Friday 31 July 2015

Dictation from the Establishment

The Guardian's Michael White says, “... I know that Westminster-based pundits are supposed to be an unimaginative bunch of sheep who take dictation from the 'establishment' ”. Where did he get that idea from? Perhaps it's the memory of his support for Tony Blair and the Iraq slaughter. “It's disappointing for the pack that always gathers where Blair goes, not least because the Get Blair crowd are looking for something that isn't there – the smoking gun that proves Blair's villainy.” Working from an office 'embedded' inside the Westminster parliament, White finds his targets amongst the “romantic beardies who wear sandals and socks to the office.” Who can he be referring to? Pity he couldn't have been at UNITE'S offices last night where I went to help the Jeremy Corbyn campaign. Three rooms packed with volunteers on the phones. At age 70 and beardless, I was probably the oldest there, surrounded by young people, many of whom have never been involved in political activity and hopefully have never read Michael White. None of them were wearing sandals.(I visited MW's Westminster office when working with David Hencke on my WarChild memories. You can read more about David in 'Left Field')

Sunday 26 July 2015

Who are 'Left Field's' publishers?

My publishers, Unbound, are leading the way with a radical model for book publishing. Their founders, John Mitchinson, Justin Pollard and Dan Kieran turned partly to the music industry for inspiration. At the same time, they looked back to a much older model. "Subscription publishing is extremely old when it comes to books," Pollard told The Guardian here. "It's how Johnson's dictionary was published, as well as a large number of 18th- and 19th-century novels." As their first author, they recruited ex-Python Terry Jones, who pitched 'Evil Machines', a collection of dark, surreal stories. Jones was followed by Tibor Fischer, Jonathan Meades, Kate Mosse. You can check out how the Unbound system works here. Of course you can then pre-order your copy of 'Left Field' here.

News: Unbound has agreed a joint- venture deal with the Cornerstone division of Penguin Random House to distribute trade editions of its titles.

Brian Eno: "This is an excellent and inspiring book. David's stubborn and yet self-effacing commitment to his ideals carried him through many daunting situations, and his sense of humour kept him able to see the funny side."Dorothy Byrne,Head of Channel 4 TV News and Documentaries: "What a life this man has led!"Russell Mills: “You’ve done so much, achieved so much, that is for the good, the right, the just, that to be asked to undertake the cover design for you, which may be considered a minor thing in the great scheme of things, is for me a bloody major thing”.—Sir Tom Stoppard: "David Wilson has lived a life and a half … the broken world needed people like David then; it still does and always will."David Hencke, former Guardian Westminster correspondent: "This is the work of a determined guy who is prepared to expose fraud and injustice wherever he finds it."Eugene Skeef, percussionist and collaborator with Steve Biko in Black Consciousness Movement: "A must-read by my comrade and brother David Wilson. Please spread the word and encourage your friends to buy and read David's memoir.”Orhan Maslo (Oha): "One of the key people of my life has finished his book and it will soon be out. There is a chapter that describes the times we spent together. What good times we had while giving spirit to the Pavarotti Music Centre. This steered me to who I am and what I do today. Thank you David"Gianni Scotto, Assoc Professor, University of Florence: “I was so surprised to hear the most insightful and radical political analysis of the conflict speaking with you.”Sebastian Balfour, Emeritus Professor, LSE: “A vivid account of a life fought for justice, full of indignation and tenderness.Mandla Langa, author of The Lost Colours of the Chameleon, and winner of 2009 Commonwealth Prize: "David Wilson is a national treasure."Ed Victor literary agency: “Your relationship with your elderly father is described in such beautiful style that it would not be out of place from a literary novel by an established and seasoned author. The same goes for your childhood years at boarding school ... The 'Balkan years', including the bits where you fall in love with a Croat and the adventures of the mobile bakery could be from a historical thriller. The whole 'War Child' section could be an expose about the problems and hidden lives of charities, especially when they become powerful.”

Saturday 25 July 2015

Behind God's Back

When writing my blog on Dragan Andjelic, I came across this photo of Anne Aylor and me standing in front of his installation at the Pavarotti Music Centre. She is wearing her white coat having just come out of her busy treatment room where she practised acupuncture during her nine-month stay in Mostar. Anne had originally come to Bosnia Hercegovina at the tail-end of the war in the summer of 1994 and had written up her experiences in an article submitted to The New Republic with the title, “Behind God's Back”. On her journey there she wrote about a surreal traffic jam that had been caused by two toppled vehicles. “When the road has been cleared and we are given permission to continue our journey, we see what has caused the delay: two overturned container lorries full of pigs. The ones that are alive are being hosed down by soldiers. What is eerie is that the animals are completely silent. They are traumatised, dead or dying in the 40 degree heat. I wonder if it is the first time in history that an army has been deployed to help animals on their way to slaughter. We pass the containers and see dozens of UN vehicles facing the other way. It has been seven hours since the accident and these drivers will be here for hours more. Seeing our War Child sticker, one of them waves at me. I ask him if he speaks English so I can tell him what is causing the delay. He shakes his head, says that he is German. ‘Schwein,’ I say, the only word I can remember from my high-school German, and thumb in the direction of the overturned lorries.” A year later, War Child released the Help album with contributions from more than 20 artists including Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, Sinéad O’Connor, Paul McCartney and Portishead. It made the charity millions. The income from the album was used to provide artificial limbs for wounded children, food and clothing to orphanages, funding for school meals, support for a mobile medical clinic, the supply of premature baby units, even funding for mine clearance programmes. It was at this time that Linda McCartney heard about Anne's article and asked to read “Behind God's Back”. Perhaps that was why she decided to donate 22 tonnes of veggie burgers to War Child to be distributed in Bosnia. You can read more about Anne's work in Bosnia in Left Field.

Friday 24 July 2015

The art of an "angel"

“A painter with a natural gift and receptive imagination producing a remarkable variety of intriguing work.” Sir Tom Stoppard

I first met Croatian artist, Dragan Andjelic, in Sarajevo in 1995. My wife, Anne Aylor, loved his work and bought four of his tiny mystical wooden paintings on yew, several of which look like miniatures painted by da Vinci. Dragan and I spent time together, both in Mostar and Sarajevo. I loved his blues guitar playing almost as much as his visual art. The following year he was commissioned by Ian Ritchie and Kathryn McDowell to produce an installation for the Pavarotti Music Centre. In 1998 my friend Jane Glitre, director of the Spitz music and gallery venue, invited him to exhibit there. He and I transported his works that combined different techniques and media. We had a hilarious time crossing borders without documentation. The Slovenian customs officials were wowed by his paintings and wanted to charge us for moving the works across their country. He and I persuaded them they were a load of rubbish and proceeded, unhindered by charge or fines. In 1998 Dragan won a commission from the Norfolk and Norwich Festival for twelve huge angels painted on wood which hung in the nave. In 2002 he was recruited as artist in residence for the City of London Festival. The last time I met Dragan was ten years ago on a Stop the War demo in London. Last week, out of the blue, a carefully-rolled portrait of me arrived here by courier from his home in Osijek, a present for my 70th year. Puno hvala, Dragan. Thanks a lot. And if you are wondering, yes, his family name does translate as 'from the angels'. You can read more about Dragan here. And see his work here.

Wednesday 22 July 2015


Just after MPs pocketed a 10% pay rise they voted for yet more social security cuts. The only Labour Party leadership candidate to oppose the cuts is Jeremy Corbyn. Unsurprisingly he is now ahead in the polls and likely to increase his lead after these comments. From Tony Blair, “I wouldn't want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform … If your heart is with Corbyn get a transplant” From Blair's former adviser, John McTernan, “These figures are disastrous for the Labour party, disastrous. Corbyn supporters are “suicidally inclined … They need their heads felt … They are morons.” Today I am going to join the suicidal and the morons. As someone who has always argued that participation in the parliamentary road is tantamount to disturbing the dead, this is a big decision for me. But Jeremy is my local MP and has always stood against neo-liberalism, against war, Trident and for Palestine. Anyone can vote in the Labour Party leadership election, which is now run on the basis of one-person-one vote and is open to a new category of Labour supporter. Registration as a supporter costs just £3. Join me. Then read more about what I think about disturbing the dead in 'Left Field'.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Protecting the Public

A government report recently released by the Ministry of Defence reveals that from 1940 to 1979 large parts of the UK were used as a laboratory to conduct germ warfare tests. A spokeswoman for the MoD has said: 'Independent reports by eminent scientists have shown there was no danger to public health from these releases which were carried out to protect the public … The results from these trials will save lives, should the country or our forces face an attack by chemical and biological weapons.' Well that's alright then. In one chapter, 'Large Area Coverage Trials', the MoD describes how between 1961 and 1968 more than a million people along the south coast of England were exposed to bacteria including e.coli and bacillus globigii , which mimics anthrax. These releases came from the 'Icewhale', a Royal Navy ship anchored off the Dorset coast. Another chapter, 'The Fluorescent Particle Trials', reveals how planes flew from north-east England to the tip of Cornwall, dropping huge amounts of zinc cadmium sulphide. David Orman, an army officer from Bournemouth, is demanding a public inquiry. His wife was born in East Lulworth in Dorset, close to where the 'Icewhale' trials took place. She had a miscarriage, then gave birth to a son with cerebral palsy. Janette's three sisters, also born in the village while the tests were being carried out, have also given birth to children with unexplained problems, as have a number of their neighbours. Orman said: 'I am convinced something terrible has happened … to have so many birth defects over such a short space of time has to be more than coincidence.' I went to school in Dorset and we used to go on cadet force exercises on the cliffs above Lulworth. Often we would look out to sea at navy ships and told that they were protecting us from our enemies. I was already a member of CND and didn't believe a word of this, but even I had no idea that we were under attack from our own government. You can read more about my days as a pimple-faced commando in 'Left Field'.

Sunday 12 July 2015


Twenty years ago the Srebrenica massacre was the deadliest of the Bosnian War and followed a short-lived NATO bombing of Serb positions. That would culminate four years later with intensive bombing against Serbia itself. I was in Mostar at the time and could hear the planes as they headed for Belgrade. Only more recently, when researching weapons used in the Iraq war, did I find out that their bombs were tipped with depleted uranium. (articles for Future Trust  & Counterpunch).  Srebrenica has since been invoked to justify military interventions elsewhere. In 2005, Christopher Hitchens defended the US decision to invade Iraq with an article entitled , “From Srebrenica to Baghdad”. Guardian columnist, Peter Preston, advocated military intervention in Libya, with these words, “Remember Srebrenica”. Most recently an article on ISIS in the New International Business Times warned of a “New Srebrenica”. Srebrenica was the largest mass killing in Europe since the 1940s. Eight thousand Muslim / Bosniak men and boys were killed and, according to an investigation by the Dutch government, “Muslims were slaughtered like beasts.” But, according to Swedish diplomat Carl Bildt, European Union mediator during the Bosnian War, Bosnian government forces assigned to protect Srebrenica were “not putting up any resistance. Later it was revealed that they had been ordered by the Sarajevo commanders not to defend Srebrenica.” Bildt’s account is supported by military correspondent Tim Ripley, who has provided evidence that the Bosnian government ceded the town to Serb forces. There is evidence that a similar policy was applied in Mostar, where I was living. Bosnian forces were withdrawn from a strategic hilltop in the town on orders from the Sarajevo government. International talks to resolve the Bosnian conflict began in early 1992, shortly before the war began. The effort was directed by Portuguese diplomat José Cutileiro. He brought the leaders of all three Bosnian ethnic groups to Lisbon and out of the talks came a plan for an ethnic confederation. In March 1992, all three agreed to a preliminary version of this peace plan, but it broke down under US pressure. Were they afraid that the European Community might emerge as a distinct power bloc in the post-Soviet world, acting independently of the United States and NATO? The US ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann, encouraged President Izetbegović to reject the peace plan. According to former State Department official George Kenney, “Zimmermann told Izetbegović … [the US will] recognize you and help you out. So don’t go ahead with the Lisbon agreement.” Zimmermann himself has denied blocking the agreement, but a wide range of sources, including James Bissett, the Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia; Peter Carrington, a former UK foreign minister; and the official Dutch investigation of the Bosnian War, confirm that the US government played a disruptive role. In light of US pressure, the Croats and Muslims both withdrew from the agreement and the stage was set for war. The idea that international diplomacy emboldened Serb aggression is a myth that has helped justify later efforts to scuttle diplomatic settlements elsewhere. The ensuing levels of slaughter has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands. It continues. I doubt the victims of the Srebrenica massacre would welcome this as their epitaph. ( my memoirs, "Left Field" will be published by Unbound in March 2016)

For fuller accounts read here,  here and  here

Friday 10 July 2015

Sous les pavés, la plage

The news from Greece seems the moment to quote Frantz Fanon: “What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be.” The half century since these words were written have shown us what happens with our failure to do so. Those years have been ones of bloody imperialism raging through Fanon's Africa and eastwards through Mesopotamia to Indochina. The graves I saw in the Balkans was early evidence that our continent was not immune. My generation of the 1960s was one of angry, frustrated, young people who fought for a better and fairer world. I am hoping that Left Field may play a small part to inspire a new generation - that change is possible, that, in the words of the Paris '68 graffiti, beneath the cobblestones, there is a beach. 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

70 miles speeding as a banner

At the end of my blog about my 70th birthday celebration in Spain I concluded the piece by mentioning a haiku dedicated to me by Maureen Larkin - "70 miles speeding ..." Alice Kilroy went home and made me this. She designs banners for a multitude of radical causes - from Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners to Stop the War to, most recently, a banner for Jeremy Corbyn's campaign to become Labour Party leader. This haiku 'banner' will have to be included in the photos for 'Left Field'. She's bringing it to me tomorrow. Can't wait. Thanks so much Alice. Dx

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Write & Draw

Marjane Satrapi, graphic novelist, illustrator and film director has said that: “ Images are a way of writing. When you have the talent to be able to write and draw, it seems a shame to choose one. I think it's better to do both.” I agree and that is why Left Field will include photos. It is also why I am delighted that Russell Mills will be designing the book's cover. His images are his way of writing and what a great writer he is. I am proud to join him as co-author. Well known for his record / CD / album covers, he is also a major book cover designer. You can see his work here. His authors include Ian McEwan & Milan Kundera, Don Delillo & Jayne Anne Phillips. Thank you, Russell. And for these words about 'Left Field'. You’ve done so much, achieved so much, that is for the good, the right, the just, that to be asked to undertake the cover design for you, which may be considered a minor thing in the great scheme of things, is for me a bloody major thing”. 

'Left Field', to be published by Unbound, is now fully funded, so be sure to order your copy and have your name printed in the book. 

Thursday 2 July 2015

Smarting under a tortured system

In his journal, Modern Nature, the film maker, Derek Jarman,wrote about his time at public school. ‘Smarting under this tortured system, the boys tortured each other, imposed valueless rules and codes of conduct, obeyed imaginary hierarchies where accidents of origin and defects of nature were magnified.’ … The very name ‘public’ school carries with it the stench of hypocrisy. Another robbery, this one linguistic. These schools are as far away from the public and their norms and needs as you can get. Yet secession from the life of the rest of the nation is no barrier to the desire to dominate it. This is something I understood and despised from an early age. And wanted no part in it … ‘Wilson, you’re not kneeling in chapel.’ ‘I don’t believe in God, sir.’ 'That has nothing to do with it.' ‘Do you believe in God, sir?’ 'We are not talking about God here, Wilson. We are talking about loyalty.’ The last straw (no pun intended) was when I confronted the school chaplain, when he read Matthew 19:24: ‘And I tell you, it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven.’ ‘Isn’t that socialism, sir?’ ‘This parable is not to be taken literally, Wilson. Sit at the back of the class and get on with your Latin.’ There I remained, banned from Religious Studies, but I got a good grade in Latin. I also got a good grade in History. I couldn’t stand the present so I concentrated on the past. Here's a clip from Lindsay Anderson's 'If'. I love this because it is dubbed into Italian! I am with Malcolm McDowell .. in spirit only, of course, and without the weapons. If you want to know the name of the school, the clue is in the first paragraph. But why not buy 'Left Field' and read more.