The campaign against a Third Runway is now well underway. Watch this space for more.
It is very likely that this blog, as well as Facebook posts, emails and text messages of mine, will have been read by the police. In the two years I lived in protest camps social centres and political squats in London it is almost inconceivable that I did not work with, live with and befriend an undercover officer. At Occupy London (as we terrorised the nation with our public assemblies, workshops and polythene tents) it was widely understood that the place was heavily infiltrated by police, private spies and agent provocateurs. The police will have a file on me, small fry though I am, as well as most of my friends involved in non violent campaigns relating to housing, environmentalism, Occupy and squatting.
The recent book ‘Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police’, by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis is a chilling account of how hundreds of millions of public funds is being used to fund the routine abuse of peaceful activists, sexually and otherwise. Of the ten undercover police operatives outed so far, nine have had sex with their targets. One is known to have had a child who never got to know his real father. Eleven women are now sueing the Met for psychological trauma.
Public enquiries (that have not been made public) have been met with ‘official obstruction’ the book informs us. In 2012 when the spy Mark Kennedy was famously exposed. He was shown to have withheld evidence from court that would have supported the defendants (ironically subverting the course of justice). Kennedy has now moved to private sector spying. Corporate espionage is big business and private spies outnumber those of the police. Like the police’s National Public Order Inteligence Unit (NPOIU) the sector is ‘completely unregulated’. It is believed that hundreds of thousands of activists have had at some point a friend who is a spy. Given that activism in this country can only number in the hundreds of thousands we should all be outraged.
It is documented to be routine for the swelling undercover apparatus to monitor and subvert organisations and individuals looking into police misconduct. This includes the family of murdered black teen Steven Lawrence and the police watchdog the Newham Monitoring Project.
The stunts I have been involved in at demonstrations, the time I have spent behind megaphones and microphones and my outspoken advocacy of direct action though my work as “public figure” will be of interest to the police. I have been warned by fellow campaigners involved in legal work about the frequency with which my face has appeared in photographs at court cases relating to demonstrations.
I have never acted violently toward another person through my activism. Yet according to the police, myself and my fellow activists are “domestic extremists”. As such we can be infiltrated by paid spies who file detailed reports on our lives, and thousands of others. The days when this was limited to ‘violent extremists’ is long gone. All you need to qualify to be profiled it seems is to speak out against corporate misdoings.
Something needs to be done. If civil society cannot organise safely and effectively then we have no civil society. If we have no civil society then we risk sliding into a corporate security state. Do we need to wait?
But there are reasons to be positive. This situation is symptomatic of state that is scared of the reaction and instability caused by a regime of bank
bailouts and public cuts, where inequality and social deprivation is reaching record highs. The UK has the second highest concentration of land ownership in the world (second only to Argentina). Current political incentives to extend the squatting ban to commercial properties is in part fuelled by an agenda of political cleansing that attacks autonomous spaces of organisation and self education. It is the same paranoia behind police press appeals for members of the public to report any known anarchists. In 2011 the Occupy Movement, which spread across the world, received huge public approval. I have personally witnessed the extent of the apparatus of police repression used to infiltrate and forcibly remove the camps, including the recent snatch squads and fences used to stop pro democracy demonstrators peaceful protests at Parliament Square. The movement against cuts and fracking is seeing massive grass roots mobilisation across the country. It is now widely understood my most people that Government rules only for the rich. In the words of
Victor Hugo, ‘no army can stop an idea who’s time has come’. If our public servants are treating us like this, is there any reason why we should not all take part in mass movement of non-violent civil disobedience. Now there’s an idea.
From the show ‘Pete the Temp vs Climate Change’
For other videos from the show and elsewhere see the ‘WATCH’ Section of this site.
“Did you hear the water’s been cut off?”
“Newham Council say it wasn’t them, but they were photographed out there with their van. They have broken the water mains”
This was the news I was met with when I arrived yesterday to visit the E15 Mums in a squatted social centre in the Carpenters Estate, Newham. Sprawling onto the streets is a hive of activities: kids painting, a free shop, free food and banners that read ‘social housing not social cleansing’. People are chatting, planning meetings, attending workshops, playing guitars and discussing community issues. Why would the local council try to sabotage a property occupied by a community of vulnerable single mothers?
Last week the E15 Mums squatted some homes that had been left empty by the council for up to eight years. They live in a hostel which is being closed down to make way for one of the many luxury high rise developments springing up in the area as part of the ‘Olympic Legacy’ (aka giant corporate land grab). Excuse the emotive language, I’m beingunfair – there is some provision in the developments for existing residents in Newham (one of the poorest corners of Europe)… it’s not “social housing”, granted but it is “affordable housing” only 80% of market rate! Now you can’t say fairer than that… No you cant… now move to Birmingham, or Manchester.
The hostel residents are being relocated out of London one-by-one so they don’t get together and kick up a stink. Some have ended up on the streets. Many are there because they are fleeing domestic violence or are very young Mums. They don’t have family networks to support them. They are each other’s lifeline and their fragile community is being broken up. Or is it?
The Mums saw that their estate was being purposefully turned into a ghost town by the Council. They saw how thousands of perfectly good properties were being left empty (often with windows left open to accelerate weather damage) to justify demolition and sell off. So they went into a semi detached house and squatted it.
This is a brave move. It is a residential property, so they are now committing a criminal, rather than civil offence under new squatting legislation (one of the Tories’ latest acts of compassion). The E15 Mums desperation could land them in jail.
No wonder they had their water cut off! Not only are they single mums they are also now squatters! Why should they be afforded basic human rights like a temporary shelter or access to water? I guess I should hate these people, but try as I might, I just can’t.
One mother told me she had been moved into temporary private rented accommodation that costs £900 a month (for which she is being supported by Housing Benefit). She is trying to skill herself by doing an apprenticeship, but that only brings in £400 p/month.
“What can I do? If I’m on twelve month contract and I’m forced to move every twelve months that means I have to pullmy daughter out of school. Then she doesn’t get a proper education, and then she can’t get a job and the whole vicious cycle keeps repeating!”
Danny Dorling, in his landmark book about the Housing Crisis, ‘All that is Solid’ (2014) demonstrates how housing benefit is effectively the tax payer being used to subsidise the private sector by covering grossly inflated rent prices. Clever work private sector! There is no public housing left because you bought it all!
Dorling also describes squatting as ‘entrepreneurial’. Is that not what these mothers are? Are they not finding their own solution to the crisis in affordable housing by taking direct action to provide for themselves and their family? So why has the Newham Mayor, Robin Wales, attacked what they’re doing as “disgusting”, saying it’s not his fault if they can’t afford to live in Newham? Would that not mean the only qualification for you being able to live in an area is a financial one?
Surely not, that would mean that the rich from around the world could just buy up thousands of properties as marketinvestments and leave them empty, making hundreds of thousands homeless. He can’t mean that. He wouldn’t say that working class families who’s families are here, who’s children are being schooled here, who’s grandparents were sent to fight fascism (in disproportionate numbers from Newham) who’s grandparents were brought from the West Indies to rebuild the borough after the War, have no right to be here. The Mayor cant mean that. He is a labour man after all.
I work in a primary school around the corner as a part time spoken word educator. I’m quickly learning that I’m surrounded by spoken word experts. There are speakers of over one hundred languages in Curwen Primary School. Newham is one of the world’s most diverse boroughs in the world. Its cultural capital is immense. I know! Lets destroy its communities and bleach the area with more unaffordable gated communities for white, middle class, privately educated professionals! That’s what has made London the cultural capital of the world. That’s what we need more of!
Show your solidarity with the E15 Mums who have captured the nations imagination and shown that laws and developments to benefit private wealth become meaningless when we take direct action, working together in solidarity.
– Visit them, bring, clothes, food, bottled water
– Share their action online https://www.facebook.com/pages/Focus-E15-Mothers/602860129757343?ref=br_tf @FocusE15 #E15SocialCentre
– Complain to and disgrace the Newham Mayor @NewhamMayor @NewhamLondon and Council
– Occupy a long term empty building and use it house people provide a space to about housing.
Having been shut out of dialogue with the Mayor some mothers went to embarrass him and were met with a violent reaction from him
Tour Dates 2014
- Bristol – Arnolfini Theatre, ‘Pete the Temp vs Climate Change’
- Wed, 10 September 7:30
- Canterbury – Wise Words Festival, ‘Pete the Temp vs Climate Change’
- Sunday 14th September, 8pm, 0800 0337 564
- Brighton – Komedia, ‘Pete the Temp vs Climate Change’
Thu, 18 September, 8pm
- Exeter – The Bike Shed Theatre, ‘Pete the Temp vs Climate Change’
Wed, 24 September 2014, 7pm
- Ipswich – The Switch Fringe, ‘Pete the Temp vs Climate Change’
Sat, 04 October, 7pm
- Birmingham – mac, ‘Pete the Temp vs Climate Change’
Fri, 07 November, 7:30 pm
- London – Freeword Centre, Farringdon, ‘Pete the Temp vs Climate Change’
Fri, 21 November, 7pm
‘Poetry’s answer to Mark Thomas…expert performance skills…able to make the depressing enjoyable.’
‘Timely, funny, intelligent, refreshingly angry and often moving. A professional show from a real activist, not just a show about them. Pete The Temp versus Climate Change has us leave the theatre wanting change – and feeling there is serious fun to be had by joining those making it happen.’
‘Poetry and politics have been estranged for a decade or two, but Pete Bearder has persuaded them to share a bed once again. He’s a man on a mission – and with a just cause and a cannonade of verbally astute poems, how can he fail? His show ‘Pete the Temp Verses Climate Change’ is informative, fun and inspiring.’
[Apples and Snakes]
About the show:
Pete the Temp is a poet, a lover and a damn fine administrator! Watch him solve the climate change using only his mouth!
In this multimedia, theatrical, stand up poetry show, Pete tells the story of some of the sticky situations he gets into on his quest to stop climate chaos. Will he succeed? A personal tale of temp jobs, bank sieges, oil orgies and arrest.
Mr The Temp has featured on BBC Newsnight, Wold Service and Radio 4. He is the former Hammer & Tongue National Poetry Slam Champion on BBC Radio 4 South of England Slam Winner.
Produced by – renaissance one www.renaissanceone.co.uk
Dramaturgical support and outside eye – Leo Kay
Extra Direction – Simon Munnery
Ye know on earth and all ye need to know’
It is truly easy to find beauty in language. Advertising executives know this better than anyone. They have found out that techniques of allusion, metaphor and veiled suggestion can be used to infiltrate our desire. They have worked out how to join this with musical poetic devices like rhythm, alliteration, assonance and rhyme, to make us remember and repeat what they say. They know that poetry is great for creating associations and linking up different bits of the universe in peoples’ minds. They make poetry that is ‘multi modal’, meshing poetic elements with other mediums collaboratively to create intense desire and emotion within very short spaces of time. Shit. Can anyone truthfully claim they have not been moved and influenced by them?
Is it Art?
Saying one thing is ‘art’ and another is not is always dangerous territory. One of the reasons that most people believe that poetry doesn’t belong to them is because our educational and cultural institutional have traditionally told everyone that the ‘British Canon’ should be studied and (if creative practice ever came into it) emulated. Many of those who are held up as ‘our’ great poets often belong to a different era, class, race, culture and cosmology to modern Britain, with all its shades, tongues and tastes. Most of our most celebrated poets have almost unrecognisable dialects and cultural references to the students I have been teaching in East London this last year in my position as a full time, embedded, Spoken
There is no qualitative difference between the slogans and cartoons that poet Vladimir Mayakovsky banged out for the Bolshevic propaganda effort and modern cereal boxes artwork.
Now in Hackney, trendy cafes can be seen adorned by 1950’s Hollywood posters and 1920’s grocery advertising.
Poetry for poetry’s sake
Poetry for poetry’s sake is a small part of our innate human capacity to use language beautifully, creatively, musically and metaphorically. Poetry (whatever that is) can be playful and throw-away, like Lewis Carol, Roald Dahl or John Hegley, epic like Dante, and esoteric like T.S Elliot. It can be yelled at an audience of thousands of festival munters, or cryptically encoded like a crossword. It can be written on a toilet door, whispered in a moment of post coital improvisation or spray painted onto a bridge. Indeed, there are so many manifestations and features to this art form that few people can agree on what it is. One thing is certain – it doesn’t belong to ‘poets’.
Sometimes poetry sells play play-doh, banana holders and baby wipes. Often it is crap, truly crap. But then, allot of what is written and spoken by people who identify as poets is crap. I say this as someone who spent many years writing and performing crap poetry.
So why is it that artists who “sell out” receive such sustained criticism? I think it is because art cannot be separated from its who, where, when and how. The motivations, the financing and the dissemination of art is intensely political, and for good reason. Ideas are powerful, and every dictatorship and social movement has had its own aesthetic and artistic genre. Even if art does not consider itself “political”, art has agency in the world and can perpetuate and validate social norms and behaviours that can have good or bad consequences. So much art (including poetry) produced in large scale commercial advertising is nefarious for the sake of profit. Much of it is a danger to public and environmental and mental health. We have marketing specialists and sloganist to thanks for the obesity epidemic, arms fairs, public complicity on illegal wars, suicides and eating disorders. Almost none of it fundamentally challenges the the dominant capitalist – materialist paradigm that we have to blame for the
ecological, economic and social collapse humanity is now facing. These moral arguments are valid and are part of the truth that give artists integrity.
Little of what is produced in commercial advertising will be remembered for capturing the human experience in a new way or articulating great moments of history, large or small. That’s fine, it’s not trying to. Its producing a product fit for purpose – and it does so very well. What is more, it will continue to do so as long as we keep buying it.
Firing the Canon
The challenge for us is to switch off from it and find ways to spread ideas worth sharing in creative ways. We have no choice and there is little time. Spoken word artists in this country have been particularly successful in recent years in reigniting imaginations and mobilising hearts and minds – see Kate Tempest, Danny Chivers, Holly McNish to scratch just the skin of it. Poetic communities are spaces where ideas are shared, voices cultivated and critical thinking exercised. None of it involves sitting in front of a TV. In the words of spoken word poet, and modern day orator, David Lee Morgan: ‘Poetry is part of the cultural mix that keeps that the spirit of freedom and the desire to fight against injustice burning in all our hearts’. Now is the time to reclaim our language and revivify it as something insightful, questioning and positively inspiring. That would be truly beautiful.