Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Gateshead International Jazz Festival

Had a brilliant weekend at the Jazz Festival.
First I attended a workship by Cleveland Watkiss. It was intended for young people between 12 and 21, so I felt right at home! What a great 90 minutes that was. Looking back it's amazing to see the amount of ground he covered and what there was to learn. I even managed to sing and improvise a bit, which was huge fun. Afterwards he was kind enough to give me a 15 minute interview, in spite of being ready for his siesta.

In the evening he took part in a programme called Word Up, where he performed one set, Zena Edwards another and Napoleon Maddox a third.  You should really look for all these artists on you tube or wherever you can find them. Finally they performed an improvised piece together, combining their unique styles of words and music.

On Sunday Zena Edwards kindly sat down with me under the stairs on one of the balconies (the only place we could find which was relatively quiet and where we wouldn't be disturbed) and gave a good interview of at least a quarter of an hour. We could have gone on for ages - actually we did, but the rest was off mic. Later she had a gig in Sunderland and I was able to tag along and record part of that performance and make more photos.
Zena is a very special poet who uses words and music to weave a spell on her audience. In Sunderland a fairly rowdy group was mesmerised by her performance. Let's hope she can come up to the North East more often so that more people can get to hear her wonderful poetry.

This week's Celestial Navigation on Friday will be based around the themes of Breath and the Voice and will include both the interviews mentioned here, together with work by all three artists, Zapp Mama, Sweet Honey in the Rock and lots more a capella music.
PLUS......... special guest poet, Sheree Mack.
Don't miss it!  4pm on Friday 1 April (too late for jokes) on 102.5fm locally or online at
If you're not able to listen at that time, watch out for the podcast which will be uploaded later on Friday evening -

Friday, 18 March 2011

Jimmy Dennis

Jimmy Dennis has been on death row in SCI Greene in Pennsylvania since 1992. The case against him is about as flimsy as a diaphanous nightgown - and yet on Monday March 14 his death warrant was signed and his execution date scheduled for May 10.
Here we are not going into the whole case which is well-documented elsewhere. Instead we will try to give as many websites and contact information as we can.

First, join the Facebook page of the CCADP - Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty. Tracy Lamourie and Dave Parkinson who run the CCADP have been campaigning for Jimmy since 1998. - there is a petition on this site - PLEASE SIGN! - plenty of links and sound files here

You can write to Jimmy (your letter will be read before he gets it and probably no enclosures are allowed - with the possible exception of US postage stamps - check first)

Jimmy A. Dennis  BY7796
175 Progress Drive
Waynsburg, PA 
15370-8090 USA
We will add more information as it comes to us.
More information on the Death Penalty in the US

There are also a number of Facebook pages - including the Innocence Project where you can get current information and ask questions.

Even the police in the US agree that the death penalty does nothing to reduce murder rates.
Even Stevie Wonder can see that executing a person does not bring the victim back.
Keeping a person in jail for life is way way cheaper than going the execution route.
Face it - the death penalty is doing no-one any good.

Listen to the programme we made for Jimmy today and hear how the people who are part of the execution team feel after witnessing 30, 50, 70, 100, 130 state murders.

Jimmy has been given a stay of execution, so now he can launch an appeal. This judge will have the power to order him a new trial, or he could simply throw the case out and set Jimmy free. Keep up the pressure and let's hope he will be free to be with his little girls soon!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

International Womens Day - links

In the last half hour or so of the March 11 programme we played a series of interviews made at International Women's Day events in Newcastle and Gateshead.
I promised to post the links, so here they are.

The Newcastle event was organised by the Co-Op together with Daisy Green, and the Gateshead event by Gateshead Council - both were very enjoyable and informative. (and the ice-cream at the Newcastle event was totally delicious).

Daisy Green
took part in both events and organised clothes swaps which were a great success

North-East Organic Growers
grow organic vegetables and deliver veg packages to link people in a wide area around the North-East. they also sell fruit and eggs (and yummy honey!)
or - perhaps a better page -

Fair Squared 
sell ethical, fair-trade items such as sneakers, chutneys, soaps and condoms

Surf & Silver
Emma Harbottle and her daughters collect sea glass from local beaches and turn it into beautiful jewellery which is sold in some local outlets and on Facebook. Outlets sought in Durham!

sell beautiful eithically traded products from India, including quilts, bags, candles scarves and jewellery

There were other craft sellers at the Newcastle event and a nice collection of small businesses run by women at the Gateshead event - so good to see people following their passions and working to help others.

You can hear the programme on

Saturday, 5 March 2011

World Book Night and other Days

I wish I could celebrate World Book Night with a happy heart instead of this heavy feeling. A few years ago we were up in arms at the fact that in some countries in Europe 300,000 books were being pulped every week because of over-production. This year, for World Book Night an extra one million books have been printed in order to give them away free... to 'encourage reading'. Well hooray - why not stop a couple of truckloads of books on their way to the pulpers and give those books away free instead?

Borderline Books (dot org) was set up 10 years ago to do exactly that - to ask publishers and libraries not to throw books out but to donate them so they can be redistributed amongst people who have no money for books. Thousands of books have been given free in the Netherlands and the UK to organisations working with the homeless, with refugees, abused women and children, former prisoners, youth clubs, community centres, organisations for the elderly....
The idea of printing an extra million books specially to give them away just seems like some mad publicity campaign from someone who has no idea about the book trade - yet it was thought up by a publisher.

Well... I will probably go to the event so I can grumble and hand out leaflets about Borderline Books!

And there is so much going on this week for International Womens Day, it's very hard to choose. Interesting to see on the website for IWD that there seem to be more events in the UK than in any other country... or perhaps just more in the UK who reigstered their events. Who knows. Good that people are paying attention anyway.
- Let's remember garment workers all over the world, and those Tibetan nuns sitting in prison for their faith - and women in IT who earn 23% less than their mail counterparts.

Who said we won equality?