Izzard, Fry & Zephaniah; 3 reasons to vote for AV

On the 4th of April Oxford County Council leader Keith Mitchell tweeted:

Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry and Benjamin Zephaniah support AV. Three good reasons for voting No to AV!

This, for me, is so emblematic of not just the No campaign but of the right in general. Three people who have challenged the establishment and won public acceptance on their terms; three people who have taking the public anger to stand up for things they believe in; three people who have done more for the marginalised, the disenfranchised, the discriminated and the disadvantaged in this country than Keith Mitchell could do if he lived for another 100 years. I am so utterly outraged by his idiotic and insubstantial slander against three people I have looked up to for most of my life I cannot even think where to begin. He gives no explanation as to why they are good reasons to vote No.

Eddie Izzard

His self-indentification as a “male lesbian” and his being a transvestite whilst at the same time one of Britain’s most famous and well respected comedians is one of the most mainstream challenges to our idea of gender, and he is accepted regardless. In a world where gender and sexual preference mean the difference between success and a life of persecution, Eddie Izzard is exactly the sort of person we should look up to. And this is not to mention his running 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief. I’ve never even seen Keith Mitchell run for a bus (but then I’ve never seen Keith Mitchell in person so I guess I wouldn’t have).

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry, or to give him his full title, National Treasure Stephen Fry is a prolific campaigner as well as comedian, journalist, author, presenter and several thousand other jobs. He is a signatory member of British Jews for Justice for Palestinians and has spoken out against the Iraq War.  Through his documentary The Seceret Life of a Manic Depressive he spoke candidly about his bi-polar disorder helping to bring more understanding to mental illness and in HIV and Me brought greater public understanding of a controversial and utterly devastating disease. His being an out homosexual and at the same time so widely loved by almost all of Britain can be little more than an outrage for the sometimes homophobic establishment.

Benjamin Zephaniah

When I was 10 my mother gave me a book of poetry called Talkin’ Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah. This was a formative moment for me and I have looked up to and followed the career of Benjamin Zephaniah ever since. He was named one of The Times’ top 50 post-war writers, has written dozens of books of poetry and stories for children. He has campaigned to increase children’s literacy, he is one of the most prolific anti-racism campaigners in the country, has given huge amounts of support to animal rights campaigns such as the Animal Liberation Front, supports the establishment of a British Republic and is a vegan. He is also a patron of the Newham Monitoring Project that campaigns against police racism in Newham, East London and of the Tower Hamlets Summer University that offers alternative education to 11-25 year olds in Londons’ most deprived borough. He also famously rejected an OBE on the grounds that it reminded him of “how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised.” I cannot immediately think of a person that would make me more likely to vote for something.

Unless he has another reason for not liking these three true national treasures and if Keith Mitchell really does oppose what Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry and Benjamin Zephaniah stand for then it appears he thinks we should stick to rigid forms of gender expression (and, therefore, oppression), shouldn’t raise money for charity, shouldn’t have equal rights regardless of sexual preference, shouldn’t help people with mental health problems to cope or feel like they aren’t alone, shouldn’t accept people for who they are, shouldn’t campaign against racism, shouldn’t end cruelty to animals and shouldn’t help educate disadvantaged youths.

The change in the voting system is such a fundamentally important decision to make that will affect this country and possibly others for decades to come that to make it based on what a celebrity says or what a councillor says about a celebrity is utterly idiotic.

So here’s the bit where I say that Keith Mitchell might have run marathons for charity, or run for a bus, I genuinely don’t know and if he has then I am sorry for casting aspersions. And other than his tweet, in which he suggests he doesn’t like them, I don’t know his opinions on what Izzard, Fry and Zephaniah stand for.


Squatageddon and police intimidation

Early this morning I received a message that one of the people arrested during the Fortnum & Mason protest in March had been visited by police and warned to stay away from the Royal Wedding and May Day demonstrations. I have heard that a number of the UK Uncut protesters from Fortnum & Mason have had these visits. This was then followed up by the news that squats in London and Brighton had been raided and people arrested for various offences which may or may not turn out to have any basis in reality. Last week the squat known as Telepathic Heights in Bristol was also raided, despite only being occupied by four people who were fixing up the building as they prepared to leave.

The police have publicly stated that these raids and arrests are not linked to the Royal Wedding or to the planned May Day demonstrations, despite senior police officers stating that they would be taking preemptive action to stop ‘trouble’ at either event. However, historical precedent would suggest otherwise.

In the past, police have raided squats in the run up to large demonstrations as well as following large demonstrations. This sort of coordinated strike against so many squats, on such spurious grounds the day before a posh person gets married to a slightly-less posh person and in the run up to the May Day protest is not coincidence. For the squat Ratstar in Camberwell the police said they raided it to search for “stolen goods” eventually discovering they were allegedly bypassing their electricity meter, I wonder if they found a big pile of stolen electricity in one of the rooms? Theft of electricity is known as electricity abstraction because it is not legally recognised as a ‘good’ and therefore cannot technically be stolen. It has it’s own section of the Theft Act 1968, s.13 in fact, created specifically because it cannot be a good. It seems strange that, given the news of the hightened terror alerts and the £20m policing operation going into effect that the Met have nothing better to be doing than enforcing obscure bits of law against squatters, particularly ones that throw up all sorts of existential questions about what can or can’t be stolen.

The only answer is that these raids are in fact part of the £20million security operation around the royal wedding and that the police are lying to or at least misleading the public, again. Someone high up the chain of command made the decision to arrest people for no real reason to ensure that Will and Cate’s day goes smoothly. How’s that for a wedding present, the liberty of a few dozen people who believe in a better world. I am left wondering if the Chief Commissioner is planning to present the arrestees to them in a cage with a big ribbon tied around it, “Here you are your highnesses, we’ve rounded up the prols who thought they had any democractic rights”.

The police believe that protest is illegal, any form of protest and therefore anyone planning to protest is planning to break the law or cause “a breach of the peace” or, if they’re feeling particularly vague, “disruption”.  The police use any power they can think of to intimidate, humiliate or otherwise harass people exercising their right to protest. Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 states:

the person has acted … in an anti-social manner, that is to say, in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself

I think the police could do with reading that and having some self-reflection time.

How to not make common mistakes when shooting video

Filming at the 6 Billion Ways conference

I work a lot with charities producing campaigning videos, filming publicity stunts and training people to make short videos. I also watch a lot of videos made by NGOs, charities and others and see the same mistakes repeated again and again. This list is a few quick tips that will improve the quality of your videos without much effort.

  1. Background noise – computers, air conditioners, phones, doors etc
  2. Busy backgrounds – people wandering around, milling about, having conversations. Backgrounds should never hold or take your attention.
  3. Boring backgrounds – no one wants to look at a plain white wall. Step 2-3 feet away from your background and if you are interviewing stand at an angle. Also be careful of windows as the light is a different colour so can mess up the white balance.
  4. Lighting. If it is too dark, find somewhere else and remember to white balance.
  5. Interviewees should look at the interviewer, not into the camera. Only look directly into the camera if you are addressing the person watching, like a presenter.
  6. Film b-roll. Extra footage that you can use to set the scene, hide edit points and illustrate comments made in interviews.
  7. Ask people to say their name and caption on camera. You don’t have to use this in the edit but it saves fumbling around for a pen.
  8. Prepare your questions beforehand but be prepared to respond with followup questions specific to that person.
  9. Long corridors made from painted brick, stairwells and large halls echo. Find somewhere else.
  10. If at all possible use an off-camera mic.
  11.  And, because this top 10 list goes to 11, don’t film too much. Prepare a list beforehand and stick to it as much as possible. It can be tempting to film the whole of someone’s speech or talk so you don’t miss a good bit but logging and editing hours and hours of talks afterward is not fun and so probably won’t happen.