Stop shovelling coal: It’s time to set out on a guided life.

 

Listen, engage richly, hold lightly. Have I finally found something smart-arse sounding enough to share with my younger self? If your own worthy roadmap or absent plans for the future are driving you crazy, is it because you still think you are supposed to be driving everything?

So stop shovelling coal into the boiler for a moment. I think I learned something in my travels this autumn.

 

Nico and AY brief the tour at Rome Central and the lovely first lady of Momo and her husband take a tourist moment. Momo surveys Lake Guarda in the morning before the jetty was jetwashed, and Raine and AY act natural later that evening for Danny.

 

Trains are becoming beloved symbols of eco travel. And why I don’t hate them by now is a bit of a mystery to me.

Fourteen months without a car and I feel I should be writing guide books and doing very very low octane BBC4 travel documentaries about life on rails. Which would be an ironic title for any series, given that my most intense period of transportation research this year seems to me now to have been about derailing some of my expectations.

Especially environmental ones. For at least two of those train journeys I had to fly.

Coal-powered steam trains maybe a romantic symbol of travel, but splendidly efficient high-speed electric versions across Japan or Europe feel more symbolic of a clean, public transit future.

Now, I know you’re a bit of a conshy ponderer yourself. But you’re also sensible, and secretly wonder which bits of any revolution are really for you. So I have three travel tips for you if, like me, you are foolishly considering journeying into the future. On some rainy Tuesdays you might be tempted to avoid the future all together, but on the bold Mondays you are determined to forge into it, declaring your reputation as a Changemaker on Linked In, pull up your decentralised underwear, solarpunk voyager, here are my three tips:

Expect to ask for help a lot, expect to look less than your best much of the time, and don’t expect to know which of all the extra documentation you’ve been asked to decode and prepare you will actually be asked for at the border.

Oh and, four: Learn to get zenly comfortable with uncertainty. Because while us individualists are all privately obsessing about power, life is all much more about transition, man.

 

Timo and AY plan the Rome GG Supershow
 

Joining the Battery Tour.

 

My birthday isn’t the reason I love autumn so much. Especially this autumn, because I spent my entire birthday in a brooding mood waiting for various types of bus – taxis, planes, monorails and coaches.

I’ve bored you enough about it over the years. About how I’m grateful to my sometimes dumb, wet little island nation for giving me so much different weather to enjoy, often in one day. Meteorology that transitions obviously all the time. But generally in a temperate part of the globe – this side of the collapse of all the climate systems we’ve ever known – autumn seems to me to be a helpful mental refresh after languid summer moods. The healthy death season that is all about rebirth. A time of change and possibly new shoes.

But this autumn shook up my perspective with more activity than normal, forcing me out into the still Covid-clagged world, ostensibly to drag kit around Europe but really to reset my view of my own world.

For a year’s work with changemaker and music artist AY Young lead me to Italy and Glasgow and to some contrasting examples of how to get things done.

You may have seen me talk about The Global Goals Music Roadshow. God bless you, you may have even seen a bit of it. But you may be wondering why I seem to have paused the work and reputation of Momo to spend time doing it. Well, I can only say that it felt like everything Momo:tempo and Unsee The Future and the emerging Momo:zo have lead me into lead me very suddenly to AY, to his Battery Tour movement, and to helping him make a goofy show about changing the world. Because it simply felt like values and jokes were in alignment, with energy.

Momo sneaks into the press area of M4C while the Rockin'1000 players practice. AY in a Momo tee. For real. On the streets of Milano. In a music video. Showbiz.
 

Developing storytelling skills

 

I can say most practically that I’ve spent this year practicing up some presenting skills and very home-made TV production. Flexing muscles as a live sense maker. This has, yes, paused the central calling and grand plans of Timo Peach to make music as an artist. In fact, music for me has suffered its own little deaths this year, but that is for a forthcoming post.

But, really, I think this is absolutely part of the same journey for me as an artist and human future storyteller. Because it’s hard to imagine many others meeting an imposing figure like AY and understanding a bold alternative vision for human planet business, as well as music making and how to goof off on Saturday Night Live, in anything like the instinctive combination he does. But, yeah… hi.

You’ll know if you followed any of our 34 shows leading up to it that our crazy trip to Italy in October was to be the first time he and I actually met IRL. What would we make of this? Would it break the spell of chemistry we’d worked up so magically, with such confidence of creative generosity on his part, purely over the four-and-a-half-thousand mile wire up till then?

You can see the actual moment in our Live Showbiz Supershow for the World Food Forum in Rome, if you’ve not watched it yet. The genuine actual moment, cheekily a bit stage managed by me. But our whole ten days taking the Battery Tour on the road did shake up everything for us as as this chapter’s team. It has indeed been a bit of a learning transition.

—-

AY and Raine conclude the opening of the Music 4 Climate concert with BRANDING.

 

Seizing a moment, to seize a few more.

 

AY might be the most genuinely star-quality person I think I’ve met. His presence in person is somehow a bit larger than ordinary life to begin with. I actually felt like a bit of a normie in the first hours we were in a room. Me. Such projection of professionalism, goals for getting things done, warm listening to each member of the team, a brief prayer circle – the works. It took me a while to tune into him in the very normal way I had done online for two over thirds of a year as a mate. It might simply be that he had that thing so different to me – the presence of someone training to be a prize fighter. I can guess that growing up black in America gives everyone a headstart in this over the entitled meanderings of a whimsical white bloke.

Whatever combination of talents and experiences AY might bring together in his intention, I grew to observe that he’s not just a street performer-level hustler – the highest, in other words – he thrives in emergency mode.

I thrive in cafe on an evening street in Rome mode. As per the night before.

Now, of course no one is meant to live in emergency mode, even my showbiz changemaker brother AY. You can do it for a project and get things done – like an event schedule with a clear end date. But you can’t live in a hunt & attack  state of mind and not be eaten by adrenalin in the end. I think it’s a big part of global trauma in our era of crisis – how many millions of us are lethargic from helpless drama fatigue?

Which is why doing the GGShow has always felt like an injection of life.

Presenting our live little video podcast always seems to leave me, AY and all our GGGuests feeling better than when they joined an episode. And so I must suppose, our tiny beta audience. Right the way through my travels, not only with the Battery Tour but as a creative host to more corporate events also, I’ve felt some echo of our show with me, talking to us about where the value is in our work.

Looking back, it’s clear that AY knew this was a coming out, or coming together moment for him, the crazy schedule of events he knew was ahead of him around the world, across September, October and November. After ten years of playing, planning, getting out there, developing his vision for the Battery Tour, this was a long series of moments, planned or seized on the go, that he knew he had to throw himself into. To me, this felt like an opportunity the road had led me to, to join in for a bit.

I expected graft. I can do it when the plan is clear. I didn’t expect to show part of my worst self all of a sudden. But I’ll get to that.

The Terme Di Caracalla is imposing even on a Monday afternoon, but transformed for showbiz at night.
 

Building a path as the plans kept morphing.

 

We went to Italy simply because AY was invited, as UN Young Leader and music artist, to open the World Food Forum in Rome. An event produced by the Food & Agriculture Organisation which is based in offices the size of a city block in Rome. But as the dates approached, it became clear that we could possibly make more of getting a whole Battery crew together than show up to film that one event. More even than convince the team at the WFF that doing a live GG Supershow in the incredible Terme Di Caracalla would be awesome and add value to AY’s cache, though we somehow managed this too.

A rail ride away in Milan, Youth 4 Climate was holding a big event. Badged as “Youth COP26” because Italy and the UK were actually co-hosting the upcoming hugely anticipated Conference Of Parties, the few days of speakers and events was culminating in a concert – a concert we blagged our boy AY into.

Hosted by the Rockin’1000 movement, the concert was to feature an evening of famous songs, epically covered by a very big multi-band – ie: a band made up of many bands. This is Rockin’1000’s thing, originally devised as a hell of a stunt to get the Foo Fighters to play in a modest Italian venue off the usual tour trails. It involves a literal “pledge to the click” to deliver everyone in sync, but the sound live is admittedly impressive, and the generally slick production was broadcast by Sky and one of the big Italian telly networks. A big bash of famous Italian music artists I didn’t know, all milling around the portacabins of the VIP zone with us, for which AY opened everything, the sole performer to get a slot sharing his own original music.

And in so doing, to me at least, looked like the only artist there really doing anything.

Except, of course, he wasn’t. Not simply because it is fairer to say, and more fundamentally sustainable to say, that we are all at different stages of awareness and work as we try to face what the climate crisis means to us. But because he was literally on stage with another remarkable music artist known as much for her passionate understanding of environmental and social challenges, Raine Stern. And he was there with me, editing his backing video in my pants in my hotel room the night before. And he was also there with poet, activist and leader shaper Nico Olivieri, who had worked magic to even see this opportunity, never mind negotiate it into our crazy schedule through the Covid haze over all live re-emerging events this year.

The point being, all of us in the crew could see the opportunity in helping AY do a job of being seen in these moments, and we took on less central looking creative roles to seize them together.

If we hadn’t been working in a spirit of listening and collaborating, we would have missed them. And that was not simply an example of energising generosity set by AY’s global perspective, but a philosophy taken gently beyond the clouds by Nico.

Very few event views look like this one in Dubrovnik.
 

Learning from events.

 

What did we get out of it? I see it this way: AY has a gift for opening palace doors.

As we all get invited in behind him, we get to see more of the state of everything – high level business, the NGO sector, the climate movement, all of it. And we maybe get to turn it all into a platform, with a movement’s mentality, that takes the useless pressure off any one of us to be a super saviour, including AY. We were helping to build The Battery Tour. Doing different jobs exploring how to.

It, yes, felt weird not to be the one on stage. Or the one passionately speaking. But in this setting, I had zero cache – and that was fine. It was more than fine, it was significantly instructive. Brought to life most consciously for me by the third person in my partnership with AY – Nico.

I know a thing or two about events. I’ve put them on, helped others put them on, branded them, hosted them, been the central bloke at the front telling the story, been behind the camera as hidden help to someone else’s story. In Italy, in Scotland, and in Croatia and the UK in between Battery Tour work, I was part of a string of events, some of them huge. Each of them gave example of how to produce such experiences, including the traveling event of the Battery Tour caravan itself this autumn.

One of those events, the most corporate in Dubrovnik, was so well organised ahead of the days it was on I felt smoothly slotted in to focus calmly on one job – bring alive the experience as host. And it felt liberating, however strange to spend so much time in other people’s worlds all autumn. In all of the other events, however big, I could smell those familiar cinders from the sparks of last minute panics, COP26 included.

It’s the nature of events, that plans will have to change. Things will go wrong, people will bail, permits will fail and so will technology – bet your life on it. But there is always an issue of energy – what energy you use, what energy you pass on, in making an event and involving others.

The Battery Tour team required a ton of energy, but all of us delivered it in buckets for ten resilient days in Italy because there wasn’t quite a sense of panic. It wasn’t zenly calm either but, in Italy especially, Nico added to AY’s confident spirit of generosity to others by exuding his key value:
 
Holding space to listen for wisdom.

 

Listening for truth.

 

“I’m not much interested in my opinion. Or for that matter AY’s or yours – we all have them. But humans also have this amazing capacity for channelling wisdom – and if we can learn to hold space to listen in to what it’s trying to tell us in any given moment, we will make much smarter decisions. Because we’ll only be doing what is necessary.”

 

Nico said this to me once. In fact, many times in different ways.

I took this on board leading up to Italy. It’s a mental trick of mine to take stock of every step and proceed in at least just the next step’s amount of faith, based on my sense of gentle trajectory. And being as used to projects and events and traveling as I am, I tend to be calm and organised on the go. But Nico helped me bring an extra dimension of intentionality to this. A perfect example being the first full day we were in the country.

Nico, Sabine, their utterly charming boy Aiden, Caroline and I had only met that drizzly morning on the street outside the FAO. It was delightful, our first coffee together in the real world. By lunchtime, on site at the Terme, we had still yet to meet AY who was landing from New York only that morning, but we had already been given the news – now all assmbled from across the world – that we couldn’t do the Global Goals Music Roadshow Showbiz Special Supershow after all. Not on the stage where all the music acts were performing we couldn’t – the venue with the amazing ancient backdrop and all the production pointing at. We couldn’t even film a thing that showed we were on site there. A bit of historic site Italian beaurocracy not weedled out for us before we all spent a fortune getting on planes.

If we DID film here, what we filmed would have to belong to the World Food Forum, as the licence holder. We couldn’t put it on YouTube ourselves.

When I said to the person explaining this all to us that this show was being sponsored by Enel Green Power she turned white for a moment.

I began to calmly think of alternatives, problem solving. Nico took me aside and helped me think out loud.

“Think about it,” he said, “what if we went along with this? Brought to this point, all ready to go, what if we surrender hanging on to it as we had envisioned and took the showbiz chance to film here as a special thing?”

Taking a moment to listen in, before problem solving. That’s what he was doing. And his suggestion in that moment is exactly what we did, with results that are much better than if we’d filmed infront of some bushes that could have been on the Southbourne overcliff.

Very few event moments look like this.
 

Taking the road through the clouds.

 

Running your own business, or even just your own creative practice you might think you are a train driver – toot toot. Expected to keep the wheels turning and everything on track. But you may well be behaving more like the locomotive itself – the big chugging engine dragging the whole train across the country.

There is certainly much about the venturing life that seems to demand endurance.

On an eight-day shoot for a client in Florida once, esteemed creative director and mate Andrew Sheerin once said to me: “You’re a machine!” And he’s another prize fighter in his way. When I know the plan, and have a strong hand in it, I can keep going for a while. Hell, when another esteemed creative director and dear mate and actual sort of prize fighter and definite backing dancer for Peter André, Gellan Watt, took me on his stag weekend skiing in France for the first time ever, I got uncharacteristic food poising on the first night, was wiped out with S&D for 24 hours and got back on the piste at 100 miles an our with still no terrific stopping skills the following day. I’ve never quite been completely consumption hankies and wan faints by the window.

But I’ve had to map out my limits. As anyone half facing the basics of adulthood has to. And a key limitation for me is not one to help my surprising sudden bid here to convince you I belong in the Highland Games. Namely, I can fully personality crash if I feel I’ve lost myself.

As a young man, gosh was I moody. Searching for some equillibrium of self value. As a bloke who’s come to terms with himself and learned to work with people who want a bit of the idiosyncratic value I can add, I came to forget this in the Momo years. Just one or two odd experiences reminded me of it along the way and I didn’t see one coming in Italy. A darkness I couldn’t pull out of at the very end of our time together. The night before my birthday.

I said at the top of this personal post: “Still think you are supposed to be in control of your destiny?” It’s the sort of thing said by gurus who’ve felt the power of momentum. The sort usually leading them to thousands of subscribers and a platform to talk about surrendering to destiny. But I’ve never felt the slightest squeak from the wheels of momentum – when I stop pedalling, the bike stops and I fall off, half way up the hill. Not born to be a fighter, I’ve had to learn resilience to still be an artist with no one watching.

In a weird moment, suddenly distanced from the inspiring group of people surrounding me on a balmy Roman night, I felt lost to myself. Nothing anyone had said, far from it. Perfaps just too much time in someone else’s world. Like dark walls closing in, no place to shine or add my true value – despite running the shows. The Battery Tour isn’t about me, I’m a guest encouraging someone else’s vision and my head applauds this. But for a little techtonic shifting moment, and an embarrassing one, my spirit felt crushed, like running out of oxygen. Or in this case, Momo.

Wisdom doesn’t think like this.

Such experiences are a reminder that my life isn’t mine. Neither is yours. It is actually made of value unseen. Half way up the back side of the hill. Un-arrived.

This is why the seen life drives us all mad. The desire for recognition. It is a life in emergency mode perpetually – if it didn’t get recorded, it didn’t happen. An especial joke for us on that trip, given the Inception level of recording the recordings going on between the production platforms we were working with, filmmaker Danny, social media lead Enya and all of us lot with our phones. But the Must Be Seen life is the antithesis of wisdom. And it’s why I actually felt I could trust and respect AY – he’s always known his job is to be seen, to accomplish things, not his desire. He’s quietly wary of all that showbiz bollocks, it’s simply something he feels he must soberly face. There’s much in there I can relate to.

I’ve never wanted applause for the sake of it. Don’t need the crowd’s love like a drug. And I have strongly never wanted to take someone else’s win – I simply don’t need to. I just function out loud because it’s my gift. And my desire to encourage with the freedom of theatre. But you have to take care of your own self as surely as anyone else’s; you know who’s oxygen mask you are to put on first if you are to be any use to your children when the aircraft window blows.

I think the practical truth as we explore is that new partnership is about finding a new balance – between letting go of your own centrality and not losing yourself in the process. It’s new for me to find myself trying to run with global leaders – never kidded myself to try. Momo is still me in a shed because I appear to value freedom much more than trying to be on The Apprentice, or The Voice. I’m no prizefighter, I’m a playful encourager. Balancing this truth of myself with a vision of the world worth fighting for is my challenge now; knowing how to channel the fight building up in me – and find a team I can fight for.

It’s all the imperfect journey of a limping pilgrim, as surely as any hopes for sustainability. The humbling but burden lifting call of leading a guided life and not trying to keep up with anyone. A call I am overdue to understand still better. Even after all these years of believing that all I have to trade is being myself.

Little deaths, like honest accidental sharings of your true self with new brothers and sisters, are where the road of healthy growth leads, I think. And as if to bring this home forcefully, I was brought up short in recent days by something I heard said with shocking clarity: The ultimate expression of self devaluation, suicide, is perhaps really a yearning for a new identity. A new story of your self at a higher level.

If we’re listening out for wisdom, we’ll find we are not simply in perpetual transition but transformation. The very functioning of life itself.


 

Making the next moment.

 

My experience of Glasgow was something on top of all this. My interpretations of COP26 itself are for another post, perhaps, but I’ll share one observation.

AY was the only one of us with a pass to the hallowed Blue Zone. And, it turns out, the only one of his 17 UN Young Leaders to have one. He said to me: “I realise I am alone in there, bro. There is no one coming but us.” Which is a perspective.

It took a couple of days for me to put my finger on it but I realised I felt a slow, quiet drain in the soul being up there. Splendid as Glasgow is, COP26 looked like a system that doesn’t know how transform itself. The story, the telling of it, the characters in it.

We agreed it felt like a great (overwhelmingly white) cocktail party washed up against the doors of a hallowed Inner Room, chattering and planning and some of them trying to protest for things and some of them having nice dinners all in a lively social energy. And I could picture AY and I breaking into the Inner Room beyond all that to find it… empty. Dark and completely unmanned. Nothing in there.

There is no help coming but us.

It’s an unfair literal image for those pushing hard to get agreements signed and make something of it. But figuratively it’s chillingly true. As sensemaking mate and former GGGuest Rina said to me over text while I was up there: “We must look to the miraculous margins.”

Are we it? I have no idea; I am trying to listen and engage richly with what’s come to me, but hold it lightly.

I can say so far that meeting these guys has been lifechanging. AY’s invitation to help make a show has added a whole dimension of learning I didn’t see coming to all I’ve been lead to do in recent years. And he’s a legend to share time with – I can see a lot of gold to spin together ahead yet. A new creative chapter together. With Nico part of the energy of the Battery Tour’s future, along with diamonds like Raine, Carrie, Enya, Nicolai, El, Danny, Stephen and our own fabulous niece Tara plugging in their passions with us, at least for a bit, I feel  the combination could be portal-to-the-future opening.

I’d hoped that riding along would be more than a break from everyday work for the lovely first lady of Momo, I hoped it would put new fire in Caroline’s heart about her own incredible values and perspective. And it absolutely did; AY has gathered souls of all ages that remind us both there are other ways of doing things, other ways of valuing life out there.

It feels like a diaspora of love for a whole new age for humans on Earth. I’m not overstating how I feel about the experience, and what I hope I can bring back to those already with me in the longing for such futures.

And for all the wonderful creative ambition of AY’s Project 17 taking shape, I think there is something about the magic of the GGShow that is immediately speaking to us about The Battery Tour’s spirit. To break barriers and build bridges – and this can be done as simply as bringing people with different experience together in a spirit of hope, honour and goofing freedom. We saw it happen in all three specials of it we filmed, in Rome, Glasgow and Milan. It was a kind of magic unlocked every time.

And it gets to me like only the more hopeful human tomorrow can.

None of this need mute Momo:tempo. Or Unsee The Future. If anything, tuning in as best I can to what comes next, it feels like it will have the opposite effect on all that, and plans with other beautiful creative sisters and brothers of mine.

For one thing, if I took nothing else from it, I took a sudden dawning realisation that if any three people could take an explosively talented planet cabaret on the road, it would be the possibly genius combination of Raine, me and AY. Is that what the Global Goals Music Roadshow is really going to become?

I’m listening.

In the mean time, I can say this. My next news will be sharing from the heartland of my work as an artist. And you are going to want to hear it.

Oh, and that goofy, hopeful little show is now on Earth X TV – and you can find it here.

If you are dumb enough to want to journey into the future you’ll need help. Lots of it, in the right shape of people – people who get something of what you’re worth. Know you’ll not look your best under pressure always to them. And don’t expect passport control to understand the shifting sands of local Covid regulations much better than you do.

If you decide it’s time to set out I can tell you it may take work, but it won’t be shovelling coal.

WATCH THE GLOBAL GOALS MUSIC ROADSHOW LIVE IN MILAN ON EARTHX TV >

 
 

Coloured perceptions.

 

Does the word “diversity” make your teeth itch? As far as you’re concerned, is the whole idea of it some fake liberal shame tool from back before racism was fashionable in the media again? You are an irascible old thing, aren’t you?

Well, let’s forget all that for a moment because I’d like to simply ask: Where are your roots?

I grew up on the east side of Bournemouth. Southbourne, or South Town as my brother Tim has often called it to sound way more skate, is essentially known for how close it is to the beach. On our daily constitutionals, Caroline and I invariably head up to the Grove and through Fisherman’s Walk to the cliffs, as the district’s Victorian and Edwardian developers healthily imagined we would. They may well have imagined me with my moustache grown out much more, obviously, but with only a few sartorial tweaks, I think Mrs Peach and I would be quite the Edwardian Sobo-ers. (My wife looks great in hats, for one thing.)

But right out the back of my house is another big outside space with a very different character that I had forgotten the town’s founders had also put there – and this weekend I had a boon of a job take me back to it. And, to be fair, in quite a fancy shirt.

Kings Park is a big ol’ bit of green open space behind Boscombe. When I was growing up it was just a driving cut through my dad always took to get across town, and we skirted a bit of it on the way to school on our bikes. It’s also where the Cherries are based – AFCB’s stadium is there, next to the eternal athletics track I spent a couple of sports days hanging around uncompetitively during some of those school days, waiting to be let out to go to art college. It’s a public space I’ve always taken for granted as a bit boring and just there.

Long since closed to through traffic, however, the park has grown into a lovely planted series of big green spaces and trees and a gentle wonder for dog walking and kids weekend sports clubs, winding down to the Littledown. We rediscovered it during lockdown, along with many other outdoor spaces I can’t believe I hadn’t really explored in a life living in the really very outdoorsy town of Bournemouth.

There’s a lesson here about perception – while your attention is so taken with one thing, everything else around you can turn out to be not the place you assumed it was.

 

Worlds coliving.

 

This was perhaps the purpose of World Of Love Festival – to reflect back to Bournemouth a bit more of the town it really is today. Because it’s a lot more colourful than whalebone and tweed and a few nice Japanese prints in a museum.

Bea Sieradzka launched the festival in 2019 as a “celebration of diversity”. Which might make your eye start twitching again as you head to the bowls club, but Bea is two interesting things: Incredibly tenacious and not from round here.

As a language teacher from Poland who’s made her home in Bournemouth, other people representing roots from all around the world really seemed to take to her idea of having a safe space to testify – to share, parade, sing who they are, adding to the mix of all of us living here right now.

“Diversity” sounds rather confected to me now, I’ll confess. It sounds a little unnaturally sweet, even in my liberal white ears, plugging in a years-old World Circuit compilation to the festival PA that weekend.

In conservative coastal towns like Bournemouth, is “diversity” just summer wallpaper, flatly covering up systemically uncomfortable year-round relationships? Does the melting pot just create grey goo? If you’re feeling weary from the culture wars, such events just might seem like parading appropriated histories. You intellectual cynic.

Maybe it depends on how you’ve personally considered the idea of representation.

All I know is, the effect of Bea’s incredible ambassadorial work all over town that weekend felt gently wonderful.

 

Far from ordinary everyday.

 

Introduced by sustainability mate Michael Hancock, Bea commissioned me to host the main stage during the two days.

I said: “I’d love to, but I’m at the stage in my life where I want to encourage different voices and faces to those of Edwardian gents like mine.”

To which she replied, effectively: “Then you’re missing the point. No one is disqualified from representing here.”

Across two mercifully balmy days, groups from maybe thirty different national communities brought together food, fragrances, music, dance and stories into a shared experience there in King’s Park that just seemed to make everyone feel… happy. That was the word I observed hanging over the little festival ground there. No fuss, no stress; everyone just seemed hang out and feel happy.

How wonderful, in the world as it is right now.

It was a calm oasis, away from the news and the social channels.

While I did get to introduce a wonderful range of live acts on the little main stage – from Kletzmer fiddles to Filipino soul, patterned Igbo parades to Mexican skirt swirls, shinkling Indian dance shapes to syncopated Brazillian Samba – Michael’s years in TV production enabled us to grab some of our guests and chat to them a bit on camera also. It may have been a bit South Today, but it was about doing that thing that seemed central to the whole idea of this festival – encourage accessibility to the stories.

I can say it’s something that has clearly become central to my own work too, especially this year.

As the crew from Samba FM introduced me to a radio station in Southampton dedicated to broadcasting global latin voices, or as Cheikh from Afric Arts Drumming said to me: “It’s the children, they will remember this experience”, or as young Onyinye felt moved to simply share from the main stage why celebrating the yam is a central bit of harvest symbolism for her Igbo family, I simply found myself moved that it could feel this natural.

In fact, it all felt a bit like the spirit of the Global Goals Music Roadshow to me, and I said so from the main stage.

But the point is that this is still far from ordinary. The joy and pride that everyone I met obviously felt representing in Kings Park was not disconnected from our current times of resurgent cultural conflicts, far away as all that so wonderfully felt for forty-eight hours. Dropping in to the Dorset Race Equality tent for a chat, one line rang out to me with realism:

“The very same people we are celebrating with all around us today are the same people coming to us for help.”

It’s way too soon to not restate the obvious: When you can put a name and a face to it, racism seems all the more insane. So we have to represent. And in the finer grains of us, the deeper truths of us.

 

We need World Of Love. We need champions like Bea to push for them to happen. To fight for spaces to show love – to demonstrate that it’s something proactive and determined, making experiences that feel like inclusion, not appropriation.

In an era of conflict and crisis, this is how you fashion the resilience of richness. Crucially, right in your back yard.

—-

 

Your own way in.

“We expect extinction to unfold offstage, in the mists of prehistory, not right in front of our faces, on a specific calendar day. And yet here it was: March 19, 2018.”

How are you facing the era of crisis?

Let me ask it better: 

How the hell are you supposed to face the era of crisis?

A story resurfacing in algorithmic eddies I found sobering this beautiful morning: “The last two northern white rhinos on earth”

Extinction. It’s a word we live with too much to feel, I think. But it’s interesting how people reacted to Sudan, this last male white rhino waiting for his end. How they reacted to him when meeting him or just reading of him. It’s clear this stuff DOES get to us;, we DO feel connection – when naturally meeting nature.

And it can be a way in. As personal experiences always are.

Of course, in case you want to sober up from some more personal-feeling grief about the White Rhino, the UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’” is now two years old – so times Sudan by potentially… er,

..one million species.

>checks notes<

A million.

“UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’”

“Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely” says this report, pulling together study data from global govs, NGOs and indigenous groups.

“We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

What are you supposed to do with this world breaking thought? You. What are you supposed to do with this? Me.

With my Battery Tour head on I’d say: What is your own passion telling you?

On the #GGMusicRoadshow we talking about “plugging in your passion, because passion is where change starts.”

It’s the emotional truth of you; the way you really want to first connect with the world around you.

I think it’s the only place to start doing the impossible seeming.

 

Plugging in passion.

This morning made five swims in my local stretch of sea in fewer days. It was like a lake; glassy, calm, etherial. Lastnight a shoal of minnows flashed around me in the shallows. A few UK summer days and climate and Covid alike seem way off. But.

I bumped into a gym buddy on the prom lastnight, in the beautiful evening young people’s paradise of #Southbourne beach on a hot evening. We’re both missing our regular circuits class after 18months away from normal sports centre life. He introduced me to his wife I’d never met.

Sam and John’s daughter is passionate about environmental stuff. Even works for a start-up energy co of some kind. Sam said: “I don’t know anything of course. You don’t think about this stuff normally, do you?”

“You don’t” I agreed.

Then she said: “This will sound silly… but I love cosmetics. Have a real interest in how they are made and what ingredients we’re putting onto ourselves, and in to ourselves with nutrition. Have you heard of #thebodyburden?”

And then she spoke so passionately we all just listened.

Ethical cosmetics, as sustainably packaged and sold as possible, all linked to a rethinking culture about beauty and health and its place in nature.

But she didn’t know anything.

Don’t you believe you can’t do anything. Your life belongs to this world and its dying or blooming.

Have rhinos ended up in cosmetics? Was the last male White Rhino on Earth a dinosaur joining history, or are we about to be, you might ask.

Does this question make you feel passionate?

Where there is passion, there is energy. Where there is energy there is change.

“One million is not just a number — it contains countless living creatures: individual frogs, bats, turtles, tigers, bees, eels, puffins, owls. Each one as real as you or me, each with its own life story and family ties and collection of habits.”

“Together, these animals make up a vast, incredible archive: a collection of evolutionary stories so rich and complex that our highly evolved brains can hardly begin to hold them.”

Cannot recommend this article by @shamblanderson enough.

A decade of The Golden Age

Celebrating a significant birthday at the start of October, in all the complexity of getting here and of the times I find myself in here, for a moment I am boringly mostly just grateful.

It’s not been boring for me, but might be for a post about it left at a thank you list. But little seems great at the moment generally, to put it midly, and for me personally there was a time I could see nothing great at all.

Which, via the long way round, was a period that lead to the inception of my work as Momo and to the coming out of its musical sound – a musical sound first released with a home-made debut LP, The Golden Age of Exploration. And it’s a record that still means a lot to me.

 

 
In a little behind the scenes below, I share just a bit about where I’d come from in arriving at this album. It was a very long way round – over twenty years to drag myself just over the line of something that actually worked and seemed to embody a genuine artistic world. Talk about arriving late, despite trying quite hard the whole way; some people are born cool, some people have cool thrust upon them and some of them will never attain cool but by virtue of sheer blind beligerance make something that sounds at least a bit intentional. This record was a massive sketchbook work-out essentially, unsure what I was intending until I’d feverishly worked it through, but it unlocked me into a new world of music making with confidence and identity. It will always be a big symbol for me.

As I share in this vlog, of the many Momo secret hits from The Golden Age that I’ll never tire of playing out live, perhaps one symbolises the journey in my memory the best – Asylum Seeker.

These are some thoughts more about the personal walk through the development of this piece and the record around it, rather than an exploration of refugeeism. That’s a separate story to consider with art in which my place is to listen, not sing. But for a single example of the place of art in making connection to borderless citizenry, as geographic as emotional, you should follow The Walk of Little Amal from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester in a wave of creativity and testimony through seventy towns and cities. It is ambitious, to say the least, giving voice and visualisation to the human statistics of empty politics. That brokenness and lostness can help the most entitled of us, maybe well used to being heard and seen, glimpse empathy for those forced to make their whole lives testimony to dislocation is the whole point of my own little electro-pop song about looking for home.

 

 

A MIXTAPE FOR TIMO.

My gratitude at reaching the half century in the town I grew up in is actually in how I’ve arrived back here. Not just in one piece physically and emotionally, despite the darkest of sunny summers in generations this year, but having had the lifeblood transfusion of getting to finish a few things all at about the same time. I’ve been working some long hours and slightly obsessive To Do sheets over the last couple of months especially, but projects like Talking Distance and my Science Caketalk, as well as a couple of really interesting projects I’ve been working through consulting with Zo, have given me a nice sense of closure right before a big round number nameday. As I’ve said like a stuck record over the years, finishing things feels essential for learning and moving on. Especially because earning a little celebration at the close of them helps give you a little payback of joy and rest. Damn lucky when that works out.

An extra part of this I should say is a gift from some of my creative family. A reflection back to me of their creativity and how we can encourage each other in our play, our making, trying and exploring – a mixtape, that can really only be described as a variety show of gentle madness and brilliance on a lovingly presented C90 cassette. Arrived in the post on the afternoon of my fiftieth, from Andy Robinson, Simon Brett and a whole gang of people for some reason wanting to sing silly songs at me, or share poetry, or performance, or mixes or just well wishes and tune choices. These couple of sentences do not do this justice, and frankly I never will be able to. It’s floored me in its generosity and encouragement. But if the decade that The Golden Age unlocked could lead me to such family and produce such creativity between us then I should celebrate it. If your work leads you to find people who can hold each other up in the lostness and madness, you’ve been following something good, I suspect.

If you’d like to hear it for yourself, message me and I’ll send you the private link. It’s very entertaining.

Meanwhile, as a final part of my own little bit of celebration and closure before looking forward, I’ve created a loving kit bash of Asylum Seeker – the Decade Defiance Mix, which you can download for free right here, below.

So I am indeed grateful. But there’s nothing boring about it. All these decades in, whether I even get to glimpse the promised land or not, loved ones have encouraged me to feel like I’m only just warming up for the road still ahead.

x.

 

The unreal virus among us.

Were you at or cheering on the Unite For Freedom rally yesterday in London? Ten thousand turned up, it is reported. Pointedly not wearing masks, as symbols of oppression.

Living in a machine that naturally recycles fear at the best of times, it is an impossible mental feat to balance clear-headed concerns in times of crisis. Times of crisis – if they are that – demand reactions out of a normal sense of balance.

I want to share a little basic research that Mrs Peach sourced this morning that I too have been wanting to firm up in my mind a little more – one of the most central claims of the protests against COVID19 social restrictions: It’s less deadly than ‘the flu’.

Being a deep cynic about our current government and conservative trends in politics generally, never mind the more extremes of it driving global conversations at the moment, I felt for months that official Covid figures in the UK couldn’t be trusted. Liked GPs mentally adding a third to patients’ weekly alcohol unit claims. Perhaps you have been mentally doing the reverse, like those of uswho’ve said, with a tempting swoop of a cloak: “But do you actually KNOW anyone who’s had it though?”

All our understandable gossips aside, on the far side of the first summer with this disease I’m here comparing some key reported figures we’ve found. Different sources, admittedly, but fair ones in context, I think. Also, for both Covid19 and ‘normal’ influenza, England is by far the lion’s share of the cases across the UK nations, so I’m going to quote those figures, to keep it a degree simpler for essential illustration of the main point.

Links to the official spreadsheet and report are in the comments below for your reference. The Office of National Statistics reports deaths registered officially between Gov.uk and NHS England as 49,460. Of over 300,000 reported cases. across the whole UK.

Gov.uk’s official flu report for 2018/19 (which we’ve picked to steer clear of any Covid reports muddling more recent data) says, at the bottom of p51, the worst year for cases of flu recently was 2014/15 at 28,330. Less than a thousand of those deaths were of people under the age of 65. The report year itself recorded a bizarrely low figure of less than two thousand but an average number of deaths from flu in England in the last five years must be a little less than 20,000PA.

Remember too, the Covid19 figures of people who have died from the disease are for a lot less than a year of recording yet – essentially half that time. And these figures I believe don’t include indirect deaths. Note also, this has happened in distinctly not flu season. When our immune systems are stronger.

I would honestly add to this comparison also that the demographic for Covid deaths is widely reported as significantly different to that of normal flu – while kids seem very unlikely to get it, fatalities are markedly more spread across the ages than flu. And, anecdotally, while some who’ve had the disease have reported little trouble from it, many have conversely reported not just how unpleasant it is but how weirdly long lasting, still feeling knocked for six by it months later. Medical folk, please wade in with testimony and evidence here. But I’m concerned we are in danger of concocting simplistic narratives to suit our fears about SARS CoV2 and the disease the virus triggers.

It’s not the flu, as we’re used to dealing with it. It seems a lot more serious. I’d say, as ever, spend time talking to NHS workers who’ve been dealing with the disease whether they think the phenomenon is a hoax.

I’ll confess I’ve not gotten around to watching the London Real exposé on all this, with David Icke’s perspective fairly central to the thesis. I would say his words at the rally on Saturday: “Anyone with half a braincell on active duty can see it (the virus) is a nonsense, because they (the government) are making it up” seem to not fit the human loss represented in the recording of it above, or indeed around the world. Yes, I have homework still set me by friends to hear what the thesis is about where the disease did or didn’t come from, whether it is or isn’t real or natural. I do know that Brian from London Real Academy has sent me half a dozen promotional emails a day since I had to
subscribe to his channel in order to watch the exposé YouTube and Facebook took down.

My instinct here, as it has been all through our Brexit debates, is to ask: What is the fruit of the idea? Whose company does an idea keep or encourage; who seems emboldened by it and who is diminished. As with any political momentum, I think we should be asking: Who has the power here?

Who will benefit, what will we the people gain, and what might we lose?

I won’t call this a march of loonies and cranks and I’ll just about manage to stifle, by stuffing a kitchen cloth into my mouth, saying the march looked like a collection of right wing groups gathering. That’s the reactionary liberal in me. It was, I think, only one bloke who unfurled the Union of British Fascists flag and it could be mistaken for a 30s superhero logo and maybe that’s why it
seemed to go unchallenged by the crowd.

I do think this is more evidence of things we are all wrestling with as a society in this era. Massive corporate influence over world markets, assets and governments? Duh – obviously. Threats to civil liberties in a digital era? You tell me, Alexa. Shite-ton-a questions over vaccines produced in an unsafe timeframe by big pharma? What are we even fighting about? People waving placards saying: “Love and freedom to all”? I’ve always said you libertarians just want an unconditional hug. I’m in. And a corrupt decadent elite, cultivating the abuse cultures while the world burns? It’s not exactly a big imaginative ask, is it? And the strain to local businesses and everyone’s mental health
from suspending business as usual? Huge, but complex.

We’re in a global economic system I would describe as sickening and seizing-up . I’ve come to see it fundamentally. We are out of balance with the natural systems that made everything we have, and it’s a problem so fundamental and so big that few of us can take it in, let alone feel the impact of it emotionally. It’s different details of injustice that tend to hit home, I think.

If there is any fundamental waking up to do, I wonder if we’re more of us beginning to but to different aspects of the world machine’s problems, at different times. Different imperatives get us questioning our priorities.

And I take some comfort in how compassionate values are mixed up with more extreme rhetoric unconsciously. Vegan libertarians speak up. But also, keep following and joining the dots. Who is really around you, and who is missing?

My worry about narratives like those of Saturday’s rally in London is the over-simplification of medical and scientific issues, in a conflation of widely-shared fears and very specific more conspiratorial details. What rights our governments may attempt to lever into place during the
pandemic should concern us – as surely as the unelected technocrats trying to run them, like Dominic Cummings. We should be as angry at the undemocracy of that as of the cavalier treatment of British citizens. The narrative arc of Mr Icke’s story reads like a Dan Brown novel, like a season structure from a drama writers’ room looking for the right balance of centres of gravity and character to make it work.

Its effect too is an eroding of trust in the methodology of science, because for all the intellect wrestling with these issues in QAnon-type spaces, our own placards reduce the story to “antivaxing” “anti masks” “anti-5G” “anti-Bill Gates” “anti-global health organisations” “antigovernement”. Really, the networked “demon-haunted world” as Carl Sagan described it, is too easily dangerously
anti-complexity. Pro-gaslighting. Whether it’s populist politicians or consumer product placement. A demanding of you that something is what it isn’t.

In my bones, it didn’t feel like my home I saw articulated and represented yesterday, and it didn’t feel like freedom for me they were championing. But that’s how we all feel about someone’s protests, in their right to do so. Why should I feel so differently about this march compared with others I have attended myself – most noteably just a couple of blog posts back? From the story I currently think I’m in, I’d say the Unite For Freedom rally was a lot more pro-status quo than many folk on the march would like to hear themselves saying. I also believe it is part of sharing the working out of massive, new foundational times for all of us, and I mainly know that I don’t know very much, really. And also truths will out in time.

I think we’ve all grown up in an unreality in the West. But I think we’re being offered alternative unrealities as lifeboats. When we’re many more of us marching not because “MASKS ARE MUZZLES” but for values that would help someone else with their oxygen supply before attending to our own, then I’ll feel we’re going to get revolution from this current insane world.

David Icke called the “real” virus among us fascism. I’m at a personal stage that whenever I see it, I will call it out and stand with those who energise me about a truly healthy, hopeful, accountable human tomorrow.

 

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash.