THE NORWICH RADICAL IN 2020

by The Norwich Radical team

At year’s end, many of us feel the pull to try and put a positive spin on the preceding 12 month period – to celebrate its joys, while recognising its difficulties in order to put them behind us as we look to the new year with a hopeful eye. At the end of 2020, it is particularly difficult to find a positive angle from which to look back, or forward. The slow-motion explosion that is Brexit has rolled on, the UK government that came to power just over a year ago has taken every opportunity to demonstrate its incompetence and corruption, and the mainstream media has continued to side with the powerful over the marginalised. And then there’s the elephant in every room – the Covid-19 pandemic, which has pushed many of the institutions we rely on to breaking point, revealing just how little many governments care about the lives of their more vulnerable citizens. 

In August 2020, we were able to finalise our registration as a workers’ co-operative: The Norwich Radical now has a more democratic decision making process, belongs entirely to its membership, and exists as a legal entity – granting us easier access to funding and support in our ongoing mission to create a better media landscape.

We were surprisingly prescient in putting our annual conference – War of Words – on hiatus for 2020 long before any external factors would have forced us to do so, and it looks we’ll be extending the hiatus for another year at least. We will be back, do not doubt that, as soon as it is safe for all involved to organise and participate.

We have recruited a new editor, are currently looking for a new artist or two, and will be expanding our contributor team yet again in the coming months as well. Media monoliths like the BBC, the Guardian and the Times, along with the regular offenders in the right-wing media, have been nurturing a toxic environment for people of marginalised identities – the trans community and ethnic minorities in particular. More must be done to allow those affected to speak for themselves and eschew the ‘debate’ entirely, creating new platforms, new media, and new channels to question the media that act as instruments of power.

In the face of all this, attempting to pick out the little positives to build a message of hope feels, perhaps, a little disingenuous, or disrespectful to those who have suffered or died. We all need positivity to some extent, obviously: if you’re reading this, you made it through, and a vaccine is on its way to most of us – but we must also avoid tens of thousands of deaths (in the UK alone) being brushed under the carpet.

While so many outlets rush to put 2020 behind us, looking to earn sales and clicks by commodifying hope, we must remember that this is still a time of grief and struggle. Take time to acknowledge and process that. Look after yourself, look after each other, and remember that, however isolated you may feel, you are never alone.


EDITORIAL HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2020

01.20 – YANGON PRIDE KICKS OFF WITH NEW #LOVEISNOTACRIME CAMPAIGN

CW: sexual violence, corrective rape, sexual abuse, suicide.

Last Friday was the beginning of Yangon Pride celebrations in a country where human rights abuses are rife, and homosexuality is criminalised. The rising profile of LGBTQ+ rights in Myanmar provides precious hope for queer people in the country. However, the road to equality is a long one.  

04.20 – ‘INVERTING THE PROGRESSIVE’: ANTI-LEFTISM AND BBC’S NOUGHTS AND CROSSES

When I learned that the BBC was airing the first ever television adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s award-winning teen novel, Noughts and Crosses, I was instantly intrigued. How would Blackman’s vision of an alternately racialised society play out on the small screen in 2020? 

The speculative fiction novel (first of a series), published in 2001, follows a teenage friendship – later romance – between Callum, a member of the Nought (light-skinned) oppressed underclass, and Sephy, a member of the Cross (dark-skinned) ruling class. The adaptation is more adult, dramatic and violent – it also contains several new plot points.

06.20 – WILL IRAQ’S NEW PRIME MINISTER RECOGNISE ROMA RIGHTS?

In early May 2020, Mustafa al-Kadhimi was appointed as Iraq’s new Prime Minister against the context of ongoing protests and popular discontent resulting from widespread government corruption. This corruption has contributed massively towards increasing poverty, reduction in public services and rising unemployment. Since the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, social cohesion has fractured perhaps (but hopefully not) irrevocably, with politics and society becoming increasingly sectarian.

06.20 – ‘THREAT TO THE POLISH STATE’ – ANTI LGBT SENTIMENTS ENSHRINED IN POLISH LAW

CW: homophobia

As a ‘citizen of nowhere’ who spends far more time engaged with UK politics, I often get to turn a blind eye to the place I’ve left behind. But to many who follow the general flow of Polish politics, it won’t be a surprise that this year marks Poland’s drop to 42nd place out of 49 in ILGA Europe’s annual Rainbow Map ranking, making it the least LGBTQIA+ friendly country in the European Union. As we experience a rise in fascist politics across the majority of Europe, it’s worth to take a closer look at the way Poland has approached its place on the list and the way its government has enshrined its anti-LGBT sentiment in both culture and policy.

06.20 – ‘JUST A NOTHING’: ASEXUAL ERASURE IN ADAPTATIONS OF THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY

Few novels with openly queer protagonists are as enduringly loved, or have achieved such acclaim, as Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley.

Tom Ripley is a charming, Machiavellian antihero whose talents include ‘forging signatures… and impersonating practically anybody’, and whose unreciprocated worship of Dickie Greenleaf, the prodigal son of a New York shipping tycoon, leads him to kill Dickie and assume his identity. He is also asexual, yet not a single adaptation of Highsmith’s work has addressed this. With a new adaptation in the works, in the form of a Showtime drama directed by Steven Zaillan and starring Andrew Scott, it’s important to acknowledge and reflect on the ways in which this aspect of Ripley’s character has been erased.

06.20 – NOT A TEAM: HOW THE POLICE OBSTRUCT OTHER EMERGENCY SERVICES (AND TAKE CREDIT)

CW: police brutality, racism

We tend to think of them as a trio: the police; the firefighters; the paramedics. They all answer the same phone line; they all blare the same siren on their way to the scene. Not all three, however, exist to support civilians, nor do they operate in unison, and this façade is what enables the police to be revered no matter how much they tear communities apart and instil fear.

06.20 – EDUCATION AFTER THE PANDEMIC: REFORM AND RENATIONALISATION

Tony Blair, upon his election into government in 1997, famously declared that his top three priorities were “Education, education and education”. At the other end of the century, Vladimir Lenin proclaimed that education that didn’t teach about life and politics was indeed a “hypocrisy”. Education has been a central focus of politics for over a hundred years, and today is no different. As the Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted conventional ways of learning for many, the modern British educational system needs short term and long term reform if it is to adapt to the issues of the 21st century. With the advent of Zoom lessons and online assessments, now is the time to explore the full potential of digital technology as the new frontier of education.

07.20 – REWRITING THE DICTIONARY – PROFESSIONAL VS SEMI-PROFESSIONAL IN THE ARTS

When I was asked by a friend to think about the difference between being a professional artist and a semi-professional artist with regards to my own practice as a writer and a poet, the distinction between the two seemed – to quote author Daniel Piper – arbitrary and unnecessary. The word semi-professional is not something that has been in my vocabulary, because my ideas of professionalism go beyond the dictionary definition of these two words.

07.20 – MUTUAL AID IN ACTION: NORWICH’S COMMUNITY RESPONSE TO COVID

In Norwich, as in many other parts of the country, mutual aid groups set up in local communities through Facebook and Whatsapp have been helping people through the Covid-19 crisis in Norwich. These groups have been particularly important for the elderly, vulnerable, single parents and those asked to shield themselves by staying at home.

07.20 – GLINNER’S GONE – WHAT NEXT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TRANSPHOBIA?

In June, the news broke that Graham Linehan, former comedy writer turned full time transphobe, was finally removed from twitter for his continued attacks on the trans* community. Whilst it is positive that twitter is finally taking the action that the trans* community have long been asking for, this should have happened years ago, when Linehan started doxing people who dared challenge him.

08.20 – BLACK REBELLION: CRUSHING THE MYTH OF THE ‘DOCILE SLAVE’

The structure of white supremacy feeds off the narrative of the ‘docile slave.’ Painting Black people in history as submissive beings upholds the white conscience; it tapes over white people’s historical and present reliance on oppression for their mental stability and superiority, by suggesting that Black people were willingly inferior. When, in reality, Black people have been rebelling with might since their capture.

09.20 – RESISTANCE IN BUDAPEST: STUDENTS DEFY LATEST MOVE IN VIKTOR ORBÁN’S CULTURE WAR

On the Wednesday evening of the 2nd of September, in a narrow street in Budapest’s eighth district, a large crowd gathered in solidarity with the students who have staged an occupation of Hungary’s University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE). The students had sealed the entrances to the building with red and white tape in protest against the latest power grab by the far-right government of Victor Orbán. 

10.20 – ZAD DU CARNET: A BASTION OF RADICALISM ON THE LOIRE ESTUARY

Graffitied in swirly red French handwriting, on the wide concrete track that leads through the camp, is the motto: ‘Nous sommes toutes des enfantes du Carnet!’: we are all children of the Carnet. The Carnet is a stretch of land on the Loire Estuary, next to the Saint-Nazaire seaport and downstream of France’s sixth largest city, Nantes. The 110 hectare area which incorporates 51 hectares of wetland and is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, many of which are endangered and on the brink of local extinction, is under threat of development. With a nationwide shift towards supporting green energy projects, and the Saint-Nazaire seaport earmarked as a prime location for offshore wind farms, the Carnet has been chosen as the site for a new ‘green energy industrial park. 

11.20 – DONALD TRUMP, THE DEVIL WE KNOW

First, the good news: Donald Trump has been kicked out of the Oval Office.

The proto-fascist,  far-right enabling, climate change denying, racist, misogynist is out. The man who held up a mirror to the worst of America, and gave old fashioned racists all the encouragement they needed to express themselves publicly, has been finally removed through the United State’s idiosyncratic, pseudo-democratic electoral process. Barring civil unrest and armed militias causing problems in the transition period, he will be gone in a matter of months.


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