some political theatre. My favourite writer and socialist, Jim Allen, said of his plays; “I hope that the audience demand answers and action. I’m not keen on sending them to bed happy-I want them angry to get change.” Jim did face the full force of the state when he wrote the screenplay for “Hidden Agenda” (1990) a film that laid bare Britain’s human rights abuses in Northern Ireland and a new play “Burning Doors” by Belarus Free Theatre exposes the political repression they have experienced in Belarus and the incarceration of artists in Russia. Taking part in the play is Masha Alyokhina, one of the members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who was imprisoned by Putin for speaking out against him. The drama also highlight the case of jailed artists including Petr Pavlensky who set fire to the Federal Security Service building in an act of artistic rebellion and Crimean film-maker Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years in a Siberian prison. For Maria it is more than just a play;“I want to use this chance to show moments and situations that we have not spoken about, and which people don’t know about Pussy Riot – both while we were in prison but also afterwards,”
BFT had to use kickstarter to fund the production and bring over 29 artists from Belarus to perform Burning Doors across the UK in October. Natalia Kolaida, co-founder of Belarus Free Theatre, says they wanted to use the experiences and harrowing stories of Pussy Riot, Sentsov and Pavlensky to make a wider point about freedom of expression, both under dictatorships but also in democracies. “By taking the stories of these three artists, we can use this play to talk about artistic freedom in a broader sense, both under dictatorships but also under democracy, and tackle the idea that a jail is a continuation of their art.” See it and get angry at Contact Theatre from 10-12 October.More info here
Clem Beckett, and the people who fought in the Spanish Civil War in this new play “Daredevil Rides to Jarama” by Townsend Productions. Clem was the Bradley Wiggins of his day- but no cash, just bags of courage. He was from Oldham and trained as a blacksmith but, because of the depression and being blacklisted as a member of the Communist Party, he took up speedway. He volunteered to go to fight in Spain where he met fellow Communist and poet Christopher Caudwell at the Battle of Jarama in 1937: they became great comrades and friends. This year is the 80th anniversary of the start of Spanish Civil War, and it is important to remember the way in which working class people such as Clem were inspired by the hopes and dreams of Republican Spain.
Neil Gore, who wrote and stars in the play says; “the volunteers fought against fascism and on the side of a democratically elected government that stood for social justice in health and education, new rights for women, free trade unions and respect towards differing national identities. These are values that endure today”. In 2016 there are British people who have gone to Syria to support the Kurdish fighters and in a interesting twist have named themselves the Bob Crow Brigade after a great socialist trade unionist. Read about them here
You can watch the Dare Devil Rides to Jarama in Clem’s hometown Oldham from 12-15 October. More details see here
the Kinsley Women Cleaners- Leslie Leake, Marice Hall and Karen McGee-who are cleaners at Kinsley Academy in Wakefield in West Yorkshire. The Academy outsourced the contract to a private firm, C&D Cleaning Group, and since then the company has cut the three workers’ wages from £7.85 an hour to £7.20 — the minimum wage. The company also abolished the sick pay agreement which the cleaners’ union, Unison, had with the council. The company are refusing to recognise the union.
The women are now on official strike. The company has attended some talks at ACAS but this week it was learned that the company had advertised the three jobs, hoping to recruit strike-breakers.
You can help the women by writing directly to the C & D management team in support of the women and asking them to speak directly to the union. The more emails they get the better, so if you can ask friends and colleagues to write as well, that would be helpful.
Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music by Anna Beer. Classical music, rather than Jeremy Corbyn, is for me is the antidote to the depressing political situation. In this new book Anna reminds us of women composers who rarely get a mention – except for Clara Schumann, who is remembered mostly for her marriage to Robert, rather than her life as a pianist and composer. Against all odds women did compose in the most difficult of circumstances from C17th Florence to C20th London. It is a testament to these women – Caccini, Strozzi, Jacques de la Guerre, Martines, Hensel, Schumann, Boulanger and Maconchy – that they, by all means, strove to overcome the misogyny to exclude them from the world of composition.
The book is not just revealing about the women, but also the attitude of those closest to them. Mendelssohn is one of my favourite composers, but he had a sister Fanny who was a talented composer and performed and conducted on a regular basis. But the public career that her famous brother could have as a man was denied Fanny by both her father and her brother. Gender, class and religion helped exclude Fanny from a professional life, and most tellingly it is her brother who stopped her publishing her work. This is an important book, reminding us of women who should be better known for their artistic achievements and asking the question; why are they not today part of our cultural heritage? There is also a playlist at the back of the book so that you can find out why they should be better known.Buy it here