Television

How transport workers beat the colour bar

This story of colour bars in the UK railway and bus industries begins after the Second World War, when Britain had a labour shortage and people moved to Britain in increasing numbers from Caribbean countries and elsewhere. The National Union of Railwaymen (NUR, predecessor of the RMT) declared in 1948 that: “we have no objection to the employment of coloured men in the railway industry” and that “coloured men had been satisfactorily employed on the railways over a long period”. But although the top of the union was getting it right, in some areas the grassroots was not. In 1950, white workers...

Kino Eye: Labour conformity

Rebecca Lawrence’s article on the Labour Connected conference in Solidarity 564 set me thinking about a film which might capture that sense of conformity and dullness described in her report. Instead of a film, I would recommend two BBC dramas by Dennis Potter: Stand up, Nigel Barton and Vote, vote, vote for Nigel Barton. Both were broadcast in 1965 as part of the Wednesday Play series. We follow Nigel Barton, from his youth in a mining village to Oxford University where, unsurprisingly, he struggles to fit in. Later, Barton stands as the Labour candidate in a safe Tory seat, where he comes...

Kino Eye

Kino Eye is a new column which will offer suggestions for film or TV viewing which are related to articles in Solidarity. The term "Kino Eye" is borrowed from the early Soviet documentary filmmaker Dziga Vertov, whose best-known film is Man with a Movie Camera (1929). Suggestions for viewing from readers are welcome. In Solidarity 562 I recommended two interesting, and very different, films from Bosnia, Walter Defends Sarajevo and Grbavica. Although not about Sarajevo, another film from that region also worth seeing is Tito and Me (Goran Marković, 1992), the comic story of a chubby young...

Manctopia? Remaking Manchester for capital

The population of city centre Manchester is set to double in the next five years. 105 complexes of flats are planned. Already tower blocks, usually of little architectural merit, are being built on any available land regardless of the effects on the local environment. Where the land is not free, historic buildings are often demolished or left to rot until they become impossible to save. Until the 1990s, few people lived in the city centre. Now it is becoming “Manc-hattan”. A number of traditionally working-class areas on the fringes of the city centre are being redeveloped as part of a plan to...

Resonances from the 70s

Mrs America is a mini-series charting the battles in the 1970s between the rising feminist movement in the United States and its enemies over the Equal Rights Amendment (an amendment to the Constitution which still hasn’t been ratified by enough states to become law). It shows us well-known figures from the American women’s movement at that time, like Gloria Steinem (played by Rose Byrne) and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), but focuses also on the woman who set out to defeat them, Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). Steinem herself, and others, have criticised the series for overstating this...

"I May Destroy You"

The big hit of the summer, in the gloom of the pandemic, and coincidentally amid a global wave of inspiring Black Lives Matters protests, is a show about rape, consent and justice. It is described by the BBC as a comedy-drama. Race, gender and class are central themes. Drugs and alcohol flow freely and social media acts as judge and jury on matters small and large. Every episode is written to challenge and take you out of your comfort zone. Like your friends, all the characters you get to know are neither all good nor all bad. They make some good decisions and some real shit ones, some that...

The Labour War

As trade union struggles re-emerge, we need to bring forward the idea of solidarity too. One of the greatest historical lessons in solidarity in the English-speaking world was the 1913-14 “Labour War” in Dublin. The story is told in the RTE series Strumpet City, part 1 here. At the time James Connolly wrote: “As ships came into the Port of Dublin each ship was held up by the dockers until its crew joined the [seafarers’] union, and signed on under union conditions and rates of pay. The Union up and down the docks preached most energetically the doctrine of the sympathetic strike, and the...

The media and ethnic prejudice in the 1960s and 1970s

Clips and episodes from TV shows in the 1960s and 70s show that they featured terms like “uppity nigger”, “darkies”, “my little mammy”, “nig-nog”, “sambo”, “wog”, “wog bird”, and “wog land”, as well as talk of civility.

A hard-hitting fable

When I started watching the new BBC drama Noughts & Crosses I was pretty sure I’d seen something like it before. A society where racial oppression holds sway in much the same way as it did in apartheid South Africa except the twist is that the roles are flipped, black African-heritage people are the oppressors and the white population of a fictitious England the oppressed? Then I remembered my cockney working-class father being more than a little outraged at the self-same premise of another play by the BBC. It was called Fable, written by John Hopkins for the groundbreaking Wednesday Play slot...

After 12 years of Tory misrule

Prolonged periods of Tory rule have a habit of ending in a tide of sleaze and scandal. John Major gained the largest Tory vote in history in 1992, but his party was brought to a historic low five years later, with their worst election result in 90 years. A similar set of circumstances faced the Tories in 1964, after what Labour Party leader Harold Wilson famously called “thirteen years of Tory misrule”. On that occasion the most infamous scandal besetting them was “the Profumo Affair”. Today we are in a third long period of continuous Tory rule (from 2010), so BBC’s The Trial of Christine...

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