Michael Chanan's video blog: A Tale of Two Demos

FILM: What the mainstream media didn't show you on Saturday.

 

On Saturday I saw and filmed two demonstrations: the official march called by the TUC, culminating with a rally in Hyde Park, and the unofficial alternative, which spread out across the West End, comprising multiple autonomous groups and blocs.

This is what I saw on the streets, and then in the rushes (there were three of us filming: Philippa Daniel on the Embankment, Kaveh Abbasian in the West End, and myself, starting with the rally, thence to Oxford Street and down to Picadilly. This visible evidence is what has determined the shape of my editing. What emerges is not at all the picture seen in the mainstream media, which highlighted what they called violence (of which there was very little) and failed to report the positions taken by the speakers at the rally.

The difference between the two demonstrations as our cameras captured them is both cultural and political. The vast majority - what Ed Miliband at the rally dubbed the "mainstream majority of Britain" - are trade unionists who retain allegiance to parliamentary democracy. The alternative protestors, a very sizeable minority, are unorganised, disorganised, or self-organised, depending on your point of view, whose politics are a mixture of green, anti-capitalist and anarchist. On the fringes of the former are the old-style Marxists calling for a general strike. Among the latter are the practitioners of direct action, and what they call "creative civil disobedience".

The numbers were impressively huge -- a figure of half a million has been talked of -- and Philippa's Embankment scenes are colourful and vibrant. Hyde Park was thronging. So was the West End, but here the ambience was different. The rally was noisy but relaxed, the streets were noisy and carnivalesque. The common factor was mass noise-making as a form of taking over the space. This video is noisy - but it has to be.

Leaving the rally and walking down Oxford Street, I met a couple of young clowns who unbidden, told my camera why they were there. I missed the Artspace outside BHS, but Kaveh had been there. For my part, I saw a police snatch squad in action, and the big "Trojan horse" in Oxford Circus (which Kaveh also filmed a little later).

I am still trying to work out the symbolism of a Trojan horse carrying the legend 'TUC Armed Wing' being put to the flame, but this isn't violence, it's performance -- a form of street theatre that reclaims public space from the police and the surveillance cameras. If the official event was also of course a reclamation of the public commons, then what we see in the contrast between the two demonstrations, in their different ways of using space, is the state under pressure from different directions at the same time. Wedged in between are the police, who are now also a target for the cuts. What are they to think when a snatch squad provokes chants of "Protect Police Jobs"?

Marching down Regent Street alongside a well-drilled troupe of drummers, their beat echoing off the shopfronts on either side, made me momentarily think that Buenos Aires had come to London (except for the weather). In Piccadilly Circus, single lines of police were surrounded on both sides and didn't know which way to turn. (There's a video on YouTube which shows a bunch of them being kettled in a side street by protestors.) Walking down Picadilly, I reached Fortnum & Mason's just as it was being taken. It was shortly after this that the day turned nasty, as police in riot gear went into action.

What I saw raises a crucial question, and points to a political problem. First, the question of who makes up Miliband's "mainstream" -- does it include the potential voters not in the park but on the streets? In other words, those mainly young people who are not in trade unions and owe no allegiance to parliamentary politics, for whom insouciance and civil disobedience are a cultural as much as a political predilection. But they also have the vote.

Second, the problem of where the Labour Party stands in relation to the TUC, and the positions now being argued within the latter. Brendan Barber spoke of a Robin Hood tax on the banks, Ed Miliband of a bonus tax -- there's a difference. Len McCluskey asked for Labour MPs to join the trade unionists "on the barricades". Mark Serwotka called for "no cuts whatsoever" -- because the cuts are divisive, forcing us to choose between young and old, public sector and private sector, those on welfare and those in work. And he concluded with a call: "Imagine if we didn't only march together, we took strike action together across all of our public services."

This is what I saw and heard and this video tries to reflect, without prejudging the answers that will emerge over the coming weeks. Richard Leacock, the great documentarist and pioneer of direct cinema, who died last week, spoke of documentary as gathering data to try to figure out what the hell was going on. This is what I've tried to do here. I dedicate this little film to his memory.

Michael Chanan is professor of film at Roehampton University. His video blog documents the emerging anti-cuts movement and will lead to a full-length film. You can watch previous instalments here.

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With the BBC Food’s collection under threat, here's how to make the most of online recipes

Do a bit of digging, trust your instincts – and always read the comments.

I don’t think John Humphrys is much of a chef. Recently, as his Today co-presenter Mishal Husain was discussing the implications of the BBC’s decision to axe its Food website (since commuted to transportation to the Good Food platform, run by its commercial arm), sharp-eared listeners heard the Humph claim that fewer recipes on the web could only be a good thing. “It would make it easier!” he bellowed in the background. “We wouldn’t have to choose between so many!”

Husain also seemed puzzled as to why anyone would need more than one recipe for spaghetti bolognese – but, as any keen cook knows, you can never have too many different takes on a dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to get all your news from a single source, it would be a sad thing to eat the same bolognese for the rest of your life. Sometimes only a molto autentico version, as laid down by a fierce Italian donna, rich with tradition and chopped liver, will do – and sometimes, though you would never admit it in a national magazine, you crave the comfort of your mum’s spag bol with grated cheddar.

The world wouldn’t starve without BBC Food’s collection but, given that an online search for “spaghetti bolognese recipe” turns up about a million results, it would have been sad to have lost one of the internet’s more trustworthy sources of information. As someone who spends a large part of each week researching and testing recipes, I can assure you that genuinely reliable ones are rarer than decent chips after closing time. But although it is certainly the only place you’ll find the Most Haunted host Yvette Fielding’s kedgeree alongside Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge, the BBC website is not the only one that is worth your time.

The good thing about newspaper, magazine and other commercial platforms is that most still have just enough budget to ensure that their recipes will have been made at least twice – once by the writer and once for the accompanying photographs – though sadly the days when everyone employed an independent recipe tester are long gone. Such sites also often have sufficient traffic to generate a useful volume of comments. I never make a recipe without scrolling down to see what other people have said about it. Get past the “Can’t wait to make this!” brigade; ignore the annoying people who swap baked beans for lentils and then complain, “This is nothing like dhal”; and there’s usually some sensible advice in there, too.

But what about when you leave the safety of the big boys and venture into the no man’s land of the personal blog? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find a recipe that actually works? You can often tell how much work a writer has put in by the level of detail they go into: if they have indicated how many people it serves, or where to find unusual ingredients, suggested possible tweaks and credited their original sources, they have probably made the dish more than once. The photography is another handy clue. You don’t have to be Annie Leibovitz to provide a good idea of what the finished dish ought to look like.

Do a bit of digging as part of your prep. If you like the look of the rest of the site, the author’s tastes will probably chime with your own. And always, always, wherever the recipe is from, read it all the way through, even before you order the shopping. There is nothing more annoying than getting halfway through and then realising that you need a hand blender to finish the dish, just as the first guest arrives.

Above all, trust your instincts. If the cooking time seems far too short, or the salt content ridiculously high, it probably is, so keep an eye on that oven, check that casserole, keep tasting that sauce. As someone who once published a magic mince pie recipe without any sugar, I’m living proof that, occasionally, even the very best of us make mistakes. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad