Johnny Guitar (Home). A classic film, looks like a western but isn’t. Made in 1954 by Nicholas Ray it reflects on US society at that time, McCarthyism and the witchhunt of radicals in society. Joan Crawford, 49, plays Vienna, the owner of a saloon, who is targeted by locals because of her friendship with a local gang. There is a strong feminist theme: Joan wears a gun and engages in a gunfight with rival Emma Small. It must be one of the few scenes in a western where the women get their hands on the guns! But it is more like an opera than a western; music and photography creating a highly volatile backdrop with Vienna at the centre, determined to get her man, face down the locals and challenge all opposition. Watch this trailer for a taste of the film see
to a play about Mary Quaile, a woman who also challenged the norms about what was acceptable behaviour for a woman in the early C20th. From a working class Irish background she left school at 12 and went on to spend a lifetime encouraging women to join trade unions and fighting for better pay and conditions. In this new play, written by Jane McNulty, you can see how life has gone in a circle for some women (and men). Fast food workers in 2016 might have a better education and be more confident as women, but they are fighting the same fight as Mary. In this play we learn about how Mary, alongside other women and men, changed society. It’s a play of hope for the future, reflecting on campaigns such as Hungry for Justice and the brilliant work done by trade unions such as BFAWU and Hotel Workers Unite. Next week there are two performances in Manchester and Glossop: see here for details
about the People Before Profit Party in Ireland. They are part of The Anti Austerity Alliance movement which opposes all austerity and actively campaigns to defend working class people. Most notably it has been active in the anti-water charges campaign in Ireland. This week it broke new ground by winning 2 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly in previously safe republican areas of West Belfast and Derry. PBP prove that you can build a mass grassroots campaign against austerity, a lesson that needs to be learnt on this side of the Irish sea. Celeb politicians and Guardian writers will not deliver this mass movement but the people who are really experiencing job losses, homelessness and poverty.
Memoir by John McGahern. He is one of my favourite authors, for lots of reasons. His writing is superb, but it is his insight into the lives of Irish people that make his novels interesting to me. In this autobiography, written shortly before his death in 2006, we find out about the life of a man who is considered one of the greatest novelists of the C20th. He grew up in post independence Ireland, his father had been on the winning side, as a soldier in the IRA, some of whom went on to to take positions of power in the country, although for John’s father it was as a rural guard (policeman). In Memoir, we see the effects on men (and fathers) in particular of living in a State that had, by John’s birth, experienced many years of violence and war. We also find out about John’s relationship with his mother and the effect of her early death on his life, which I think is reflected in his insightfulness towards female characters in his novels. All his books feature wonderful descriptions of the countryside and a respect for the way of life of rural folk, a life that he left to go to Dublin and abroad, but brought him back to write some of his most famous novels, including Amongst Women and That They May Face the Rising Sun. Buy his books at