Tuesday 30 December 2014

Britain is still a country for an old Prince called Charles and one grateful for his watchful eye and timely interventions in matters architectural

Last week the 'Achitectural Review' published an article by the 66 year old Prince of Wales in which he outlined his stance on architecture. At first sight the Prince might not appear to be qualified to make pronouncements about modern British architecture, because at school, after studying 'A' Level History and being awarded a grade 'B' and gaining a 'C' in French, in 1967 he took his place at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge and in his first year studied archaeology and physical and social anthropology, followed by two years of history, culminating in a 2.2 degree in 1970.

Charles 'got' architecture somewhere between his graduation at the age of 22 and the after-dinner speech he gave at the Royal Institute for British Architects’ 150th Anniversary Dinner, when he was 36 in 1984. In what should have been an innocuous affair, instead of congratulating them all for doing such a jolly good job, he took the opportunity to excoriate the profession and their modern designs, with his immortal description of the proposed extension to the National Gallery in London as a "monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend".

As a result of ferocity of the his attack, the design for the extension was dumped, and the career of its architects, ABK, nosedived and proudly in its place, the fake-classical design by Venturi Scott-Brown stands today.

Thankfully, in the same speech, the Prince managed to kill off an office block by the legendary German architect, Mies van der Rohe, no doubt complete with Miesian signature corners, which was to be situated near the Bank of England and instead, we got, the postmodern 'No 1 Poultry Building' by Stirling/Wilford.

Later, in 1987, Charles criticised a scheme for Paternoster Square, next to St Paul’s Cathedral, by his bete noir Richard Rogers, saying "you have to give this to the Luftwaffe, when it knocked down our buildings, it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble” and mercifully it was quickly dropped.

Over subsequent years, in publications such as his 'Visions for Britain', Charles gave us his much appreciated opinion of John Madin's 1974 Birmingham Central Library as “a place where books are incinerated, not kept."  While the British Library (left), by Colin St.John Wilson, was “more like the assembly hall of an academy for secret police”.

The most recent use of the old Prince's use of Royal privilege was his getting directly in touch with the Qatari Royal Family to get Richard Rogers, who by this point had been made Baron Rogers of Riverside, thrown off the project to redevelop the Chelsea Barracks.

Charles has been guided in his pronouncement in the 'Architectural Review' by his ten simple, but timeless Principles :
Architecture is :

* a language.
* must also have scale as a key.
* should have limited signage.
* have built-in flexibility,

and is about :

* developments that must respect the land.
* creating harmony where neighbouring buildings must be ‘in tune’ but not uniform.
* the creation of well-designed enclosures.
* recognising materials also matters and the use of local wood beats that of imported aluminium.
* putting the pedestrian at the centre of the design process.
* recognising that space is at a premium, but not result in high-rise builds.

Britain has been lucky that it wasn't just his power as 'Prince' that made Charles’ polemics hit home: they coincided with Britain’s lurch to the right in Margaret Thathcher's 1980s Britain. By the time Charles was making his pleas for traditional design based upon “timeless” principles, the dismantling of the welfare consensus of the post Second World War world was in full swing and rejecting modern architecture went hand-in-hand with fighting the trades union, deregulating the planned economy, smashing industry and rejecting the spectre of socialism that had almost ruined Britain.

Charles has also been fortunate in surrounding himself with traditionalists like :

* Quinlan Terry (left) who believes classical architecture is an expression of “divine order”

* Leon Krier (right), much of whose career has been spent trying to redeem the neo-classical architecture of Albert Speer, Hitler's Nazi Minister for Armaments during the Second World War.

It would be wrong to think that Charles is a Prince interested only in “turning the clock back to some Golden Age”. His thoughts and ideas about architecture are :

* about the challenges of the future : of housing the 3 billion extra people projected to be on the planet by 2050 and housing them in a sustainable, resilient manner.

* rediscovering traditional approaches to architecture, which developed over millennia and were abandoned in a so-called 'progressive' modern age.

The old Prince is at his simplest and most profound when he argues that, and it is perhaps here that the old archaeology and history graduate comes out, that architecture should :

* return to the harmonic principles of the classical orders of ancient architecture, themselves inspired by the sacred geometry of  “nature” and an order which is “innately beautiful”.

* use the harmonic and geometrical division of circles which “displays the order which is sacred to all things.”

And Charles, who may not be a 'prince of the people' is certainly a 'prince for the people',  believes that architecture using this language, this geometric grammar, “communicates directly to people by resonating with their true being”.

In this scheme, the geometric rose windows of a medieval cathedral, like Durham, are seen as “physical manifestations of the Divine order of the universe” and are inherently beautiful. This could be a paean in praise for Monarchy itself.

Britain acknowledges the fact that for more than 30 years, the good Prince may have been the bane of the architectural profession, but he has wielded, the power bestowed upon him by an accident of birth, to influence the design not only of individual buildings and projects, but the entire debate about what architecture is, who it is for and what it should look like and for this, his subjects and the country is profoundly grateful. It will certainly have no truck with Alister Scott at Birmingham City University who said : "There is clear evidence of elitism and his lack of empathy with the problems facing his peasantry".

Sunday 28 December 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old chronicler of the East End of London, Bill Fishman

Bill, an academic and a pioneer of history from below, who unearthed the stories of ordinary people’s lives in the impoverished and marginalised communities of London’s East End in the 19th and early 20th centuries, has died at the age of 93.

What you possibly didn't know about Bill, that he :

*  was born in 1921 in a house close to the London Hospital off Jubilee Street, the son of  Russian-born Jewish immigrants, Simon, a tailor and Annie and shared the house with his Mother's parents and Ukrainian-born, Grandfather Orloff who had a powerful influence on him as 'a tall, heavy-bearded, Moses-like figure' who, having obtained 'semicha' or rabbinich authority in the Ukraine, was held with respect and affection within the East End Jewish community.

* as a boy, from his Grandfather, learnt the basic moral precepts of 'rachamonat', 'compassion' and 'tsedoka', 'charity' and remembered friday night was special because, returning from the synagogue service, his Grandpa would bring home a visitor, 'always a poorly clad man from the 'heim', 'old country' who would join us for the Shabbat meal and bed for the night on an old sofa in the kitchen'.

 *  also remembered, approaching the synagogue : 'I saw the dockers coming up the hill, and as they passed Zeida (his Gandfather), they would doff their hats and declaim together “Aye Reb”, not mockingly but with obvious respect. For they had seen him on many occasions being stopped by a beggar and his immediate response, a handful of small coins pressed in the beggar’s hand. It was there that I learned religious tolerance.'

*  at the age of 11 in 1932, went to the 'Central Foundation Grammar School for Boys', Islington and also moved to near the East End docks, to live among mainly Irish Catholic docker families and worship at a small synagogue off The Highway.

* as a teenager in 'the Hungry 30s', saw the family fall on hard times as his Father fell into lengthy periods of unemployment and he himself, left school at 14, in 1935, to work as a clerk to help out and in 1936, moved again, with the family, to Clapton.

 at the age of 15 in 1936, joined the 'Labour League of Youth', a non-violent group dedicated to opposing Fascism and later wrote that : 'It was the Mosleyite incursion into the East End during the 1930s that helped direct me towards a socially-based ideology, cemented by the personal experience of family hardships. To the insecurity of jobs was added the Blackshirt terror on the streets. The fascists jibes – PJ , 'Perish Judah' or HEP, a rallying cry of attackers in early 19th century German pogroms, 'Hierosolyma est perdita', 'Jerusalem is lost', and even attacks on anyone who looked Jewish.'

* later he recalled that he saw Oswald Mosley, would-be Adolph Hitler and Leader of the 'British Union of Fascists', twice : 'Once was at the corner of the Salmon and Ball pub at the end of the Bethnal Green Road. Tall, with arms akimbo, the Blackshirt leader was on top of a van surrounded by a bevy of tough-looking women and uniformed men, working his voice into a high pitch as he came to the point of “the alien menace threatening our jobs”. “Alien” was his code term for Jews.'

* remembered October 4, 1936 "distinctly, I was a young lad fifteen and a half. I took a train down to Mile End and got off  and there was a massive crowd congregated within a few hundred yards of where Mosley was going to advance and you could hear the chants : " One, two, three, f our five. We want Mosley dead or alive" . I can see them now, young and old, but mostly local people consisting of Irish and Jewish working class coming there to stop the fascist invasion of our patch."
* was at Gardiners Corner and witnessed the commencement of the legendary 'Battle of Cable Street', "when we stopped the Fascist march into the East End. Catholic dockers, side by side with bearded Jews, built and manned the barricades that prevented Mosley’s incursion" and was "moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockersstanding up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that as long as I live, how working-class people could get together to oppose the evil of fascism." http://ow.ly/Gv5px

* after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, enlisted in the Army as an infantryman at the age of 19, where the sense of camaraderie and mutuality had lasting effect on him and after service in the Far East, ended the War as a 24 year old Army School Master in India, where he met Ghandhi, supported the independence of India and picked up some Hindi.

* back in Britain, after Wandsworth Teachers Training College, started his career in education teaching English and History at the Morpeth School in Bethnal Green (left), then worked as the Principal of an evening institute and in the daytime, completed a degree at the London School of Economics and in 1954 at the age of 33, created and managed, as the Principal, 'Tower Hamlets College of Further Education' in Jubilee Street near his childhood home.

* recalled that, in 1965 at the age of 44, he realised his 'real bent was in both teaching and research, not in administration' and successfully applied for a 'Visiting Student Fellowship' at Balliol College, Oxford and decided to dedicate himself to help the young, 'particularly those emanating from working-class families, keen and able to pursue a university career.'

 produced his first book, 'The Insurrectionists, an appraisal of Jacobin-Communism from Robespierre to Lenin' in 1969 and was encouraged by the renown historian of France and fellow of Balliol, Richard Cobb (left), to return academically to his roots and as a result uncovered the radical movement that had flourished in the East End before the First World War, led by a gentile German anarchist, Rudolph Rocker, who learned Yiddish, partnered a Jewish girl and became editor of a Yiddish libertarian newspaper, 'The Arbeiter Freund', 'The Workers’ Friend.'

* saw his academic career flourish in the USA as a 'Visiting Professor of History' at Columbia University, New York in 1967 and the University of Wisconsin, Madison from 1969–70 and in Britain 1972 was appointed 'Barnet Shine Senior Research Fellow in Labour Studies' with 'special reference to Jews', at Queen Mary College, University of London where he taught, gained his professorship and continued his research into the social history of the East End.

* in 1975 at the age of 54,  published 'East End Jewish Radicals', which won the 'Jewish Chronicle Prize' and the main chapters of which were dedicated to Pre- First World War Jewish radicals, the survivors of whom he had spoken to in the 'Workers' Circle Club' in Hackney in the 1960s.

* four years later in his book, 'The Streets of East End' combined text
spanning the 19th century and first decades of the 20th with black and white photos highlighting the areas poverty and celebrating its secular, political campaigners, philanthropists and social reformers, from the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, to the anti-apartheid activist Trevor Huddleston, Bishop of Stepney from 1968 to 1978.

 * in the 1980s conducted walking tours of the East End with sites relating to anarchists: Rudolf Rocker and Peter Kropotkin;  socialists : Annie Besant and Eleanor Marx and Yiddish poets, Morris Winchevsky and Avrom Stencl and took in 77 Jubilee Road, where, in a doss house during the 1907 Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party, Joseph Dzhughashvili, later 'Stalin' stayed with Litvinov and related how Stalin had been brought back there after being beaten up by Irish dockers in Wapping after he'd tried to chat up a pretty Irish girl outside a pub : http://ow.ly/Gvcdo

 * in 1998 at the age of 67, published 'East End 1888', which focused on the year of Jack the Ripper and the Match Girls' Strike as well as  poverty, crime, disease and social unrest, the communal life of the streets, pubs and clubs,  ghettos, sweatshops and poor tenements and threat of the workhouse.

* was complemented by Norman Stone, Professor of Modern History at Oxford University with : 'in the hands of any other historian would have been a depressing book. But Bill Fishman has a great gift, shared with Richard Cobb, of writing about horrible subjects in such a way as to leave you thinking that there is a God in heaven after all'  and eminent sociologist, Michael Young : 'the picture he paints in ' an elegant, scholarly, but above all compellingly readable book is no less horrible than the 'shock horror' stories of the yellow press of the day.'

* despite the fact that he received recognition for his work from the world of academia, never lost sight of who he was and from where he came, his passion for social justice and the precepts of his Grandfather : compassion, charity, religious tolerance and his love for his East End.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" an old scriptwriter and laughter-maker called Jeremy Lloyd

Jeremy, acclaimed film and tv comedy writer who once said "I would sing and dance and without any training. I never had training for acting, writing or anything", has died at the age of 84.

What you possibly didn't know about Jeremy the child, that he :

* was born in Danbury, Essex in 1930, to a Mother who had danced on stage as a Tiller Girl' and always believed she had danced on the London stage in the late 1920s with Fred Astaire in 'Evergreen' and 'Blue Skies' and who had "wanted to rush her off to America", when in reality the first was a 1936 film which he didn't star in and the second a 1946 film in which he did, and so, perhaps, did not need to muse in later life that he'd "loved to have asked him what went on between them ? "

* believed, that instead of going to America, his Mother "married my father, and I arrived, extraneous to requirements, and was shipped out when I was about one-and-a- half to Manchester, to live with my elderly Grandmother and I was brought up by her occasionally seeing his Father who introduced him to people as the son of bandleader Joe Loss with : "You've heard of Joe Loss? Well, this is my son - dead loss." "

Jeremy the teenager, that he :

* packed off to boarding school where he spent "quite the unhappiest days of my life", where puny, large of nose and wearing glasses with one glass blacked out to help his 'lazy eye', he was bullied until at the age of 13 in 1943, during the Second World War, was told by his Father, a petroleum engineer, who apparently became a colonel during the War and a man who made him cry asking maths questions he couldn't answer : "As you can't learn anything at school, you're leaving" and was placed into a home for "retired old generals and naval people which was a wonderful experience, you were left on your own a lot and that was rather good as you had a lot of time to think" and later thought "it was the best result" he could have had and was "a stronger person as a result " and "probably 'improved' my accent from Manchester to posh southern."

* back with his Grandmother, worked variously to keep both of them as a metal sorter in Watford foundry, a road digger for a company of plumbers and a paint salesman  who, at the age of 19 in 1949 "was up factory chimneys and down the drains and shipyards of London selling industrial paint and I survived it all." 

Jeremy the young man in his twenties in the 50s, that he :
* saw the film, 'Down Amongst The Zed Men' and "thought if that's comedy then I think I can have a go at that. While I was supposed to be selling paint I was busy, writing in my report book, a big a film script" and in 1958 at the age of 28, phoned the American film producer for the Rank Organisation at Pinewood Studios, from a public phonebox.

* said to 66 year old, Earl St. John : "Look, my name's Jeremy Lloyd and I've written a film and been turned away at the gate and I don't know how you make movies", put forward his idea of a story based in the Loch Ness Monster and got himself invited to tea, where surrounded by directors and producers was introduced by Earl with : "Mr Lloyd's going to read you a very amusing film script"  to which he replied ""I am" and I read the whole thing and he said "Crikey, that's just what we want for Adam Faith" and finished the 1950s with his first and minor film part playing 'Dingle' in the film comedy, 'School for Scoundrels' in 1959.

Jeremy in his thirties in the 1960s, that he :

* after 'What A Whopper!', and credited with it being 'based on an idea by Trevor Peacock and Jeremy Lloyd' : http://ow.ly/Goi4i , met Jon Pertwee at a party who said "My writer's left me, will you write for me, I'm on Six-Five Special next week?" and having secured the job rang his predecessor, said : "I've got your job and I don't know how to do it. I'll give you half the money" and after being shown the ropes, wrote successfully for two years : http://ow.ly/GoiUi

  * started writing for tv director, Brian Tesler on 'New Look' for Bruce Forsyth and Lionel and Joyce Blair at the Wood Green Empire and at the same time wrote for Eamonn Andrews and the kid's show, 'Crackerjack' (left) and then, while writing for the 'Billy Cotton Band Show', started tv acting because "they were looking for an idiot in a bowler hat who could speak well as opposed to Billy Cotton who was all sort of 'meat and veg'. And so I would go on and do stunts, fencing, wrestling, anything. The most unlikely person to be doing it. "

* in 1962 played Dewberry Jnr in the film comedy 'We Joined the Navy' : http://ow.ly/GohwT and '63, was offered the role of the homosexual master in 'The Servant' by Joseph Losey, who said : "I just know you'd be perfect in this film", but turned it down because "suddenly thought that I wasn't really good enough for it." and later reflected that his decision to stick to writing "turned out to be a far better thing emotionally because I'm not being bossed about by anybody or told what to do or told that I'm ' crap' and I get residuals which I wouldn't have done as an actor. So I'm very happy."

* became a member of The Beatles inner circle of friends and agreed to take part in 'A Hard Day's Night' in 1964, when asked : "Do you mind appearing and dancing with Ringo?" and in 1965,"Then I did "the next one Help! as well. I had some dialogue in Help! But they were just for fun really" as was playing Dr Lambert Symington in the comedy, 'Doctor in Clover' in 1966 : http://ow.ly/GofD5  

* found his most satisfying venture was the West End stage show of his children’s poems set to music by Jim Parker and when seen by emissary of the Archbishop of Canterbury, received the request : "All your animals, they'd be great to tell the story of the gospels for children. Would you write something that I can use on Christmas sermons?" responded and saw it go around the world, with a tour in America with it and reflected that "It was an amazing success and I think the best thing I ever did" and saw it published by Faber with a forward by the Archbishop.

* recalled that, before engineering himself a job writing for Rowan and Martin in the USA in 1969, he'd "had a taste of fame in America. 5000 letters a week, all from girls and some with saucy photos!" then, when answering the phone in an agent's office, found : "It was the Rowan and Martin show producer George Schlatter who said "It's my last day tomorrow in London and I'm desperately looking for a writer/actor and do you have anybody?" And I said "The best possible person you could get is Jeremy Lloyd and we handle him."
* writing and appearing on 'Rowan and Martins's Laugh-In', where they loved his patrician, upper-class depiction of an Englishman, "worked with all the best people. Danny Kaye, Goldie Hawn, Roger Moore, Sammy Davis, Sinatra, Bing Crosby. People were queuing up to get on the show, including Ronald Reagan who was Governor of California at the time."

Jeremy in his forties in the 1970s, that he :

* described the genesis of 'Are You Being Served ?' in 1972 when he was 42, as having originated when he returned from America with his wife, Joanna Lumley without much money because they "didn't actually pay you very much you just got a lot of fame. I was desperate to do something and Joanna said "You must think of something you know" and I said "I worked at Simpsons for a while, I could do something about a store" and based on his experience of working in Simpsons of Picadilly, attracted audiences of up to 22 million and went on,over the next thirteen years, to write 70 episodes. http://ow.ly/Gonsm

Jeremy in his fifties in the 1980s, that he :

* in 1980 was behind the hit record 'Captain Beaky' which went to number 5 http://ow.ly/GobLT and led to spin offs in the shape of two books of poetry, a West End musical and a pantomime.

* after working for ten years with David Croft, was looking for a new idea and phoned him with one about the French Resistance to which he said : "My God, that's a good idea, can we start tomorrow?" and recalled "so we wrote 'Allo 'Allo! I didn't deliberately nick Secret Army, I just thought it was a very good setting. A cafe where everybody had to come with a problem. Like Are You Being Served? people had to come in, but a much wider range of things could happen in France" and went on to write 90 episodes between 1982 and '92 when he was sixty-two. http://ow.ly/Goou8

* had his spin-off of 'Are You Being Served ?, 'Grace and Favour' aired in 1992 http://ow.ly/Goqg1 and in 1993 at the age of 63, published his autobiography. 'Listen Very Carefully, I Shall Say This Only Once'.
 * once said : "I'm hopeful that people will realise in the end that everybody, whatever colour, creed or religion they are - we're all the same people. And that if we don't get on together then it's never going to be right."

and :       "You've just got to have great optimism."
"I'm one of the luckiest 'nearly orphans' in the world."

* read 'Teddy's Teatime' from Captain Beaky : http://ow.ly/GpUpz

Unaware he's been abandoned,
That this is not the nursery cot.
The hills and sea just glass, old papers,
On a disused rubbish plot.

A telephone that no one answers,
Empty tins that once held tea.
The clock that still says nearly tea time,
Where can all the children be?

For ages now he's lain unwanted,
Saluting with a threadbare paw.
He'll never know he's been discarded,
'Till the clock reads after four.

Don't tell him that the clock is broken,
As long as Teddy doesn't know.
It will always soon be tea time,
As it was so long ago.

Monday 22 December 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old rocker and son of Sheffield called Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker, the singer best known in the 1960's for his gritty voice, idiosyncratic arm movements and cover versions of popular songs, has died at the age of 70. Although he lived on 'The Mad Dog' ranch in Colorado, he was always, at heart, a Sheffield lad and son of Britain who last year said "I’ve been living in the States so long that I thought about becoming a U.S. citizen, but I’d have to renounce my allegiance to the Queen. As a proud Englishman, I don’t think I could do that."
Things you possibly didn't know about Joe, that he :

* was born in 1944, the last year of the Second World War, in Sheffield, England, the youngest son of Madge and Harold, a civil servant and had his first experience of singing in public at the age of  12, when his elder brother invited him on stage to sing during a gig of his skiffle group and in 1960.

* left school and worked as a gas fitter for the East Midlands Gas Board and at 16, formed his first group, 'The Cavaliers' then, in 1961, with 'Vance Arnold and the Avengers', played in pubs performing covers of Chuck Berry and Ray Charles and in 1963 supported 'The Rolling Stones' at their Sheffield City Hall gig.

* in 1964, released his first single, a cover of the Beatles' 'I'll Cry Instead' with Jimmy Page playing backup guitar, which was a flop, then recorded 
'Marjorine' http://ow.ly/GiOhK , moved to London, got a residency, formed a new band and entered the big time with a groundbreaking rearrangement of 'With a Little Help from My Friends' : http://ow.ly/GiPhp

* toured Britain with 'The Who' in 1968 and in the U.S.A., where he played at Woodstock, http://ow.ly/GiPY7 , the Newport Rock and the Denver Pop Festival, then released his second album, 'Joe Cocker' and impressed by his cover of 'With A Little Help From my Friends', was allowed by Paul McCartney and George Harrison to use their songs, 'She Came in Through the Bathroom Window' and 'Something' for the album. http://ow.ly/GiQws

* saw his album, recorded during a break in touring in the spring and summer, reach number 11 in the US charts and garnered a second UK hit with the Leon Russell song, 'Delta Lady' : http://ow.ly/GiQM5

* since the 1970's, continued to tour, battled with addictions and depression and had success with a cover of Billy Preston's 'You Are So Beautiful' :
http://ow.ly/GiQZw  and recorded the duet 'Up Where We Belong' with Jennifer Warnes for the soundtrack of the 1982 film, 'An Officer and a Gentleman' : http://ow.ly/GiRiB

* performed for President George H. W. Bush at an inauguration concert and was awarded an OBE in the Queen's 2007 Birthday Honours list for services to music.

My favourite song, written by John B. Sebastian : 'Darling Be Home Soon' : http://ow.ly/GiSdT

And talk of all the things we did today.
And laugh about our funny little ways.
While we have a few minutes to breathe.
Then I know that it's time you must leave.

But darling be home soon,
I couldn't bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled.
My darling be home soon,
It's not just these few hours, but I've been waiting since I toddled,
For the great relief of having you to talk to.

A wonderful song using the words "dawdle" and "toddle" and a line like "for the great relief of having you to talk to" with 'dawdle' being a 1650–60 variant of 'daddle' to 'toddle'.

I wonder if Joe knew that ? Sadly, no way to ask him now.