NORWICH SCHOOL’S CULTURE OF RACISM

By Sean Meleady

Content warning: racism, examples of racist abuse

Norwich School has been caught up in a publicity storm this summer after a letter was sent to the school Governors from 264 former pupils and parents in June detailing numerous cases of racist behaviour by pupils and staff at the selective private school.

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WHY NORWICH NEEDS A GREEN NEW DEAL

By Olivia Hanks

Between 2013 and 2019, an era of ‘austerity’, most of us noticed a marked deterioration in the quality of our public spaces and infrastructure – existing roads and pavements not maintained, school buildings getting shabbier, public facilities closing. During that period, Norfolk County Council oversaw at least £725m of funded infrastructure projects. Incredibly, more than £650m of this was for building or widening roads.

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NORWICH CITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME TRIAL

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By Sean Meleady

Norwich City Council has backed calls for the government to support a pilot for Universal Basic Income (UBI), which would trial providing a monthly income to all residents of the city, following a recent debate at City Hall. City councillors argued that all residents should receive this fixed monthly amount regardless of employment status, wealth and marital status.

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SOLIDARITY NOT CHARITY: NORFOLK AGAINST HOLIDAY HUNGER

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By Sean Meleady

While Marcus Rashford has been making headlines with the campaign that led to a government u-turn on free meals vouchers, community groups are working hard to make sure that free meals vouchers are provided to families that need them during every school holiday, not just while the Coronavirus pandemic is in the news.   

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MUTUAL AID IN ACTION: NORWICH’S COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO COVID

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By Sean Meleady

In Norwich, as in many other parts of the country, mutual aid groups set up in local communities through Facebook and Whatsapp have been helping people through the Covid-19 crisis in Norwich. These groups have been particularly important for the elderly, vulnerable, single parents and those asked to shield themselves by staying at home.

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ACORN NORWICH – THE UNION TAKING ON DODGY LANDLORDS

By Sean Meleady

Norwich may call itself a ‘fine city’, but this isn’t always the case for renters. Despite some positive stories, such as the Goldsmith Street social housing project, many tenants find life in the city tough.

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WHAT NEXT FOR NORWICH’S YOUNG CLIMATE PROTESTERS?

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By Howard Green

Since 2018, cities across the globe have had many of their Fridays dominated by the vibrancy and passion of youth climate protesters. It’s a testament to the radical attitudes of Norwich’s young population that such large crowds have flocked to the city centre to protest against the current climate regime. Sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic has dried up physical activism in the city for the time being. There is a serious risk that this pandemic may lead to the voices of young people, especially those in secondary school and sixth form, being silenced within Norfolk and across the country. We must diagnose the problem if we are to move forward and continue on in protest.

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ARE VENUES REALLY DISAPPEARING? MUSIC VENUES IN NORWICH ARE BUCKING THE TREND

by Alex Day

Clubs these days have it tough. 

Gentrification, some say, is killing our venues. Student flats, noise restrictions, Dry January

How does one make money with surging rents and a clientele streaming limitless online content from home, bed-ridden and booze-shy?

AND there’s the dubious authorities I imagine peering through the smoke and shadows, itching to close noisy night spots. One wrong move and they’ll surely revoke your license. 

Dingy nests for underground music are being smothered into obscurity – the narrative goes. 

There is evidence to support this. In the last decade, 35% of independent venues in the UK closed.  A UK ‘live music census’, conducted for the first time in 2018, found that a third of live music venues have experienced problems with property developments

As with live music, night clubs are also having a rough ride. Over just eight years, the capital has lost 50 per cent of its nightclubs. Fabric, a behemoth in London’s clubbing landscape, had their license revoked after two drug-related deaths (they subsequently reopened following a rapturous national campaign). 

In Bristol, clubs are also being barged adrift. Thekla, an infamous boat party, was threatened by a residential development in 2017 and, the following year, Lakota announced they may refashion themselves into a ‘mixed-use development’ (a by-word for swanky digs and a Co-op). 

 

Norwich Arts Centre, Space Studios and Gonzo’s Two Room remain fiercely independent and are teeming with dancers.

 

Thekla and Fabric continue to host parties, but their rocky rides remind us our favourite clubs are not immune to urban development nor police authority. Corporate hegemony seems to be erasing independent venues. 

Yet, in spite of such cataclysmic headlines, music venues in Norwich are hitting their stride. Norwich Arts Centre, Space Studios and Gonzo’s Two Room remain fiercely independent and are teaming with dancers. They have not suffered the pesky erasure that plagues other cities.

I spoke to the managers and programmers involved to find out how they do it. 

Gonzo’s Two Room is a “breath of fresh air’” says Levi, a promoter with 12 years’ experience. Last year the club rehoused, abandoning Bermuda Bob’s for a space darned with sophisticated interior, rooftop terrace and ‘sweaty 250 cap’: “we’re blessed to have it’” Levi concurs. So far, Gigi FM, Peach and Joy Orbison have graced the booth. 

Like Gonzo’s Two Room, Norwich Arts Centre (NAC) has embarked on an upgrade. The bar and auditorium have been refurbished and a gender-neutral toilet is incoming, supported by a £500,000 grant; all part of the NAC Regenerations Project. 

Space Studios is a smaller, 100-capacity, venue and ‘the closest thing to a house party’, according to Abraham, the manager. It is a hotbed for new promoters, like Bass in Space and Utopia 4 Junglists, and live bands. Abraham booked 100 bands last year. 

So what’s their secret? 

One way to turn a profit is to diversify. As well as music, Gonzo’s offers a monthly comedy night and operates a ‘Tea Room’ downstairs, whilst Space Studios houses yoga, meditation and 18 artist studios. NAC is also eclectic, presenting spoken word and theatre.  No venue is aligned to just live music. 

 

…when local artists develop, shows improve and audiences flock faster

 

Another approach helping sustain these venues is to work closely with the local community.  At the top of Abraham’s agenda is to “‘develop a scene and support local talent”. He admits it’s “difficult to turn a profit”, but such a component is unimportant when partnerships are fuelled by goodwill. At NAC, ‘True Stories Live’ invites amateur raconteurs to the stage, voicing local stories to a local audience. Gonzo’s supports local promoters, like Our House and Keep on Dancing, which has a synchronous effect: when local artists develop, shows improve and audiences flock faster. 

Amongst the local talent, these venues are platforming marginalised communities. Gonzo’s aim for a 50/50 gender split in DJ bookings; evidenced by recent headliners Éclair Fifi and Moxie. The NAC are a long-term supporter of House of Daze, a leading Norwich drag show, and began this year with a discussion on ‘representation’.  Space Studios have also announced a monthly ‘House of Daze’ event. To thrive, venues must be accessible and open-minded.

Grassroots venues are helped further by city-wide festivals, such as Wigflex City Festival and Simple Things, which draws punters to unchartered destinations in Bristol and Nottingham. Last year, Norwich was enlivened by Wild Paths, a three-day music festival that celebrates venues, as much as music. All the programmers I spoke to were busy assembling gigs for a flurry of footfall this October, when Wild Paths returns. 

All this ingenuity is, crucially, being supported by our local council. Whilst transitioning into Gonzo’s Two Room, Levi felt the “the council were great” and “understood what you were doing”.  The figures confirm: Since 2017, the council has granted 100 new licenses and no venues have been closed due to noise complaints. 

At national government level, optimism abounds: small and medium music venues can look forward to a 50% reduction in business rates, which the Music Venue Trust estimates will save each site an average of £7,500 a year. And, Arts Council have renewed their Supporting Grassroots Live Music Fund, a pot that amounts to £1.5 million, until 2021. 

Still, venues embedded in Norwich’s compact lanes are not immune from noise complaints. Bermuda Bob’s renamed and relocated after a neighbouring pub issued a noise complaint last year (although they weren’t evicted). Space Studios, which is not a nightclub in a traditional sense, abides by strict decibel rules to deter from confrontation and encourage conversation. A few years ago, they closed temporarily due to ‘licensing issues’. 

Running venues is rarely plain sailing. To avoid instances of ‘statutory nuisance’ in future, property developers and politicians must continue to support the creative calisthenics performed by our limber venues. This means sound-proofing new developments and appointing a night-czar, like Amy Lamé. Beer-glugging youths, poised with gun fingers, may be underrepresented at the director’s table, but their access to culture should not be limited. 

Our nightspots are bolstered by diverse events and offering their platform to local and marginalised groups – smart remedies for a tough climate. Yet, without the approval and financial backbone of local and national government, venues vanish. 

Head out and support. Here’s a programme of events that invite you to shuffle:

https://www.facebook.com/events/3040736312638075/

https://www.facebook.com/events/2723143201139464/

https://www.facebook.com/events/158872398865144/

 

[In light of recent COVID-19 expansion and news, please be aware that these events may now not be taking place as originally described.]

Featured image credit: Gonzo’s Tea Room Facebook Page


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COVID-19, POSTCAPITALISM AND EXTERMINISM; IT’S TIME TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE

by Yali Banton-Heath

As the UK’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak exposes capitalism for all its evils, now is the time to start laying the foundations for a better future.

We’ve been in the final throes of capitalism for some time now. Since the financial crash of 2008 long-term economic stagnation has persisted in the west, yet 1% of the world’s population have managed to hoard almost half of global wealth. As the world faces a global pandemic of the life-threatening novel coronavirus aka Covid-19, now more than ever the faults in our capitalist system are screaming out for scrutiny, and it is fast becoming obvious that inequality kills, and capitalism is to blame.  

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AN ODE TO PLATFORM 12

By Tom McGhie

It’s a tranquil late summer evening in Norwich city centre. A blanket of stillness coats the ancient streets and the sun’s gentle retreat takes with it memories of a pristine Sunday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, a walk through the Lanes would have been punctuated by groups of young men in a state of alcohol-induced revelry or tourists snatching photographs of the Cathedral. Now, it’s an easy stroll with a soundtrack of birdsong and distant traffic.

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