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

miss fisher
….Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries(DVD)…it is an Australian television series based on Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher Murder Mystery novels. Set after the First World War Miss Fisher is a thoroughly modern woman. We do not get to know much about her background except she is financially independent and has links to the British aristocracy. Not that she is the stereotypical upperclass woman. As soon as she steps back onto Australian land she is embroiled with poisoned husbands, cocaine smuggling rings and illegal abortionists. Two of her sidekicks are ex- communist dockers; Burt and Cec. But Miss Fisher is happy to use her own gun, hidden in her garter, to right wrongs with an undercurrent of helping those not as privileged as herself. Great to see such a positive female role and a series that attempts to show a broader range of characters than you usually get in mainstream television. It is also very witty and clothes you would die for!!

fundraising party
….Manchester for Ayotzinapa fundraising party on Saturday 25th April, from 7 to 10pm at The Yard (Hulme). Entrance fee is £ 5.There will be stalls, Latin American music, delicious Mexican food and drink, and an exhibition of posters in solidarity with the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa. Their parents have not given up in their struggle for justice and there is an increasing human rights crisis in Mexico. Find out more at this event.

to a talk by Sheila Cohen, author of Notoriously Militant; the story of a union branch at Ford Dagenham. On 22 April at 2 at the WCML. This book tells the story of Ford Dagenham from 1931 until it closed in 2002. Intertwined with it is the struggle for trade union rights in one of the most anti-trade union companies. What makes this book different is that Sheila tells the story through interviews with leading shop floor union officials and stewards. Listen to Sheila talk about working class politics and socialism at

Artwash; Big Oil and the Arts by Mel Evans which shows how and why the big oil companies sponsor the arts in this country. Companies including Chevron, Exon, Mobil and BP are exposed as trying to use their financial weight to build links with the artworld to try and erase their destruction of the enviroment. They are literally trying to wash away their sins by their involvement with high profile partnerships with organisations such as the Tate. Mel has spent years doing undercover research, grassroots investigations and activism to expose the links between the oil and art world. The campaign against these partnerships has worked as arts organisations are cutting their links with the oil companies. Buy it at
Find out more at

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


Glasgow Girls

Glasgow Girls

a documentary that shows how even a group of working class girls can stop their friends from being deported. They are the Glasgow Girls, a group of seven school friends, who live in Glasgow. In 2005 one of their friends, Agnesa Murselaj, a Kosovan young woman and her family were, early one morning, taken from their flat by the UK immigration service and put in detention at Yarlswood Centre near London. The girls refused to allow their friend (and other failed asylum seekers) to be treated in this way. Their school, Drumchapel High School supported the girls and their campaign led to Agnesa and her family being returned to Glasgow. The film shows how the girls challenged not just the Labour Scottish administration but the UK government and its treatment of children. The girls’ story went onto inspire a television drama and a stage musical.

in these times

….In These Times Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars 1793-1815 by Jenny Uglow…one of my favourite historians. A bit of a dry title that does not give credit to this exciting story of the people in Britain during the twenty years war with the French; the first global war. This is story of how the war affected the people left behind and the way in which this war changed Britain forever. This is not the story of war and battles on land and sea but how ordinary folk dealt with the effects of the war. Loved the story of how communities booted out the army as they tried to take their men and press gang them. Jenny writes in an engaging and forthright style that makes you want to know more. Its an expensive book so order it from your library.

Tameside 2
a demonstration to highlight how Tameside Council, New Charter Housing Trust and the Jobcentre are harrassing poor families. Yet another example of the partnership going on between Labour and the Tories. Another reason to vote Green or any other party (except UKIP) in the General Election. The demo is on Tuesday April 7 at 12.

For details see

private eye
……the victimisation of union representatives. This time it is the University of Bolton and surprise it happened because of the outing of the vice Chancellor and a large loan he was given by the University to buy a house. No evidence has been produced to show that Damien Markey secretary of the Bolton branch of the UCU and his wife, Jennifer, a member of Bolton Unison, had anything to do with the leaking of information but they have both been sacked. This is unlawful and unfair. Both deny any involvement in leaking the stories. .
Further info and sign the petition see

And now for the news……..the latest offering from cassette boy………see

Posted in anti-cuts, book review, Communism, drama, feminism, human rights, political women, Tameside, Uncategorized, women, young people | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Book review; Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change by Caroline Lucas

honourable friends

Last week I attended the book launch of Lisa Mckenzie’s “Getting By” in a church community centre in Longsight. I am an atheist and reluctant go into any religious venue and it is not a place that I would expect to host a meeting about a book on class and austerity.

But the launch was not organised by a campaigning group but a “think tank”, SARF. SARF is one of the many organisations that have sprung up over the last few years to research on poverty and inequality. Most of their funding is going to come from sources such as Manchester City Council so it is not surprising that one of their workers is standing as a prospective Labour MP.

Across the northwest one can see how the cuts have affected communities, particularly the poor and disadvantage, with the closure of local services, the end of decent jobs in council run services and the closing down of access to further and higher education. Not that this was evident at this event as the local Christian youth service had organised a film show and a presentation from young people about the positive side of living in an area that is officially described as “deprived”. And in innercity areas it is the new churches that are stepping into the gap left by the council, and the left, providing not just services but a Christian based view of the world.

Lisa McKenzie’s view of what do about the austerity is not quite the same! She spoke about her involvement in Class War which is an organisation that was very popular in the 80s and seems to have had a revival, particularly in London, where it is involved in campaigns around housing. Lisa is standing in the general election against Ian Duncan Smith.
class war april

This event made me think about who is representing the poor. Obviously not the Labour Party. The northwest of England is, for many people, seen as a one-party state: Labour holding the crown. But increasingly people are not voting at all as they shun a political system that is broken.

In areas such as Tameside it is the Green Party that is challenging the Labour hierarchy that is happily closing down or privatising services. It is the Labour Party that is setting bailiffs on poor people who cannot afford to pay the community tax. It is the Labour Party in cahoots with the DWP that is persecuting benefit claimants.

In Tameside it is only the Green Party that is challenging this nasty agenda. They have played an important role in publicising and challenging the vindictive nature of the Labour council and the Job Centre. Working class people such as Charlotte Hughes have joined them and become prominent activists in their anti-cuts campaign. She is standing as a Green Party candidate in the General Election.
charlotte mqc

The Green Party only have one MP; Caroline Lucas. In her new book, “Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change”, she reflects on her five years in Parliament. The whole archaic nature of Parliament is stripped bare but most telling is her description of the reaction of MPs in the House of Commons as a large student march gathers nearby.

It is November 2010 and it is the second march of students and, after a previous protest where students surrounded the headquarters of the Conservative Party, the police were determined not to lose control again. Parliament Square was closed off and thousands of protestors were penned in Whitehall as, Caroline comments, “if in a huge police cell.”
student 2010

One of the reasons Caroline is popular is that she is an instinctive campaigner for justice. She had planned to go on the march that day and seeing and hearing peoples’ complaints about police tactics first hand she hurried back to Parliament.
In the House of Commons she stood up to try and get a government response to the mayhem outside. It did not happen and Labour who had instigated student fees in previous administrations were just as unforthcoming.

The responses of both parties reflect the way in which the political system is broken, unrepresentative of many sections of society and distrusted by so many voters. She sums this up. “What people want, on the really big issues of the day, is that there are parties they can vote for who represent, explain and express the differences in view that exist in the country.”

Democracy is at the heart of Caroline’s book she she points out the failures of our political system but also offers a message of hope that it is people who matter, that we can rollback the attacks on the NHS, fracking and “the war against Terror”. Her campaigning outside Parliament on many issues has not made her cynical or burnout. “We need new thinking, a new sense of realism about the threats we face, and above all a new way of working together in politics to tackle the things that really matter. That will only happen if the Parliament we elect in 2015 has radical voices, free from the shackles of traditional politics and big business.”

In the General Election I will vote Green but given the political system that we have it is not likely that they will gain many MPs. The real difference will be made by Scottish voters who hopefully will wipe out Labour and vote SNP. A coalition of Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru may be the best chance of a different kind of politics in this country.

Posted in anti-cuts, book review, education, Manchester, political women, Socialist Feminism, Tameside, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

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

Sell-Off-web Sell Off the Abolition of your NHS, a screening organised by Greater Manchester KONP and the Manchester Film Cooperative at 7pm on Wednesday 8th April at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. A film that will make you angry enough to want to join the campaign to stop the privatisation of the NHS and there are plenty of campaigns across this region to get involved in. The filmmakers say; The style of the film is intimate, hand-held scrupulousness. Interviews take place in discreet corners of hospitals, surgeries and streets, the images at times elevated by a powerful soundtrack, leaving the viewer with an overall admiration for the doctors speaking out, combined with anger at what’s happening. Not just a film but there will an opportunity to question candidates from Green, Labour, National Health Action and TUSC parties.

Learn about
man museum…the culture of Fiji, Rotuma, Tonga and Tuvalu. Alice Searle, aid worker and teacher,  who worked in the South Pacific, will lead a talk about the importance of fans, baskets and mats and their cultural significance. You will be able to handle the objects and find out how they were made. Collection Bites: Women and Weaving in the South Pacific Islands is at the Manchester Museum on April 1 from 1-2pm. Further details see

rising of bellaThe Rising of Bella Casey by Mary Morrissy. A novel about the playwright Sean O’Casey’s sister. Never knew he had one. It’s a grim story of working class life in Dublin, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century and then taking us to Sean’s debunk to Britain and a life of celebrity. Bella was his only and older sister, who helped bring him up. Like many women there are few historical facts about her life except for Sean’s autobiography, which spanned six volumes, in which he killed her off ten years prior to her actual death. Mary Morrissy has created a believable interpretation of life in Dublin, with its harshness and deprivation for the working classes. Bella is a bit of a victim, which annoyed me, but I love her daughter, Babsie, who brings the factory girls out on strike. You can see why women such as Mary Quaile were forced to flee the city for jobs and a different life. Buy it from

Find out
doctor who and….about the communist, Malcolm Hulke, who wrote scripts for Dr.Who in the 1970s. Radical historian, Michael Herbert, is launching his pamphlet; “Dr.Who and the Communist Malcolm Hulke and his career in television” on 19 April at the Fab Café in Manchester. Terrance Dicks, who worked on Dr.Who as a script editor from 1968-1974, will be taking part in the discussion about Hulke’s career. It,s going to be popular so book your tickets at
Buy the pamphlet for only £4 at

Posted in anti-cuts, book review, Catholicism, Communism, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, Manchester, novels, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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

nowhere is home

Nowhere is Home..(watch on BBC IPlayer) Dexys film of their latest show. Totally eccentric, brilliantly brainy Kevin Rowland is one of my heroes. In Dexys Midnight Runners in the 70s he espoused the working class intellectual viewpoint dressed in his donkey jacket and hat. With songs such as Dance Stance he snarled at the people who were anti-Irish. From an Irish Birmingham background he challenged all the stereotypes of what it meant to be Irish. In his latest album “Nowhere is Home” he is still chewing over his identity. Enjoy it at

Oppose racist prisons
…….you might have seen the footage on Channel 4 about the shocking behaviour of the prison authorities to asylum seekers see .
They are not going to put up with it anymore, many of them are on hunger strike. Send them a message of support to

Find out about
hague conf

“These Dangerous Women; Manchester Women and the Hague Peace Conference in 1915″. In 1915 women from across Europe (including the UK) joined together at this meeting to discuss how they could influence the end of the First World War and prevent it happening again. Women in this country were stopped attending by the government. Go to this free talk and film learn about these brave women. Further info see

Go and see
…”Medea” at the Casa in Liverpool. Burjesta Theatre present an original poetic adaptation by Jon Bibby, a cast of sixteen actors including an eight-strong women Greek chorus, and two child actors. All the money from the show is going back into a fund to provide sound and lighting at The Casa so that it can improve its facilites for an affordable venue in the city centre for local people. Further info see

alex k
Alexandra Kollantai by Cathy Porter. A fascinating biography of one of the most charismatic Russian female revolutionaries. Alexandra fought for women and the family to be at the centre of the revolution. She wrote about women’s lives in the factories and in the home whilst at the same time struggling with her own life as a wife and mother. This biography uses her memoirs and diaries and letters and shows the dilemmas facing many women as they try to combine a personal and political life.

Listen to
clr james
a talk about “Red Nelson; the English working class and the making of CLR James”. James was an enormously influential Marxist writer and activist on politics, culture and much more. In 1932-33 he spent ten months in the cotton textile town of Nelson in Lancashire. He said that they were ‘ten months that shook his world’. On Wednesday 25 March at 2pm at the WCML Christian Hogsbjerg will discuss how James’s experience in Nelson shaped his emergence as one of the most important socialist intellectuals in Britain during the Great Depression.

Posted in biography, book review, Communism, education, feminism, films, human rights, Irish second generation, labour history, music, political women, Socialist Feminism, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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


Selma James

Selma James

Selma James speaking about Women, Race and Class. She is still one of the most important thinker, speaker and activist on politics today. Selma asks; where has the women’s movement gone wrong, why is it women are more interested in using the movement to pursue their careers and what can we do about it. Join her at the Mary Quaile Day on 21 March in Manchester see


G By

to Lisa McKenzie, author of “Getting By Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain”. 26th March 2015 from 6pm. She lived on the St.Ann’s Estate in Nottingham for twenty years and is in a good position to show how her neighbourhood has been affected by government policies and economic changes, much of it for the worst. Her book is unique because she is not from a middleclass privileged background, unlike many of the writers who have become famous off the back of writing about the poor, particularly since the recession began. The people in the book are not “victims” and she shows how people struggle to make a decent life for themselves and their families. The meeting hasn’t been organised by a community group, but a think tank based at a local university, which is a bit of a shame, if things are to change it is important that books like Lisa’s is read by people beyond academia and that they take inspiration from its message to take control of their own lives. Details of venue see
See my review of her book at

lisa croft

Activists; Lessons from my Grandparents written by Lisa Croft. What does it mean to be an activist and can we learn from past generations? In this book Lisa tells the story of her grandparents, their lives and the reasons why they became active in many campaigns local, national and international. Her grandfather fought in the Spanish Civil War, and her grandmother was a writer and activist in many campaigns. Lisa says; “Individually or together with comrades, their personal and public struggles are to me inspirational. This generation stood up to fascists, supported hunger marches, promoted education and welfare for all.” Lisa self published because that is the only way you are going to be able to tell stories about people who were important for what they did and not for whom they knew!
Buy it at

Find out
rule 35

..about Rule 35 at this new play by Community Arts North West Exodus project. Rule 35 says; Detention should be reconsidered if a detainee is experiencing physical or mental health issues or has previously experienced torture. Created with women refugees and asylum seekers Rule 35 asks its audience to live detention in a “unique immersive performance.” Be warned you will be expected to take part in the action and you may find this very challenging. Further info see
Book tickets at

…….Metamorphosis of Japan After the War… a fascinating exhibition of photos taken by Japanese photographers in the years after the Second World War. Their cameras captured the country and society as it rose again after 10 years of war, survived being bombed by nuclear weapons and occupied by the Allies. At the beginning of the exhibition is a picture taken just after Japan has surrendered and it’s a picture of the sun. Reflecting the photographer’s hopes for a new and progressive society to emerge in the post war era. Worth a trip to Liverpool and to one of my favourite galleries; Open Eye see

Posted in anti-cuts, art exhibition, book review, Communism, drama, education, feminism, human rights, labour history, political women, Socialist Feminism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Celebrate IWD;Maud Brown and the Hunger Marches

Women NUWM 1_0003What does International Women’s Day mean in 2015? It seems like everyone from the banks to Radio Three can celebrate a day that is now largely devoid of its socialist feminist roots. But for me IWD should be a day to remember those women who can inspire us to change society. Maud Brown is one of those women, who led the women’s hunger marches in the 1930s.

Today the major issue for many women is the effect of the austerity. The attack by this government on our lives. The growing levels of poverty and discrimination. The zero hours contracts, the food banks, the closing down of our Welfare State. Across the country women and men are getting together to oppose and challenge the austerity but it is noticeable that there is no single national organisation that exists to represent the unemployed. In the 1920s the National Unemployed Workers Movement was created by the Communist Party to ensure that workers would not be blamed for the recession.

The National Unemployed Workers’ Movement was formed on 15 April 1921 as, after a short boom immediately after the end of the war, unemployment soared to more than two million with many ex-soldiers were out of work. It’s slogan was “Full Work or Full Maintenance at Trade Union Rates”.

At the NUWM conference in 1929 Mrs Youle from Sheffield successfuly moved that all branches with more than 20 women members should establish women’s sections and that a national women’s department should be established. (A previous attempt to set up women’s section in 1926 had been rejected). This led to the appointment of Maud Brown as national women’s organiser.

Maud came from a working-class family in North London and had worked as post office sorter. She was active in the Labour party in Tottenham in the mid 1920s and had started volunteering at the NUWM offices in London in the late 1920s. Unlike most other leading members of the NUWM, Maud was not a member of the Communist party. She was apparently unpaid for her work.
Maud Brown and other women worked hard to recruit women into the NUWM, holding meetings outside labour exchanges, for instance, and built up sizeable women’s sections, especially in the north where large numbers of women, single and married, were attending the exchanges.

Maud Brown at the front of the 1932 march

Maud Brown at the front of the 1932 march

A minority Labour Government was elected in 1929 with a female Labour MInister, Margaret Bonfield, but they were not sympathetic to the unemployed. No change there!

An added impulse to organising was given by Margaret Bondfield in November 1930 when she told the House of commons that young women must accept “suitable offers” of work as domestic servants. This meant that women who had been cotton operatives on 35 shillings per week were expected to take domestic and canteen work on much lower rates ie 10s and have to move away from home.

At the NUWM conference in Bradford in February 1931 Maud Brown moved a motion on “The Task Amongst Unemployed Women” which called for proper facilities at labour exchanges for unemployed women and for crèches for women who were looking for work. It also called for equal benefits and equal pay for women as well as improved maternity and child welfare services.
Hunger marches became an important aspect of the work of the NUUW. Protesting about the injustices facing unemployed people and the particular issues facing women were taken by with women only marches.

In October 1932 the fourth national march took place with  for the first time a women’s contingent numbering about forty, mostly cotton weavers aged from 16 to 62, which started from Burnley on 9th October. Contingents walked to London from Scotland, Wales and the north, numbering about 1,500.

The march had little support from the Labour party or trade union movement.Their route south took them to Todmorden, Halifax, Huddersfield, Barnsley, Rotherham, Worksop, Alfreton, Derby, Burton-on-Trent, Coalville, Hinckley, Rugby, Northampton, Wolverton, Dunstable, St Albans and London, which they planned to reach on 27th October.

They included Maggie Nelson, a weaver from Blackburn, who was remembered by Marion Henery one of the Scottish marchers, as a “very strong personality” who was very successful at addressing street meetings. She “made an appeal to them, won their hearts and got great collections”. Maggie acted a postwoman for the contingent, picking up their letters on the way. She was separated from her husband and left her three children with friends whilst on this march. The march was led by Maud Brown and Lily Webb. They chanted slogans such as;
Work Work work
We Want work
And an end to the means test

The response to them varied with some places greeting them as heroes, welcoming to the town, organising public meetings but other areas, even trade union organisations , ignored their presence.
Throughout the 30s the women alongside the men took part in many demonstrations and by February 1933 the NUWM claimed to have 1000,000 members organised in 349 branches. There were 34 women’s sections.

The organising core were almost entirely members of the Communist party. Inevitably there was a high turnover of membership as people found work or moved to other areas. In some areas the NUWM did build a solid organisation with their own premises which acted as both organising bases and social centres.
There were further national marches in 1934 and 1936 with women contingents on both of them.

After 1936 the NUWM declined from a mass movement to pressure group as unemployment starting to fall as Britain re-armed while the Communist Party became involved in the opposition to fascism at home and abroad. The NUWM was wound up after the end of the war as there was little unemployment with the economy growing.

Women marchers meet mayor of Islington in 1936

Women marchers meet the Mayor of Islington in 1936

Maud Brown did not write any memoirs and seems to have left politics. At her 80th birthday, in August 1968, Hilda Vernon said that she organised the women’s contingents, “With a stern sense of duty, a kind heart and a sense of humour”.

In March 1975 Maud wrote a short article for Labour Monthly accompanied by some photographs from her archive. She said “Those women who are young now must not fail to remember that what has been won has to be kept. During this International Women’s Day Year, our old struggles should be kept constantly before all women.”

Go to

Further reading
Wal Hannington, Unemployed Struggles 1921 to 1936 (1936)
Richard Croucher, We Refuse to Starve in Silence, A History of the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (1987)

Posted in anti-cuts, biography, Communism, feminism, International Women's Day, labour history, political women, Socialist Feminism, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment