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

The Yellow Balloon(DVD)..made in 1953 and in black and white it is the story of Frankie, a 12 year old boy living in London with his parents. Whilst out playing in a bombed out building, his friend dies and a local criminal, Len Turner, persuades Frankie that it is his fault and that the police will arrest him for murder if he does not run away with him. This is eight years after the end of the Second World War and there are still bombed out buildings and people, like Frankie’s family,  who are living in a flat without running water and presumably no indoor bathroom or toilet. We do see a close working class community: Frankie’s father gives up his spare cash, with which he was going to buy himself a new pair of shoes, so that they can buy a wreath for the dead boy. A fascinating film from the golden era of British filmmaking.

We can be heroes
tommy sheridan
….another interview with citizen Tommy…there are people like him down here but they never get on television, instead they are on the streets leafleting, supporting people over benefit sanctions and trying to get by on low incomes. But, like Scotland,  change is coming, inspired by Tommy and other Scots from the independence campaign……Love the bit in the interview when Tommy talks about speaking at Tony Blair’s old public school….see

save bolton health services
…the campaign to stop the privatisation of Bolton Psychological Therapies Services…it is a good service, with little or no waiting lists and staffed by highly experienced people…so why would you want to privatise it?…why would you, in a highly secretive tendering service, want to undervalue it from anything from a one-third to one-half of its value? Campaigners in Save Our Health Services have launched a campaign to save this very important service. Join them, further info see

Sign up

…to the The “NHS Bill 2015″ campaign. The “Campaign for an NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015″ has produced an “NHS Reinstatement Bill” which sets out the legal steps needed not only to reverse the failings of the Health & Social Care Act 2012, but to fully restore the NHS in England as an accountable public service. You can email your local candidate to pledge their support at For more info read this article at

1842 general strike
The 1842 General Strike by Mark Krantz. Another history book written by a political activist; the best kind. Its pop-up history, in 28 pages, he tells the story of one of the most dramatic episodes of radical history. It is the general strike of 1842 when over half a million people just walked out of their workplaces across the country and demanded higher wages and political rights. Mark recounts the events in a well written and exciting narrative. But could have done without the inevitable SWP analysis!
Buy it at Cost £2.

Posted in anti-cuts, book review, Communism, drama, films, human rights, labour history, NHS, Socialism, Uncategorized | 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 (Cornerhouse and Moston Miners) an award winning documentary that was funded by individuals and trade unions. The film includes new interviews and archive material that has never been shown before. You probably know the story, 160,000 miners challenged the Tory Government over its, secret, plans to close down the coal industry. This is their story and the story of the many people who joined the NUM in what became probably one of the most important disputes in recent times. At the Cornerhouse event there will be a Q&A with the producer Mark Lacey and Cath Booth who was involved with the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.

Find out about
cable streetwhat it means to be an activist and I mean not just going to meetings but physically opposing fascists on the street!. Mike Luft has been active in anti-fascist struggles all his life. He says; ““I grew up in Manchester in the 1940s and my family background included Rumanian, Russian, Irish and Scottish roots. In my neighbourhood I was surrounded by refugees. But it was a political, a communist background where opposing racism and particularly fascism was part of my lifeblood.” Mike is talking about his life and struggles at the WCML in Salford on Wednesday 15 October at 630pm. Further info contact

Look at.
BV and chethamsSampling Belle Vue: a 21st-century remix at Chethams Library. Loved this fascinating mix of Art students reinterpreting the BV archive. Didnt know the archive existed and there are some wonderful artefacts including postcards, guides, ceramics and photographs. The students looked at these and reinterpreted them to reflect their viewpoint. They were particularly horrified by the way the animals in the zoo were treated and this is shown in some of the pieces that they produced. Chethams is a little gem and well worth a visit.

Learn about…

Hannah Mitchell

Hannah Mitchell

Hannah Mitchell. On Saturday 18 October 2014 the Mary Quaile Club will celebrate the life of Hannah Mitchell at the Topaz Cafe, Katherine Street, Ashton-under-Lyne from 10.30-3.30pm. Hannah was a member of the Independent Labour Party, a suffragette, a peace activist and councillor in Manchester. From 1900-1910 she lived on Elizabeth Street in Ashton. The day will include a number of talks about her life, songs, some readings from her autobiography The Hard Way Up. Playwright Eileen Murphy, will read her play about Hannah’s life.Entrance fee is £6.00 waged and £4.00 unwaged and includes lunch. Places are limited and must be booked on advance by emailing


Tameside against the Cuts

Tameside against the Cuts

National Boycott Workfare Week: Saturday 4th – Sunday 12th October 2014 there are various events going on across the region. They want to to highlight the unfair use of benefit sanctions. Last week in Ashton a man was sanctioned for attending a relative’s funeral.Further info see  Find out about the reality of life on benefits read this great blog see and watch some direct action as people chase away bailiffs see


cassette boy.Cassette boy has mashed up Cameron’s conference speech and produced the Cameron rap ….hilarious! See


Listen to
martin harris centre
…some free classical music. Walter Carroll Lunchtime Concert Series – Shakespeare à la Russe: Voice and Piano on October further info see

Posted in anti-cuts, art exhibition, Communism, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, interesting blog, labour history, music, political women, Salford, Tameside, women | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Building a Socialist Library(9) Left for the Rising Sun,Right for Swan Hunter

Left for the Rising Sun, Right for Swan Hunter. The Plebs League in the NorthEast of England 1908/1926 £6.99.

Mark Twain said; I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.
In 2014 all the educational doors that I managed to get through are rapidly closing to the new immigrants and the poor working class in this country. And it is not just that access to education has a hefty price tag, it is also the downgrading of many jobs that working class people could get into. In this I include many public service jobs and professions that are melting away in the government’s agenda to make the poor pay for the austerity.

But for me education is not just about the collection of a series of certificates and the race to get a middle class job. Brought up in an Irish family my political education was as important as my father teaching us to write our name before we went to primary school. Like many people who were denied an education he got his on his travels across this country, in his experiences at the bottom heap of society and in his constant battles for respect and equality for himself, his family and his community.

In this very important book, Left for the Rising Sun; Right for Swan Hunter; The Plebs League in the North East of England 1908/1926, historian and communist (a winning combination) Robert Turnbull tells the exciting story of how this amazing organisation played an important role in the political education of working class people.
plebs league

The Plebs League started in 1908 when a group of students challenged the teaching at Ruskin College which until then was a major player in labour and trade union history. Their aim was to “bring about a more satisfactory relationship between Ruskin and the wider labour movement”. Their slogan was;”Educate, agitate, organise”.

This led to a the creation of the Central Labour College (CLC). The divide being between the reformists and the revolutionaries with very differing views of what the purpose of education is. Should it be solely to equip people to get better jobs or should it be part of a political education to turn society upside down?

Central to this story is the north-east of England and the coalfields of Northumberland and Durham which fed the shipbuilding, heavy engineering, chemicals, railways and glassmaking industry. Waves of immigrants from Ireland and Scotland went there to find work, becoming part of a community that sought to educate itself and build a strong trade union movement. The Plebs League responded to this;
“Education is and must always be a means to an end. To some it is a means to personal satisfaction, to others a means to a living; to us it is a means to the Great End, the emancipation of the workers.”

Robert shows how this was not that straightforward and that there were to be battles, not just with the capitalist class but also with organisations such as the WEA which had the support of the political and educational establishment.

This new independent working class education was quite different from the liberal curriculum of the WEA. It was “about workers equipping themselves with the necessary intellectual and cognitive skills so that they could meet the capitalist class on their own terms for the showdown that was coming.”

The Plebs League were following in a tradition of working class education that had its roots in the creation of the Mechanics Institutes in the late 1840s. Robert shows how radicals such as Joseph Cowen believed in the emancipation of working class people through education. He founded the Wincanton Literary and Mechanics Institute in 1847 which offered both men and women (very progressive in its day) classes in politics, science and technology. As Robert says; “Without the pioneering work of the Mechanics Institutes it is doubtful if the Independent Working Class Education movement in the North East would ever have got off the ground”.

Central to the story of the IWCE across the country was the political atmosphere with the growth of organisations such as the Independent Labour Party, the Social and Democratic Federation, and newspapers such as the Clarion. Political unrest from 1910-14 was reflected in industrial unrest, the ongoing suffragette campaign and the Home Rule for Ireland movement.

The IWCE thrived in the revolutionary era of 1908-1920 but then declined, partly as it became a more centralised organisation and partly because of events such as the defeat of the General Strike of 1926 led to the shattering of ideas of unity across the labour movement and a sense of hopelessness in their ability to challenge the capitalist class.

Today it is hard to find the hope and political committment that drove the IWCE in the early part of the 20 Century. In response to the privatisation agenda of both past Labour governments and the present Con/Dem government there has been the growth of many new organisations such as the Peoples Assembly, UK Uncut as well as many single issue campaigns against fracking, NHS privatisation and so on. But what is missing from most of these organisations is any sense of class consciousness. There is a growing sense of anger at the inequalities of society but this hasn’t been transferred into a politicised view of society. One of the reasons I believe that these organisations fail to sustain themselves beyond organising meetings and marches is that few, if any, offer their members a political education, something that the Communist Party was very good at. Across the country there has been attempts to set up an IWCE network but without working class people at its heart I am not sure that this will address the importance of giving people back a sense of their own worth and a respect for their own political heritage.

I have been involved in the Mary Quaile Club, an informal group trying to make working class history more accessible through talks, films and music. Each event has an element of history and a link to present day activism. We hold our events across the Greater Manchester area and try to engage with people and communities that do not normally go to history events.

Left for the Rising Sun
is an important contribution to the present day movement to revive a sense of history and political commitment to those people who really need it, the working classes. Books like this, I think are inspiring and are crucial to working class people taking back their history and redefining it for the 21 Century.

Buy it from Five Leaves Bookshop, an independent bookshop in Nottingham. see

Robert Turnbull is speaking at the WCML in Salford on 29 October see

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

IdaIda (Cornerhouse)
a story of war, occupation and death. Set in Poland in the early 1960s Anna, a young novice, is sent from her convent to meet her aunt before she becomes a nun. It turns out that she is actually Jewish and called Ida. With her aunt, Wanda, she goes on a trip to uncover the truth about her family. For me it is the aunt played by Agata Kulesza who steals the show. Wanda is a tough woman. She was a partisan and fought against the Nazis and is now a judge. She drinks, smokes and is a woman not to be trifled with, the complete opposite of Ida. This odd couple find little comfort in each other’s company as they travel through rural Poland, all filmed in black and white. It is an unnerving film that kept me on the edge of my seat. Highly recommended.

Be inspired
Tommy-Sheridan-This-choice….by Citizen Tommy Sheridan. The vote was lost for Scottish independance but much more was gained by the debate that took place across the country. Watch Tommy at his best, in the Hope not Fear tour, so many people turned up to this community centre in a working class area of Glasgow that he spoke both inside and outside the building. He is still one of the most inspiring speakers you can listen to see

Celebrate the bard’s birthday.
shakespeares deadly sins…I am not a great fan of Mr.Shakespeare but there are plenty of others determined to mark the day. Conor McKee’s new production Shakespeare’s Deadly Sins is a journey through his plays, from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth, plus stage fights, sonnets and songs. Read my review of Hamlet at the Royal Exchange see

More my kind of Shakespeare

art not oil…the Reclaim Shakespeare Company were set up to expose the way in which BP use funding arts projects to give themselves a squeaky clean image. BP are not good for the environment: you only have to look at their destructive activities in the Canadian tar sands, Russian Arctic and so on. So sign the RSC’s petition to stop the British Museum having a sponsorship deal with BP. As one of the most prestigious and well funded museums they cannot need the money!!! Sign the petition here

greenpeace coal…the campaign against coal, ironic in the year we are celebrating/commemorating the Miners Strike of 84/5 but it is a highly polluting energy source. Watch this film as Greenpeace stop a coal train to highlight the growing use of Russian coal to keep power stations going. see

Learn about…Zimbabwean stone sculpting group Matombo-Tombo. They meet every Saturday at Gallery Oldham and their new exhibition Kubatana Nematombo opens on 4 October 2014 from 1-3pm. They welcome new members to their group, further info see

Posted in anti-cuts, art exhibition, Catholicism, Communism, drama, education, films, 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

WatchManuscripts Don’t Burn (general release)
manuscripts-dont-burn film….one of the most frightening films I have seen in a longtime. Why? Because it was made by Mohammad Rasoulof, a filmmaker who has been banned by the Iranian government from making films so the film had to be smuggled out of the country. The cast and crew were so worried about being arrested that they did not want their names to be listed. The film is about how the Iranian government will go to any means to repress human rights including the arrest, torture and killing of individuals. The title is taken from a work by Bulkagov, a writer who lived during the times of Stalin, who started writing his famous novel the Master and Margarita in 1928 but fearing it would never be published in the Soviet Union burnt the first draft. He restarted the book in 1931 and it was published but heavily censored after his death in 1967. The complete manuscript was published in 1989 and many people believe it to be one of the finest novels of the 20 century. I believe Rasoulof has used this title to assert that you can burn books and you can kill individuals but you cannot kill the spirit of freedom. Watching this film reminded me of writer Jim Allen’s film Hidden Agenda which dealt with the war in the north of Ireland in the 80s. Another haunting but important film about the importance of people speaking out and fighting for freedom. Allen said; “After a film I hope the audience demand answers and action. I’m not keen on sending them to bed happy-I want them angry to get change.” This film certainly made me angry and I hope it will/can make some change in Iran. Highly recommended.

Go to a play...about union representatives being sent to jail…shrewsbury 24think it couldn’t happen in this country? It did in 1972 when 24 trade unionists who had been active in a strike in the construction industry were put on trial. Two people, Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, were sent to prison on conspiracy charges. Warren is now dead but there is a campaign to expose the political nature of the charges and to clear the names of the men. A new play called “United We Stand” is being toured by Townsend Productions which tells the story of the men and this very important miscarriage of justice. This week on 23 September on BBC Breakfast you can watch an interview with Ricky Tomlinson. Further info see Join the campaign for the Shrewsbury 24 at

Go to a meeting… on press freedom.
nuj manchesterIt’s the Labour Party conference in Manchester and the local NUJ are organising a public meeting on No More Murdoch’s ; Making the Media An Election Issue on Monday 22 September, 6.30pm Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS. Speakers include John McDonnell MP, Rachel Broadey of the NUJ and Ann Field of the CPBF.

Support radical theatre
We Are Not Going Back 1Red Ladder Theatre’s We Are Not Going Back is on this Monday and Tuesday in Oldham. Its the story of three sisters and the Miners Strike so lots of opportunity for conflict of all kinds! More info at

Join a campaign.
hope not hateto stop groups with a racist agenda such as UKIP winning at the General Election next year. Hope not Hate are the main organisers and to do this important work they need financial support, please see their appeal at


Find out about
jim allen….local writer Jim Allen and see his film United Kingdom. Set on a council estate it’s about a community that refuses to pay a rent increase. Listen to Honor Donnelly of the Bedroom Tax Campaign and lecturer Andy Willis talk about the significance of Allen’s work. Further info see

Posted in anti-cuts, Communism, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, political women, Socialist Feminism, trade unions, TV drama, Uncategorized, women, young people | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment