Tag Archives: travel

Realm of the Punisher Now Available as Kindle Ebook

29 Jul

P1050897

Signal have released a Kindle ebook version of The Realm of the Punisher. Here is what some of the reviewers on Amazon have said about the book so far:

‘Sykes as writer is about total experience – how does the sum total of this place – the geography, the history, the urban rural divide, the economics, the social fabric, the individuals, the politics, the eventual President – how does it all come together?’

Paul Valentine

‘Sykes is an entertaining and illuminating writer. As well as serious analysis there are laugh out loud moments. I’d recommend The Realm of the Punisher to anyone who wants to understand what is going on in the world today.’

M. S. Manson

‘Read this not knowing a thing about the Philippines, and not planning to visit. I was expecting to last a few chapters, but it’s written in such a way that it’s engaging and relevant and very readable.’

Anonymous reviewer.

You can buy it here.

Good review of Realm of the Punisher in TLS

1 Jul

P1050900

Michael Vatikiotis has reviewed Realm of the Punisher positively in the current TLS (Times Literary Supplement). It’s always reassuring when you try to do something ambitious in writing and an informed reader ‘gets it’.

The article is here behind a paywall, here are some quotes:

‘Tom Sykes’s account of his rambling road trip through the country, The Realm of the Punisher, offers a serious and at times tragic corrective. He conveys in an affectionate, unpatronizing tone the many layers of injustice that run through the Philippines, and uses interviews and site visits to try to explain the eccentric ways and popular appeal of its more muscular leaders.’

‘Sykes cuts through these contradictions with a mixture of casual English aplomb and raw socialist idealism.’

‘Sykes stumbles on one of the more fascinating ironies of the modern Philippines: the appeal of rich strongmen using guns and goons to poor people living desperate and deprived lives. ‘

Realm of the Punisher Review in The London Magazine

2 Apr

Pleased that Georgina Monk’s review of The Realm of the Punisher in The London Magazine appreciates my aim to infuse a travel narrative with reflections on nationalism, populism, imperialism, Orientalism and some other ‘isms’ as they relate to the Philippines. Read it by clicking on these words here.

Cover picture by Louis Netter.

Bristol Festival of Literature Appearance 22nd Oct

12 Sep

61EF5GVMiYL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_

I’ll be discussing my new travelogue of the contemporary Philippines, Realm of the Punisher, at the Bristol Festival of Literature on 22nd October. My good friend Mike Manson will be present too, riffing on his new novel Down in Demerara. Click here for tickets and further details.

Bradt Guide Review in Travel Africa Magazine

15 Nov

51ETKnTVlSL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_

My deepest thanks to Travel Africa Magazine for this generous review of The Bradt Guide to Ivory Coast:

‘With this guidebook, the author puts the largely unexplored Côte d’Ivoire back on the map, following a period of instability. As well as being a celebration of the country, the book also offers a lot of practical information and background that any potential traveller will find invaluable. Personal stories and anecdotes are intertwined throughout, which add some fascinating texture and observations.’

Book launch for Ivory Coast: The Bradt Guide

11 Jul

alseb

When: 11th August 2016, 6.30pm-8pm

Where: Stanfords, 12-14 Long Acre, WC2E9, London, UK

Hosted by: author Tom Sykes (New Statesman, The Scotsman, Private Eye) and photographer Alexander Sebley (VICE, BBC).

You’re cordially invited to the launch of the very first full-length English language guidebook to Ivory Coast. The country is a stunner, from the cream-hued beaches of Assinie in the southeast to the crimson savannahs of the north to the awe-inspiring mountains of the west and a wealth of wildlife-rich national parks (500 bird species, chimps, crocs, hippos and even lions and elephants can be glimpsed). At weekends the nightspots of the largest city, Abidjan, boom with the sounds of home-grown musical genres like coupé-decalé and zouglou alongside US hip-hop, French free-form jazz and Latin American soca. If Ivory Coast’s music is the envy of Africa, its traditional art and craft scene is the envy of the world. In the north, jewellers, blacksmiths, weavers, potters and wood-carvers use ancient techniques to create unique artefacts. Aside from the usual practical information, the book includes reportage, interviews and political, historical and cultural analysis.

 

Interview with bradtguides.com

8 Jul

Just two weeks to go before the Ivory Coast book comes out and here’s me chatting about it alongside pictures by Mr Alexander Sebley.

P1030083.JPG

Bradt’s Exceptional Visits 2016

24 Jun

P1030389.JPG

My upcoming Ivory Coast guide is featured in this article along with big-ups for Iran, Senegal, Shropshire and the Basque Country.

Eden’s Thrill Ride

11 Jun

P1030359.JPG

My travelogue for of the delightful Pagsanjan Falls in the Philippines is right here, right now on the Selamta site:

http://www.selamtamagazine.com/stories/edens-thrill-ride

Portsmouth the Global City

3 Jun

There’s a popular perception of Portsmouth as a monocultural, jingoistic and reactionary city. Taking a very different angle, University of Portsmouth lecturer and foreign affairs commentator Tom Sykes discusses Portsmouth’s role as a global city with social and cultural connections to almost every other part of the world. This article is based on a lecture Tom delivered as part of the nationwide Being Human festival last year.

A few sunny Saturdays ago, I was having a beer with friends in the garden of a laid-back Albert Road pub. To the left of us was a lively group of heavy-set and mostly bald men. All were dressed in black, some wore jackboots in addition. When they’d finished their pints of pissy lager they put on black masks and lined up for a group photograph. ‘Fuck the immigrants!’ they chanted several times before piling outside to, no doubt, repeat this hate crime somewhere else.

When I tell friends from outside Portsmouth about this incident, they tend to smile dourly and say, ‘Well that’s Portsmouth, what do you expect?’ They have a point, as nastiness of this type has been oozing out of our city for a long time. In the 1930s, Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists would descend here to spread racial hatred, although they’d often be challenged by thousands of protesters. More lately, their political descendants – the EDL, BNP, Pie and Mash Squad, Hitler-loving publicans, Islamo- and homophobic football coaches – have hit the headlines a little too frequently for comfort.

Our elected leaders – from the mainstream “respectable” parties – appear to fan the flames of such bigotry rather than pour sand on them. Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt was recently accused of lying and ‘dog whistle politics’ when she claimed that EU member states have no veto over Turkey joining the EU and that such an eventuality would make Britain vulnerable to foreign criminals and terrorists. During last winter’s European refugee crisis, Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, declared the city closed to her fellow human beings desperately fleeing war, penury and persecution.

All of which implies that tolerance and diversity aren’t Portsmouth’s strong suits. But there is a different story about our city not often enough told. It’s a story of highly successful immigration, integration, assimilation and exchange.

Throughout the industrial era, Portsmouth’s role as a sea port guaranteed ethnic and cultural diversity. The 1851 census shows that the Irish – most of whom were skilled dock labourers – were then the largest minority in the city. They worked alongside so many Russians, North Africans and Southern Europeans that the historian James H Thomas speculates that rarely would you have heard English being spoken during those times at the dockyard – that most potent symbol of English economic and imperial power.

Today, the 270-year-old graveyard on Fawcett Road is the only obvious trace of Portsmouth’s oldest and arguably most influential ethnic minority: the Jews. In 1749, the Portsmouth and Southsea Hebrew Congregation was founded, followed by the building in 1780 of the synagogue at White’s Row (now Curzon Howe Road). During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15), large numbers of Jewish businesspeople came to Portsmouth to lend money and sell clothes, watches, jewellery and silver trinkets to soldiers and sailors. By the end of the wars, Portsmouth was home to one of the four major British-Jewish populations outside of London.

Compared to other parts of the UK, Portsmouth was sympathetic to the struggle for Jewish civil and political rights of the early 1800s. Leading gentiles accepted invites to dine at the Hebrew Benevolent Institution and, by 1841, Portsmouth had elected its first Jewish councillor. There were three more by the end of the decade. To this day, four Lord Mayors of Portsmouth have been Jews: Emmanuel Emmanuel (1866-7), Abraham Leon Emmanuel (1894 & 1901), Harry Sotnick (1963) and Richard E Sotnick (1978). The former two were not related; the latter two were father and son. For more detail on the compelling history of Portsmouth Jewry please see Dr Audrey Weinberg’s two-part essay here.

Some people believe that the first significant Polish community in Britain was established after EU freedom of movement policies were relaxed in 2004. In truth, it happened in Portsmouth two centuries before. In 1834, 212 Polish soldiers fled Russia after their plot to overthrow the then Tsar was foiled. They came to Portsmouth where the residents not only welcomed them but raised money to pay for their food and shelter. As a contemporary journalist noted, ‘Not the rich and great alone have contributed, but perhaps many a hard-earned shilling has been dropped into the subscription boxes by the artisan or labourer.’

After World War II, Portsmouth’s three major ethnic minority groups were Hong Kong Chinese, Indian and East Pakistani (later Bangladeshi). The Chinese population spiked in the 1950s when a growing demand amongst sailors for Chinese food prompted the opening of dozens of new restaurants in the Portsmouth area.

According to the 2011 census, 205,400 people live in Portsmouth. Council figures from 2014 show that 16% of the city’s population is BME (Black Minority and Ethnic). The largest BME communities are Bangladeshi (1.8% of residents), African and Indian (both 1.4%). Other notable groups – presented here in order of size – are Chinese, mixed white and Asian, white and black Caribbean, and Arab.

Over 100 languages can now be heard around Portsmouth, with Polish the most commonly spoken non-English tongue (1,914 speakers or 1% of the city population). 1,517 residents speak Bengali (including Sylheti and Chatgaya), 1,180 Chinese languages other than Mandarin and 979 Arabic.

The headline here – and a happier one than the hateful headlines above – is that Portsmouth’s BME population doubled between 2001 and 2011.

This article was originally published here.