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Saturday, 30 July 2011

HELP US COMMEMORATE THE STRIKE AND UPRISING



Why were the events of 1911 airbrushed from history? What were the causes of the Llanelli riots? Why did so many Welsh workers come to regard Winston Churchill as a class enemy? How close was Britain to revolution in 1911? We hope to answer these questions and more at the 1911 FORUM.

This will take place at 5.30 on Thurs. 18th August at Llanelli Rural Council Office, Vauxhall, Llanelli. Guest speakers will be Sir Deian Hopkin, historian and writer; Peter Stead, writer and broadcaster; local historian John Edwards, author of 'Remembrance of a Riot''; Robert Griffiths, author of 'Killing No Murder', and myself, Tim Evans. We will discuss the strike and the uprising and their relevance today. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion from the floor.

On Sat. 20th August will be the keynote event of the week – a March and Rally through the centre of Llanelli. We will assemble at 12.00 noon at Llanelli railway station. Speakers will include Bob Crow, General Secretary Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, TUC representatives, Nia Griffith MP and Keith Davies AM. March will move off at 12.30pm. to the town centre for a rally. Afterwards we move on to Box Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of the shot men.

Last week I looked at the music we have in store for you. But there’s more.

On Fri. 12th August at 6pm the Performing Arts Department of Coleg Sir Gâr will perform a show about the strike in the grounds of Llanelli Town Hall.

On Thurs. 18th August the Multi Cultural Network will be hosting an exhibition on the strike at Lakefield Community Centre from 11am - 3pm.

On Fri. 19th August at 2.00pm there will be an unveiling and rededication of the plaque on Union Bridge. In the evening Huw Edwards will introduce a documentary on the strike to an invited audience: this organised by Carms. County Council.

On Sat. 20th August at 4pm there will be a free showing of this documentary in the Entertainment Centre.

At 7.30pm at Hall Street Methodist Church, Hall St there will be a Community Theatre production of “1911 -Remembrance of a Riot,” a new musical drama, inspired by John Edwards’ book on the strike. This will be performed by Llanelli Stage Company, with members from Llanelli Musical Players and LLanelli Youth Theatre. Tickets available from Jill Stevens 07870 385513.Donations from £5

There is something here for everybody, all ages, races, religions and backgrounds. Help us commemorate the strike and uprising!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

DO YOU WANT SOME?

As ATOS drives vulnerable people to despair with their absurd and cynical attempts to cut incapacity benefit, here is a poem of mine, written some years ago. Anybody who wants to use it for fundraising or as part of a no cuts campaign, please go ahead...

Do You Want Some?

Someone from our Office

Will be coming to see you soon

About your Benefits.

FOR YOUR PROTECTION

All our Visiting Staff

Carry an identity card

ASK TO SEE IT.

The Visitor

Will need to check a number of things

To make sure you are getting

The right amount of benefit.

DO NOT WORRY

If you do not have all the things

But please get as many as you can

So that there is no further delay

In calculation and payment

Of your Benefit

Entitlement.

You must fill in the tear-off part of this form each week

To tell us about anything that has changed.

If anything changes and you do not tell us

You might get the wrong amount of money.

And you could be breaking the law...

If you are not sure if we need to know

Please tell us anyway.

Tell us everything.

Tell us about YOURSELF.

Are you pregnant?

What date is the baby due?

Are you getting Disability Living Allowance?

How much do you get?

Are you getting it once a week?

Are you getting it once a month?

Are you getting it regular?

Are you getting hospital treatment?

Do you get a fit (or something similar)at least once a month?

What do you need?

Who is it for?

Tell us their name.

What do you need?

Who is it for?

Tell us their name.

If they are applying for the cost of replacement of an item

Please say what happened to the old item.

What is it for?

Who do you need?

Tell us their name.

Do you feel a fit (or something similar) coming on?

Can you see the shape of furniture in a room?

Can you tell light from dark?

Do strangers understand what you say?

Do your family and friends understand what you say?

Can you understand someone talking in a normal voice on a busy street?

Can you understand someone talking in a LOUD VOICE in a quiet room?

Can you tie a bow in string?

Can you walk up and down one step?

Can you raise one arm to your head as if to put on a hat?

Can you clap without using your left hand?

Can you tell light from dark?

We need to know how much it will cost

We need to know how much it will cost

We know where you live.

Do you have a problem?

Do you have a problem speaking?

Do you have a problem hearing?

Do you want one?

Do you want some?

Do you have a problem?

Can you stand unassisted?

Are you going to a funeral?

Do you have a problem bending or kneeling?

Do you lose control of your bladder at least once a month?

Do you lose control of your bowels at least once a month?

Please show us how often in the box below.

Do you need help because someone needs your care and support?

This person might have a mental illness

Please tell us about this person

Their name

Their address

Their relationship to you

Why do they need your care and support?

Do you need help?

Do you need help because of very difficult problems?

Do you need help?

Do you need help?

Because of very difficult problems?

Do you need help?

Please tell us why things are so very difficult

Tell us about the pain you feel while you are doing day-to-day things.

Can you pick up a two pence coin with either one of your hands?

Can you pick up a pound coin with either one of your hands?

Can you pick up a £10 note with one of your hands but not the other?

Can you pick up a welfare cheque?

I bet.

I said: “I bet”.

Can strangers understand you?

Can you understand someone talking in a loud voice in a quiet room?

Can you bend or kneel and straighten up again?

Can you bend or kneel as if to pick up a piece of paper from the floor and straighten up again?

Can you walk?

Can you crawl?

Can you pick up a half litre carton of milk

Or alcohol?

Can you bend to touch your toes?

Can you see the shape of furniture in a dark room?

Can you understand some one talking in a normal voice?

Can you understand someone talking in a LOUD voice?

Do you have problems with fits?

Tell us about your partner.

Does he need help?

Is he away from work because of a trade dispute?

Was it a strike?

Was it a walkout?

Was it a lockout?

Were there picket lines?

Did he love you?

Was he breaking the law?

Does he have a problem?

Can he tell light from dark?

Can he see the shape of furniture in a room?

Can he tie a bow in string?

Can he understand someone talking in a loud voice in a quiet room?

Do you understand what he says?

What does he need?

How much does he get?

Where does he live?

Who does he love?

Does he want some?

Tell us his name.

Someone will be coming to see you very soon

About your benefit entitlement.

For your protection

Ask to see their identity card.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

MUSIC TO CHANGE THE WORLD

See our website: 1911llanellirailwaystrike.org.uk

This column is really a shameless plug for 1911 Llanelli Rail Strike & Uprising Week Aug 12-20 2011. Music was always part of the workers’ movement. For solidarity and the honouring of past fighters, song was important. Paul Robeson was a perfect example of this – using his music to reach across national and cultural boundaries and organise for a better, more just world. The solidarity he felt for Welsh miners and that they felt for him has become part of working class legend and his songs have become part of our culture.

The syndicalist activists of 1911 also loved to sing. In the USA the revolutionary Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW – known as ‘the Wobblies’) organised thousands of often migrant workers into trade unions and were at the heart of many strikes, including the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike in Massachusetts, known as the ‘Bread and Roses Strike’ because one of the slogans was “Give us bread, but give us roses too.” Many songs, like “Union Maid” “The Preacher and the Slave” and “Solidarity Forever” came out of this movement., as did the music of Woodie Guthrie.

Much of the folk music boom of the 1960s in the UK and the US involved Communist Party members whose songs were consciously political. And of course much of the most progressive music of the late 1960s (Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Grateful Dead) identified with the equal rights and student struggles and the anti-Vietnam War movement. In the late 70s Rock Against Racism and the Clash shook the fascists.

So we are proud to be part of that tradition of committed music in 1911 Rail Strike & Uprising Week, running from 12th-20th August. 7.30 on Sat 13 August at the Selwyn Samuel Centre is “Strike Up the Bands!” with Llanelli jazz legend Wyn Lodwick , also the Women in Jazz Allstars Swing Band, featuring the Syncopated Sisters and the amazing Jen Wilson. The £12 ticket includes a delicious hot meal. Late bar. Tickets from Cadno Records, John St, Llanelli, or from John Willock 01445 820736 or Tim Evans 07962804452 or tim.l.evans@btinternet.com

At 8pm on Monday 15 August “Strike Up the Bards” – radical music and radical poetry, upstairs at Stamps, John St. £2 on the door or from Robin Campbell 01792 422370 or Roger Price 01554 750045.

On Wednesday 17 August “Strike Up the Folks” – Llanelli 1911 Railway Strike Committee and Llanelli Folk Club join forces for the Strike’s centenary with a FREE themed “protest” night. Open Mike - performers should aim to sing protest, union, or railroad songs. Poets welcome too! 7.30 pm until 11pm Queen Vic Club, Queen Victoria Road.

If you love music - see you there!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

There will be more Amy Winehouses

Amy Winehouse’s death was really depressing, and has been sinking in over the last few days (overshadowed as it has been by events in Norway.) I find the online reaction of the “oh, wow, she’s joined the 27 Club” kind ( i.e. that, like Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain etc she died at 27) depressing too. There’s nothing magic about the number, it’s just that it’s far too young. That somebody’s alienation should have succeeded in destroying them at 27 is less romantic, glamorous and bohemian than an indictment of an exploitative system, simultaneously voyeuristic and punitive, that sells people’s creativity like any other commodity. It’s an indictment of the media’s fucking over of a vulnerable young woman who doesn’t fit some sort of idealised notion of womanhood and is therefore fit to be ridiculed and hounded to death. There’s nothing ‘iconic’ about it.

Above all, it’s an indictment of the fucked up attitude to drugs embraced for decades by all the British mainstream political parties, policed by media moguls like Murdoch, who would politically destroy anybody who broke with the “War on Drugs” consensus. I am assuming, by the way, not that heroin killed her but that heroin addiction played a part in her death. Like Billie Holliday before her, people like Amy Winehouse are often self-medicating to control emotional pain. If that leads them into heroin addiction (smack being the ultimate painkiller, both physical and emotional), then they should receive medical doses of diamorphine as was done in the 1960s (when the number of addicts was a fraction of what the policies of successive governments have driven it up to, and the chaos caused much less).

Instead addicts are demonised and criminalised, and are forced to enter a dangerous, criminal world to secure their drugs. They are put at risk from adulterated substances, driven to burglary and prostitution and all too often an early death. It’s not so much the drugs that kills them (pure heroin is non-toxic) as the lifestyle illegality imposes on them. Amy Winehouse had the money to avoid the worst aspects of this but was destroyed anyway. Antonin Artaud argued that a society that had not managed to alleviate the suffering of individuals should not be surprised, nor should it attempt to ban, the substances individuals use to control their pain.

As the pressures of life are exacerbated by economic hardship, more people will seek respite and relief in hard drugs and hard drink. A decent society that cared about its people would attempt to deal with these problems in a humane way and would look to reforming itself so that social pressures were less overwhelming. But of course history ended. This is our new neoliberal paradise, our free market utopia in which all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

So don’t worry - there will be more Amy Winehouses .