Saturday, 31 May 2014

Holker Hall Garden Festival

THE Holker Hall Garden Festival in Calk-in-Cartmel near Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria, began yesterday.  The Holker Festival is much more relaxed than Chelsea, Hampton Court or even the show at Tatton in Cheshire. 

Brighter Blooms from Preston in Lancashire, which featured at Chelsea, had a stall in the big Floral Marque that took a 'large gold' for its display of Zantedeschias.   Sales of this plant which is a coloured version of the more frigid and hardy white-flowered arum lillie, went well on the first day of the show which continues until Sunday.  We were tempted to buy two tubs of the waxy petalled plants for £15.

There was no sign of the big companies of rose growers like David Austin Roses that won its 18th Chelsea Gold Medal or Peter Beales Roses Ltd, but Holker has more of a village feel to it that is really quite intimate.  Growers and nurserymen from as far afield as Cambridge came up north to sell at this show, including Hillview Hardy Plants from near Bridgnorth in Shropshire.  Yet, there was even a stall from the nearby small Cartmel racecourse offering a racing schedule for 2014, and The Beach Hut Gallery Artists' Co-operative near Kents Bank Station had a stall.

Anyone interested visiting the show could chance a visit to Holker Hall itself for an extra £3.50 which is definitely worth a visit, and the Italian style gardens there are superb. 

Yesterday was quiet but with the sun out today but today and tomorrow may be more hectic.

Blacklist & the party manifestos

EVERY political party is now going through the process of drawing up their manifesto for the 2015 General Election. John Cruddas MP for Dagenham is in charge of the Labour manifesto process.
Blacklisting has been debated in the UK, Scottish & EU parliament, the Welsh assembly, in council chambers across the UK. A Select Committee investigation has called for action that has been ignored by the present government. There is irrefutable documentary evidence of a major human rights conspiracy involving multinational companies and the police. Lots of politicians have offered us sympathy - we are drowning in sympathy - now is the time for action. 
Everyone can help the blacklisting campaign by raising the issue of blacklisting with your MP, prospective candidate, your union branch or local political party.
Whichever political party you support or have influence with - now is the time to contact them, before the conference season and before the election manifesto is finalised. 
Blacklist Support Group want to see the following demands appear in election manifestos:
  • Public enquiry into the Consulting Association blacklist scandal to expose the full conspiracy
  • Make blacklisting a criminal offence with prison sentences for the guilty parties
  • No public contracts for any firms previously involved in blacklisting unless they apologise and pay compensation (as called for by Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation)
  • Retrospective statutory compensation scheme forced on the blacklisting firms, with compensation set at a punitive level to fully reflect the human rights violations
  • Direct employment & anti-blacklisting procedures written into all public contracts to ensure blacklisted workers are able to get jobs.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Labour Start Appeal

A woman union leader from Thailand faces the threat of legal action by the owners of fast food chains KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
Her crime? She attended the first international fast food workers' meeting recently held by the International Union of Food workers (IUF) in New York.

The threat of legal action is not the first time time union members have had problems with this company.

According to the IUF, "In 2011, three workers were terminated after they established a union and sought to bargain a collective agreement with KFC. The three workers were only reinstated by court order months later."

It will take you less than a minute to support the campaign -- please click here to send your message:

And then please spread the word about this important campaign to your friends, family and fellow union members.

Thank you!

Eric Lee

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Reply to Bohdan Ratycz on Ukraine vote

E-mail from Trevor Hoyle

YOUR Ukraine correspondent makes some bizarre statements.  He says Putin wanted to 'disrupt'  the voting.  Putin said publicly he would accept the result of the vote.  Where is your correspondent's evidence that Putin wasn't happy with the result?   He claims Russian forces stirred up trouble in eastern Ukraine. Ask him to provide evidence that this actually happened.  True, there are a lot of pro-Russian, Russian-speaking sympathisers in eastern Ukraine -- but they are Ukrainians, not Russians.
As I said before when we discussed this, Putin has shown remarkable restraint in the face of Nato and the EU steadily encroaching into former Soviet Union territory. Imagine for a moment how the US would react if they were being surrounded from Canada, from Mexico, from central America by forces friendly to Russia -- we all know the answer. They would go ape-shit. But Russia is supposed to just sit there and accept an encircling by hostile forces on all its borders. 
I think your correspondent should look at all the facts fairly and impartially. His is a biased and one-sided viewpoint.
ps -- the photo below actually tells the truth of this situation. Can you publish it on your blog?

John Gummer's daughter & Danczuk's wife!

'Our Daily Bread!' at Simon Danczuk's Deli 

Simon says:  'Bite on this bacon butty darling, and help my career!'
Careerism from 1990 to 2014

The significance of these two attention grabbing cases is that while John Gummer's 4-year-old daughter, Cordelia, below had the sense not to eat the burger on offer from her father in 1990; Karon Danczuk the wife of Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk in last Sunday's Mail on Sunday, had no hesitation in posing for the camera while stuffing a bacon butty into her gob in a way that the former MP for Rochdale, Cyril Smith, might well have admired.

1990: Gummer enlists daughter in BSE fight:

The government has again attempted to reassure the public that British beef is safe, despite growing fears over the cattle disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

The Minister of Agriculture, John Gummer, below even invited newspapers and camera crews to photograph him trying to feed a beefburger to his four-year-old daughter, Cordelia, at an event in his Suffolk constituency. Although his daughter refused the burger, he took a large bite himself, saying it was 'absolutely delicious'.

The number of cases of BSE in cattle has shot up since the first case in 1986, and now stands at about 14,000, despite a government policy to slaughter all infected animals and prevent them getting into the food chain.

Fears have been mounting that the disease can jump species to cause the fatal human brain condition, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). The rising concern has led to 20 education authorities taking the decision to boycott beef products, taking beef off the menu in hundreds of schools across the country.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Ukip & the popular vote

THE rise of the popular right in the local elections in the UK with Nigel Farage's UK independence party (Ukip) scoring against all the main parties is an interesting event.   It suggests greater political volatility in the run up to next year's General Election. 

The Ukip party made significant gains in Essex, where it gained 11 seats in Basildon to ensure it went from Tory to no overall control.   In the north it made inroads into the Labour vote which may make next year's general election difficult to predict.  Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats lost seats across the country, and this led to calls for Nick Clegg to step down; while the Labour leader Ed. Miliband is also being criticised for being out of touch with the British public.  Labour made some gains, around 300 seats countrywide, but not enough to give confidence of a Labour victory next year.

The Financial Times reported last Saturday: 
'In the north of England, Ukip showed it could pose a threat in the traditional strongholds of Ed Miliband's party, taking 10 of the 21 council seats up for election in Rotherham. Despite big gains, Labour’s performance was described as “not good enough” by Shadow Chancellor Ed balls.'

In the European  elections Ukip got 28% of the vote in Britain, well in front of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.  This made it the first outsider party in modern British history to come out on top at a national election, and some papers were likening this to the rise of the Labour Party after 1910:  'The victory of the Euroskeptic party was the first time in 100 years that both the governing Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party failed to win an election' (FT).

It should be remembered though, that Ukip got less than a third of the vote in an election in which only about a third of the electorate turned out to vote.   And yet, some people like to embrace simply solutions such as those offered by Ukip, and it will still have consequences for main stream politics in the UK. 

Letter on the elections in Ukraine

Hi Brian (Northern Voices),
Sorry I missed your call earlier.
But we have had the result of the Presidential Elections in Ukraine with a clear winner, Mr Poroshenko.
I am pleased for a number of reasons about the result and that it happened despite the best efforts of Putin to disrupt them. The fact the elections went ahead shows the determination of the temporary Government to be democratic and adhere to the will of the people. Unfortunately because of a very aggressive group in some cities in Eastern Ukraine it was deemed too dangerous for people to vote in these cities.
As the margin of victory of Poroshenko was so high the votes in the non election cities would not have changed the end result. But leading up to the Elections there has been extensive violent disruptions by the Russian Special Forces. They have been aided by a some criminals, Russians brought in after the Second World War, opportunists who were paid and small number pro Russian population. They have been extremely aggressive and violent with Western correspondents calling it Chicago in the 1920's . Unfortunately the Government armed forces and police have not been strong enough to contain and arrest the Russian infiltrators but seem to have stopped the problems spreading.
Poroshenko is a good man and oligarch who made his money legally and is not tainted by corruption. He comes across as a very level headed man, supporter of democracy and has support from a wide political base. The unification of political forces is terribly important in Ukraine at the moment especially when faced with such harsh pressures from Moscow. As an industrialist he may be able to mend the economy which will help ease tension.
Secondly I am pleased about the elections as Putin can stop saying that the Government in Kyiv is unelected and illegal as the nation has spoken loud and clear. Ukrainians from Crimea came specially to Kyiv to vote in the elections. But Putin will still use the crude argument that in Kyiv there are fascists, anti Semitic, run by the CIA and want to harm the ethnic Russians. This gives him the pretext to invade Eastern Ukraine and destabilise the new Government. One thing for sure he can not be trusted or believed anymore.
Also I wonder what the local Russians thought when they watched the Eurovision Song Contest and heard the country be booed every time they got some votes. The state run propaganda machine must have been working overtime to explain that one.
Bohdan Ratycz

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Danish Employment Agency Occupied!

POLICE were called to the UK head office of the Danish owned employment agency Atlanco Rimec today (Friday 23rd may 2014) when it was occupied by campaigners from the Blacklist Support Group and members of the UCATT and UNITE trade unions. The employment agency that operates in the UK and Ireland construction industry is centre of a storm after it was exposed on Danish TV that it kept a secret blacklist of workers who joined a union and denied them work. The revelations were made by an ex-manager of the firm in a documentary broadcast on the DR1 TV channel last week.  

The Labour MP Ian Davidson, who chaired the parliamentary Select Committee investigation into blacklisting issued a statement saying:

'What we have seen shows clearly that the use of agency workers is a weak spot in eradicating blacklisting and we therefore recommended that direct employment and transparent recruitment practices should be standard for all public-sector contracts in the construction industry,'

Among the blacklist protesters was Northampton grandfather and blacklisted bricklayer Brian Higgins who has suffered decades of unemployment after his name appeared on the illegal Consulting Association blacklist. Higgins 49 page blacklist file is the largest file kept on the covert database and records when he stood up for his fellow workers as a UCATT shop steward and elected convener on building sites in London area during the 1980 and 90s.
Higgins, branch secretary of Northampton UCATT and told the occupation:

'Blacklisting of workers for demanding basic human rights such as safe working conditions or unpaid wages is a national disgrace. For decades my family has suffered because of this evil conspiracy and for decades the major construction companies lied about the existence of a blacklist. For from being a thing of the past, we now have evidence from Danish TV that the practice is still going strong among employment agencies. If the government wont do anything to stamp out this disease, then rank and file workers themselves will take direct action to stop it reoccurring.'

The Northampton blacklist protest was part of a national day of action against the umbrella company tax scams and abuses by employment agencies in the building industry which saw building sites occupied and blockaded in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff hitting projects such as Crossrail and Manchester City training ground.
Reel News video of the Whitechapel protest: Umbrella Scam: Sparks lead the fightback 

North West TUC News:

News from the NWTUC 

22nd May 2014 
To hear more about the TUC in the North West you can:

Visit –

Follow us on Twitter - @NWTUC
If you would like anything included in future editions of News from the NWTUC, 

Please email Kara Stevens on

To view the TUC Campaign Plan, visit

SAVE THE DATE – Anti Austerity Demonstration, 6th, September:
Following their emergency motion to this year’s North West TUC Annual Conference, Unison are in the early stages of planning for a March and Rally to take place in Manchester City Centre on Saturday 6th, September 2014. 
 The march is expected to pass through Manchester City Centre and culminate with a rally in Castlefield Basin. Unison will be updating the Regional Executive of progress at the next meeting and details will be circulated in due course. In the meantime, save the date in your diaries!

Merseyside CSC Public Meeting on the Miami Five – 28th May

The Merseyside group of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign is holding its next meeting on Wednesday 28
th May, to discuss the case of the Miami Five. Tony Woodley, ex-general secretary of Unite, will be speaking having recently visited Ramón Labañino, one of the Five, in prison and met a number of the wives of the five.

Anyone with an interest is invited to attend. The meeting is being held at Jack Jones House, 2 Churchill Way, Liverpool, L3 8EF and commences at 7:30pm. If you require any more information about the meeting please contact Penny Anderson on 0151 334 9470 or on

The George Garrett Archive Project:

George Garrett, Merchant Seaman, writer, playwright and founder member of Liverpool’s Unity Theatre, was a radical activist who travelled the world and wrote a series of short stories, stage plays and documentary reports about poverty and struggle in the 1920’s and 30’s.

The Writing on the Wall festival (WOW) have an exhibition of his work on display in Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street. There are two upcoming events to attend:

George Garrett – A stoker with a punch: A talk about the life and work of George Garrett:
Saturday 24th, May 2014, starting at 1pm. Liverpool Central Library.  Free Entry. 
This features a talk and a tour of the archive.

Two Tides by George Garrett: 
Wednesday 28th, May 2014, starting at 8pm. The Unity Theatre, 1 Hope Place, L1 9BG. Tickets £6/£4 concessions, call 0151 709 4988 or visit
A rehearsed reading of Garrett’s first play, influenced by his hero, Eugene O’Neill.  
TUC Young Trade Union Leaders Weekend:
As part of the November 2014 TUC Young Workers Month, the TUC will be running its first ever Young Trade Union Leaders Weekend at Ruskin College, Oxford from

November 28th to 30th 2014.

The programme is aimed at young activists already in leadership positions at branch, sector, regional or national level within their unions.
The aim of the programme is to develop awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by the trade union movement and the skills required to build strong and effective unions

The programme will cover the following key areas;

The key challenges faced by unions

Strategies and skills for union revitalisation

Effective campaigning

The programme will be run by senior TUC staff and will include contributions from senior officers from unions, partner organisations and academics.

The cost of the programme is £180 per person which covers two nights’ accommodation and meals at Ruskin College. All materials etc. are provided free of charge. This does not include the cost of travel to and from Ruskin College.

Participants will be expected to arrive at Ruskin College in time for the formal opening of the programme at 6.30pn on Friday November 28

th and stay until the close of the programme at approximately 3.00pm on Sunday November 30th, 2014.

Nomination for the programme are sought either directly from unions or individuals who meet the criteria above and are able to demonstrate that they have the support of their union at either a national or regional level.
Nominees/applicants must qualify as young members under the rules of their union. In cases where the nominees/applicants union does not have a rule defining a young member, then they should be aged 27 and under on November 28th, 2014.
To register or find out more, visit

Book Launch: 'Futures' by John Barker

Date: Wednesday 4th June, 2014
Time: 7:30 pm
Venue: The Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market St, Bristol BS2 0EZ
John Barker
Price: Donation
John Barker discusses his upcoming release 'Futures', a novel set in 1987 London. Barker will be reading from the text and discussing the finance industry, Thatchers' Britain, the world of drugs and organised crime and the various links to the City of London. More details at:
John Barker was born in London in 1948. In 1972 he was convicted of conspiring to cause explosions in what was called the Angry Brigade trial. He served a ten-year prison sentence and is the author of Bending the Bars, a memoir of his prison time. He worked as a dustman and welder before being implicated in a conspiracy to import cannabis in 1986. In 1990 he was finally arrested and served a five-year sentence. Since then he has worked as writer and book indexer. 
 Brhmob mailing list

Ukrainian Nationalism - a historical perspective

Ukrainian Nationalism – a historical perspective

Date: Thursday 29th May, 2014
Time: 7:30 pm
Venue: The Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market St, Bristol BS2 0EZ
Colin Thomas, Mike Levine, Mark Batterham
Price: Donation
Donetsk - Splintering City:  Founded by the Welsh capitalist John Hughes, the city's frequent changes of name - Hughesovka, Trotskya, Stalino, Donetsk - give some indication of its troubled history. Colin Thomas filmed there when it was still part of the Soviet Union, again when it became part of Ukraine and he returned once more in 2008 when its unease with Ukrainian nationalism was beginning to emerge. His book/DVD on the subject -"Dreaming a City" - is published by Y Lolfa. To include extracts from documentaries he shot in the city.

Mike Levine will talk on the history of Ukraine, the peasants, and the civil war (1917-1921)
Mark Batterham will be relaying personal accounts and analyses from Moldovan migrants living and working in the Odessa region where over 50 residents were burnt to death in a trade union centre by Ukrainian ultra nationalists earlier this month. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Woman in coma told by Atos to find work!

Shiela Holt from Rochdale

The government and the healthcare company Atos (a.k.a. Crapos), have come under fire after it was revealed that they told a critically ill woman from Rochdale, to get a job even though she was in a coma.

Sheila Holt (47), a bi-polar sufferer who last worked 27-years ago, has been in a coma since last December. But Atos, who are contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to assess fitness for work, continued to send Sheila letters forcing her to look for work. Her family say that Sheila went into a coma after suffering a heart attack at Christmas. They claim that she had a breakdown after she was forced to go on a job seeking course by her benefit bosses.

Following a meeting arranged by Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, which was attended by Sheila's father Ken Holt, the minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, apologized to the family and admitted that what had happened to Sheila, had been wrong. He also confirmed that Atos were to be replaced.

In February, Mike Penning, told MPs that Atos's work had caused real concern because too many people were appealing against their decisions. More than 600,000 appeals have been lodged against Atos judgments since the work capability assessments began, costing the taxpayer £60 m  a year. Around 40% of the original decisions are overturned on appeal.

Although Atos have been criticized for finding terminally ill and mentally ill people fit for work, in January, Atos boss, Joe Hemming, told a Commons Committee that the company was proud of its work and added:

"We have a real passion for delivering services to the citizen in a way that continues to satisfy."

Labour MP, Paul Flynn, told the Atos boss that he was suffering from a "reality problem."

The companies that are in the running to take over the contract from Atos, currently worth £115m a year, include G4S, Serco, A4e and the Capita Group. Both Serco and G4S, are currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. Atos and G4S, paid no corporation tax last year despite carrying out £2bn of taxpayer-funded contracts.

Why I won't be voting!

The text of the letter below appeared in yesterday's
Rochdale Observer in response to correspondence
from Mr. Andrew Wastling urging people to vote
because of the sacrifices of the Peterloo Martyrs
in 1819:
Dear Sir,  
Andrew Wastling's letter (Observer May 10) makes the civic case for voting in the forthcoming elections, and by drawing attention to  the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, in which eleven people were killed and hundreds injured, tries to instill guilt in those of us who will be with-holding our vote.  In their book 'The Common People' G.D.H. Cole and Raymond Postgate write about 1819 as 'the year when it was decided to restore the gold standard and thus to make permanent the deflation of the previous period, but also as the year of the Peterloo Massacre and of the Six Acts'.  It was a time, according to Cole and Postgate, of wage reductions and, 'at the height of this movement (of industrial struggle), the first recorded attempt was made to bring all workers together into a “General Union of Trades,” sometimes called by the name of the “Philanthropic Hercules”.'  
The point about the Government imposed 'Six Acts' of 1819, which followed Peterloo, was that it was an attack on freedom of the press, which Cole and Postgate write 'far outdid in severity either Sidmouth's Gagging Acts of 1817 or Pitt's measures of the 1790's.'   Magistrates were given more powers for 'summary conviction of political offenders' and 'penalties against blasphemous and seditious publications were greatly stiffened up; and the entire Radical Press was threatened with suppression by the extension of the heavy tax on newspapers to periodical publications of every sort' this last measure was aimed at Cobbett's cheap Register, Carlile's Republican and Wooler's Black Dwarf, which had previously been outside the scope of the tax.  The 'blasphemous and seditious' ruling was targeting Radical literature generally such as Paine's Rights of Man and Age of Reason
With all this in mind it would seem that Peterloo and its consequences, had as much to do with the free press and the right to assembly as with widening the franchise and delivering the vote to folk:  'From 1819 onwards the “unstamped” Press played an important part in the Radical movement (and) editors, printers and publishers, and hundreds of those who sold it, were sent to prison again and again' (Cole & Postgate).   Even in the 19th Century, the novelist George Elliot in her book 'Felix Holt Radical', was warning us of the  'folly' of 'vain expectations' with regard to anticipating much from the vote.  And, the novelist and social reformer Charles Dickens in 1868, according to his biographer Peter Ackroyd; 'cannot be said to have any great faith or hope in representative government even on the newly reformed model'.   
I firmly believe that the Labour Party as at present constituted has outlived its mission in so far as it ever had one, and my recent contact with a local politician with regard to the public 'outing' of the late Cyril Smith in Rochdale has not inspired in me and others much great hopes for the integrity of modern politics generally.  In the forthcoming elections I am determined that I shall not be casting my vote for anyone.  Mr Wastling writes that 'voting at least gives us a chance to ensure we have a say...' but it also encourages those in power to believe that they have a mandate to act; the less votes they have the less of a mandate they have to justify what they do. 
Yours sincerely, 
Brian Bamford.

Instituto Cevantes: Julian Marso tour

Hi there,
I am writing to you from Instituto Cervantes Manchester, to inform you about a concert that will be held at Instituto Cervantes on the 6th of June at 18.30.
It will be a very interesting oppurtunity to know one of the most interesting proposals of Spanish indie music. I would appreciate it a lot if you could include details about the event on Northern Voices. It would be great.
Please find attached the press release with all the information.
Thanks a lot,
Press Officer - Departamento de Prensa
Instituto Cervantes Manchester - Leeds
326-330 Deansgate
Tel: +44 (0) 161 661 4206

Julián Maeso performs at the Instituto Cervantes in Manchesterfor new album tour.    The former The Sunday Drivers member Julián Maeso presents his second solo album:   One Way Ticket to Saturn

at the Instituto Cervantes on the 6th of June, in a concert organised by the Instituto Cervantes Manchester in collaboration with LIPA (The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts) and AiE en Ruta. Bursting with 70s sounds like rock and funk, Maeso has embarked on a European tour of 14 cities and arrives in the UK in June to perform in Liverpool and Manchester.

Maeso, experienced on stage as a member of bands such as The Blackbirds,
Speaklow, The Sunday Drivers and The Sweet Vandals, and as a musician on tours
with M-Clan and Quique González, is releasing his second solo studio album since the intimate release
Dreams Are Gone, 2012. On this ocassion, he counts on several
Spanish artists’ collaboration such as Ken Stringfellow, The Posies singer and the
bluesman Edu Big Hands, amongst others.
The concert takes place in the Main Hall of the Instituto Cervantes Manchester on
the 6th, of June at 6.30pm. Tickets cost £4 and you can get yours at

Billy Liar at Royal Exchange

By Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall
Directed by Sam Yates
Designed by David Woodhead   
The Royal Exchange Theatre
St Ann’s Square, Manchester
Friday 13 June – Saturday 12 July, 2014
Press Night: Tuesday 17 June at 7.30pm

BILLY LIAR  - a classic tale of northern life in the 1960s - comes to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre  from Friday 13 June to Saturday 12 July.

Adapted for the stage by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall from Waterhouse’s original 1959 novel, the action of the play revolves around Billy Fisher – a 19-year-old nobody.  

Living at home with his parents and grandmother, and working a dead end job in an undertakers, it is only through his fantastic imagination that he can escape the day-to-day drudgery.   

Set over one eventful Saturday, Billy’s lies spark a series of explosive, emotional confrontations. And though the northern lad harbours dreams of running away to London to become a scriptwriter, Billy’s plans are threatened by his family’s expectations, his romantic affairs and his own fears.   

Harry McEntire plays Billy in this new production. His previous Royal Exchange credits include WINTERLONG (also at Soho Theatre) and PUNK ROCK (also at Lyric Hammersmith).  

Other recent theatre work includes BLINK (Soho Theatre/ Traverse Theatre / Bangalore) and TITUS ANDRONICUS, A MAD WORLD MY MASTERS and CANDIDE (RSC). Television work includes MORECAMBE AND WISE, DOCTORS, CLAY PRISONERS WIVES, EPISODES and SOME GIRLS and film credits include JOHN CARTER, UNCONDITIONAL and CHILD.

The cast also includes Aaron Anthony, Emily Barber, Jack Deam, Rebekah Hinds, Katie Moore, Lisa Millett and Sue Wallace.  

The production is directed by guest director, Stockport-born Sam Yates. His other recent credits include CORNELIUS (Brits Off Broadway, New York and Finborough ), MIXED MARRIAGE (Finborough) and POETRY WEEK (Donmar Warehouse). He was named a rising star in The Observer in 2014, and featured in GQ Magazine's "Men Of The Next 25 Years" in theatre in 2013.   

He said: “BILLY LIAR is a sometimes painfully truthful insight into northern family. The unmatchable intimacy of the Royal Exchange makes it the ideal home for this play. I’m thrilled to be working with one of Britain’s most exciting young actors, Harry McEntire, who plays Billy Fisher.”   

Design for the production is by David Woodhead and the creative team is completed by David Plater (lighting), Isobel Waller-Bridge (sound and composer), Sophie Parrott (casting director) and Alexander Summers (assistant director).

PRESS NIGHT for BILLY LIAR is on Tuesday 17 June at 7.30pm. For further information, images, or for interview / press review ticket requests, please contact JOHN GOODFELLOW (Press & Communications Manager) on 0161 615 6783 /   

Link to online information and trailer

BILLY LIAR - Listings Information   

The Royal Exchange Theatre presents


By Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall

Directed by Sam Yates

Designed by David Woodhead

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Friday 13 June – Saturday 12 July 2014

Evening Performance Times:

Monday – Friday, 7.30pm & Saturday, 8pm

Matinee Performance Times:

Wednesdays, 2.30pm & Saturday 3.30pm

Extra matinees:

Tuesday 24 & Thursday 26 June, 2.30pm

Half Price Preview: Friday 13 June

Press Night: Tuesday 17 June, 7.30pm

Ticket Prices: From £10 (Concessions Available)

Audio-described Performance: Saturday 5 July, 3.30pm

BSL Interpreted Performance: Tuesday 8 July, 7.30pm

Captioned Performance: Thursday 3 July, 7.30pm

After-show Discussion Thursday 10 July after 7.30pm performance

Box Office: 0161 833 9833.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Tameside Election 2014. More Labour married couples join the council!

Carl Simmons is one of two ‘independent’ candidates who are standing in the Tameside 2014 local elections.  He is a reforming candidate, who seems to think that local government is badly in need of a shake-up. He wants to see councillors standing for election at the same time and not the current system of a third standing annually.  He also wants to see one councillor per ward and not three as at present. More significantly, he wants to limit the term of office for councillors so there are no jobs for life and wants to stop family members, also being elected to the council.

Anyone, who is familiar with the Shenanigans within Tameside Labour Party, as Simmons undoubtedly is, will be aware of the nepotism and cronyism that is endemic within it. Labour politics, in this part of Greater Manchester, has become so incestuous, that it is now a family affair. There are so many spouse’s and partners and family members on Tameside Council, that its begun to resemble the game show Mr and Misses that was once hosted by that jovial northerner, Derek Batey.

Two of the three Tameside MPs, Jonathan Reynolds and Andrew Gwynne, have wives on the council. Then there are the ‘Chuckle Bothers’, Jim and Philip Fitzpatrick, whose father Joe, was once on the council. Jim’s partner, Jan Jackson, is also a councillor. The leader of the council Kieran Quinn is married to his fellow councillor, Susan Quinn. Barrie and Anne Holland, are also item, and are councillors for Droylsden. Dukinfield councillor, Jacqueline Lane, also sits on the council with her hubby, Dawson Lane. Councillor Denise Ward also sits on the council with her partner David McNally.

Although the Conservatives, who are standing 19 candidates in the elections, have been highly critical of the number of Labour couples on the council, they now seem to be trying to play catch-up with their Labour rivals. In Audenshaw, Colin White is standing for the Conservatives and his wife Carol, is also standing for the Conservatives in Denton North East. A former Labour councillor, Colin White was banned from standing in the local elections by his Labour colleagues following allegations of ‘unauthorised spending’ and poor performance as a councillor. He then defected to the Conservatives.

In Mossley, former Ashton Town Centre Manager, Frank Travis, is seeking election so he can join his wife Lynn on Tameside Council. And over in Dukinfield, Eleanor Ballagher, is seeking election as a Labour candidate. Both her father and mother were also Labour councillors.

Apart from the Labour and Conservatives, the Greens are standing 19 candidates. The BNP are standing 2 candidates. There is a candidate standing for ‘Trade Unionists and Socialists against the Cuts’ and a candidate standing as a ‘Patriotic Socialists’.

Although the majority of people will not be voting in either the local or European elections and would be unable to tell you the name of a candidate, UKIP seem to have caused some anxiety amongst the time-serving Labour elite who make up the one party state of Tameside. We understand from sources that postal votes that are already in, show an upsurge in votes for UKIP in Tameside, and that this is giving some people within the council the jitters. UKIP are standing 11 candidates in the local Tameside elections.

PUFFBALL at Manchester Royal Exchange



A Roundhouse production in partnership with the Royal Exchange Theatre, Contact Theatre (Manchester) and Cast (Doncaster) 

Directed by Mark Storor  

The Royal Exchange Theatre

St Ann’s Square, Manchester

Sunday 8 June – Monday 9 June   

PUFFBALL – a new show which fuses storytelling and beautiful circus skills – comes to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from Sunday 8 June to Monday 9 June.   

Presented by the Royal Exchange in partnership with the Roundhouse (London), Contact Theatre (Manchester) and Cast (Doncaster), the production has been devised by a company of professional circus artists and young people, all of whom identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning) in collaboration with renowned director Mark Storor.
Inspired by personal stories that are exhilarating, heartbreaking, devastating and joyful, the show is a culmination of a major year-long project working with young people from towns and cities across the UK.

The production - set to a live score by award-winning composer Jules Maxwell – builds on th success of THE FAT GIRL GETS A HAIRCUT AND OTHER STORIES, the Roundhouse’s groundbreaking production created in collaboration with Mark Storor and a cast of 12 to 17-year-olds.   

Audiences are also invited to MOTHER’S RUIN: PUFFBALL CABARET – a raucous late-night post-show entertainment staged each night in the Great Hall – which is presented by the Royal Exchange and Contact in association with Cake Tin Foundation and Rude Girl. ds/

 For further information and images, please contact JOHN GOODFELLOW (Press & Communications Manager) on 0161 615 6783 /

PUFFBALL - Listings Information   

A Roundhouse production in partnership with the Royal Exchange Theatre, Contact Theatre (Manchester) and Cast (Doncaster)

Directed by Mark Storor

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Sunday 8 – Monday 9 June, 2014

Performance Time: 7.30pm

Ticket Prices:

PUFFBALL & Cabaret: £20 / £12

PUFFBALL only: £15 / £10

Box Office: 0161 833 9833.

Blacklist Support Group: May update

1. Government refuses to support blacklisted workers:
After a 3 year investigation into blacklisting, the Scottish Affairs Select Committee report proposed a number of recommendations to eradicate blacklisting. The cross party report by MPs called for no public contracts to be awarded to blacklisting firms until they prove they have "self-cleansed". This included paying compensation at levels agreed by the trade unions, direct employment on future public contracts and a procedure to ensure that blacklisted workers are not denied jobs in the future. The proposals were sent to the government but unfortunately they have all been disregarded by both the governments in Scotland and Westminster.
The response by Ian Davidson, chair of the Select Committee is in this link:
2. Employment Agency exposed as running blacklist of pro-union workers:
A Danish TV programme has exposed ongoing blacklisting by the employment agency Atlanco Rimec. The agency operates in the UK and Ireland in the construction industry. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee have stated that they will open up further investigations into ongoing blacklisting following this revelation.
3. UCATT Conference:
UCATT national delegates conference last week unanimously passed a motion calling for a full public inquiry into blacklisting and in support of the Shrewsbury Pickets.
4. Recent blacklisting protests have taken place at Alder hey Hospital in Liverpool where Laing O'Rourke and Crown House continue to blacklist union activists and at the Scottish parliament during the debate about the proposed procurement Bill. Great stuff everyone who took part (pix attached).
5. Friday 23rd May - sparks day of action against agencies:
Following the recent changes in the rules on self-employment there have been a number of industrial disputes involving agency workers demanding to be taken on the cards directly. Some of the sites have been successful, with workers either taken on directly by the contractor or the agency, while other agencies have developed an "umbrella" scheme to avoid the law. The UNITE construction rank & file under the banner of 'Site Worker' paper are organising a series of actions across the UK on Friday 23rd May against agencies who are refusing to take workers on the cards. Blacklisted workers will be participating in the events in London, Manchester, Wales, North East and Midlands
For further details contact: 
6. PCS Conference:
Blacklisting is being discussed at a fringe meeting about undercover police at PCS conference in Brighton this Wednesday evening. 
Keep the Faith

Monday, 19 May 2014

Telegraph review of 'Smile for the Camera':

 The Double Life of Cyril Smith' by
Simon Danczuk & Matthew Baker.
Cyril Smith's unhealthy interest in boys was common knowledge.  So why was nothing done?
Review by By
11:45AM BST 01 May 2014

I have a photograph of the Liberal MP Cyril Smith and me taken at Parliament by my grandmother.  It is 1976 and I am 10 years old.  The photograph looks almost sinister since the stories of Smith's dark secrets have reemerged, recounted with venom by Rochdale's current MP Simon Danczuk and Matthew Baker. 

Smith was elected as a Labour councillor in 1952  at the age of 24.  My grandmother immediately took against him.  She was the owner of Carlton dance hall, and when she entertained the council she noticed Smith's greedy attack on her buffet.  In time Smith turned out to be a formidable operator and my grandmother was won over.  He always had his way with older women.  He lived with his mother in one of Rochdale's most deprived areas. 

As the chairman of the education committee, Smith pushed through Harold Wilson's reforms closing down grammar schools and creating dozens of new middle and upper schools.  One was Knowl View, a residential institution for children aged eight to sixteen, which is now being investigated.  A 1988 report from the children were working as rent boys in Rochdale and Manchester.  In 1990, a violent rapist gained access to the school over two successive nights. 

The Labour politician and former Co-op chairman was on the education and social services committees during these years and the allegation he used rent boys has sharpened the focus of the story.  Though he was not mentioned in the 1988 report, Smith was identified as an abuser by Dispaches in 2013.   A victim recounted he had 'blanked out for so long'.    When he was eight years old, he was subjected to oral rape by someone known as 'the fat man'.    He named him as Smith.

Read The North (& almost everything in it): Paul Morley's love letter to Rochdale and beyond.

 Investigating historical abuse is difficult.  Reporters must be vigilant about leading witnesses into mistaken identifications.  Children in residential care are at risk of exploitation.  When we hear their stories, decades after the events, we wonder why nothing was done to stop it.  We tell ourselves that it was a more conservative age when secrets could be more easily suppressed; but also that the times were more permissive and abuse was becoming normalised.  The only way to hold these contradictory thoughts together is to create conspiracy theories in which in which influential men share abuse, yet build walls of secrecy.

 Danczuk and Baker have created a world of grizzle policemen in bars, paraphrasing unrecorded interviews, while shadowy paedophile networks enjoy the protection of the security services.  They provide no footnotes, garbled chronology and effectively draw on only three sources:  Smith's autobiography; the Dispatches program; and a 1979 story published in the Rochdale Alternative Paper  that recounted an abandoned police investigation into a charity run home for adolescent boys set up by Smith and closed in 1965.  RAP detailed Smith penchant for voyeurism, groping and spanking delivered to teenage boys under the camouflage of corporal punishment.

If it emerges that Smith, who died in 2010, raped young boys at Knowl View, the failure to act earlier will seem unforgivable.  But the guilt will be shared.  Everyone in Rochdale read the RAP story.  I pored over it as 13-year-old.  There was never any doubt over Smith's guilt.  So why did no one do anything?

The facts seem to be that in 1969, Jack McCann Rochdale's :Labour MP, put pressure on the police to either charge Smith or close the case.  McCann heard Smith's side of the story at the home of local headmaster Jack Kershaw.  Kershaw taught my father, who still bears a grudge against him for delivering a severe caning when he was seven years old.  In a world that encouraged violence on small children, spanking older boys seemed trivial.  The boys accounts in RAP make it clear that Smith derived a thrill from the punishment, but it was not obvious that he understood his sexual desires.  If he did not who were we to play amateur psychologist? 

What has changed today, is that we are less shy about confronting sexual abuse.  A factor in our indulgence is that we felt we knew Smith, and he was not a monster.  The editors of RAP shared this view, running a comic strip called 'Fat Man', which depicted Smith as cuddly caped super hero.  Investigations into Knowl View by the police and council have been extended to discover Smith's role, if any, in the abuse.  We will soon know if Rochdale's sympathy for Smith was a terrible mistake.

Editorial Footnote:
'The Telegraph, unlike the badly written Danczuk book has got the name of the original published source of the stories - RAP - right. As they say, the magazine was called Rochdale's Alternative Paper. A fact picked up by others who acknowledged the source of the story, including: The Times, World at One, Despatches, Politics Home, Private Eye, Manchester Evening News and Rochdale Observer.
'The Telegraph's Reviewer, like (Paul Waugh of Politics Home) were Rochdale youngsters in 1979, unlike Danczuk and Baker, and so acknowledge the importance of the original, and ignored, "outing" of Smith the paedophile.  The shallow Danczuk book consistently refers to it as Rochdale's Alternative Press.'                                            

Get NORTHERN VOICES 14, which is still on sale at our usual outlets with coverage of our role in the outing of Cyril Smith. John Walker, a former editor of RAP (the Rochdale Alternative Paper), in a leading feature documents the intimate story of Cyril Smith which was used as the basis of the Channel 4 documentary Dispatches last September on the eve of the Lib-Dem annual conference. Since he left RAP Mr. Walker has occasionally contributed to Private Eye, here he is flattering in his praise of Northern Voices, and he writes of us 'being part of that long tradition of a radical press, that has never been afraid to call into question abuses of the powerful.' 


The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 14, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch 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.

Titchmarsh Toppled at Chelsea by Monty Don

North vs South at Chelsea Flower Show

 YORKSHIREMAN, gardener and TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh, has been shown the door by the BBC as the presenter for this year's Chelsea Flower Show and is to be replaced by southerner, Monty Don, as the show kicks off this week with the special guests attending the first day today.  Mr Titchmarsh, when asked, said he wouldn't describe it as 'being dumped'.  
Ought a political and cultural blog such a Northern Voices to trouble itself about the goings on at the Chelsea Flower Show?  I went to my first Chelsea in 1979 when I took a day off from my job as a maintenance electrician at Holcroft Casting & Forgings in Rochdale to travel down on the overnight train to turn up at the last day of the Show the first thing on a Friday morning, and was charmed and excited by it.  And, I need hardly say that George Orwell, no less, wrote for Tribune about his experience of buying some rambling from F.W. Woolworths, and his then friend the old Italian anarchist editor of Freedom, Vernon Richards, actually cultivated rare vegetables for the London restaurant trade.   

As Chelsea begins it's worth mentioning that this year has been extraordinary in that last winter was so mild and in my window boxes in the northern town where I live the Geraniums have been in bloom virtually throughout the winter.  It has been such a strange sequences of seasons that Robin Lane Fox in last Saturday's Financial Times wrote: 

'It will be hard, even for the Chelsea Flower Show, to compete with our own gardens and the natural world next week' and '[w]e are having such a superb spring, three weeks ahead of the usual schedule, and as a result, the show will not have the traditional feel of an inauguration to the best of the British gardening year.'   

So much so that Mr. Lane Fox concludes: 
'When I go back to my own garden after my day's viewing, I don't expect to despair that it falls painfully below Chelsea's display  The weather has brought on the early irises,peonies and the best wisterias even before Chelsea will be showing them too.'  
The first of my peonies are about to burst into flower any day now, no I tell a lie they are opening today, and the early clematises are already in bloom.  We are almost wading through Icelandic poppies to our front door already.  

 At this year's Chelsea, Lane Fox urges us to seek out the exhibit of Brighter Blooms from Preston in Lancashire (site no. GPD21), this firm specialises in Zantedeschias, a family that includes the well known white-flowered arum lilies.  It is expected that this year the Zantedeschias should be in splendid form after the wet winter and very little frost to challenge them.  Mr. Fox further writes:  'Exhibitors from the north are almost always worth a visit as their nurseries specialise in plants we southerners can use less easily.  I like the sound of the Himalayan meconopses, or poppies, on show from Harper Hall Farm Nurseries near Durham (site no. GPF8).  This small nursery is trying to grow unusual items, a niche magnificently occupied by Kevoch Garden Plants from Midlothian, gold medallists in recent years who are continuing to show fabulous rarities and well-grown alpines suited to the wetter, shadier conditions in Scotland and much of the north (site no. GPD9).'  
With the triumph of the posh-speaking sleek southerner,Monty Don, over the Yorkshire lad Alan Titchmash for the presentation of the Chelsea Flower Show it only demonstrates that politics, regionalism and identity has relevance even in the realm of gardening, or perhaps I should say especially in the realm of gardening.