower.
In the Bell room Rachel Sokals’ chlorophyll prints, made using the leafs natural chemistry and sunlight, hang under ghostly shrouds, each unveiling leading to the works ultimate destruction.

In the lower rooms the earliest form of cyanotype ‘sun’ photography is exploited by Rachel Thomson who makes photogram impressions of floating entities out of discarded plastic bags, whilst Miriam Nabarro’s triptych captures the eerie shadow of a Mulga tree, collected on Warumpi Hill, the most sacred Honey Ant Dreaming (Tjupi Dreaming) site in Central Australia.

The private view is tomorrow, Thursday October 4, 6-9pm where you can meet the artists.

The show is on from Saturday October 6 until October 18 and is part of East London Festival of Photography 2012. The gallery is closed on Mondays.

For more information, follow @imbroglio_mag on Twitter

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Filed under London, Photography, Private view, Rachel Thomson, Screenprinting, Tessa Farmer, Uncategorized

Complete control/Working for the clampdown

I went to an event hosted by the redoubtable community organisation Open Dalston at Cafe Oto in Dalston, way back in May. I feel bad that it has taken me so long to report it but I do have some excuses, whether anyone will think they are valid, I have no idea. The main one was the app I used on my phone to record it, AudioMemos was so damn fiddly, awkward and almost impossible to use, really, really hampered transcription, never my favourite (is it anyone’s?) part of journalism. Bent over my iPhone, trying to gently coax the scroll bar along to where I had last left the recording, I felt like I was Gene Hackman in Francis Ford Coppola’s  The Conversation. It has taken much too long to get this post ready. And for this I apologise.

But lame excuses apart, Open Dalston is a wonderful community organisation, which “campaigns for excellence in the quality of the built environment and public realm, the provision of transportation and amenities, and to ensure that changes to these have proper regard to the needs of local residents and businesses and the maintenance of a sustainable residential and business community”. I have attended a couple of their meetings at Cafe Oto which always feature immense talent –  the Laureate of Albion Road, the writer Iain Sinclair  being an honourable regular contributor.

This evening at Cafe Oto featured various fascinating speakers and presentations: an evocative film composed of footage taken of Dalston in the ’70s and ’80s by the photographer and filmmaker Alan Denney to a dub soundtrack, a reading by Iain Sinclair from his latest book on the 2012 Olympics, Ghost Milk, followed by a discussion lead by the founder of Open Dalston and local solicitor, Bill Parry-Jones, on the implications for east London of the Olympics, which, among many things, touched on the historic toxicity of the Olympic Park site, the nomenclature of clouds and what is casually dismissed as an east London “wasteland” (ie the Olympic site) was nothing but. The evening was concluded by an extract of short film  Imagine That which is in the process of being made by Sasha Andrews  about the Save Leyton Marsh campaign and protestors, some of whom were present to discuss their campaign.

However, the main focus of the night of was the book and research of ex-FT journalist turned writer, Anna Minton whose book Ground Control, which concerns the stealthy privatisation of our streets and public places and its new chapter on the legacy of the Olympics which Anna added post the book’s first publication. And as the Olympics are commencing this week, whatever one’s opinion on this spectacle, I thought its relevance was somewhat appropriate and timely.

Again maximum apologies for the delay in posting.

Anna began by explaining why she wrote Ground Control, which was  “because I am a frustrated journalist.  I also decided to write a new chapter about the Olympics. As a journalist, I constantly felt I wasn’t able to get the stories I wanted to into the newspapers. I was very frustrated by the time pressure of the job. I wasn’t really doing anything. So I left journalism and began writing longer pieces. I stumbled onto this theme  when I started looking at ghettos and gated communities in the US and began questioning whether or not there were coming over here. Then I started writing about another trend that I noticed, which was the growing privatisation of streets and public places.

Writer Anna Minton at Cafe Oto.

“While I was doing this research, I was still trying to get these stories in the paper and I had a lot of difficulty getting them published and I had this body of work which I thought could be the basis for a book. I was lucky enough to get  a book deal with Penguin and I wrote the book. Suddenly all these editors who hadn’t been interested in my work were suddenly really, really interested in this theme. (Anna goes on to talk about the constraints of the mainstream media and the difficulty in trying to get a lot of stories published which is also a difficulty that a lot of campaigners working with issues around the Olympics face on a daily basis.)

“The book essentially is about the growing segregation, polarisation and privatisation of our city and environment. I am going to concentrate on the privatisation of public spaces. This was a trend that really began in the 1980s (1985, ’86) with the emergence of these very large out-of-town shopping centres like Bluewater Metro centre and Westfield Merry Hill in Dudley, all over the country. Apart from this, we had the Big Bang in 1986 which deregulated finance and created this need for enormous banks with very large floorspace to accommodate their enormous trading floors and that wasn’t suited to the city of London – with its nooks and crannies of mediaeval streets.

“So a new space was needed for London’s burgeoning finance industry. This was the seed of the Broadgate Centre and Canary Wharf to create premises to meet the needs of these emerging financial industries. When Canary Wharf and Broadgate were built in the mid- to late-’80s, they were controversial places. They were very unusual places. They were the first large-scale, entirely privately owned, privately controlled parts of the city. People were very concerned about this. There was huge opposition in Docklands, lots of concern that this was going to segregate the environment. That this was going to create high security, gated communities, that it was going to do nothing for local communities. Even that it was going to create this divided environment. This is rather prophetic as we now know as this is exactly what happened.

Anna Minton: "This is more like a gig."

Anna Minton: “This is more like a gig.”

“But the point I’m trying to make is that all this high security, highly protected architecture, were side by side with areas that were completely untouched by the citadels of wealth. The whole justification of this approach is ‘trickle down’. The idea being that wealth will trickle down from these places down to the poorest parts of the community which need it the most. Of course, we know how manifestly that has failed. Not only in Docklands, but all around the country. The point is that these were exceptional places – they were finance centres. They were built to specifically meet the needs of business. They were created in the image of business. Now the big change started to come about over the next 10-15 years (actually this model pioneered in Docklands became the template for all new development all around the country).

“The template for all the regeneration sites across the country – large and small – now all of them rolled out on this privately controlled model. Seeing that streets which had been in public hands ie local authority democratically controlled hands for the last 150 years. (By the way, a democratic achievement which came about from local protest against the aristocratic gated landlords of the 18th century and early 19th century.)

“Now we started seeing this democratic achievement going to reverse and this has become the template for all our city centres such as Liverpool 1, Bristol and High Cross in  Leicester. I used to talk to people and ask if they knew of a single scheme that didn’t follow this template, please, tell me. I wanted to point out some of these trends and the consequences of those as it is central to the  arguments I make in the book that this high security environment is in fact is creating a far more fearful and paranoid society. And in fact this is one of the reasons we have these soaring fears of crime – though crime itself actually continues to fall. When I first started the book it looked as if this was an inexorable trend and really all I could hope to do was point it out which I think, in and of itself is an important thing to do.

However, while I was in the process of writing the book, it all started to come apart and actually the first line of the book (before I wrote the new chapter) was this book was conceived in a boom and written in a bust. So actually by the time I’d finished it and the time it came out the economic rationale for this privatised model of development had entirely collapsed, fallen apart because of course what underpins these places is very, very large  amounts of debt – borrowing –property companies have to borrow huge amounts of money,  raise the finance on the market. I like to simply use the word ‘borrow’ of course with the financial crisis they were completely unable to do that.

“All these schemes, all around the country, earmarked for development, such as the centre of Bradford. Westfield were planning a 23-acre private open-air shopping mall in the centre of Bradford and now that’s just a hole in the ground. It’s not just Bradford. It’s also Edinburgh, Preston, Leeds. All of this has just come to an abrupt halt.

“So that brings me onto my next point. So why do I want to write the new chapter of the book? Well, of course it’s all come to an abrupt halt bar one development  that some of you might be aware of – the Olympics.

“The development associated with the Olympics and Westfield Stratford City, the Olympic Park, of course, this, like the banks was considered too big to fail. And in 2008 at around the time we were bailing out the Royal Bank of Scotland to the tune of £76 billion, we also had to bail out the Olympic project. So at exactly around that time the taxpayer also funneled £6 billion, almost, into making sure that the Olympic development would go ahead. And actually, according to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the private sector which is the rationale for this way of doing things, they are supposed to raise the money, the private sector has in fact contributed 2 per cent to the entire Olympic budget, which is now £10 billion and increasing.

So that really was the spur for wanting to write about this. This economic case that has completely and utterly fallen apart, and yet, we still have got this mind-set where we can’t do things in any different way at all and our flagship developments to the world,  our mirror, our reflections globally for 2012 is this.

“So I felt was the high point, the pinnacle of all the themes I was writing about. And of course it’s the high point in terms of the trends that I was discussing as well. So in terms of privately owned, privately controlled places, that’s exactly what we have here with Westfield Stratford City which is an open-air private estate. But the Olympic Park, the first public park in Britain, the first Royal Park since Victorian times for 150 years we were promised. And it’s called the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. But in spite of a campaign, a very vociferous local campaign, which was even supported by the Mayor of Newham, that the Olympic Park should have royal park status, that is not the case. The Olympic Park will not be a Royal Park.

The convenor of the night’s event and the founder of Open Dalston, Bill Parry-Jones.

“Incidentally I should point out the royal parks are in fact public parks and only owing to a quirk in 1850, or thereabouts the Crown Land act actually gave all the Royal Parks over into public hands. This was part of the trend I briefly alluded to earlier, where private gated estates were in fact when fact opened up at around the same time as this, this period of sort of growing democracy and the great civic achievements of the Victorians, which are so often referenced by our politicians, Royal Parks became public parks. So there was a campaign that the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park should be like the parks we used to and we have long enjoyed.

“But it’s not. It’s a privately owned,  privately controlled estate. It will be in the ultimate hands of this new mayoral development and corporation, which, if it resembles anything it’s very  similar to the London Docklands Development Corporation of the 1980s and 90s. The developments within the park, those which are completed I might add in this economic climate I think the aspirations of what they hope to see there very unlikely to happen. But we already have the Olympic village with 3,000 extra homes – that’s actually quite a lot of housing – that is already passed over into private ownership. That is, that was bought up by the Qatari royal family in a consortium with a property company called Delancey. This would be an entirely privately owned, privately controlled space. And every development in the  Park will follow that model.

“At least that is the plan. But we have all seen the debacle that followed over the stadium, as very often these things very rarely work out because we can’t agree who to sell something to. There is no overall control, no overall vision for the area. The Olympics is also the highpoint of another of the trends that is central to everything I write about, which is this growing security of the urban environment and the consequences of that and I don’t think any audience could be more alive to those issues, having heard of local missiles appearing on local roofs. I’m not going to talk about security that much as I know Iain is going to address that issue. He lives here and has actually seen the missiles. I’ve not yet seen them. Yes, you can take it as read that this is an incredibly high security environment getting into the Olympic Park during the Games is going to take you hours, in an airport search type process.

“The question is what will remain after that, that is also always the question after the Olympics. I think the best is going to be a sort of Dockland Excel Centre type of environment. I also was keen to highlight another couple of aspects that came to my attention – the Ethical Olympic Pledge, if any of you have come across that, which was signed before the Olympics, local support for the Olympics is always vital, and in order to get local support Lord Coe, then head of  the bidding committee, signed an agreement with London Citizens then known as Panco – the East London  organisation and they promised various promises on local jobs, housing, affordable housing, construction of an academy in Leyton worth £2 million, various pretty good things which actually got community groups which were very wary of the Olympics behind the project.

“And when Sebastian Coe signed the agreement he told the Evening Standard as a result the games were ’eminently more winnable’. So this pledge was signed, and then, of course, when we won the bid the pledge was very swiftly reneged. And why was that? Although Seb Coe signed it, Ken Livingstone signed it the London Development Agency signed it – it was a binding agreement – the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA)  came into existence – the quango responsible for delivering the Games – they said, well, because they hadn’t been in existence when that agreement was signed, they didn’t have to honour it. So that’s what happened to that.

The author Iain SInclair reads from his book, Ghost Milk, and went on to discuss the Olympics

“And the other things I really wanted to talk about in my chapter, and I went into this in a lot of detail was housing. Because housing was at the centre of the promises about the Olympics. You must have heard about all these promises about what was going to happen to the four Olympic boroughs. All these convergences and promises about how standards of living were going to magically rise and converge with Kensington and Chelsea over the next 25 years.

“This is the whole sort of trickle-down idea. And housing is right at the centre of this, so what I wanted to do here was to spend some time and actually look at housing. I was lucky enough to meet someone who worked in housing, at one of the local authorities, who basically gave me his side of the story. He told me on a typical day’s work, he would going to a house sort of normal looking house in an average terraced street. And he will find between 30 to 40 men sleeping there in a two-bedroom house ten to room. Illegal sheds in back gardens.  I was told by someone who works for Shelter, he even had a client who was sleeping in a commercial fridge and paying rent for it.

“This is the reality, actually of the third world housing conditions in Newham, in this part of London, which is just sort of a world away from the promises which are being made about the level of affordable housing being provided. So let’s look at that affordable housing.  About half of the Olympic village is apparently going to be affordable housing. And that’s 3,000 homes. They might be in a private estate, but it’s still 3,000 new homes coming onto the market, that’s the relevant phrase, available, allegedly, for local, affordable housing.

“But you know that’s the thing. What does ‘affordable housing’ actually mean? This very slippery definition which has been impossible to pin down since we effectively got rid of council housing as a policy. Affordable housing now means according to the Coalition, in parallel with the changes in housing policy and the cuts  to housing benefits which are being introduced this year, affordable housing now means up to 80 per cent of market rents. Well, you know up to 80 per cent of market rents around here is not going to be affordable to the vast majority of local people.

“So really that puts those  promises in context. When I spoke to Shelter they just said to me when the Olympic executives talk about affordable housing, they are just living in a different world. They are  on a different planet. And actually that’s the point. Because these developments which are going up just around the corner from here, they are in a different world, on a different planet from the lives of local communities here. And that’s the theme that we first saw begin in Docklands. These entirely separate lives being led in the segregated parts of the city. And it’s reached its high point with the Olympic development. Yet at a time when there is no economic case for it at all.

“So I’m just going to stop there!”

Anna went on to read an extract of her book Ground Control. Her reading ended with her making points about social silence, the process of privatisation with its multiplicity of competing companies and quangos ensures that what happens is too complicated for most people to challenge.

“This is fun. I feel like I’m doing a gig. I’m going to put my pint down. It’s not normally like this for me,” she comments as she rests her foot on a monitor on the stage.

Anna reads from the new chapter of her book which is called “the Olympics and the Public Good” which develops  most eloquently and passionately the themes she discussed early at Cafe Oto and have been outlined above. She concludes:

“What is marked about the Olympic regeneration, that despite the financial crisis, there has been no pause for thought in the changed economic climate and the debt-fuelled approach to property finance, which privatised the public realm in its wake, and which is at the heart of the Olympic project. Despite the series of crises which have defined the last few years, there has not been a corresponding shift in the way that the political and media elite operate. Instead there is a strong sense that it is business as usual.

“And that we are just waiting for a return to normal. When it comes to Olympics, that raises serious questions. Not just about the economic rationale for the project, but about  democratic accountability. The significance of London 2012 is not just about, or even mainly about sport – it is all about the legacy. It is what this legacy will that be and what, perhaps it could have been. This is the focus of this chapter.”

She stops that this point and opens the floor to questions.

Questioner 1: I am interested in the use of the word “park” as we understand it.

AM: I think that parts of it are more park-like than others, but when I say it’s going to be run by a development corporation, which is going to be a facsimile of the London Docklands Corporation. The park is not going to resemble the Canary Wharf estate, a large part of the park is going to be an expensively landscaped green space within it. My point is that it is all going to be under this privately controlled regime that I think creates a very different culture, a very different atmosphere, a different sort of environment. But there will be substantial areas of parkland in it.

Questioner 2: What is the likelihood of there being a public outcry this summer?

AM: We had our riots last summer. I am very interested to see this new film by Plan B, Ill Manors, apparently it makes a direct link between last summer’s riots and the Olympic developments. I think there are direct links. It comes down to the city environment I was trying to describe which is so totally separated and segregated. Two separate worlds and obviously this breeds huge discontent, fertile ground for social unrest. In terms of having riots this summer, I think the huge clampdown on people who took part in the riots and the enormous sentences that got handed down that’s obviously part of the thinking behind all that, to prevent anything like that happening. I’d be interested to see if anything like that does happen in terms of the activist groups that are planning actions. I couldn’t predict it.

Questioner 3: Someone tells me who works for the Olympics indirectly, that to enter the Park, you have to go through Westfields shopping centre to get in.

AM: That’s right. That’s our gateway to our Games.

Questioner 4: I just want to do a plug and ask a few questions. I am involved with the Counter Olympics Network. We had a conference in January, that you attended, that was able how not to get arrested while doing civil action. We have been doing leafleting, legal picketing. Hopefully, there won’t be rioting this summer, but we will be defending our right to legal protest which is incredibly important.

AM: What I talked about in January, and I do generally like to end my talks on an uplifting note, but didn’t tonight as  it came to natural negative end. My uplifting note, and this is a really important point, maybe because I really didn’t want to praise Boris Johnson it to this audience. I always feel uncomfortable at this point as it comes to say something good about Boris, and am really pretty upset that he was re-elected.

But Boris has done one amazing thing which, of course, he didn’t do himself, his advisers did it. But still, in 2009, Boris published the Mayor’s Manifesto for Public Space in which he states he wants in London all new developments to ensure that all the city’s streets and public places remain under local authority control. He wants an end to the privatisation of streets and public places. This has the status of legislation and this is a really, really important point. Because development in London and everywhere at all but ceased – bar the Olympics development and King’s Cross, all of which got planning permission before his 2009 manifesto.

It is very difficult to know if this had had any impact at all. But for people who are interested in the issues around the privatisation of streets and public places, that manifesto should really start to get known and talked about and referred to, because people still don’t know about it. But it is there. It is something actually really, really positive. That’s the positive campaigning point I usually end my talks on.

Questioner 5:  This whole thing is a massive wealth transfer. What is your comment on that idea that public money is eventually going to end up in the hands of private pockets of corporations. Secondly I keep getting media requests for voices of opposition. But I’m not getting any response from anyone. Where is the voice of opposition? Where is the organised response?

AM: First point of course you are absolutely right and Lend Lease oversaw the massive transfer from the public to private sector. This was exactly what we were doing with the bailout of the banks. Lend Lease was the property company responsible for developing the Olympic village and was supposed to be raising, borrowing, the money to build the Olympic village. And obviously they were unable to do that following the crash. The government bailed them out they were and employed Lend Lease to manage the project. So Lend Lease have done absolutely fine out of that. The whole project is a transfer of public money to the private sector. Your point about protest – you are getting media requests to be the voice of opposition  but … you …

Questioner 5: Yes, we are being asked to put them in contact with people who are protesting, but we are not really getting the response.

AM: I find this one of the frustrating things at the moment is that there are all sorts of  people doing really interesting things but they are not all connected up. We are  talking specifically here about the Olympics but I do stuff on regeneration. I was interested in what Occupy, what Heygate was doing. And that all these groups are not connected up and this is a big, big frustration. And what I am feeling at the moment is that there isn’t any central focus for dissent and protests and that’s really big problem. I don’t know what to be done about it apart from discussing it in forums such as these. There isn’t the central focus.

Questioner 6: How will you be protesting during the Olympics?

AM: I said I don’t think I’m going to be doing anything much different to what I’m doing now, unless someone suggests something to me that I’m particularly attracted to. I’m not planning to launch any major protests myself – that’s not the sort of thing I do really. I’m very supportive of Occupy and other protest movements so if  something comes up that is in tune with what I do, then I hope I’ll help out.

Photographer and filmmaker Alan Denney introducing his film of 1970s and ’80s Dalston

Questioner 4: Because the state is all over us and repression has been so intense and people are receiving anti-Olympic ASBOs  for nothing, we are feeling quite circumspect. I’d be really happy to just leaflet with counter-Olympic flyers in Stratford for the next few months –  just getting out there and talking to people. I just want to get the message across. I’m not going to riot, but leafleting would be quite good.

Questioner 7:  Do you think outside of the private areas, there will be regeneration in the local communities which will extend beyond the Olympics? Or do you think outside of the private realm, it won’t extend and people will be worse off or all in the same place they already are?

AM: My view is that this is the role model and we shouldn’t be pursuing it. This model doesn’t work. We have seen  it doesn’t work all around the country. We now have a more segregated and unequal society than we have ever had before. Social mobility is at an all-time low, the lowest in Europe – nudging America’s levels. Our young people are amongst the unhappiest in the world. That is the direct result of this sort of approach which I think is completely wrong.

Questioner 8: What you think of the Olympics as a marketing campaign to the corporate world and the whole world? The government is prepared to take private capital’s interest over the public. The government is demonstrating its willingness to crush public opposition in favour of corporate interests by saying this is great for the corporate world and it will also maintain our image in the world. Because we are so desperate to hang on to some kind of credibility and they are doing anything which is basically crushing the population.

AM: You are right without a doubt. This is a global PR opportunity. And I think the story of the London Marathon is a pretty good illustration of that. The marathon was supposed to run through east London and now has been rerouted to go past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Mall. Because that’s what the global networks are going to see – not parts of east London. Without a doubt you are right. Because that is basically is the Olympic Games.

Questioner 9: You said the model is clearly broken. Any trends to find alternatives to that.

AM: No not really. I wish there were movements to having some of these empty sites turned into urban parks and there’s some guerrilla gardening here and there. Some interesting things pop up. But I think the really big difficulty is that local authorities are the crucible for local democracy and all this activity should be coming from them.

But local authorities have been leading the way in trying to get these big private estates to go ahead in their towns and cities. I think local authorities are in a strait jacket. As I said in the book and it hasn’t really changed since then. It’s still let’s get back to business as usual. That’s the way our politicians are pursuing policy at the moment.  No, sadly, there aren’t any big moves to look for alternatives but I think they are going to have to come.

And I think London is in quite a different position from much of the country, where if you walk down a provincial high street, half the high street is shuttered up. You know there are places in real dire straits and they have to look for alternatives. So I think something is going to have to give. And there are the groups around the country which are looking at doing different things on these sites so I’m hopeful that something might start to happen.

Questioner 10:  I am one of those mainstream editors who does publish your work, over the years in the Guardian. You say the model is broken, but as long as we have got the Qatari Royal family buying up whole swathes of London. I  had no idea that Spitalfields was owned by them. A management company runs it for them. I was chatting to a guy from the management company recently and he said, yes look around and it’s all lovely cafes and shops but is just part of the Qatari royal family’s portfolio.

AM: I should say Alison you’ve always published my stuff. You are the honourable exception. Alison is the editor of Society  Guardian, a really great place to publish. Your point about the Qatari royal family is completely right. And of course, they are behind the Shard as well, another flagship development for 2012. There will be probably other money like that, pockets of it. Who knows? Maybe the Chinese are going to start buying up our city centres. But that is not a sufficient base for our economy. And I don’t think anyone could really build a big argument that it is. Those are the pockets of global capital which are still provoking these places.

Questioner 11: What about when we’re going to be charged for using public property that is built by us and paid by us?

AM: Logically that could be a development further down the road – toll roads are an example of that. I think there would be a huge, huge outcry if you started charging people for parks. But the use of parks for commercial purposes is arguably part of that trend to some extent. But is that is already happening.

Questioner 12: It’s not a total fait accompli as at the end of September, we will find out if the Lee Valley Park will be returned from being a temporary basketball courts for the Olympics back to common land. If not, that will be a major breach of promise. If people want to come down and make themselves heard, please do. It’s not a done thing yet.

AM: I think there are all sorts of things that can be done although I think the weight of the trends is going in this direction. I used to live in Brixton and there was this little development a new square was created and the whole community thought it was going to be a nightmare. A privatised disaster. And actually it’s not. I don’t talk about this in the presentation as is not a large open-air shopping estate. It is just a little square.

But there are  pockets of genuinely public space which are still being created and as I pointed to the Mayor’s Manifesto, that is a real boost for that sort of thing. And Exhibition Road, in South Kensington, is going ahead on the shared space model, which is actually the total opposite to the high security model we’ve been discussing.

So I think there is all sorts of hope for this not to be the trend. But it’s a debate/battle really.

Questioner 12: I’m part of the Save Leyton Marsh campaign and I think it’s about process . We’ve lost the first part of our battle with the temporary basketball court it’s been built on the common Lammas land. But for myself and local people and people from Occupy that are supporting us in the campaign. The process of the local campaign and local people working with the campaigners in Occupy, working with people who came along through, but might not identify with Occupy, in order to support us to protect our free space.  This has raised all of our consciousnesses and that of the neighbours too.

Some of the Save Leyton Marsh protestors.

AM: I think you’re absolutely right and you have raised a really important point. What really strikes me, though, is that people have to try so, so hard and what you are doing is taking up at least half of your life, if not your whole life.  For people who are really, really committed, you can do these things. But local democracy doesn’t work with you it doesn’t make it easy. You have to really dig and find and search and fight. And you won’t be told about meetings. You won’t be told about key dates in consultations.

But it actually can be done and people do it all the time. But you have to put so much time into it, which brings me back to my earlier point about there being all sorts of really, really great things going on all around the country. And yet it’s so diffuse and disparate and that’s my big frustration and probably a lot of other people’s as well. That somehow it needs some sort of focus. It needs some kind of pulling together. But the people need to be paid to do that and that’s always the difficulty.

Questioner 12: We’ve learnt from local councils, the ODA, the Lee Valley Park etc, the courts of justice are not going to be open to us and are not going to tell us about their meetings etc. But fighting for a very local issue that is important to lots of local people  – like kite flyers, dog walkers, environmentalists and locals who love green spaces etc – builds up a power that makes you want to fight on, and opens people’s eyes who weren’t very political at first. They see the forces of repression come up – how members have been beaten up, the ASBOs and so on. And it’s not stopping us. And hopefully lots of you will be around Leyton Marsh, around the date of October 15, when we hope we might be beginning to get our land back and if we’re not we want but is a very, very slow process not a quick government short-term targets.  And working with, for me the absolutely fantastic members of Occupy. It’s a very very powerful experience. It takes a long time you have to give up a lot of your life.

Anna:  That’s exactly right that’s really good to hear.

Another woman from Leyton Marsh group adds, “That’s ultimately how we win the Olympics struggle, and the struggle against capitalism the struggle against oppression.” This was the conclusion of a fascinating, informative, thought-provoking evening. If you have any interest in east London local politics or the environment or culture, or a general interest in these matters at all, I highly recommend that you can get along to an Open Dalston event.

Bill Parry-Jones thanks Anna for her contribution and reminds, or warns the crowd that the police are making pre-Olympic pre-emptive arrests and that the Police are constantly scanning social media for information about subversive activities and that it is highly likely that they are present in the audience tonight of  Cafe OTO.

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