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


and support Moston Miners as they put on a Laurel and Hardy Alldayer, Saturday 12th December 2015, 10am – 8pm, only £2.00! Back to back films from the Kings of Comedy live on the Big Screen. Watch this wonderful clip see  A great tonic for living in Austeria!


The Manchester Martyrs – three men who were wrongly tried and executed for a crime they did not commit. In 1867, during one of the most turbulent periods of history in Manchester, with the Irish community at the heart of it, two Fenian prisoners were freed from a police van on Hyde Road in Manchester. During the raid a policeman, Sergeant Charles Brett, was accidentally shot dead. Three Irishmen, William Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien, were convicted for the shooting and hanged in public outside the New Bailey prison, Salford on 23 November 1867. The Manchester Martyrs were remembered each year by a Catholic mass and procession to the monument in Moston Cemetery with many people, including my father taking part. After the Birmingham Pub bombings in 1974 it was cancelled. In the 80s a more political and controversial march was started by largely left, not Irish, groups. Today the commemoration has reverted back to a religious ceremony followed by a procession to the monument.
To mark the centenary of the execution of the men in 1967 Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley made a model for a permanent monument to the three men which was never commissioned. It is now being exhibited at the WCML see
Further info see



battle of bm
The Battle of Barton Moss; an exhibition by local photographer Steve Speed about one of the most important anti-fracking protests in the north west. It started in November 2013 when IGas wanted to start exploratory drilling at Barton Moss in Salford. Enviromentalist activists set up camp to stop them and the protest continued until April 2014 when IGas stopped drilling. Steve spent 3 to 4 days a week during the protest photographing everyone and every event. This is important history; it shows how a community can grow out of protests and most importantly how it can succeed. Please make a donation towards the cost of the exhibition see

The exhibition starts on 23 January 2016 – 17 April 2016 at the People’s History Museum see


walt carroll
Xmas and go to a free lunchtime concert at the Martin Harris Centre. Listen to Tim Langston (tenor), Jonathan Fisher (piano) as they perform a a programme of songs by Bridge, Britten, Beethoven, Strauss and Quilter on 3 December at 13.10. Further info see

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Book review; Catching Hell and DOING WELL

catching hell 2This is an important book. There are few books about the lives of black women in the UK and even fewer about working class black women. Set in Moss Side in Manchester it shows the resilience of black women to the racism and discrimination that they have experienced and the strategies and actions that they used to challenge that reality. Crucial to its importance is the fact that its written not just by the credited authors but “represents a collective endeavour of the women of the Abasindi Black Women’s Cooperative.”

I lived in Hulme and Moss Side during the late 70s and early 80s and then returned from the mid-80s to the mid 90s. It was a dynamic and exciting area to live in: first as a student and then as a worker in the local education service. I was also active in the Irish community which, like the black community had started their lives in that part of Manchester, but by the 80s had moved out across the Greater Manchester area.

As a worker in the local careers service I noticed how employers did not want to employ young  people with the Moss Side postcode and the poor response by the management to this discrimination. I met lots of black young people who were struggling to get a better life and a city council that did positively recruit more black people. As a representative of the Irish community I watched as funding organisations got the different ethnic groups to fight over the pie of arts funding. I saw it all!

The Abasindi (Survivors) Women’s Collective was set up in 1980. “The members of the Cooperative chose this name and its motto ‘Zizelewe Ukusinda’ as a tribute to the strength, resilience and competence of Black women.” At that time ideas of community involvement and self help were high on the government’s agenda as well as the inclusion of ethnic minorities in local and national policymaking.
Even though both as a worker and a political activist I knew about the Abasindi as an organisation it was one woman who was a key member of it that I had the greatest of respect for – Kath Locke. And it is the inclusion of a short biography of Kath that makes this a really important book for all other activists to read. Why has no one written a book about her?

kath locke
Kath Locke was a towering personality as well as activist. She lived with her children in the heart of Moss Side on the notorious Alex Park estate. To me she epitomised the strength and resilience of the working class women to the inequities and harshness of life in this country. Added to that was her own particular story as a black woman who had experienced racism as a child and was not prepared to let her children or members of her community to have to go through the same experiences.
I felt her politics reflected a socialist view of the world. As Paul Okojie reminds us in the book; “She would enumerate the conditions for self-improvement, clarity of purpose, not keeping silent in the face of evil or injustice, social solidarity, sound organisational strategies and above all, financial self-reliance.”
The Abasindi centre was a community resource that through the work of people such as Kath tried to respond to the multiple problems facing the black community, including racism in housing, schools, the labour market, the police and from groups such as the National Front.
Challenges to this community ethos came through events such as the Moss Side riots in 1981. Seen by many people outside the area as black people rioting, for those of us living in the area it was a revulsion by all the community (black and white) of the tactics used by the police and the way they policed the area. I had black friends in the community, some of whom had been arrested, and alongside other people I helped raise money for the Moss Side Defence Campaign. During the riots Abasindi became a safe place for injured young people to seek sanctuary after being beaten by the police’s Tactical Aid Group.

abasindi bld
Community self help was a key issue for Abasindi and this is reflected in their involvement in work with black children. They confronted issues such the underachievement of black boys and the experience of black children in the care system. Unlike other academic books that deal with these issues, in this book we hear the voices of the people who experience the racism and discrimination and how they then went on to create strategies to challenge this oppresssion. Abasindi set up Saturday schools focusing on improving maths and English as well as “tools to survive racism.” A strategy which “concerns Black children’s sense of identity, pride and belonging”.
But central to the book for me is the stories of the women involved in the cooperative. Victoria McKenzie was a writer and community worker who produced a book in Patois. As Jackie Roy recounts; “She (Victoria) had become aware that children who spoke Patois were disadvantaged in British schools and she worked to dispel the misapprehension that Patois characterised its speakers as unintelligent or uneducated.”
Throughout the book there are many similar stories which show how individuals getting together can make improve their lives. The Abasindi no longer exists and the black community has changed over the years. The black community today includes people from as diverse as the Congo, the Ivory Coast and Surinam.
I think this book should have a wider readership than the academic world: the new communities in our cities could learn lessons from the history of Abasindi as well as left  organisations such as the Peoples Assembly. The authors finish the book with a message that is important for all of us; “Black children belong in the UK and we must continue to fight to ensure they have the same access to opportunity as anyone else.”

Unfortunately the cost of the book, £25.99, is prohibitively high for the people who need to know about this history, I hope that the authors and publishers can encourage libraries and educational centres to stock it.

Posted in anti-cuts, book review, education, feminism, human rights, labour history, Manchester, political women, Socialist Feminism, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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




this changes everything

This Changes Everything based on Naomi Klein’s best selling book this film asks us not to fear the impact of climate change on our environment but to seize the opportunity to build a better world. Made in 2011 the film was shot in nine countries and five continents over four years. We learn about communities on the frontline of climate change and what they are doing about it. Seven communities are filmed from Montana’s Powder River Basin in the USA to Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands. The filmmakers ask the question; What if confronting the climate crisis is the best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world? Most importantly it’s aim is not to frighten people into retreating into our homes but to encourage us into getting together with groups including the Green Party to build a better world. Its being shown at two venues in the northwest over the next few weeks. On 24 November Unison NW and Global Justice now are showing it in Manchester at the Unison regional centre. Further details see  And on 2 December the Tameside Green Party have organised a screening in Mossley. Further details see


hidden heroes of easter week
Hidden Heroes of Easter Week by Robin Stocks. He is not an academic, he’s not Irish but he was interested in the stories of his father-in-law who had a cousin from Stockport Grtr. Mcr who took part in the Easter Rising in 1916. 1916 was a key event in the history of Ireland’s struggle for independence and next year there will be many celebrations in Ireland and other places where Irish people have come to call their home. This is the untold story of the Irish who were living on this side of the Irish sea but who secretly travelled to Ireland to stand alongside republicans and nationalists to try and free Ireland from British rule. It is a fascinating story and made so because of the long and torturous history between Britain and Ireland; one that is still going on as Ireland is still a divided country with 6 Counties still under British rule. Robin Stocks has diligently researched the stories of four people from the Manchester area who took part in the Rising. He has used new documents released by the Irish government in 2014 that revealed the names of people who had applied for government pensions because of the role they had played in the Rising and the War of Independance. It is an important book because it records the role of the not so famous republicans but who played a key part in Irish politics. As Robin says; “This is an attempt to return a few of the extraordinary “ordinary” people to their rightful place in the chronicle of the Twentieth Century.” Buy it from Robin


joe hill liverpool
Joe Hill. Watch this brilliant play; The Joe Hill Dream by John Fay. Its a fascinating insight into the world of the Industrial Workers of the World and one of their most famous members; trade union activist and singer/songwriter Joe Hill. 100 years ago, on 19th November, 1915, he was executed by firing squad in Utah, US, after what many considered a biased trial. In the play we also learn about Elizbeth Gurley Flynn, an outstanding activist in the IWW for whom Joe wrote this wonderful song, one of my favourites, Rebel Girl listen to it at
Go see the play at the Salford Arts Theatre on 27 November. Further details see

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Book Review: Marxism and Women’s Liberation by Judith Orr

judith orr

Recently fundraising for a play about Mary Quaile, an Irish trade unionist, our group contacted all the feminist historians in this country and Ireland. Only 2 responded and made a donation they were the socialist feminists. One of them was Sheila Rowbotham who recently commented to me that the term “socialist feminist” is rarely used these days.

Mary Quaile in the Soviet Union 1925.jpg

Mary Quaile on delegation to the Soviet Union in 1925

Judith Orr’s accessible and readable history of the struggle for women’s liberation explains why the term feminism has been disengaged from the term socialist. She traces the history of the various stages of women’s struggles for equality but sites class as the main reason for the oppression of women.
“This book seeks to offer an analysis of the position of women in modern capitalism building on the tradition of Marx and Engels and the many revolutionaries who followed them.”
She shows how their analysis of the privatisation of property, the state and the family as we know it today has led to the oppression of women even today in 21 Britain.
This book is wide ranging; incorporating the history of the US women’s movement as well as reviewing some of the major historical events that have affected women’s struggle for equality and justice over the last 100 years.
But like many books produced by left wing activists today there is a major omission; the affect of the conflict in Ireland and the way it has shaped the politics of this country. Marx understood this; The task of the International was “to make the English workers realise that for them the national emancipation of Ireland is not a question of abstract justice or humanitarian sentiment but the first condition of their own social emancipation”.
Over the centuries the occupation of the island of Ireland by the British has shaped the politics of this country. Not just in terms of how we view colonialism but the way in which the Irish have been involved in the trade union and labour movement in this country.
I am from an east Manchester Irish working class family and even from an early age I realised how different my family were from other families. They lived in this country but were always looking back to Ireland. When the civil rights movement started in the North of Ireland in ‘68, for my father,like many Irish people over here, it was a time of celebration, and for me it was a realisation that one of the key figures in contemporary politics was on my TV screen most nights and it was a woman; Bernadette Devlin. It is hard to explain to people outside the Irish community the affect that she had and the way in which in particular, men such as my father, working class intellectuals, saw her as equivalent to James Connolly.

bernadette devlin

Bernadette Devlin, 1969

The new phase of the war in the north of Ireland from the late 60s-90s had a profound affect on many Irish women in this country as well as on the island of Ireland. Groups such as the one I was active in, the Irish in Britain Representation Group, reflected the politicisation of a whole new generation of second generation Irish young people; many of them were young women like me who came from a socialist and trade union background. Some Irish women chose to organise independently on issues as wide ranging as abortion, culture, and sexuality.
Groups such as Women and Ireland organised annual delegations to the North of Ireland and when I went on the 1984 delegation it included women from the pit villages as well as women trade unionists. They gave support to republican women who were imprisoned for their political activity as well as women active on issues around discrimination and poverty.

Women And Ireland Delegation 1984

Women and Ireland Delegation in Belfast 1984

The war in Ireland, over the centuries, has affected the history of political struggle in this country; even if people on the Left want to ignore it. The north of Ireland was the laboratory for the British state to try out methods from torture to surveillance techniques. These have had a major effect on the freedom of people of people on this side of the Irish sea to organise and campaign; the miners instantly understood this when they went on delegations to the north of Ireland. It was a mirror image of their lives in pit villages.
Judith has written an important book challenging the feminist lite brigade that dominate the discourse on women’s struggles. But for a book concerned with the role of the working classes there are too many quotes from London based middleclass feminist commentators. And what a dull title! It does not do justice to the content. Hopefully her book will start a more wide ranging and inclusive dialogue about the real lives of women in this country.
Hear Judith speak about her book on Wednesday 25 November 7pm at Friends Meeting House see

Posted in Bernadette McAliskey, book review, feminism, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, North of Ireland, political women, Socialist Feminism, Uncategorized, women, working class history | Tagged | Leave a comment

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


justice for cleanersLimpiadores (Cleaners) a documentary about a group of Latin American low paid workers at some of London’s universities. Cleaning has always been low paid work and made much worst over the years as even big public service employers such as universities or the NHS are either cutting the wages of the workers or privatising the service. It is also been an industry that employs some of the most vulnerable people, including women and immigrants.  In this film we watch the story of Latin American people who are cleaners challenging the management of some of the most prestigious academic universities over their policies of cutting pay and conditions and winning.
The film was made by Fernando Gonzalez Mitjans and is being shown on Thursday 19 November 5-7pm Ellen Wilkinson Building A5.5, University of Manchester. It’s a shame that the film is not being shown at a more central and accessible location. Not sure if the cleaners at the M.Uni have been invited?? See trailer at
Book a place at Find out more about a different type of trade union see


winterWinter – the  latest Shakespearian offering from 3MT. Shakespeare with a Mancunian twist: a new adaptation of The Winter’s Tale  by John Topliff and directed by Gina T. Frost. They say; Set in the dark austerity of Post-War Mancia, and the brave new world of the 1960’s ‘Winter’ traces the journey of two young friends through war and peace, love and jealousy, to the final startling conclusion. It is on  17-21 November, for further details see


M Ship canalSome local history; Inland Port- the Films of the Manchester Ship Canal. Before the replacement of real industry by the likes of Media City, the Lowry and the IWM there was a thriving port which was a crucial part of the northwest economy, employing thousands of people. Find out more at this screening by the North West Film Archive. The Ship Canal Company even made their own promotional films. Part of Explore Archives week at Manchester Central Library, it is free and you do not need to book. Further info see

emergency sessionto Arthur Riordan’s 1992 take on Ireland in 2016. I bought the cassette (!)”Emergency Session” in Ireland in the 90s and could not stop playing it. For second generation Irish on this side of the Irish Sea it summed up many of the reasons why we disliked the Irish State. Today Ireland has changed considerably but you still cannot get an abortion there and thousands of young people are still forced to leave the country to find work. Enjoy The Emergency Session at

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


taxi tehran
Taxi Tehran What do you do if the country you live in bans you from doing your job? Well you get another one. In this new film banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi takes up taxiing to explore life in modern day Iran. Its not just conversations between Jafar and his customers but between customers that are most revealing. A young man gets in, followed by a woman. He is irate about the crime in the city and prescribes public hangings, she resists and challenges the purpose of capital punishment. We don’t get to know the real occupation of the young man, maybe he is a policeman? But the woman is a teacher who probably knows more about the desperation of young people and their families. Another passenger is a woman carrying roses, and although she isn’t named she is human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, on her way to prison to visit a hunger striker. It is easy from the outside to feel depressed about human rights in countries such as Iran but its when you watch films like this that you shouldn’t be, after all its down to Iranians themselves, such as Jafar and Nasrin, to change their country and we should admire their courage in demanding their rights to live in a democratic society.


joe hill liverpool
Joe Hill Ain’t Dead (1879-1915) on 21 November in Liverpool. He was a songwriter and union activist, framed and then executed by the state of Utah. His creative way of campaigning and organising has relevance today for those fighting for workers’ rights. His work lives on in the dynamic International Workers of the World who have been active in organising in some of the most difficult parts of the labour force; cleaning and catering. Learn more about Joe in John Fay’s play “The Joe Hill Dream” which will be performed by the Dingle Community and Vauxy Theatre. Listen to women activists from “Northern ReSisters; conversations with Radical Women” as they inspire people to get active in trade unions, anti-cuts and community actions. Further details see

bury the chains
Bury the Chains The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery by Adam Hochschild. Another brilliantly written and accessible history of the campaign against the slave trade. A reminder for all of us working hard to win campaigns that a small group of committed people can make a difference. This week Shaker Aamer was released from Guantanamo Bay after 14 years without justice and reading this book reminded me of how slavery, at all different levels, still exists even in the so called western democracies. Adam reminds us that the campaign against the slave trade was fought at a time when most people were prisoners, their bondage was part of a global economy based on forced labour. Opposing this trade would have been seen as akin to treason in the 1700s but by the end of the 1833 it was abolished. This is the story of those people who took up that challenge.


mancunian way
Out about motorways. Love them or hate them we all use them and the recent collapse of part of the Mancunian Way shows how crucial they are to getting around the city. The Manchester Modernist Society and Proper Magazine are hosting a night of films to celebrate the history of motorways in the northwest; On the Road on November 26 at the Castlefield Gallery in Manchester. Films made by organisations as diverse as Ribble Buses, The Cement and Concrete Association and the building firm Laing. I did not make up these names! Further details see

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Book Review: DOCKERS The 95-98 Liverpool Lockout by Dave Sinclair


In 2015 the number of people on zero hour contracts make up 2.4% of the UK workforce of 31 million people. (Office of National Statistics). And where are those contracts? Well in the work places you might expect such as hospitality and leisure but also increasingly in health, the care industry and universities all of whom increasingly rely on zero hour workers.
Workers on zero hour contracts earn less per hour than staff in similar roles and are denied benefits such as sick pay. They have no security at work and are difficult to organise into trade unions to fight for real not zero hour contracts.
How did we get to this situation in Britain? The Liverpool Dockers Lockout of 1995-1998 signalled a major shift backwards in the way some people worked. As Ken Loach says in the foreword to this book; “What was at stake was the nature of work itself”. He believes that the attack on organised labour started with the election of the Tories in 1979 who brought in anti-trade union laws whilst at the same time closing down factories and industries and throwing millions of people on the dole. The rest as they say is history,
But the Liverpool Dockers were not prepared to accept the clock being turned back to a time when men were reduced to being day labourers with no permanent contract, dependant on being “chosen to work” on a daily basis.
Dockers is the photographic story of a historic fight of a group of workers and their defence of their jobs and way of life. It began with the employers picking off smaller ports and employing non-union casual labour. But when it came to Liverpool the dockers refused to accept these new working conditions and were locked out and agency workers were brought in to do their jobs.
Dave Sinclair started recording the lockout on Wednesday 27 September 1995. The dispute had started two days earlier when a small dock supply company, Torside Limited, had dismissed its entire workforce of eighty young dockers. Most of these young dockers had fathers working for the Port Authority, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. The next day the young dockers picketed the gates of the Seaforth Docks and the dockers refused to cross the picket line and all 500 dockers were sacked. It was not a strike, it was a lockout.
Dockers is a fascinating record of a dispute that has been largely forgotten by the labour movement: a dispute that has had major consequences for the trade union movement in terms of increasing insecurity of work, of low wages and the increased casualisation of work throughout the labour force.

dockers picket
I went on several of the demos in Liverpool, heard the emotional appeals of the women and their Women on the Waterfront campaign and sadly watched as their union, Unite, and the Labour Party refused to support them. But these photographs also show the incredible support that the dockers had from all parts of the community in this country, well beyond the Liverpool docks. It is an important reminder of the solidarity shown by groups as diverse as Reclaim the Streets, Turkish/Kurdish supporters from London, and Asian women from the Hillingdon Hospital dispute.

women of the waterfront
Dockers is a reminder of how important it is for the people involved in making working class history to record their own stories. Luckily the Liverpool dockers and their families had Dave Sinclair to do it for them. But looking at the photographs made me want to know what were the individual stories behind the organisation of the strike, the personal stories behind the heroic and heartfelt images of the dispute over the years 95-98. Britain in 2015 is not Liverpool in 1995 but I think we can all learn a great deal from a group of workers and their community who stood up and defended their right, not just to a job, but to living a decent and dignified life.

Buy it from see
Watch Ken Loach’s documentary about the Lockout The Flickering Flame see
Watch Jimmy McGovern’s drama about the Lockout Dockers see
Listen to Chumbawamba’s song about the dispute; One by One

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