Lefty Scum Tour: A Review By Lucy Chapman

By Lucy Chapman

When the government are cutting funding to the arts; when schools are being strong-armed by the same government to cut arts subjects to save the ever-decreasing pennies; when arts education is being down-graded, valued less than other areas of study.  In a world where welfare cuts are creating hungry children cold grannies and suicidal young men; where equality amongst the sexes, classes, races, religion, sexualities, genders is having to be fought for rather than being the expected norm; How do the ‘Lefty Scum’ respond? With song and poetry and performance in pure defiance and it is glorious!

Lefty Scum, a night of ‘comedy, music and revolutionary socialism’ was as empowering as it was funny. 

The tour isn’t going to do much in terms of changing minds or convincing non-lefties as the only thing blue in the room were the jokes. 

But to feel for a couple of hours like I’m not on the fringe, that I’m not the biggest leftie in the room, to hear my political and social ideas (stuff like feeding hungry people being the right thing to do) not only validated but sung and shouted about in bloody brilliant style was exactly what I needed.

It was simultaneously comforting and jarring; I’m not alone in my anger and fear and we can and should shout about it.

For me it was Grace Petrie who completely stole my heart. 

She had me thankful of tena lady for a good 15 mins before knocking the wind out of me with “God Save The Hungry” without a moments notice.

I didn’t see it coming; I was too busy having a good time. The reality of quite how insulting it is to have people living in palaces whilst others look in bins for their dinner or how offensive it is to suggest that somebody’s sexuality makes them lesser able to be a valued parent (Farewell to Welfare) floored me.

Of course I knew all of this stuff already, I exhaust myself relentlessly trying to explain, persuade and convince others of these things in every interaction. But there is just so much to fight for and against! And sometimes we need to be re-grounded. And sometimes it takes a beer and a song and a shout to do it.

Jose Long was her usual charming, wonderful self only stronger than I’ve seen her before. A wonderful reminder that our anger doesn’t always have to look angry to be valid or powerful or beneficial or more importantly on a night like this – funny!

Jonny and the Baptists had the audience howling at the image (and sound) of revolutionary nationalised swans and I think I must be Jonny Donahoe’s long-lost sister because their song to his dad was undoubtedly written about my dad. Maybe he’s the nation’s dad and maybe that’s where the genius lies.

I had a bloody good laugh in York last night but I also felt inspired again, reinvigorated and impassioned. I wanted to come home and write again, better than I have before.

I wanted to get that research done for my local Constituency Labour Party that I’ve been avoiding.

I want to get more women involved after several previously unsuccessful attempts.

I want to shout from the rooftops and fight for my children, my sister’s children, for myself and the young people I work with. 

I want to fight for drama and arts and the poor and disabled. 

Defend those who are exploited or overlooked and work out how to give a voice to those with none. Except there’s no such thing as a voiceless person, only earless ones so let’s lay the blame at the right door to start with.

Thank you Josie and Grace and Jonny and the Baptists for reminding me about the passion and energy in my soul that I’m sometimes too tired and beaten to pay attention to. 

Thank you for making my sides ache. 

Thank you for demonstrating brilliantly the power of performance. 

Thank you for the canvassing and rallying and thank you, comrades, for standing with us to fight the good fight in the most wonderful way. 

Hats off my friends, hats off.

There are only two dates left now of the 10-date tour:

WED 08 NOV | LEEDS The Wardrobe

THU 09 NOV | LIVERPOOL Everyman Theatre

https://jonnyandthebaptists.co.uk/lefty-scum-tour/
But I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on what these guys are up to next!

Kids Talk Politics And Put The World To Rights – By The Avenger Kids

At the Avenger our main mission is to put issues often unheard by mainstream media under the spotlight. And that means allowing people from all walks of life to share their experiences and view points on current affairs and politics.
Children and young people’s ideas and opinions are often unheard by the media; yet they often have the most creative ideas and simplest solutions to society’s problems.

We interviewed four children aged between 8 and 13 on their views on politics and this is the first of many Avenger Kids blogs, which will eventually extend out to older children and young people.

We feel that children and young people should be encouraged more to think critically about the world they live in  and although the ‘Votes at 16’ discussion may not have got the attention we feel it deserved in Parliament,  we will continue to keep that discussion going and ensure that children and young people keep talking about politics. 

We kicked off with asking the children; Luca aged 8, Naomi aged 9, Chloe aged 9 and Harrison aged 13 what they would change if they were Prime Minister. They had so much to say that we had to break it down into common themes!!

Here is what that had to say:

Healthcare


Chloe aged 9: Why do they charge for prescriptions when you are ill and probably don’t have a lot of money anyway do they want people to die or to live?  All medical things should be free. Everyone should be allowed to live.

Luca aged 8: I would keep it free forever. I would have more doctors and more technology to help them find better cures. Also it is very dangerous for people to have one kidney so this should be illegal. Everyone should have two kidneys.

Naomi aged 9: When children are sick they should get seen first in hospital because they have little bodies and want to go home to play. 

Harrison aged 13:  Our health service is good but we need to fund it more. It is severely under appreciated and under funded.

We must focus on welfare and healthcare more rather than industries. Why does the government help big industries and corporations? I don’t understand it because they can look after themselves. We don’t need to help and fund them they earn so much and they don’t even need to advertise. We should be helping the NHS and welfare instead.

Education and Schools:

Luca:  I think kids should learn about politics. And more fun stuff like cooking and art.

I would change the rules in schools. I would let kids go to the toilet any time they want. I would also give schools more money. 

Harrison: We need to change the way we educate like core subjects have been boiled down to three. We can’t thrive with just these. The system is broken. They constantly shove the core subjects down our throat. They act like anything other than core subjects is useless. In truth the core subjects are there to provide the basics. Without extras like art and technology we will come across as boring and we won’t have any skills. A lot of our subjects tie into together.

For opportunities for careers that pay well, we need extra creative subjects. We need to broaden out more to be successful as adults.

Naomi: Schools should pay for all kids to have iPads and technology to make learning fair.

School dinners should have nicer things like nuggets and things that kids like. Some children are not eating because they are horrible and that makes people sick. 

Children with lots of problems like my brother should still be allowed to come to the same school as all the other children but should just have their own class. Otherwise children forget there are children like that and laugh at them and be rude. 

They would not do that if they had lunch with them and if the others could see them all the time. I miss my twin brother at school.

Chloe:  There should be dabbing in school, and no school uniform so you don’t have to rush to buy it and it costs more money.  

There should be free school meals for everyone because not everyone can afford it and everyone should be doing more fun stuff at school.

Housing, Homelessness and The Poor

Harrison: The taxes aren’t doing so well. What are they being spent on?
 The poor are not receiving a lot of welfare. There aren’t enough things to go around as we are supplying big industries and they are big enough and rich enough to manage themselves.

There should be more homeless shelters in the UK and around the globe.

Real estate prices are over inflated compared to Scotland. Why is that? And our economy is not very good either.

The landlords don’t pay attention to the houses they own and don’t care and they don’t notice that there are empty houses. We need to start letting people live in them.

We have a lot of houses and they are going to waste. We should have a service that goes to these old houses and if we deem that the landlords don’t care for those houses we should confiscate them and have a service owned by government to clean them up and let people live in them

Luca: I would give the poor more money. I would give the homeless homes. I would spend money on what materials they need for homes and tell builders to just build them, it’s not hard to do. Why don’t they just tell them to build them for the homeless?

Politicians

Naomi: When countries and big people fight like wars they should have time out and say sorry like kids do.

If they don’t they should lose marbles and not get treats like stuff other countries have that their people like… like bananas and stuff. Be nice to the countries that give you bananas or you don’t get any.

Chloe: Why does the Prime Minister and politicians get more money than doctors and teachers? 

They get all that money and make stupid decisions. It is unfair that they get expenses and they should have to learn how to use their own money to pay for things.

Harrison: Politicans can be straight up annoying and stupid. They need to do a lot of work to get their priorities straight. 

Luca: Why don’t politicians make it law to be nice to old people? Some of them might be lonely. They shouldn’t be and there should be websites for them to meet friends and talk to each other. 

Most of all if I could be Prime Minister I would only be it for a day and let Jeremy Corbyn be Prime Minister. 
He’s really nice and he has cool ideas and better ideas than me.

Let’s Reclaim Our Public Space For Childhood By Kelly Grehan 

By Kelly Grehan

Barely a day goes by without my hearing a member of the older generation decrying the children of today:

“We never used to sit in on devices all day”

“All they want to do is stare at screens”

“We used to spend all day outside.”

It is as if children today are of a different species from their senior relatives, who speak of some sort of famous five style childhood. 

While I strongly suspect their memories of the past are somewhat rose tinted I also strongly suspect one reason children do not play outside is that they simply are not welcome.

In my own area (Dartford), many of the green spaces we played on in the early 90s are now occupied with signs saying things such as ‘no ball games’ or ‘this is not a play area’ and have been filled in with bushes to stop any fun activity taking place.

Although we are fortunate to have several good parks in our area, taking children to the park is a time consuming business and not one that can be done every evening for most children.  

When children used to ‘play out’ the benefits were multiple: children made friends with the same children who shared their streets, developing close bonds, isolation was therefore less, the feeling of belonging, and community was embedded and the benefits of being outdoors are well known. 

Dozens of studies from around the world show regular time outdoors produces significant improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fighting obesity, improved learning ability, and creativity and better emotional well being.

Unstructured play in the outdoors has also been shown to boost problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness.

However, the disconnect with nature is now so strong that more children are taken to hospital having fallen out of bed than out of a tree. 

In fact one fifth of all children report never having ever attempted to climb a tree and a similar number have never visited a farm.

 And it not just outdoor space often denied to children now, with libraries lost in many towns along with community centres, church halls and youth clubs, for those whose parents are unable to afford expensive activity groups childhood can often be a lonely and boring time.  

This is coupled with the fact increasing numbers of children are now living in overcrowded accommodation and so, do not even have the luxury of being able to play imaginative games inside. 

What are we doing to our children? 

Is the epidemic of mental health and anxiety problems in the young a coincidence? 

I say a community ignoring the needs of children is no community at all.  

New housing estates seem to be built on the premise that grass verges are all the public green space that is needed. 

How about a space based along the idea of a village green in the centre? 

How about spaces which encourage den building and where ball games are encouraged? 

What is the worse that could happen?

Maybe the odd window will be broken, perish the thought, but I tell you this, it is much easier and cheaper to fix broken windows than broken adults who are the result of miserable childhoods. 

Our children have enough problems to contend with poverty, exams, school work, peer pressure, cyber bullying and knowing they are growing up in a world where they are likely to be worse off than their parents. Trying to keep them from public spaces is just another way we fail to enrich them.  


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The ‘Me Too’ Movement – Some Men Claim ‘Sexual Ambiguity’ As An Excuse But I Beg To Differ By Eddie Luigi

By Eddie Luigi

This is not a blog on the male perspective of the current media storm concerning sexual harassment of women. I am a male and this is my perspective. I do not claim to be speaking for all males.

I have never assaulted a woman and all of my sexual adventures have been consensual on both sides.

Now I don’t fully understand how women  work, and I may have been guilty of misreading a situation. That said, there was never a point of no return. If the woman said no at any time in the proceedings, then no it was. I would shuffle of with my bruised ego, muttering a few choice epithets under my breath.

I may be old school ( I am 68) but I was bought up to treat women as I would want other men to treat my mother, sister, aunts or daughter. 

I am the first to admit I am not God’s gift to women nor am I a Hollywood matinee idol. 

I have always been amazed, pleasantly surprised and grateful that a woman would find me attractive enough to want to indulge.

I don’t think that because one woman would be attracted to me then all women would. 

I have never wanted to treat women as ‘hunting trophies’ and mark my progress with notches on the bed.

I do not hold with the view that if a woman gets drunk then she is begging ‘for it’. 

By that token if a man gets drunk he is begging to be buggered? Surely not?

Unfortunately these do tend to be the opinions held by some, but not all, blokes.

I have been accused of inappropriate behaviour with regards to some women. It concerns my old school upbringing, where I was taught that if a lady offered you her hand you did not shake it, with a vicelike grip until one of you blinked. 

You took her proffered hand by the finger tips and gently kissed the back of her hand. It was a mark of respect and also stopped the passing of sexually related messages with the fingers, thumb or pressure.

Therein may lie a difficulty. What to one woman is a compliment and considered to be gentlemanly gallantry, another woman will consider unwonted and unwarranted behaviour.

But some of the stories I have heard emerge  are beyond any of this that I describe. And I cannot understand how a man can claim sexual ambiguity or misreading a situation so badly that he sexually assaults or raoes someone!

I would like to see more women stand up to sexual harassment. 

One of the ways might be to boycott the perpetrator in a work environment. 

Make it clear that you will have nothing to do with the pervert, and won’t even give them the time of day. 

If they ask a question, reply through a third party, making sure the third party knows why you are behaving that way. 

It worked for the Irish against Captain Boycott (which is where the phrase originated. You learn something new everyday.

I also believe that capitulation in the face of an overwhelming superior force, should not be considered as consent.

I am who I am because I have been who I have been.

Now I did not spring from my mother’s womb into the fully formed ‘all round good guy’ that I appear to be today. Before I reached the age of 30, I was anything but.

Before I was 15 I was what would now be called a troublemaker, but was then called a gutter snipe. 

I stole, was guilty of breaking and entering, shooting at the Queens birds, shoplifting, bullying and various other crimes that eventually led to my being sent to an approved school and being given the option of Borstal or a boarding school specialising in training young thugs for a life in either the Royal Navy or the Merchant Navy.
Between the ages of 15 and 30 I was a serving member of the Royal Navy. I was what would now be called ‘one of our brave boys’, but was then referred to as a ‘piss artist’. 

While in the Royal Navy I used swear words as punctuation, I told inappropriate and politically incorrect jokes. I thought the truth was so precious that I wasn’t going to squander it by using it.


When I reached the age of 30, I thought ‘enough, time to grow up. 

When I was a child I did childish things, but now I’m a man I should behave as a man.
So I gave up lying, cheating, taking drugs and wounding people with words.

Which brings me to Jared O’Mara. 

I can’t condone what he did or said, but I can’t condemn him either. When I was in the Royal Navy if you made a mistake you were punished for it according to the severity of the action and once your punishment was finished that was the end of the matter.
I would look on Jared O’Mara as a bit of a prat for not choosing his audience. No doubt if Jared O’Mara had been a member of the Bullingdon club, his actions would have been laughed off by the Tories as youthful high spirits and he would have been helped up the greasy pole to high office.

And before the Tories and mainstream media try to gain political capital, with their screeching rants about this being a ‘Labour Party problem’ as we’ve heard the Right Wing press claim, they should look to the racist, misogynistic, elitist, aristocratic snob, who was not only their Prime Minister, but has been consistently voted the greatest Briton of all time. Winston Churchill, oh and of course the 36 Tory MPs caught up in the sexual harassment scandal.

Isn’t it about time men stop hiding behind pathetic excuses for their behaviour and started taking responsibility for their actions? It really is time for a change!
 
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Let’s Talk About Kevin: In Twelve Nagging Questions By Sheila Joyce

By Sheila Joyce

The whole Kevin Spacey thing and the way he has handled it thus far has got me thinking:


1. Being gay is most certainly not in the same category as making sexual advances on a minor. Are you, Kevin suggesting otherwise? 



2. But, would it have been a bit tricky to apologise for this story potentially being true without being open about the fact that coming on to a male (of any age) could have definitely happened? 

3. ‘Inappropriate drunken behaviour’ again, is not the same as paedophilia is it? 

4. Does describing this as ‘drunken behaviour’ suggest that this has happened / could happen again if drunk? That’s not ok.

5. Are you suggesting that making ‘sexual advances’ towards a minor is the same as ‘making sexual advances’? It isn’t.

6. At some point, Kevin, do you think you might have to acknowledge that this kid was 14 and explain whether you knew this at the time or found out later and respond to that particular issue? 

7. Perhaps we the consumer of this news should consider whether a short statement is too surface-level to fully ascertain whether Kevin Spacey knew this kid’s age at the time or not, if he remembers the occasion even vaguely or not, whether this was a very clumsy way of apologising and also having by default to come out about his sexuality and wait for further (expert) development of the story / case?

8. At the very least, could we be thankful he didn’t accuse the victim of lying or victim-blame in any way? At least he acknowledged the anguish he’d carried with him for his entire adult life. 

9. Does anyone think that preying on a child is the same as coming on to a man? 

10. Does anyone disagree that fancying men is not the same as fancying minors? 

11. Did it not occur to Mr Spacey for one second that it would be really bloody unhelpful to link sexuality with sexual assault or sexual abuse?! 

12. Did I mention that paedophilia is not the same as homosexuality?

The more questions we ask, the more we realise that so many more need to be asked.  And I for one hope to see these addressed sooner rather than later.

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Why Has It Taken So Long To Start Work On Shielding Grenfell Tower? By Lisa Mulholland 

Two weeks ago, I was on my way to a concert at Wembley. Happy and excited as I was driving along through London, (we travelled from south London and was heading to North London) my cousin and I were happily pointing out all of the pretty sights in London. 

As we continued our drive, singing along to music and generally in a fantastic mood, we were driving over a flyover and spotted a skyline that was filled with tower blocks that were lit up. All except one. One huge tower was darker than the night sky.

I wasn’t sure exactly where I was, as I was just following my sat nav but this tower was huge and haunting. Something about it unnerved me. 

In my head I thought ” What is that… it can’t be Grenfell can it?”

As I got closer I realised it was. 

We both fell silent. Our singing stopped. I gulped and said “I think that is Grenfell”.

We got closer and I could see the burnt shell. Towering above us. And I cannot explain the sheer horror I felt. I flinched and gasped at the enormity of it. Overcome with emotion my reflexes kicked in and I shouted “Oh My God.”

I am not an emotional person. I cry perhaps 3 times a year but I cried right there and then.

Just the sight of the tower reduced me to shake and cry. And I was only driving past. It is a feeling that has stayed with me and I cannot describe to people just how horrific it was to see that tower.

Which instantly led me to ask myself “How on earth to people who live next to the tower cope with seeing that every day?”

I didn’t know anyone in that tower. I was just a passerby yet the punch in the stomach I felt by looking at it was very overwhelming. 

Imagine seeing that every day? 

Imagine seeing it burn!

Imagine if you lost people in that blaze???

At the time I thought ‘why is that tower still in full view, it should be covered up to protect the people living nearby but also out of respect for the people that perished there.’

It is now essentially a gigantic ‘tomb in the sky.’

So I was pleased to hear last week; 4 months after the terrible, horrific events of the Grenfell Tower fire, the authorities have finally decided to cover up the tower in protective material to shield it from the eyes of the public.

But work on this will not be completed until early 2018!!

There are so many reasons why this needs to be done. And so many reasons why this should have started months ago.

No one can really imagine the true horror of witnessing the fire, which was a rather prolonged horrific event that continued for hours. 

For those who knew people that lived in the tower, the horror must be beyond any stretch of your worst nightmare. 

And to be helpless. For hours. 

I would imagine that many of the survivors and witnesses may have already or could, in the future, develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of factors that contribute to PTSD are reliving the events and exposure to the place where it happened. 

Part of their recovery will be hindered by constantly having to view the tower in all its horrifying enormity every day.

So how can they recover? Why has this not been done sooner.

A month ago I went to The World Transformed Event where I met some Justice 4 Grenfell campaigners. They told us that only 5 families had been rehoused and that there had been around 50 suicide attempts. 

Which all points to my guess that there must be hundreds of people suffering from acute PTSD.

I decided to look into it, because let’s face it, the mainstream media have gone quiet over it. All I could find was that the local authority have a page set up advising people to go to their local Mind charity for support. And there is now a community hub to support witnesses and survivors.

But having had to use mental health services for my child recently, I know that the services are massively underfunded and under equipped to deal with the general population. Let alone the unprecedented amount of people suffering after a major tragedy.

Seeing the support that is offered now (and I do not claim to know if everyone has been offered support, or whether it is adequate) I can only hope that this is enough and that this support doesn’t just stop. With austerity raging on it is something we can only hope for. This support will be needed for years to come and sometimes PTSD can be delayed. 

So many questions need to be answered, aside from the obvious:

Why are people not being rehoused? And when I say rehoused I mean in permanent , suitable accommodation?

Why has it taken so long to even start covering up the tower? 

Or for anyone to even acknowledge that this needed to be done?

Why has the tower that still holds remains of the poor souls that perished inside the tower, not been covered straight away as a mark of respect and to protect the evidence inside the tower from the elements of weather and decay?

When I met those Grenfell campaigners, when I stood at the housing talk and gave a minutes silence to remember the dead, and when I drove past that tower in tears I made a silent promise to them and everyone affected by it:

I will never forget you and I will never stop seeking Justice 4 Grenfell.

And I urge you to all do the same. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere.”



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An Open Letter To A Judge From A Victim Failed By The System By The Masked Avenger

Author Anonymous 


Dear ‘Your Honour’

I am writing to you because I want you to know how unjust the justice system really is. 

I am a rape survivor and I had to face the perpetrator in court. 

You will know all about the court and it’s processes being a judge and all. Anyway the point of this letter is for me to highlight to you the lack of support for rape victims.

First of all you have to fight so hard to even get to court. Most don’t even reach that stage. 

According to Rape Crisis England and Wales 1 in 5 women between the ages of 16-59 have experienced sexual violence at some point in their life. But only 15% of those actually report it to the police.

So reporting it and getting to Court is a massive hurdle overcome in itself. A hurdle that isn’t easy to overcome when you are recovering from the horror and trauma of rape itself.

Then comes the trial. It starts and you are made to watch your video evidence in full in front of a jury of 12 people.  

To relive every agonising moment, to hear the most personal and traumatic events replayed in front of a court full of strangers; to see their expressions, and reactions. Those people are considering everything about you’re future and with your fate in their hands.

The nerves that fill you up to the brim. Forget eating, sleeping or functioning.

A minute lasts all day.

I was given a room to wait in but when I went out of that room to the toilet I saw the perpetrators family and general members of the public who had come to watch the trial. 

Why are general public allowed?  

His family laughed when I gave evidence and NOTHING was done about that. 

The jury have to be 99.9 % sure of guilt or they have to acquit the accused. 

This is the case for all crimes, so why is the conviction rate for rapists so disproportionately low compared to other crimes?

The way the court deals with rape and abuse needs to be reviewed. So many rape victims don’t report the crime through fear of not receiving justice or support. And they  are right! 

According to ‘Amnesty’ a third of people believe that women who flirt are partially responsible for being raped!! 

There has to be a fairer way to hold trials. Something needs to change. There has to be more support for the victim. 

We need to have open and honest conversations about the way society views rape and how victim blaming is commonplace.

Simple little things like a separate toilet for people who are seated in the witness protection suite so we don’t have to face anyone we don’t want to see. It isn’t rocket science but it would make a massive difference to victims.

The pain lives on long after the decision of the court.

Please please hear us. 

Give us support and understanding. 

I know people have to have a fair trial but my trial was far from it and nobody stood up for me.

The decision on my case was a few years ago now,  but it never goes away, it never ends.

Yours sincerely 

The Masked Avenger