A very warm welcome to the January 2016 edition of Spaghetti Gazette. The big human issue in 2015 has been the so-called ‘migrant crisis’ with estimates of between 500 thousand and one million people travelling across Europe’s borders during the past 12 months. It seems obvious to many, including the United Nations who have carried out the most accurate investigation as to who these people are, that they are not in the main, economic migrants but refugees fleeing war torn areas such as Iraq and Syria. The British media, including the BBC have obstinately refused to use the term refugee in their news reports, but worse than this the UK Prime Minister referred to the displaced people as “a swarm” whilst elsewhere in the media they were disgracefully called “cockroaches”.
We are pleased therefore to kick off this New Year edition with news on page 4 about a diverse group of people from Stand Up To Racism Birmingham who recently visited the refugee camp in Calais with Christmas cheer, supplies and support. Let us hope that this local spirit of humanity and understanding spreads in 2016 and that the West Midlands continues to play an active role in combating racism and encouraging humanitarian solidarity.
The great thing about this edition is the sense of connectivity which runs through it, as indirectly related to this story is the book review on page 24 of Mahtab Hussein’s photographic portrait of the long-settled Muslim community in the Black Country, The Quiet Town of Tipton. Mahtab’s photos of ordinary working class people from Tipton (one of his photos is featured on our front page), are a simple but powerful reminder of the contribution of this particular community, alongside many others to the social economy and rich cultural diversity of our region. This is something that Spaghetti Gazette stands for and long may the diversity of our region blossom in the face of ignorance, fear, misinformation and bigotry.
The coincidental connectivity makes a further link with not one but two album reviews by Tipton based musicians, Gary O’Dea’s latest album on page 16 and Alex Vann’s retrospective collection on page 15. Thum a creAtive bunch owver in Tip’un ay thay? On the musical theme, look out for my review of Dave Haslam’s brilliant book, Life After Dark on page 26—a veritable thesis on British nightclubs and music venues. Former Hacienda DJ Dave is originally a Brummie from Moseley, so we should be very proud of producing this original and meticulous social history author—I have a feeling his reputation is going to grow.
This year has been great for making new contacts and discovering new people and places. What a delight to meet and interview Lisa Travers at the Blue Piano, a live music venue in Edgbaston (page 13) and whilst there I experienced another interesting coincidence in over-hearing an interview going on in the coffee lounge of the Blue Piano between a rock journalist and the great local legend that is Jim Simpson, former manager of Black Sabbath, founder of Brum Beat, Big Bear Music and the Birmingham Jazz Festival. Jim’s projects get a couple of mentions in this edition, but I hope to feature more this year.
The legends continue with Paul Murphy, Robin Valk and a quick mention of Steve Gibbons towards the end. This edition is dedicated to Rich McMahon, a fine musician and generous man who died in 2015. Thanks for reading and a happy and creatively abundant New Year to you all!