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Forthcoming events

On Sunday 20th November the Working Class Movement Library in Salford is hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon around the fight for the right to vote, from Peterloo in 1818 to the lowering of the voting age in 1969.

The event, which is part of UK Parliament Week 2016, takes place at the Library on Sunday 20 November from 10am to 4pm – just bring a laptop and a packed lunch, and we’ll provide the coffee… It’s suitable for adults and young people, particularly for those with experience of editing Wikipedia or knowledge of British political history. The event, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Library/Museum’s joint Collecting Cultures project, is free but advance booking is required via Eventbrite – http://votingforchangewiki.eventbrite.co.uk.

In a more specific context:

The event is being run in conjunction with Manchester Girl Geeks and in partnership with Wikimedia UK. John Lubbock, communications coordinator for Wikimedia UK, said: ‘Wikipedia is only as good as the people who are writing it, and for that reason we spend a lot of effort to engage groups of people who may not have traditionally considered contributing to the Web site. It is estimated that somewhere between 80 and 90% of the editors of English Wikipedia are men, and most of these would be European or North American. For this reason, you get a lot of content on Wikipedia which appeals to slightly geeky niche interests, but far less coverage of the lives of important historical women or the culture of ethnic minority communities. We aim to turn knowledge consumers into producers and authors of a new, engaged culture of knowledge production. So why not join in and help us realise this ambitious vision?’.

Secondly, but equally as importantly, in the shadow of last weeks events in America, and the feeling that the lights are going off not just all over America, but around the world… Hope Not Hate are organising a weekend of action 3rd and 4th December to spread their message in local communities.

If you’d like to help, you can register here: http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/weekend-of-action-2016-12

Post EU Referendum, a number of people (friends and acquaintances of mine , but also some journalists) have compared the vote for Trump to the vote in June for Brexit: The second horseman of the apocalypse has just ridden up, and who is that we see riding towards us on a third horse in the distance? Why, it’s Marine Le Pen…

Britain is experiencing a rise in racism and the far right feels confident and bullish. It is vital that we start providing people with an alternative message. There will be activities across the UK, with different leaflets and messages produced for different areas.

We are living in dark and difficult times but it is precisely at moments like this that we need to redouble our efforts and get organised.

On Sunday, as part of the Louder Than Words music literature festival, I was privileged to see a film made of 1986’s Red Wedge Tour, Days Like These. It was incredibly moving and inspiring and really makes you think… It is time to Get Busy again.

On Saturday while taking a break from the annual Louder Than Words music literature festival at the Palace Hotel, I found myself standing outside 8th Day marvelling at a very smart and imposing horse drawn Victorian style funeral carriage which was parked up there.

I initially thought it was something to do with a group of gothic lolita girls and steampunks I’d seen earlier on Oxford Road, but I think that was just an odd coincidence as I worked out eventually that the carriage was attached to a gathering group of people in hi vis vests inside and spilling out of All Saints Park across the road. The banners they had seemed to be for something called The 10th Day, which google reveals is something to do with Karbala.

What made this odd occurrence even odder was that it must only have been about 20 minutes since the first of the days marches had passed down Oxford Road: The protest march against the treatment of Kurds in Turkey.

The 10th Day people must have headed off down Oxford Road at about 2pm as I could hear their drummers over John Robb interviewing Kristen Hersh upstairs at the Palace Hotel.

The third march? That was the Anti-Fracking demo and march in the city centre, which you can read about over on Frack-Free Manchester.  I did know about this one in advance actually, but as with every march on a Saturday, knew I wouldn’t be able to attend as when I’m not attending Louder Than Words I’m working.

Despite the nature of these three marches, it does feel oddly reassuring to hear the sound of people on the march again in Manchester as, increasingly, I’ve been starting to see last years TUC March as a kind of last hurrah and wondering what will happen next.

I should have taken a photo of this… Maybe next week, if it’s still there.

At work, in our admin area, we have a communal fridge, which we have since acquired a set of alphabetic fridge magnets for. When people are loitering by the laminator, waiting for it to warm up, or waiting for the kettle to boil, or for a computer to unknot itself, we sometimes play with the fridge magnets.

Sometimes, when the urge takes us, in the light of upsetting news perhaps, we are moved to create messages in magnetic letters on the communal fridge in an unconscious tribute perhaps to those UK citizens of the 18th and 19th centuries who were moved to scrawl social commentary on walls in chalk.

Earlier this year, we had ‘RIP David Bowie, Lemmy, Alan Rickman’ up on the fridge for a number of weeks.

From Wednesday 9th November, we’ve had a simple one word message:

Doomed

 

I seem to remember, back in May when the EU Referendum campaign was merely tedious rather than downright sinister, saying that even when the result came in, it wouldn’t be the end of the matter.

This was hardly a prediction on the scale of Nostradamus, but a series of forthcoming events have confirmed it good and proper.

The weekend of 3rd and 4th September will see two different sets of events from organisations and pressure groups that have been galvanised by the events of the Referendum campaign itself (specifically the murder of Jo Cox) and by the result and subsequent fallout, specifically the dramatic rise in reported hate crimes in the week prior to the result being announced, and in subsequent weeks and months since.

On September 3rd the group March For Europe are organising a number of marches around the country (but not in Manchester, or indeed, anywhere in the north or north west… suggesting Remain voters in the north have been forgotten about) as a follow up to their London march and demo in Green Park on 2nd July. The idea is for the Remain camp to keep the pressure on for when Parliament re-convenes on September 5th to discuss Brexit.

This might seem a bit futile, given Remain lost, but – as many a letter writer to Private Eye has pointed out over the past two months – had the boot been on the other foot, it’s unlikely Nigel Farage would have let it lie, and in a democracy the losing side have equal right to lobby as the winning side does. Whether you like the state of affairs this produces is a moot point: Democracy and all that.

The same weekend, Hope Not Hate are running a number of social events as part of their More In Common campaign, which was launched following the murder of Jo Cox and the announcement of the hate crime figures. These are being held across England and Wales, in most areas and are intended to

“bring people and communities together around what we have in common. It is an opportunity to celebrate our multicultural society but also to bridge divides between communities.”

The idea is to get communities together, and talking, to focus on what they have in common, not what divides them. A laudable and, given the horrible social climate we currently exist in, rather brave decision. Let’s hope it comes off.

In a bitter irony, the British Library is also hosting Punky Reggae Party: The Story of Rock Against Racism on Friday 9th September. This ties in not just with the ongoing 40 Years Of Punk series of events across London this year, but also with the publication of Daniel Rachel’s book Walls Come Tumbling Down: Rock Against Racism, Two Tone, Red Wedge, which is published by Picador on 8th September. Never have a book, or an event, felt more timely.

On Saturday 17th September, between 9:30am and 4pm, The Working Class Movement Library in Salford will be hosting a conference on the subject of  Radical Women 1880 – 1914.

As their newsletter puts it:

This one-day conference will celebrate the battles and achievements of working-class women in the drive to achieve a fairer and more balanced society. The decades spanning the turn of the twentieth century saw an upsurge in female activism as women began to organise themselves into trade unions, take part in the socialist debates on social and economic change, and demand the vote.

Radical women not only battled against the gender-conservative males within their family or community but also those who claimed to be fighting for equality.

Speakers include Professor Sheila Rowbotham, University of Manchester and Professor Karen Hunt, Keele University.

Whereas:

Papers include the Cabin Restaurant waitresses strike of 1908; the life of Crewe tailoress, campaigner, activitist and author Ada Neild Chew; the forgotten history of domestic servants in women’s suffrage; radical women and the bicycle; suffragette Constance Lytton and the cause of prison reform; plus many more.

Full programme details can be found on the WCML webpages

Tickets are £20 (£7.50 unwaged) and include lunch and refreshments.

Book in advance from trustees@wcml.org.uk

UoM%20scanned%20documentJust over a week ago I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting Everyday Austerity: An Exhibition of Everyday Life in Austerity, a collaboration between Dr Sarah Marie Hall of the University of Manchester and Stef Bradley the zine maker, which was drawn from research compiled by Dr Hall on the subject of family life and austerity.

This was a beautifully executed, simple but effective, exhibition that was both smart and thought provoking, but never, ever miserable.

People think of austerity in simplistic shades of sepia and grey, and in doing so, they miss the complex, technicolour reality of it: It was how the six families were represented that was the really refreshing thing.

Each section of the exhibition made use of written introductions to the families, their own particular situations, and how austerity had affected them. These were set alongside a carefully arranged display box of visual representations – photographs, carrots from an allotment, a recipe for a bulk batch of veggie chilli, a book on how to cope financially in times of austerity, which was due to be flogged on eBay along with old children’s toys to raise funds… There were lists of worries, lists of things to buy that could be afforded that week… and these visual items were equally as powerful, as thoughtfully placed, as evocative, as the notes, and sections of the interviews, which could be listened to on iPod mini’s.

The interviews themselves were frank, honest, candid and refreshing in their neutrality. There was no steering of interviewees towards a particular narrative, no aggressive questioning, because this is research, not journalistic vox pops, and it was part of the patchwork of field work, a long story, not a short, knee jerk story impulsively yanked from the unsuspecting.

We were asked to answer questions regarding our own views of austerity before, during and after viewing the exhibition, the idea being to measure if people’s views changed, and if so, how.  While my own views hadn’t shifted too much, what the exhibition brought home to me was the amount of creativity and ingenuity being brought to bear on the unyielding sanctions and limitations of austerity by those most affected by them. Oh, not in a Blitz Spirit ‘Let’s all pull together’ kind of way, more in a ‘Batten down the hatches, lets work through this bastard’ kind of way.

What this work does is provide a multi faceted, complex picture of austerity in the UK. It is not Benefits Street, but nor is it Das Kapital, it is – in many ways – refreshingly neutral. Which, as a position, is needed.

There are plans to create a zine from the exhibition, using the research, which might seem an odd concept but, in the context of the seismic shifts of perspective zine making has undergone these past ten years or so, with writers and creators increasingly focusing on areas such as psycho-geography, on cities and the writers relationship with the city in which they live, it perhaps isn’t so surprising to find a zine concerned with austerity.

Daniel Defoe’s A Journal Of The Plague Year, George Orwell’s Down And Out In Paris And London… Why not a documentation of the realities of austerity? State of the nation, or kitchen sink, dramas are no longer written. There will be no Love on the dole, or The Manchester Man, nor even no Ruined City, but Everyday Austerity: The Zine will fulfill a similar role. It won’t be done for entertainment, nor will it be done for titillation, or voyeurism, but for knowledge, for education, for remembering, for empathy and understanding.