Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2016

Exiled Writers Ink; Nottingham Festival of Literature; DAWN OF THE UNREAD

‘I’m not a line that you draw,’ declaimed Shieraouf. Byron’s spirit lifted in the old George Hotel, as the young poet in exile from Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan spoke her defiance. She forms in verse the most extreme experiences, explaining that ‘19 is different’, not at all humdrum, for that is the number of Yazidi women consumed in fiery cages.

This was a rare night in November Nottingham when Exiled Writers Ink came, originally, from Iran, Israel, Bangladesh and the hills of Iraqi Kurdistan, to give voice to Jewish and Muslim writers. ‘It was a good gig,’ remarked Michael Mehrdad Zand Ahanchian, born a jew in Iran, who has spent most of his life in the United Kingdom, now drilling down into civil wars and turbulence that lie buried deep in most places. Up the road from George Street, where Michael shared his astronomical verse, Standard Hill records an English King’s fatal mistakes.

Shamim Azad clicked the rhythm in Bengali and English, explaining why she is ‘Not a Chameleon’, as…

Dawn of the Unread: book launch

Nottingham's Antenna Media Centre is set to host the launch of the physical manifestation of Dawn of the Unread. For those who may be hearing about this project for the first time, it began as a series of interactive webcomics featuring Nottingham's prominent literary figures, and which consideredour contemporary engagement with books and learning resources. Now the stories have been bound together as a paperback collection, edited by James Walker of local LeftLion magazine. It has been printed by Spokesman Books in association with the UNESCO-accredited Nottingham City of Literature project.

The launch will take place on 11 November, beginning at 7.30pm and ending at 9.30pm.

To purchase tickets, and for further information, see:

Lisa McKenzie interviewed by LeftLion

Spokesman Books keenly follows local Nottingham magazine LeftLion. We read with interest Robin Lewis' interview of Lisa McKenzie, whose book Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain may be seen as a spiritual successor to Ken Coates' Poverty: The Forgotten Englishman.

A research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Lisa spent her early life in the St Ann's area of Nottingham, a council estate borne out the experimental 'Radburn' urban planning design. She describes reading Coates' Poverty when she was taking a course in social work, and realising that 'that was what [she] wanted to do. From the point of view of someone who's lived through it.'

Read the interview in its entirety here: 

Poverty: The Forgotten Englishmen is available to purchase online from Spokesman Books here.…

'Not as dumb as he looks' - Muhammad Ali on Bertrand Russell

In his autobiography The Greatest: My Own Story, Muhammad Ali recounts how Bertrand Russell got in contact with him, and their ensuing correspondence:

For days I was talking to people from a whole new world. People who were not even interested in sports, especially prizefighting. One in particular I will never forget: a remarkable man, seventy years older than me but with a fresh outlook which seemed fairer than that of any white man I had ever met in America.
My brother Rahaman had handed me the phone, saying, ‘Operator says a Mr. Bertrand Russell is calling Mr. Muhammad Ali.’ I took it and heard the crisp accent of an Englishman: ‘Is this Muhammad Ali?’ When I said it was, he asked if I had been quoted correctly.
I acknowledged that I had been, but wondered out loud, ‘Why does everyone want to know what I think about Viet Nam? I’m no politician, no leader. I’m just an athlete.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘this is a war more barbaric than others, and because a mystique is built up around a cham…

Nottingham Refugee Week 2016

Next month, Nottingham Beyond Borders and a host of collaborating groups will stage this lively programme of events for Nottingham Refugee Week

From 17-27th June there will be talks, film screenings, music and theatre performances, food tasting evenings and many other activities held in venues all over Nottingham, in the spirit of celebrating 'the contributions made by refugees and asylum seekers to the economic, cultural and social life of the city', and also to raise awareness of the challenges faced by refugees, and the reasons which compel them to flee and/or seek asylum.

We attach images of the programme below (click to enlarge).

Statewatch 25th Anniversary Conference

European conference marking Statewatch's 25th anniversary
STATEWATCHING EUROPE Civil liberties, the state and the European Union
10:00 - 17:00, Saturday 25 June 2016 Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London N7 (map)

For 25 years Statewatch has been working to publish and promote investigative journalism and critical research in Europe in the fields of the state, justice and home affairs, civil liberties, accountability and openness. We invite you to join us in London on 25 June 2016 at our Conference where there will be:

Workshops and discussions on the refugee crisis in the Med and in the EU; mass surveillance; the EU's crisis of legitimacy and accountability; the policing of protest and criminalisation of communities; racism, xenophobia and the far right; strategies of resistance and the defence of civil liberties.

Click to Book now:
Tickets provide entry to the conference, lunch and free tea/coffee/water all day. You can …

Richmond Castle's Conscientious Objection 'graffiti'

Last week we spotted a BBC News feature on the conscientous objectors held at Richmond Castle during the First World War, and one of the unique ways in which they left their mark on the place: pictures and messages drawn on the walls of their cells. The article elaborates:

The graffiti features pencil drawings and inscriptions, including slogans, poetry, and portraits of loved ones.

A grant of £365,400 from the Heritage Lottery will be used to protect the work and allow public access.


Kate Mavor, English Heritage's chief executive, said the graffiti was an "important record of the voices of dissent" during the war.

She said it was vital to preserve "these delicate drawings" to ensure the stories were not lost.

High levels of moisture and damp meant the layers of lime wash and plaster on the walls were crumbling and flaking off, she added.

The full story, including excellent images of some of the graffiti, is accessible at BBC News here:…

Spokesman issue 130 gets the LeftLion treatment

James Walker reviews One Belt, One Road in this month's issue of LeftLion. For those who haven't yet found themselves a (free) copy, or for readers outside of Nottingham, his summary has been put online here:

One Belt, One Road (The Spokesman, issue 130)
Edited by Tony Simpson; published by Spokesman Books
ISBN: 978 0 85124 8509
Price: £6 

Available on our website at

Orlando Hill discusses Mike Cooley's 'Architect or Bee?'

A bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. Karl Marx Capital, vol. 1, ch. 7.

I was made aware of Architect or Bee? by Mike Cooley in a meeting organised by North London Stop the War and CND. The meeting was called to discuss the forthcoming Stop Trident demo on 27 February. One of the issues raised was the effect scrapping Trident would have on employment. It was pointed out that Unite and GMB were in favour of renewing Trident as a way of securing jobs. On the GMB website, Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Acting Secretary, defends the renewal; ‘GMB Scotland will not play politics on this and will stand up for our defence workers and their communities right across the UK.’ In his o…

Radio shout-out to Trevor Griffiths and The Spokesman

Mike Harding, on his radio Folk Show, 10th April 2016, dedicated the track 'A Cut in Pay' (Rory McLeod) to Trevor Griffiths, who recently celebrated his 81st birthday.

Harding billed him as ‘one of our greatest modern playwrights', extolling to listeners:
'You might know his work – Comedians; Oy for England; the film Reds; the series Bill Brand – and he’s also written a wonderful piece for television, which I don’t think has been filmed yet, called March Time.And I do urge you to go and get hold of a magazine called Spokesman, which is a magazine of the Russell Foundation… In one of last year’s issues they’ve got the entire text'
A podcast of the show (#172) is still available on the following page, with the mention of Trevor Griffiths just over six minutes in:

March Timewas published inissue 118 of The Spokesman (ISBN 9780 85124 8202, £6), which is available to purchase HERE.

Michael Mears presents 'Comrades in Conscience'

 Comrades in Conscience
An evening commemorating the courage of Britain's First World War conscientious objectors through drama, song, and talks.

[Click to enlarge promotional images]

Tickets available from Conway Hall's event page at:

Dexter Whitfield and the UN

A new UN report mentions our colleague Dexter Whitfield, from his 2010 work Global Auction of Public Assets.
The report, entitled Public-Private Partnerships and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Fit for purpose?, references Dexter on page 1:
'Whitfield (2010) provided a survey of PPPs around the world, showing how the model has been adapted to the economic, political and legal environments of different countries in Europe, North America, Australia, Russia, China, India and Brazil. It also examined the growing secondary market in PPP investments, “buying and selling schools and hospitals like commodities in a global supermarket” (p. 183) as well as the increasing number of PPP failures, usually as a result of investors’ “miscalculations; states pick up the tab when they walk away”. It found cases of deceptive techniques of assessing value for money (VfM) and manipulations of risk transfer so that PPPs appear to out-perform traditional public provision. Most impo…

ZABELLIANA: Life & Art of Zabelle Boyajian

ZABELLIANA Life & Art of the Magnificent Polymath  ZABELLE BOYAJIAN Painter, Poet, Playwright, Translator, Multi-Linguist (b. 1872, Diyarbakir, d.1957, London)

Speaker: Khatchatur I. Pilikian

Joint public meeting, Wednesday 6th April 2016: 7.30pm-9.00pm
Talk and slide show 
Free to attend (retiring collection)

Marx Memorial Library 37a Clerkenwell Green London EC1 _______________
Residing in London in early 1900, Zabelle studied at Slade School of Fine Art. She becmae the author of the first play in the English language, Gilgamesh, a Dream of the Eternal Quest, published in 1924, based on the Sumerian epic poem, Gilgamesh, of the second millennium BC.

Zabelle's mother, Catherine, was a kinswoman of the poet Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), and of the Egyptologist Samuel Sharp (1794-1881). Zabelle's father was Thomas Boyajian, the British Vice Consul in Turkey (victim of the Hamidian genocidal massacres of 1894-1896).

After the world was engulfed in the total war of WW1, culminating in the Gen…

Underwater Battlespace - The Spokesman 131

During 2016, the debate about Trident has great salience as the British government seeks parliamentary approval for its intention to build four new 'Successor' submarines to replace the ageing and increasingly decrepit Vanguard Class (see Substandard, Spokesman 129). This is a hugely expensive and technically challenging programme, vulnerable to cost overruns in a similar way to the programme to build the smaller Astute attack submarines at Barrow-in-Furness in northern England. Have such lessons about costs really been learned?

Vintage Trident - Tony Simpson
Force for good? - Cdr Robert Green
Downwinders and other Casualties - Lawrence S. Wittner New Cold War? - Johnathan Steele
China, Britain and Labour - Jenny Clegg
Labour Movement - Jeremy Corbyn MP
'So far as may be lawful' - Len McCluskey
Architect or Bee? - Frances O'Grady
Suffragette - Jo Vellacott
'Economy' no more? - Richard Minns
Life History - Gregory Woods
Missing - A. C. Clarke

TFF Open Letter: Political responsibility in the Nuclear Age

We reblog this open letter from TFF Associates and Themes Blog.

Prefatory Note
What follows here is An Open Letter to the American People: Political Responsibility in the Nuclear Age. It was jointly written by Richard Falk in collaboration with David Krieger and Robert Laney. The three of us have been long connected with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NAPF.
The NAPF focuses its effort on the menace posed by nuclear weaponry and the urgency of seeking nuclear disarmament. The nuclear agreement with Iran and the North Korean nuclear test explosion are reminders of the gravity of the issue, and should serve as warnings against the persistence of complacency, which seems to be the prevailing political mood judging from the policy debates that have taken place during the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign. 
This complacency is encouraged by the media that seems to have forgotten about nuclear dangers since the end of the Cold War, except for those concerned with proliferation …

Public meeting - 30th anniversary of Wapping dispute

What better way to start the new year than to revisit an old battle? As part of the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Wapping dispute a public meeting will be taking place on Thursday 14 January at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library (see PDF). If you arrive early you will be able to take a look around the exhibition about the dispute which is currently on display at the library.

In 2011, Spokesman Books published Bad News: The Wapping Dispute by John Lang and Graham Dodkins with a foreword by Tony Benn.  The book details the industrial dispute by some 5,000 workers sacked by four of Britain's national newspapers, The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times, all of which were owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International Limited. 

More information about the title can be found on our website.