Monday, 31 October 2011

So it's off on my travels again. I hope to see some of you on my mini tour of the north. As some of you will know I have been recording most of my solo gigs this year and it seemed logical to make an album out of the best of the collected material. If you are coming to the gig then for a tenner you can pre-order the album. You will get the Live album BY MYSELF delivered to your address as soon as it is completed. Pre- order forms will be available after the shows and a personally signed receipt will be given for every pre-order.

If you can't attend one of the gigs but want to buy the album it will cost £11.99 inc postage. For details email You will be sent a pre- order form and payment details.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

few will shed a tear

So Gaddafi is gone and few will shed a tear. I do have one concern around his last moments though. It is probably very naïve of me to think it might be otherwise but if the transitional Governments statement that he died in a cross fire is untrue, this is what we are used to from our leaders including Gaddafi himself. It is the spin that covers the unpalatable truth and the lies that are meant to placate us when we have such concerns. Not the best way to start afresh.
I think many people will believe that they caught and killed him and he was never going to stand trial for war crimes. Having said that, if he was executed we have to take into account the reality that existed for his killers at the time. 

Given the circumstances it was unlikely that after capture Gaddafi could expect any mercy. This is a man who was known for his cruelty and not known for his compassion or sense of justice. Opponents disappeared in the thousands. Still he asked his captors “What have I done to you”? I will be happier when they catch Smirking Boy, Saif. He must be apprehended and brought to book for his service to daddy.There are few models for fair and just arbitration between peoples of differing opinions in Libya and most disagreements have been addressed with violence. So the future will be difficult. Bringing different fractions together in the country will be a new and challenging experience but with the right support they can make it happen. I wish them well. Power to the people.

I have watched the unfolding drama outside St Paul’s Cathedral with great interest. If they move to a site that can accomodate more people I intend to join them. We can’t simply deconstruct the capitalist machine but it is busted and not fit for purpose and the free market is becoming an albatross around all our necks. It isn’t working any more. The relationship between Government and big business, especially multi national corporations, is crippling. It ensures an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor and the vulnerable.

Today the CEO of Wal-Mart (ASDA) earns 900 times the wage of his average employee. The wealth of the Wal- Mart family estimated to be 90 billion dollars is the same as the bottom 40% of the American population, 120 million people. In his book ILL FARES THE LAND Tony Judt says “ We have reverted to the attitudes of our early Victorian forbears. Once again, we believe exclusively in incentives, “effort” and reward- together with penalties for inadequacy. We have reverted to the hard, cold world of Enlightened economic rationality, first and best expressed in The fable of the bees, Bernard Mandeville’s 1732 essay on political economy. Workers in Mandeville’s view, “have nothing to stir them up to be serviceable but their wants, which it is prudent to relieve but folly to cure” Tony Blair couldn’t have said it better”.

At least some of England is working well on some levels. I have been in Leicester for the past couple of days visiting Luke. If you are ever in Leicester go for a walk down the Narborough Road. You will see that the multi ethnic society is working nicely – thank you? Of course there are issues to be addressed but there is a thriving mini society in the area that is lively and as healthy as could be expected and it is a vital as any I have experienced. The benefits of many diverse groups coming together here are real and obvious.

Next up for me is a couple of days intensive fishing on the Thames with Sonny, Steve’s lad. This will be special. We haven’t done it for ages. I hope he catches a big ‘un. After that it’s my nose to the grind stone and some serious rehearsing for the changes to the show, for my November gigs at Bilston, Manchester and The Wirral.
I have made a few changes to the web site including the addition of a couple of songs from FDPFAFDW shows on the Works in Progress page. You can book 2012 FDPFAFDW shows any time from now on. It’s a bit early I know but if you want a specific date, especially in the summer, now is the time.


Monday, 10 October 2011

the flickering light

Frank Bungay - peoples bard

The Mad Pride Fundraiser was a great night out for me and we raised some cash for a very worthy cause. I like to be involved with people who are clearly concerned with the welfare of others and who are prepared to do some thing about that. There is so much apathy abroad in the nation right now and the reasons why are fairly obvious. People feel disconnected from government process and some have slowly absorbed the Thatcherite values that divide and weaken. She said there is no such thing as society only individuals and now we have a puppy in her mould who claims to have invented the Big Society. All of it is erroneous and ruinous and leaves people with the idea that nothing can be done. Wrong! As long as we breathe and care there is plenty to be done. Mad Pride is a hugely warm and powerful community that proves my point.

The Montague Arms is a sight for sore eyes for any musician playing UK pub gigs. I was the first to arrive as I like to have as much time as I can to absorb aspects of the gig and to settle in to a measured build up to the performance. The landlord opened up and let me in. The pub is definitely a cut above your average London pub gig. The décor is eclectic. You could spend a lost half hour just taking it all in. The stage and PA system is well appointed and reminds me of some of the better small German or Norwegian gigs.

Soon Steve the engineer arrived and I banged out a quick sound check. All good. Soon other musicians arrived and began sound checking. At one point it seemed as though there just wouldn’t be enough time to fit every one on the bill into a time slot. Mad Pride have a secret weapon in the shape of Jason Why who soon took over the role of organising this and we all slotted in very well. The evening started with a rousing intro from Jason and the first act went on. Against a back drop of projected images by VJ the Flickering Light, two young women gave us a couple of songs to begin the proceedings. One lass played a lovely white Fender strat and the other played African percussion. Cool and very different. Another young lass on acoustic guitar and a guy on bass delivered a couple of unusual and amusing songs and the evening warmed up.

Later we had poetry from luminaries in the poetry world, including the very wonderful Frank Bungay, a veteran campaigner and peoples bard. It was like a lovely time warp where the spirit of Kerouac and the beat poets was reverently invoked. I looked around to see the young listening intently to the old chap delivering his prose and verse. It filled me up with hopeful satisfaction. The best things last and last.

My new Australian friend David Studdert and his percussionist delivered some quirky, darkly humorous ditties and one lovely folk song. The event rolled on.
Later we had some great music from the band The Strange Agency who had driven from Wales to perform at the event. Slashing guitar driven psychedelic political punk. Oh yes!
the strange agency

Yours truly took to the stage soon after and began with a new song called I’d do anything - with love. It seemed appropriate. I’d written a set list for the available 35 minutes that allowed me to choose specific songs for the occasion. I was genuinely and very pleasantly surprised by the audience response. People became quiet and I saw a few tears after The Christmas Song which always turns on my full emotion button.

In my happy bubble I floated through the rest of the set and it passed in what seemed like a few moments. At the end of my set the warmth expressed by the audience merited an encore but time was tight and I was over. Later I realised I had only played one old EBB song and no one seemed to mind or care. In fact most folk in the audience probably wouldn’t know this was the case. This is very satisfying because I have worked hard on the writing this year and it seems my new songs are doing the job intended.

In a few minutes time the lush, hard edged, political psychedelia of Brighton based Paradise 9 hit the stage to end the evening. More great sounds from another classy band and the job was done.
I had the opportunity to meet and chat with quite a lot of people and I made some new friends. Every one appeared to have had a great night and we made a nice profit for Mad Pride. I said my farewells and set off to catch the night buses home.
Congratulations to Mark and Dave and to all who worked so hard to make it happen. It was so nice to meet up with and work with musicians and crew who regularly make time to contribute to the communities that need support and the causes that matter. I felt right at home. 


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

World Mental Health Week

World Mental Health Week, 10-14th October 2011.

Mental Health is still a taboo subject in our culture as it is across much of Europe. It is a problem that couId be addressed partly through education but the schools curriculum in the UK is no where near visionary enough to be able to take that on at this time. In recent times Governments have done little or nothing to address the increasing numbers of people made ill by this wonderful life we live in the First World.

I find it increasingly disturbing that so many genuinely unwell folk will be facing cuts to their income and vital support services. These are austere times but as the ConDem cuts are rolled out I find no reason to stop despising their policies that descriminate against sections of our community that already have their backs firmly pushed up against the wall. I know I bang on about this a bit but I don’t feel this is a time to stop doing so.

I recently spoke with a rural copper who patrolled a fairly large village. He had been on night duty for some time and had noticed the increasing number of calls to the police along the lines of “ there is an elderly lady running around the school playing field in her night dress”. He told me this was on the increase and he blamed the cuts in social services and demise of other local agencies through cuts to budgets and staffing levels.

Here in London I see a steady increase of people on the streets who need support. Else where I hear some real horror stories about the jeopardy that some people are in through a decline in or a complete lack of services. In Essex, for example, there is no specialist sensory social work team at all. So if you are deaf and mentally unwell what do you do? If you are arrested by the Police, who will be able to understand you? How will you be able to be supported and who will protect your basic rights? The postcode lottery is evident here.

Scenario : Two people have severe mental health issues, learning disability and sensory loss.
Both young men slowly begin to get into trouble with neighbours and some times family and other members of the public.
The police are called out frequently to them and the incidents they are involved with. Social workers do what little they are allowed to do, under ever changing Kafka-esque guidelines, which always amount to less on offer for clients.

The first young man eventually ends up in court for the umpteenth time and goes to prison. In prison he is a problem because he can’t hear anything and they can’t use sign language. He kicks off and the authorities feel they have no option but to section him and send him to Rampton – cost £3000 plus per week. Rampton is a hell hole. I have had communication with inmates for some years who have been systematically bullied and brutalised by staff.
People don’t get well there.

The second young man is headed in the same direction. Basically the system can’t deal with him either so he is sectioned like our first young man. He is sent to a secure hospital that offers proper clinical support including counselling and mentoring. The structure is based on a three tier system where patients graduate from the bottom to the next tier around living in a small community of other patients at the same level of progress as he is. The top tier is around independent living towards living outside the hospital. Here patients live in their own self contained accomodation. All of this takes place on site. Cost £3000 plus per week. The difference between the two approaches and the possible outcomes is easily seen. Unfortunately the second option is not available to many as you might expect and yet the benefits are obvious and for the same cost.

A couple of years ago I suffered with depression for a time. It was disabling at first but with support and a fantastic G.P. I was able to recover slowly. I was lucky in so far as I knew my illness was fairly minor, I could communicate my issues and be understood and I had a strong support network. It was still a shock and it is only now that I am beginning to understand what happened and why. That’s life and I am better for the experience but this is not the case for others who have to continually battle with their illness, often with out much support at all.

One day that lonely and vulnerable looking person muttering to the rubbish bin in the street might be you. I hope not but at some point it is likely that mental illness will affect some one you know if not you, a loved one or a valued colleague. We can all aspire to being more understanding and accomodating. We can all work to get rid of the ignorance and fear embodied in remarks such as "we didn't have all this in my day you just have to pull your socks up and get on with it", or "if you are mad, you are mad you just have to get over it". We can also strive to change the language that demeans and oppresses people who are mentally unwell. I feel sure most of you know what I mean by this. I'm all for political correctness that actually enhances peoples quality of life.

Mean while we must fight government cuts to vital services or reap the bitter harvest. This nation is in distress and we must intervene.
The people involved with Mad Pride are doing what they can and so should you and so should I. I hope I will see you at The Montague Arms on Friday next.