Winifred Carney: A reflection on the life and times of the suffragist and trade unionist. In this fascinating documentary we learn about a woman who was a revolutionary socialist feminist. She was born into a lower middle class family in Belfast in 1887 but she threw up this respectable background to spend her life in the trade union and socialist movement. Her commitment to an Irish Republic led her to join socialist James Connolly in the Post Office in 1916 as his secretary; one that also knew how to fire a gun. Radical historians Bill Rolston and Margaret Ward remind us of a woman whose role in Irish history has often been marginalised and the documentary is made more interesting by the comments of Winifred’s relative Desmond Cassidy.
Public Library by Ali Smith. She wrote it in protest at the closure of public libraries. I was able to borrow it from my local library but whenever I go there what strikes me is the fear on the faces of the staff. Fear about losing their jobs as the council slashes its way through the public services. Each chapter of the book opens with a comment by a user of libraries as to what it means to them. It chimes in with my experiences: about being able to access books that my parents could not afford; about learning from the library staff about interesting books to read; and most of all providing a sanctuary away from large noisy families in small houses. The stories in the book are not about libraries but about the surreal experiences of modern life. I love the one about the woman who loses her partner to the dead author Katherine Mansfield or the one about the man who is mistakenly reported as dead in the local paper – twice. Ali sums up our distorted relationship with all things modern from automated telephone systems to endless emails. It’s a bit like trying to get local councils to appreciate our libraries; talking to the dead. Join the national protest about libraries at Parliament in London see Buy it from
about the Chicago (USA) Teachers Union and their strike in 2012 which pitted teachers, parents and students against a local Mayor who wanted to further privatise the public school system. It’s a fantastic and uplifting story of how teachers got together with local communities to demand a better education for all, and particularly for the poor children of the city. The play is performed by Banner Theatre who tell the story with music, song and video footage from the participants. It’s sponsored by the NUT whose members are experiencing similar practices in schools over here. See it, for free, at the Octagon Studio in Bolton on 27 January. Book your ticket at
a new blog about science fiction which informs you about books to read and films to watch. Obviously from a left wing perspective as the author is radical historian Michael Herbert see