Mike Quille

Mike Quille

Mike Quille is a writer, reviewer and chief editor of Culture Matters.

Callout: Bread and Roses Poetry Award 2020
Thursday, 02 April 2020 14:13

Callout: Bread and Roses Poetry Award 2020

Published in Poetry

Culture Matters is pleased to announce that the fourth Bread and Roses Poetry Award, kindly sponsored by Unite the Union, is now open for entries.

Our mission is to promote a socialist approach to all cultural activities, including arts such as poetry. So we run the Bread and Roses Poetry Award to create opportunities for working people to write poetry, and to encourage poets to focus on themes which are meaningful to working-class communities.

As in previous years, there will be 5 prizes of £100 for the best poems, and an anthology of the poems from around a further 20 entrants will be published later in the year. In addition, we are offering a mentoring and support package for writers who have not yet published a collection. The package will be offered to up to 3 entrants - who may or may not have won one of the 5 prizes - who will be linked to an experienced, published poet, and helped to produce their first published collection.

Submission Rules and Guidelines 

1. You may enter one or two original, previously unpublished (in print) poems in English, each no more than 50 lines long. 

2. You must be resident in the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland.

3. Entry is free, and open to anyone regardless of trade union membership.

4. There will be five prizes of £100 each for the best poems. In addition, a mentoring and support package leading to a first published collection will be offered to up to 3 entrants, who may or may not be prizewinners.

5. Entries should broadly deal with themes relevant to working-class life, politics, communities and culture. 

6. Entries should be sent toThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by midnight on Tuesday 30th June 2020. No entries will be accepted after that date.

7. Please include the poem(s) and your name, address, and contact details in the body of the email.

8. All entries remain the copyright of the author but Culture Matters and Unite will have the right to publish them online and in print.

9. By entering the Award, entrants agree to accept and be bound by the rules of the Award and the decisions of the judges. We are unable to respond individually to submissions.

Copies of the Bread and Roses Poetry Anthology 2019 (along with many other fine books of political poetry) are available to buy here.

Onward / Ymlaen!
Tuesday, 11 February 2020 16:42

Onward / Ymlaen!

Published in Our Publications

Onward / Ymlaen! An anthology of radical poetry from contemporary Wales

170 pps., edited by Mike Jenkins, with a Foreword from Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS, and with images by Gustavius Payne

ISBN: 978-1-912710-16-4

This new and unique anthology has poetry in both Welsh and English by around 70 Welsh working-class writers. There are women and men, of all generations, including both emerging and established writers. Gustavius Payne, a well-known Welsh artist, has provided stunningly appropriate paintings to accompany some of the poems in the book.

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union writes this in the Foreword:

The poems collected in “Onward / Ymlaen!” cover a diverse range of political themes and issues including poverty and class inequality, self-determination, internationalism, war, living on a council estate in Swansea, and the death of Jo Cox.

This is a valuable book and will be of interest to many people in Wales and across the UK, at a time when the political landscape is changing so dramatically. These changes have meant that times are hard for many people, but our movement has always had room for poetry and song. As the old radical poem says, “Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses.”

Mike Jenkins, editor of Red Poets, says this:

This anthology brings together the finest radical political poetry from contemporary Cymru, reflecting the importance of community, co-operation and commitment to building a better world. There is sharp criticism, sad reflection, heartfelt protest and bitter humour in these poems. But there is also a sense of renewal, of what might develop from grassroots movements and activism. 

For discount prices on bulk orders please write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Children of the Nation: An Anthology of Working People’s Poetry from Contemporary Ireland
Saturday, 09 November 2019 14:15

The Children of the Nation: An Anthology of Working People’s Poetry from Contemporary Ireland

Published in Our Publications

The Children of the Nation: 203pps., £9 plus £3 p. and p. or €10 plus €5 p. and p.

  ISBN: 978-1-912710-25-6

This is a unique anthology of poetry in both Irish and English by Irish working-class writers from the thirty-two counties of Ireland. There are sixty-seven contributors, women and men, of all generations, including both emerging and established writers. The common focus is on themes which reflect the texture and preoccupations of working-class life in contemporary Ireland. It has been generously supported by the Irish Trade Union movement.

The ‘children of the nation’ were promised equal treatment in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic of 1916. However, the lived realities of the working class, the unemployed, the precariously employed, the homeless, and other groups have rarely appeared in mainstream published poetry in Ireland and Britain.

This is the first anthology to be published in Ireland which focuses on poetry written by and about working people and their experiences, cares and concerns. As Brian Campfield, past President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, writes in his Foreword:

The anthology is inclusive and egalitarian, and values authenticity, relevance and communicativeness as well as literary skill and inventiveness. It is grounded in individual effort, but has transformed these individual endeavours into a collective expression of the lives, aspirations, concerns and hopes of that class in our society which constantly has to struggle to get its voice heard and valued.

The poems are about life at the margins of society. The themes include class, the treatment of women, work and worklessness, poverty, violence, racism and many other social and political issues. They express suffering, exploitation and abuse, but also hope, solidarity and internationalism.

For orders from Britain, use this button, £9 plus £3 p. and p. 

For orders from Ireland and the rest of Europe, use this button, €10 plus €5 p. and p.

For orders from the U.S. and rest of the world, use this button, $15 plus $10 p. and p.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for bulk orders, trade orders or if you'd prefer to pay another way.

Thursday, 07 November 2019 09:48

Round Up

Published in Round-up

Winners of the Bread and Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award, sponsored by the CWU and the Musicians' Union, can be heard in the Music section. See the Poetry section for details of a callout for a new poetry anthology on the climate crisis and capitalism.

arise! filmpoem
Friday, 01 November 2019 11:25

arise! filmpoem

Published in Films

Culture Matters has produced a short film, made by Carl Joyce, of the poem arise! by Paul Summers, which was sponsored by the Durham Miners' Association. You can watch the film for free on Vimeo here or on Youtube here.

The film invokes the collective and co-operative spirit of past generations of men and women who worked and struggled so hard to survive, to build their union, and to arise, organise, and fight for a better world by forming the Labour Party. It also celebrates the new spirit that has arisen in Corbyn’s Labour Party, and the rise of support for socialist solutions to the country’s growing problems of low wages, poverty, homelessness, and other signs of an unfair and corrupt system designed to benefit the many, not the few. 

Jeremy Corbyn said this about the poem:

It's wonderful to see the proud history of the Durham Miners' Gala represented in this powerful poem. Paul Summers has managed to capture the spirit of the Miners' Gala and its central place in our movement's mission to achieve 'victory for the many, and not the few’.

The film is not just a celebration of the tremendous working-class cultural heritage around mining, as expressed in the banners and the music at the Gala, but also the socialist, co-operative spirit of the women and men from mining communities that is alive and struggling today.

Martyrs of Coal

by Chris Norris

 You martyrs of coal, yours the glory
While there's still a miner alive,
Or singer to bring us the story
In which your proud legends survive.

You masters of coal, hear them calling,
Those martyrs you sent down to die,
Crushed lifeless by pit-rafters falling,
Or drowned as the waters ran high.

You martyrs, cry loud to remind us
That justice can never be done
If class-laws shall fetter and bind us
As long as the waggoners run.

You masters, you bled, starved and beat us,
You worked us to death for your gain,
You called out the troops to defeat us
And told us our strikes were in vain.

You martyrs of coal, stand beside us
As we stand today in your name
To win back the rights long denied us
And put our exploiters to shame.

And you modern masters, now hear us,
You tribe of dot-com millionaires,
Think now of their courage and fear us
When we raise the cry that was theirs.

For it's the same passion that fires us,
The zeal that gave courage its role,
And still their example inspires us,
Those martyrs of conscience and coal.

That martyr spirit has arisen recently in other current trade union struggles like the industrial action at McDonald’s, British Airways, and other employers, and in the outraged reaction to other injustices against the working class like the Grenfell tragedy. So there is footage from other campaigns in the film, showing how they are all part of our struggle for economic and political justice, for socialism in Britain and in the whole world.

And most of all the spirit of the miners has arisen in the modern Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. Arise, resist, vote Labour, and struggle for a better world!

You can also buy a DVD of the film, which is licensed to be played anywhere. It is available here at £5 plus £1.50 p. and p., and 10% of sales proceeds will go to the Redhills Development Fund. The same applies to the poem, which is available here.

arise! filmpoem
Friday, 01 November 2019 11:11

arise! filmpoem

Published in Our Publications

Culture Matters has produced a short film, made by Carl Joyce, of the poem arise! by Paul Summers, sponsored by the Durham Miners' Association. You can watch the film for free on Vimeo here or on Youtube here

The film invokes the collective and co-operative spirit of past generations of men and women who worked and struggled so hard to survive, to build their union, and to arise, organise, and fight for a better world by forming the Labour Party. It also celebrates the new spirit that has arisen in Corbyn’s Labour Party, and the rise of support for socialist solutions to the country’s growing problems of low wages, poverty, homelessness, and other signs of an unfair and corrupt system designed to benefit the many, not the few.

Jeremy Corbyn said this about the poem:

It's wonderful to see the proud history of the Durham Miners' Gala represented in this powerful poem. Paul Summers has managed to capture the spirit of the Miners' Gala and its central place in our movement's mission to achieve 'victory for the many, and not the few’.

The film is not just a celebration of the tremendous working-class cultural heritage around mining, as expressed in the banners and the music at the Gala, but also the socialist, co-operative spirit of the women and men from mining communities that is alive and struggling today.

That spirit has arisen recently in other current trade union struggles like the industrial action at McDonald’s, British Airways, and other employers, and in the outraged reaction to other injustices against the working class like the Grenfell tragedy. So there is footage from other campaigns in the film, showing how they are all part of our struggle for economic and political justice, for socialism in Britain and in the whole world.

And most of all the spirit of the miners has arisen in the modern Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. Arise, resist, vote Labour, and struggle for a better world!

The DVD is £5 plus £1.50 p. and p., and 10% of sales proceeds will go to the Redhills Development Fund. The same applies to the poem, which is available here.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for bulk orders or if you'd prefer to pay another way.

The Folded Lie
Thursday, 31 October 2019 08:58

The Folded Lie

Published in Our Publications

£7 plus £3 p.and p. ISBN: 978-1-912710-24-9

In September 1939, W. H. Auden wrote these words:

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie

80 years later, another politically conscious and technically skilful poet rises to the challenge of ‘unfolding the lie’, as Christopher Norris’s eloquent and combative voice rings out, as sharp and satirical as Auden. In the light of the forthcoming general election, a more topical collection of politically committed poetry would be hard to imagine.

The author of The Trouble with Monsters (Culture Matters, 2019) writes poems based on topical events which broaden out to reveal, lampoon and lament the underlying problems of capitalist society. Conflicts relating to gender, inequality, migration, ethnic difference, culture wars and generational barriers are all unearthed and firmly linked to the fundamental class differences which divide capitalist societies.

A sequence of poems on the cultural and political theories of T. W. Adorno, which have done so much to uncover the horrors of late capitalist culture, illuminate the poems and cartoons that engage with the realities of material existence, in family life, workplaces, sports activities and other sites of class division, exploitation and oppression.

Christopher Norris’s incisive voice is perfectly complemented by Martin Gollan’s insightful drawings. Collaged fragments of texts and images not only illustrate the argument of the poems but also carry their own distinctly graphic message in a vivid counterpoint to the text, graphically condensing the satirical thrust of the poems.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for bulk orders or if you'd prefer to pay another way.

Release a Rage of Red
Wednesday, 02 October 2019 11:11

Release a Rage of Red

Published in Our Publications

£5 plus £3.00 p. and p. ISBN: 978-1-912710-21-8

Release a Rage of Red is a selection of entries to the Bread & Roses Poetry Award 2019, sponsored by Unite. 

Every year it becomes more of a challenge to judge these poems. This year, there was a large number of beautifully written, often angry, urgent and deeply moving poems on a wide range of compelling issues, including many more entries from women and young people. Our ‘Unite in Schools’ programme takes us round schools to talk to young people about trade unions and the kind of collective action that’s needed to campaign against inequality.

We need to run a version of this fabulous competition in schools, colleges and universities, to support the young activists of tomorrow to creatively express their growing, sharpened sense of inequality, along with support for their ability to self-organise and to harness social media.

 – Mary Sayer, Unite Education Officer


Not only were there many more entries than in previous years, there was also not a weak poem among them. It was good to see so much feeling and argument harnessed to craft and invention. There was also a tremendous range of subjects addressed — inequality, racism, poverty, austerity, environmental destruction, disability, class, gender, education — not as abstract evils, but as lived, felt oppressions.

A lot of these poems express a kind of helpless melancholy about the state of the world. Others are written in anger and shame at what this country has become, but manage to contain their rage and focus their anger to hit precisely described targets.

– Andy Croft, poet and publisher of Smokestack Books

Raptures and Captures
Wednesday, 25 September 2019 10:22

Raptures and Captures

Published in Our Publications

£7 plus £3.00 p. and p. ISBN: 978-1-912710-18-8

Raptures and Captures follows on from Muses and Bruises and Ruses and Fuses, both published by Culture Matters. It is inspired by liberation theology and a fascination with the continuing relevance of the lives of the saints to a radical, liberating politics. As one poem’s title states, we are ‘In Need of Saints’.

So Fran Lock sets about re-imagining the lives 0f the saints in modern contexts. Apocryphal juxtapositions are sprung in the shapes of modern-day activists, enduring pop-culture icons like Tony Hancock and Ian Curtis, and the exploited, abused and oppressed amongst us.

Fran Lock's poems are slip-stitched with punchy tropes and vivid turns of phrase. There are echoes of Sylvia Plath, John Clare and Gerard Manley Hopkins in her uncompromising psychical explorations, self-scouring confessionalism, and vivid, macabre imageries. Suffering, trauma, and spiritual anguish, and the exhaustion, depression and suicidal ideation of working women and men, all overlaying visions of hope and redemption, are continuous themes in her poems.

The images by Steev Burgess which accompany the poems share and express the same dialectical combination of anger and gentleness, strength and vulnerability. As in the other two volumes, the stunning, taboo-busting collages poignantly combine the grime and glitter of modern life in fragmented, uncertain but coherent juxtapositions of images and words, reinforcing, developing and extending the meanings of the poems.

.....or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you'd prefer to pay another way.
The film itself is Bait
Tuesday, 10 September 2019 18:09

The film itself is Bait

Published in Films

Class conflict, and the various ways class divisions are expressed and resolved in personal relationships, from outright violence to affection and peaceful co-existence, form the central themes of this outstandingly original new film, written and directed by Mark Jenkin. Set in a Cornish fishing village, the story is about the clash between well-off incomers and the local precariat – working families struggling to make a living.

It’s modern Britain writ small, where fundamental economic inequality generates mutual incomprehension, resentment, and an angry sense of betrayal brought on by the loss of proper work and decent housing. Ring any bells with what you’ve just heard on the radio?

bait 1

The story is rooted in Jenkin’s experience of dispossessed working-class communities, scarred by unemployment, poverty, and social exclusion. A well-off London family has bought and gentrified ‘Skipper’s Cottage’, one of the harbourside cottages. They’ve installed a porthole as a window, filled the fridge with prosecco and pasta, bedecked the rooms with fishing buoys and nets, and rented out the net-loft to tourists who complain at the early morning noise of the fishing boats. The family is itself divided – thoughtful mother, smug father, flirtatious daughter, and boorish son.

The former inhabitant of the cottage is an impoverished fisherman who can’t afford to buy a boat. He lays nets on the beach outside the house to catch a few fish (bait), which he sells to the local pub for a high price, but gives to local families on the estate he now lives on. Throughout the film he simmers with barely contained rage at his inability to make a living any more from fishing, provoking (baiting) the rich incomers. ‘You didn’t have to sell us this house’, they tell him: ‘Didn’t I?’ is his sarcastic response.

His family is also divided. His brother still has a boat, though it’s used not for fishing but for coastal cruise trips for drunken tourists. But his brother’s son won’t work on the cruise boat, preferring to struggle like his uncle with the beach nets, and form a liaison with the rich family’s daughter.

These characters hit, miss and crash into each other in their houses, on the harbour and in the pub. Collaboration, confrontation, violence, and a tragic accident is the shocking outcome. A symbolic and yet also grittily realistic class struggle is played out in the film, in a nuanced, understated yet very powerful way.

None of the characters are happy in their own skin, except perhaps the daughter, who both symbolically and literally embraces both sides of this unhappy, class-divided community. A niggling, aggressive unhappiness and resentment pervades all the other characters, just like the shouting and discontent you’ve just heard on the TV news.

Bait Movie

This story of alienation and anger is not told in the usual, straightforward narrative arcs of social realism employed by Ken Loach or Mike Leigh. Its art owes more to Bertolt Brecht, the great socialist theatre-maker and poet. In order to clearly express his critique of the inhuman nature of capitalist society, and avoid the way living under capitalism taints the experience of artworks, Brecht developed various techniques which are used to great effect in Bait.

Just as Brecht always foregrounded the theatricality of his plays, Jenkin never lets us forget we’re watching a film. Visually, the film was made with hand-cranked cameras, like silent movies were made, then hand-processed into scratchy, lined images which are almost tactile in their materiality.

Aurally, the soundscape of the film stands out in a similar way. The dialogue has been recorded and dubbed onto the film, giving the uncomprehending, Pinteresque conversations an eerie atmosphere of alienation. Between the conversations there are hypnotic, rhythmic sounds, an underlying thump, thump – sometimes like the sea on the harbour wall, or the engines of the boats, or the wind, or the persistent tick of a clock. The effect of the sound design is both disturbing and reassuring, enhancing the tensions of the unfolding story. 

The editing has a similarly disorienting and disturbing effect. The point of view switches from landscape or group shots to macro close-ups, taking us out of the story being told and into material reality. It can linger on objects, but also often moves violently fast between the characters’ clipped and sometimes comic exchanges, so that separate conversations appear to be in some kind of weird, surreal conversation of their own. Occasionally shots of scenes are shown in advance of their chronological place in the plot.

And finally, the ending of this amazing film is edited in a deliberately low-key, undramatic and workaday way. Does the ending give hope? Yes and no. We’re not a happy country, but we might be if we worked equally together. What do you want?

I don’t know what you want, but I do know that if you go to see this film, you will be prevented from suspending your disbelief and getting pleasure from immersing yourselves in an entertaining story. Instead, just like Brecht, Jenkin insists that you understand the issues at the heart of the film, and not be a passive consumer of a piece of entertainment. So in a sense the film itself is bait – for you.

All these ‘distancing’ techniques work together to express the alienation, conflicts and collaborations in modern British class-divided society. The Cornish fishing village is a microcosm of post-industrial, post-referendum life today all over this country, where the dispossessed many confront the privileged few. You won’t see a better film this year about what you’ve just heard on the radio, seen on the telly, and read in the newspapers.

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