Archive for December, 2008

One Little Plane: Until

December 21, 2008


Her moniker comes from a 40s Disney cartoon, and with her cutesy, dreamy voice and a flurry of tambourines, bells and xylophones you could be forgiven for thinking a five-year-old had raided the school music box. Yet London-based Chicagoan Kathryn Bint’s brilliantly catchy folk-pop songs are far from twee, carrying a raw account of love, loss and rejection on her sweet sounds. ‘Sunshine Kid’ is the highlight, with Bint cooing her bouncy refrain to a simple, thudding guitar riff impossible to resist. Produced by Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden, this is an unassuming yet perfectly formed debut.

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review.

Mother Goose, Hackney Empire

December 14, 2008



Something is rotten in the land of Hackneytopia. Mother Goose has acquired a goose that lays golden eggs but the riches have gone to her head, and wicked witch Vanity threatens evil and disaster to all who cross her path. 

Hackney Empire has pulled out all the stops for its 10th anniversary self-produced panto, as usual written and directed by Susie McKenna, who also plays wicked witch Vanity, with a stunning staging and terrific cast. Sharon D Clarke is transfixing as white witch Charity, a purple-wigged disco diva whose rich voice is truly spine-tingling. Clive Rowe uses his booming voice and beaming, cherubic face to create a divine dame Mother Goose with an endearing softness. And when the two sing together, well, you just don’t want it to stop.

The supporting cast work overtime to electrify the stage at all times. A wonderfully expressive goose with moving eyelids, made by puppeteer Scott Brooker, threatens to steal the show. There are puppets that swoop across the audience, body-popping skeletons and the cutest baby bear you ever did see. Warm-hearted and joyful, this show is a riot from start to finish. 

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review.

Neil Young: Sugar Mountain: Live

December 7, 2008


This remarkable time capsule reveals Neil Young testing reaction to his post-Buffalo Springfield solo career over two nights in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Forty years later, the two-track recordings of those shows are finally released. Stripped of the ornate arrangements of his self-titled 1968 debut album and with no harmonica in the toolbox yet, this is just Young, a guitar and his thoughts. Ten tracks of nerdy asides and witty revelations break up the music, giving a thrilling ‘Neil Young in your living room effect’. An astonishing insight into the mind of a 22-year-old at the dawn of an impressive solo career.

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review.

Interview with Rania Khan

December 7, 2008


Photo: Suki Dhanda

Rania Khan, 26. Labour councillor for Bromley-by-Bow in Tower Hamlets, London; secondary-school science teacher

‘I got involved in politics because I felt so angry about the Iraq war. I was inspired by the passion and courage of Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob and political campaigner Lindsey German. When I was asked to stand as a councillor I thought it was a completely bizarre idea and that I would never win. Some of the men in the Respect party wanted me to stand in a ward where there was no chance of me winning. But I was selected and in 2006, to my amazement, I won. This year I left Respect for Labour – there’s a lot more resources in the party and I felt I could be fairer to my constituents.

‘I’m Bangladeshi and as an Asian woman I do find you are made to feel like a second-class citizen. The mentality of girls being a financial burden is still there. My dad would complain he didn’t have a son, which I found very painful as a child. That became my driving force. I wanted to prove that I wasn’t lesser for being female; that I was better than any son my parents might have had.

‘I describe myself as a feminist, but feminism doesn’t make sense to me as a separate entity. I see it as part of the wider struggle for equality, alongside class and race.

‘The escalation of the porn industry and lap-dancing clubs really bothers me. I moved from Libya to London when I was about eight and seeing images of women being exploited and used as sexual commodities everywhere made me feel sick. I would walk down Tottenham Court Road as a teenager with my mates, ripping out all the prostitution fliers from the phone boxes.

‘I want to see more women, especially from ethnic minorities, involved in politics. Women need to be educated and empowered to take those key positions; only then will we see change.’

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review.

Interview with Yeukai Taruvinga

December 7, 2008


Photo: Suki Dhanda

Yeukai Taruvinga, 26. Opposition campaigner who fled Zimbabwe fearing reprisals from Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party

‘I didn’t want to leave my country and my family, but I had to flee when I was physically abused by the militia of the ruling Zanu-PF government for supporting and campaigning for the opposition. Within hours of arriving in the UK I was told my claim for asylum had been refused. They wanted me to produce evidence, but how could I? I asked them: “What is more important, the evidence or my life?”

‘I was held for a week, then told to report once a month to an immigration centre while my case was reviewed. Four years later, I was told that my case had been refused and I was being sent back. All I had was my handbag. They wouldn’t allow me to get anything from my home, or to contact my solicitor. I was so scared that I would be deported to Zimbabwe, where I would be imprisoned and never see my family again. Seven years later I’m still waiting on the Home Office. They say my case will be decided by 2011, but until then I cannot work or study. I am in limbo. Most of my time is spent volunteering for Women Asylum Seekers Together, a group campaigning for and empowering women asylum seekers.

‘This idea that asylum seekers get free houses, cars and mobile phones is a lie. When I first claimed asylum I was given £30 a week and a shared room in a bedsit. Now I am classified as a ‘failed’ asylum seeker, yet the government accept that it is not safe for me to return, so I am given accommodation and £35 a week in supermarket vouchers.

‘I want to pay tax, support myself and pay my way but I am not allowed. I want to work with young people and do something positive. I want young people to say: ‘”This is Yeukai. Be like her.”‘

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review.