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

Watchgirlhood Girlhood(Home)…set in unfashionable Paris,about the children of French African families, it follows in the footsteps of films such La Haine and 35 Shots. And once again shows how French filmmakers are leading the world in expressing the alienation and discrimination of the poorest classes in their country. Marieme is 16 and wants to go to high school but like many of her peers she is offered little in the French education system but a lower status vocational training course or following in her mother’s footsteps as a room assistant. Her mother works long hours and the care of her two sisters falls to Marieme. Her brother is a frightening prescence in the family home, (a flat in a tower block) and is involved in the drug trade and policing Marieme and her sisters’ behaviour. There is a mixture of joy and harshness as she finds a new set of friends, but the friendship is riven with new demands involving physically fighting other girls and the shortlived acquisition of stolen money and clothes. It is a claustaphobic film reflecting the harsh lives and limited options for girls such as Marieme but there is a gradual awareness by her that she can change her life for the better. Best film of the year!

Get inspired IMG_3753 .. and come to my book launch on 6 June at 2pm at the WCML in Salford. What we need is hope for the future and I believe my book can help people to believe they can change society. In Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women I explore what it means to be an activist with nine other women. At my launch you can meet these women and maybe discover that you too can follow in their footsteps. Further info see

Support mh cuts social. the campaign against mental health cuts which is one of the most vibrant in the region. On 21 May they have organised a gig to raise the profile of the campaign and to get some fund. Promoted by MIND and Grassroots Initiatives with the support of service user and carer groups. Further info see Tickets can be purchased using this link see

Go freedom theatre some political theatre The Siege by The Freedom Theatre from Jenin Refugee Camp in occupied Palestine begins its first-ever tour of Britain. The play is an artistic reflection on a crucial event in recent Palestinian history, the Israeli army’s 39-day siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during the height of the second Intifada. While the dramatic scenes of the 2002 siege made headlines worldwide, those trapped inside the church were not heard. With The Siege, The Freedom Theatre tells the story from the perspective of fighters, clergy and civilians who lived through those fateful 39 days. Performances of The Siege will be accompanied by post-show discussions as well as workshop programmes, screenings and live events, with the aim of encouraging cross-cultural dialogue around notions of freedom, justice and equality. “I hope it will be a two-way experience”, says Nabeel Al-Raee, co-creator of The Siege. “The greatest thing for us is to meet people face to face and discuss our artistic project, as well as our lives.” More info on their UK tour see

Discover fjack press more about local poets and their poetry at flapjack press. Based in the northwest they promote some of our best poets.  Check out Cathy Crabb’s new book of poetry or go to one of their events where you can find out more about their books. See

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

Rosewater. a film based on the real life experiences of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist, and his experiences of his imprisonment by the Iranian government in 2009. Maziar’s father and sister were communists and had been imprisoned by different regimes in Iran.Maziar had left Iran to become a journalist and was married to a British woman and living over here. He went back to Iran to cover the contentious elections of 2009 when the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced major opposition from Mir-Hossein Mousavi. In fact the more “liberal” Mousavi was on the way to winning the election when Ahmadinejad announced his victory hours before the polls closed. Bahari filmed the riots by angry Mosavi’s supporters and sent it to the BBC. Rosewater was made by Jon Stewart of famous US talkshow The Daily Show and he may have felt guilty at Bahari’s imprisonment because the Iranian authorities used his spoof interview with Bahari as evidence that he was a US spy. The film is interesting because it gives a historical viewpoint to the struggle in Iran for a more democratic society through Bahari’s family but I think it will suit the western world because although, quite rightly it criticises oppressive regimes such as that of Iran, Stalin and Mossad, it doesn’t touch on the role of the USA and other western democracies and their torture regimes particularly Guantanamo Bay. And much as I love the Spanish actor Gael García Bernal who plays Bahari I think they should have used Iranian actors. Highly recommended.


to a play “Fighter” about Len Johnson who was a Communist and boxer. He was born in Clayton, Manchester in 1902 of African and Irish parents. His father was a seaman who went into boxing and Len followed in his footsteps and became well known as a successful professional fighter from 1922-1933. But he was banned from fighting for official British titles because the British Board of Boxing operated a colour ban. During the Second World War he joined the Communist Party, and was an active member, standing 6 times in the Moss Side ward but attracting only a small vote. He attended the Pan African Congress in Manchester in October 1945 and later set up the New International Society in Moss Side which was both a social club and campaigning organisation. He had retired from active politics by the 1960s and died in Oldham in 1974. Michael Herbert has written an insightful book about Len, to buy it see. A play based on Len’s life is on at the Kings Arms Salford next week see

save our public
Against the Tory government. Its started. So, get there at the beginning, at an emergency meeting at 6pm, on Monday in the Council Chambers of University of Manchester Students Union.
All welcome, student or non-student. (It’s on the second floor of the building, and is accessible by lift). Organiser Karen Reissmann says We’re calling an emergency Save Our NHS meeting and would like to invite activists from across Manchester. We need as many fresh ideas as possible about how we move forward, organise further and ramp up the urgency of this campaign!

….the latest issue of Now Then magazine…a fascinating mix of articles about culture in the northwest. Love the article about challenging fascism. See

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



Black Ice...a screening of a very important documentary by Manchester Film Coop and Manchester Greenpeace. Greenpeace decided to challenge the drilling of oil in the Arctic Ocean. The Russian government responded as you would expect of any country determined to protect their energy resources. The 30 crew members were arrested and threatened with 15 years in prison. Find out more from one of the Arctic 30 after the screening. More details of the event at

wisdom of our own

Wisdom of Our Own Living and Learning Since the Miners Strike. Do you wonder about what happened to the miners’ wives after the 1984/5 strike? This book tells you the story of the women from Castleford in Yorkshire. The strike gave the women a tremendous boost to their self confidence and showed how they could organise themselves and their community against tremendous odds. After the strike ended some of the women decided to set up a women’s centre which went onto to become an adult learning college. This is how they did it. The key to the success of their centre is simple; they started from the basis of what do we want in terms of education and learning. As they recounted; “After the strike, many of the women in the Castleford district who had come together to defend their families and community wanted to stick together as a kind of self help group…..From the start they decided they wanted to learn.” They raised money for their Centre by selling memorabilia from the strike at a market stall which they used to do up a dilapidated house in the centre of the town. How they physically rebuilt the centre and started the courses is told by over 100 people who tell their stories in the book. It is a fascinating read and shows how working class people can make a difference to their community.
Published by the Castleford Community Learning Centre see


u decide

to  some political theatre at Unity Theatre in Liverpool..lucky scousers! They say; This election week we’ve teamed up with producers Chateina Pl to bring you exceptional theatre & debate going beyond party politics and deep into the issues we really care about. Alongside this we’ll be presenting 4 brand new short pieces  from our favourite Liverpool voices: The Ballot Box Ballads. Further info see


green men

at an exhibition at Adlington Library in Chorley “Heath Charnock’s Green Men” 15th May- 12thJune. During the Second World War Spanish men who fought against Franco and then escaped to Britain were interned in camps like this one in Lancashire. This is the story of one group of men. Read this article about why anti-fascists were interned as well as Nazi supporters. See
Details of venue see


damien and jenny markey

sacked Bolton University trade unionists at a demo in the Town Hall square in Bolton on 16 May at 12. The campaign says; Damien and Jenny were dismissed without due process by the University of Bolton. No wages, or income since early March. 3 children to feed, one disabled .Damien for allegedly leaking information already in the public domain [VC’s £960,000.00 loan], Jenny apparently for taking a photo of Lake Windermere where VC Holmes yacht moored. There is a fundraiser for them on 18 May at Chethams Library. For more details see .


banner theatre

to an alternative election broadcast by Banner Theatre who have spent years dishing the dirt on the political parties…… the Brummy accent…at
Find out more about them see

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Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women by Bernadette Hyland

Northern ReSisters: Conversations with Radical Women by Bernadette Hyland
ISBN 987-0-9932247-0-6 £5.95

I decided to write this book because I was fed up with the way that the Left, which I have always been a part of, has  in recent years promoted writers, comedians and actors as leaders of new movements, campaigns or at demonstrations. Ignoring, I feel, a vital part of our movement, the many working class activists who have put themselves, their family and their livelihood on the line. For me it also reflected a fact that many of the new organisations do not have working class people as activists and do not engage with working class communities.

My own experience reflects my lifetime political activity. Growing up in a working class Irish background in the unfashionable east side of Manchester I followed in the footsteps of my family; proud of coming from a radical Irish tradition and being active in my trade union, in my community and my neighbourhood.

Starting work in early 1980s, I learnt from older trade union activists  about the importance of solidarity, collective action and, most importantly,  compassion for those not as lucky as me.

In this book I talk to nine other women who have taken a similar path in life but did not always start from the same background. These include:

Betty Tebbs,  who is now 97, and has spent a lifetime as an activist in her trade union and the peace movement. Her political activity was reflected the exploitative nature of work; “At the age of 14 years I experienced first hand the double exploitation of women in industry and it seemed quite right for me to work to change this situation.”



Alice Nutter, former member of anarcho collective Chumbawamba and now writer,  came from a Tory working class background but  had a mother who encouraged her; “She let me be anything I wanted to be, even when I was a punk.She never thought I should get married, and I haven’t.”

alice nutter 2015In the late 70s there was a culture of radical dissent with people opposing racism, the war in Ireland, cruise missiles at Greenham Common and Tory cuts. This was played out  against a background of high levels of youth unemployment. It defined a whole generation of young people, including myself and Alice.

Pia Feig comes from a London Jewish family and has been an activist for forty years. Like many immigrants her family kept their head down but their children were not going to be the same. As Pia recounts; “Me and my sister would answer back to my father and that was the start of a protest position, right from the family dynamics.”

Pia on save the NHS demo

Pia on save the NHS demo

She became involved in politics when she went to university but it was when she went to a big demonstration about Britain’s role in Ireland that she saw the difference between student and street politics; “My very first demo, which was about Ireland, really frightened me. It was the largest police presence I had ever seen and the atmosphere was the opposite to all the student activity I had been involved in.”

In the second part of the book I have selected a number of articles that reflect the importance to me of being northern, working class and a political activist. These interviews include discussions with Bernadette Devlin McAliskey from 1991 and how women of all ages decide where they put their political energies in 2014. Other articles explore the nature of being northern with writers Sally Wainwright, Alice Nutter, Cathy Crabb and Maxine Peake.

But my book is not a nostalgic walk down memory lane for former activists. All the women in my book are still out there on the demonstrations as well as organising meetings and taking an active part in campaigns. Most importantly working with younger generations of women and men in campaigns as diverse as fracking, anti-cuts and Palestine.

The lives of young people who want to be activists is not so easy. Many of them are being harassed through the benefit system or working on zero hour contracts, with large student debts and living a precarious if an independent lifestyle.

Tameside against the Cuts

Tameside against the CutsI

It is important to remind them that change for the better is possible and my northern sisters have shown that through their lives. Their message is one of hope for the future, but not one dependent on expecting someone else to do the work.

Christine Clark, one of my northern sisters summed it up; We should start from where they are. I have some interesting conversations with my granddaughter who is black. I try to be on her side and listen to what is important to her. As activists we must listen to them and what they are struggling with and give them support.”

For details of how to buy my book please go to

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Jennifer Reid; Manchester Ballad Singer

Jennifer singing at Chetham's

Jennifer Reid is a fan of 19th century ballads. In her new eBook “A Selection of Nineteenth Century Broadside Ballads from Collections in Manchester” she says “While broadside ballads physically had no staying power, being sheets of cheap paper, the songs and ideas they contained maintain their relevance to the present day and can teach us a lot about our history.” She chose this selection of ballads because they represent a slice of life for people during the Victorian period; “the pressures of industrial society, differing kinds of leisure activities, unwary visitors, crime and punishment, and visions of the future”.

Jennifer is from Middleton in north Manchester and was influenced by folk legend Mike Harding and the Oldham Tinkers who have used broadside ballads in their repertoire. “I met with Mike Harding for some background from the folk world on broadside balladry and he gave me his thesis which was very informative and furthered my understanding of them.

Rejecting a university education Jennifer has worked as a volunteer at Chetham’s Library in Manchester and the Working Class Movement Library in Salford where she has been involved in giving a new life to these ballads.

Middleton is from where Sam Bamford, radical and poet, led a group to St Peter’s Fields, to attend a meeting in August 1819 pressing for parliamentary reform and the repeal of the Corn Laws. The violent reaction from the establishment led to 18 people being killed and hundreds injured. Sam was arrested at Peterloo and spent a year in prison. Jennifer is a member of “Enlightenment Middleton” which reminds people of their local hero and the importance of Peterloo to the radical history of the northwest.


Jennifer feels that Peterloo should be better known and the annual event should in her view; “Wake up (people)to how Peterloo affected them and the process of liberty in this country.” She has become well known in the northwest for performing at many historical and community events that commemorate different aspects of the region’s history.

Recently Jennifer has worked with Jeremy Dellar on his exhibition ‘All that is solid melts into air.’ “Here I shared knowledge of the ballads, recommended ballads to place in the exhibition, appeared on Newsnight alongside him singing ‘A Prophecy for 1973′ and gave a talk at a Manchester Art Gallery event.”

Next month she is performing at the 56th Venice Biennale “All The World’s Futures” as part of Jeremy Deller’s “All that is solid melts into air” & “Factory Songs”. Apart from performing clog dances she will be teaching a group of Italian singers to perform Lancashire ballads! Easy!!

Further info see

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

WatchA Town Called Panic(DVD)
a town called panic

…its an animation film made about a town run by plastic animals including a horse called Horse, a cowboy called Cowboy and an Indian called Indian. It is Horse’s birthday and his friends decide to make him a present only they destroy the house. Mixed in is Horse’s attraction for a female horse who happens to be the local music teacher. Confused? It is a totally surreal film, obviously foreign, very funny and totally manic!

kersal moor

listening to band Edward II at Band on the Wall on Thursday 23 April. They have taken inspiration from the history of the northwest and the industrial revolution and mixed them together with their brand of rocksteady rhythms, wonderful harmonies and blazing horns. It is a celebration of great political events including the Chartist demonstration on Kersal Moor in 1838. An event and a movement that I think is much more significant than Peterloo. Hopefully the songs may inspire people today to follow in the footsteps of the people who made Salford and Manchester into radical (not shopping or drinking !) cities! To hear the song about Kersal Moor see

…to Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain..a building worker and journalist who have written this really important book Blacklisted The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists.It is the story of how multinational companies could break not just UK laws on employment rights but European ones. And unlike the hacking debacle there has been no public inquiry. I wonder why?? Maybe because working class people do not matter as much as celebs. The northern book launch is at the Kings Arms Salford on 1 May at 6pm. Further details see Read my article about local campaigner against blacklisting see

Join in
Layout 1
…..May Day..traditionally a day for workers to celebrate as trade unionists and political activists. But as trade unions have declined in numbers and political power so has the annual day of celebration. But in Manchester this year the local Trades Council have married together a march plus a series of stalls, talks and cultural activities in the birthplace of trade unions, the Mechanics Institute. Taking part include new organisations such as the Peoples Assembly alongside local trade unions. Further details see Read up about the history of May Day see

Jennifer Reid

…Manchester balladeer Jennfer Reid who has been chosen to take part in the UK section of the Venice Biennale. Jennifer is well known in the northwest for rescuing and reviving traditonal ballads and performing them at a myriad of events.In Venice she will be teaching the Italians to sing the ballads and perform Lancashire clog dances. Easy!! Find out more about Jennifer at

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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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