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Lewis & Hole, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 1993

A bit of local history. Lewis & Hole started melting iron in 1946, immediately after the Second World War. Many people from Stroud remember the building, which used to be the centre of Dudbridge area of Stroud.

This is a set of images taken by photographer John Stadnicki in 1993, a few years before the foundry was closed down, following redevelopments in the late 1990s. Although the work conditions were as close to Dante’s Inferno as you can imagine, people were proud of their contribution to the local industry.

Photography: © John Stadnicki, 1993.

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Readers at Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival

©John Stadnicki, 2019

Exit and Antiexit

 

Euro Vision and Eurovision #Flashnews (Part V)

©John Stadnicki, 2019

The first signs of European meltdown are showing the crude side of politics. Ukraine will not take part in this year’s Eurovision Song contest. A shame. I like Ukrainian music, but the singer Maruv pulled out, over disagreements about imposed conditions by the Ukrainian national broadcaster. The Russian delegation is considering its position, though they are completely oblivious to all this, knowing well ‘you need to be in it, to win it.’

I suppose many overlook the fact that the whole point of Eurovision was to rebuild a war-torn continent in the mid 50s. It should have been outside politics and scandal. To my shame, though, I’m guilty of overlooking many things about Eurovision too.

I’m used to ignoring Eurovision, although I kind of expect it to happen. I have the same love-hate relationship with it, as I have with the weather forecast. I know it happens after each news bulletin so, by the time the presenter shows the maps, I switch off and check the weather on my mobile phone.

This time though, with Brexit looming, I remember that Eurovision has been going on for ages. And it has been about politics. For ages too. This realisation helps me understand why the Brexit Backstop is the real ‘apple of discord’ in the negotiations between the British and the European technocrats.

By the end of the day, Ireland has won Eurovision seven times. An absolute record. Britain only five times, with its most recent victory registered over 21 years ago. As it stands so far, both Ireland and the UK kept their places secure at Eurovision 2019.

I dread to think what would happen if Britain wins and London has to host Eurovision 2020. Or, another dreadful possibility, the Brexit Backstop stays in place and Ireland wins Eurovision again.

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Published in International Times on 16 March 2019.

The Euro Vision and the Gold Rush #Flashnews (part IV)

@JohnStadnicki, 2019. London.

Over a month ago, the media pointed out that the price of gold increased again. A sign that investors are using gold against weaker stocks, as a response to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the trade disputes around the world. But even a child knows that when gold starts shining, it is a sign of trouble ahead.

The recent Brexit developments send waves of worry throughout Europe, whilst governments across the English Channel are increasingly interested in taking back control over their money.

Only a year ago, the National Bank of Hungary took back three tons of the country’s national gold reserves stored at the Bank of England. The decision followed similar reactions from Austria, Germany, Holland and Venezuela, which considered storing the national gold reserves in London a risky decision.

For a few days now, the Romanian authorities have been debating whether to take back their sixty tonnes of gold stored in the London vaults. With the crisis of storage space the British authorities have been facing for years, I imagine that storing a country’s national gold is not cheap.

Sixty tonnes is, by any means, a lot. Imagine ten elephants put together, if one takes the average weight of one elephant at around six tonnes. To put it simply though, the average weight of 15 people together, say, in an elevator, is about one tonne. By the same logic, sixty tonnes of Romanian gold is about 900 Romanian migrants, currently living in London.

What would be the weight in gold of 300,000 Romanian migrants currently in the UK? And what about the 3.7 million European migrants, in the UK? Imagine that gold! Imagine the value!

But in this equation, and in all Brexit negotiations, who is looking at what value people have, when financial interests are at stake?

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019.

Published in International Times, 9/03/19.

On Fashion and Euro Vision #Newsblitz (part II)

©John Stadnicki, 2019, Paris

I spy with my little eye something beginning with…..P. [I can see you looking around.] YES! Correct! You spotted them too. P-rotests.

Three months of P-rotests in France. The revolt started in November last year with the ‘gilets jaunes.’ The P-rotesters have called for lower fuel taxes, reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, a minimum wage increase, the implementation of Citizens’ initiative referendum and Emmanuel Macron‘s resignation as P-resident of France. From yellow vests, the social unrest extended to include the ‘red P-ens’ when six teachers launched an online campaign against low P-ay and untackled aggression against teachers in schools and colleges. In a few weeks, the movement gathered over sixty thousand members, demanding P-ay renegotiations and P-olicy changes.

©John Stadnicki, 2019, Paris

Further on, from ‘red P-ens’ to ‘red scarves.’ At the end of last month, a counter-demonstration occurred in Paris by a group identifying themselves by the ‘foulards rouges’ (red scarves) they chose to wear. The ‘red scarves’ are against the ‘yellow vests’ and reject the threats and verbal abuse aimed, they say, at non-yellow vests.

At the moment, it might be tricky to wear something in France without making a P-olitical statement. And maybe for this alone, not long ago, Britain chose to offer France a different approach to expressing discontent.

You might recollect, on 8thFebruary, John Humphrys (who’d just announced his P-robable retirement from Radio Four) blushing over his microphone, when questioning the naked anti-Brexit campaigner. And during their discussion someone mentioned another word starting with P. This time was…P-rude. Whether John Humphrys is a P-rude or not is a matter of P-ersonal life, therefore irrelevant here. The media reported the rattling sounds in the studio, others were offended for having to imagine stark nakedness so early in the morning.

A week later though, nothing really changed. We are back to our daily routine, whilst Westminster is holding its nerve. Would you have imagined that a naked campaigner could P-rovoke a change in Britain, when thousands of P-rotesters and bloodshed fail to move an entire French government? I have to admit, I P-erversely thought that it could. P-ossibly. Despite my misplaced P-erversity, or hope, I sense the slow built-up towards a national nervous breakdown. (to be continued)

Published in International Times on 23/02/2019.

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

On Polar Bears and Euro Vision #Newsflash (part I)

©John Stadnicki, 2019

There is an invasion of polar bears in Russia. And the British press finally found out about it. When it happened, a week ago, the media wasn’t that interested to begin with. To be more specific, last week, the Russian authorities in the Novaya Zemlya islands declared state of emergency after dozens of polar bears entered residential and public buildings searching for food. This has been without precedent in the region and raises the climate change reality to a new level. And not just the climate change, in general, but the reality of heavy urbanism, socio-economics, pollution and many other sins of the neo-liberalist economies.

The British press wasn’t that keen on bears for reasons which can be, in part, understood. It applies the law of proximity. News is news only if it’s close enough to us. Last week, the media had a different concern. With the news about the British singer selected to perform at Eurovision, it had to re-think the strategy around coverage from Tel Aviv. And, lastly, the same media became consumed by an acute need to compete in predicting how bad things will be for all of us, once we are out of the EU. It is worth a mention that there are voices still in disbelief about Brexit. But there are increasingly more voices who question the whole legitimacy of the vote and the basis on which the Brexit process is based on.

In 2016, the Brexit referendum was primarily an electoral manoeuvre proposed by David Cameron who had become increasingly concerned with the threat posed by UKIP. The opportunism which motivated the referendum did not have the people’s best interest at heart. The government failed to articulate what Brexit really involved because Brexit was not actually supposed to happen. It was merely an exercise to get David Cameron elected and the Conservative Party united. When the politicians woke up to the shock results, the slogan ‘Brexit means Brexit’ took ground and quickly became a governmental mantra. The ministers themselves were unclear what Brexit meant and what plans needed to be in place to make the transition possible.

Two years later, after ‘heavy’ negotiations and ‘nerve holding,’ the political class is still praying for a miracle from Brussels, stocking paper and ink for the legislative system in need of restructure. In the meantime, millions of people who voted ‘pro’ or ‘against’ in 2016 are getting used to the shortage of beds in hospitals, the crowded doctors’ surgeries, the pharmacies experiencing delays in orders, the train cancelations, the ‘out of order’ buses, the increased criminality and suicide rate, the unaffordable houses. Many know, as they’ve been told in 2016, that the main problem this country has is the migration and not the polar bears nor the politics. And although people also know this is all a lie, they are too busy queuing, and put up with it. The French put up with far less.

(to be continued)

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Published in International Times, 16 Feb. 2019