Writer and Norwich Radical co-founder
Chris currently works for environment and social justice charity People & Planet. Chris is an writer and activist, still clinging onto the student movement, despite what his age would dictate.
Proudly queer, enthusiastically punk, passionately socialist, vibrantly Green, staunchly teetotal, and reluctantly happy. Co-Editor of The Norwich Radical 2014-2017.
(30.12.18) – 20 Best Radical Music Releases of 2018
We return with a round-up of the best radical music from the past year!
(18.10.18) – The Green Party can Become the Party of the Radical Left in Wales
Earlier this week, the race to crown the next leader of the Wales Green Party kicked off. Mirka Virtanen, Deputy Leader since 2017 was the first to declare her candidacy. Two other candidates were announced in an email to party members but, at the time of writing, neither have announced their candidacy publicly.
(20.07.18) – For a Late Pennsyltucky Anarchist – Remembering Erik Petersen in 7 Songs
July 14 is a day of mourning and remembrance for the punk community. Two years ago on that date, the folk-punk pioneer Erik Petersen passed away. Founding member and frontman of the iconic Mischief Brew, Erik Petersen was one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation. His music will long be remembered for its infectiousness, its unique storytelling, its wit, its rawness and its inflammatory radicalism.
(30.01.18) – Old Jerusalem and Jericho
They talk of dreaming spires
sleeping beneath them is routine
Crammed into a shop front
derailed carriage lost steam
Through the spiralled alleyways
off the beaten track
A dampen sodden mattress
a man laid on his back
(06.01.18) – 20 Best Radical Music Releases of 2017
It’s a common cliché that the quality and abundance of political and protest music is directly proportionate to the awfulness of the broader political landscape. The Vietnam War gave us the great American folk singers. The stagnation, unemployment and neoliberalism’s cusp of the 1970s bred punk. Thatcher’s Britain brought us the motley crew of rebels surrounding Red Wedge. The rapid and destructive spread of militant capitalism and imperialism at the end of the Cold War bore Rage Against the Machine. Apartheid in South Africa swelled a wonderful mix of pioneering sounds and firebrand resistance.
Unsurprisingly, 2017 was one of those years – a terrifying political context coalescing into a bumper crop of fantastic radical releases. So with a withering nod to the year that was and with a glint of hope in the sounds of revolution, here are the very best radical musical releases 2017 had to offer.
(12.10.17) – Party Conference Season Recap
Political punditry’s busiest time of the year has come to a close, as most of Britain’s political parties have wrapped up their annual festivals of spin, spectacle and speculation – only Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Greens remain un-conferenced. What a season it has been.
Typically speaking, party conferences go mostly unnoticed, change little in the political landscape, and are quickly forgotten as the cogs of history whirr on unshaken. 2017 will be more than an aberration to that pattern. True, the ‘smaller’ parties failed to make a mark this time round too. Little of note came out of the SNP or Green Party of England and Wales conferences. The sole memorable moment of the Liberal Democrat soiree was the laughable assertions trotted out to the press time and again, that Vince Cable could soon be the next Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. UKIP’s will only be recalled as the final subdued howl of Little England defiance as it casts itself into electoral and political irrelevance. That notwithstanding, this year was a bumper crop.
(13.09.17) – Politics and Powerslams – Reactionary Narratives in Professional Wrestling
CW: sexual assault, racism, ableism, violence, sexism, suicide, murder, mental health
Professional wrestling is big business, and there’s none bigger than the monolithic World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). In 2015, its revenue totalled over $650 million dollars, whereas the second largest promotion in the world – New Japan Pro Wrestling – saw a comparatively paltry $30 million. WWE is a cultural and economic behemoth, with profound power and influence wrapped into its carefully crafted and tightly managed brand. Its most successful exports go on to become major cultural icons – film stars, stand up comedians, talk show favourites. WWE alumnus Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the world’s second highest paid actor with a barrage of accolades to boot. Dave Bautista has followed in the footsteps of the ‘People’s Champion’, with a major role in the third highest grossing film in 2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy. In 1999, Mick Foley published the first instalment of his autobiography – Have a Nice Day – which shot to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list.
Given the sheer scale of WWE’s operation and the wide reaching influence of its product and performers, it comes as little surprise that the company has built an extensive corporate social responsibility marketing operation. John Cena has granted more ‘wishes’ for the Make a Wish Foundation than anyone else. In 2015, WWE heirs apparent Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque and Stephanie McMahon founded Connor’s Cure, a charity dedicated to researching pediatric cancer, after 8 year old WWE fan Connor ‘The Crusher’ Michalek tragically passed away in 2014. Most recently, programming of Raw and Smackdown were interspersed with fundraising vignettes for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Beneath the shimmering veneer WWE have created, though, lies a murky and unpleasant history.
(18.08.17) – Hold a Dance to Solidarity – Lights Down, In Evil Hour Review
Following up on the incendiary Built on Our Backs EP in 2015, Darlington’s darlings of hardcore In Evil Hour are back, this time with their second full-length release – Lights Down. In the age of an emboldened far right, intensified hawkishness in the international military arena, and revelations of the worst excesses of neoliberalism with the likes of the Grenfell disaster, Lights Down is a much needed and timely response.
(17.07.17) – Venezuela: From Inspiration to Despotism
CW: torture, rape, political violence
Less than a decade ago, left-wingers across the globe turned towards Latin America as something of a road map towards a more progressive and socialist politics. Many a left tradition could be identified in the range of regimes, leaders and parties that had come to power throughout the region. Evo Morales in Bolivia, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva in Brazil, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Ollanta Humala in Perù, Jose Mujica in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, the ever present Castros in Cuba, and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The “Pink Tide”, as this phenomena became loosely known, was high, and international awe developed among the left.
Breaking out of the 1990s, in which the global institutions of neoliberalism, from the IMF and the World Bank to the US state and multinational corporations drove an agenda of austerity, privatisation of services and market liberalisation, Governments of the “Pink Tide” brought promise of a better deal for the various Latin American nations which elected them. To greater or lesser degrees, these Governments sought to recentre economies away from international capital and towards the needs of people, increase spending on and provision of welfare and public services – whether through anti-hunger initiatives, healthcare programmes or education projects, and deepen democracy. Across the region, the Pink Tide brought with it decreasing levels of economic inequality, higher literacy rates, reduced poverty and greater levels of health.
In 2017, the legacy of these leftist Governments lies tarnished – and perhaps the most emblematic of this turn is Venezuela.
(19.06.17) – The Culture is Political – The Reunification of Leftism and Culture
Culture and politics are inseparable. Culture is more than mere entertainment, more than escapism. Culture is central to how we understand the world, build our value sets and perceive our fellow people. It stirs human emotion in unique ways, pulling different levers in the brain. Sometimes overtly, sometimes with subtlety, the dominant cultural practices, institutions, icons and outputs are used to reinforce the dominant political system and defend the status quo. Establishment weaponise culture as a means of influence.
But this isn’t the sole preserve of the political right.
(08.06.17) – A Beginning, Not the End – The 2017 General Election
In a couple of hours, polling stations will close, and the fate of the United Kingdom will have been decided. Throughout the night the gentle trickling of results will sprinkle their way in, as the aftermath of the most fascinating election for a generation will begin to unravel. Psephologists will debate the relative merits of their predictions, political spin-artists will argue their respective parties have actually done quite a lot better than they expected, and the hacks (myself included), will drift further into the early hours, wearing out their laptop keys.
Right now, we know that the election campaign has been riddled with ups and with downs. We’ve seen Labour climb steadily in the polls, narrowing the Tory lead from over 20 points to single figures; two atrocities claimed the lives of 34 people; campaigning was suspended twice; the Tories launched a manifesto into a whirlwind of negativity; UKIP’s support collapsed; and Labour proposed a political programme further to the left of any Government in four decades. Any one of those alone would make this election remarkable. Combined they make it unique.
(23.04.17) – War of Culture and Identity: The French Presidential Election
All eyes in the UK are currently on the snap General Election called by Theresa May earlier this week. Across the English channel though, another election, possibly with more seismic impacts for the future of Europe and the wider world took place today. French voters went to the polls in what has been an ever-changing and eye-wateringly close first round of their Presidential election. With 80% ballots counted at the time of publication, we now know that Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will be going forward for a second round run-off vote on May 7th.
(18.04.17) – We Stand on a Precipice – The Snap General Election
With Theresa May having all but called an early General Election, on June 8th, the UK will go to the polls for yet another vote that will have long-reaching consequences for the future of the nation, the third in as many years. For the people of Scotland and Wales it will be the fourth – and those living in Northern Ireland will face their fifth. Right now, our political leaders can’t seem to get enough of sending people trudging out to schools, churches and community centres to scribble little pencil crosses in printed boxes.
(26.03.17) – Meanwhile, Backstage in Sonic Boom Six‘s world
A few minutes’ walk from the dreaming spires for which the city is famed lies East Oxford’s Cowley Road – the hub where ‘kids of the multiculture’ grow up. An area undergoing rapid gentrification, it still retains its working class heritage, ethnic diversity, and unique character under the strains of the expansionist middle classes settling, with students and university professors increasingly filling the nearby terraces.
Cowley Road is home to the O2 Academy. Previously the Zodiac, the venue is emblematic of other changes in the area – a corporate takeover of a formerly independent music venue. Across the road sit branches of Subway and Costa, but a little further down is the Truck Store – the pivot of the local independent music scene. Here, at Oxford’s O2 Academy, Manchester-born Sonic Boom Six get set to tear up the stage on a Friday evening.
(22.03.17) – Passing Into History, Looking Into the Future: Martin McGuinness
“I was proud to be a member of the IRA. I am still 40 years on proud that I was a member of the IRA. I am not going to be a hypocrite and sit here and say something different.
”I do have a very deep sense of regret that there was a conflict and that people lost their lives, and you know, many were responsible for that – and a lot of them wear pinstripe suits in London today.”
On January 30th, 1972, 13 people were shot dead by the British Army on the streets of Derry – a city that was, and to this day still is, a part of the United Kingdom. The crime for which these 13 people were murdered by the British state was marching through their hometown to demand an end to internment without trial for suspected members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. Those interned were subject to torture as part of their detention. Bloody Sunday, as it came to be known, took place just one year after the Ballymurphy Massacre, where 11 people were killed across 3 days in Belfast.
(01.01.2017) – The 20 Best Radical Music Releases of 2016
Yes, yes, we all know that 2016 has been an unmitigated cluster-fuck, with rising fascism, worsening humanitarian crises and intensifying conflict. In moments of darkness, many of us turn to the arts world – especially music – for comfort, for release, for explanation. With David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, George Martin, Phife Dawg, Erik Petersen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Menza, Greg Lake, Sharon Jones, and too many others all having passed away, many have found music to have also fallen on dark times.
That notwithstanding, 2016 has been a year of some undeniably and uniquely brilliant music too, especially music that espouses messages of a better world, of political analysis, of radical alternatives. Here are the 20 best of those radical releases from the past year.
(25.12.16) – Left Wing Christmas Songs and the Importance of Culture
On Friday it was revealed that this year’s Christmas Number One was Clean Bandit with Rockabye, their names forever written into the record books, joining some truly excellent pieces of music that have shared the top spot over the years. The Beatles scored a hat-trick in the 1960s. Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ beat Wizzard’s festive effort in 1973. Queen managed it twice, with Bohemian Rhapsody, some 16 years apart. We’ve had Spice Girls, The Human League, and Elvis Presley – all deserving the accolade.
(27.11.16) – Fidel Castro and Cuban Socialism
Content warnings: mentions execution, torture
Throughout the twentieth century, as ‘socialist’ regimes sprung up across the world, their leaders and key figures were consistently deified in the west. Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Guevara, Chavez, Allende; all were adopted as icons of the revolutionary left, with posters of them adorning walls across the world, and their words taken as gospel. For a time, much of the left in Europe and the USA endorsed Stalinism, even as the true horrors of the gulags, the famines, the mass executions, the anti-semitism began to be revealed. The unbelievable death toll of Mao’s ‘great leap forward’ was brushed aside by apologists. Colonel Gaddafi was revered by many as a valued comrade, even as he ordered mass executions and dismantled trade unions.
On Friday, news broke that one of the most prominent of these figures of the 20th century revolutionary left – Fidel Castro – had died at the age of 90. The obituaries have sprung up thick and fast, polarised and definitive. Either Castro is the terrible dictator who crushed democracy and dissent on the Caribbean island, or he is the man who liberated Cuba from American imperialism and gave hope and inspiration to socialists across the world. It’s a simple case of black or red, pick your side. This unnuanced cherry picking of history is typical of modern analysis of politics and political figures. The reality, as always, is more complex.
(27.10.16) – Why Are We Turning Our Backs on Refugees?
Content warning: this article mentions xenophobia and racism
Last week, reporting and rhetoric on the ongoing migration crisis reached new lows. The Daily Mail, The Express and others ran inflammatory stories first casting doubt over whether or not child refugees were children after all and later calling on them to carry out dental checks on asylum seekers to ascertain their age, irrespective of the ethical abhorrence and scientific inadequacy of such a policy.
How has it come to this? How, as a society, have we got to the point where people fleeing conflict, living in makeshift camps and trying desperately to find a better life receive this as their welcome to our country, are referred to in these terms? When did we stop being a nation that offered help and support to those in need, a nation that welcomed migrants, a nation with cities built on the principles of multi-culturalism and melting pot? Don’t we have a long and proud history of granting refuge to those who need it?
(16.10.16) – Seven Ways The Tories Have Undermined Our Democracy
Since coming to power under the coalition in 2010, the Tories have repeatedly paid lip service to the principles of democracy. David Cameron’s concept of the ‘big society’ was outlined in democratic terms, where local communities would be empowered to have control over public services and community projects. ‘Localism’ and rhetoric around extending local democracy were key components of both the 2010 and 2015 Conservative Party General Election platforms.
Ultimately though, the reality is far from the picture Conservative ministers and strategists are painting. Through Cameron to May, the Tories have repeatedly undermined democracy in Britain and we are far worse off as a result. Here are just seven of the many ways they have done this.
(11.09.16) – Five Impressive Facts About the Green Party Leadership
Last weekend, the Green Party crowned its new leader, at its largest conference to date. The result came as no surprise to anybody – Caroline Lucas and her Co-Leader running mate Jonathan Bartley were elected with an overwhelming mandate, scooping up a phenomenal 86% of the vote. Given that the result was largely a foregone conclusion at the point that candidates were announced, and that the election would naturally get swallowed by the much larger, more adversarial battle in the Labour Party, this was a subdued, uninspiring election.
In spite of that, the Green Party and their leadership are unique, fascinating and impressive in a whole range of ways. Here are five of them.
(28.08.16) – Today’s Politics: Speaking in Different Languages
Britain’s EU Referendum was a messy, unpleasant affair. Events that took place, the way campaigns were run, the rhetoric of certain advocates on both sides taught many lessons about the state of Britain. The referendum, and its subsequent result, have served as an amplifier for some unsettling and disturbing aspects of our politics and society – from racism and xenophobia, to the desperation and disaffection felt by people and communities across the country. All of these have had substantial coverage and comment in the press, as politicians and columnists have lined up to blame anyone and everyone – the political class, migrants, the Leave campaign, Jean Claude Juncker, Tony Blair.
(31.07.16) – “We’re fighting a double battle in this white-dominated world” – An Interview with The Tuts
2016 will be the year of the Tut. After a crowdfunding campaign that achieved double its original target, The Tuts are set to release their debut album – Update Your Brain – in September. The all-woman three piece from Hayes have nurtured a loyal and growing fan base in their first few years, with tours alongside UK veterans Kate Nash, The Selecter and Sonic Boom Six helping to build a wide creoss-genre appeal.
(03.07.16) – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back – An Interview with Erik Petersen of Mischief Brew
In the early 2000s, American punk music underwent one if its periodical renovations on the underground scenes. Bringing together punk rock’s anger, pace and aesthetic and meshing it with the instruments, skill and stories of folk music, folk-punk shifted the goalposts of what it meant to be a punk band. While Against Me! are probably the most famous, Defiance, Ohio the most innovative and influential, Mischief Brew are probably the best. A decade after their first full-length release Smash the Windows they continue to produce rebel rousing and exciting music, with last year’s This is Not for Children shows their ongoing versatility and eclecticity endures.
(15.06.16) – Writing Over the Acronym
Content warning: mass shooting, homophobia.
At midnight they dance the devil’s dance
Gleeful in their deviance
As sun rises
Their hearts Pulse in the ecstasy
Community and camaraderie
Unprovoked and unannounced
Space safe no more
(28.05.16) – Women and Punk: Shaping the Genre 40 Years On
Last week, Music That Matters looked at the 40th anniversary of punk and how our understanding of its history is typically one which erases the efforts and achievements of women musicians and people of colour. Today, the scene is often still seen as a male and white space, with punk shows frequently having male dominated crowds queuing up to see white men thrashing on guitars in shabby venues.
But it looks like things are changing. 2016 feels like it is becoming a rebirth of women in punk, and critically, as if it is women of colour who often are leading the way. More women are touring, more are getting bigger stages and longer sets, and more are getting the media coverage that they deserve. Among the nostalgic reflection, this year, dozens of punk albums will be released. Some will become instant classics, others will fade from memory as quickly as they came. Here are 10 bands leading the British punk scene this year, and the women that are making them shape the future of the genre.
(22.05.16) – Punk and Erasure: 40 Years Later
Anniversaries are strange things. Almost exclusively, they consist of rose-tinted, uncritical and nostalgic assessments of whatever they seek to commemorate. 2016, forty years since the ‘birth’ of punk, appears no different. Expect Union Jacks, safety pins galore and excessive images of John Lydon in BBC sanctioned documentaries. Expect descriptions of how important Malcolm Mclaren was to punk’s success, claims that New Rose was without contention the first punk rock single and a neat lineage where pub rock became punk – a very British phenomenon.
Inadequate as such histories are, they are demonstrative of the problem we have with understanding punk as a cultural occurrence. Debate rages amongst fans about whether punk was ever grassroots, whether it was ever political, whether any of the anti-establishment ethos was ever genuine, or instead fabricated by an astute record industry seeking to find the new zeitgeist. Adherents to either theory will read selectively into the evidence and ignore anything which would disprove their dogma.
(19.05.16) – The 10 People Who Could Be The Next Leader of The Green Party
Something somewhat unprecedented is happening. The media is paying attention to the internal workings of the Green Party. Since Natalie Bennett announced her intentions not to stand for re-election as the party’s leader, speculation has begun to bubble around the online media about who her replacement might be. Early predictions from pundits included the party’s 2016 London Mayoral Candidate Sian Berry, former European Parliamentary candidate Rupert Read and Member of the House of Lords Jenny Jones have each ruled themselves out of the race (Sian Berry was technically ineligible to stand in the first place).
(17.05.16) – 4 Reasons Why Natalie Bennett Has Been a Great Green Party Leader
On Sunday evening, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett announced that she would not be standing for re-election in the forthcoming Leadership Election. After four years at the helm of what is now the third largest political party in England and Wales, the media and followers of politics have begun to reflect on her time in office and the legacy she is leaving behind.
(15.05.16) – Revolutionary Music – An Interview with Matt of Dead City Riots
Describing themselves as “more than simply a group of musicians” and as “part of an ever growing, international, revolutionary movement continuously moving towards freedom, justice and peace, Dead City Riot are one of Bristol based Riot Ska Records’ greatest imports. Blending hardcore, ska and reggae, DCR’s imagery, sound and lyrics ooze their political values and beliefs. A brief look at their Facebook page is illustrative of this, with its “Refugees Welcome” images, calls to celebrate International Workers Day and the description of their genre as “revolutionary music”.
(08.05.16) – Together We Can Be More – An Interview with Chris of Luvdump
Luvdump came kicking and skanking out of Bury St Edmunds in 2007, bringing to life their aggressive mix of melodic punk rock and ska-core. 2013 saw the release of their second full length album, Age of Austerity, alongside their relocation to the North West, where they have made their home ever since. A regular on the UK ska and punk circuit, Luvdump have continuously maintained a political current to their music, lifestyles and lyrics, with the social conscience of the band seeping through almost every song.
(01.05.16) – Moving Outside The Bubble – An Interview With Andy Davies Of Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man
Manchester hardcore punks Revenge of the Psychotronic Man are no stranger to politics. Their music is released through TNSrecords, home of the likes of Faintest Idea, Autonomads, and Rising Strike, all known for their uncompromising and explicitly political works. Revenge of the Psychotronic Man bassist and vocalist Andy Davies helps to co-run the label, and he took the time to talk to The Norwich Radical about how he sees his politics, its relationship to the music he produces and the relationship between this and the wider world, as part of our series Music That Matters.
(24.04.16) – #WorstGovernmentEver – An Interview with Chris T-T
‘Worst government ever!’ growls the chorus of Chris T-T’s latest single. The lead track on his forthcoming album 9 Green Songs, set to be released on June 3rd is a blistering attack on Conservative Britain. The song is emblematic of the reputation that Chris T-T has developed as being a singer-songwriter known not only for the music he produces, but also for the politics that he espouses along the way.
(10.04.16) – Not Your Punk – An Interview With Nikolai Jones Of King Prawn
In 1993, a new icon was born. King Prawn’s incendiary sound emerged from London, and paved the way for countless other bands on a burgeoning and ever developing scene. Over the next decade, they would lay waste to notions of genre as album after album would reinvent punk, ska, hip-hop and hardcore blazing a trail for many others to follow. Sonic Boom Six, Random Hand, The King Blues all built upon the legacy of King Prawn. So diverse and innovative, they coined their own label to define their music – Wildstyle, and their rebel rousing songs combined with their flagrant disregard for musical convention led to comparisons with American rap-metal pioneers Rage Against the Machine.
(03.04.16) – Know Your Enemy – An Interview with Jake of Shock ! Hazard
For most, Norfolk boys Shock ! Hazard will appear as something of an antilogy. Their sound and aesthetics are clearly rooted in and influenced by early heavy metal pioneers like Led Zeppelin and the less flamboyant hair metallers of the 1980s – thumping riffs, extended guitar solos and screeching vocals galore. More than anything, this sound and this scene has been known for its bone-headed hedonism, its sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll attitude, and the carefree and unrestricted antics of its participants; hardly the place you go to find revolutionary calls to action or heavily politicised lyricism. Putting aside the question as to whether participation in a counter-culture is an inherently political act for a minute, unlike other musical movements, from punk to folk to hip-hip, this straight-up, hard hitting, in your face rock and roll, has made its name in part for being almost overtly apolitical.
(27.03.16) – Maintain And Resist – An Interview With Iain Of Autonomads
Bringing together anarcho punk aesthetics and lyrical themes with dub and ska sounds, Manchester based Autonomads are the ultimate sound clash. Their releases move seamlessly between genres. 2012 EP No Man’s Land exemplifies this at their best, drifting from aggressive growls of ‘No more GMP, get out of our city!’ to the bouncy ska singalongs like Supermarket Sweep, before toning down for mellow moments such as Dubbing Up the Downfall, no song sounding suddenly discordant or out of place. Throughout all of their music is an obvious and explicit political underpinning. On Conditions of the Working Class, they declare ‘our oppression’s still the same, as it used to be’ and on their anti-green washing anthem 2000BP they make clear ‘ethics for profit, that’s treason’.
(13.03.16) – “Militant Antifascists By Any Means Necessary” – An Interview With Dasko Of Red Union
There are a few bands whose influence flutters through generations, transcends time and knows no geographical borders. Joy Division, Metallica, Kraftwerk, David Bowie. In the punk scene, the influence of The Clash is far greater than even their seminal contemporaries such as The Damned, Ramones and Sex Pistols. In fact, save perhaps for later acts Operation Ivy, Minor Threat and Refused, the level of impact they have had on music goes unrivalled. Talking to Dasko of Serbian punk rock band Red Union for our series Music That Matters, it is evident that The Clash’s rebel rousing of the late 70s has made its way into the hearts of this Novi Sad band.
(07.03.16) – Voices of Hope Coming Out of the Darkness – An Interview with Johnny Doom of Police Bastard
For anyone of my generation who group up in the Midlands with a taste for alternative music, Johnny Doom is something of an icon. Tuning into Kerrang Radio (when it was still broadcast on FM), it was the dulcet tones of this Brummie legend that would really excite, much more so than even the anarchic Tim Shaw or the esoteric Nick Margerisson. Unsurprisingly, he has won accolades for his wry radio conversations, being named Brummie of the Year in 2008.
(28.02.16) – Soundtrack of the Revolution – An Interview with Spud of Lobster
The Midlands have been for many years a breeding ground for the very best talents on the UK ska scene. In the 1980s, it was the pioneering sounds of Coventry’s two-tone bands – The Specials and The Selecter that led the way. Nowadays, Birmingham has a lively and burgeoning scene of acts that are fusing traditional reggae and dub music with the energy and raw anger of punk and hip-hop. Building on the reggae vibes of Brummie legends such as Drongos for Europe, Steel Pulse and UB40, Lobster and their peers have built a sound and a scene that brings together the many traditions of these musical legacies. Throughout this, they have maintained a focus on politics and conscious lyricism. Because of this, we decided to talk with Lobster’s frontman Spud about his and the band’s outlook and the implications this has for their music as part of our series Music That Matters.
(21.02.16) – Education and Agitation – An Interview With Sam Bell of The Roughneck Riot
Much like how their hometown of Warrington is overshadowed by neighbouring Manchester and Liverpool, The Roughneck Riot have for many years been overshadowed by their peers on the celtic punk scene. Flogging Molly, Dead Kennedys, The Real McKenzies and The Tossers are the big league, and everyone else is overlooked and often forgotten. But The Roughneck Riot excel in the field of the tried and tested blend of folk music instruments and thudding punk rock just as much as any other. With mandolins, accordions and banjos, Roughneck Riot like many other celtic punk bands are part of a movement that for many years has bene redefining what it means to be a rock band and what punk music is.
(17.02.16) – How I Fell Out Of Love With Peter Tatchell
I didn’t want to write this article. For a long time, Peter Tatchell was one of my political heroes. Reading about the infamous Bermondsey by-election when I was 15 and going through the process of being outed and the abuse and violence that came with that, understanding that people such as Tatchell had put themselves through that 25 years prior so that the world we live in was more tolerant and more accepting, was a comfort and an inspiration. Tatchell’s continuing radicalism throughout his long career in activism and into his elder years had me in awe. One of the proudest moments I’d had as a student activist was organising a talk by him at my University and just chatting with him in the pub afterwards. But it’s become obvious that we need to talk about Tatchell.
(14.02.16) – Love, Herb and Reggae – An Interview with Taj Weekes
February 12th saw the release of St Lucian born musician Taj Weekes’ fifth full length album Love, Herb and Reggae – a collection of fourteen bouncing, mellow reggae tunes with his band Adowa. In 51 minutes, Taj’s lyrics cover the full assortment of reggae’s lyrical history, touching on politics, human rights, marijuana and love. And yet from the opening hook, to its final, fading gasps, it never slips into cliché or stereotype, proving itself to be original and unique and without doubt their strongest record to date.
(10.02.16) – “I Would Describe Myself as an Economic Liberal” – An Interview with Charlie Kingsbury, Liberal Youth Co-Chair
It’s no secret that the Liberal Democrats are far from the most popular political party in Britain today. After the General Election, they were left with just 8 MPs, and were ousted from their position as junior coalition partners in Government. For the preceding years, they attracted mockery, ire, and ridicule in equal measure, not least from young people and students, a group who once made up a significant proportion of their voter base – especially in the dizzy days of Cleggmania.
I’m still fascinated, then, by the fact that they have managed to maintain a sizeable membership through this time, including among young people. Why would a young person join the Liberal Democrats, and why would they remain active in the party? This intrigue is what led to me interviewing Charlie Kingsbury, current co-chair of Liberal Youth as part of a series of interviews focusing of the role of young people in shaping British politics.
(07.02.16) – Undeniable Interactions – An Interview with Willem of Antillectual
Dutch trio Antillectual are known for their fast, thumping, melodic hardcore, which they have toured extensively across the globe since their debut album in 2005. Bringing together influences and sounds reminiscent of bands varying from Bad Religion, Strike Anywhere and Rise Against, they have held onto one of the central tenets of punk rock, socially conscious lyrics and a progressive political outlook.
(31.01.16) – New Year, New Politics – An Interview with Lande of Muncie Girls
In November, Muncie Girls announced the release of their debut album From Caplan to Belsize, set for a release in March 2016. They followed up this announcement with two singles – Gas Mark 4 and Balloon, and kicked off the New Year with vocalist and bassist Lande being featured on the cover of Kerrang Magazine as one of the ‘Stars of 2016’ as well as being interviewed and played on Daniel P Carter’s Rock Show on Radio 1.
(30.01.16) – Strength in Numbers – The Owl Sanctuary’s New Dawn
Last night, I saw Capdown at The Owl Sanctuary for the second time in two years. Amidst the circle pits, the skanking, the stage dives, the crowdsurfing, the singalongs, introducing Capdown’s Strength in Numbers, gaffer of The Owl Sanctuary, Dan, announced that although its current Cattle Market Street venue will be closing its doors this Sunday, they have just landed a deal to re-open at a location elsewhere in the city.
(24.01.16) – Progress: An Interview with In Evil Hour
Darlington’s melodic hardcore punks are on the up. Off the back of a new EP, increased media coverage including a feature in Vive Le Rock magazine and The Mixed Tape, they now have tour dates in the diary with Ignite and UK Subs and they look to make 2016 their year. Inspiring comparisons with Rise Against, In Evil Hour combine the speed and aggression of modern hardcore with scathing attacks on the state of society of and politics. It is this latter feature of their music that led The Norwich Radical to talk to frontwoman and guitarist, Alice and Gareth about their political outlook, how it interplays with their musical outputs and what role they see this fusion having in shaping political change as part of our series Music That Matters.
(19.01.16) – In Transition: An Interview with Josh Chandler Morris of Hope in High Water
For years, Josh Chandler Morris was known as the energetic frontman of skacore band Anti-Vigilante, whose powerful stage presence, piercing sax segments and fast paced vocals thrilled crowds across the country including on tours with veterans of the ska scene such as King Prawn and Inner Terrestrials. Nowadays, Josh has teamed up with Carly Slade to form Hope in High Water, a two piece acoustic folk band, whose focus is much mellower and whose lyrics are less focussed on the political issues that Anti-Vigilante were well known for. But because of Josh’s background, The Norwich Radical decided to discuss with Josh his political outlook, how it interplays with his musical outputs and why his most recent outfit has decided to steer away from the politics as part of our series Music That Matters.
(16.01.16) – Being Bisexual and Genderqueer in a ‘Heterosexual’ and ‘Cisgendered’ Relationship
In one form or another, I have been ‘out’ for about eight or nine years. Obviously the concept of being ‘out’ is far more nuanced than a simple one stage event, act or process. The reality is of course much, much more complicated. Each time you meet a new person, each time you move to a new town, each time you start a new job that process has to start again, from the beginning.
(13.01.16) The New Generation: An Interview with Hannah Clare, Co-Chair of the Young Greens
Hannah Clare is part of the first wave of ‘new Greens’ in the 21st century. Preceding the ‘Green surge’ of last year, these are members of the Green party, predominantly young members, who joined up some time following the Iraq war and before 2013. Many were frustrated by the drab political landscape in other parties, and by the seeming betrayal of the parties they might otherwise have supported – first the Labour Party over Iraq and subsequently the Liberal Democrats over tuition fees and the coalition government.
(10.01.16) Bastard Coppers: An Interview With Jon Fawkes of The Filaments
Bouncing onto the scene in the early 2000s, The Filaments’ fusion of ska and dub with a street punk reminiscent of the second wave of punk in 1982 made them stand out on the burgeoning circuit of the time. More stripped down and raw than contemporaries such as Capdown, The Filaments offered something more primal than the rest of the scene. Their sound has since been replicated and developed by younger acts, Faintest Idea being the most notable.
(07.01.16) – Killing Culture: The Closure of the Owl Sanctuary
Last night, my Facebook timeline erupted. It’s customary for this to happen every once in a while, typically following an international atrocity or a major political event. Instead, this time it was in relation to the news that beloved Norwich music venue The Owl Sanctuary is set to close its doors at the end of January. Waves of solidarity swept across the internet, with the venue’s lengthy, emotional and angry announcement on their Facebook page being shared more than 2,000 times within three hours. Friends, musicians and fellow Norwich public spaces all joined in to stand with their venue and condemn its closure. I couldn’t express my rage.
(03.01.16) – Something More – An Interview with Dabs of New Town Kings
Hailing from Colchester, eight piece ska band New Town Kings offer a rounded sound drawing influences from across the history of ska and reggae music. Since 2007, they have been and sharing stages over the years with some of the bigger names in the scene, from Reel Big Fish to Gentleman’s Dub Club and from The Skints to The Aggrolites.
(31.12.15) – Do You Believe in the Power of Rock ‘n’ Roll – An Interview with John Robb of Goldblade
For twenty years, Goldblade have been tearing up the British punk scene. Notorious for their anthemic, straight up punk rock with the odd bits and pieces borrowed from rockabilly, hardcore and street punk, the Manchester based band are infamous among fans for their energetic and powerful live performances (I once described them to a friend when I was fifteen as the best live band on the planet after seeing them open for Misfits on their 30th anniversary tour).
(28.12.15) – 2015 for The Norwich Radical – A Year In Review
The Norwich Radical has just come to the end of its first full calendar year in operation. From humble beginnings, we have come a long way, and this is exclusively down to the dedication of our writers and the support of our readers over the last twelve months.
(26.12.15) – The Ten Biggest Political Losers of 2015
2015 has been a tumultuous year for politics. From the rise of the SNP to the shock victory of the Conservatives in the General Election and from the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party to the decimation of the Liberal Democrats, it has been a year like no other. As the year draws to a close, our Co-Editor, Chris Jarvis offers analysis as to who are the 10 biggest political losers of 2015.
(23.12.15) – The Ten Biggest Political Winners of 2015
2015 has been a tumultuous year for politics. From the rise of the SNP to the shock victory of the Conservatives in the General Election and from the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party to the decimation of the Liberal Democrats, it has been a year like no other. As the year draws to a close, our Co-Editor, Chris Jarvis offers analysis as to who are the 10 biggest political winners of 2015.
(17.12.15) Momentum Is Needed Now More Than Ever
I’ve been a member of the Green Party of England and Wales for five and half years, and as such, I’m often criticised for sticking my oar into the internal affairs of other political parties, particularly in relation to my views on the Labour Party and its electoral and political strategies. But when it comes to the Labour Party, I just can’t help myself.
(12.12.15) – Music That Matters: Human Problems, Human Solutions – An Interview With Babar Luck
In underground music circles, Babar Luck is something of a legend. For more than twenty years, he has been a staple feature of the UK punk scene, blending and smashing genres along the way. Starting as the bassist of seminal London band King Prawn, notorious for their eclectic influences which drew upon hardcore, reggae, metal, punk and hip-hop, Babar has gone on to have an illustrious solo folk career, as well as working on new bands such as East End Trinity and collaborative projects The Babylon Whackers and Suicide Bid, while providing guest vocals for friends and comrades in the scene such as Sonic Boom Six and Random Hand. Babar Luck’s musical outputs have been beyond any doubt, inhumanly prolific.
(3.12.15) – Eagles of Death
The skies over Damascus are silent tonight
as the Eagles of Death whistle through the air
and the Bataclan looks on, betrayed and manipulated.
A weeping cloud dampens the scarred earth with tears
and little splatterings of embers dance amongst the rubble.
(22.11.15) – The Community, Opportunities and Limitations of Punk – an Interview with Faintest Idea
Faintest Idea are a street punk influenced ska band hailing from the Norfolk coastal town of King’s Lynn known for their energetic live shows, filled with singalongs, skanking and rivalling horns.
(07.11.15) – Divestment, Occupation and an Unapologetically Radical Student Movement
I’m an elected Sabbatical Officer at UEA and I’ve just come from a 26 hour occupation camp on my campus which was the culmination of a two-year campaign calling for UEA to join institutions across the world to divest their money from the fossil fuel industry. We occupied for 26 hours, one hour for every £5,000 the University currently has invested in fossil fuel companies. Often, such action would not be supported by elected student officers, and in the worst instances condemned by them.
(22.08.22) – Burnham Can’t Save Us: A Response to Natasha Senior’s Beating Heart of Labour
On August 21st, The Norwich Radical published an article — The Beating Heart of Labour — where the writer endorsed Andy Burnham in the Labour Leadership Election. Over the next 1,000 words, I intend to address the primary arguments in that article and why I believe them to be fundamentally wrong; why I believe Andy Burnham to be just as damaging to the Labour Party, its electoral prospects and likewise the country as Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, and why Jeremy Corbyn, albeit far from a political panacea, is without doubt the best candidate in the election and therefore the arguments presented in the previous piece are misguided and wrong.
(26.04.15) – Movement for Divestment at UEA Grows – 95 Academics Join the Campaign
For over a year and a half, students at UEA have been campaigning for the University to end its financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. This is part of an international movement for divestment that has been growing since it was first launched in 2012 in the United States by environmental activist Bill McKibben.
(24.05.15) – Tim Farron Could Save the Liberal Democrats
‘Media outlets are covering the Labour Leadership election to the point of saturation, with countless people both within and outside of the party throwing around suggestions as to why Labour lost the election, and therefore who would be best place to succeed Ed Miliband.’
(21.05.15) – Labour’s Leadership Election and the Simmering Tensions in the Party
‘Almost immediately following the realisation that Labour had lost the General Election, various figures within the Party’s parliamentary ranks began licking their lips at the prospect of ascending to positions of leadership. With the dust largely settled, there are four announced contenders for the impending power struggle — Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh, andLiz Kendall, with Tristram Hunt all but announcing his candidacy on Question Time this past Thursday.’
(10.05.15) There Are More Women In Parliament than Ever Before
‘Beneath all the headlines of Tory victory and everything that is now to come, an interesting shift has taken place on our political landscape. Lying underneath the surface is a change in the kind of people presented in the public eye as political leaders.’
(10.05.15) Anti-Tory MPs are Greater in Number Now than Before the Election
‘Although the Conservatives narrowly tipped themselves over the line to form a majority once all the seats were counted after polls closed on Thursday, the irony of the election is that the parliamentary arithmetic is actually less in the Tories favour than it was in 2010.’
(09.05.15) The Case for Electoral Reform Is Now Irresistible
‘No election in British history has so clearly highlighted the incompatibility of the first past the post electoral system than this one. Ever since 1983, when the SDP-Liberal alliance won 25% of the vote, and yet received only 23 seats in parliament, the bizarre system we use to elect our parliament has become more and more apparent.’
(09.05.15) A Nation Divided: Time to Rebuild the Fight
‘We’re now set for five more years of Tory government. It will be vicious, it will be brutal, it will be hard. Cameron will govern without caution, without concern for electoral prospects and without hiding the ideological agenda which has driven the direction he has taken the country since 2010.’
(06.05.15) The Prospect of a Progressive Alliance is Truly Exciting
‘Imagine waking up on the 8th of May and the parliamentary arithmetic given by our obscenely anachronistic and antiquated electoral system adds up well. Imagine that between a grouping of progressive parties — Labour, the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, and the SDLP — there is a clear left of centre majority in parliament.’
(03.05.15) Rebuilding the Student Movement – The Left Takes NUS
‘Those on the left have for many years taken one of two views of NUS. Either they have seen it as a body which is so far removed from students on the ground, from progressive and grassroots struggle and dominated by a right wing cabal of careerist New Labourites that it is irrevocable and beyond reform, or else they have played a role of antagonistic opposition within the structures.’
(18.04.15) UEA Joins Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
‘Within the student movement, no issue does more to polarise individuals and create bizarre bedfellows than Israel-Palestine. No other topic, not even No Platform or the Free Education/Graduate Tax row arouses such emotion, nor splinters political factions so dramatically. Israel-Palestine is the single biggest division in the student left. What other issue sees the right-wing Labour Students join forces with Trotskyist group Workers’ Liberty?’
(18.01.15) Food & Houses: Co-Ops! – The Student Radical #6
‘Co-ops have had a bad name recently. In the wake of the scandals surrounding the Co-Operative bank and the colourful antics of its former chairman Paul Flowers, positive column inches about the co-operative model have been difficult to find.’
(11.01.15) 6 Political Parties, 6 Predictions and (Roughly) 160 Words of Analysis #5: Conservatives
‘2014 has been a rocky year for the Tories. The one piece of good news throughout the year comes from the narrowing of the gap between themselves and Labour.”
(03.01.15) 6 Political Parties, 6 Predictions and (Roughly) 160 Words of Analysis #4: UKIP
‘In years to come, when we look back at 2014, we will see it as the year of two political parties – UKIP and the SNP.’
(31.12.14) 6 Political Parties, 6 Predictions and (Roughly) 160 Words of Analysis #3: The Liberal Democrats
‘Repeatedly reading and writing about the seemingly never-ending demise of the Liberal Democrats is becoming tiresome, but 2014 showed that narrative to be as true as it has been since they first entered government.’
(29.12.14) 6 Political Parties, 6 Predictions and (roughly) 160 Words of Analysis #2: The Greens
‘2014 has proven to be a particularly good year for the Greens: adding a third MEP to their tally in the European Elections, outpolling the Liberal Democrats consistently over the last few months and seeing an astronomical increase in membership – most notably in their youth wing. The rise of the most left wing of the mainstream parties has largely gone unnoticed by the media bubble, swamped as it has been by UKIP’s insurgency.’
(27.12.14) – 6 Political Parties, 6 Predictions and (roughly) 160 Words of Analysis: #1: Labour
‘A rather uneventful year for the Labour Party – a stagnant poll rating (it has fallen around 3 or 4% since this time last year), underwhelming European election results and few major changes in personnel or policy (Emily Thornberry’s resignation being the notable exception). What this has masked, however, is a Labour Party in flux.’
(07.12.14) #copsoffcampus – From London to Warwick: The Student Radical #5
‘This week, I intended to write a piece about the #copsoffcampus campaign of 2013/14. I intended to write about how it was another example of the re-emergence of a radical student movement that was not willing to see itself as a consumer body, or as a group within society that has politics done to it. However, the events that unfolded on the 3rd of December at the University of Warwick, require a new analysis.’
(06.12.14) – Let’s Talk About UKIP
‘I am loathe to further add to the column inches that have been devoted to UKIP. The problem is that we haven’t yet spent enough time talking about them.’
(27.11.14) – Worker Rights Consortium: UEA Moves Towards Being Sweatshop Free!
‘The garment industry is infamous for its appalling track record on workers’ rights. Every year, we receive news reports of another in a long list of abuses – from the Rana Plaza factory collapse, to the workers at PT Kizone who were denied their redundancy payments of multinational corporations until public pressure forced them to give in. Sweatshop is a word that resonates among the public as synonymous with the vast majority of garment production.’
(26.11.14) – The Boxes are Back – Mass Action for Free Education at UEA
‘With tuition fees at £9,000, cuts to education funding, the scapegoating of international students, reform to DSA, squeezes on staff pay and pensions, and the slashing of bursaries and scholarships, access to education is for many becoming more of a myth and less of a reality. Instead of an education system that works for all, Universities are undergoing a lengthy process of marketization and privatisation which prices the poor and disadvantaged out of ever getting a degree.’
(23.11.14) Building the Movement for Free Education: The Student Radical #4
‘Estimates vary, but between five and ten thousand students marched through central London on Wednesday 19th of November. Under a multitude of banners, they brought with them a single central message – education should be a public good, not a commodity, and therefore should be free for all.’
(09.11.14) Sussex and Beyond: The Student Radical #3
‘In February 2013, students at the University of Sussex occupied a University building, as part of a campaign against the mass outsourcing of large chunks of the University’s operation. Privatising maintenance, catering and security among other functions put the employment of 235 members of staff at the University at risk as well as changing the narrative of what those services existed for.’
(02.11.14) #stoptheselloff – The Resurgent Campus Based Anti-Austerity Movement: The Student Radical #2
‘A year ago, the coalition government announced the next in a long list of right wing policies that would disregard ordinary people and seek to outsource the State under the veneer of deficit reduction. This time, it was their second major attack on the Higher Education sector and students after the now infamous tripling of tuition fees in 2010 and took the form of a proposed privatisation of the student loan book.’
(26.10.14) Fossil Fuels, Divestment and the New Student Climate Movement: The Student Radical #1
‘Launched in the USA in 2012 by 350.org, the Fossil Free campaign has spread worldwide, building an international movement on University campuses. The aim of the campaign has been to persuade public and civic institutions to remove any investments that they hold with coal, oil and gas companies and thus remove the social license the fossil fuel industry has to operate.’
(26.05.14) – The Flag of Hate Rises over Europe.
‘With results from all countries except Ireland, the European elections depict a bleak picture. Across the continent, an array of hard right parties has seen electoral success as the vote has swung in their direction. Ranging from the latent, little Englander racism of UKIP, to the Muslim hating nationalism of the Front Nationale and the openly fascistic Golden Dawn, they all, at root, have a core based in the politics of division, the politics of fear and the politics of hate.’
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