Saturday, 29 September 2012

ROCHDALE: Why is it not on the Musical Gig Map of England?

A report by Chris Hewitt:
CHRIS Hewitt is a Rochdale ex pat who grew up promoting live music in the town and continues to do so around the world as well as running a record and music dvd company which has strong links with musicians who originally came from Rochdale.
The recent blue plaque day evening event saw a host of music fans attend a £15 a ticket event at the 250 capacity town centre Back Door. 
Venue at Broadwater- unfortunately people paying £15 a ticket to see original live music in Rochdale is somewhat of a one off. The fact that the powers that be through the years have consistently failed to maintain or even provide a suitable venue in the town centre together with funding /subsidies for regular music events has meant that Rochdale has slipped down the ladder behind towns much smaller than it.
The Gracie Fields theatre was built as a poor substitute for a town centre theatre/ music venue. The College Halll had its stage door access wiped out by the expansion of St Mary’s Gate to a dual carriageway and furthermore despite being originally in the control of the Council’s own Education department and hosting some great town centre live pop music events and the youth music festival it was always a bureaucratic obstacle course to hire it- even when I was running concerts at the college in conjunction with Paul Gibson who was then in RMBC Entertainments we found that trying to book the College Hall from Education was even difficult in the name of another council department. I believe Hopwood Hall no longer allow bookings of the College Hall for concerts ? Champness Hall hosted some great concerts in the 70’s but would not survive as a concert hall today as not having an interval bar under the Methodist rules would mean it would not work as a cultural venue in today’s climate- does this no alchohol rule still apply to Champness Hall today?
Until such time as one of the grand schemes for a town centre theatre/ music venue are actually built ( and don’t forget to budget for some funds for events to put in it or you still have a building that is a white elephant- as Rochdale needs funding for music and arts events to put it back on the cultural map of England ) surely an investment of say £50,000 per annum towards a series of indoor live music events for over 18s at Back Door Broadwater would help to bring some much needed cultural status back to the town and continue the great positive feeling that the blue plaque day and evening created. Whilst Rochdale Development Agency does a great job of bringing new business to the borough and the Re-Thinking/branding project preaches sermons about why people should be thinking about “why I want to visit Rochdale or I want to go to Rochdale it’s assets are attractive” a positive thriving live music and culture policy for over 18’s from RMBC / Link4Life in a venue like Back Door which would take so little to continue after the success the blue plaque day and evening created would help to bring people back into the town centre in an evening and encourage people from outside of Rochdale to visit the town. The general feeling of well being and being part of a cultural event is something even the police have mentioned when I have been at meetings about music and culture in Rochdale. To quote a strap line from Bury Met below- they present music and theatre at their 240 capacity venue that leaves people inspired and enriched. Rochdale has created some great musicians ( and many musicians from outside have used Rochdale to record their music there), artists, poets writers, and great sound technicians and the one thing we haven’t got is a focussed venue hub where these people and the ones who will be tomorrow’s and the audiences can meet.

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough has a population of around 206,000;
Rochdale has population of around 94,000. 

Holmfirth has a population of 17,970 

Holmfirth played host/ plays host to the following indoor live music in 2009- this is just a few from the last quarter of 2009: 
American touring blues man Walter Trout on the 23rd October £17

Barclay James Harvest 25th October £21

Magnum 30th October £18-50

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes ( from the USA) 19th November £20

Kiki Dee 21st November £15

Steve Hackett ( ex Genesis) 22 nd November £22

Boomtown Rats 4th December £12

Bad Manners 27th December £16
Hebden Bridge has a population of 11,253: 

Hebden Bridge Trades Club has hosted concerts by:
Gong Legend Daevid Allen plays the Trades

Juno winner James Keelaghan visits Trades

DJ James Holroyd, Sisters of Transistors and the Hello Sailor burlesque team Motion Theory, Salsa, quiz and 20/20 cricket at the Trades

Big Apple troubadour Jeffrey Lewis plays the Trades

Live Ashes at the Trades

Celtic rock kings Peatbog Faeries play Trades

New Trades Roots label Owter Zeds 25th anniversary event at the Trades Top poet Simon Armitage to rock the Trades

Ska warriors Natural Rhythm storm the Trades Club

Monkey business and Steve Gifford at the Trades

Glastonbury favourites 3 Daft Mondays swing into the Trades "Incredible" Mike Heron at the Trades

Dr Feelgood back at the Trades

Nick Harper hits the peaks at the Trades May Day weekend at the Trades Club

Peter Kay rocks the Trades Club Squeezing out the hits at the Trades Southern Tenant Folk Union at the Trades

Becks and The Bullets back at the Trades

Australia's Emily Barker plays the Trades.

Bury has a population of 60,718: 

Bury Met has a capacity of 240. 
It presents new and exciting artists who go on to become household names as well as established artists performing to sell-out audiences all over the world.  Audiences at The Met have enjoyed a pre-Partridge Steve Coogan, legendary performances by Joy Division and The Pixies, pre-Elbow Elbow, pre Hollywood Lee Evans and live music and theatre that leaves people inspired and enriched.

Ashton Under Lyne has a a population of 44,000:

The Witchwood in Ashton is a small but much extended public house now a listed building owing to its contribution to live music and part of the live gig

music circuit of the UK. When Rochdale/Middleton’s indie guitar world stars The Chameleons decided to reform in the early 2000’s they decided to try one night not in their home borough ( because there is nowhere with that cultural live music buzz in RMB )but in Ashton because it has such a great venue. Their one night sold out and became five consecutive sell out nights and then they went on to play London Shepherd’s Bush Empire and then toured the world for a second time.

The Witchwood Ashton – a small selection of upcoming gigs below. 

Limehouse Lizzy 14th Nov £12

Bad Manners 14th Dec £14

UK Subs 10th Dec £8

Prodigy tribute

Legend Bob Marley tribute £12

Clone Roses £10. 

My point is Rochdale has the largest population of all of these towns, in the past it has had the largest effect on the UK music scene through it’s recording studios, Deeply Vale Festivals, Rochdale Festivals, bands that were created in Rochdale, the growth of Wigwam into one of the major sound production companies in the UK and yet Rochdale has lost its way in supporting a live music venue for over 18s. I believe a lot of hard work from the team of people ( including myself) who want to solve this problem and create an over 18’s music venue at the Back Door on Saturday evenings initially and finance from RMBC / Link4Life and even business sponsorship would put Rochdale back on the cultural map of the UK not just for the one day that it happened on September 23rd 2009 – the blue plaque day.  Incidentally press articles mentioning that day and Rochdale in a positive light are still happening even now over a month later. 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Northern Radical History Network Meeting

Northern Radical History Network October 2012 Meeting:

The 3rd Northern Radical History Network meeting will take place on Saturday 6th October 2012 at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The day will run from 11am to 4.30pm in the John Dalton Building (Rooms E244 & E246), Manchester Metropolitan University on Oxford Road, Manchester.

Speakers include:

• Bill Williams, respected historian of Manchester and author of ‘Jews and other foreigners’: Manchester and the Rescue of the Victims of European Fascism, 1933-1940.

• Steve Higginson, researcher and writer, who will be discussing his work ‘Writing on the Wall' and other Liverpool projects.

The day will also include opportunities to share project work, concluding with open discussion around the themes of the radical history and its uses.

Programme for the day:

11am-11.30am Welcome, Introductions, Network business.

11.30am-12.30pm Speaker 1- Paper plus discussion.

12.30pm-1.30pm Lunch.

1.30pm-2.30pm Speaker 2- Paper plus discussion.

2.45pm-4.15pm ‘What is Radical History?’& projects.

4.15pm-4.30pm Feedback, Comments, Close of Meeting. 

A map of the Manchester Metropolitan University All Saints campus is here (opens PDF).

A map of Manchester Metropolitan Map is available at / and  

Any queries, please contact us.

Exclusive Press Report from Blacklist Support Group

UNION chiefs are calling on Labour leaders to back them in a £600million case against Britain’s big name construction giants.  The GMB has tabled a motion for this weekend’s Labour Party Conference in the row over alleged illegal “blacklisting” of 3,200 builders.

The workers were shunned by construction firms who used a database to check if they were shop stewards or alleged troublemakers. GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “We’ll not rest until they get an apology and compensation.” ...

It comes amid growing speculation that construction firms will be forced to compensate workers they avoided.  In 2009, the Information Commissioner revealed 44 firms had forked out to access the database to vet applicants. Those paying to use the service included BALFOUR BEATTY, CARILLION, MOWLEM. Lawyers at GUNEY, CLARK & RYAN believe compo could hit £600million.  They have served notice on MCALPINE in a High Court test case on behalf of 86 builders. Guney partner Sean Curran said: “We believe we have a very strong case. Workers’ careers and family lives were devastated by being put on this blacklist.”

Human rights campaigners have threatened to sue the ICO for failing to contact those on the blacklist.

2. Crossrail blacklisting dispute now in its 2nd week.  / /

3. Victimised & blacklisted scottish electrician Stewart Hume has today been fully reinstated by Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Ltd. 
Well done Stewart - great news!  Well done to everyone involved with the campaign for his reinstatement

4. The Financial Times is currently preparing a blacklisting story - keep an eye out.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

'Pleb' Phenomena in Rochdale Sex Grooming?

'Looking back, it is astonishing how intimately, intelligently snobbish we all were, how knowledgeable about names addresses, how swift to detect small differences in accents and manners and the cut of clothes.'  
         George Orwell in his essay: 'Such, Such Were the Joys'.
FOLLOWING a report published today by Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) into the child sex exploitation of young girls in the town, some as young as 10, it is worth asking to what extent this sex grooming case in Rochdale has been facilitated by a culture of inverted institutional racism by social workers?  Or might it simply be that the lower middle-class profession of social workers and civil servants identify more readily, as a class, with Asian taxi drivers and businessmen, than they do with white working-class girls.  Are these Lancashire lasses just a new 'pleb' category in the eyes of the civil servants?

It seems that the social workers in Rochdale considered that the girl victims were their own worst enemies, and that they had made a life-style choice to become 'prostitutes', even though they were below the age of consent to have sexual relations.  The Rochdale social workers appear to have closed their eyes to what was statutory rape. 

This morning, Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said on Radio 4's Today Program, that the Rochdale social workers had been 'Blaming the victims' and that, he believed, the 'perpetrators (rapists) were emboldened' because they 'knew the perspective that social services had on this, and knew that they would get away with it''We must find these people; who've set this culture, ' insisted Mr. Danczuk. 

Will heads roll in Rochdale over this issue?  This morning, the new Chief Executive of Rochdale Borough Council, Jim Taylor, was reluctant to admit if any of those responsible for what happened to these young girls were still in their posts.

It may well be, of course, that we are all broadly responsible for what happened, particularly sections of the politically correct left.  It could be that by allowing some sections of our communities to portray themselves as 'automatic victims' by virtue of their ethnic identity or other characteristics, either biological or cultural, that we all have become what Ludwig Wittgenstein described as 'aspect blind', and thereby tend to ignore or demean certain categories of humanity that do not fit into the more fashionable 'victim' categories:  such as 'ethnic'; 'female'; 'gay'; transexual'; 'transvestite; 'animal' etc.  Could it be that we have become so blind in our prejudices about exotic 'otherness' and 'Votes for Oysters', that we are now ignoring what's going on under our noses:  among the ordinary white working-class Lancashire lasses in our midst?

The place and positioning of class hierarchies and social bias is so subtle in England:  thus the taxi driver; the Asian businessman; the English civil servant and the Rochdale social worker now have more in common with each other than any of them will ever have with our young white working-class Lancashire lasses.  The corruption of social class is so deeply entrenched in English society that it almost defies definition, and for this reason it is so easily exploited by elements within the class system.  The reference to 'plebs' by a Tory Minister last week was much more than a Freudian slip -  in England, we are all aware of our place..
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch. NORTHERN VOICES No.12 with the Cyril Smith 'Instead of an Obituary' is also still available and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Changing Face of the North West: Modernist Dreams and Utopias

THE Manchester Modernist Society, the North West Film Archive and Manchester Metropolitan University are pleased to bring to the City Art Gallery a curated programme of archive films charting the transformation of the North West landscape through the aspirations of 20th Century dreamers, citizens and planners.
Every third Thursday of the month we will present a film screening from 6pm in the City Art Gallery Lecture Theatre on Mosley Street, central Manchester. A specialist presenter will introduce each screening, followed by informal questions and answers. Each event is free, but pre-registration is essential as places are strictly limited. Refreshments will be available for purchase in the cafe.
Please see   for more details.

Police Fed boss calls on Tory YOB to resign!

Although no aristocrat, Andrew Mitchell, the  Government chief whip, is renowned for his haughty, arrogant, and rude manner. Those that he takes a dislike to or he considers his social inferiors,  are dismissed as 'plebs' or 'morons'. At Rugby public school, - which he attended like the notorious bully 'Flashman', the scoundrel who appears in  the novel 'Tom Brown's Schooldays', by Thomas Hughes - he was known as 'Thrasher' Mitchell, for his stern disciplinarian approach.

Since the 'Pleb' scandal hit the headlines, the newspapers have been full of reports and anecdotes about Mitchell's arrogance and meaness. It seems that the incident at Downing Street, where Mitchell is alleged to have called an armed police officer a "fucking pleb" and a "moron" because the officer would not open the main gates of Downing Street to let him through with his bike, is not an isolated incident. The police log which was published in the Daily Telegraph, says that Mitchell said: "Best learn your f...... place ... you don't run this f...... government... you're f....... plebs." Indignant at the impudence of these servants, who would not answer his summons, Mitchell, tried to ride his bike through the main gates at Downing Street the following day.

The Labour MP Grahame Morris, told one newspaper that Mitchell " has 'form' for this sort of thing and has had to apologise to 'two or three' Parliamentary staff " for his behaviour. A neighbour of Mitchell's who lived next door to him for 30 years, told the Daily Mail that living next door to him had been a 'nightmare' and that "He is a very rude and arrogant man."  An unnamed Tory source, told the same newspaper : "It is characteristic behaviour. He is a nasty piece of's about bloody time he got his comeuppance."

Snobbishness, is of course something that is knocked into English public school boys and their parents pay a great deal of money for it. Many just can't help but throw their intellectual weight around or pull rank on the vulgar rabble who they believe to be beneath them. 

Brian Howard (the model for Anthony Blanche in Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited) who was at Eton with George Orwell and Harold Acton, was arrested in 1920. When asked by a policeman where he lived, he replied: "I live in Mayfair, I expect you live in some dreary suburb." In Thackeray's novel 'Vanity Fair', the cad, George Osborne, a former pupil of Dr. Swishtail's school for young gentlemen, is described as "generally overbearing and isolent to all those he considered his social inferiors." Fortunately, he gets shot dead at the Battle of Waterloo. Even that socialist stalwart George Orwell, was not immune from snobbery. In his book 'The Road to Wigan Pier', Orwell says:
"When I was fourteen or fifteen I was an odious little snob, but no worse than the other boys of my own age and class. I suppose there is no place in the world where snobbery is quite so ever-present or where it is cultivated in such refined and subtle forms as in the English public school. Here at least one cannot say that English 'education' fails to do its job. You forget your Latin and Greek within a few months of leaving school...but your snobishness, unless you persistently root it out like the bindweed it is, sticks by you till your grave...looking back upon that period, I seem to have spent half the time in denouncing the capitalist system and the other half in raging over the insolence of bus-conductors."

There are some who believe that Mitchell should have been arrested as using foul and abusive language to a police officer is an arrestable offence. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has called for a 'zero tolerance' towards swearing at police officers. Ricky Gemmel, from Gorton, has called for Mitchell to be 'locked up.' Last year, 19-year-old Ricky, was sent to a young offenders institute for 16 weeks after he told the police to 'fuck-off' during the riots in Manchester. He believes that anyone else other than Mitchell, would have been arrested.

But while Mitchell admits to using the F-word in his altercation with armed police officers at the main gates of Downing Street, he says that he used the word 'adjectively' and didn't use any of the words reported by the police including the word 'Pleb'. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, says that he believes that Mitchell didn't use the word 'Pleb' but refused to be drawn on the question as to whether he believes the police are lying. John Tully, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation told the press that Mitchell's remarks were 'outrageous' and called on him to resign.

There will of course be some people who will say that Mitchell's arrogance and snobbishness is typical behaviour for the foul-mouthed Tory yobs who are now running this country. Paul Mckeever, the Police Federation Chairman, believes that Mitchell's behaviour is yet "another example of the contempt some in government hold the police in." However, what the 'Pleb' scandal does show is that even in these mealy-mouthed and politically correct times in which we live, where it is fashionable to talk about classlessness, English middle-class snobbery is always lurking beneath the surface and itching to get out. But as that dreadful English snob Evelyn Waugh says in his novel 'Scoop', even the cleverest man in Fleet Street, the communist and university educated Pappenhacker, - who was so rude to waiters that many restaurants wouldn't have him - believed that every time you were polite to a proletarian, you were helping to bolster up the capitalist system. I doubt that Pappenhacker, would have had much difficulty in crossing the threshold of El Vino, the Fleet Street wine bar which is owned by the Mitchell family.

From Town Centres to English Villages!

Yorkshire Post says: We're 'Sleep-walking to disaster'!
MUCH of what appears in the Northern Voices' publication about planning and architecture is on the topic of town centres.  For example, Debbie Firth in the current issue NV13 writing about 'Rochdale's Link4Life: Bread & Circus Bias'.  But the English countryside has its own problems too.  Yesterday's Yorkshire Post reported on an investigation they had done on the slow growth of populations in some of the rural villages of England, declaring:  'FEARS are growing over the long-term future of towns and villages across the region where populations are now forecast to grow by tiny margins over the coming decades.' 

It seems that Ryedale and Richmondshire in the Yorkshire Dales are among four of the region's districts where experts say 'little or no population growth will happen over the next 25-years...'.   This, in its turn, threatens the sustainablity of many English villages and the services they depend on. 

Yesterday, Jack Blanchard, Political Editor of the Yorkshire Post, wrote:  'The link between population and economic growth is well established, and the forecasts have left some local politicians concerned about the future of their local areas.'    And, John Blackie, leader of the district council in Richmondshire, where the population is set to grow by a mere 3.6% in the naxt 25-years, says:  'The services that we depend on will gradually fold; they will collapse before our eyes.  Shops and pubs will go.  Then you will find that everything is a distant drive away and it becomes too much for people - and they move closer to the schools.  They will be replaced with second-home owners and these communities will simply be dead in the week.'  Consequently, the price of houses in these areas goes through the roof, and young locals can't afford to buy them.

Failure to prepare for the huge increase in older people who will need care and backing over the next 25 years will only make matters worse.  In the borough of Scarborough more than 40% of residents will be 65 or over by 2028, over twice the national average.  The Yorkshire Post says:  'The figures suggest that in areas such as these (Scarborough and Richmondshire), as young people move away there are dwindling numbers of working people left behind to support the elderly and infirm.

One wonders what the anarchist writer and critic on planning and architecture (see his book 'A Child in the Country') would have to say about this, were he still alive?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Black Roses' Review: Killing of Sophie Lancaster

AS we entered the last week of the play 'Black Roses - The killing of Sophie Lancaster', I chatted with the father of the actress of the young lass Rachel Austin who took-off Sophie in the play in The Studio at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.  He had just bought a copy of Northern Voices 13, with an interview with Sophie's mother, Sylvia Lancaster.  One woman had just said to me how awful it was, the more so for where it took place in a town called Bacup, that is so much a part of traditional Lancashire.  It is hard to believe that a town like that could have led to a crime of such bloody proportions as she and her boyfriend were kicked by a mob of local lads.  In the end she died of her wounds and her lover, Robert Maltby, was left traumatised and physically damaged. 

The play, in which Julie Hesmondalgh of Coronation Street plays Sophie’s mother Sylvia, has sold-out of the original tickets, and more space has been provided owing to extra demand for seats.  Last Saturday, at the matinee the audience was mostly female and middle-class.  This play originated on Radio Four, but the austere surroundings of The Studio set serve the theatrical purpose well.  Thus, we have the homely Mum philosophising, while the exotic 'Goth Girl' is hovering round her like a spectre from a different realm.  In an interview with Northern Voices last year, Sophie's mum, Sylvia, had said:  'For Sophie being a Goth was like being a "Traditional Goth", she was a Goth like Adam Ant's "New Romantics" and Boy George'.

Poetry by Simon Armitage and homespun philosophy by Sylvia Lancaster; the exotic and the everyday captured together in the same small space.  Individuality and the ordinary united.  During last Saturday's performance one man collapsed and the play had to be stopped.  Troubled teenager grows up to become an accidental martyr in Stubbylee Park, and an icon of the outsider is created.  The tension in the play thrives between mother and daughter, as the shadows form and the trainers stamp their marks on both Robert and Sophie:  aim for the face seemed to be the general war cry of the five-man mob.

Catherine Smyth in her book 'Weirdo, Mosher, Freak: the murder of sophie lancaster' (2010) price £7.99 available at the Cornerhouse Cinema Bookshop on Oxford Street in Manchester, wrote:  'Personally, I felt Sophie's murder was more akin to a Manchester, Liverpool or London crime, but not Bacup...  High unemployment, crime, alcohol abuse and drug dependency has meant that any beauty in Bacup is often overshadowed and the town's decline is obvious for all to see.'

Play runs until September 29th, 2012.  Tel.: 0161 833 9833 (

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Council to close five libraries - Opening hours to be cut!

DESPITE the efforts of campaign groups to save libraries threatened with closure in Tameside, in Greater Manchester, it seems likely that the council will give the go-ahead to close five libraries when council bosses meet next Monday.

According to reports in one local newspaper, Haughton Green library, Denton West End, Newton in Hyde, Hurst in Ashton and Mottram libraries, will all close their doors to library users on October 12.

Last year the council began consulting library users about the future of Tameside libraries and set out three options as part of a cost cutting review. One option involved closing eleven libraries and retaining Ashton and Hyde libraries as 'centres of excellence'. A second option involved closing six libraries, and the council's preferred option, involved keeping open the main branches in Ashton, Denton, Droylsden, Dukinfield, Hattersley, Hyde, Mossley and Stalybridge, with reduced opening hours. All three options involved closing the five smaller neighbourhood libraries.

Around 2,000 people took part in the consultation process with 63% voting in favour of the council's preferred option.

Although council chiefs have yet to meet to make the final decision, library staff have already been issued with details of the new library opening hours for Tameside libraries:

Ashton library is now to close every Monday and will open between 10-3 on Saturday's, instead of of 9-4.

The Local Studies and Archive Centre based at Ashton library, will now close every Monday and Friday and will now be open between 9-5 on Thursday instead of 9-8 and will be open between 10-3 on Saturday instead of 9-4

Denton libary will now close every Tuesday and Wednesday and will open between 10-3 on Saturday's instead of 9-4.

Droylsden library is to close every Tuesday and Wednesday and will open between 10-3 on Saturday's instead of 9-4.

Dukinfield library will now close on Wednesday's and Friday's and will open between 9-8 on Monday's and between 9-5 on Thursday's instead of 9-7.30.

Hyde library will now close on Thursday's and will open between 9-5 on Wednesday's instead of 9-8 and on Saturday's between 10-3 instead of 9-4.

Mossley library which is to be moved to the George Lawton Hall, will be closed on Tuesday's and Wednesday's and will be open between 9-5 on Monday's instead of 9-8, and on Wednesday's between 9-8 instead of 9-7.30

Stalybridge library will now be closed on Thursday's and Friday's and on Tuesday's will now be open between 9-5 instead of 9-8 and between the hours of 10-3 on Saturday's, instead of 9-4.

The hours at Hattersley library remain unchanged.

While the council's consultation exercise on the future of council sevices has been dubbed by them the 'Big Conversation', it is very much a one sided conversation with the council setting the agenda and deciding where the axe will fall on jobs and services. Although they say that voters should blame the Tories for the cuts, they frequently turn a deaf ear to residents suggestions about how the council might make saving without the need for closing such things as libraries.

In letters to the local newspapers, which the council invariably ignores, local residents frequently complain about why they should be paying over £1.25m each year to support 57 councillors who do less work nowadays, since this Labour controlled council for over 20 years, has been devolving itself of responsibility by privatising and outsourcing jobs and services to trusts and private and arms-length companies. Others have also questioned why the council is closing libaries when it as 'usable reserves' (rainy day money) of £1.38m which can be used to fund services. Members of the public have also questioned why the council who are aiming to save £900,000 by closing five libraries, has spent £4m on a little brown bin for Tameside residents to dispose of household waste, when they already have a bin for this purpose. Other critics complain about the £176,000 a year that is spent on the council's propaganda sheet the Tameside Citizen and the annual salary of Stephen Pleasant, the Chief Executive of the council, who receives £192,469 compared with the Prime Ministers salary of £142,500 per annum.

Although the council argue that there isn't the money available for libraries, they can certainly find the money to pay themselves and the money to fund their pet political projects.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Northern Voices' All time pageviewings: Top 5.

1383 pageviews for 'Bolton Council say "Bye-Bye" to Gary Neville's Tel...'
Dated:  25 Jun 2010

468 pageviews for 'The Coalition: Return of Maggie Thatcher?' by Laurens Otter.
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Strike at Dukinfield's Tesco Supplier

Workers at the Tulip Fresh Meats plant at Dukinfield, Cheshire, who have been in dispute with the company for the past three weeks, are stepping up their action in a long running argument over bonus payments.  The 27 workers in the cutting department who have been on strike two days a week since 6 September will, from next Wednesday, 26 September, go on strike for 5 days. At the end of the five days a decision may be taken to escalate the strike further. An overtime ban has also been in place for the last three weeks.  At the same time over 100 other workers at Tulip who currently receive no additional payment for working Bank Holidays, or in some cases bonus, are to be balloted on industrial action. The result of their ballot will be known on 3 October. 

Earlier this year the 27 staff in the cutting department, who are all members of Community trade union, unanimously rejected a proposal from the company to change the bonus scheme on the grounds that it still failed to address the unfairness where workers on the same rate receive different bonus payments and some skilled workers get less than unskilled. In some cases the company's revised scheme would have resulted in pay cuts of up to £3000 a year. Bonus rates at Tulip have remained unchanged for the past eight years and many workers are now struggling to make ends meet.

Tulip Fresh Meats are major suppliers of food products to the retail and food service markets in the UK, including major supermarkets like Tesco.   

Chris Ambrose, Campaign Manager for Community, said today:
' Despite all our efforts to find a solution to this dispute, including inviting ACAS to get involved, the company have stubbornly refused to budge on anything. Our members are now more determined than ever to see this dispute through to the end, however long it takes, until they get their grievances resolved.'

For further information contact:
Paul Talbot:  07768 693936.

Chris Ambrose:  07834 745808

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Pageviews for Top Four Postings this Week

48 pageviews:  Calamity Kate Caught With Her Tits Hanging Out!
posted on the 18th, Sep 2012

46 pageviews:  In Defence of Crap Cooking!
posted on the 14th, Sep 2012

44 pageviews:  'History Boys' play opens today at Summerseat in B...
posted on the 15th, Sep 2012

35 pageviews:  Strike Threat at Crossrail Site Report Details:
posted on the 18th, Sep 2012


28 WORKERS including a UNITE steward and safety rep have been dismissed from the Crossrail project because of they are members of a trade union. The unionised workers employed by E.I.S. Electrical were searched and removed from site last Friday at the instruction of Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK), the consortium of contractors building Crossrail.

Crossrail is going to be one of the largest infrastructure jobs in the whole of Western Europe – if it is unionised, the workforce will earn good wages and the job will be safe. This is a deliberate attempt by BFK to intimidate workers and keep the union off the project, so they can keep wages down and force through rushed production targets.

Whatever nonsense BFK come up with to justify the dismissals, everyone knows there are 3-4 years work left on the project for these sparks alone. But as soon as the union appeared on the job, the steward was banned from the tunnel and forced to sit in the site offices at Westbourne Park for weeks on end. The Safety Rep was suspended and left to sit at home for the past 13 weeks. Eventually BFK threw EIS off the job just to get rid of the union.

The Managing Director of E.I.S. has given the union a witness statement and states that the only reason the workers and the reps have been removed from the job is because of the union presence.

This is a dispute about safety and money. Even the EIS electrical engineer was sacked after he took a photograph of unsafe high voltage electrical cables. BFK are making money by playing with our lives.

BFK want to save money on Crossrail

We want to save lives on Crossrail

BAM and Kier (part of the BFK consortium) are proven blacklisters of trade union members. They were part of the Consulting Association blacklisting conspiracy exposed in 2009. There is documentary evidence that their senior managers and Directors have illegally victimised union members. We know exactly what they’ve been up to – We’re not going to stand for it on Crossrail. The sparks won their fight against BESNA pay cuts – The rank & file will win the fight for Crossrail.





Site Worker

Bury Trade Union Council to Seek to Commemorate Spanish Civil War Hero

BURY Trade Union Council has now decided to continue to research the case of Joe Fillingham from Bury, who was killed at Teruel during the Spanish Civil War fighting with the International Brigade on the side of the democratically elected Republican Government.  The intention is to have a plaque or other form of tribute placed in some public place within the town.  The project is in its early stages.

In the Autumn of 2009, the Bury Branch of Unite the Union first investigated the possibility of a blue plaque to pay tribute to Joe Fillingham and did some initial research.  At that time a letter was sent to the Bury Times requesting information about Joe from anyone who may have knowledge about him.  We reproduce the contents of that letter below:
6th, November 2009.
Dear Sir,
Joe Fillingham from Bury was killed at Teruel in the North of Spain while serving in the International Brigade on the 20th, January 1938.  He had gone to Spain in August 1937 to defend the democratically elected Spanish republican government that was facing a military rebellion by some Spanish Generals.  He served in the Major Attlee company and was made a Sergeant in December 1937.
Joe had been a member of Bury Trades' Council Executive Committee and the General & Municipal Workers' Union, and often wrote letters to the Bury Times on the Spanish Civil War.  A report commemorating his death appeared in the Bury Times and an obituary appeared in the Daily Worker:  he had been a member of the Communist Party.
Bury Unite the Union Branch, the National Clarion Cycling Club 1895, and local members of the International Brigade Memorial trust are considering applying for a blue plaque to commemorate Joe Fillingham's contribution to the struggle for democracy in the 1930s.  The house where he lived still exists.  can anyone who has any knowledge of Joe, please contact us to ascertain more facts to support this application?
Yours faithfully,
Brian Bamford.
The Bury Branch of Unite the Union is affiliated to Bury Trade Union Council and now supports its application to commemoration Joe Fillingham.

Argos, Bridgewater: 4-day Pensions Strike Starts

To all Bridgwater/Highbridge/mid-Somerset Trades Unionists:
'An injury to one is an injury to all!'
Today Wednesday, was the first of a four-day strike by hundreds of Unite Bridgwater ARGOS warehouse workers. The protest strike concerns a vicious attack on workers' pensions, similar to that perpetrated by Uniliver at their factories, including Walls Ice Cream at Gloucester, earlier in the year.I attended the Unite picket line today on behalf of the Bridgwater Trades Union Council. Support for the strike, which also includes four other ARGOS distribution depots, was excellent, with very few crossing the twenty-strong picket/members support line.
Wincanton PLC drivers who work at ARGOS have been subject to threatening letters, should they stop their lorries on the picket line let alone refuse to cross. Solidarity is therefore important. Local trades unionists are welcome at Huntworth-off the M5 slip road-any time during tomorrow/Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. (The depot closes on Saturdays)
The picket-line UNITE reps include Andy, Steve and Chris, together with local full-time officer Dorothy Fogg. Dorothy can be contacted for further information via the Taunton UNITE office on 01823 442464. Please try and find time to make that solidarity visit!  If you can't make either the picket line or the store leaflet, you can send an E-mail message of support to me (or directly to Dorothy or Laurence above) and I will pass it on.
Bridgwater Trades Council, including UNITE delegates will be showing solidarity with the ARGOS strikers by leafletting the ARGOS store at the Clink, Eastover (opposite McDonalds) during this strike.  Times when we propose to leaflet ARGOS shoppers are EITHER Friday 4pm to 5.30pm; Saturday 10am till 11.30am, or Sunday 10.30am till 12pm. Please let me know urgently-and no later than Thursday 10pm- which times suit you. If you can only leaflet for 30 minutes, that's fine, but do try and take part. I will let you know which day and time has been chosen.
Dave Chapple, Secretary, Bridgwater Trades Union Council:  Tel. 01278 450562 (answer phone)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Eastern Promise 'Enlightenment' without Tits?

Oriental Rage & some local imitations!
ONE of my nephews has recently brought his Thai girlfriend over to Salford.  She came in late August and was soon to be soaked on a trip to Keswick in the Cumbrian Lakes, and was quickly bought a pair of walking boots at the local sales outlet 'Fat Face', and has now been furnished with warmer clothing for our coming winter:  'Why do you Westerners do so much walking?', she asked innocently.  Yet, the English weather is the least of the worries; she heralds from the Thai countryside from among peasant stock and specialist pig butchers, she herself used to shave the hairs off the pork skins to make the carcasses ready for the pig markets in the city.  In Thai politics, her father and consequently her family support the yellow shirts, and she told me that tradition and her devotion to her father naturally determines her own politics.  Her family is also Buddhist, which will have clear consequences for her own view of the world, and her values in it.  Is it not surprising that in less than a month in northern England she is already suffering from home-sickness?   This lass from Thailand was less than a month ago a fish swimming in the waters of an Eastern civilisation, with its exotic religions, clans and family traditions, only now to be cast upon the dry land of the English north, and the strange secular soil of present day Salford society.

Does then this quaint domestic example not form the basis to a a possible relativist challenge to the stern Enlightenment claims of my posting yesterday below entitled, 'Clamity Kate Caught With Her Tits Hanging Out!', in which I tried to lay out what I thought to be Northern Voices attitude to the European Enlightenment?  As Edward Said said in his book entitled 'Orientalism', can we claim that the 'West [and western values] are best'?

It is possible to argue, and is currently being submitted, that there is another possible version of 'freedom', to the one I put yesterday:  David Kirkpatrick in the International Herald Tribune, yesterday contrasted two alternatives in his article entitled 'Behind the clashes, two versions of freedom', and he writes:  'When the protests against a US-made online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad exploded in about 20 countries, the source of the rage was more than just religious sensitivity, political demagogy or resentment of Washington, protesters and their sympathizers here (in Cairo) said'.  Mr. Kirkpatrick added:  'It was also a demand that many of them describe with the word "freedom," although in a context very different from the term's use in the individualistic West:  the right of a community, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, to be free from grave insult to its identity and values.'

In 2006, there was uproar in Egypt among Christians against the film 'Da Vince Code', which was seen as an affront to aspects of traditional Christianity.  There is in Egypt, as in many Arab countries, laws on the statute book that prohibit insults to religion as crimes, and there the State tightly controls the media.  Consequently, these countries find it hard to understand why the U.S. Government feels itself  constrained by free speech rules when it comes to silencing 'even the most noxious bigot', as Mr Kirkpatrick puts it.

When the walls of the U.S. Embassy were breached a week ago last Tuesday, a spiritual leader from the Muslim Brotherhood said:  'the West (had imposed laws against) those who deny or express dissedent views on the Holocaust or question the number of Jews killed by Hitler, a topic which is purely historical, not a sacred doctrine.'  In the case of the U.S.A. this is not the case because denying the Holocaust is protected as free speech, but it is true that in Germany and some other European countries it is illegal.  David Kirkpatrick in Cairo, writes:  '... the belief that it is illegal in the United States is widespread in Egypt, and the Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, called for the "criminalizing of assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions".' 

The religious scholar, Mr. Mohamed, explained the position thus:  'Our prophet is more dear to us than our family and our nation.'

Does this then mean that publications ought to be censored and that we in the West should curb our free speech and limit our criticisms?  In Manchester, there is at present a small political faction nicknamed the Gang of 4, that is busily going around to the sales outlets, bookshops, newsagents and small left-wing printers trying to gag Northern Voices.  Last year, these people were involved in successfully preventing Northern Voices from having a stall at a bookfair in Manchester.  Unlike the mobs in Egypt, Tunisia and Jammu in Indian Kashmir they have not used physical violence and they have political rather than religious objectives, but they would use similar arguments to the ones being employed here by the Muslims - that they and their political beliefs ought to be protected from criticism and questioning.  Perhaps they, like the protesters in the East, represent a new Enlightenment to contrast with the one which we in the West have been brought up to believe in.  Perhaps Noam Chomsky today and Rudolf Rocker, Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant etc got it all wrong? 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Strange Saviour of Tameside Reporter

ACCORDING to a report on the journalism website Hold The Front Page ( ), the ailing Tameside Reporter has been rescued from the threat of closure by the New Charter Trust, a Greater Manchester housing association. The Reporter has a long and glorious history (as the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter it was the paper that launched Harry Evans' career) and the move seems likely to save at least six or seven jobs, but there is a suspicion that the new owners are acting as a proxy for Tameside Council, thereby bypassing central government objections to local authority ownership. If so, let's hope they're prepared to slug it out.

The full story by reporter Paul Linford from Hold-the-Front-Page is printed below:

A weekly newspaper threatened with closure for the past three months appears to have been rescued by a local housing association.   As reported by HoldtheFrontPage in July, the Tameside Reporter was facing closure after 157 years after its owners put it up for sale.  However reports circulating in the North West suggest it has now been bought by the New Charter Trust, a housing association based in Greater Manchester. 

Neither New Charter nor the newspaper have thus far been prepared to comment on the reports, which surfaced on the website of the Northern Voices magazine.  The magazine, run by a workers’ co-operative based in the North-West, published a blog post earlier this week in which it claimed that the Trust had now purchased the title.  It also questioned whether the Trust, which it said had close links with Tameside Council, would maintain the newspaper’s editorial independence.

Said the post: 
'Why a housing company with no previous experience of running a newspaper and with very, very, close links to Tameside Council, would want to buy a local newspaper, is to say the least, highly suspect.  But because of its corporate influence and close links with council, one might also question whether New Charter, is an appropriate and suitable organization, to run a local newspaper.'

When contacted by HTFP about the reports, New Charter said it could not comment.  The newspaper’s managing director Chris Wright has yet to respond to requests for a comment on its future.  The newspaper, previously known as the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter, was where the legendary former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans began his career in journalism in the 1940s.  At that time it was owned by the Hobson family and at one point sold around 100,000 copies a week in the area around East Manchester.

Staff were summoned to a meeting earlier this summer to be told the paper may cease trading and that their positions would become redundant as a result.  Around seven editorial jobs were at risk, including those of editor Nigel Skinner, deputy editor Chris Maxwell, four reporters and one photographer.

Calamity Kate Caught With Her Tits Hanging Out!

A Free Press:  Are there limits to the Enlightenment?
IS IT a cruel irony that those who live by celebrity die by celebrity?  In an age in which Simon Cowell and the 'X-Factor' has replaced Hughie Green and the more homely 'Opportunity Knocks', are we now in an era in which Bread and Circuses rage, and one in which we snigger and sneer at inept contestants lured onto TV, we might well ask if the spirit of the Enlightenment has now overstepped the mark?  Each day the weight of evidence seems to grow:  with Kate Middleton caught on camera with her tits hanging out, Prince Harry photographed philandering with good-time girls while playing strip-poker in a Los Angeles hotel room, and now riots around the world following a feeble You-Tube film desecrating the good name of the prophet Mohammed.  Have we in the West, now indulged in too much freedom of choice in our consumer society?

As a poet said in the middle of the last Century:  'Property, property, let us expand soul and body without end!'

This is a serious problem for western intellectuals, not least those of us around the Northern Voices publication and NV Blog where we too are under criticism from a small local sect or at the anarchist paper Freedom in London, where they have been under attack from David Hoffman, the Copyright Kid, a freelance journalist who seems intent on suing almost everything that moves, and has been labeled 'writ-happy'.  The philosopher, Mary Midgley, has written (see her 'Evolution as a Religion' in 1985):  'Internalized in each of us is a voice which speaks with accents of Voltaire and Rousseau, of Mill, Hulme, Tom Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft:  a voice which says, "Was it for this that we defied the priests, the fathers, and the Kings?  Can anything be more important than individual liberty?".' 

The thing is that since the Renaissance, it may even have begun with the Greeks, it has broadly been the aim of western civilisation to free up individuals from the chains of their social backgrounds so as to help people to escape and stand on their own feet, free from family, the state, the Church etc.  Even western Christianity, with its focus on the separate, irreplaceable value of each human soul, helped to play a role in this flowering of the enlightenment.  In a way, this spirit of the Enlightenment has been the engine of all that is good and wonderful in western society today, and it is in the blending of liberalism and socialism that is present in the writings of such anarchist thinkers as Rudolf Rocker and more recently Noam Chomsky, the linguist, who openly describes himself as a 'Child of the Enlightenment'.

For my part, I confess that lately I have been regularly taking Mary Midgley to bed with me, and she persuasively writes:  'The careful separating out of each soul from its social background has of course been responsible for an immense amount that is distinctive and valuable in the achievements of our civilization.'  It has never been carried so far by any other culture,  and Mary adds that it is 'No wonder that to many people it never looked, until lately, as if we could have too much of that good thing, individualism.'

As I write this I have before me a copy of last Saturday's International Herald Tribune, with a headline story entitled 'A Parisian avenue far from romantic', in which the writer recalls that the French Culture Minister and novelist, Andre Malraux, in the 1960s told a journalist 'that the Champs-Élysées - then considered the most beautiful avenue in the world - had "an American basement".'  Today, we learn from the writer, Steven Erlanger, that America is no longer confined to the basement, 'but American business and its brands are prominently above ground on a Champs-Élysées that has become increasingly commercialized and globalized.'

What Mary Midgley said in 1985, was that while there were still tyrants, 'what [in 1985] chiefly confronts us ... is not an Easter Island row of ossified traditional patriarchs, but a chaotic mob of dollar-snatching cormorants, doing damage of an order undreamed of in previous ages.'  Indeed, there are many 'dollar-snatching cormorants' today, as the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) was quick to point out this week, after the snaps of her were published, but there are also many genuine tyrants and enemies of freedom, not just on the right but also on the left.

I want to agree with Mary Midgley in everything she says about 'dollar snatching cormorants' and because she challenges the pretensions of some modern scientists like Richard Dawkins, but here Ms. Midgley is writing in 1985, at a time of the softening in the Cold War when Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachyov had just arrived in the Kremlin and before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more importantly before the rise of Islam as an international political force, before the Salman Rushdie case and the burning of his book 'Satanic Verses' by Pakistanis in Bradford, before 9/ 11 and before 7/ 7 and other dramatic features of the post-post-modern era.  As I write this, I am listening to Andrew Marr interviewing Salman Rushdie on Radio 4's 'Start the Week', and Mr. Rushdie says that when we 'self-censor' to please a publisher or even a public 'a little part of us dies' inside.

Like Chomsky, we in the West are all 'Children of the Enlightenment', and this is a project that began even earlier than the Renaissance with the Ancient Greeks.  And yet, some of us are bastard children of the Enlightenment:  witness Adolf Hitler, of whom George Orwell wrote, that in the 1930s Germany represented a version of modern science in the service of ideas rooted in the Stone Age.   What protects us against this outcome, I would argue, is the presence of something that can be represented as a free media with all its faults and blemishes:  the likes of Julian Assange, and Wikileaks and even an old tin-pot anarchist publication like Freedom Press in Whitechapel.  If this means we have to put up with the Irish Star, Berlusconi  in Italy and 'Closer' in France so be it.  I don't want to appear pompous, but so long as I am an editor at Northern Voices, I will be anxious to oppose self-censorship and to stick to the Enlightenment project..

Strike Threat at Crossrail Site Report Details:

Crossrail go hysterical over unionised contractor after safety concerns are raised
LAST Friday at 3pm every unionised worker for E.I.S. electrical contractor on Crossrail at Westbourne Park tube were be searched and removed from site.  The McGingley union rep was dismissed from site earlier today.  These are the opening shots in what appears to be a major battle over unionisation and safety on the Crossrail project. Unofficial picketlines look set to appear very soon and could cause chaos in West London. 

Bernard McAuley UNITE national Construction Officer has been in negotiations at the Crossrail project all day.  More info and contact details below.  E.I.S. Electical working on the BFK (BAM FERROVIAL KIER) CROSS RAIL tunnelling contract company have been removed for hi-lighting saftey issue.

Unite saftey rep Rodney Valentine was removed from site immediately after he was elected he was suspended from site for 6 weeks and eventually transferred to another project where he worked for 1 week before being suspended again he is now approaching his 3rd week.  Ring Rodney Valentine on 07734246045. 

Unite shop steward Frank Morris was banned from the construction site after raising saftey issues on the tunnel boring machine he was removed from site and placed in a site hut for 11 hours per day with absolutley no job to do in solitary confinement.  Ring Frank Morris on 07779782904.

E.I.S. electrical supervisor was removed from project after taking a picture of 11000V HIGH VOLTAGE CABLE which was lying under bolders and had scaffold clips and boards thrown on it because he took the picture to present to the in house saftey team he was removed by main contractors BFk's MR Horrello working on behalf of Ferrovial.  We have the photos.

BFK have decided to relieve themselves off all responsibility and Terminated E.I.S. contract mid term even though there is a further 3 years on the contract and other recruitment agencies are actively recruiting positions and even actively poaching E.I.S. employees. 

Unite the Union sees it this a attack on the union organisation. The primary motive for the removal of E.I.S. from the westboune project is to to remove a unionised workfore who's representatives wanted to participate in the safe opperation of the BFK Westbourne Park cross rail project.

Harry Cowap 07812678228 is Unite the Union regional officer
'the saftey rep has done nothing wrong;
the shop steward has done nothing wrong;
the men employed on site were doing a good job;
E.I.S. the company has done nothing wrong'
above are the words of E.I.S. Managing Director Ron Turner managing director 07980745729

Saturday, 15 September 2012

'History Boys' play opens today at Summerseat in Bury

The History Boys (with foul language) by Alan Bennett
IT was a quote from the 'History Boys' that provoked some consternation when uttered at Ashton Library last November, during the commemoration of a blue plaque for James Keogh, the Ashton volunteer in the Spanish Civil War.  The quote 'History is just one fucking thing after another', was enunciated by the Secretary of Tameside Trade Union Council during the ceremony.  Tameside TUC had nominated James Keogh, who killed in action in the Spanish Civil War, for a blue plaque for his foresight and courage in recognising the need to fight fascism and dictatorship.
The History Boys is about an unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university. A maverick English teacher at odds with the young and shrewd supply teacher. A headmaster obsessed with results; a history teacher who thinks he is a fool. Staff-room rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence provoke questions about education and its purpose. Immensely funny as well as provocative.
The History Boys Cast:

Steve Colter

Chris Balmer

Hayley Read

Geoff Sword

Jon Stroud

Ricky Barnes

Jonny Barker

Duane Lomax

Jamie Maloney

Lee Ward

David McFarlane

Dan Mehers

Director Andrea Kinsella
Bookings from 07/09/2011 by contacting the box office on 01706 826760 between 7pm and 8pm Monday to Friday and between 10am and noon on Saturday.

There will be an Extra Performance on Friday, 14/09/2012 at 19.45. Tickets are £6.00. Seats are not bookable for this performance - first come first served!

The Play runs from Saturday 15/09/2012 to Saturday 22/09/2012 (excluding Sunday 16/09/2012) at 19.45.

Friday, 14 September 2012

In Defence of Crap Cooking!

Deep-Fried Mars Bars North of the Border

FOOD is seen as a trivial concern except as a fuel to keep your belly full by many in England.  A year or two ago, after Chris Draper wrote 'Six O' the Best Northern Tea Time Treats' in Northern Voices No.11, Derek Pattison said that there was too much on food in that publication.  Another of our writers, Les May, dismissed our coverage of food as being boring, saying that Chis Draper's concern that Eccles Cakes are no longer baked in Eccles in Salford as being of little importance:  'We're not like the French', he declared, 'we don't need food to have geographical protected status'.

And yet, we have the French Revolution to thank for the development of the restaurant trade.  This was an unintended consequence, but it was only when the chefs to the aristocracy became unemployed after the French Revolution that they set about opening restaurants. 

It can't be trivial either that on Radio 4 only today some environmentalists are calling for a ban on fishing in some European fishing areas for the next nine years.  That would almost certainly put up the price of fish in the shops at a time when on health grounds people are being urged to eat more fish.  It would certainly upset the Spaniards wherein the quality of fried fish is sought in every tapas bar, and where they are prepared to pay more than most of us for the pleasure of eating fish.

Last Saturday's Financial Times had a leader that began:  'Food is no joke in most of Europe... France and Switzerland once spent years fighting to claim special status from Brussels for their respective Gruyere cheeses.  (The french have holes, the Swiss do not.)'  But beyond our North of England border at the Carron Fish Bar of Stonehaven, in the north-east of Scotland, was last week told by Mars PLC that it was not authorised to use the trade-marked chocolate bar's name to finest and fry its speciality the 'deep-fried Mars Bar'.  Mars PLC had been alerted to the chippy's intention, according to the Financial Times'to apply to Brussels to request protected food status for the confectionery that first emerged from its deep-fryers in 1995'

The Financial Times leader writer declares:  'It is as clear as the batter on the hot and squidgy caramel treat whether the owners ever intended to apply for the same standing as Asiago cheese, champagne or Cornish pasties... Despite the creative initiative, the Mars bar is not Scottish and does not need protection from foreign bootleggers.'   The F.T. writer also reminds us that the Scottish diet is perhaps the unhealthiest in Britain, and that the country has some of the highest rates of heart disease and cancer.  It is hard to find good restaurants north of the border as well, I had my worst meal last year in the Scottish borders.  Yet, a bad diet is probably better than no diet at all, and one is bound to ask where does all the Aberdeen Angus beef and all the Scottish salmon go?  Does it all go down South?___________________________________________________
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows: Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to ‘NORTHERN VOICES’ at c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tel.: 0161 793 5122. Email:

Jack Straw says: 'Police acted with impunity!'

YESTERDAY, Jack Straw, a former Labour Home Secretary, said that a 'culture of impunity' among the Yorkshire police was created under the Thatcher government and that this led to the Hillsborough cover-up.  This followed the revelations in an independent report on Wednesday that accused the South Yorkshire Police of deflecting blame for the disaster from themselves onto innocent fans.  Mr. Straw said that the then Conservative government was complicit because they needed the 'partisan' support from the police to defeat the miners at that time.

Jack Straw told BBC Radio Four's Today program yesterday:  'The Thatcher government, because they needed the police to be a partisan force, particularly for the miner's strike and other industrial troubles, created a culture of impunity in the police service.'  He continued:  'They really were immune from outside influences and they thought they could rule the roost and that is what we absolutely saw in south Yorkshire.'

This is a brave statement by Jack Straw MP for Blackburn, because as everyone ought to know that the British police have extensive records and data, and tend to be a bit vindictive in dealing with their political critics and that they have long memories.  Consequently most politicians tend to handle them with kid gloves, because many politicians have skeletons in their cupboards and don't want some disgruntled copper whistleblowing on them to the media.  Perhaps for this reason David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in making his apology to the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster this week, was careful  to add to his critical statement on this report the well-warn cliche that 'the police have a difficult job to do'.

Conservative politicians such as David Mellor and Lord Tebbit disputed these claims by the former Labour Home Secretary.  Perhaps they have more to hide than Jack Straw?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

'Bandits of Andalucia'

The article below entitled 'Bandits  of Andalucia' was of especial interest and it raised some very important issues and concerns and gave much food for thought.    Freedom of speech ought to be a given within the libertarian movement and should be safeguarded at all times.

Rochdale Artist praises 'Northern Voices'

In the 70s, Kershaw's work was dotted all around Lancashire mill towns – there was the 'inside-out house' in his home town of Rochdale, which Hodkinson remembers very clearly.  'It just seemed normal to me.  When you're a kid, you don't deconstruct these things.  But when you're older, you realise it wasn't normal at all.'

THIS morning, just before Radio Four broadcast his program on what they called the 'Godfather of Guerrilla Artists', Walter Kershaw thanked Northern Voices for renewing his subscription to what he described as 'an excellent magazine'.  Shortly after this John Walker, the former editor of RAP (The Rochdale Alternative Paper) now living in London, e-mailed us to say: 
'Good programme on Walter on Radio 4 this a.m., 11.30.  Very evocative of Rochdale in 70's, but not totally nostalgic!!  Catch it on the I-player, if you can.  Trust all is well'  - John.
When Northern Voices spoke to 71-year-old Walter he was excited and anticipating the program.  His mother came from down South, but his Dad came from Blackburn and was a cotton operative.  He took the interviewer Mark Hodkinson into his spare bedroom and showed him his sculpture of 'Women's Liberation Front', and said:  'I'm not anti-social - it's just I haven't time to be social'.  Another commentator said Walter 'would talk some girl into taking her clothes off' so he could paint her in the nude and one woman said:  'Walter has spent too much time with women, he had no brother and was partly brought up with elderly aunts'
This, if true, is rather similar to George Orwell who was brought up mostly by his mother and other female relatives, while his father was in India.  In fact, I suspect that whatever the feminists say, most lads in the North are brought up listening to their mothers, grandmothers and aunts.  These female relatives,  in my experience, spend a lot of their time running their menfolk down, while we listen-in as young innocent onlookers to men being portrayed as rather disreputable specimen's of the human race.  This may be why men, when they grow up are like they are - the products of women who spend their days in this way.

A speaker, comparing Walter to Banksy, said that in a way Walter's work painting the gable-ends of terraced houses though not overtly political in a crude sense, were none-the-less, at the time, political gestures against the civil servants and the bureaucratic system.
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows: Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to ‘NORTHERN VOICES’ at c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122. Email:

Report: Harold Evans' former paper bought by housing trust

Posted by Press Gazette on 10 September 2012 at 07:38:
The Tameside Reporter, the newspaper on which former Times Editor Sir Harold Evans began his career, has been bought by a housing trust, according to reports.

The Northern Voices news blog said the weekly paper, which was launched in 1855, has been bought by the New Charter Housing Trust Ltd.  The paper, owned by Ashton Weekly Newspapers, was reportedly facing closure and had been looking for a buyer since July.
Northern Voices said:
For some years now, New Charter have been diversifying into other areas unrelated to housing provision. In March 2000, Tameside Council transferred all its remaining council housing to New Charter who purchased the homes after a previous transfer, of housing stock, to Ashton Pioneer Homes. The housing company have ambitions ‘to own and manage 30,000 homes by 2020.’
Since acquiring housing stock in Tameside, the company have rapidly expanded its interests beyond the boundary of Tameside by acquiring ‘aksa’ homes (Oldham), ‘Gedling Homes’ (Nottinghamshire) and ‘Threshold’ a charitable organisation that helps the homeless with ‘pathways to independence’. The company also have an interest in ‘New Charter Academy’, a school/sports college, and recently acquired ownership of Tameside Radio.
It added: 'Because of its corporate influence and close links with council, one might also question whether New Charter, is an appropriate and suitable organisation, to run a local newspaper.'

This Month's Northern Voices' Top 5 pageviews:

158 pageviews:  New Charter takes over Tameside Reporter. Is this ...

3 Sep 2012

112 pageviews:  Bolton Council say 'Bye-Bye' to Gary Neville's Tel...

25 Jun 2010

6 Nov 2010, 1 comment

51 pageviews:  BLACK ROSES: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster

16 Aug 2012
48 pageviews:  Blacklisted worker Colin Trousdale calls on Unite ...

31 Jan 2011
Edirorial comment:  It's not surprising that the 'New Charter' takeover of the Tameside Reporter is the top performer in the last month on the Northern Voices Blog.  The Garry Neville story has been the best all time performer and one Sophie Lancaster posting, last April, has had 453 pageviews in all.  More curious in the last month, are the 56 pageviews for the 6th, November 2010 posting on the suspension of Phil Woolas from the Labour Party and the 48 pageviews for the 31st, January posting on the blacklisted electrician Colin Trousdale.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Hillsborough: 'The Truth Is Great!'

WHEN the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 Jim Pinkerton declared:  'The Truth is Great!'.  Jim, then a copy taker on the Sunday People in Manchester and a supporter of Manchester United and Ashton United, made this declaration in classical Latin.  The Hillsborough disaster in South Yorkshire also occurred in 1989, and the relatives of the victims of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster, must be feeling the same way now the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel has been released today by the Right Reverend James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool. 

This afternoon, the Prime Minister David Cameron gave a statement to Parliament following the release of previously unseen documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster.  Admitting that the new report's findings are 'deeply distressing' Mr. Cameron pointed to three areas of concern:
i)  The failure of the authorities to help protect people.
ii)  The attempt to blame the fans.
iii)  The doubt cast on the original coroner's inquest.

Most importantly, David Cameron said:  'The families have long believed that some of the authorities attempted to create a completely unjust account of events that sought to blame the fans for what happened.'  He continued:  'Mr Speaker, the families were right.  The evidence in today's report includes briefings to the media and attempts by police to change the record of events.'   Media reports at the time were fed with false allegations about the Liverpool fans:  'Several newspapers reported false allegations that fans were drunk and violent and stole from the dead.'  In particular, Mr. Cameron singled out The Sun and News International for special comment:  'The Sun's report sensationalised these allegations under the banner headline "THE TRUTH".'  'This', said Mr. Cameron, 'was clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt.'  It was found that it was part of the efforts of the Yorkshire police to 'develop and publicise a version of events that focused on allegations of drunkenness, ticketlessness and violence.' 

Also the report found that police reports were significantly altered in 164 cases and according to David Cameron: '[in] 116 (there were attempts to) explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation- including lack of leadership.'

Expect more on this matter.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Notes from a 'Week of the Rank & File':

Stewart Hume has been reinstated.  A great victory and a massive well done to all our Scottish brothers!  There is power in the Union. We know it and so do the employers.   We have just had a great week for the ‘Rank and File’.

1] The threat of walkouts at Grangemouth and protests on all Balfour Beatty Engineering Services [BBES] sites was just too much for the blacklisting wretches! BBES were forced to reinstate the ‘sacked’ Rank and Filer, Stewart Hume. There is power in the union & the ‘Rank and File’ and when we are on the march are unstoppable. Put that in your pipe[work] and smoke it Mr Harvey.

2] Last week the National ‘Rank and File’ committee met with Unite's Assistant General Secretary, Gail Cartmail, and National officer Bernard [moving forward] Macauly. It was a good meeting, though there were no massive gains, but we weren’t expecting any really Unite like to tread carefully 'musn’t break then anti Trade Union laws now must we'!

A] Crown house was discussed, with still no sign of the ‘sign or be sacked’ letter. We have got them [CH] on the run so let’s keep at the b******s!.

B] Blacklisting was discussed, and our demands to get our blacklisted brothers in work. Unite seem to be warming to the idea so watch this space.
The Scottish Select Committee met last Tuesday and we hear that Gail Cartmail gave 'em what for thanks for that better late than never.

C] The ‘crap’ pay deal was mentioned..........It’s a joke/piss take.......... No pay increase until June 2013 a 1.5% increase in first year, well below inflation. Unite are sending out letters with the full details and strongly recommending that their members DO NOT accept the offer. This is a consultative ballot for possible industrial action up to and including STRIKE ACTION.

Unite ‘Rank and File’ construction workers say NO!... NO!!!..... NO!!!!!!

Make sure you put your cross in the right box REJECT THE OFFER and get ready for strike action. A resounding rejection is essential.

We should also be receiving paperwork on ‘Blacklisting’, please fill that in too.

D] Play by the rules was also on the meeting agenda, we know that the employers are breaking the rules all day every day. Please contact your local office, Unite say they will follow up any complaints, so keep the info coming in.

Finally, a new copy of ‘Siteworker' is done, anyone needing copies please let us know by emailing and we will post them out to you. For more info please visit..... Electricians Against The World

http ://
Keep in touch with us by Email

Just another week in the life of the rank and File eh! Solidarity forever.

Robin Hood: Bandits in Andalucia

WHEN reading The Guardian story below on the anarchist trade union militant Juan Gordillo, English readers ought to be aware of something of the history and tradition of this kind of thing in southern Spain.  Every time I go to Ronda in the province of Malaga, I visit a bar in the old part of town near the Roman Bridge and gaze at the black and white photos of around the room in which alongside local shots of  Francesco Rosi's 1984 film version of the Carmen opera with the tenor, Plácido Domingo, and Julia Migenes, are photos of a genuine bandit being arrested by the Guardia Civil in the local sierra. 
This bandit tradition continued in this part of Spain until at least 1951.  Julian A.Pitt-Rivers in his book 'The People of the Sierra' (1954) explains:  'Ronda is like a provincial capital to the pueblos of the sierra.  Like Jerez, it possesses a resident aristocracy.  The pueblos to the south, in the valley of the Rio Genal, are small, less than one thousand inhabitants in number, and situated in wild country.  The agricultural land of these pueblos and much of the low-lying forest is divided into small properties.  Large pastoral properties are owned by the state and by the aristocracy of Ronda who also own much of the better land round Ronda itself.'  Mr Pitt-Rivers then quotes from an article in Estampa, published in 1934, commenting on banditry in this region:  '(A Civil Guard speaking to the journalist says -)  "Just as in some regions there are pueblos which strive to produce the most and best bullfighters, so here they want to have bandits [and] all the folk of the sierra protect Flores (a bandit).  In Igualeja the pueblo is on Flores' side.  They are all spies who watch our every act.  Only by betrayal could we come to grips with him, and no one dares betray him for he would soon be avenged".'    

Pitt-Rivers describes the sociology of the bandit and his relationship with the pueblo thus:  '(A bandit must retain his confidential contact with the pueblo and in doing so) His opposition to the Civil Guard assures him the sympathy of a large part of the pueblo.  Theoretically, at any rate, a romantic and honourable figure, he is outside the law but he is not immoral.'  It is this ability of the Andalucian bandit to remain a member of the moral community, at least in relation to certain sections of it, that allows him to exist outside the law.  The danger is that when the shepherds and goat-herder's start to inform of him to the Guardia Civil and his friends in the pueblo fail him, then according to Mr. Pitt-Rivers, 'he has reached the end of his tether'

In the early 1950s, this is what led to the successful suspression of banditry in the sierra de Ronda.  Julian Pitt-Rivers writes: 
'The Civil Guard, unable to trap the elusive and well-armed "Reds", concentrated their efforts against their contacts in the pueblos.  Finding their supplies endangered, the bandits took to plundering the shepherds and the latter reacted by betraying them to their pursuers.' 

Recent local events have given this story is interesting and ironic topical twist, because at present the printed version of Northern Voices is under a similar heavy attack from two sides:  from the establishment organisation Link4Life that is an arms-length body led by gaffers that runs museums, art galleries and sports outfits, and from what, using George Orwell's terminology, may be described as a smelly little orthodoxy on the ultra-left of the political spectrum.  The Link4Life bosses withdrew one of our sales outlets because of an article in Northern Voices No.13 by Debbie Firth, a Touchstones Challenge campaigner in Rochdale defending the arts and heritage of the borough; at the same time a shadowy group on the wilder fringes of the of the crackpot left have been busy touring some of our outlets trying to discourage them from distributing Northern Voices.  All of this is interesting and deserves deeper research as an anthropological strange development both at a local level inside the relationship of Link4Life to the Rochdale Council, and inside the small-group dynamics of the more foolish factions of politics on the left in England.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Another Spanish Robin Hood: Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo

LAST month, and not for the first time, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo found himself in the Spanish headlines. Dubbed 'Robin Hood' by El Pais, Sánchez Gordillo, the mayor of a small town in rural Andalusia, led farm labourers into supermarkets to expropriate basic living supplies: they filled trolleys with pasta, sugar, chickpeas and milk, left without paying, and distributed the loot to local food banks. His reasoning was blunt: 'The crisis has a face and a name. There are many families who can't afford to eat.'

It's hard to overstate how close to the brink Spain is at the moment. Unemployment is at 25% nationally (higher than Greece), 34% in Andalusia and 53% for 16-to-24-year-olds; miners in Asturias are firing homemade rocket launchers at riot police; repossessions and the collapse of the construction industry have left 800,000 empty homes, and, last May, the 8 million-strong indignados protest movement, a forerunner of Occupy, announced its total lack of faith in parliamentary democracy to solve any of these problems. And this is just the phoney war: last month, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced spending cuts of ¤65bn (£51bn) over the next two years.

In the heart of it all, like Asterix's village in Gaul implausibly holding out against the Romans, is Sánchez Gordillo's town, the self-described communist utopia of Marinaleda.  With a population of 2,600, the town has virtually full employment, communally owned land and wage equality.  Over the past three decades, the townspeople have built 350 family homes with their own hands. Residents pay a 'mortgage' of just ¤15 a month towards their homes, but have no opportunity to profit from selling them on.

When you first arrive, Marinaleda looks the same as any small town in rural Andalusia, with olive groves stretching towards a dusty horizon, children kicking footballs against worn stone walls and parasols fluttering gently outside tapas bars. Soon, you begin to notice the little differences: the lack of advertising or brand names, the streets named for Fermín Salvochea, the 19th-century anarchist mayor of Cadiz, and for Salvador Allende, Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda.

In the mayor's office hangs a framed portrait of Che Guevara, along with three flags: one for Andalusia, one for the Spanish Second Republic (the elected government displaced by Franco's military coup), and one sporting the red, white and green of Marinaleda itself; it's very clean, and endearingly untidy. In one corner is a flip-chart covered with semi-legible marker pen scribbles, bullet points and wonky arrows; this, it transpires, is the town's budget.

Sánchez Gordillo was born in Marinaleda in 1949; back then, he explains, it was a town of migrant workers. 'They would go to Germany, or France; or for two months a year, to the wheat fields to the north, to look for work. Otherwise, they were unemployed. It was misery. The surroundings were all huge expanses of private land. Andalusia is like Latin America: 2% of property owners own 50% of the land.'

After Franco's death in 1975, Marinaleda began struggling towards its own definition of freedom. Organising around a new trade union, a new workers' party, and with weekly mass meetings, the townspeople began occupying some of the land around the village, owned – and unused – by the Duke of Infantil. The police would arrest or evict them, and they'd start all over again. They blocked roads, broke into and shut down Malaga and Seville airports, marched on Madrid, and went on mass hunger strike. Sánchez Gordillo has been to jail seven times, and survived two assassination attempts by rightwing extremists.

After 12 years of persistent struggle, with 1992's Seville World Expo just round the corner and the regional authorities' resolve finally weakening, incredibly, they won, securing 1,200 hectares of the duke's land for their farming cooperative.

'Our union gathers people of many political stripes,' Sánchez Gordillo explains, 'but we carry the torch of anarchism's direct action.'  He cites 5,000 years of Andalusian struggle for land, and thinks for a moment.  'Even the weekly assembly is direct action.'

The town's relationship with the state is complicated. They are still subject to Spanish electoral law (Sánchez Gordillo is re-elected with a huge majority each time), but have abolished their police force.  'By law, due to the number of inhabitants we have here, we should have around four to seven cops,' he tells me.  'But we don't want police here. Because we have our voluntary work, because we fight together, because we make our lives together, there is a high degree of coexistence. When we plant trees, we do it together too.' Sánchez Gordillo's articulation of what 'community' can mean is striking, when you consider how blithely the word is used by politicians across the west.

'Utopias aren't chimeras, they are the most noble dreams that people have. The dream of equality; the dream that housing should belong to everyone, because you are a person, and not a piece of merchandise to be speculated with; the dream that natural resources – for instance energy – shouldn't be in the service of multinationals, but in the service of the people. All those dreams are the dreams we'd like to turn into realities. First, in the place where we live, with the knowledge that we're surrounded by capitalism everywhere; and later, in Andalusia, and the world.'

Leaving the gleaming white town hall building and departing into the dusk, you find a metal arch spelling out the slogan OTRO MUNDO ES POSIBLE. Another world is possible. In Marinaleda, the words represent not an aspirational mirage, but a statement of fact.

• Adapted from Utopia and the Valley of Tears: A journey through the Spanish crisis, an ebook available from from 20 August. 

Dan Hancox, Wednesday 15 August 2012 19.30 BST

Preserved Lemons & Bury Black Puddings

Short-sighted Boss Neil Long got it wrong at Bury MBC

DOWN South, Bury Market is renown for its Black Puddings.  Less well known are those of its citizens dedicated to oriental cuisine.  Hence, among the good Christian persons of Bury consuming pig's blood sausages there are foreign folk eating kosher food.  With this in mind, two years ago Neil Long, a senior manager at Bury MBC, embarked with his staff on a consultation exercise in Prestwich among the Jews and in those areas of town populated by people from the Indian sub-continent.  Then Mr. Long told us at a mass meeting of refuse operatives at Bradley Fold Waste Depot, near Bury, that he had consulted with these oriental communities to assure them that by introducing a fortnightly cycle of bin collection, rather than a weekly one, there would be no resulting deterioration in the service and no increased risk to health (see 6th, September posting 'Brown Bins & "Bury Belly".').

When I questioned Mr. Long on behalf of my members, as the UNITE Branch Secretary, about the possible risks to public health of the reduced collections he dismissed this arguing that so long as the bin lids were kept tightly shut there was no health risk.  On that occasion, as I recall, Jason McKenna, the Safety Representative at Bradley Fold, pounced upon this need for securely shut bin lids.  More recently this issue of closed bin lids has become an ongoing problem as to whether open lids present a physical risk to operatives;  it has been rumoured that it may have even been an underlying factor leading to the suspension of Jason McKenna, last November.  This issue is now closed and Jason has been reinstated at Bradley Fold but is still off work owing to the stress caused by the investigation.

And yet, the assumption that closed bid lids prevent maggot infestation, as Neil Long appeared to imply, is surely wrong.  I know this to be the case because this August just gone, while the Bury binmen were going down with 'Bury Belly' (see in the humid weather conditions while emptying oriental waste, I was busy marinating a couple of pounds of cubed lamb in my fridge with onions, garlic, parsley, coriander, spices and salt.  This marination had to continue for very nearly a week, because my branch of Tescos was all out of the vital ingredient of a jar of preserved lemons and I had to go all the way to Harvey Nichols in Leeds to get one.  These preserved lemons cost me all of £6.50, but when next day I came to insert them in the lamb marinade the maggot infestation in the tagine had reached such horrific proportions that even I with my frugal Jewish habits of avoiding waste at all costs I was forced to give it up as a bad job.  Now if this kind of thing can happen in a tagine sealed with a lid on in less than a week in a fridge, what would we expect to happen in a wheelie-bin outside in a fortnight?

The morale of this tale must be that Neil Long doesn't do the cooking otherwise he would have hesitated before proposing fortnightly collections for the brown bins, especially during the Summer months.  There are clearly health risks in cutting back on bin collections.