New nature reserve in London, England

This video from England says about itself:

Volunteering and nature: London Wildlife Trust

14 November 2014

With over 40 nature reserves across London we rely on the volunteers who give their time to help us protect wildlife and nature. This short, inspiring video shows some of our volunteers and staff in action at Gunnersbury Triangle. Many thanks to everyone who helps us look after wildlife and wild spaces in London.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

‘Fencing people away from nature is bad’

An ambitious project is under way in north London to create an urban haven for rare birds alongside modern towerblocks. Welcome to Woodberry Wetlands, ‘wildlife gardening on a colossal scale’

Patrick Barkham

Sunday 17 May 2015 18.00 BST

Look north, and gleaming new towers resemble the skyline of Kuala Lumpur. Turn south, and you are transported into a bucolic corner of 18th-century England. Dense beds of reeds rise from the edge of a lake. A heron stalks the shallows. And if you arrive when volunteers are working on what could be the most exciting new urban nature reserve in the world, there is the surreal sight of a Suffolk Punch draught horse, hauling cut reeds from the marsh.

This is Woodberry Wetlands, a haven for wildlife, and people, which is being created out of the little-known east reservoir in Hackney: 17 acres of reed-fringed ponds, dykes and scrapes five minutes’ walk from the urban grit of Manor House tube station. At first, the contrast between the flashy and controversial new towers of Woodberry Down and the water beyond, fringed by venerable oaks including Hackney’s oldest, is bewildering. But both these landscapes are equally man-made, reflecting the ever-changing human geography of London.

In the 17th century, the New River was constructed through the wooded village of Stoke Newington, bringing clean water from the chalk streams of Hertfordshire to central London. In 1833, two large reservoirs – east and west – were built as part of this system. The city’s new rich craved water vistas on the edge of London and so enormous villas rose up, their large gardens backing on to the New River. One local legend claims that F Scott Fitzgerald enjoyed punting and gin-and-tonic parties in the bourgeois suburb of Woodberry Down.

By the middle of the 20th century, the only part of Woodberry Down that appeared unchanged were the reservoirs. The London County Council compulsorily purchased and demolished the villas to create a utopian estate for the capital’s poor: 2,500 homes were completed by 1962, alongside one of the country’s first purpose-built comprehensive schools.

Over the next 40 years, Woodberry Down declined, beset by poor design, leaks, underfunded local facilities and Thatcherism. By the 1990s, the reservoirs were under threat too. Thames Water wanted to sell them and developers drew up plans to fill them in and build houses over them. A vigorous campaign by local people saved the reservoirs: Thames Water sold the nearby filter beds for housing but the west reservoir was given over to recreation (a Hackney council-owned sailing lake; a climbing centre in the old pumping station) while the east reservoir continued to serve as a reservoir and a nature reserve, closed to the public.

Now Woodberry Down and its waterways are being transformed again, with the sculpting of the east reservoir into a new wetland, due to open to the public next spring.

“This is 21st-century urban nature conservation,” declares David Mooney of London Wildlife Trust, which is overseeing the £1.3m project. “It’s a man-made structure turned into a nature reserve in the centre of a massive urban conurbation. There are very few examples of it in the world. Yes, there’s the London Wetland Centre at Barnes, but it’s not Hackney, is it?”

The (re)gentrification of Woodberry Down has been controversial but Mooney praises Berkeley. “I don’t really want to celebrate developers but they massively listened to us. They are spending £250,000 on a bit of public space and are getting nothing back apart from a bit of PR. There must be something in partnerships between charities and the private sector.” Mooney grimaces. “I sound like a Blairite now.”

Images of open water, reeds and herons loom large on the latest marketing for Woodberry Down – nature, clearly, is worth a lot to house-builders – and on a bright, windy May day, Mooney takes me on to the reservoir. A blackcap sings, a reed bunting flits into a willow thicket, and swifts scream and swoop to catch insects over the water. With finance from the Heritage Lottery Fund (50%), Berkeley Homes (20%), Thames Water (20%) and Hackney council (10%), a footbridge will be built so people can swap Kuala Lumpur for the wind in the willows in a short stroll. A 19th-century coal store and kitchen is being converted into a cafe with roof terrace and a new path will open up three sides of the reservoir.

This is wildlife gardening on a colossal scale. Rather like an enormous hair transplant, reeds have been dug up and replanted along sinuous new banks built from tight bundles of hazel and chestnut sticks. In the middle of the water, an orange digger is balanced precariously on a pontoon, dredging silt from the main lake into a new area of shallow ponds. A Canada goose and a coot have already made nests inside the old tyres placed on floating platforms, and special banks will encourage nesting kingfishers and sand martins.

“There used to be one heron every few months but now there is a pair,” says Mooney. “The ponds are already starting to come alive, the fish fry will be breeding and a whole new habitat will be created. Eventually, bitterns will come.”

We head on to the water in a little plastic boat, and potter down a deep channel between the new banks. “This will effectively become a backwater, an urban bayou,” says Mooney. The depth prevents the whole reservoir from being swamped by reed and is also an anti-fox and cat moat, protecting ground-nesting birds.

Crucially, wildlife will live alongside people, with the wetlands freely open to the public. Mooney points to a primary school which abuts the reservoir: it only has a tarmac playground and yet, until now, generations of pupils have been excluded from this watery paradise. The concept of “nature deficit disorder” has its critics but there is a growing body of scientific research revealing the physical and particularly mental health benefits for people spending time among trees and parks.

“Sealing off nature and looking at it through a gate – what’s going to happen when those little nippers who have never interacted with it find a green space? Unfortunately people who have never come into contact with nature before are scared of it or want to kill it,” he says. “Fencing people away from nature is bad. If you never experience it, how can you be expected to protect it in the future?”

He is not worried about misbehaviour – local young people will be employed as rangers to enforce basic rules (no dogs, no barbecues, no bikes) – and wildlife that is vulnerable to disturbance will still find sanctuary on the reservoir’s northern bank, where visitors won’t be allowed.

Woodberry Wetlands is only the start. London Wildlife Trust is working with Waltham Forest council on a much bigger wetland nature reserve covering 211 hectares and 10 reservoirs at Walthamstow, which will include a cycle path and the conversion of an old pumping station.

Despite working at Woodberry every day, Mooney remains entranced by the juxtaposition of ultra-modern towers and the wild. “Once the reed beds have grown up you’ve got the Norfolk Broads here, but turn around, check it out – it’s ridiculous. Is London really this crazy? Yes it is. And do you know what? I’m celebrating it.”

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice on stage

This video says about itself:

19 August 2009

Brandon Ewald performs a monologue as Gratiano from William Shakespeare‘s “The Merchant of Venice” Act I Scene 1 at the Globe Theatre in London.

By Gillian Piggott in England:

Timely note of tragedy

Wednesday 6th May 2015

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice has dark undertones which directly address issues of racism today, says GILLIAN PIGGOTT

The Merchant of Venice
Globe Theatre, London SE1

WITH the election battle waged in sections of the media dominated by the issue of immigration, The Merchant of Venice is the perfect Shakespeare play to mount at the present moment.

So it proves in Jonathan Munby’s engaging production in which Shylock, the tragic outsider at the play’s core, is given due gravitas by Jonathan Pryce.

He stands not only for Jews but for all immigrants — or their second-generation offspring — struggling to rub along with host nations while maintaining religious and cultural identity. British Muslims or eastern European immigrants, so maligned by the far right, spring readily to mind.

Munby makes a compelling case for Shylock’s descent into vengefulness in a production which underlines how Antonio (Dominic Mafham), Bassanio (Daniel Lapaine) and the rest of the Christians are a thoroughly racist lot.

Contemptuous and self-satisfied, they openly despise and bully the Jew, with Mafham’s creepily charming and self-regarding colonialist merchant resorting to physically assaulting Shylock before bargaining his flesh for cash.

Pryce’s Shylock has the integrity and dignity that invites audience sympathy in the trial scene. An actor of presence, his wonderful voice breaks into vibrato at moments of passion and his simple truthfulness make his refusal to show mercy convincing.

And it also makes the unravelling of Shylock’s case and the legal bias and conspiracy ranged against him by Portia (Rachel Pickup) all the more ruthless.

With the emphasis on the Christians’ culpability, Jessica’s betrayal of her father is even less intelligible. Munby attempts to address this by having Shylock’s enforced baptism — a violating and brutal ritual — witnessed by Jessica (Phoebe Pryce), who sings a threnody bewailing the destruction she has helped heap upon her father.

It’s a powerful echoing of sectarian violence but it fails to solve the mystery of why Jessica does what she does.

Another issue with the production is that Munby does not appear to know how to make the Globe space work. He obscures the back half of the stage with a trellis and all the action takes place in front of the pillars.

And, while experienced actors such as Pryce and Mafham know how to speak the verse and use their voices effectively in the space, younger members of the company are less technically accomplished.

Intelligibility, unlike the quality of mercy, is thus sometimes strained.

Runs until June 7, box office:

Solidarity with Baltimore in London

This video from England says about itself:

London Solidarity Assembly Vigil 5.5.15

4 May 2015

MAY 5th

We Stand with BaltimoreBlack Lives Matter from Bedford to Baltimore

Location: US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ

Date: Tuesday 5th May at 6pm

London Campaign Against Police and State Violence are calling for a solidarity vigil to stand with the family and friends of victims of police violence in Baltimore: Freddie Gray, Mya Hall and also victims of police brutality in the UK.
SUPPORTED BY: United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC), Defend the Right to Protest, nus black students’ campaign and Cole Family Truth Campaign.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Solidarity with Baltimore as protests hit US embassy

Wednesday 6th May 2015

HUNDREDS assembled outside the US embassy in London last night to pay their respects to victims of police brutality, after a man in Devon died in circumstances similar to Freddie Gray.

The mass vigil was called after the IPCC confirmed it is investigating the death in police custody of a 38 year-old who had been restrained by Devon and Cornwall police during an altercation on April 29.

The unnamed man died in hospital this weekend leading to parallels being drawn with the case of Gray, which resulted in the recent Baltimore riots.

The brother of athlete Julian Cole, left paralysed after a brutal arrest in Bedford exactly two years ago yesterday, said ahead of the evening rally: “While the people who have done this to my little brother get to live their life, our family are fighting and hurting every day seeing him lay on the bed helpless, unable to talk or know we are there by his side.

“Those people have taken my brother away from me and I will never get to see him get old, have a family or even become a uncle.”

According to an investigation by the Independent newspaper, of the 3,000 police officers currently under investigation for abuse of force only 60 have been suspended.

In April, Home Secretary Theresa May was also forced to apologise to the families of Sean Rigg and Seni Lewis, admitting that mistakes had been made by the police when holding the men in custody. Mr Rigg’s sister Marcia told the Star that she understood Baltimore’s “grief and frustrations at the police and the judicial system.

“It is important to campaign peacefully together to tell our stories about these serious injustices that happen both in the UK and abroad.”

Speaking on behalf of one of the vigil’s organisers, London Campaign Against Police and State Violence activist Kojo Kyerewaa said they were fighting against “institutional racism.”

“We struggle against violence that is racial in nature, this violence is both physical and structural,” he said. “It results in the acceptable deaths of black and other racialised people. “The problem predates Mark Duggan and even the Metropolitan Police. “We want accountability for officers who have acted in ways that have led to deaths in custody and to an end of deaths in custody. “Without justice, there can be no peace.”

London: A democracy campaigner accused the Metropolitan Police of abuse of force yesterday after being left with a twisted knee, ankle and severe bruising following his arrest at a meditation session on Westminster’s Parliament Square. Donnachadh McCarthy was one of the three people arrested next to Gandhi’s statue on Monday evening as the Occupy Democracy camp defied the ban on camping equipment in an “act of Gandhian civil disobedience”: here.

In a massive and daunting attack on democratic rights, authorities in Baltimore detained some 250 people, without charge and in deplorable conditions, following protests on April 27 against the police killing of Freddie Gray. This unconstitutional round up and vindictive treatment received scant attention in the corporate media, with most coverage appearing only after a Facebook post by a public defender in Baltimore went viral, with almost 21,000 shares in fewer than two days: here.