Author: Peter Raynard

Pink Pyjama Suit by Deborah Alma

white middle classWhen a person walks out their door, whether going to the shop, to work, or for a night out, I imagine it is only the lucky ones, who are not conscious, or made conscious of, who they are. I imagine the stereotypical, white middle class male, irrespective of their political hue, on this journey imbibing the day without constraint; not physical, psychological, nor spiritual. They may believe they are completely unbiased in respect of how their position, influences their decisions, or perspective when dealing with other people. They may give to charity, volunteer, despise racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, whilst at the same time, feel totally at peace with the world – that for all its faults, see the world moving in the right direction. And on the whole, they are right – headline figures, which the late Hans Rosling so eloquently showed, see many indicators of human development (child mortality, mortality, rates of disease, etc.) on a positive trend. However, this position is also the problem. On whose backs were these improvements in quality of life carried? Often, it was either the existing poor, and when there weren’t enough of them, immigrants, such as the Windrush generation. (more…)

Moonstomp by Tim Wells

003Tim Wells has been (still is, in fact) one of the great stalwarts of poetry; as a poet, promoter, and historian of all things working class, for the past four decades. One of the original ‘ranters’ of the 1980s, he has been a regular on the London poetry scene, as well as wider shores, giving it large with poems about working class lives; poems that don’t pander to the type of melodrama or demonisation which undermines the notion of class as being some drop out numpty who drives a van with its break lights not working. “I was a teenage suedehead. Dressing sharper than the posh kids and our style was crucial to us. That, and I don’t drive,” he told me.

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Tim’s running a Crowdfunder with Unbound (who published the hugely successful The Good Immigrant) and is over halfway there. Have a read below, and at the work he has done so far with the campaign. If you can bung it a cock & hen or two to help it over the line, the world will be a slightly better place, and you’ll be helping one of the good ‘uns.

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001Through his site, Stand Up & Spit, he documents the poetry of the 1980s & many steps beyond, putting it into context with music, politics and sport. The site looks back to working class and spoken word poetry from around the world and through history. The site draws from a variety of music papers, and other rare finds. He is also the editor and publisher of the poetry zine ‘Rising’ (tough on poetry, tough on the causes of poetry), which has been going since 1993 and has just put out its 70th issue. Tim’s also a great supporter of poets, always bigging up the old and the new, with his legendary all-dayers at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon, and taking Stand Up and Spit on the road.

He previously featured on Proletarian Poetry, with his poem Version, a tribute to the Jamaican poet Michael Smith, who was murdered following an altercation at a political rally. The poem comes from Tim’s Penned in the Margins collection, Everything Crash.

Tim gives nostalgia a proper name, and he is doing it again in venturing into an old love of skinhead/horror pulp novels, with his own take on the genre, Moonstomp. As he says:

AlbionThose New English Library skinhead, football aggro, and Hell’s Angel books were read by all my mates back when we were lads. We liked the Pan anthologies of horror stories too. They were a big part of my generation’s youth. Moonstomp brings youth cult to occult and I’ve pretty much written up my teenage years with an added werewolf. The book is set in 1979, the music and clothes are precise, which is something you rarely get when people write yoof cults.”

I’ve read a sample chapter and it’s banging. But don’t take my word for it (although you are welcome to):

The novelist John King (he of the Football Factory, Human Punk, Skinheads) says:

“Howling back to the days when we used to pass the Skinhead and Hell’s Angels books around school, and watched Hammer Horror films at home on our black-and-white televisions, Tim Wells has written a fiendish tale of a skinhead werewolf rampaging through London in 1979. Being a sharp-dressed lad (still), the clothes and music are spot on. Snap up a copy before it bites your hand off.”

And the alternative UK national treasure, Phill Jupitus sings along:

“Skinheads and werewolves and reggae and boozers, lager and kicking in fat city losers, Punk rock and Sta-prest when Lene she sings. Tim Wells has written a novel about a few of my favourite things… You can feel the sticky floors of the gigs and the sweaty menace is tangible as you read Tim Wells’ swaggering prose. This is no rose-tinted amble down memory lane. The landscape of his world is a London that was swallowed whole by the eighties. For a book so full of life, there’s a lot of death in it as well. Beautiful. Brutal. Brutus. It’s got the lot! “

So, as I say, if you want to keep working class fiction alive, then kick a bit of pocket here. You won’t regret it.

The Other One percent? by Peter Raynard

Much is written about the top 1% in our society; the single percentage who were privately educated, have a family history of exclusion from the masses, hold the majority of the world’s wealth, and thus political power. This situation was borne out of the neo-liberal emphasis on the individual; that if you give someone the means to progress, through education, economic freedom, free market, etc., then society as a whole will prosper. Much of this thought is behind the promotion of social mobility, in particular enabling those who have been born into a low economic and social status, who without some help in terms of wider opportunity, will remain both inactive and unproductive. (more…)

‘Barbie’ & ‘Freedom’ by Elaine Baker

barbieNext year Barbie will be sixty years old. Some might say she hasn’t aged a bit; still has that long blond hair, 19 inch waist, the perfect match for the most eligible bachelor in the world. Others would agree that she hasn’t aged a bit, but argue that is the problem. In 2010, Mattel produced a book with Barbie as a computer programmer – impressive? Well, not when she is still reliant on men, “I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!” Then in 2015, Barbie was said to be a feminist in an advert entitled, ‘Imagine the Possibilities.’ I have to admit, it is a good advert. A number of girls, aged around 8 or 9, take on adult roles with responsibility – football coach, Professor, Museum tour guide; and in those roles their audience is the general public who have no idea this is an advert for Barbie. That, however, is the problem. The lead Barbie at the end, is still the iconic, soon-to-be 60 year old, never looked better, blonde haired version, who is surrounded by those more reflective of today’s society. Although, all of them are still tall and slim. In response to such developments, in Nigeria there is now a ‘Queen of Africa’ doll that outsells Barbie. (more…)

Tipton by Roy McFarlane

‘In our Coventry homes! We speak with an accent exceedingly rare, you want a Cathedral we’ve got one to spare, in our Coventry homes.’

three spires 1Ah, the poetry of football chants. Often it is football that defines what home is for the working classes. And in the League Two play-off finals, that sound rang around Wembley Stadium; forty thousand of us, compared to Exeter’s ten, when we got promoted to the heady heights of League One at the end of May.

Going back to my home town Coventry, and the Cathedrals as alluded to in the chant, it is the fact that the ‘old’ cathedral was destroyed in the Second World War that characterises the city. The city centre was totally rebuilt, divided into quarters, and encircled by a brutalist ring road. But I think, time and again, although it is a cliché, it is the people who define a city; and where I came from, it was migration which alongside the physical rebuilding, came to make what Coventry is today – the Irish and Scots, Polish, West Indians, Pakistanis, Indians, and others. (more…)

‘Precarious’ & ‘The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto’ (please scroll down to exit via the gift shop)

PRECARIOUS

Precarious CoverPrecarious was published by Smokestack on April 1st this year, and I have been on a Precarious Tour around the country, with the novelist and poet Richard Skinner (whose book The Malvern Aviator is also published by Smokestack) . So far we have read in Oxford, Huddersfield, Newcastle, and London – with Bristol and Swindon to come later in the year. I have also read in Derby, St Albans, and London (at the launch of Jane Commane‘s book launch of Assembly Lines), and later at Ledbury Poetry Festival, Cork, and Merthyr Tydfill. (more…)

Tom Palin at Cinderloo by Jean Atkin

cinderlooI’m sure most of you will know Shelley’s poem, the Masque of Anarchy, written in Italy in response to the Peterloo Massacre. It was 1819 in Manchester, and a crowd of up 80,000 people had gathered to listen to the ‘radical orator’ (a term of disparagement by his opponents) Henry Hunt speak about widening the franchise and challenging the corrupt political system. Due to a massive over reaction by local yeomanry, fifteen people were killed and hundreds injured. Hunt ended up in prison for two years. A widening of the franchise has always been fought for, and against. (I personally think, we should rise up to lower the voting age to sixteen). (more…)