Random Slices #19


This weekend get your China on and take a trip down a burning, looted memory lane.

Before I was a no-good, low down, dog-eared and dead-eyed hack – I worked in the lofty confines of the heritage sector. What is now instant coffee, roll ups and dead-end conversations about drum machines was once lapsang souchon, cigars and illuminating talks about the Ming dynasty and its effect on French cabinet making in the 18th century. In this former life I had the pleasure of working with a wonderfully eccentric woman who ran Londons foremost South East Asian education service, a government sponsored scheme that served to preserve and promote the incredible artistic cultural practices of the region by putting on a year round series of events and activities, the centre piece of which was undoubtedly the festivities around Chinese New Year.  It seems twee to some, but when you get to the bottom of it, the traditions are fierce, disciplined, ridiculously skilled and, when done well, electrifying. Therell be festivities all over the UK, but get down to Chinatown on Sunday and get your Lion Dance/Firecracker/Dim Sum/Chinese Dragon/Acrobat shit going on, and remember – when we were living on slop and mead, the Chinese were so advanced they were carving pastoral scenes into grains of rice. 
The riots were mad, werent they?! It seemed, for a moment, that they might be the beginning of something truly remarkable, perhaps even (whisper it) the first shoots of a street level revolution. Some horrible shit went down: local businesses losing their livelihoods, innocent people getting jacked and beaten senseless; but, lets be honest, there were some of us that were willing the rioters on in a vicarious way. If you want to smash the state (and this state sometimes seems in need of a good smashing), then youve got to be prepared for violence. Anyway, as quickly as the whole episode exploded, it was extinguished and now, just a year and a half later, it seems surreal to walk down Mare Street and remember that it resembled a warzone. Here to remind us of the historical moment in time is press association photographer Lewis Whyld, whose exhibition at The Strand Gallery is made up from some of the shocking, remarkable imagery from this generations own 1981, all dramatic, tense silhouettes against hellish burning backdrops. Check it out.