Friday, June 26, 2015

Skepta, grime, resistance, Francoism and taking back the city

My 4,000 word Skepta cover story for The Fader, on his remarkable journey, on Tottenham, grime, confidence, and why England is like a burger with nothing on it. This was a joy to write and research - albeit, the research started over a decade ago in the dingy, smoke-filled basement of Plastic People, watching him spit over Skream's Midnight Request Line. The first time I interviewed Skepta it was 2007, everyone was certain grime was 'dead', and I wrote it up for the much-missed grime, dubstep and reggae zine Woofah.

And a well-time spread on the Observer New Review's music cover about the next generation of grime and UK rap MCs, the kids who grew up watching Dizzee when they were just starting secondary school - featuring interviews with the remarkably talented Stormzy, Novelist, Krept & Konan, Jammz and Lil Simz.

A Guardian interview with Jam City in which he perfectly captures the mood of London and its embattled music scene - of vestiges of hope, love and resistance in the age of Foxtons and SSRIs.



An essay for the London Review of Books on the legacy of Franco in modern Spain: ostensibly, a review of the book Franco's Crypt. This was months of work - so much to think about, on memory and forgetting, on fascism still rearing its head, on mass graves and grave symbols.

A report from Seville for the New Statesman about the tensions between the 'electoralistas' of Podemos and their refusenik comrades in the radical social movements; featuring a disproportionate number of clown jokes, for a serious political magazine.

A piece for VICE on the hugely significant results in Spain's May elections - perfectly dovetailing so much of what is important in 2015: gentrification, post-representative politics, Pasokification, David Harvey's theories on resistance after the factory, and why we have to Take Back The City. The new Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau is the former spokeswoman of the radical housing group the PAH; this is the way the wind is blowing...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

More Podemos, more gentrification

A bit slow on the update here - remember there's more regular updates on my Tumblr and Twitter.

So, Podemos are about nine months away from changing everything. In October I went to Madrid for Newsweek to cover the Podemos founding conference, a mass-participation "citizens' assembly" in the Palacio Vistalegre (above, before the citizens arrived). The sense of destiny was palpable - that they would overturn la casta, the 'regime of 78', was deemed both necessary and inevitable. I began my dispatch:
To celebrate his 36th birthday last weekend, Pablo Iglesias declared war on the Spanish establishment. “Heaven is not taken by consensus,” the de facto leader of Podemos declaimed to a raucous reception in Madrid’s Palacio Vistalegre bullring, “it is taken by assault”.
One week later, they were leading in the polls for the first time.

I've since written this for The Guardian, a piece on how the late philosopher Ernesto Laclau paved the way for a new left-wing populism, rescuing it from is many detractors, like, er, the people writing The Guardian leader.

Some more pieces on gentrification:

A long piece on a series of painfully bad, painfully revealing property developer videos for VICE. ~Urban villages, bursting with creatives~ - that kind of thing.
* Also for VICE, I spent some time with the wonderful charity Z2K who are helping London's forgotten victims of gentrification: the homeless 'poverty exiles' who are pushed further and further out when the developers and artisan bakeries move in.
My cover story for the Review supplement of The National about how the super-rich will be the death of democracy in the cities of the future.

Some other bits:

* A column on why Adam Curtis wears the emperor's new clothes for openDemocracy.
A review of Disobedient Objects at the V&A for The National.
A review of a compilation of the music of the quilombos for The National - Brazil's escaped slave communities.
* A review of some golden-age Khmer pop music for The National.
A travel piece on Sicily's literary heritage for The National.
* A review of Conflict.Time.Photography at the Tate Modern for The National.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Newsweek cover and a regeneration supernova

Here's my Newsweek cover story on the Spanish ghost town of Valdeluz - and why their extraordinary mayor is determined that it shake off its ghosts.

The web version of the story above is slightly truncated, but to be honest there was always going to be more to say. There was a multitude of layers to this story that I could only touch on: including the reluctant bankruptcy proceedings undertaken by Reyal Urbis, the construction giant whose extravagant Madrid offices I discovered bore little hallmark of the misery they have inflicted on others.

Then there was the remarkable discovery that the town was - unbeknownst to almost everyone there - home to the Saldon Posición, a huge, hugely significant Spanish Civil War bunker, where the leader of Republican Spain, Juan Negrín, spent the last year of the war, trying desperately to hold up the country's fading resistance to the fascist coup. The mayor of Valdeluz kindly took me to see it, through a copse of blossoming trees, down a dirt path, on the grounds owned by a local golf course. You could walk by and never give it a second look - it wasn't even locked. Such is the commemorative attention given to so much of Spain's painful 20th century history:


Of course, the Spanish 'brick crisis' is not about one small exceptional town, it's about an entire country - as I found out in the nearby city of Guadalajara:
Of the various other things I've been working on recently, I'd like to point you to this long, long-researched piece for VICE on Newham's Regeneration Supernova, the aesthetics of the gentrification industry, and the Asian Business Port that will soon become Britain's "third financial centre", on the prime site of the Royal Docks.

Also, The Village Against The World is now out in paperback - only £5.99 here. And later this year, also in Japanese! More soon...

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

2014! Asturias, mass graves, regeneration, pop-up shops, the fight for the city, Afrobeats and Stuart Hall

Okay, a long overdue (but not overly long) update. The Village Against The World's doing humblingly well in hardback, in reviews and in the Spanish version. Paperback out through Verso June 2014. Some excerpts and reviews here - oh and it's 50% off on the Verso website right now.

Otherwise, I wrote the London Review of Books Diary about my time chasing the past in Asturias, about the legacy of Franco and the Fascists' mass graves, about the coal mines and the legendary dinamiteros, and the remarkable story of the 1934 workers' revolution in Spain's beautiful northern region. LRB subscribers can read the essay here.


I've also written three pieces about gentrification, regeneration and the physical language of neoliberalism in the ever-changing city, all for VICE. More to come.

1) On the campaigning of the Focus E15 mums: single mothers being told by the Olympic Borough of Newham to leave London, because there's just no room for them here.

2) On the meaning of Elephant and Castle's pop-up shipping container mall, aka the piece that went viral as 'Fuck Your Pop-up Shops' (eye-catching headline, cheers VICE).

3) On the demolition of Glasgow's Red Road flats as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. Aka regeneration as live TV entertainment.


Here's an essay for The National's weekly Review section on Woody Guthrie's remarkable 'government recordings', and what being the voice of the people really means.

And a longer Review cover story about the exploding size of world cities (3bn new city-dwellers by 2050!) and the ever-more-vital battle to be able to protest - and to party - in public space. Did you know they removed an entire roundabout in Bahrain, because it was a politically provocative roundabout? Fuck ur neo-Hausmannisation, basically.

Joining the dots, here's a piece for FACT where I interviewed Fuse ODG about what it means to feel alienated in London and in Ghana, and how this contributed to his dazzling, uniquely 21st century pop music. Finally, and relatedly, given the challenges and benefits of diasporic multiculturalism and the joy of collective culture, here is a short piece for the New Statesman in memory of the late, great Stuart Hall. What a terribly long shadow he casts; what a reminder his death is that we must think, fight and play harder, together. Innit Fuse.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Village Against The World - reviews

So, my book about Marinaleda came out a month ago. It's had a lot of great reviews, I'm pleased to say:

"A thoughtful, take-nothing-for-granted account ... this engaging book is as much a study of idealism in practice as it is of life in a highly unusual pueblo. The respectful, intelligent writing places the villagers at the centre of their own story – and that story is fascinating." (New Statesman)

"(The) book is full of lively and genuinely inspiring detail ... Most importantly, the co–operative answers Slavoj Žižek's warning to Wall Street Occupiers that "what matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives". As Hancox makes clear, socialist Marinaleda has defined the fabric of the normal life of its residents, day after day, for 30 years." (The Guardian)

"Dan Hancox's The Village Against the World' is, for lack of a better word, awesome ... Hancox’s book reads like something one might find on the New York Times best-seller list if it weren't for its subject matter: the anti-authoritarian shenanigans of a Communist village and it's Robin Hood mayor. It's a must-read for anyone interested in radical movements like Occupy Wall Street or the Zapatistas." (Critical Theory)

"A fascinating recent history of the region - part prettily written travelogue, part political commentary. A delightful counterpoint to the tales of woe that have emerged from Spain post-la crisis, this story of Marinaleda's battle against all odds to survive self-sufficiently will delight anyone with a revolutionary heart." (easyJet Traveller)

"Citing Orwell's reflections on ''that strange and moving experience' of believing in a revolution,' Hancox offers the reader a rare chance to believe, to relive his own encounter with the village and the mayor who 'drained the capitalist-realist defeatism out of me and carried me halfway back to adolescence.'" (Jacobin)

"In his captivating new book, The Village Against the World,” Dan Hancox shows, in lyrical and penetrating prose, that not only is it possible, but 'an observable fact.'" (Truth Dig)

"This provocative depiction of the vision and tenacity of this social experiment should stretch the imaginations and raise the hackles of progressives and entrenched capitalists alike." (Publisher's Weekly)

"Takes us beyond the wavering attention of the mainstream media to offer a substantive understanding of the actions, politics, history, and daily life of the marinaleños. The marinaleños actions, principles and tenacity are inspirational ... [the book] will ... hold fascination for all those in search of a utopia." (Red Pepper)

"With late capitalist malaise so prevalent and chronic that people have stopped believing in cures, this well-observed account of a village of 2,700 stout souls who think and live otherwise is a tonic." (New Internationalist)

A couple of interviews still online: In Vice Spain, where "the definitive book about Marinaleda has been written". On ABC, Aussie national radio for a long, 40 minute interview, where I was awarded a coveted Koala Badge (really), for being interesting. And most recently, I was on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed.

Numerous buying options here. Spanish version is out now. Korean version to follow.

Thanks to everyone who came to the London and Bristol launch events - I'm talking about Marinaleda at the RSA on Thursday 21 November, 1pm, it's free but ticketed.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Grime ebook round-up: extracts, interviews, reviews, audio

My £1.99 ebook Stand Up Tall: Dizzee Rascal and the Birth of Grime came out as a Kindle Single on Amazon UK and Amazon US a month ago, and I've been overwhelmed by the response (thanks!). I'll remind everyone here that if you don't have a Kindle, there are free, easy-to-use Kindle Reader apps for PC/Mac/iPhone/Android/iPad at those links above.

Here's some of the coverage that followed:

*As a taster, an exclusive book excerpt in The Guardian.

*A thoroughly enjoyable round-table pub discussion I did with Mr Beatnick and Tom Lea for FACT Magazine about grime, Dizzee, and the legacy of 2003.

*An NME piece in which I was asked to tell the story of grime via 5 essential grime YouTube videos.

*A 10 minute interview for the BBC World Service in which I tried to explain grime and its unique London geography, sound and politics to the whole world:

There's also an interview I did with east London local newspaper The Wharf about what grime meant to the area; a decent-sized review in Dummy Mag; another review from the Grime Princess; a great US perspective on Dizzee in this review on Woke Up Late; and selected in Dazed and Confused's books of the week. Get the ebook and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NEW BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT - Stand Up Tall: Dizzee Rascal and the Birth of Grime

In August 2003, in a makeshift pirate radio studio on the roof of a Stratford towerblock, the stars of London's grime scene gathered to show their skills on the mic. A decade later, Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Tinchy Stryder are among Britain's biggest pop stars, while Dizzee's adversary Crazy Titch is serving a life sentence for murder. The towerblock was demolished to make way for the London Olympic site.

Ten years ago this summer, an extraordinary new sound exploded out of London's council estates that would change music forever. While New Labour were flooding urban Britain with ASBOs and CCTV, teenagers like Dizzee looked up at the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf and contemplated their own poverty; telling stories of devastating bleakness, backed by music that shone with the futurism of a brighter tomorrow.

It's entirely possible that Boy in da Corner, Dizzee's Mercury prize-winning debut, was made on a hand-me-down PC donated to Langdon Park School by Lehman Brothers.

Over 15,000 words, this is the story of that remarkable musical moment, seen through east London's unique history of opulence and inequality, violence and aspiration, and how a teenage genius with nothing to lose made the best British album of the 21st century.

Available on Amazon as a Kindle Single RIGHT NOW - or on US Amazon. If you don't have a Kindle, there are free, easy-to-use Kindle Reader apps for PC/Mac/iPhone/Android/iPad at those links. Here's a Dizzee rarity from the old days to keep you company: