Saturday, 20 September 2014

Good and Bad News - But We All Move On

So much has happened, since the Masher Disaster Blog.   So now is the time to bring you all up to date with the chit chat.

John Oxley

But we start by sending good and healing wishes to John Oxley, the lead guitarist with Wizz Kid and Lovehunter, who has had a heart attack.   We’re told that he is “OK” and that he is recovering well.  Hopefully it will not long before we will be rocking to the sound of his guitar again.  

The Jay Report and the Arts

Rotherham has been the news just a bit too much for my liking recently all of it negative.   Robbing a Food Bank came after three weeks given over to the recriminations following publication of the Jay Report.  Given the RAS stance regarding the Rotherham Show, the Jay Report has featured quite high in my thoughts. 

We can blame our local politicians, the police and Social Workers, but the fact is we are all to blame; that means all sides of the cultural mix in Rotherham. 

Many of us on reflection might blame ourselves. 

For fifteen years I plied my trade as a Driving Instructor around the roads of Rotherham, during that time I taught many from the ethnic community and was certainly aware of the attitude of young men towards indigenous women, and the fears of ethnic women towards their Parents and Brothers.   Five young Asian women disappeared, to go “home”; only a couple returned, married – others I have never seen since.  Of the males, the evidence was anecdotal in the first person, easily written off as the male hormone boast of the young – at the time, now I wonder.

I cannot believe that my experiences are isolated.  Indeed the evidence of Jay suggests that many other people were aware of what was happening to the young people of our Town.   

We are all guilty for not speaking out. 

What I find incredible though is that quite Senior Officials have subsequent to Jay admitted knowing – indeed some organisations who have multiculturalism at their very heart, failed to pass intelligence on or follow up.   I actually sat in a meeting in complete disbelief as Council Officials / Employees explained the known blockage in the flow of information, a blockage that is apparently still in place to day.   What’s more they had fantastic excuses to put forward like, OFSTED stats and other League Table positions; not one word about the victims though. 

Yes, and unpopular this may be, but I think it fair to say that we who wrap ourselves in a cosy blanket of mutual back slapping at our understanding of a multicultural Rotherham were simply in denial.  A fact made all so clear to me my local Club and listening to conversations being held on the bus by people one describe as "nice".   

I look around events in Rotherham and I see a mostly middle class audience, 99.9% white.    The recent Muslim Youth demonstration Pro Gaza attracted 99.9% ethnic people.    If these are representative of audiences throughout Rotherham where are the Communities really coming together. 

The mix was better at today's (20th Sept) demonstration called by the Muslim Youth, but only slightly.  

I don’t pretend to have any answers, but what is clear is that the status quo cannot be allowed to stand, the complacency in some quarters needs to be shaken, and shaken hard.

But before we can move on into the future the period of recrimination needs to be completed.  I think we are now down to one person that needs to go and that is the Chief Constable, said by Vaz to be simply “incompetent”.   Up to now he has been hiding behind the coat of Shaun Wright, who eventually stood down this week and the Head of the Social Services who agreed to go on 19th Sept.. 

There may be one or two lower down the pecking order that may have to consider their position, but if the CC went at least we in Rotherham would have rid ourselves of the Senior Management that had allowed things to develop.  

Once the recrimination is over, we can move to a period of reconciliation, before being able to positively re-integrate our Communities.   And to be honest it’s even far more complicated than we would like it to be, as the Roma Community and other mix of East European folks are added to the equation. 

Which is why I found the rush for memorial services etc., and Festivals of Love, to be just a little premature for my taste.
There are those who do not recognise the sociological need for the three stages of, recrimination, reconciliation and re-engagement before the Town can move on, choosing instead to do more of the same, but shout louder about it.  I’m sorry to say that such a strategy would and is doomed to failure.   At the same time we must not allow a conspiracy of secrecy to grow again and we must rip out anyone who would have us cover up under the pretext of causing fear in communities, or any other of the pat reasons these people give for not speaking out.

As our MPs suggested at a meeting this week, Rotherham can be movement for good within the Country.  We have the opportunity to lead the way in setting new standards in “best practice”.  Let’s hope we don’t miss the opportunity.  

So what role can the arts play in the building of the brave new World.   Art and creativity can bring people together in a way that no other human activity can.  

I fear we are all guilty with thearts Community of talking the talk, bu once it comes to positive inclusion we fall well short of our own targets.
We could start by holding “meaningful” conversations with the entire group of minority Communities in Rotherham.   I feel there has been a little too much, we know what you want discussion; but not enough listening and asking people to talk – we need to discover what will help to cross fertilise audiences, how we can involve ethnic communities in indigenous culture and  perhaps more importantly visa versa.  

Personally I would favour positive cross culture events perhaps starting with young people and building slowly upwards, mixing rock with Bollywood, Folk with Roma, East European stories with Irish Folk Tales, western classical music with eastern classic, etc. .   

To this end from November Live at The Trades and all RAE events will seek ways to make access to our events easier for the "communities".   We will also positively seek ways to have musicians and artists from the "communities" involved in our events. 

Only when audiences can join together for the arts and appreciate the offer will we get true integration culturally and politically.  

If only it were so easy! 

What is for sure is that Rotherham Art Events will be there playing our part.

Rotherham Art Support

So what happened at Rotherham Art Support then?   Quite simply a majority of the Board felt unable to continue and wrapped the Organisation up.   This was in the face of considerable non delivery of promised services and an attempt to take the Organisation away from it’s grass-roots and Community ethos.   Rather than cause more bad feeling within the Rotherham arts community it was felt best to allow one of the former Directors to take on the assets and pursue the direction they would like.

That’s not to say that I personally am happy.  Shall we say that a lot of energy had been wasted on empire building and politicking that may have been better used for developing the Organisation.  Nuff said. 

Not been a good year really, especially when one considers the problems we had with Slamfest and of course the wall paintings when we moved into Venture House.   Thankfully, unless I fall out with myself over policy then n’owt else can go wrong, he says.

So RAE, due to be wrapped at Christmas will continue, without a home, but nonetheless an effective grass-roots Community Arts and Music organisation.   Already considerable progress is being made on projects and collaborations, but more of that in the weeks ahead.   I realise that some remain suspicious of the RAE ethos, but I can assure you it remains what it always has been, grass-roots and firm supporters of community based arts.

What the Masher Does Next

And Richard will continue to play a full role in the development of the Arts in Rotherham as part of ArtNav and as a member of the ROAR Board.   Mick will continue to promote fantastic music events at Live at The Trades and The Cutlers – and watch out for news of new venues in the New Year, thanks mainly to the negative attitude of The Trades Management. 

Acoustic Rotherham

We hope that Acoustic Rotherham will soon be making a comeback – yes another one lol.    As yet I’m undecided about venue and format, but you can be assured that it will feature some of the best local acoustic musicians and one or two from out of Town.   

If you would like to be considered for the next Acoustic Rotherham then please get in contact by Emailing HERE  


Word Pit 7 is now live.   My thanks to those p[oets who continue to support the page and Chris Bilton for editing the page.   There is some very thought provoking material in this issue along with some excellent funny stuff as well.   You will need to go HERE to find all the publications.

Anatomy Fixation Exhibition

One of the rare pluses of the Arts Hub was the Anatomy Fixation Exhibition.   It was one of the rare occasions that I was actually proud of the work we were doing even if it was not quite as I would have liked. 

Five artists were featured, and the RAS Team produced an interesting Installation.   The art work was stunning, and thought provoking demonstrating some fantastic technical skill.  Congratulations to Pete (the RSA Photographer of the month)  Geordie Cavill, Richard Bennett, Francesa Chambers, and Andrew Green.  

On the opening night we created a super atmosphere and it was fantastic to have the original music of Storm Trees Acoustic (I have it on good authority that they are seriously going into the studio, I cannot wait to hear the results.) 

There were a lot of weaknesses though, not least in the marketing and packaging of the Exhibition.  I also felt that we let the artists down by not opening the Hub at the stated times, or seeking out those audiences we may have tagged in the immediate locality of the Hub in the factories and warehouses of the Industrial Estate.   Just my thoughts though.  But well done to all involved in finding the artists.   

I think we should also thank Caz for building the display units and Lau for painting them, without that work the exhibition would not have been possible.

Live at The Trades

The new Live at the Trades season is underway with a BANG, thanks to ODS Saxon, who were brilliantly supported by Yon Maiden.    Both bands had the foundations of The Trades shaking as the lads put on one of the best concerts of Rock that Mick and I have had the privilege to promote.  The fact that both Bands are local simply adds to what was a brilliant night.

Unfortunately we had to cancel The Christians concert because of the EDL march on the advice of the Police.    The Christians would have been setting up at the same time as the march, so it was thought unsafe.   Also we were relieved as the last time a lock down march was held in Rotherham we took a major hit as no one came out even in the evening.   

All power to the Love Comes First folks for getting their event off the ground at the Imperial Building.  

We were not the only people inconvenienced on the Saturday 13th Sept, many small traders reported losing thousands of pounds as the Police locked down the centre of Rotherham to allow these right wing fascist groups to chant their messages of hate.    Worse, the policing cost the Council Tax payers in excess of £1m, a major increase on the £500K they quoted for the last march in the Spring.    The Police do have the right to apply to the Home Secretary to ban these marches but for some reason choose not to exercise this right.   Perhaps they should take a view that we can as a Town only afford one such march a year. 

Coming up we have some amazing nights of music.   On 27th we entertain The Jam’d – bet you cannot guess what music they will be playing.  We’re told they are ten times better than Eaton Rifles, and they turn up.   Brass section too.   Then into October with Quees II   who are back by popular demand, and Livewire, generally recognised to be the best AC/DC tribute Band in the North if not the UK and the World.    Tickets on sale and full Autumn / Winter season program can be found HERE

And if all this is not enough, please check out the FREE music that can be found at The Cutlers every Saturday night, you can find it on the RAE listings pages  HERE.

Other Events

BAD NEWS: Unfortunately the demise of RAS means that we cannot go ahead with the planned 100,000 Poets for Change event, nor the McMillan Coffee morning, there’s not enough time to get things set up for the end of next week.   Also the planned Busking Day has been pulled for much the same reason, GOOD NEWS but I would point you towards an Event at the Imperial Building next Saturday evening,  “Folk with Faith To Fight For it” a fund raising event for the save the NHS campaign, hosted by Matt McAteer.   This should be a super evening of poetry and music. 

It's all on the listings page  HERE

 In one of those strange things in life I was lucky enough to catch Whizzkid last Saturday at the Rawmarsh Trades and Labour, no sign of the illness that was about to hit John Oxley there, as the band reeled off a typically professional set.  Maybe it was the third call back that did the damage?   Lol   Made it doubly potent to hear of John’s illness.

I’ve seen a few Club acts while Live at The Trades has been on it’s Summer holiday.   I think the stand out set came from Mahogany Newt, who trailed blazed an amazing two sets of rock numbers, not all of them “the usual suspects”.  

I won’t mention a couple of other bands, other than to say that they tried hard.   Had to laugh at one of them where the guitarist had spent an age during the break setting up the sound balance, which the lead singer promptly buggered up by throwing his and the main mix slider up causing immediate sound confusion.   Rule one, never let vocalists or lead guitarists play with the sound.  
So a much longer Blog than is the custom, but like all good Blogs it gives a chance to get a few things off my chest as we head into new waters.  

If by any chance you happen to be a sound engineer or fancy yourself as a music producer then please get in touch.  Usual RAE rates apply – lol, but we do have a project that you might find interesting to work on.  

Also we will soon be starting to plan next year’s Slamfest – the 4th.   We already have a basic plan of action, but the more positive minded volunteers we have on board the more we may be able to do.  

Interested in either of the above projects then Email HERE

So whatever you’re doing in the days, weeks or months until the next News Blog – support the local music scene and arts scene and KEEP IT LIVE. 

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