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On Saturday 15th July, at Stockport Quaker House, Stockport For Peace and Stand Up To Racism Stockport will be holding a workshop on the theme of ‘Having Difficult Conversations Around Migration’. The event is held in conjunction with Hope Not Hate, and runs from 10am – 3pm.

On Wednesday 19th July, Dave Randall will be talking about his new book ‘Sound System: The Political Power Of Music’ at the Working Class Movement Library between 2pm and 3pm.

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Screen shot vote

Image by Unknown Artist, Brighton. Used under a creative commons licence.

This poster is one of many entered in Red Pepper magazine’s #EndToryRule election poster competition. You can view other entries on their website.

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UoM%20scanned%20documentFollowing on from it’s small-but-perfectly-formed exhibition at the University of Manchester back in July 2016, Dr Sarah Marie Hall and Stef Bradley’s exhibition, Everyday Austerity, will be displayed at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford from 4th February until the 16th March.

If you didn’t see it last year, I heartily recommend that you see it at WCML. It is a very powerful, very inspiring piece of work that needs to be seen.

 

 

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ptdc0001

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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.

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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.

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Following the outcome of the EU Referendum, I had a conversation with my mum that inspired me to make my first Freedom of Information request. Given the precarious nature of FOI legislation, it was very much a case of “Quick, before whoever the next Prime Minister is scraps it…” because FOI allows both journalists and members of the public to ask awkward questions, and when they get the answers (if they get the answers…), to tell other people about them, who then tell other people, who often then get very very cross… Some stories/campaigns that would have been impossible without FOI would include the expenses scandal and Private Eye’s map of offshore owned property in the UK.

Anyway, my mum spoiled her ballot paper in the referendum by writing “You are all lying” on it, and we wondered how many other people had spoiled the ballot paper. Or, to put it another way, how many people had looked at the paper and decided, for various reasons, not to answer the question.

As it turned out, I needn’t have submitted a FOI request to the Electoral Commission because they were planning to publish the the information anyway on their website.

It makes interesting reading, and has made me realise just how complex the issue is. In the spreadsheet, reasons for rejecting a ballot paper are listed under four different columns, headed respectively:

  • No official mark
  • Voting for both answers
  • Writing or mark
  • Unmarked or void

I’ve tried to add up the total result of rejected ballot’s but lost count a few times. That said, I can definitely say that the answer is either 25,240 or 25,359 as one wards figure of 119 may have been counted once or twice.

So, that’s just over 25,000 people who voted, but didn’t vote Remain or Leave.

Of the four reasons listed above, my mums spoiled ballot paper would fall into number 3. But it was number 2 that intrigued me the most: Voting for both answers.

There was a social media campaign a few days before the vote, urging people who weren’t sure which way to vote to vote Remain. But, that said, voting both ways is another way of saying you weren’t sure.

There were a total of 9,084 people who voted for both answers.

Of those who voted for both answers, the highest number of people voting this way were in Birmingham (311), Brent (157) and Leicester (154), there were also over 100 votes cast this way in each of the following areas:

  • Leeds
  • Bradford
  • Northern Ireland
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Lambeth
  • Ealing

I can’t help but think that these nine thousand and eighty four people have so far been excluded from the often vitriolic debates around voting motivations, post Brexit. No doubt a lot of them are quite pleased about that, but it does mean that there’s a whole dimension to the debate that hasn’t been discussed yet. One that I personally find more interesting than facile smug commentary by London journalists on the population of Blackpool, as heard on Radio 4 recently. That said, the piece on Boston and Brexit in the Economist was a much more intelligent piece.

 

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