A variety of local talent was on show in Brockley this week as part of an evening’s entertainment organised by trade unions in the build-up to the public sector strikes on November 30.
More than 100 trade unionists and supporters were treated to an array of comedy, music and dance courtesy of local artists and entertainers from the area in the grand settings of the Rivoli Ball Room.
But the order of the day was a more sobering subject.
The No Cuts Cabaret, organised by local members of Unite and Unison in the NHS and Lewisham Council, aimed to highlight and ‘inspire activism to oppose the savage cuts’ to children and youth services in the area, as well as drum up support ahead of next week’s industrial action which will see more than two million people across the country walk out of work.
The night was opened by Steve Gribbs, who provided satirical ribaldry with his own brand of musical comedy – poking fun at health minister Andrew Lansley’s plans for NHS reforms and the coalition’s policies.
Up next there were interpretive dance performances from local youth dance companies Syndenham Dance Company and Forest Hill Dancers.
And an emotional a capella rendition of Alicia Key’s track ‘Superwoman’ was performed by Monique Burton.
The acts were followed by a panel discussion including local health and youth workers and community activists.
Dami Benbow, 21, described from his own experience the growing difficulties faced by young people in finding employment. He said: “Employers say that you need experience for a job, but without a first chance it is impossible to have that experience. It is a paradox, a vicious cycle. By getting rid of the services that help young people – such as with CVs and career advice – it will only worsen”.
He recounted how Lewisham has seen youth services Connexions, the Opening Doors employment centre and Early Years centres all closed since local cuts totalling £88m over four years were passed in February.
Placing the austerity cuts in a broader context, a member of the National Union of Teachers explained how there are only three other developed countries with larger class sizes.
And local GP Louise Irvine, a member of Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public, spoke out against proposals to transfer commissioning services to private consortia. Warning that up to £80bn of the health budget could be handed over to private firms such as McKinsey, she said: “When they say GPs would be in charge of commissioning this isn’t true – it would be private companies. With them in charge the transaction costs involved could rocket up to 30 per cent. All hospitals would be turned into foundations trusts that would be allowed to fail.”
“This is not just another reorganisation – it would effectively be the de-nationalisation of the NHS.”
But despite the lively atmosphere there was disappointment as the billed star of the show, London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone, was unable to attend due to family reasons.