Read my weekly roundup of radical arts and politics..Rent Rebels,Joan,Babs and Shelagh too,Madonna in a Fur Coat and Argh Kid

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rent 2

Rent Rebels organised by Manchester Film Coop and Greater Manchester Housing Action on 18 July at 7pm at the Partisan Collective, Manchester. Walk around Manchester city centre and you cannot miss the homeless – one of the most vulnerable groups – who are the victims of a housing system that has failed those who need council accommodation the most. GMHA are a new group that are working to raise issues about housing. At this screening watch a German film that shows what activists have done in Berlin to oppose the privatisation of social housing. Join in the discussion afterwards to find out more about GMHA, and how you can take part in their activities. Further details see




Joan Littlewood (6 October 1914 – 20 September 2002), one of the most original and innovative theatre directors. She set up the Theatre Workshop, bringing new working class actors into the theatre, and recognised the importance of the theatre to the whole community by setting up her theatre in one of the poorest areas of London. Her philosophy was driven by her communist politics and her relationship with folksinger Ewan McColl.  Find out more about the genius of Joan in this new  play;  Joan, Babs & Shelagh Too by Conscious Theatre. They say ;In a transformational tour de force solo performance blending biographical detail with Brechtian technique, unique writer and  solo performer Gemski questions why it is that a woman who arguably contributed as much to British theatre as Shakespeare is seldom remembered.

See this show  at 3 Minute Theatre


madonna in a fur coat

Madonna in a Fur Coat by Turkish writer Sabahattin Ali ( 25 February 1907 –  2 April  1948) He was a socialist, teacher, translator and journalist. Imprisoned several times for his political writings, he was assassinated in 1948 under mysterious circumstances. Madonna in a Fur Coat was first published in 1943 and  was never that popular,  but today in Turkey it has topped the best seller lists. Set in Ankara, Turkey in the 1930s it begins with the story of a young man who gets a job working as a lowly clerk in a lumber firm. There he meets the firm’s translator,  Raif Bey, a man that is abused by everyone in the firm and  by his family who live off his earnings. This makes him ask the question about  individuals such as Raif ; “What do they live for?”.

But Raif is no ordinary man. In his youth he left rural Turkey and lived in Berlin post 1918. There he fell for an artist, Maria, who wanted an equal and free relationship with Raif.  It is hard to believe that this book was written in 1943 because of the way it explores Raif and Maria’s desires for each other and a new life.  Maybe it is popular in Turkey today because the government is threatening the secularism and modernity of the country. What makes Madonna such a thrilling novel is the way it shows how  relationships can change peoples lives; setting them free from reactionary views about how men and women should behave and act, and allowing them to be whatever they want to be. And  in 2016 we are all still struggling with the same problems of trying to live with  and without each other. Brilliant.

You can buy it here


argh kid

To local poet ‘Argh Kid’ (David Scott) as he reads from his new collection, Beige Boy on 28 July at Joshua Brooks in Manchester see.  In his latest collection of poetry he tells; tales of friendship & fighting to drugs, music & love. It’s a superb fresh mix of stinging social commentary and pub-toilet-sink realism.
Tagged as a  “thinking mans’ Shaun Ryder”!!! Just watching him recite his poem about UKIP which  shows that he has a lot more going for him than following in the footsteps of Ryder. Watch

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Read my weekly roundup of radical arts and politics..Queen of Earth, Like there is No-one Looking,Respectable, The Solution

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queen of earth

Queen of Earth (Home) Catherine (brilliantly played by Elizabeth Moss) is on a downward spiral; her father has committed suicide and she has been dumped by her partner. She retreats to stay with her friend Virginia (Katherine Waterson) at her rural home. Looking for support from her friend she just becomes even more anxious and worked up as Virginia spends her time with her new partner. The women become locked in a battle over past and present resentments about their relationship and the way in which both of them have hurt each other. Catherine simmers with anger and frustration as her mental decline seems to verge on murderous intent. Close ups of the two women make this a claustrophobic and chilling   film, and  you are drawn in and have no idea how it is going to end. I think many women can empathise with Catherine and Virginia over the way in which friendships can be supplanted by the love of men.



barton theatre company

To a new play “Like there is no one Looking” by Elaine McCann and performed by Barton Theatre Company. Its great to see a local, Eccles, amateur theatre company  taking part in drama festivals such as Greater Manchester Fringe Festival. The play takes as its theme a very important subject- dementia- showing how music can be used as a therapy to bring back forgotten happy memories of the past. Catch it 4/5 July at The Albert Square Chop House at 8pm. Further dates see

Listen to  playwright Elaine McCann talk about her play on Salford City Radio see




respectable lynsey

Respectable  The Experience of Class by Lynsey Hanley. Great to read a book about class by a woman from a working class background! Lynsey grew up on a council estate in Birmingham, the only child  of a father who was a  white collar worker and her mum who was a housewife. Loved the stories of Lynsey at 8 years old reading the Mirror before she went to school!  In this book she explores a working class community that is more complex than the usual sterotype; one where people read books, watch documentaries on television and have views about the world. It is essentially her story and as she admits; she was  privileged because she is an only child with all the advantages that gave  her of her parents’ time and money.  In the book she uses her own experiences of growing up in a working class area to show how class does destroy peoples hopes and dreams for a better future. And how being middleclass does give people an entry into education and a more secure future. She provides lots of evidence of that from her own observations as well as many studies, historical and modern.

For me coming from a similar background but an Irish one (and  an aspirational community with a large extended family)  I can relate to and agree with much of the book. But although I followed a similar path from council estate to professional job, I do not feel her sense of alienation from her class or background. The difference is, not class in the end, its about how you see yourself and what you do. I have always been an activist ; in my trade union, in the Irish community organisation and in various single issue campaigns from CND to abortion.  Missing from this book are the words; trade union. I presume she is in one?? UCU if she is working at a university?? Maybe on strike over pay and conditions?  Missing  also from the book is the history of the working classes involvement in radical organisations and  the many women and men who have fought for a better life for their children and wider society .  She needs to read Northern ReSisters conversations with Radical Women.  And, much as I did enjoy the book, unfortunately it is one for the middle classes again.Reinforcing an ideal that working class people should be aping a middleclass lifestyle rather than looking for happiness in a community that recognises and values a lifestyle that doesn’t put university, accumulating wealth and snobbery at the centre of society.


An Answer

To everyone who thinks that the EU referendum result last Thursday is not acceptable because it didn’t give them a remain result and that we need another referendum ..…………


The Solution by Bertolt Brecht (1953)

The Secretary of the Authors’ Union

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Which said that the people

Had forfeited the government’s confidence

And could only win it back

By redoubled labour. Wouldn’t it

Be simpler in that case if the government

Dissolved the people and

Elected another?

Posted in anti-cuts, book review, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, Manchester, Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women, political women, Socialist Feminism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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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

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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

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

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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