Mike Quille

Mike Quille

Mike Quille is a writer, reviewer and arts editor, and co-managing editor of Culture Matters.

Friday, 29 April 2016 15:28

Mayday 2016

Published in Round-up

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

National Children's Orchestra
Tuesday, 26 April 2016 14:39

Art for the many, not just the few

Published in Cultural Commentary

Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Minister for media, culture and sport and MP for Bristol West, recently gave the following interview about arts policies to Culture Matters and the Morning Star.

Q. Unlike some other previous occupants of your position, you’ve had direct experience in the arts, particularly music. How did that come about and how does it influence your outlook?

I was brought up surrounded by classical music. My maternal grandfather was on the car assembly line in Cowley, Oxford — his wife was a part-time nurse — and my paternal grandfather was an engineer in India. They’d both been exposed to classical music at a young age, by their parents among other people. My mother and father were both lucky enough to find their ways to excellent piano teaching and met at the Royal Academy of Music.

That was back in the days when students still got grants and scholarships and young working-class people could afford to get through college with the help of a bit of extra work.
This has taught me that no art form should ever be thought of as inherently and only ever for one class. Classical music was the balm of the working class a couple of centuries ago, when cheap tickets to Mozart operas and memorable tunes meant a labourer was just as likely to hum an aria on their way home from a night out as the landed gentry. The difference was that the upper classes had better seats.

Such socialist values inform my approach to the arts and culture. I don’t want working people to be excluded from appreciating or working in any of the things that can make life good and rich and enjoyable. That includes opera, ballet and classical music. The most immediate way art and culture influence my politics is that I want the enjoyment, fulfilment and inspiration I get from the arts and culture to be shared by the many, not restricted to the few. Classical music has always been in my life and particularly recently I needed the joy and calm it brings me — I’ve grown to love Beethoven symphonies at last, I love music for string quartets of all eras and in the last year I have been studying the work of Shostakovitch.

This again informs my politics — Shostakovitch suffered under Stalin and his perceived failure to honour what the latter had decided was good for “the people” caused him to be effectively barred from working and risk imprisonment or death. Eventually Stalin changed his mind about Shostakovitch’s music and the past was suddenly wiped away from official policy.
This should be a lesson for us all — dictating to people in the arts how to do their job is not the role of politicians.

As a former professional classical musician, with a strong interest in the opera and the theatre, the terms and conditions of musicians and actors — and everyone in the arts — matter to me.
Everyone thinks of the better-paid, celebrity musicians and actors but the vast majority are on very low wages or uncertain job conditions, often a life-time of what feels like zero-hours contracts, supplemented by casual part-time work.

Musicians have to train for years and practice or rehearse for hours every day to be any good and that sort of craft deserves to be recognised in pay and conditions.
Similarly, actors have to work their craft and be willing to travel and leave family life for weeks on end and this has to be recognised. I will continue to listen to Equity and the Musicians’ Union on how the Tory government is affecting rank-and-file musicians and actors.

During my campaign to be elected I was proud to be supported by my own unions, the Communication Workers Union and Unison, as well as my former union the Musicians Union. They believed in me and I value their support hugely. The Labour Party has its roots in the trade union movement and I will always honour that.

Q. Evidence suggests there’s a disproportionate amount of government money spent on art for the privilged minority. What’s your view on that?

The Tories are satisfied to leave the pleasures of some art forms to the better-off and that’s the key difference on all policy matters between Labour and them. We want the essentials and the good things in life to be enjoyed by the many, not the few, whether that be safe and affordable housing or a ticket to the opera.

The Tory and coalition governments brought about a reversal of the achievements of the last Labour government which, from 1997 to 2010, made significant progress towards democratising access to all art forms.

Really good outreach should be a condition of public funding. The Arts Council agrees that public funding should help with the fullest possible democratisation of the arts and that’s why its policy document is called Achieving Great Art for All and its funding is conditional on outreach. I would like that outreach to go further and I will be exploring how this would work under a Labour government with my colleagues and arts practitioners.

Recently I went to an open rehearsal in Bristol for the National Children’s Orchestra under-13s in Bristol’s Colston Hall. The orchestra is ethnically diverse and I also noticed that instruments traditionally dominated by men in professional orchestras were very gender-mixed.

When I was in local and national youth orchestras in the 1980s, we were in the dying days of the peripatetic music teaching system whereby children in most local authorities could learn the instrument of their choice and be given one on loan, for free, from good quality teachers in their schools. Saturday morning orchestras and bands supplemented this — again, all free.
This was something which flourished under Labour governments in the 1960s and 1970s and was cut to ribbons by Tory administrations from 1979-1997. And here we are again — funding which increased under the 1997-2010 government for arts and culture for young people has been cut once more.

During that period, Labour governments supported many arts programmes to increase effective outreach, providing free tickets to school children from low-income areas and introduced the Creative Partnerships Initiative which brought the arts to the children in their schools and in incredibly imaginative ways which made a lasting impact on those children and young people.
Local authorities are doing their best. But the pay, terms and conditions for specialist music, dance and drama teachers is often now so poor that they are leaving the profession.

Q. What do you think about the difficulties faced by minority ethnic groups in the cultural industries?

The removal of arts from our education system is a tragedy. It reinforces the exclusion of the working class, including young people from minority ethnic groups, from the arts as employees and consumers. It needs addressing and that’s one of the things I will be working on with my colleagues in the shadow education team.

There needs to be more people from minority ethnic groups and disabled people on boards of trustees of arts and culture organisations and for principles of diversity to be more embedded.
Organisations need to look and feel like places that people from minority ethnic groups and disabled people can be comfortable and inspired in, not alienated by.

There is a need to help arts organisations to reflect diversity in everything they do and I know the Arts Council is working on this. But this has to be balanced with the fact that Tory policies are also doing their damage.

Q. Apart from education and outreach, should the arts be subsidised?

Yes — take the cinema, which rarely requires direct subsidy as it can stimulate larger audiences and profit. But, again during the Labour 1997-2010 government, support for Channel 4 and tax subsidies for film production meant that the proportion of British GDP from film production multiplied. That brought more jobs — technical as well as creative — to Britain and working-class people.

That’s what subsidies for the whole range of the arts and culture forms can do, democratise access to participation and employment in all those industries.
As socialists, we should all be in favour of that. The taxpayer gets a great return on that investment. Subsidies for the arts generate jobs inside and outside the sector, with an economic multiplier factor that helps boost economic growth and good jobs in the area where the subsidy is spent.

Q. What should be done about the different levels of arts provision between the north and south in England?

That disparity concerns me hugely. Part of my role will be to work on this with colleagues in the arts and culture industries and with people across the country to work out how we can remove this barrier to consumption and enjoyment.

There have been significant Labour achievements to balance this out. The Labour Gateshead council, supported by the Labour government, invested in world-class venues the Baltic art gallery, the Sage music and conference venue and a massive piece of public art, the Angel of the North statue by Anthony Gormley.

All attract pride from, and create jobs for, locals and stimulate tourism from around the world to one of the poorest regions in the country. Labour did a brilliant job of recognising that investing in arts and culture across the board increases the sum of human happiness, democratises access to employment and enjoyment and also helps with urban regeneration, as it did in Gateshead and Liverpool, to name just two of our northern cities.

Add to that the Creative Partnerships programme and good outreach by arts organisations and you have something that was really working to help spread the reach of all art forms to all people.

One reason for the funding disparity is that so many of our national arts institutions are based in London. Of course, we outside London can go and visit them and often do. But many cannot afford to, or would not know how to access them. Even so, many national companies bring their work to the regions through touring and live cinecasts and the last Labour government supported the development of more national iconic cultural institutions around the country, such as the various Tate galleries in Cornwall and Liverpool.

Q. Working-class people are finding it increasingly difficult to get into the arts as a career and, due to spending cuts and the sheer cost, to enjoy the arts as consumers. What should be done about that?

The tragedy is that we have now gone into reverse to what Labour were doing. A Tory government prefers the patronage approach, whereby funds are increasingly drawn from private donations or trusts, with much less public accountability and often severe cuts to access and employment.

Young working-class people find it much harder to get a job in today’s arts and culture sector thanks to the decrease in support for apprenticeships, education and outreach. By contrast, current Labour policy development is as always informed by our socialist principles. Excellent art should be for everyone. This was reinforced from 1997 to 2010, with free entrance to museums, theatre, opera and concerts for young people. And there was the wonderful Creative Partnerships programme which helped bring arts and culture to children in schools.

Q. What developments in Labour Party policies might we expect from the new leadership and shadow cabinet?

I’m going to to help develop our arts and culture policy in collaboration with workers in the sector and Labour members and councillors across the country, as well as the performing arts unions. I’ll be holding a series of events nationally to bring the key people together to help answer the question: “How can we make Britain a place where excellent arts and culture is truly accessible to all? How do we in Labour support the arts to do what they do best, without dictating how they do it?”

By accessible, I mean for the full range, including disability and learning disability as well as race, gender, age, sexuality and class. I also mean access to creative careers as well as enjoyment. My biggest priority for policy development will always be education, education, education. Everything starts there. The audiences, as well as the performers, producers, directors and technicians of the future, are all currently at school. They need to be exposed to and be able to take part in art and culture of the highest order and of the greatest range. Arts and culture should feel like something all children and young people feel is for them, not just for other people. 
Just like you
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 07:32

Just like you

Published in Poetry

Just Like You
by Hanna Abdullah

I am human
Just like you.
I eat and I sleep
Just like you.
I walk and talk
Just like you. I have a family and friends
Just like you.
I have an education and I study
Just like you.
I have dreams and aspirations
Just like you.
And I have a home
Just like you.
Except my home has been crushed and raided by soldiers.
I witnessed my friends get killed right in front of me.
My mother is being held prisoner.
My baby brother was taken away by soldiers.
And me, I am alone, trying to live a normal live in a foreign country.
Remember, I have a beating heart
And blood running through my veins
Just like you.
I am not an animal,
I am not an insect,
I am not trash,
I am human,
Just like you.

Refugee Week

by Guste Bekionyte

Realising in the steam will make me,
Embarrass myself.
Flowing away,
Unforgettable pain that is still there.
Grief, not going away.
Ethiopia is where I was,
Extreme war was in my life.

We hate it here, it is very violent,
Empathy is what we need.
Enraged! We need justice,
Keeping hope in my heart.

These two poems by schoolchildren in Newham, London, are taken from the Newham Poetry Book, published by the Newham Teachers' Association and sponsored by the NUT. See

http://newhamteachers.org.uk/z-docs/refugeecomp/newham-poetry-book_0_2015.pdf

Humphrey Jennings, The Silent Village, 1943
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 07:17

A socialist challenge to the status quo

Published in Festivals/ Events

'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.
Meanwhile, What About Socialism?
Sunday, 28 February 2016 16:47

Meanwhile, What About Socialism?

Published in Festivals/ Events

Socialism was the most looked-for word in 2015, but how often do you get an arts festival focused on it? Mike Quille previews the International AV Festival in North East England.

In 1936 George Orwell was commissioned by the Left Book Club to write about the class divisions, poverty, unemployment and social injustice caused by the collapse of financial capitalism in 1929, and the subsequent economic depression in the North of England. The resulting book, The Road to Wigan Pier, is a classic of committed writing, a sympathetic account of working class life in the North and a vivid analysis of the state of socialism in England. Exactly 80 years later, and a few years after another major failure in the capitalist system, the biennial International AV Festival of visual art, film and music, based in North East England, takes a similarly committed stance towards socialism. The Festival mirrors the structure of the book with Part One this year, followed by Part Two in 2018.

Part One features works by established and emerging artists and film-makers who like Orwell situate themselves in direct relation to political argument, struggle and propaganda. Presented in partnership with 14 venues across the North East, the programme, curated by Festival director Rebecca Shatwell, includes a grouped exhibition of 12 installations, 48 film screenings and special events, including 17 UK premieres and one world premiere.

The programme is wide-ranging and ambitious. Uniquely for an arts festival, it has been curated to address the challenges of global capitalism by deploying events, exhibitions and artworks with regional, national and international relevance. Thus there are several exhibitions with strong local historical roots, such as exhibitions about Thomas Spence, local arts collective Amber Films, and the Jarrow Crusade. There are several films by British film-maker Marc Karlin, who made influential radical films in the 80s and 90s, an exhibition and re-creation of Orwell's commissioners, the Left Book Club, and some fine documentaries from the 30s, 40s and 50s by film-makers sympathetic to the socialist project.

There is a  tremendous range of international themes and artists, diverse but interlinked. One weekend of the month-long festival is focused on events, discussions and films from left wing Japanese artists, with themes of political hi-jacking, terrorism, and support for Palestinian resistance.
Another weekend focuses on Ukrainian documentary movements, and features the world premiere of a newly rediscovered early Soviet film masterpiece by Mikhail Kaufman, brother of Dziga Vertov, the famous Soviet film director who made ‘Man with a Movie Camera’. The film has a live soundtrack by Test Dept. and is one of several potential highlights of the festival.

In addition to 1936, the other main historical reference point for the festival is 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union and artists' response to this moment and to the subsequent rise of capitalism. There are exhibitions by Ukrainian, Indian, Romanian, and Russian artists on this theme, including a Romanian cartoonist who will be making new drawings on a gallery wall, responding to national and international news.

The Road to Wigan Pier has some faults, but it persuasively argues that the basis of democratic socialism is equality and fairness, and that people of all classes need to understand about oppression and inequality in order to make socialism work. The festival is focused on achieving the same end. Dig out and re-read Orwell's book, then come along for an updated, globalised, multimedia – and potentially more progressive – version of it.

AV 2016 Part One: Meanwhile, What About Socialism? is on from 27 February to 27 March. The full programme is at www.avfestival.co.uk

Sunday, 28 February 2016 15:05

Editor's Notes, April 2016

Published in Round-up

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

Tuesday, 17 October 2017 16:45

Contributors to Culture Matters

Published in About us

The editors would like to thank all the contributors for the material sent in to us.

Mark Abel is a musician and a trade union activist. He teaches history and philosophy at University of Brighton.

Matt Abbott is a spoken word poet from West Yorkshire. Having started a few weeks before his 18th birthday, his career has so far ranged from a major record deal with the band Skint & Demoralised, through to political activism, education work and forming spoken word record label Nymphs & Thugs. He is an ambassador for Trinity Homeless Projects and CRIBS International, as well as Poet-in-Residence at the National Coal Mining Museum for England.

Jim Aitken is a poet and dramatist. His last play 'Leaving George', explored the Scottish Referendum and was produced by Spartaki Theatre at last year's Leith Festival. Jim also tutors in Scottish Cultural Studies in Edinburgh. He is a member of Scottish Pen.

Nathan Akehurst is a socialist activist and freelance writer, working in campaigns and communications. 

Sarah Alderton is an Assistant Nutritionist at Consensus Action on Salt, Sugar & Health, an organisation working to reach an agreement with the government and food industry over the harmful effects of high salt and sugar intakes and bring about a reduction to the amount in processed foods.

Tayo Aluko is the writer and performer of the multi-award-winning CALL MR ROBESON which he has been touring worldwide since 2008. His new play JUST AN ORDINARY LAWYER has also started being performed internationally since February 2017.

Chris Amos is a professional playwright, actor and director working largely with young people and people with special needs. He lives on the Grand Union Canal and performs his poetry as THE RED LIGHTERMAN. He is a proud veteran of the 1984-85 Miners' Strike.

Keith Armstrong has worked as a community worker, librarian, publisher and poet, and has performed his poetry throughout the world.

Alain Badiou is a French philosopher, formerly chair of Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure and founder of the faculty of Philosophy of the Université de Paris VIII with Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard.

Chris Bartter is a Glasgow-based writer and cultural activist, blogging at captaingrumping.blogspot.co.uk. Chris was the Communications Officer at UNISON Scotland for 20 years.

David Betteridge is the author of a collection of poems celebrating Glasgow and its radical traditions, 'Granny Albyn's Complaint', published by Smokestack Books in 2008. He is also the editor of a compilation of poems, songs, prose memoirs, photographs and cartoons celebrating the 1971-2 UCS work-in on Clydeside. This book, called 'A Rose Loupt Oot', was published by Smokestack Books in 2011.

Ian Birchall is a writer and translator; see his website at http://grimanddim.org

Roland Boer is a Professor at the School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle (Australia), and also teaches at Renmin University, China. He blogs at stalinsmoustache.org.

Mina Boromand and Chris Bird create art and cartoons for 'The Morning Star' newspaper and trade union publications, hoping to connect political action to creativity and imagination. They have organised exhibitions and displays at the Marx Memorial Library and other events such as the annual Red Star conference.

Dr Emma Boyland is a lecturer in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool. She is part of the appetite and obesity research group, which addresses behavioural and psychological processes that govern appetite expression - see https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/psychology-health-and-society/research/appetite-and-obesity

Glenn Bradford is a poet and short story writer based in Sutton-in-Ashfield. He works for Royal Mail, and takes inspiration from the people and places he sees whilst out delivering the post. In some ways he genuinely is a man of letters.

Ross Bradshaw runs the radical Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham.

Peter Branson is a full time poet, songwriter, traditional-style singer and socialist whose poetry has been published around the world. His latest collection, ‘Hawk Rising’, is due out early 2016.

Phil Brett is a primary school teacher who has written a future fiction/crime novel, Comrades Come Rally, and is at this moment writing a sequel. He lives in London.

Geoff Bright is a Research Fellow in the Education and Social Research Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University. With a background as a rail union activist and community educator in the UK coalfields, his research focuses on the intersection of class, place, gender and affect as it impacts on the political imagination of working class communities.

Andrew Brown is a religious naturalist, Unitarian minister in Cambridge, hermeneutic communist, jazz bass player, photographer, cyclist and Thoreauvian walker.

Matt Bruce is an architect who moved to Lewis in 1987 and worked in both public and private sectors and then on housing development in the islands' council. He is now retired but active in a number of community organisations. 

Andy Byford is Senior Lecturer in Russian at Durham University in the United Kingdom. He has published on the history of the human sciences in Russia across the late tsarist and early Soviet periods.

Graham Caveney is the author of biographies of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg (both published by Bloomsbury) His memoir The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness will be published by Picador in the spring of 2017.

Prudence Chamberlain is a Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing. Her first collection is forthcoming with Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, while her collaborative work with SJ Fowler, on Disney, will be released later this year. She is currently writing a book on affect and the fourth wave of feminism for Palgrave Macmillan.

 Amarjit Chandan is a noted Punjabi poet and essayist. He is the author of eight collections of poetry and three books of essays in Punjabi (in the Gurmukhi and the Persian script) and one book of poetry in English translation.

Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD is a writer, translator, founder of the Sangha Kommune, and Spiritual Director of the Chan Buddhism Institute.

Sarah Clancy is a poet from Galway, Ireland. Her last two collections of poetry are ‘Thanks for Nothing, Hippies' and ‘The Truth and Other Stories’ published by Salmon Poetry. In 2015 she was named the Bogman's Cannon People's Poet.

Richard Clarke works at Westminster Business School, Birkbeck College, and runs a consultancy in heritage management.

Tony Collins is a professor of history at De Montfort University. His books include 'Sport in Capitalist Society' and 'The Oval World'.

Gerry Cordon is a retired FE college lecturer, blogging at gerryco23.wordpress.com.

Andy Croft has written and edited over 80 books, including poetry, biography, teenage non-fiction and novels for children. He writes a regular poetry column for the Morning Star, curates the T-junction international poetry festival on Teesside and runs Smokestack Books. He lives in North Yorkshire.

James Crossley is Professor of Bible, Society and Politics at St Mary's University, Twickenham. He writes mainly on religion and politics in the twentieth and twenty-first century, and the historical Jesus in the first century.

Sophie Coudray is a PhD student in drama studies in Strasbourg, a member of the External Editorial Board of Périodeand an activist.

Amir Darwish is a poet, born in Syria and now living in London. His poetry has been published in the USA, Pakistan, Finland, Morocco and Mexico, and he is a graduate of Teesside University and the University of Durham.

Joel Davie works at the library at the University of Nottingham. He spends the rest of his time reading. 

Peggy Deamer is a professor of architecture at Yale University and a practicing architect. She is the founding member of the Architecture Lobby, an activist organisation that argues for the value of architectural work within and without the profession.

Jeremy Dibble is Professor of Musicology at Durham University.

Nadia Drews is a playwright, director, poet and performer. Thirty years of repressed rhymes mean she writes long poems - but she reads them fast.

Anne E. Duggan is a Professor of French at Wayne State University. She is co-editor of Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies (http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/marvels/) and author of Salonnières, Furies, and Fairies: The Politics of Gender and Cultural Change in Absolutist France (2005) and Queer Enchantments: Gender, Sexuality, and Class in the Fairy-Tale Cinema of Jacques Demy (2013; French edition 2015). 

Susan Millar DuMars is the author of four poetry collections, all published by Salmon Poetry. The most recent, Bone Fire, appeared in 2016.

Rod Duncan teaches creative writing but also works in film, poetry and non-fiction. He tweets at @RodDuncan. 

Gareth Edwards is a socialist based in Portsmouth. He teaches on the Sports Journalism degree course at the University of the Arts in London. He blogs infrequently at https://inside-left.blogspot.co.uk

Jonathan Edwards's first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014) received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People's Choice Award.

Gabriel Egan is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at de Montfort University, Leicester, and the author of Shakespeare and Marx, Oxford University Press, 2

John Ellison is a retired solicitor with a history of 40 years’ specialism in children law. He published a novel in 2016, contributes history features to the Morning Star, and has written for Culture Matters about Alexander Blok's poem 'The Twelve' and about the life and work of Maxim Gorky.

Joanne Entwistle is Reader in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College, London. She has written extensively on fashion, dress and the body. 

Jenny Farrell was born in Berlin. She has lived in Ireland since 1985, working as a lecturer in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Her main fields of interest are Irish and English poetry and the work of William Shakespeare. 

Robert Farrell lives and works in the Bronx, New York, as a librarian. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Underwater New York, The Brooklyn Review, NOON: journal of the short poem, REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Posit and other publications.Robert Farrell lives and works as a librarian in the Bronx, New York. His poems have appeared in a number of publications and his latest chapbook, Meditations on the Body, will be published by Ghostbird Press in 2017. 

Daniel Clarkson Fisher is a Canadian essay filmmaker whose work has been featured by The AV Club, io9, No Film School, Boing Boing, Film School Rejects, and Vimeo Staff Picks. His writing has appeared in outlets that include AlterNet, Bright Lights Film Journal, Nonfics, and Diabolique.  See danielclarksonfisher.com.

Michael Flynn is a photographer based in Ashington, Northumberland.

Paul Foley is a trade union activist and arts reviewer for the Morning Star.

Dermot Foster lives in Oldham and recently retired from teaching in colleges, communities, mental health facilities, and HMP Manchester.

Peter Frost is a travel writer and broadcaster. Today he writes about the environment, left wing history and many other subjects for a variety of publications including the Morning Star. He is member of the Labour Party.

Mike Gallagher is an Irish writer, poet and editor. His poetry collection Stick on Stone was published by Revival Press in 2013. 

Owen Gallagher is from Gorbals, Glasgow, and lives in London. He has written several books of poetry and his poems have been published widely in the UK, Ireland and abroad.

Julian Germain is a photographic artist.

Harry Giles is a writer and performer from Orkney who lives in Leith; their latest book is Tonguit (Freight 2016). See www.harrygiles.org

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department.

Salena Godden has been described as ‘The doyenne of the spoken word scene’ (Ian McMillan, BBC Radio 3’s The Verb); ‘The Mae West madam of the salon’ (The Sunday Times) and as ‘everything the Daily Mail is terrified of’ (Kerrang! Magazine). She is also the lead singer and lyricist of SaltPeter, alongside composer Peter Coyte.

Catherine Graham's work has appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK, USA and Ireland. Her first full collection, Things I Will Put In My Mother's Pocket (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2013).

Nick Grant recently retired from school teaching and a place on the national executive of the NUT. He's the drummer in his own band, Public Sector.  

Sandy Grant is a philosopher at the University of Cambridge and tweets at @TheSandyGrant. She recently delivered the Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Lecture ‘Dark Times’, and is the first philosopher to perform at Latitude Festival.

John Green is a journalist and broadcaster. He has authored and edited several books and anthologies on a wide range of subjects including political biographies, labour history, poetry, natural history and environmental affairs.

Haydn Greenway is a recently retired nuclear medicine technologist, having worked for the NHS for over 30 years.

Steve Griffiths lives in Ludlow and has just published his seventh collection of poems, Late Love Poems (Cinnamon Press). Steve worked in London for most of his life in welfare rights and health and social policy, and now campaigns against inequality. See www.stevegriffithspoet.com.

Chris Guiton is a project manager, writer and co-managing editor of Culture Matters.

Paul Hawkins is a Bristol based poet whose fourth collection, Place Waste Dissent,a book of avant-garde protest poetry/collage, was published by Influx Press. The poems are taken from Claremont Road (Erbacce Press 2013).

Martin Hayes has worked in the courier industry for 30 years. His second book of poetry, When We Were Almost Like Men is published by Smokestack Books and he has another collection coming out with Culture Matters later in 2017.

PL Henderson has a background in art history/research and has been active in feminist politics and the arts for many years. She is currently working as a freelance writer and reviewer on the subject of women artists, feminism and art. She is also an artist and has had a number of exhibitions and arts events. See https://womensartblog.wordpress.com.

Kevin Higgins is a Galway-based poet, essayist and reviewer, and satirist-in-residence at the alternative literature site The Bogman's Cannon, www.bogmanscannon.com.

Rita Ann Higgins is a Galway-based poet and playwright. Her next collection Tongulish will be published by Bloodaxe in April 2016. 

Zita Holbourne is an award winning, author, poet, writer, visual artist, curator and community and trade union activist. She is national vice president of PCS Union, and National Chair and co-founder of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK.

Gerald Horne is an African-American historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston.

Rob Jeffrey is a playwright, specialising in short comedic, political pieces for BBC and local radio, and longer plays for the theatre.

Mike Jenkins is an award-winning Welsh poet and author and unofficial poet for Cardiff City FC. His new book of political poetry, Nobody's Subject, is published in Summer 2016.

Steve Johnson is London District Secretary of the CPB and a social worker by profession. He has a keen interest in music, politics and real ale and is a regular festival attender.

Susan Jones is a published writer, researcher and consultant on contemporary visual arts matters, at www.padwickjonesarts.co.uk. She is a specialist in artists’ livelihoods, professional development and employment patterns, and was Director of a-n The Artists Information Company 1999-2014.

Carl Joyce is a photographer based in Co. Durham, with a website at www.carljoyce.co.uk.

Chris Jury is an award winning actor, writer and director. A regular contributor to the Morning Star, he is also the co-founder of the Tolpuddle Radical film Festival and a member of the TV Committee of the Writers Guild Of Great Britain.

Mohja Kahf wasborn in Syria. She is a widely published poet and author. 

Jane Kallir is co-director of the Galerie St. Etienne, New York. 

Kathryn Keane is a poet whose has appeared in in 'Silver Apples Magazine', the 'NY Literary Magazine', 'Bitterzoet Magazine', and the 'Stanzas: An Evening of Words' chapbook.

Lisa Kelly is a freelance journalist. Her pamphlet Bloodhound is published by Hearing Eye and she is a regular host of poetry events at the Torriano Meeting House, London, a meeting place for the arts and the community.

Caroline Kemp is a Scottish writer.currently involved in health-related research projects. She has been published in The Journal of Progressive Sciences, Rethink, Material, and in various Forward Press anthologies.

Peter Kennard is 'Unoffical War Artist' at the Imperial War Museum, London. His 'Peace on Earth' artwork can be downloaded for free at www.rca.ac.uk/news-and-events/rca-blog/peace-on-earth/

Muhanned Mohamed Khorshid is an Iraqi born artist and writer, living and working in Helsinki. 

Trish Lavelle is the Head of Education and Training at the Communication Workers Union.

John Ledger is a visual artist from Barnsley, Yorkshire, currently focusing on images derived from the social landscape of 'Invisible Britain'.

Marc James Léger is an independent scholar living in Montreal. He is editor of The Idea of the Avant Garde – And What It Means Today (2014) and author of Brave New Avant Garde (2012), The Neoliberal Undead (2013) and Drive in Cinema: Essays on Film, Theory and Politics (2015).

Christine Lindey is now retired from being an Associate Lecturer in art history at the University of the Arts, London and at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is a visual arts critic for the Morning Star and her fifth book, Art for All: British Socially Committed Art c.193 - c.1962, will be published in the near future.

Fran Lock is a poet and political activist. Her latest collection is Dogtooth, published by Out-Spoken Press. She is currently preparing a new collection to be published by Culture Matters.

Patrick Lodge was born in Wales, lives in Yorkshire and travels on an Irish passport. His poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies in England, Wales, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. His author page is www.valleypressuk.com/authors/patricklodge.

Alexis Lykiard was born in Athens.His books include 9 novels, translations of French writers, 2 memoirs of Jean Rhys, and numerous poetry collections, most recently Schooled For Life (Shoestring 2016). His website is at www. alexislykiard.com.

Thomas McColl is a London-based poet and short story writer. His first full collection of flash-fiction and poetry, Being With Me Will Help You Learn, is published by Listen Softly London Press.

Niall McDevitt is an Irish poet and activist. He leads epic psycho-geographical walks through London, about Shakespeare, Blake, Rimbaud, and Yeats.

Patricia McGee is a retired FE lecturer, and very concise. 

Tony McKenna is a writer whose latest book is a biography of Joseph Stalin.

Stephanie McMillan is an artist, cartoonist, communist organiser and cultural activist. See http://stephaniemcmillan.org

Sheree Mack Ph.D is a writer and artist, with expertise in Black British Women's Poetry. She's currently working on a creative non-fiction novel as well as a poetry collection about Rewilding. 

Lynn Mally is Professor Emerita of History at the University of California, Irvine. She has published on Soviet cultural history, US/Soviet cultural exchange, and American culture in the 1930s. See www.americanagefashion.com

Nigel Mellor is a poet from northern England. His performances, focused on up to the minute themes of personal and political concern, aim to engage the widest possible audiences. 

Julia Mickenberg is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Learning from the Left: Children's Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States and co-editor (with Philip Nel) of Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature.

Robert Minto is a writer and philosopher. He blogs and tweets.

Alan Morrison is a Brighton-based poet and editor of The Recusant, therecusant.org.uk and Militant Thistles, militantthistles.moonfruit.com.

Danny Mitchell is an independent filmmaker from London. He works part-time as a mental health social worker and spends the rest of my time making political, social issue and human interest documentaries.

Marc Nash is a novelist and short story writer, and his fifth novel is published by Dead Ink Books in Autumn 2017. He also works with video artists to turn some of his short pieces into digital storytelling. He works for the freedom of expression charity Index on Censorship. 

Doug Nicholls is General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions, and the author of numerous books on history, politics, poetry and culture. His latest book is Lugalbanda, published by Culture Matters.

Christopher Norris is Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. He is the author of more than thirty books on aspects of philosophy, politics, literature, the history of ideas, and music.

Eliot North is a doctor, medical educator and writer.

Kate O'Neil is an Australian writer.

Elliot O'Sullivan is a linguist and Open University student. 

Melissa Oldham is a PhD student and tutor in the department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool.

Chi Onwurah is MP for Newcastle Central.

Ness Owen is a Welsh poet, playwright and storyteller who teaches at a FE college. Her poems have appeared in various anthologies and journals.

Ted Parry plays music obsessively and writes with dilletantish irregularity. Although the characters in his stories are fictional, he has met all of them.

Gordon Parsons is an arts reviewer for the Morning Star.

Lucy Pearson is Lecturer in Children's Literature at Newcastle University.

Dan Perjovschi is an artist, writer and cartoonist born in Sibiu, Romania.  

Mair De-Gare Pitt worked in Community Education for many years and is now semi-retired, running Creative Writing classes. She attends a poetry group at The Capel in Bargoed and is one of the Welsh Red Poets.

Mark Perryman is a writer and the co-founder of Philosophy Football.

Jody Porter edits the Well Versed column for the Morning Star.

Carolyn Pouncy, a historian specialising in Muscovite Russia, writes fiction under the pen name C. P. Lesley. Two of her novels—Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades—explore themes from the classical ballets Giselle and La Bayadère. See http://www.cplesley.com.

Deborah Price lives in Deri. She has written four books for children and collaborated on and published another ten. They include poetry anthologies/collections and a 30th anniversary commemoration of the 1984 Miners' Strike.

Steve Pottinger is a performance poet who's passionate about the power of poetry to create connections between people. He believes in making an audience laugh and think and decide that poetry isn't so bad after all.

Mike Quille is a writer and reviewer for the Morning Star, and co-managing editor of Culture Matters.

Peter Raynard is a writer and editor of Proletarian Poetry, www.proletarianpoetry.com. He has been widely published and has a collection out soon, The Common Five-Eighters, from Smokestack Books. He is a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, a poetry collective set up by Malika Booker.

Kimberley Reynolds is the Professor of Children’s Literature in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University in the UK. Recent publications include Children’s Literature in the Oxford University series of Very Short Introductions (2012) and Left Out: The Forgotten Tradition of Radical Publishing for Children in Britain, 1910-1949 (Oxford University Press, 2016). 

Michael Roberts is Festival Producer of the Cornwall Film Festival.

Dave Rogers works for Banner Theatre and is a political activist and campaigner.

Michael Rosen is a freelance writer, teacher, journalist, performer and broadcaster. He supports Arsenal Football Club.

Gerry Rowe is a writer, disgruntled minor functionary, and a Labour councillor in Chepstow.

William Rowe is Anniversary Professor of Poetics at Birkbeck College, London. His most recent book is nation (Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2016).

Martin Rowson is a multi-award-winning cartoonist, writer and broadcaster. 

Christopher Rowland is the Dean Ireland professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture Emeritus at the University of Oxford.

Ignacia Ruiz is a Chilean born, London based illustrator with a strong interest in printmaking and reportage. She has exhibited her prints both in the UK and abroad and currently teaches at Central Saint Martins, London.

Ghada Al-Samman is a Syrian writer, journalist and novelist. Her website is at http://ghadaalsaman.com.

Sanjiv Sachdev is a Senior Lecturer at the University of West London. Formerly a trade union research officer, one of his interests is political art.

Mike Sanders is Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth Century Writing at Manchester University.

Helena Sheehan is an author and activist. She is emeritus professor at Dublin City University where she taught history of ideas, science studies and media studies. She is an active contributor to mainstream, alternative and social media.

Paul Simon is a reviewer for the Morning Star.

Alex Simpson is a Lecturer in Criminology at the School of Applied Social Science at the University of Brighton.

John Smith is an award-winning avant garde film-maker, based in London.

Vicky Sparrow is a Ph.D student working on the poetry of Anna Mendelssohn, at Birkbeck College, London.

Sue Spencer is a poet, writer, educator and facilitator. She is the Poetry Adviser for the BMJ Journal Medical Humanities.

Bob Starrett was the official cartoonist of the work-in at the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in 1971-2.

Ben Stevenson is a designer, trade unionist and political officer, and business manager of the Morning Star. Graham Stevenson is a political activist and trade union leader who has held many senior posts in the labour movement.

Will Stone is news editor for the Morning Star and freelances for various other national newspapers. He has written for online theatre review site What's On Stage, music magazines and has produced and presented several series on post-punk/industrial for ResonanceFM, an arts radio station in London.

John Storey is Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies at the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland, UK. He has published widely in cultural studies, including ten books. The most recent is From Popular Culture to Everyday Life (2014). He is also on editorial/advisory boards in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the USA, and has been a Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Dresden, the University of Henan, the University of Vienna and the University of Wuhan. 

Dr Anthony Sullivan lectures in Cultural and Historical Studies at the London College of Fashion.

Andy Summers is a writer based in Birmingham. 

Jon Tait is a postal worker and writer from Northumberland who lives in Carlisle.

Fred Voss is a machinist and poet in Long Beach, California, has had three collections of poetry published by the UK’s Bloodaxe Books. His latest is Hammers and Hearts of The Gods.

Derek Wall is International Coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales and writes for the Morning Star. His latest book Economics After Capitalism was published by Pluto in 2015.

Andrew Warburton is a writer of short fiction, appearing in anthologies by Cleis Press (Best Gay Romance 2009), Alyson Books, and Lethe Press (Wilde Stories 2015: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction) and in magazines Chroma: A Queer Literary Journal, Chelsea Station, SciFan Magazine, and MCB Quarterly. Two of his short stories can also be found on the app and website Great Jones Street.

Boff Whalley is a songwriter, fellrunner and former postman, previously in the troublesome pop group Chumbawamba. He has worked extensively in theatre and arts projects, collaborating on choral pieces at Manchester Museum, Tate Britain and Somerset House, London.

Lynn White lives in North Wales. Her work is concerned with issues of social justice and she has had numerous poems published online and in print. 

Bruce Wilkinson is an occasional contributor to the football magazine When Saturday Comes, generally writing about social issues affecting fans, and Blackburn Rovers. He's working with Dr Robin Purves, researching the influence of the occult on the avant-garde.

Steve Willey is a poet, researcher and critic, and as an organiser of several London based poetry readings (Openned, Benefits, Watadd) is committed to the development of dynamic poetry communities both in the UK and internationally. He is lecturer in Creative and Critical Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London. Elegy, his most recent book of poetry, was published by Veer in 2013. 

Merryn Williams has published four volumes of poetry and edited POEMS FOR JEREMY CORBYN (Shoestring 2016).

Simon Williams lives near Dartmoor and runs poetry and creative writing workshops and classes, including in schools, colleges and prisons. For over 10 years he has also run a monthly open mic session for poets, singers, musicians and storytellers. 

Rab Wilson is a Scottish poet who writes mainly in the Scots language. His works include a Scots translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. His latest collection is Zero Hours.  

Chris Wood is a songwriter from the south of England. His art school teacher once described him as having “a remarkable eye for trivia” like it was a bad thing. But Wood’s readiness to chronicle with candour and compassion the lives of the so called “ordinary” people has been compared to the documentary making of Ken Loach.

Jan Woolf is a playwright, currently working on readings for her fourth performed play The Man With the Gold for the World War One centenary. Her collection of short stories Fugues on a Funny Bone (Muswell Press 2010) is set in a children's home and her new fiction is published at international times.it. She is also a reviewer and is very interested in the links between art, literature and political activism, and is currently writer in residence at Hampstead school of art.

Bakshiram
Monday, 04 January 2016 21:45

Artist and Empire

Published in Visual Arts

Mike Quille explores the relations between art, politics and empire, in the current Artist and Empire exhibition at Tate Britain.

Has there ever been a more successful engine of global exploitation than the British Empire? And has any other empire been better at reframing that exploitation as benevolent paternalism, moral improvement and the general all-round civilisation of savages?

At its height the British Empire was the largest in history, covering almost a quarter of the world's total land area. It has shrank over the last hundred years to a handful of overseas territories, but its legacy is everywhere. It is most obvious in the statues and monuments all over the country to cruel, thuggish and racist monarchs, admirals, generals, politicians and imperial administrators. They dominate and disfigure our public spaces: hence the campaign to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford.

Other legacies of Empire lie in social structures, in the fault lines of contemporary global politics particularly in the Middle East, and in art and culture generally. One of the sad and sobering aspects of this exhibition is the way it reveals how the ruling classes have since the early colonial period co-opted most art and most artists, most of the time. Commissioned by the rich and powerful, artists have themselves been colonised, paid to promote, legitimise, and even glorify Britain's violent and rapacious foreign conquests.

Six rooms at Tate Britain tell the story through art of colonial conquest, collaboration, subordination and resistance. Various items of visual and material culture eg paintings, flags, sculptures, clothing and maps, are used to illustrate various themes.

In the first room, Mapping and Marking, we see how British cartographers and surveyors mapped occupied territory, erased indigenous ownership, imposed new names and new borders, and presented domination as civilisation.

The next room, Trophies of Empire, focuses on the various objects, specimens and other examples of material culture brought back by explorers, sailors, missionaries and traders. It shows how the looting, bartering and purchasing which accompanied the imperial project penetrated museums, elite collections, laboratories and zoos.

Next, Imperial Heroics explores the explicitly ideological mission of most British history painting, which helped shape popular perceptions of the Empire. They include representations of heroic struggle and martyrdom by tiny bands of brave British soldiers, surrounded by crowds of savages. Some of the representations of nineteenth century jihadists resisting Empire are unnervingly topical, and seem prophetic in the light of the current Islamophobia in the media. Just how much has actually changed in the way our mainstream culture views people with other religions and darker skins?

The room on Power Dressing is a fascinating insight into how the Western elite tradition of grand portraiture, developed to convey the power and dominance of representatives of the ruling classes, arrived in colonies along with the gunboats, machine guns and deceitful diplomacy. British diplomats and administrators were often portrayed wearing indigenous clothing such as Native American costume. Colonised peoples, whilst often forced to adopt Western styles of clothing, often modified and resisted it, or knowingly played to imperial expectations by wearing their own. Trans-cultural cross-dressing expressed the tensions and conflicts between homeland, colony, and imperial centre, in striking and sometimes humorous ways.

Face to Face contains some fine examples of portraits of Empire's subjects. Both Charles Frederick Goldie and Rudolf Swoboda paint colonial subjects sympathetically, giving dignity and identity back to them, and revealing elements of doubt, even guilt, about imperial conquest. Swoboda's 'Bakshiram' (reproduced above courtesy of Tate Britain) is one of the finest paintings in the exhibition.

And finally, in the artworks in the Out of Empire room (and occasionally pointedly positioned in the other rooms) we see how post-colonial and contemporary artists developed some effective artistic practices which challenged, ironicised and thoroughly demolished the deceitful ideology and iconography of Empire. Gradually, through long and difficult struggles by Black and Asian artists who were initially marginalised by the art establishment, modern visual art has freed itself from the shackles of misrepresentation and glorification of Empire. Now, it is a much more critical and truthful representation of the political and economic realities which underpinned it.

Artist and Empire is revealing, educational and entertaining, and shows how important it is to present art within its political and economic context. Curating art in this way clarifies how art is rooted in and reflective of its historical and political environment. It shows, sadly, how art sometimes works by supporting and glorifying racism, sexism and other kinds of class-based cultural domination which enable and legitimise the straightforward economic exploitation which is the core project of empire.

You will surely come out of this exhibition, feeling moved and enlightened, as I did, asking questions, like Brecht's Questions from a Worker Who Reads. Why are the relations between art, history and politics not commonly shown in our art galleries? How much more relevant and popular art would become if we were shown, for example, how artistic images of women throughout history are linked to the class-based oppression and exploitation of women from time immemorial?

What if the pictures of representatives of the ruling class in the National Portrait Gallery, and in all our local museums and stately homes, were presented in the context of the actual exploitative economic realities underpinning their elite status?

What if all curators – as they do in Artist and Empire – routinely unearthed and exposed the true nature of the relations between art, ideology and the politics of class-divided societies, where wealth accumulates from the economic exploitation of subordinated working people? Would it not be a public service if more art gallery directors, curators and other cultural workers joined the struggle for our cultural liberation?

Artist and Empire is a brave and satisfying exhibition, a great help with that cultural struggle. And its huge popularity with the general public as well as critics suggests that it is high time this kind of approach was adopted more widely.

Artist and Empire is at Tate Britain until April 10. Admission is £16 but concessions are available.

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

Welcome! Thank You! Join In!

Published in Round-up

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

 

Wednesday, 23 December 2015 20:05

Who We Are, What We Think and What We Want

Published in About us
Who We Are

Culture Matters is for everyone interested in the arts, in culture generally and in politics. We are a collective of writers and activists who have come together to provide webspace and editorial and technical support for a  'broad left' cultural struggle for a better society.

What We Think

Culture matters. Enjoying artistic and cultural activities can help develop us and liberate us. They please the senses, stimulate the mind, arouse our emotions, and inspire us.  We have a right to freely access the co-created culture that is our common property. In our class-divided society, our cultural commons is under threat in many ways, and we need to learn how to defend it and enhance it, for the common good.

Let's learn how to resist and oppose enclosure of our cultural commons, and instead expand it.

Culture matters. The arts and culture are linked to politics in many ways. A capitalist market economy creates enormous potential and possibilities for creation, criticism and communication. But at the same time, private ownership of the means of production and the capitalist drive for profit constrain the free creation and consumption of the cultural commons that is so necessary for human development.

Let's work out how to change capitalist culture, through creativity and criticism. 

Culture matters. The arts and culture can resist, oppose and overcome constraint, alienation and oppression. They can promote awareness, arouse indignation, and envision alternatives. Blake's 'mental fight' against the appalling social and political consequences of early capitalism is the same as our cultural struggle now, linked to our economic and political struggle against late capitalism.

Let's continue Blake's 'mental fight' to build a more democratic, equal, and socialist society, a 'new Jerusalem', in the green and pleasant land not only of England, but of the world.

What We Want

Submissions are very welcome, from anyone who has something to say about art and culture which contributes to these aims. We are unable to pay for material, unfortunately.

We welcome creative material such as poems, and commentary and critical material such as reviews, articles, essays, and interviews. Please write as clearly, concisely and accessibly as possible, avoiding footnotes. Have a look at what's already up on the site, and try and shape your material to fit with our broad aims and perhaps also with topical events, anniversaries etc.

Submissions are subject to editing, in consultation with the contributor. Please provide brief notes about yourself and a pic, and send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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