to Seeds and Fuses
– the poetry and other makings of Anne Enith Cooper aka aniseed
Thanks for dropping by. I’m not big on labels, have been described as “an artist, activist, and author,” I’m a dreamer and seeker, based in London, England. NI scribble and snap, I make stuff. Life, art and activism merged with my position as writer-in-residence at the Cressingham Gardens estate and with other residents on the estate we created the book 306: Living Under the Shadow of Regeneration.
My poetry ranges from the classic themes of love and death, sex and war to those small, often unsaid interchanges, the basis of my pamphlet Touched. Documentary poetry is my preferred form of choice, my poem essay 21st Century Guernica was described by the late Tony Benn MP as, “Powerful and deeply moving.”
With photography I capture light and colour, texture and line and the atmosphere of place, with an emphasis on finding the beauty in the lost, decaying and abandoned. I have exhibited at the Portico Gallery, the Urban Art Show, and had a solo show with an artist talk at the Salome Gallery, The Poetics of the Everyday.
I have worked for 20 years on creative projects in the community as a workshop facilitator and project leader. I am the founder of The Way of Words – from the page to the stage. In recent years much of my work has been in mental health and homelessness services including at the V&A, The South London and Maudsley Hospital Trust and The Recovery College.
In addition I have curated events with spoken word, live literature, dj’s, vj’s and musicians, honoured to have been joined by many special guests including; Paddy Hill, Brian Paddick, Karen McCarthy Woolf, John Cooper Clarke and Malika Booker.
I ardently believe another world is possible. I have felt her breath on my face. She grows around us and beneath us and beckons we deliver her. Be still, silent, listen, hear her cry out to you from the floods and flames.
One month of bad hair enters another, health is on the mend finally after the lifting of excruciating abdominal pain which has plagued me since February though the mood lift I anticipated with this still eludes me, not surprising perhaps as time is no longer measured in minutes and hours but a daily death count, one that is disputed daily though to my knowledge no one has yet used the expression cover up.
The sentiment “Isn’t it strange” long gave way to “isn’t is awful” as figures of the deaths of key workers emerge. Those that risked their lives and did not give the ultimate sacrifice, no, whose lives were taken cruelly by a combination of a deficit of PPE and bad planning. Easy to see how the figure of death as a ten foot black clad, bent backed, androgyne swinging a scythe emerged in popular culture.
As XR put in in a recent newsletter, “But if there is one thing that this crisis has made clear, it is that there is no going back. No going back to business as usual that pushes us further and further into the abyss of a climate and ecological loss.” This will be, imo, not automatic but something we must fight for.
Zoom seems a poor substitute for the emotional support and physical connection we all need at this time but it’s pretty much all we have
Wednesday 6th May
Attending our first virtual poets from the planet meeting see Facebook for details.
Sunday 10th May
Spoken Word for Social Justice by Poetry from the Grassroots 7.30pm – 9.30 for an evening of poetry that bites back. Mc Mark Mr T Thomson, featuring David Lee Morgan and open mikes. Am joining as one of the open mikes.
Worth mentioning Lambeth Libraries have an online quiz every Wednesday at 5.00pm https://zoom.us/j/92888207892 and Lambeth XR have an online Poetry cafe every Tuesday at 1-2pm https://zoom.us/j/519122466
BREAKING: Roger Robinson has won the RSLOndaatje Prize 2020 for his collection A Portable Paradise that picked up the TS Eliot prize earlier this year when we were all able to get out and about. Love Roger for his earthy wisdom and generosity. I have turned to his Think Like an Artist, a free series of tips and advice, many times.
The Royal society of Literature said in their facebook post, “Only the second time in the Prize’s history that a poetry collection has won! A big thank you to this year’s #RSLOndaatje Prize judges: Peter Frankopan, Pascale Petit and Evie Wyld and to the Prize’s sponsor Sir Christopher Ondaatje. bit.ly/RSLOndaatje”
You can buy ‘A Portable Paradise’ directly from @peepaltreepress https://www.peepaltreepress.com/books/portable-paradise
Three months since what felt like a head first plunge into the void, was just seeing glimpse of the light again around the time the WHO declared the virus a pandemic. I wake that day aching all over, which is nothing new, and with a mild sore throat though after a coffee that’s gone. Head into Brixton to see Amina, my mental health support worker. She asks if I’d like to co-facilitate a poetry workshop and takes some notes to refer me to a psychologist. So it’s all good. There is hand sanitizer in the waiting room.
Hardly notice March slip into April in the stream of corona updates. At the mo am okish, I guess. Bolstered by daily mediation, yoga and conscious breathing. See my post https://seedsandfuses.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/covid-19-a-time-to-breathe-well/ how you can soothe your nervous system and boost your immune system with the breath. Though energy, motivation and concentration are severely limited. This would be so much harder if it weren’t for my neighbours and friends. Keeping in touch with nearest and dearest. My brother and I had a virtual cafe “date” recently which was fun.
Tech rules! Seems everything has gone Zoom, a couple I hope to attend are
Monday 13th April
“Feed your brain with our congenial, intelligent, unpredictable event for readers and writers” featuring
Stuart Maconie, Daniel Ruiz-Tizon, Anna Maconochie, Morton Valence, Andrew Mueller and Venetia Welby”
Friday 17th April 8.00pm
Cath Drake’s launch of The Shaking City
With guest poets Kate Potts (currently shortlisted for The Moth Prize) & Karen McCarthy Woolf
Join the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/209088623708461
#amreading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and The Dalai Lama’s Cat and #amwriting a bit, now and then…
It is now two months since I was ambushed by a shocking and sudden deterioration in my mental health. Until recently there were still periods of meaninglessness and times when my gut stiffens, thought becomes frozen and only absence and lack appear to remain. This ebbs and flows and for a few hours a day I function. I feel stronger though motivation is a rare visitor. My inner critic, Cruella is quieter, less like an aggressive stranger, more like a poisonous passive aggressive acquaintance you wish you’d never met. Besides a new meds regime have been dealing this with daily yoga and meditation, walking, shiatsu and movies and as the earth edged into more light there was a shift.
Sunday 8th March
On international women’s day join fellow wordsmiths Andrea Robinson, Caroline M Davies, Sue Johns, Kate Noakes, and Emma Roper-Evans from Poets for the Planet for a show on Resonance FM chaired by Carys Hannah chairs a discussion about this new collective of poets and eco-activists. 6.15pm-7.15pm https://www.resonancefm.com/
Am pleased to announce the launch of the website The Matchgirls Memorial https://www.matchgirls1888.org with a poem by yours truly here https://www.matchgirls1888.org/don-t-you-know-about-the-matchgirls The website aims to bring attention to an often overlooked history of the tremendous victory with historic repercussions and to campaign for recognition for the strike leaders.
On 5th July 1888, 1400 girls and women walked out of the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, London and the next day some 200 of them marched from Mile End to Bouverie Street, Annie Besant’s office, to ask for her support. A Strike Committee was formed and rallied support from the Press, a few MPs, the London Trades Council. The A Strike Committee of eight Matchgirls, met with the Bryant & May Directors to put their case. By 17th July, the demands were met and terms agreed in principle so the Strike Committee put the proposals to the rest of the girls and they enthusiastically approved and returned to work.
The action also led to a change in legislation. In 1908 the House of Commons passed an Act prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches. The action by the match girls led to an increased militancy across the working class, as Lyn Brown notes, ”The received wisdom is that the heroic London dockers of 1889 led the way towards social justice, greater equality and spurred the foundation of the Labour movement. In fact it was London’s working class women, a year earlier, who were the vital spark that lit the blaze that showed the way to trade unionism. The men learned how it was done from their mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and neighbours.”
Tuesday 17th March
Another opportunity to catch a screening of the film We The People by Virginia Nimarkoh & Fan Sissoko which features activists in Lambeth included myself and Helen Carr from Save Cressingham. Taking place 6.30- 8.00pm at
Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN
A new month brought a new and disturbing phase of the malady that commenced in January. it become embodied in my gut which is frequently tense and painfully distended. Each mean utterance of the inner critic, whom I have named Cruella, feels like a small electric shock. She comes to me at dawn after a broken nights sleeps and refuses to leave until I drag myself out of bed to face the grey day shattered. My shrink describes this as mild to moderate depression. Uh-huh! I am unlikely to get out much for some time so I offer my recommendations.
Before I get to that last summer I had the honour and privilege to be interviewed by Naomi Woddis on her show The Two of Us on reel rebels radio. It’s a show that explores creativity and well being. Our conversation covers spirituality, activism, community, poetry and much more and is available here.
Thursday 6th February
Reel News present the Premiere of Catalonia is is Anti-Fascist at 7.30pm
Effra Social, Brixton, 89 Effra Road, London, SW2 1DF
Reel News spent two weeks in Barcelona last autumn in the wake of an explosion of protests over the draconian prison sentences handed down to Catalan politicians and civil society leaders. What we found was a very young, very angry movement that has radicalised dramatically since the astonishing scenes around the referendum for independence two years ago – with the anger being directed as much at the Catalan government as it is at the Spanish state.
The 40 minute film shows the occupation of Barcelona airport by 20,000 people immediately after the sentences, an unprecedented general strike called by just two small rank and file unions supported by 1.5 million people in Barcelona alone, and continued daily protests by a people who, with their entire government either jailed or exiled and with violent repression of peaceful protests, see no alternative but direct action and civil disobedience.
Saturday February 8th
The launch of Poets for the Planet Verse Aid: Poems for the Earth, an all day event with performances and workshops at
The Society of Authors, 24 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4EH
(Nearest tube stations: Holborn and Chancery Lane)
Illustration © Henny Beaumont
More info https://poetsfortheplanet.org/events/
At the beginning of this month, with no apparent trigger, my mood tumbled and plummeted into a place of darkness where meaning, purpose, emotion and motivation absented themselves. Needlessly to say the anxiety that often accompanies bleak moods kicked in and my energy dissipated on this unbidden journey. Alternatively I stood outside and within this void, in the former state I can ask – am I becoming, in the latter – am I broken. I wrote the poem a ring of fire in the early stages of this perhaps to cling onto some sense of being in the face of this lack of meaning and mental torture.
a ring of fire
– a lament for Australia January 2020
people flee to the beaches
huddle in boats
roads are closed and power lines fail
fuel tanks run dry
the blood red blaze rips through homes and forest
while contracts and denial ensure
the rape of the rich red earth
in Sydney cricket players don black arm bands
as high winds threaten to close the ring
animals die in silence
this is what hell looks like
Image: Greece November 2019 by George Natsioulis. Instagram george_natsioulis
3rd – 10th November
Belatedly autumn makes its appearance and I have a late break to look forward to I will be on a writing retreat Opening Doors to Invisible Worlds at the beautiful Cortijo Romero in Andalucia. More than writing the package includes yoga or tai chi to start the day, Spanish lessons, mountain walks and access to a pool which overlooks mountains and valleys. The venue is mostly off the grid, a challenge and a blessing…
Sunday 11th November
Or shortly after will see the release of Requiem: A Reply to The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, a poem presented in a short film and dedicated to Veterans for Peace. Brooke wrote his idealist poem and somewhat imperialist work The Soldier before he was deployed to fight in the First World War. It is 100 years since the end of that bitter conflict which took so many lives on all sides. Dubbed the war to end all wars, sadly this has not been the case. The British Army has been deployed to or engaged in 48 conflicts since 1918.
Tuesday 20th November
Poetry from Myself And Brian “Beady Man” Wilson of transformation hope and defiance at the Reel News film show at the Effra Social, Brixton 8.00-11pm
Save Appledore Shipyard North Devon – campaign to save the only merchant shipyard in the country from closure with the loss of 200 jobs – when the highly skilled workforce could be building the infrastructure for renewables.
BiFab Occupation – workers in Fife, Scotland, occupying their plant that produces wind turbine platforms and successfully stopping it from closing.
Our Power! Just Transition in Richmond – A “movement of movements” in a California city dominated by oil giant Chevron a just transition framework which demands a proper living wage for all, rent controls and curbing police violence.
Cooperation Jackson – Building a social and solidarity economy in Mississippi: moving to a zero waste, zero carbon economy through a plan based on people’s assemblies to create a “solidarity economy” of workers cooperatives.
full details here
Friday 5th October
I will be joining other artists and activists at NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Tuesday 9th October
I will be speaking at The News Club, a new fortnightly event in Brixton
Tuesday October 23rd
I will be taking part in an inspiring event with an amazing line up of poets; Tamar Yoseloff, John Canfield, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Shazea Quraishi, Sophie Herxheimer, Rishi Dastidar, Rick Dove
At the Tate South Lambeth Library 7pm to explore Shared Spaces, an event curated by poet Molly Rowan
Saturday September 1st
2pm until 3pm Tent City at Fordham Park, Deptford
Speaking on a panel on housing which will cover gentrification and social cleansing, managed decline and the thorny issue of ballots. Sadiq Khan famously declared ballots for regen estates were too complex. Those of us that live on regen estates fnd it quite simple. Our lives, our homes, our right to decide. What do you think? Lets us know. Taking part myself and
Diann Gerson and Heather Gilmore: Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners, 16 maisonettes in Deptford under threat of demolition and Tidemill Community garden
Emily Jost: We Saved Northwold Campaign. Tenants and leaseholders who fought Guinness’s demolition plans and won. Now holding them to account re: infill plans, maintenance and preserving social rents
Paul Watt: Professor of urban studies at Birkbeck , Paul has written extensively on regeneration and social housing, neighbourhoods and communities
Martin Williams: Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign, Achilles Street resident and campaigner, area of New Cross under threat of demolition, includes homes, small businesses and community spaces.
The Tent City programme here http://pitpnxd.co.uk/tent-city
Full festival programme here http://pitpnxd.co.uk/home
Tuesday September 11th
I and other Ann(e)s will be reading poetry at 6.30-8.30pm Barking Library, Barking, IG11 7NB. Ok, that’s a long drag for us south Londoners but it will be worth it to attend ReadFest 2018, this event is part of a week long festival. A Bunch of Poets called Ann(e) is hosted by Pen to Print, an awesome resource offering free mentoring in Barking and Dagenham to get your book published. So get lost on the tube and rock up to see guest Poets– Anne Ryland and myself, supported by – Ann Dineen, Anne MacAuley, Anne Welsh and Agnieszka Dryjas
Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd September
Its Open House weekend, a chance to view exceptional architecture across the city, and Cressingham Gardens, which has a deserved place in that pantheon, will be open for business. Had Lambeth Council had its way nothing would be left of our beautiful estate by now but rubble. The first demolition date was 2017 but we are still here and still fighting to stay here.
There will be tours around the estate all weekend and a chance to view inside some of the homes. The Cressingham gardens listing on Open House is here https://openhouselondon.open-city.org.uk/listings/6047
There will be a chance to buy 306: Living Under the Shadow of Regeneration, the book co-authored by myself and other residents. The Cressingham book, as people now refer to it, is now on three continents; in the hands of academics, artists and activists in America, Austria and Australia.
“306 is a vital, lyrical, funny and anguished document of a London community under threat of destruction. The voices here are allowed space to reminisce about life in Cressingham Gardens fondly but unsentimentally.”
Toby Litt, Author and Senior Lecturer, Department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck
There will be a chance to watch readings from the book shot by the talented Rainbow Collective in the Rotunda. For the history of how Cressingham Voices, led to the birth of the book see https://cressinghamvoices.wordpress.com/
Save Cressingham Gardens https://savecressingham.wordpress.com/
Open House full list of sites https://openhouselondon.org.uk/
UNFETTERED VOICES: HOMELESS PEOPLE IN THEIR OWN WORDS
It will take place on the Sunday (26th August) of this three day Festival at 11.30-12.30 in the Forest Forum.
The Bylines festival, in its second year is organised with The Frontline Club and takes place in Pippingford Park, Ashdown Forest, TN22 3HW It’s headlined by Pussy Riot and features other guests such as The Slits (!!!) Salena Godden and Alexei Sayle so that’s my summer sorted!
More info https://www.bylinefestival.com/
Saturday 7th July
Matchgirls 130th Anniversary Memorial Walk on the 130th anniversary of the Match girls strike.
I will be taking part in the walk and the performance after please join us! The aim of the Matchgirls 130th Anniversary Memorial Walk is to celebrate the victory of the Matchgirls over Bryant and May in 1888, commonly known as the Matchgirls Strike, which helped lay the foundations of modern day Trade Unionism.
The 2.5 mile walk will take us from Mile End to Bouverie Street to retrace, as best as possible, the steps taken by the Matchgirls the day after they walked out on strike. So, don those Victorian outfits (see below for details) and join us for a commemoration of this landmark event. There will be an after-walk event in the Fleet Street area and more detail will be posted about this as the event takes shape.
Time: Assemble from 12:00 to leave at 13:00
Meeting Point: Trinity Green (next to Tower Hamlets Mission on Edward Passage Road, Mile End Road)
End Point: Bouverie Street and onto Bridewell Hall for the After Event. Dress code (optional but fun)
- Female – long dark dress, skirt/blouse/shawl/apron/boots
- Male – waistcoat/grandad collar shirt/baggy trousers/cloth cap/neckerchief/boots
If stuck for inspiration just go on Google Images and search for “victorian working class clothing”.
THE AFTER EVENT
DR ANNA ROBINSON Poet, Lecturer University of East London
LEMN SISSAY Author, Poet, Broadcaster
DR MELANIE REYNOLDS Historian, Author, Associate Lecturer Oxford Brookes University
SARAH WISE Historian, Author, Lecturer City University
NEIL JAMESON Director, Citizens UK
TERRI BELL-HALLIWELL Sculptor, Founder http://www.inVISIBLEwomen.org.uk
IAN WATKINS Salvation Army
ANNE E COOPER Activist, Writer, Photographer, Poet
ROBIN HEAD Matchgirls Descendant, Secretary Somerset NUT
PLUS, we hope to have an exclusive recording from ANDREW CASTLE, Great Great Grandson of Annie Besant, Television and Radio Presenter and former Tennis Professional.
On 5th July 1888, 1400 girls and women walked out of the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, London and the next day some 200 of them marched from Mile End to Bouverie Street, Annie Besant’s office, to ask for her support. A Strike Committee was formed and rallied support from the Press, some MPs, the London Trades Council and Toynbee Hall. The London Trades Council, along the Strike Committee of eight Matchgirls, met with the Bryant & May Directors to put their case. By 17th July, the demands were met and terms agreed in principle so the Strike Committee put the proposals to the rest of the girls and they enthusiastically approved and returned to work.
The action led to a change in legislation in 1908 the House of Commons passed an Act prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches. It led to an increased militancy across the working class, as Lyn Brown notes, ” The received wisdom is that the heroic London dockers of 1889 led the way towards social justice, greater equality and spurred the foundation of the Labour movement. In fact it was London’s working class women, a year earlier, who were the vital spark that lit the blaze that showed the way to trade unionism. The men learned how it was done from their mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and neighbours.”
Sunday 8th July
I will be taking part in a housing, music and poetry event; presenting the poetry of precarity and looking at some home truths, in a positive sense, of working class life. Its a fundraiser for the Grenfell peoples inquiry organised by The Rainbow Collective & Radical Housing Network 1.30- 10.00pm DIY Space for London 96-108 Ormside Street, SE15 1TF London
exposing the causes of the housing crisis + debunking the myths about immigration and homelessness + learning from our victories
An afternoon of films, discussion, spoken word and music. Bringing together artists and activists from variety of campaigns. Building a community of resistance to overcoming division to fight displacement, dispossession and privatization.
This event is a fundraiser for the People’s Inquiry project at Grenfell which is the development of a public archive of accounts and testimonies of the state crimes. It exists to support the processes of justice, not to undermine them and should have the support of reputable charities.
There will also be youth element which will focus on providing a platform for young voices and training them to develop their YouTube channel and their own voice. This project is being run by Dan Renwick the Director of Failed By The State.
And then have a couple deadlines looming for the end of the month so may be taking a bit of time out in poetical editing retreat; it’s a dynamic process, shifting between sofa – rewriting or restructuring, desk – making changes on the pc, bed – reading and making changes on the page, lots messy drafts, lots of coffee, rinse, repeat. But given the present hot climes am likely to take some of this outdoors. Note to self: Don’t forget to breathe, eat and do yoga! Take a break; Casualty, Poldark, The Hand Maids Tale… GO TO THE PARK!
Friday 9th June
Our workshop as part of the Solus and the City project was an immense success and now thrilled to have an opportunity to read poetry of women in the struggle at the all day event as part of this innovative project. It will include songs, poetry and football chants… It takes place at Green Dale Playing Fields, London, SE22 8BB from noon. It’s a bit tricky to find. The easiest way to access the shed is via East Dulwich Sainsbury’s – 80 Dog Kennel Hill, London SE22 8BB Think of it as an adventure.
The Solus and the City project is designed by Degenerate Space exploring how women are expected to provide solidity, structure and sanctuary whilst they paradoxically disproportionately experience unstable positions in housing, work and society. Part of the project consists of the construction of a small Solitude Shed – a structure based on rural mountain bothies – built on an urban site in London.
Accompanying the structure will be a collection of material written from female perspectives exploring themes of solitude, sanctuary, stability and individuality. Degenerate Space write “we invite the public to get together and explore the project and its themes through discussion, writing and traditional women’s work songs. Together, we will celebrate the women of the city’s past, present and future.”
A bit more bio
Born upside down, born blue, 51°57’0″N, 0°16’55″W, a little after the witching hour, six months before the Cuban missile crisis, guess life was bound to have it bumps. Diagnosed bipolar 34 years later. Somewhere in between I immersed myself in punk, science fiction and socialism.
I have been an antiwar activist since the Malvinas/Falklands war and was thrust into the world of housing activism following Lambeth Council’s unfortunate decision to demolish our homes on Cressingham Gardens.
Grew up in a council house in Stevenage, went to the University of East Anglia leaving with a Ba (Hons) in Development Studies and after some years working in Welfare Rights, graduated with an Ma in Film from The London College of Communication.
Recent endeavors include
- A blog style account where I will document a solidarity visit with other trade unionists to Catalonia and reflect on what makes a nation and the nature of and the social forces in the independence movement entitled The Sickle and the Senyera to be launched June 2018 more info
- An exhibition at the Portico Gallery, a curated show as part of the Lambeth Open, including work from my Washing Day series October 2017 more info
- The publication of 306: Living Under the Shadow of Regeneration June 2017, reissued in September more info
A small community has now triggered one of the biggest conversations on social housing since Grenfell by Sophia Akram in The Canary
Contributors to 306 read alongside other special guests at the closing event for Sanctum Ephemeral, an exhibition by by Mark Aitken, part of The Brixton Design Trail, on Saturday the 23rd September 3.00pm more info
306 featured on Art Speak hosted by John Flannery in conversation and readings from the book from myself, Sara Adem and Angie Hill broadcast on Soho Radio, www.sohoradiolondon.com Kilburn to Kensal Radio ktokradio.com and Identify Radio www.identifyradio.com now available on Mixcloud listen here.
more info https://cressinghamvoices.wordpress.com/