Watch….Shirley Valentine (1989), written by Liverpool playwright Willy Russell and starring Pauline Collins. Living in Liverpool in the 80s as I did was to be part a cultural renaissance for working class writers. TV drama led the country with programmes such as Brookside and Boys from the Blackstuff which commented on the decline of that great city and the many ways that people fought back. Shirley Valentine, like many of Russell’s plays, spoke to working class women who had become wives and mothers but felt they personally had missed out on their dreams and aspirations. Even today it still comes over as modern, reflecting women’s real lives and far more interesting than many other newer dramas, including the dreadful Mamma Mia, which offer reactionary female roles of women behaving like men over sex and end with marriage (to rich men) as still being what women really really want. Highly recommended.
Go to… Cat and Mouse, a play addressing some of the major themes of Britain in 2014. The writers, Raymond Savage and Shirley Diver, say; “We decided to write it because we wanted to say something about the fat cats at the top and the dreamers at the bottom…To say something about greed, power, the I’m-all-right-Jack attitude we live in today.” Its on 16/17/18 January at the Kings Arms in Salford. Entrance only £5!!
Listen again….to the Today programme broadcast on 2 January. In the programme the erudite John Pilger comments that we do not live in an age of information but a media age. Guest editor, singer/songwriter PJ Harvey, tries to put the information back in a really interesting mix of commentary, music and poetry to reflect the issues that she (and I) think are crucial in society today, including censorship, torture and the morale of the NHS. PJ Harvey included the voices of the victims of torture and traced its role from Northern Ireland in 1971 with the story of Liam Shannon to Shaker Aamer who, in 2014, is on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay, the last Londoner there. A poem of his called They Fight for Peace was read out at the end of the programme. You can listen again at
Get involved…2014 is the year of the European elections and, whilst having little or no faith in the system, I do want Nick Griffin of the BNP to be chucked out as an MEP for the north west. Hope not Hate are organising the campaign against him and this month they have a meeting to get people involved. It will be on the weekend of 18/19 January. Further details see
Celebrate…the birthday of Richard Strauss, he is only 150! In the north west we are lucky to have some of the finest orchestras in Europe and in this programme Strauss’s Voice you can hear them all. Over the next two months at the Bridgewater Hall you can explore some of his best known works featuring his songs with orchestra. It kicks off this week on Thursday. Do not be put by the snobbery surrounding classical music in this country, you will be pleasantly surprised by the informality at the Bridgewater Hall and the wide range of people that attend the concerts. Pricewise it is a bit steep, cheapest tickest are usually about £14, but we are talking about the best conductor (Mark Elder) and the most fantastic orchestras and singers.