Monday, April 25, 2016

A Play about Mary Quaile, next weekend and after

*Mary Quaile,  Manchester trade union pioneer, 
comes back to life in drama
  “Dare To Be Free”.*

Manchester trade union pioneer Mary Quaile (1886 to 1958) will be remembered in *“Dare to Be Free”,a play which will  be premiered in Manchester on 30 April at the trade union May Day Festival, and also in a pamphlet to be published on 4 June called *Dare to Be Free :women in trade unions, past and present*.

Mary came from an Irish working-class background. She rose from being a waitress in a Manchester cafe to one of the most well-known women trade union organisers in Britain in the 1920s. She was the first women’s officer of TGWU, spent  4 months in the Soviet Union in 1925 leading a delegation of British trade union women, and spoke at rallies during the General strike in 1926.

*“Dare To Be Free” is set in the past and present. It’s 1908 and waitresses in a Manchester cafe are fed up and ready to strike for proper pay and decent working conditions. It’s 2016 and workers in a Manchester “fast food experience” are fed up and  ready to strike for proper pay and decent working conditions. Linking the two eras is Mary Quaile, come to help out her modern-day sisters because the issues she fought on 100 years ago are back with a vengeance…

*“Dare To Be Free” has been commissioned by the Mary Quaile Club, a Manchester history society which organisers events on working-class history. Bernadette Hyland, a co-founder of the  Club, said, “We thought that a play about Mary would be a wonderful way of making her life and work as a trade union organiser  better known to a new generation. This  play is not [to] be an exercise in cosy historical nostalgia, but will directly link Mary’s  work in organising workers in the early C20th to the conditions faced by many workers today, i.e. low pay, zero hours and the hostility by many employers towards the very idea of  trade unions.”

The play has been written by Jane McNulty, whose previous work includes writing episodes for *EastEnders*,  *Doctors*, *Peak Practice*, and *Heartbeat". Another of Jane’s plays,  "A Bed of Shards*, will be staged at The Lowry on 1 and 2 July.

The play will be directed by Bill Hopkinson, who teaches at Edge Hill University.

Mary Quaile will be played by Catherine Kinsella (recently seen on television in *The A Word*), while the waitresses in 1908 and 2016 will be played by Rachel Priest and Catarina Pinto Soromenho.

There will be four performances of *“Dare to Be Free”*

·       Saturday 30 April 1.45pm *Manchester Mechanics Institute*, 103 Princess Street.

   - Saturday 14 May, 2pm,  in the Inspire Centre, 
   <> 747 Stockport Road, Levenshulme, Manchester M19 3AR. 
 (Mary lived in Levenshulme for many years at 20 Barlow Road).

   - Saturday 15 May, 2pm, in the Glossop Labour Club
   <>, 15 Chapel Street, Glossop SK13 8AT

   - Saturday 4 June at Three Minute Theatre
   <>,  Afflecks Arcade, 35 Oldham Street Manchester M1 1JG.   
This final performance will be  part of the launch  of the second Mary Quaile publication, *Dare to Be Free: women in trade unions, past and present*, a pamphlet which has a biography of Mary Quaile and ten interviews with women active in trade unions at grass roots level. The launch will start at 2 p.m. and the play will be on at 3.30 p.m.

More information on the play  and pamphlet:

NEW NOTE 30-6-16
"Mary was featured today on the Sheroes of History blog."

The Mary Quaile Club will be launching its second publication; Dare to Be Free : women  in trade unions, past and present as part of the Manchester Histories Festival. The event is free.
This will take place on Saturday 4 June at Three Minute Theatre,  Afflecks Arcade, 35-39  Oldham Street Manchester M1 1JG,   
The launch  will start at 2 p.m.  
The authors will be present, as will Sarah Woolley (BFAWU) and Nilufer Erdem (UNITE) . 
At 3.30 p.m. there will be the final performance  of  Dare to Be Free, a play about Mary Quaile, written by Jane McNulty.
In the first part  historian Michael Herbert  tells the remarkable story of Mary Quaile (1886-1958). An Irish migrant from Dublin to Manchester, Mary rose from working as a  cafe waitress to fame as one of the most active women trade unionists in Britain. She organised women workers through the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trades Council, and later as a national officer in TGWU. In 1925 she led a TUC delegation of British women trade unionists to the Soviet Union to see this new society for themselves. For fifty years Mary never wavered from her belief that trade unions were the key to women achieving
In the second part journalist and writer Bernadette Hyland  interviews ten women of 2016  from different unions  about  how and why they became active in the trade union movement. Working in both the public and private sector, and of different ages, they too are united in their belief that trade unionism can make a real difference to the lives of working women and men.
More information about this event can be found here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Things happening in London

Newly notified (thanks to Past Tense)

1. London – A City in Turmoil

An illustrated historical talk for Cityread London 2016
By Nick Dobson
Where and when?
Tuesday 12 April 2016 at 7.15pm
(Doors open at 6.45pm)

Admission Free
Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre
    Holborn Library
    32-38 Theobalds Road
    London WC1X 8PA

Phone     020 7974 6342

This is in association with an exhibition at the same venue:

Riots in Camden
A free historical exhibition for Cityread London 2016

12 April 2016 – 11 June 2016

(Opening Hours: Mon 10-6 Tues 10-6 Thurs 10-7 Fri 10-5 

Alternate Saturdays 11-5)
Admission Free

2. Anchor & Magnet presents The Brixton Exchange on Saturday 23rd April

The Brixton Exchange 2 will be a day of workshops and exchanges, using creative approaches to discuss Brixton’s community heritage – what it is, how do we hold on to it, and what can we learn from others. The aim is to give voice to a wide spectrum of Brixton’s community both past and present.

 <>This event follows on from Anchor & Magnet's first Brixton Exchange in 2013, which brought together over 100 local residents, community activists, artists, academics and others to discuss questions of urban regeneration and community ownership in Brixton and elsewhere. <>

The past 3 years have seen incredibly rapid change in Brixton and the beginning of major initiatives which will bring further changes. Community activism has also been on the rise. As a 5-year council heritage project begins, we want to ask: what (and who) is being lost, what to hold on to and how, what is the experience of other community/activist groups past and present, and how these stories should be represented and shared more widely? How does heritage become the inheritance of future generations and how can it serve present and future communities?

Taking heritage as the starting point, The day sets out to explore different kinds of memory and memorializing; sharing of stories, the meeting of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Brixton; contested notions of heritage starting from the context of central Brixton; the commodification of ideas of heritage’ as a tool to brand Brixton, while parts of the community are edged out; the politics of preservation and impermanence, objects and the idea of the community museum.

Speakers and facilitators will include artists, historians, architects, activists and academics, who will create spaces for dialogue. Workshops and exchanges include mapping contested spaces in Brixton, decolonising heritage, using objects to tell and record personal memories, a food treasure hunt & cooking, and more.

 Come prepared to speak up, and contribute your voice and your hands.

Who is it for?
Local residents of Brixton past and present; community activists, local workers and business owners, archivists, those with an interest in heritage and community history, planners, architects, artists and those with personal perspectives to bring to the dialogue.

Speakers & Facilitators:
  • Nick Beech, Architectural historian, Queen Mary University, on Stuart Halls thoughts on metropolitan heritage
  • Michael McMillan, Artist & Curator, creator of The West Indian Front Room project
  • Nabeel Hamdi, Emeritus Professor of Housing and Urban Development, Oxford Brookes University
  • Barby Asante, on thinking about internal colonialism and the possibility of decolonising heritage
  • Ashvin de Vos and Daniel Fitzpatrick, Variant Office architects, on mapping tales of contested spaces
  • Fan Sissoko, food treasure hunt
  • Katy Beinart, making traces of objects for the Brixton Museum
  • Bureau of Silly Ideas
  • Critical Practice
More TBC - check our website <>
and twitter feed @anchorandmagnet for updates

Tickets: please book through eventbrite.

past tense have recently published a freesheet, Stealing the Commons, A Brief Introduction to the politics of Open space, enclosure and Resistance in London.

This is just a short piece, covering some of the research into open green space in the London area we have done over the last few years.

If anyone would like a paper copy, you can order one by sending us two first class stamps to:

past tense, c/o 56a infoshop, 56 Crampton Street, London, SE17 3AE

'Stealing the Commons' is also available in some bookshops, social centres, and other spaces in London... 
So far it's in - 
  • Freedom Bookshop, 
  • 56s Infoshop, 
  • the Commonhouse,
  • the DIYSpace for London, 
  • Review Bookshop in Peckham, 
  • New Cross Learning, The Field (New Cross), 
  • Brick Lane Bookshop,
  • Black Cat Cafe (Clapton), 
  • Hornbeam Centre (Walthamstow), 
  • Newham Bookshop,
  • London Activist Resource Centre, 
  • Electric Elephant Cafe (Walworth), 
  • Big Green Books (Wood Green), 
  •  and the Hub Cafe (Limehouse). 
The text of the freesheet is also up on p.t.'s website.
Join past tense and many other funky stalls at:


at Goldsmiths University, 8 Lewisham Way, London, SE14 6NW

featuring radical booksellers and publishers, comic and zine makers, artists and activists, small press, workshops and talks... 

Plus ceremonies for the Bread & Roses award for radical publishing and Little Rebels Children's Book Award.

have a look at the website for an overview of what’s going on…
Inspired by the rent strike that some Goldsmiths students have taken up, please note the addition of a mini housing conference (full line up still being finalised), and also some musical acts to the bill.

join the Facebook event: and crucially invite all your friends to it
they’re on twitter at @arbradbookfair and the main facebook page is:

Please do help spread the word…  Flier here.


LSHG forum: 100 Years since the 1916 Easter Rising

100 years since the 1916 Easter Rising

Saturday 30th April, Institute of Historical Research, 
Senate House, University of London, Malet St, London WC1

Admission free, donations towards costs welcome

1916 Agenda

Midday: registration

12.30 p.m. Start & introduction, Keith Flett


Chris Bambery: Was the Easter Rising doomed from the start?

Catherine Bergin: ‘The Irish fight for liberty is the greatest Epic of Modern History’ : The Irish revolution and African American radicals.'

James Heartfield: '1916: The Rising and the British Empire'

John Newsinger: 'Sylvia Pankhurst, the Easter Rising and the Women’s Dreadnought'


Close: 4pm

Organised by the London Socialist Historians
Reminder: SHS meeting - Ada Salter and Ethical Socialism
Socialist History Society Public Meeting
Speaker: Graham Taylor
7 p.m, 26th April 2016
Venue: Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green (near Farringdon Underground)

"Ada Salter was a pioneer of an ethical brand of socialism well known nationally and in her local Bermondsey in the early twentieth century. For a long time Salter has been unfairly been neglected. In this talk, which will be based on his new book on Ada Salter, Graham tells the story of this remarkable woman for the first time, documenting her significance for the history of both socialism and feminism. Salter was responsible for most of the ideas behind the Bermondsey Revolution, drawing on her experiences in the women’s movement and as President of the Women’s Labour League. Her ground-breaking ideas on urban development were to spread all over London through her work as an LCC councillor, and all over Britain through her role as Chair of the National Gardens Guild. Salter’s experiences as a ‘Sister of the People’ in the London slums eventually led her to the Independent Labour Party, and to the belief that achieving social justice required a grassroots alliance between the labour and women’s movements. Ada succeeded in winning huge majorities for her ideas."

Some new bits on the Radical History of Hackney site:

1. A people's account of the Hackney anti-poll tax demonstration on March 8th 1990 (republication of a booklet by Hackney Community Defence Association - includes eye witness accounts, chronology etc)

2. ITN: raw footage of Hackney poll tax protest (half an hour of before, during and after)

3. November 1990: Hackney leads poll tax non-payment league (excerpt from a piece in the Guardian about non-payment)

Also recommended: the ITNsource site - lots of footage filmed for TV news reports which is tagged and searchable by decade. A bit rough but still well worth a look:

A Magnificent Obsession?': UCL Public Lecture by Dr. Hilda Kean, 11 May
The Department of Information Studies and The Institute of Advanced Studies Presents:

"A magnificent obsession? A historian's search for a man (and his horse) in the archive."
A public lecture by Dr Hilda Kean
on Wednesday 11th May 2016,
Common Ground, South Wing Wilkins Building, UCL, 

"Imagine: a series of apparently unread London diaries from the 1940s "found" in a local archive without accession records; an almost anonymous author; war, gossip, back biting, and accounts of riding horses - Mariana and Trump - daily in Hyde Park. Why wouldn't any cultural historian be engaged?" 
In this public lecture Hilda Kean explores what her diary research was about: the diaries? the horses?
the historian and a particular "moment" of reading?

(Dr Hilda Kean is an Honorary Senior Research Associate in the Information Studies department at UCL and Visiting Professor in History at the University of Greenwich.)

Talk starts promptly at 6.00 p.m. No booking required.

Medact London Launch and film

Launch event of a new Medact local group in London, 
on May 5 at the Lush shop
on Oxford Stree

They will be showing 'The Divide', a documentary based on the book 'The Spirit Level' by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. The documentary aims to explore the growing gap between the rich and poor in the UK and the US. Katherine Round, the director, will be attending for a Q&A session.  Trailer:

Tickets cost £4.50, and can be purchased here.
Medact is a charity for health professionals and others working to improve health worldwide.
It conducts research and analysis.
It campaigns and lobbies.
It educates and informs.
It is independent of powerful interest groups. It sees health through the lens of social justice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lttle Rebels and London Radical Bookfair 2016

The London Radical BookfairThis year the event will take place on Saturday May 7th at Goldsmith’s UniversityThis is a free public event organised by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB) [see links below].


Double Hat-Trick on 2016 Little Rebels Award Shortlist!

Two authors have scored a hat-trick on this year’s shortlist for the 2016 Little Rebels Children’s Book Award for Radical Children’s Fiction. The shortlist of six books includes an anarchic appraisal of Gove’s education policies, the dramatic rescue of an indie bookshop and existential questions for the very young. Authors Gill Lewis and John Boyne both appear for the 3rd time. Bloomsbury has scored twice on the list.

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is now in its 4th year. The shortlisted 2016 titles (for books published in 2015) include 3 chapter books/fiction and 3 picture books; these are:
è Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Neal Layton (Bloomsbury Books); an anarchic story which shames many aspects of contemporary culture but, in particular, the government’s current education ideology.
è Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis (Oxford University Press); a novel set in the Democratic Republic of Congo which explores how the farming of a mineral needed for mobile phones is destroying the gorillas' natural habitat; Lewis’ Moon Bear was shortlisted in 2014 and she was the winner for the Little Rebels Award 2015 with Scarlet Ibis.
è The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne (Doubleday/Penguin Random House UK); the story of one child’s moral corruption when he goes to stay in Hitler’s holiday house, the Berghof, in 1935; Boyne was previously shortlisted for The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket in 2013 and Stay Where You Are and Then Leave in 2014.
è I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail (Bloomsbury Books); a picture book which blasts gender stereotypes by portraying a girl character whose behaviour leads to her being called a boy.
è The Little Bookshop and the Origami Army! by Michael Foreman (Andersen Press); a community bookshop threatened by big business is saved by Origami Girl and local action.
è I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz (Walker Books); a philosophical book for the very young, addressing individualism, bravery and finding your way.

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award recognises fiction for ages 0-12 which promotes or celebrates social justice and equality. It is run by specialist children’s booksellers, Letterbox Library and is awarded by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB). The judges, Kim Reynolds (Professor of Children’s Lit. Newcastle University), Wendy Cooling, (Bookstart co-founder & editor), Catherine Johnson and Elizabeth Laird (children’s authors) are meeting this month to discuss the shortlist.

Kerry Mason, Co-Director of Letterbox Library, said of this year’s submissions: “This was the first year that the shortlisters felt overwhelmed by choices. It seems there is a taste right now for children’s books with a message, particularly where that message is communicated in an imaginative and original way. This year’s shortlist pokes fun at our institutions, brings corporate powers to their knees and ponders vast questions such as ‘who am I?’ through the smallest of finches”.     

Speaking about the award, Little Rebels judge, Kim Reynolds, said, “This prize identifies well-informed and high-quality books that can help children understand that the way the world is currently organised is not inevitable and that even the youngest members of society can help to change it” (in Books for Keeps May 2015).

The winner of the Little Rebels Award will again be announced at The London Radical Bookfair. This year the event will take place on Saturday May 7th at Goldsmith’s University. This is a free public event organised by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB). The Little Rebels winner will be announced alongside the ARB’s sister adult award, the Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing.                                                                                                 ***ENDS***
Fen Coles
Letterbox Library
Unit 151 Stratford Workshops
Burford Road
Stratford E15 2SP
Tel: 020 8534 7502
Twitter: @LetterboxLib

Further Information
About Letterbox Library
Letterbox Library is a 33-year-old, not-for-profit, children’s booksellers and social enterprise. They specialise in children’s books which celebrate diversity, equality & inclusion. Further information can be found at They run the Little Rebels Award on behalf of the ARB (below).

About the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB)
The ARB is a supportive community for the UK’s radical booksellers; Members of the ARB include Housmans Bookshop, Gay’s The Word, News from Nowhere, Freedom Bookshop and Letterbox Library. The ARB runs the adult, Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing, administered by Housmans Bookshop. For more information go to .

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

About the London Radical Bookfair
Hosted by the ARB, this fair was run for the first time in May 2013. Previous venues have included the Bishopsgate Institute. Full details at:

Significant dates
The winner of both the Little Rebels and the Bread & Roses Awards will be announced at the ARB’s London Radical Bookfair on Saturday May 7th 2016.

Letter reproduced in: Librarians for Social Change
newsletter No.6, 1970s
(Some things do change...)

A young critic, 1970s

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Join the Rad’s Army Radical History Zone in Bristol on 30th April!

From Bristol Radical History Group

We are celebrating two anniversaries this year! 2016 marks the 10th birthday of the Bristol Radical History Group. This year we have also organised the 5th Radical History Zone (RHZ). The RHZ is an autonomous space for ideas about radical history that takes place alongside the annual Bristol Anarchist Bookfair. As ever there will be an eclectic mix of topics taking a critical approach to hidden history, with perspectives and themes rarely explored in conventional histories or the mainstream media.  

Members of the home guard of Bristol Radical History Group will kick off the day with the first two sessions. First up we have Mike Richardson’s launch for his meticulously researched book about the Barton Hill Cotton Factory, The Maltreated and the Malcontents: Working in the Great Western Cotton Factory 1838-1914. Roger Ball and Steve Mills will follow with their lively account of James Acland, the radical agitator who launched the original Bristolian paper in 1827. Then as now The Bristolian is the ‘smiter of the high and mighty’ (They don’t like it up em!). Both of these sessions are perfect examples of the kind of investigative history that can be carried out to reveal and expose forgotten stories from our own city and neighbourhoods.

Since the first Radical History Zone in 2010, we have also prided ourselves on including first-hand accounts of history in the making. Peter Crump appeared at the first event in Stokes Croft to talk about his adventures in the 1970’s eco-anarchist collective Street Farm, which designed the first ecological house, and the heady days of student power at the Architecture Association. Di Parkin shared memories of anarchism in the 1960s in her session entitled ‘Running down Whitehall with a black flag’. Last year Mac McConnell recalled the squatting scene and housing activism in Bristol in the 1970s. This year we are excited to host a discussion with David and Stuart Wise, veteran Situationists from that most underground 1960’s group, King Mob. The conversation could take us from Newcastle to New York and may cover art and anti-art, the Sex Pistols, revolution then and now, ecology and rare butterflies… we’ll have to wait and see! Please do come and join the discussion – permission to speak is not required.      

Other sessions in the RHZ have often taken a long view of contentious issues in the present day. This year we are delighted that Molly Conisbee of Bread, Print and Roses will be raising current debates about the railway system and public transport in the context of the 1960’s Beeching Cuts. The legacy of this wholesale axing of the rail infrastructure still impacts upon the everyday lives of millions of people. We are also fortunate to have a visit from Eileen Turnball of the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign. This account of efforts to redress the wrongs of a notorious assault upon striking trade unionists is equally topical in the context of the government’s current Trade Union Bill to curb workers’ organisation. Who do they think they are kidding?        

Finally it has also become something of a tradition to include a literary or musical session within the RHZ, such as Pilar Lopez’s musical rendition of the Spanish Revolution, Anna Freeman’s reading fromThe Fair Fight her novel about women boxers in 18th century BristolDon’t panic! – this year is no exception. Ciaran Walsh is going to treat us with a full performance of ‘The Red Dagger’, Heathcote Williams’ epic poem about the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt.    

Check the contributors’ section of the Bristol Radical History Group website for video recordings of past talks and events.

As ever our trusty comrades in the Hydra Bookshop will be hosting and catering at this year’s RHZ. The Hydra is a hub of the Old Market community and a treasured space for independent events throughout the year. Support your local radical bookshop and café.   

So don’t be stupid boys and girls, come along on 30th April. The Radical History Zone is a free event. The Bristol Radical History Group is independent and takes no funding from government or business sponsorship so donations are always welcome.