Thursday, August 20, 2015

New pamphlet in ‘103 Foresters’ (WW1) series

From People's Histreh:
Since the start of 2014, we have been working on an extensive research project, looking into the cases of the 103 Sherwood Foresters who were sentenced to death or sentenced on mutiny charges during World War One.

We approached this from the outset as a long term project and plan to publish a series of pamphlets, looking into the individual cases as well as their wider context.

We are very pleased to announce that the third issue in our pamphlet series ‘103 Foresters’ is now available as a free download (pdf).

Apologies as we are a few weeks (three to be precise!) behind schedule, but our original timetable was always a bit optimistic. As always, this remains a work in progress.

Please find the new pamphlet, more information about the project and links to (marginally updated versions of) Issues 1 and 2 on our blog:

103 Foresters
Mutinies and Death Sentences in the Local Regiment – 1914-18
Issue 3: Wipers, Helles and beyond – Three Foresters’ death sentences, July 1915

Loaf On A Stick Press, Nottingham 2015, digital pamphlet, 39 pages.
Distribute and quote as you like (non-commercial use only!).

Please keep an eye on our blog for upcoming publications in this series as well as other news and updates. Please contact us with comments, criticism, etc.:


People's Histreh - Nottingham & Notts Radical History Group

Who we are…

We are a group of people with different political backgrounds, interested in what has been called ‘history from below‘, ‘grassroots history’ or ‘social history‘.

As Nottingham and Nottinghamshire have such a long and turbulent history of socioeconomic transformation, disturbance and conflict, there is a lot to be unearthed. In fact, the most amazing, inspiring, shocking and outrageous stories leap out wherever the surface is scratched.

…and what we do…

We have been working on a number of different projects since we first got together in late 2009. Among many other subjects, such as Chartism or the local history of slavery, we have e.g. been remembering the successful fight against the Poll Tax (for instance by celebrating the 20th anniversary of the custard-pieing of local councillors).

Probably our main project to date has been our work on the riotous history of Nottingham during the Industrial Revolution. There is of course our popular guided walk ‘To the Castle!’, retracing the 1831 Reform Riots. Our publication of the same title, along with our pamphlet ‘Damn his charity...’ (on the remarkable events known as Nottingham’s ‘Great Cheese Riot’), was reprinted in our paperback book ‘Nottingham Rising…’.

We (that is ‘Loaf On A Stick Press’) were also proud to publish Chris Richardson’s exciting book ‘A City of Light…’ on the struggles of courageous women and men in 1840s Nottingham who challenged the inhumanities of the Poor Law, contested charges of sedition, blasphemy and riot, confronted the forces of established religion, and championed new forms of democratic control.

For information on all our events, publications, etc. please visit our (very irregularly updated) online presence:


See also some of our other publications:

Nottingham Rising: The Great Cheese Riot of 1766 & the 1831 Reform Riots
By Valentine Yarnspinner
Loaf On A Stick Press; 2014
ISBN 9780956913968
Paperback £6
Free digital version:

A City of Light: Socialism, Chartism and Co-operation – Nottingham 1844
By Christopher Richardson
Loaf On A Stick Press; 2013
ISBN 9780956913944
Paperback £7.99
See also:

Available from Five Leaves Bookshop (, Waterstones Nottingham, Nottingham Castle gift shop, e

Friday, August 14, 2015

New WW1 publications from Bristol Radical History Group

Bristol Radical History Group have recently published two WW1 related pamphlets:

Class Cohesion versus Spurious Patriotism: A Straight Talk to British Workers, by Fred Bramley (1915). With a new afterword by Kevin Morgan (2015).

Details here:

The Bristol Deserter: Alfred Jefferies And The Great War, by Geoff Woolfe (2015).

Details here:

These go with previous WW1 related titles published in 2014/15:

Bristol Independent Labour Party: Men, Women and the Opposition to War, by June Hannam (2014).

Coal On One Hand, Men On The Other: The Forest of Dean Miners’ Association and the First World War 1910 - 1920, by Ian Wright (2014).

Related records now available on Find My Past (for a fee/sub.) -
British Army deserters and absentees in Police Gazette, 1914-1919
"The Police Gazette published regular lists of deserters and absentees during the war years. These lists can tell you a lot ... including birth year, occupation, last known address and any distinguishing physical characteristics. While desertion was a capital offence during World War 1, some deserters were never caught and went on to live their lives under an assumed name."
For example, a search for the surname Smith returns 248 results, and for Jones, 169.

A RaHN member notes: "During the war years, the [North London] police court was also troubled on a daily basis by soldiers who had gone absent without leave or simply deserted.  Such matters were not of great interest and attracted little attention." - p.98 in David Barrat, The Islington Murder Mystery. Orsam Books 2012. A useful source of incidental information about conditions in London in 1915; non-fiction but may be shelved with fiction in some libraries, e.g. Ealing. 
August 15th 100 Years Ago: In the summer of 1915 an ILP (Independent Labour Party) pamphlet warned of “The Peril of Conscription”; on 29th June a National Registration Bill was introduced by the government. According to David Boulton, the Bill was “almost universally understood to be the first step to compulsion” (Objection Overruled, p.78). When it became law, August 15th was set as the date for Registration of men of military age. As a result, it was found that about 5 million of these men “were not serving with the forces, Subtracting those in vital occupations and the medically unfit, it was estimated that between 1,700,000 and 1,800,000 available to serve had not volunteered.” (Boulton, op. cit., p.79) 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Listings update: summer into autumn

1-3 July 2016, Queen Mary University of London

See also previous post, for further details.
N.B. Although the event itself is not until next summer, the deadline for proposals is September 14th 2015:
"Please send a 250 - 500 word proposal, including a description of the format and content of the proposed paper, session, workshop, meeting, screenings, or performance. Include an abstract if appropriate, and the names of any other speakers or participants. AT THE TOP OF YOUR PROPOSAL PLEASE INDICATE THE CONFERENCE STRAND (A –E above) TO WHICH YOU THINK YOUR PROPOSAL RELATES MOST CLOSELY. Please submit your proposal to Katy Pettit, Raphael Samuel History Centre administrator ( Monday September 14th."

Independent Working Class Education special Events during Edinburgh Festival.
[Both events free: details in the web links.]

Monday 17th August at 1.00
43-45 West Nicolson Street
Keith Venables and Rob Turnbull will introduce
"A Manifesto for Independent Working Class Education"

Tuesday 18th August at 7.30
Ragged University at
Leith Beer Company, 58 The Shore, Leith, 
Edinburgh EH6 6SL
Keith Venables on "A World to Win: learning from the past - making the future"
[following Donald Carrick on Genghis Kahn]  
Food available. 

FUTURE IWCE EVENTS (See website) include:

"Women Making History"
19th September. London. Unite the Union HQ (new venue)
What does the Record say?
Women, Work and Trade Unions,
Lessons for Today.

"Rewriting IWCE: making it make sense for me!"
30th September. Leicester Friends Meeting House.
Peterloo picnic - 196th anniversary commemoration

On Sunday 16 August from 1 to 3pm the Peterloo Memorial Campaign group are organising an event in the open space in front of Manchester Central Conference Centre, to mark the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre.
There will be banners, marchers arriving, and the reading of the names of those who died, as before. This year the organisers are also calling on people to bring a simple meal of bread and cheese, to participate in The Peterloo Picnic, 'thereby completing what the protesters originally set out to do'. There will be a giant spiderweb map, with picnic blankets marking each of the towns that sent marchers to St Peter's Fields.

The event is free but tickets should be booked in advance here.


Working Class Movement Library, Salford
51 The Crescent,
Salford,M5 4WX 

The re-arranged talk about the 1945 welfare reforms by Pat Thane takes place on Wednesday 16 September at 2 p.m.

The Library exhibition Spirit of `45: from warfare to welfare is open Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5pm (and the first Saturday of the month 10am-4pm) until 25 September.

'Protect' - new installation at WCML

This installation by Al Johnson, shared between ourselves and the People's History Museum, celebrates the determination shown by the miners and their families against implacable political determinism during the miners’ strike 1984-1985.
Al is a sculptor and was commissioned by the Mitchell Arts Centre, Stoke-on-Trent, to make a new work to commemorate the miners' strike. Protect is the result of that commission.  The curved police riot shield acts as a central form for the installation. These freestanding objects, both riot shield and protective armour, are made from red stained plywood. On each shield a statement, slogan, or quote evokes the mood and moment of the strike.
The installation is on view until 17 September whenever the Library is open, although we particularly encourage you to come during our 'drop-in' times of Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5 p.m.

Keir Hardie centenary conference - booking now open

Saturday 26 September 2015 will mark the centenary of the death of James Keir Hardie at the comparatively young age of 59. But in those 59 years Hardie had changed the political landscape of Britain. This conference, which takes place at WCML, aims to celebrate the impact Hardie had on British society and the legacy he left for those who followed.
There will be a keynote address by David Howell from the University of York, followed by papers on Hardie and Wales, Hardie and Ireland, 'Hardie, Carlyle and the Hero’ and ‘Hardie and the Great Unrest: Struggles, Strikes, and Internationalism’.  Full programme details at

The conference is organised by the Working Class Movement Library and De Montfort University, Leicester
and is sponsored and supported by the North West Labour History Society, the Society for the Study of Labour History and the Keir Hardie Society.
Conference Registration
£20 waged and £7.50 unwaged including refreshments and lunch.  Places must be reserved and paid for in advance. Please email Royston Futter,

Heritage Open Days tours

The Library is marking Heritage Open Days 2015 with 'behind-the-scenes' tours on Thursday 10 and Friday 11 September at 2pm.  You can book in advance via
For details of Heritage Open Days events across the UK head to

Talk on William Morris and stained glass To mark Heritage Open Days there will be a talk at 11am on Saturday 12 September at Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, Tameside Central Library, Old Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne OL6 7SG. Paul Renshaw will speak about ‘The stained glass of William Morris in Greater Manchester’. His talk will focus on Tameside and incorporate other stained glass designers in the Victorian era. Attendees will then be free to visit any of the historical buildings that are open and see the stained glass.
If you would like to book a place on the talk please ring 0161 342 4242.

Autumn talks at the Library
WCML's Wednesday afternoon talks start up again on 16 September at 2pm with a talk by Pat Thane (postponed from June) on the 1945 welfare reforms. This talk runs alongside the Library exhibition Spirit of '45: from warfare to welfare, which is on until 25 September.

Future talks: 30 September 2pm  'All our own work': the pioneers of Hebden Bridge and their co-operative mill
Andrew Bibby introduces his new book, which tells the tale of the early worker-run cooperatives in Britain and in particular the fustian mill in Hebden Bridge which operated for almost fifty years as a cooperative.

14 October 2pm Nat, Sam and Ramona - the story of a Spanish Civil War photograph
A talk by Marshall Mateer based on new research from items in the WCML archive. This is the story of three volunteers – Nat Cohen, Sam Masters and Ramona Siles Garcia - during the early months of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. [See previous post for the Joe Jacobs connection]

28 October 2pm Artist Tim Dunbar will give a talk alongside his exhibition Guernica in Manchester re-representation, which will open on 2 October.

Full details of all forthcoming events at the Library can be found at

Politics and Pride 

The People's History Museum (Manchester) is celebrating LGBT+ history and activism over the bank holiday weekend.  They say: 'Discover how the history of gender and sexuality has been affected by society, politics and activism over the past 200 years in our LGBT historytour on Friday 28 August.  Then head down to venues on the Oxford Road Corridor for Political Pride, a weekend of alternative events to take Pride back to its roots on 29-30 August. We’ll be there banner making, badge making and displaying some of our LGBT+ collections. The programme is packed with workshops, discussions, performances and free family friendly fun'. 


Wakefield Socialist History Group News

*On Sunday 9th August we have the Kinsley Evictions Guided Walk. It starts 2pm at Winding Wheel by Fitzwilliam Railway Station. The guide is John Gill.

*On Saturday 12th September we have the Featherstone Massacre Commemoration: more details to follow.

On Saturday 17 October, the Wakefield Socialist History Group are holding an event at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield..starting at 1pm.
THE FALL OF SAIGON: Forty Years Since the Vietnam War.
Speakers: Matthew Caygill (Left Unity) and Stephen Wood (Alliance for Workers Liberty)
Free admission and free light buffet
From the Convenor:
 The US left Vietnam in a state, Nick Davies (2015) says, of "physical ruin."  There were unexploded shells and landmines.  Agent Orange had destroyed the forests.  Orphans roamed the street and Saigon was in the grip of a heroin epidemic.
The US had promised $3.5 billion in reconstruction at the Paris Peace talks.  When it lost he war it didn't pay a penny.  Rather it leaned on the IMF, World Bank and UNESCO to make sure they too denied Vietnam any help.
In the early days the country struggled. Peasants were given ration cards in exchange for their crops so there was no incentive to produce.
Faced with these difficulties the Party abandoned the command economy in the mid to late 80s in favour of "market socialism."  Entrepreneurs were allowed to "colonise" spaces not filled by state managed enterprises (Brown 2015).
The 7th Party Congress -five years later- ratified policies that would integrate Vietnam "into regional and global systems."  These changes were known collectively as "doi moi" - renewal.  Foreign investors flocked in and, in 1994, the US finally lifted its' trade embargo.
Davies (2015) says there were elements in the Party that still wanted to defend "socialism."  Poverty was reduced.  Primary schools were built.  There was free health care.
Around 2000 however the rate of change accelerated and the political balance shifted. State industries were sold off.  Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation.  It became a fully integrated member of the global capitalist economy.
Today Vietnam "no longer stands up for the poor." The country's labour code has been watered down (at the behest of multi-nationals).  The "official" unions do little and the minimum wage has been frozen.  Charges have reappeared for education and health.  And all the time party officials pocket money from privatisation.  "Transparency International" says Vietnam is phenomenally corrupt.

*On Saturday 21 November we look at the Left's attitude past and present to Europe at a meeting, "Europe and the Left" at the Red Shed. Again it starts at 1pm.
Still time to see:

An exhibition running until 29 August 2015

Islington Museum,
245 St John Street,

The Dream to Change the World exhibition is the culminating event in the George Padmore Institute's five year project to conserve and open up to the public John L Rose's personal archives.

John La Rose (1927-2006) was a poet, essayist, publisher, trade unionist, cultural and political activist. He belonged to a Caribbean tradition of radical and revolutionary activism whose input has reverberated across

Conference: Early Bird booking up to 13th September
Health Through Peace - November 2015A two-day forum for health professionals and campaigners interested in issues of war, violence and conflict.
Organised by Medact: flyer and programme available
The organiser writes: It's shaping up to be a really interesting event. I was in Friends House yesterday, and am excited that we'll be filling 'The Light' with so many great speakers, ideas, and people: it's an inspiring building, and will lend itself well to our aims!


Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Pamphlet from Past Tense

(Reprint/new edition of a 1980s classic)


The 1981 Brixton Riots

ISBN: 978-0-9565984-7-9


“Between Friday, 10th April, 1981,  and Monday April 13th April 1981, serious disorder occurred in Brixton... when large numbers of persons, predominantly black youths, attacked police, police vehicles (many of which were totally destroyed), attacked the Fire Brigade, destroyed private premises and vehicles by fire, looted, ransacked and damaged shops...”

After more than a decade of repeated attacks, arrests, harassment, beatings, racist provocations by the local police and the Special Patrol Group, Brixton erupted in a massive uprising. The riot - followed by more in July, part of a nationwide wave of disorder - shocked the British state. Though quickly labelled ‘race riots’ by the press, in fact blacks and whites had fought side by side, in the first anti-police riots for more than a century.

We Want to Riot, Not to Work (originally published in 1982) combines rip-roaring personal accounts of the riots from unashamed participants, with a radical analysis of their causes, and the response of the authorities.

This publication can be bought online with paypal, at: tense publications

or by post:

write to
past tense
c/o 56a Info Shop
56 Crampton Street,
SE17 3AE

enclosing a cheque for £7.00 (including £2.00 Postage/Packing).

please make cheques payable to Past Tense Publications.

BULK ORDERS: If you would like a few copies to sell to your mates, your local bookshop or for a book stall, let 
Past Tense know, and they’ll do you a discount deal.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

They’ve Taken our Ghettos: A Punk History of the Woodberry Down Estate

Introductory Essay by Exhibition Organiser [Guest Blog]

My inspiration for organising this exhibition (and the accompanying book of the same name) is witnessing the redevelopment of the Woodberry Down Estate in North London. This seems part of an endemic scenario in London, where banal environments are increasingly constructed for the wealthy, forcing out people without means and destroying the physical, social and historic fabric of the city in the process.
(Illustrations supplied by the author)
I photographed the redevelopment that was taking place. Memories of an intense period of my life as a teenage squatter on the estate over twenty years ago flooded back. I remembered a life which, although dystopian at times, was the closest I ever came to unbridled freedom and communality, not to mention a lot of laughs. It felt like a real alternative to the alienating pursuit of money popularised during Thatcher’s decade.

A conversation followed with some of the original squatters on the estate swapping stories and anecdotes. Several of these people are now practising writers and artists. This exhibition and publication includes their illustrations, prints, comics, collages, photographs and stories. Together they form an alternative, punk narrative of life on the estate.

In the late 80s, many of the flats in Woodberry Down were neglected and left vacant by the council, and were subsequently squatted by a community of young punks. The sharp rise in squatters during this time has well documented links to the contemporaneous increase in homelessness in London, which arose from Thatcherite policies, such as the Right to Buy scheme (introduced in the Housing Act 1980)[1]. For my own part, this marked a time when I had no alternative accommodation, no means to secure a deposit in the private sector and was not eligible for social housing.

While my motivation for squatting was initially practical, other reasons manifested themselves as time progressed. Squatting meant relinquishing a former identity and creating alternative means of financial, social and practical support. I had casual jobs cleaning and waitressing. Other people took on low paid jobs such as street cleaning where they didn’t have to compromise their look, attitude or lifestyle. Some amassed multiple benefit claims and then drank their giros away. Others refused to sign on as a point of principle, not because they had a moral objection to it, but because they wanted to live self-sufficiently outside of any social controls. Others still went busking and generally got by on very little money. Generally, refusing the pressurised treadmill of capital accumulation and the necessity to pay extortionate rents provided a chance to experience and enjoy life outside the usual parameters set by society.
"Conquest, Colonisation and Social Cleansing"
Now that the outlandish ideas being touted in the 80s have been entrenched over several decades, the climate is even harsher for young people without means. The sale of social housing estates by London councils has drastically reduced the net social housing.[2] The Woodberry Down Estate sell-off is not the worst culprit for this, as the number of social renting units will remain the same. However, the new, private sector component has been substantially increased, meaning that the proportion of social housing will be cut from 67% to 41%[3]. This creation of two-tier housing, with new wealthier tenants distinguished from social housing ones, breaks up the community and breeds resentment. The tenants have described being cast aside like ‘social rubbish’.[4]

More generally, exorbitant rent rises, coupled with housing benefit caps means that vulnerable tenants are being rehoused out of the capital in places where they have no social or historic link. On the Woodberry Down Estate leaseholders have not been compensated at market value for the forced loss of their homes.[5] The developers meanwhile stand to make a fortune (3-beds are marketed at 1.2 million). London is becoming a lifeless ghetto for the rich - a depository for money from foreign investors.
The destruction of the estate sparked reminiscences about what was being lost. But, while some nostalgia was involved in putting together this exhibition, the intention is not to idealise squatting. Surviving on very little money and living in temporary, usually inadequate, buildings can be hard going. At times alcoholism and drug use infected too many people. But, living as part of a wider squatting community also meant that resources were often shared. There was plenty of mutual support. There were squatted vegan cafés and gig venues with crèche facilities.

Some of the tenants on the estate seemed wary or were hostile towards the squatters. They might well have suffered from the seemingly endless parties and blatant disregard shown by some. Then again, tenants sometimes joined in with the partying. I knew squatters who helped tenants to fix things up around their homes, when they’d had no joy with the council, or who did shopping for elderly residents. I knew others who voluntarily cooked and brought food to HIV sufferers who didn’t seem to receive any state or charity support at that time.

Overall, this project aims to avoid promoting stereotypes of squatters as either reckless dossers or romanticised utopians. Instead, the aim has been to put together artistic and written expressions of aspects of an existence which allowed freedom and independence through dissent.

Rebecca Binns, 2015.

They’ve Taken our Ghettos: A Punk History of the Woodberry Down Estate. Exhibition Launch Party, Thurs, 2 Jul, 6-11pm, Free Entry. Bar by Craving Coffee (card/cash), Food by Pink Cactus (cash only). Exhibition Runs 3-26 July.
A book of the same name will be available to buy via Active Distribution from early July.