Opinion

Colonialism: how to resist and change

Vikings are part of our history of colonialism
Viking by Jonathan Farber from unsplash

I was intending to write something that explained my frustration that 1700 years ago, someone invented Britannia Superior, Britannia Inferior and us, “The Barbarians”. British government, media, art, culture, and local collaborators, with few exceptions, still profess that ignorance.

I shout at the radio when someone says “north of Hadrian’s Wall”  meaning Scotland, without knowing it goes along Shields Road; and associate themselves with the “civilised” invader, not the resisting Briton. I grimace when people think that we are Vikings “because we are north”; think we need their elocutionary education when we had electric light, proper mass transport, posh shops and high wages first. I end up swearing under my breath….

So, colonialism…apologies but….

B*llocks to the Romans. B*llocks to the Vikings. And the same to the Normans, the Scots, the English, the French.

B*llocks to the pre-Raphaelites, Akenside, the Trevelyans and the Ridleys. B*llocks to the Baltic, the Sage, the Lit and Phil. Double B*llocks to the Tyneside Cinema. And to the Universities management; especially the Poly.

B*llocks to the Council, the LA7, the “North of the Tyne” that isn’t. B*llocks to the Newcastle-Gateshead lack of Initiative. And to the Ouseburn, the hipsters, the foodies, the frauds. The same  to the destruction of an integrated transport system. And to Northumbria ‘cos it never even existed It’s Bernicia and Deira.

B*llocks to no lighting on the Tyne Bridge and to the 3-year pavement programme outside the Civic Centre. And to patronising vox-pops. B*llocks to a media that isn’t allowed to ask questions about hotel finance or government manipulation. And to a system that allows licenses for pubs that deal drugs against police advice. Also to an arts sector that doesn’t engage. B*llocks to fake vintage history that was lies when it was first told. And to the new religions of dogs and gardening.

B*llocks to the old religions of subjugation, ignorance, abuse and fear. B*llocks to Identity Politics that sets us against our brothers, sisters, uncles and cousins. Also to bicycle politics, car dependence and bus stops shifting. B*llocks to bumpkins who fear our city’s people. And to estate-agent-created suburban curvy street-ed no shop mazes. B*llocks to uncoordinated, contradictory planning policies that change 100 yards north of the Four Lane Ends. And to queues for Deli’s and foodbanks in Heaton, but just to queues for foodbanks in Benwell.

B*llocks to ignorance, despair, fear and loathing. And to kids in Roman uniform, remember the invader dealt out “tactical genocide”. B*llocks to £5 loaves of bread on Chilly Road. And to orange chunks in southern beer. B*llocks to “Real Ale Tw*ts” with pastel-coloured cans. Also to champagne bar ignorance and coke in their bogs. B*llocks to academics drawing down funding for conferences that give them a reason to have a meeting to get invited back to another meeting somewhere else.

B*llocks to no pubs in the West End. B*llocks to no good pubs and no-good pubs. And to graffiti art and horse riding without Draymen. B*llocks to street food and £8 burgers. Also to no mince-n’-dumplings after 4pm. B*llocks to the Central Station portico vandalism. And to the Great Exhibition of the North and Kynren. B*llocks to people who’ve never been to Blakelaw. B*llocks to the lot of you, especially to me and mine who let this happen ‘cos we were too busy having a laugh.

A statue of our history of colonialism
A woman about be be raped and killed by the Emperor Claudius Photo by Bill Corcoran

So, let’s change …

Change the Baltic into the World Centre for Industrial Art, change the Laing so it tells the story of John Martin and the Promethean’s who made our world. Change shops into homes, homes into communities and communities into a Commonwealth of Dignity. Change the school dinner halls into evening community feeding hubs so that, once the kids have had their free breakfast and dinner, everyone can come for tea. Change the doctors so they prescribe companionship and service not chemicals, desperation and lies.

Change the bad pubs into community Clubs. Change the field near the airport into the new Newcastle Breweries and Bring Back Broon – and Scotch and Ex. Change the Central Station portico back so your granny can get a taxi, safe and dry. Change the ownership of Newcastle United into something that invests into the community, develops the game in the youth and gets our women’s team playing professionally at St. James Park. Change the Quayside Beach into the Newcastle United Cultural Festival.

Change Foodbanks into mobile community pantries. Change “Tyne and Wear” and the “North East” to Tyneside and Wearside, recognising that they won’t listen to us, and we won’t ever listen to them. Recognise that the frontier at Leam Lane holds Bernicia and Deira separate still, and amend the LA7 accordingly. Change cultural accessibility by letting people apply for lottery funding with Civic Centre office assistance and fund it by the permitted 10% commission. Change town twinning so all people from a different place can invite educational, economic or tourist visits from back home to our new home.

Change the West End into the culinary tourist community experience that it is. Change the received history so we know who resisted and defeated the Romans, howked the Vikings, fought the Normans, defended against Scots and French and nailed Wallace’s B*llocks to the Castle Door. Change the Latin togas to Northumberland Plaid. Change the gin and tonics to schooners. Change Fenwick’s so it’s better than Gallerie Lafyette. Change the busses and Metro’s into talking hubs with conductors and flexibility. Change the Lit and Phil into what the Mining Institute should have been, and whilst we’re at it change the Mining Institute into what it should be.

Change the angle of our heads so our people look up not down.

Change our region into a place where our 22-year-olds don’t have to leave because we market the regional expertise in affordable-efficient-caring-happy-living into the designs that change the world again. Change the message so that our extreme friendship is a treasured natural resource and our work ethic known and respected.Change the accent of our media, commerce, culture and government to something that sounds like us so our people have confidence in themselves. Change our past, our present and our future.

Decolonialise …

Regional and municipal decline is not and never was inevitable. All over the world, mega-cities try to solve the problems that we here shrug off as obvious. The point of life is love, laughter and dignity. We know how that works. Our problem is that we are colonised by Whitehall, patronised by Manchester and ignored by Edinburgh. Getting Tynemouth and the Ouseburn into Conde Nast isn’t anywhere near enough.

We need our songs, our food and drink, our art, history, culture, education and economy. Then we need our municipal leadership to look them in the eye and make them listen by telling them we’ve done these things, that we don’t need them, that we’re not a colony any more. Cos next time, we may not save the English from the Scots; and the Scots from the Romans. Howay the Lads!

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