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


mia madre
Mia Madre(Home) made by Italian filmmaker, Nanni Moretti, who also plays the son, Giovanni , in the film. Two siblings face the death of their mother and react in different ways. The daughter, Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a Ken Loach character, shooting a film about workers occupying a factory after its taken over by an American, Barry Huggins, played by real life American actor John Turterro. At the same time Margherita breaks up with her partner and her daughter is struggling with her studies and being a teenager. In contrast, Giovanni, takes time out from his job and is more able to cope with his mother’s decline.The conflict between family members over the decline of a parent is spot on. I think Margherita steals the show as she deals with a series of emotional crisis in her life and attempts to work through them. Nanni, I feel is a better filmmaker than actor. Mia Madre is a brilliant film in exploring how families deal with the death of a parent and the reality being that until it happens to you you don’t know how you will react.

Fastfood Rights Autumn Party (Free Entry for food workers) – Friday 9th October 2015. The BFAWU and the fast food rights campaign are throwing a party at the Moston Miners. There will be bands, comedy and the live link up with #fightfor15 fast food workers in the USA who are striking to double the minimum wage all across America.

The fast food rights campaign is one of the most dynamic union campaigns at the moment join them at this event. They say; We are calling for; £10 minimum wage, end to zero hour contracts,end the unfair youth rate of pay and dignity and respect for all workers.


unbridled spirits
Unbridled Spirits Women of the English Revolution 1640-1660 by Steve Davies. It is not the most well written history book I have come across, although Stevie is a brilliant fiction writer, but it is still one of the few books that explores the lives of women radicals in the English Revolution. Her research is excellent she has searched through documents to find eyewitness accounts and personal stories to bring to life some of the bravest women. She says she wants to “haunt” readers with these womens stories, and she did me, it is frightening to read the way these women were treated just because they wanted to speak out about the political conflict. I particularly loved the stories of the starving Peace Women who petitioned Parliament for relief. It was reported by the press; “Two or three hundred oyster wives, and other dirty and tattered sluts, took upon them the impudency to come to the honourable House of Commons.” They charged into the House, blocked staircases and entrances until the soldiers beat them back with swords. My kind of women! Try your local library for a copy of buy on Abe Books for about £3. See


g oldham
From the experts how to paint, use litho and textiles to produce your own artwork. They are all local artists and you can spend the day with them at Gallery Oldham this autumn. The cost is very reasonable at £30 which includes all materials. Apart from art courses at the Moston Miners there are few opportunities for people who want to learn creative skills without going on a very expensive college course. More details see

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


tangerinesTangerines a fascinating film set in eastern Europe about a war that barely made the international headlines. Between 1992 and 1993 a war took place in Abkhazia in Georgia where separatists wanted to create an independent state. The film is set in a rural village where most of the inhabitants, who were originally from Estonia, have left. Only two older men remain, Ivo and Margus, who are trying to get in the tangerine harvest. The war slowly creeps into their village and they save the lives of two soldiers from opposite sides of the conflict. As they nurse the men back to health they challenge them over their role in the war. They remind them of their real lives as sons and members of their own community and they try to bring a sense of humanity to two young men who have been grounded into a war machine. It is a film with a strong anti-war message. Unfortunately it only had a few screenings locally so you will have to hunt it down on DVD. Best film of the year.

Find out

HR bookabout the Headscarf Revolutionaries by Brian W. Lavery. Few books are written about working class people taking direct action over injustice and even fewer about working class women; this is an exception and a worthy one. Find out more at the first Mary Quaile Club event for autumn 2015 on Saturday  3rd October at 2pm at the Working Class Movement Library. It’s not about glamourising the past either; also  in the session will be Hilda Palmer of the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre who will talk about how they initiate and support campaigns to prevent deaths at work. Further info see
Read my review at


mary 2a play about Mary Quaile. We do not need actors, comedians and writers to speak on public platforms about austerity. We need to see more women like Mary who, in her time, refused to be exploited as a catering worker and threw off her apron and organised a strike. She went onto to become one of the most important trade union women in the north west although today she has been forgotten. The MQ Club are trying to raise money to commission a play about her see
The MQC will not be getting any arts funding or Labour council funding so it’s down to us to contribute,  find out more at. All contributions, big or small, are welcome.

Look at

tom paineThe Hidden Project exhibition by Red Saunders, 8th October – 16th November 2015 at the Moston Miners. This is a fantastic exhibition, so much of radical history has been forgotten, and Red in this project has reimagined those events. Red is a photographer and he decided to recreate episodes from history and produce large scale photographs. The effect is stunning and a reminder of the role that  dissenters, revolutionaries, radicals and non-conformists  have played in our history. I loved the picture of my hero, Thomas Paine. Hopefully it will remind people of the important role he played in promoting ideas of democracy in his book “The Rights of Man.” Further details see


james c

I know it’s the Irish Labour Party and my favourite socialist James Connolly but it could be over here………thank goodness for JC (Jeremy Corbyn!)


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


mund indians

“The Munduruku Indians: Weaving Resistance” a documentary, set in Brazil, and telling the story of how the indigeneous people are having their land being expropriated by the government to build dams across the Amazon river. In the 1980s when the Workers Party, led by socialist Lula, came to power they recognised the constitutional rights of groups such as the Munduruku Indians to their land, their citizenship and way of life. Since then the government has totally reversed this policy; building dams on sacred sites, evicting indigenous people and even killing them when they clear villages. But this film shows the determination of the people to oppose the government and protect their way of life. I particularly like the interview with the women warriors. Join the discussion at the screening by Manchester Film Coop who are  are showing it alongside another, fictionalised, excellent film “Even the Rain”. Details see


a pin made by the South African grannies of the orphans of AIDS victims. There are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa – close to half of them have lost their parents to AIDS-related diseases and there are many more children living with sick and bedridden caregivers. About 150,000 children are believed to be living in child-headed households. Proceeds from the pins go to the education of those children. Cost £2 per pin. Buy from


oldham anti apartheid

at this exhibiton  about one of the most inspiring political campaigns; the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Many of us took part in their demos, wore their badges and danced along to records such as “Free Nelson Mandela” by The Specials in 1984. This exhibition at Gallery Oldham; Forward to Freedom, is organised by the Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives, focuses on the campaigns to support the people of South Africa. The Gallery and Oldham Archives and Local Studies has a large collection of material relating to the local campaign and the exhibition also features material such as banners and leaflets from the Oldham branch of the Anti-Apartheid movement. Its on from September 26-October 24.

salford concerts
to some of the best musicians in the northwest at a new classical concert series Chamber Music Mondays at Peel. Starting on 28 September at 545pm at Peel Hall on Salford  University’s Peel Park campus. Chamber ensembles from the BBC Philharmonic will perform a range of classical music. The first concert will feature new music by Manchester-based composers, performed by the Vonnegut Collective – also known as BBC Philharmonic musicians Gemma Bass and Gary Farr. The second concert will feature chamber music by Brahms and Mozart. Entry is by donation. Further details see

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


better call saul
Better Call Saul (Netflix only) if you watched, Breaking Bad, the US series about a science teacher who becomes a drug dealer, then you will remember his lawyer Saul Goodman. This is his story and how he goes from being small-time lawyer “Jimmy” McGill to dodgy criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman. It is what you would expect of BB creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. It is a dark story showing Jimmy’s descent into becoming Saul. Bob Odenkirk is brilliant as the likeable Jimmy who somehow although he tries to do the right thing ends up being screwed by bigger, more evil forces. Like many US series there is a class element. Jimmy has a cleverer older brother, Chuck, who is a partner in a prestigious law firm, where he ends up working in the mail room. Through distance learning Jimmy trains to be a lawyer but his brother will not accept him as an equal and refuses to help him join the firm. This is just one element in the story in his Miltonesque fall from grace. It is sad, funny and you just love Jimmy/Saul. Its the best of US series which put to shame our Downturn Abbey, Call the Midwife etc………….You can watch the series for free on Netflix at the moment as they have a special offer of 1 month’s free rental.


alice w plaque
out more about Derby’s Alice Wheeldon. She was a socialist who was framed by the state in 1917 for a plot to assassinate the Prime Minster, Lloyd George. Sheila Rowbotham has produced a new edition of her book. Friends of Alice Wheeldon (read my review) and there are several meetings and a walk in honour of Alice and her comrades this month in Derby and Notts. For further details see and at


43 students
The 43 student teachers who were “disappeared” from Ayotzinapa in Mexico nearly a year ago. The Manchester for Ayotzinapa Campaign goes on to support the parents and find out where they are. On 26 September they are showing a documentary “Ayotzinapa: Chronicle of a State Crime” by director Xavier Robles. Food will be served at 6 and the screening starts at 645pm. Cost;£6. Profits will go to the campaign. Venue; Workers Film Association,9 Lucy Street, Hulme M15 4BX. Further details contact


palestinian women's social
The Saddleworth Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund at a social on Sunday 11 October at 2pm. Listen to Dr. Mona el Farra, founder member of the Scholarship Fund, and find out why educational support is vital for Palestinian women. There will also be live music and the opportunity to buy Palestinian wares and jewellery. Further details contact or see

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


45 years
45 years (Home) is about older people and relationships, not the usual subject for British films. Kate and Geoff Mercer (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) are a couple about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary when a letter from Switzerland reveals the fissures in their relationship. Its a film about older people looking back and wondering why they ended up where they are and with that person. More people divorce at 60 these days so Kate and Geoff are not the norm in that they are reaching their 45th milestone. Courtenay is brilliant as the grumpy old man, obsessed with a woman from his past, and unhappy with everyone around him who wants to make him happy. Rampling is breathtaking as the wife who, it seems, has given him everything including agreeing to not having children. It is all about loss and it is incredibly sad, particularly in the last scene when they are at their wedding anniversary party.

we were not
and see a film about Italian women partisans during the Second World War: We Weren’t Given Anything For Free. Learn about the lives of Annita ‘Laila’ Malavasi, Gina ‘Sonia’ Moncigoli and Pierina ‘Iva’ Bonilauri, who were not just battling the Nazis but the chauvinism of their men. They played a key role in the fight against fascism and this film shows what that meant to women who were only in their early 20s at the time. Central to the film is the interviews with the women and indeed their comments about women and politics today in Italy. Well done to the organisers of the screening as it is only the third time its been shown in the this country. Get down to the Castle pub on Oldham St. in Manchester on 3 Sept at 7pm. Donations please to encourage the organisers to show more political films!
You can check out the trailer here
Further details of the screening see


dead dog in a suitcase
a new adaptation of the Beggar’s Opera; Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), a production by Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. If the show is as exciting as the trailer it’s going to be  tremendous. A play for our time, again, it’s a musical satire on corruption, greed and big business. They say; . Trip-hop combines with folk, Renaissance polyphony with psychedelia, ska with grime and dubstep, to create a gorgeous and powerful musical mix. See it at Home on 11 Sept-26. Further details see

the fishermen
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (ONE Pushkin Press). This is a novel about Nigeria, and the hopes of dreams of one family. Set in 1993 the family in the book are not poor, their father is an employee of the Central Bank of Nigeria, their mother has her own business and the children go to school. The novel spins around the title. As their disciplinarian father leaves the family home, the four boys decide to break the rules; beginning with fishing in the local river. This first act of defiance leads the boys to fall out amongst themselves and the break -up of the family. But the novel is more than that: it has a lot to say about the state of Nigeria today. At one point in the book the boys become involved with MKO Abiola, a millionaire politician who it was believed won the 1993 election but ended up, not in power, but military detention. I love the way the novel is written, rooted in African storytelling, and reminds me of other great African writers such as Chinua Achebe. It is a story of great hope, by the father for his boys, but a bit like Nigeria, that hope is squandered despite the dreams of so many good people in the country. Chigozie says of The Fishermen it; “first came to me as a tribute to my many brothers, and a wake-up call to a dwindling nation-Nigeria.”

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Book Review; Mrs Engels by Gavin Mc Crea

mrs engels 2

Some people in the northwest might be a bit unhappy with a novel about the lives of local hero and heroines Fred Engels and Mary and Lizzie Burns. But in his first novel, Mrs Engels, Gavin McCrea has at least for me given a realistic portrayal of the Engels/Burns relationship.

Not much is known about the Burns sisters and that is what makes the novel so intriguing. We do know that they were probably born in Manchester of Irish parents and identified as such,part of a large radical Irish community in the northwest at that time.

Engels came to Manchester at the age of 22 to work in the family firm Ermen and Engels, which was based in Weaste in Salford. He may have met the Burns sisters there but there is no proof. Engels was a political activist and writer and, after meeting Karl Marx in the early 1840s, cemented a relationship that would last all their lives, both a personal and political one.

courtesy of Salford Star

courtesy of Salford Star

Engels used Manchester and Salford as evidence for his classic Conditions of the Working Class in England. It is unlikely he could have done this by himself as a well-off foreigner and most historians believe that it was the Burns sisters who made it possible that he could gain an insight into the dreadful lives of the poor in the 1840s.
The Condition of the Working Class in England

“Mrs Engels” is Lizzie Burns, the younger Burns sister who leaves Manchester with Engels. Her sister, Mary, is now dead and she is 50 years of age and faces the challenge of a new life as the wife of Fred Engels, a major player in the world of socialist politics.

Lizzie-Burns 1

Perhaps because McCrea is also Irish the banter between Lizzie and Fred crackles along throughout the novel. Lizzie says about Fred; “As foreigners go, he’s unusual fast at picking things up. His problem -the big noke- is letting things go when a thing is long done and over.” Fred says jokingly about her; “The Queen was right. That you are an abominable people, none in the world better at causing distress.”

But now they are in London the lives of Lizzie and Fred are closely intertwined with the Marx family. McCrea uses this closeness to create tension between Lizzie and Jenny, the wife of Karl Marx, to illustrate the massive differences between the two women. Jenny abandoned her aristocratic family and lived a life bordering on poverty when she decided to marry Karl, while Lizzie and Mary, although poor, were independent women who fascinated upper class men such as Fred and Karl.

Although much of the book is fiction McCrea does include some comments that Engels made in real life about the working classes of Manchester and Salford ; “I discovered poverty and degradation among the working people worse than in any civilised place on earth. But I also discovered a proletarian culture of significant intellectual elevation.”

But it is the Burns sisters who provide the core to this book: the banter between the sisters as they carve out a life for themselves outside the factory; their support for the Fenian movement; the sadness as Mary loses her child and Lizzie’s attempts to make her mark as the mistress of the Engels’ household in London. All set against one of the most dynamic periods of history in this country.

Mrs Engels is only a novel but if it encourages people to find out more about the Burns sisters and their significance to the bigger story of Marx and Engels then Gavin McCrea has written a significant book.
Find out more about the Burns sisters visit the WCML in Salford

Published by Scribe Publications
Price; £14.99

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

the president
The President (Home) Set in an unnamed eastern European state the President finds that his time has run out and he has to flee (with his grandson) as his citizens revolt. He could be Gadaffi or Sadam Hussein and no doubt the director was influenced by events in Libya, Iraq or Eqypt. As the President escapes into the countryside we see how his rule has led to a country more representative of a 19Century feudal state. He is reduced to scavenging for clothes and food as the country falls apart. At one point he ends up carrying a political prisoner who was involved in his son and daughter-in-law’s murder. It is a grim story of war with the real victims being the poor, women and children.There is very little dialogue in the film but the relationship between the grandfather and grandson is touching and offers some hope of a better world.

To some reality theatre; Bagheads. Originally, a book by Manchester author Karen Woods, she has now adapted it for the stage and its being performed at the Lowry Theatre next month. Unlike many of her other works its not about working class women living on council estates instead the main character is Shaun Cook who is a heroin addict. Something that Karen knows about personally as her brother was a drug addict. But typically Karen it is the usual mix of grim reality laced with northern humour. Her plays are just as popular as her books so get your tickets now! Read my interview with Karen see


maid in london
Out about what it is like to be a hotel worker in London. They look like they are smiling when you book in but this blog tells the real story. See

The right to strike. They really want to reduce us to slaves and this bill will allow employers to employ agency workers during a strike or maybe the Job Centre will force some poor unemployed people to scab on the strikers. Watch this video by Frances O’Grady and join the campaign.See

reem kelani
To the wonderful Palestinian singer Reem Kelani. Catch her on her mini tour of the northwest. On 19 September she is at the Bolton Socialist Club and to buy tickets, people should e-mail or phone 01204 848 279. Or the ACE Centre Nelson on Thursday 12 November.Reem will perform alongside Al MacSween on electric piano.
Watch her at
Further details see

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