Friday, August 01, 2014

Newsweek cover and a regeneration supernova



Here's my Newsweek cover story on the Spanish ghost town of Valdeluz - and why their extraordinary mayor is determined that it shake off its ghosts.

The web version of the story above is slightly truncated, but to be honest there was always going to be more to say. There was a multitude of layers to this story that I could only touch on: including the reluctant bankruptcy proceedings undertaken by Reyal Urbis, the construction giant whose extravagant Madrid offices I discovered bore little hallmark of the misery they have inflicted on others.

Then there was the remarkable discovery that the town was - unbeknownst to almost everyone there - home to the Saldon Posición, a huge, hugely significant Spanish Civil War bunker, where the leader of Republican Spain, Juan Negrín, spent the last year of the war, trying desperately to hold up the country's fading resistance to the fascist coup. The mayor of Valdeluz kindly took me to see it, through a copse of blossoming trees, down a dirt path, on the grounds owned by a local golf course. You could walk by and never give it a second look - it wasn't even locked. Such is the commemorative attention given to so much of Spain's painful 20th century history:

 

Of course, the Spanish 'brick crisis' is not about one small exceptional town, it's about an entire country - as I found out in the nearby city of Guadalajara:
 
Of the various other things I've been working on recently, I'd like to point you to this long, long-researched piece for VICE on Newham's Regeneration Supernova, the aesthetics of the gentrification industry, and the Asian Business Port that will soon become Britain's "third financial centre", on the prime site of the Royal Docks.

Also, The Village Against The World is now out in paperback - only £5.99 here. And later this year, also in Japanese! More soon...

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

2014! Asturias, mass graves, regeneration, pop-up shops, the fight for the city, Afrobeats and Stuart Hall

Okay, a long overdue (but not overly long) update. The Village Against The World's doing humblingly well in hardback, in reviews and in the Spanish version. Paperback out through Verso June 2014. Some excerpts and reviews here - oh and it's 50% off on the Verso website right now.

Otherwise, I wrote the London Review of Books Diary about my time chasing the past in Asturias, about the legacy of Franco and the Fascists' mass graves, about the coal mines and the legendary dinamiteros, and the remarkable story of the 1934 workers' revolution in Spain's beautiful northern region. LRB subscribers can read the essay here.
     

***

I've also written three pieces about gentrification, regeneration and the physical language of neoliberalism in the ever-changing city, all for VICE. More to come.

1) On the campaigning of the Focus E15 mums: single mothers being told by the Olympic Borough of Newham to leave London, because there's just no room for them here.

2) On the meaning of Elephant and Castle's pop-up shipping container mall, aka the piece that went viral as 'Fuck Your Pop-up Shops' (eye-catching headline, cheers VICE).

3) On the demolition of Glasgow's Red Road flats as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. Aka regeneration as live TV entertainment.

***

Here's an essay for The National's weekly Review section on Woody Guthrie's remarkable 'government recordings', and what being the voice of the people really means.

And a longer Review cover story about the exploding size of world cities (3bn new city-dwellers by 2050!) and the ever-more-vital battle to be able to protest - and to party - in public space. Did you know they removed an entire roundabout in Bahrain, because it was a politically provocative roundabout? Fuck ur neo-Hausmannisation, basically.



Joining the dots, here's a piece for FACT where I interviewed Fuse ODG about what it means to feel alienated in London and in Ghana, and how this contributed to his dazzling, uniquely 21st century pop music. Finally, and relatedly, given the challenges and benefits of diasporic multiculturalism and the joy of collective culture, here is a short piece for the New Statesman in memory of the late, great Stuart Hall. What a terribly long shadow he casts; what a reminder his death is that we must think, fight and play harder, together. Innit Fuse.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Village Against The World - reviews

So, my book about Marinaleda came out a month ago. It's had a lot of great reviews, I'm pleased to say:

"A thoughtful, take-nothing-for-granted account ... this engaging book is as much a study of idealism in practice as it is of life in a highly unusual pueblo. The respectful, intelligent writing places the villagers at the centre of their own story – and that story is fascinating." (New Statesman)

"(The) book is full of lively and genuinely inspiring detail ... Most importantly, the co–operative answers Slavoj Žižek's warning to Wall Street Occupiers that "what matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives". As Hancox makes clear, socialist Marinaleda has defined the fabric of the normal life of its residents, day after day, for 30 years." (The Guardian)

"Dan Hancox's The Village Against the World' is, for lack of a better word, awesome ... Hancox’s book reads like something one might find on the New York Times best-seller list if it weren't for its subject matter: the anti-authoritarian shenanigans of a Communist village and it's Robin Hood mayor. It's a must-read for anyone interested in radical movements like Occupy Wall Street or the Zapatistas." (Critical Theory)

"A fascinating recent history of the region - part prettily written travelogue, part political commentary. A delightful counterpoint to the tales of woe that have emerged from Spain post-la crisis, this story of Marinaleda's battle against all odds to survive self-sufficiently will delight anyone with a revolutionary heart." (easyJet Traveller)

"Citing Orwell's reflections on ''that strange and moving experience' of believing in a revolution,' Hancox offers the reader a rare chance to believe, to relive his own encounter with the village and the mayor who 'drained the capitalist-realist defeatism out of me and carried me halfway back to adolescence.'" (Jacobin)

"In his captivating new book, The Village Against the World,” Dan Hancox shows, in lyrical and penetrating prose, that not only is it possible, but 'an observable fact.'" (Truth Dig)

"This provocative depiction of the vision and tenacity of this social experiment should stretch the imaginations and raise the hackles of progressives and entrenched capitalists alike." (Publisher's Weekly)

"Takes us beyond the wavering attention of the mainstream media to offer a substantive understanding of the actions, politics, history, and daily life of the marinaleños. The marinaleños actions, principles and tenacity are inspirational ... [the book] will ... hold fascination for all those in search of a utopia." (Red Pepper)

"With late capitalist malaise so prevalent and chronic that people have stopped believing in cures, this well-observed account of a village of 2,700 stout souls who think and live otherwise is a tonic." (New Internationalist)

A couple of interviews still online: In Vice Spain, where "the definitive book about Marinaleda has been written". On ABC, Aussie national radio for a long, 40 minute interview, where I was awarded a coveted Koala Badge (really), for being interesting. And most recently, I was on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed.

Numerous buying options here. Spanish version is out now. Korean version to follow.

Thanks to everyone who came to the London and Bristol launch events - I'm talking about Marinaleda at the RSA on Thursday 21 November, 1pm, it's free but ticketed.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Grime ebook round-up: extracts, interviews, reviews, audio



My £1.99 ebook Stand Up Tall: Dizzee Rascal and the Birth of Grime came out as a Kindle Single on Amazon UK and Amazon US a month ago, and I've been overwhelmed by the response (thanks!). I'll remind everyone here that if you don't have a Kindle, there are free, easy-to-use Kindle Reader apps for PC/Mac/iPhone/Android/iPad at those links above.

Here's some of the coverage that followed:

*As a taster, an exclusive book excerpt in The Guardian.

*A thoroughly enjoyable round-table pub discussion I did with Mr Beatnick and Tom Lea for FACT Magazine about grime, Dizzee, and the legacy of 2003.

*An NME piece in which I was asked to tell the story of grime via 5 essential grime YouTube videos.

*A 10 minute interview for the BBC World Service in which I tried to explain grime and its unique London geography, sound and politics to the whole world:



There's also an interview I did with east London local newspaper The Wharf about what grime meant to the area; a decent-sized review in Dummy Mag; another review from the Grime Princess; a great US perspective on Dizzee in this review on Woke Up Late; and selected in Dazed and Confused's books of the week. Get the ebook and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NEW BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT - Stand Up Tall: Dizzee Rascal and the Birth of Grime


In August 2003, in a makeshift pirate radio studio on the roof of a Stratford towerblock, the stars of London's grime scene gathered to show their skills on the mic. A decade later, Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Tinchy Stryder are among Britain's biggest pop stars, while Dizzee's adversary Crazy Titch is serving a life sentence for murder. The towerblock was demolished to make way for the London Olympic site.

Ten years ago this summer, an extraordinary new sound exploded out of London's council estates that would change music forever. While New Labour were flooding urban Britain with ASBOs and CCTV, teenagers like Dizzee looked up at the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf and contemplated their own poverty; telling stories of devastating bleakness, backed by music that shone with the futurism of a brighter tomorrow.

It's entirely possible that Boy in da Corner, Dizzee's Mercury prize-winning debut, was made on a hand-me-down PC donated to Langdon Park School by Lehman Brothers.

Over 15,000 words, this is the story of that remarkable musical moment, seen through east London's unique history of opulence and inequality, violence and aspiration, and how a teenage genius with nothing to lose made the best British album of the 21st century.

Available on Amazon as a Kindle Single RIGHT NOW - or on US Amazon. If you don't have a Kindle, there are free, easy-to-use Kindle Reader apps for PC/Mac/iPhone/Android/iPad at those links. Here's a Dizzee rarity from the old days to keep you company:

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Tesco Welfare and the Poverty Pay Industrial Complex

I noticed this new sign outside the entrance to my local Tesco on Friday:



Food bank collections inside supermarkets are not a new phenomenon, but they are a growing one, as demand at charitable food bank organisations like the Trussell Trust sky-rockets. I wrote a little bit about the incredible rise in the use of food banks here, in my (somewhat sporadic) openDemocracy column - anecdotally, a lot of the families forced to use food banks for the first time in the last 18 months do have earned income coming in, but it's just not enough, as the scourges of underemployment, welfare cuts and widespread wage suppression take their toll.

Of course, it does Tesco PLC, the second-largest retailer in the world after Walmart, with over 3,000 stores in the UK alone, no harm to be associated with this Victorian-style charity-not-social security regression David Cameron is implementing - with the enthusiastic support of most of the British media and large portions of the Labour party. It's particularly important they're not seen as a heartless profiteering behemoth when their recession-stricken customers are starting to leave them for budget chains like Lidl and Aldi. So why not watch this heart-warming Tesco PR video with some words from Tesco's smiling Dan Jones, who is the Group Future Coach for the Tesco stores in the South West (his actual job title)? In a wonderful management-speak Freudian slip, he says "it's a great way of putting something back", acknowledging, uncontroversially I guess, that the rest of the time they are taking things away.

When you're done basking in the warm "buzz" of the video. why not hit up the #EveryCanHelps Twitter hashtag to find out how Tesco have been positioned as the moral conscience of post-welfare state Britain?

According to their Twitter feed Tesco were collecting in every single store in the country on Friday. Who needs a welfare state, right?

This won't be news to any of the millions of people who've worked in a supermarket in Britain, but Tesco (like Sainsburys and the rest of the big four chains) pay substantially below the living wage. For a powerful elaboration of what that actually means, and how it dovetails perfectly with the rise in the need for food banks, I implore you to watch this excellent 10 minute video on poverty pay in supermarkets from Paul Mason on Newsnight:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Coffee for nobody: Catalunya, la crisis and the end of Spain?

  

It seems strange for a nation famed for its exuberance, but Spain's national anthem, La Marcha Real, is one of only two wordless anthems in the world. It seems strange, but this reluctance to declare what Spain stands for and where it came from speaks volumes about the country's discomforting recent past, and its increasingly volatile present. 
La Marcha Real was not always wordless. Until the country's fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, died in 1975, it was full of the patriotic bombast that characterises most national anthems. The words were removed in 1978, during the country's uneasy transition to parliamentary democracy. As a mark of this uncertainty, nothing was written in their place.
I wrote the cover story for The National's weekly Review section last week, about what the Catalan push for independence means. Photos for that piece by the superlative Dave Stelfox, and you can read some of Carlos Delclós's terrific writing (in English) from Barca here.

Also, if you missed it, my November essay/reportage for The New Inquiry about the Spanish general strike, also republished in Salon here (The New Inquiry version is better, cuz it's accompanied by my strike pictures - also, you should subscribe, it costs a ridiculous $2 a month). I'm in Spain again at the moment, working on The Village Against The World, to be published by Verso this autumn.