Read my weekly roundup of radical arts and politics..Is The Man who is Tall Happy?,Bringing Greenham Home,Conceived in a Curry House,Banner Theatre

Stop look listen










is the man who is tall happy

 Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Free, online hereAn animated conversation between filmmaker Michel Gondry and big thinker  Noam Chomsky  It is a beginners’ guide (for people like me) to understanding the links between language, philosophy and science. Made interesting because Gondry is just like the viewer, he isn’t an academic, but like most of us wants to make sense of the world. Love the bit in the film where Gondry asks Chomsky for advice about his conflict with his girlfriend over her interest in astrology. Chomsky relates his own experiences of growing up to bigger questions about the universe; why we should puzzle more about the universe and not assume we now know everything about it, how do babies learn language before they can speak it? These are all big philosophical questions, answered by a great intellectual but made understandable and interesting by a brilliant combination of Chomsky’s responses and Gondry’s wonderful animation.



The Greenham Common peace camp. On 5 September 1981 it was a group of Welsh women from “Women for Life on Earth” who marched to Greenham and set up the first peace camp – just outside the fence surrounding RAF Greenham Common – to oppose the siting of 96 cruise missiles there. The campaign against cruise missiles was one of the most inspiring for many people, both women and men, throughout the 80s.

At this event Bringing Greenham Home on 15 July organised by clubdefemmes at Home in Manchester you can watch the film Carry Greenham Home by Beeban Kidron and Amanda Richardson (who also lived at the camp for 8 months) as well as a couple of short films that are more oblique commentaries on the issues around peace/war. The speakers include Jo Blackman from Seeds of Hope and as usual with Home an academic.

Unlike the 1980s  the  cuurent peace movement, at least outside Scotland, is on its knees. But we need an opposition to this government’s policy of updating Trident at the cost of £205 billion! So go along to this event, remember how important Greenham Common was, but  for me it’s not about memorialising the past , it’s about doing something – now!

Find out about Greater  Manchester CND see

Read the stories of northern women peace activists here


conceived in a curry house

To a drama about FC United. “Conceived in a Curry House” is the latest production from MaD theatre from North Manchester. The birth of FC United is a fascinating subject as I found out when I interviewed one of their founders, soon to exit Chief Executive, Andy Walsh. Read it here.  Football is something I do not understand but  community and cooperatives I totally get,  and I think they are one way – particularly as public services are destroyed – of people getting together to create or preserve an aspect of their culture. FC United now have their own  football ground,  so it will be interesting to see if they can maintain their anti-establishment stance.

Watch the trailer here

For info about performances see



banner theatre

A brilliant new performance by Banner Theatre which celebrates the role of the black and Irish communities in Birmingham. Love the inclusion of Ilene French and Jim Dodds telling their story of coming to England as part of the wonderful contribution that immigrants/migrants have and continue to make  to this country. And it’s the usual mix of an excellent song by Dave Rogers and wonderful music from Fred and the rest of the band.



Posted in anti-cuts, Betty Tebbs, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, Manchester, Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women, political women, Socialist Feminism, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Read my weekly roundup of radical arts and politics..Embrace of the Serpent, A Bed of Shards, The Trials of Spring and Backlash Blues

Stop look listen


embrace of the serpent

Embrace of the Serpent (Home), a stunning film about the price that indigenous people have paid for colonialism. This time it is the Columbian Amazon and the story of a shaman, Karamakate, who is the last survivor of his tribe, and his relationship with two scientists over 40 years.  The script is inspired by the journals of two scientists, German ethnobotanist Theodor Koch-Grünberg and American botanist Richard Evans Schultes who spent years in the Columbian Amazon seeking a sacred healing plant.  Made in black and white – but just as powerful because of it – it is nature that dominates,   imposing a dreamy state on the viewer as we sail down the river with the shaman and his friends, seeking a cure for their physical and mental ills. At the heart of the film is the impact of western colonialism: destroying people, their environment and their culture. Karamakate does not let the scientists off the hook as their journey takes them to a destination  that neither of the men expected. It is not an easy film to watch, but is mesmerising and stays with you long after you leave the cinema.


bed of shards

a new drama A Bed of Shards by local  playwright Jane McNulty at the Lowry Theatre on 1 & 2 July. Two women  face being  moved from their home in a tower block to a council bungalow, but have different attitudes to the move. Whilst Ronnie embraces the possibilities of a new beginning, her partner, the reclusive Button, fears the move will bring exposure and loss. Good to see drama about ordinary older people who share all our own worries about the future.

Watch the trailer here

Book here



trial of spring

to some films about female political activists, it’s one for women only, as part of the Create Film Festival. On Sunday 10 July 2016 you can watch three films exploring the role of women in recent conflicts. This includes a film about Eqyptian women in the 2011 Arab Spring in The Trials of Spring (2015) by Gini Reticker, the war in Sri Lanka in I Too Have a Name and Colours of Resistance (2014) about refugees in Jordan. More info see


nina simone

to Backlash Blues, written by Langston Hughes, African American poet, activist, novelist, and  playwright,  and sung by Nina Simone. In his work he depicted the lives of poor blacks, articulating their demands for equality and justice. Nina Simone was not just a singer and writer,  in the 60s she took her anger about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and the killing of four children,  and poured it into her songs and performances. This is one of her best see

Posted in drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, Middle East, political women, Salford, Uncategorized, women, working class history | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Read my weekly roundup of radical arts and politics…The Gods of Wheat St., Reinstate Robert Czegely,Njinga, Queen of Angola and Labour Start


the gods

The Gods of Wheat Street (free on Youtube) a fantastic Australian television series (6 episodes) about an Aborigine family in rural Australia. Breaking with all the stereotypes of Aborigines it mixes magic realism, humour and pathos in telling the story of the Freeburn family. Many of  the characters are named after gods-hence the title.  Odin is the head of the family and we watch as he struggles to keep his car repair  business and his family together. Life isn’t easy: when his mother died in a car accident it’s Odin who had to keep the family together and 20 years later he is also a single father with 2 daughters. Brilliant script with gentle male characters and feisty girls and women and it’s great to see such positive images of Aborigine people.

Reinstate Robert

robert HW

At the launch of our Mary Quaile pamphlet last week one of speakers was Unite activist Robert Czegely, who worked as a waiter at the STK restaurant in the luxury five star Melia ME London Hotel in central London for nearly two years before he was sacked. He opposed the way in which the management were charging customers 15% service charge but not passing it on to staff. Angered by this he joined Unite to speak out against unfair tipping practices. Unite have lodged a claim with the employment tribunal over his unfair dismissal, calling on the management to give him his job back.

Please help Robert get his job back. See more at

 Find out


about Njinga, Queen of Angola (2013). In C17th Angola she led her country in a 40 year struggle for independence against Portuguese slave traders. In this new feature film, which has had little publicity, you can find out more about this tremendous woman. It is fantastic watching an African woman in battle – representing the stories of many African people who opposed slavery and colonisation – and  a complete contrast to the usual Western viewpoint of slavery with a very strong message of fighting for your rights, even if it means taking up arms against better armed opponents. It’s being shown at Z Arts on Tuesday 14 June at 6.30pm. Further details see

Watch a trailer here



LS 3

an online news service that has 137,101 supporters- which  is why they are successful in supporting the rights of workers across the world. Anyone can join and then, simply by clicking on their email messages, really make a difference to trade unionists and their struggles worldwide. It is simple – many employers do not like publicity given to the abusive way they treat their workers. Through Labourstart you can find out about how, even in the most brutal regimes, workers do fight back and it’s inspiring to read and support their struggles. Donate to LS if you can afford it ( it’s run by volunteers).  Find out more at

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Fiery Women: my review of The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot and Petroleuse by Steph Pike

In 2016 we need our heroes and in these new  books there is much to remind us that another, fairer world is possible.  Mary M. and Brian Talbot’s graphic novel, The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia,  is about Louise Michel, a political  activist and writer in the politics of France in the 1870s, while  Steph Pike’s new collection of poetry, is called Petroleuse , the name  given to women revolutionaries by the reactionary French forces which destroyed the Commune and killed thousands of people.

Louise Michel was a great believer in creating utopia on earth; an ideal that motivated her lifelong struggle to turn society upside down and creater a just society. In this graphic novel her story is told through the arrival of socialist feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Paris  as they are burying Louise. Both women were interested in the idea of utopias, which was a popular theme among socialists at that time.

red virgin

Louise Michel is a fascinating if forgotten historical figure. She was an anarchist and feminist who lived her politics; as happy to take up a gun as to form a women’s cooperative.  In March 1871 the people of Paris set up their own workers’  government; the Commune. Louise saw this as the key opportunity to create an utopia: to abolish private property, to give rights to women and children and to create a new kind of  society. But it only lasted 10 weeks. Then  the French army bombarded the city, killing thousands of people, and retook Paris.

Louise was arrested and deported to New Caledonia.  Even there she took up the cause of the indigenous people, learnt their language, and wrote about their lives. This summed up Louise’s life: she always took the side of the oppressed which meant that even after being allowed back to France in 1880 she continued her political activities,  spending many years in prison.

I am not a great fan of the  graphic novel format,  but Louise’s  dramatic life entirely suits it. And the extensive list of sources and notes gives people like me,  who always want to know more, the opportunity to follow up the novel.

Steph Pike is a poet and feminist socialist who lives in the north west. Active in the Peoples Assembly   in Petroleuse, her new collection,  she firmly stamps her politics on her poetry. The front cover sums up a lot of the poetry; a picture of Steph dominates, scary and red.

steph pike

We hear her rage in her poetry: at the commodification of womens bodies in We Will not be Deodorised, the business take over of Mardi Gras, sexual abuse and the murder of women in real life cases in Amstetten. I can hear her in shouting in Kettled, EDL and Welfare to Workfare.

I love her Suffragette City, retelling how suffragettes smashed pictures in Manchester Art Gallery as part of their campaign for the vote. She links them up to modern day activists, Pussy Riot, reminding them that they are not alone. Away from the anger are some sweet poems dedicated to Manchester: Dusk in St. Anne’s Square and Piccadilly Gardens.

Steph says about her poetry; It is a call to action to question and change the world we live in. It is a call to take to the streets to fight for what we believe in. Unlike the 1870s we are living in times where people do not talk about the future and have little hope that life can get better. We need to be reminded that we can make a difference, that we can follow in the footsteps of women such as Louise Michel, and that poets like Steph Pike can inspire us to get active.

Buy them here

And watch 80s band Au Pairs and their savage indictment of British human rights abuses in Ireland in 1981 …..Armagh

au pairs


Posted in anti-cuts, book review, education, feminism, human rights, Ireland, labour history, Manchester, music, North of Ireland, novels, poetry, political women, Uncategorized, women, working class history | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Read my weekly roundup of radical arts and politics..Measure of a Man,Manchester Histories Festival, Reveal in Bolton and Manchester music.


measure of a man

The Measure of a Man or the French title The Law of the Market (Home)– another stunning film from France digging deep into the realities of life for the unemployed. Thierry, played by the wonderful Vincent Lindon, is 51, has been unemployed for a year and is now looking for work. But it is not easy to get back into the labour market –he is either too old or not qualified enough for most vacancies. But he has almost paid for the apartment he lives in with his partner and his disabled son and he does have some savings. And then he has a stroke of good luck and gets a job working as a detective in a supermarket. But more moral dilemmas present themselves as Thierry finds himself in the position of having to chase shoplifters and demand they pay up. And it becomes worse as he realises that to keep his job he must betray his colleagues.



Manchester Histories  on Saturday 11 June, 10.30-4pm, at Manchester Town Hall and Manchester Central Library.  There will be 90 exhibitors including the Mary Quaile Club.  The Manchester Beethoven Orchestra, whom I have never heard of, is playing and there are lots of screenings and talks. All of it is free and you get to have a look around two of Manchester’s iconic buildings. Further details see MHF website.


reveal bolton

To some new plays at Octagon Theatre in Bolton and their  Reveal Season (Mon 13 – Sat 25 June) They have pop up shows at venues as diverse as a pub, a local cafe and a car park. Like the sound of a new play about the Junior Hospital Doctors strike called Rounds by Resuscitate Theatre. Also in Changing the Story they interview older people about the problems involved in getting to the theatre. They say; The Reveal Season will explore themes and issues relevant to the communities of Bolton. The Octagon has always had a community feel about it and it’s good to see that they really want to engage with present day and new audiences.

Further details see




To some of the best classical music in Manchester on 10 June at 13.10 at the Martin Harris Centre Its the end of term at Manchester University and they say this concert is equivalent to the proms! Listen to the elite university chamber choirs  Ad Solem and The Cosmo Singers in a programme of Wilbye to Vaughan Williams and Jackson to Johnston.  It’s free, but always popular so get there early. Further details see



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Read my weekly roundup of radical arts and politics.. Mustang, Dare to be Free,Tom Paine and Will and Anne




Mustang, a Turkish film that mirrors the deepening crisis of  democracy in that country and its effect on the lives of girls and young women. Five sisters live with their grandmother and, because of one innocent incident at the beach after school, are imprisoned in their home. All their access to the outside world is cut off, including phones and  computers, and they are no longer  allowed to go to school. Instead they are prepared for life as a good Muslim wife; wearing conservative clothes, and being taught to cook and look after the house. But this is not a depressing film, the young women are not victims: they fight back, keeping contact with their friends, breaking out of the house to take part in a football match, and finally escaping their home-turned-prison. It is about the power of sisterhood but also, amidst all the depressing male characters,  it’s the young delivery driver who finally  facilitates the girls’ final breakout to Istanbul and freedom…we hope.

Read an interview with the filmmaker here

Find out about how women across the Middle East fighting back against conservatism –Headscarves and Hymens see my review here



MQ play


some of the new inspiring women in trade unions at the launch of the Mary Quaile Club pamphlet Dare to be Free on Saturday 4 June, 2pm,  at 3 Minute Theatre.  Nilufer Erdem from the Hotel Workers Unite branch and Sarah Woolley of the BFAWU will be talking about organising for decent pay and conditions. This will be followed by a performance of the play Dare to Be Free which contrasts the life of Manchester Irish trade unionist Mary Quaile with the lives of fast food workers today. More details see

The event is part of Manchester Histories Festival see more here



thomas-paine 1


to a film about one of my heroes; “To begin the world over again: the life of Thomas Paine” at the Working Class Movement Library on Wednesday 1 June at 6.30pm. It is a film of Ian Ruskin’s one man show about Thomas Paine. Paine was a man who lived his political ideals; he did not just write about the American and French revolutions – he took part! It is a message for our armchair revolutionaries of today: get off Twitter. His pamphlets on democracy were best sellers amongst the people at the bottom who really needed to be encouraged to take action. Sadly, we need Thomas or his female equivalent today, people who will inspire us not just with words but actions. Ian Ruskin has a lot to live up to as  Trevor Griffith’s play on Paine is superb – find out more here



will and anne

out  about 3MT’s unique take on “Will and Anne” on 12 June at 8pm. It’s another Mancunian view on Shakespeare, a world away from the highly financed and pretentious productions that usually grace the local theatres. The writer, John Topliff, has set the play in 2016 and we get to meet the mature Shakespeares. Anne, played by Lynn Touil, is a successful childrens’ writer and about to receive an award at the local Media City, while  Will, played by the mercurial Aiden J.Harvey, is a dissolute writer and actor. Through a series of flashbacks at past weddings and funerals we find out about their lives together. Like most couples, there are ups and downs and Will, as you would expect, comes out of it as a poor husband and father. It’s essential 3MT, and Topliff, as we get a refreshing new view on the royal family of the theatre world.

  Watch  a trailer here

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Read my weekly roundup of radical arts and politics.. Veronica Guerin, To Be Human, A Good Place to Hide


veronica guerin

Veronica Guerin (2003) on 29 May at  7.30pm at the Four Pound Film Club,  which is organised by the NUJ Manchester and Salford Branch.  Veronica was an Irish journalist who was killed by criminals in Ireland twenty years ago. She had a background in accountancy and was adept at tracing illegal drug dealing and that is why she was murdered on 26 June 1996 at a traffic lights in Dublin.  After the screening   NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley, who worked with Veronica  and was her deputy FoC (shop steward) at the time of her death, is guest speaker at the event. For more details see . Listen to Christy Moore’s song about Veronica see


hen 2

at To Be Human at Manchester Art Gallery. You do not need to spend a lot of money to create an exhibition that will engage the visitor. I was fascinated by the choice of pictures in this small exhibition which brings together a collection of  both famous and forgotten artists, all with different approaches  to  defining  what is meant by being human. Two of the pictures, by Robert McBride and David Hockney, are not really the kind of art which attracts me, but finding out that both of them were used by the artists to reflect on their love/lust for men at a time when homosexuality was banned gave the pictures a deeper meaning.  Also I was fascinated by a picture by a female artist that I have never heard of, Maire  Louise Motesiczky, who escaped with her mother from Nazi Austria in 1939.  Marie lived  with her mother most of her life and painted many portraits of her, this is one of the last (above)  and shows a woman aging, and with a sense of separateness. Brilliant.


a good place to hide

A Good Place to Hide by Peter Grose. During the Second World War  5000 people (including 3500 Jews) were hidden in the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon area in France from the Nazis and their Vichy apologists. This book tells the gripping story of a   tiny Protestant farming village in the mountains of south-central France who risked everything to save peoples’ lives. The people of the Plateau were imbued with a spirit of comradeship that is awe inspiring. Many of their actions were spontaneous as people literally turned up at their door and asked for sanctuary. Central to this story is the ethos of pacificism and the role of the  pastors, Andre Trocme and Edouard Theis.   On Sunday 23 June, the day after France surrendered to the Nazis,  André Trocmé,  told his parishioners “The responsibility of Christians  is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences through the weapons of the spirit.”  Resistance meant not just hiding people on farms and in villages across the area, but also setting up childrens’ homes and hostels, organising escapes across the border to Switzerland, and bringing in suitcases full of money to fund the rescue organisation.

The activists set up an elaborate and successful forgery operation to provide the escapees with new documentation, including  identity cards and exit visas. It was a highly efficient organisation that fooled the Nazis and their supporters.  Peter finishes the book by reflecting on the position of refugees today and concludes that the story;”offers a ready alternative to selfish indifference, to the pitiless mantra of nothing-to-do- with-me. For those of us lucky enough to live in a liberal democracy, we can vote. If we followed the example of the people of the Plateau and vowed to be part of the resistance against injustice, we could do it.

Buy it from

A documentary was made by Pierre Sauvage, one of the hidden children,  about the people of the Plateau, watch this trailer


Posted in art exhibition, book review, education, feminism, films, human rights, Ireland, Manchester, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment