Time flies. This time last year my wife and I were listening to A Voodoo Christmas in South Norwood, a mixtape by Stephen Grasso (whose psychogeographical musings on London’s history of hidden authority and dissent we’re in the process of serialising). Things were very different back then. My wife and I lived elsewhere in Leeds, we were both in full time work, this website was in its latter planning phase (we only had one article online) and most of the havoc that the Tory/Lib Dem coalition were about to wreak existed mainly in the realm of grim predictions.
Now we’re approaching this site’s first birthday, my wife has been been made redundant, we’ve moved house and have a baby on the way, and yesterday was the largest strike for a generation, with millions of public sector workers on the streets to protest proposed changes to their pensions. The average person’s spending power is decreasing, wealth inequality is growing. The future’s looking more and more uncertain.
Stephen Grasso’s serialised article, Smoke and Mirrors, couldn’t be more appropriate to the times we’re in right now. Written before the August riots and Occupy’s encampment at St. Pauls, it nevertheless traces themes throughout history that have direct relevance to both. It has particular relevance to our first post on this page, almost exactly one year ago. Both ask the same question: how do you keep going, find ways to celebrate, be creative and carve out whatever sacred space you can when you’re living in a country that has barely any truly public space left, operates according to a broken economic model and under a government that’s hellbent on policies that increase inequality?
Stephen’s article poses some interesting possible answers. And when it comes to celebration, he’s got the best tunes. His Christmas compilation, downloadable here (below), should warm you up throughout what promises to be a very bleak midwinter. Enjoy, and make sure you follow the remaining instalments of Smoke and Mirrors over the coming weeks.
2. Christmas in New Orleans – Louis Armstrong
3. What will Santa Claus say? (When he finds everybody swinging) – Louis Prima & his New Orleans Gang
4. Santa’s second line – New Birth Brass Band
5. Shakana Santa shake it – Big Chief Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias
6. Baby it’s cold outside – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan
7. I’ve got my love to keep me warm – Billie Holiday
8. What child is this – Vince Guaraldi
9. Silent night – Kermit Ruffins
10. Feliz Navidad – Celia Cruz & La Sonora Matancera
11. The hottest stuff in town – Bob Howe & Frankie Griggs
12. White Christmas – Charlie “Bird” Parker
13. Beatnik’s wish – The Beat Generation
14. Christmas in the city – Marvin Gaye
15. Signs of Christmas – James Brown
16. Happy Christmas (The Christmas Song) – The Maytals
17. Peace on Earth – Hopeton & Primo
18. Praise Jah, it’s Christmas – Alton Ellis
19. Christmas time – Horace Andy
20. Santa Claus Dub – The Aggrovators
21. Wish you a merry Christmas/Ahamaric Temple – Jacob Miller & Ray I