Tuesday, December 20, 2016

More missives from me will be coming soon after the festive period, but for now I thought I should mention that following on from the post below about the launch party for A Hackney Autobiography: Remembering Centerprise at the Hackney Museum with On The Record, there is a temporary exhibition at the Museum that leads on from the launch party and contains plenty of the work that myself and On The Record have been involved with for the last two years (again, see the post below and this post on the project).

The exhibition is entitled People Power: Black British Arts & Activism in Hackney 1960s-2000s, and contains much of the work that Centerprise was involved with, along with related accounts of life in the borough between these periods. Entrance is free and the exhibition runs until the 21st January 2017. General details of the Museum’s address and opening hours can be viewed here.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from GoodnightLondon to all.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

I mentioned a while ago in a previous blog post that I have been involved in a project looking into the history of Centerprise. Centerprise was a cafe, bookshop, youth arts space, publishing project, and housing advice service (the last of which my father was involved with).

The project has taken place over the last two years or so, with people volunteering in their spare time. A huge amount of material has been drawn from Bishopsgate Institute's vast archive among other source (covered in my previous blog post linked to above). This work archiving, mapping, interviewing, scanning and digitally converting will culminate in a launch party on Saturday 26th November, from 11:00-16:00, at the Hackney Museum, Ground Floor, Learning & Technology Centre,1 Reading Lane, Hackney, E8 1GQ [map], where a website, book and mobile phone app will be launched.

Entrance is free but people interested need to register first at this Eventbrite page. There are still some tickets left. If the tickets sell out, it may still be possible to turn up.

The order of the day will be:

- 11am – 11.30 Welcome to the day, including words from Margaret Gosley (co-founder) on how Centerprise began.

- 11.30-12.00 Tours of the People Power exhibition by curator, Niti Acharya

- 11:45 – 12:45 Panel Discussion 1 -  Centerprise and education, past and present

- 12:45 pm- 13:45 Light lunch available in learning room

Tours of the People Power exhibition by curator, Niti Acharya

- 13:45 – 14:45 Panel Discussion 2 – The legacy of Centerprise

- 14:45 – 15:30 Open mic: performances and readings from Centerprise and beyond

- 15.30 - 16.00 Plenary discussion: have the final word on A Hackney Autobiography

There will also be coffee and snacks available.

Details of the app, website and book will be put up here subsequently.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Apologies for the short notice, but I will be both promoting and playing live at this...I'm on at 8:15pm under the name Dream Maps. My album can be listened to here on Bandcamp.
Tickets are £6 at WeGotTickets. It's going to be a hell of a night!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The EU Referendum (Part 3)

It’s been nearly two months since the EU Referendum, and I’m still trying to get my head around what has happened. Fifty-two percent of the voting public chose to vote to leave the EU again forty-eight who voted (like me) to remain. As a result, we have been left with an extraordinary and difficult situation, with a nation divided like never before. 

The first thing to note is that what was supposed to happen in the event of a leave vote was that the day after the referendum, David Cameron was supposed to formally trigger Article 50 – the EU legislation that formally confirms a member-state leaving the EU. What was supposed to happen subsequently is that said country then would have two years to subsequently complete the exit – a ‘Brexit’, in Britain’s case (the country could spend longer than two years, depending on a vote from other EU countries). What happened, of course, is that Cameron could not bring himself to trigger Article 50, instead passing on the poisoned chalice to his successors in a cynical move designed deliberately to get one over his rival Boris Jonson. In the chaos that followed, Johnson and Michael Gove could not bring themselves to trigger Article 50 either, despite being the main cheerleaders for the Leave campaign. To put it bluntly, none of them had the balls to actually go ahead and do it.
We now know that the baton for triggering Article 50 has been passed to Theresa May, the new Prime Minister. She, too, cannot bring herself to trigger Article 50, on the grounds that she has to wait first for ‘trade deals to be formalised’. The problem is that trade deals can take years and years, during which there is never likely to be a ‘perfect’ time to trigger Article 50. By refusing to actually go ahead and trigger it, the UK has been placed in a dreadful limbo status, affecting areas such as science research, which rely on cross-EU collaboration and funding, irrevocably. In turn, UK science graduates will now find out that their chances of work will be cut off considerably – despite Philip Hammond’s assurances to the contrary. This limbo state is massively irresponsible for the UK economy, and a perfect illustration of why the referendum should never have taken place in the first place.  

If Article 50 does ever get triggered, the UK would essentially face two options. The first option facing the UK post-referendum would be to join the Single Market as a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the regional free trade area that comprises non-EU member states Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The UK left EFTA in 1973 in order to join the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner to the EU. Post-referendum, however, there is an argument for it to rejoin EFTA. What unite the four EFTA countries with most EU member-states are two things:

- they are all part of the Schengen Area, guaranteeing freedom of movement – with the exception of the UK (which is still an EU member state for now) and the Republic of Ireland, which share their own Common Travel Area (CTA); and the exception of Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus, who have a legal obligation to eventually join Schengen;

- they are all part of the European Economic Area (EEA) – in essence, the Single Market - with the exception of Switzerland; the EEA also includes all EU member-states (except Croatia, the newest EU member-state, which is a provisional EEA member).

Joining the Single Market would require the UK to accept freedom of movement – one of the four pillars of the Single Market – and join the Schengen zone, something which the UK has never done, having previously gained an opt-out, as mentioned above, along with Ireland. It would mean, too, that many of the xenophobic promises that the Leave campaign paraded – that EU immigration to the UK would be cut dramatically – and which Leave voters chose to believe, would be dashed.  In addition, Norway could veto the UK’s return to membership of EFTA, fearing its loss of influence in the organisation with such a large member joining among small nations (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein between them in total have a population of 13 million compared to the UK’s 65 million). Theoretically, the UK could be a member of EFTA but not the EEA, which is the position that Switzerland, a former signatory to the EEA, who then left, is in; but this would be hugely complicated, and would mean that the UK would still not be part of the Single Market via the EEA.

The second option for the UK is to not sign up to either EFTA or be part of the EEA. This would mean that the UK really would be on its own in Europe. If this happened, the UK would have to revert to WTO rules regarding trading, which could be a hugely bumpy grounding. Free trade agreements (FTA) are hugely complicated, drawn-out procedures; to give one example, the EU-South Korea FTA takes up a mammoth 1432 pages. Similarly, the controversial EU-Canada CETA deal has taken at least seven years and is still subject to negotiations. What would happen to the interim is a moot question: the UK would essentially be starting from the beginning again, in contrast to Canada, who could rely on NAFTA (their FTA with the USA and Mexico) financially while CETA was being negotiated.

Problem is, since Thatcher’s reign, the UK economy has shifted from one based on manufacturing to a services industry – particularly financial, with the country’s economy bound up with the deregulated City. The UK’s economy has become inexorably tied-up with deregulated finance and a housing bubble, rather than keeping a strong manufacturing base, as in Germany. If the UK leaves the single market, which it would do so if it formally left not just the EU but also the EEA, and didn’t join EFTA, the lack of access to the Single Market would hit the City, with many financial firms choosing to relocate to Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt – all cities within EU member-states. The UK could respond to this by becoming essentially a version of Switzerland or Singapore, becoming a nation-wide tax haven, but is really what we want? The bottom line is that, unlike Norway, or Commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia, the UK does not have vast amounts of natural resources to exploit any more, having squandered the proceeds from North Sea oil on tax breaks for the rich. For this reason, membership of the Single Market is paramount for the UK’s economic future whether we like it or not. 

The reality is that the EU holds the cards here. It exports much more to the UK than the UK exports to the EU, and as a bloc of 27 nations has vastly more clout than the UK on its own. The UK has to accept that remaining in the EU is always going to be the best option for our economy.

The response to Leave voters to this is that Brexit is all about ‘sovereignty’. What they are missing is that in the twenty-first century, most countries are too bound up in international treaties to fully be called ‘sovereign’. Even if the UK leaves the EU, it will still be bound up in supranational treaties from NATO, the UK, the IMF, the WTO, and a host of others – all of which make some rules for which the UK government has to obey in order to thrive in the modern world. The alternative is to be North Korea.

Instead, while we were part of the EU – and which are still a member of, for now – we had an extraordinarily good deal, with opt-outs on the rebate, the Euro, and the Schengen zone (which I've spoke about already). This has meant that the UK has essentially afforded a special status. Yet that has still not been enough for the Daily Mail, The Express and The Sun, who have spent the last forty years promoting a clich├ęd, anti-European agenda (spearheaded by Boris Johnson, among others), all in the name of ‘sovereignty’, which the UK never lost, and a sense of superiority. This anachronistic viewpoint has missed the endless benefits that the EU has provided, from pumping money into deprived areas (some of which then voted Leave, paradoxically), to regulation on clean beaches, to the opportunity for British citizens to live and work in twenty-eight member-states – the latter of which may never be known by future generations of Brits.  Instead, we can look forward to insular Britain, which could be even smaller in Scotland leaves – not to mention Brexit complicating the peace process with Ireland, the UK’s one land border, a process that could even theoretically lead to Northern Ireland rejoining the Republic (except for Ulster). The irony is that this break-up could be triggered by the same Leave voters who wave the Union Jack, a symbol of a Union which could be no more because of Brexit.

Instead, the only answer is to abandon Brexit, and look to Europe, the continent that we are geographically tied to despite being an island. The UK’s future is in Europe, and as such, the triggering of Article 50 should be rightly recognised as madness.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The EU Referendum (Part 2)

It feels strange knowing that in just a few days, I could end up losing my EU citizenship. It’s something that’s difficult to really conceive of, yet it could be reality by Friday. 

Of course, in the event of a Brexit vote, it’s unlikely that we would “lose” our EU citizenship straight away as the result of the referendum is announced. Things don’t really work like that. Instead, we would have a torturous two years of negotiations or so before we finally have EU citizenship rescinded. UK passports would be replaced with new ones, sans the wording ‘European Union’ (which would cost huge amounts of money in itself), and the bit inside the passport where it says ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland passport’ in all the EU’s official languages (there’s a lot of them).

The UK and the EU would then go to loggerheads as to how the UK would be able to access the Single Market. The EU would almost certainly demand in return that the UK join the Schengen area, guaranteeing freedom of movement across most of the continent, which – as I’ve pointed out previously – includes non-EU countries Iceland, Norway, and (for now) Switzerland (the latter of whom are at continual loggerheads with the EU over immigration). The UK would be unwilling to join the Schengen zone, fearing a backlash from its own population, and particularly from Leave voters, many of whom (but not all) voted for a Brexit precisely to put a cap on immigration numbers – or simply to stop immigration to the UK altogether. 

In this scenario, it’s not unrealistic to see the UK completely isolating itself from the rest of Europe, and in so doing, cutting itself off from its main export market. The result would almost certainly be recession, at least in the short-term. Leave supporters like to point out that the EU and Europe are too different things, and that people conflate an alliance of nations with a continent. Yet we really would be isolating ourselves from Europe here.
Then there would be the thorny question of what would happen to the many citizens from other EU countries resident in the UK, who have not took British citizenship, and for those UK citizens living in other EU nations. Would EU citizens be allowed to stay if they have been here for a specified number of years? Would they need ‘points’ according to their job history? And would the EU nations respond in kind to UK residents living in their country if the UK decided to 'expel' EU citizens?

Leave don’t have any idea about these questions. Much of the answers to the above would have to be negotiated. No-one knows what the outcomes would be. That’s the problem with Brexit. I don’t know. You don’t know. No-one knows. It’s a huge step in the dark. Vote for that if you have no worries about the future and have made your millions. But for those, like me, with not much money and a desire for a stable jobs market in which to proceed, it is not worth the risk. The EU may not be perfect, but Brexit would be no friend to the working-class, struggling to improve their lives. Instead, Brexit would usher in a bonfire of working time regulations, along with privatisation of the NHS - ironically, one of the subjects that the Leave campaign have claimed would be in peril if we stay in the EU. They're wrong.

Vote Remain, in other words. In terms of stability and prosperity, you know it makes sense.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The EU Referendum (Part 1)

There’s about three weeks to go until a referendum in the UK on whether the country wants to stay in the European Union. I’ve been meaning to write a post about it for a while, but have been on holiday (in mainland Europe, fittingly) and preoccupied with other issues up until now. I’ve already written a blog post in the past on why I think we should stay in the EU, and I still believe that now, in light of the referendum.

The charge that Eurosceptics lay at the EU’s feet is that is overly bureaucratic and unaccountable. While this is not entirely untrue – for example, the unnecessarily costly expense of moving regularly from Brussels to Strasbourg - it’s worth pointing out that many problems with democracy also plague the UK political system. The House of Lords (HoL), the upper chamber of Parliament, remains unaccountable, with around 790 sitting lords. This includes twenty-six bishops and 92 hereditary peers, the latter of whom have inherited their position from the family line (hereditary peerage once extended to everyone in the HoL, but was curtailed under the House of Lords Act 1999). The vast majority of those peers are men; incredibly, in this day and age, the vast majority of these peerages can only be inherited by men (there are women in the HoL, but they are outnumbered by men). The remaining members of the HoL are life peers, who are also not elected by the public, but rather are appointed. 

Along with the anachronistic First-Past-The-Post voting system (FPTP) still operating in general elections, but not in devolved Scotland, this makes me a lot annoyed than the machinations of the EU referendum. The reply from those whom advocate the UK leaving the EU is that the House of Lords cannot be compared to the EU due to the fact that the HoL does not make laws, but rather only scrutinises them. The purpose of the HoLs in general is to analyse bills. To which the response should be that there should be no problem in changing the layout of the HoL, then. Yet the prospect of having a referendum on this is never seriously entertained.

Leaving the UK could result in the disintegration of the UK. If a Brexit occurs, pro-EU forces in Scotland could find their demand for another referendum on Scotland remaining in the UK taking on a new momentum. It’s not too far-fetched to suggest that one of the reasons (along with the uncertainty of the currency question in the event of independence) that Scotland voted to stay in the UK in the referendum in 2014 was because of the fear of an independent Scotland being ‘outside’ the EU – i.e., a non-member state - and having to reapply as a new member. If Brexit happened, and Scotland subsequently declared independence before then joining the EU as a new member-state, the result could be a physical land border between Scotland and the rest of the UK via the border between Scotland and England. It would also mean a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, sealing off two communities who currently share a Common Travel Area.

The EU, while far from perfect, has attempted to stop EU members from trading with the appalling Saudi regime, and has attempted to cap bankers’ bonuses following the financial crash. Both have been resisted by the UK, and it’s difficult to see how a UK outside the EU would be any different in its dealings.

EU legislation has led to cleaner beaches, cleaner air (though it may not feel like it in London), tangible workers rights, and a whole host of positive environment policies, including restrictions on landfill dumping. It has funded projects the length and breadth of the UK via grants, improving infrastructure and pouring money into neglected areas.

Eurosceptics have often cited, and continue to cite, the likes of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland  - three European countries not in the EU - as examples to follow. These economies are all prosperous, and have some of the best standards of living in the world, but they are not necessarily examples to the UK due to their differences in many ways. All have small populations. All are high-tax economies (hence the high cost of things when visiting those countries). However, on top of their high taxes funding the state, Norway also manages a huge sovereign oil wealth fund, one that has been carefully built up over the years, in contrast to the UK, which has frittered away all the profits from its own oil in the North Sea on tax breaks for the rich. Switzerland, with a population of around 8 million, has an economy mostly based around slightly murky banking laws. Iceland, meanwhile, has a tiny population and an economy orientated towards fishing and geothermal energy.

All are worth admiring in their own way. But they remain different to the UK. Furthermore, in order to access the Single Market, they have to remain members of the Schengen Area, despite not being members of the EU. This would not be a model for the UK post-Brexit, with Eurosceptics making clear that they are opposed to freedom of movement from Europe, and of the UK joining the Schengen Area.

Instead, a post-Brexit UK would find itself isolated in negotiations with the EU. These negotiations would be intense and torturous, unravelling 80,000 pages of EU agreements and decades of legislation. Both sides would be fighting their own corner, with the EU in a tense state, having seen a large member vote to leave, while at the same time concerned that a Brexit might encourage pour les autres in the remaining EU to have their own referendums. There is no guarantee that it would be willing to give any ground in striking a deal with the UK. In contrast, the UK currently has the best of both worlds inside the EU: it has managed to remain inside the Single Market while at the same time gaining opt-outs on joining the Euro, the Schengen Area, and the rebate. The latter opt-out is seldom mentioned by Eurosceptics, when mentioning how much money the UK ‘puts in’ to the EU, while failing to account for how much ‘comes back’ to the UK.

Eurosceptics also mention that a vote to Remain is somehow a ‘vote for neo-liberalism’, ‘for the Tories’, or for ‘big business’. These arguments belie the fact that many on the Brexit side are just as likely to favour big corporations, cutting red tape, and the rolling back of employment rights. Two members want the death penalty returned to the UK. It is not hyperbolic to suggest that, outside the EU, they would be perfectly placed to try and enact such regressive laws if they thought they had license to. Boris Johnson has been assiduous in helping foreign money pile into property in London, in turn pricing out local communities, while cynically joining the Brexit campaign as part of a scheming bid to become the next Prime Minister. He remains a Tory at heart, of course, just as the Conservatives are divided over the referendum; hence the spectacle of the party falling apart before our own eyes at the moment. Therefore, in no way can it be said that voting to Remain is somehow giving a ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘tactical approval’ to the Conservatives. Instead, you could argue that voting Remain allies the voter with the other main parties – Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and the SNP in Scotland – who all back the UK staying in the EU.

Then there is the claim that voting to remain in the EU is ‘a vote for TTIP’ or for Turkey becoming an EU member state. The former, which for those who don’t know stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, remains a difficult trade agreement to summarise; one way of summing it up is that it would be negative for local businesses in Europe. What’s important is that it has been contested all over Europe, with demonstrations having taken place against it all over Germany. Such is the ill-feeling towards TTIP throughout populations in the EU that it would be extremely difficult for it to take effect in EU legislation without protest at large. EU officials would be wary of seeing yet more antagonisms on the streets of EU nations after already explosive demonstrations by the public in austerity-strapped Southern European nations. A watered-down version of TTIP could appear, but it would still be contested. Meanwhile, the latter point has been one seized on by the Leave campaigners, ignoring the fact that the prospect of Turkey joining the EU remains far into the future, if at all. There are thousands of pages of legislation that would have to be negotiated, and which Turkey would have to accede to, before Turkey makes any steps towards joining, in a process that would lead beyond 2020, and which would have to be ratified by all member states. That includes Greece and Cyprus, both member states, who are likely to veto Turkey’s EU membership over their continual dispute with the country over divided Cyprus. It’s likely too that many EU countries would be concerned at the EU’s borders extending to the borders of Iraq and Syria, and could also weld a veto accordingly.

There are some good reasons to consider Brexit. The impact of EU common fisheries policy on communities, for example (a key reason why Iceland has chosen not to join). Old left-wing leaders such as Tony Benn feared the EU for its facelessness, just as he disliked the unelected upper chamber of Parliament. But in my view these are still outnumbered by remaining what is still the largest trading federation in the world, even despite the Eurozone crisis in southern Europe  – one that has (mostly) managed to unite a Europe that was once split by the iron curtain. By pooling sovereignty as a result of being a member of the EU, the UK has not lost the majority of its independence; indeed, the UK has it better than many other EU nations via the opt-outs mentioned above. It is thus in a unique position – and one that would be a tragedy to discard.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Apologies for lack of posts lately; more will be coming soon. In the meantime, here are some details on two concerts that I am promoting in conjunction with Pennyblackmusic.

Both are at The Sebright Arms in east London (it is definitely Sebright rather than Seabright - I checked; furthermore, Googling the name appears to bring up this). The Sebright Arm's address is 31-35 Coate Street, London, E2 9AG (map). GoodnightLondon will be at both.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Cult 60s legend headlines, responsible for the great 'lost' album 'The Nightmare of JB Stanislas'.
In support, electro/acoustic duo Raf and O, and newcomers Partisan Waves.
£7 from here, £8 on door; link has a more detailed synopsis of acts

Friday 15th April 2016

A Stereogram Recordings Night

Pennyblackmusic and GoodnightLondon are bringing the influential Edinburgh-based label Stereogram Recordings to London and three of its best acts - The Band of Holy Joy, The Cathode Ray and Roy Moller - on one stage.

£8 from here, £9 on door; link has a more detailed synopsis of acts.