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.
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…
[Lansley is] gutless. He knows he is wrong, but he can’t face the people. If they just had the courage to do a U-turn, just say, ‘I’ve made a bloody big mistake here, we’ve bitten off more than we can chew.’ It is clear to everyone that is what they need to do, but they are not brave enough.
I am sticking up for people like my niece’s husband who has had a brain tumour. He has had fantastic treatment on the NHS which would have cost millions of pounds. His treatment has enabled him to keep on fighting so I will keep fighting for people like him.
What they are doing is immoral. The NHS should be there from cradle to grave and I’m not in my grave yet. The public have not had a say on any of this. It’s our money that pays for the NHS, we should have a referendum on it.
The other thing that gets me cross is this talk about choice. I don’t want choice, I want all hospitals to be as good as each other not to have to travel around the place. It’s about trust and I don’t trust them. The Tories don’t like the NHS and they never have…
He told me he wasn’t privatising the NHS. How dare he lie to me like that? It’s in black and white for anyone to see. It started years ago in 1979 under Thatcher. It really upsets me to be honest.
He wanted to go by and turned his back on me. It annoyed me, I was upset, how dare he turn his back on me, he tried to brush me off, like his government is brushing us all off.
I feel really sad for the people who will in the future have the misfortune to fall ill or be born with a disability.
June Hautot, you rock. This is the elderly lady who confronted Health Secretary Andrew Lansley over NHS reforms at Downing Street yesterday, rather excellently putting him in a publicly embarrassing position. Her words, quoted above, come from an interview she gave today to The Mirror, in which this feisty lady explains in no uncertain terms exactly why she had to take a stand against the government’s proposed healthcare policy.
You can read the full interview with Mrs Hautot here.
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 the evening of Thursday 17th November, thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters marched across the city to the Brooklyn Bridge. At the bridge, and to their delight, they saw that some very clever individuals were projecting this message, ‘bat-signal’ style, onto a nearby office block:
99% / MIC CHECK! / LOOK AROUND / YOU ARE A PART / OF A GLOBAL UPRISING / WE ARE A CRY / FROM THE HEART / OF THE WORLD / WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE / ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE / HAPPY BIRTHDAY / #OCCUPY MOVEMENT / OCCUPY WALL STREET / … / OCCUPY EARTH / WE ARE WINNING / IT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING / DO NOT BE AFRAID / LOVE.
The man who put all this together was 45-year-old Mark Read, who later told the website Boing Boing how much he has been inspired by the Occupy Movement:
I feel immense gratitude to these youngsters for kicking my ass into gear. I’m feeling so much gratitude to everyone, for putting their bodies on the line every day, for this movement. It’s a global uprising we’re part of. We have to win.
Since 1969, three thousand one hundred and eighty people have died in police, prison, psychiatric or immigration custody.
Think about that for a moment.
That’s three thousand one hundred and eighty people – all of whom were someone’s son or someone’s daughter – who died unnecessarily and often in deeply suspicious circumstances. Three thousand one hundred and eighty people who arbitrarily and tragically lost their right to live their lives, their right to a future, their right to spend time with their friends and families.
And very, very few of those families have ever had justice.
That is why the United Families and Friends Campaign remembers each and every one of these men and women, each and every year – and you can see some of my photographs from the 2011 march for justice above.
(Click on an image to enlarge it)