Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Our Neighbourhood, Our Issues & Our Attitudes

Ours is a city, like many others, with many complex social issues. Issues of addiction, prostitution, binge drinking, street violence, dysfunctional abusive home environments, unemployment and homelessness are all evident without having to look very hard.

We can either choose to ignore the issues, eradicate the issues with draconian laws or vigilante behaviour; or work together taking responsibility not just to make things appear better, but also to make a meaningful difference.

These issues do not become problems over night, neither will they be solved overnight. Our city is served by several agencies supporting those with issues of addiction - all of which have very dedicated staff working flat out amid increasing demand. We also have the reality of a local social services system that has been on special measures in the recent past, where again dedicated social workers are pushed to the limits with high case loads. Cutbacks in policing are possible and the increase in the number of licenced premises, 24 hour availability of alcohol in supermarkets and corner shops do little to encourage constructive changes in the way people behave and how we challenge and change antisocial behaviour.

The heroin addict sticking a needle in his arm, on the pavement as kids walk past on their way to school in the morning, has a moral responsibility of choosing where he or she injects. But the responsibility is to be shared across the whole community. The same principle can apply to those who choose to issue licences for alcohol to be served 24 hours a day in a corner shop or to withdraw funds from essential services that are tackling very ugly issues.

The reality is we need to wake up and smell the coffee folks. There is only so long a self centred, money grabbing, ego tripping culture can survive before the wheels fall off. The ugly nature of many of our social problems are what happens when society loves things and uses people, rather than loves people and uses things.

Maybe writer G.K. Chesterton was right when he wrote in response to The Times’ invitation to write an essay on “What’s Wrong With The World?”. Dear Sirs, I am.

Friday, November 05, 2010

THE SOUNDTRACK TO THE HEARTBEAT OF ZAC'S PLACE (Part 1) - featuring clips from Rick Elias & Rachel Taylor-Beales

Since the beginnings of Zac's Place way back in 1998 in a smokey Swansea basement bar, music has had an important role. These days we don't get chance to put on many gigs, (Barry McGuire recently), but for the first seven years much of what we did revolved around weekly sunday night gatherings in four different bars with great live music an integral part of the communal gatherings.

Coming up over the next few weeks I'll put a few posts up with video and maybe audio clips looking at some of the artists who we have had the pleasure of sharing the journey with. They'll include seasoned pro's and emerging artists who have since matured into established musos in their own right, artists from this city and overseas, genres of folk, rock, metal, dance and jazz - who do you remember, what would you like to see and hear again.

As a starting point here's two clips - one from Nashville based Rick Elias who I met, via Sam Horner, when he was gigging in the UK with A Ragamuffin Band. Rick kindly returned to play two songs on our TV shows with HTV Wales and also in the bar. Here's a recent home recording of his, of an old song 'Blink'. Enjoy.

Of all the cries that come from within the spirit of folks at Zac's Place is is, 'please don't push me away, don't forget - don't pass me by'. The following recording of Rachel Taylor Beales live at our HQ in 2008 shares the angst, frustration and the search to make sense amid the chaos. Rachel and her husband Bill continue to be great friends and inspiring artists, based in Cardiff - 'Please Don't Pass Me By' ....

Check back in the coming weeks for some more clips and don't forget to check out John Smith's podcast - where there is his message from the night with him guesting back in August ....