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John Broven

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the South of England Show in Ardingly in 1984 which our writer attended. Photo courtesy Mid Sussex Times/SussexWorld.co.uk

By John Broven

It was like a “JFK” or “9/11” remember-where-you-were moment when the news broke Thursday, just after 1:30 p.m. EST: “Queen Elizabeth II has died.” For this Brit expat, it was a big shock even though she was 96 years old. Only two days before, she had held the “kissing the hands” ceremony with new prime minister, Liz Truss (C). 

John Broven Photo by Diane Wattecamps

It became clear the queen’s loss was being felt far beyond the United Kingdom as tributes poured in from every corner of the globe, signaling the enormous impact of a 70-year reign during which she performed her often centuries-old duties with wisdom, dignity, gentle good humor and an essential mystique.

The new King Charles III, her son aged 73, caught the moment when he said in a statement, “I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”

I am a member of the knighted Mick Jagger-Elton John-Paul McCartney generation (where did I go wrong?). It was Jagger who summarized our thoughts when he tweeted, “For my whole life Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, has always been there.” And now she isn’t. The second Elizabethan era is over.

The queen’s death Sept. 8 in Balmoral, Scotland, has been covered extensively by the media. Briefly, she was born in Mayfair, London, on April 21, 1926; married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh her pillar of strength on Nov. 20, 1947; became queen of the U.K. and other Commonwealth realms on Feb. 6, 1952, also head of the Church of England; was a working mother with four children including Charles; and owned a string of corgi dogs and racehorses through the years.

Such basic facts obscure the sweeping social and economic changes she saw in her reign, without revolution or revolt, from postwar austerity and the Swingin’ ’60s through to post-modern Britain, even as the sun set on the old British Empire. Soon the currency notes, coins and postage stamps bearing her likeness will be phased out and replaced. 

Personal reflections? My first big memory was in relation to the death of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, in 1952 while she was on a trip to Kenya, East Africa. I was in Mrs. Vidler’s class at Polegate Primary School, East Sussex, and you could hear the proverbial pin drop when we were told “the king is dead.” A dark February Wednesday morning became even darker. In our childhood grief, we had no idea nor cared that the queen’s first prime minister was Winston Churchill. She was only 25 when ascending the throne. 

The coronation did not take place until June 2, 1953, but what a glorious affair it was with celebrations in every city, town and village. Some 20 million viewers were able to watch the glittering, expensive ceremony from Westminster Abbey live on television, with many households including ours buying their first TVs, in black and white.

As Jagger indicated, the queen was a constant, whether for the annual Christmas televised message that highlighted her strong Christian faith, the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, the Royal Ascot and Epsom Derby horserace meetings, or various other occasions. 

I saw her in person twice, both during my management spells at Midland Bank, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, in the 1970s and ‘80s. The first occasion was when she visited the neighboring headquarters of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind. Imagine my surprise when I was walking to my car after work and, with nobody else around, she passed by me in the royal vehicle with no motorcade or security guards in sight. I swear she gave a little regal wave. The next time was when she presented prizes at the South of England Show in Ardingly, where the bank’s meet-and-greet pavilion gave us a ringside view. There was a majestic aura that seeped from her as she beguiled everybody at the agricultural showground — as she did elsewhere in a long lifetime of public service.  

King Charles III 

What of King Charles III, who represents continuity and has made a promising start to his reign. An often unfairly misunderstood man, he has been ahead of his time on environmental matters, wildlife preservation and climate change. His views on architecture were more controversial if personal. On a different level, his image was severely dented by the disastrous marriage to Diana, with whom he had William now heir to the throne as Prince of Wales and current-U.S. resident Harry. Charles married longtime flame Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 and she is now queen consort. Time has gradually healed the British public’s disdain toward them both.

It is not widely appreciated that Charles founded the Prince’s Trust. For a while I was a trust business counselor in Ashford, Kent, and can attest to the value of the scheme for young entrepreneurs. Another factoid is that he has been patron of The Goon Show Preservation Society. The website noted, in the spirit of the groundbreaking 1950s comedy show, that “we would like to thank Prince Charles for agreeing to be our patron and look forward to the coming years with trembling socks.”

Britain now has a novice king and a novice prime minister, both unelected by the people at large. There are difficult days ahead for a country badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the self-induced Brexit debacle, inflation currently running at 10% with soaring energy costs due to the Russia-Ukraine war, rumblings on the Scottish independence front, possible Irish trade confrontation, threatened departures from the Commonwealth and, indeed, concern for the future direction of the monarchy itself. 

Still, as President Joe Biden (D) and First Lady Jill Biden said in a statement, “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era.” 

Thank you Queen Elizabeth II and God save the king. The state funeral, combining solemnity with pageantry, will be held Monday, Sept. 19, at Westminster Abbey, London, at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. EST).

East Setauket resident John Broven is subeditor and proofreader in the TBR editorial department and has written three award-winning music history books. He recently edited and contributed to “New York City Blues” by Larry Simon. His three Brexit articles can be found online at tbrnewsmedia.comWith thanks to Mark Dunford, editor of National World, and the website www.sussexexpress.co.uk/heritage-and-retro/retro/nostalgia-3691487

 

Members of the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee hear comments from the public at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

The Brookhaven Redistricting Committee held a public meeting at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, Aug. 16, to hear comments from residents across the township.

For the third straight week, citizens of Port Jefferson Station/Terryville presented a united front, urging the committee to keep the hamlet intact on the Brookhaven Town Council.

Logan Mazer, a Coram resident whose “map of least change” has received generally favorable reception in recent weeks among the public, addressed why he believes the proposed maps on the redistricting committee’s website would harm communities of interest.

“The two proposed maps make a few edits to the current boundaries that are clearly not acceptable,” he said. “The first, of course, is splitting up Port Jeff Station from the rest of CD1 and including [part of] Mount Sinai. This cannot stand and any new map that this commission considers and any map that the Town Council considers must reunite Council District 1.” He added, “Our priorities need to be keeping communities together.”

Charlie McAteer, corresponding secretary of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, informs the committee of the historic ties between Port Jeff Station and Terryville. Photo by Raymond Janis

‘We have worked hard over the past 15 years … and all of this has been brought forth to get us to this point where we’re redeveloping our area as one vision, one hamlet.’

—Charlie McAteer

Among those in attendance who advocated for preserving Port Jefferson Station/Terryville within CD1 was Charlie McAteer, the corresponding secretary of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association.

“We are one hamlet,” he told the committee. “We have worked hard over the past 15 years — 2008 was the hamlet study for the Comsewogue district — and all of this has been brought forth to get us to this point where we’re redeveloping our area as one vision, one hamlet.”

Joining this cause was John Broven, an East Setauket resident, who compared the current redistricting process to that of 10 years ago. After investigating the 2012 process, Broven found that the committee then had worked collectively as an apolitical, independent unit.

Unlike 2012, Broven suggested that this year’s hearings have been marked by controversy and that he is “genuinely worried at the prospect of gerrymandering … along with the illogical splits between Port Jeff Station/Terryville and also Mount Sinai.”

Nancy Marr, president of the League of Women Voters of Brookhaven, outlined her own displeasure with how the hearings have been advertised to the public.

“In this case, the publicity to inform and involve people has been inadequate,” she said. “I hope next time it’s better. Despite many hearings that were scheduled, most people in Brookhaven Town did not know about them in time to come and participate.”

Shoshana Hershkowitz, a South Setauket resident and a statewide organizer for Citizen Action of New York, discussed the findings of the 2020 U.S. Census, which indicate the changing demographics of Suffolk County residents.

“It is clear that the population of New York state and the population of Suffolk County shifted dramatically,” she said. “We were at 19% minority communities in 2010. We are now at 33% in 2020. That is a 76% increase.”

Despite these demographic changes, Hershkowitz said the two proposed maps on the committee’s website target the two most diverse council districts in Brookhaven: Districts 1 and 4.

“Neither of these districts requires much change,” Hershkowitz said. “They’re both within that 5% deviation,” mandated under town code. She advocated for the transfer of territory from District 6 into District 2: “The logical thing is to move from 6 into 2. Do not disrupt these diverse communities.”

Gordon Heights Civic Association president E. James Freeman spoke on behalf of the residents of Gordon Heights, who presently reside in Council District 4. He reiterated that Districts 2 and 6 are the only ones requiring change, and that any proposal to expand Council District 4 into other areas of the town would dilute the voting power and disenfranchise the people of his community.

“We are always coming in here to be able to fight, to be able to be heard, to be able to be seen, to be able to be represented,” he said. “The weight of the many is often carried by the few. You don’t have a lot of faces in here that look like me but, believe me, things will still get done as long as we have a collective voice across all people.”

John Broven, left, celebrating the book’s launch with Larry Simon in Brooklyn. Image courtesy of John Broven

By John Broven

New York has been at the heart of international musical activity ever since the far-off days of Tin Pan Alley, from Broadway show songs through Brill Building pop to jazz, folk, mambo, doo wop, rock, disco, punk, rap/hip hop and other styles in between.

There was also a neighborhood blues scene. It has remained little known and scantily documented until now, with the publication of New York City Blues: Postwar Portraits From Harlem to the Village and Beyond by Larry Simon (University Press of Mississippi) which I have had the pleasure of editing. The period covered is from the 1940s through the 1990s.

The book’s cover (with guitarist Jimmy Spruill). Image courtesy of John Broven

For too long, New York has been under the shadow of major blues conurbations such as Chicago, Memphis and the West Coast. Many of the local artists made a familiar trek up the Eastern Seaboard, particularly from the Carolinas, as they escaped the segregated South looking for the bright lights of the big city.  

Simon, a Brooklyn-born guitarist, became interested in New York blues musicians in the 1980s after reading articles in Juke Blues, a highly respected British magazine. In search of new material, Paul Harris and Richard Tapp made trips with myself from England to the Big Apple in the mid-1980s through early ‘90s. The people we interviewed were hardly household names, certainly not to the public at large: Bob Gaddy, Larry Dale, Jimmy Spruill, Harlem record man Bobby Robinson, even songwriters Rose Marie McCoy and Doc Pomus — both of whom wrote hits for Elvis Presley.

Yet the Juke Blues stories struck a chord with Simon, so much so that he initiated a New York blues revival movement with Gaddy, Dale and Spruill, also Rosco Gordon (a famous Memphis R&B artist) and Dr. Horse (Al Pittman, who had been singing with the Ink Spots). Besides playing clubs in Manhattan and the Bronx, they even traveled to Europe to ecstatic reaction.

Realizing the importance of these artists and the stories they had to tell, Simon had the idea to write this first-ever book on the subject. “I had the foresight to interview the guys and have my photographer friend, Robert Schaffer, take pictures,” he said. “Thus began a 35-year odyssey that resulted in our just-published book, not to mention all our wonderful years of performing and touring.”

After I agreed to edit the book, which includes my scene-setting introduction, Harris and Tapp were brought on board. Harris contributed many photos mainly taken in the Harlem of the 1980s, while Tapp interviewed Bob Malenky, a guitarist with a fascinating story of New York’s underground blues activity. 

Larry Dale outside the Apollo Theatre, Harlem, 1986. Photo by Paul Harris.

At the last minute, we felt we needed a chapter on Tarheel Slim — another talented but overlooked East Coast blues guitarist. Step forward Val Wilmer, a noted U.K. jazz photographer and writer, who contributed her 1973 interview with Slim and his wife Little Ann, plus photographs. Then Wilmer came up with features on classic blues singer Victoria Spivey and country blues guitarist Larry Johnson.

Simon conducted last-minute interviews with important bluesmen Paul Oscher and John Hammond Jr., and with a location map designed by Debbi Scott Price, of Stony Brook, the book was ready to go.

While much of the New York blues activity was centered on Harlem, flowing out to Greenwich Village, the Bronx and Brooklyn, there was a respectable Long Island contingent. Local interviewees included record men Hy Weiss from Woodbury and Jerry Wexler from East Hampton, ballad heartthrob Arthur Prysock from Searington and Doc Pomus from Lynbrook. 

As a matter of interest, there is a Prysock exhibit on permanent display at The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Also featured in the book are no less than three photographs of the Celebrity Club in Freeport, a somewhat forgotten harbor of Black entertainment in the 1950s and ’60s. 

Said Tapp of his Malenky interview, “In the early ‘70s, Bob was a member of blues singer Charles Walker’s band. It was a hand-to-mouth existence with gigs being played in small Black neighborhood clubs in areas like the South Bronx and out onto Long Island where Malenky recalled clubs in Roslyn, Wyandanch and Huntington Station. They were tough times but, looking back, Malenky said he was proud of his association with Walker and I’m pleased that the story has now been told.”

Other people covered include saxophonist Noble “Thin Man” Watts and his wife June Bateman (a supremely soulful singer), the Rev. Gary Davis (the guitar maestro), Billy Bland (hit recorder of “Let The Little Girl Dance”) and Billy Butler (a master guitarist of “Honky Tonk” fame, an instrumental known to almost every working band). 

Sadly, time has caught up with almost every interviewee in the book, except Hammond and Malenky, so New York City Blues champions their memory rather than attempts to revive a long-gone scene. Moreover, Oscher, who once played harmonica with the famed Muddy Waters blues band, and photographer Harris both sadly died in April just prior to the book’s publication.

It is hoped that musicians of all ages will find suitable inspiration from the trendsetting artists who operated in the different and difficult social circumstances that bred the blues. Others can immerse themselves in YouTube to discover yet another stylistic element of the many timeless sounds of New York as they devour the words of pioneering blues people, record men and songwriters.  

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New York City Blues by Larry Simon, edited by John Broven, is available from usual book sources including Amazon.com. Broven is a member of the TBR News Media editorial staff and lives in East Setauket.

A Brit Reviews the UK’s Eventual Withdrawal from Europe

Stock photo

Part 3 of 3

By John Broven

When I started this series in March 2019, I wanted to give U.S. readers a Brit’s inside view on Brexit. The term has now become such common currency over here, rather like the Latin phrase “quid pro quo,” that all I need explain is that Brexit refers to Britain exiting the European Union, which it duly did Jan. 31 of this year. On the same date the U.S. Senate rejected further witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (R). It was hardly a red-letter day for western politics.

John Broven Photo by Diane Wattecamps

After publication of the first two articles, I was approached by residents of all age groups at the Stony Brook railroad station, in a deli, at a mall, in a coffee shop, at a party, even at an outdoor art show. Everyone expressed an intrigued interest in Brexit and, it’s fair to say, concern for my English home country. What on earth was going on? Why indulge in such potential self-harm?

When I left you with my June article, the United Kingdom and EU had agreed on another revised exit date, Oct. 31, but with no parliamentary majority the way forward was still far from clear. “Will there be a general election, second referendum, another EU extension or a hard no deal?” I asked.

It came to pass there was a general election Dec. 12 and a further EU extension to Jan. 31, with no second referendum or precipitous hard deal (to date). With the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU, what happened in the interim?

A third prime minister in three years

For a start, on July 24, Boris Johnson achieved the prize he had wanted from his days as a privileged aristocratic youth at Eton College and Oxford University: the prime ministership of the U.K. After being elected as leader of the Conservative Party (also known as the Tories), he took over from the hapless Theresa May (C) who was unable to deliver on her promise to leave the EU after three years in the hot seat.

Brexit had thus claimed another victim, making Johnson the third prime minster since David Cameron (C) fell on his sword after a dismal and inept Vote Remain campaign during the June 2016 referendum.

Without a working majority, Johnson was confronted by a parliament determined to ensure that if Brexit happened there would be no hard deal. The new prime minister even tried, unsuccessfully, to suspend parliament for five weeks in an effort to stifle debate and ram through the withdrawal agreement by Oct. 31. Queen Elizabeth II was inadvertently embroiled when she dutifully signed the prorogation request of Johnson, who made the flimsy pretense of needing time to prepare for the Queen’s Speech, but the U.K. Supreme Court ruled otherwise. I suspect Her Majesty was not amused. 

There was clearly a power battle being fought between parliament and the prime minister, reminiscent of the current war of attrition between Congress and Trump. 

The generally pro-Brexit Tory Party, with its band of rabid hardliners, was armed with the 52-48 percent Voter Leave victory of the 2016 referendum. Amid calls from the Brexiters for “democracy” to be respected and with a definite all-round war weariness in the nation, it was clearly going to be difficult for the main opposition parties — Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and the Greens — to overturn “the will of the people.” 

At one time, the charismatic speaker of the House of Commons, John Burcow, even invoked an arcane 1604 parliamentary principle to stifle a government motion. (Think about it, that’s 16 years before the Mayflower landed on our shores.) However, the opposition could not find agreement among themselves for a unified approach, even with voting support from 21 Tory rebels. This rump included former Chancellor of Exchequer Philip Hammond, Father of the House Ken Clarke and Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames. Incredibly these respected establishment figures were thrown out of the Tory Party in petulant retribution. You see what I mean about parliamentary drama.  

With time running out, the EU begrudgingly extended the Oct. 31 deadline to Jan. 31 after a last-minute fudged agreement with Johnson over the vexatious Irish border backstop question.

December general election

Parliament was still in deadlock, but eventually a general election was called for Dec. 12. Campaigning on a resonating “Get Brexit done” ticket, Johnson won a huge working majority of 80 seats to break the parliamentary impasse. His Conservative Party brushed aside the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, also Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Labour, in its worst general election result since 1935, ignominiously saw the demolition of its “red wall” in the industrial north of England, the traditional home of socialism. The Lib-Dems, under Jo Swinson, went all out with a remain message. Yet this bright young leader couldn’t articulate on the stump the benefits of staying in Europe and she even lost her own parliamentary seat. 

The main opposition winners were the Scottish Nationalist Party, under Nicola Sturgeon, which swept Scotland. Watch out for a possible future referendum for Scotland to leave the U.K. and become a member of the EU. 

Richard Tapp, of Burgess Hill, West Sussex, added in an email, “Besides the Scottish Nationalists, the pro-EU parties in Northern Ireland also did well, at the expense of the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party whose leader in Westminster lost his seat to the nationalists of Sinn Fein who campaign for a united Ireland — and so remain in the EU.” 

Johnson had targeted the disaffected, forgotten part of the nation — the provincial middle class as well as the working class — with a Trump-like populist message, just as the new prime minister had done beforehand with the referendum. The general election was a damning indictment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, both for his far-left policies and his “sit on the fence” approach to Brexit. 

Interestingly, there are concerns in the U.S. about the Democratic Party following the Labour/Corbyn route to self-destruction in the next election with a progressive socialist agenda. James Carville, President Bill Clinton’s (D) 1992 election-winning strategist, was particularly animated on the subject in the Financial Times and on “Morning Joe,” referring to the unelectable Corbyn by name.

Brexit is done

And so, with no obstacles in his way, Johnson “got it done” by signing a withdrawal agreement with the EU, meaning Britain officially left the union at the end of January after almost a half-century of membership. Brexit is now fully owned and controlled by the prime minister and his Conservative Party, with the background help of Dominic Cummings, the architect of the Vote Leave campaign’s victory in 2016. 

The coverage on BBC World News in Brussels revealed genuine European regret at the loss of Britain as a vital contributing member to the EU, including politicians from Poland and Sweden. Yet the expected party atmosphere in the U.K. didn’t materialize because the country was still split right down the middle — and it was raining on Farage’s celebration parade outside the Houses of Parliament. Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper had a perverse explanation for the low-keyed reaction: “On Jan. 31, many Brexiters spent their ultimate moment of triumph attacking elitist traitors instead of celebrating.” This revenge, he said, “is so much of the point of populism.” 

Those Brexit voters expecting a brand-new dawn, with a return to the glory days of the British Empire free of the EU yoke, will have to wait until at least Dec. 31 this year for all kinds of trade, security and legal negotiations to be agreed before the cord is cut. 

During this transition period the U.K. will continue in the EU’s custom union and single market, while still complying with EU rules (but without any more say in the lawmaking process in the European Parliament). Johnson has indicated there will be no extension, leading to the nightmare scenario of a possible no deal commencing Jan. 1, 2021. It will not be an easy negotiating ride.

I’m still of the view that a people’s referendum should never have been considered by Cameron on such a critical and complex matter, which will affect generations to come. His irresponsible bet was compounded by the Brexiters never explaining the downsides — and dangers — of leaving Europe, including diminished influence on the world stage. Already China is waiting in the wings.

Michael Hanna, of Hassocks, West Sussex, echoed my thoughts in an email on the night of Jan. 31: “In about two hours time Boris and his Gang will tear us out of the European Union on the say so of just 17.4 million, a mere 37 percent of the electorate. This is politically the saddest day of my life. For the last 47 years we have been members of the great European family of nations to which we should naturally belong. This has given us huge benefits which the Tory government is knowingly throwing away.”

With thanks for their on-the-spot observations to my British friends Roger Armstrong, Chris Bentley, Mike Hanna, Martin Hawkins, John Ridley and Richard Tapp. 

John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, who immigrated to the United States in 1995. He has written three award-winning (American) music history books and is currently editing the first book on New York blues.

John Broven Photo by Diane Wattecamps

By John Broven

Part two of three

I’ve been waiting patiently to write this second part of my personal Brexit overview (see part 1, “Brexit: To leave or not to leave, that is the big question,” TBR News Media’s papers and websites, March 14). There has been an interested response from TBR readers, although as expected not everybody agreed with my Europhile stance or interpretation of events. An apt New York Times description was “fractured Britain.”

Even now, there is no resolution to the terms for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to leave the European Union as determined by a national referendum June 23, 2016, almost three years ago — the vote was 51.89 to 48.11 percent. The March 29 deadline went by, so did one on April 12. Now the departure date has been extended begrudgingly by the EU until Oct. 31. That’s Halloween, as many wags have pointed out. Still the drama continues.

Prime Minister Theresa May resigns

On May 24, Prime Minister Theresa May (Conservative, known as Tories) announced her forthcoming departure in tears for failing to deliver Brexit. Never a team player, she was rapidly losing support among her Brexit-leaning party. The withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU was criticized from all sides even as May tried to soften her parliamentary bill by including environmental measures, workers rights and even the prospect of a second referendum — anathema to Brexiteers in her own party. With no majority in sight for her deal, she will formally resign on June 7, immediately after the state visit by President Donald Trump (R).

She is now the second prime minister to be felled by Brexit in the footsteps of David Cameron (Conservative), who was responsible for calling the 2016 referendum. Indeed, the Tory Party’s neurosis with Europe had previously ensnared former prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Tory leadership battle

Now, the Brexit process has been put on hold while the ruling Conservative Party elects a new leader, expected by the end of July. That leaves four short months to finalize leave arrangements. Understandably, the EU is running out of patience and has indicated it will not renegotiate the deal on the table, including the controversial Irish backstop.

The number of Tory prime minister candidates currently stands at 11, still well short of the tally of U.S. Democratic presidential candidates. At the time of writing the bookies favorite is the self-serving former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, the New York City-born member of parliament of British parents who dealt a fatal blow to Cameron’s 2016 Vote Remain campaign by treacherously joining the Vote Leave team. The covertly ambitious Michael Gove and hardliner Dominic Raab are also in the running. Just as the U.S. Democratic candidates are in a quandary over presidential impeachment proceedings, so the U.K. Tory leadership candidates are scrambling for Brexit answers.

Our president has caused local controversy by favoring Johnson. If the former mayor is elected as prime minister by the Conservative Party and his pronouncements are carried out, he could lead the country into the worst of all possibilities on Oct. 31 — a hard no deal. It is chilling to think that such a chaotic scenario could happen to the fifth largest economy in the world, with an impact far beyond the borders of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

As Will Hutton described it in London’s The Guardian, the Brexiteers view is of a blissful but flawed image of “sunlit uplands of immigrant-free, global free trade.” Sir Elton John, also in The Guardian, was more blunt: “I’m ashamed of my country for what it has done. It’s torn people apart … I am sick to death of politicians, especially British politicians. I am sick to death of Brexit. I am a European. I am not a stupid, colonial, imperialist English idiot.”

EU elections shock

The British government had hoped to avoid taking part in the recent EU elections, but as the country was still formally one of the 28 member states the people went to the polls on May 23. In keeping with the unpredictable Brexit mess, what a shocking result it turned out to be. Former UKIP leader and an elected member of the European Parliament since 1999, Nigel Farage, who has been described by his Euro colleagues as a “one-man wrecking ball,” had formed the new Brexit Party only six weeks previously and topped the polls with a 30.8 percent share of the vote. The two leading parties in British politics for almost 100 years, Labour (third place) and Conservatives (fifth), managed a meager 23 percent of the vote between them, beaten by second-place Liberal Democrats with their remain message and fourth-place Green Party with an urgent climate-change agenda.

Tellingly, the Tories suffered their worst election result since formation in 1834 and registered only 8.8 percent of the vote, with no seats won in London. May’s party had also taken a shellacking in the earlier county council elections. That’s the current governing party, don’t forget. As The Washington Post noted, coalition governments and a genuine multiparty system may be the future of British politics.

In effect, British voters were giving a severe kicking to the government and lead opposition party under arch-socialist Jeremy Corbyn for their inept handling of Brexit. Intriguingly, Scotland and Northern Ireland still balloted majority votes to remain candidates. The MEPs term will end if and when Brexit occurs. Taking all the parties into account, the respective total leave and remain votes were very close, which is where we came in — a divided nation with a divided parliament and parties internally divided.

The cross-Europe vote showed a fragmentation of parties, with the establishment center-left and center-right bloc losing power. The populist parties in Britain, France and Italy showed gains but surprisingly little elsewhere, notably in Holland. There was a general message that the EU needs to address growth, security, immigration (again) and climate change (the U.S. please note). Still, with a turnout in excess of 50 percent, there are indications the Europeans still see their union as the future. In the wake of the Brexit debacle, it seems the other Euro populist movements are determined to fight for their cause from inside the EU, not on the outside with little influence.

Incidentally, I was impressed by the BBC World News TV election coverage Sunday, May 26, and its first-class presenter Ros Atkins. I learned a lot about the EU, its procedures, the debating arguments and how countries from Germany to Latvia voted. If only Brexit voters had been educated likewise.

Where the UK stands

Embarrassingly, Britain’s pragmatic standing in the world seems to be falling by the day. I’ve lost count of the number of barbed Monty Python jokes I’ve seen in print. As my good friend John Ridley, of Hildenborough, Kent, told me, “I can’t recall any other democratic country committing an act of such extreme self-harm ever before.”

The Brexit fiasco shows on a macro level that elections do matter and do have consequences — in this instance, for an entire nation and its future. And the dangers of putting such a critical issue to an ill-informed public by way of a loosely worded referendum have been fully exposed.

If there is a lesson for us all, it is a message that TBR News Media carries at every election: Your vote counts, please vote — and do understand what you’re voting for. That applies from presidential elections to the local fire departments, libraries and schools (the turnout for the recent Three Village Central School District budget vote was abysmal).

With Brexit still unresolved, I am readying myself for a part 3 Your Turn article but further patience may be required on the part of myself and TBR readers. Will there be a second referendum, general election, another EU extension or a hard no deal?

John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, who immigrated to the United States in 1995. He has written three award-winning (American) music history books. An updated edition of his second book, “South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous,” has just
been published.

From the view of a Brit, drawing parallels to elections in the U.S.

Stock photo

By John Broven

Part 1 of 2

After 46 years, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is due to leave the European Union March 29 in an exercise that has been labeled Brexit. You may have heard the term on BBC World News, C-SPAN2’s “Prime Minister’s Questions” and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” (HBO), or read about the ongoing saga in The New York Times or The Washington Post. Still, in general the United States media coverage has been relatively muted in what has been a complex, often hard-to-understand process. Yet there are enough parallel circumstances across the pond to warrant making it a big news event over here in the U.S.

John Broven. Photo by Diane Wattecamps

It certainly matters a lot if, like me, you were born in England and are not happy with the Brexit decision. Before I proceed with my personal observations, let me give a brief backdrop to the Brexit scenario.

Brexit is a crude abbreviation of “British exit” from the European political and economic union of 28 countries that allows seamless movement of goods and citizens between each member state. Britain’s withdrawal was determined by a referendum held June 23, 2016, in which the “leave” voters outpointed the “remain” side by 17.4 to 16.1 million. In percentage terms it was 51.89 to 48.11. The turnout was some 33.5 million voters out of a possible 46.5 million, 72.1 percent of the registered electorate. As I’ve been living over here for more than 15 years, I was not allowed to vote along with an estimated 700,000 expats and some 3 million EU citizens living in the UK. Gerrymandering, anyone?

The UK referendum

I well remember the day when Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) announced there would be a referendum for Britain to leave the EU after he was re-elected in the general election of May 7, 2015. He had been the country’s leader since 2010 in a coalition government with the pro-European Liberal Democrats, but against all expectation the Conservatives won the election outright. At the time I asked myself, “Why call a referendum?” What I didn’t know was that Cameron wanted to quell once and for all the rebellious EU leavers in his own party and thwart the rise of the populist United Kingdom Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage.

To my mind, Cameron compounded his disastrous decision of placing party politics on a national stage by agreeing to put the referendum to the people in the simplest of terms:

• Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. Yes or No.

The openness of the referendum wording gave voters, fed up with years of austerity, a chance to kick the government without understanding the full consequences of their actions. The many dire economic warnings of a precipitous EU exit, ranging from the Bank of England governor to President Barack Obama (D), were riposted as fearmongering.

England and Wales voted to leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland did not. London voted overwhelmingly to remain, but the industrial North — the equivalent of our rust belt — predictably went to the leavers. Not surprisingly, the majority of the 50-and-overs, with their rose-tinted memories, voted to leave. On the other hand, the younger generation was largely in favor of remaining, feeling more European and with less attachment to the days of the British Empire. Interestingly, the peak share of any sector came from women between the ages of 18 and 24, with 80 percent voting to remain. Yet too many millennials, as over here in the last presidential election, did not bother to go to the voting booths.

As we have seen from the HBO film, “Brexit: The Uncivil War,” the Vote Leave campaign — led by notorious Cameron-backstabber Boris Johnson, U.S. President Donald Trump (R)-acolyte Farage, prominent Tory politicians such as the overbearing Jacob Rees-Mogg and double-dealer Michael Gove — were always a step ahead of Vote Remain, led by Cameron himself, future prime minister Theresa May and reticent Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The leave effort was brilliantly masterminded by Dominic Cummings who outflanked his traditionally minded opponents by using computer algorithms devised by Cambridge Analytica, partly owned — whisper it low — by Robert Mercer from our own Head of the Harbor village on Long Island.

With new data available, Cummings understood there was a raft of disaffected voters that had been ignored by politicians of all parties for years. He proceeded to woo them with an appealing slogan, “Let’s take back control,” aided by a red bus carrying the false message that leaving the EU would save the British people £350 million a week (about $450 million), adding, “Let’s fund our NHS [National Health Service] instead — Vote Leave.” Without justification, it was said the country would be overrun by Islamic immigrants should Turkey be admitted to the EU. (It hasn’t.) It was a campaign of distorted facts, appealing to those who remembered the good old days when Britannia ruled the waves and the world map was colored mostly British Empire pink.

Earlier, I mentioned “parallel circumstances” in relation to the U.S. How about disaffected and ignored voters, a fear campaign based on immigration and Islamophobia, protest votes, absent millennials, discarded trade agreements, gerrymandering, a populist insurrection — and, I hate to say it, fake news. Does that sound familiar?

Events of June 2016

I was in England the week before the referendum and was astonished at how the youthful, vibrant atmosphere I felt on my last visit had evaporated into a sour mood. As a confirmed Europhile, I was even more amazed to see how finely balanced the polls were. The omens were not good, especially when state broadcaster, British Broadcasting Corporation, adopted a neutral stance giving equal time to both campaigns. Why did the leave campaign, with no governmental responsibility or track record, deserve the same coverage as the in-power remainers?

I was still in England when staunch remain campaigner and promising Labour member of parliament, Jo Cox, was murdered June 16, 2016, in her native West Yorkshire at age 41 by a right-wing extremist. Had politics become so divisive that a life had to be taken? Surely, I thought, the British people, with their long-held sense of justice and fair play, would rebel against such a dastardly act and vote for the “good guys” out of respect to Cox. The referendum campaign was halted temporarily, but a news blackout contrived to neutralize any widespread outrage at her death.

Referendum night June 23 was covered in full over here by BBC World News. Ironically, with the five-hour time difference, U.S. viewers were more up to date than the sleeping British public. I knew the writing was on the wall when early voting in Sunderland and Swindon went to the leavers. And yet Sunderland, in the relatively impoverished North East, was home to a major Nissan factory (jobs, jobs, jobs), with Swindon in the affluent South West housing a big Honda factory. Both Japanese car companies used their English bases for easy access to the European markets. What were the voters in those towns thinking by voting leave?

The leave campaign was victorious. A distraught Cameron resigned July 11, 2016, to be succeeded by May. It was up to her to negotiate a withdrawal agreement with the EU, with a leaving date eventually set for March 29, 2019 — the end of this month. The protracted negotiations have been rocky, to say the least, and the outcome has still not been resolved at this late hour thanks mainly to a problem that should have been foreseen at the time of the referendum but wasn’t: the Irish backstop. Stay tuned.

Part 2 will bring matters up to date, with crucial parliamentary votes due to be held this week. John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, and has written three award-winning (American) music history books.

TBR News Media proofreader John Broven, left, recently received an award for his work as a rhythm and blues researcher and author. Above, Broven is pictured with Cyril Vetter and Deacon John at the Nov. 16 awards ceremony. Photo by David Normand

The Three Village area is brimming with talented residents, including a renowned music researcher and author who received a prestigious award this month.

John Broven, an East Setauket resident and TBR News Media proofreader, received the Slim Harpo Music Award in the Legend category Nov. 16 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The awards are named after the late musician James Moore, whose stage name was Slim Harpo. The Louisiana swamp blues man’s first song was 1957’s “I’m a King Bee,” which was covered by the Rolling Stones. A few years later, Harpo had hits with “Rainin’ in My Heart” and “Baby Scratch My Back,” according to Broven, and other British bands covered his music including the Kinks and Them with Van Morrison.

“He became quite a figurehead of the British R&B boom in the early 1960s,” Broven said.

A native of Kent, England, Broven is the author of “Record Makers and Breakers,” “Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans” and “South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous.” In the latter two books, the author delved into Louisiana swamp blues, and in “South to Louisiana” he went into depth about Harpo’s career.

In the 1990s, while a consultant with Ace Records in London, Broven was responsible for transferring Harpo’s master tapes to CD which resulted in a three CD set release of the musician’s songs. The author said he never had the opportunity to meet Harpo due to the musician’s death at the age of 46 in 1970, a few months before Broven arrived in Baton Rouge to conduct research.

“The thousands of people who have read his books come in contact with Slim Harpo as a result of him and that is one of the reasons we chose him as our legend this year, because he’s been doing this sort of research for 40, 50 years now.”

— Johnny Palazzotto

“He was on the point of becoming an international star when he died in 1970,” Broven said.

The author said he was surprised when he was told that he was chosen for the award a few months ago.

“It’s great that Baton Rouge is preserving its history and keeping Slim’s name alive, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s an honor to be considered for this award,” he said.

Broven added that about 200 people attended the event, that also raises money for music education in schools and included a jam session with legendary rhythm and blues musicians such as Henry Gray, Carol Fran and Deacon John. Broven was introduced by Baton Rouge media entrepreneur Cyril Vetter.

Johnny Palazzotto, who is a member of the Slim Harpo Music Awards committee, said the board consists of nine members and includes Harpo’s stepson, William Gambler.

“We look for and search out people who have shown appreciation for his work, and not just for Slim’s, but Louisiana music in general,” Palazzotto said.

He said Broven was the ideal choice for the award, because the author is both a fan of Harpo’s work and Louisiana music.

“The thousands of people who have read his books come in contact with Slim Harpo as a result of him and that is one of the reasons we chose him as our legend this year, because he’s been doing this sort of research for 40, 50 years now,” Palazzotto said.

Broven is currently working on a revision of “South to Louisiana,” which will be released in 2018. The author said continuing to spread the word about regional roots music is important to him.

“The blues artists came out of the segregated South, and they did it by using their own talents,” Broven said. “It’s great to see this talent recognized not only by established musicians but also by young musicians who can learn so much from these first-generation artists.”

Tom Manuel leads the Jazz Loft Big Band on a bandstand at the loft, constructed from pieces of the original dance floor of New York’s famed Roseland Ballroom. Photo from The Jazz Loft

By John Broven

On May 21, Stony Brook Village reverberated to the sounds of a New Orleans-style street parade to mark the opening of The Jazz Loft at 275 Christian Ave. That happy day brought to reality the dreams of president and founder Tom Manuel.

“In the brief seven months the Jazz Loft has been open we’ve been able to accomplish the goals of our mission well ahead of schedule,” Manuel said. “Our performance calendar has presented some of the finest local, national and international artists; our educational programming has established our pre-college Jazz Institute in collaboration with Stony Brook University; and Our Young at Heart program has introduced wonderful music therapy events to people with memory loss.

“In addition to all of this our lecture series, family concerts, sponsored concert series and acquisitions and installations of jazz memorabilia, art, photography and more are ongoing and ever growing.”

Tom Manuel with children during The Creole Love Song: Operation Haiti! mission. Photo from The Jazz Loft

For establishing The Jazz Loft so quickly and effectively as a community resource, Manuel, a 37-year-old educator, historian and trumpet player, from St. James, is recognized by TBR News Media as a Person of the Year.

“Tom Manuel is a well-deserving nominee for Person of the Year,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “The Jazz Loft is an incredible gift to the 1st Council District. Tom’s passion for jazz has been transformed into a vivid, vibrant, collection of jazz history and a home for local talent, musicians and performances. In a short time, The Jazz Loft has become an incredible community space for art, history, culture and music.”

Visitors are able to view the loft’s museum exhibits featuring greats such as saxophonist Louis Jordan, the biggest African-American star of the 1940s and a massive influence on the ensuing rock ’n’ roll era; heartthrob blues and jazz crooner Arthur Prysock; upright bassist Lloyd Trotman, a prolific session musician who provided the bass line on Ben E. King’s anthem, “Stand by Me”; society bandleader Lester Lanin; and the seafaring vibraphonist and composer Teddy Charles.

Jean Prysock, of Searingtown, donated the memorabilia of her late husband Arthur Prysock, who played the top theaters and clubs from the 1940s onward and recorded for labels such as Decca, Mercury, Old Town and MGM-Verve. Why did she feel Manuel was worthy of support?

“He was young, he was enthusiastic, he was dedicated, he was sincere,” she said. “I first met him at a jazz bar in Patchogue. He led an 11-piece band, which sounded as if it could have played at New York’s Paramount Theatre.”

Apart from conducting bands, Manuel is an expert trumpet player, who credits among his inspirations Chet Baker, Warren Vache, Bobby Hackett, Harry “Sweets” Edison and Roy Eldridge. As an indication of the Jazz Loft’s authentic atmosphere, Manuel said the impressive three-tier bandstand was constructed from the original dance floor of the famed Roseland Ballroom on New York’s 52nd Street, adding, “It was an extreme labor of love, but certainly worth the effort.”

Manuel has directed a full program at The Jazz Loft while holding an adjunct post at Suffolk County Community College and a faculty position with Stony Brook University directing the jazz program of the Pre-College Music Division. If that’s not all, he has recently completed his doctorate, a DMA in jazz performance, at SBU and carried out charity work in Haiti.

“Tom is fully deserving of this award, not only for creating The Jazz Loft and making jazz available in our area, but also because of his remarkable spirit in bettering every community with which he engages,” Perry Goldstein, professor and chair at SBU’s Department of Music, said.

Tom Manuel (white hat at center) on opening day at The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook, on May 21 of this year. Photo by John Broven

“He motivated seven volunteers to go to Haiti with him after the recent hurricane, where they distributed 200 pairs of sneakers, clothing and school supplies purchased through donations. Tom radiates positive energy in everything he does,” Goldstein said.

Manuel readily acknowledges the help of others in giving liftoff to The Jazz Loft, including board members Laura Vogelsberg and Laura Stiegelmaier, many musicians and sponsors Harlan and Olivia Fischer who “donated our sound system, which is quite outstanding.” Manuel’s philosophy is summarized by the title of his well-received talk at the Three Village Community Trust’s annual celebration, held at The Jazz Loft in November: “Collaboration: The Art of Possibility.”

The jazz facility is housed in a historic building, comprising the old Stone Jug tavern and the former firehouse station, which accommodated the first museum in Stony Brook, founded in 1935 by real estate broker and insurance agent O.C. Lempfert. With the backing of Ward and Dorothy Melville, the museum was formally incorporated as the Suffolk Museum in 1939 before evolving into today’s The Long Island Museum. The renovated building, which was accorded landmark status by the Town of Brookhaven in September, is leased long term to The Jazz Loft by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

“Tom Manuel is a unique individual who was born into a generation of musicians steeped in rock ’n’ roll, rap and new wave,” Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, said. “I got to know Tom because of a[n] … article about a ‘young man’ with a house full of artifacts and memorabilia relating to the jazz era. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization owned a vacant building … and Tom had a collection in need of a home. A year later The Jazz Loft opened in Stony Brook, where Tom shares his love of jazz with like-minded musicians and fans. Tom is truly a role model for the concept of accomplishing your dream through passion and dedication. We are proud to welcome The Jazz Loft and Dr. Tom Manuel into our community.”

Guest speakers at LIM’s symposium, from left, Lawrence Samuel, Stephen Patnode, Christopher Verga, Caroline Rob Zaleski and John Broven. Photo courtesy of John Broven

By Heidi Sutton

In conjunction with its popular exhibition, Long Island in the Sixties, The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook hosted a symposium last Saturday that focused on how the 1960s affected Long Island in terms of suburban and economic trends such as the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, the local civil rights movement, regional architecture and music.

Guest speakers included Stephen Patnode, Ph.D., of Farmingdale State College’s Department of Science, Technology and Sociology; Christopher Verga, professor of history at Suffolk County Community College and author of “Civil Rights on Long Island”; Caroline Rob Zaleski, preservationist and architectural historian and author of “Long Island Modernism, 1930-1980”; Lawrence R. Samuel, Ph.D., independent scholar and American cultural historian and author of “The End of the Innocence: The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair”; and John Broven, music historian and custodian of the family-owned Golden Crest Records and author of the award-winning “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans” and “Record Makers and Breakers.”

According to Joshua Ruff, director of Collections and Interpretation at the museum, the day-long event attracted over 60 attendees and “the audience was very enthusiastic and really enjoyed the day” adding that there was “great audience participation; a few people who attended were actually former band members of prominent 1960s bands on Long Island, and they became involved in John Broven’s talk. All in all, it was a super day and we are just so very thankful for the important support from the New York Council on the Humanities which made it all possible.”

Dresses on display at The Long Island Museum’s current exhibit, Long Island in the Sixties. Photo by Heidi Sutton

On Saturday, Oct. 22 from 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will celebrate its blockbuster summer exhibition Long Island in the Sixties with a full-day symposium of the same name.

By the close of the 1960s, although the Long Island region had become more economically prosperous than 27 states, it was experiencing a wide array of social, political and cultural changes that went beyond demographic shifts and industrial development.

Five guest speakers will explore some of the most trenchant developments that occurred across the region during the 1960s. Join them to examine and more deeply understand the lasting impact that suburban and economic trends, the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, the local Civil Rights Movement, regional architecture and Long Island’s popular music made on this local area and in the United States at large.

Music historian John Broven will be a guest speaker at the symposium. File photo
Music historian John Broven will be a guest speaker at the symposium. File photo

Presenters will include Stephen Patnode, associate professor of history and acting chair of Farmingdale State College’s Department of Science, Technology and Sociology; Christopher Verga, professor of history at Suffolk County Community College and author of “Civil Rights on Long Island,” Arcadia Publishing Inc.; Caroline Rob Zaleski, preservationist and architectural historian and author of “Long Island Modernism, 1930-1980,” SPLIA and W.W. Norton; Lawrence R. Samuel, independent scholar and American cultural historian and author of “The End of the Innocence: The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair,” Syracuse University Press; and John Broven, music historian and custodian of the family-owned Golden Crest Records and author of the award-winning “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans,” Pelican Press, and “Record Makers and Breakers,” University of Illinois Press.

Participants will enjoy Q-and-A sessions with all speakers, lunch break and optional self-guided tour of the Gilding the Coasts exhibition. Admission is $12 adults, $10 for students, seniors and museum members (there is an additional, optional $10 lunch fee). Preregistration and prepayment are required. All fees include general museum admission. For more information, call The Long Island Museum’s Education Director Lisa Unander at 631-751-0066, ext. 212.