ANOTHER YEAR NEARLY OVER...
How quickly the time flies! I'm fast approaching another trip away and so once again, I've decided to list the relatively restrained total of 42 films I've seen this year and dish out 'star' ratings (out of 5) to give you a hint of what I've enjoyed and what was a total waste of money in 2005.
I have to say, it has been a strange cinematic year with lots worth seeing but few outstanding flicks. Despite a number being unmissable at least once, there are precious little that I would definitely want to see again, but here goes:
5 stars: Unmissable!
4 stars: Definitely worth seeing
3 stars: Decent film
2 stars: Disappointing
1 star: Pants
No stars: Why was this released?
In date order - five star films highlighted in bold
The Aviator (***)
Million Dollar Baby (****)
Vera Drake (***)
Ae Fond Kiss (****)
A Very Long Engagement (*****)
Hotel Rwanda (*****)
The Downfall (*****)
The Assassination of Richard Nixon (***)
Bullet Boy (***)
The Sea Inside (****)
Mean Creek (****)
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (****)
Kingdom of Heaven (****)
The Jacket (****)
Star Wars - Revenge of the Sith (*)
Mysterious Skin (***)
Mr & Mrs Smith (***)
Sin City (*****)
Batman Begins (****)
Maria Full of Grace (****)
Kung Fu Hustle (*****)
War of the Worlds (***)
Silver City (***)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (****)
The Island (**)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (***)
A History of Violence (****)
Lord of War (****)
Broken Flowers (****)
Wednesday, 16 November 2005
ANOTHER YEAR NEARLY OVER...
Public Meeting, West Ham Football Club, Tuesday 15 November
After the aborted Green Street Community Forum public meeting on 20 September (see earlier report), local residents were promised that Cllr June Leitch, who leads on the Queens Market development for the council, would return for a meeting in November devoted solely to the Market's future. Sadly that wasn't to be, the promise as worthless as the many others that the council has given on this important issue. Ms Leitch didn't have the courage to show her face, leaving Deputy Chief Executive John Wood and Nick Kay from the developers St Modwens to face the anger of those who turned up at West Ham Football Club last night.
Predicably, whilst claiming that no final decision has been made, John Wood rejected any solution other than a PFI style agreement with St Modwen and warned that "the point of no return" was fast approaching. Equally predictably, Nick Kay tried to make out that the proposed development was some sort of 'act of benevolence' by his company and that Asda's involvement in the plans is really incredibly selfless, rather than part of their efforts to challenge the dominance of Tesco by copying its retail model. And, at the end of the meeting, there was a call for an indicative vote of those who supported the development plans, and not a single hand was raised. Most people could have predicted that too.
But after stitching up an opinion poll by MORI (which failed to ask those it surveyed whether they wanted the Market to be improved rather than decimated), it is clear that Newham Council isn't interested in what local people think. Any sense that there is a long history attached to the Market, that people genuinely care about its future and that consultation should be meaningful has long been abandoned.
It was interesting speaking to one of the local councillors after the meeting, who privately admitted his opposition to the redevelopment but said that he had no power to stop it and no willingness to risk the vengeful wrath of Mayor Sir Robin Wales by making his views public. He tried to argue that the Market is 'not a political issue' and that he just wanted to do what the majority wanted - but in truth it is probably the most political local issue in Newham in the run up to next year's local elections. The development of the Market is Sir Robin's project and it has exposed how the creation of an elected Mayor has been a disaster for local democracy. It will be interesting to see whether the other parties, especially Respect as the left alternative to New Labour, decide to campaign for a new referendum to abolish the post and reject the enormous power placed in the hands of one individual, as part of handing back decision-making to the people of the borough.
Meanwhile, Friends of Queens Market is launching an Alternative Plan for Queens Market at a public meeting on Tuesday 29 November, at 6.30pm at Katherine Road Community Centre. Some of us are already running a book on whether our autocratic Mayor will ban councillors from attending.
Thursday, 20 October 2005
On Tuesday, Green Street Community Forum's steering group passed an unopposed motion of censure of Cllr June Leitch, who refused to answer questions relating to the proposed redevelopment of Queens Market at the Forum's public meeting on 20 September (see earlier report)
Cllr Harvinder Virdee, the Forum's chair, has been asked to write to Mayor Sir Robin Wales communicating the steering group's feelings, although on previous form, it is extremely unlikely that the Mayor will even respond. This is the most obvious weakness of the ten Community Forums in the borough - in theory they are central to the council's cnsultation with local people, but in practice they are ignored.
The Green Street Community Forum has also agreed to organise a public meeting specifically on Queens Market. This has been provisionally scheduled for 15th November, but given the level of local interest, the Forum plans to try and hold the meeting at West Ham Football Club, so the date may change.
Tuesday, 11 October 2005
The NMP Anti-Racist Trust is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Newham Monitoring Project with the launch of the Back in Da Dayz Young Writers Award, an oral history project aimed at encouraging young people to collect and record the experiences of immigrant communities in overcoming racism in Newham.
The project, funded by the Department of Education's Local Network Fund, has developed guidance for young people in conducting interviews and is seeking written interviews, prose, short stories, newspaper articles or a scene from a play, based on conversations with someone who has settled in the borough as an immigrant or refugee.
If you work in a school or with a youth group in Newham and want to get involved, contact NMP at email@example.com for publicity materials and copies of the guidance brochure.
Friday, 7 October 2005
Newham Opposition to War and Racism, in conjunction with East London Against the Arms Fair and Campaign Against Arms Trade, is launching a statement calling for the widest public support from residents and organisations in Newham to ensure that this year's DSEi arms fair will be the last.
The NOWAR network organised a public meeting against the DSEi arms fair in September, which brought together a spectrum of groups with very different tactics for opposing the presence of the arms trade in Newham. The statement adopts a similar approach, aiming to be inclusive enough for all those who reject both the hosting of an arms fair in the borough and the impact of the arms industry in increasing the likelihood of armed conflict and prolonging conflicts once they begin.
To show our support, Radical Activist Newham is hosting a version of the statement allowing people to sign up online.
To add your name or that of your organisation, check the NOWAR website at www.nowar.org.uk
Tuesday, 27 September 2005
A major investigation by Newham Council into its own "Community Constabulary", following allegations of unlawful stop and search, institutional racism, and carrying of offensive weapons, has found that it has developed “without scrutiny and taken on a quasi-policing role without the Council having taken formal decisions about its direction and how it should operate" As a result, “the Constabulary has begun to function more like a private police force than a council service”
Mayor Sir Robin Wales in January 2005 described the council’s Community Constabulary as “the backbone of Newham Council’s fight against crime and anti-social behaviour”. Set up in 1998 as a Parks Constabulary, the team of Community Constables are now part of the borough's Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour Division and the role of its staff has been expanded from parks to include breaches of bye-laws on issues like graffiti, abandoned cars and fly-tipping.
However, the investigation report that followed complaints by Mike Law, councillor for Royal Docks ward in Canning Town, and a number of council staff members has revealed a host of highly damaging concerns about the growth of the Community Constabulary. The report reveals:
- That since a review of the Parks Constabulary in 2002, no decisions about the Community Constabulary have been made by elected councillors but instead have been made by undocumented “instructions” from the Mayor, in breach of the Council’s Constitution.
- That Newham council has not taken any legal advice, either internally or externally, on the powers of its Constabulary and has allowed Community Constables to wrongly think of themselves as police officers. Some have even (almost certainly illegally) appeared on the street sporting the word “police” on their uniforms. The report notes that the Constabulary “seems to have moved into this ‘policing role’ without considering the Council’s powers, the appropriateness of such a role and a number of other relevant factors. In short, it has drifted into a situation where there is a considerable amount of ambiguity over what the Constabulary is actually doing.”
- That this worrying drift towards the exercise of legal powers that Community Constables do not posess is reflected in responses to complaints about noise, where officers have been “threatening to seize equipment, given warnings to people and made judgements on noise levels. Constabulary officers have no powers to warn or seize equipment and are not qualified to make judgements on statutory noise nuisance.”
- That some Community Constables have carried extendable batons against the instructions of management
- That there is an “extremely serious” lack of confidence by employees in their management and that “a significant number of staff perceive management as being bullying”. This has been coupled with an “almost total absence of management systems and procedures”, a culture of favouritism and allegations of racism.
The report also raises concerns from anecdotal evidence of stop and search operations – including that some police officers have concerns about vehicles being stopped - and also of a stop and search book where the names of those stopped are recorded. Management have denied that a stop and search book ever existed but some staff have indicated that it has “disappeared”.
The Community Constabulary received almost £1.4 million in Neighbourhood Renewal funding but is clearly in disarray. Councillors wouldn't know this from a raher more upbeat summary circulated to them by Chief Executive Dave Burbage on 20 September.
The report is expected to be discussed in October but the full version is unlikely to be made available to the public.
Radical Activist Newham has obtained a copy, however, which can be downloaded in Word format here.
Thursday, 22 September 2005
Newham Council proudly announced on Tuesday that an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (Asbo) has been imposed on a youth from Custom House for throwing a stone at a bus, smashing its window and shattering the glass over a female passenger, as well as involvement in car crime and threatening people on more than one occasion.
However, these actions are all criminal offences. Specifically, the youth has been prohibited under the order from "throwing or threatening to throw any missile at a person, property or vehicle anywhere in the Greater London area" - but this would be a criminal offence too.
So why weren't criminal charges brought and why wouldn't they be in the future?
Perhaps it is because Asbos are imposed under civil law, with a lower burden of proof. They can be made solely on the basis of hearsay evidence and legal niceties like having a defence counsel are done away with. Civil law standards also apply to breaches of an Asbo once it has been applied, but breaching an Asbo is a criminal offence and would result in a detention and training order for up to 24 months, of which 12 months could be custodial and 12 months in the community.
There is little evidence that Asbos actually work and Home Office figures show that more than 40% have been breached.
For more information on Asbos, see Asbo Concern's website
Wednesday, 21 September 2005
Saturday 24 September, Parliament Square SW1
The Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Association of Britain and CND are calling opponents of the war in Iraq out onto the streets once again for the March for Peace and Liberty on Saturday 24 September.
The march begins in Parliament Square at 12 noon, ending in Hyde Park.
Activists from Newham Monitoring Project will be meeting in the north-east corner of Parliament Square at noon, close to the exit from Westminster tube. They will be distributing leaflets for the Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign and collecting signatures for petitions for the 10 former Belmarsh detainees arrested and imprisoned on 11th August, who face deportation to countries where they will face death or torture.
If you can volunteer to help, contact Estelle on 020 8555 8151 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Left: Piccadilly Circus on that magnificant day marching in London, 15 February 2003
The BBC has an item on its website today about the announcement that since July, more than £2 million has been raised through Lottery Scratch Cards towards a £750 million National Lottery target to help fund the 2012 Olympics.
Dianne Thompson, chief executive of lottery operator Camelot, is quoted as saying "sales are well over £1m a week and £2m has already been raised towards the £750m - £2m down and £748m to go".
A million quid a month sounds impressive, until you get out a calculator and work out that at that rate, it will take 62.5 years to raise £750 million.
The only way that the Lottery can possibly reach its target is to raid funds that would usually go towards 'good causes', meaning it will be voluntary groups and community projects that will suffer.
Tuesday, 20 September 2005
Public Meeting, 20 September, Forest Gate E7
A quick reportback from this evening's public meeting of the Green Street Community Forum, which descended into chaos as almost the entire audience walked out because Newham councillors refused to allow discussion on the future of Queens Market.
The Forum, one of a number of consultation bodies across the borough, agreed earlier in the summer to hold a public meeting on the proposed development of Queens Market in Upton Park. By the time a date had been set, this meeting had been expanded to include other issues covered by the council's Public Realm department but this was accepted by the Forum steering group because the future of the Market is clearly a major issue for both the council and the local community. On 15th September, steering group members were asked what questions they would like to see answered in the public meeting and made it very clear that Queens Market would form an important part of the event.
However, having indicated earlier in the day that she may not attend at all, Cllr June Leitch, who leads on the Queens Market development for Mayor Sir Robin Wales, showed up at the public meeting and flatly refused to answer any questions on the Market, although she was willing to talk about other issues. In doing so, she showed complete contempt for the wishes of the steering group and local people, most of whom therefore decided to walk out in disgust.
One of the main aims of the Green Street Community Forum is to coordinate the local expression of views, particularly on major regeneration projects. However, the Chair of the Forum, Cllr Harvinder Virdee, accepted and defended his fellow councillor's disgraceful behaviour, leaving the overwhelming impression that Newham's Labour councillors are concerned only with protecting their political allies, rather than with encouraging public debate.
Newham Council is now severely rattled by the briiliant campaign run by Friends of Queens Market, which needs the active support of radical activists in the borough. The campaign can be contacted on 020 8418 0927 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Messages of opposition to the destruction of the Market and complaints about the conduct of Cllr Leitch should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 27 September, 7pm, Stratford E15
The campaigning anti-racist group Newham Monitoring Project marks its 25th year on Tuesday 27th September with its Annual General Meeting in the hall at St John's Church (on the Broadway in the centre of Stratford outside of the shopping centre - see map below).
The meeting will include speakers from a number of those that NMP has worked with over the last year, including the wife of one of the former Belmarch detainees currently imprisoned and facing deportation to Algeria.
Everyone who supports the valuable work that the Project has carried out since 1980 is most welcome from 7pm to 9pm.
To confirm attendance, e-mail Raksha at NMP at email@example.com
Sunday, 18 September 2005
Today's Observer reports that a leaked letter from a senior civil servant to Ken Livingstone pledges £1 billion of government money that ministers had not previously revealed, whilst "London 2012 sources admit privately that some of the costs of staging the world's biggest sporting event were deliberately under-estimated or disguised during the bid process."
Opponents of the Olympic bid warned that the finances of hosting the Games in London were pure fantasy, but few can have expected the lies that were told to have started to unravel so quickly.
Organisers of the NoLondon2012 campaign will shortly launch a new website, London Olympic Watch, that will chronicle what east London campaigners fear will be a re-run of last year's financially disastrous Athens Olympics.
A PDF of the Observer article can be downloaded here
Friday, 16 September 2005
Property developers selected by Newham Council to take on the lease of Queens Market in Upton Park were forced to endure a grilling from the steering group of Green Street Community Forum last night.
St Modwens have been given the task of transforming the market from a lively centre of the community into a soulless corporate shopping centre, complete with an superstore for their favoured commercial partners Asda. The problem they and the council face is that local people are not just unhappy about their plans - increasingly, questions are being raised about the very idea of 'regenerating' an area by handing it over to property developers.
Unable to get straight answers from Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales, campaigners presented a petition of 12,000 signatures to Ken Livingstone at City Hall on Wednesday (see photo above)
The chance to interrogate Cllr June Leitch, Sir Robin Wales' representative on the Queens Market development, looks like it will be even more lively than yesterday's discussions. Radical activists in Newham should therefore try and get along to
Katherine Rd Community Centre
254 Katherine Rd, London E7
Friday, 9 September 2005
10 - 14 September, Custom House E16
Local protests against the DSEi Arms Fair at the ExCel Centre in Custom House include:
Saturday 10 September - Musical protest
2-4pm outside ExCel Centre, Custom House DLR station. Organised by East London Against the Arms Fair.
Saturday 10 September - Beat the Bombers, Party for Peace
Meet 1pm outside Royal Albert DLR station. Phone 07 903 812 190 or see Disarm Trade website
Monday 12 September - Silent Candle Light Procession
6.30pm, Tidal Basin Road, next to ExCel Centre (Royal Victoria DLR station). Organised by local churches in east London.
Tuesday 13 September - Mass demonstration against DSEi arms fair.
Assemble 12noon, East Ham Central Park and march to the ExCel Centre. Organised by Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Tuesday 13 September - Diaper DSEi Baby Bloc
11am Custom House Station. Protest for parents and children.
Wednesday 14 September - Destroy the Arms Trade Day of Action
Blockade of the ExCeL Centre by road and rail. Mass public action: occupy Custom House station, 11am sharp! See Destroy DSEi website
Friday, 12 August 2005
Thursday 15 September and Tuesday 20th September, 6.30pm, Forest Gate
St Modwens, the proposed developers of Upton Park's Queens Market, will be speaking at the steering group of the Green Street Community Forum at 6.30pm on Thursday 15th September at Katherine Road Community Centre, 254 Katherine Road, Forest Gate E7 8PN.
Steering Group meetings are open to the public so anyone who wants to come along and ask Asda's favourite developer about their plans for the market are most welcome.
There is also the chance to question Cllr June Leitch, who is pushing the development on behalf of Newham Council, at a Forum public meeting on Tuesday 20th September at 6.30pm. This meeting is also at Katherine Road Community Centre.
Thursday, 4 August 2005
Monday 5 September, 7pm, Stratford
Newham Opposition to War and Racism is organising a public meeting on Monday 5 September against the world's largest arms fair that will be held in Newham in September.
DSEi (Defence Systems and Equipment International) is the world’s biggest weapons fair, selling everything from battleships and attack helicopters to cluster bombs and machine guns. This year it runs from 13-16 September at the ExCeL Centre in Custom House. Representatives from countries including Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US, Colombia, China and Russia will be buying and selling weapons, products and services used for repression and terror, in a borough where refugees from all over the world live in exile from armed conflicts that kill around 35 people every hour. Arms sales increase the likelihood of fighting and prolong conflicts once they begin and sales of small arms, the weapons that produce actual mass destruction, kill more than 500,000 people every year.
When: Monday 5 September, 7pm - 9pm
Where: St Francis of Assisi RC Church, Grove Cresent Rd, Stratford E15
Flyer: Download versions in English, French and Spanish
Contact: For more information see the NOWAR website at www.nowar.org.uk
Saturday, 30 July 2005
Monday 12 September, 630pm, Stratford
The human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and a life peer who has been described the government's anti-terrorism legislation as “an affront to the rule of law”, will be speaking at Stratford Library on September 12 to promote the paperback edition of her book "Just Law: on the state of Britain today and the Changing Face of Justice and Why it Matters to us All."
When: Monday 12 September, 6.30pm
Where: Hopkins Room, Stratford Library, 3 The Grove, Stratford E15
Contact: To book tickets (£3 each) call Newham Bookshop on 020 8552 9993
Thursday, 28 July 2005
Friday 29th July, Parliament Square and Westminster Cathedral
The family of the young Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot and killed by the police at Stockwell station on 22 July, is calling upon the people of London to join them this Friday in remembering Jean Charles.
Newham Monitoring Project is playing a central role in helping to set up the Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign and it is vital that as many independent Newham activists as possible get along to the vigil and inter-faith memorial service to show their solidarity.
Where: The vigil will be at Parliament Square from 5.30pm - bring Brazilian and peace flags. The memorial service is 7pm at Westminster Cathedral, 42 Francis Street, London SW1P 1QW. Tube: Victoria/St James' Park. Buses: 11, 24, 148, 507, 211.
The service will include readings from friends and family of Jean and includes a live link to Jean Charles' funeral in Brazil. There will also be readings from Bianca Jagger, Gareth Peirce and Professor Tariq Ramadan.
Flyer: Download here
Contact: Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign, PO Box 273, London E7. Tel: 07956 210332 / 07931 337890. E-mail: Justice4jean@hotmail.co.uk
Wednesday 10th August, 7pm to 9pm, Forest Gate
Newham Monitoring Project is providing free training for mosques and other faith sector groups in Newham on the recent anti-terrorism laws and their impact on local people.
The session will provide information and advice on what to do if you are stopped and searched or arrested and detained under anti-terrorism legislation, as well as other aspects of the law that are most likely to affect our communities. Events since the bombings in London have made it vital that communities are aware of these laws and are informed of their rights.
The two hour session will include information from solicitors at Birnberg Peirce, one of the country’s leading human rights law firms, as well as from Newham Monitoring Project.
When: Wednesday 10th August, 7pm to 9pm
Where: Minhaj-ul-Quran International, 292-296, Romford Road Forest Gate, London, E7
Flyer: Download here
Contact: To book one of the limited places at this event, call Zareena Mustafa at Newham Monitoring Project on 020 8555 8151 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From 3.30pm to 7.30 pm, Wednesday 17th August, Stratford
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) will have a stall and will be talking to members of the public in the area around Stratford Station about the arms fair at the ExCel Centre in Canning Town in September. If you can spare an hour or two on that day, then please come along.
When: Wednesday 17th August, 3:30 – 7:30pm (though you don't need to come for the whole time).
Where: Meet from 3:30pm, on The Grove in Stratford (outside the entrance of Stratford Shopping Centre) The stall on the pavement near the war memorial in Stratford centre until 7:30pm.
Contact: If you would like to come along or have questions about the day please contact Beccie in the CAAT office (email@example.com). If you need to contact CAAT on the day, you can call this mobile number: 07903 648 034.