Public Eye (DVD.) As drama on our television screens seems to be dominated by murder and violence, it’s good to remind ourselves that there was a time when stories about the seediness and smallness of people’s lives were seen as important subject matter for a prime time series. Public Eye ran for ten years from 1965-75, starring esteemed actor Alfred Burke as a private detective (a spin on the title Public Eye) Frank Marker alongside many other up and coming actors. The 1969 series, set in Brighton, begins with Frank coming out of prison after having been framed. He is now on probation, watched over by a benign probation officer who sorts out lodgings and a job (unbelievable today) for him. Frank gets lodgings with an Irish landlady (played wonderfully by Pauline Delaney) and settles back into his new life. The problems faced by ex-prisoners are played out as he tries to settle into working for a construction company and creating a new life. Watching the series is looking back at another era, pre-decimal, the shabbiness of Brighton and also Windsor where the later series were shot. There is nothing glamorous about the series: it’s downbeat 60s and 70s Britain with all the attitudes and mores that went with it. His landlady has to pretend to be a widow to satisfy 60s attitudes to women whose husbands have deserted them. Early series were made in black and white, which gives Frank’s life an added layer of shabbiness, although he comes over as a decent man trying to make a living and dodge the corruption and immorality of the times.
Watch an episode here
International Workers Memorial Day on 28 April at noon in Albert Square, Manchester. It may be C21st Britain but people are still being injured and dying in workplaces across this country. The Blacklisting Campaign showed that, even on multi million pound public service contracts, large companies were breaking UK and EU legislation on health and safety. Join campaigners on 28 April to raise the importance of these issues and remember those people who have lost their lives just by going to work. Support the Hazards Campaign who are a voluntary group which support people and their families who have been injured or lost their lives at work.
The Hammer Blow, How Ten Women Disarmed a Warplane by Andrea Needham. It’s twenty years since ten women took direct action to try and stop a British plane being sent to take part in a war in East Timor which was killing thousands of its citizens. Read the account of one of the women, Andrea Needham, and find out why she decided not just to become an activist, but also to face a trial and potentially prison for her political views .
Andrea did not learn her politics from her middleclass rural Suffolk family. Instead as a young woman she joined her sister in the USA and got involved in the campaign against the US funding of rightwing groups such as the Contras in Nicaragua, and worked in community based projects which provided food and shelter for poor people. Working with the people who had been excluded from the system led her to question the way in which the poor were treated in one of the richest countries in the world. From there Andrea returned to England and became involved in non-violent direct action in the peace movement . Her involvement in opposing the war in East Timor and the campaign; The Seeds o f Hope East Timor Ploughshares action led to her arrest and imprisonment.
Much of the book is taken up with her and her comrades time in prison, preparing for the trial and their defence case. They are not heroes, but ordinary women who have all the weaknesses and doubts that we all have who take part in politics. Unlike most activists, they were prepared to put themselves and their politics on the line, which could have meant 10 years in prison if found guilty. Their story shows how a small group of activists can make a difference, and reveals the reality which is that our government is complicit in maintaining some of the most despotic regimes in the world.