Mike Quille

Mike Quille

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

Poetry of the working class at the Torriano Meeting House, 22nd July
Thursday, 14 June 2018 22:08

Poetry of the working class at the Torriano Meeting House, 22nd July

Published in Poetry

On Sunday July 22nd, live at 7.30pm at the Torriano Meeting House, Kentish Town, five great London-based poets, all published or about to be published by Culture Matters, will read their poetry.

They are Fran Lock........ Peter Raynard........ Martin Hayes........ Alan Dunnett........ and Nadia Drews. You'll hear some rather special poets read some very special words......so be there!

CM booklet FL Muses cover

Fran Lock: "...in those hotbed-of-non-event towns, / she dug in her heels, and she bit back her/ anger..." - From ‘our mother's day will come.
Fran is the author of four books: Flatrock (Little Episodes, 2011), The Mystic and the Pig Thief (Salt, 2014), Dogtooth (Out-Spoken Press, 2017) and Muses and Bruises (Manifesto Press/Culture Matters, 2017). Her work is concerned with the unlikely strategies for resistance in the lives of working-class women and girls. 

CM book Raynard cover for promo 2


Peter Raynard
: ‘some of us are trench-foot perfect-fit coffin fodder taken in by the pointed finger of men bred from a moustache to dig a scar down France to bury ourselves in’ - From Tommy and the Common Five-Eighters.

Peter is the author of two books: Precarious (Smokestack, 2018) & The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto (Culture Matters, 2018).

Martin Hayes cover

Martin Hayes – "...because in the end/ don’t we need these jobs/ for more than just their money don’t we need these jobs/ so that we can stand in front of mirrors/ and look at ourselves/ without feeling worthless/ or disconnected..." - From stitching this Universe together 

Martin has worked in the London courier industry for over 30 years. He is the author of four books: Letting Loose The Hounds, (Redbeck Press). When We Were Almost Like Men,(Smokestack). The Things Our Hands Once Stood For, (Culture Matters) and Roar! (Smokestack, 2018)

CM book Alan Dunnett cover for promo


Alan Dunnett
: “Crucifixions on either side and winter coming on although it is still warm. In the streets are banners and megaphones sounding through open shop doors, marching, democracy, discussion, disagreement. Let me help you up. It's not too late.”– From When The Well Runs Dry

Alan works mainly at Drama Centre, CSM, where he is also a UCU rep. His poetry has appeared online and in print including Culture Matters, Stand, Skylight 47, The Rialto, The Recusant, The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 (Eyewear). A Third Colour is Alan’s debut collection (Culture Matters, 2018).

Nadia Drews: “It was in the way she spat./Jutting jets, tongue-funnelled,/Through a rizla-thin grimacing gap./Like a mill-misting drizzle.”– From The things she did not say.

Nadia grew up in San Francisco sun and Greater Manchester mizzle. She is a former Farrago Poetry Slam Champion who protests through songs and plays including the pub-staged I Love Vinegar Vera (What becomes of the Broken Hearted). She is currently working on a collection for Culture Matters to be published later this year.

In bed with Macbeth
Friday, 01 June 2018 07:56

A Third Colour: A protest against the world we live in

Published in Poetry

Mike Quille introduces a new collection of poetry from Culture Matters.

Housmans, the not-for-profit radical bookshop, is at the foot of the Caledonian Road near King's Cross station in North London. It was the venue for the recent launch of A Third Colour, Culture Matters' new collection of poems by Alan Dunnett with accompanying images by the artist Alix Emery.

Films made from the poems were screened, including Interrogation: https://vimeo.com/271818949 and Brother and Sister: https://vimeo.com/271823547

Music from Dungeness, Niobe, Pumajaw and Love, with their fractured, dystopian concerns, was played, echoing and complementing the themes of the poems. Readings with other Culture Matters poets will follow in the summer

‘These are poems of the first importance by the least self-important of writers’ says Bernard O’Donoghue in his introduction. Through the sheen of vivid, simple narratives and vignettes, we glimpse more disturbing, ambivalent themes of alienation, dislocation and suffering, the psychological fallout of anxiety in modern capitalist culture. These are serious, quietly passionate poems, about topics that matter in life: love and hurt and justice. Some are masterpieces of humanity and compassion, concerned with mothers and daughters, and with brothers and sisters. Others are bitterly ironic commentaries on politics and modern government.

The subtly expressed unease and angst is perfectly complemented by the restrained, fractured images by Alix Emery, which add depth, colour and enhanced meanings to the poems. Feelings of disorientation and existential aloneness run through the images, and the repetition of red dots in the images - and throughout the beautifully designed book - hint at the underpinning network of cultural control and surveillance which facilitates our exploitation and oppression under capitalism.

A Third Colour is a book of visionary, poetic parables and dystopian, uneasy images. It is a principled and skilful expression of, and protest against, the world we live in. 

A Third Colour is £8 (plus £1.50 p&p) and you can order copies here.

The beauty and usefulness of poetry: Teeside International Poetry Festival
Tuesday, 01 May 2018 22:16

The beauty and usefulness of poetry: Teeside International Poetry Festival

Published in Poetry

Mike Quille praises the 'subversive internationalism' of the 2018 Teeside International Poetry Festival, and presents some of the poems performed there.

250 years ago, Middlesbrough-born James Cook set sail on one of history’s iconic imperialist journeys. It was a voyage which extended scientific, geographical and cultural knowledge of other peoples. It also facilitated the violent economic exploitation of the globe, the political domination of other peoples, and massive worldwide cultural destruction, theft and appropriation by Britain’s ruling class.

fish quay fugues

by Paul Summers

i. doggerland

the old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.

 - antonio gramsci

 

& the way will be perilous;

black ice & shark-eyed smiles,

several heaps of hogmanay vomit,

a vacant pizza-box draped with hoar,

its palimpsest of feast & greed,

bleak litany of the new & old,

dog-shit & fag-ends & crumbling roads,

the hours’ lash, the pains of labour,

the endless cycle of peddled fact.

& then the sanctuary of frozen sand;

its confluence of salt & wind-whipped crows,

the hymn of a sea cathedral hollow.

kick off your shoes my love & walk;

due east, towards the burgeoning sun.

plough on through the grave mounds

of haddock-frames & listless kelp,

tread slowly on the pebble field,

avoid the triggers of its toad-back traps;

then walk & wade & catch your breath,

beyond the bar where codling lurk,

let swell becalm your troubled blood,

squeeze shut your jaded eyes & dream;

the rapture of tectonic plates entwined

in acts of violence & of love, the red raw

ooze of magma’s birthing, each push,

each jolt, each breathless force exerted

sees citadels emergent from these waves,

a glimpse of doggerland’s trembling plains,

its strongholds of hope re-rendered

now un-drowned, their beacons still charged,

their gates agape, their monsters slain;

each edifice an altar awaiting our faith.

Working women and men in Middlesbrough never benefited very much from Britain’s imperialist project. It is now one of the most economically and socially deprived areas of the UK, and has the most ethnically diverse population in the North East.

The Usefulness of Poetry

by Francis Combes

A young beggar encountered in the metro

had written these words

on a piece of cardboard hung round his neck;

‘As the burning forest

shouts towards the river’s water

I appeal to you:

Please give me

something to eat.’

And it seems

People were giving.

(Which would tend to point to

the usefulness of poetry

in our societies.)

Against this background of deindustrialization, poverty and dispossession, the Teeside International Poetry Festival, which ran in various venues in Middlesbrough at the end of April, showcased a phenomenal variety of examples of artistic, social and political engagement from countries around the world as well as from communities in the North East.

The sheer internationalism of the event was astounding. Poets came to read and perform their poetry from Iraq, Finland, Iceland, Nigeria, Botswana, Poland, Russia, India and elsewhere. The variety of the poetics on offer was astonishing, from Lev Rubinstein’s Russian conceptual poetry, with its roots in the wonderful flowering of conceptual arts in 1920s revolutionary Soviet Union……..

Unnamed events

by Lev Rubinstein

Absolutely impossible.

Not at all possible.

Impossible.

Perhaps, at some point.

Sometime.

Later.

Not yet.

Not now.

And not now.

And not now.

Perhaps, soon.

It could be soon.

Really soon.

Perhaps earlier than expected.

Quite soon.

Just about.

Now.

Pay attention.

Here.

Well, that’s about all.

That’s all.

……….to Peter Adegbie’s and Eric Motswasale’s gloriously entertaining praise-poetry from Nigeria and Botswana, interrogating the rapacious – and ongoing – effects of European colonialism on Africa's languages and peoples:

Esoobay!

by Peter Adegbie

Was a rallying cry!

When your car was stuck... Esoobay!

When friends gave a hand... Esoobay!

When brute strength was needed

all you required was a shout of Esoobay!

We will laugh and sometimes we cried,

but we always got the task done.

Esoobay was a mantra of vigour.

I thought Esoobay was Ibo or Efik

or one of those exotic dialect

of the proud Niger, rich in history and folklore.

O great bright sky, how could I

under your gaze have lived

in blindness for so long?

Apes Obey!

Who could ever imagine

that colonial abuse can become language.

This persona crept into our lives

without guns or machete.

It took on life, defying time

abusing reason until its truth shames me.

It is not the truth that hurts the most

but the emptiness that takes its place.

Esoobay... cherished chant of my youth

now lost forever, stripped like leaves

off the tree of indignity,

sounds of a fractured memory

I long to forget in the winds of history.

 

Africa  

by Keabonye Bareeng

What happened to you Africa?

You were born black and free

Yet you never enjoyed your liberty

Your hands and legs bear the marks of slavery

You were not a buyer in a slave trade market

You were never in enslaved no one

But your children are bound servants

They speak a stranger to a merciless alien chorus

Tailor made to fit his distraction aspiration

AFRICA you were born wealthy

Gold, diamonds, oil, and kinds of minerals

God planted them in the belly of your black land

Raw and indubitable for your enjoyment

Yet you have never tasted their sweetness

They are looted in the name assistance

Finished products of your own minerals

Do not bear your name AFRICA

You cannot afford to purchase them

You are poorest and survived by aids

Aids that you get in the exchange of your soul

Aids that have strings attached to

Aids that drinks the blood of your children

Who has robbed you of your dignity?

The alien enjoys your riches

The interior of your land is blessed and rich

But you are not able to feed your own children

Hunger disease swallow your children

Conflicts rooted elsewhere finds comfort in your huts

Your infants are freezing from the cold of imperialism

 

AFRICA who raped you and broke your virginity?

Your beauty that used to grasp the eyes of strangers

Has been turned into a battle field of endless wars

Who gave you AK47 to massacre your own children?

Why do you allow them to give their war tanks?

You were born peaceful and abhorred conflict

They made weapons to terminate you AFRICA

Their destructive missiles are tested in your head

At the barrel of a gun they looted your land

Why do you let them mislead you?

Who has bewitched you great land?

Stand up and open your eyes AFRICA

Certify your exploiters wrong

You are not what they declare you to be

You can clean your house without their help

Develop your culture without their rescue

You can heal your land without medication

Talk; minister to God without their medication

Breast-feed your children without compassion

Africa you the age and powerful enough to rescue yourself

Do not let them divide you and fight in your land

Do not allow them to despise you

You know their minds they cannot perceive your capability

You have mastered their language they are unable to speak yours

AFRICA you are elegant, preserves yourself that way

There is nobody like you anywhere AFRICA.

Over the course of four days, the festival shaped itself into a living collage of poetics, gradually building a conversational echo-chamber of voices and languages which was as stimulating as it was energising. Diversity was also expressed and celebrated through the wide range of events. As well as readings, cabarets, and workshops, there was a launch of a book of poems by Teeside primary schoolchildren; an Urdu-Punjabi 'mushaira' or poetic gathering; and poetry masterclasses in local colleges.

There were also some excellent discussions about poetry, such as the one at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art on the relationship between beauty and usefulness in poetry. MIMA, it should be noted, is also moving forward with a responsive, civic agenda - its new mission is to reconnect art with its social function and promote art as a tool for changing the world. Like the poets appearing at the Festival, MIMA wishes to have an influence on society, and play a full part in addressing current issues in politics, economics and culture. Its current and planned programmes of visual art tackle urgent and locally very pressing themes of housing, migration, and inequality, which made it a fitting venue for Festival events.

What, then, binds together this eclectic, multi-stranded poetry festival, as it creatively scatters the peaceful light of global fellowship and community, and imaginatively shatters the violent realities of imperialism, chauvinism, exploitation and oppression?

Its gentle, insistent and necessarily subversive internationalism. Its celebration of poetry as a tool of resistance, of protest, of imagining alternatives. And its subtly suggestive but quietly powerful celebration of poetry as a fundamentally social art which makes common cause between communities worldwide, and which enables a communal imagining of a better world.

No Them Only Us
Thursday, 05 April 2018 18:39

Their walls are our stones

Published in Cultural Commentary

What would a radical, socialist culture policy look like?

Last September I reported on The World Transformed festival, organised by Momentum alongside the Labour Party conference in Brighton. It included several workshops on culture, looking at what the elements of a radical culture policy might be, building on the commitments in the 2017 Labour Manifesto.

That manifesto was a marked improvement on previous manifestos, and clearly reflected the personal vision of Jeremy Corbyn and his team. He was the only candidate in 2015 to support the role of the arts in nourishing everyday creativity, and its potential for political dissent.

The manifesto also backed policies to improve working class access to culture, both as workers in creative industries – musicians, actors, writers etc. – and as spectators and consumers of culture.

The open, participatory nature of politics which the Brighton workshops exemplified has now become the Movement for Cultural Democracy, with a new website, http://colouringinculture.org/cultural-democracy-home, and a series of planned regional events to consult on what a radical culture manifesto should look like.

Culture Matters supports this movement. We believe that culture is more than just the arts. Culture is ordinary and culture is everything, as Raymond Williams said. It includes all the cultural activities that are essential for our enjoyment, entertainment, enlightenment and exercise as fulfilled human beings.

Cultural democracy is about reclaiming and developing our artistic, intellectual, physical and spiritual commons. It’s about struggling in a democratic and socialist way to overcome the profit-driven pressures which make all kinds of cultural activities expensive, inaccessible or irrelevant. Or even worse, when they facilitate surveillance and manipulation – as in the current Facebook scandal – instead of nurturing human development and liberation.

As Len McCluskey said here a few months ago,

Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, believes that our members, and working people generally, have an equal right to join in and enjoy all the arts and cultural activities. We believe we should be able to afford them, be near to them, and be able to enjoy them.
 
Most of all, we believe artists and leaders of cultural institutions – not only theatres, art galleries, concert halls and poetry publishers, but sports clubs, churches, and broadcasting and media corporations – should seek to engage with all sections of the community, particularly the least well off.

These radical calls for the democratisation and socialisation of culture should be at the heart of a new culture policy.

Our profit-driven capitalist economy seeks to destroy or co-opt the potential of the arts to express dissent and imagine alternatives. And it shrinks from the spectre of everyday, emerging communism, which is generated naturally when people get together in generous solidarity to enjoy the arts, sport, science, eating and drinking, and so much else. It throws up barriers between social classes, genders, ethnic groups, building divisive walls based on the private ownership of property.

We need to break down those walls. We need to reclaim and renew our artistic, physical, intellectual and spiritual commons. We need to democratise and socialise our cultural institutions – the art gallery, the football club, the newspaper, the church and the laboratory, as well as the economic and political ones – the factory, the corporation, the council, Whitehall and Westminster.

Their walls are our stones.

 

Bread and Roses Poetry Award 2018
Monday, 19 March 2018 17:53

Bread and Roses Poetry Award 2018

Published in Poetry

Culture Matters is pleased to announce that the second Bread and Roses Poetry Award, sponsored by Unite, is now open for entries. It is part of our mission to promote a socialist approach to culture. The purpose of the Award is to create new opportunities for working class people to write poetry, and encourage poets to focus on themes which are meaningful to working class people and communities.

Submission Guidelines and Award Rules

1. You may enter up to three original, previously unpublished 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.

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

6. Entries should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by midnight on Friday 8 June, or by post to Culture Matters, c/o 8 Moore Court, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE15 8QE, to arrive on Friday 8 June. 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.

9. Due to the large number of entries we are unable to respond individually to submissions.

10. By entering the Award, entrants agree to accept and be bound by the rules of the Award and the decisions of the judges, who will be from Culture Matters and Unite.

Winners may be invited to an award ceremony in Durham on 13 July, linked to the Durham Miners’ Gala, with travel and accommodation costs paid. The best poems will be published in an anthology later in 2018.

NB The arrangements around the award ceremony in Durham have now had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, but the anthology will still be published. 

Copies of the Bread and Roses Poetry Anthology 2017 are available to buy here.

Cultural democracy: Revolt and Revolutions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Wednesday, 31 January 2018 21:21

Cultural democracy: Revolt and Revolutions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Published in Visual Arts

Mike Quille reviews an involving, stimulating exhibition which encourages the growing appetite for cultural democracy.

The recent appointment of Elisabeth Murdoch to Arts Council England was yet more evidence of the increasing domination of public funding for the arts by corporate and right-wing interests.

There is growing resistance, however, among activists and artists. There are also signs that labour movement leaders are becoming more aware of the importance of cultural activities in the lives of their members – see for example Len McCluskey’s Introduction to the Bread and Roses 2017 Poetry Anthology.

The 2017 Labour manifesto also contained some progressive promises around devolving decision-making, increasing funding and boosting arts education in schools. It was a great improvement on previous manifestos, which had become more and more oriented towards art and culture as merely functional for economic regeneration.

It was flawed, though – see here for a cogent critique by Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt. Debates and discussions on the left are growing, and reports, articles and manifestos are being proposed, based on a much more radical approach to arts and culture. For example, see here for the result of discussions at the Momentum-organised The World Transformed festival in Brighton last September. Events are being planned around the country to present and consult on this manifesto, by the Movement for Cultural Democracy.

One of the features of this movement is a belief that the cultural struggle and the political struggle go hand in hand – that culture, as well as being entertaining and enjoyable, is essentially liberating in a political sense. Cultural activities are fundamentally social and equalising, asserting our common humanity against divisions of class, gender, race and other social divisions engendered by capitalism, especially its neoliberal variant. In this view, culture can inspire, support, and accompany radical change in the real world.

There is no better current example of this belief in the power of art to transform the world than the current ‘Revolt and Revolutions’ exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield. A variety of works, linked in various ways, showcase some of the strands of counter-cultural and anti-establishment movements of recent times, and invite us to join in.

At the entrance to the exhibition, The Internationale, as sung by the artist Susan Philipsz, is broadcast in the open air. It calls us in, resonating across the former coalfields and industrial heartlands of South Yorkshire. The faltering, saddened voice conveys both the sufferings endured by the northern working classes in the last fifty years, and their resilience and continuing determination to redress injustice through political action.

As we go inside the gallery, more music welcomes us. Ruth Ewan’s A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World is a selection of classics of political music and song, updated to include songs for the Trump era, which visitors can choose and listen to.

Resized Ruth Ewan A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World 2003 2017. Courtesy the artist and YSP. Photo Jonty Wilde D850167

Ruth Ewan, A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World, courtesy the artist and YSP. Photo © Jonty Wilde

Political music is also celebrated by two arpilleras, a kind of Chilean patchwork quilt, illustrating the key ideals of the New Chilean Song Movement. This was a powerful, persuasive cultural movement which accompanied and assisted the rise to power of Salvador Allende’s socialist government in 1970. One of its main supporters was the singer, guitarist and communist Victor Jara, later tortured and killed by the Pinochet regime. Pinochet’s admirers and allies included Margaret Thatcher, responsible for the privatisation of the local Yorkshire steel industry and the British state’s war against the miners and their socialist leaders, in 1984-5.

resized 2 Arpillera New Chilean Song 198083 unkown political prisoner Chile. Private Collection. Courtesy YSP. Photo Jonty Wilde D850171     YSP resized

Arpillera, New Chilean Song, 1980–83, unknown political prisoner, Chile, and an installation view including Helmet Head 1, Henry Moore, cast 1960. Courtesy YSP, photos © Jonty Wilde

Henry Moore was a socialist and the son of a miner, brought up in a household where meetings of the first miners’ union were held. His works have graced the Park for many years, and in this exhibition his bronze sculpture Helmet Head evokes the exterior toughness and interior vulnerability of hardworking, hard-up men and women.

Resized Revolt Revolutions installation view 2017. Arts Council Collection Southbank Centre London the artist. Courtesy YSP. Photo Jonty Wilde D850274

Revolt & Revolutions, installation view, 2017. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist. Courtesy YSP. Photo © Jonty Wilde

There are many more artworks and a particularly vivid display of photographs expressing the punkish, counter-cultural spirit of the seventies. But the outstanding artwork is a 15 minute video of local resident Alison Catherall, still living in Castleford, birthplace of Henry Moore. It tells the story of the region over her lifetime, from the optimism and pride of the fifties and sixties to the Tories’ assault on the working class communities in the seventies, eighties and beyond, and her determination to crusade for a better life, a transformed world for young people through education, culture and heritage.

She tells her lifestory, from the optimism and pride when she was young in the fifties and sixties, to the Tories’ assault on local steelworking and mining communities in the seventies, eighties and beyond. Her voice rises and becomes impassioned as she talks about her continuing militant determination to crusade for a transformed world – a better life for young people through education, culture and heritage.

 

Resized Larry Achiampong and David Blandy FF Gaiden Legacy 2017 film still. Courtesy YSP and Castleford Heritage Trust 04

Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, FF Gaiden-Legacy, 2017 (film still). Courtesy YSP and Castleford Heritage Trust

This moving oral history of suffering and struggle is illustrated by film of a female avatar, taken from the video game Grand Auto Theft 5, striding through deserted pit galleries, up and down the hilly landscape, by day and by night and through all weathers. The local and particular story of suffering, endurance and resilience becomes universal, an artistic tribute to both local and global working class communities – particularly the experience and struggles of women to keep those communities alive.

This focus on art which comes from the experiences of the many, and is addressed to the many, is carried through not only in the curating of the exhibition – there are several exhibits inviting public participation – but in the events organised around it. For example, on February 20th, the evening of the UN Day for Social Justice, YSP are running a talk on ‘Do You Want to Change the World’ on the relevance of art and culture to the political transformation of society.

Helen Pheby is the senior curator at YSP responsible for the grounded, varied and interlinked themes running through this excellent exhibition. I asked her for some insights into her approach, to share with readers of Culture Matters. This is what she said:

'The inspiration for Revolt and Revolutions came from working with Henry Moore's family and foundation on a previous major exhibition and learning how radical he had been, not just as an artist, but also through his commitment to social justice.

I was conscious that we don't seem to be hearing much good news at the moment and wanted to share works by artists who are trying to make a difference, or who are giving a voice to people in our communities committed to positive change.

My hope was that this small show might be a catalyst, raise spirits and hopes a little, and suggest ways we can all have power. The public response has been very positive, with record visitor numbers in the gallery and people making pledges to make a difference. Our associated events, such as inviting people to change the world, are proving popular, suggesting a real appetite for people to get involved.

Helen’s hopes have surely been realised. By showing and promoting the power of art to change the world, through the exhibition itself and the activities, talks and discussions that run alongside it, Yorkshire Sculpture Park are encouraging the appetite for cultural democracy which is emerging from the labour movement.

Finally, Matt Abbott, the poet, has written this poem to accompany the exhibition. It's best listened to on the link, but here's the text as well:

Revolt and Revolutions

by Matt Abbott

Placard, pin badge, denim, leather.
Fist clenched tight at the end of your tether.
Minds in the margins all come together
the Revolution will not start itself.

When the turn of a phrase is the twist of a knife
and a movement swims at the tide of the strife,
a slingshot points at the status quo
the choir sings a resounding “NO!”:
change, is a product of protest.

Give a soapbox to a voice
that can’t be heard amongst the crowd.
There’s a rebel with a cause,
there’s a dream that’s not allowed.
There’s a sub-group that’s been silenced,
a door that’s slamming shut.
An establishment that works to keep you structured
in a rut.

Where optimism sits with solidarity and strength.
For justice and equality, we’ll go to any length.
Apathy is acceptance. Acceptance never improves.
So stand up, and be counted: we’ve got goalposts to move.

Grab a megaphone, and articulate your grievances.
Strum guitars, paint banners, leave writing on the wall…
In the shadows, is where you’ll find allegiances.
We might be tiny individuals, but together, we’re tall.

Give power to the vulnerable; a voice to the unheard.
Don’t allow the privileged to take the final word.
March longer, sing louder, fight for what is right.
Acclimatise to darkness, and you’ll never seek light.

Revolt, reject, and rejoice in your dreams.
Protest is always more potent than it seems.
Be it beret wearing ‘Ban the Bomb’ or mohawk wearing punk;
others pinched nostrils but we shouted when it stunk.

Revolt and Revolution: come and join the number.
because nothing serves injustice like society in slumber.
Music and colour. Peace signs and love.
There are far more below than there are sat above.

It takes an awful lot of raindrops to form a monsoon.
And this station has a glitch: it’s time to retune.
Do not succumb to victimhood, or silence, or stealth,
because the Revolution will not start itself.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, is open 10am till 5pm and the exhibition, which is on till 15 April, is free. You can also visit this exhibition at the same time.

Listen to the Revolution: free ebook on 1917, art and culture
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 10:22

Listen to the Revolution: free ebook on 1917, art and culture

Published in Our Publications

‘With all your body, all your heart and all your mind, listen to the Revolution.’ said the poet Alexander Blok in 1918.

As the centenary year of the Russian Revolution ends and we move into 2018, we have published Listen to the Revolution - The Impact of the Russian Revolution on Art and Culture.

It is widely recognised that the Revolution stimulated a creative and imaginative explosion across all the arts and cultural activities, not only in Russia itself but across the world. It reverberated throughout the twentieth century, and echoes of this cultural revolution still resonate today. The booklet brings together the series of articles published on the Culture Matters web platform in the course of 2017, to mark the impact of the Revolution on art and culture.

We hope you enjoy reading the articles, which look at the momentous, worldwide influence of the Revolution on cinema, theatre, art, sport, science and other topics. And we hope you are inspired to join the modern-day struggle for cultural policies and cultural activities which aim to revolutionise elitist, expensive and inaccessible art and culture and replace it with art and culture which everyone can enjoy - culture for the many, not the few.

Listen to the Revolution – culture matters!

Listen to the Revolution - The Impact of the Russian Revolution on Art and Culture is a free ebook, available from here. If you would like to place a bulk order for a print version of the ebook please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Listen to the Revolution: free ebook on 1917, art and culture
Wednesday, 17 January 2018 17:59

Listen to the Revolution: free ebook on 1917, art and culture

Published in 1917 Centenary

‘With all your body, all your heart and all your mind, listen to the Revolution.’ said the poet Alexander Blok in 1918.

As the centenary year of the Russian Revolution ends and we move into 2018, we have published Listen to the Revolution - The Impact of the Russian Revolution on Art and Culture.

It is widely recognised that the Revolution stimulated a creative and imaginative explosion across all the arts and cultural activities, not only in Russia itself but across the world. It reverberated throughout the twentieth century, and echoes of this cultural revolution still resonate today. The booklet brings together the series of articles published on the Culture Matters web platform in the course of 2017, to mark the impact of the Revolution on art and culture.

We hope you enjoy reading the articles, which look at the momentous, worldwide influence of the Revolution on cinema, theatre, art, sport, science and other topics. And we hope you are inspired to join the modern-day struggle for cultural policies and cultural activities which aim to revolutionise elitist, expensive and inaccessible art and culture and replace it with art and culture which everyone can enjoy - culture for the many, not the few.

Listen to the Revolution – culture matters!

Listen to the Revolution - The Impact of the Russian Revolution on Art and Culture is a free ebook, available from here. If you would like to place a bulk order for a print version of the ebook please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The need to free ourselves from capitalism
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 12:56

Another cog in the machine of capitalism: the right wing, corporate takeover of the arts

Published in Cultural Commentary

Mike Quille finds more evidence of the corporate takeover of the arts.

What is art for? Is it just another form of social control?

A crucial part of the ability of a class to politically dominate society, and to justify its economic exploitation of the labour of working people, is the imposition of a matching set of cultural values on that society – and that includes art.

It’s why the late John Berger said in Ways of Seeing that ‘The art of any period tends to serve the ideological interests of the ruling class’. The ruling class uses the state to influence and channel the arts in this direction, just as it uses the state to discipline the population and fight its wars, at home and abroad.

For the Tsars of pre-1917 Russia, state patronage of the arts was crucial. It funded and supported policies, activities and artefacts – in theatre, opera, music, art, statues and monuments – which expressed and instilled the cultural values of autocracy, hierarchy and social superiority. Along with the more forceful expressions of state power – police, courts, prisons, army –  state-sponsored art and culture (including religion) facilitated the exploitation of Russian peasants and workers. Court officials, relatives, friends and supporters of the Tsar were handsomely rewarded for implementing this policy, in the various cultural institutions that they controlled.

However, many writers, artists, dramatists and sculptors resented this elitist mission, and these undemocratic and opaque ways of legitimising injustice. That is why there was such an explosion of cultural creativity and imagination alongside the Russian Revolution, across all the arts. For the first time in human history, artists had large-scale, official backing from the Bolshevik state to support, enhance and help lead the creation of a new society and a better world for everyone.

Now fast forward 100 years, to Britain in the twenty first century. The neoliberal ideology which has dominated our culture for half a century is crumbling to pieces, like the statue of Ozymandias. The government is desperately trying to patch together support for its reactionary, oppressive policies. In amongst the chaos, conflicts and injustices of Brexit, Grenfell Tower, gender inequality, and sexual harassment, Arts Council England, which exists to provide public subsidy to cultural institutions, decides it needs new Council members.

So who do you think is appointed by the Tory government, in order to defend and promote the imposition of corporate, capitalist values in art and culture? Who might have the relevant qualifications and experience at privatising the arts, and preventing the creation and consumption of art from becoming a communal, anti-capitalist, politically liberating force?

Step forward Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of Rupert Murdoch, media mogul and promoter of a global, right-wing, union-busting, tax-avoiding corporate capitalist agenda.

She’s unlikely to face much opposition within ACE to promoting an elitist arts agenda. Historically, ACE has always been focused on channelling state subsidies for the arts to the well off, particularly in the London area. Funding per capita for the arts in London is 10 to 15 times the funding received elsewhere. The kind of expensive arts favoured by the rich and powerful, often precisely because they are badges of elitism, exclusivity and expense, are mostly on offer in London. They are heavily subsidised by ACE, from public funds off taxpayers and Lottery players in the rest of the country.

It is also unlikely that ACE will change its own elitist culture, as it is now chaired by Nicholas Serota, former director of the Tate for an overlong 28 years. On his departure, staff were asked to contribute towards the purchase of a new boat – for a man who introduced zero hours contracts, would not recognise trade unions, and privatised some of Tate’s staff. He is one of the main figures in the arts world facilitating the ongoing corporate capitalist takeover of the arts.

The new Blavatnik Building in Tate Modern, for example, was part-funded by and named after the Ukrainian billionaire Len Blavatnik, the UK’s richest man in 2015. Blavatnik is a Trump supporter and donor. He recently funded a £5m extension to the V and A (named Blavatnik Hall, of course), and in 2017 helped fund one of the most spectacular but politically biased art exhibitions that the Royal Academy has ever mounted, of Russian revolutionary art. It is of course a complete coincidence that Blavatnik made his fortune from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There are more complete coincidences. While at Tate, Serota oversaw the appointment of Ms. Murdoch as a Tate Trustee from 2008 to 2016, and Chairman of the Tate Modern Advisory Council from 2009 to 2016. During that time, The Freelands Trust (founded and chaired by Ms. Murdoch, and endowed with the unethical dividends of the Murdoch media empire) gave hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Tate.

Furthermore, Serota’s wife, Teresa Gleadowe – who sits on the Freelands Foundation advisory committee, of course – runs the Cornubian Arts and Science Trust, which funds the Groundwork arts project in Cornwall. This project is also supported by – guess who? – the Freelands Trust, and the Arts Council.

Gleadowe is also chair of Nottingham Contemporary, a company which won this year’s £100,000 Freelands Award, as judged by a selection panel which included – you’ve guessed – Elisabeth Murdoch and Teresa Gleadowe. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Of course no law has been broken by these nefarious, opaque and potentially corrupt entanglements. But is it any wonder that, just like Russia in 1917, so many artists, performers and others (including no doubt employees of the Arts Council) are unhappy on a scale of everything from unease to outrage?

The Artists’ Union England has said this:

‘Artists' Union England's public call to reverse the appointment of Elisabeth Murdoch to ACE National Council has been supported by artists, trade unionists and workers in the arts and cultural industries.  This appointment exposes what is becoming an endemic culture of privilege and power within the art world that needs challenging and changing. The message to DCMS and Nicholas Serota is clear, Elisabeth Murdoch is neither qualified nor suitable for such a position.’

And artist Alice Gale-Feeny, one of the many signatories to the petition against the appointment, said this:

‘The art world has lost its sense of authenticity, purpose and agency and instead become just another cog in the machine of capitalism. Please reconsider your decision.’

So let us return to the question: what is art for? Does it have to be just bread and circuses, an instrument of ideological deception, diversion? Does it have to be so unequally funded, and so inaccessible geographically and financially for most people? Does it have to be run by a clique of bureaucrats who follow the agenda of the corporate capitalist ruling class?

No, of course it doesn’t. The Russian poet Alexander Blok, writing about the political and cultural revolution of 1917, said this: 

'With all your body, all your heart and all your mind, listen to the Revolution.'

Alice and Alexander are surely right. Art and all the other cultural pursuits like sport, religion, eating and drinking etc. are naturally enjoyable, liberating activities, which bring us together to share and celebrate our common humanity.

We desperately need far more democratic, transparently managed arts and cultural activities, which are truly meaningful, accessible and affordable for everyone, everywhere in the country. It is part of the social wage – like health and education and welfare benefits, it is our right. All of us – artists and other cultural workers, leaders of arts institutions, the general public – need to join in the cultural struggle, and create an anti-capitalist cultural revolution for the many, not the few.

We need bread, and we need roses, too: because culture matters.

See Stephen Pritchard's blog here for more details on Ms. Murdoch's appointment.

Page 2 of 5