Monthly Archives: March 2010

Who’s battling here? Some thoughts on the Barbican’s Australian Film Festival

Australian expats love it when the annual Aussie Film Festival at the Barbican rolls around. It’s a chance to escape home for an hour or two, eat Cherry Ripes and Burger Rings and lurk in the foyer, sneaking glances at the Aussie celebs that sometimes turn up. Plus you almost always bump into someone you know.

This year I only saw two films, Bran Nue Dae and Beautiful Kate. And I was enchanted and disappointed in equal measures. Let’s start with Bran Nue Dae. It’s a musical and tells the story of a young Aboriginal man who leaves boarding school to travel back to his hometown of Broome. It addresses racism, homelessness, displacement, alcohol abuse and incarceration… and it’s funny. Really, laugh-out-loud funny. Joyful music, over-the-top acting… you leave feeling optimistic about life.

Here’s a trailer. Hopefully it will at least get a DVD release here so you can see it for yourself. It’s perfect Friday-night-at-the-end-of-a-long-week viewing.

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Have you been harassed in Hackney?

The Hackney Post reports that a 25-year-old by the name of Vicky Simister is launching an anti-harassment campaign in Hackney, after being ‘tailed by cars or having comments made about me, and I’ve even been assaulted a couple of times’.

She has spoken to Hackney Police about the issue, but has received a ‘mixed response’, saying many people seem to think it’s just part of life.

Her campaign website can be found here:

A builder in Hackney Road has been quoted as saying, ‘Some people need to lighten up’ but it will be interesting to see how much support the campaign gets – and it’s worth noting that builders have lifted their game in recent years, anyway, thanks to the Considerate Construction Scheme.

Personally I think she’s a brave woman – campaigns like these seem to bring all the misogynists out of from under their slimy rocks – and I hope it takes off. Continue reading


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Normal services to resume shortly…

Just returned from visiting my family and now back in beautiful light sunny Hackney… what a difference three weeks make. The flight was lonnnngggg, divided into three legs. The first I sat next to an elderly woman who stole almost everything that wasn’t nailed down, from the cutlery to the bowls to about five bags of peanuts and two cans of coke. First she tucked things down her top, then she transferred them into a bag under the seat. I actually had to help her retrieve it in the end as it got a bit too heavy for her. She also got up for frequent trips to the loo – probably to steal toilet paper and tissues. This was amusing but disruptive, as I had to get up every time to let her pass, so I was glad to to get onto a bigger plane for the next leg, where I found myself with three seats, such luxury.

I hoped to continue my horizontal, pseudo-first class experience from Dubai to London, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be, and I found myself next to a Daily Mail-reading, sharp-elbow-nudging, purple-cardiganed woman who eyed me and my reading material suspiciously from time to time, in the way that Daily Mail readers do. Thankfully I fell asleep again for most of that leg, until the waffles with pineapple compote arrived – nothing beats the moment when that trolley arrives next to your seat, does it?

Now dressed and about to head to Hackney Central Tesco for milk. That should snap me back to reality pretty fast.

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Photographer Tom Hunter’s ‘Woman reading a possession order’

I first saw this photograph in Hackney Museum a few years ago, and it was one of those images – and with my visual memory, there aren’t too many – that stayed with me. I didn’t note down the name of the photographer, and so it seemed destined to be one of those things you fall in love with but never come across again.

Until I read an article in the Guardian late last year, where the artist Tom Hunter talks about how the image came about. He was living in a squat in Hackney and spent a whole day with the woman in the picture, his friend Filipa, trying to get the perfect shot. She had been sent a possesssion order by the council, and the image is inspired by Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Vermeer – another artist who depicted ordinary people.

As he explains in the article, he wanted  to ‘take a picture showing the dignity of squatter life – a piece of propaganda to save my neighbourhood’. You can read the full article here.

I remember reading photography guidelines for an Observer competition and it specifically stated ‘no shopping trollies dumped in ponds’, while the submission guidelines of the literary magazine Ambit categorically rejects ‘I’ve-got-no-money ‘bed-sitter’ poems and also advises writers to avoid’ shards’, ‘abysses’ and ‘iridescence’ – or, more simply, cliches.

And I think it is Hunter’s deliberate refusal of a cliched representation of homelessness that makes this picture special – you have these rich colours and beautiful light and the classic mother-and-child pairing, so in many ways it’s a celebratory, almost reverent image. It would be too easy to take depressing photos of a woman in a squat, whereas this photo is so beautiful that you can feel the photographer’s respect and empathy for the subject, and feel it yourself as a viewer.


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The Big Read: World Book Day event at London Muslim Centre, Whitechapel

Tomorrow is World Book Day and there will be a lot of kids reading at London Muslim Centre.

The event is organised by IF Charity, and the aim is to break the Guinness Record for the largest number of people reading in one place. The current record is 3032 kids, and was set in Dubai in 2008.

The book of choice is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and there will be around 5,000 kids taking part – it’s at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel this Thursday from 9am to 9pm, and you know what that means afterwards

Find out more on IF Charity’s website


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