Virtual Paul’s Cross Donne done

Ah! St Paul’s area on a Saturday morning is peaceful.  Into The Wren Suite we filed although the ticket said “The Churchyard”. Who kens?


What a technological treat and feat is that project. I wanted to ask how the American project academics engaged with people local to themselves as I suspect there were crowds of volunteers aka white posh drawl inflected interns doing much of the drone work.. Could be wrong, eh? Was never invited to ask about the real practicalities of a cross Atlantic piece of wizardry as the event MC wanted us out before time.  Shoot. I’d already been gunned down by groans when I had remarked that the visuals I was seeing didn’t make me feel part of the place (“this is where you are”) as only one gender seemed to be represented in the prologue and the material.

As f0r John Donne, poet of fleas and sensuousness, he took bottom rung in what it is really all about; presenting theatre-history in a Google library.

Now to Google to the website and listen to two hours of an actor reading Donne’s Gunpowder Sermon in a right Northern accent, complete with a backdrop of bird-song, doggy woofs and sounds surmised. In real life we could hear a police siren outside.


Secrets of the Henna Girl

In this brave and finely judged story, Sufiya Ahmed tackles not only the question of forced marriage but also the wider issues of culture, religion, class and ethnicity which are often entangled with it. Zeba Khan, brought up in a small town in the north of England, is taken on summer holiday by her parents to visit her family in rural Pakistan. There she learns that, in a matter of weeks, she is to marry her cousin, Asif. Zeba is outraged and only under extreme pressure accedes to her parents’ wishes. They are themselves under pressure from her
father’s elder brother, Asif’s father. While struggling to come to terms with the direction her life may now take, Zeba makes friends with Sehar, a British-born woman of her own age who herself was the victim of a forced marriage. Now pregnant, Sehar has made plans to escape, once her baby is born, through a contact she has made with the British Foreign Office’s Forced Marriage Unit. These plans are tragically frustrated when, neglected by her husband and his family, Sehar dies in childbirth. Zeba takes advantage of Sehar’s contact to make her own bid for freedom. This story, told by Zeba, is painstaking not only in revealing the reasons behind such marriages but also the difficulties of rescuing their victims, predominantly women but also some men, who, for their own protection, may well have to cut off contact with their families and their former lives completely. It portrays Zeba’s warm Muslim family life, distorted and almost destroyed by traditional notions of ‘honour’ and female subordination. Ahmed is clear that such notions are not endorsed by the Quran, and a quote from the Prophet Mohammed – ‘Obtain the virgin’s consent before you marry her’ – precedes her story. Ahmed is also nuanced in her treatment of the feudal aspects of rural Pakistan and on the place of women. Perhaps her most memorable character is the family matriarch, Nannyma, a woman whose status in her community allows her to challenge its worst aspects. If the care with which Ahmed writes occasionally gives the story a didactic air, this is a subtle and powerful book that, while it unequivocally condemns forced marriage, has a great deal more to say about the importance of universal human rights, the benefits and challenge of living between two cultures, and the role of women in Islam and traditional Pakistani society.


Clive Barnes

Powerful dramas: Yerousia Dance-Theatre.

Combine dance and drama, and well-spouted words riding on original music then go about placing your cast on the steps of a North London church tower or on a festival stage. To preserve,  allow the magic to stream out from short films. What yer got? Staged and magical productions if you like in the form of the Yerousia Dance- Theatre

What words can describe? Powerful, energetic, ritualistic, disciplined. All these and more.The actors are mostly aged more than sixty. The direction is passionate and controlled so that a choreographed story is told mainly through movement; through flexible repeated actions, through mime and stage tension. The filming  enables we, the entertained, to get closer into the minds of the characters on stage be they individually working and connecting across the space or forming  human snowballs in the shadows .

I’d first seen the “Elevation Of King Lear” at The Cubitt Spring Festival, Islington and was amazed at the high standard of the dance drama piece. It always helps that something abstract and very unusual is set in an informal friendly place. It helps too when the artistes are approachable and likely to explain the hard bits to the audience. There is in this piece an immersion into the surreal world of Shakespeare and an endearing reminder of stylised animation. It is ritualistic dealing with drum-beats, depths of unnatural worlds and old orders. It is clever with stage contraptions and a massive story perched on one small flight of ancient grey steps. The opening scene is awesome in the old-fashioned sense of the word. King Lear is truly majestic standing tall and unloved or dutifully loved in front of a church door shone with religious glass. The last scene is absolutely mediaeval. The King rises above earthly jealousies and haunts his offspring before he ascends to another world. The drums beat and women move in unison carrying goblets of ashes.


In “The Bankers Dance”,  the silky pashminas, sarongs, velvet scarves and red ribbons provide the sets and props for those expert dancers who thrust their limbs and twist their bodies in  a corner of a stage. Limited space, unlimited creativity is the order of the dance. Uncomplicated body language emits power. There is an absolute bond of unity in the way the cast push out their art form. Androgynous bodies are bodies beautiful as vehicles for dramatic suspense. In halls and on rostra block, John Hoare,  the film -maker, succeeds in drawing us into the dance-dramas through stretched camera angles and naked close-ups.


“Fatal letters” we should love simply for the simple. The red skirt grabs our focus as does the relationship between two people. Relaxed back drop figures contrast with the angst-ridden main characters. It is a sensual 12 minute set with beautiful shapes and music played live on stage.

Maria Hatzipetrou rozou is professional and business-like as she promotes her art , elicits the creativity in others. and keeps an eye on the new learners at the Claremont Project, Islington.

Perfection is her second middle name.


Xylonite Arts E4


You are cordially invited to the Private View of:
Xylonite Arts Open 2014

Tuesday 25 November, 6.30-8.30pm


Image Alexandra Santos
The exhibition continues until 21 December 2014
The exhibition features an excellent selection of works created by local, national and international artists.
Prices range from just £20-£450, so why not consider buying an original artworks as a gift this Christmas…
The artists:

Linda Bondy
Stephie Butler
Julie Caves
Luana D’Elias
Julie Fagan
Elsa Gallimore
Sarah Grainger-Jones
Emer Hayde
Michael Holland
Serena Holland
Gillian Lawrence
Veronica Lindsay-Addy
Christine Loze
Lisa McKendrick
Rod Melvin
Gareth Nathanson-Parry
Yvonne Overton
Chloe Roach
Linda Roberts
Alexandra Santos
Jim Smith
lili Spain
Bea Taylor
Tom Taylor
Juliet Thomas
Andrew Thomas
Xylonite Arts is open:
Wednesday-Friday 11.30am-7pm
Saturday 10am-6pm
Sunday 12-4pm

Write Idea at Whitechapel.

Up Your Street subscribers attended the Write Idea writing Festival over a dew days  at the Idea Store, Whitechapel.

Today we enjoyed Spitalfield’s own “Gentle Author, meeting Alex Wheatle, Irenosen Okojie and Sunny Singh, and getting fired up by Owen Jones. We aso had free food courtesy of Tower Hamlets and Bhaji of Docklands.

A child of five was busy video-taping Owen Jones.

Alex chaired and managed comfortably the conversation or debate  about  publishers’ lack of interest in publishing works by authors from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Around the late 1990s there was a shower of BME published authors in the UK and the way was set for a post racial literary stage. Not any more. We are going backwards. To me though the struggle for BME authors is aligned with the lack of BME people in telly adverts, on stage, and in TV dramas. Nothing changes.

Owen Jones! Well, he’s Jesus.

The Gentle Author showed us and explained to us loads of photographs from the early C20th about children all called “Spitalfields Nippers”. What was interesting was that the photographer had identified by name each child and those children’s lives have been discovered.