Culture

“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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Political theatre returns

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La Maladie de la Mort (The Malady of Death), based upon Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella (which was, famously, written in the depths of the author’s alcoholism), was one of the highlights of last month’s Edinburgh International Festival. Staged for the leading French company Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord by acclaimed English director Katie Mitchell, it is an atmospheric and discomfiting hour of theatre.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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A study published by the Williams Institute this year estimates that in the US almost 700,000 LGBT adults aged 18-59 have received “conversion therapy” in an attempt to “cure” them of homosexuality. Half of them went through it while they were adolescents. Over a third received the treatment from registered health care professionals, the rest from religious advisors.

The Little Stranger

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Part gothic ghost story, part social commentary on post-Second World War Britain, Lenny Abrahamson’s film is a tense psychological (or is it supernatural?) study of class and the change wrought by war.

Adapted from Sarah Waters’s 2009 novel, it stars Domhnall Gleeson as Faraday, a youngish doctor in a Warwickshire village just before the National Health Service. He lives alone and spends his working hours tending to the rural poor. Then one day he is summoned to Hundreds Hall, the stately home his mother had worked at as a maid a generation before.

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