Let's hear it for Charlie...

Brian Coleman hails the contribution of London's black churches, attacking City Hall's PC alternativ

I can confidently predict the United Kingdom will never become a republic having been present the other day when Prince Charles celebrated his 59th Birthday at Jesus House, Cricklewood.

He was in the company of a thousand members of one of Britain’s premier black churches and you should have seen the absolutely rapturous reception he and the Duchess of Cornwall received.

Anybody who thinks that the multiracial nature of Britain is a threat to the Monarchy is living in cloud cuckoo land.

The visit was the initiative of the Bishop of London, Richard Charteris who is known for being close to the Prince of Wales and, dressed as he was in scarlet, looked rather like Cardinal Wolsey.

Fortunately for Charteris, he not only looks and sounds every inch a Bishop but he was rather more capable of delivery in matters of Royal marriage than Wolsey.

Every time I despair of the rather vacuous leadership of the Church of England under the current Archbishop of Canterbury, and at the Lord Mayors Banquet last Monday he told some of the most tired jokes in the after dinner speakers' handbook, I listen to a sermon from the Bishop of London or the chief rabbi on Thought for the Day and my faith in the religious leadership of our country is restored.

Much has been written about the ever increasing gun and gang crime amongst the African Caribbean Community in London and hardly a week goes by without another shooting, usually casually dismissed by the media with the phrase 'Operation Trident Officers are investigating' - police code for 'nice white middle class suburban residents can sleep easily in their beds'.

Endless conferences are held at which the usual suspects (often on the Mayor of London’s pay roll) trot out woolly rhetoric and no solutions.

As many of our inner London comprehensives have failed for a generation to engage with black youth the only organisations that have any credibility in the black community in London are the black-led churches.

Many of them, such as Jesus House operate social programmes ranging from nurseries for working families, youth and sports activities, drug awareness courses and social services a borough council can only dream of - usually without much or any public subsidy.

Indeed they are generally ignored by government at all levels.

A fraction of the cost of the race relations industry run from City Hall would be much better spent directly through the black churches of London and yet they are often ineligible for grants as they do not have acceptable equalities policies and all the other PC crap the public sector demands.

The 'liberal' elite that calls the shots on social policy run a mile when asked to engage with faith communities and particularly churches which often hold inconvenient views on matters of social policy such as abortion, gay rights or the sanctity of marriage.

Anyone who expects the Evangelical Alliance to take a float at Gay Pride is missing the point. Ken Livingstone and the far left manage to ignore the inconvenient social views of many of the Mosques and Muslim Communities they deal with so why not the black churches?

Once again Prince Charles is ahead of the game, god bless him.

Brian Coleman was first elected to the London Assembly in June 2000. Widely outspoken he is best known for his groundbreaking policy of removing traffic calming measures
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Brexit confusion is scuppering my show – what next?

My week, from spinning records with Baconface, Brexit block and visiting comedy graves.

I am a stand-up comedian, and I am in the process of previewing a new live show, which I hope to tour until early 2018. It was supposed to be about how the digital, free-market society is reshaping the idea of the individual, but we are in the pre-Brexit events whirlpool, and there has never been a worse time to try to assemble a show that will still mean anything in 18 months’ time.



A joke written six weeks ago about dep­orting eastern Europeans, intended to be an exaggeration for comic effect, suddenly just reads like an Amber Rudd speech – or, as James O’Brien pointed out on LBC, an extract from Mein Kampf.

A rude riff on Sarah Vine and 2 Girls 1 Cup runs aground because there are fewer people now who remember Vine than recall the briefly notorious Brazilian video clip. I realise that something that gets a cheer on a Tuesday in Harrogate, or Glasgow, or Oxford, could get me lynched the next night in Lincoln. Perhaps I’ll go into the fruit-picking business. I hear there’s about to be some vacancies.



I sit and stare at blocks of text, wondering how to knit them into a homogeneous whole. But it’s Sunday afternoon, a time for supervising homework and finding sports kit. My 11-year-old daughter has a school project on the Victorians and she has decided to do it on dead 19th-century comedians, as we had recently been on a Music Hall Guild tour of their graves at the local cemetery. I wonder if, secretly, she wished I would join them.

I have found living with the background noise of this project depressing. The headstones that she photographed show that most of the performers – even the well-known Champagne Charlie – barely made it past 40, while the owners of the halls outlived them. Herbert Campbell’s obelisk is vast and has the word “comedian” written on it in gold leaf, but it’s in the bushes and he is no longer remembered. Neither are many of the acts I loved in the 1980s – Johnny Immaterial, Paul Ramone, the Iceman.



I would have liked to do some more work on the live show but, one Monday a month, I go to the studios of the largely volunteer-run arts radio station Resonance FM in Borough, south London. Each Wednesday night at 11pm, the masked Canadian stand-up comedian Baconface presents selections from his late brother’s collection of 1950s, 1960s and 1970s jazz, psychedelia, folk, blues and experimental music. I go in to help him pre-record the programmes.

Baconface is a fascinating character, whom I first met at the Cantaloupes Comedy Club in Kamloops in British Columbia in 1994. He sees the radio show as an attempt to atone for his part in his brother’s death, which was the result of a prank gone wrong involving nudity and bacon, though he is often unable to conceal his contempt for the music that he is compelled to play.

The show is recorded in a small, hot room and Baconface doesn’t change the bacon that his mask is made of very often, so the experience can be quite claustrophobic. Whenever we lose tapes or the old vinyl is too warped to play, he just sits back and utters his resigned, philosophical catchphrase, “It’s all bacon!” – which I now find myself using, as I watch the news, with ­depressing regularity.



After the kids go to sleep, I sit up alone and finally watch The Lady in the Van. Last year, I walked along the street in Camden where it was being filmed, and Alan Bennett talked to me, which was amazing.

About a month later, on the same street, we saw Jonathan Miller skirting some dog’s mess and he told me and the kids how annoyed it made him. I tried to explain to them afterwards who Jonathan Miller was, but to the five-year-old the satire pioneer will always be the Shouting Dog’s Mess Man.



I have the second of the final three preview shows at the intimate Leicester Square Theatre in London before the new show, Content Provider, does a week in big rooms around the country. Today, I was supposed to do a BBC Radio 3 show about improvised music but both of the kids were off school with a bug and I had to stay home mopping up. In between the vomiting, in the psychic shadow of the improvisers, I had something of a breakthrough. The guitarist Derek Bailey, for example, would embrace his problems and make them part of the performance.



I drank half a bottle of wine before going on stage, to give me the guts to take some risks. It’s not a long-term strategy for creative problem-solving, and that way lies wandering around Southend with a pet chicken. But by binning the words that I’d written and trying to repoint them, in the moment, to be about how the Brexit confusion is blocking my route to the show I wanted to write, I can suddenly see a way forward. The designer is in, with samples of a nice coat that she is making for me, intended to replicate the clothing of the central figure in Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 German masterpiece Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog.



Richard Branson is on the internet and, just as I’d problem-solved my way around writing about it, he’s suggesting that Brexit might not happen. I drop the kids off and sit in a café reading Alan Moore’s new novel, Jerusalem. I am interviewing him about it for the Guardian in two weeks’ time. It’s 1,174 pages long, but what with the show falling apart I have read only 293 pages. Next week is half-term. I’ll nail it. It’s great, by the way, and seems to be about the small lives of undocumented individuals, buffeted by the random events of their times.

Stewart Lee’s show “Content Provider” will be on in London from 8 November. For more details, visit: stewartlee.co.uk

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage