Thursday, November 28, 2013

Remembering the Real World War 1

Meeting of some London folk, 21st November, 2013

[Update: The London group met again on Thursday 12th December (report to follow). Further meetings are planned monthly in the new year, starting on Thursday 16th January].

Edited report from organiser’s notes

Some (10) of us met up last Thursday to discuss ideas around counter-histories of World War 1, and taking forward opposition to the upcoming official commemorations. We had a good practical meeting with some concrete decisions…

We did agree to set up as a London group, not yet named, that would meet regularly; we hope similar groups may be set up elsewhere.

One suggestion for principles which we all liked was:-
• We honour all the dead.
• The war arose from normal capitalist social relations.
• Working class resistance stopped the war.

(These may need to be expanded on).

The London group will meet again on Thursday 12th December, at 7.30 at the Mayday Rooms, 88 Fleet St, London.
(NB: Anyone interested in a radical history of Fleet St, could come at 6.00/6.15, for a brief walking tour)

General discussion:

Events and aspects of WW1 worth doing something around:
• The networks of resistance, around the UK (and wider), supporting people refusing conscription….

Opposition to the war: leaflets shown on the cover of Ken Weller’s Don’t Be A Soldier!
• How the government acted when war came: the moments it started, they took over all the railways, stopped police leave, requisitioned all horses, introduced legislation to crack down on opposition; also changed licensing laws to try to increase production, interned “suspect” foreigners. Later introduced conscription, after initial euphoric flood of volunteers dried up in 1915; 1915 Munitions Act: government took over all factories for arms production.
On one hand this illustrates the nature of war under the modern capitalist state; on the other, its unlikely the centenary commemorations will flag these repressive measures - not like they’re going to say: hey, look, we introduced conscription! etc. We will have to bang on about all that.

• Some discussion on the myth that World War 1 liberated women
• Theories of the origins of the war: e.g, a theory that WW1 was in effect started to control rebellious working class around Europe.

• Big business: who profited from the war? New technology, armaments…
• Shared myths of war; WW2 as shared national sacrifice obviously very big. But WW1 myth needs examining.…

  Contacts with people/groups also working on this issue in other countries

Someone/ people from Bristol RadicalHistory Group were going to raise WW1 centenary at an international Radical History Conference in Berlin in October.
 [Link to BRH spreadsheet on mutinies/strikes in the British armed forces in early 1919.]
             Obviously also there will be a lot of activity in Ireland around 2016, 
              100 years since the Easter Rising…

Practical suggestions

A timeline of events planned for the official commemorations; from that we could work out some concrete plans.

Activities we could do:
• Actions at or counter to official events, to raise awareness, say we’re still here, still opposing war.
• Specific actions or demos to commemorate specific events: one that has already been suggested was the big anti-war demo in 1914, just before war was declared;
Another idea we came up with at the meeting was a demo at the reopening of the Imperial War Museum’s WW1 exhibits whenever that may be.

One of the biggest events next year will be on Remembrance Day …
              Setting up our own counterfeit war memorials, plaques etc.

•Plus: a dedicated website or blog, which could serve as a focus for groups nationally; •publicity: media stunts; music (anti-war songs from history); stickers; and publications such as a short pamphlet summing up anti-war resistance in London.

And more…

RaHN will continue to add general blogposts on this, but to keep fully up to date, join the email list:  (send an mail then reply to the email it sends to you)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

PRESS RELEASE from Alliance of Radical Booksellers

[Shortened version: full text here]

Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction Returns
The ARB is delighted to announce that the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award for radical children’s fiction is back for its 2nd year. The award is given by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB) and is administered by specialist children’s booksellers, Letterbox Library, a not-for-profit children’s booksellers and social enterprise specialising in children’s books which celebrate diversity, equality & inclusion:

The closing date for nominations is January 13th 2014. The shortlist will be announced in April 2014, and the winner at the ARB’s London Radical Bookfair on Saturday May 10th 2014.
This year, Kim Reynolds, author of the award-winning Radical Children’s Literature (Palgrave MacMillan: 2010) and Professor of Children’s Literature at Newcastle University will be joining the 2012 Little Rebels guest judges: award-winning children’s author, Elizabeth Laird and Bookstart co-founder, editor and Eleanor Farjeon Award recipient (2006), Wendy Cooling.

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is a sister award to the Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing, administered by Housmans Bookshop, which recognises radical adult non-fiction published in the UK. Both awards are the inspiration of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers. Both prizes will be presented at the 2nd London Radical Bookfair on Saturday May 10th 2014, Bishopsgate Institute, London.
Publishers are being invited to submit children’s fiction for readers aged 0-12 which promote social justice and which were first published in 2013. Full submission guidelines can be found at

Fen Coles

Letterbox Library
Unit 151 Stratford Workshops
Burford Road
Stratford E15 2SP

Tel: 020 8534 7502

Alliance of Radical Booksellers: The ARB is a supportive community for the UK’s radical booksellers; For information on the Bread & Roses Award go to .

About the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award: Full details of the award, including the shortlist and prize giving ceremony for the previous year, can be found at: .

About the London Radical Bookfair: Hosted by the ARB, this fair was run for the first time on May 11th 2013. The fair included 50 book stalls and 20 guest speakers - full details at:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Independent Working-Class Education: Wallsend, Newcastle, 30th November

IWCE Network ( dayschool,

supported also by Labour Heritage

Independent Working-Class Education: can we rebuild the tradition?

10.30-4.30 Saturday 30th November 2013 (registration from 10.00)

Wallsend Memorial Hall, 10 Frank Street, Wallsend, Newcastle NE28 6RN

Close to Wallsend Metro station (15 mins approx from Newcastle Central station; change at Monument for Wallsend)

£6.00 including lunch

Please email to book a place

Short presentations from:


Richard Lewis, author of Leaders and Teachers, groundbreaking study of the Plebs League and WEA in South Wales, on ‘Rivalries and realities in workers’ education’


Lewis Mates, on ‘Ruskin and Central Labour College students in the Durham coalfield, 1909-14’


Hugo Radice, on ‘Imagining socialism: an everyday utopia’


John Stirling and Dave Wray, on the ‘Dig Where You Stand’ initiative


Rob Turnbull on ‘Right for the Rising Sun, Left for Swan Hunter: the Plebs League in the North East of England


Colin Waugh, author of ‘Plebs’: The Lost Legacy of Independent Working-Class Education, on ‘The Ruskin Strike of 1909’


Plenty of time for questions and discussion.


All welcome

Friday, November 8, 2013

Re-staging Revolutions Exhibition

Re-Staging Revolutions:
Alternative Theatre in Lambeth and Camden 1968-88
11th Nov - 21st Dec at Ovalhouse, Tues - Sat 3-8pm

[Beryl and the Perils, Is Dennis Really the Menace? 1979, Didi Hopkins, Claudia Boulton, Laurel-Jana Marks, Christine Ellerbeck in the dressing rooms at the Half Moon Theatre Alie Street. Photo © by Sheila Burnett]

An exhibition featuring community, experimental, Black, Asian, lesbian, gay, women’s, disabled, political, Theatre-in-Education, agit-prop, physical, visual, performance art, vernacular drama, new writing, satirical and many other theatre companies; championing a generation of artists whose work has influenced and shaped present day British theatre.

The exhibition brings together a range of material from the period, including beautiful silk-screened posters for Welfare State International, a rare poster from Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven at the Arts Lab in 1969, and a printed ‘make-it-yourself’ model of Inter-Action’s Fun Art Bus. There are also a wealth of objects from the poignant to the bizarre: the matchstick violin smuggled by Stirabout theatre company out of one of the prisons where they performed, nautical props and the ‘pissing jug’ ceremoniously presented to The Phantom Captain when they performed in Tilburg, Holland. All these along with original theatre designs for Monstrous Regiment’s Scum, original drawings from Action Space, creators of inflatable cushions and play spaces, now copied all over as bouncy castles, rare playscript editions from small presses, records from Sadista Sisters and Siren and cyclostyled low tech hand-outs that vividly evoke the times, along with a wealth of badges from campaigns from ‘Support the Miners’ to ‘VAT is a Pain in the Arts’ along with those celebrating individual companies from Spare Tyre to Joint Stock.

On 4th January 2014 the exhibition will move to Kentish Town Community Centre, 17 Busby Place, London NW5 2SB and at the start of February to Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, Holborn Library, 32-38 Theobalds Rd, London WC1X 8PA where it will run till end of April. For details of further events, see below or watch for future newsletters.

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Events Programme:

Mon 18 November
Introduced by Judith Knight and Sue Timothy (Oval House programmers in the 1970s),
with a panel featuring Paddy Fletcher (Incubus), Geraldine Pilgrim tbc (Hesitate and Demonstrate) and others

Tues 3 December
With Claire Oberman, Karen Parker and Debbie Klein (formerly ‘Parker and Klein’), Stella Duffy,
Sandra Freeman, Sarah McNair, Nicolle Freni, Crin Claxton, Susan (Clark) Hayes,
Martha D Lewis and Eve Polycarpou (aka Martha and Eve, formerly known as ‘Donna & Kebab’)
Caroline Mylon, Hot Doris, Sue Frumin, Adele Salem, Steve Gooch and many more.

Thurs 5 December
Readings of the company’s plays for young people 1968-88 featuring extracts from plays
by Brian Way, David Holman, Noel Greig, Bryony Lavery and others.

Fri 6 December
The Ambiance season, Black Theatre of Brixton, Motherland, Umoja and much more.
Contributions from: Anton Phillips (Carib), Gordon Case (Black Theatre of Brixton, Temba),
Bernardine Evaristo (Theatre of Black Women), AJ Simon (Umoja). Chaired by Sola Oyeleye.

Sat 14 December
A celebration of such Christmas delights as a Cinderella Hardup (A Woman’s Right to Shoes),
Fanny Whittington and Her Glorious Pussy and the Drill Hall alternative pantos, that
shamelessly and deliciously exploited the inherent gender confusions of the genre…

All performances will start at: 7pm

Tickets £5 can be booked via Ovalhouse box office.
Unfinished Histories are also available for free bookable tours for groups. For details email contact@unfinishedhistories.comIf you have any specific access requirements such as BSL interpretation can you please let us know at least a week in advance of your visit.
Getting to Ovalhouse

and at
Kentish Town Community Centre, 17 Busby Place, London NW5 2SB

Saturday 4th Jan 2014
INTER-ACTION REMEMBERED: a day-long event exploring the impact of this major arts initiative within its Camden community and elsewhere. Details to be confirmed. To reserve a place email:

Further details including events programme [and pictures] from: or
Recording the History of Alternative Theatre in Britain (1968-88) through oral history interviews and the collecting of archive material

Friday, November 1, 2013


Summary Report, edited from organiser’s Interim Report

Past tense, Bristol Radical History Group, and a couple of other folk organised a Radical History Area at this year's London Anarchist bookfair, and we think it went well!  We will probably do it again next year.

We have put together some brief reports on the day's meetings:

1. Solidarity: Martial Law - Capitalism in Poland, 1980-89.

About 12 people attended this talk, which was very early in the day. Marcin talked about how Solidarity in Poland arose, the background of revolts in Poland over several decades, and how Solidarity's struggles against the Polish CP/state took grassroots forms, almost anarcho-syndicalist; only to face repression and mass detentions in 1983.
The arrests of many of its radical elements allowed a 'moderate' front to come to the fore, which later effected a deal with elements of the 'Communist' elite to steer Poland into the world capitalist economy - mainly by selling off Polish industry at catastrophically low rates to western firms. thus did some people get very rich. Lech Walesa's past as a police agent and moderating force through the 1970s were also discussed...

2. Running Down Whitehall with a Black Flag

Di Parkin spoke about her memories of being an anarchist in the 60s and beyond.
Highlights included:
* Being part of the hundred or so protestors that broke away from the CND Aldermaston march to picket a government nuclear bunker exposed by 'Spies for Peace'.
* Anarchists at big London demos in the 60s (hence the title of the talk
"running down Whitehall with a black flag - although as Di said, it should have been a black and red one!). This also included an account of being kettled before the term existed.
* Membership of the British section of the International Workers Association (IWA) and links with Spanish exiles.  

The questions and discussions were interesting and good natured, on:
* Di's social/cultural life as a 60s anarchist
* Her brief deviation into Trotskyism!
* Being a woman in a largely male milieu (this wasn't really an issue: "I never made the tea").

A video of a previous version of the talk is now available on the Bristol Radical History website:

3. “Anarchist Visual Art, Then and Now"

This meeting featured Gee Vaucher, legendary anarcho-punk graphic artist with Crass and with exitstencil press, active since the early eighties, and Kevin Caplicki, a member of Justseeds Artist Cooperative and DIY archivist at Interference Archive,  Brooklyn, which explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements.

This meeting was packed out. Some were turned away at the door!
Gee and Kevin mainly responded to audience questions about their work.
For a longer report on this meeting, see the file.

Gee said afterwards: "Big trouble for me is that it wasn't enough, as usual, just
when people are beginning to get their confidence to ask a question it all
dissolves and time’s up... "

4. Occupying is Good for your Health? - Hospital occupations in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, UK.

Rosanne spoke about the South London Women's Hospital occupation, 1984-5, and then Myk talked about the University College Hospital occupations of 1992-4. This was followed by Jill from the Save Lewisham, Hospital Campaign, who linked current struggles to research she has done on the Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital work-in of 1976-9 (which set the tone for many later work-ins and occupations in hospitals in the 1970s and 80s).
A short but interesting discussion followed about current state of the NHS and workers’ and users’ horizons within it. There were some interesting self-criticisms of the UCH occupiers' expectations and analysis, "a very honest summary of the failings of their actions" and some brief thoughts about how vital worker involvement from the hospital is vital.
There was a sense that the NHS is in a greater crisis now even than the previous eras of crisis, and that occupations could maybe be a tactic in developing and upcoming struggles.

A dossier on some UK hospital occupations, including accounts of UCH and the S London Women's hospital, and several more, is available from past Tense for Ł5, (shameless plug). But we are collecting more accounts and will hopefully produce a larger work in time.

5. British Armed Forces Strikes and Mutinies: a radical history project
for the anniversary of WW1

Roger, from Bristol Radical History Group, spoke about mutinies in the British Armed forces at the end of World War 1, and Neil, from the Transpontine Blog (and past tense), talked about struggles against the War on the Home Front, using the example of Luton. Both stressed that there is much more research to be done, to find out the hidden undercurrents of resistance and discontent, both in the military and in society in general; research that they encouraged those present to begin taking on. Given the huger propaganda onslaught and Ł50 million worth of government funding coming to present an official line on WW1 history, a growing network are preparing to both research and draw attention to those that opposed the war, resisted militarisation and subverted the war effort.

(One of the sources mentioned by speakers:)

... A well attended meeting with some really good discussion. There was a positive sense that we could link counter-historical activity with resistance to the increased glorification of war/the pedestalisation of armed forces etc in current times. Since there is so much history that undermines the official myth of sacrifice and national unity that has been created around WW1, establishment attempts to glorify it all might easily fall on their face... if we get busy...

There's an email discussion list for people interested in organising/talking/planning counter-WW1 histories. To subscribe to the list, you send an mail to:
then reply to the email it sends to you.

The exhibitions:

Gee Vaucher's striking montages and JustSeeds’ excellent People's History posters adorned the walls of the meeting room and the Anarchist Time Travellers' sharp collages (comparing the utterances of the ruling classes in the current assault on welfare and during the 1834 New Poor Law introduction) were on display on the Second Floor landing.