Round-up

Round-up

Thursday, 12 October 2017 16:27

The Bread and Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award

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The Communication Workers Union (CWU) and Culture Matters are pleased to announce a new Songwriting and Spoken Word Award.

The Award is now open for submissions. The purpose of the new Award is to encourage songwriters and spoken word performers to write material meaningful to working class people and communities, and to encourage those communities to engage more with songwriting and spoken word. There is a £100 cash prize for each of the top five entries, and the winners will be asked to perform at the CWU annual conference in 2018.

For full details see the article in the Music section.

Don't Burn the Books
Thursday, 14 July 2016 12:13

Don't Burn the Books

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A scorching hot list of summer political reading selected by Mark Perryman.

A year ago as Labour sought to recover from the May General Election defeat, halls were starting to fill up for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign rallies. But even as the halls got bigger and the queues round the block longer, few would ever imagined that this would result in the Left for once being on the winning side. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs never accepted the vote. They bided their time, and chose the moment for their coup in a way to cause maximum damage. Richard Seymour’s Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics is to date both the best, and the definitive, account of what Corbyn’s victory the first time round meant. One year on, it is the essential summer 2016 read.

But as Corbyn would be the first to admit, his victory will never amount to much unless he can refashion what Labour also means. A Better Politics by Danny Dorling is a neat combination of catchy ideas and practical policies towards a more equal society that benefits all. Of course the principal barrier to equality remains class. In her new book Respectable, Lynsey Hanley provides an explanation of modern class relations that effortlessly mixes the personal and the political. If this sounds easier written than done, then George Monbiot’s epic How Did We Get Into This Mess? serves to remind us of the scale of the economic and environmental crisis we are up against.

Labour’s existential crisis is rooted in competing models of party democracy, and how this should shape a party as a social movement for change. An exploration of what a left populist mass party might look like and the problems it will encounter is provided in Podemos: In the Name of the People, a highly original set of conversations between theorist Chantal Mouffe and Íñigo Errejón, political secretary of Podemos. And it's introduced by Owen Jones - what a line-up!

MP Podemos

One of the more positive aspects of Labour’s crisis should be pluralism, and a rejecion of simplistic binary oppositions such as Corbynista vs Blairite. To begin with, all engaged in the Labour debate should read the free-to-download book Labour’s Identity Crisis: England and the Politics of Patriotism, edited by Tristram Hunt. There is much here on an issue vital post-Brexit, yet scarcely acknowledged as important by most on both ‘sides’. One criticism though - why no contributors from the Left side, such as Billy Bragg, Gary Younge, or the young black Labour MP Kate Osamor?

Taking a tour round Britain to portray the state of the nation(s) is fairly familiar territory for writers on Britishness but Island Story by JD Taylor stands out, thanks to a the author’s sense purpose, tenacious imagination - and a bicycle. It also avoids the common tendency in attempts to produce a settled national narrative of  producing a bastardised version of English nationalism, combining the isolationist and the racist to produce a toxic mix. As a shortish polemic The Ministry of Nostalgia from Owen Hatherley is also more of a demolition than a deconstruction of the rewriting of our history that flows from this naionalism, and all the better for it.

Anglo-populism is mired in the issue of immigration as a mask for its racism. Angry White People by Hsiao-Hung Pai encounters the extremities of this - the far Right, whose politics of hate have a nasty habit of not being as far away as many of us would like. In the USA, the brutal institutionalised racism of its police force has sparked a mass movement which is reported with much insight by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s in her From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, another essential read if a similar popular anti-racism is going to emerge on this side of the Atlantic sometime soon. Of course #BlackLivesMatter didn’t emerge in a political vacuum, it connected movements that date back to the 1950s and 1960s. These connections are expertly made by one of the key Black political figures of both then and now, Angela Davis, whose new book Freedom is a Constant Struggle is an absolutely inspiring read.

MP black lives

Do the deepening fractures around race spell a new era of uprisings? Quite possibly, though their political trajectory and outcomes remain uncertain. Joshua Clover comes down firmly on the side of the optimistic reading in his new book Riot.Strike.Riot, while most wouldn’t be so sure. A handy companion volume would be Strike Art by Yates McKee which helpfully explains the protest culture created via the Occupy movement. However, doubt remains whether such moments, direct action or insurrection, can generate a positive impact beyond their own milieu or locality. Shooting Hipsters is a much-needed up-to-date account of, and practical guide to, how acts of dissent can break through into and beyond the mainstream media. And for the dark side? Mara Einstein’s Black Ops Advertising, which details the many ways in which corporate PR operations have sought to colonise social media.

MP shootinghipstersthumb

We can be inspired by history to carve out a better future from the present. A Full Life by Tom Keough and Paul Buhle uses a comic strip to illustrate the life, times and ideals of Irish rebel James Connolly. Alternatively, enjoy the extraordinary range of writing from the Spanish Civil War compiled by Pete Ayrton in No Pasaran! And Owen Hatherley’s carefully crafted The Chaplin Machine provides an insight into the aesthetic of revolution that was abroad at the time in the immediate aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, on a scale never seen before or since.

It is also a period that is recorded with considerable skill by the twice-yearly journal Twentieth Century Communism - the latest edition providing the usual thematic range, including Trotsky’s bid to live in 1930s Britain, and an outline of the basis for a cosmopolitan anti-imperialism. Of course there are plenty who would seek to bury all of this. David Aaronovitch comes to the last rites with his brilliantly written if flawed Party Animals. An entirely different perspective is provided by the hugely impressive Jodi Dean and her latest book Crowds and Party, an impassioned account of modern protest movements as the enduring case for a mass party of social and political change. Sounds familiar, trite even? Not the way Jodi argues it, mixing an acute sense of history with a vision of the future.

MP Crowds and party cover

But enjoying the here and now of a super soaraway summer perhaps demands more than the promise of a better tomorrow. My starting point for a today to look forward to usually revolves around finding a recipe for a decent supper. Plenty of these can be found in The Good Life Eatery Cookbook with a mix of good-for-you, or more importantly in this instance good-for-me recipes, temptingly delicious-looking photography, and a philosophy behind it all that reminds me of that useful maxim ‘small is beautiful.’

Of course no summer should be complete without a visit to the beach. Highly recommended reading for the sun-lounger searching for a dash of a thriller for a mental getaway is Chris Brookmyre’s latest Black Widow which, as always with Brookmyre, is dark, twisted and entertaining. And for the children? Pushkin Press do the hard work for parents, tracking down the best in European kids’ books, translating, repackaging and producing such gems as Tow-Truck Pluck from the Netherlands. The perfect holiday read for families needing to be cheered up post-Brexit.

MP Chris Brookmyre

And my book of the quarter? Food is never far from most of our minds. Summertime picnics are for the fortunate, worrying about what we eat and the impact it has on our health. For others, the spread of food banks is testament to the failure of austerity politics. Few writers could appeal to both the modern obsession with food as well as to consciences concerned with those who don’t have enough of it to get by, never mind baking off. But Josh Sutton does with his pioneering account Food Worth Fighting For. This is social history that packs a punch, while written in a style and with a focus to transform readers into fighting foodies. Brilliant, and incredibly original.

 Food rev2

 

Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled ‘sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’, aka Philosophy Football. No links in this review to Amazon, if you can avoid purchasing from offshore tax dodgers please do.

Editor's Notes Summer 2016
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Sunday, 10 July 2016 06:43

Editor's Notes Summer 2016

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 I spent yesterday at the Durham Miners' Gala, one of the largest and longest lasting festivals of politically conscious working class culture in the world. Every July, the various pit-based communities of Durham come together, expressing solidarity with each other and with like-minded trade unionists, politicians and activists not only from elsewhere in the country but from around the world.

With its community-based brass bands, lodge banners, speeches, and chance to meet up and have a chat and a drink, it's a great day out. It's an enjoyable, inspiring celebration of the kind of art and culture that Culture Matters aims to present and promote. Some great photos of the event, which was of course addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, have been posted up on the festivals/events section. 

K2_PUBLISHED_ON Monday, 27 June 2016 13:21

June 2016

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Over the last month we've published a number of great new pieces. We try and feature most pieces on the home page for a little while, but do check the different sections (arts hub; culture hub etc.) for new material. We're receiving quite a lot of material and you might not catch it while it's on the home page.

On the general culture hub, we have posted a topical article on the Hillsborough findings by Professor Michael Lavalette. Roland Boer continues his series with an article on Marx's revolutionary readings of the Bible, and Andrew Brown presents a revolutionary reading of the Ascension story. Joel McKenna reviews a new book on Marxism, literature and the arts; and Derek Wall gives a brief life of Raymond Williams and a review of the new book about his politics and writings.
In the music section of the arts hub you can find No-One's Little Girl: gender and guitars in post-punk music, by Phil Brett. Under visual arts, there are pieces on Mona Hatoum by Christine Lindey; a review by Andrew Warburton of a special edition of Crisis and Critique which focused on art under Stalin; another article from Amir Darwish, presenting art from Syrian refugees; some new political art from Mina Boromand; and most recently, another article from Marc James Léger, looking at the last works of Richard Hamilton.

In the theatre section, Professor Gabriel Egan continues his series of articles on Shakespeare, and Paul Foley reviews Stowaway. In the fiction section, Professor Kimberley Reynolds joins us with a great introductory article on radical children's literature. We hope to be posting up more articles on that topic in the coming few weeks, and we also hope to attract some new radical writing – like Andy Croft's piece, Snig – for children (teenagers or kiddiewinkies). From who? From you!

We continue to receive some excellent poetry. Our call for Brechtian poems following David Betteridge's poem has been answered by Keith Armstrong, Alexis Lykiard and Kevin Higgins: more please! Alan Dunnett's fine poem The Dog's Tongue is illustrated by an equally fine original artwork by Ignacia Ruiz. There's a review of Mike Jenkins's latest book of poetry with some of Mike's poems in it. And Mike Quille contributes a long article on the American worker-poet Fred Voss, also containing several of his poems, and an interview with him. The One Percent by Steve Griffiths is unfortunately likely to be topical for a little while longer.
Finally, there's a sensitive and perceptive review of Maggie Nelson's new book The Argonauts by a new contributor, Prue Chambelain. It's in our poetry section as Maggie is a poet, but her book is a genre-bending mixture of memoir and cultural and political theory and Prue's article is an excellent introduction to it.


Thanks again to all our contributors for sending us such excellent material. We continue to invite contributions, as outlined in the About Us section, particularly articles on other aspects of culture such as science and technology, TV and the media, eating and drinking, clothing and fashion. Please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please also continue to send us your comments and suggestions on the site, as we're currently planning an overhaul, using analytics to refresh the SEO metadata on the components tags and automagic more responsive plugins. Or so Chris Guiton, our new Co-Managing Editor who replaces Ben Stevenson, tells me.

Mike Quille
Co-Managing Editor

K2_PUBLISHED_ON Friday, 29 April 2016 15:28

Mayday 2016

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Welcome to the Mayday issue of Culture Matters, as we march protesting through cyberspace with a long and vigorous procession of diverse material. 

A Protest March is in fact the title of our first poem, by Catherine Graham. 

Then, to go with the poems by schoolchildren in London written during Refugee Week, and as a protest against the recent intensification of bombing in Syria, there's a poem from an Irish poet, Sarah Clancy. Sarah's poem, What a Bomb Hits, is accompanied by an image specially sent to us by Peter Kennard, the 'Unofficial War Artist' at the Imperial War Museum.

Next on the march comes David Betteridge's poem, In Brecht's Bar, Glasgow. It's also illustrated, with a cartoon by Bob Starrett, who was the official artist for the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-In in 1972. We're very grateful to Bob for it. The piece also contains the Brecht poem which it references, 'Questions from A Worker Who Reads'. We'd like to invite poets (and would-be poets) to have a go at writing a poem in Brecht's deceptively simple style, and send it to us. 

After another fine poem for Mayday from Alexis Lykiard, there are two articles on poetry and politics. One is about the American poet Fred Voss, who works in a machine shop, and has done so for 30 years. The article includes several very fine poems by Voss - Poetry From A Writer Who Works, maybe? They show just how insightful a poet can be on the precarious conditions of working class life in America – conditions which we are in danger of sliding into in this country. Next month you can look forward to reading an interview with Fred, who answered our questions in wonderful, Whitmanesque prosepoetry.

The other article on poetry is by Alain Badiou, which he says offers 'a proof of communism by way of the poem'. It's about the links between communism and poetry, with a particular focus on poetry arising from the Spanish Civil War. We're publishing it because of the way it complements existing articles on Culture Matters by Andy Croft and Alan Morrison. Thanks to M. Badiou and to Verso Books for permission to republish that article, and while we're at it, thanks to all our contributors for sending in such first class material, for no remuneration.

In the theatre section of the arts hub, Gabriel Egan continues his series on Shakespeare. In the film section, there's a review of Guzman's new film Pearl Button, the second film in his trilogy which like Nostalgia for the Light, is about the politics and culture of Chile, in particular the people who 'disappeared' under Pinochet's dictatorship.

In the fiction section, there's a short story by Ted Parry. In the music section, we start a four part series on music and Marxism, by Mark Abel. We hope it stimulates other contributions which take a broadly historical materialist perspective on music – and indeed the other arts.

Over on the culture hub, Roland Boer presents the next article in his series on Marxism and religion. And finally, there is an interview with Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West and Shadow Minister for Arts and Culture. Perhaps we can build on her contribution by inviting articles from other political parties on the left, about their ideas for arts and culture policies?

We hope you enjoy your visit to our Mayday cultural march of the labour movement, and we hope you come back again. Please join in by making a contribution, and send it to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And we hope you enjoy Mayday, and the rest of the month of May.

Mike Quille
Ben Stevenson
Co-Managing Editors
Culture Matters

K2_PUBLISHED_ON Sunday, 28 February 2016 15:05

Editor's Notes, April 2016

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First of all, thanks to all the women who contributed material to mark International Womens' Day, in particular Shirin Neshat, Lisa Kelly and Sheree Mack. Thanks also to all the writers from Ireland – Sarah Clancy, Kevin Higgins and Rita Ann Higgins – who contributed material to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, and thanks also to James Crossley for his well-timed Easter article on the Radical Jesus.

There is a lot of other new material on the site. On the culture hub, there is a contribution to left cultural theory from Marc James Leger, and the third instalment of the clear and stimulating series of articles on marxism and religion from Roland Boer, which touches on similar issues to James Crossley's article.

On the theatre section of the arts hub, another series of articles starts, by Gabriel Egan, on Shakespeare. On the film section, there is a review of The Big Short by Alex Simpson. There are also two excellent articles on music: an extended review of Snarky Puppy's latest album by Nick Grant, and a very original, illustrated article by Phil Brett on jazz album covers and political protest.

The poetry section has a new article by Alan Morrison on poetry and property, building on Andy Croft's earlier essay on the privatisation of poetry.

In the visual arts section is an article by John Green on the American photographer Paul Strand, which makes some similar points to those articles. There are also two expressive but saddening artworks from two anonymous prisoners in England.

Thanks to all the contributors, and once again we invite you to send in contributions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We're tentatively moving to a monthly format, publishing most articles at the beginning of each month, except for poetry, which we'll publish continually. So please send in any articles for the May issue by 22nd April.

Finally, can you or anyone you know (eg young relatives?) write radical stories or verse for children? If so, send them in, we'd like to publish some.

Mike Quille
Ben Stevenson
Co-Managing Editors

Blake's Jerusalem Frontispiece
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 14:24

Welcome! Thank You! Join In!

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Welcome to Culture Matters, a website about progressive art, culture and politics.

You'll find more information about us in the About Us section, surprisingly enough.

We hope you enjoy your visit, and are interested, engaged and even inspired by the material to join in the 'mental fight'.

The Home Page has all of our latest articles, you can go here for details on recent material, and you can look at everything using the buttons above.

In particular we recommend the material which is about (and by) Muslims and refugees, such as the poems and short stories of Mohja Kahf, Muhaned Khorshid, and Amir Darwish. And we recommend Salena Godden's post-punk poem on the Paris attacks; Christopher Rowland's insightful article on Blake; John Storey's cogently argued piece on why culture matters; and Andy Croft's lucid yet passionate case for the essentially communist nature of poetry. If you know anyone who can write like Andy about the other arts, please send them our way.

Thanks also to the Morning Star for their assistance and support. Some of the current pieces you see here are taken from that unique paper. They are there not only for their own sake but as examples of the kind of committed writing we hope you are looking for, and which we want to encourage. And thanks to the Communist Party of Britain for providing webspace and technical support for this broadly based artistic and cultural project.

Culture Matters is currently like a first edition, or a skeleton, or a thinly populated country which we have provisionally mapped out but not defined. Many sections need more articles, and more creative material. In the months and hopefully years ahead, we want contributors to populate the country, help put flesh on the skeleton, and clothes on the flesh.

So please do join in, if you want to. You will find some common threads running through a lot of the material, a kind of emerging consensual approach to art, culture and politics. That approach, coming from contributors, is our steer, which we want to build on. Please help shape the site by reading the material, by making comments and suggestions, and by sending proposals and material to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Help build the new Jerusalem, artistically, culturally and politically, throughout Britain and the world as well as in England's green and pleasant land. Enjoy your visit, and please come back. Because Culture Matters!
Mike Quille and Ben Stevenson, Co-Managing Editors