Sunday, 30 January 2011


I have been struck by the fact that in the New Cross fire, which we remembered last week and the Bloody Sunday shootings mentioned this week, 13 people died at the time and 1 a little later. In the case of Bloody Sunday it was a few months later, in New Cross more than a year... And in both these events most of the victims were no more than teenagers.

The New Cross victims ranged from 15-22 years old
Andrew Gooding, aged 18
Owen Thompson, aged 16
Patricia Johnson, aged 15
Patrick Cummings, aged 16
Steve Collins, aged 17
Lloyd Hall, aged 20
Humphrey Geoffrey Brown, aged 18
Roseline Henry, aged 16
Peter Campbell, aged 18
Gerry Paul Francis, aged 17
Glenton Powell, aged 15
Paul Ruddock, aged 22
Yvonne Ruddock, aged 16
Anthony Berbeck, aged 20, died after falling from the balcony of a block of council flats in South London on July 9, 1983. He was at the party and became mentally disturbed following the death of his best friends.

The majority of the Bloody Sunday victims were in the same age-group
Patrick ('Paddy') Doherty (31) 
Gerald Donaghy (17)
John ('Jackie') Duddy (17)
Hugh Gilmour (17)
Michael Kelly (17)
Michael McDaid (20)
Kevin McElhinney (17)
Bernard ('Barney') McGuigan (41)
Gerald McKinney (35)
William ('Willie') McKinney (26)
William Nash (19)
James ('Jim') Wray (22)
John Young (17)

John Johnston (59) was shot twice on 30 January 1972 and died on 16 June 1972. His family is convinced that he died prematurely and that his death was due to the injuries received and trauma he underwent on 'Bloody Sunday'.

In both cases a very sad loss of young lives and while the circumstances were very different, the parallels are striking.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Births, deaths and disasters....

Well, we managed to mention all but one event on the list published yesterday - the 1967 space-craft fire. Somehow we remembered Challenger, said happy birthday to Etta James, Angela Davis and Jose Marti, remembered Zora Neale Hurston - and heard her singing, and Coretta Scott King, who had championed gay rights, unlike her daughter Bernice...
A song by Ewan MacColl commemorated the hanging of Derek Bentley - who took the punishment for the crime committed by his friend who, at the time was only 16 and therefore too young to suffer capital punishment. It took until 1998 before he was given a complete (posthumous) pardon after the family had campaigned for 45 years.

We heard excerpts of interviews and speeches by Angela Davis speaking about the prison-industrial complex.
For more information on the subject check out Critical Resistance
For more on Angela Davis see the Wikipedia article

We heard some reports of the Bloody Sunday killing of protesters by British soldiers ... and denial that they had not been fired on first.. a fact that was clearly disproved in a report last year.  And finally some documents and music to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz.

Let's hope we can be a little more cheerful next week. We will have entered the Year of the Rabbit and in the UK we celebrate LGBT history month, while in the US it will be Black History month.
Plenty of opportunities for positive stories, great poetry and wonderful music. Who knows, maybe this sliver from a prediction page about life in the Year of the Rabbit will prove right: For once, it may seem possible for us to be carefree and happy without too many annoyances.

This week's radio programme is on

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Last week of January

So many anniversaries this week...

Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January)
Bloody Sunday (30 January)

Jose Marti (28 January 1853)
Etta James (25 January 1938)
Angela Davis (26 January 1944)

Derek Bentley hanged for a murder he did not commit  28 January 1953 (pardoned 30 July 1998)

Zora Neale Hurston (28 January 1960)
Coretta Scott King (30 January 2006)

2 Astronauts killed in a fire in their Apollo spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Centre (27 January 1967)
Break-up of space shuttle Challenger on lift-off with the loss of 7 lives (28 January 1986 )

Will we be able to touch on all of these in 90 minutes?

Last year's interviews

Peggy Seeger...
Peggy gave us an interview by telephone prior to her appearance at the Sage Gateshead in November. A week later she appeared at Reeth Memorial Hall in Yorkshire. In both settings, she shone as a great musician with a delightful sense of humour - and as a highly accessible, loving human being.

 Poet and broadcaster Ian MacMillan generously gave us more than 30 minutes of his time during the Free Thinking Festival at the Sage Gateshead, run by BBC Radio 3. We sat in the library and talked about poetry in prisons, young people and poetry and never quite got to discussing why so many Yorkshire towns begin with B.

During that same Free Thinking Festival we managed to grab a quick interview in a very noisy green room with Soweto Kinch - saxophonist extraordinaire. Fingers crossed that we may be able to speak with him again when he comes up for the Gateshead Jazz Festival.

The evening before, there was a recording of 'Vultures', a new radio play by Roy Williams at the Baltic. After the recording he kindly did an interview during which he spoke, amongst other things, about whether or not it was important for black children to grow up seeing images of themselves in literature, and the need for retaining Black History Month. 

ps, this photo was borrowed from the London Evening Standard... can't think why I didn't take one myself - all the other photos are mine.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Story so Far

Celestial Navigation has been broadcasting on NE1fm in Newcastle / Gateshead (UK) since July 2010.

The programme goes out live on air on 102.5fm locally and online from - Fridays 16.00-17.30, local time. Podcasts are then available later on Friday evenings at where you will also find the playlists.

On this blog we will post additional information about the topics covered, together with important addresses and phone numbers.

You will have the chance to write comments here or on Podomatic - we welcome positive feedback and suggestions.

We have featured interviews with Peggy Seeger, Soweto Kinch, Ian MacMillan and Jak Beula.  To date we have made 26 programmes, the last one honouring the memory of all those affected by the New Cross fire in 1981.