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.
The war crime-laden conflict in Syria has not ended; Saudi Arabia (at the time of writing) continues to drop British-made bombs on Yemen; Israel is once again escalating its policy of state-sanctioned slaughter of Palestinians; the Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan, reducing armed violence, but increasing the risk of persecution and repression; Bosnia is teetering on the edge of a relapse into conflict; violence in the Central African Republic is ongoing; human rights abuses in Eritrea and Ethiopia continue. These are merely a few examples of the conflicts and instabilities which blight the lives of civilians who otherwise simply wish to live a life of safety, health and happiness.
Safe routes of asylum to the UK should be available to all who need them, not least because Britain is complicit in an untold number of conflicts and repressive governments around the globe. Yet of all those who require support and protection, only Ukrainian refugees are deserving of such assistance, according to the Conservative government; one clear demonstration is the introduction of the government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme. Of course, Ukrainians should be welcomed to the UK – or any other country they’d prefer to claim asylum in – but so should refugees from any other context of conflict or persecution. Just as Russia has obliterated parts of Ukraine leaving a trail of war crimes in its wake, so too has it devastated swathes of Syria. Why then, as a nation, are we willing to be so selective as to who we will welcome as refugees?
The presence of South Asian characters in British theatre is not the extreme rarity it once was. Whilst South Asians and people of colour more widely are still hugely underrepresented in theatre – as actors, writers, directors and in storylines – there has undoubtedly been some progress in recent years. What remains less visible, however, is South Asian characters engaging in rich discussions of history in all its complexity, from a questioning, left-wing perspective. If this is not for you, you should probably avoid playwright and Momentum activist Sonali Bhattacharyya’s Two Billion Beats, showing now at London’s Orange Tree Theatre.
Last December, I attended a pre-launch of the anthology, Poetry and Settled Status for All, edited by Ambrose Musiyiwa, and published by CivicLeicester in January, 2022. The event was held on Zoom as part of the 8th annual Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival. A recording of the event is available, through CivicLeicester on YouTube.
The poems and short prose pieces in the Poetry and Settled Status for All anthology, including those read at the pre-launch, concern the experiences of refugees, people seeking asylum and other immigrants.
To mount successful opposition, Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, must embody an Evolved Left.
The ambiguous outcome of the recent by-election at North Shropshire has been telling: screaming even. Starmer is a leader of airs over recognisable reformative action. A microcosm of the calamity of the general election in the summer, the traditionally Tory stronghold in the North of England was lost to the Liberal Democrats as opposed to Labour, despite it being fertile territory for the latter in the wake of recent Conservative catastrophe: the explicit exposure of corruption, incompetent handling of the pandemic and the creeping economic fallout of Brexit, have seen the Tories floundering in the polls. Starmer’s red party should enjoy a stronger lead. A piece for Open Democracy states: “After the Conservatives, the biggest loser from this by-election is Labour. The party shed more than half of its vote share, from 22% to 10%, and was pushed into third place.” This is a deepening of the disillusionment from the nation-wide local election held earlier this year. Labour failed to make substantial gains, while also unable to regain Hartlepool as the party’s traditional heartland. For someone who made ‘winning’ a lynchpin of his manifesto as announced at the annual Labour conference in Autumn, Starmer’s performance has been persistently poor.
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?
Thousands of people across Norfolk are facing financial struggle after the government cut the £20 a week uplift to the Universal Credit benefit in October. Although it was intended as a temporary measure to help with the economic effects of the lockdowns, it has become a lifeline for many.
It is estimated that 14,907 people in Norwich have lost £1,040 of their income with around 40% of them in employment. In June 2021 69,895 people were on Universal Credit in Norfolk alone.
As the UK Labour Party conference fizzles to an uninspiring close, the party appears to be as divided and directionless as ever. Keir Starmer’s long, heckle-drawing speech fell short on setting out a clear agenda for the party, but was big on Labour winning, winning, winning.
The frame is divided into three sections, with the top heading – ‘United States of America In’. All three section has a United States Airforce aircraft, visually moving from one section to another. In the first frame, on the left, the US Airforce aircraft is coming in dropping weapons like assault rifles and stringer missile launchers, each attached to a parachute. They are being dropped to the ground where a sign board pointing ahead appears on which Afghanistan is written. On the top of this first frame, 1979 is written, to indicate the US support to the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, who later formed the Taliban.
In the second section, in the middle, the US aircraft is dropping bombs on Afghanistan (a sign board is visible on ground) and on the top 2001 is written marking the US invasion of Afghanistan. The third and last section, with the text 2021 written at the top shows the US aircraft flying away with two people falling off the plane to the ground with a sign board ‘Afghanistan’ pointing back, representing the actual incident of Afghans, trying to leave the country after US withdrawal and Taliban takeover, falling off a US air force aircraft during take off from Kabul International Airport.
This year’s Last Word Festival at The Roundhouse has been a mixture of online and in-person events. Although I had hoped to be able to attend more events, and accessing the festival hasn’t been easy, it was a pleasure to listen to poets Cecilia Knapp and Alexandra Huỳnh in conversation as I tucked into my dinner at home.
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