Peterloo: review by Steve Fielding

Labour MP Chris Williamson certainly seems to have enjoyed Mike Leigh’s new film Peterloo, which recreates the 1819 massacre in St Peter’s Field in Manchester. Williamson, the Corbynite member for Derby North quoted in his enthusiastic tweet the Shelley poem, The Mask of Anarchy. Shelley wrote it to commemorate the massacre during which 15 people were killed and an estimated 700 injured when armed yeomanry attacked 60,000 peaceful pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters

Williamson is a keen supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party – one that celebrates proletarian struggle and solidarity, even when it has sometimes led to conflict. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, infamously described the violent student protests of 2010 as “the best of our movement”. So it was always likely that Peterloo, a film about the bloody suppression of a popular demonstration would find favour on the left.

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Agitprop meets Victoria Wood

Miners used to be left-wing dramatists’ catnip. The visceral, often fatal, nature of their work, as well as their leading position in the labour movement, saw them become the roaring lions of socialist drama. Death and Revolution is a heady mix. As ever, real politics and drama were intertwined: it was no accident they were a popular subject for TV plays and series during the 1970s as that was when the National Union of Mineworkers brought down the government of Edward Heath. But after the disastrous 1984-5 strike, the mining industry rapidly shrank into insignificance and the once-mighty NUM became a sad shadow of its former self.  When NUM President Arthur Scargill left Tony Blair’s Labour party in 1996 hardly anybody noticed.

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That's entirely a matter for you...

The Secret Policeman's Ball wasn't the first of the annual comedy galas held in aid of Amnesty International, but it was certainly the most significant. There had been no event in 1978, as Amnesty wanted to explore ways of using the shows to raise money beyond the sales of tickets on the night; John Cleese and comedy impresario Martin Lewis were put in charge of the project, and decided that the following year's show should both be marketed like a rock concert, with accompanying spin-offs in other media, and match the energy of the new wave of 'Alternative' comics.

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Hateful and Hollow: Morrisey's lifelong campaign to piss off his fanbase

n the bleak mid-80s, life was tough for young people in general, and in particular for those of a more sensitive disposition. Sensitivity wasn't cool. Cool was brash, buccaneering, blokey. 

So when The Smiths came along, they spoke to a generation of (mostly white) dispossessed young people of a sensitive and mostly left wing bent.

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