Saturday, 21 November 2020

Steve McQueen – Small Axe anthology film series #1: “The Mangrove Nine” …


Mesmerising … two hours of complete spellbinding tv … stunningly documented …


Sir Steve McQueen with his Oscar
for 12 Years a Slave

I was bowled over … an incredible film … it felt so real – and has had outstanding reviews.  It is a film for everyone – about Caribbean people’s history in Britain that has never been brought to life and should be available for us to understand the struggles of their backstory.


The storyline is ‘perfect’ for a film to tell the narrative of a ground-breaking true life drama … with excellent acting – I really can’t praise it enough.


The actors as defendants in the film
c/o Bustle media

One member of the Mangrove Nine was a friend of Steve McQueen’s father … while his parents were part of that community during the late 1960s and 1970s … so the Mangrove Nine’s landmark 1970 Old Bailey trial would have been well known to McQueen’s family …


Frank Crichlow, who owned and set up The Mangrove’s Caribbean restaurant, became a community activist, after racially motivated police persecuted him, his friends and the restaurant.

Shaun Parkes plays
Frank Crichlow

The restaurant was over the years a meeting place for the Black community in the area, as well as for white radicals, artists, authors, and musicians. 


Vanessa Redgrave at Cannes 2016

Famous customers included Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Vanessa Redgrave, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Sammy Davis Jr and many activists, journalists and historians from Britain, South Africa, Australia, Trinidad, Guyana …  

Jimi Hendrix (1967)

... a small newspaper, The Hustler, was published on the premises, underlining the community aspect of the restaurant – which also served as the informal head for the Notting Hill Carnival.


Some links I give below give more background to this fascinating story, but I thought I’d relate back to the posts of my recent return visit to Notting Hill where I lived back in the 1970s and to my visit that day to Tate Modern – when I first encountered Steve MacQueen’s Small Axe series.


Part of Tate Modern's brochure
regarding McQueen's exhibition
earlier in 2020 - and where I first
came across the mini series "Small Axe"

I gave some background to the development of the area from the 1750s onwards – but which did not touch the cultural and political aspects of life in the 1960s – 1980s in the Notting Hill area … so I’m weaving in and adding to the development I wrote about in those posts.   NB I was politically and culturally unaware … time does change one’s perspective.


I know in my previous posts I only mentioned the Notting Hill Carnival – but from the origins of The Mangrove’s troubles with the police the Notting Hill Carnival developed.   I did not participate … I didn’t understand what it was about … and I really don’t like large crowds, nor am I musical or creative in that sense.  But – the learning today is fascinating having lived in that area …


"Small Axe" (the name came) from Bob Marley & The Wailers' 1973 Songs of Freedom album!  The name comes from an African proverb ... 'if you are the big tree - we are the small axe' ... 


Small Axe (miniseries) – there are five films … four true stories, one imagined … which premiered at the 58th New York Film Festival this year.  They are being shown on BBC1 and are available on Amazon Prime.


“The Mangrove Nine” – was the first shown last Sunday on BBC1 – I am now looking forward to four more Sunday evenings of engrossing films.


Letitia Wright as Shuri in
Black Panther poster

There are many well-known actors in these films … Letitia Wright – who was Shuri in the Black Panther series – plays British Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe, who, along with eight other Black activists, was arrested and charged with inciting after a peaceful protest in 1970.  John Boyega of Star Wars fame appears in a later film.


John Boyega appears in one of the 
later films (c/o Gage Skidmore)

The latter part of the story line centres around the trial at the ‘Old Bailey’ (the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales) and the activists’ rightful non-conformity to the British legal system. 


Lady Justice statue on Old Bailey

Legacy: Ian Macdonald, QC wrote in Race Today*: The Mangrove Nine trial was a watershed because we learnt through experience how to confront the power of the court, because the defendants refused to play the role of ‘victim’ and rely on the so-called ‘expertise’ of the lawyer.  Once you recognise the defendant as a self-assertive human being, everything in the court has to change. 


I kept on finding out more as I explored articles for this post … including the fact that the area became gentrified during the late 1980s – 90s and onwards – which explains the changes I came across.


Interior of Old Bailey

The Mangrove was near recording studios that Iron Maiden, Bob Marley, The Clash, Queen, and many others came to record their music - known now as SARM studios (an acronym of Sound and Recording Mobiles).


I think I’d better wrap this up … but as you’ll have gathered … I highly recommend this series.

The Mangrove Nine *

The Mangrove Restaurant

Small Axe (mini series) ... 

Bustle - the media company's review of McQueen's first Small Axe film: The Mangrove Nine

Youtube 1992 recording of Small Axe song by Bob Marley and the Wailers ...  

My post on Steve McQueen's exhibit at Tate Modern early in 2020 ... 

My post (first of three) on my Notting Hill visits - the history and my memories ... 

BBC News article on 'Mangrove Nine' - echoes of black lives matter from 50 years ago ... with press footage, details of the coverage ... and photos ... this is excellent to read.

Steve McQueen's exhibition at the Tate - there's a downloadable brochure via the link.

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Remembrance Day 2020 … one hundred and two years after the end of World War 1 …


Over the years I have written a few posts on past Remembrance Days …


White Peace Poppy

this year I am concentrating on the white poppy – the emblem of peace … in today’s world an appropriate remembrance to hold in our hearts.


White Wreath for Peace at the
Cenotaph, Whitehall, London: 2018 

Michael Morpurgo – the Children’s author – decided to wear a white poppy alongside the British Legion’s red one … symbolising those who fought, were injured, or sadly died for us in war … keeping us safe …


stating that the white poppy is for our peace … as today remembrance is changing, and will change, as the decades pass since those two world wars.


We are grateful for all who stand for us in action and in peace … protecting our families, so all peoples can live in respectful harmony.


Michael Morpurgo – best known for his children’s novels such as War Horse and the film …


First edition of his novel
War Horse

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Updates and odds and ends … # 1


A few notes on various subjects … that are outstanding, or ones that are of interest – written in a few sentences … one hopes?!


Claremont Hotel on fire 2019

Claremont Hotel … the fire spread exponentially leading to it being engulfed, because the vertical internal gas main was boxed-in with other utilities against the side of a lift shaft, which encouraged the rapid vertical spread of fire to sweep across the roof …


I’m not sure, now it’s been made safe, what will happen in the future … the seafront can’t have that open blemish for too many years – but now’s not the time …


Shipton Mill - in the Cotswolds

Flour … lack of in early lockdown … I was at a friend’s house in the summer – and spotted a bag of flour … not any old bag – but half a hundred weight of it!  (56 lbs in our imperial weight; 50 lbs in USA weight). 


I expressed surprise … and was told when flour wasn’t available … because there were insufficient small bags (believe it or not = true though) … her husband had trawled the neighbourhood searching for a miller who would sell him a sack of strong flour for her.  Hence the stash of it!  Wonderful thoughtful hubby – she thought so!!


Black Eyed Susan

Rudbekia hirta (hirta is Latin for “hairy”) – Linneaus’ botanical classification to the flower more commonly known as Black Eyed Susan (the state flower of Maryland) …


Olof Rudbeck

Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) honoured his patron and fellow botanist at Uppsala University, Olof Rudbeck the Younger (1660 – 1740), with the botanical classification …


False Teeth along with Football’s World Cup - this just amused me to think about and I hadn’t heard about before … Nobby Stiles who has recently died … apparently celebrated winning the 1966 Football Association’s World Cup – by cavorting around the pitch with his false teeth in one hand and World Cup in the other. 


I enjoyed watching England’s winning performances until the spectacular win … back in the day! And this snippet reminded me of the end of my childhood – before life changed rather a lot, as it can do …


and just amused me … as too it brought back memories of my mother – who for some reason was totally bemused with my post on teeth – in particular Washington’s falsies – he doesn’t look comfortable does he …


A light-hearted post for these times … I just wish everyone peace and calm – and take care … we’re now into a month of lockdown …

More anon ... 


Claremont Hotel Eastbourne fire ...

No Flour

          Shipton's Mill - a miller in the Cotswolds ... 

Linnaeus - The Compleat Naturalist book

Washington's False Teeth ... absolutely nothing to do with Nobby Stiles and the World Cup ... but ... as usual bemused me to link the two together ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 30 October 2020

We are the World Blogfest # 42: Cracked It …


Josh Babarinde OBE, a local Eastbourne social entrepreneur, has recently been recognised, in the Queen’s Honours, for his work with disaffected young people in East London.


Josh Babarinde

Cracked It is an award winning technology business that has supported more than 200 ex-offenders away from crime and towards employment.


The Smartphone repair services supports these youngsters in developing their skills, enabling them to take responsibility, realise their potential and take their first steps towards the labour market.


Early Eastbourne
Josh was born and bred down here and during the lockdown he has launched a scheme to provide free video phones to Eastbourne’s care home residents … so they can stay connected with their families and see their doctors online.


He has also led the Liberal Democrats (one of our main political parties) to establish a campaign to telephone over 5,000 elderly residents in his home town (Eastbourne) during the lockdown.


Bourne stream
from which Eastbourne
gets its town name

We are lucky to have such a local achiever in these times … his focus has always been to ‘roll up his sleeves’ to achieve the best for his community and small business enterprises he has established in East London, and here in Eastbourne.


Covid has changed the world - and we must change with it. That’s why we’re devoting all of our resources to incubating new projects to seed systemic change beyond the lifetime of Cracked It.


Cracked It’s Values:

Tough Love    Empowerment    Empathy


We are the World Blogfest

In Darkness, Be Light


Cracked It: London’s best iphone fixers …

Shackleton Foundation – working with Josh Babarinde

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 23 October 2020

Write … Edit … Publish … Bloghop / IWSG hop: Grave Mistake …

We don’t know do we … we had a love that spread across the deep space of time … the earthy scent of autumn, the spring green essence of life, while in summer it bloomed … how do we know that love ... it is just us.  Time is ahead …

… is it?   No … a bruised darkness descends - one of us is gone … bereavement for the other … 


Time passes … slowly, gloomily – there is no joy, just the desolation … leaning against her gravestone – the hanging emptiness of days, then months, years … 

Hermann Hosaeus
1875 - 1958

… at last the fading light eases into his body … his heart slows … he joins the love of his life … in her for-ever winter sleep … no more as a grave mistake …

WEP/IWSG – see here for entry parametersand contributors … everyone welcome …

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 17 October 2020

London Visits pre lockdown – the A-Z on Tutankhamun’s exhibition … part 9 …


The treats on show focused on the significance and meaning of the king’s burial items … a few here in the A-Z format …


Calcite vases on show in exhibition

A is for Antiquities … the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has over recent decades let museums around the world exhibit specific treasures – and this one was to commemorate the centennial of Tutankhamun’s discovery … as well as the construction of his final resting place in 2022 in the brand new Grand Egyptian Museum, Giza within the Cairo metropolis.


A is for Ankh symbol of life – is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol, used in writing and art.


A is for Akhenaten, Tutankhamun’s father … the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt: family tree here …


B is for Boomerang – some found in the tomb would work as returning boomerangs, others were decorative … Tutankhamun, as the teen child he was, loved playing with these …


Gilded Bow case

B is for Bows – beautiful gilded wooden compound working bows with glass, calcite inlays, horn and sinew … there were more than 30 of these, along with 47 older style bows and more than 400 arrows in the tomb …


C is for Lord Carnarvon (1866 – 1923) of Highclere Castle, who had married an illegitimate daughter of millionaire banker Alfred de Rothschild: his debts were paid off and there was a substantial settlement – he was an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist and was able to finance many excavations …


Carnarvon, his daughter and Howard Carter at tomb

C is for Howard Carter for whom a dream came to pass … the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and the restoration of his place in Egyptian history.

Howard Carter had originally come to Egypt in 1891 as an artist to copy and paint the colourful scenes in the Middle Kingdom tombs … at this time the “father of modern Egyptology” was Sir William Flinders Petrie – who, once that spark of interest in Egyptology had been lit, guided Carter’s future passion.


C is for Calcite … calcite alabaster was the kind primarily used in ancient Egypt …


D is for Dynasties – chronology of Ancient Egyptian History: pre-dynastic period ca 4400 – 3100 BC;

Tutankhamun’s dynastic period occurs in the New Kingdom of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties ca 1550 – 1070 BC.


E is for Eighteenth Dynasty founded by Ahmose 1 (ca 1549 – 1524 BC) – he came to the throne when he was ten, then reigned for over 25 years.

Ahmose’s Eighteenth Dynasty was one of the strongest to ever rule Egypt.  He reorganised the administration, reopened quarries, mines and trade routes, and began massive construction projects … determined that Egypt would never again fall prey to outsiders.

Egypt’s wealth was secured and added to until Tutankhamen inherited the kingdom where foreign rulers claimed that “gold was like dust – Egypt was the most powerful and wealthiest empire of the ancient world, when the Egyptian civilisation was at its zenith.


Gold, Lapis, and Carnelian bead bracelet
with Amethyst scarab clasp

F is for Faience … widely used for small objects from beads to models found in tomb …  all necessary for the journey into the Afterlife. 


F is for Flinders Petrie – the father of modern Egyptology.   ‘A Digger’s Life’ … and the Petrie Museum –see my post Sept 2013.


G is for Gold … the illuminating, glinting gold espied by the flashlights - through that first ‘break’ into the tomb … these ranged in size from the enormous shrines of gilded wood that surrounded the sarcophagus, to tiny individual beads.

When Carter and Carnarvon entered the first room (Antechamber) they encountered this life-size figure of the king …


This life-size statue -
wooden guardian statue
of the Ka of the King
(found in the Antechamber)

H is for Herwer (Horus the Elder) ... a falcon headed deity found in a wooden box in the form of a shrine in the Treasury.


H is for Hieroglyphics - the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt.  A cartouche is an oval with a line at one end at right angles to the oval … indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. 


Calcite vase with hieroglyphics
and cartouches

I is for Ivory – ebony and ivory inlays are very Egyptian and used in many of the items found in the tomb, including child-sized furniture … an armchair, a lion-shaped ritual bed, boxes …


A child's armchair
found in tomb

J is for Jewellery … all forms of unimaginable items … amethyst, faience, glass, gold leaf, ebony, ivory, cedar, lapis lazuli, carnelian, turquoise, obsidian, green feldspar, electrum (gold and silver alloy – green gold), travertine, resin …


Pectoral, Chain, and 
Counterpoise with Lapis
Scarab flanked by Uraei

K is for King and KV – is the standard Egyptological designation of each tomb – KV62 - for the young pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.


L is for Tutankhamun Lying Peacefully undisturbed in his nest of coffins for over 3,000 years … the young golden pharaoh.


Howard Carter examining
Tutankhamun's innermost coffin -
it was solid gold, with his gilded
embalmed body within - 

L is for Lotus … the white lotus blossoms open at night, associating it with the moon and the sun.

Around the cups run the hieroglyphic signs proclaim a well wish for the king’s ka (his life force, which persisted after death).


Ay performing the Opening
of the Mouth Ceremony
for Tutankhamun

M is for the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony … an essential for the Mummy so it could breathe and speak in the afterlife … the Book of the Dead contains a spell for this process … more information can be found here


M is for Maat – the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality and justice.  Maat was the goddess who personified these concepts, and regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of mortals and the deities who had brought order from chaos at the moment of creation.


N is for the River Nile – where cultures rose and flourished, until one king ruled the entire Nile valley from the first cataract at Aswan to the Mediterranean … the first pharaoh had emerged.


N is for the Netherworld … the Afterlife … the realm of the dead in ancient Egyptian mythology. 



Nefertiti – ruled after her husband’s death before her step-son, Tutankhamun inherited on her death.


O is for Oils – perfumed oils essential for rituals were highly valued … as they were pressed from plants or steeped in liquids and fats for prolonged periods … the art of distillation was not known.


Tutankhamun's Perfume Oil
jar - symbolising the Unions
of Upper and Lower -
made of alabaster (calcite)

O is for Ostriches … hunted by Tutankhamun in his chariot; they were an important bird - for their feathers and eggs were prized as luxury items.  It was a royal sport that allowed the king to demonstrate his control over nature.  The Egyptian pharaohs were also known to hunt hippopotamus in the Nile.

Gilded Wooden "Ostrich Hunt" Fan

P is for Pharaoh – the common title now used for the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty (c 3150 BC) until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE.


P is for Pschent – the double crown worn by rulers in ancient Egypt – representing the pharaoh’s power over all of unified Egypt.


It combined the White
Hedjet Crown of Upper
Egypt and the Red
Deshret Crown
of Lower Egypt

Q is for Queen Ankhesenamun (ca 1348 – after 1322 BC), who was the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti, and who became the Great Royal Wife of her half-brother Tutankhamun.


R is for Rituals – through a series of rituals performed in the temple of Amun at Karnak, the young prince was transformed into the king of Egypt, the living Horus, representative of the gods on earth.

The forces behind the decisions regarding the young king were the adults in the royal court.


R is for Religious calendar … this kept the court on the move throughout the country … as well as royal duties, the young king and his wife would have had time to boat, play board games, drive chariots, hunt … he did not allow his deformed foot, nor his scoliosis, to interfere with his pleasures.


Miniature Board Games box

R is for the foremost Responsibility of an Egyptian king – that of maintaining ‘maat’ – see ‘M’ above.


S is for Spells to help with the transition on death through the underworld … Afterlife Texts as they are tended to be known … or Ancient Egyptian funerary texts …


T is for Tutankhamun’s Tomb and Treasures – it’s been fascinating to learn about the tomb, its rooms and treasures …


U is for Unbelievable exhibition exquisitely put together … displaying on the walls a fantastic show of art found in the tombs, projecting relevant notations for us …


V is for Valley of the Kings … where for nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, rock –cut tombs were excavated for the pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (Eighteenth – Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt).  The valley contains at least 63 tombs …


W is for the “Wondrous Things”: that Carter and Carnarvon saw illuminated through the hole they had bored to see into the tomb.


Gilded Wooden and Ivory
Pen Case in the form of a
column inlaid with glass

W is for items related to Writing that were found in the tomb.  The gilded wooden and ivory pen case, inlaid with glass, would have stored reed pens. 

Being able to write, and read, ensured the deceased access to the magical tests required to travel safely in the netherworld.


X is for x facts: 5,366 objects excavated, recorded, conserved and transported.

These exquisite precious items, imported woods, linen, leather, petals, leaves, and ore … all crammed into the entrance passageway and the four chambers known as the Antechamber, Burial Chamber, Treasure, and Annex. 


Y is for years – five of them when Carter searched for the tomb, ‘unravelling’ the rubble over the site – every item found was photographed in situ and recorded; a further three years was spent similarly photographing, recording every item from each part of the tomb. 


Tutankhamun ready for hunting -
see boomerangs in background
(from LA exhibition 2019)

Y is for being so young – he needed the assistance of experienced courtiers, many of whom had served his father and even his grandfather – to rule for his short tenure.

He was buried with a solid gold coffin, face mask, thrones, archery bows, trumpets, a lotus chalice, two Imuit fetishes, gold toe stalls, furniture, food, wine, sandals, and fresh linen underwear ... and more ... 


Z is for Zahi Hawass – who is the world’s foremost Egyptologist.  He has been and continues to be instrumental in all things about Tutankhamun and his family … including this spectacular exhibition that I saw in early 2020:

The Golden Mask - did not travel
out of Egypt for this exhibition

Saatchi Gallery's exhibition site in London early 2020 - there are some beautiful photos here ... worth having a look at - the 'Wooden Guardian statue of the KA of the King'; the Gilded Wooden "Ostrich Hunt" Fan; photos of the tomb as it appeared at various stages; treasures, and faience ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories