Friday, 29 April 2011


FAKE WORKS created in the style of famous artists Banksy and Tracey Emin will feature in a prestigious exhibition at Bolton Museum. These previously unseen pieces will form part of the Fakes and Forgeries exhibition, which opened at the museum on Saturday, April 16 and will continue till July.

The exhibition, which was created by the Metropolitan Police Service’s Art and Antiques Unit, also includes the Amarna Princess statue crafted by convicted Bolton forger Shaun Greenhalgh. The Amarna will form the centrepiece of the exhibition, which was launched at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in January last year.

There will be a reconstruction of Shaun Greenhalgh’s garden shed – where he made his forgeries – and a collection of his other works, such as the Risley Park Lanx, Barbara Hepworth’s Goose, and Thomas Moran paintings. Other objects on display will include fake antiquities by John Andrews and forged silverware by Peter Ashley Russell, paintings by renowned forgers John Myatt and Robert Thwaites.

Robert Thwaites, a forger who made more than £120,000 from the sale of two fake paintings, was jailed for two years in September 2006. Thwaites tricked Antiques Roadshow art expert Rupert Maas into paying £20,000 for one of his copies. London gallery owner Maas sold on The Miser purported to be by John Anster Fitzgerald for a profit of 300%. Thwaites, from Leek, Staffs, made more than £100,000 from another Fitzgerald fake called 'Going To The Masked Ball'.

Since appearing at the V&A, the Art and Antiques Unit have introduced some Tracey Emin fakes by Jonathan Rayfern and added some different Banksy fakes. Jonathan Rayfern, a 32 year-old ex-art student from Manchester was sentenced to 16 months at the Manchester Crown Court last October. He had sold at least 11 fakes on Ebay including sketches on fabric and a pencil drawing and made about £26,000. Ten items had been sold to a Gallery owner in Warwick. In his defence he said that he had been trying to pay off loan sharks. Commenting on the Rayfern case at the time the 'artist' Tracy Emin said: 'My artwork is deeply personal and comes from my heart. It hurts and distresses me to see these fakes and forgeries that have no regard, respect or understanding of what I do.'

The free exhibition will appear at Bolton Museum until Saturday, July 2.

Estimating the chances of buying a forgery:

· Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, has estimated that up to 40% of the art market is comprised of some type of forged art.

· It has been suggested that only half of the 600 works supposedly painted by Rembrandt are genuine and as many as 10% of modern French paintings may be forgeries.

· The 20th century's most famous forger was Han van Meegeren, confessed in 1945 to having forged several Vermeers, including The Supper at Emmaus, which scholars had proclaimed a masterpiece.

· In the 1980s and 1990s, British forger John Myatt infiltrated the art market with fake Giacomettis, Ben Nicholsons and Graham Sutherlands.

· In the late 1980s, Eric Hebborn claimed he faked and sold more than 1,000 old-master drawings to institutions including the British Library.

Copies of Northern Voices 10 with our report on the Bolton forger Shaun Greenhalgh from Bromley Cross is still available. To obtain a copy send a cheque for £2.20 payable to 'Northern Voices' to: 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A funeral on wedding day - 'Mourning the Death of Our Services'

UK Uncut have a called a demonstration in Manchester on the day of THAT wedding, this Friday 29th April. Here's the press release:
In October 2010, the country learnt of the infliction of a terminal illness on its public sector. 
We will be gathering on the 29th of April to hold a living wake commiserating the demise of our vital services, and celebrating all that they have achieved. 
We would like to take this opportunity to invite you to pay your respects. 
The funeral will start at 12.30 p.m. at Manchester Town hall where you are invited to share your experiences and memories of those we have loved and will lose. We will then embark on a funeral procession bearing coffins in respect for The NHS, Education, Welfare, Immigration and The Arts. 
Please come dressed in black, flowers are welcome. 
We hope that you can join us in our grief and make this day memorable.
A facebook page for the event can be found here.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Northern Voices 12 - still available

TOMORROW the printers are reprinting a further batch of copies of NV12. This issue includes the 3-page TESCO article referred to below dealing with their land grab in Hattersley near Manchester. Also in NV12, is the last 'filthy' word (see John Swarbricks remarks) on the Rochdale politician and Town Hall love child Sir Cyril Smith and his kid brother Norman. Our exclusive interview with the Salford Matador, Frank Evans, and the Waterfoot artist, Liam Spencer, whose most recent exhibition is on at Salford Peel Art Gallery on The Crescent. All this and more besides for less than the price of a pint:

Postal sub. for the next two Northern Voices: £4.60 for two issues (post included). Cheque payable to 'Northern Voices' from 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

It`s official! GMB union rep who took redundancy, is now standing for Tameside Council

While council employees in Manchester have been talking about industrial action to oppose cuts in jobs and services, in Tameside, the council has been inundated with requests from employees wishing to take voluntary redundancy. Even the union leadership is abandoning ship, as the council seeks to lose 600 jobs and to make £35 million in cuts this year.

In our look at Tameside`s incestuous political scene on 22nd February, we reported on how some Tameside Council employees with Labour Party connections, were making inquiries about taking voluntary redundancy and also hoping to become Tameside councillors after leaving the council`s employment with their severance pay cheques. Amongst those mentioned were the GMB union representative Yvonne Cartey and the Ashton-under-Lyne Town Centre Manager, Frank Travis, the husband of councillor Lynn Travis.

Although Mr Travis failed to win the nomination for the St. Peter`s ward as we reported, this week, it was reported in the local Tameside Reporter that amongst the people standing in the local elections for Tameside Council on 5th May, is Yvonne Cartey, the former GMB union representative at Tameside Council. She is replacing Bill Harrison.

Ms Cartey is not the only union representative working for Tameside Council who has taken voluntary redundancy. Another is Anne Keighley, the former Branch Secretary of Tameside UNISON, who left Tameside Council`s employment in March. Mike Fowler, who until recently was a Forward Incident Officer for Tameside Council, is also standing for the council in Denton South and will be replacing Andrew Doubleday.

While there is no suggestion of any legal impropriety in this convenient arrangement, some people nevertheless, might smell a rat and perhaps feel that there is something rather shabby about this whole affair. Some might say that it smacks of jobs for the boys (and gals). Usually, if a council employee takes voluntary redundancy from Tameside Council, they cannot apply for another job with the council for a period of twelve months. But this does not apply to those who take noddy jobs, like being a Tameside councillor.

Certainly, Mr. Liam Billington of Tameside Taxpayers' Alliance, is not amused. In this weeks Tameside Reporter, he writes:

"I am disgusted that two former employees of Tameside Council are standing in the local elections for the Labour Party. Both have recently left their jobs. One is Yvonne Cartey, who is standing for the Ashton St. Michael`s ward. She is a taxpayer funded union representative for the GMB Union. The other is Mike Fowler, who was until recently a Forward Incident Officer who is replacing Andrew Doubleday. It`s not right that two employees of the council have so cosily jumped aboard to become candidates for the local elections. It`s obviously all about who you know rather than what you know. And may I ask if anyone claimed a redundancy payment from the council? If any of the said candidates do become elected, will they be returning their redundancy payment back to the taxpayers of Tameside?"

It is highly unlikely that either Ms. Cartey or Mr. Fowler will be returning any money even if they do become Tameside councillors, which seems almost certain, but we understand, that Ms. Cartey (an Ashton Soroptimist), has recently been boasting to friends and colleagues that she`s bought a new house and feels that it is now wrong that a person with her money, should be living in social housing (Cavendish Mill).

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


From the Garden Shed Gang in Bromley Cross to a Jewish Dynasty on the Parisian Right Bank

IS NO-ONE safe to speculate on the art market anymore? Only last Friday we had Detective Constable Lawson of the London Metropolitan Police Arts & Antiquities Unit, preaching in the Bolton Museum to a packed auditorium about the need to protect the British art market from the likes of forgers like Shaun Greenhalgh and his family, but today it is France that's in the news with reports of a police raid last January on the posh art research building of the Wildenstein Institute on the Paris Right Bank. The International Herald Tribune reports today: 'It was third police raid on the institute, and at the end of it, the investigators carried away armloads of art, including Degas drawing, a bronze sculpture by Rembrandt Bugatti and an Impressionist painting of a Norman cottage by Berthe Morisot.' It seems they had all been reported missing or stolen,some by Jewish families whose property was looted by the Nazis, and others by heirs who claimed that valuable stuff had 'walked' during settlement of their family estates.

In all about 30 works have been seized by the French police and it focuses an awkward floodlight on the Wildenstein clan: one of the most famous French Jewish families of art dealers going back generations. They are perhaps the most illustrious and trusted dealers in the international art world. Now the family is confronted with six civil cases against it by aggrieved families who insist their artwork has been stolen plus allegations of money-laundering and tax evasion under the criminal law now being pursued by French anti-fraud investigators.

In the 1990s, a writer Hector Feliciano produced a book, 'The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art', suggesting that in World War II, Georges Wildenstein worked with a Nazi big wig art dealer, Karl Haberstock, who bought and sold art plundered from Jews. The Wildenstein family took out a libel suit that failed in the Courts saying the Feliciano had not been irresponsible or negligent in his conclusion based on the records, but the finding declined to decide one way or the other whether Mr. Wildenstein had actually done business with the Nazis.

The story in today's International Herald Tribune suggests that for all their wealth and catergoria that the Wildenstein family is less noble that the Greenhalgh's up Bromley Cross in Bolton. The Greenhalgh swindle was a talented cottage industry of art fraud that probably netted less than £1 million and was mostly damaging to the reputations of the art experts at the British Museum who authenticated Shaun Greenhalgh's creations. Most of the proceeds were recovered by the police and relatively little had been spent by the family, although D.C. Lawson said last Friday that 'they had two new cars on the front drive and I have only got an 8 year-old jalopy'. It is claimed that Shaun intended to spend the money on providing for his mum and dad in their old age. The Wilderstein case is much more murky with Sylvia, the widow of Daniel Wildenstein the son of Georges, taking out a lawsuit against her step-sons, Guy and Alec, 2 weeks after her husband's funeral in 2001. She claimed that they had convinced her that her husband had died bankrupt and that if she didn't renounce her inheritance rights that she faced a huge tax burden. The French Courts restored her rights as an heir in 2005, in what the Herald Tribune calls 'a scathing decision, ordering her step-sons to pay her 20 million euros as an advance on a fortune variously estimated between 43 million euros and 4 billion euros.' The Court noted that a fragile Mrs. Wildenstein had been the 'victim of a calculated error' to 'induce her to renounce her husband's estate.'

While the Greenhalgh family in Bolton seem blissfully unaware of the popular support that they have generated for themselves and hide away from publicity, the stepson Guy Wildenstein hobnobs with President Sarkozy's Popular Movement Party, which he backs as a major donor and fund raiser. Hence, the French press fear that their Government is dragging its feet, and with the 10-year statute of limitation on tax evasion running out in December this year and the Budget Ministry now declining to say if an inquiry is underway, it seems that Guy Wildenstein and his brother Alec may not suffer the same fate as Shaun Greenhalgh.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Manchester artist nominated for this year`s BP Portrait Award!

Among the paintings shortlisted for this year`s BP Portrait Award, is the brilliant painting 'Holly' (pictured above) by the Manchester artist Louis Smith. The painting of a female model chained to a rock, is inspired by the myth of Prometheus, who in Greek mythology, was chained to a rock by Zeus as punishment for stealing fire from the Gods. The canvas, which is 8ft-high, is one of four paintings shortlisted from a selection of 2,372 entries which were submitted for the competition.

Writing last week in The Guardian, art critic Jonathan Jones (who is also a judge for this years BP Portrait Award) said that the painting by Smith, was 'by far the most memorable thing on the shortlist for this year`s Award at the National Portrait Gallery'. Describing the painting as a 'retro-academic, soft-porn fantasy' he said, 'after looking at 2,372 entries, this was the only one that stayed with me'. Referring to the 'technical brilliance and astounding details of the painting', he also added:

"The first time I saw it in the flesh, so to speak, I said, 'Jesus Christ'. The second time, I reacted in much the same way..."

A former Tameside College art student, Louis Smith, was born in Manchester in 1969. He did a BA Honours degree in Fine Art painting at Sheffield University and also studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. He also spent three years in Florence, Italy, studying classical realism art. He has previously exhibited at the Farmelo Gallery, Cork Gallery, in London and the Vernon Gallery and Object Art Gallery. In 2009, he was shortlisted by the Threadneedle Prize for painting and sculpture and in 2010, shortlisted for the Royal Society Portrait Painters competition and the ING Discerning Eye Award.

The winner of this year`s BP Portrait Award,(£25,000) will be announced on 14 June.

Expert Incompetence, Incompetent expertise


DETECTIVE CONSTABLE Lawson, from the Metropolitan Police Arts & Antiquities Unit, stood his ground last night against a torrent of questions at a packed meeting of northerners at Bolton Museum & Art Gallery, dealing with the role of fakes and frauds in British art. Little old ladies from Bolton and beyond suddenly came to resemble Madame Defarge brandishing knitting needles as they pieced the smug, dissembling front of D.C. Lawson as he did his best to uphold the integrity of the London art establishment faced with the Greenhalgh trio's perpetuation of one of the most cheeky frauds in history. For 17 years the genius of Shaun and George Greenhalgh, from their Bromley Cross council house in Bolton, had undermined a pompous southern elite of 'experts' until in 2007, when they were convicted. Shaun Greenhalgh was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months, and his dad to a suspended sentence. Shaun was released from Preston Prison in March 2010 and returned to his dad's house on The Crescent in Bromley Cross, Bolton. Last night, one wag told me that he may now be in Amsterdam: presumably studying the Dutch School of Art.

Earlier at a preview of the exhibition, visitors who paid £5 apiece, had seen the case for the defence of the art expert represented on a notice thus: 'Features fraudulent artworks from real crime cases, this display shows how successful forgeries find a place in the art market, not because of the incompetence of the expert, but because of the changing strategies of the criminal.'

Above all, it seems, the London art market must be protected from the likes of Shaun Greenhalgh, and his Dad and Mum. Another notice declares that in Section 1 of the exhibition we must 'consider the nature of this crime on the London art market', and we learn that the other four Sections 'explore the extreme lengths fraudsters go in order to fool the (poor) experts'.

In a powerpoint presentation D.C. Lawson did his level best to side step and gloss over the embarrassment of the Art Capital's feeble handling of the Greenhalgh case; with a flourish he explained his part as a member of the Arts & Antiquities Unit saying: 'Our primary role is to protect the London art market' because fakes, like those of the Greenhalgh's, 'Do damage to the (art) institutions and experts who have been deceived.' The 'experts' and their 'expertise' must not be offended, particularly by northern folk working in their garden sheds. We must, said police officer Lawson, realise that with the credit crunch, declining property prices and uncertainty in the stock market, that pension funds (where the poor have their money as well as the rich) and other investors invest in the art market. Thus art becomes a defensive stock just like gold and commodities.

It was a fascinating presentation attended by big-wigs from down South as well as locals like us. D.C. Lawson had folk laughing from time to time and his talk brought up some serious issues. 'Who unmasked Shaun Greenhalgh?', asked one lady. 'It was the experts at the British Museum; they spotted a small spelling mistake in Shaun's work (on the Assyrian relief)', exclaimed D.C. Lawson. I interrupted: 'But this was not the case - it was not the British Museum who discovered the error - they repeatably authenticated Shaun's work; it was a specialist at Bonham's Art Auction House.' No doubt the British Museum and its director, Neil McGregor, had sent the Assyrian relief to Bonham's for a valuation so as to gloat over how good a bargain they had got out of stupid George Greenhalgh. D.C. Lawson never answered these questions preferring to assert: 'I don't support people who defraud other people.'

Another lady asked: 'Why don't you legitimise Shaun Greenhalgh, because I would be willing to pay money for his work?' Again no proper answer came back. Nor did the lady who asked if the London Metropolitan Police would be willing to donate the Amarna Princess statue to Bolton Museum. No joy again from D.C. Lawson!

Shaun Greenhalgh is undoubtedly a man of many talents and even the London Arts & Antiquities Unit admit that he is the most 'diverse forger' they have ever encountered: most forgers specialising in one artist, a narrow area or genre. But, as I pointed out he is the only one that is not making anything out of this work. The London Metropolitan Police are using it, as have the dramatists on TV who have made films of the 'Artful Codgers', the educationalists are using it to show how deceptions are committed on the art market but not Shaun Greenhalgh who produced it. It seems ironic that those propping up the art market and creating art as a commodity should benefit while the humble producer of the works is left to fend for himself. As I came away people snapped up Northern Voices 10 with our Greenhalgh editorial in it, one man said 'To me Greenhalgh is a hero!'

Friday, 15 April 2011

History of Tameside - James Keogh

Here's the section of the Tameside episode of the History of Greater Manchester, broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester this Wednesday. Our very own Bammy is interviewed about Tameside's volunteers, in particular James Keogh. TMBC plan later in the year to unveil a Blue Plaque in memory of James Keogh at the site of his former workplace in Ashton-under-Lyne.

Thursday, 14 April 2011


Lib-Dem Functionary Flagellates NV Pusher on Town Hall steps

A GARGOYLE descended from the guttering of Rochdale's architecturally pseudo-Gothic Town Hall, last night, in the shape of John Swarbrick, to accost a purveyor of Northern Voices 12. And out of the spout which passes for a mouth came forth the following: 'Northern Voices - it's filth, it is fucking filth!'

Whatever could he mean? To what might he be referring? Could it have summat to do with the six page 'Obituary' to Sir Cyril Smith in the current issue of NV12?

It was the night of the last full Council Meeting of Rochdale MBC before the pending local elections. And all and sundry were in a jolly mood except for the Gargoyle or was it a Grotesque? 'Are you a Liberal?', says I. 'Why do you say that?', says he. em>'You'll be getting a solicitor's letter for libel', he declared 'filth, it's filth!' Then off he goes with a councillor muttering through the swing doors into Rochdale's glorious Town Hall.

Then in went I, onwards and upwards, to the Council Chamber's spectator's gallery to sit next to the Gargoyle but not too close, of course. By that time the Council Leader, Councillor Colin Lambert, was in full flow suggesting: 'As part of the Rochdale Town Centre redevelopment, we propose to seek funds to reopen part of the road covering the river (Roch), this will give Rochdale a unique feature and give us a major start in the regeneration.' Hooray! Last years Northern Voices 11 called for this very thing. Councillor Lambert said: 'there was all party support to investigate a possible bid for the Wheatsheaf Centre.' Moreover, the Council Leader declared: 'I have been keen to push ahead with the carbon reduction measures as part of (a) move towards a green economy'.

This was later challenged by a Lib-Dem, the feisty German lady and former Green artist from Berlin, Wera Hobhouse. Mrs Hobhouse, petite, blond and with a lovely Teutonic twist to her accent claimed that Labour had stolen the ideas of the Lib-Dems. Moans and groans from the Labour benches: folk up North don't much like clever foreigners like Mrs Hobhouse because she has a touch of class which they despise. Recently she has been campaigning over the loss of our heritage in Rochdale with the two-day closure of the Touchstones Centre since the cuts.

Councillor Farooq Ahmed, Portfolio for Finance, drew attention to Rochdale's past talking of the 'group of ordinary people (in 1844, who) decided to form a co-operative society'. Another Cabinet Member, Councillor Peter Williams, talked of a Hydro e-Power Scheme on the River Roch and £1.5m for a transformation of the Toad Lane Co-op.

Later it was back-patting time for the retiring members and I left determined to catch the Council Leader and get the money for his copy of NV.

For a copy of the current Northern Voices 12 with our unique revelations on Cyril Smith, condemned by John Swarbrick above, send cheque made payable to 'Northern Voices' for £2.20 (post included) to 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire, BB10 4AH. For a back copy of Northern Voices 11 also refered to above please send cheque payable for same amount.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

History of Greater Manchester on Radio Manchester


YESTERDAY it was Salford, last Friday it was Rochdale, today it's Stockport but Wednesday it will be Tameside. John Stapleton's 'History of Greater Manchester' continues tomorrow on BBC Radio Manchester with coverage of the Tameside towns: Ashton, Stalybridge, Hyde, Dukinfield etc. With Salford it was Marx and Engels drinking at The Crescent pub, L.S. Lowry, 'Love on the Dole', 'The Classic Slum', Ruth Frow and the Working Class Movement Library, the wealth of local actors and playwrights and, horror of horrors, even Hazel Blears. The Rochdale one included Rochdale's neo-Gothic Town Hall and its architect, the Co-op and the Pioneers, the Chartists, Our Gracie and even former Chairman of the Planning Committee Councillor Norman Smith on his brother Big Cyril Smith - the notorious local politician who dominated politics in the town for decades. Former Alderman Cyril Smith, who died last September, was a giant character rather like 'The Workhouse Donkey', Charlie Butterwaite, in John Arden's play of the same name: Butterwaite was born in a Yorkshire Workhouse and Smith was born in a Rochdale slum and both went on to triumph in politics. John Stapleton’s had an emotional interview with Norman Smith, who describes growing up with his brother Cyril in 1930’s Rochdale. He reflects on his brother’s political career and recalls how Cyril made his mum Mayoress in 1966.

Yet, on Wednesday the 13th April it will be Tameside's turn. Tameside is a name for a collection of small towns in East Manchester. It will be Tameside's link to the Spanish Civil War that will interest some of our readers. From Tameside more than half a dozen of its citizens in the 1930s set off for Spain to fight in Civil War to defend the young Spanish democratic republic, plus one young woman, Lillian Urmston from Stalybridge, by then in her twenties, who went off to nurse the wounded in that war. At that time, in 1936, there were only three democracies left in Western Europe; these included Great Britain, France and the then threatened Spanish Republic, which at the time in July 1936 had been presented with the treachery of military uprising by many of its Generals led by General Franco and General Mola and supported by the dictators Chancellor Hitler of Germany and the Italian Mussolini. This year Tameside MBC is going to commemorate one of their number, James Keogh, from Ashton who died fighting in Spain in March 1938 in the mountains of Aragon where George Orwell earlier had served in the POUM militia, by installing a Blue Plaque for him and other local combatants in the town. Tameside Trade Union Council and the local publication Northern Voices have been campaigning for this almost since the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War in 2006. Besides the young James Keogh and Lillian Urmston, other Tamesiders who are known to have gone to fight in Spain in the 1930s included: Albert Godwin from Dukinfield, Daniel Albert Boon, William Brown, James Greenwood - all from Ashton. Some others are suspected to have lodged or stayed in the Tameside towns and also believed to have served in Spain. None of these seem to have been affiliated to a political party of any kind and in James Keogh's case, as an apprentice tailor working in central Ashton, he was not even a member of a trade union. This suggests great strength of character in Keogh's case and in that of Lillian Urmston for she didn't belong to a political party either: and yet both of these, perhaps because they were not members of the Communist Party had derogatory references to them when recently documents were revealed in the Moscow Archives - containing reports of them both from communist spies to the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The Secretary of Tameside Trade Union Council will be being interviewed on the participation of these volunteers in the program.

With this years Oscar winner (for his part in 'The King's Speech') Colin Firth about to play George Orwell in the coming film 'Homage to Catalonia', which records Orwell's own experiences in the Spanish Civil War between Christmas 1936 and May 1937, any coverage of the Spanish Civil War is bound to be topical. This is the 75th anniversary of the start of that war in July 1936.

Mrs Duffy confronts Nick Clegg

NEWS reports at lunchtime today say that Nick Clegg was confronted by the now famous Rochdalian pensioner, Gillian Duffy, when, this morning, he visited Holroyds engineering factory up Milnrow, near Rochdale this morning. It will be remembered that it was Mrs Duffy who stuck up to Gordon Brown in the run up to the General Election last May when he later called her a 'bigot' and made her a news item in the international media. With Cyril Smith now dead and under the sod, and 'Our Gracie' having passed a way long ago it is being left to the new spirit of Rochdale, in the form of Mrs. Gillian Duffy to carry the torch of 'non-conformism' in the town. She certainly gave Lib Dem and Coalition Deputy, Nick Clegg, a run for his money today, having all but crucified Gordon Brown last year.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Yesterday's Blacklist Olympics Protest

Frank Morris (Picture: Mick Holder)
Supporters of blacklisted worker Frank Morris stopped the transport going into one of the main entrances to the Olympics site in Hackney this morning (Sunday 10th, April).

Frank was sacked and threatened with violence at the Olympics site after blowing the whistle on the use of an illegal blacklist of trade union members by the multi-national construction companies on the project.

For many more pix - follow the Blacklist Support Group facebook page

Blacklist Support Group

Saturday, 9 April 2011


FROM next Tuesday the 12th, April till 10th, May 2011, their will be an exhibition of 'Rochdalian Artists' at Number Ten Gallery at 10, Baillie Street, Rochdale, OL16 1JG: Monday to Saturday between 9am - 5pm. 'Rochdale Artists' are a group of locals of differing experience, abilities and tastes, who meet together to support each other in artistic endevours. New members are always welcome - just come along to a meeting: Meetings every Tuesday 7pm to 9pm at Castleton Library & Community Centre. To contact the 'Rochdale Artists' ring 01706 379609.

Northern Voices 12, with our interview with Burnley artist, Liam Spencer, is on sale at the Number Ten Gallery.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

"It`s what you know not who you know" says 'Calamity Clegg' but he admits that Daddy, pulled strings to get him his first job!

Click 'read more' here or below to find out who these lowlife are
"Pedigree Chums"! David Cameron & Other Members of the Bullingdon Club
As a party, the Lib Dems are so discredited nowadays that they are prepared to say anything and doing anything to curry favour with the electorate. Now seen as the fag-end of the Tory party, they lost their deposit and came last in the recent Barnsley by-election, even losing votes to the racist BNP.

To try and restore his party`s reputation before the May elections, the Con-Dem deputy leader, Nick Clegg, recently announced that he`s taking steps to stop wealthy families from securing plum work experience placements (internships) for their children. He thinks the jobs market in this country is rigged in favour of the privileged and he wants to get working-class kids into top jobs. He says he wants a society which is based on "what you know, not who you know". He also thinks that people doing internships should be paid at least the minimum wage.

But no sooner had he announced his policy aimed ostensibly at kickstarting social mobility in Britain, when he was heckled from the Commons back benches and accused by some MPs, of gross hypocrisy. When challenged, he admitted that he hadn't paid interns when they`d worked for him and that his millionaire father, Nicholas Clegg, who was then the Chairman of United Trust Bank, had pulled strings to get him an internship with the Finnish bank, Postipankki. He also got his first job (he started at the bottom and worked his way up), working for Lord Brittan of Spennithorne in the European Commission in Brussells, after his next-door neighbour, Lord Carrington, put in a good word for him. Despite the advantages his privileged upbringing has given him, Clegg, said:

"I`m not ashamed to say we all inhabited a system that was wrong. I do not deny I have been lucky but the plans I have set out today will help others from a wider range of backgrounds to get the opportunities I enjoyed."

The leader of the Con-Dem (Millionaire) government, David Cameron, is only too aware of the opportunities afforded to the upper-classes who are socially well connected. He owes his rise in life entirely to birth, breeding and the social circles he moves in. He got work experience with an Hong Kong bank when a family friend put in a good word for him. He did work experience for his godfather, the MP, Tim Rathbone. He landed a job with Carlton TV when his mother-in-law, Lady Astor, persuaded Michael Grade, to give him a well paid post with the TV firm. He also landed a job as a researcher with Conservative central office after a mystery caller from Buckingham Palace, rang them to say: "I am ringing to tell you, that you are about to meet a truly remarkable young man".

While 'Calamity Clegg' may well be feeling contrite and slightly embarrassed, his father, Nicholas, said: "All this intern nonsense is overblown."

Last year the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), said that on one indicator of social mobility - the difference between parents and children`s incomes - Britain had the widest gap of any country in Europe.

Of course none of us will be really surprised by any of this, that people do get on by "having a word down the tennis club with people that matter". Priviledged upper-class people like Clegg and Cameron, just go from one arranged job to another. But as Friedrich Nietzsche says in Twilight of the Idols: "The English are the people of consummate cant".

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

British Building Trade in the Dark Ages!


The construction industry in 2011 has most definitely gone back to the dark ages: read 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' by Robert Tressell today and the whole story rings true (see review by Chris Draper in the Spring issue of Northern Voices 12). Site deaths for this year are over 50 with a 1000 more injured and nobody seems to give a damn: 'its only a building worker plenty more of them around who would work for half that last bloke's money!' I am sure if someone was killed on a site today and the body could be pushed down a trench and covered in with cement some building firms would happily do that - a bit far-fetched maybe, but that's how building workers are seen by subbies, agencies, and the gangster firms who have infested our industry.

How do they get away with sacking workers on a Friday night as they are on their way home with no notice pay? How do they get away with deducting money from your wages every week on a payroll company? How do get away with canteens and changing rooms that are sub-standard? A dog wouldn't be treated in such a way. How do they get away with blacklisting? Its still going on; none of the files will be destroyed, it's nonsense to say they have been, every person on Ian Kerr's files has got no chance of ever working on a large site again.

I was told by a friend of mine who is at Olympic site 'Steve Kelly, will never work in London he is the biggest trouble maker in London!'. If only I had it on tape! This should not be tolerated by myself or other dedicated trade union members. I was lucky in some ways I managed to get work in the maintenance industry, many of my comrades have struggled to find work over the last 3 years, and their torture continues; it is mental torture - its no fun signing on every week especially if there are children to think of. I know of 3 people, electricians, who tragically committed suicide in recent years due to mounting debt through lack of work -  they were on the jubilee line with me. Also, another friend who had 12-page blacklist file died from a brain hemorrhage aged 51 last December, the cases he was pursuing took over his life in a way, fighting for justice; he died and never saw justice. How can these bosses sleep at night? I would love to turn the tables on them. The construction unions have won a few cases, most have not got to tribunal; a UCATT member I know has a 52-page file going back to the 1970s: he was told he had no chance of a claim for discrimination for trade union activity! That can't be right! The government must surely do a complete review of working practices, health and safety, and methods of payment of wages, employment law and rights are non existent in the construction industry. This would not be tolerated in any other industry, so why is it in construction? The hardest workers seem to be getting the worst treatment: no Xmas bonus for the poor construction worker a brown envelope with the P45 if your lucky enough to be on the cards.

The WRA, JIB, and NAEICI agreements are being eroded away gradually, WRA was gone years ag,o not worth the paper it's written on really. Today, you are likely to be threatened with a good hiding by a supervisor, as Frank Morris was, or slung off a site for standing up for your rights, as BP Saltend workers have. The only solution I can see available to siteworkers is to lay down a few ultimatums and get them to treat us with the decency that we deserve. Or set about striking and picketing these sites; if workers are stopped from crossing picket lines the job will never be built. Its time for workers to take on these rotten bosses: occupy your site if necessary. If you tolerate this your children will be next!.

Steve Kelly, Unite London construction branch secretary.

This week's Spanish films at the Manchester Cornerhouse

Read Our Review on 'Biutiful' in 'British Royalty & Barcelona's Gangmasters' on Feb. 2nd below: 'Where the tourists never go!'

Fans of Spanish film are in for a treat this April at Cornerhouse. Screening from Friday 8th, The Silent House (La Casa Muda) wowed critics at Cannes 2010. This artsy horror marks a noteworthy debut from Uruguayan director, Gustavo Hernandez. Impressively shot using a digital ‘still’ camera in just a single take, the film tells the story of Laura and her father who unearth the otherworldly secrets of an isolated cottage.

'A stylish, handheld house-of-horrors number, which like the best examples of the genre uses suspense rather than gore to rack up the tension.' Lee Marshall, Screen Daily.

Biutiful (see our film review of 'Biutiful' on February 2nd, 2011) is back by popular demand, and we're screening it over three dates as part of our Play It Again season. Recommended by Jessie Gibbs, coordinator on our ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival, Javier Bardem gives an Oscar-nominated performance as Uxbal, a man treading a fine line between sinner and saint as he strives to provide for his family in the murky underworld of Barcelona. Advance booking is recommended if you don’t want to miss this compelling and accomplished picture on the big screen.


The Silent House: La casa muda

Cert 15

Showing from Fri 8 April

Laura and her father are preparing to renovate an isolated cottage, and in readiness for an early start they stay overnight in the house. As they settle down for the night Laura hears noises from outside and urges her father to investigate...


Cert 15

Showing from Sun 24 April

Anchored by a stunning central performance from Javier Bardem, the new film from Amores Perros and 21 Grams director Alejandro González Iñárritu tells the compelling story of one man’s struggle to find spiritual redemption in Barcelona.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Prim Britannia & Popular Britannia

Rough-Arsed Northerners who aim to die with their boots on!

IN A RECENT DISPUTE among British syndicalists over the use of the term 'Nazi' in modern political polemics someone invoked Godwin's Law to claim authoritatively that once someone refers to 'Hitler' or the 'Nazis' that ought to close down a discussion. It was further claimed by 'Becca', who I know and respect, that once these terms are used in debate that people automatically 'close their ears' to all further comment. Another contributor 'Nick D' was more aggressive, asserting that even if the terms were used in jest or genuinely in the debate, the discussion ought to end forthwith because the proponent's use of an 'illegitimate' term automatically disqualified all further serious debate under Godwin's Law.

Those of us not so well acquainted with website etiquette or protocol retreated from the scene of battle, licking our wounds and scratching our heads believing the Young Turks may have a point: the point being that it is inappropriate behaviour to challenge a British union boss armed with metaphors related to Hitler. It was as if suddenly someone had presented us with a proposition by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Closer examination of Godwin's Law (Godwin in this case is not the 19th Century English anarchist William Godwin of 'Enquiry Concerning Political Justice', but rather some American Joe Blogs-type 'Godwin': phantom of the internet) suggests that he didn't intend it as an absolute law, but merely wanted people to think carefully before using such terms as 'Nazi': he didn't want the word to become devalued by overuse. In this case the comparison between Chancellor Hitler and RMT union leader, Bob Crow, merely pointed out that both were in favour of nationalised railways (see Chancellor Hitler's speech of December 8th 1934).  In the eyes of some, to do this was seen as both tactically stupid and perhaps equivalent, in some people's eyes, to swearing in Church.

Ought we to swallow 'Godwin's Law' without complaint? Ought we to adopt a prim and pragmatic approach to our opponents and enemies as some people have said, including Nick D, 'Becca' and my old friend Dave Chapple? Should website threads and discussions be closed down at the first utterance of the term 'Nazi' or 'Chancellor Hitler'?

Those of us from the North who publish Northern Voices would refute such suggestions for a prim and pragmatic politics and debate. Ours is a more rough-arsed polemic rooted in the working class culture of the North of England. Those of us who come from this tradition still, I suspect, represent the majority in this country. I myself noticed it when I left school at 15 and became an apprentice on the shopfloor: in doing so I had shifted from the lower middle-class world of the classroom and the schoolmaster to the bold banter and vulgar abuse of the factory floor. Debates should never automatically be closed on account of some fancy protocol like Godwin's Law.

Nor is it the case as Becca suggested that people 'close their ears' at mention of Hitler or 'Nazi': some people might, but it is not typical. As evidence of this a recent program on Radio 4 hosted by Clive Anderson declared that in 2010 there were 850 different books published on the Third Reich, and that after books on celebrity memoirs and celebrity cooking, books on the Nazis are the most popular publications available. As Clive Anderson pointed out on Radio 4, perhaps in bad taste for some, a successful book would therefore try to combine celebrity with cooking and the Nazis: suggesting one on Celebrity Nazi Chefs. Northern Voices embraces whole-heartedly the rough-arsed culture of the Northern English working-classes. We seek to build our readership among working people rather than political activists. Hence we publish stuff on Eccles Cakes and Northern Cooking, Salford Matadors like Frank Evans, local murders, heroic forgers like Shaun Greenhalgh from Bolton, Gangs of Manchester, Walter Kershaw's nude study (see NV11) and Big Cyril's passions and corporal punishment on young boys; as well as the political views of Picasso, who had an exhibition at the Liverpool Tate last year, so we review 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' at the Liverpool Everyman or perruse the ideas of the anarchist social thinker, Colin Ward, and the Big Society.

We would reject Godwin's Law as a reason for closing down a thread debate. In this regard we would turn to the story of Wittgenstein who was visiting the philosopher G.E. Moore in 1944 after Moore had had a stroke. Under instruction from Moore's doctor, Moore's wife insisted that his friends must limit their visits to one and a half hours. Wittgenstein alone objected to this restriction saying no discussion should be cut off until it had reached its 'proper end'. Furthermore, Wittgenstein added that should Moore expire during such a discussion, then that would be a very decent way to die, 'with his boots on'. Despite the recommendations of our detractors employing  Godwin's Law, those of us at Northern Voices are determined to die with our boots on, and not suffer, and be struck dumb, under the prim pretext of the requirements of some fancy rule.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Vulnerable Jobseekers Targeted for Benefit Sanctions by Jobcentre Plus!

A whistleblower working for Jobcentre Plus, has told the Guardian newspaper that vulnerable claimants looking for work are being targeted for benefit sanctions by jobcentre staff in order to meet government welfare targets.

Statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), show that the number of people being losing their benefits has risen rapidly since the beginning of of 2010 to 75,000 in October. The figures also show that the number of claimants with registered disabilities who have lost their benefits during the same period, has more than doubled to almost 20,000.

The whistleblower('K'),told the Guardian that staff working at his jobcentre, were told to target three people a week for sanctioning where benefits can be suspended for up six months. He told the newspaper:

"Suddenly you`re not helping somebody into sustainable employment, which is what you`re employed to do...You`re looking for ways to trick your customers into not looking for work. You come up with many ways. I've seen dyslexic customers given written jobsearches, and when they don`t produce them - what a surprise - they`re sanctioned. The only target that anyone seems to care about is stopping people`s money..."

He told the newspaper that young claimants are a major target for sanctioning because 'they haven`t been there long enough'. So are the uneducated and people of low educational attainment who are seen as 'easy to exploit' by Jobcentre Plus staff. People who are reluctant to diversify are also seen as an easy target. An electrician or a plumber may not want to work in a call centre he said, and they will be told to apply for these types of jobs. When they don`t their benefit is stopped for six months. He added:

"We were told suddenly that (finding someone to sanction) once a week wasn't good enough, we were far behind other offices, and we went to a meeting where they compared us with other offices, and said we now have to do three a week to catch up. Most staff go into work and they`re thinking about it from moment one - who am I going to stop this week?"

The DWP denied that they were targeting vulnerable jobseekers saying this was ridiculous.But The Guardian has seen email evidence of the referral targets of one office and the issues of targets has been raised by DWP employees on online forums.

The Citizens Advice Bureau have reported a significant rise in the number of claimants who have had their benefits cuts. In South Tyneside where there is 13% unemployment, caseworker, Andy Robertson, has a huge pile of paperwork for appeals which has more than doubled in the last year. He told the newspaper: "Clients seem to be getting sanctioned for next to nothing".

Saturday, 2 April 2011

"Tis time to dance a reckoning" A homage to the spirit of revolutionary song!

Red Rag To A Bull

A Poem by Gary Peter Ferguson - From Stalybridge.

To all their misdemeanours
To all their folly and lies
Thy theft, thy fraud, thy treachery
So spoken so despised
Like cattle with nought in fodder
So forced I stand to shudder
Tis locked out factory gates
To all thy bricks and mortar
Thy bankrupt welfare states
To bankers pound and sold
Like in oozing festering sores
So neat a Cowell sum
To sweet and candy divas
Thy swindling musical scores
For neat Beijing sandwiches
In seas of China tea
Thy despot Gordon Brown
Laid his fiddle down on me
AY- In all their misdemeanours
To all their folly and lies
Where Elgar’s sweet fine music
Sold in beauty to thine skies
Where Liberals bought their powers
To votes so sold by knaves
Thy Tories sold this story
Tis Land of Hope and Glory
In all thy light was shattered
Like low Pound high yield Dollars
Thine only God is profit
Ye well heeled toffee scholars
AY- For all thy rent and mortgages
Thy thieving wretched lies
Thy tax avoidance fillies
And their cheating corporate flies
Tis time to show our red rag
Show the red rag to the bull
Tis time to hang our red rag
Hang our red rag round a bull
Tis time to dance a reckoning
To level out thine score
Set all the church bells ringing
Let thy anger voice be heard
I’ve only just a started Lord
Let not their gun smoke quell
I’m sure if you are listening Lord
My slumber with eternity
Would not be spent in Hell
Tis time to show our red rag
Show the red rag to the bull
Tis time to hang the red rag
Hang the red rag round a bull
So be driven hard like nails boys
With hearts of English oak
Tis time to dig our furrows
Let thy toffees wear the yolk
To sweat them like an oxen
In the fields of their theft
Even up thy averages
Hang red rags round their necks
AY-For all my misdemeanours
For all my folly and lies
I cannot hold my tongue no more
For those I so despise
To Shelley, Keats, and Byron
I write these words for thee
Rise up my sleeping giants
For its time to come to tea
Tis time to wear the red rag
Show the red rag to the gun
So come my friends, my comrades
My Sisters, Brothers too
Be not ye all afraid or a mind confused to dull
Tis time to hang our red rag
Hang thine red rag round the bull
Tis time.

In homage to the spirit of revolutionary song, both past and present.
Wherever, whenever, by whatever means foul or fair.
Without fear of their religion, laws, corruption, deceit, bullets, torture and death. Onward, onward.
It is the very least we owe to humanity.
It is the debt we must all render to our salvation, prosperity, and future.
In the words of the Prime Minister of our Nation State
We are all in this together.