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Human, mother, wife, home educator, learner, photographer, writer, reader, mind reader, critic, defender, champion.

Monday, 30 November 2009

From the Mouths of Twats #3

"We will also clamp down on the flood of ‘asylum seekers’, all of whom are either bogus or can find refuge much nearer their home countries." - Random Twat #3 (BNP)

Because when you're a refugee you want to flee to the country nearest the one you're escaping from. Why is it always a flood of asylum seekers? Why can't it be a bouquet of asylum seekers?

Monaxle interviewed on BBC Radio Kent

Monaxle was interviewed this morning on BBC Radio Kent about his arrest in Chatham High Street on July 8th 2009. He was arrested UNLAWFULLY under terrorism laws for having a camera/ being too tall/ obstructing a police officer/ acting suspiciously. The interview can be heard on his blog.

My comment referenced others which had just been made and was read out on air:

Alex's experience is far from isolated. Amateur Photographer is a weekly magazine yet has a column dedicated to this issue, every single week.

I'm part of an artists collective called Medway Eyes which organised a photo walk back in August in response to Alex's arrest. During the photo walk, a security guard from Poundland asked us what we thought we were doing and that he had to worry about terrorism. So bizarre and quite unfounded attitudes towards terrorism in Kent extend beyond the police. With more people being given extra powers (or assuming them regardless); PCSOs, council representatives, bouncers, security guards we can expect more interference in our civil lives.

It's not good enough to say if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. It's not good enough to say, just tell them what they need to know - this will not lead to an easy life. Say no to these people. Stand up for your rights or they will be eroded, bit by bit.

From the Mouths of Twats #2

"Actually I believe the only justification for home school education is easy access to holidays outside term time - they do not give a toss about education only saving themselves a few quid - this at least is a plausible reason rather than the other bullshit which has been used to justify this activity!" - Random Twat #2


cheap holidays, fair enough!


shit schools on special measures
good academic schools with poor pastoral care
schools with good pastoral care but crappy academic record
unmotivated teachers
bullied children
unmet special needs
philosophical objections to institutionalising children
wanting to provide a broader learning experience than the national curriculum allows

... that's all unjustifiable, irrelevant bullshit.

From the Mouths of Twats #1

"Can you not see that learning how to behave in an institutional context is an acquired skill, one that is acquired slowly and surely over the years, and that children who are not used to institutional behaviour and have to learn it later will need to be carried by those who have already acquired the skill?" - Random Twat #1

Apparently, only children who have been to school can function in the "real world". Now, let's see, home educated kids do lots of things with their parents in the "fake world", shopping, banking, dealing with council twats, walks in the park, negotiating public transport, ordering food, posting letters, weighing up the badly informed arguments of the ignorant. All the while, school children are sitting quietly, in neat little rows, while a much older person is talking at them about prescribed subjects in the "real world". No, hang on...

Every Child Matters. That's a good thing, isn't it?

Things that could be justified if we fall for the Every Child Matters rhetoric...

The Government's aim is for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support they need to:

* Be Healthy
- monitoring in homes to make sure parents aren't smoking around their children
- monitoring in homes to make sure parents aren't drinking around their children
- monitoring in homes to make sure parents aren't taking drugs (apart from those we give them for free in chemists) around their children
- shopping receipts to be analysed for junk foods and sweets (implementation of shopping card so random spot checks of supermarket data can be made at any time)
- junk food outlets to refuse unaccompanied children under 16 (ID required)
- junk food outlets to monitor very regular customers with children - may refuse to serve habitual "users" and demand ID in order to pass personal details onto the authorities.
- fluffy menu of sports activities made available to children (for free) usually in out of town leisure centres that require a car or a decent transport service (which we'll get around to eventually) - loyalty cards in operation to determine who is a "service refuser"/bad parent

* Stay Safe
- monitoring in homes of single parents
- monitoring in homes where single mums have boyfriends
- monitoring in homes where children are home educated
- monitoring all families during all school holidays
- "surgeries" for children who wish to speak to a "trustworthy adult" about their parents

* Enjoy and Achieve
- questionnaires to all children to ensure they are enjoying their education
- questionnaires to all children to ensure they were consulted about all decisions made concerning their education and well-being
- questionnaires to all children asking if they are happy with their parents' parenting skills (with compulsory parenting classes for those parents falling short of their child's expectations)
- meet 50% into university target by any means (devaluing the degree means very little to the parents of children who are the first in their family to achieve such a qualification so we should get away with it)
- ensure all children get at least 5 GCSEs by any means (including, as is currently the case in further education, allowing the tutor to complete the work over the phone by putting helpful words into the students' mouths because failure is not an option when budgets depend on students passing courses)

* Make a Positive Contribution
- provide jobs for the drones (improving lives for subsequent generations of children)
- allow the drones to mate (subsequent generations will be more pliable)
- ineffective citizens to be sterilised (Hitler did have some good ideas)

* Achieve Economic Well-Being
- imposing intervention and pronouncing judgement on families without jobs (for the benefit of the children)
- sending social workers into homes of poor families to make them feel bad about themselves (this will surely lead to increased self-respect at which point they will magically go out and find a job)
- this, in turn, will lead children to believe that working increases self-worth and make them more pliable as future workers, even though they'll have no evidence of this because they won't actually see their parents any more since the jobs will typically be low paid and require greater working hours to make ends meet and afford child care costs (this might need more work)
- provide more jobs for the drones (improving lives of more subsequent generations)

Every Child Matters, my arse!

And because it's worth pointing out again...

"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Phil Dillon Interviewed on Radio Scilly

Phil Dillon was interviewed on Radio Scilly a few weeks ago about the ME1 album which is still available to download for free as part of the Medway Eyes birthday bundle.

The interview is available to stream on the website.

Didn't I say they'd come for you next?

Didn't I say they'd come for you next? Too many visits to A & E with your kids? Got a bit of a clumsy child on your hands?

Health and Safety snoops to enter family homes

The government is obsessed with monitoring and control - the Badman Report is indisputable proof of this. Our family is currently under threat of intrusive and excessive measures, and if the legislation goes through we'll be classified as "at risk". NICE is not quite so nice - it's the organisation behind a list of indicators of child abuse that include wariness of strangers & friendly to strangers, independent of parent & too clingy with parent - all of which rely on the interpretation/subjectivity/prejudices of SWs. I can just see them with their tick sheets, keeps at 'recognised' safe distance from parent, tick, keeps a suitable distance from strangers, tick. I think that at community level most people engaged in child welfare are good people trying their best to do a thankless job with a crappy tool kit and maximum interference and criticism from a failing government.

Using methods of snooping and spying to gather information is unethical. And let's face it, if this was really about safeguarding children there are other measures which could prove more effective. There are always other ways, but this government thinks of the ways in which it can do it through surveillance and control, while always passing the buck. SWs will get it in the neck. Schools will get it in the neck. Hospitals will get it in the neck. Local authorities will get it in the neck. The laws come directly from government, and although many of its agencies are complicit, I wonder how much of a choice they really have and, ultimately, the government never has to work with the laws it creates. It never has to interpret them on the ground, and consistently points the finger at those that do and get it wrong from time to time.

Creeping totalitarianism is not what this country needs. If the government refuses to see alternative measures that do not involve surveillance, monitoring and control then we have to rub their noses in those alternative measures. It is not enough to say, if it saves just one child it is worth it. The liberty of all is not a sacrifice we should have to make.

Statistically, more children die in road accidents. Shall we ban cars? Well we couldn't do that. There would be no fuel tax and the public transport system infrastructure's fucked. That would be a problem for government. That said, I wouldn't put it past them to make in-car CCTV and other technology compulsory for persistent speeders or drivers with convictions for drink-driving.

I said before that the ECM paper would get everyone in trouble. I said that after they came for the home educators, they'd go for the single mothers, the low income families. And here it is. Next, children of smokers, children who are overweight/underweight. After that, they'll start inventing reasons to intrude, probably using the kind of made up words you see on adverts for anti-wrinkle cream. Before you know it, Mr and Mrs Daily Mail will be under investigation for allowing the dog to lick little George's face. And they were such model parents.

Instead of snooping and spying...
Legislation for landlords to fit safety equipment (definition of landlord to be revised).
Legislation on foreign imports to comply with British safety standards.
Shops that sell items which do not comply have stock removed and get a fine.
The government provides parents of newborns with a bunch of free stuff when the baby is born - this could be revised to include safety equipment, including plastic plugs, thermometer strips, bath temp thermo, carbon monoxide detector, info leaflet on where to get government subsidised equipment like stair gates, window locks, smoke alarms and how to fit them, etc (sure start centres already do this for some home safety items). Families on income support could receive this for free. Still a whole lot cheaper than those hospital bills and without all the intrusive measures. What's wrong with that? No surveillance, no control, that's what.

We mustn't forget that, still, in a lot of households, it is the men who hold the purse and the women that hold the baby and are seen as responsible if the child is injured. There is a lot of resentment and fear of authority among the groups of people that these kinds of measures would be aimed at. There will be resentment and suspicion of such intrusive tactics. Women might feel they are being blamed, that they are powerless under the scrutiny and judgement of others, that they are powerless to change things for the better in their own household, that even though they do their best, they cannot spend 24 hours a day with their eyes on their child and without the money for such safety equipment, they have no choice but to go without. More crucially, women may find that they are reluctant to seek help if they feel they will be judged. They may not take their child to hospital for fear of being accused of abuse or neglect. This is already happening.

Also, imposing intervention is something I would prefer to see reserved for the criminally abusive or neglectful, not every parent who happens to find themselves in a particular social category. It seriously sucks!

Quick Reflection on the Queen's Speech

The more I think about this speech, the more sickened I am. It is not the Queen's speech at all.

The conduct of the Badman review is in question, currently facing a select committee, yet the government still saw fit to publish the Children, Schools and Families Bill based on its flawed findings and spoon-feed her Maj with it. The bill is full of assertions based on estimates and figures plucked out of the air. Is this really what UK legislation is based on - guesswork and whimsy? Proud to be British? Not recently.

Photo plucked from the Beeb

I Am Not A Terrorist

I carry cards around with me in my camera bag clearly stating photographers' rights should any over-zealous CSOs or police officers stop me taking photos. As it is, I have only been stopped by CSOs once, and it wasn't really the kind of confrontation that I could really get my teeth into. It is also useful to have these cards when members of the public ask me what I'm doing. There seems to be an assumed right to privacy, even in a public place. If this were so, CCTV would be illegal. While CCTV has been invaluable in catching criminals, we mustn't be fooled into thinking that these cameras are only there for our safety. They are used to spy on our every move because we are not trusted by our government. People often say things like, if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear. But there is proof everywhere to the contrary, not least in Monaxle's experience in Chatham High Street in July this year. This government is slowly eroding our human rights, including civil rights, and overturning the legal right of presumption of innocence (until proven guilty).

This is what is written on my cards:

Photographers' Rights

You are reminded that under UK law, there are no restrictions on taking photographs in a public place or on photography of individuals, whether they are adults or minors. There is no right to privacy in a public place, although photographers are of course subject to the usual libel laws in the same way as any other citizen and should observe them. Equipment or film may not be confiscated, or images deleted by any person or officer unless a warrant for such action is issued. Any attempt without a warrant is considered assault under UK law.

"Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither" - Ben Franklin

But it seems I will have to add:

The Terrorism Act

The Terrorism Act 2000 does not prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images in an area where an authority under section 44 is in place. Officers should not prevent people taking photographs unless they are in an area where photography is prevented by other legislation.

If officers reasonably suspect that photographs are being taken as part of hostile terrorist reconnaissance, a search under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 or an arrest should be considered. Film and memory cards may be seized as part of the search, but officers do not have a legal power to delete images or destroy film. Although images may be viewed as part of a search, to preserve evidence when cameras or other devices are seized, officers should not normally attempt to examine them.

Cameras and other devices should be left in the state they were found and forwarded to appropriately trained staff for forensic examination. The person being searched should never be asked or allowed to turn the device on or off because of the danger of evidence being lost or damaged.

Looks like I'm going to need bigger cards.

What's Wrong With The Badman Report - Why, it's a Steaming Pile of Shit.

This issue is not just of importance to home educators. It will affect all families with children. Home educators are just the guinea pigs, but this failing government will come for your children too. In the wake of the Baby P scandal, who would dare argue with the government's Every Child Matters rhetoric?

"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

So that's where the government gets its ideas from. Ask yourself, what will you do when they come for the home educated children? What will you do when they come for the under-5s? What will you do when they come for the obese children? What will you do when they come for the children of single mothers? What will you do?

I should mention that, despite my choices, I don't hate schools or teachers. I just believe that all parents should have a choice when it comes to bringing up their own children. I am not seeking universal support or pats on the back, but I would like the decisions we've made, as a family, to be respected, just as you would wish yours to be. So then...

What's wrong with the Badman Report?

You can find the report here.

It might be more reasonable to ask what's right with it.

Erosion of Human Rights

The report recommends that local authorities be given right of access to private homes and right of access to children for private interviews without a parent (or other adult) present.

This is discriminatory to the point of indecency. Families should not be expected to put up with this level of interference unless there is a damn good reason, criminal activity, for instance.

The Badman Report polarises the rights of the parents and the rights of the child as though they are at opposite ends of some invisible spectrum. It is the duty of the parents to uphold the rights of the child. It is not the duty of government to ride roughshod over parental rights in order to offer children lip-service. Mr Badman uses the UNCRC to justify his recommendations and undermine parents, yet fails to include the parts which really empower the child to see that his rights are observed by the state. Children have the right to a private family life, free from arbitrary intervention by the state, as do adults. They have the right to freedom of association and, thereby, dissociation. They have, in effect, the right to refuse to speak to LA officials, to be performing monkeys, and to refuse entry to their homes. Mr Badman must realise that he cannot pick and choose the bits from the UNCRC that are most convenient to him, and best fit his agenda - these are the fundamental rights of children we're talking about here.

There are many children for whom being interviewed by a stranger would prove particularly upsetting, and I can't actually think of any who wouldn't mind having a stranger ask them potentially leading questions about their private lives and their education. It is damaging for children to be taught, through the monitoring of families, that strangers are better placed to make decisions on their behalf and that parents ought not to be trusted with such decisions.

The true polarisation of rights in evidence in Mr Badman's report is that of the state versus the family.

A Parenting Licence?

The report recommends that parents be required to register to home educate on an annual basis and that they draw up a yearly plan within 8 weeks of registration.

Since schools need to notify the local authority when children are de-registered, and since the Contact Point database includes a field for educational setting, there should be no need for registration. However, the purpose of registration is not what it seems. The main purpose of registration, aside from lining us all up like illegal immigrants, is so that some local authority clipboard monitor can pronounce judgement on our suitability as home educators. They will be able to deny our right to home-educate based on any biased criteria that occurs to them. It is my responsibility as a parent to educate my children; it's part of my duty and, as such, applying to home-educate my children amounts to the same thing as applying for a licence to parent.

Our right to home-educate may be refused on the grounds that we are unable to provide a plan (autonomous education allows the child to follow his own interests rather than a planned curriculum), or our children may be forced into school if our provision deviates from our plan (undermining the flexibility and individuality enjoyed by home educated children). In other words, if home education looks like anything other than "school at home", registration can be denied.

Conflating Welfare and Education

Welfare and education are separate issues. The Badman Report conflates the two issues. Social services already have the powers to intervene should there be safeguarding issues. Local authorities have the powers to intervene should there be educational ones. We do not need separate powers to be used against home educators - that would be discriminatory. It's deeply insulting and implies that home educators are prone to abusing their children and that they alone should not enjoy the presumption of innocence.

Flawed Evidence?

The number of known home-educated children in England is 20,000. Estimates of the actual number vary wildly from 40,000 to 80,000 depending on which newspaper you read. The DCSF failed to rectify inaccuracies reported in the media (which stem from the Badman Report) claiming that home educated children were twice as likely to be victims of abuse. The actual statement was that home-educated children are twice as likely to be known to the social services in some areas. There are several reasons for this;

* some LAs refer home-educated children to social services automatically, ultra vires.
* a high proportion of home-educated children are SEN, and are known because they are 'service users' (speech therapy, etc)
* some home educators have been the target of malicious campaigns from neighbours and even relatives,who assume that it is illegal to home educate or that all children should be in school because that's where they belong.
* some GPs, and other healthcare staff, have been known to refer children to social services on hearing that the children are home- educated, again an ultra vires practice.

Independent research, including information from FOI requests to the DCSF, shows that home educated children are, in fact, less than half as likely to be victims of abuse than their schooled counterparts and that's only if the number of 20,000 is correct. If there are 40,000 home educated kids, that's less than a quarter as likely, and so on. FOI requests have now been blocked by the DCSF, presumably for fear of the home education community using their own evidence to build a case against them. The official reason for the block is to prevent the harassment and vilification of Mr Badman; surely if his evidence is reliable he should have nothing to fear from FOI requests. Isn't that what they're always telling us? If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. (I do not subscribe to this view. It is totalitarian in principle and I use it only to illustrate the duplicity of the government and its complicit agencies).


Despite more than 75% of respondents being home-educated children and their parents, the report makes space for just two quotes from home educators, one taken out of context to portray the home educator in a bad light. Why ask for our views if they were to be dismissed out of hand? Why were local authorities permitted to respond to the same questionnaire as the general public as well as their own specialised questionnaire? And why, given that only 60% of the LAs bothered to respond, are they considered to be worthier stakeholders than the parents who have shouldered a lot of responsibility and hostility to do what's best for their own children?

So, why were the NSPCC and the Church of England consulted?

The NSPCC has been outspoken in the media against home education, insinuating links between home education and Victoria Climbie. She was not home educated. But she was failed by the NSPCC. And the local authority.

I think the reason for the inclusion of a lengthy statement from the Church of England comes from a misapprehension that most home educators are religious. Mr Badman affords the CofE a lengthy statement which appears to agree with his findings, but leaves out the final paragraph of the full statement which contradicts Mr Badman's proposals. Hmmm, I wonder why.

Disproportionate Response

Hard cases make bad law. As horrific as cases like Baby P and Victoria Climbie are, they should not be used to justify an intrusive and disproportionate response in the form of legislation which will ultimately do nothing to prevent those hard cases. Both these cases have been used to justify the recommendations in the Badman Report despite the fact that neither Baby P nor Victoria Climbie were home-educated. Both children were monitored, extensively, yet were still failed by the authorities. So, why do we need more monitoring when it seems that it was not the monitoring but the follow-up that was lacking. Diverting the attention of the already over-stretched social services towards a community where no problem has been proven to exist is a rather perverse way of safeguarding those children who really need it. Baroness Morgan has already publicly admitted that there is no extra money for these extra measures, just extra work for the local authorities and social services.

In a nutshell...

The report is inflammatory, insulting, discriminatory, biased, highly-selective and misleading, and its recommendations are disproportionate and intrusive.

The questions below have been asked by various friends and family members and some anonymous, hostile trolls.

Don't you think you should be inspected (by Ofsted)?

No. Schools are inspected for one reason; they are accountable to others. Firstly, schools are accountable to the government for their expenditure. Since I am not funded by the government, I should not be accountable to them. If the government did offer financial support, it would undoubtedly come with strings attached, and I wouldn't touch it for that reason. (That would make me a service refuser, i.e. a bad parent!) Secondly, schools are accountable to parents. Since I don't need to be accountable to myself, this is irrelevant to home educators. What seems to be forgotten here is that it is the parent's duty to educate the child, not the state's. The state cannot adopt the role of parent, no matter how little it trusts parents to do their job. I think this government isn't fit for purpose but there's sod all I can do about it until election time.

What exactly would be the purpose of an inspection? LAs already have the means to satisfy themselves that education is taking place, and guidance for what to do if they believe it isn't . It would be perverse to give LAs more powers when they don't use the ones that they already have effectively. And no, I still haven't heard from my local authority - not since the first disastrous communication last November (11 months ago). UPDATE: As of May 2012, it has been three and a half years since the council contacted me. Every child matters, my a***!

Isn't it the government's responsibility to educate children?

No. It is the parent's responsibility. If the government was responsible, it would be inundated with law suits from failed children and their irate parents. As it stands, when a school fails a child, the parent is to blame. This is how the government is able to get away with an education system which leaves one sixth of all school leavers functionally illiterate (according to its own statistics). Ironically, you don't see the government punishing parents who fail their children by keeping them in dreadful state schools!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

I've Always Thought I Belonged In A Museum

So it's getting a bit embarrassing. I've been interviewed. Again. Andy Export, Medway music legend and front-man of Unlucky Fried Kitten, has interviewed the husband and myself for the Medway Music Museum.

You can read the interview here.

Thanks to Andy (pictured above at Medway Eyes Sounds of '67 gig in January 2009

Originally posted on www.sweetfanny.co.uk 15/06/09

An Interview

I was recently flattered to find out from a young, and rather good, photographer that I have been an inspiration to her. When asked by her photography tutor at college to find out about a documentary photographer, she chose to interview little me. I've never been a good influence before, so here it is:

How did you first get into photography?

I got my first camera, a Miranda point and shoot, when I was 10 years old. My Dad was hooked on photography and taught me the basics, but I ended up using his old Nikon and Olympus SLRs more than I used my own camera. I read the manuals from cover to cover, but nothing prepares you better for using a camera than throwing yourself in at the deep end. My Dad was a rule-breaker; the most important thing he taught me was that a manual was a technical aid that would NOT help me to take a good photo. I thought he was mad, but he was right. We should expect to master the machine, after all, man made the machine. But what a camera doesn't have is an eye for a picture. It cannot decide for itself what is worthy of photographing. Only we can do that. That's what makes photography a human endeavour rather than a scientific one.

Have you always been interested in documentary photography?

Yes, since childhood. Documentary photography has always moved me. One of the first, and most potent, documentary shots I saw was Vietnam Napalm by Nick Ut; a photo of a naked girl, about the same age as I was at the time, running from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. It remains the most powerful image I have ever seen and still makes me cry.

I find people infinitely more fascinating than landscapes or flower macros, but engaging with people is becoming increasingly difficult. I find that, in general, they are deeply suspicious of my motives. They are captured on CCTV cameras possibly several times a day, but mine is the camera they want to avoid. It is difficult to capture this avoidance and suspicion in a still shot. But I am grateful that the opportunity to take a shot like Nick Ut's has never arisen for me. I don't know whether I'd have the guts to take it.

What is it that inspires you to do documentary photography?

I find the human condition inspiring; the way we live, how we cope with horrors and joys, our awareness of our own mortality. For me, living in Medway is very much a part of who I am; it's impossible to pound the streets for years looking for a picture without growing to love a place. I belong to Medway and Medway belongs to me. I guess I want to document that, celebrate my time here; no big wars, no era-defining shots, just everyday life for the people that make Medway what it is. Combining photography with my passion for local music has enabled me to document the artistic side of Medway; a vibrant creative uprising in a town damaged by industrial decline.

Was there ever a specific photographer you looked up to?

I love the work of Bill Brandt. It's so varied; some shots candid and others set up, some sharp and others soft, some misty and some high contrast. He had compassion for his subjects, many of whom were working class or living in poverty; the captions to his photographs are not those of an objective observer, but from a man who felt deeply the pain and suffering of others, and who felt almost responsible for their condition; a sense of social responsibility for the failings of the government.

I love the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson too, and he is the author of one of my favourite quotes, "We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory." I've always felt there's something very special about a photograph; it can show the passage of time, the ebb and flow of life, the changing of the seasons, and it can capture continuity and change in a way that other art forms cannot.

In real life, I greatly admire a photographer called Eric Hands. He has inspired and encouraged me and been a good friend. His work spans several decades and includes a series of photos from his time working for Private Eye, many years ago when Peter Cook was the editor. Finally, I can't under-estimate the influence of my husband, Phil Dillon, on my photography. When I rediscovered my passion for photography a few years ago, I learned quickly. This steep learning curve was due, in part, to watching his mistakes and his progress. He is a rule breaker too. I'm not sure whether that's what drew me to him or whether it's my own bad influence; my Dad's legacy rubbing off from me to him. Either way, I'm grateful to all the photographers in my life, young and old, who have the capacity to change my view of the world. Learning to see things differently is what being a photographer is all about.

Is documentary photography your favourite type of photography?

I think it probably is. I enjoy the freedom of it. I'm not a fan of striving for the perfectly sharp shot. Sometimes the ambiguity is what makes an image; gives it its own life. I would sooner set a long exposure and have blur than use flash and get a blown-out shot with the atmosphere sucked out of it. Documentary photography allows for blur and other perceived imperfections because it is supposed to be a reflection of the movement of real life and, of course, real life happens everywhere and it doesn't slow down just because I'm holding a camera. And that is the real freedom it holds for me.

Acutely aware as I am of time passing and my own mortality, it is in documentary photography that I seek a sense of nostalgia and security. I think we all do. In the words of Ray Davies (The Kinks), "People take pictures of each other, to prove that they really existed". Deep down, I'm terrified I'll be forgotten unless I can prove that I was here. It's sheer vanity to think in this way. Who am I to demand that others remember me? I am nobody. And I am everybody. I am the elusive human condition that I seek to capture.

Thanks to Isabelle White.

Originally posted on www.sweetfanny.co.uk 10/06/09

Supplying Alcohol to Children Vs Theft

I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to post this because I was really angry about it at the time, but here goes. During the Dickens Christmas celebrations in Rochester, as I stood, teeth chattering and freezing my arse off while Phil tried to shoot a King Kong-sized teddy (or something), I watched a woman working another stall. It was a booze stall. You pay money for hoops. You throw the hoops at the bottles of booze. If the hoop lands over the bottle, you win it. Simple? I don't think so. This woman was taking money from kids who looked to be about 14, and were certainly no older than 16.

Scenario A - Child gets hoop over bottle and woman supplies child with alcohol.

Scenario B - Woman knows it's not possible to get hoop over bottle (hence lack of concern regarding supply of alcohol to children) and takes the child's money anyway (along with everyone else's), i.e. theft.

So I ask myself, is it better to supply children with alcohol or just steal their money? And how can this theft be justified at a council-run event? And how does that woman sleep at night? As I wandered off, I came across a couple of policemen, but when I looked back at the booze stall, there were no punters. I considered boring the policemen with my theories but I was too cold. So I went home and raided my son's piggy bank. Well, I'd run out of cider.

Originally posted on www.sweetfanny.co.uk 17/04/09

Desolation Row - Second Shoot

We did the second Desolation Row shoot yesterday. In the afternoon, though still not late enough for some, apparently ;-). We still had a fair few people turn up, some at the beginning and some nearer the end. This obviously meant two trips to the pub. We did a couple of interviews and a bit of singing by the river. There was even a glorious moment when I thought that security were coming to tell us off, but even the prospect of a gnarly confrontation couldn't quite distract me from the fact that I needed a wee again and it was bloody freezing.

But more annoying than the weather, was the missing Bob Dylan; the second one had been painted over too. He'd been stencilled onto a filled in railway arch on a scrubby bit of wasteland, so who would paint over it and why? Given that other graffiti had been left behind, including an indecipherable, artistically-devoid tag about six feet high, I was a bit mystified as to why Bob had been removed.

The only theory I could come up with was this: It was
too artistic. And who would care enough to remove something brilliant and leave behind all the crap to remind us all how much Medway needs regeneration? The council? I reckon so. We can't have the general public seeing validity in vandalism. By leaving the crap behind, the council can manipulate the public into believing that all graffiti is ugly, pointless vandalism. If people saw Bob, they would have to conclude that art takes many forms and actually graffiti is as valid as any other. But no! The council can't have that. It also can't have local musicians performing at the castle concerts. It must import McFly. What the fuck?

Originally posted on www.sweetfanny.co.uk 30/03/09

Desolation Row - First Shoot

I don't think any of us knew what to make of the first Desolation Row shoot. Sunday 15th March saw an assortment of creative locals - musicians, photographers, film makers, writers, artists and designers traipsing around the forgotten stretch of the Chatham/Rochester Hight Street. I won't bore you with the motives behind the project because I've ranted a fair bit about that already.

Suffice to say, many of the invited musicians didn't turn up at an ungodly 10am. On a Sunday. We'll schedule the next one for the afternoon, I think. We are lucky that more people didn't turn up, to be honest. It looked something like a school trip had cross-pollinated with the Pied Piper story as it was. I think it became clear pretty quickly to everyone there that our plan was to make it up as we went along. The only certainty was that we would end up at the pub - surely enough to sustain anyone's interest.

Our only disappointment was that the Bob Dylan which had been stencilled onto the side of the Jade Garden by local street artist, Redlock, had been painted over. A real shame as it was the only thing breaking up the ghastly shade of Dull that the rest of the building was painted in. Still, dull is not only the accepted norm in this town, but the desired outcome of the council's regeneration plans; an homogenised lump of "any town" stuck between London and the coast (sorry, can't seem to help myself). Luckily, we'd heard of a second Bob Dylan painted on Bath Hard Lane and, luckier still, it remained intact. We found Bob to be wonderfully photogenic and a real hit with the ladies.

After a magnificent and cheap lunch at the Nag's Head, it was time to say goodbye to everyone. Perhaps a few people left us utterly bewildered, but hopefully with a sense that they had become part of something quite exciting. In any case, we are grateful to all who came for their support, and happy they chose to join us so early on a Sunday. Well, it's back to the cyanide hole for now, at least until the circus comes back to town...

The photo was taken by Garry Jenkins. I made the poster for Medway Eyes Sings Dylan.

Originally posted on www.sweetfanny.co.uk 17/03/09

Desolation Row

Work has already begun on Medway Eyes' most ambitious project yet - Desolation Row. The project is in its planning stage and ideas are just bouncing out all over the place. Photographic work is scheduled to commence in March, at which point various Medway artists will be roped in to play their part. There will be an online exhibition to accompany this project, a gig (probably), and a book launch. June, hopefully.

The idea for this project has its roots in my earlier photographic studies of Chatham High Street. I felt saddened by the dreary, abandoned shop fronts. Other people seem only to have noticed the demise of the high street when their local Marks & Spencer moved out, or more recently when the mighty Woolworths finally closed its doors to the pick 'n' mix munching public. An idea sprung into my brain as I wandered the length of the high street, an idea which has grown into a monster with Phil's input.

I am not happy about the "regeneration" of the Medway Towns. I will explain why in due course. I have registered my disgust with the council, along with countless others, no doubt. My comments will be hidden in a locked vault with everyone else's, the same locked vault they use to hide the plans that "have been on public display for months", about which, the council alleges, nobody has taken an interest. In the Summer of 2007, I went along to a caved out ex-Christmas tat shop to the council's public presentation/consultation. I was presented with three almost identical views of what Chatham Riverside could look like with a little vision - perhaps if you had the vision of a Teletubby, this might be so but, given my human credentials, all I saw were the sterile spewings of a Japanese architect with no love for my town; no respect for it. All three plans involved the construction of enormous, ugly towers which destroyed the views along the river. An enormous hotel was set to deprive the Command House of its sunsets, but then many factors have recently deprived the Command House of a lot of things, including punters, an atmosphere and beer that tastes like beer (but that's another story). The people who have been living in their boats along the Medway will be moved on. As if they are the ghastly eyesores of Medway! Let's not forget that it was the bloody council that allowed the hideous monstrosity that is the Pentagon to be built. They ran out of the town hall pretty sharp-ish after that one.

Anyway, at this presentation thingy, I was accosted by a 12-year-old in a shirt and tie. I'm not sure who he had spent the day talking to, but he certainly seemed taken aback that I could think for myself. After about ten minutes, a triumphant look set his face aglow and he adopted the tone you might use at the bedside of a dying relative "I know why you're against it", he said. "You think you don't deserve it. You think Chatham doesn't deserve it". You fucking what? What kind of shit is that? If I wasn't so polite, I'd have slapped the whelp. I politely explained that the reason I was against it was because it was not for me. It was not designed for us. They aren't regenerating Medway for the people who live here, folks. They're trying to tempt more people in - people who can afford their fancy flats by the river, people who don't give a rat's arse about this town, people who don't care if it's turned into a carpark for the fucking Olympics.

Well, I fall head first into the category of people who do give a flying fuck. I don't want to watch the buildings along the Chatham/ Rochester high street crumble to the ground while newer, shinier and uglier ones are built a few feet away. And I don't want to be lied to about the council's motives. I don't want to be told that all this is for me. It's bollocks, and I'm not fooled.

And even if I didn't mind that the Theatre Royal has been ripped apart or that Sun Pier has been left to sink, there is another very good reason why our towns should be left alone, best illustrated by Graham Day, one of Medway's finest and most revered musicians. In his words, "Maybe it's the drab outlook, the lack of investment, prospects or anything to do which has given rise to so many bands over the years; a natural uprising of creativity and desire to forge a life out of nothing?"

Take our shit towns away and the only artists left will be those who suck the council's dick for arts grants. Art isn't something that can only be sanctioned by local government; that only becomes art when it is on a wall being adored by fuck-witted droolbots. It is something that lives in the blood. In the river. And in the heart of these rotting towns.

(Graham Day quote lifted from the sleeve notes of the Paisley Polka Dot Picnic Party CD).

Originally posted on www.sweetfanny.co.uk 10/01/09

My Arse About Face

Now I could come over all revisionist and delete what I said about facebook back in January (see post below), but I won't. It will be much more fun to publicly declare myself a twat so you can all have a laugh as I fall off my cybersnob pedestal. So here goes..... I have gone and done it - I have joined the last haven of the talentless and desperate, as I believe I called it. Don't get me wrong, I haven't changed my mind about facebook. I still think it's full of people who have nothing better to do than talk about Eastenders as if it's their actual life. But some of my very favourite people are there, some of the people I love the best and miss the most.

So today, with nothing better to do than talk about Eastenders, and finding that I could not do so because I don't watch it, I joined facebook - or face arse as one of my 'new' old friends calls it.

Prone to ranting as I am, I'm sure I'll be back to chew your ear off about the absurdities of the facebook site fairly soon. In the meantime, I would urge anyone, but particularly photographers, to read the terms and conditions under which you upload pictures to the site. Facebook appears to operate outside of conventional copyright laws. Apparently, it has the right to alter, crop or otherwise modify any images uploaded to the site for its own self-promotional purposes. So I'm not sure I'll be uploading any photos other than my profile picture to facebook., although I might change my mind about that.

Anyway, before I hang my head in shame for the rest of my life, I'm off to see if anyone loves me. I had an impressive 8 friends at the last count. Please feel free to ridicule me as publicly as you deem fit for this one. Go on, I deserve it.

P.S. Please make sure you own the copyright to any photo you upload to facebook or anywhere else, or that it has a creative commons license , or you could find your arse being well and truly sued.

Originally posted on www.sweetfanny.co.uk 25/09/08