Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Barcelona & the benefits of apprenticeships

IN the 1960s there was a wave of snowball strikes by engineering apprentices that was started in the North: in Glasgow in Scotland. Comedian Billy Connolly was on the strike committee up there but Alex Ferguson, now manager of Manchester United, figured as one of the leaders in that long ago apprentice dispute of May 1960 that quickly spread South to Manchester, the Midlands and even London. These apprentice strikes were for increased pay relative to craftsmen, against the use of apprentices as cheap labour and for better education in their respective trade.

Now, at a time when the apprenticeship has been diminished in the North of England and elsewhere as a system since the 1980s, the Lex column (Saturday May 28th/Sunday May 29th 2011) in the Financial Times of all places has made a persuasive argument on its behalf. Entitled 'Football fever: apprentices become masters' Lex wrote last Saturday:

'Football is like German engineering: one of the few industries to hire and nurture apprentices. Every so often, the custom produces pure gold: the latest piece of classic German technology, or a great football team.

'No club epitomises this nurturing of talent like Barcelona, who play Manchester United - England's once and hopeful future exemplar - in the Uefa Champions League final on Saturday. The club will field match winners who cost only what it takes to educate, train and employ them. Much of the side won the World Cup for Spain last year.

'As football looks to introduce financial fair play rules, its bosses, owners fans and players know that debt-fuelled transfers, with their hidden costs and inflated prices, are untenable. As Barcelona and German engineers have proved, it is talent, not money, that matters.'

Saturday, 28 May 2011

If You Are An Irishman - I'm a Jew!

Did Lenin have something to Hide?

A day after Obama celebrated his Irish ancestry, it was revealed in documentary form for the first time to the Russians that Lenin seems to have had Jewish heritage. Thus, the International Herald Tribune (25th, May 2011) wrote: 'In a country long plagued by anti-Semitism, such heritage can be a significant taint, especially for the founder of the Soviet Union, who is still revered by many elderly Russians.'

It appears that among the dozens of documents on display at the State History Museum is a letter written by Lenin's eldest sister, Anna Ulyanova, saying that their maternal grandfather was a Ukrainian Jew who converted to Christianity to escape the Pale of Settlement and gain access to higher education.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Ban on North East Natterer Cheryl Cole

NOT for the first time has the North of England lost out because of our distinctive accents. Yesterday it was the turn of Cheryl Cole to be dumped from the US X Factor apparently because of her Geordie accent which some Yanks don't seem to understand. Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror today let loose with a mouthful of Geordie invective: 'America's loss is our gain if the Yanks are tee lazy te understand wor Cheryl.' Kevin even lashed out at London with 'Tyek the Big Smoke, a city which likes te think of itself as Newcastle without the proper culture, an aal that.'

Recently, the actress Maxine Peake, as the barrister Martha Costello in the TV series Silk, was told to tone down her Northern accent which she resolutely refused to do. Maxine is the daughter of a lorry driver from Bolton and she began her acting career at the Bolton Octagon. In her youth she was in the Young Communist League but now regards herself as a socialist. Ms Peake is now involved in the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT) which keeps alive the memory of those who served on the republican side in the Spanish Civil War but when, soon after the death of the Northern trade unionist Jack Jones, her name was suggested as a patron of the IBMT she was shunned. Londoner Ken Livingstone and the University of London academic Professor Paul Preston are at present the two patrons of the IBMT. In this case it is not clear if it was Maxine Peake's Northern accent that disqualified her from the role or the fact that she no longer considered herself a commie.

England's Oldest Film Society

The Early Days Of Manchester & Salford Film Society

AS part of the 'Invisible Histories' series at the Working Class Movement Library, Robert Taylor gave a talk on the history of the Manchester & Salford Film Society. It was a balanced account that focused on the rise of film in working class culture in the 1920s and 1930s. This was a time when Hollywood films dominated popular culture and the Manchester & Salford Film Society under the influence of the trade unionist and shop steward Reg Cordwell tried to present an alternative with Russian films promoting the virtues of Soviet life such as 'Storm over Asia' , 'Turksib' which would now be accused of 'Orientalism' and later, more psychological German films like 'The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari'.

The first secretary of the Film society was Tom Cavanagh, who had been a founding-member of the Communist Party, and the long-term organiser and archivist, Reg Cordwell, was a shop-steward with a strong interest in workers' education. The first show was on 15 November 1930 at the Prince's Cinema, Liverpool Street, and included a Laurel and Hardy short and a ‘travelogue' on the River Thames. More significantly, it also presented two Russian films - 'The First Time in History' concerned the USSR's first five-year plan, and 'Two Days' was a drama about the conflict between Whites and Reds in southern Russia. Russian films were to feature heavily in the Society's programmes. This policy fell foul of Salford's Watch Committee, which in July 1931 refused permission for the showing of Pudovkin's classic, 'Storm over Asia'. Billing it as ‘the film Salford must not see', the Society moved the show to Manchester, where it was largely to remain for the next 66 years.

As our cultural correspondent, Chris Draper, has shown in the current issue of Northern Voices - see 'Six O' the Best Northern Films' in NV12 - that in a sense 'Cinema was invented in the North (of England) with the earliest surviving, 1888, film featuring street life in Leeds city centre' with popular producers including Bradford's "Captain Kettle Films", Frank Mottershaw's Sheffield Photo Company, Walter Scott of Manchester, Bamforths at Holmfirth and Mitchell & Kenyon of Blackburn. But after World War I, Hollywood and the studios down South tookover the medium and, it seems, that the only alternative was presented by these independent film societies such as those described by Robert Taylor.

OUR publication Northern Voices is on sale at the Cornerhouse cinema bookshop and in our publication there have been regular reviews of cinema at the Cornerhouse particularly during the Viva Festivals. If you have difficulty finding our journal on sale at your local newsagent you may make a postal subscriptions by sending a cheque for £4.20 payable to 'Northern Voices' for two issues (post included)to 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire, BB10 4AH.

Spanish Realism on film at Manchester Cervantes Institute

Realism in Spanish Cinema of the 50´s

OUR publication Northern Voices is on sale at the Cornerhouse cinema bookshop and in our publication there have been regular reviews of Spanish cinema at the Cornerhouse particularly during the Viva Festivals. If you have difficulty finding our journal on sale at your local newsagent you may make a postal subscriptions by sending a cheque for £4.20 payable to 'Northern Voices' for two issues (post included) to 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire, BB10 4AH.

Cervantes Institute Report:

The 1950s and 1960s saw the establishment and rise of a movement of young Spanish film directors who were clearly influenced by Italian neo-realism. With the intention of narrowing the gap between cinematic fiction and reality, they insisted on the need for the cinema industry to move away from making historical films with strong patriotic values towards much more critical detective films and to films of wide thematic and narrative content. Realism in Spanish Cinema (1951 – 1963) [El realismo en el cine español (1951-1963)] is the title of the season which opens in the Cervantes Institute in Manchester with a program made up of five emblematic films from this decade.

During June the following films will be shown at the Cervantes Institute at
326-330 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4FN:

Welcome Mr Marshall
Los golfos (The Delinquents)
El verdugo (Not On Your Life)
Muerte de un ciclista (Age of Infidelity)

The first film showing next Thursday, 2nd, June is Luis Garcia Berlanga's ¡Bienvenido Mr Marshall! 'Welcome Mr Marshall!' made in 1953 (Duration:- 75 min). It is the original version in Spanish with English Subtitles:

Villar del Río is a peaceful, poor and forgotten town, where nothing new ever happens and the routine is the same day in and day out. Now the arrival of singer Carmen Vargas and her manager and agent have shaken up the town’s boring life. That same morning, a government representative suddenly shows up to announce the imminent arrival of a commission from the Marshall Plan. On hearing of the news, the town mayor, a good-natured albeit a slightly deaf man, decides to dress all the denizens in the purest Andalusian style to welcome the American visitors.

Juan Antonio Bardem and Luis García Berlanga, assisted by Mihura, wrote this corrosive story – a watershed in Spanish cinema history, based on the unease Spain felt at being left out of the distribution of US aid (aka the Marshall Plan), which aimed to reconstruct a Europe ravaged by the World War.

Dr Nuria Triana Toribio, from the University of Manchester and Mr Andy Willis from the University of Salford will present the film and organize a Q&A after the screening (in English).

Instituto Cervantes
326 Deansgate
M3 4FN
Tf: 0161 6614200

Free entrance

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Construction group accused of 'hypocrisy'

Balfour Beatty have been accused of 'hypocrisy' after Balfour Beatty Construction Scottish and Southern Ltd were awarded the Sir George Earle Trophy - The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA's) most prestigious award at this years Occupational Health and Safety Awards in Birmingham on Friday 20th May 2011. It also won the Construction Industry Sector Award.

The official RoSPA press release 'commended the way safety representatives were pulled into practical problem-solving activities and also the company’s policy of valuing and acting on ideas from the workforce.'

Campaigners from the Blacklist Support Group branded the award as 'blatant hypocrisy':

Steve Kelly - spokesperson for the group said:
'At first I thought this was a joke. Balfour Beatty are the construction company with the WORST record of sacking and blacklisting Safety Representatives in the entire industry. To be praised for the way they treat their Safety Representatives is offensive.

'The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) issued Enforcement Notices to six separate subsidiaries of Balfour Beatty for their role in the disgusting Consulting Association blacklisting scandal. Balfour Beatty Construction Scottish and Southern Ltd were one of the firms issued with the Enforcement Notice.

'The ICO Notices were issued after Balfour Beatty were found to be part of a covert conspiracy to sack and blacklist safety representatives in the building industry. The evidence is damning: Balfour Beatty were not just passive recipients of the blacklisting information - they actively supplied personal sensitive data about safety reps working on their projects in order that they could not get jobs in the future.

'Peoples lives have been ruined because they were prepared to complain about electrical safety, asbestos, scaffolding or welfare facilities on building sites. It is blatant hypocrisy for Balfour Beatty to pick up this safety award and it also shows how out of touch RoSPA is about what actually goes on in real life rather than what the corporate spin-doctors tell them.'
John McDonnell MP called the Consulting Association blacklist: '...one of the worst cases of organised human rights abuse ever in the UK'

Bob Clark, managing director, Balfour Beatty Construction Scottish and Southern, said: 'The award recognises the ongoing effort, commitment and engagement of our employees in promoting a safe working culture.'

Steve Acheson from Blacklist Support Group responded:
'A very good friend of mine, Jim Lafferty was the safety rep at the Royal Opera House and raised a number of safety issues as part of his role. For his troubles, Balfour Kilpatrick (a subsidiary of Balfour Beatty - now trading as Balfour Beatty Engineering Services) blacklisted him and made it almost impossible for him to find steady work. We can prove this because the ICO seized the blacklist files with Balfour Beatty's paw prints all over them. I suffered the same treatment with Balfour's - as have many other union safety reps who had the audacity to stand up for their rights. Jim Lafferty passed away last year without even an apology from Balfour Beatty and the other construction firms that breached his human rights. Jim is only one of 3000 workers who have had their lives ruined by this covert blacklist but because we are building workers rather than celebrities, no-one seems to be concerned about us. At least News International had the decency to own up and offer compensation to the people whose phones they had hacked. Not a single construction firm including Balfour Beatty has had the common decency to apologise to any of the safety reps who they kept secret files on in order to stop us getting work. I have more respect for Rupert Murdoch than I do for Bob Clarke.'

Monday, 23 May 2011

I'm an Irishman!

The Birth Certificates & origins of Great Men

TODAY President Barack Obama visits the Irish Republic home to one of his ancestors at Moneygall in County Offaly and on April 27th, this year, amid rumours that he was not born in the United States, the White House released his birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii. It has been found that having Irish links traditionally benefits American Presidents and political bosses: the Kennedys spring to mind, as does Senator Joe McCarthy. Should doubts about origins of a great leader be a bar to office, must a political leader be definitely a native of the country in which he carries out his political activity?

History seems to prove the opposite. It almost seems a prerequisite that to lead a nationalist and xenophobic movement one ought to have alien origins. Hitler, one of the most successful dictators of the last century was born at Braunau am Inn, in Austria, and only a few years before becoming Chancellor of the Reich, he narrowly avoided being thrown out of Germany as an 'Undesirable Alien'. Another Great Dictator, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, was born at Salonika and we don't know for sure if he was Albanian or a Macedonian, and yet he was dictator of Turkey. He was another one who was almost expelled from Turkey as a foreigner. Napoleon Bonaparte was a Corsican, somewhere between French and Italian, and spoke bad French while ruling the French nation in the 19th Century. Stalin was a Georgian with a broad Georgian accent but it didn't prevent him ruling the millions of Russians and other nationalities.

This feature is even more prevalent in traditional forms of government such as the royal families of England, Russia, Spain, Romania which all had German or Austrian origins. While the Swedish dynasty descends from a Frenchman, a creature of Napoleon.

Already the Whitehouse has found Obama's ancestors in Ireland, and given enough time they may yet find that one of his ancestors landed with the pilgrims on the Mayflower.

Party Time at Stokes Croft Street Fest, Bristol!

IT was Party Time at Stokes Croft Street Fest last Saturday (21.5.2011). And what a party it was too!! The streets of this culturally diverse area were packed with a couple of thousand people enjoying themselves. In the distance the gloriously psychedelic painted Telepathic Heights is now boarded up & so is Tescos which was the subject of recent Police rioting. How could the Community be misjudged so much?

But Today is fun day. Hamilton House the recent venue for the Bristol Anarchist Book Fair is the focal point of the Street Fest. The noon until 6 pm sessions are free and there are plenty of music venues to sample. The evening until dawn session cost £8 in advance which included entrance to all the clubs and music venues from the Lakota, Blue Mountain, Left Bank to many more. I called in at the Smiling Chair Radical Library at 40 Stokes Croft. Its an information point, social centre and free Library. I also popped in the Freeshop at 35 Stokes Croft, where people take what they need in clothes, books and household items.

The Autonomist is the local free anarchist newssheet & is well worth reading. So the party today was the triumphal statement of the community. We are here and we are here to stay!!! Long Live the vibrant community of Stokes Croft!

bristol rambler

Friday, 20 May 2011

Report on last Sunday's Spanish demo

On May 15th more than 50,000 people demonstrated in the streets of 50 cities around Spain under one single slogan: “Real democracy now: we aren't merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers.” For the first time since the Spanish Transition, the demonstrations are not organized by either political parties or trade unions, but by a platform made of citizens, “Democracia real ya”, (Real Democracy Now).

They have both very well founded complaints—more than 21% of the population is unemployed (40% among the youth), the work situation is unstable, social benefits have been dramatically cut in the last year, and political corruption scandals increase every day— and very specific proposals for change. Not one television channel reported on this mass demonstration, just some newspapers told about what was happening. At the end of the day, the police charged and arrested 25 people, some of them minors. A small spontaneous group decided to spend the night in Puerta del Sol (in the center of the city of Madrid), as a way of protest. Meanwhile, a revolution has taken place on the Internet. #15mani has become the third highest ranking twitter hashtag in the world. A never-ending flux of information has crossed the World Wide Web by means of twitter, YouTube, menéame o periodismo humano, partly because the traditional mass media have, simply, ignored the protest. The next morning, all the political parties attempted to discredit the protest, while the number of demonstrators continued to increase. The Spanish public radio labelled the protesters as young bourgeoisie, thus provoking the anger of a listener, Cristina, calling from Burgos, who dedicated to them a series of eloquent words on live radiocast. Then the morning, at 5 a.m., the national police violently cleared the sit-in, formed by pacific people who answered to the police violence screaming “no to violence, no to violence”. The demonstrators, spread out in the adjacent streets, were beaten by the police, charged with €1,500 fines, and dispersed by the national and regional police.

PSOE, the party that is currently in power, appropriates the same discourse it had previously attempted to repress and uploads on its website the manifesto that had originated the protests. On 17th May at 8 p.m, Puerta del Sol in Madrid was the stage of a really mass audience that it is still alive in this moment. The number of Spanish cities joining to this protest is increasing; moreover, the Spanish embassy in London as well as in other European cities, such as Vic in France or Bologna in Italy, are beginning their protests, too. On 17th May, the authorities dismantled another sit-in in Granada violently. Madrid city council installed signal-jammers in order to hold up streaming; in addition, public cameras changed their trip to avoid taking any demonstration images. Only the TV channel Al-Jazeera aired this movement from the beginning, while the Spanish public television showed Pedro Almodovar’s new movie in Cannes Film Festival today. Democracia Real Ya! is a website where you can find the manifesto, proposals, information about the sit-ins and other relevant news, but for unknown reasons people have not been able to access to it for a long time, until 3 am on May 18th. This evening, Esperanza Aguirre’s electoral committee declared the pacific sit-in in Puerta del Sol illegal, although more than 5,000 people are still there fighting for a Real Democracy Now and surrounded by the police. Aguirre argues the sit-in could be damaging for the municipal elections, which are being held this coming Sunday.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Strange Suicide of 'Stop the War'

'SUICIDE is Painless' was on a movie soundtrack in the 1970s, but last Monday (16th May) a strange event reportedly took place when the rampant revolutionaries of the Stop the War campaign were joined on the streets of London by a Libyan band of green flag waving supporters of Gadaffi; all calling for an end to the NATO backed 'No fly zone' over Libya. And the cry goes up 'Hands off Libya's Oil', from the agents of Gadaffi and the British Left alike; as a small dissident contingent of Libyan rebel protesters from the large Libyan community in Manchester joined by the well-known Manchester anarchist, John-the-Hat, heckled them in Whitehall.

Seldom since communists and Sir Oswald Mosley's blackshirts joined the same demonstration to protest at the time of the Edward VIII abdication has anything so odd happened. It was certainly a rum do last week seeing the stalwarts of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and neo-communists rubbing shoulders with Gadaffi's agents and followers. Stranger things happened in 1930s Germany of course, when the German Communists, on instructions from Moscow, supported a National Socialist (Nazi) plebiscite against the Social Democrat government of Prussia. According to the Italian novelist, Ignazio Silone, who wrote: 'On that occasion Communist groups were to be seen in harmonious unison with storm-troopers, forming "speaking choirs" in the courtyards of the big blocks of workers' flats and in the streets, urging the electors to vote against the Social Democrat government.'

Are we about to see a repeat of the folly of 1930s communism committed by the British Left? Are we witnessing the decline and fall of serious left-wing politics under what passes for British socialism? Are we seeing the strange suicide of 'Stop the War' as its members join hands with Gadaffi's pals?

What was reported to have happened in London on last Monday's 'Stop the War' demo is extraordinary but it is symptomatic of a movement that appears to have outlived its mission. Admittedly our source is from the Libyan rebel supporters in Manchester but there is a ring of truth in all this because the position of 'Stop the War', and much of the British Left, is objectively pro-Gadaffi.

RMT response to McNulty Review

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

'The inefficiencies of the UK rail system are entirely bound up with the fragmentation and profiteering of privatisation. The McNulty report tacitly accepts that but does nothing to address the issue.

'A graphic example is First Group bailing out of the Great Western franchise three years early, depriving the taxpayer of £826 million in premium payments while soaking up £140 million in government subsidy at the same time. Deal with that kind of scandal and the Government could claw back their £1 billion savings target at a stroke.

'Rail services are 30% more expensive in the UK as against comparable European operations for one, simple reason - privatisation. It’s the greed, exploitation and restrictive practices of the train operators that have led us to this situation and we will fight any attempt to shift the blame onto hardworking staff trying to provide quality services against a backdrop of increasing demand and front-line cuts.

'It’s a gross waste of time and money that Network Rail has 600 lawyers on the books doing nothing other than negotiating with the train operators on who is responsible for delays and arguing the toss between them for assorted service failures. Public ownership of an integrated rail service would put an end to that nonsense.

'RMT has said all along that sacking staff, closing ticket offices and jacking up fares, while the train operators are handed gold-plated franchises, is just an escalation of all the worst practices of privatisation and if that is the outcome of this process it will be resisted by rail unions and the travelling public alike.'

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Liam Spencer at Salford

Chip Shop Artist Or Lancashire Impressionist?

AS we sat in the Stalybridge Buffet Bar, holding a NV editorial meeting earlier this year, a couple of retired journalists on the next table were discussing northern art and artists and we happened to mentioned Liam Spencer, with a studio at Waterfoot near Bacup, who is interviewed in the current Northern Voices 12. 'Oh, he's very collectible', said one 'and he has a painting in the Manchester Art Gallery'. Later, in March, I spotted some of his work in the Revolve Gallery on Castle Street in Clitheroe and an assistant there said: 'He's very collectible but not very affordable'. At a starting price of £2,000 for his paintings at the current Salford Art Gallery exhibition on The Crescent, I know what she means. But when, last year, in an aside to the interview for Northern Voices, I discussed the relative rising prices of such artists as Lowry and Augustus John - Lowry now commands the higher price - he told me that he was not interested in such things as prices in the art market.

With his paintings of chip shops, car parks and garages, Liam is a reassuringly unpretentious northern artist who at one time used the same Manchester printer's shop as Northern Voices. When, at the time of the preview of his Rochdale exhibition at Touchstones, last December, I told him we'd entitled his interview in NV 'There's Nowt Worse than Bad Fish & Chips' he said: 'Oh, you've made me out to be a right Oik, have you?' Originally, I was going to entitle the interview with Liam 'The Lancashire Impressionist' but someone ridiculed this saying 'that's just what folk up here are wanting; a Lancashire impressionist' so I spotlighted his passion for fish and chips. But he does claim to be inspired by the French Impressionists and Adolphe Vallette, the early 20th Century Manchester Impressionist. A picture of his of the gothic style Rochdale Town Hall and the Esplanade is on the back cover of our current NV12.

Liam Spencer's exhibition at Salford Art Gallery - 'Paintings from Life: 20 years & counting' - opened on the 26th March at Peel Park on The Crescent, near Salford University and will run to the 3rd July 2011. Most of the paintings from the original Rochdale's Touchstones exhibition are on show plus some dedicated to the Salford area itself of Worsley, Eccles and Chapel Street. At Salford they are showing a DVD of a 30 min documentary about Liam Spencer's work, 'A Picture of Manchester' that was broadcast a couple of years ago on BBC North West.

Over the years Liam Spencer has shifted the focus of his art from the countryside to the town and from the rural to the urban landscape. When at University and living in Manchester, he took the train to Hebden Bridge and other spots in the West Yorkshire countryside to paint, but now based in the semi-rural time-warp of Waterfoot he will paint a car-wash or a burger bar as well as a Chip Shop at Hollinworth Lake in Littleborough. Perhaps it is the contrast that he strives to embrace. He now says that he prefers to paint the Lancashire landscape because: 'In Lancashire, its darker and the weather's more inconvenient but there's more interesting contrast.' Of his time in Southern Spain, he says 'I had the constant light but rather too much consistent brightness' and he concludes: 'Coming back up here from places like Spain, makes you appreciate this.'

26th March to 3rd July 2011
Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Peel Park, The Crescent, Salford M5 4WU
Monday to Friday 10am-4.45pm
Saturday and Sunday 1-5pm
tel: 0161 778 0800
email: salford.museum@salford.gov.uk

Revolve Gallery,
30 Castle Street
Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 2BX
07800 590 262

Open Tue-Sat 11am-5:30pm

The publication Northern Voices is on sale at both the Salford Art Gallery shop and the shop at Rochdale's Touchstones Gallery & Museum. Postal subscriptions may also be taken out by sending a cheque for £4.20 payable to 'Northern Voices' for two issues (post included)to 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire, BB10 4AH.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Former GMB union rep wins seat on Tameside Council!

Local government politics in Tameside, is beginning to resemble something out of a farce by the 17th century French playwright, Molière. It grows more hilarious by the day. One instinctively thinks of Molière's character, 'Tartuffe', the irreclaimable hypocrite who exaggeratedly feigns virtue.

As we predicted, in this months local elections, Yvonne Cartey(pictured) the former GMB union representative, easily romped home to win for Labour the Ashton ward of St. Michaels, securing 1,627 votes. In her victory speech a jubilant Ms. Cartey, told her supporters:
"I'd like, to thank everybody for my excellent team, and I`d like to thank the voters of St. Michaels, who have put their faith in me."
Until recently, Ms. Cartey, was the tax-payer funded GMB union representative at Tameside Council. But she recently took voluntary redundancy from Tameside Council and then stood for the council in the St. Michaels Ward. Having abandoned the ship herself, so to speak, and leaving her crew to their own fate, Ms. Cartey, was nevertheless in a defiant mood on election night. In a speech that would have made the charlatan Tartuffe, cringe with embarrassment, she added:
"Cuts are malicious attacks against our people and we are going to fight them every inch of the way."
Though councillor Cartey talks of fighting the cuts, in February, there were no union protestors outside Ashton Town Hall when the leader of the council, Kieran Quinn, announced £35 million cuts this year and the loss of 600 jobs. Indeed, councillor Quinn, told councillors:
"The Trades Unions bring massive expertise, working with them, we have already cut 400 jobs and reduced management by 25%".

Why So Miserable?

A major Manchester militant and Secretary of Manchester Trade Union Council , Geoff Brown, asked me this week 'why are you so miserable about it?' He was referring to my downbeat account of this year's May Day march in Manchester on May 1st (see 'May Day Mess' below).

I am miserable because the British Left is so profoundly conservative in every way. I am miserable because the Left here is not even aware of its own abject conservatism. I am miserable because each succeeding generation of the British Left is content to react to events and defend the status quo.

Examine, if you will, the faces on the video of the '40 or so' participants at the rally following the small May Day demo. Make your own judgement. Compare this with the Worker's Memorial Day event, organised by Hilda Palmer a few days early, with its healthy interaction between the participants. Or with the freshness of the spirit of the 3-week squat - the O.K. Cafe - down at Castlefield, which finished on May Day. The May Day demo was not a patch on either of them. I also had the benefit of seeing a Southern event the Anarchist Bookfair at Stokes Croft in Bristol or the People's Republic of Stokes Croft, on the Saturday following - the 7th May: say what you like but these Southern anarchists, both in London, and in Bristol know how to organise a bookfair.

What is wrong with the British Left is its underlying conservatism and silly slogans? To my mind the problem is rooted in its reactionary approach to politics and in this I include most of the anarchists and syndicalists. As I listened to the inane hectoring slogans on the May Day March, calling for an end to the Coalition Government, I felt overcome with weariness because I'd heard it all before. Without Blair, or Brown, or Cameron or Clegg to dispose of, the British Left would have next to nowt to say because the identity of the Left in this country only has meaning in reference to whoever is in power at this moment in time. There is no clear alternative program for change coming from the Left.

In his book 'The School for Dictators' Ignazio Silone said through his character Thomas the Cynic: 'A regime of freedom should receive its lifeblood from the self-government of local institutions.' He goes on to say: 'When democracy, driven by some of its baser tendencies, suppresses such autonomies, it is only devouring itself.' 'Unfortunately', as Silone points out, 'the democratic and socialist parties have always been, at least in Europe, the most active in promoting centralization to the detriment of local and regional autonomy, following the tradition of the Jacobins, who felt that the hegemony of the (State) capital over the rest of the country provided them with a weapon against the priests and the nobles.'

The whole purpose and being of the British Left is defined by the Government and the establishment, in its reaction to the agenda which the governing regime sets. If the Left has any tin-pot plan it has been historically that of the 'All-Providing State', which at one time through its cry for subsidies and protective laws gained supporters for the socialist parties while at the same time stifling local autonomy. Thus in some countries, like in pre-Nazi Germany, this led to a startling contradiction of what Silone calls 'the maximum and numerical strength of the democratic and socialist parties immediately preced(ing) the collapse of democracy.'

It seems to me, given the recent goings on between the SWP and the Socialist Party in the National Shop Stewards Network which has now been reduced to just another anti-cuts campaign, that most elements of the British Left have yet to understand this apparent contradiction in their programs in so far as they have such a thing as a program.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Allotment Action Sparks Legal Wrangle!

The cultivation of land on Ashton Moss by members of Ashton Allotment Action, received publicity in the local press this week.

The Tameside Advertiser revealed that over 700 people are currently on Tameside Council`s allotment waiting list and almost half of these, want an allotment plot on Ashton Moss. According to the paper, the land is owned by Stayley Developments Ltd. Until recently, Tameside Council`s website was encouraging people to inquire about obtaining an allotment plot on Ashton Moss, but this has now been removed from the site.

A spokesman for Tameside Council told the Advertiser:
"The council is aware of the desire for allotments in Ashton and the development plan for Ashton Moss provides for the provision of allotments. The development is yet to be completed and the land remains in private ownership."
When contacted by the Advertiser, the local estate agent Cordingleys, who act on behalf on behalf of Stayley Development Ltd, said:
"The site owner has been in continued negotiations with Tameside Council. At present a conclusion has not been reached regarding the deliverability of the allotments. Stayley are legally not at liberty to offer any of the site for allotment use as contractual terms restrict their control. We are hopeful that a positive conclusion will be forthcoming in the short term."
As they say, the plot thickens. But what does seem strange, is that while the council`s own development plan for Ashton Moss provides for the provision of allotment plots, the owners, Stayley Developments, say they are "not at liberty to offer any of the site for allotment use as contractual terms restrict their control." If this is the case, then what are these continued negotiations with Tameside Council about? Moreover, who are Stayley Developments Ltd?

The company report for Stayley Developments Ltd, says that the primary trading address for the company is the estates office, Enville Hall (pictured above), Enville, Nr Stourbridge, West Midlands. Enville and Stalybridge Estates form part of the ancestral estates of the Earls of Stamford and Warrington. Enville Hall is set in 6,500 acres and according to the estates websites is "ideally suited for game shooting - we are happy to organise game shooting parties on request."

In 1976, the 10th Earl of Stamford and Warrington, Roger Grey, died. The three esates - Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Cheshire - were divided between three relatives. The Leicestershire estate is now a country park. Dunham Massey is owned by the National Trust and Enville Hall remains a private family house.

There are currently four Directors of Stayley Developments Ltd:

Mr. M.J. Scott-Bolton, who is a 'land agent' and resides at Leigh House, Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Mr. P.B. Williams, who is a solicitor and resides at Enville Hall, Enville, Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Ms. A. D. Williams, who is a landowner, and resides at Enville Hall, Enville, Stourbridge, West Midlands,

Ms. E.J. Bowen, who is a company secretary and resides at 2 Hall Drive, Enville, Stourbridge, West Midlands.

According to the company report, the main activities of the company are - "The dealing in, and development and exploitation of land, forestry and logging." Ashton Moss Developments Ltd, is a subsidiary company.

Despite all the bull-shit nowadays about Britain being a stakeholder society, the ownership of land in this country is still very much concentrated in the hands of a very few. A report by Country Life Magazine in November 2010, revealed that more than a third of Britain`s land is still in the hands of a tiny group of aristocrats. According to the report, a group of 36,000 inviduals (only 0.6% of the population), own 50% of our rural land.

For further enquiries contact the estates office at Enville Hall on 01384 872635.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Historians & their Craft

Last Saturday, a Northerner addressed the 2011 Bristol Anarchist Bookfair: on the 7th May, at the invite of Bristol Radical History Group, Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside Trade Union Council and editor of a trade union commemorative booklet of the Spanish Civil War, gave a talk on historical methods and approaches to that conflict drawing on his own experiences of resistance to the Franco dictatorship in the 1960s. An edited version of the talk is reproduced below.

A couple of years ago an impressionistic remark in the first chapter of George Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' was challenged by a Spanish historian and this was later taken up by Jim Jump, the editor of the IBMT Newsletter. In assessing the crowds on the Ramblas in Barcelona in 1936, Orwell had claimed:
'Except for a small number of women and foreigners there were no "well-dressed" people at all. practically everyone wore rough working-class cloths, or blue overalls, or some variant of the militia uniform.'
More recently analysis of film footage of Durruti's funeral, which took place in Barcelona in November 1936 the month before Orwell's observation was made, shows clearly that among the half million present at that event were many mourners wearing suits and ties, and even sombreros.

Mr Jim Jump writes that if Orwell got this small matter wrong might he not have got other things wrong?

Furthermore, the distinguished English historian on the Spanish Civil War Professor Paul Preston described 'Homage to Catalonia' thus:
'I would rank "Homage to Catalonia" alongside Spike Milligan's "Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall" another interesting book by someone who was a foot-soldier playing a small part in a much wider conflict.'
Professor Preston does not say that Orwell has written a bad book, on the contrary, he says, it is 'a good book, but one that for many people is the only book on the Spanish Civil War that they read'. Crucially the problem, for Professor Preston, is that the Spanish Civil War was a far wider conflict than Orwell as a 'foot-soldier' and eyewitness could have experienced in the six or seven months - between December 1936 and the middle of 1937 - he was in the North of Spain fighting in the regions of Aragon and Catalonia.

Exotic Events & the Mundane study of Everyday Life

One of my own problems and frustrations, when, in 1963, I was involved with the young libertarians of the Iberian Federation of Young Libertarians (FIJL) and living with my wife in the Mediterranean fishing town of Denia on the Cabo San Antonio in the province of Alicante, was that I felt that I didn't know what was happening in the wider context of the rest of Spain. To find out what was happening in the Asturias, where in the 1960s the coal miners were in conflict and on strike, I had to read The Times from England at least a day or so later. In the end, I did take a fruitless trip up to the Asturias in the middle of 1963; from which I learned little because I was hitch-hiking and my money ran out before I could make any contact with the miners (we see this problem in Orwell's book: where he and his fellow fighters have to make guesses when they hear of the fall of Malaga in the South, that there has been some 'betrayal' and we see it in the journals and letters of the young communist, Ralph Cantor, in the commemorative booklet that Tameside TUC has published - often he and his mates have to guess and speculate about events).

Yet, it is not true that I knew nowt about what was happening while I was in Denia even though I had to depend on The Times and the untrustworthy Spanish local press. Regarding exotic events like the Asturian miner's strikes it always seemed like I was not in the right place at the right time and never where the 'real action' was happening, (perhaps that how it must have seemed to Orwell in April/ May 1937, when he was trying to get a transfer from his POUM contingent the North to the 'more active' International Brigade force in Madrid, when the extraordinary May Day Events broke out in Barcelona and he and others associated with the POUM had to go on the run).

It is greediness of the historian and the political activist by trying to see too much, and even our own pursuit of exotic events, that can blind us all to the mundane world under our noses. For example my boss in Denia, Juan Paris, used to say to me 'Brian you might not know the whole of Spain but you do know Denia and the surrounding Cabo San Antonio, muy bien!' The importance of this mundane fact is not to be sneezed at, because I knew all too well what it was like to live on Spanish wages, the price of bread, the cost of living and the difficulties of making ends meet; I knew what it was to experience life in a Spanish workshop and the inside of Spanish houses; to work alongside Spaniards and the difficulties of getting paid for overtime; I knew something of the problems of the immigrant Andalucian building workers from Seville, working in Denia and on the coastal sites of the Costa Blanca, and of the attitudes of the locals to these incomers; and when my wife gave birth, I discovered aspects of the world of the clinics and the attitudes of the Spaniards to this kind of situation.

This ongoing richness of everyday life as it is lived, is so often overlooked by the historian and the sociologist, just as I as a political activist was in danger of overlooking it by rushing off to the Asturias to cover a miner's strike in the Summer of 1963. It is the richness of everyday struggle of Orwell's book, and in Ralph Cantor's journal (see the Tameside TUC Spanish Civil War booklet), that gives them a vitality that is street-wise and contrasts with what Noam Chomsky has called the 'elitist bias' of the liberal historians, including the communist historians. The problem for Professor Preston and a fact he must resent, is that because it is a primary source 'Homage to Catalonia' will remain as an important document long after Preston's own historical account of the Spanish Civil War has been superseded by other histories by other historians.

Tory boy, James Purnell, emerges from the shadows and urges re-think on welfare reform!

Since bowing out of front-line parliamentary politics in 2010, declaring that he wanted a private life, Tory boy, James Purnell, the former New Labour MP for the constituency of Stalybridge and Hyde, has emerged from the shadows as a Labour moderniser, spouting on about 'Blue Labour' (not to be confused with the former Labour MP Jacqui Smith's expenses claim for her husband`s porn video) and his favourite subject, welfare reform. He recently told The Guardian that there should be less reliance on dole payments and instead, the guarantee of job placements and access to housing. He also believes that benefits should be more closely linked to the amount people put into the system.

Many will recall that Purnell as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, introduced modern day slavery to Britain, with his work-for-your-dole schemes where the unemployed are forced to undertake menial tasks to retain their unemployment benefit. He also introduced the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced Incapacity Benefit. Under the ESA`s stricter 'Work Capability Assessment', around two thirds of people who claim ESA are found capable of work and refused benefit. Even people who are terminally ill, have been found fit for work.

Yesterday, the Guardian newspaper reported that staff working in Jobcentres and other Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) contactors, have been issued with guidelines by the DWP on how to deal with suicide threats made by claimants as the squeeze on benefits under the Con-Dem (millionaire) government, gathers momentum. A source working within the DWP told the newspaper:
"Absolutely nobody has ever seen this guidance before, leading staff to believe it has been put together ahead of Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance cuts." The employee added:

"We were a bit shocked. Are we preparing ourselves to be like the Samaritans? The fact that we have dealt with the public for so many years without such guidance has made people feel a bit fearful about what`s coming."
Purnell`s expert on welfare reform the former journalist and merchant banker, David Freud, (great grandson of Sigmund Freud the father of psychoanalysis) was ennobled by New Labour for his services to social policy. He's now a government minister in the Con-Dem government advising on welfare reform. Baron Freud of Eastry, believes in more private sector involvement in delivering welfare in order to get single parents, and Incapacity Benefit claimants, off state benefits.

Once tipped as a future Labour Party Prime Minister, Purnell, while in government, was remarkably gaffe-prone. On one occasion he lost his wallet which contained his House of Commons security pass and shortly after, he left his ministerial red box on a train. During the expenses scandal, he was accused by the Daily Telegraph of milking the system of Commons expenses to subsidise his lavish lifestyle and was also found to have claimed the maximum food allowance of £400 per month, while receiving a government minister's salary of £144,000 per annum. This hungry MP, was also found to have avoided capital gains tax on the sale of his London flat and claimed taxpayer funded expenses for advice from an accountant and for fridge magnets.

While Secretary of State at the DWP, Purnell, signed-off a proposal to charge claimants 27% APR for a social fund loan which had been interest free. This disgusting proposal, was never implemented due to cross-party opposition within the House of Commons.

As a politician, Purnell, was something of a failure. As the MP for Stalybridge & Hyde, he inherited from his predecessor Tom Pendry, a majority of over 14,000 when he stood for election in 2001. When he retired as an MP in 2010, his successor, the Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds, was left with a 2,744 majority turning the constituency into a marginal seat. As a cabinet minister he was also part of an abortive and ludicrous New Labour plot to oust Gordon Brown, which failed and which ultimately, led to him leaving front-line politics.

Due to his social and political connections, it is unlikely that Purnell will ever need to use a Jobcentre. Since resigning as an MP in 2010, Purnell, has worked for the independent think tank, Demos, as its director of the Open Left project. He is currently the Chairman of the Institute for Public Policy Research and earlier this year, he joined the Board of ACEVO, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which pays him 'a nominal sum for his advice'. More recently, he applied to become chief executive of the charity 'Save The Children' but failed to get the job which ironically, was given to Gordon Brown`s former director of strategic communications (spin doctor) Justin Forsyth.

There has been some speculation that Purnell, may return to front-line politics. Last month, the 'Boston Consulting Group' revealed that they had hired him as a 'special adviser'. Whether Purnell (a childless bachelor) would have been suitably qualified to head a children`s charity, is debatable. But a former shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Tory MP Chris Grayling, once told the Commons that Purnell now aged 42, had formerly been a babysitter for Tony and Cherie Blair. Blair, a personal friend, also gave Purnell his first job in politics.

Monday, 9 May 2011


Citizens of Penrhyn Bay stage sit-in!

ARMED with sausage rolls, balloons, banners and appropriately designed Royal Wedding paraphernalia, a determined bunch of local residents in Penrhyn Bay staged a sit-in last Friday at their local library branch. Their aim is to block a plan by the Borough of Conwy in North Wales to close half the local libraries in the area.

Reports suggest it was a scene akin to an Ealing Comedy, as just before the Penrhyn Bay library branch closed for lunch on the 6th May, the disgruntled crowd of locals moved onto the premises to do battle for their precious local bibliotheca. The cheerful local librarian present loyally stayed at his post while his masters, skulking in their public offices, took the best part of an hour to show their faces. Prior to that they issued threats over the phone and when that didn't work they sent for the police.

Half an hour after the protest began a smiling, good natured bobby appeared whose first utterance was: 'This must be the most civilised protest that I have ever witnessed'. It seems that no names were taken either by the library management or the police, and that the manager had to be brought over at the request of one of the protesters. Once there she was invited to sign their petition against closure, which she declined to do. Meanwhile, a spirited atmosphere of protest songs and the munching of sausage rolls prevailed. The event will be covered in the local media, including the North Wales Weekly, and further action is planned by the citizens of Penrhyn Bay to advance their cause.

If you are interested in getting involved in the campaign to save the Penrhyn Library, phone Chris on 01492 547590.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


A quiet revolution is taking place in Ashton-under-Lyne. Like the 'Diggers' of the seventeenth century who in 1649 reclaimed the common land of St. George's Hill in Surrey, from the Lords of the manor by digging and cultivating it, members of Ashton Allotment Action, have now started to dig and cultivate land which was once allotments and market gardens on the Ashton Moss.

According to the action group, in 1996 at the time of the development of the M60 motorway, allotments at Ashton Moss, were taken out of use and the land was given by Tameside Council to the local estate agent Cordingleys. Why the land was given to a local estate agent is not entirely clear, but the contract apparently stated that the land was to be developed for business and leisure use and would provide alternative allotments sites.

The Cordingley family, we would hasten to add, have been surveyors and land agents in the Tameside area since the early 19th century and they administer 'the still extensive residue of the Earl of Stamford`s estate'.

Curiously, since giving the site to Cordingleys fifteen years ago, no allotment land has been allocated to the people who are on Tameside Council`s allotment waiting list. Although the group point out that there was some development of the site by Cordingleys seven years ago, much of it remains mismanaged, uncultivated, and overrun with weeds, which needs to be cleared. The group also claim that they have been told that "the site is not due to be handed over in the near future".

Ashton Allotment Action have therefore decided to take matters in hand and have taken over control of land allocated for allotments in the same spirit as Gerrard Winstanley and the 'Diggers' did on St. George's Hill. Ironically, St. George's Hill is today, one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the country.

However, unlike their 17th century English radical forebears, who as agrarian communists believed in the expropriation of land and that the common land should be given to the poor, the action group - which includes local members of the Green Party - are calling for Cordingleys to hand over the allotment sites to the council and are demanding that they pay reparations to future allotment holders, so they can buy agricultural equipment to clear the site. They also want the council to call a meeting of all people who are on the council's allotment waiting list to allocate allotment plots and to establish an allotment association.

The action taken by the Diggers back in 1649 was a timely project. It came at a time of excessive food prices in England in the 1640s. But the project was short-lived as the Diggers were eventually dispersed by force (mob violence) and legal harassment. Nevertheless, because of rising food prices we have seen nowadays, an increase in demand for allotments that is not being met by local authorities, who by law, are obliged to allocate so much land for allotment use. Section 23 of the 1908 Allotment Act, gives people a right to demand plots from their local authorities.

The action taken by Ashton Allotment Action, raises a number of important questions. Why was land once owned by Tameside Council, given to an estate agent? If this is the case then this needs to be looked into, and questions need to be asked about the contractual relationship between Cordingley`s and Tameside Council concerning this land and why, despite fifteen years having elapsed, land has not been allocated to people who want allotments on this site?

The Organ Grinder & his Monkey

Anarchist activist & NV contributor Barry Woodling (above, with umbrella) spent this Bank Holiday weekend canvassing for the Green Party candidate for the Swinton South in the run-up to Salford City Council local elections next Thursday. The Swinton South candidate is Joe O'Neill (above, with placard), a former Lib-Dem councillor in the ward, and a personal friend of Barry.

This is curious because anarchists usually oppose all forms of party political elections. But busy Barry has used this holiday to distribute thousands of part political leaflets for the Green Party.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


LAST SUNDAY - May Day - was a mess in Manchester and they can't blame the weather. The coalition Government may be an Eton Mess, but up here it was a May Day Mess. Less than two hundred miscellaneous politicos paraded round central Manchester on May Day in a celebration called by Manchester Trade Union Council. It was the kind of inconsequential and uneventful demo typical of the left up here but even more poorly attended than usual. The SWP was in evidence but it was more of a political than a trade union occasion and it did not match last Thursday's Workers Memorial Day rally by Greater Manchester Hazards Campaign which was a distinctly trade union do.

Geoff Brown, Secretary of Manchester TUC and an affiliate of the SWP, was up and down like a blue-arsed fly trying to get the rally off the ground but it was a total flop. I feel for him; he did his best but it showed the feebleness of the left round here. It might have something to do with the inability of the British left in general to get outside the incestuous political bubble. Yet these people are shortsighted and don't seem to help themselves. I asked him if he and the SWP were giving Dave Chapple, former Chair of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), and those other non-Socialist Party dissidents, who broke away from the NSSN in January 'the run-around' or 'fobbing them off' and he assured NV that he and the SWP wasn't. Yet, despite everything that has happened and accused of 'dithering' by some, the SWP hang on in the NSSN with their principle enemy and competitor the Socialist Party and Linda Taaffe.

Stefan from the Greater Manchester County Association of Trade Union Councils was there pushing for yet another conference against the cuts. More and more conferences, more and more demos, more and more calls for a general strike: rhetoric, rhetoric let their be rhetoric. Fake enthusiasm, slogans, and blather. And on the edges of the rally, friction with the younger end who insisted on making music during the solemn speeches of the tired politicos. Steve North, newly elected to the job of Secretary of Salford City Unison, was there urging people on to fight the cuts and to go to an anti-cuts demo in Salford on Monday the 2nd, May: did many go? I fear not -  reports suggest 40 protested. Yet, Mr North managed to strut, snubbing the salesman of Northern Voices indignantly as if he had now moved on to higher things and the awesome ordeals of office in place of Ray Walker who he beat.

Then there was the food for those that could endure it: rice with spinach and lamb or a chicken leg perhaps - a truly May Day Mess. No threat to the Coalition and not up to the standards of the Eton Mess which is a desert of English origin including a mix of strawberries, meringue and cream traditionally served at Eton College's annual cricket game against the students of Winchester College.

New Look, Old Look?

Trends in fashion and art

THIS APRIL saw both the opening of 'The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900' show at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the 'Rochdale Artists Exhibition' at Number Ten Gallery on Baillie Street, Rochdale. The London show, open until the 17th July, demonstrates the romantic reaction to the what they - the aesthetes in the 19th Century - saw as the ugliness of the industrial revolution: Suzy Menkes, in the Global Edition of the New York Times, describes them as a movement committed to 'Art for Art's Sake': the romantic painters, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, were often Bohemian. The 'Rochdale Artists' are very different, an eclectic mix of artists painting in different styles and from possibly lower middle-class or working-class backgrounds; one I met at the Castleton Community Centre (where they study and practice their art on Tuesday evenings), Brian Thomas, a former bus driver, was working in acrylics and his day job now is ground maintenance for nearby Bury Council.

The artists of the 19th Century 'Art for Art's Sake' school were into shaking up women and changing them from the tight corset-ridden creatures of the Victorian era into something more lush, wild and even dishevelled. The show at the V&A includes examples of how the new 19th Century style became commercialised, with a display of items from what was then the Liberty store and objects of interior decor that would have filled the pages of the house-&-home journal 'House Beautiful'. This kind of influence on magazines and interior decor seems to have continued well into the 20th Century. In 1946, George Orwell wrote of 'an American fashion magazine' whose '325 large quarto size pages, of which no fewer than 15 are given up to articles on world politics, literature, etc', of the rest Orwell writes: 'I do not know just how many drawings or photographs of women occur throughout the whole volume, but as there are 45 of them, all beautiful, in the first 50 pages, one can work it out roughly.'

Summing up the V&A exhibition, Suzy Menkes writes: 'Still, by the end of the show there is a feeling of fatigue and ennui, exemplified by the languid women who never look the painter in the eye and by interiors that become claustrophobic.' Similarly when he comes to comment on the kind of women in his nameless post-Second World War American mag. Orwell writes in 1946 : 'One striking thing when one looks at these pictures is the overbred, exhausted, even decadent style of beauty that now seems to be striven after' and 'a thin-boned, ancient-Egyptian type of face seems to predominate: narrow hips are general, and slender non-prehensile hands like those of a lizard are everywhere.' Thus, when Suzy Menkes writes now that the 'the gust of fresh air that came with the new 20th century must have felt heaven sent' it was clearly not to last long before we were back to a sort of sleek swan-like creature in art and fashion, at least in American publications after the Second World War.

These things seem to go in phases, Kate Middleton has a freshness with cheeky-chops type looks, compared to the unrelievedly beautiful glamour of Diana, the former Princess of Wales. That's why it is nice to go to a small local exhibition like that of the Rochdale Artists with its freshness and innocence, and view Veronica Swinden's 'Cheryl' portrait with the subject looking directly at the painter (see below).

Rochdale Artists meet at Castleton Community Centre, Manchester Road, Castleton, Rochdale each Tuesday nights at 7.30.

On May 10th, there will be a watercolour demo and talk by Paul Talot Greaves.

On June 21st, there will be demonstration of how to do Lino Printing.

On August 2nd, Jeremy Taylor will give a talk and demonstration of watercolour.