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Posted on 8th January, 2013

Manna Langar, Terry Pitt's Allstars Jazz Band,

Cartier-Bresson, and 'McCullin' documentary.


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Preparing food at Northampton's Manna Langar, held at the Open Door Centre, Kettering Road.

Friday 4th January saw the 1st birthday of Manna Langar, an event operated by one of the Northampton charities I've been working with, the Open Door Centre. To be more precise, it's run in partnership by the ODC and a local councillor, Ifty Choudary. Manna Langar (meaning 'food from heaven' I believe) would probably be thought of as a soup kitchen by some, but it's different in that anyone and everyone in the community can turn up for a free, filling and wholesome meal. It also serves as a sociable environment, promoting inter-faith dialogue and greater community spirit. Obviously, I took a few pics to record the occasion as part of my ongoing project. Even so, I did feel a bit surplus, as the big boys from BBC Radio Northampton, and, Northampton Chronicle and Echo, both showed their faces.


Sunday 6th was a day in London. Firstly to The Globe pub in Hackney, for it's usual Sunday lunchtime attraction of great trad jazz, this time courtesy of Tony Pitt's Allstars. I felt honoured in that the cornet player of the band, Mike Cotton, obviously noticed me taking pics at some point, and came over for a chat during one of their breaks. Telling me he was a Nikon user, and heavily into bird photography, he'd been preparing for a photography trip to Hertfordshire that very day, only to be diverted to The Globe at the last minute by Tony Pitt. Regarding the jazz itself, it was especially interesting to catch up with clarinet / baritone-sax player Roger Myerscough, who I'd often seen with Phil Mason's New Orleans Allstars before their demise. That demise happened in 2010, and it's amazing how fast that time has gone. Not only that, but I discovered that Tony Pitt himself had been the banjo player with the band from 2007, yet I'd never seen him in that role. I can't believe then, that the last time I saw Phil Mason's band was over 5 years ago. The most disturbing thing I found out though, was the reason why the band did come off the circuit, with Phil Mason now sadly being in very poor health.


It's an amazing thing about The Globe pub, in that they really are part of the local community. They'd dedicated the whole event to a wonderful old fella called Roy, as a party for his 80th birthday that he'd reached on the Thursday before. But it wasn't just those who knew Roy that were allowed to get involved: even rare visitors like myself were treated to the fantastic free spread that hosts Gill and Steve had prepared. Best thing of all, Roy was up for a few snaps, and as he's a great example of the colourful local characters that frequent the place, it was a typically valuable bonus that a visit to The Globe offers: worth the journey just for that.


Next stop, it was Somerset House for the 'A Question Of Colour' photo exhib. This features Henri Cartier-Bresson and a collection of others who practise a similar style, which I suspect falls under the (very imprecise) category of 'street photography'. Cartier-Bresson's exhibits were not bad, if hardly exciting. But they were at least more interesting than the vast bulk of the remainder, with just one picture, 'Spring Corner, NYC' by Melanie Einzig, making me feel inadequate: most of them just reinforced my opinion that we're fed much dross under this title 'street photography'.


Still, onto better things at Curzon Cinema, Soho, for the documentary about the world-famous British photographer Don McCullin. Aptly titled 'McCullin', it's a 96-minute potted history of McCullin's photographic career, from early days taking pics of Finsbury Park gangs, through east-end homeless, many years of conflict and war, and finally Somerset landscapes. With McCullin best-known for his war-zone images of course, it's there that the film concentrates, and for me, with horrific impact. I knew before I went that this would not be a Sunday-afternoon stroll, but even so, I was not prepared for how sickened I'd feel. Not with the main messenger of course, but with the content of his still images, the film footage, and the accompanying narratives. So upsetting did I find it in fact, that I was wishing that each conflict dealt with would be the final one: I wanted to move beyond his experiences of war, and onto the landscape pics he now takes as rehabilitation to the world of (relative) sanity. That's right: even though landscapes do nothing for me, and I detest freezing weather, was I pleased to see the snow-covered Somerset countryside! Overall then, an uncomfortable experience, but not one I'd have missed for anything: Don McCullin is a humble and honourable man, and for me will always be a hero, an inspiration, and to be revered.


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