Alice Nutter …
Formerly in Chumbawamba, now a regular scriptwriter for TV and radio, Alice is from a working class family in Burnley, Lancashire:
It’s a myth that all working class people are leftwing. My parents were weavers, but were Tory in their politics. My Dad was a Tory councillor and petrol pump attendant, while my Mum re-trained as a nurse when I was 18 months old, but we still lived in the same working class area.
She grew up at a time when, if you lived in a small northern town, the roles for men and women were clearly laid out:
I used to go to the soul events at Wigan Casino, but it was the men who did the dancing, the women just stood and watched. The men worked in factories, the women were “someone’s girlfriend or wife”. There weren’t many options for women in Burnley at that time.
Alice left school at 16 and worked in Asda and in waitressing jobs A year later she went to Art School to do a Foundation Art course. It was the advent of punk rock in 1977 that showed her that there could be more to life…….
Punk rock was liberating for girls like me, and for a generation. Bands such as the Slits opened my eyes to a different life. I met other people who like me were looking for something different.
In the 70s the new wave of feminism meant that even if you couldn’t meet other feminists, because you lived on working class council estates, you could still find books that would broaden your ideas:
I have always enjoyed reading and always wrote stories. One day I got the bus from Burnley to Manchester and went to the radical bookshop Grass Roots Books. I bought some books, including Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch and Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. Politics interested me but I didn’t know anyone like me.
Alice’s Mum supported her daughter in a search for a new way of living:
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.
After finishing her course Alice decided not to go to University, and instead started going to punk rock gigs:
I went to a party in Liverpool and from there went down to London to an anti-nuclear war demo. It was the first time I ever went on a demo, and from there I got involved with anti-Falkland war activity with other people, and we went on to form Chumbawamba
The Chumbawamba website says:
Chumbawamba was our vehicle for pointing at the naked Emperors, for telling our version of the truth; it gave us more than the joy and love of playing live, writing songs and singing together – it gave us a chance to be part of a broad coalition of activists and hectors, optimists and questioners.
From the late 70s there was a culture of radical dissent with people opposing racism and the National Front, the war in Ireland, cruise missiles at Greenham Common, Tory cuts, against a background high levels of youth unemployment. It defined a whole generation of young people including me and Alice:
We moved from Burnley to Leeds and set up Chumbawamba in a commune. We had all the zeal of new political activists, demonstrating, printing leaflets on our press etc. I worked on Leeds Radical Paper and at Suma, the wholefood collective, as well as being active in local womens’ groups.
In 1984 the Miners Strike began and like thousands of others, Alice and Chumbawamba got involved:
It changed everything. We had our own Miners Support Group, we worked with other groups such as SWP and for 18 months supported the soup kitchen at Frickley.
For Alice, like many other people on the Left, the Miners Strike defined their politics, particularly around issues such as class:
I joined Class War, wrote for the newspaper, and stayed with it until it became a parody of itself
From there she went onto anti-capitalist politics with Chumbawamba used its profile and finances to support events such as the Leeds May Day Conference and campaigns such the Liverpool Dockers Strike in the 1990s.
In 2005 she left Chumbawamba and took her creative skills to scriptwriting:
I’ve always thought I could write scripts, I have always written stories which looked like scripts. I just put my head down and it’s been a combination of luck and self confidence (from 23 years with Chumbawamba) that I have been able to get work.
Alice says her scriptwriting reflects her politics, trying to tell stories about the complexity of human life. She has turned down writing for the soaps because:
My heart isn’t in it and I just couldn’t do it. I work with Jimmy McGovern and I enjoy the work, it’s creative and his heart is in the right place. I want to write about the struggle to be human in difficult circumstances.
One of her heroes is Jim Allen, who put his politics of the class struggle into his plays and films in the 1970s and 1980s. She feels that over the last 25 years there has been a major shift in society and that class is once again the issue for political activists:
There is no social mobility, all those avenues that I went down ie punk rock/art school/being able to have a creative life on the dole, have been shut down. If I was growing up now, and from a working class background, I would be screwed.
Alice is now involved with the Plan C campaign:
It is recognising that we had Plan A and that has been swept away by the neo liberals, there is no Plan B and we want to work out what to do next. A group of people in Leeds have got together to look at other societies eg Scandinavia and then collectively work out how we can build a better life here.
And what is her message to those young women who are perhaps 17, working class and living in small towns but want a different life?
Find things that you love doing, it doesn’t have to be political, find the life you want, and find people that you enjoy working with and enjoy yourself!
Further info on Alice’s writing see
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