Rowan Gavin

Norwich Radical co-editor

Rowan (he/him) still thinks of himself as a recent graduate, although it’s been several years now. He never did quite escape the gravity of UEA (not that he really tried), and now works there in multiple capacities. He spends his days gaming and dancing and writing and learning a little more than he is forgetting. Maybe.


(08.09.22) – Stand Up Today, Save Tomorrow – Norwich Says Enough Is Enough

“We are living in unique, unique times.”

The words of Eddie Dempsey, Assistant General Secretary of the RMT, speaking to the packed-out rally for the Enough is Enough campaign at Epic Studios in Norwich on Tuesday night. He’s right. Many are saying they can’t remember a time when so many were so hard-off in this country. Meanwhile, by a number of measures, the richest few have never been so rich. My rent and the rate on my electricity meter have gone up this year, and with more price hikes on the horizon I’m worried about what it’s gonna cost to stay warm this winter. My friends, colleagues, and almost everyone I speak to are facing the same concerns. But despite all that, one thing makes this moment feel unique to me more than anything else: the strength of working people’s will to fight back.


(07.07.22) – We Live in a Corrupt and Violent State – Johnson’s Resignation Won’t Change That

At long last, the Johnson juggernaut has run out of road. The Bohnson’s repeated scandals, criminal convictions, outright racism and transphobia were not enough to unseat him; in the end all it took was a few opportunistic cronies seeing a chance to pull their knives. Et tu, Gove?


(23.05.22) – Our Subversive Voice: 400 Years of Protest Songs

Last year, two-tone legends The Specials released an album entitled ‘Protest Songs 1924-2012’. It featured covers of tracks by Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Big Bill Broonzy and other legends of protest music – but not one song penned by a British person, despite the band’s Coventry origins. This, UEA Professor John Street tells me, was part of the impetus behind the project Our Subversive Voice: The History and Politics of the English Protest Song.


(05.01.22) – ‘Real Intimacy’ – The Neutrinos Live

Sometimes you go to a gig not quite knowing what to expect. I found out I would be covering The Neutrinos’ recent double-set Norwich Arts Centre show for the Norwich Radical at relatively short notice, and decided on a whim to perpetuate my ignorance of the band’s work until I could hear it live. What I discovered, one December Saturday evening in that beautiful converted church hall, was all the more delightful for my lack of expectation – in fact, I’m not sure that any amount of pre-listening could have quite prepared me for the experience of this show.


(31.12.21) – 2021 in 21 Great Records

With Kasper Hassett

Yes, it’s been a weird old year, but you don’t need us to tell you that. What you do need – what we all need – is some great music to get you through and give you life. Luckily, 2021 delivered that in spades. The following is a not-at-all-comprehensive list of 21 records that we and other members of the Norwich Radical team loved this year, and think everyone should listen to. They’re not necessarily the best out there; they don’t necessarily all say or do anything particularly radical; but we promise they’re all great.


(23.12.21) – Fighting The Media Man – A Guide To The UK’s Independent, Anti-Corporate Media

A friend recently described infamous podcaster Joe Rogan as “an independent broadcaster that you might not like/agree with but [who] actually has a voice to push back against corporate media”. Has the standard of anti-establishment commentary really fallen so low that we must turn to a UFC commentator for any effective criticism of the corporate status quo? 

Short answer: hell no!


(07.10.21) – “From Strength to Strength” – Wild Paths Festival 2021

Since its foundation in 2019, Wild Paths festival has quickly become Norwich’s premier multi-venue live music event. The hotly anticipated 2021 edition of the festival will take place over four days from October 14th-17th, with headliners including Sports Team, Biig Piig and Palace as well as dozens of other acts playing at over 20 venues across the city. With just over a week to go until the festival began, I spoke to Ben Street, festival founder and director, about his experiences of organising the event.


(03.12.19) – A Kinder Kind of Power: Words from the UEA Picket Line

We are the morning greeting. We are cold boots on colder ground. We are the smiles in the winter sunshine. We are the chants and the songs and the stiff-limbed dances. We are the fascinator of freedomthe little red coat of resistance and packet line soylidarity. We are the educators, learning in a new classroom. We are the outrage, and the laughter. We are here to fight the power. We are power.


(09.03.19) – Story and Song – An Interview with Skinny Lister

Skinny Lister play one hell of a live show. In fact, so raucous and rousing are the London six-piece folk outfit’s performances, I’ve yet to encounter any journalism about them that doesn’t start by stating that fact – and I see no reason to change that here. With guitar and accordion and their ever-present flagon of rum, they set the Norwich Arts Centre a-jumping last Friday night, just as they did the Waterfront on their last visit to Noz in late 2017. This time, I was lucky enough to sit down with frontwoman Lorna Thomas in the bar beforehand, to talk all things Skinny.


(01.01.19) – Five Norwich Bands to Watch in 2019

It’s been a great year for music in East Anglia’s Finest City. If you’re a gig-goer, you’ll no doubt have come across some of the many up-and-coming Norwich and Norfolk musicians breathing new life into the local scene these last few months. Here, in no particular order, I’d like to present five of the local acts that have most impressed, entranced, and inspired me in 2018.


(01.12.18) – Proper Musicians – An Interview With Shame

Scions of the much-lauded South London guitar band scene Shame made their Norwich gig debut on Monday, captivating a packed-out Waterfront with their riotous stage presence and uniquely mesmerising sound. At times unsettling, at times brutalist, always evocative – if you’re into your post-punk, past or present, you’ll have heard something like Shame, but nothing quite like the orchestrated noise of their live show.


(12.07.18) – Beyond Tuition Fees #11 – Much to Learn, More to Do

with Bradley Allsop

There is more energy, debate and innovation on the left now than there has been for decades. Capitalism’s multiple crises, and the inability of its defenders to respond to them, are beginning to translate into tangible political opportunity. This series sought to capture the essence of some of this historical moment and direct it towards thinking about what we want our university campuses to look like, beyond the staple progressive policy of scrapping tuition fees. A project in unashamedly utopian thinking, it recognised the very real possibility that free tuition might be a reality in the near future, and sought to explore how this requires the left to think practically about what comes after and where our energy should be focused next.


(30.03.18) – When We Stay Quiet We Are Also More Powerless – An Interview with Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean are a band who know what they’re about. Sitting down with the trio of 22 year old New Yorkers ahead of their show at Norwich Open on March 26th, it becomes immediately apparent how certain they are of their musical and political convictions. Drummer Jacob Faber, guitarist Nick Kivlen, and bassist & vocalist Julia Cumming made quite a splash with 2016’s debut Human Ceremony and its fresh-yet-eerily-familiar blend of indie, punk, psych and alternative sounds.


(21.03.18) – The Only Way We Knew How To Do It Was The Way That We Did It – An Interview with The BellRays

Since their formation in the early ‘90s, Californian Rock & Rollers The BellRays have befuddled the expectations of music media and the industry, just as much as they have thrilled audiences. They’ve taken an open-minded approach to the genre that has defined American music for the past seven decades, and they’ve been an independent outfit that whole time.

The BellRays have self-published their nine albums through a variety of independent labels, including Upper Cut and Alternative Tentacles. 2017 saw the release of EP Punk Funk Rock Soul vol 1, the long-awaited follow up to 2010’s Black Lightning, and last month gave us the album-length Punk Funk Rock Soul vol 2. I caught up with Lisa Kelaula & Bob Vennum, the band’s permanent members, before they went on stage at Norwich Arts Centre last Friday.


(01.12.17) – “I Like My Revolutions To Be Fun” – An Interview With Beans On Toast

Today, Essex-born folk singer Beans On Toast releases his ninth album, ‘Cushty’. Last night, I saw Beans play live for the ninth-ish time (if I’m honest, I’ve lost count, but the symmetry is pleasing). If you’ve been to a British festival in the past decade you’ve probably run into Beans as well – he’s the kind of musician who pops up everywhere. With a new album out every year since 2009, he’s perpetually turning up in your town on tour, or supporting one of his many musical friends, or appearing at festivals you didn’t know he was on the bill for.


(03.08.17) – Sail Away, Professor Holmes. You Won’t Be Missed.

As the farce of university bosses’ salaries has finally entered mainstream debate this year, I’ve often found myself wishing that the kind of people who are comfortable taking pay rises six times larger than their average member of staff, and who don’t see a problem in sitting on the committees that decide their salary, would just piss off out of our universities altogether. So when I read the FT’s interview* with Bolton Uni VC Prof George Holmes the other day, I’ll admit I was a little surprised to read his proposal for a method of achieving just that.


(24.05.17) – Review: Butterflies, the Debut Album from ZAIA

with Liam Hawkes

“We break the rules”

So says lead singer Amy MacKown on Simple Tune, the penultimate track of the debut album from Oxford’s current premiere Reggae outfit, ZAIA. We wouldn’t say they break the rules so much as blend and bend them, juggling genres and playing with preconceptions throughout this fascinating and infectious summertime record.


(03.04.17) – From Understanding to Intervention – UEA’s New Module in Activist Campaigning

I was recently excited to hear of a new module being run in the Politics department at UEA next academic year entitled ‘Activist Campaigning’. Module convenor Dr Ben Little was good enough to let me interview him about the course, its history, and his hopes for its future at UEA.


(27.01.17) – Norwich Stands Up To Trump

With Hannah Rose

Last Friday, on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, people gathered all over the world to protest against his message of division and hatred. In Norwich, 200 people came together outside City Hall to attend a rally of our own. As well as hearing speakers from several local activist and community groups, the protesters took part in a symbolic stunt, dismantling a wall and building a bridge from the parts. Hannah was there, and Rowan helped organise – here they give us their takes on the event.


(16.12.16) – ‘Unreasonable and Illogical’ – The Consequences of Casual Teaching Contracts

One of the biggest and most poorly kept secrets in higher education – that many teaching staff are employed under terms more often associated with a Sports Direct factory – has been breaking into mainstream media attention lately. To get an inside perspective on this casualisation of teaching work, and an idea of the scale and nature of the problem both locally and nationally, I spoke to three members of teaching staff who have worked on casual contracts in English universities in recent years. Two were employed at UEA, and one at Warwick University, where they are a part of the campaign group Warwick Anti-Casualisation (WAC).


(09.12.16) – Review: Kate Tempest, Let Them Eat Chaos – Live

And they will run to the highest hill, consult their old books
Ask the dead mystics for wisdom they don’t trust

– Kate Tempest, Don’t Fall In

Kate Tempest’s latest album Let Them Eat Chaos is probably the most insightful and important work to be produced on this small island this year. On Monday night, Tempest and her band performed it in full, without interruption, to an enraptured crowd of strangers at the Waterfront in Norwich. Witnessing this storm of synths, bass, drums and words – words fleeting and clear as raindrops in a monsoon downpour – was an incredible experience.


(08.11.16) – Radical Homes for Radical Students – Student Housing Co-ops

A couple weekends ago I was lucky enough to find myself a guest at the wonderful Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative. Outside, the outlines of all my hopes and beliefs in the good student co-ops can do stood tall before me, made visual, physical as two blocks of flats facing a green expanse. Up steps, inside, and the lines flashed full with the colour and life of possibility made real. A brief first encounter – tea with friends, then out again for an evening social.


(09.10.16) – Safe Spaces, Human Kindness, and the Re-Creation of Adulthood

Several months since the safe spaces debate reached the public eye, I’m sure most of you are by now overly familiar with the arguments being made on both sides. Likely you have had the misfortune of hearing someone say that, instead of attempting to exercise some control about when and how they are exposed to traumatic material, students should just ‘man up’ and ‘soldier through it’ like a certain group of people did ‘back in the day’. Recently, I heard academic John Gray on BBC radio 4’s ‘A Point of View’ making his case against safe spaces, and noticed a worrying number of parallels between his apparently sophisticated arguments and those that start with the command to ‘grow a pair’. I hope that deconstructing Gray’s 9-minute monologue can reveal a bit about how these kinds of substanceless arguments and the prejudices that motivate them attempt to veil themselves with legitimacy.


(19.06.16) – Is Another Europe Possible? – An Interview with Natalie Bennett

With just four days until polling day, the EU referendum continues to dominate news headlines and pub conversations. Like many, I have been exhausted by the fearmongering, unconvincing and generally depressing arguments churned out by the mainstream campaigns on both sides. So when The Norwich Radical asked me to interview Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, about the positive Green case for staying in the EU, I was excited to hear some refreshing ideas on the topic. I also got the chance to speak to David Raby, a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich.


(09.12.14) – An Oil Rig is the Perfect Christmas for UEA

So it’s that time of year again. It gets real cold out, warm alcohol is consumed in considerable quantities, and people give each other gifts. At UEA, the People and Planet Society decided that the University management deserved a very special kind of christmas present. As you may have heard, People and Planet have been running a branch of the Fossil Free campaign at UEA. Unfortunately, the University has not responded to our concerns in any meaningful way, so we decided that we should send a more direct message. Judging by their investment choices, it seems that UEA are rather fond of Fossil Fuels – so what better present than their very own oil rig?


(28.09.14) – The People’s Climate March, London: An Account.

‘Climate change is the defining issue of our time. For once I’m resisting the philosopher’s urge to insert the word ‘arguably’ into that sentence, because right now I really believe it. My inspiration arose from the People’s Climate March which took place around the world on Sunday the 21st of August, and the creativity, commitment and love of the people involved.’

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