Judge Dread in Sounds, 10 November, 1979.
Jo Barnes was born in Bristol in 1941 and was the daughter of an Avonmouth docker. In 1979 Bristol Broadsides published a booklet by her called Arthur & Me, Docker’s Children. She writes about her and her brother’s life and there are several poems.
Bristol Broadsides published Bristol history from the point of view of local working class people.
He knocked at the door.
“Come in, sit down.
Now what newspapers do your parents read.”
“The Pictorial and the Daily herald, sir.”
“Who is your favourite comedian, boy?”
“Max Miller, sir”.!!
“Tell us one of his jokes”.
“I can’t remember one,
but I can tell you one of Frankie Howerd’s”.
“What does your father do?”
“He’s a docker, sir.”
Each word a nail hammered his fate,
Their words, his words.
Not grammar school material, they said.
In the Nov-Dec 1971 issue of Radical America, Vol 5 No. 6, Paul Buhle wrote Marxism in the U.S.: 39 Propositions. The 20th relates to mass culture and still makes relevant points.
In one sense, Mass Culture embodies the deepest creative force, the unification of a class through common participation in the forms of cultural self-understanding and technical development. (Chaplin’s Little Tramp suggests the former; the development of early housework devices suggests the latter.) In another sense, Mass Culture was an opiate that religion could not be for the Twentieth Century: at once a source of relaxation and forgetfulness from the alienating, brutalizing labor of work and the chaotic life of urban society, and a definition of personal and group progress though individualistic accumulation. At its birth around the turn of the century, Mass Culture seemed to promise a total revolutionary experience, shared through the best representation of the masses’ lives. In the generations to follow, this Mass Culture was increasingly rationalized as a means for commodity sales and as a weapon against the cultural development of the masses. Despite this general appropriation, however, the tension remained – from the Marx brothers to Donald Duck – essentially unresolved, pushed further into antagonism by the advance of productive forces and their social reflections.
Paul Buhle was founding editor of the journal Radical America (1967–1999). He is active on the American left and is the author of severalbooks. He is also the editor of a series of graphic non-fiction works by American comics artists and writers, among them Harvey Pekar, Sabrina Jones and Sharon Rudahl.
American poet, and go go dancer, Joan Jobe Smith.
The magnificent Bodysnatchers’ session recorded on 8 April 1980 for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the 14th April.
80s electro musician Richard Sandling has penned a poem on a problem that’s long troubled spoken word.
Nothing to say
But I’m Earnest.
When making the choice
Between the words and my voice
Don’t look for substance or truth.
Let my tone carry you through.
And that tone is
Nothing to say
But I’m Earnest.
No metaphor or allegory
Just meaningless pop culture simile
‘I sat on a chair,
Like Iggy Pop reading Proust.’
See? Completely meaningless.
But it’s Earnest.
When you have nothing to say
Rodger Mcarthy Mcarthy Mcdoodle
Ninth-generation pedigree poodle
Crufts Supreme Champion once
13 shields and 14 cups
Is vet’s-clinic-check-upped twice a week
‘Cos Mummy knows best
And Mummy knows
That whilst Rodger glows with canine health
Money won from Doggy Shows
Rodger’s worth his weight in gold
Rodger got RABID
Rodger went MAD
Sad to relate that man’s-best-mate
Turns nasty when the virus strikes
Come here Rodger!
Rodger bit of Mummy’s head.
I prefer culture to Culture. I’ve long thought poetry, spoken word poetry in particular, is at its worst when it’s homogenised, diluted, and managed. This article from anarchist newspaper Freedom, 25 August, 1967, gives a good example.
Arnold Wesker was a dramatist, well known as one of the ‘kitchen sink’ writers. He made a full-time commitment to become the leader of an initiative which arose from Resolution 42 of the 1960 Trades Union Congress, concerning the importance of arts in the community. Centre 42 was initially a touring festival aimed at devolving art and culture from London to the other main working class towns of Britain, moving to the Roundhouse in 1964. The project to establish a permanent arts centre struggled through subsequent years due a chronic shortage of funding, fictionalised in his 1966 play Their Very Own and Golden City.
Mrs Wilson was the wife of then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. The Roundhouse by then was still being gradually repaired and decorated. Events were taking place there.
On July 20, Mrs Wilson gave a party tea party at No. 10 Downing Street, to raise money for Centre 42 to buy the freehold of the Roundhouse at Chalk Farm. When the party was over, the money was there. So it seems at last Arnold Wesker’s plans for purveying culture to the masses will go ahead. The first phase of development will be to convert the building for use as a rehearsal hall for three London symphony orchestras. The cost – £8,000 – is to be paid by the Arts Council. The Centre hopes to open in two years’ time with its own theatre company, ballet rehearsal rooms, opera, writer’s workshops etc. For me, the whole scheme makes a grim and sad contrast to the use the Roundhouse was put to during the last two weeks of July.
The building is Victorian, functional, magnificent and extremely shabby. The roof leaks in several places, the floor is covered in dust, the yard is full of junk. There, for two weeks, we heard lectures by some of the most revolutionary thinkers in the western world, we sang mantras with Allen Ginsberg, we rebelled, we organised, we talked, we learned how to get high on oxygen, how to get stoned on human communication. Several people brought sleeping bags and actually lived there. The local kids, too, wandered in and made themselves at home. A huge swing had been hung from the gallery, and kids and grown-ups swung and climbed. One afternoon, when a large audience was sitting waiting for Herbert Marcuse to arrive for a lecture, the kids settled themselves on the platform; one urchin took the microphone and announced that he would now recite some of his own verses. He did so, to enthusiastic applause.
On the last day a gang of kids appeared with some hollyhocks each about six foot tall: goodness knows where they’d nicked them from but they made a splendid parade around the hall, and gave a hollyhock away to anyone who wanted one, saying they could easily get more.
Meanwhile, the grown-ups also played. A pedal organ in one corner was in constant use. Impromptu poetry recitals were held. Poems were pinned up on the wall, and were joined by a set of charcoal drawings. Someone discovered an piano frame in the yard and began playing it with two sticks: others joined in with metal pipes, milk crates, tin cans and produced a mind-blowing sound. At odd moments people palyed flutes, banjos, recorders. Another time a middle-aged Dane announced that he felt like dancing: he danced, someone played a tambourine, others clapped or beat a rhythm on the hollow iron pillars.
I doubt if Centre 42 will see as much real creativity in ten years as we saw in these two weeks of the “Dialectics of Liberation” congress. And I doubt if, when the roundhouse has become Arnold Wesker’s Palace of Culture, the local Chalk Farm kids will come within spitting distance of it. Or if they do, it will probably be to break a window or chalk rude words on the newly smart walls, not to recite poems and hand out flowers.