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Community Reporters: Novel approaches at the Harrow Club…

Piece by Stan Moorcroft. 

On a sunny morning in April a group of enthusiastic young people are waving a collecting tin and operating a market stall. Yet however are not receiving commission to collect for charity nor receiving any sort of financial reward, their enthusiasm and commitment are a product of The Harrow Club, the organisation for which they are collecting money.

Eamonn O’Keeffe, Senior Youth Worker at the Harrow Club explained that the stall was not just about raising funds but developing skills from salesmanship to money management. With experience in the retail sector himself Eamonn was passionate about passing on his skills to the young people attending the club. He explained how the club was “seeking to empower young people, to improve their lives to try new things and provide new opportunities and improve their prospects.” Having been donated some books they had come up with the idea of the stall to sell the books to raise funds and raise awareness of the club. Shamera, one of the young sales team, explained that she wanted to explain to people how important the club was for local young people.

At a time when youth services are being cut across the country it is vital to support the work of organizations like The Harrow Club.

More information about The Harrow Club can be found at http://harrowclubw10.org/

Community Reporters: London Belongs To Me…

Community Reporter, Stan Moorcroft is back with an excellent piece for the Institute of Community Reporters. The original post can be found on the ICR website.

I have lived in London now just over thirty years, having moved here on 4th July 1983. I don’t know how long you normally must wait to claim squatter’s rights, but thirty plus years seems a good enough period to me. So, let me state my claim now, London belongs to me.

The glory of London is its parks and open spaces, you are rarely ever far away from a London park, common or heath. I am within fifteen minutes’ walk of Kensington Gardens or Holland Park, much closer to several smaller areas with grass and flowers and benches on which to sit, all maintained by Kensington and Chelsea Council who also still believe in the value of trees. Those who would see what they call ‘the state’ shrink rarely mention such items in their calculations. What does it cost to maintain a tree? Too much for some, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Holland Park is one of the less known London parks – and one of my favourite – combining as it does areas of uncultivated and semi wild ground, with the ordered gardens around Holland House. Like most London parks it too is mercifully well provided with wooden benches, the metal ones being considerably inferior. I think leaving a park bench as a memorial is as great a gift to the world as the planting of a tree. Sitting on one of the park benches in Holland Park in the Autumn of last year I was moved to pen a poem.

Each one chooses its moment
then a letting go,
the moment of separation
Falling slowly through the damp autumn air.
No, not fluttering
more acceptance,
a closing of the eyelids.
In choosing your moment
you chose less carefully.
For Caspar Ringrose 11/1/71 – 26/6/94

As you can see I dedicated it to Caspar Ringrose on whose bench I was sitting when I composed the poem. I never knew him, but hope he would approve.

Kensington Gardens is a different sort of open space to Holland Park, providing passage for cyclists and joggers between Bayswater and South Kensington. Kensington Gardens isn’t a separate park at all, but is an adjunct to Hyde Park. I used to walk to work taking a route through Kensington Gardens, then Hyde Park, Green Park and finally St James Park before finally reaching my office just around the corner from New Scotland Yard. The geography of each park brushing against the other allowing for such a pleasant journey into the heart of London.

… continued on the Institute of Community Reporters website

 

Community Reporters: I Call My Brothers at the Gate Theatre…

A big Thank You to our Community Reporter, Stan Moorcroft for his review of the Gate Theatre’s I Call My Brothers…

What happens when fear and paranoia become as suffocating and pervasive as hunger or pain? This is the theme of the Gate’s new production, I Call My Brothers by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. In the wake of a terrorist attack in Central London anyone of Arabic, Middle Eastern or Pakistani appearance both feel and become suspect. For highly secular and western oriented individuals like Amor, -sharply and empathetically played by Richard Sumitro – the central character of the play, this can be particularly bewildering, alienating and a deeply oppressive experience.

The stark minimalist set accentuates this sense of a world of alienation and disconnect. This is further underlined by the fact that, as in contemporary life, so much of the dialogue is largely conducted, – disconnected, broken up, at cross purposes, – on mobile phone.

Drunk coming home from a dance Amor is just another late-night reveller, or so he assumes, but there has been an explosion, a terrorist attack, and a description has been circulated. Amor has now become a suspect.

What to cling to in a world divorced from real community? We fall back on memory and the ubiquitous mobile phone. Which is what Amor does. His past struggling to remain coherent in the face of a chaotic threatening present.

His cousin, the daunting Ahlem, (Lana Joffrey), thinks she has a better answer in a feel-good new age philosophy. This peppers her conversation with an unconvinced Amor. Shavi, (Jonas Khan), his friend whom ‘he loves like a brother,’ on the other hand wraps himself in his new born baby, in family and friendship. It is Shavi whose calls to alert him are ignored by Amor, and Shavi who is there for him when Amor needs him.

There are several sub plots, some of which work better than others. Though all the time the play crackles with wit and dark humour, of which Amor being tracked by a Met surveillance team stands out, a mix of suspicion, comedy and menace.

I Call My Brothers is a gripping and stimulating play that examines dark side of community politics, the fear and oppressive anxiety that underlies being part of a ‘suspect’ community.

Stand out performances by Lanna Joffrey and Richard Sumitro with Jonas Khan and Nadia Albina adding both passion and humour to the performance.

Photo credit Ikin Yum

Guest blog: Ecology Centre is wild with activity this summer

Thanks to Trevor Bowyer, Forest School Officer,  for the words and Bumblebee Trust for the image!

Matthew and I are the two education officers at Holland Park Ecology Centre – a varied and rewarding job teaching local children about nature. If you are a regular visitor to the park during term time, we have probably passed you leading a group of excited school children to do hands on exploring in our wildlife area.

During school holidays our focus shifts to running a full and fun-packed programme of 2-hour workshops for children between the ages of 5 and 10 and longer 4-hour sessions for older children in the Easter and Summer holidays. The sessions run nearly every weekday throughout all state school holidays except Christmas when we have a well earned rest!

The workshops always have an environmental theme, from the perennially popular pond dipping through to hunting for minibeasts and looking for signs of autumn out and about in the park.

In one session we challenged the children to make a tree troll…

Everyone carefully chose a small log which later would be turned into their fantastical creature. After explaining the real wildlife we might encounter in the woods and the likelihood of meeting a real troll we set off for our adventure in the park. Armed with rucksacks for collecting things, the children were tasked in finding suitable natural material to make their trolls.

As we journeyed through the park, eagle eyed children gathered special objects like berries, twigs and a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves for their craft creations. Our nature trek took us through the woods and some of the other enclosures in the park. Near the walking man statue some of the group found jewels like delicate leaf skeletons and precious peacock feathers. Thankfully (or perhaps not) no real trolls or gruffalos were spotted!

The next stage of the session was creation. The children spread their finds out on their tables and started making their characters. Juicy holly berries were stuck on to become beady eyes or shiny noses, sticks were now limbs, and large red leaves become cloaks. Headdresses were made from the feathers carefully glued together.

Within 20 minutes or so a whole tribe of trolls emerged and the children had great fun naming them and describing their trolls’ special powers and personalities. One enterprising boy turned his log into a galleon with red billowing sails for the trolls to set sail in.

Sadly time was soon up and after a photo call the trolls with their proud new owners departed. “Time for a cup of tea,” Matthew said and after that we tidied away ready for the next session.

I hope this article gives you a flavour of the holiday activities we run. Over the years we have made all sorts of crafts from paper bag owls to journey sticks and carried out lots of pond dipping and minibeast hunting sessions.

Our sessions have proved very popular and we have a growing band of regulars. We hope everyone who attends, including the parents, enjoys themselves and learns about the wildlife that calls Holland Park its home.

It is not all for children though; why let them have all the fun? We also run a varied programme of talks and walks for adults. Upcoming events include walks on trees, bats and butterflies. Or you can join us in October for a fungi foray.

Details of upcoming events including our holiday activities can be found at www.rbkc.gov.uk/ecology

Tel: 0207 938 8186

Email: ecology.centre@rbkc.gov.uk

 

Community Reporters Review: The Iphigenia Quarter at Gate Theatre

Thanks to resident reporter Stan Moorcroft for the following review!

Four plays over two nights presenting a multi-dimensional tragedy, seen from a variety of angles, exploring fundamental issues of violence, sacrifice, and civic duty, vanity and motherhood. And all of this concerning events that occurred more than 2000 years ago. Nobody could ever accuse the Gate of lacking ambition. That it all works so powerfully is a credit to the cast who manage to fully convey the immediacy and terrible implications of the crisis faced by the primary protagonists, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and Iphigenia.

“I am a good man in a dreadful situation….” The drunken Agamemnon declares in the first of the four plays, Agamemnon.

“Is that ‘the line’ you’ll use?” Clytemnestra, his wife shoots back as she dissects his self-image with home truths about as devastating as home truths come. Indeed, for me, it was the performance of Andrew French as the drunken self-pitying Agamemnon and Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Clytemnestra, that provided the core of the two nights’ performances. French, as Agamemnon, a giant presence dominating the stage – though a giant suddenly exposed to the full scale of his own fragility and weakness. Whilst Sharon Duncan-Brewster, whose sassy self-confident Clytemnestra we see suddenly transformed, as she discovers her husband’s true intentions. To descend into cliché, this was going to be a hard act to follow. And so it proved, but I will return to this shortly.

On the second night in Iphigenia, Agamemnon, now played by Anthony Barclay, presents as a far less tortured figure, a brutal wife beater, intent on dominating his family and the wider world. Clytemnestra, Suzie Trayling, now much more fragile, nervy, a woman on the edge, seeking to placate him. Iphigenia, Shannon Tarbet, a moody, sulking anorexic teenager who has come to despise her own mother.

As the Drama plays out however it is Iphigenia who faces, clearly and coldly, the reality of the predicament they now confront, in the process demolishing the pomposity of Achilles, Dwane Walcott, the temporizing of her mother and the hypocrisy of Agamemnon. That the speech Agamemnon then goes on to make to the assembled Athenian Polis:

“And then people of Greece a miracle…”

Sounds as phony as a Hallmark greetings card is in no small part due to the passionate authenticity of Iphigenia’s words that preceded it.

Clytemnestra and Chorus both seek to connect the plays with contemporary life by lifting them firstly from the academic and scholarly, and then from the passivity of ‘spectacle.’ Both of these plays about plays poke and prod and provide stimulus for wider discussion. However, for this spectator, it was the play that was the thing in which my conscience was caught.

It would be seriously remiss of me not to mention Nigel Barrett, as Agamemnon’s singularly unpleasant brother, Menelaus and Louise McMenemy as the ‘only obeying orders,’ Messenger. They both powerfully conveyed the duplicity and treachery into which the protagonists had sunk.

To fully achieve the full impact all four plays need to be seen; two memorable nights, one highly charged drama.

Then and Now: Talbot Road, W11 by Stan Moorcroft

Then

A man, clad in an apron stands in the doorway of a shop that sells, amongst other things, Hungarian wines. The proprietor or merely an assistant? A boy dressed as a man, in a time before ‘teenagers,’ stands looking amused, hands on hips. A milkman adopts the same stance, though along with a passer-by he looks curiously toward us, as we look at him, for we are the future and they are the past, and it is only natural that we should be curious. Only the old woman crossing the road is oblivious to the ceremony of having one’s photograph taken.

That ceremony is now gone, or perhaps has become so ubiquitous that it has dissolved into other ceremonies, the artificial tourist pose, the gurning face made to indicate crazy fun or the trophy child held up to the camera. The passport photo now the last refuge of the formal ceremony of posing for one’s photograph.

Now

But now the street is empty, but for the blurred image of a man[?], sitting at a cafe table who, if he were aware that he was being included in this picture, would regard the prospect with indifference. What is astonishing here is not change but continuity, how so much has remained the same. Though in the droll joke of time the corner shop, so carefully framed in the photograph, now no longer deals in wines and groceries, but in photography.

Community Reporters: Catching up with Tom Vague ahead of Sufragette City Talk, March 8 2016…

For avid blog readers, two worlds have collided as our excellent Community Reporter, Stan Moorcroft caught up with Tom Vague, Colville Community History Project, to talk all things North Ken and in particular, Tom’s talk on March 8 on the struggle for voting rights for women. Tickets are free and can be booked online.

At the top end of All Saints Road there is a refuge, an enclave in which a local Bohemian culture retains a foothold, this is the Book & Kitchen, a café/bookshop with adjoining terrace. Here the bustle of the nearby market gives way to conversation, conversation in the presence of images of the recent, and not so recent, past. The past of an area that has contributed so much to the life and culture of the city.

I was there to meet local historian Mr Tom Vague a man intimately familiar with so much of this history. What Tom doesn’t know about the recent history of the area probably is not worth knowing. With Tom’s energy and effort Colville Community Forum, supported by City Living Local Life, recently held a gathering at The Book and Kitchen to celebrate this rich history. February 16 6-9 Pm, with Film Screening and Readings Exhibition February 16-26 2016. Featuring 30 Classic Westway Photographs and Posters. This represents one of a number of initiatives of the City Living Local Life funded, Colville Community History Project, – again step forward Tom Vague.

Tom’s connection to the area dates from the mid 1970’s when the sudden cultural surge that was Punk broke upon the streets of North Kensington to mingle and cross fertilise the vibrant reggae culture of Ladbroke Grove. The dynamism of punk providing an energy every bit as exciting and creative as the hippy ‘counter-culture’ that preceded it. Out of this dynamism multiple projects emerged, infused with other influences such as Situationist psychogeography, all with the emphasis on participation rather than passivity, anyone could make music, write poetry, start a magazine. Tom Vague was at the heart of these developments as a new chapter in Notting Hill’s Bohemian history was written. Engaged in freelance music journalism Tom was always close to the ever changing music scene in the area, from the Clash to Transvision Vamp.

Tom’s interests these days are very much focused on celebrating and preserving the memory of this period of the recent past, as well as the wider cultural and demographic history of the area. Tom is no pessimist and believes that vibrant currents still electrify the streets of this magical area of North London.

Tom will be speaking on March 8, 2016 from 6:30pm to 7:45pm, at North Kensington Library, Ladbroke Grove SUFFRAGETTE CITY, promoted by Colville Community Forum on the struggle for voting rights for women.

For further information on forthcoming talks by Tom contact: tomvague@gmail.com

Discount Theatre Tickets and review of ‘In the Night Time (before the sun rises)’ at the Notting Hill Gate Theatre

Another excellent review from our local reporter, Stan Moorcroft.   All photos by Bill Knight

Before we go there, check out this offer from the City Living Local Life funded, Gate Theatre.

“Gate Local” is a fantastic new initiative for anyone working or living in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. If you’ve never been to the Gate Theatre before, we are offering you £7.50 tickets to any of our productions. Come along and try us out! Quote GATELOCAL when booking tickets online, over the phone or at the counter. You may be asked for proof of address at the Box Office.

********************

Following in the footsteps of the extraordinarily powerful Medea, The Gate have again produced an exceptionally intense and powerful drama centred upon the intimacy and claustrophobia of the nuclear family in Nina Segal’s In the Night Time, ‘proper night time, proper middle of the night, night time…’ For when we have ceased all activity darkness falls and a space is created for the fears to flood in.

Segal presents a world of agonised sleeplessness, of a man and woman driven to the edge by the cries of their new born baby. Outside it is dark, but the couple are only too aware of both all the banal, and terrible, Alex Waldmann, Adelle Leonce In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises) by Nina Segal Gate Theatre 2016 c. Bill Knight 4things that are going on in the vast outer world surrounding their tortured intimacy. The crying child is central to the room, to the relationship, to the action that threatens to destroy their relationship. For the child’s cries deprive the couple not only of sleep but their sense of security and confidence in the strength of the two-person relationship they have stablished in the face of external threats and the needs of the child. Though the play is replete with enough wit and irony to lighten the intensity of the experience.

Alex Waldmann, Adelle Leonce, In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises) by Nina Segal Gate Theatre 2016 c. Bill Knight 7.jpgThe idea that it is possible to escape the existential threats presented by the modern world into the safety and security of intimate romantic love is perhaps the most potent myth of the last hundred years.  “He’ll build a little home, that’s meant for two, from which I’ll never roam, who would, would you?” *

Few events are likely to challenge this ideal as much as the responsibility of bringing a child into this world. Segal’s play explores both the strengths and weaknesses of this model of human relationships in this context, with great humour and intelligence. The play raises important questions about responsibility and commitment, providing no easy or pat answers.

Adelle Leonoe as Woman provides a performance of great intensity exploring both her own fragility and hunger for life, both for herself and her child. Whilst Alex Waldmann as Man presents his struggle with the real and imagined expectations of masculinity and his inability to control the situation.

This is a play that packs a great deal into 80 minutes and will leave you departing into Pembridge Road reeling under the impact of a profound and sometimes disturbing play.

*Gershwin, The Man I Love.

A community Christmas in Earl’s Court

It’s already looking a lot like Christmas in Earl’s Court, with the roads decked out with City Living, Local Life supported Christmas Lights and St. Cuthbert with St Matthias holding their Christmas Carol Service.  We’re delighted to showcase these festive events with local resident Anne Green’s look back at the Carol Service and a video documenting the first Earl’s Court Christmas Light switch-on…

Community Christmas Carol Service, Saturday 12th December – Anne Green

What better way to get into the spirit of Christmas than by joining in a Community Christmas Carol Service and that is just what I did at the beautiful gothic church of St Cuthbert with St Matthias, nestled in the Victorian terraces of Philbeach Gardens, Earl’s Court, the way guided by hanging baskets from lamp posts adorned with twinkling lights in the crescent and everyone was welcomed at the door by Father Paul Bagott, the Vicar.

In between much loved carols such as O Come All Ye Faithful with the wonderful accompaniment of the Kensington Singers there were festive and biblical readings,  old favourites such as White Christmas and performances by students, both past and present, of the Royal College of Music.  Guests of Honour were the Mayor and Mayoress of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Councillor and Mrs Robert Freeman.

Mulled wine and mince pies were served afterwards, as well as tea and coffee, although it wasn’t needed to stave off the cold – this must be the first church I have been into where it was warm enough to take off your hat and coat in winter time.

Thanks Anne! And you can see how City Living, Local Life helped transform St. Cuthbert’s here.

Earl’s Court’s very first Christmas Lights

With the help of the Earl’s Court ward councillors and City Living, Local Life, Earl’s Court residents and businesses teamed up to illuminate the area. Check out the video created by residents below that’s bound to make even the biggest Scrooge feel a little festive!

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