Tag Archives: security

Glasgow Film Festival and Being Watched


I wanted to come back to report excitedly about my experience. I say on my other blog how I rate the Glasgow Film Theatre – which I chose to start that blog off – which is the chief venue and organising body for the festival.


What I’m most left with is not the films I saw, which I will review below. I was only able to see a couple, but I was annoyed by a woman in the queue who chastised my effort for not seeing more – like her, who’d come to something each day. I told her I’d travelled 500 miles (like the native Proclaimers) so I’d made a considerable commitment.


The aspect I remember most was two informational statements, not mentioned previously, so I’d travelled my 500 miles and bought my tickets BEFORE seeing this.


The brochure – which didn’t arrive in the post – warns you that there’ll be promotional photography. It doesn’t say what the posters in the cinema do – that it’s assumed you give you consent for your face to be used publicly by being there.


This happens too often – from campaign meetings to concerts, the intrusive camera appears. Did I sign up for this? And you should never do so by default, or by tiny small print that you have to chase round the website for but isn’t on printed materials.


With the prevalence of social media, we can feel compromised. The right not to appear on a photo and the right to know where and how it’ll be used are common courtesy and ethics of photography. I attended a wedding where the invitations asked that we didn’t put photos on social media. I admired my friends and gladly complied – I’ve made a decision to stop using those sites (I share why on this blog). We’re obsessed with gaining permission for children’s photos, but it seems that adults are the reverse.


Well, I do control my image and have the right to know where it is – as well as the sound of my voice. Asking a question shouldn’t mean I am being recorded and pasted on YouTube.


You can see how this can be misused – the violent ex partner, the unscrupulous debt collector (that’s most of them in my view, by essence), the nosy and the creepy in your life. And it makes our government’s spying easier. They can see who speaks out at conferences, who supports subversively political films, and who on benefits seems to have the money for things they consider frivoloous.


The other part is related and is even worse. We’re used to seeing warnings as a film starts regarding people filming for piracy. We’re used to those long adverts at the start of DVDs – preaching to the converted, we’re already watching a legit copy!


Those of us attending cinema and especially film festivals are supporting the industry and care about it. Like music, I abhor rip off copies. I want the artists to get their rightful dues (not the fat cat companies so much). I am an artist myself. I know that living from your craft is often difficult and that you want fair remuneration and control over your long labours.


But I don’t need to be filmed in the cinema on low light cameras whose red eyes like a malevolent spider utterly spoiled the film felt . An arts cinema too – ‘cinema for all’, a well loved community cinema. A cinema that represents and proud and free thinking city.


We’re sick too of searches – hence I didn’t pop in the BBC/Concert Halls on Candleriggs due to a sign “In the interests of security, we carry out searches on our visitors – thank your for your patience.” But it’s not [just] the waste of my time, it’s the intrusion that I mind. Why, from going to the Olympics to airports, parliaments and national museums (happily not Edinburgh’s) and clubbing do we get subjected to this – and why should we? The assumption that a few bad people have made us all suffer, that we won’t mind if we’re not up to anything, that it’s good that the people are being caught….

NO, none of that works. I am sick of the ugly cameras – cf the indie film Crimefighters, set in York – peering out, recording my image, detailing where I’ve been, what I wore, who I was with.

No nose scratches or pulling up your tights, no fumbles with your partner in film festivals.

And no, GFT, these cameras were not in any of the other many film festivals I have been to.

They say take piracy incredibly seriously. I take violations of my basic human rights incredibly seriously.

Worse than claims over preventing crime and terrorism (often which are political as much as for our safety), this is about money and property.

Ironically, there was a Surveillance strand at this year’s festival. The organisers don’t seem to see that irony. Arts are there for questioning as well as enjoyment. Why are you perpetrators of what you are exposing?


Oh, and the films. They are secondary now. Winter was about a Scottish drunkard with mental health issues – the lead actor was far better than those playing his “We’ve got special English theatre accent” sons, their lover and irritating psychiatrist mum. It showed how patronising and ineffectual mental health services can be, but then the outcome seemed to support the procedures. Starting late didn’t help my enjoyment either. The last time I came to GFF, a film was 40 mins longer than advertised and really messed up my day.


I saw a largely excellent film called The All/Brand New Testament. God is living in Belgium with his wife and daughter. Jesus is a statue who talks to his sister – the actual Jesus seems to be missing, from the family table at least. God is a bully, working in a huge secret office on a computer, creating suffering and enjoying doing so. When his daughter finds out, she confronts him and he beats her, and she breaks into the computer again and does something that starts the world changing… She calls her own disciples and writes their stories. Meanwhile, God is giving chase via the magic washing machine she escaped out of, but he doesn’t do too well in the real world. And Mrs God is having a spring clean – which will change the universe as we know it. Sometimes facetious, very European, often funny, sometimes profound (though not as often as it might have been) and with an excellent ending.


I’d like to see some spring cleaning and a new computer program regarding our search and watch culture. How far do we let it go? When would we speak out? It’s already too far. GFT claimed that all this isn’t an issue with their audience. It ought to be – and if you mind about something, do say, and don’t let them be able to pretend that those who speak out are a minority.




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Hovel(l)s, homelessness and hope

On a prime spot on attractive historic streets filled with the independent shops and cafes is something that makes more than my eyes sore.

It is not just happening in this city.

People who have known Norwich a while will likely think of the shop on the corner of Bridewell Alley and Bedford street as Hovell’s. The basket makers come furniture department store ran for over a century, almost as well known as the Mustard Shop that used to be next door. It is a multi levelled building, larger than the exterior appears. Since Hovell’s moved out, it has been mostly empty – for over 4 years. A series of fashion boutiques at last filled the vacancy. But within a couple of weeks, the doors were heavily padlocked and a bailiff notice served from the landlord with breeze blocks around the entrance.

Builders came in and there’s a for sale sign from Arnold Keys, but with such a landlord, who would want it?

This makes me especially angry, for the unnamed landlord called in the Sheriff’s office of Croydon before trading had got off the ground. It’s a problem too common in times of hardship and debt, where owners try to exact power over others, using money and law as leverage. And it’s ugly.

In walking distance is a former office block on Rose Lane, perhaps not Norwich’s prettiest building, but it did have some thought to local architectural trends. Now with metal grills over every opening, the building is uglier than it ever was in use. A man was at the reception desk late at night, and there were signs about 24 hour security and police dogs.

Further up the street was a bunch of regular homeless people.

As around the world, there are many people out of work, struggling in their own businesses, suffering from government cuts, and who live on the streets. All of those could benefit from those empty premises, which someone has found the money to defend and have watched, yet not offer low or even no rents to those who need them.

The effect is uglier than the dereliction itself.

I’d like to see the council wrest ownership and offer fair terms that don’t involve paid bullies. Both owners should be ashamed.

Hope is an act of defiance

On the old Hovell’s building is some graffiti, in beautiful script, which says  “Defiance is an act of hope”.(I preferred the reversed version – “Defiance is an act of hope”). These and similar messages (another was “Resistance is Fertile”). appear only on places that are being repainted, or on skips That message, more attractive than the empty building, indeed gives hope. I hope that the landlord and sheriffs read it and act accordingly.

Ironically, this article was accepted 2 months ago for local Triangle magazine, who now declines as the editor ‘wasn’t comfortable’ with questions about pay and copyright. This is another issue I address elsewhere.

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Empty Listed Buildings

Mentioning Chelmsford’s Marconi factory has prompted me to write about dead buildings left to rot by the owners, sometimes I think to gain money from the land and save money by taking responsibility in maintaining it. In Bristol, a graffitied concrete block in Stoke’s Croft stood with even the blowup inside deflated, spoiling the view of Georgian Nine Trees Hill (though perhaps ironically fitting for the area).

However, there are buildings which are architecturally/historically important and which mar a more serious view. I had long noticed a light brick kind of Queen Anne style building from the train at Chelmsford. I meant to go an investigate when I was there last. I am glad I did not make my way to New Street as I would have been met with a sorry boarded up building – one of Chelmsford’s very few (see my post on the Diamond Jubilee Cities).  I discover that this attractive building is surprisingly an Edwardian radio factory, important nationally as the venue of the very first broadcast. The daughter of the local pioneer Marconi spoke earlier this year to the BBC about her disappointment over the factory’s state – it not just in memory of her father’s  achievements, but for the town. There is a society of former workers who also feel insulted by the decaying building, often broken into.

The factory went into receivership and the firm replied to the BBC’s secret filming article that they had taken new steps to improve security and keep squatters out already. But they miss the point – the building should be maintained and used. I have a shocking suggestion – what about making it a radio factory again? with a visitor centre about the Marconi story.

Another example is in Norwich of a late 17th C house on King Street which has stood empty since 1960s. Howard House was the garden house of the Dukes of Norfolk and has an important staircase. Plans were made for the surrounding area, once a spectacular gardens of the house, but the development fell through in the mid 2000s. Now the semi cleared site remains with buddleia growing through concrete, and they’ve not even been allowed to use the land for a community garden. The scaffolding over Howard House grows each time I see it, blocking the lane and apparently putting off businesses. In an attractive street which is working hard to throw off a former red light district image and be a nice place to live and visit, this is really not helping.

The recievers claim they have no plans to do anything for a decade – which may be too late to save Howard House.

I think receivers should be compelled to sell to the council or a heritage group for renovation and reopening or maintain the property. If you take responsibility to administer assets, you have to look after them. Security cameras and waterproofing and window boards are not enough – they are all ugly.

I urge a change in the law to this end, and if there’s a dead building near you that you care about, fight for it to be cared for and reopened, and not left to rot.

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