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HERE COMES THE SUN – VALENCIA SEPTEMBER 2017.

YouTube is a great invention. Marvin Gaye’s greatest hits playing in the background. A chilly but light Berlin day is pouring through the windows. Over an excellent coffee and a flapjack I finished reading Wuthering Heights. Berlin is that sort of city and why I find myself spending longer here. I am in the mood to be creative. My blog ideas about Valencia fill my mind now.

The city has long been on my list. Ever since I saw the magnificent 1961 Hollywood film, El Cid. Charlton Heston and a stunning Sophia Loren. It is the story of Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, known as El Cid, and his military successes which played a great part in uniting Spain in the 11th century. Three hours of drama, battles, lovely outfits and real armies battling not CGI. El Cid is a Spanish hero. Charlton was portrayed as a gun crazy, old man in the Bowling for Columbine film. But I was surprised to read of his part, alongside several white Hollywood actors in supporting the Civil Rights movement. But something changed.

https://youtu.be/VrkqD7JKDcA

Valencia is a port city on the South Eastern coast of Spain. It is known as the City of Arts and Sciences. And the modernity is engaging. And its history is stunning. Great history and culture in the buildings and streets. On every corner. Superlatives abound and are not out of place. Churches that look small from the outside but when you enter they are cathedralesque in their style, beauty, grandeur and perfectly maintained. Loved with the spirit of their God. The history of the Christians and Moors seamlessly standing beside the modern and imaginative buildings. I love walking around cities. Exploring. Getting lost. It gives you a flavour of life there, especially if you are away from the tourist spots. Valencia has streets built for this. Just wandering. Safely. But also its fair share of shops. All shapes and sizes. The men and women of Valencia are fashionable, stylish and always immaculate. In a city bathed in sunshine, history and great fresh orange juice they seem serious, unhappy and in some ways stressed. Or was that just me?  There is also a universal sight – homeless people and people begging.


I did a one week Spanish course. To pick up bits of the language, learn about the culture and meet people. It worked. Travelling alone can be good. You move at your own pace but can be lonely. The structure of a course is good – arrive for 9 a.m. No sleeping in. It was exhausting because of having to concentrate, focus, listen, translate Spanish to English, understand it, find the words and most of all not speak English. From the start the tutor only spoke Spanish. A great way to immerse yourself in a language. But tiring. Of course google translate helps. It was part of my little win one morning when I found the place to buy stamps. The course was a good move.  The other people on the course were all interesting, friendly, welcoming and good fun. Eight of us from Germany, Holland and England. Chats, laughs, stories and chilling out together. All of us in holiday mode. It was good to have company to go to the beach, have a drink or meal. And then find our own time. The hot sandy beaches of Valencia are a joy. Warm, inviting blue seas with waves to knock you about and ease the muscles. And sufficient eye candy walking by on a regular basis. Some distractions are a good thing.

The main site for filming El Cid is the town of Peñiscola, which is about 90 minutes from Valencia by train. I was so pleased I went there. Using my “Spanglish” I got a train and a taxi to and from the nearest station. The Castillo de Peñiscola is a splendid 13th century castle built by the Knights Templar. The views across The Mediterranean and the town are beautiful when the sun is pouring out. Stunning. I am always impressed by the skills, strengths, knowledge and commitment of those who built these buildings. Precariously perched on very strategic points. But the inaccessible is made accessible. I spent an hour just looking, enjoying and moving around on the battlements. Taking it all in. The castle and area have a real sense of place. The story I have about the place, plus it’s history, the experience of touring the castle and its information combine with my imagination and emotions to give the building a life. I can feel and sense soldiers or the film crew moving about the place. There is a strong sense of place as I move around these places. The spirit and essence of its inhabitants is all around. The steps, the walls, the corners. Each curve shares a piece of its story. 

And as the sun and I begin our journey, home the colours and reflections add a new beauty to the grandeur of the castle.

K.S.

BLACK ARTISTS – THE JOURNEY – AUGUST 2017.

It fell right into place. A few weeks of house sitting in Brighton allowed me to finish organising storage, paper work and equipment. Next stop – Exmoor. Each day is a new step in getting my head around this adventure. This new life. I know the point of it all. What do you need? What don’t you need? And what can you let go?

The Black Artist Walk – is part of a U.K. wide project to bring artists who identify as black together (you discuss what you mean by “black”). To raise their profile, gain better funding or resources, to celebrate their work and grow. As individuals and as a community.

I had already attended their events in Windsor and Birmingham. This was a unique chance to spend time helping and participating. A simple plan. Bring artists together for four days. Eat, walk,perform,discuss,laugh,cry, share works in progress, plan and enjoy whatever comes up. The first stop was Exmoor National Park, Somerset and Devon – I was struck by the silence at our centre. Total. No traffic noise, sirens, shouting, neighbours, no anything. No mobile signal + limited or no internet and phone calls = JOY. Then to Haworth Youth Hostel, West Yorkshire. A grand building with an impressive wood lined hall and stairway. Bronte country – or at least the town they lived in. The final venue was Osmotherley(Cote Ghyll Mill) in North Yorkshire. And a chance to experience Whitby with its connections to Bram Stoker and his gothic novel, Dracula. The venues were important but what made each section special and different was the unique combination of black artists. Flowing together with the greatest of ease. Being in an all black environment is special. There are certain things that you don’t have to explain. Certain things you can take for granted. The others have some idea of and empathy with your experiences, regardless of gender for instance. There are conversations that we can safely have about blackness, ancestors, what inspires our creativity, our feelings and hopes. The life of being black and an artist. It is all so inspiring, fulfilling, expanding and nourishing. Each night some combination of the artists present gave a performance or presentation of or about their work. A unique, personal and heartfelt sharing. For me it was both emotional and invigorating. Day to day life has a way of becoming a barrier to some of our creativity. But here, in this experience you can remove those barriers and see for a while. Or longer – you choose.

There was a definite feeling of something happening to me. Some change, or process or movement in progress and coming. Just don’t know what. And that is o.k. It is really relaxing to just let go and let be. The journey works it out. It is like calling bingo numbers – shuffle it up and use what pop’s out. This is less about the station and more about the train ride. Travel first class and enjoy the view. It’s  happening, bathe in it, accept it all, reflecting and being open to what comes.

              THE GHOSTS OF RACISM HAUNTING THE U.S.A.

There is too much noise about the U.S.A. transmitted across the world. Music, film, trump, McDonalds. And this stupid man – take his bloody twitter account away. They voted for a white man, who had the best education possible (well good, expensive schooling) who cant string a coherent sentence together. But the black guy before him was stupid? American white noise is given too much credence. But I notice strongly as a black man, how the flag and the anthem come before discussing the murder of black men by the Police. The people supposed to protect them. Or how white men are never terrorists. Because as soon as you admit that. You admit your true selves. 

I wonder how my white friends would feel if that was their lifelong, not just daily, but always experience? Knowing that your son, nephew, uncle, brother, father, husband friend may not come home today. And when you see his cold, lifeless body. You have to look at the back for bullet holes. And when you ask questions you are told not to be aggressive. His hands were in the air but the officer felt threatened. The officer still has a job because “blue lives matter”. When sports players speak up they are told be quiet. Perform for us. That’s what we pay you all that money for. What is it like to live with that underlying narrative. Do you tell your men to keep going or not bother? And when the president, a man evidently scared of non-white people says. Flag first. Lives second. What do you think? And will you say “all lives matter”. That is code. Code for I don’t want to really discuss racism, prejudice, discrimination because the spotlight turns 360°. It may turn to me. And when my white friends say “hi”. What do they see? No colour? Just me? And there is a police officer – what does he see?  Doesn’t matter to me – its not my weight.

Racism is your problem and your pain and your truth. Not mine.

 What I see is the most important thing!!

“I am the captain if my soul”. William Ernest Henley.

“I know where I am going…” Muhammad Ali.

K.S.

JUMP, FLY, SOAR.

17th JULY TO SUNDAY 20th AUGUST 2017

If you do follow your bliss…. I can’t remember where I first read or saw the poem. Maybe it was the first line that I have always recalled from some encounter, or saying or a film. But it made so much sense at a point in my life where I was thinking about what next. I knew that this, the life I was leading was not all. I knew that something had to be found and to change. The first plan was to buy a bigger flat, rent a room to help pay the bills and build from there. After about 3 attempts I settled in a flat and was almost there. Almost ready to sign the papers. And then I realised this would be more of the same. More material things to fill the house. More bills to pay. New neighbours, same tea shops, same,same,same. Luckily I was building a good life – unlike some I had enough food, a warm home, clothes, good health, friends and family.  SOMETHING ELSE WAS NEEDED.

And sometimes the thing has to be repeated to us before we are able to and ready to hear and see. And it needs to be big, bold and adventurous for me to grow. There was a moment when I stopped making excuses and became the reason. I have a clear plan. On my things to do list there are continents, people, things to do and a series of places in the world to see. I am single. Have no ties. No mortgage. No pets. Just houseplants.  SO!!

 JUMP.

Sell your home.   Put the cash in the bank.   Pay up debts.   Put your belongings in store.   Or give them away. And travel – see those places. Then…….

In a way it is a simple idea. I knew where I wanted to go. I had the money to fund it. My 2016 trip to the U.S.A. meant I had most of the equipment I needed. The barriers of fear. Of, “no one else is….”  When you make “what ifs” big, positive outcomes. The world is your gateaux. 

Let’s go!!

As I stepped out into this new world I discovered there is an array of physical, mental and spiritual, journeys to navigate. Some immediate. Some later and some still to come.

It is wonderfully liberating to know there are no bills dropping through the letterbox. I don’t have to play the “money expert ” game. Where you spend money and time to chase the best service provider. And sit back exhausted. When I walk past shops I can keep going.  I don’t need “things” because I have nowhere to put them. So I rarely buy.  My 5 or 6 t-shirts are enough. And my brain has more empty space to fill. Or not fill. I can walk around with an empty head. Many successful people and world leaders do.

“Where do you live?” is a strange question to answer when you do not have a home.  I don’t have any house keys. But I’m not homeless. It is a beautiful moment and feeling to recognise. And to know that, your home is not a thing but you. Within and around you wherever you stand. You are at home.These are my choices. So, who are you if not a householder. It took weeks for my brain to get it. To realise this is my life and routine now. The pressures are now different. And I’m not concerned about the mortgage rate rising. I can take time to enjoy more moments even more than before.

And when someone says “Do you fancy joining Black Artists on the move”, you can say “yes!” 

“I know where I am going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. 

I’m free to be what I want”.

K.S.

Follow your bliss -Joseph Campbell – www.goodreads.com

I know where I am going – Muhammad Ali www.goodreads.com

LOSING CONTROL – 3RD NOVEMBER 2015

It was a good day and there was lots of control and not much in there that showed me disruption in the way the event was organised, managed and presented. I had good chats with the organisers about this but none of the presenters and speakers reflected me as a black man and a member of the audience. I was told they chose the best speakers and not by colour. Which is good. By that definition the event reinforces the staus quo. Which maintains control and does not disrupt.
I know many non-white and diverse faces that can speak well and through their work disrupt. Bert Williams, M.B.E. of the Black History Project; Mosaic – working with black and mixed parentage families; Allsorts LGBTQ Youth Group; The Black Minority and Ethnic Community Partnership(BMECP); Sussex University – all based in Brighton.
I want to see more variety next year.K

BLACK HISTORY MONTH CANCELLED

 

 

19th OCTOBER 2015 – BLACK HISTORY MONTH CANCELLED
After twenty eight years of struggle to establish an identity, presence and acceptance I was sort of surprised to learn that Black History Month doesn’t happen in Wandsworth. This was while attending an event – 2000 years of British black music (delivered by Kwaku). It was held at Battersea Library which is run by Better/Greenwich Leisure Limited.
Wandsworth has Diversity month instead to “reflect ….all individuals and cultural groups within our borough” The librarian let slip the connection to funding, or the lack of funding or the chance to save money.
So you can wipe out the struggles, achievements and existence of a whole race by renaming their day. After fifty years in the U.K. and a thirty year career contributing to the life of the NHS my mother’s (and that of many, many others) recognition is that. 
Why am I complaining? 
I should listen to David Cameron and “move on” (October 2015). 
Black History Month has been celebrating the contributions and history of black communities and individuals since 1987.
I accept the realities of funding in our supposed times of austerity. Will Holocaust Memorial Day in January, LGBT History Month in February and International Women’s Day in March be cancelled? Or renamed?
Let’s hold our breaths and see what happens once the seasonal light displays come down (formally known as Xmas lights).
It is easy to talk with cultural groups about what they want celebrated and how.
How was the black community involved in this decision?
 
Looking forward to hearing the views of the Council Leader, local press and others.
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