Tuesday, 1 October 2013

From Neruda to Starrett. Stargazing across Scotland

The Morning Star is a newspaper everyone thinks they know. In the old joke it is 'read by those people who want another country to run the country', Tony Blair once claimed he 'didn't know that paper was still coming out', and it's line is supposedly dictated to it by the 'politburo'.

Whether or not any of these myths had foundation, the foundations have long been excavated and the paper has made strong strides towards becoming a 'must-read' for any on the left - well, actually by anyone with an interest in the politics, or the cultural life of the UK. And in these days when hacking murder victim's phones, and libelling dead fathers pass for 'news', maybe the opportunity is there for a wider readership?

In Scotland, the twin developments of a Northern print run, meaning the paper gets here on the day of publication, and the appointment of a Scottish reporter, has meant the relevance of its content has increased exponentially. But strangely some of the most positive things about it, aren't things you'll find much about in the paper at all.

One of its strongest props is its network of supporters groups. Readers and Supporters groups have
sprung up across Scotland, and a Scottish Campaign Group who have been instrumental in both successfully lobbying for other organisations (like trade unions and the Co-op) to back the paper in practical ways, running conferences to discuss policies of the left, and chivvying the London organisation of the Star to address its weaknesses in circulation and content.

But possibly it's most successful activity is one that, on the face of it, doesn't seem to directly contribute to selling papers. Over the last three years a series of cultural talks, discussion and even performances in halls and centres across Scotland have been organised. These have caught the eye for the comprehensiveness of their coverage, and the unusualness of their approach. The latest series of 'Our Class, Our Culture' events has just started. The events and venues for the rest of the autumn are listed  here.

Allende y Neruda
Tonight's event  - on the poetry of Chilean poet and politician, Pablo Neruda - has been chosen to mark the 40th anniversary of the armed coup that overthrew Chile's elected government, and is a great example of the genre. It's at the STUC at 7.30pm.

Other gems include a fascinating-looking event in Paisley on Helen Macfarlane, the woman who first translated the Communist Manifesto (Dec 3). Later in the series (in 2014) highlights are William McGonagall and the radical tradition on Scots poetry (in Dundee appropriately enough, on Feb 4 with well-known contemporary poet, Alistair Findlay), Stuart Moir, on Shelley's Masque of Anarchy, its background and contemporary resonance (6 May in Bathgate), and slotting in neatly to next years
Bob's new book
MayDay celebrations, an appreciation of UCS cartoonist and author, Bob Starrett, featuring the man himself! (8 May in the STUC).

If you haven't seen the Star for a while, try your local newsagent, or Co-op food store. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

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