Tuesday, 24 November 2015

An Alternative to Neo-Liberal Education - Venue Change!



Saturday 28 November 2015
2.00 pm - 4.30pm



Apologies for the short notice but unfortunately it has been necessary to change the venue for the meeting on Saturday 28 November.  This will now be held in the MAYDAY ROOMS, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH, 2.00pm – 4.30pm.  

The Social Science Centre (SSC) in Lincoln is a self-organised co-operative higher learning provider that is democratic at all levels of its organisation. The scholars who are members of the Centre work and study together whether they are traditionally students or teachers. One of the aims of the Centre is to analyse and dissolve the tensions in the relationships between research and teaching, and students and academics. Set up by academics from the University of Lincoln, the Centre has no relationship with the University, although it is a critique of the formal institution as a dysfunctional neoliberal arrangement in many ways. The SSC aims to ‘reinvent’ the University and transform the scholars’ relationship to knowledge in order to insert their own experiences into theoretical knowledges that aim to emancipate them as active change agents. The SSC engenders provocations, conversations and discussions that enliven the notion that all those who are involved in active knowledge work should become (co-) producers of knowledge. Two of the (student) scholars and an academic from Lincoln will be visiting the Anarchist Research Group to talk about the centre and their experiences studying there.
In this session, we would like to tell you a little about our experiences with the SSC and then invite a discussion on the SSC, self-organised education and the relationships between education, learning, and social change.

The Social Science Centre provides free public higher education in the city of Lincoln and emphasises the collective and collaborative nature of education. The Centre was opened in 2011 by academics and students and Lincoln residents who feel passionately that those wishing to study higher education should not have to take on the burden of debt. There is no fee to pay when joining the Centre, only what you can afford. Free also means freedom to study outside of the current disciplinary structures of higher education around topics and issues that are of direct concern to you and your local community.
ANARCHIST RESEARCH GROUP: Our meetings are friendly and informal. They are usually held on the fourth Saturday each month, at the Torriano Meeting House in Kentish town, 99 Torriano Avenue, London NW5 2RX between 2.00pm and 4.30 pm 
Directions: From Kentish Town tube station walk up Leighton Road, and turn left into Torriano Avenue.
We take a collection after each meeting to cover the cost of the venue.

‘Human Herbs’ – a song by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au-vyMtfDAs
Glenn Rikowski @ Academia: http://independent.academia.edu/GlennRikowski 

Ruth Rikowski @ Academia: http://lsbu.academia.edu/RuthRikowski

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Writeidea Festival 2015

Whitechapel Idea Store

I went to the Writeidea Festival 2015 last weekend, 13th-15th November 2015. Victor Rikowski told me about it; he works for the Idea Store in Chrisp Street in Tower Hamlets. But he was luckily enough this year to get the opportunity to work for and be part of the Festival, held at the Whitechapel Idea Store!

It was truly wonderful; I was very surprised about just how good it was. It ran over 3 days and there were a wide range of authors, both fiction and non-fiction, talking about and signing copies of their books. I saw David Rosenberg, for example, talking about his new book 'London's Rebel Footprints' (which I also bought), who has been leading walks on London's radical history since 2007.

Then there was James Dawson and Non Pratt, 2 writers of Young Adult (YA) fiction, who spoke about their books, including their latest books, and other YA authors (particularly the ones that they liked). Furthermore, they did it all in a really refreshing and upbeat way. I can certainly see why they are so popular with teenagers. They really related to people; to something basic in the human condition. A great way of introducing teenagers to the adult world and sex and love and all that.

Then I heard Derek Morris speak about the East End of London and about the variety of writers, artists, scientists and prosperous merchants that have arisen from it. He has written books on all of this.

Next there was Rosie Wilby, a comedian, a feminist and a lesbian talking about how she helped to run a feminist newspaper, Matrix, whilst she was at university. She used video clips, music and photo archives and she did it all with a great sense of humour, as well as with great style. It was truly delightful. And she was just so much her own person (as were James Dawson and Non Pratt).

Finally, we had Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, known as 'Nicci French' who write psychological thrillers together. What they had to say was also really fascinating.

And that was just what I saw on one day!

Altogether, it was a packed programme. There were also author such as Michael Rosen, Kate Thompson, Holly Bourne and Viv Albertine, to name but a few!

In addition, there was a Writeidea Hub with open mic slots, book signings and other special events.

The whole festival was free and there was also free tea and coffee and even some free food towards the end of the evening.

It was a truly wonderful event, I felt that I had a lot of affinity with the people at it, and I certainly intend to go again next year, all being well!

So, thanks very much Victor for telling me about it!

Here is another short write-up on the web about it all:


Friday, 20 November 2015

The Film 'Anonymous' - but essentially Edward de Vere not Shakespeare!

Edward de Vere

The Film ‘Anonymous’ – but essentially Edward De Vere not Shakespeare!

I have just watched an amazing film - ' Anonymous'.

It is a well-known fact of course, that there is a body of opinion that argues that Shakespeare did not write all those great plays. When I heard it, I basically dismissed it as just being ‘sour grapes’.

However, several months ago I read a brilliant book by Jonathan Black, called 'The Secret History of the World'  (published by Quercus, London, 1988) which just turned so many of what are thought of as conventional wisdoms and historical facts, on their head. And we did a little research into some of it, and some of what Black says is certainly right, such as the fact that many important people in history have been Freemasons and members of secret societies. 

One of the things that Black argued was that Shakespeare did not write all these plays by himself; but instead that he was probably assisted and inspired by Francis Bacon. Black said that Shakespeare did not have the right and necessary background to write all those plays; or at least, certainly not by himself.

This got me thinking, especially as, on a personal basis, I have always had certain issues with Shakespeare, if the truth be told, but that’s something of another story altogether and perhaps for another day…

Anyway, we got involved with watching 'The White Queen' and 'The Tudors' and all this lead us to return to this Shakespeare theme. Gregory Rikowski found what looked to be an amazing and insightful film on the web: 'Anonymous' starring Vanessa Redgrave and Derek Jacobi; directed by Roland Emmerich and written by John Orloff, 2011. We bought it and have just watched it. Amazing! It just turns many of the conventional wisdoms about Shakespeare on their head. Even the 'Daily Star' said it was 'Stunning' and gave it 8 out of 10 and the Radio Times gave it 4 stars.

The film is based on a book and the author decided to look at things the other way round. Rather than trying to get the evidence to fit Shakespeare and the plays together (the way it is normally done), focusing for example on Shakespeare’s grammar school education and how that classical education helped to equip him to write the plays, he asked questions such as - 'What type of person is likely to have written these plays?'; 'What type of background are they likely to have come from?' 'Where might they have lived?" etc. Now, this immediately struck a chord with me. Since writing my own novels I have come to see that this approach is the more correct one, rather than just thinking that novelists and playwrights create their stories and fantasies purely out of, or at least, mainly out of ‘thin air’. Rather, they get much of their material from life. Now, what in Shakespeare's life gave him the material to write these plays? Well, not very much really, it would seem. This is the message that the film conveys.

But I thought the film would focus on Francis Bacon, but no, there was not a whisper about him at all. Instead, in the film it is Edward de Vere who wrote all those plays, and sonnets. Now, if you think about it, it really had to be one person, I think, because of the similarity in style throughout (you know, as opposed to the theories that say they were written by several people). Perhaps, others could have changed them a bit here and there, to make them 'fit' Shakespeare, but essentially I think it had to be the work and inspiration of one person. Again, I came to this conclusion from my own writing journey.

Now, the film puts the case that Edward de Vere is the most likely candidate to be this one person, for a variety of reasons; and it is a very, very powerful argument indeed. De Vere had the right aristocratic background and would have had an education and background that was well versed in history in general, the history of the monarchs in particular, the classics, Latin etc. He was part of the nobility. A number of the plays are also set in Italy and de Vere lived there for 2 years, thus giving him plenty of material, but there is no evidence that Shakespeare ever lived in Italy at all. And on the other hand, wherever would Shakespeare have acquired all this vast knowledge from? It just does not add up.

There is also another point: How could one man – i.e. Shakespeare, possibly have achieved so much in one life-time? Basically, we are told that he was a playwright; a poet; an actor; a businessman; an entrepreneur (setting up the Globe Theatre etc); a promoter of plays; a family man etc. etc. Now, Mozart in contrast, for example, was a brilliant composer but was hopeless with money, and no good at all as a businessman. But apparently, Shakespeare had it all. Come on!

And on top of that he was no ordinary playwright either – no, he knew loads about history, about various monarchs, he was familiar with the Classics, Greek and Latin, he had a lot of legal knowledge etc. etc. However, did he acquire all of this knowledge? The considered wisdom is that Shakespeare acquired it from his grammar school education. But however could he achieve all of that from school? He did not go to university of course. Also, he had such inside knowledge on so many topics. And on top of all of that, the playwright knew and understood just so much about the human condition.

Whilst Shakespeare’s actual background tells a different story. His father was illiterate and his 2 daughters were illiterate. In the film Shakespeare could read but could not write.  Also, he did not spell his name as ‘Shakespeare’ and his signature itself looks somewhat suspect. However, I find it hard to believe that he could not write – that seems rather extreme. If he could read (which he would surely need to be able to do, as an actor), then surely he could write? But I reckon that his writing style was quite basic, and certainly nothing like the beautiful writing style in all of those brilliant plays. Derek Jacobi in the film said that no manuscripts of the plays has ever been found in Shakespeare’s name, and there was no mention of the plays in his will.

So, it all really does not add up. Are we having ‘the wool pulled over our eyes’? – it certainly looks like it.

Also, there are the Cecils'; the family that had tremendous power and influence over Elizabeth I; they were the Queen’s advisors. Now, apparently Robert Cecil was a hunchback. Richard III in Shakespeare’s play was a hunchback of course. When I first watched Shakespeare’s Richard III I believed the simple message and thought that Richard III was a truly terrible person, going around killing everyone so that he could succeed to the throne. Then, after watching ‘The White Queen’ and reading all those novels by Philippa Gregory around the War in the Roses period I was convinced that this was completely wrong. Rather that it was the Red Queen in the background who was obsessed about getting her son, Henry Tudor on the throne, and would stop at nothing in order to achieve that aim (and so various people died, including the 2 princes in the tower). Indeed, she had some similarities to Livia, Augustine’s wife in Roman times, who was obsessed about getting her son Tiberius to be Emperor and would stop at nothing in order to achieve that goal. Many people were poisoned. So, Phillipa Gregory shows that some women in history were very intelligent and had a lot of power and influence in the background, even if we do not like their actions! So, the Richard III play was not simply about Richard III at all; but rather it was trying to get people to see the Cecils' for the corrupt and power-mad people that they were. This was the message in the film anyway.

Also, after all Henry VIII’s dreadful behaviour someone probably wanted to expose the awful corruption that was going on around the monarchy and their advisors, so felt driven to write the plays – Edward de Vere was in the right place at the right time and had the motivation to be able to do this. But of course, he had to disguise himself, and could not have them in the public domain under his own name.

I think that society, today, is too much in awe of Shakespeare; he is almost seen to be a Demi-God. Look at the Globe Theatre, for example (wonderful though it is). Clearly, whoever wrote all those plays was incredibly gifted and understood the human condition so well, on top of everything else.  But that does not mean to say that he was also a very good businessman, a good actor etc. The whole thing is very unhealthy and it exposes lots about the problems of British society.

I think I will be able to engage with the plays somewhat better and easier in the future now, with hopefully a better and clearer idea about their underlying messages and where they were likely to be coming from. So, the film ‘Anonymous’ has done me a great favour, if only for this reason! I will look at it all with somewhat different eyes now. I reckon there are lots of hidden messages in the plays which we cannot see because we are not looking at things straight. I will gradually get to watch the plays again, but through a different lens and are likely to have some further insights.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Something Unspoken

I went to see 2 short plays by Tennessee Williams at the Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead a few days ago  - 'I Can't Imagine tomorrow' and 'Something Unspoken'. Wow - what an experience.

The theatre itself, above a pub, was something else. I have never seen anything like it before, and I doubt that there is anywhere else in London quite like it. It is small and intimate and felt rather like stepping back in time, into a glorified and very large front room. The decor was amazing and there were pictures on the walls, particularly showing the history of the theatre and times gone by. One could chose one's seat and there were an interesting variety of seats, some armchairs, sofas and upright chairs with cushions.

I love Tennessee Williams plays but had never heard of these 2 before, so that also intrigued me.

And 'Something Unspoken', in particular, dealt with such an important topic that I thought that I would blog it.

'Something Unspoken' dealt with lesbian themes at a time when the subject was very much taboo. Hence, the 2 females in the play - employer and employee felt that they had lesbian feelings for each other but no way could they express them overtly. Cornelia, the employer tried to confront what had been suppressed, saying that there seemed to be 'something unspoken' between them. She gives Grace 15 roses - one for each of their anniversaries as Grace has been working for Cornelia for 15 years. But Grace cannot bear to address the topic in this overt way; not surprising as she, being the employee is in the more vulnerable position. They are also continually being interrupted in their attempt to articulate their feelings by other sounds - in particular, the phone keeps ringing; there is also the music playing on the gramophone player. And of course, this is what happens in life - we are being continually interrupted.

I thought it was a fascinating and important play because not only was it bravely addressing the largely taboo topic of lesbianism at the time, but the basic idea about the difficulty of trying to express oneself on certain difficult topics, can also be widened far beyond the lesbian theme.

In fact, do not many of us sometimes engage with this way of conversing, in some way or other? We try to articulate some things, some topics that are very difficult to articulate (for various reasons, including the obvious one of society's prejudice) and find it near-on impossible. And so it becomes 'something unspoken' and we try to communicate it in ways other than the normal verbal means of communication between one another. In fact, this is one of the reasons that novels and plays are so powerful anyway. They allow us a form of expression that is not possible through non-fiction writing. I mean, many novels are based on autobiographies and the novelists' actual experiences. So the raw truth becomes somewhat disguised and becomes something that is in some way largely unspoken. Music is another alternative mode of expression; but of course that is largely even more camouflaged.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Forest Roots on 27th Nov 2015

FOREST ROOTS: Country, Folk, Blues and Beyond

Friday 27th November 2015, starts at 8.00pm sharp

Hot Strings Review

Free entry; raffle and whip round.

Martin Wheatley on guitar and ukulele

Mike Piggott on fiddle (see www.mikepiggott.com

Also, the Family Flats Band and 

Surprise Guests and Local Performers.

These will include:

Forest Voices (a Choir which I am a member of) and

Victor Rikowski

Venue:  The Forest Gate Hotel, 105 Godwin Road, Forest Gate, London, E7 OLW