Friday, 19 February 2016

Leicester & the Historic City legend

So, there are these signs, that are popping up all over the place, that say:

Welcome to
Historic City

Is there anywhere (an online photo album, for example) where images of all the signs can be seen?

Was there a public consultation on the wording and images featured on the signs? If so, where can one find details of the consultation?

Also, does anyone know how many of these signs have been put up so far and whether there are plans to put up more? If more such signs are being planned for other access points into the city, is there any chance this too could be subject to consultation so that the people of Leicester can have a say on where the signs appear and what the signs say?

Given that all cities everywhere in the world can claim to be 'historic' cities, the signs as they are currently worded and as they currently look, rankle the senses because they aren’t saying anything much about where Leicester is coming from, where it is currently or where it is going.

I suspect the signs came about because City Hall is aware that Leicester doesn't tell its story well.

I hope this also means there's a willingness to listen and a willingness to explore other ways through which that storytelling can best be done and that, in this and other ways, the city will eventually find a way to enthuse visitors and citizens alike about all the things that Leicester is and all the things it could be.

City Hall could, for example, commission a series of multimedia works exploring where the city is coming from, where the city is currently at and where it might go. The works could include video, still and moving images, animation and music.

In addition to that, the city could sponsor a poetry and short fiction anthology inviting Leicester citizens, residents and/or anyone who has a connection of any sort with the city, to respond to the 'Welcome to/Leicester/Historic City' legend.

The legend could also be the title of the anthology.

The city would need to give the anthology's editors a free hand and leave it to them to select the poems and short fiction that work best as standalone pieces and as part of the anthology.

The call for submissions would also need to avoid being too prescriptive and give poets and writers room to interpret the legend as they will.

The other option would be for the city to hire a public relations or ad company and have that company do all the storytelling. But doing things this way could sideline communities and the story that ends up getting told won't necessarily be one that anyone who has any meaningful connection with the city can relate to.

Similarly, if the call for submissions is too prescriptive, the stories that might end up getting told might not necessarily be the best ones that people can tell.

If it is to sponsor the anthology and other multimedia works about the city, City Hall would need to trust the talent we have in Leicester and it would also need to trust the process.

An earlier version of this blog post was published as, "The making of a city's legend", a letter in the print version of Leicester Mercury on 13 February 2016.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Everything that can be done will be done to make sure our borders are secure and make sure that British holidaymakers are able to go on their holidays.
— David Cameron, June 2015.

whistling sand
off bones
in the desert

cradling babies
onto shores

thudding through things
in the tunnel

securing borders

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Dear Diary

Dear Diary

In his seminal manual on governance, '1984', the political scientist George Orwell instructed those who would have absolute power to have hate as a key tool and to prime it often.

Those who are in power have heeded Orwell’s instruction well and Hate Week is upon us once more.

This week we are expected to hate two groups of people. We are expected to hate families with more that two children who need assistance from the State to get by; and families with children who are here because they need refuge.

My neighbour tells me there's a good chance the State will be sending doctors into the streets next week to sterilise people from these families.

My neighbour also says there's a chance the State will be rounding up people from these families and forcing them into work camps.

My neighbour is not sure which, between the mass sterilisation and the work camps, will happen first.

Friday, 30 October 2015

On Zimbabwean schools that banned cereals after students used them to brew beer

In September, The Chronicle reported that a number of boarding schools in Zimbabwe have banned students from bringing certain types of breakfast cereals to school because some of the students are using the cereals to brew beer.

The report was subsequently picked up by a number of international media organisations, among them, SABC News, The Guardian, TIME and RT.

To me, the incident suggests the students are highly resourceful, creative and enterprising. It also suggests they have multi-faceted skills and aptitude that should be encouraged, rewarded and developed.

The schools mentioned in the report are: Tennyson Hlabangana High School, Cyrene Boys High and Embakwe.

Does anyone know what the schools' science teaching and learning resources and facilities are like? Are the schools OK for textbooks, equipment, facilities and resources or can they do with support in sourcing these?

Friday, 16 October 2015

love poems (of sorts)


at the job centre
a woman in her forties
in tears

her mother
in her seventies


without rhythm
or method

to bits


we wandered
through back streets
and over manicured fields
clouds on fire


we breathe
we hope
we dream
we keep moving
we live


Have I told you
I keep meaning
to invite you
for tea and biscuits
and then
the day gets filled
with things to do
and I close my eyes
and it is the next day
and we haven't talked
about tea and biscuits?


You didn't see how,
because you were there,
the room lit up?

You didn't hear how,
because you were there,
there was music all around us?


strumming twelve-bar blues
the streets
stopped time
and we sung
and talked
table clothes


feet firmly
on the pulse
of space
body swaying



against a fence
by the footpath
a box of early windfall apples
and an invitation


didn't we meet
in the room at the top of the inn?

didn't the music flow from person to person
and swirl around the room
and flow some more?

didn't the music
show us the way home?

didn't the music show us
we were home?


let me know
when we can go for a walk,
day or night

we might walk
one in front of the other
or we might hold hands

we might wade through streams
or sit by brooks

we might have a picnic
under day skies
or by moonlight

we might even bring out the canvas
and paint the light and laughter
that dance around us


after work
a rush through traffic
to the pharmacy


even though
her mother was prime minister
there was no drone strike

even though
she was going to change the world
there was no drone strike

how do you say goodbye?

there was no drone strike
(you know -
the sort that takes out a whole generation)



i will accept your goodbye
and keep it
in plain sight
so you can take it back
when you no longer need it kept safe