Friday 12 April 2024

Left Field after eight years


My memoir Left Field was published in 2016 by Unbound and distributed bt Penquin. I have been informed that is no longer available in shops and difficult to buy online, but you can now read it for free here and as an e-book and in Audible

 The intervening years have been ones of personal and political hope and of personal and political despair. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary.


Not surprisingly for someone in my seventh decade, these have been years when close friends have left this planet while I remain clinging to its edges, aware of Leonard Cohen’s words to Marianne Ihlen that, “I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”

The subdural haematoma operation I wrote about in Left Field was followed two years later by a heart valve operation, then a stroke caused by a strepsis infection of my new valve. I used my hospital stays to campaign for an NHS that had now saved my life three times.


I'm proud that the unfairly much-vilified Jeremy Corbyn visited me when I was in St Barts Hospital. The worst insult he has had to endure has been ‘anti-semitism’ accusations about a man who has been at the forefront of anti-racism struggles all his life.


To that end, I helped organise a letter in his support signed by Ken Loach, Brian Eno, Grime4Corbyn, Nigel Kennedy, Alexei Sayle and thousands of others, I consider Corbyn to be our El Pepe. 

His visit to me was organised by Alice Kilroy whose recent death has left my grip on the planet edges more enfeebled. She was a wonderful friend and visited me in hospital more times  than anyone outside my immediate family. I miss her. Here she is with the banner she made for my 70th birthday.



Before she died in February 2020, Alice asked me to take over her work as one of the contributors to People's Campaign for Corbyn Facebook.  You can view all these blogs on my website at

Plenty to keep me busy and angry in support of Jeremy, but am also finding time to write a new book, about food and memory. My World Café has beem published by Riversmeet in November 2022. It is a collaboration with the wonderfully gifted artist Laura Davis


These years have been ones when my eldest son lost and won back his disability benefits. Many haven’t and many have lost their lives in the process.

These have also been years of loss for me, not of the dead, but of a living son who has ghosted me. I wrote about this under a pseudonym for Stand Alone, a charity set up for people estranged from their families. 



My past as co-founder of the charity War Child still haunts me and hope it haunts those I write critically about here. I recently learned that the present War Child CEO receives an annual salary of £116,000.


My critique of aid charities continued after two visits to the Calais ‘jungle’ refugee ‘camps’. 


Perhaps we have to become more French because La Lutte must continue against a system that rewards rogues, steals votes.

I visit my eldest son Ben in Cornwall and in July 2022 I took the longer journey to Mostar to stay with my Bosnian family who I wrote about in Left Field.

When there I was honoured to see me in the entrance to the Pavarotti Music Centre,

and here are Oha Maslo and Mili Tiro standing with me


Here in London I have been trying to play guitar again. My left hand was weakened by the stroke. My music friends are at Camden Guitars and the owner, Deicola Neves, tells me off when I complain. "Didn't you know that Django Reinhardt only had three fingers? 

Here is my friend playing great jazz on bass guitar.

And here is a Dubioza Kolektiv track about borders that kill. I dedicate this entry to the memory o f Alice Kilroy and all those who have kept me connected to music and therefore to life.



As I conclude this postscript genocide smashes its way through Gaza and Palestine, aided and abetted by our political leaders and the 'liberal media'. All we are left with is Gramsci's - 'pessimism of the heart, optimism of the will.'


You can read All of Left Field here.


Sunday 31 March 2024


I have now been on all eleven London marches for Palestine/Gaza. Each of them can be numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Nobody now denies the genocide taking place in Palestine, but some shrug their shoulders and say nothing can be done about it. But doing nothing is doing something – it is complicity in the face of a massive and active crime which, if you are a UK or US citizen, is being carried with support from our political leaders and with our tax-paid-for weapons. Of course it is tolerated by our corporate media. If the streets were empty of protestors the situation would be so much worse. 

The Zionists claim that these are ‘hate marches’ and that the demonstrators make the streets unsafe for Jews. That is part of their Big Lie, that Zionism and Israel represent Jewish people as a whole. The demonstrations have shown that there are many Jews who stand with Palestine. The slogan of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is not a shout out for a mono-religious or mono-cultural Palestine, but a demand for a country of and for all of its peoples, of whatever faith or none.

This is not a new idea, but an acknowledgement of what existed before the state of Israel was imposed on the region. Historical Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire, one of the world’s most religiously tolerant. Its millet system gave autonomy and equality to all religions and cultures. This was by contrast to the dogmatic and oppressive Christian rule to the north and west. 

When, in 1492, Ferdinand of Spain expelled Jews from Spain who refused to convert to Christianity, the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Beyazit II welcomed them. They were identified as Sephardic, deriving from the word Sepharad which in Hebrew means Spain. 

The Spanish Caliphate in Al-Andalus had been a beacon of learning, and the city of Córdoba became one of the leading cultural and economic centres in Europe. Major advances were made in trigonometry (Geber), astronomy (Arzachel), surgery (Abulcasis), pharmacology (Avenzoar) and agronomy (Ibn Bassal and Abū l-Khayr al-Ishbīlī) and the region became a centre combining the Islamic, Jewish and Christian worlds. 

As someone interested in musical histories Andalusian music emerged in the 9th century as a mix of Muslim, Jewish, Gypsy and Christian troubadour genres. The lute has its origin in the Arabic oud, the guitar in the Arabic qithara.

The state of Israel was not created from any sort of progressive impulse, but set up for the salvation of Western imperial interests. As James Baldwin put it HERE, “The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of “divide and rule” and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years."

I have written HERE about the origins of Zionism and recommend you check out HERE Professor Haim Bresheeth eloquent appeal to bring Zionism to an end and return to convivencia.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

James Baldwin on Israel & Palestine


As a result of my birthday I discovered that, despite Facebook logarithms, a lot of people are reading my posts. I think that is not so much because they are my posts, but because there is a dearth of truth-telling in what we call the ‘mainstream media’. I will continue with these posts and, once a week, will place some of them on my website at

Many articles I publish are not mine at all, but emanate from writers and political commentators who deserve to be heard and read. With that in mind I start with James Baldwin’s 1979 article from The Nation. Sadly it is as prescient today as it was when written 45 years ago

Open Letter to the Born Again

James Baldwin

Jews and Palestinians know of broken promises. From the time of the Balfour Declaration (during World War I) Palestine was under five British mandates, and England promised the land back and forth to the Arabs or the Jews, depending on which horse seemed to be in the lead. The Zionists—as distinguished from the people known as Jews—using, as someone put it, the “available political machinery,’’ i.e., colonialism, e.g., the British Empire—promised the British that, if the territory were given to them, the British Empire would be safe forever.

But absolutely no one cared about the Jews, and it is worth observing that non-Jewish Zionists are very frequently anti-Semitic. The white Americans responsible for sending black slaves to Liberia (where they are still slaving for the Firestone Rubber Plantation) did not do this to set them free. They despised them, and they wanted to get rid of them. Lincoln’s intention was not to “free” the slaves but to “destabilize” the Confederate Government by giving their slaves reason to “defect.” The Emancipation Proclamation freed, precisely, those slaves who were not under the authority of the President of what could not yet be insured as a Union.

It has always astounded me that no one appears to be able to make the connection between Franco’s Spain, for example, and the Spanish Inquisition; the role of the Christian church or—to be brutally precise, the Catholic Church—in the history of Europe, and the fate of the Jews; and the role of the Jews in Christendom and the discovery of America. For the discovery of America coincided with the Inquisition, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Does no one see the connection between The Merchant of Venice andThe Pawnbroker? In both of these works, as though no time had passed, the Jew is portrayed as doing the Christian’s usurious dirty work. The first white man I ever saw was the Jewish manager who arrived to collect the rent, and he collected the rent because he did not own the building. I never, in fact, saw any of the people who owned any of the buildings in which we scrubbed and suffered for so long, until I was a grown man and famous. None of them were Jews.

And I was not stupid: the grocer and the druggist were Jews, for example, and they were very very nice to me, and to us. The cops were white. The city was white. The threat was white, and God was white, Not for even a single split second in my life did the despicable, utterly cowardly accusation that “the Jews killed Christ’’ reverberate. I knew a murderer when I saw one, and the people who were trying to kilI me were not Jews.

But the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests. This is what is becoming clear (I must say that it was always clear to me). The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of “divide and rule” and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years.

Finally: there is absolutely—repeat: absolutely—no hope of establishing peace in what Europe so arrogantly calls the Middle East (how in the world would Europe know? having so dismally failed to find a passage to India) without dealing with the Palestinians. The collapse of the Shah of Iran not only revealed the depth of the pious Carter’s concern for “human rights,” it also revealed who supplied oil to Israel, and to whom Israel supplied arms. It happened to be, to spell it out, white South Africa.

Well. The Jew, in America, is a white man. He has to be, since I am a black man, and, as he supposes, his only protection against the fate which drove him to America. But he is still doing the Christian’s dirty work, and black men know it.

The full article originally appeared in the September 29, 1979, issue of The Nation.

Friday 1 March 2024

Needed Time

I am in the final stages of writing my latest book on music and memory. It follows the food and memory book, My World Café'. I am now finalising the chapter on The Spitz, a music venue that was based in the old Spitalfields market in East London and run by Jane Glitre. We first met when we were both involved in the Bosnian war in the 90s. After returning to London I became a Spitz regular and enjoyed hearing their eclectic mix of artists. One of the most memorable for me was the blues/folk guitarist Eric Bibb who performed there in 2000 and the chapter title will be Needed Time, one of his songs which was first brought to prominence by Lightning Hopkins.

The Spitz closed in 2007, a victim to corporate greed. This London said of its enforced closure, “investors take advantage of London’s unique creative environment by destroying it.” They couldn’t destroy the woman who had climbed over Bosnia’s Mount Igman to reach besieged Sarajevo and she set up the Spitz Charitable Trust.They take live music into care homes and hospitals. Their first work was at Bridgeside Lodge care home in Islington, but now also work at Northwick Park, Great Ormond Street and Ealing hospitals. They help in geriatric, stroke, mental health and childrens’ wards and have recently been asked to work in children’s hospices.

I visited Bridgeside in February 2024 to witness a musical morning with guitarist, Marcus Bonfanti and saxophone player, Pete Wareham. At a time when the world seems to be fast-tracking its way into barbarism, it was mightily refreshing to witness a strong dose of love, tenderness and excitement. They first visited the common room on the ground floor and played Music is Friendship, a song which had been composed by Big Joe (his preferred stage name) who smiled with happiness from his wheelchair. He is a younger man for whom creativity and song writing works wonders for his mental health.

Music is friendship
Music is life
Music is friendship
And it takes away my strife

They went on to play Bill Withers Lean on Me, and Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry about a Thing. No more Vera Lynn.
They then moved on to residents who are unable to leave their beds. I stood outside Jean’s room as they played her one of her favourites, Love Me Tender. As they left I heard her say ‘Bless your hearts, that was really great”.

On the next floor there was John, whose face lit up when he saw that Marcus had brought him a guitar to play. His likes included Chuck Berry’s No Particular Place to Go' and Memphis Tennessee. Care worker Vivian added to the percolating joy with a routine that involved joyful dance with the tender holding of the hands of the immobile. The two musicians completed their set with John Martyn’s May You Never.

And may you never lay your head down
Without a hand to hold

Back in the corridor and we passed a resident who told the musicians he loved Balkan music. Both Jane and I could have helped here if only we played guitar or sax, but the two of them managed to oblige with little past experience of this genre.
What a morning. Care home residents who could forget their problems with music and their care workers who have the skills to transform troubles into a blaze of light, helped with song and music and a hand to hold.

"I have been working for the Spitz for over 5 years and it has made me fall back in love with music. I’ve been able to approach the day to day life of being a musician with a new attitude. Because of this I have sought out similar work elswhere and currently run workshops in a prison. I would not have had the confidence to undertake something like that had it not been for the work I do with The Spitz at Bridgeside Lodge."
Marcus Bonfanti, guitarist

"Before working with the Spitz at Bridgeside Lodge I had been recording, writing, touring and playing with a range of artists. I felt completely burnt out and realised that my life / work balance was in serious need of repair. This experience has repaired my love of music and given me a strong sense of its healing power. The effects of live music on people with physical and/ or neurological issues have been breathtaking and the deeply nourishing relationships I have built with residents have been transformative."
Pete Wareham, saxophonist

If you would like to know more about the Spitz go here

and if you’d like to support their work go here

Monday 19 February 2024

The Gaza Music School


This is a summary of the information I have received from Sima Khory Odeh, Executive Director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah about the Gaza Music School. 

The Music School was established in 2012 as a branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. It organised community outreach programs, festivals, concert seasons and music activities. It has affected the lives of thousands of Gazans under siege especially children and youth. 

A lot ot the teachers and students have lost family members, friends, neighbours and homes. Most are now displaced and lacking the basic needs of life. When Khamis Abushaban, the Administrative Assistant reached their building, located at the Red Crescent Society, he discovered that half of the structure had been heavily damaged. Musical instruments, equipment, and teaching tools were either burnt or destroyed. “The sole grand piano in Gaza survives as a witness to this destruction, eagerly awaiting the chance to be played again.”

While the genocide continues it has not been easy to plan any activities while we are sure that music would definitely help traumatized children and their families. If and when the situation allows, some musicians might conduct interactive music activities for children in schools and shelters. Some areas are very dangerous. Other areas allow a person to move in the vicinity of two kilometers which is not safe either. It has not been easy to plan any activities …The needs will be immense, but it is most important to stop the genocide and then we all need to work together with our friends and partners to try to bring music back to Gaza or what is left of it. .. We have to bring back the children to music as they need it more than ever.


Until now, we managed to establish a shelter and financially support around 40 musicians to get their basic needs. However, the needs are immense .

It seems that the word "human" can be used for some people but must not be used for those who take part, approve and support the genocide on Gaza.

Together we can make a difference to the lives of young Palestinians through music especially in Gaza which needs us now more than ever.

Gaza in our minds

Sima Khory Odeh

To contact or support he Gaza Music School / Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Palestine go here:

The following is Mahmoud Abuwarda’s tribute to Lubna Alyaan, an aspiring violinist martyred in Gaza.

On a quiet day amid the few serene days in Gaza, I met that calm girl with eyes full of determination and passion. Lubna Alyaan was preparing for an audition for a music scholarship at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, where I worked as a guitar teacher and academic supervisor. I will never forget the enthusiasm and passion that filled Lubna’s eyes. She told me with strong will that she wanted to study the violin, even though the violin class was full. My question to her was: Why the violin? She answered, “I love the violin passionately, and I want to become one of the world’s top violinists. That’s my dream.” When I saw her determination to learn the instrument and her profound love for it and music, I was moved to make an exception and accept her into the class despite the limited opportunities. Lubna performed brilliantly in the aptitude test and became a valuable addition to the class.For all of us at the Conservatory, it was gratifying to witness Lubna’s steady progress. We all loved Lubna’s diligence, enthusiasm, and joyful spirit. We assisted her in achieving her big dream by arranging violin lessons with teachers and musicians from outside Palestine, such as Tom Suárez, and also through PalMusic in London. As a teacher of music theory and classical music history, I will not forget Lubna’s passion during her lessons. As a composer, I always encouraged her to use what she learned in improvisation and to try composing some musical phrases. She showed a keen interest in musical composition, demonstrating meticulous attention to every detail in a musical piece. February 7, 2022, was my last day in Gaza due to the war in May of the previous year. In a difficult farewell moment with Lubna, I encouraged her to continue learning and pursuing her dream.

Lubna was martyred on the morning of November 21, 2023, after the bombing of Lubna’s aunt’s house in the city of Al-Nuseirat, south of Gaza City. This is despite the Israeli army declaring Al-Nusairat to be a safe zone. Lubna and her family had sought refuge in the south of Gaza for safety, but their home was bombed that morning, leading to the martyrdom of nearly 50 members of Lubna’s family. Her entire family has been wiped from the civil registry, like so many Palestinian families in Gaza.

I will preserve Lubna’s memory in the best way I know how — by writing music in her memory, in memory of her dream, in memory of her passion, in memory of the future stolen from her. I promise you, Lubna, to keep true to your dreams and to help share your story with the world.”


                                          1st Director, Pavarotti Music Centre

                                                          Mostar BiH