Festivals/ Events

Festivals/ Events (14)

This section contains previews, reviews etc. of arts and cultural festivals and similar special events.

Banner Theatre  playing at the 2016 GFTU Festival

Art and the Movement

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Jan Woolf reports on the recent The Art of Trade Unions event, organised by GFTU.

I have never seen an angel. Show me an angel, and I’ll paint one.

This, from the French 19th century realist painter and Communard Gustav Courbet marked a turning point in the relationship between artist and society, for he was breaking a historic link between artist and patron that had required them to paint superstitious or aristocratic subject matter. Like England’s Constable, Courbet was an artist of the material and natural world – considered at the time to be subversive. Because it wasn’t only a declaration of art for all, but the world for all.

We’re still a long way from that. The long historic struggle between Capital and Labour has always had art at its heart – the best of it (but not all of it) on the side of Labour, for creativity has progress as an imperative. It’s not so much church and state that we’re taking on now, but the multinationals under a particularly vicious neo-liberal anarchy.

There is an urgent need for progressive artists to be involved in the Movement.

This was the opening remark from GFTU’s general secretary Doug Nicholls at The Art of Trade Unions event in Bedford December 6th, which was organised by the General Federation of Trade Unions and the open network Liberating Arts. A gathering of a radical network of activists, academics and artists watched performances and presentations that had one agenda – how cultural workers can better serve and celebrate, working class struggle.

In short, how we can change things. It’s clear how this might have happened in the past. Novels like The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, the work of Charles Dickens and Jack London, helped change consciousness to pave the way for the Welfare State, but are safely lodged in the past – and of course, we’ll never get back to those days.

Or will we? Ken Loach’s recent masterpiece I, Daniel Blake reveals the vicious effects of neo-liberalism on working class people. It’s how art works with and through us during this time of change for the working class today that is the challenge.

Academic and activist Rebecca Hillman talked about collaborations between theatre makers and trade unions, how it can be used to challenge oppressive structures, and how art can be used as a political tool. A theme taken up by Dave Smith of Blacklisted, who spoke of ‘propaganda by the deed,’ and the campaign to expose the recent blacklisting of union activists in the construction industry.

Peter Marcuse from the artists’ collective Brandalism presented a campaign against the corporate control of outdoor adverting – how it pollutes our minds. Advertisements were taken down and replaced with different images by this guerrilla art collective working with their toolkit – a key for dismantling an advert and high vis vests. After a call for graphic artists to attend AA meetings (Advertisers Anonymous), intrigued designers turned up, keen to take on the toxicity of consumerism and adopt the manifesto ‘Advertising shits on your head.

When asked about the legality of the campaign, Peter’s answer was this:

They didn’t ask if they could put their images in our faces, so we didn’t ask them if we could take them down.

‘What got you going?’ I asked him later. He said:

We were motivated by the dominance of commercial images in our cities,
and the idea that those with the most amount of money can display their
messages in front of us without our consent. Advertising regularly
re-asserts problematic cultural values that appeal to our sense of
status, individualism, wealth and power - rather than socially
beneficial values like equality, community and solidarity…Confronting the advertising industry means organizing…. and challenging one of a key drivers of neoliberal consumer capitalism.

Another ‘artivist’ was Theresa Easton of the Artists’ Union of England, talking about her work with communities engaged in activism – a hidden art force putting the paper images into a campaign, notably the Durham Teaching Assistants strike, when their employers tried to cut their pay by 23%. Did those employers REALLY expect them to lose 5k a year?

Sean Ley of Reel News was involved too – showing his film of highly energised protests, mostly women, at the Durham demonstrations of November 2016, and eighty picket lines of newly empowered workers. You don’t get that back in the bottle so easily. Reel News is a video activists’ collective who know how to use social media well, how, paradoxically, to use it to build that old fashioned idea of getting people in a room talking together.

Education was a big theme. Poet Jess Green – all staccato movement and Kate Tempest-like intensity - expressed through her performance, the contrast between the imperative of education – which comes from the Latin educare, to lead out – and the folly of excessive testing of children, and the pointless bureaucracy imposed on young teachers. Let kids be kids not a national average statistic, she said.

Banner Theatre, who had been working with trade unions since the early 1970s, did a great performance and music piece on the recent Chicago teachers strike, and the formation of Coalition of Radical Educators (CORE) a group that transformed their sluggish union into a fighting force that took on the slow privatisation of Chicago’s schools, stopping them becoming little businesses.

Townsend Productions performed extracts from Tolpuddle Theatre, and United We Stand – and their current touring production Dare Devil Rides to Jarama, by Neil Gore. It’s a new play about Clem Beckett, a motorbike speed rider who volunteered to fight fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Another character is the Marxist critic Christopher Caudwell. Caudwell on stage? Fascinating stuff. This is sophisticated drama, not agit-prop.

An invigorated audience generated some interesting ideas for;
• alternative arts councils, funded by the trade unions
• a centre/theatre as a home to working class theatre.
• importance of the revival of satire
• use of a common language around the arts, whatever the level
• professionalism and excellence
• importance of a fair rate to artists, making communities stronger

It’s interesting how the obfuscating effects of postmodernism has undermined all this, with the exclusivity of art language blurring communication between people and communities. Sure, art can serve politics by revealing and mirroring our society. It can put the oomph into a campaign, inspire and motivate, help the ideas slip down nicely, but it is its transformational nature that’s so important, and the role that art plays in a fulfilled life.

Like food, it nourishes, and we can’t live without it. But this was a given; no need to rehearse and finesse psychological theories about art and the individual and society. This event was a step on the way to a three day Liberating Arts festival planned for November 2017 as the trade union movement gears up towards a high level of struggle during the next few years, when cultural work will be strengthened to appeal to the head and heart. For art changes people, and so does activism. Together they’re dynamite.

Doug Nicholls concluded by saying this:

It's no accident that our great national poet and playwright was on our side....... Shakespeare in his history plays and great tragedies depicts the economic and moral collapse of the feudal system, in his Roman plays he shows how any socially divided society is undemocratic and ruled by despots and in his comedies, particularly plays like The Comedy of Errors, he shows how the market driven economy destroys social relationships and how human identity is distorted by profit and the cash nexus.

History, Community and Activity: the Havana Glasgow Film Festival

History, Community and Activity: the Havana Glasgow Film Festival

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Chris Barrter finds themes of History, Community, and Activity in the first of a two part review of the Havana Glasgow Film Festival.

The Havana Glasgow Film Festival (HGFF), currently screening in Glasgow (from 11-19 November), has already shown excellent films – both from Cuba and Scotland. And its ‘Passport to Cuba’ doesn’t end till Saturday!

Last weekend showed how film can energise and activate communities. On Saturday four short films made by TV Serrana, a community-based TV studio set up in the Cuban Sierra Maestre, demonstrated the ingenuity and resourcefulness of this cut-off community, creating their own hydro-electric power (La Cuchufleta), or adapting kids karts to transport goods and people (La Chivichana)! Scottish films emphasised how people need to find their own history and apply it to today’s struggles (Together we will swim again). The most striking parallel between cultures were two films featuring older women (in the Sierra Maestre, and on Lewis) living on their own. Feisty was the hallmark!

Sunday was for the Cuban Cine Pobre (low-budget) Festival. HGFF Director, Eirene Houston, a juror this year, took the chance to bring home the winners. Established in 2003 by prominent director Humberto Solas to encourage ‘low-budget’ filmmakers and bring filmmaking into the reach of communities and groups, El Tren de la Linea Norte did exactly this – screening a slice of Cuban life not usually seen in public - a forgotten Cuba of broken communities (incidentally giving the lie to those who claim criticism is banned in Cuba).

However the stars of the day were ironically, a US film, Tangerine, and Humberto, a film bio of Solas himself. Tangerine, shot entirely on iPhones, follows a day in the life of SinDee Rella a black transgender LA prostitute, searching for her cheating boyfriend and the woman he has been sleeping with. Despite its unprepossessing setting, it delivers a huge slice of human life with humour and empathy. Humberto is a traditional film bio, but the obvious love of his stars and colleagues shines through to illuminate the unique talent of this amazing man.

Cuban Ambassador Teresita Vicente Sotolongo, came to support the festival and see Amor Cronico, which mixes together a Cuban concert tour by singer Cucu Diamantes and a (fictional) romance. She said ‘The HGFF is the most wonderful example of Cuban culture. I hope it will grow in the coming years, and for sure, it will contribute to the already excellent relations between our peoples.”

Still to come are some star films, especially Bailando con Margot (Dancing witb Margot) – Thursday 17. 20 15, a ‘neo-noir’ mystery and the first feature film by Arturo Santana, who is coming across from Havana for a Q&A thanks to sponsorship from Unite; Cuba Libre – Thursday 17. 14.45 - a historical drama on the Spanish American War in Cuba and Los Bolos En Cuba – Friday 18. 19.45 - a warm, nostalgic and irreverent film reflecting the time of friendship between Cuba and the Soviet Union.

On Friday morning also, there is an important masterclass by Festival co-Director, and writer, Hugo Rivalta. He will be talking about cinema’s role in the Cuban revolution. - 11.00 Friday 18 in the Glasgow School of Art (Reid Building).

The final day focuses on Cuban animation, and the success of the festival will be celebrated in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum on Saturday, where Gordon Cree will be playing Cuban salsa on the huge organ, and some recently discovered Cuban film archives, brought to Scotland for restoration, will be shown.

The programme is available on the Havana Glasgow Film Festival website - http://www.hgfilmfest.com/ programme.

Orgreave: an injury to one is an injury to all

Orgreave: an injury to one is an injury to all

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JEREMY DELLER GIVES ORGREAVE WORK TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE LEFT BOOK CLUB


Amber Rudd rules out an enquiry into the 1984 violent clash between police and striking miners, saying that 'policing had changed' - thereby implying that there was something very wrong with policing at the time.

Meanwhile Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller has given a signed set of 19 photographs that he took during a re-enactment of the battle of Orgreave for his 2001 video work
'The Battle of Orgreave ; an Injury to one is an injury to all', shown at Tate Britain. 

Jeremy Deller says, 'I am delighted to donate this work to the Left book Club, to raise funds for this important enterprise, and to keep Orgreave fresh in our minds.'

The work is an important collectors' item and can be bought for £500 as part of the Left Book Club's current crowdfunder.


Call Jan Woolf - 07967 161 291 for further information. For details of the work and crowdfunder, which is raising money to fund new progressive writing and a network of live book clubs to debate their work: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/leftbookclub

No Pasaran! Festival at Marx Memorial Library

No Pasaran! Festival at Marx Memorial Library

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This month marks the 80th anniversary of the creation of the International Brigades – those men and women who travelled to Spain from more than 50 countries to fight fascism and defend democracy in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.

The Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell, London, will be hosting a series of events over the next two weeks for this important anniversary in conjunction with the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT), Unite the Union and Townsend Productions.

There were 2,500 ‘volunteers for liberty’ from the British Isles, and 526 of them died in the war to stop Franco, Hitler and Mussolini.

The Spanish Republic was eventually defeated. But the volunteers, who warned that a world war was inevitable unless the spread of fascism was stopped in Spain, were proved right.

They also inspired the world by their example of sacrifice and international solidarity. Their struggle, and the heroic efforts all those in Spain and elsewhere who supported the cause of the Republic, continue to give inspiration to anti-fascists and campaigners for social justice.

Their story lives on in many spheres – in politics, the labour movement, the academic world and in the arts. Our two-week mini-festival, ‘Remembering the International Brigades’, aims to capture some of that heritage.

Renowned historians Paul Preston and Richard Baxell are to speak about the historical significance of the International Brigades on Tuesday (18 October).

On Thursday (20 October) we will welcome folk-duo na-mara for a performance of songs inspired by the International Brigades and the Spanish Civil War. At the same time we will screen two new short films about the volunteers, one from Britain, another from Poland, interspersed with poems about the war in Spain.

Then on Sunday 30 October there is to be a gala matinée performance of songs from ‘Dare Devil Rides to Jarama’, a new play about the International Brigades commissioned by the IBMT.

This will be followed by a drinks reception and the unveiling by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP of a plaque naming the 90 men of the British Battalion who were killed in the Battle of the Ebro in the summer of 1938.

The plaque was first unveiled on the Ebro battlefield in 2005 by International Brigade veterans Bob Doyle, Jack Jones, Sam Lesser and Alan Menai Williams. It was smashed to pieces two years later by Spanish neo-fascists. A replacement was soon re-installed, but this original plaque, though damaged, will have pride of place in our memorial garden in Clerkenwell.

In the week leading up to this unveiling, from 24-29 October, ‘Dare Devil Rides to Jarama’ will be performed at the Bussey Building in Peckham.

Described in this newspaper by reviewer Peter Frost as ‘quite simply the best political theatre produced for a long, long time’, the play centres on the contrasting lives of two communists who joined the British Battalion: former blacksmith and champion speedway motorcyclist Clem Beckett and Christopher Caudwell, the Marxist theoretician, poet and novelist. Though from differing backgrounds they forged a bond of anti-fascism – and a shared a similar fate at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937.

After its residency at the Bussey Building the play, written by Neil Gore and produced by Louise Townsend, resumes its UK tour until3 December, including performances in Portsmouth, Doncaster, Sheffield, Liverpool and Oxford.

The International Brigades and the Spanish Civil War, perhaps more than any other modern war, inspired much great art, whether paintings, posters, poetry, songs, novels, film and memoirs. Underlining the point, Cecil Day Lewis, who wrote the great paean to the Brigaders, ‘The Volunteer’ was soon to ask during the Second World War: ‘Where are the war poets?’

As the songs of na-mara and Neil Gore’s new play demonstrate, the volunteers are still being celebrated on stage and elsewhere in the arts.

And the war itself, its causes, course and tragic outcome, continue to provoke heated discussion and argument among historians and those of us on the left.

Our festival hopes to capture some of this legacy, and thus to help inform and inspire a new generation who will learn about the men and women who declared: ‘¡No pasarán!’

For more information about these events see www.marxlibrary.org.uk/education/upcoming-events andwww.townsendproductions.org.uk

 

Bristol Radical Film Festival

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Steve Presence introduces the Bristol Radical Film Festival, on from 7-9 October.

The Bristol Radical Film Festival returns this October for its fifth year celebrating political, activist and experimental filmmaking. This season’s programme promises an exciting blend of some of the newest and provocative features, including the winners of our international short film competition, alongside a number of rarely screened classics.

There is a timely showing of A VERY BRITISH COUP, the 1980s made-for-TV drama about the obstacles facing a newly elected left wing labour government, and rare screenings of BLACK IS… BLACK AIN'T and SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM by the legendary US filmmakers, Marlon Riggs and William Greaves. Two outstanding contemporary feature films: SLEAFORD MODS - INVISIBLE BRITAIN, about the radical anti-austerity, post-punk band Sleaford Mods; and LIGHT YEARS, the acclaimed first feature from Bristol-based director Esther May Campbell, offer current explorations on life in contemporary Britain.

Bristol Radical Film Festival was set-up in 2011 to provide a platform for politically-engaged, aesthetically innovative cinema, and is now part of The Radical Film Network, an international network of similar organisations involved in progressive, alternative film culture.

Venue: The Jam Jar Collective, 4a The Old Malt House, Little Ann Street, BS2 9EB
Festival Pass: £30 | All individual screenings: £6/4

 

Before the festival is our INSIGHT/INCITE SEASON, a collaboration between Bristol Radical Film and black cinema collective Come the Revolution. A triple bill of screenings, the first two of which are Thursday 8th and Friday 9th October at Trinity: 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

                                                                                                                       PROGRAMME
.
FRIDAY
A Very British Coup 7.30pm - 10.30pm
[Mick Jackson, 1988, 2hr 28m]
A Jeremy Corbyn special! Based on the 1982 novel by Chris Mullin, this political thriller stars Ray McAnally as Harry Perkins, a newly-elected socialist prime minister. As he sets about pursuing policies of open government, nuclear disarmament and the breakup of press monopolies, the Establishment deploy all means at their disposal to bring him down in… a very British coup. Given recent events in the real Labour Party, this film is no longer just a fascinating political fantasy: it’s training.

SATURDAY
Black Is… Black Ain’t - 1.00pm - 3.00pm (£6/4)
[Marlon Riggs, 1995, 1hr 27m]
The final film from the legendary US filmmaker, poet and gay rights activist, Marlon Riggs, Black Is… Black Ain’t is a powerful critique of sexism, patriarchy, homophobia and cultural nationalism in American society. Blending performance and poetry with commentary by noted cultural critics Angela Davis, bell hooks, Cornel West and Michele Wallace, Black Is...Black Ain't is a rich tapestry of personal testimony, music and history that rejoices in black culture, diversity and creativity.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm and discussion feat. BEEF - 4.00pm - 6.30pm
[William Graves, 1991, 1hr 15m]
Made in 1971 but unreleased until 1991, director William Greaves' weird and unexpected masterpiece is a film about a couple in crisis. But - it's also a documentary about making that film, then again punctured by secret recordings by the crew about the director's method. The original intimacy of the film transforms over and over to encompass the wider world of politics and art. This 'meta' film, which the New Yorker calls "one of the greatest movies about filmmaking ever made" is not the clumsy theoretical art piece it might sound like, but a genuine hidden gem from the underground. The discussion will be led by the Bristol Expanded and Experimental Film (BEEF) collective.

Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain with Director Q&A - 8.00pm-10.00pm
[Nathan Hannawin and Paul Sng, 2015, 1hr 26min]
This documentary depicts the most relevant and uncompromising British band in years sticking two fingers up to the zeitgeist and articulating the rage and desperation of those without a voice in austerity Britain. Part band doc, part look at the state of the nation, Invisible Britain follows Sleaford Mods on a UK tour prior to the 2015 General Election, visiting the neglected, broken-down and boarded-up parts of the country that many would prefer to ignore.

As Maxine Peake put it: “If you're angry about the bullying ruling bastards and you give even half a toss, you have to watch this film”.

10.00PM: PARTY!
(Suggested donation £4)
As Victorian anarchist legend Emma Goldman may or may not have said: “if I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution.” Join BRFF DJs DJ Dad, Screwface and Mo as we turn our screening space at the Old Malt House into a dance floor for the evening, playing everything good from funk and soul to lairy bass music. Til late, no fighting.


SUNDAY
Short films - 2.00pm - 4.00pm
[~various artists~, 90mins]
This is the cream of the crop from the 2000+ submissions to our annual short film competition. From radical filmmakers all over the world, these contemporary short films have been selected to showcase the extraordinary range and creativity deployed by filmmakers seeking to engage the myriad environmental, social and political issues in the 21st century.

BRFF: In Conversation - 5.00pm - 6.30pm
(by donation)
For the first time, the Bristol Radical Film Festival team are extending an open invitation to our audiences to discuss the workings of the festival, how we operate without funding, what we are aiming to do, and how we can develop in the coming years. We want to discuss the whats, whys and hows of our festival, to answer (and ask) questions about BRFF and what it might become. We hope that you will all join us for the penultimate event of BRFF 2016, an exciting chance to inform our activities and our ability to contribute to the radical development of the city of Bristol.

Light Years - 7.30pm -9.30pm
[Esther May Campbell, 2016, 1hr 30m]
LIGHT YEARS is the debut feature from BAFTA winning, Bristol-based filmmaker Esther May Campbell. Featuring the acting debut of singer/songwriter Beth Orton alongside Muhammet Uzuner and a cast of young newcomers, the film is a poetic, ambient and startling story of loss, hope and the deepest of human connections, that follows a family through a quiet crisis. We’re delighted to have this aesthetically radical, locally-produced, and affective work to close this year’s festival.

 For more information see brff.co.uk @bristolfilmfest facebook.com/radicalfilmfestival

Fighting for Crumbs: Art Against Austerity

Fighting for Crumbs: Art Against Austerity

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                                                          FIGHTING FOR CRUMBS – WHO SAYS PROTEST ART IS DEAD?

                          'IT'S KINDA LIKE THE AFTER EFFECTS OF AUSTERITY, AND NOW PEOPLE ARE LIKE LITERALLY FIGHTING FOR CRUMBS" - CORINNE DEAKIN, 2016

John Ledger, a local artist, was keen to contribute to The Redshed's (AKA the Wakefield Labour Club’s) 50th anniversary celebrations and has coordinated a day of events at the club.

John has worked together with 6 local artists to explore the realities of living in Austerity Britain. Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) is a group exhibition at Gage Gallery in Sheffield, and the Redshed (Wakefield Labour Club).

At Gage Gallery Corinne Deakin and John Ledger are both producing installation pieces. One of John’s installations will be in collaboration with the poet Jonathan Butcher. In addition John Ledger will be showing his wall pieces. Rebekah Whitlam's contribution will include both craft art and installation, as she explores the conflict between economic survival and artistic expression. John Wilkinson will display a number of his urban/industrial expressionist paintings, including new works specially created for the show. Connor Matheson will showcase his social-realist photography, and performance artist Nick Kilby will be performing a new piece specially written for the show at the closing event.

John Ledger will be exhibiting his drawings at the Redshed. This venue will showcase a documentary the artists have crowdfunded and written, dealing with the challenges that working class people face in a world where security and confidence are constantly undermined, whilst there is a pressure to make ‘safe art that sells’ rather than work that criticise and question what impact the modern world has people. The Crowdfunder shows how people will support each other when they need it - the kind of support that has kept the Redshed going strong for 50 years.

Velvet Joy Productions have kindly given permission for their inspirational documentary Invisible Britain (based on the band the Sleaford Mods) to be shown alongside our documentary. Whilst JD Taylor, author of Negative Capitalism (Cynicism in The Neoliberal Era) and Island Story (Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain) has kindly agreed to talk at the event.

The Wakefield event will take place at the Red Shed, 18 Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1 1QX on Saturday 13th August, from 1pm

The main art exhibition is taking place at Gage Gallery, Sheffield. The Sheffield event launches at 6.30pm on the evening of the 8th August at Gage Gallery, 40 Ball Street, Sheffield S3 8DB. An additional performance event will close the show, on the evening of the 12th August starting 7pm. All welcome to both events.
Mayday 2016

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, which will be posted up in a few days, 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 atThis 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

Humphrey Jennings, The Silent Village, 1943

A socialist challenge to the status quo

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'Meanwhile, what about Socialism?', a quote from Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier, was the question posed by the AV International Arts Festival 2016, held in North East England in March. Since 'socialism' was the most looked-for word in 2015, what more appropriate title for a progressive arts festival could there be?

Thematically linked by Orwell's road map of a democratic socialism based on equality and fairness, the events were all inspired by themes of socialist political struggle, and created by artists committed to the importance of cultural action in contributing to a progressive politics. Over the course of a month, a varied and wide-ranging programme was offered including 12 exhibitions, 48 films, many talks and discussions, and some special performances by artists.

The film screenings and discussions about British film maker Marc Karlin, whose work critiques both Thatcherism and Blairism, were highlights, as were the politically and aesthetically radical films from the Soviet Union.
The screening of Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's Winstanley was a reminder of the almost forgotten tradition of English communism, and the programme of British political documentaries from the 1930s to recent times exposing injustice and deprivation offered practical and utopian alternatives.
Why on earth, it made you wonder, aren't films like this being made any more?

The Festival ended with a live performance by Kris Canavan. Over 22 hours he pounded the pavement of Jarrow opposite derelict industrial land, crushing 200 concrete blocks, reflecting the number of proletarian protesters who marched to London, denouncing the crushing of their shipbuilding industry and their community by the capitalist system.

Thanks to the artists involved and the powerful, synergistic curating of the Festival Director, Rebecca Shatwell, all the events contributed to the sense of a developing manifesto, a collective challenge to the apolitical, self-referential mainstream art world, and to the harsh and corrupt consensus of the political world.

From different positions, in different art forms and geopolitical contexts, a common message emerged of international artists successfully removing progressive politics from the language of nostalgia and mourning and suggesting new and vibrant forms of resistance.

Neoliberal capitalism increasingly appears to be morally, culturally and politically bankrupt. It certainly has come close — and may come closer — to financial bankruptcy. Which is why the question AV poses: “What about socialism?” couldn't have been more timely.