Grenfell – Memorial to Human Dignity

 

Grenfell Tower. Memorial Site towards Human Dignity

 

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Dies ist eine längere Version des Orginals “Zwischen den Welten”, welches am Freitag 25.8.2017 in der taz erschien.

ENGLISH VERSION

Text and pictures Daniel Zylbersztajn

All Rights Reserved 2017

Text appeared originally in a shortened version in the German newspaper taz

on 25th of August 2017

 

FOREWORD

This is a longer version of the original which was published in taz on 25th August 2017 The retranslation into English was written by the author.
Why an English version?Already, when conducting research, people who were interviewed, asked if the text would be kindly available in English.

It was felt that it would be important, as the text tried to look beyond the immediate tragedy.

Many people only spoke to me, because taz is a unique newspaper. Its total independence and structure that makes it owned by communal shareholders and not by the state or private funds was very important to some, who made it clear, that had I come with a camera and suit from any of the main channels, they would have told me where to go.
Sadly, within the UK media environment, there are few papers that operate like taz. Another reason why this article should appear in English translation.
Last but not least taz, due to length restrictions, could not publish the full length of the submitted draft. This meant some parts were left out.

Following,  is a translation of the full original draft, giving full background, and that was already a shortened version of itself.
Many of the people spoken to were seen in one-to-one interviews, sometimes lasting up to two hours. The bits that are included within are the bare bones of those interviews, brought together in a unique way. Still, the shorter German version in taz keeps the key findings and thread, whilst not going to some of the specifics. These elaborations possibly also mean more to those who are familiar with the social politics of Great Britain and London anyway and not your average German reader.

I would like to thank all those who gave me their time so freely and generously. I envied in a way your community spirit and humanity to the point I could not help myself but return over and over again. In total, I spent many days and hours over a span of four weeks in North Kensington, and locals began to recognise me and greeted me. Most of that time was unpaid and carried out due to a sense of moral duty and obligation, something that is not an essential attribute amongst some journalists I encountered, some of whom were rather pushy in their ways with survivors. Traumatised people should only be pushed to be asked to answer questions and retell their trauma when we can be sure that that is what they want and feel safe with.  In some meetings, I took however precise notes of what survivors told the council. Others treated the survivors like athlete stars at the Olympics queuing up for their own individual media statements. But these were neither athletes nor stars, who can be  savvy and experienced with the media lot.

GERMAN INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

The English version of the text begins after these short remarks in German. Just scroll down.

Dies ist eine längere Version des Orginals, welches am Freitag 25.8.2017 in der taz erschien.  Übersetzung auf Englisch  Daniel Zylbersztajn
Wieso auf Englisch?
Bereits als die Recherchen begannen, fragten Leute, ob es den Text am Ende bitte auch auf Englisch geben könnte. Sie verstanden, dass der Bericht über das Inferno des Grenfell Towers hinausgehen würde, mit einem Blick in die Vergangenheit. Dabei kam es zu sehr vielen Gesprächen im Laufe von vier Wochen, viel davon in mehrstündigen Interviews. Was hier in der längeren Version steht, sind die Meinungen einiger der Menschen, die am meisten repräsentativ waren, auf die Essenz dessen was sie sagten reduziert. In der taz Druck und online konnte davon leider weniger untergebracht werden als hier. Die Längen sind dort nun mal vorgegeben und eine ganze Seite ist im Grunde schon ein Zeichen des ultimativen und stärkst möglichsten Akzents. Der Grundsinn des Textes blieb der Version in der taz erhalten, doch in dieser Übersetzung des Originals gibt es weitere Ausführungen. Sie mögen unter Umständen mehr denjenigen sagen, die mit der Sozialpolitik Großbritanniens vertraut sind, auch deshalb also auf Englisch.
Jene mit denen ich sprach, war die Unabhängigkeit der taz, im Sinne dass sie einer Kooperative gehört, Grundbedingung ihrer Aussagen. Eine Tageszeitung, wie die taz gibt es in Großbritannien nicht im gleichen Umfang. Auch deshalb also eine englische Version.
Ich möchte mich bei allen, die mir ihre Zeit gaben, und mir vertrauten bedanken. Ich habe die vielen Stunden über vier Wochen nahezu unbezahlt in recherchiert, Grund war die Tatsache, dass ich als Journalist das Handwerk besitze, mich für meine Mitmenschen einzusetzen und glaube, dass ich dieses in Fällen wie diesen tun muss, gleich wie groß der EInsatz.
Bei den den Recherchen stieß ich auch auf Journalist*Innen denen es wohl mehr um die große Story ging, die dann ihren Namen trug. Einmal bei einem Treffen zwischen der Stadtbehörde und den Überlebenden verschwieg mir eine Kollegin so lange einen Namen einer Überlebenden, den ich nicht richtig hörte, bis ich ihr sagte, dass ich für Deutschland schreibe, und sie keine Angst haben brauche, dass ich ihr was wegschreibe.  Bei einem anderen Treffen warfen sich Journalisten unmittelbar danach auf die Überlebenden mit Mikrofonen und Kameras. Es glich irgendwie dem Drang an Athleten bei der Olympiade in London 2012, wo jeder Journalist auch ein Wort mit dem Star wollte. Doch dies waren weder Stars noch Athleten, sondern traumatisierte Menschen, deren Treffen wir als Journalisten observierten. Ich war bei meinen Recherchen dennoch im Kontakt mit Überlebenden, saß sogar unter ihnen, sprach und lachte mit einigen, und hatte mit einer Überlebenden, die außerdem Familienmitglieder im Feuer verloren hatte, Abendessen, gemeinsam mit Yvette Williams, und mit einem anderen war ich direkt auf Whatsapp verbunden. Interviewt habe ich aber trotz der Nähe absichtlich niemanden, obwohl ich die Möglichkeit einigen anbat. Stattdessen gab ich menschliches Mitgefühl, drückte Hände und gab Ermutigung. Ihre Aussagen bei Treffen mit der Stadtbehörde schrieb ich jedoch im Detail auf. Hier wollten Überlebende ja sprechen und gehört werden. Ich sah es also als  meine Aufgabe diese Menschen nur dann zu interviewen, wenn sie das ausdrücklich auch wollten, und wenn es ihnen keinen weiteren Schmerz gibt und auch nur dann wenn es SInn macht. Als Sohn eines shoaüberlebenden Vaters war dies etwas, was ich von meiner Familie lernte. Journalisten haben zwar eine Berichtspflicht, aber sie müssen dennoch taktil und ethisch arbeiten. Es ist etwas, dass in der Welt des oft unterbezahlten Journalismus mit vielen überambitionierten Talenten nicht selbstverständlich ist. Interviews müssen hier im Namen der Betroffenen durchgeführt werden und nicht als “Schmankerl” eines Textes. Ich hoffte, dass ich dennoch beweisen kann, wie man auch ohne dem einen umfangreichen Bericht auf die Beine stellen kann. Ob das geklappt hat, können nur die Leser*Innen beurteilen.

   

 

Bilder und Botschaften der Anteilnahme unter dem Westway 03

Grenfell Tower (Art Collage under the Westway). Rights: Daniel Zylbersztajn,  All Rights Reserved (c) 2017

 

ENGLISH VERSION START

Grenfell

That shocking charcoal black concrete block, reaching up almost 70 meters high dominating the district of North Kensington, appears most detailed at the Latimer Road underground stop. Standing here, the tower is not more than a few dozen meters away. In fact, it stands so close, that a significant regeneration plan of the Royal City Council of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC, in 2009) stated, “that Grenfell Tower blights the sight to the East”  and could become part of an area-wide demolishing and regeneration effort. At the time Grenfell was but a 24-storey building, erected in 1974. Today the building resembles a gigantic tombstone in the middle of London, a reminder of the violent deaths of at least 80 people on the 14th of June 2017, in fact, many claim that the fire took far more victims.

 

Latimer Road 2.JPG

Photo: Daniel Zylbersztajn,  All Rights Reserved (c) 2017

 

Anyone who disembarks the train and leaves the station here discovers immediate and omnipresent signs of collective mourning and open shared sympathy. You can see it from here all down the entire street and up until the 300 meters distanced flyover Westway, as well as on many of the surrounding streets: Notes, pictures, yellow loops, flowers and plush toys, and even now, over two months after the disaster, burning candles. Often photographs or drawings show perished children and senior citizen: Jessica, Moses, Kadija, Zainab and her son Jeremiah, even entire families. In addition, there is information about the makings of the local and national government, there are newspaper cuts, and updates of a variety of lobby groups, information about meetings for survivors and residents, or about current therapy and care options, such as those offered free of charge by volunteers in the nearby Portobello Park.

In another park nearby, a mixed group of young men smoke joints and talk about life.  An elderly woman bundles flowers on a special table every evening near the Ethiopian cafe, and yet some go to the pub Pig & Whistle in the shadow of the darkened tower. The father of a child who died in the fire is also sitting here, whilst football and horse-racing are flickering on the TV-screens. Locals report recent suicide attempts in the area.

 

Kleines Mädchen in der Luftblase der Aktion Heilende Kunst im Park neben dem Westway.JPG

 Free Therapy Session for a young Girl in Portobello Park. Rights: Daniel Zylbersztajn,  All Rights Reserved (c) 2017

 

 

Since the inferno, there were several meetings between the representatives of the municipal authorities and those affected.

The first took place in Kensington town hall, the others in the local Methodist church in the immediate vicinity of the fire ruin. All those with responsibilities, be it care workers, recovery workers or representatives of housing or policing, use these meetings in order to declare what they are doing for the community. So far, those affected by the fire complain about lack of services or adequate support each and every time. If the council lacked competence in the initial provision of the emergency support, or before the fire, or during the renovation of Grenfell Tower, they failed also with the support effort after the fire. The injured and beaten community had to help and support itself, amidst one of the richest boroughs in the UK, in fact, Europe. RBKC, which includes North Kensington, also harbours the wealthy parts Chelsea, South Kensington and Knightsbridge. Victims make it clear in speeches that go along this kind of speech:, “We are not people who seek charity.  Most of us work!  We want only what is due to us like to all so that we can continue our lives with a guarantee to safe housing, qualitative education and life, and above all the right to dignified treatment,”

 

Ich habe wenig Hilfe gekriegt, und hatte Glück das im Krankenhaus ein pszchiatischer Betreuer war, der mir erlabute ihn jeder zeit anzurufen, dagt dieser Überlebende aus Grenfell Tower

Survivors accuse council in a meeting of not doing enough   (c)  Daniel Zylbersztajn 2017 All Rights Reserved

Ihr seit zu bürokratisch zu uns überlebenden Jugendlichen, sagt dieses Mädchen den Vertretern der Stadt und Notdienste.JPG

Survivors accuse council in a meeting of not doing enough (c)  Daniel Zylbersztajn 2017, All Rights Reserved

 

North Kensington is not your average residential area. It seems much more as the essence of the potential that London can give. In her 1998 book on the history of the Notting Dale district, the area around Latimer Road and where Grenfell Tower stands, the author Shaaron Whetlor wrote in her introduction that “this district is less represented through its buildings, but mostly from the memories and stories of its cosmopolitan population,”

From Pig Farming to Carnival

Originally the entire area covering contemporary Notting Dale and North Kensington was once marked by abyssal levels of poverty, subject to much debate by reformers of the 19th and 20th centuries, It was here, where bricks that built London were made out of the local soil.  It was here, where once stinking pig farms stood, and where traveller communities stopped, or washer women cleansed and pressed clothes for the wealthy communities of South Kensington. It was and is also here where people of all origins later grew together. Already from the start, there were conflicts between the poor inhabitants of the area and the aristocracy.  For example, when the entrepreneur John Whyte constructed in 1837 a horse course across the area, the community resisted, causing the race course to close four years later. But the sale of Whyte’s land led to the construction of the very first solid houses in the area. Due to the stench and hygienic conditions, however, no wealthy families desired to move here. Over many years, English, Irish and Irish travellers, Germans, Jews from Poland, refugees from Spain and Portugal, Italians, immigrants from the Caribbean, Moroccans, Eritreans, Ethiopians, West Africans, Sudanese, Somalis and Eastern Europeans became residents here instead.

IMG_0313.JPG

Whilst this kind of migration is by no means exceptional in London, it occurred probably much earlier here, due to the poverty in the neighbourhood. It meant that here desperate migrants often found the only affordable accommodation in small, tiny residential often substandard parcels. All this happened not without initial conflicts, however. In 1914 German immigrants were harassed. Then in the 1950s, immigrants from the Caribbean were regarded as making the already pitifully poor residential districts more crowded. It culminated to street fights and rioting in 1958. There were revolts and street fights and the appearance of the British fascist Oswald Mosley. The horror of the murder of the 32-year-old Antiguan Kelcho Cochrane by a white mob eventually led to the ending of such useless hostilities between the older local and the newer migrated inhabitants of a partially decayed and impoverished area.P

Nottinghill Carnival Vorsitzender Francis Pepe im Steeldrum Keller WIr halten eine Minute Andacht um 1500 am Karnevalmontag.JPGPhoto: Snapshot of Francis Pepe in workshop

Soon the Notting Hill Carnival, now Europe’s largest street festival came to be. In the words of some, such as Francis Pepe, the current chairman of the Notting Hill Carnival, as “a cultural affirmation,” in the words of others, like Leslie “Teacher” Palmer ( who is credited with the expansion of the street festival) rather as a “political and proud manifestation “.

Leslie Palmer 74 links wird das Wachstum des bis heute so zu erkennenden Notting Hill Karneval zugesagt Ich brachte mehr Züge hinzu Die Kampagne zu Grenfell sei dem Karneval ähnlich. EPhoto: Leslie Teacher Palmer on the left

Never give up your dignity!

Shirvin Best, born in 1954 in Barbados, who moved to London in 1964, lives not far from Grenfell in another tower. He says. that in his youth North Kensington was the place where he and other people of African-Caribbean background could hang out in relative safety. Best remembers that the police would often follow young men like him without real reason. But it was his grandmother who had admonished him back in Barbados, to never give up his dignity and not allow white racists to get the upper hand. “Look them in the eye and  let them see you as an equal”, she said. Shirvin did not fail to do that, also encouraged bz his father, including to racists like one of his former employers, of whom he later learned, that his daughter had married a man with same skin colour as himself, and who shed off all racism due to his grandchild and later his illness in old age, when only his daughter and his Caribbean son in law looked after him.

Shirvin Best vor Vernmisstenanzeigen beo Latimer Road Station. Ich kannte da einige1.JPGShirvin Best.

“We heard what happened in the USA and South Africa. It meant that I became shortly a member of the Black Power Movement here”. Later he would get a position in the London council for equality, as well as become an official community liaison person when the police would arrest young black men in Kensington, a task he proudly continues to this day.

From destruction to radical communal space. Westway

Soon enough, the once split communities had a new common focus. The Greater London Council (GLC) intended to build a flyover motorway straight over the area. In order to do so many parts of the area would have to be demolished. It led to a massive chaos and transformed considerable parts of the area into a wasteland. Higher than average air pollution continues to be an issue until this present day, due to this. That the spaces below the Westway did not become car parks is due to sustained pressure from the community at the time. The 23 acres granted for community use were a real victory. The communal usage of the spaces are guarded until this present day by locals, and most recently through a dedicated lobby group Westway23. There, in front of the Maxilla Club under the arcades of the flyover, and protected from all weathers and the dark, many locals meet for a chat, to play chess or to relax. It is here, where the community met after the disaster. The permanent arty space became a place with wall paintings that demand social housing or that remember the dead, or which accuse the state, the council or the system in general. Most recently it was also the location for some of the funerals.

Dieser Vorgarten vpr der Hauptzone der Communitz vor demMaxillaklub unter dem Westwaz wurde nach dem Inferno bepflanztPhoto: Community Space under the Westway

A left over and vacated area at the edge of the new traffic artery was taken up by people looking for cheap housing and became squatted. When the GLC and the council wanted to clear the area in 1977 the squatters declared the area as the “Independent Republic of Frestonia”. After the struggle, a compromise emerged, in form of the setting up of a housing cooperative, which exists to some degree up until this present day.  Former resident Lizzie Spring remembers how experimental and radical the area used to be. It enabled her to explore a variety of concepts, for her personally particularly pertinent at the time was the idea of militant feminism.  At the time, she lived very close to Grenfell Tower which was erected alongside other social housing estates in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She reports constant battles with the local council, for example in order to save a public bath on the spot that on which now the recently rebuilt academy school stands. Her radicalism continues up until this day, even though she has now reached her 60s, Now it are suggestions addressed to the Mayor of London. She intents to change social housing to a model where tenants possess more self-determination and responsibility, rather than the current state, “where social housing tenants are seen as brainless persons who need to be managed, perhaps in the way and manner the local authority viewed the occupants of Grenfell Tower.”

Local Council & Local Rebels

Wird weiterkämpfen und tut es seit den 60ger Jahren Meg McDonald.JPGPhoto: Snapshot of Mag Mc Donald taken in Tabernacle

Mag McDonald, 75, had moved in 1967 from Nottingham into North Kensington. She is also of the opinion, that since her arrival the community has never stopped to hold the local council to account. And she is not the only one who talks of a distanced council that fails to understand this area. “I remember, once we succeeded to have a building, which the council wanted to demolish, grade listed. RBKC had the building torn down regardless in the very night before the registration would have become valid.” Similarly, the popular Holland Park Comprehensive School was closed against protests, and reopened as a solely academic school, as this was closer to the values of the Conservative local authority. It came to no one’s surprise thus, when it became known that Elizabeth Campbell – she is the new Leader of the Council, elected after the inferno by the elected mostly Conservative representatives of the council, after the former leader Nicholas Paget-Brown had resigned –  had to admit, in spite of years as a councillor and cabinet member, that she had never been inside a high rise social estate flat of as they would have existed at Grenfell Tower. But the community managed to at least save one building from the fangs of the council and gentrification, just West of Portobello Road. Up until this day, it remains one the most important centres of communal, cultural and local political grassroots work, the so called Tabernacle.

Bürgermeistern Council Leader Elizabeth Campbell versichert das alles getan werdePhoto: Elizabeth Campbell at a meeting with survivors and the local community

In 2009 RBKC declared that Notting Dale should be completely knocked down and rebuilt. All sorts of reasons were named, amongst others, that the area would not be economically diverse enough. Michael Jardine, a successful architect, who lives in an estate nearby,  and who was amongst others involved in the construction of the London Olympics site, noticed, that the plans the council had, would double the number of persons in the area, but not in favour of socially disadvantaged groups in whose interest the regeneration was advertised as. Other reasons the council listed for the regeneration were, that “Grenfell Tower blights the view to the East from Latimer Road Station”, and that the roads of the social housing estate would be irrational and repairs expensive.

20170723_184747Photo: “Grenfell Tower blights the vision to the East from Latimer Station”, the council claimed in 2009. It certainly does now!

Not short of that, they also listed crime rates, in spite of the fact that crime was about average here unlike in the wealthy parts of the borough Knightsbridge and South Kensington, who have much higher rates of crime. The council was however so incompetent that they mistakenly suggested to demolish and regenerate the areas around the Westway against all local agreements and prior defeats against the will of the community, they even forgot to notify the Westway Trust, who administers the space. „As a matter of fact RBKC made so many mistakes, that we were relatively optimistic that the regenerations efforts would lead to nothing,” argues Jardine. Again and again the community spoke out against aspects of the plans, and RBKC was forced accordingly to change its details or format.

Piers Thompson is an Oxford graduate and DJ. Thompson lives in a  semidetached house of a 1970s estate opposite Grenfell which he and his wife bought because he admires for its 1970s architecture. ”I was always a rebel who had grown out of punk, ” he describes himself. He explains, that he and others had caused so much havoc against the regeneration plans, that they had regained 22 percent of the area the council had previously intended for a complete demolishment and regeneration. Amongst those 22 percents were especially those places, where obstructive people like himself live. By now, end of August, and after the fire,  he has assurances that the rest of the estate will also not be touched.

Piers Thomspon Viele sahen mich wie Papa an.  WIr leitetn eine Kampagne und gewannen 22 Prozent der zu regenrierendne Zone zurück Wir machten ihnen zu viele Probleme.JPGPhoto: Piers Thompson

There were people like Thompson who lived in Grenfell Tower too. It is by now a well-known fact, that the Grenfell Action Group continuously warned about the safety of the tower block in the event of a fire. Alongside, it is known that the group was threatened with legal action should they continue to raise awareness. According to Thompson the council attempted to display such people as gone by, mentally unstable,  losers who would cause unnecessary problems. Michael Jardine adds here, that some member of the Grenfell Action Group would now feel shattered since the inferno. If they had been listened to,  people would not have lost their lives. They are not the only ones whose lives are not like before now, however. Not only survivors of the inferno or family members of victims are affected. Piers Thompson also talks about his teenage daughter, who, together with a friend, followed the death of one of their friends on snap chat. Thompson knows, that when the renovation of Grenfell Tower was first discussed with residents,  “they listed things like working elevators, better lighting, stuff like that. Nobody said a word about the external area. The outer appearance with its cladding was more something that related to the needs of others, precisely as it is listed in 2009 in the regeneration plans of the council. And whats more, besides the outer area of the tower, the school in front of the tower was rebuilt, some argue it wasnät necessary either. Unfortunately, it was expanded in such a way that the new Academy made it immensely difficult for the fire brigade to access the tower in the night of the inferno.

So stellte sich die Stadtbehörde die Zukunft vor. Neubau auf abgerissener Zone, Im Hintergrund ein alter TowerPicture: New Model Housing with golden art!

Whilst Grenfell was being renovated, RBKC ordered a small industrial area on the other side of the underground station Latimer Road to be taken down and rebuilt with a model social and private housing mix. Looking from the platform of Latimer Road Station, one spots a modern looking brick building. On its roof facing the station stretches an enormous and unnecessary appearing art piece made out of golden balls that extend themselves in different directions like a flower bouquet. Again, and again, the council’s regeneration papers raised the point of the potential of the area, in accordance with the general rise of the value of properties in the area. Too bad, that this was an area inhabited by poorer people when the areas South from here transformed into millionaires strips. Buildings once occupied by several families on different floors were converted into single occupier mansions, into which the spill off of Londons establishment moved. The council may have wished for more change in that direction hence their attempt on Notting Dale.

Künstler beim Bemalen einer Säule .JPG

Conservative & Labour

When Emma Dent-Coad won the parliamentary seat of Kensington on the 9th of June for Labour, with a majority of 20 votes, and just before the inferno, many assumed it to be a surprising victory. But the truth is that Nord Kensington had always been a Labour area. The privilege of the Conservatives to dominate the area was a matter of changes to the electoral borders of the area. In those years when the area included more of the wealthy South, the Conservatives won, in those years in which more Northern regions were part of it, Labour won. The current borders exist since 2010. They include tiny parts of Notting Hill and Holland Park, but not Chelsea and South Kensington.

But when it comes to the council, there is a problem, because here South Kensington, and Chelsea are part of the same authority alongside North Kensington. It is the council, not the MP,  that makes decisions in questions of planning, and it is dominated by the Conservative Party for a long time, Elizabeth Campbell was a member of the same cabinet, which was responsible for the regeneration of Notting Dale.

Many locals state, that their vote for “Emma” was not even a vote for Labour, but above all a vote for her as a person. Dent Coad, who was a councillor prior to becoming an MP, and had attended many local campaigns. She was active not only against the regeneration plans of Notting Dale, but also in the campaign to save the public library of North Kensington, which the council had promised a private college, as well as the failed campaign of a community pub, or the campaign to save a further education college, which is fundamental for the teaching of English as a foreign language to new migrants. The council conceded on this only after the inferno. With 80 or more dead, Elizabeth Campbell perhaps felt she ought to assure the end of all regeneration plans and the saving of the library. Victories of this kind only come now with a bitter-sweet taste.

IMG_0221 (1).JPG

The organisation with the direct responsibility for the decisions and administration on social housing was a communal TMO. It was founded on the basis of intense community pressure in the 1980s. When RBKC finally agreed to it, it was set up or soon evolved in such a way that it appeared to the outside to be a democratic construct, whilst all important decisions could in fact only be taken by councillors who were members of the cabinet. Accordingly, the decision about the cost saving cladding of Grenfell was made by the Conservative councillor Rock Feilding-Mellen alone. He has resigned from his post since the fire and also left the area.

Justice4Grenfell

Justice for Grenfell vor einem Mosaik zur Erinnerung an die Opfer FrankosWhen Grenfell was burning and in its aftermath and the community was in need of urgent help. RBKC intended to manage and control the situation on its own. This is a point brought up by Yvette Williams. Williams is the daughter of immigrants from Antigua, precisely the country, out of which once the murdered Kelcho Cochrane came. „My family was very politically engaged and met leaders of the independence movement in the Caribbean. Dad was a policeman in Antigua and well-respected”.

Williams herself was actively involved in the campaign of a more contemporary black murder victim, the campaign for Justice for Stephen Lawrence who was murdered by racist thugs in 1993, whilst waiting for a bus in Elton, South-East London, and whose prosecution was hindered by an institutionally racist police force. She also worked on other projects in North Kensington, amongst others, to save The Tabernacle and the no longer existing location of local black politics and culture, The Mangrove, which fell under the axe of gentrification but had seen figures like Bob Marley, CLR James, and Nina Simone.

Rassistische Weerbung eines Marklers in Nordkensington von 2014, welche durch Yvette Williams und andere zur Rechenschaft gezogen wurde Foto Urban75.org

Foto Urban75.org

One other local campaign she was involved in, she mentions directly. A local estate agent in North Kensington put up racist advertising some three years ago, namely  that black people are born to dance, and whites to buy property.” „We gave the estate agent 24 hours to remove the ad and they followed suit.” That this attitude goes deeper also on other levels is perhaps illustrated by the fact that the new person with the responsibility for social estates, and with the brief of finding accommodation for the victims of Grenfell Tower, the Conservative councillor Kim Taylor-Smith, is also a person at home with property investment.

Still, according to the research of The Guardian newspaper, there are a total of 1652 empty houses and flats in Kensington, amongst others empty investments of New York former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a block with 26 empty units owned by Christian Candy. When the council claims, that the relocation of units to survivors of the fire may last up to 12 months, that fact alone is shameful. Atop, Taylor-Smith used the wrong language at one of the meetings with locals and survivors, labelling any potential new units as “the best memorial to the inferno.” Community members angered by this remark made him apologise instantly.

Kim Taylor-Smith - Stanley verplappert sich beim Auftreffen mit den Opfern, als er sagt, die neuen Wohnungen seien das beste Andenken für das Inferno. Er muss sich für diese Worte entwschuldigen 3.JPGPhoto: Kim Taylor-Smith (c) Daniel Zylbersztajn 

Or take the fact that the government had nominated Eleanor Kelly, the CEO of the London Southwark borough as an advisor for questions of social housing in Kensington. But it was Southwark in particular, notably a Labour council at that, that received a damaged reputation on the grounds of the regeneration of the 1970s Heygate Estate (see mz article https://dzx2.net/2015/05/05/eine-weltstadt-fur-reiche-world-capital-for-the-rich/) , an estate that was totally demolished and a discount price and for favours by the developer Land Lease at that. In fact, the similarities to Notting Dale are in part striking. Many observers understand Heygate Estate’s demise as nothing but social cleansing.

links Sarah Abdullah, 39 mit Tochter und Dermot zweiter von Rec hts kamen um Hilfe zu bringen, sie haben Wasser und Kleidung.JPGPicture: Aid given out on day of the fire by volunteers.

So when after the fire it became apparent that the community needed help, and the council would not be able to provide it, Yvette Williams set up Justice for Grenfell together with others. Posters of the group, that demand the resignation of the elected council are plastered throughout the area. Not once was it Williams job to face international TV cameras since and yet there was more to do than anyone imagined. Due to the patchy help from the council, Justice for Grenfell began to organise help itself, cover the social and mental needs just as much as the management of donations, demands for compensation, the questions and consultations of the forthcoming independent inquiry and the criminal investigation alongside political and media representation, a mammoth task.

Meanwhile, the council was able to improve its help arrangements, but it still has gaps. With help finally emerging as it should be, there is a help centre, there are key workers, social workers and so on in coordination with professional organisations, it almost appears as if the council would now try to compensate for its mistakes. Niles Hailstones, the chair of Westway23 and well-known community activist made it very clear in one meeting, when he complained about the brute force and suspicion by the police on the ground, who had thrown him and his son to the floor and attempted to put on handcuffs, under suspicion of carrying illegal drugs:

Niles Hailstones, von der Lobbygruppe Westway22 konfrontiert die Vertreter der Stadtbehörde und die Polizei mit Fragen und Anschuldigungen. Woglfahr ist nicht Gerechtigkeit sagt er (1) Ort Methodist Kirche.JPGPhoto: Niles Hailstones speaking out against Elizabeth Campbell

“Let me be clear,” he addressed Elizabeth Campbell directly:. „Charity is no Justice!” As man of Rastafarian belief, he added, that all that happened in Grenfell and after that, reminded him of the system, that exists since 500 Jahren years. Whilst he uttered these words, it looked as if Campbell rolled her eyes, and according to observers from the community, it was not for the first time.

Whilst some believe, that all people with more wealth in this area would be part of the problem, others hoped, that finally, all people would get it, and see how incredible and incompetent the leadership of the conservative Council of RBKC was since decades. So far, the prime minister Theresa May had admitted that the council was precisely this after the inferno when it did not act appropriately and fast enough. One observer, who did not want to be named, put it however in these words: The new ones, that arrive with much wealth would not buy property here, if it was not for the proud history of the area and with its immigrants, Portuguese cafes, Moroccan bazaars, Caribbean history and presence, Spanish school, the artists, the market and the Notting Hill Carnival. I mean if it was not like this they could move to other areas. At best I hope that Grenfell opens people’s eyes that the plans of the council could destroy precisely that, which is important to many.” How much people will understand will become evident in the 2018 local elections.

Community Symbols

 

IMG_0213 (1).JPG

Photo: Sophie Lodge sign come unity. (c) 2017 Daniel Zylbersztajn

One symbol of the unification of the community post-Grenfell was an art piece by local artist and community activist Sophie Lodge. During Carnival 2016 she created a massive heart in whose middle the name Community stood. On the day after the inferno, she asked the community to make art contributions with such hearts, Every day up until the beginning of the carnival this year she occupied Portobello Park and made these hearts with whoever wanted. Some will be carried also by the dance bands during the carnival,” she explained.

 

 

Sophie Lodge Künstlerin welche das  24Hearts   Kustprojekt unter dem Westway nach dem IUnferno startete 03.JPG

Photo: Sophie Lodge on the right. Photo Daniel Zylbersztajn,  All Rights Reserved (c) 2017

 

 

The community decided early on, that Carnival should take part in spite of the sorrow. It shows that we are still here”, declared Francis Pepe. and added that there will be a minute of silence during the carnival as well as religious ceremonies before the carnival, and possibly quiet marches when the bands pass by near the Grenfell Tower. In some ways, music is not necessary there. The black shameful form of the tower demands respect itself and tells the story of an impoverished neighbourhood, of lost human lives now and then, and the fight for dignity against an arrogant and ignorant council. A community in which people of all backgrounds grew together, and who have any reason to be celebrated by others in one of the biggest parties of the world, actually.  Never lesser so than now.

 

24hearts Campagne

Photo Daniel Zylbersztajn,  All Rights Reserved (c) 2017

24Hearts Herzen ein Kustprojekt unter dem Westway, welches Sophie Lodge begann

Photo Daniel Zylbersztajn,  All Rights Reserved (c) 2017

 

 

England, England, EDL, EDL

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Deutscher Bericht:

www.taz.de/Nach-dem-Mord-in-London/!116732/

English:

When I went to Woolwich yesterday to examine the scene after the murder, it wasn’t long until I witnessed a backlash action by the far right organisation EDL.  Local young people of minority backgriund suspected it and spoke of fear of being penalized for the actions of some crazed loonies.  There were some exchanges between the police and the EDL supporters, absurdly some of the EDL people had full pints of beer, a woman came with something that looked like a Martini, as if they had emerged from a pub.

I managed to quietly speak with three EDL supportes who explained to me quietly that they had enough, and felt urge to protest.  Not all however were quiet there was quite some shouting and posturing as well in general.  Some of the fans were rather young (15-18, and they seemed to have come from across the entire area).

www.taz.de/Nach-dem-Mord-in-London/!116732/Select link above and use googletranslate to get an English tranlation of the German original on the Online version of the article in Taz.

 

A Better Way? What can food co-operatives offer in the Age of the Supermarket?

“A Better Way?” wants to examine the case for food co-ops in conversation with people knowledgeable in the field.

Originally broadcasted on Londnon Resonance FM 104.4 Saturday 7th July 2012 12.00 – 13.00

Listen here:  Audio Archive:  Food Co-ops: A better Way?

Producers Comments:

This new piece for Resonance FM, London 104.4  is really a “re-cut,” using material from a documentary produced for a German audience and aired on  Querfunk. (listen here)  It was totally re-edited from the original material elaborated on and new material was also collected.

My main aim was to examine the case for food co-ops.  This was not going to be a feature about supermarkets and what they are about, although some of that was included, because it forms the basis of why many start up food co-ops.  Armin Valet of the Hamburg Consumer Council and Majorie Stein of Eden Farms make their  cases on this quite well.  Those who want to know more, may want to watch the 2011 BBC Panorama feature ‘Supermarkets: What Price Cheap Food ?’ which is available on you tube.

In the German original one of the key persons talking the listener through was Santa Meyer-Nandi of Finding Sustaina an UNESCO (Germany) award wining blog.  She was an interesting person both in terms of what she said to me over the mic,  as she walked me through the The People’s Supermarket (TPS).

But also because she  later left TPS  to join the work-force of a local fine foods store situated in the  same street as TPS called Kennard’s.  Meyer-Nandi felt that TPS had damaged this local store by selling some of the same goods and offering cooked meals.  Meyer-Nandi believed that a supermarket ought to also relate to other local stores and have” gentleman agreements” on what they sell and do not sell.  Kennard’s weren’t  willing to comment on this, and about five months ago they had closed down.  If it was really down to TPS or due to other reasons I can not say.  Probably a mixture of reasons.

Co2012 dzx2.net - All rights reserved.

Other things that were different with the new edition were the fact that I sought to speak with Waitrose and The Co-Operative Supermarket chains.  Both asked me lots of questions beforehand about the  content of my questions and my intentions. So much for corporate damage control.  Waitrose was also very keen to know who I spoke with at the Co-op.

After 14 days wait Waitrose  said they were unable to provide me with “the right person to speak to” as he or she, was now abroad, even though I had offered to call the person regardless of location.  Neither was Waitrose able to get somebody down to their new London  Stratford showcase supermarket and walk me around there.   They said it was because the local store manager could not do this, and the people who could were at their HQ miles away.  On the other hand, I have attended an evening on London Air Quality, where a John Lewis / Waitrose official outlined some quite remarkable policies on how they would reduce emissions in their fleet, including hybrid and electrical vehicles and using gas produced from waste to power some.  But the Local Government Authority felt that Waitrose was not yet one of their best performers.  In the end Waitrose provided me with a written statement which I used in the documentary.

The Co-operative Group was able to offer me with one of their busiest regional secretaries, he was very informative and gave me over 30 minutes of his time.  In the programme a tension came up between Kate Bull and Graham Hammond on the issue of getting a loan as a co-op.  Bull argued the Co-operative Bank was not forthcoming for loans, whilst Hammond argued they help new forming co-ops.  Originally I had another musical interlude in the feature.  I had  edited in the Co-Op’s 2011 Join the Revolution TV and Film advertisement and music,  openly available on youtube, to introduce Graham Hammond, but my contact from the  Co-Op Group media department argued, to my great surprise,  that the department could not approve the use, because of the artistic copyrights involved.  It sounded rather strange to me, and perhaps they were worried that their ad was going to be misused.

The Fair Shares Food- Co-op was quite a remarkable little place.  I quite liked it but it does have restricted opening hours.  I have never bought oat grains as cheaply as from them.  In the original German version I described Fair Shares as a “remarkable store in the chaos of an urban city centre.”  I noted, that ‘where elsewhere stores install CCTV circuit cameras and hire security guards and detectives, here is an example of a store that has none of these features, and even believes the customer’s own calculations of how much the product is she is buying.’  Kevin said they were only once ripped off and on that occasion the customers handed the goods back.  Still it was disappointing that they had opted for a blank boycott of Israeli goods, especially given the fact that with the co-operative Kibbutz Movement, and the associated co-operative Moshav Movement.  I know at least one Kibbutz, that has been known to be particularly outspoken on Palestinian – Israeli issues, Kibbutz  Givat Haviva (but it was only in 2008 that a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship became Israel’s first Kibbutz member).  A blank boycott may be also detrimental to all positive forces within Israel.  Gush Shalom,  the peace campaign founded by Uri Avneri’s  has for example said, that those who wish to boycott due to positions against the occupation of the West Bank, should be more specific and had issued a list to boycott specific produce from the settlements, which is now going through legal challenges in Israel.   Whether or not boycotts themselves are a productive force is a matter of much discussion. My personal opinion is that the situation is a far more complex one, and that if Israel is singled out for a boycott, those who support it must ask themselves why only Israel is chosen from a plate that is full of other countries that may be held to be politically unjust.  I had personally chosen to commit myself for many years to a Jewish Israeli – Palestinian peace village, Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom instead, with real people who live and work the future most of us wish for in the Middle East, and whose UK media liaison person I was (via British Friends).

The Battle Hymn of the Co-operations  played in my documentary is probably the first time you hear the track since the 1930s.  I found it mentioned on the web.  It was written by Elizabeth Mead and Carl Ferguson in 1932 and is thought to be a pre-curser of ‘Solidarity for Ever,’ both based on the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  The artist performing it in my documentary is called Tom Smith who is a London based  jazz drummer and music teacher.   The song was was specially performed and recorded for this feature.  You can listen to the full version of the song here:
https://archive.org/details/CorporationSong

Since the recording The People’s Super Market have decided to use extracts of the song as their current jingle tune mixed with statements by some of their members.

There is one piece I have not included in the feature.  It is Nelson Fernandez who is the Green Grocer of The People’s Supermarket
.

I thought his evidence being quite hard touching especially the bit about getting a job and falling in love with another shop assistant.

I had to think of Bruce Springsteen’s Queen of the Supermarket when he told me his story…

Resonance FM London is supported by the Art council and TheWire.co.uk amongst others, and broadcasts some outstanding challenging and experimental radio productions, as well as new and upcoming radio producers and special interest radio shows (such as Talking Africa)!  If you can make a small donation on their web-site to support this unique medium!
http://resonancefm.com/


“A Better Way?” was produced and presented by Daniel Zylbersztajn / dzx2.net

Voice Overs: Sophie Talbot

Radio-feature, 55 min.,  Production Date May 2012.

Thanks to James Gordon, and the Cooperative Singers of Ontario, and also to Tom Smith, for musical contributions!

Also listen here to full versions of  Supermarket and Farmers Blues

for distribution rights contact Daniel

Comments:

  1. Dan – very much enjoyed your piece on Resonance – congratulations.  Jamie
  2. Really enjoyed listening to the recording.  Although I am not a big fan of Co-operatives as they tend to serve a few – reminds me of gated communities in Zimbabwe or India (even there any one can join).  The arguments of co-operatives are valid and promoting this to others (particularly to the young ) is very worthy.  In this you are playing the most active part. I am sure most co-operative would aim to get their message to all kids at schools (not just their children who would usually tend to be from middle class families).  It would have been interesting to hear how they are going about doing this.  Change happens when the majority disapprove having made an informed choice.  I believe that it is possible to get the big supermarkets to change –  this would serve the majority ( not forgetting the jobs  they provide and sometimes housing to the local community).  The woman towards the end spoke about people’s choice and yet the need to be profitable is how I see it operate – yet holding on to ones principles.  On the other hand many farmers are provided subsidies and don’t even need to produce anything! The basis of these subsidies should be based on providing produce for school dinners and our hospitals at the least. Well done and keep up the good work.     Jerome
 

‘That’s the way to do it!’ Punch and Judy turns 350 – The story about my feature –

All Rights Reserved dzx2.net

Punch and Judy and and German Kasperl have not much in common or so it seems.

My latest contribution to Deutsche Welle examines this further.  DW has released

a printed version prior to the audio feature.

Feature was aired on 13th of March 2012 on World-Link (Deutsche Welle).  Please contact DW to request a copy of the podcast (E-Mail Link) if you missed it, or Read the Article on DW here!

So what on earth got me to do this feature?  It was about two years ago that I encountered Punch and Judy first with my daughter in St George’s Park, Holborn on St George’s Day.  I thought we were going to see what I knew as a Kasperl show, but was taken back when I saw Punch whom I thought to be Kasper, hit everyone of his characters.  To my amazement my daughter stomached it but I came out outraged talking to my friends about the brute Brits.  A year later on another show near Covent Garden, my daughter’s friend, they are French – Irish,  run crying away from the show, whilst my daughter quite liked it.  At the end of the show I spoke to the puppeteer, who turned out to be Geoff Felix, a Punch and Judy puppeteer of many years experience, who as I later found out kept a whole historical archive on the show.  I asked him why it was so different from the  German version and it was him who first suggested to me that actually there was such a play in Germany, but it was transformed, his real words were “sanitized” through the Nazi Reich. So this story it seemed wasn’t so much about the supposed brute Brits, but about the even more brutal Germans.

This really drew my curiosity.  I had never head such a thing.  Was it true?  I kept the idea in my head, and made sure I took all the essential details from Geoff.  I few months later I found myself in the  Munich city museum in the puppet exhibition.  And there I saw to my astonishment that in deed Kasper prior to 1932 was the villain you recognize as if you are British.

After some research and the fact that Punch and Judy’s 350th  anniversary was about to come up I pitched BBC World Service with my idea to run the story why the puppet plays would be so different in the two countries, Germany and the UK.  The BBC answered to my astonishment with “definitely not!”  It still puzzles me today why it was the BBC – who was after all are  based in Punch and Judy’s  home-country-  that  felt  the story was not worthwhile.  I wondered if perhaps they had a negative view of the show, being “violent,”  and part of  children entertainment at the sea-side.  Neither was the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in Munich interested, the paper being based near  the  home of  the German 1920’s Kasper assemble inside  the Munich City Museum.  The German weekly Die Zeit was interested, but felt the style wasn’t right, perhaps they wanted it more in a more arty way, which is quite unlike the tradition of Punch and Judy, rooted in impoverished working class puppeteering.  But my editor at Deutsche Welle called me within minutes of telling him about the idea.  He is an American living in Cologne for some time now and like any migrant has to negotiate two cultures, in his case the very differences between Anglo-Saxon and German culture that my feature attempted to investigate.

Slowly a picture began to emerge.  After speaking to Manfred Wegner from the City Museum of Munich, who oversees the permanent puppet exhibition I was just as unsettled about the civilised tamed Kasperl as I was initially about the portrayed violence of Punch and Judy.  This conflict made me contact Prof. Andrew Tolmie at one of Europe’s  leading centres in child psychology.

There are still no definite answers, but I think if one contextualize either play tradition, they both of their right place in the imagination of a child.  It is worth pointing out, that neither Punch, Polcinella, nor Kasperl at their beginnings were actually part of children theatre, but pointy and witty adult entertainment.  They evolved into the children’s genre only gradually.  Whilst violence is till displayed in every Punch and Judy, one thing that isn’t  is the once traditional use of  animals, in particular a little dog usually called Toby, nor will you find an African character that only speaks gibberish.  I was told the reason is simple.  A puppeteer plays to a live audience, if he plays things that the majority of an audience dislikes, he is out of a job.

Another comment I like to make is that the friendliness of all the puppeteers I met was remarkable and quite above the norm.  These are thinking people who enjoy entertaining children for their genuine laughter.  It isn’t always easy living, and I heard about quote a few injuries to, either to backs or shoulders, and playing puppets is quite physical, but regardless it seems that once they start playing they almost can’t stop it.  Geoff Felix said to me that there is a saying among Punch and Judy players:  If you look after Mr Punch, he will look after you!”

Punch and Judy’s 350th birthday  was celebrated at Covent Garden on 12th of May 2012.

German Kasper and Police Officer   All rights reserved dzx2.net

Nappy-Change. The challenge of modern fatherhood.

English: Father with baby in the shower.

English: Father with baby in the shower. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

on London Resonance 104.4 FM
http://resonancefm.com/ 
Monday February 27th. 2012 at 4:30pm and 
Wednesday  February 29th. 2012 at 7:30pm (repeat)
25 minutes feature,including translations
Listen to the version without supporting music (songs removed due to copyrights) :
Listen now link:
Having been a full time father himself for two years, Daniel Zylbersztajn asks what the challenges of more involved fatherhood are today and discovers both progress in gender equality as well as a surprising amount of prejudice about fathers.  The feature covers paternity issues both in England and in Germany.Period of recordings:April – November 2011
Date of production Dec2011