Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Frontline club @ Royal Institution...

The anniversary is swift approaching. The day we all get to look back on ten years of madness and high-tech war, and go: ‘what…the….f*ckwasallthatabout?’ It was always an intangible war (what does terror look like? Where can we forward his post?) with some horribly tangible consequences, the worst of which have been reserved for some of the poorest people on the planet. Trying to make sense of the since-911-world is this Frontline Club special at the Royal Institution. Sadly, it seems we can’t quite look back knowing that what lies ahead is shaping up much better – what does our past say about our future as Orwell’s perpetual war trundles on? There’s nobody better to ask these questions than the always excellent, always objective, Frontline Club – because only by having an honest history can we honestly shape our future…

Monday, 29 August 2011

The boat freaks: Ali and Gorse...

Vyvian Raoul sets sail in the second of a series exploring the lives of London's boat-dwelling continuous cruiser community...


Name: Gorse

Place of birth: Manchester, England

Age: 30

Fuel: diesel

Top speed: 4mph (5mph with a clean weed hatch)


Name: Ali Gunning

Place of birth: Glasgow, Scotland

Age: 31

Fuel: Vegan

Occupation: Kundalini yoga teacher

You'll often catch this east London yogini doing sun salutes on the roof of her boat; perhaps giving thanks for the freedom afforded by continuous cruising. A sub-strata of London's boating community, the pay-off for all this independence is that they must move every fortnight; Ali and Gorse make their home variously between the filter beds at Walthamstow Marshes and Paddington Basin.

Having been together for just six months, it’s pretty obvious they’re very deeply in love. The honeymooners don't even get cross during difficult winter cruises, and still seem fascinated by each other's foibles. They welcomed us aboard at Victoria Park - with homemade vegan cake and a cup of chai - and took us for an afternoon’s cruising...

How long have you been a boater?
Only since December. I wasn’t very practical when I moved in. It was, like, starting fire from scratch, not just turning a button on? Thank heaven for being able to look stuff up on Youtube – tying knots, stuff like that!

Because each boat is so different, they’ve almost got a personality, and its like they enjoy playing tricks on you. You ask someone and they go, ‘Mine doesn’t do that’. So you just have to figure it out for yourself.

Did you give Gorse her name?
No I didn’t, she came with that name. But Gorse is a Scottish wild flower, so I thought that was quite appropriate. And apparently it used to be used medicinally to treat people who had lost hope with life.

Cost-wise, can you compare boating with renting?
It’s so much cheaper! I think it’s more the bills that make it cheaper. Gas usually lasts me six or seven weeks for a canister, which takes care of my water and oven, and that’s just £23. And then your fuel - the tank’s 170 litres; it lasts about six months and costs £150.

Do you ever get boat envy?
A little bit. I’m really happy with Gorse, cos for me it’s tonnes of space and she sort of suits me. But then sometimes I see a wide beam, which is like a narrowboat but twice the width, and I see inside it and they’ve maybe got a sofa or a proper dining table, and I think, ‘Ooh, I could do with that!’ My neighbour in Hertfordshire had a 60ft boat, so with that extra bit she built a proper walk-in dressing room! On a boat? C’mon, that’s brilliant!

Is there any downside to this aquatic utopia?
I suppose in winter it might get a bit tiring and cold standing at the back in pissing rain, and having to move every two weeks. Whereas in summer it’s really nice because I feel like I’ve discovered bits of London that I didn’t know existed. And you get to see things from a new perspective; when you step on the canal, it’s a totally different world.

What’s the best boating boozer?
It has to be the Palm Tree. It’s down near Mile End, and it’s the place most boaters go to drink. It’s all old and dark. They have this huge cash register with the big buttons, and all the boaters sit outside on the grass. Is there a strong sense of community on the canal?

Every time I stop and something’s wrong there’s always someone to help. If I’m ever at a lock, there’s always someone to hold the boat, or if I’m tapping my mooring pins in, someone will always come past and say, ‘I’ll do that for you, love’. Everyone kind of looks out for each other.

What’s the most valuable thing that’s been overboard?

iPhone, once. And keys, I dropped the keys in once. So I need to get a cork key ring: that shows you’re a real boater.

You’re a yogini: is there a boating type?
Ha! There are quite a lot of yoga teachers and people who work in alternative therapies and things. And there are a lot of actors and musicians -- I haven’t really seen anyone suited and booted leaving in the morning. Because it’s quite an affordable way to live, if you do want to do a job that’s creative or enjoyable but doesn’t pay a lot of money, it's a way to have your own space and still have a nice lifestyle. And meet really like-minded people, which is the big thing, isn’t it?

Have a look at Ali’s blog about yogic boating.

Photos: Tom Medwell

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Urban Nerds Carnival

Yes yes, yo: it's carnival weekend. And what do we do on the auspicious occasion that is the combination of an extra day off and carnival weekend? Why, we get extra messed up on Saturday night and chill out with reggae and sunshine at Notting Hill for the rest of it. Here is easily the best way to get messed up on this special bank holiday weekend Saturday night - Urban Nerds, of course. They sell out for many a reason, but notoriously dope line ups is an important one. This one has got 'carnival' 'warm-up' and 'special' written all over it: it's the usual big bass party mash up in the main room, while Reggae Roast keep everything sizzlin' in room 2. This is not Notting Hill, this is Notting ill: the storm before the calm...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The boat freaks: Max, Jesse and the Bobby Dazzler...

Vyvian Raoul embarks on a new series that charts the weird and wonderful on London’s waterways. With Tom Medwell, he set out to collect the stories of London’s boat-dwelling community. He found the continuous cruisers – those with no permanent mooring, destined to be always on the move – tend to have the most colourful aquatic lives. In this first episode, we learn of the joys and hardships of river roaming

If you go down to the canal today, you’re sure of a big surprise. London’s waterways are alive with music, chatter and laughter. Hip does it a disservice, but something is happening along our towpaths. More dynamic than the houseboats and moorings of Chelsea Harbour and Little Venice, London’s continuous cruisers are making their presence felt — in various wonderful ways.

The rules are different for the semi-nomadic continuous cruisers. Their licence means they must make a ‘significant journey’ every two weeks; what constitutes ‘significant’ is currently being debated in various courts. Continuous cruising is more popular than it’s ever been and British Waterways, the keepers of the canal system, are trying to put a lid on it.

In this first in the series on the special breed of boater, we talked to Jesse and Max, aboard Bobby Dazzler, while they were moored along Regents canal between Broadway Market and Mare Street.

Name: Max(amilliano) Oliva and Jesse Goodman (and Duncan, the dog)
Age: 36, both Place of birth: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bronx, New York, US
Occupation: administrator for L’Oreal Europe; digital media professional
Time aboard: 3 years

Name: Bobby Dazzler
Age: 6
Place of birth: Liverpool (Liverpool Boats)
Length: 58′
Top speed: Jesse: “A hundred miles per hour…no, they all go like 4 or 5mph; they’re all slow.” Max: “Unless you’re on the Thames and you’re going with the current, then you can go to 7 or 8mph, I think, which is double. And you’re freaked out – you feel like you’re in a speed boat and it’s super fun.”

How does living on a boat compare with renting?
Jesse: Renting’s a pain in the ass because you usually have a landlord. Most people have a landlord they don’t get on with. Our landlord didn’t give a shit about the apartment, and it was expensive, so…

If you’re renting a flat you have to pay someone every month, you have a bill for everything: council tax, electric, water, all that stuff. It’s just a freedom thing: we don’t have to report back to anybody, we can do what we want.

Are there any downsides to all this floating independence?
Jesse: I enjoy it, and I think Max does too, but there’s a constant maintenance element to it. It’s a kind of a ‘the work is never done’-type feeling. Even if everything’s done, there’s always more to be done. There’s a lot of involvement to maintain the boat, to keep everything operating. I think that some people have romantic notions about it, but after working a full day in the winter, if you just want to crash — this wouldn’t be for you. We come back and we have to make a fire, make sure the boat is warm. I mean, I think the whole aspect of living that way is great. Sometimes it’s a little frustrating if a lot of things go wrong at the same time…

Max: A lot of people come to a boat and they’re, like, ‘Oh it’s really pretty with candles and blah blah blah.’ But that’s kind of like a couple of hours that you do at the weekend. You have to do a lot of shitty things that you don’t want to do when you come from work. If you’re constant cruisers, if it’s raining or snowing, you have to move anyway.

Do you stay within certain limits, in a certain area?
Max: No, we just keep going. We go as far as we can. If we go west, we go to Rickmansworth, Watford. As far as we can commute, y’know, because we both work in London. So we’ve always got to get to points where you can get the train or something to work.

Jesse: I think we move further than most continuous cruisers. We like to see huge stretches. We love east London, but it’ll sometimes be six months before we’re back again. There are other continuous cruisers who’re very east London and they’ll stay around this area and maybe creep out every once in a while, but pretty quickly get back here.

So, you don’t have a favorite spot?
Jesse: My favorite spot’s always changing because the dynamic of the spot changes. For example, we never really liked Kings Cross to moor; sometimes we’d just pass it, sometimes we’d moor there and it was just ok. But the last time we were in Kings Cross, there’s a spot by the Guardian building, and it just gets really wide there. We had four boats moored together and we’re all really good mates; we were there for three weeks and that made Kings Cross the best place ever at that time. We just all had a lot of fun, barbequed, parties — it was great.

Max: Yeah, it has to do with your neighbours as well.

What about your neighbours — what’s the boating community like?
Max: Everyone is super friendly, tight and they’re always ready to help. Like, you have a problem with your boat, you just call someone and they’re like, ok! If they cannot help you, they know who will be able to help you.

Jesse: They’re naturally open. In a building, everyone’s protecting their little piece of space. We all have our little pieces of space but it’s all shared. All the continuous cruisers face a similar set of issues — things that you have to get done, whether it’s building a fire in winter, or filling up with water. The community’s open for a lot of reasons, but I think one is because of that intense sharing of what we all have to do.

What’s the difference between continuous cruisers and those that moor?
Jesse: Continuous cruisers are constantly changing scene and moving from one place to another, so the community is always evolving and changing. You’ll get one set of boaters in Victoria Park one week and you’ll have a different dynamic and different set of boaters there the next. That’s for me the more interesting aspect of continuous cruising from permanent mooring, where you have your community there but it stays the same.

You have friends that you develop relationships with, and you may not see them for six months until your boats cross again. So there’re farewells and reunions almost everywhere we go.

Max: It’s true, right? Every time you move, something dies.

Jesse: I love it. I think all continuous cruisers feel it. There is a real beauty in this that is incredibly unique.

Photos: Tom Medwell

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

I got a video from currys in a riot...

...some people wanna quiet me. Analysis of the London riots by the medium of, erm, London Possee's Money Mad.

“In London the robbin’ is coming like a fashion”

The riots have been picked apart and pored over from every angle imaginable; from molotov cocktail lobbing mobs to an impromptu broom-wielding clean-up army, blitzed from both sides, London’s seen the lot. But no one’s done any proper musical analysis at all. Which is weird, because way back in ’88, London Posse, the sickest of soothsayers, explained exactly what’s going on.

“Live in a ghetto not in a society. It’s getting rougher, the youths are turning ragga.”

See, Rodney P realised that if you’re set apart from society, excluded, there’s much less incentive to follow its laws. And the constant bombardment of unachievable exhortations to buy is worse now that it was in 1988. The combination is likely to cause a lot of tension, and in the plate tectonics of society, something always gives.

“…the beast, or I should I say policeman and his truncheon? See a black man, nick him, put him in a call and punch him. Them kind a ting that make a youths resort to riots…”

The motive’s mostly been forgotten, but alleged police brutality – the classic hip-hop motif – was the spark that ignited the flame. Now it’s descended to violence and looting for its own sake. But whether it’s the greed that continues to cause people to covet the “adidas or Reebok trainer”, or the greed that presides over the greatest poverty gap since the Victorian era, it’s all part of what London Posse called money madness.

“You’re asking me, it’s a type a anarchy…”

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Dead Space Festival

The thing about space is, if it’s not used it begins seize up and, eventually, rigor mortis sets in. Every time space hears someone say they don’t believe in it, it moves a little closer to croaking. But belief in space can be magical; a little faith in real estate can make everyone connected to it fly. Sending it soaring this Saturday is the Dead Space festival, which turns an unloved and unused area from wasted wasteland to getting wasted wonderland. While some festivals revel in their location, are resplendent in stone circles and woodland, Dead Space makes a virtue of its shabby chic by turning a neglected nook behind a curry shop on Brick lane into a place for people to gather and listen to music. Not only will the empty yard be filled by rock n roll, punk and new wave bands, but all proceeds go to the Alzheimer’s Society – converting this Brick Lane badland squarely to good…