lockdown

Culture in Crisis: The Arts, Defunded

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There are three things to say about the government announcement of £1.8 billion for the Culture, Arts and Heritage sector announced in early July. First, for those who work in a sector of the economy that employs about 270,000 people this is potentially a lifeline. Second, compared to the funding provided by other (mostly European) governments for the same purpose, it is a pittance. Third, one of the effects of this money is that it will deepen the inequalities that already scar the different forms that make up the creative industries.

Theatre Online: Pass Over

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Since the lockdown and consequent closure of theatres, many theatre makers and theatre lovers have been trying to make a virtue out of a necessity of “online theatre”. One piece of onscreen theatre I was pleased to discover was Spike Lee’s film of Antoinette Nwandu’s play Pass Over, built around a recording of a performance at Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago in 2018. The play, based on Samuel Beckett’s classic Waiting for Godot, takes us to a street corner in a black, workingclass neighbourhood of an American city.

Decolonise education, enrich learning

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An African proverb says, ‘until the lion learns how to write, the story will always glorify the hunter’. Thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, BAME people have a chance to realise its truth, writes Julie Mukajee

The version of the British Empire I was taught in schools was totally different to what my parents taught me. My dad always said, “we don’t have to be taught our history by the British. Let me teach you.” He told me of the atrocity of the Bengal Famine, Partition, Subhas Chandra Bose, my parents’ family who took part and lost their lives in the struggle for Indian Independence, the Indian soldiers who fought for the British during WW2. It was neither pretty nor forgiving. It was not about how charming Lord Mountbatten and the British rulers were.

A crisis that needs leadership

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Since 2009, pay in the Further and Higher Education sector has been effectively cut by nearly 20 percent in real terms, while staff are being asked to work harder and longer than ever before. The employers’ own analysis highlights that women and black and minority ethnic staff experience significant pay discrimination. Casual contracts remain entrenched. Yet university employers are refusing to commit themselves to meaningful action on any of these appalling conditions. This has meant that members of the University and College Union (UCU) are currently taking strike action over falling pay, the gender and ethnic pay gap, precarious employment practices, and unsafe workloads in what has become known as the “Four Fights” dispute.Socialist Review spoke to activists in the University and College Union (UCU), and members of the UCU Left network, about the escalating crisis in Higher Education and the Four Fights dispute.

SR: How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on Higher Education?
Bee: It’s caused multiple waves of uncertainty and anxiety — from campus closures and hasty moves to online teaching, to navigating the support we need to work at home, to fears of increased workloads or job losses and the challenge of negotiating a safe return to campus. Finding work that isn’t highly precarious was already a big challenge. Now we face hiring freezes or threats to jobs, intensified competition for research funding, and casualised staff will have even less chance of more work in September.

Teaching the Tories a Lesson

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Socialist Review spoke to activists about organising under lockdown

In late May and early June, without a ballot or picket lines, education workers inflicted a serious defeat on the government. A wave of discussion and collective organising by tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of teachers and school staff took place across England’s 17,000 primary schools and nurseries. It culminated in knocking back the Tories’ plans to reopen schools more widely on 1 June — and it saved lives.

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