Thursday, 31 October 2013

Star at the heart of Scottish working class culture

This is the original of a piece in the Morning Star, published on Wednesday 30 October. It isnt (yet) on the Star website so I'm posting here in case anyone needs digital access. 

The increased focus on Scotland, and the higher profile here of the Morning Star, is at least partly because of external activities that have not really featured in the paper until now.In addition to the deployment of a Scotland-based reporter and a network of supporters groups, a Scottish Campaign Group has established a successful activity that, on the face of it, doesn't seem to directly contribute to selling papers.

Over the last three years a series of cultural events 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 covering the rest of this year and into next summer, has just started. The events and venues for the rest of the autumn are listed here.
 A couple of events have already taken place, both marking the 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup. In East Kilbride a large meeting heard two trade unionists discuss their part in stopping military supplies being delivered to the Chilean junta, and in Glasgow a fascinating presentation on the poetry of Chilean poet and politician, Pablo Neruda was given by Ruben Romero. The unusual juxtaposition of culture and class is typical of the mix.

On 5 November in Falkirk a discussion on Robert Tressell's Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has become only too topical. The person delivering the talk is Mark Lyons, Unite's convenor at the INEOS plant at Grangemouth! A timely discussion on the nature of capitalism and its repercussions for working people I would have thought.

Other gems include a fascinating-looking event in Paisley on Helen Macfarlane, the woman who first translated the Communist Manifesto (Dec 3). Although from a factory-owning family, her radicalism stemmed from a factory background in Chartism, and carried on as she met both Marx and Engels.

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, Keith Stoddart on James Connolly, socialism and nationalism - in Edinburgh (18 March) as part of the Edinburgh Irish Festival, and again a hugely relevant discussion in time for Scotland's Independence Referendum later in the year, and 1 April sees a presentation on Jack London's forewarning of fascism - Iron Heel by Rab O'Donnell in Clydebank

As befits its status as a month containing the international workers' festival, May has two events. Stuart Moir on Shelley's Masque of Anarchy, its background and contemporary resonance (6 May in Bathgate), and slotting in neatly to next years MayDay celebrations, an appreciation of UCS cartoonist and author, Bob Starrett, by author and poet David Betteridge, and featuring the man himself! (8 May in Glasgow's STUC Centre).
Helen Crawfurd. Anti war activist

The final two events centre their topic on the centenary of the start of the First World War, but - as you might expect - concentrate on the nature of that's war in Whose War Was it? on the 5 June in Fife (venue yet to be confirmed), and in July (8) in Glasgow, a couple of activists who have been working to ensure that those who protested against the war are remembered for their activities as Bob Holton and the GMB's Richard Leonard discuss 1914 and Keir Hardie.

This series is often eagerly awaited and well attended, drawing in new and existing readers and supporters of the paper. They do more than that though. They have established the Morning Star at the heart of working class culture and celebration in Scotland, along with Glasgow's increasingly successful MayDay celebrations and the Songs of Struggle concerts promoted by FairPley both as standalone and as part of Glasgow's Celtic Connections, and Edinburgh's Fringe Festivals.

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