Thursday, 19 January 2017

Scenes from a Yellowface Execution: Daniel York on Howard Barker's In the Depths of Dead Love at the Print Room


Scenes From A Yellowface Execution
By Daniel York

First published at www.theplaysthethinguk.com 18th December 2016

Before we go any further, let me lay a couple of things out there:

1) Howard Barker is a first-rate dramatist.
2) The Print Room in Notting Hill is a great small-scale theatre.

But they have epically and catastrophically screwed up their casting choices in Barker’s latest offering, In The Depths Of Dead Love. According to the theatre’s website, the play is set in “Ancient China”, concerns an “Emperor” and “Imperial Court” and features characters called “Chin” and “Mrs. Hu”, with an entirely white cast who (without wishing to sound too ironically stereotypical) one would normally expect to see on TV taking tea with Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey.

It’s also doubly ironic that in post-referendum, post-truth Brexit Britain, we’ve spent the last few months being told that you simply cannot call people stupid or racist.

Well, here’s the deal. We don’t actually have to be stupid to do stupid things and we’re all perfectly capable of perpetuating systemic racism without actually being consciously racist. Yes, it’s a subtle one, folks, and interestingly, I can honestly say, hand on heart, I have never once heard the immortal words “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” said by any person of colour. Not one. Because people of colour are ten times as aware of racism as white people. It’s just a fact.

Now, what that hotbed of London fringe theatre that is the Print Room have done, in a play by one of Britain’s most eminent playwrights, is perpetuate the practice of “yellowface,” i.e. when a person who is not of East Asian descent plays a character of East Asian descent. Yellowface, like blackface and brownface, is a remnant of a time when actors of colour were simply not allowed on our stages.

There’s often confusion about a couple of things here. People like to kid themselves that blackface only ever happened in some bygone Edwardian hinterland and only then because there were no black actors around to play Othello. However, this isn’t actually true. The last blacked up Moor of Venice on our stages was as recently as 1990. The practice was only ended by protest from black actors.

Yellowface has lingered on a lot longer, unfortunately. We did however think we’d finally laid the culturally appropriated beast to rest (on British stages at least) in 2012 when, after the Royal Shakespeare Company elected to cast only three (out of a cast of 17) East Asian actors in minor roles (including a dog and a maid) in the Chinese classic, The Orphan Of Zhao, a mass social media protest that went viral globally caused considerable embarrassment to both the RSC and the British theatre industry as a whole.

Since then we have seen a whole slew of productions in major theatres: Chimerica, #AiWeiWei, The World Of Extreme Happiness, Yellowface, You For Me For You, P’yongyang, Shangrila, The Sugar-Coated Bullets Of The Bourgeoisie, all in major venues, achieving enormous success with casts of real-life East Asian actors, rather than Caucasians doing an “ethnic turn”. We will also shortly see Snow In Midsummer, at the RSC no less, and Chinglish at the Park Theatre. These are cast with actors who can actually trace their roots to Eastern Asia.

The other confusion that lingers about yellow (and black and brown) face is that if you don’t have the make-up on, the taped eyelids and the dodgy Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s accent, this somehow ceases to be dodgy theatre practice and magically becomes instead a perfectly valid form of “colour-blind casting”.

But this is the deal. If you take an East Asian character and cast it with a white actor, you’re effectively saying there is no East Asian actor who was good enough/clever enough/talented enough/capable enough to play it.

Or they simply did not exist.

In other words: erasure.

* * * * *

POSTSCRIPT: ‪Daniel York — 15th January 2017

I actually sat down and read In The Depths of Dead Love last night.‬

‪If anything I’m even more angry now.‬

‪The argument put forth by the Print Room is that, although the play is set in Ancient China and the characters have Chinese names, the characters are not “Chinese” and it’s a very “English story”.‬

‪Is this true? Well, there’s a lot of “deep bows” and talk of Emperors but reading the work leaves me wondering just exactly how “ethno-specific” a play would have to get before the people who nurtured, programmed and presented this one would consider that, yes, we might just have to cast some actors who aren’t actually Caucasian and middle-class.‬

‪The thing that really does disgust me, though, is the Print Room’s argument that they should have the right to cast “the best actors for the roles, independent of ethnic origin”.‬

‪Leaving aside that being “independent of ethnic origin” appears to be a privilege that only applies to white people, we have the Print Room citing Christopher Hurrell’s piece in defence that “the characteristics (Barker’s play) seeks in actors are not social, cultural or ethnic—they’re technical, aesthetic and artistic”‬

‪Let’s just pause there. Would it have to be written in pidgin English before the demands were relegated to “social, cultural or ethnic”?‬

‪And this is what is utterly despicable about the whole argument, had so many times in the past and, I hope, not too many in the future: the sheer racial and social snobbery embodied by organisations like the Print Room and the Wrestling School when they assert that they cast “the best actors for the role”. What they’re actually saying is “you little ethnics just aren’t up to the job”.‬

‪This would be bad enough but we’re now all pretty much certain that they never met or considered any actors of any other ethnic background other than white Caucasian for this play. This play which was produced on the radio in 2013. Which Christopher Hurrell maintains was given a reading at the Print Room in 2013. They’ve had FOUR YEARS to develop this. FOUR YEARS in which it does look as if they never once even considered casting actors who weren’t white Caucasian entirely because, I presume, they never once considered that actors who weren’t white Caucasian were up to the “technical, aesthetic and artistic” demands of the play.‬

‪The racial and social snobbery is compounded by the Print Room alleging that the protests have come from “some members of the public” when in fact it’s mainly members of the theatre community. When they argue that the references to China are merely “oblique”. When they give trite lectures about The Great Man being a “fabulist” whose work “is poetic and often difficult to pin down in time or place”.‬

‪Yes, we do understand all those things. Because we’ve actually read a few books too. We understand the arguments perfectly because, believe it or not, we’re “artists” as well. ‬

‪And, as artists, we politely but firmly reject this cultural ethnic elitist high-handedness.‬

Daniel York (sometimes known as Daniel York Loh) is a mixed-race British East Asian actor, writer, filmmaker and musician. As an actor he has appeared at the RSC, National Theatre and Royal Court, as well as in the feature films The Beach and Rogue Trader. His short films have been seen in major film festivals where they have been nominated for awards. His first full-length play, The Fu Manchu Complex, ran at Ovalhouse in 2013. Along with composer Craig Adams, he won the 2016 Perfect Pitch award to create an original stage musical, Sinking Water, based on events around the 2004 Morecambe Bay Chinese cockle-picker tragedy, which is currently being developed under commission by Theatre Royal Stratford East. He is one of 21 writers of colour featured in the collection of essays, The Good Immigrant, which won the 2016 Books Are My Bag Reader’s Choice award. He is one-third of the alt-folk trio Wondermare whose self-titled debut album is available to buy on itunes. He has served on the Equity Minority Ethnic Members Committee, is a founder member of British East Asian Artists and has worked with Act For Change to promote diversity in UK media.

Tonight's protest against the use of yellowface casting in Howard Barker's play, In the Depths of Dead Love, takes place at the Print Room, 5pm onwards.

READ MORE AT THESE LINKS:

PRINT ROOM STOP YELLOWFACE CAMPAIGN INTRO

Lucy Sheen: The 2017 play that shows Yellowface lives on
http://www.weareresonate.com/2016/12/feature-depths-dead-love-2017-play-shows-yellowface-lives-media/


Daniel York: Scenes From a Yellowface Execution

Playwright Jingan Young, South China Morning Post: London storm turns spotlight on ‘whitewashing’ in film and theatre

Dr Amanda Rogers: Yellowface alive and well at the Print Room

Actor Erin Quill 16.01.17: In the Depths of British Theatrical Racism @the_printroom

Actor David Lee Jones, Nee Hao magazine 19.12.16: Why is it not acceptable to cast white actors to play Chinese characters on stage or on screen?

Actor Vera Chok 14.01.16: More thoughts on the Print Room

Brian Law on Facebook 18.01.17: So I went to see the play tonight ...

Howard Sherman, The Stage: Yellowface is wrong and the Print Room's explanation is meaningless

Lyn Gardner, the Guardian: Theatre is coming to terms with its diversity problem. Real progress is vital

Wealth brings power, the power to open a theatre in London's Notting Hill, the power to define human beings as worthy or not of inclusion, of defining whether or not we are English. Rich white women in need of a hobby get to do that to us because they are married to hedge fund bankers whose nationality, like capital, knows no frontiers. These are our rulers in our post-truth new world.

Facebook: Protest Against Yellowface Casting at the Print Room

Director Andrew Keates: letter to the Print Room's artistic director

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out: There's going to be an anti-racism protest tomorrow over a fringe play in Notting Hill

The Stage 20.12.16: Equity adds voice to condemnation of Print Room ‘yellowface’ casting ... Equity general secretary Christine Payne also criticised the theatre's response of accusations against it, adding: "The Print Room’s statement is completely unacceptable on a number of levels, not least of which is the suggestion that an 'English' play must be completely white.”

What's On Stage 21.12.16: The Print Room apologises for 'any offence caused' in yellowface dispute (but only makes it worse)

The Stage 13.01.17: Print Room "artistic" director describes our protestations as a "social media attack" proving Mrs Hedge Fund couldn't give a flying one.

Grumpy Gay Critic 04.01.17: Yellowface and ‘In The Depths of Dead Love’. What Next? An Action Plan For Diverse Theatre Casting. The Print Room’s casting for In the Depths of Dead Love is a disgrace, and we’re certainly angry. But how can we move towards genuine change?

Evening Standard 19.01.17: Notting Hill theatre faces 'yellowface' protest for casting white actors in Chinese roles

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Hedge fund theatre in Howard Barker yellowface protest: The Print Room 5pm Thursday 19th January

East Asians, theatre practitioners, academics and friends protest against Yellowface casting in Howard Barker play, In the Depths of Dead Love, at the Print Room 19th January



This Thursday (19th January) sees a peaceful protest of Chinese, East Asians, theatre practitioners, academics and friends at the Print Room in London where Howard Barker's play, In the Depths of Dead Love, will be performed by white actors in yellowface casting.

Despite being set in "ancient China", all the Chinese-named characters are played by white actors, rendering us invisible, dehumanised and vulnerable at a time when anti-Chinese feeling is being whipped up by forces who want war with China. In a world rapidly lurching to the right. Barker does the work of the state in denying us our value as human beings.

If this looks familiar, it is. We went through this before when the Royal Shakespeare Company cast The Orphan of Zhao with East Asian actors in only four minor roles out of 17, and none in the main parts. The campaign gave birth to the British East Asian Artists who fought this battle and will continue to challenge all attempts to erase us from our own society and the arts we should all be enjoying fairly and equally on a level playing field.

Blackface has rightly been consigned to the depths of dead prejudice, but East Asians are considered defenceless fair game.

The Print Room, a hedge-fund-financed theatre in Notting Hill (Iraq War co-ordinating bank J P Morgan's Bill Winters is the artistic director's husband who helped fund the theatre), denied that the play was about China, spouting pseudo-intellectual drivel about it only being a metaphor, and that it's actually an English play about English people; the not-so-sub-text being that no-one who looks like me can possibly be English even if born and raised here, absorbing the culture from birth and participating from first word, first picture, first dance, first song.

This disingenuous self-justification has generated widespread mockery.
"No offence was intended and none should be taken ... In the Depths of Dead Love is not a Chinese play and the characters are not Chinese. The production references a setting in Ancient China and the characters’ names are Chinese. These are literary allusions in Howard Barker’s fable and never intended to be taken literally. The allusions are intended to signify “not here, not now, not in any actual real ‘where’ ” and the production, set, costumes and dialogue follow this cue of ‘no place’." From the Print Room's statement

So now I am a mere metaphor: an unreal person from an unreal place. Window dressing for an unutterably dull and pompous exercise in bourgeois angst. His characters lead such drab and tedious lives that perhaps the only way they have to render themselves interesting to themselves, each other  and the audience is to get togged up in chinoiserie drag. This would be the only acceptable explanation but somehow we doubt it. Instead, the paucity of Barker's imagination has him reaching into strangers' lives and ripping the guts out of us.

Like lungfish caught in a rock pool when the tide goes out, Barker, his theatre company The Wrestling School and the Print Room have been washed up in some 1950s version of how British society functions, who is in and who gets excluded. In its more than six years existence, we find that only eight out of 130 actors working at the Print Room have been Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME). And yet, curiously, they tick the diversity box when it comes to Arts Council funding for their projects. As Clarissa Widya of Papergang Theatre observes, "They are a charity supposed 'to advance the arts for public benefit'. What does that say? Only willing to commit to diversity if someone else can pay for it?"

Howard Barker, our 'greatest living playwright' (according to some), made his reputation as a leftist, so his capitulation to reactionary racist practice is even more shocking. Greater self-love hath no man than this: that he throws what are commonly perceived as the weakest minorities under a bus for his career. If he has any character left I hope that in the wee small hours when there's only him and his conscience, he will think hard and deep about perpetuating yellowface practice and let us know what he's come up with.

There has been a flurry of activity and writing from people who care about our culture and our world, who see the arts as more than privileged rich whites raiding the ethnic dressing-up box for a bit of entertainment. From Facebook and Twitter to blogs and academics and the press, it's not only East Asians who are horrified by this backwards step.

I'll be compiling a chronology of this battle which some are calling The Orphan of Zhao II: This Time It's Personal.

To paraphrase Barker himself, "Howard, I have such a withering knowledge of your soul, its pitiful dimensions. It is smaller than an aspirin that fizzles in a glass. . ."

In the meantime, here's the first of several excellent pieces I'll be posting here, which Mr Barker would do well to read and digest.

Actor and writer Lucy Sheen writes:

FEATURE: IN THE DEPTHS OF DEAD LOVE – THE 2017 PLAY THAT SHOWS ‘YELLOWFACE’ LIVES ON IN THE MEDIA
LUCY SHEEN 17 DECEMBER 2016


In January, London UK Theatre goers and culture lovers will have the opportunity to see a theatre production done using Yellowface. In other words, audiences will see a play which is set in China, about Chinese people, performed by a cast of white actors – In The Depths Of Dead Love.
Copied from the Print Room’s website announcing their first production for 2017:
IN THE DEPTHS OF DEAD LOVE
by Howard Barker
Print Room at the Coronet presents a rare opportunity to see the World Premiere of a new play by “England’s greatest living dramatist.” The Times
Set in ancient China, In the Depths of Dead Love tells of a poet exiled from the Imperial Court and the favour of the Emperor, who scrapes a living by renting his peculiar property – a bottomless well – to aspiring suicides. Among these is a married couple who exert an appalling influence over him.

A play set in Imperial China. By one of the most renowned British playwrights. Cause for celebration, or it should be until you take a look at the cast.
Jane Bertish – Mrs. Hu
William Chubb – Lord Ghang
James Clyde – Chin
Stella Gonet – Lady Hasi
Great cast, but from the character names, I may be going out on a limb here, and guessing that these are East Asian people and not Foreign devils. Not, one single British East Asian actor as been cast.

In other words, ladies and gentlemen of the 21st century, on a UK stage in 2017, audiences will be present with a production that will be performed using the hideous, insulting, disrespectful and yes, racist practice of Yellowface. At a time when we really need to be nurturing and respecting each other, amidst the continued protestations from the creative industry, on how they do really respect and understand that diversity is key and that the lack of BAMEs on stage is something that must be redressed. The Print Room will be giving us a production in Yellowface to kick off the new year.

To be clear Yellowface is not just about actors who decided to change their physical facial appearance to ‘look more East Asian’. Yellowface is about casting decisions, the propagation of racist East Asian stereotypes, caricatures and constant whitewashing of culture which leaves no place for East Asians to be involved with or participate in the telling or retelling of stories and history that directly relates to them. By casting white actors in East Asian roles it continues the underlying inference that East Asians are not “good enough” to be cast. That there are not enough East Asian actors and even if they were their proficiency and professional skill is not as great as that of their white counterparts. We all know (Or should do) that this is not true.

After The Orphan of Zhao casting debacle back in 2013, with media headlines of “East Asain actors seek RSC apology over Orphan of Zhao casting” one would have hoped, and I thought that we had moved on from this deplorable and unacceptable practice.

Sugar-Coated Bullets of The Bourgeoise by Anders Lustgarten with a cast of NINE East Asians, is positive proof that in this day and age there is absolutely no need for any Theatre company, any production to participate in the practice of Yellowface.

The recent theatrical productions of, The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, Chimerica, The World of Extreme Happiness, You for Me and P’YONGYANG you cannot in all good faith tell me that Britain only has a handful of British East Asian actors, because it is obvious it has more and the number is growing.

If it was a new play set in ancient Africa, about the Kush (Nubians) or at Al Kurru (Sudan) would we even be talking about the cast being white? Or a new work about Ashoka, would it even be under consideration, to cast the piece using only white actors? The answer is a resounding NO.

It is not about censorship, who can write what or who can perform what. But about how we, as modern human beings, who understand the nuances of being. Identity, race and acceptance, how important to all of us this concepts and constructs are. How powerful visual reference are. If we were operating on a completely level playing field then the colour of an actor would not matter one jot. We would be seeing non-specific casting across the board. No one would bat an eyelid if Queen Victoria was played by a South Asian and Albert by a Black actor.

But we are not there, far from it. It is perfectly acceptable for a white actor to portray characters that are white, non-white and ethnically specific, but if an actor of colour is cast to portray a role that is outside of their ethnic roots it causes, more often than not “negative debate.” Equality, hardly.

Yet when it comes to the East Asians, time and time again such cultural sensitivity and awareness is not just lacking, but completely absent.

The tragedy is the thinking that is involved surrounding works that are about other British ethnicities such as Black, African, Caribbean and South Asian; never, or seldom seems to be applied in any measure whatsoever, when it comes to works that involve East Asia or East Asian themes and characters. If as a society we can apply such thinking and progressive understanding to other British minorities, why can’t this equality of thought and action be extended to British East Asians?

Why?

Are British East Asians so invisible? Do we as human beings mean so little that we literally have no place, in British society, in its culture? We are expected to contribute to all other levels of society, yet we are denied access to participate culturally?

Our shared histories and sacrifices are of so little consequence because the colour of our skin and the shape of our eyes are different?

Do we mean so little that, the wider British society feels, we don’t even merit the same considerations that are afforded or fellow British Minority Ethnics?

That we are, somehow will be less offended by Yellowface than a Black person would be by Blackface? I have been told on more than one occasion that Yellowface is not the same as Blacking up or Blackface. Well, let me tell you as British East Asian, Yellowface is every bit as insulting, demeaning, disrespectful and racist.

Lucy Sheen: The 2017 play that shows Yellowface lives on
http://www.weareresonate.com/2016/12/feature-depths-dead-love-2017-play-shows-yellowface-lives-media/


Daniel York: Scenes from a Yellowface Execution

Playwright Jingan Young, South China Morning Post: London storm turns spotlight on ‘whitewashing’ in film and theatre

Dr Amanda Rogers: Yellowface alive and well at the Print Room

Actor Erin Quill 16.01.17: In the Depths of British Theatrical Racism @the_printroom

Actor David Lee Jones, Nee Hao magazine 19.12.16: Why is it not acceptable to cast white actors to play Chinese characters on stage or on screen?

Actor Vera Chok 14.01.16: More thoughts on the Print Room

Brian Law on Facebook 18.01.17: So I went to see the play tonight ...

Howard Sherman, The Stage: Yellowface is wrong and the Print Room's explanation is meaningless

Lyn Gardner, the Guardian: Theatre is coming to terms with its diversity problem. Real progress is vital

Wealth brings power, the power to open a theatre in London's Notting Hill, the power to define human beings as worthy or not of inclusion, of defining whether or not we are English. Rich white women in need of a hobby get to do that to us because they are married to hedge fund bankers whose nationality, like capital, knows no frontiers. These are our rulers in our post-truth new world.

Facebook: Protest Against Yellowface Casting at the Print Room

Director Andrew Keates: letter to the Print Room's artistic director

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out: There's going to be an anti-racism protest tomorrow over a fringe play in Notting Hill

The Stage 20.12.16: Equity adds voice to condemnation of Print Room ‘yellowface’ casting ... Equity general secretary Christine Payne also criticised the theatre's response of accusations against it, adding: "The Print Room’s statement is completely unacceptable on a number of levels, not least of which is the suggestion that an 'English' play must be completely white.”

What's On Stage 21.12.16: The Print Room apologises for 'any offence caused' in yellowface dispute (but only makes it worse)

The Stage 13.01.17: Print Room "artistic" director describes our protestations as a "social media attack" proving Mrs Hedge Fund couldn't give a flying one.

Grumpy Gay Critic 04.01.17: Yellowface and ‘In The Depths of Dead Love’. What Next? An Action Plan For Diverse Theatre Casting. The Print Room’s casting for In the Depths of Dead Love is a disgrace, and we’re certainly angry. But how can we move towards genuine change?

Cohan Chew 19.01.17: ‘YELLOWFACE’ PROTEST AGAINST THE PRINT ROOM FOR CASTING WHITE ACTORS IN CHINESE ROLES TO BE HELD TODAY

Evening Standard 19.01.17: Notting Hill theatre faces 'yellowface' protest for casting white actors in Chinese roles

Saturday, 10 December 2016

BBC Radio 4 Extra to repeat ST IVES AND ME Wed 21st Dec 6.30am, 1.30pm and 8.30pm: presented by Anna Chen

Spend the longest night of the year with me on BBC Radio 4 Extra when St Ives and Me is repeated on December 21st


ST IVES AND ME on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

I've just learnt from my lovely producers, Mukti Jain Campion and Chris Eldon Lee at Culture Wise, that my BBC R4 programme about the history of artists in St Ives, Cornwall, is on again.

BBC Radio 4 Extra is repeating St Ives and Me on Wednesday 21st Dec 6.30am, 1.30pm and 8.30pm. And there may even be one at 1.30 the next morning if you haven't had enough of me by then or have rolled in merry from Christmas season fun and frolix and are in need of entertainment.

Available after broadcast here.

The original broadcast in 2011 was Pick of the Day for the Radio Times, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Observer and the Independent.

St Ives, a Cornish seaside town 300 miles from comedian and poet Anna Chen's London home has been attracting artists for two centuries. A varied assortment of eccentrics, entrepreneurs and free spirits have turned the pilchard-fishing and tin-mining town into a popular cultural haven.

Anna has been holidaying there since she was ten and knew many of the famous artists who've populated and popularised St Ives.

In the late 1970s the bohemian fashion journalist and novelist Molly Parkin was a regular on the St. Ives scene and she recalls how, in the dark recesses of Mr Peggotty's disco, she introduced Anna to artist Patrick Heron. In his Porthmeor studio by the Atlantic, Heron used to make Anna mugs of tea while he painted and sketched her and their conversations opened her eyes to the arts. Revisiting those studios, she meets two present day painters maintaining the St Ives' tradition.

On a personal tour of the town, she returns to Barbara Hepworth's sculpture garden, hears about the unique light conditions that attract so many artists and reveals the vital roles Napoleon, Von Ribbentrop and the 1960s hippies played in promoting and preserving St Ives.

At lunchtime, in Norway Square, Anna performs her comic poetry in the St Ives Festival, which has been attracting trendsetters for thirty years.

And she waits on the beach, with bated breath, for the legendary 33rd wave.

Producer: Chris Eldon Lee
A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.

I may even be reading a bit of poetry. Here are a few photos from St Ives September 2011. For more pix, go here.

At Tate St Ives for Martin Creed's balloon installation



Jan Jefferies and Anna



Denise and Steve Ingamells at Tate St Ives

Jan Jefferies and Charles Shaar Murray at Tate St Ives

Producer Chris Eldon-Lee interviews Valerie Hurry in the Tate St Ives Rotunda


Chris recording in Fore Street, St Ives


Chris reads at a St Ives festival session in Norway Square.
Also present, artists Bob Devereux, Keir Williamson
and the late, much missed Colin Birchall

Bob Devereux hosts the St Ives Festival lunchtime sessions in Norway Square.
With Marc Jefferies and Charles Shaar Murray




Lol in Norway Square


Rod Bullimore, Norway Square, St Ives

Buffalo Bill Smith and Colin Birchall at the Frug in the St Ives Arts Club


With Clare Wardman in the studio she shares with Iain Robertson

Clare and Iain's view over the beach from Porthmeor Studios

Charles Shaar Murray in The Hub

Anna and Jan in Barbara Hepworth's conservatory

Anna and Jan on the Island below St Nicholas Chapel

Charles Shaar Murray and Chris Eldon Lee in The Mermaid




Jan, Anna and Denise in The Mermaid
Sunset over Porthmeor Beach and the Clodgy
INTERVIEWEES:

Molly Parkin
Bob Devereux
Valerie Hurry
Steve Dove
Tony Carver
Jo McIntosh
Denise Ingamells
Annie Jackson
Iain Robertson
Clare Wardman

MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE
Charles Shaar Murray and Buffalo Bill Smith — Walking Blues by Robert Johnson
Charles Shaar Murray — Dylan in '66
Bob Devereux — Queen of the Gypsies; Oak
Lol accompanying Bob Devereux
Rod Bullimore — Last Orders; Sewage Against Surfers
Anna Chen — Ode to a Detox on Leaving St Ives; Kicking a Dinosaur

Anna's poetry collection, Reaching For My Gnu is available here

More information on Anna's radio programmes here

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Jeremy Corbyn's Momentum betrays the 70% of Labour voters who voted Remain


Jeremy Corbyn's Momentum group repackages betrayal as a nationwide campaign to 'Take Back Control' of Brexit and push it through despite only 37 per cent of the electorate voting Leave.


Around 70 per cent of Labour voters chose Remain in the EU referendum but Remainers are unrepresented by the main parties. Instead of robustly challenging the Brexit narrative and the referendum result which was always advisory only, Labour plans to help the Conservatives slip it through with a few tweaks if we're lucky.

Far from saving £350 million per week to give to the NHS, the politically neutral Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that Brexit will cost an EXTRA £250 million per week or a weekly total of £600 million, and forecasts a £220 billion increase in national debt by end of parliament to a shocking £1.945 trillion. If this happens, you can forget state pensions, saving the NHS or having anything like a stable economy.

If it hadn't been for Bank of England chief Mark Carney pumping another £60 billion pounds into the economy by buying up gilts (government debt) after the EU vote, extending the existing quantitative easing (QE) programme to £435bn and keeping the stock markets artificially inflated, it would have been even worse.

How many of us knew that we were voting to make ourselves poorer?

Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement on Wednesday confirmed that there's already a £100bn hole in the treasury, £58bn of which is a direct result of the Brexit vote.


So the worst off who suffered most under Bullingdon brat George Osborne's "austerity" measures when he should have been spending to stimulate the economy at rock bottom interest rates have even more to lose in the years ahead. Will the richest who tripled their wealth during the same period take their turn to recapitalise the banks? I wouldn't bet on that.

EU immigrants may be a net gain to the public purse but they are anathemised with barely a whisper from Labour. If their numbers fall, public finances will take an even bigger hit. Theresa May knows this. Jeremy Corbyn et al know this. The economy is reeling, the pound plummeting way below the level necessary to be advantageous to our exports. Britain's population is getting older and needs immigrants to do the work but Labour still panders to the right's obsession.

In response to a catastrophic future, Corbyn's Momentum leaders squeal breathlessly about a series of events (modelled on Corbyn clique kingmaker John Rees's SWP-era Marxism summer schools) whose objective appears to be to bamboozle their audiences that Brexit is an inevitability and the result of an "overwhelming majority". Only a quarter of the population voted for this permanent wrench and yet only the terms of Brexit are to be debated, not the legitimacy of it happening at all.

Momentum's Emma Rees gushed:
“After the success of The World Transformed in Liverpool, ‘Take Back Control’ is a series of exciting events that will bring together leave and remain voters to debate the terms of Brexit, the future of Britain and give a platform to voices too often left out of political conversations.”

Momentum's "exciting" sounds more like the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".

It's like asking how you would like the poo in your dinner. Hard or soft? The answer, "I'd rather not have any, thank you," is not up for grabs at all.


LATEST: GUARDIAN: State pension under threat as pension age may be about to rise again, says former minister. Not what most people would describe as "exciting" prospects.

INDEPENDENT: John McDonnell: Labour will not block hard Brexit – but will rely on 'moral pressure.'

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES: Hard Brexit could lead to '25 years of economic pain' for UK.

SUNDAY TIMES: Why Brexit means a bigger debt burden for Britain

Andrew Coates thinks the Momentum membership might not have been consulted.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Trump's protectionism could be midwife to prosperous Asian region — if he doesn't nuke it first

London, New York and Shanghai — more alike than different 

New Beijing-backed RCEP trade treaty offers hope to emerging markets in Asia


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has just had a grovelling meeting with President-Elect Donald Trump. My guess is that Abe offered Trump unconditional support in the South China Sea and Pacific. (There are moves to allow Japan to have an army and nuclear weapons which, considering the history of Nanjing and concerns about rising Japanese fascism, is alarming.)

As Europe implodes and the US goes into protectionist lock-down, the strongest potential area of growth is the Asian region (including Australasia) due to powerful demographics. Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts Asia to drive nearly two-thirds of global growth over 4 years. But that was BT (before Trump).


President Barak Obama saw China as an economic rival and tried to strangle it by creating the Tran-Pacific Parternership (TPP) consisting of 12 South American and Pacific nations and the US but EXCLUDING China in its own backyard. Poking the sleeping dragon with a sharp stick, Obama also transferred military from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim and the South China Sea.

Whether you like it or not, China saw what was coming down the pike and asserted its presence by building those islands.

Trump is throwing out TPP but his protectionist policies as trumpeted have already hit emerging markets just as they they were about to bloom (and boom!). EM stocks are falling off a cliff. Peaceful prosperity for nations such as Vietnam, which has suffered horribly, has been snatched away at the very moment of its flowering in 2016. Its markets are sharply down since the US election and bouncing around like an ECG chart.

It's the same for all of the EM. The stable economic conditions that would have seen the growth and expansion of a new middle-class as great slices of the population were raised out of poverty – and probably would have brought with it more stable, democratic governments – have been torpedoed.

It's little wonder that China proposes a new trade deal that Australia is supporting in a significant pivot away from the US.

Reuters reports Xinhua News Agency as saying:
China's Xi is selling an alternate vision for regional trade by promoting the Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which as it stands excludes the Americas.

Chinese state media has warned Trump against isolationism and interventionism, calling instead for the United States to actively work with China to maintain the international status quo.

"The billionaire-turned-politician needs to prove that derailing the global economy has not been one of the reasons why he ran for U.S. president," Xinhua said.

So a region that was set to be a new area of hope in the world, now that western leaders have screwed our economics, our politics and our principles, could very well find itself a war zone if the new administration follows through. War is, after all, only economics by other means and investments in defence stocks are on the up. I wonder if one of the things Obama is drilling into Trump in his presidential tuition sessions is continuing US ambition in the very, very wealthy Asia.

If the US doesn't engineer a war, then Trump's protectionism is the very mechanism that could give China and the region the chance to break out as world economic leaders while the US self-destructs and developed Europe splinters — under hard conditions in the short term but clear winners in the long.

Of course, the alternative would be a world revolution in favour of all humanity but how likely do you think that is given the current circumstances?

My dream is that the Asian region will enjoy the springtime that the West had after World War II, complete with its own equivalent of the 1960s (ours, not theirs when the Allies bombed the hell out of Indo-China). And that they won't make the same mistakes.

My dread is that the West will spend those decades choking on our own fossil-fuel pollution under the draconian rule of the Trump era and jealously stamp out all sparks of life elsewhere.

I am my brothers' keeper and I am my sisters' keeper. Love is the glue that holds us together. Without that we are nothing.

EDIT: More information.

THE DIPLOMAT: Should America Fear China’s Alternative to the TPP? "RCEP is unlikely to include any provisions on issues such as labor, food safety, and the environment, or on sensitive political areas like government procurement. ... the U.S. should practice more restraint in framing the TPP as a counterweight to the Chinese-led RCEP. ... Finally, the U.S. should pressure its TPP partners which are also negotiating the RCEP (there are seven: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Brunei) to press for standards and regulations in the RCEP that can be consolidated with the TPP."

CNBC: A likely beneficiary of Trump’s tough talk on trade: China

CHINA DAILY: Both the US and China deserve better than TPP

THE TELEGRAPH: China will struggle to fill vacuum in Asian trade after US's ill-judged exit


Monday, 7 November 2016

Zombie Punks vs Scary Clowns in the New World Order after Clinton or Trump wins POTUS election


With only one day to go before the US votes for its next president, one question remains: who is the least worst?


Think about this. Trump, Putin and now, it appears, China, are contemplating a period summed up in the famous term of the early 20th Century economist Joseph Schumpeter as ‘creative destruction’.

Tom Phillips writing in the Guardian:
... “It was Mao Zedong who said: ‘Without destruction there can be no construction’. And, if I interpret him correctly, Donald Trump is the suicide bomber of American politics,” said Orville Schell, the head of the Centre on US-China Relations at New York’s Asia Society.

... Trump’s statements questioning US support for its Nato allies and defence treaty with Japan meant he would be “an absolute gift” to Beijing as it strove for superpower status.

“Trump - even though he is ‘anti-China, anti-China, anti-China’ - has always talked about deals. That’s his shtick… [and] the Chinese would be only too happy to do a deal with Trump if that was on the cards.”

Recession is coming to the UK thanks to inflation of at least 4 per cent headed our way. (Mark Carney is staying on at the BOE until 2019 'cause he knows the chickens will be coming home to roost by 2018.) Employers won't match inflation, wages will freeze or effectively fall, our spending will drop and companies will go bust. And there's that great big global debt bubble that has to eventually go "pop" ...

But for capitalists who can hang on through the slump, there are fortunes to be made as Britain then "recovers" and stocks bought at fire sale prices rise. Same for the US where markets are at the end of a bull run that has been fuelled by easy money injected into the system by the central banks. Only the fittest survive in Trumpworld, everyone else is going to find it very hard.

War and slumps reset the bankrupt old system and I have to admit I'd rather take my chances in a slump than in a war, especially with Russian nuclear bombs that can take out an area the size of Texas and trigger-happy Amurkins missing their targets.

Even if Clinton wins, the chances of military conflict are high(er) and the inevitable correction in the markets will happen but it might take longer to get to the end of this round of pass the parcel with a live grenade.

'Fonly we had a strong, humane, effective, intelligent left to lead us through this.

In the meantime, everyone with an outside area should have a water butt and learn to grow food. And organise locally. If we all pull together on the basis of need not greed we can raise our collective consciousness in the struggle as well as survive.

And take comfort that those of us who possessed little in the last slump in the 1970s barely noticed it except for bin bags piled high in the streets and corpses left unburied. At least we got punk out of it. Expect Zombie Punks versus Scary Clowns in the next phase of the science fiction writer's coma dream where we are all trapped.

EDIT: Monday 2pm. I think they are both awful in their own ways but I reckon it's a Clinton win and so does the Independent.
INCOMING: Oh, good god. All bow to our Orange Overlord.

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