Culture

Interview: Women of Aktion

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In this new production by Bent Architect, the stories of revolutionary women who helped bring about the end of the First World War are explored through an imagined collaboration between radical theatre maker Joan Littlewood and German revolutionary playwright Ernst Toller. Socialist Review spoke to the play’s writer and co-director (with Jude Wright), Mick Martin.

What led you to look at women’s stories from the German Revolution?

Professor Ingrid Sharp from Leeds University came to see our 2014 play England, Arise! about the Huddersfield socialist conscientious objectors in the First World War, and she loved it. Her specialist areas of interest are the German anti-war movement and women’s history. She said that the German anti-war movement has not really been looked into, and that German historians tend not to be as focused on women’s history as is the case here.

Every Day I Make Greatness Happen

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Having spent 20 years teaching, I thought that going to see a play about education might be a bit of a busman’s holiday. I was also worried that it might be rather like one of those programmes on television about schools that are so unrealistic as to distract anyone with any knowledge of what happens there. I need not have worried. This excellent and well observed play by Richard Molloy is realistic to the point of painfulness. The frustration, the hope, the joy of what it is like to work or study in the contemporary education system is beautifully shown.

Black 47

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“This is going to be harrowing”, I said to myself as I set out to see Black 47, the newly released film about the Irish Famine. In the event it was much less harrowing than I expected. Indeed parts of it were almost fun. But this is hardly to the film’s credit.

Of course it is very good that there is now a film about the famine — amazingly for the first time ever.

“We needed to write our own history”

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Known as the “Godfather of Black British Photography”, Vanley Burke was born in Jamaica and moved to Birmingham in 1965 at the age of 14. He spoke to Birmingham poet Kurly about his life, his photography, how communities had to respond to racism after immigrating, and his new exhibition at Birmingham Cathedral for Black History Month, Being Built Together.

How were things when you arrived in the UK compared with where you were brought up?

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A

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Celebrities often talk about themselves as if they’re among the most important people in the world. Rapper M.I.A is different. She has spent her career talking about some of the most marginalised people on the planet, including victims of war and in particular, refugees. Now she has an opportunity to tell her story without being ignored. If anyone deserves to make a film about themselves it is M.I.A.

Lindsay Kemp: working class bohemian

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The unexpected death has been announced of Lindsay Kemp, I was going to say the dancer, but he was far, far more than this. He had a profound effect on the art and music scene of the 1970s and beyond and he was at the centre of an LGBT+ cultural revolution in London. As he once said, “We wanted to change the world, and we did for at least ten minutes.”

Heads Roll

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In the age of the selfie and endless posts of faces on social media, what can the artistic portrait tell us about how we see ourselves and others?

Sheffield-based artist Paul Morrison, who is well known for his often unsettling pictures of plants and horticultural subjects, looks at a completely different genre of art in Heads Roll, which he has curated.

Killing Eve

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Eat your heart out George Smiley, here comes Eve Polastri, earthily played by clever Sandra Oh.

Connecticut-raised and London based, Eve’s on the staff of MI5 with a routine job in security, but her background in criminal psychology drives her to look more deeply than her boss likes into a string of professional assassinations across Europe — and begin to draw some connections.

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