Culture

Cultural highlights of 2020

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2020 has been a tough year for the arts with cinemas and theatres closed and festivals and gigs cancelled. Despite this there has been an outpouring of creativity much of it inspired by the lockdown and Black Lives Matter. Socialist Review asked 10 of our readers and contributors to pick the culture they have most enjoyed under quarantine.

Schitt’s Creek - Netfliix

A culture of resistance

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The movement against the far right in the 1970s was made at gigs and on the street. Jo Holland reviews White Riot and Paul Holborow, tells the story of building the Anti Nazi League.

Just over 11 percent of film directors in the UK are women. Statistics around ethnicity are unreliable, but assuming that the majority of this tiny group are white, it is fitting and gratifying that Rubika Shah, director of seminal music documentary White Riot, is an Asian woman.

The film takes us back to the time in the 1970s when racists were being emboldened by Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech, Eric Clapton was delivering his racist diatribe to a concert audience and the National Front were openly marching through the streets.

Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On: 50 years later, a soundtrack for today

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Start your preferred method of listening to music. Set it up to play the whole of the album. Turn off the phone. Press play. Sit down and listen without doing anything else.

It’s tempting to end this article here as I’m not sure anything that follows will do it justice. If nothing else though, I hope someone who has never heard the entire album will listen to it from beginning to end.

John Lennon Remembered

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John Lennon died on 8 December 1980 and would have been 80 this year. He was shot dead outside his home at the Dakota Buildings in New York by Mark Chapman, an obsessive fan who had moments before obtained Lennon’s autograph. On the fortieth anniversary of his death it is worth remembering the talented, mischievous, Liverpudlian working class hero, who without a doubt was the best of the Fab Four. Lennon grew up in the Woolton area of Liverpool. His father was a seaman and his mother worked as an usherette at the city’s Trocadero cinema.

Music

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Ultra Mono by Idles
Since 2018’s Joy as an Act of Resistance, Idles’ rise to fame has been rapid. Selling out Alexandra Palace and winning a Brit Award is no easy feat for a left-wing punk/hardcore band with lyrics such as, “My race and class ain’t suitable, so I raise my pink fist and say black is beautiful”. Idles have managed to form a committed base of fans and get their message out to the mainstream. In Ultra Mono, the message of working-class pride and unity is consistent throughout. No doubt the album is shaped by their experiences growing up in austerity Britain.

Music & Movements: The Skiffle revolution

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Following the Second World War, austerity and rationing loomed large in British society. The rebuilding of post-war Britain would change the country forever. The Windrush generation saw new cultural influences appear, rationing ended and the longest sustained boom in the history of capitalism began. Musically, the US was the most important place in the world and young people looked there for their inspiration, leading to four musical developments that would profoundly influence British youth in the 1950s: traditional jazz, rock’n’roll, skiffle and modern jazz.

BLM in music

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The explosive impact of this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests was bound to stir music makers into creative action. Public Enemy’s Chuck D, once described rap as “Black America’s CNN”, the genre that provides the soundtrack and commentary to life in the ghettos. Fight The Power, released in 1989 is arguably the band’s magnum opus. Remixed for 2020 it includes a stellar line up of collaborators such as Questlove and Black Thought from The Roots, Rapsody and Nas. Meanwhile the images in Anderson.

Tribute to Frederick “Toots” Hibbert

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It was terribly sad to hear of the death of reggae legend Frederick “Toots” Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals. His unique, gospel influenced music was fantastic to listen and dance to. It was deeply political and inspirational. “54-46 Was My Number” and “Pressure Drop” are unforgettable tracks with passionate, political lyrics that talk of struggle and injustice. The title of the former refers to his prison number after wrongful arrest. The latter is a reminder to those in power that the day will come when they will fall. It was covered by The Clash amongst others.

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