Stop,Look,Listen…my weekly selection of favourite films, books and events to get you out of the house


..A Taste of Honey… the original film made in 1961, see Manchester and Salford in glorious black and white. Fascinating footage of Piccadilly, St. Ann’s Square, Albert Square and the Crescent in Salford. Wonderful closeups of Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryan as we enter the world of Shelagh Delaney.

Be inspired
BBP honey
Buzzin’ on the roofs, Manchester and Salford’s Urban Bees…a film made about how local people have become involved with saving bees. Fascinating footage of the city and the unusual venues that now have bee hives on their roofs including the Printworks… see

Defend the right to protest…again


Every week a small group of people, Tameside against the Cuts, stand outside Ashton Jobcentre to highlight the iniquities of the benefit system, in particular the unfair use of benefit sanctions and forcing people to go and work for local companies for benefits only and with little prospect of getting a job. Some of the claimants are frightened to join them for fear of being sanctioned but this is a democratic country and just because you are on benefits  doesn’t mean that you cannot oppose the government…well,maybe not, this week one man joined the protestors and next thing that happened was that his JSA was sanctioned. TAC are helping the man to challenge it, please sign their petition to show the Jobcentre that claimants have rights just like me and you,  see
Read more about it here

Learn about….
empty cages

..a campaign to oppose the North Wales Mega-Prison. More people are going to prison, some of them because they are poor, at the same time the government is building bigger prisons and privatising the prison system. This organisation is actually challenging the nature of prison itself and asking questions about why we send people to prison and what is its purpose. It is asking key questions about the nature of the society we live in and how we treat some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Join the debate at 7pm on 19 November, Friends Meeting House, Mount Street Manchester. Further info see

Oppose mental health cuts
crisis in mental health

……there is a crisis in mental health services in the northwest and at this meeting users, workers and everyone are invited to join the campaign against further cuts. It’s on 22 November 12.30-2.30pm at Cross Street Chapel in Manchester. Further info see

Meet up with

…likeminded people at a Campaigns Bazaar on 27 November 7pm – 10pm at Academy 2, Students Union, University of Manchester. It is being organised by Manchester Mule, Young Greens and others. They say;“Each group will introduce themselves on stage with a 5-min talk, video or presentation. Groups will have info stalls and there will be plenty of time to ask questions and learn more about what everyone is doing.
The Bazaar is for students, campaigners, and anyone who wants to make a change in the place where you live: whether writing for alternative media, online campaigning or direct action, there’s something for everyone.

Go to
manc and salford anarchist

…Manchester and Salford Anarchist Book Fair in Manchester on 29 November..more than just books, food, crafts but also talks about some of the important subjects of the day. One of the few events that brings together people from a wide range of ages and ideas. And it’s free!! Further info see

Posted in anti-cuts, Communism, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, Manchester, political women, Salford, Socialist Feminism, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Stop,Look,Listen…my weekly selection of favourite films, books and events to get you out of the house





The Kirkby Rent Strike (1974 Documentary) made by Nick Broomfield. This is an in your face film showing the anger felt and not often expressed by working class people. It begins with a woman speaking to the camera and reminding the viewers that the media will not make any difference to her life or those of her community. She says, and the film goes on to show how, it’s only working class people who  can change their lives. It could have been made today. How many books, articles, documentaries have been written or made by the middle classes about the austerity in the last 4 years? Yet the reality is still the same for increasing numbers of working class people falling into the growing chasm of poverty and despair.

This film is about the response of the Tower Hill Estate in Kirkby in Liverpool, when the government imposes a £1 rent rise. Three thousand of the tenants went on a 14 month long rent strike, some even went to prison. The women were at the centre of the Unfair Rents Action Group and we see them speaking about their lives, the lack of hope for their children in the local education system and the grind of working in local factories. But it is a film that gives you hope as you watch the tenants organising the campaign, occupying the local council offices and demonstrating outside the prison when the bailiffs arrest one of the campaign group. Wonder if Jim Allen watched it and decided to write “United Kingdom”?

Go see some radical theatre

committed lantern theatre




…in short supply in these angry times. “Committed” written by Irish playwright Stephen L.Smith at the Lantern Theatre in Liverpool. Set in Northern Ireland in 1993 just before the IRA ceasefire ex-prisoner Dan McCrory is sent to a small catholic enclave, which has been plagued by petty crime. His mission is to establish a “Concerned Residents Committee”, and the ground for an election campaign, which will follow the cease-fire, which he knows, is imminent. While carrying out the punishment of a local “Hood”, however, he finds out something he’d rather not know, something that throws a shadow over his whole future. This play was seen as too radical by the West Belfast Festival which is a sad reflection on present day life in a republican community. Made sadder by the fact that Stephen was a political and community activist in Ireland for 30 years so he knows what he is writing about. Make your own mind up see


the common people




Common People, the History of an English family by Alison Light. Not just the story of one family but a well-written social history of the way in which ordinary people travelled across this country (and overseas) in search of work, homes and family. I love this book because I knew little about the lives of people who come from the south of England and it is a fascinating insight into the trades of needlemakers, paper sorters, sailors and bricklayers. Family history has never been so popular but Alison has set a high standard for those of us who might consider following in her footsteps. It is expensive, £20,  so get it from your local library…if you still have one.

Join the picket to defend the right to protest


….in March 2010 at an anti-EDL demonstration in Bolton several people were punched by the police, which was filmed by Granada Television, The footage shows Alan Clough, aged 63, standing with his arms crossed in front of him,  when he is apparently struck by an officer with a baton. It also shows other protesters being hit by other officers and Alan pushed and pulled to the ground in the crowd. Alan was charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour at the EDL and UAF rally in March. But when his defence team obtained the footage, which can be viewed on The Bolton News website, the CPS decided to drop the case. On 10th November at 9.00am at Greater Manchester Police(GMP) Headquarters, justice4bolton will lobby outside when Officer Cantrell from the Tactical AID Unit will, finally, be disciplined for his “punch”. Further details of the campaign see

Listen to some local choirs at Manchester Museum



be Wonderstruck.… Come and hear the sound of a hundred voices as choirs and performers from across Manchester join forces at Manchester Museum. Inspired by awe and wonder at the Museum’s collections, writer/performer Daniel Bye, musician Boff Whalley and director Sarah Punshon have created original songs for a weekend of musical surprises. Performances will begin at 11am and 1.30pm on 15 and 16 November in the Museum reception area. You could follow the performers and experience the whole 70 minute cycle, or simply enjoy encountering musical surprises as you explore the Museum. Further info see

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England Arise!

Bent Architect are not a left wing theatre group in the traditional sense but they have produced one of the few dramas this year which challenges the Government’s propaganda about the First World War. England Arise is the story of people who refused to be conscripted into the army in 1916 and the communities that supported them.

England arise


Bent Architect are Mick Martin and Jude Wright. They both have a long history of writing and producing in television, theatre and the community. They started the theatre group in 2007 and over the years have produced plays addressing issues as varied as bipolar and Charles Darwin. Wright describes how they work; “it gives us the opportunity to do things that are a little off the wall. When a story is right and it is the time to tell it we bring the company into action.”

They decided to produce a play about Huddersfield and the issue of conscription; “I saw Cyril Pearce on a television programme over 15 years ago and he really changed my ideas about the First World War and the issue of conscription.”

cyril pearce




Pearce’s book, Comrades in Conscience: The Story of an English Community’s Opposition to the Great War, published in 2002 , is a study of the opposition to the First World War in Huddersfield. In it he argues that opposition to the war in the town has been marginalised by mainstream historians.

In the 1960s he interviewed key members of the town’s Independent Labour Party which revealed that Huddersfield had many conscientious objectors and that they were not a marginal group but were supported by what was a highly politicised community. Huddersfield was an important place because of its textile industry and the socialist politics which sprang from it. Pearce became an adviser for the play and his book became a bible for the playwrights.

England Arise tells the story of Arthur Gardiner, a dyers’ labourer from Huddersfield who refused to fight in the First World War because of his political beliefs. The writers have used his verbatim account of his defence before the Military Service Tribunal in 1916 in the play to demonstrate his bravery and the centrality of his socialist politics to his refusal to fight.





Mick Martin, the writer of the play, has also used feminist historian Jill Liddington‘s excellent history “Rebel Girls” which shows the impact of the suffrage movement in towns such as Huddersfield in the early 1900s. As Jill Liddington explains; “When the Huddersfield WSPU branch was formed in December 1906 about fifty women gave their names.” The play shows how young men such as Gardiner were inspired by the women’s experience of imprisonment, hunger strikes and of being treated as aliens in their own country. To accompany the play the company have taken traditional socialist songs and asked local musicians to compose new music to the words.

Jude Wright says they want the play to remind people of an important aspect of history in this country and show how ordinary people can make a difference to the politics of their era. The play has been financially supported by Kirklees Council which means that Bent Architect will be giving talks and running workshops in the local schools and libraries. Funding from the Cooperative Group has meant that they will able to take the production to Rochdale while a donation from the Lipman and Amiel Trust will allow the play to be published.

Martin sums up how they feel about the play; “Ultimately it is a very dramatic and universal story of people standing up for what they believe in, it’s also very hopeful, about young men and women who believe in a better world and are committed to bringing it about – peacefully”

The play is on at the Peoples History Museum on 14 and 15 November For details  see

No Glory in War have a conference in Manchester on 15 November further details see

The archive of the No Conscription Fellowship can be accessed at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford see

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Stop,Look,Listen…my weekly selection of favourite films, books and events to get you out of the house


Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden




Citizenfour (Cornerhouse) a documentary about Edward Snowden, the man who exposed what is really going on by governments in their efforts to find out what we are doing in every aspect of our lives. He had access to that information because he was a NSA intelligence analyst and was so horrified by what he saw that he decided he would have to tell the world. He has paid a high price, he is stateless, living in Russia which is not a free society, and it is not certain what his future will be. For me the strength of this film is in its depiction of Edward. He is not a political activist but is a person who cares deeply about our right to liberty, something not to be confused with privacy. He is part of our radical tradition that opposes the tyranny of governments. For me, he is an inspiration. Find out why by seeing the film.





..the campaign to find 43 student teachers in Mexico. It reminds me of 70s Chile or 80s El Salvador…I could go on. On September 26 the students were returning from a protest about rural teachers when their vehicle came under fire. They were then taken away by the police and  have disappeared. Their parents do not know what has happened to them. The police investigation has not produced any results. Across Mexico demonstrations have taken place. On 14 November at St. Peter’s House in Manchester there is a social to highlight what has happened and raise money for the students’ families. There will be food, a skype conference with student teachers from Ayotzinapa. Cost; £5 See

Get to know more about Palestinian culture..
reem kelani




…. and watch Reem Keelani, a Manchester-born Palestinian singer, who performs all over the world connecting her Palestinian music with the cultures as diverse as Turkish, Afghanistan and ….the Anti-Capitalist Roadshow…not sure why she isn’t better known, maybe because of her politics. I saw her for the first time when she brought out this CD “Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora” It is a fascinating insight into her life and those of the Palestinian community. Watch a clip at

And for something completely different...go see Palestinian Hip-Hop group DAM +poet Rafeef Ziadah +Katibeh 5 on Friday 7 November at 7pm at Kraak, 11 Stevenson Square, Manchester. The concert will support the work of the Children’s Mobile Library in Khan Younis, Gaza
Buy the tickets here

Find out about Spanish film


..and watch some films (for free) at the Cervantes Institute. It starts on  5 November at 6.30pm with Snow White/Blancanieves set in southern Spain in  1920, a story of fantasy, emotion and humour. For info on all the screenings  see

irish no need apply


to a poem; An Irish immigrant returned  by Stephen L. Smith. His reflections on the queen’s visit to Ireland. Just came across it on Youtube and love it! See

Posted in anti-cuts, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, labour history, Manchester, music, Palestine, poetry, Uncategorized, women, young people | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Stop,Look,Listen…my weekly selection of favourite films, books and events to get you out of the house


brussels business




The Brussels Business, a documentary that  asks the question; who runs the European Union? Its  is one of the biggest economies in the world and therefore dominates the lives of us all. This screening  is organised by the Manchester Film Cooperative. It will be followed by a discussion about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP),  a trade agreement that will open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could  mean the privatisation of the NHS. The campaign against TTIP is growing,  so find out more and listen to speakers from 38 Degrees, the University of Manchester and Ethical Consumer. Maybe too many speakers and where are the activists?! Further info see



mary higgs




The Amazing Mary Higgs by Carol Talbot. Born in 1854 Mary was a fascinating character. She was from a religious family but chose to investigate the lives of some of the most vulnerable in society at that time; women. Going undercover nowadays is a weekly occurence by the media but when Mary did it, and because of who she was, it was really risky and dangerous. She spent her life campaigning for better living conditions for those unemployed women who were forced into tramp wards of workhouses and lodging houses. Her work was recognised and led to the creation of hostels for homeless women and reform of the law. Mary did much more, including working to improve the enviroment of her home town of Oldham. Unfortunately this book is written in a very staid  way, maybe reflecting that it was originally written for an MA dissertation. Mary’s life was an exciting one for a woman of her age but I think the author fails to bring this across. Make your own mind up, though.  You can buy it at

Go for a walk

Tameside 2



around radical Ashton on Sunday 2 November and support the local Tameside Against the Cuts campaign. Read Charlotte’s blog about how this small group of people, who have no money,  stand outside Ashton Job Centre each week to support unemployed people who are being victimised because they are poor.  The walk starts at 11am from the Town Hall steps and costs £7. If you cannot come on the walk, please pledge a donation. See

Go to a talk…





by socialist historian Robert Turnbull about his new book; Left for the Rising Sun, Right for Swan Hunter. History written by a socialist to inspire and educate us about our past and our possible future. Rob is speaking at 2pm on Wednesday 29 October at the wcml. Read my review at

Wear a white poppy




…the symbol of peace. I wear it  to remember all the people, particularly the conscientious objectors of the First World War, who suffered because of their opposition to the war. I am not a pacifist, though,  if anyone hits me, I will hit them back! Find out why you should wear a white poppy at You can buy one at the Working Class Movement Library  or

Posted in anti-cuts, book review, education, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, Tameside, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stop,Look,Listen…my weekly selection of favourite films, books and events to get you out of the house

still the enemy
Still the Enemy Within at a very appropriate setting, the Moston Miners. I was involved with the Miners Strike so it brought back some good and not so good memories. It reminded me of going on a delegation to Northern Ireland with a group of miners’ wives who got hassled by the authorities as we docked in Belfast but who instantly understood the political situation and the discrimination and oppression facing the Republican community. It also reminded me of how, when I worked at Bolton council, my fellow Unison members ignored me when I collected for the Miners during my lunchtime. My only real criticism is that the film has not dealt with some of these issues and in particular the lessons we need(ed) to learn from the strike. Highly recommended.

handmade films
….some locally made films at the The Harpurhey and North Manchester Handmade Film Festival. It was founded in 2013 as a way to bring people together to tell their own stories in their own communities. The festival  is being led by local film-makers Richard Searle, Kay Phillips and Rose Hodson in partnership with community venues such as the Manchester Communication Academy and Moston Small Cinema at the Miners Comunity Arts and Music Centre. Further info see

Go to a play….
England arise
about the people who refused to fight in the First World War and the community they were part of. England Arise tells the story of Arthur Gardiner, a dyers’ labourer from Huddersfield, who refused to fight in the First World War because of his political beliefs. The writers have used his verbatim account of his defence before the Military Service Tribunal in 1916 in the play to demonstrate his bravery and the centrality of his socialist politics to his refusal to fight. Not a story we have heard about in  this year’s depiction of the First World War. Further info at

Find out about.….
what is happening in Kobane and the Kurdish struggle. I came across this interesting post about the present situation in that area. It’s written by Roza Salih, who is Vice President Diversity & Advocacy at University of Strathclyde Students’ Association in Glasgow and NUS Scotland’s International Students’ Officer see

adam hoschild
To End All Wars A Story of Protest and Patriotism in the First World War by Adam Hochschild. We are living through dark times and it is not surprising that a government that is intent on rolling back the welfare state has also tried to sell a patriotic and nostalgic view of the First World War. It is what governments do,  particularly as they can probably sense the growing unhappiness and anger of the population. Adam’s book is an important reminder of how, even in the really bad times when it seemed like everyone (including progressive organisations such as the trade unions, some suffragettes and socialists) supported the First World War,  people such as Keir Hardie and Sylvia Pankhurst and many not so well known individuals and groups did everything they could to try and turn the tide against the war. Adam is speaking in Derby on 22 October further details see Buy it at

Sign a petition
change greens
…if you have been horrified by the amount of time that the terrestrial channels have given over to UKIP. Some are calling the BBC, UKIP TV! All the channels have proposed that UKIP should be included with the three main parties in the coverage of the general election. They plan to exclude the Green Party who have had an MP (and MEPs) for several years. It is unbelievable! Oppose this by signing the petition at

Find out

anti austerityabout the anti-austerity protests in Ireland and listen to Paul Murphy, just elected as an anti-austerity TD, as he exposes a government that is imposing more cuts including higher water charges on a population that has had six years of austerity. A brilliant speech and it is inspiring to see the fight back in Ireland. See

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Save Bolton Psychological Therapy Service

It is a Friday lunchtime in Bolton, Greater Manchester and the streets are busy with shoppers. It is also World Mental Health Day and campaigners from Save our Health Services Bolton are out on the streets of the town centre once more to campaign against the latest threat to local NHS services, the privatisation of the Bolton Psychological Therapy Services. Over the last year the SOHSB have campaigned against the downgrading of Bolton hospital,cuts in health workers posts, cuts in mental health beds across the Greater Manchester area and the Healthier Together initiative.

BPTS is a service that treats people with mild/moderate mental health conditions: exactly the kind of service that all the politicians, such as Nick Clegg last week, hold up as crucial to preventing increasing mental ill-health within the population.

Services such as BPTS are important for many reasons. Research shows that providing this service at an early stage stops people going onto becoming iller, both mentally and physically. Also by getting treatment earlier it means that people can stay in work rather than having to leave work due to ill health and ending up claiming sick benefits.

Karen Reissmann, secretary of SOHB and Unison national executive member, explained why this is an important service for Bolton; “Bolton has always prided itself on developing this service, long before it became a national service.”

BPTS is recognised as a good service, it has no waiting lists and is staffed by highly experienced practictioners. So why would you privatise it?

Karen believes that it is part of the growing privatisation agenda within the NHS. “We are the thin edge of the wedge, if they do this it will open the door to every other service being privatised.” The Health and Social Care Act 2012 and the TTIP legislation are forcing the privatisation agenda onto the NHS locally and nationally in the drive to save money and cut services.

Another worrying aspect of the secretive tendering process for BPTS is that the service has been undervalued between one-third to one-half of its real cost. Never mind the expense involved in the tendering process itself.

For many people in this country the financial crisis for individuals and their family is having a disastrous effect on their mental well being and there is a greater need for these services. As Karen says about BPTS; “It is not good to cut a service that helps the people of Bolton feel happier and less stressed.”

The Save our Health Services Bolton campaign is one of the most dynamic in the northwest. It needs to be as it is fighting on many fronts to stop the closing down of key aspects of the town’s NHS services. The group includes health workers (from Unison and Unite), service users and many local people who do not want to see the undermining of their health care. They say; “We are not going to let them get away with privatising our service.”
sohsb 1
Join Save Our Health Services Bolton at

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