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Tag Archives: working class culture

Almost forgot to blog my own Agit Disco dispersal event at Farnham. It was the closing event for the Working Press archiving exhibition ‘Building a Better World’ in the magnificent library social space. The Agit Disco project had arisen organically from the music chapter in 1993 The Conspiracy of Good Taste (Free Download new illustrated edition here)

http://www.thebookroom.net/agit-disco-building-a-better-world-exhibition/

AGITDISCOinfarnham.jpg

Using the tiniest record deck in the world that was wired up to a more hefty portable college sound system. It managed to cause a rumpus in the library with the Head Librarian loving the arrival of music (studies) whilst one of her staff was bristling about volume and distraction to the upper reading rooms. They had a little set to and the head of Library had to give the other a stern order to put up and shut up!

The Working Press archive book on the round table above is available for free download from here ‘RISE’

It was a small event but a good crowd with selections from Susan Merrick and Emmanuelle Waeckerle.

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PRE-ANARCHSIT BOOKFAIR EVENT
PM Press present:
‘Working Class Culture’
with John Barker, Robb Johnson and Leon Rosselson
Friday 17th October, 7pm
RSVP ESSENTIAL: Please email nik@housmans.com to book your place

Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase 


Political singer-songwriters Robb Johnson and Leon Rosselson are joined by author and activist John Barker to perform their work, and discuss the politics of working class culture.

John Barker is perhaps best known for being one of four Angry Brigade members sentenced to 10 years in prison for a series of insurrectionary bombings in 1972. He worked as a dustman and welder before being implicated in a conspiracy to import cannabis in 1986. In 1990 he was finally arrested and served a five-year sentence.

John has gone on to write ‘Bending the Bars: Prison Stories of an Angry Brigade Member’ (ChristieBooks, 2007) and this year PM Press have published ‘Futures’, from which John will be  reading on the night. Originally  written more than 20 years ago it tells the story of Carol, a young single mother and drug dealer, Gordon, a “tasty”, self-regarding old-school London gangster, and two coke-snorting financial analysts, Phil and Jack, who entertain a fantasy of a cocaine futures market. Their internal lives are described in a richly original, cliche-free style and the book is remarkably prescient.

Robb Johnson is a musician and songwriter, who has been called “one of the last genuinely political songwriters”, and is known for his mix of political satire and wit.

Johnson began his musical career playing in folk clubs in the 1970s and ran a folk club at the University of Sussex, before forming a band called Grubstreet, which split up in 1983. Two years later he made his first solo album – In Amongst the Rain – setting up his own label on which to release it, before forming an agitprop group, The Ministry of Humour, with Mark Shilcock and Graham Barnes. After the break-up of this act and a failed attempt at forming a new electric band, he returned to performing solo and also formed a duo with female singer Pip Collings.

In 1997 he composed the song cycle Gentle Men, based on the experiences of his grandfathers in the First World War. The song cycle was recorded by Johnson in collaboration with Roy Bailey, and performed at the commemorative Passchendaele Peace Concert. In 2006 he was a special guest at the BBC’s “Folk Britannia” concert at the Barbican Centre, ending the night with a rendition of World War I song “Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire”. He remains active and has released at least one album annually for over 20 years, as well as playing regular gigs, including benefits and political events.

“There is no songwriter to compare with Robb Johnson operating in the UK” – Radio 2
www.robbjohnson.co.uk/

Leon Rosselson: After his early involvement in the folk music revival in Britain, he came to prominence, singing his own satirical songs, in the BBC’s topical TV programme of the early 1960s, That Was The Week That Was. He toured Britain and abroad, singing mainly his own songs and accompanying himself with acoustic guitar.

In later years, he has published 17 children’s books, the first of which, Rosa’s Singing Grandfather, was shortlisted in 1991 for the Carnegie Medal.

His song The World Turned Upside Down has been recorded and popularised by, amongst others, Dick Gaughan and Billy Bragg (who took it into the pop charts in 1985) and has been sung on numerous demonstrations in Britain and the USA.

His Ballad of a Spycatcher, ridiculing the ban on Peter Wright’s book, went into the Indie Singles charts in 1987 in a version backed by Billy Bragg and the Oyster Band.
http://www.leonrosselson.co.uk

Out Now! - click here to buy now

http://www.metamute.org/shop/mute-books/agit-disco

The book is so bulky with its 843 pages that it almost needs a lectern. Is it worth the weight? I had a week in bed after a hospital operation and I still found it difficult to get through it, as well as hold it. What it does achieve is to talk a lot about the context within which political musics happened and in that it does achieve a magesterial sweep of history within a particular geography. And what I thought might bore me with banalities in dealing with the obvious candidates, the biggest hitters, the overplayed anthems, actually works because you don’t have to hear anything and yet many of the tunes mentioned are probably in the back of your head. And he can write well enough.

On the other hand such a sweep by a young writer must inevitably mean that the selection of a path through the thickets of the history the English speaking Northern hemisphere is both gauche and somewhat random (inevitabley bumped in directions by his own deep history or subject position which is nowhere evident.). There’s just enough nice quotes to keep the reading running down a slope – Allen Ginsburg: “National politics was theatre on a vast scale, with scripts, timing, sound systems. Whose theatre would attract the most customers, whose was a theatre of ideas that could be gotten across?” p. 122

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