Grasp the Nettle is the latest film from director (and friend of Another Kind Of Mind) Dean Puckett. This documentary explores the experiences of a disparate group of activists who came together in 2009 to create a sustainable community outside of the mainstream on a patch of derelict land at Kew Bridge, west London. I was involved in this project too (indeed, it was at the Kew Bridge Eco-Village that I first met Dean and his ever-present camera!), photographing and writing about the site as it grew and changed over the eleven months of its existence. It would be true to say that this was a place that inspired me both practically and creatively – and I wasn’t the only one.
Here, Dean describes what inspired him to make a film about the Eco-Village:
There was an intoxicating energy about the place, a sense of freedom from a system which many of us recognise is unequal and destructive. Yet this rag-tag bunch of occupiers defied conventional stereotypes of the ‘ecowarrior’. Most of them were ordinary people from different walks of life – some were students, others were former professionals. And they had come together to not simply occupy a piece of land, but to transform it, bit by bit – in an exciting and unnerving sense, creating their own reality outside the system. I wanted to truly understand this emerging hotbed of radical practice that was both outside and inside wider society, the people involved, and the way they understood what they were doing.
So he got his camera out – and the result was Grasp the Nettle. Having been successfully screened at a number of festivals, the film is now available online for anyone to watch – wherever, whenever and for free. I’ve posted it above, so now it’s your turn to meet the inhabitants of Kew Bridge Eco-Village and see what you think…
Long-time readers may be familiar with Dean’s name from my posts on ‘The Crisis of Civilization’, his previous film collaboration with Lucca Benney and Nafeez Ahmed – which is also available online if you haven’t yet seen it.
The last four years have been a really hard uphill battle. We have had to deal with many obstacles and setbacks. After the ‘unlawful killing’ verdict at the inquest it was unimaginable to us that PC Harwood could be acquitted of the criminal charge of manslaughter. We will never understand that verdict, but at least today’s public admission of unlawful killing by the Metropolitan police is the final verdict, and it is as close as we are going to get to justice.
After everything they have been through in the last four years, I am glad that Ian Tomlinson’s family now finally have an apology from the Metropolitan Police Service, although the fact that it has taken four years for the police to fully acknowledge the events of April 1st 2009 and after says a great deal about how this case has been handled and the attitudes of some of the individuals and institutions involved.
Like many others who were at that ill-fated G20 demo in April 2009 (and who witnessed the behaviour of the TSG first hand), I have been following the progress of this case with much interest and I have been impressed with the quiet determination of Ian’s family in their search for the truth. In an ideal world, many of us would very much have liked to have seen Simon Harwood found guilty in last year’s manslaughter trial, but, as Ian’s widow Julia put it, this apology “is as close as we are going to get to justice”.
They may not have got the kind of justice many of us were hoping for, however, but I wish the Tomlinson family all the best for the future, whatever that brings, and I hope this apology (and the out of court settlement that accompanied it) can go at least some way towards helping them all move on from such a terrible and traumatic experience. I am sure that Ian would be proud of their tenacity, strength and bravery in standing up to the institutionalised violence, incompetence and cover-ups that surrounded his death with such dignity.
As a human being it is very difficult not to have sympathy for somebody that I cared about deeply, but it is also important to remember that that person that I cared about deeply did not in fact exist. I cared deeply for somebody whose life was intermingled with mine, and that person’s life story is a fiction.
These are the words of an activist, named only as Lisa, who gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee last month. Lisa’s testimony about her ex-partner is part of the Committee’s Interim Report on undercover policing, a subject which has rightly caused a great deal of outcry and controversy over the last year or so.
The collapse of a high-profile court case against a group of environmental activists in early 2011 revealed that a police spy known as Mark Stone (real name Mark Kennedy) had successfully infiltrated various activist groups over a long period of time, acting as what can only be described as an agent provocateur.
This case was just the start of a series of revelations concerning the activities of Kennedy and a number of other undercover officers – revelations which have left many within the activist community quite rightly shocked and angered, and have led to wider calls for public inquiries and investigations into the use and tactics of police spies like Kennedy and his colleagues (hence the Home Affairs Committee’s involvement) .
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the July 2012 edition of the Another Kind Of Mind Stupid Awards. All those nominated for a Stupid Award tonight have been chosen for their spectacular demonstrations of pure, unadulterated idiocy and their inability to function with any sense even in the glaring face of reality. July has been a vintage month for such complete and utter fuckwittery, what with all of tonight’s candidates showing off their not inconsiderable skills over the last week – so, without further ado, here are the nominees…
Aidan Burley MP:
Nominated for: Being a racist Tory bigot in charge of a computer.
Oh look. Yet another Tory MP has opened his mouth and stuffed his foot firmly inside it in a very public fashion. There is something to be said for politicians being on Twitter – I follow several who are actually very interesting and very human tweeters. I may not always agree with them but they mostly understand the concept of when to shut up – unlike Mr Burley, who is (for the time being, anyway) still somehow MP for the marginal constituency Cannock Chase after some really nasty comments.
… is a Soundsystem!
This basic but effective soundsystem belongs to friends of mine, and it has travelled many miles across London to entertain many parties and protests over the years – including several memorable May Days. You may have seen (or heard!) us out and about with it.
If you’re planning to get out on the streets this May Day – whether you’re partying with a soundsystem or not – make sure you know your rights. The Green & Black Cross website is a very good place to start – try here and here.
And if you’re London-based, read up on the insidious effects of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (PRASRA) on protest in some areas of the capital city. You can find the text of the relevant section of PRASRA here, and some background on the impact of this legislation here.
Whatever you’re doing this May Day, and wherever you’ll be, have fun, stay safe and make your voices heard…
Sadly, the Occupy LSX camp at St Paul’s Cathedral was evicted in the early hours of this morning, after almost four and a half months. I, for one, will miss its presence, as I firmly believe that powerful things can happen when people come together as a community to work together towards a common cause – and that the Occupy movement worldwide has already helped to open the eyes of many people as to what is going on in our governments, businesses and societies.
However, despite the end of this high-profile Occupy camp (and the eviction of the Occupy School of Ideas at the same time), the Occupiers have promised that this is only the beginning – and I hope it is. It certainly isn’t the end of Occupy London, as the site at Finsbury Square is – as far as I know – still in operation and intends to remain so. And that has to be a good thing…
Nine years ago today more than fifteen million people marched against the Iraq war in cities all over the world. Over a million of those were in London, despite the freezing cold – and I was one of them.
I’ve been on many huge demos since that day, but never one quite that big or quite that impassioned. Almost certainly the biggest demonstration in British history, it brought together people from all walks of life and from all over the UK – all of whom were demanding one thing: that Tony Blair’s government must not go to war against Iraq.
In an article published in The Observer the following day, Euan Ferguson described the remarkable turnout:
There were, of course, the usual suspects – CND, Socialist Workers’ Party, the anarchists. But even they looked shocked at the number of their fellow marchers: it is safe to say they had never experienced such a mass of humanity.
There were nuns. Toddlers. Women barristers. The Eton George Orwell Society. Archaeologists Against War. Walthamstow Catholic Church, the Swaffham Women’s Choir and Notts County Supporters Say Make Love Not War (And a Home Win against Bristol would be Nice). They won 2-0, by the way. One group of SWP stalwarts were joined, for the first march in any of their histories, by their mothers. There were country folk and lecturers, dentists and poulterers, a hairdresser from Cardiff and a poet from Cheltenham.
On Wednesday, alongside thousands of other sites across the internet, Another Kind Of Mind went dark in support of the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign. Despite the fact that said campaign still has some way to go, the blackout appears to have had quite an impact already. In advance of next Tuesday’s Senate vote, here are a few eye-opening stats about what has been called “the largest online protest in the history of the internet”:
10,000,000 – The total number of signatories to all anti-SOPA petitions
4,500,000 – The number of people who signed Google’s anti-SOPA petition alone
3,000,000+ – The approximate number of emails sent in support of the anti-SOPA campaign on Wednesday
2,583,000+ – The approximate number of tweets referring to SOPA/PIPA and the protest on Wednesday alone
511,111 – The number of people who ‘liked’ Mark Zuckerberg’s SOPA statement on Facebook (as of today)
115,000+ – The number of (recorded) sites taking part in the protest
45,000 – The number of WordPress sites involved in the protest (including Another Kind Of Mind!)