Friday, 11 December 2015

Forest Voices Choir singing 'Line Up' - now on YouTube

Forest Voices Choir
Singing 'Line-up!'

Forest Voices Choir (that I am a member of) sang 3 songs for the turning on of the Christmas lights event. The lights were turned on by Robin Wales, the Mayor of Newham, on 5th December 2015. 2 of the songs were Christmas Carols and the other was a lovely song advocating peace throughout the world. It is called 'Line Up' (by H. Yeomans).

Here are the words for 'Line Up':

Line up, line up
Wo oh
For your place in the peaceable kingdom
Yeh, yeh, yeh.

Line up, line up
Wo oh
For your place in the peacable kingdom
Yeh, yeh, yeh.

Line up, line up
Wo oh
For your place in the peacable kingdom
Yeh, yeh, yeh

Bring your songs of freedom for a brave new world

Let me hear you
Sing, sing now.

Line up!

The rich and the poor
The weak and the strong
The humble and the proud
Won't you sing out loud
The merciful of heart
The sinner and the saint
The forgiven and the wrong
Find your voice in song
No differentiation between black and white
Let the Arab man stand by the Israelite
There ain't no creed, there ain't no colour
But the blood that flow thru your sister and brother.

*Repeat lines up to 'Line Up'.

What great messages!

I have just loaded the video of the Forest Voices Choir singing 'Line Up'  on to YouTube.
This is the first item that I have ever loaded anything on to YouTube! Hopefully, I will be loading up a few more items in the future.


Forest Voices Choir also have a website - see

Neighbours at Junior School!

Well - this is amazing!

My neighbour opposite has just found out/just realised that we were at the same Junior School together - in Odessa Road, Forest Gate!


Sounds it.

But no - it is true.

He has copies of the class register - and bingo - both our names are on it.

He still remembers and knows loads about many of the others in the class but I can only remember a couple. I passed the 11+ so went on to a different secondary school, and did not keep up the contact.

But I was always rather in a world of my own anyway if the truth be told (having my head buried in my books and in a fantasy world and all that) and well, I can still be rather like that!

Even so, however did he remember me? Both him and another person from school recognised me - he said it was because of my hair! Good job I did not cut it and change it eh!

This neighbour has lived there for 30 years but we have only just 'found each other', as it were.

Isn't it wonderful!

Does this call for a school reunion? Rather a nice idea!

What a small world, and all that!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Open Mic at the 'Plough and Harrow' Pub every Sunday 8pm - 10.30pm

The Plough and Harrow


Function Room
419 High Road Leytonstone
E11 4JU

Every Sunday from 8.00pm - 10.30pm

Come and Join Us

Regular house band, regular performers, plus new musicians and performers always welcome. 

Bands and solo artists.

Enjoy live music, local musical talent, as well as some surprise artists from abroad (e.g. USA).

Also provides a support and network for local musicians.

Victor Rikowski performs there quite regularly (playing guitar and singing) and watch this space for other names that you might recognise from this blog.

Rock, rock 'n' roll, folk, blues and much more 

A great night out and great company (and it's all FREE).

The Function Room
Plough and Harrow

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

An Alternative to Neo-Liberal Education - Venue Change!



Saturday 28 November 2015
2.00 pm - 4.30pm



Apologies for the short notice but unfortunately it has been necessary to change the venue for the meeting on Saturday 28 November.  This will now be held in the MAYDAY ROOMS, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH, 2.00pm – 4.30pm.  

The Social Science Centre (SSC) in Lincoln is a self-organised co-operative higher learning provider that is democratic at all levels of its organisation. The scholars who are members of the Centre work and study together whether they are traditionally students or teachers. One of the aims of the Centre is to analyse and dissolve the tensions in the relationships between research and teaching, and students and academics. Set up by academics from the University of Lincoln, the Centre has no relationship with the University, although it is a critique of the formal institution as a dysfunctional neoliberal arrangement in many ways. The SSC aims to ‘reinvent’ the University and transform the scholars’ relationship to knowledge in order to insert their own experiences into theoretical knowledges that aim to emancipate them as active change agents. The SSC engenders provocations, conversations and discussions that enliven the notion that all those who are involved in active knowledge work should become (co-) producers of knowledge. Two of the (student) scholars and an academic from Lincoln will be visiting the Anarchist Research Group to talk about the centre and their experiences studying there.
In this session, we would like to tell you a little about our experiences with the SSC and then invite a discussion on the SSC, self-organised education and the relationships between education, learning, and social change.

The Social Science Centre provides free public higher education in the city of Lincoln and emphasises the collective and collaborative nature of education. The Centre was opened in 2011 by academics and students and Lincoln residents who feel passionately that those wishing to study higher education should not have to take on the burden of debt. There is no fee to pay when joining the Centre, only what you can afford. Free also means freedom to study outside of the current disciplinary structures of higher education around topics and issues that are of direct concern to you and your local community.
ANARCHIST RESEARCH GROUP: Our meetings are friendly and informal. They are usually held on the fourth Saturday each month, at the Torriano Meeting House in Kentish town, 99 Torriano Avenue, London NW5 2RX between 2.00pm and 4.30 pm 
Directions: From Kentish Town tube station walk up Leighton Road, and turn left into Torriano Avenue.
We take a collection after each meeting to cover the cost of the venue.

‘Human Herbs’ – a song by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon:
Glenn Rikowski @ Academia: 

Ruth Rikowski @ Academia:

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Writeidea Festival 2015

Whitechapel Idea Store

I went to the Writeidea Festival 2015 last weekend, 13th-15th November 2015. Victor Rikowski told me about it; he works for the Idea Store in Chrisp Street in Tower Hamlets. But he was luckily enough this year to get the opportunity to work for and be part of the Festival, held at the Whitechapel Idea Store!

It was truly wonderful; I was very surprised about just how good it was. It ran over 3 days and there were a wide range of authors, both fiction and non-fiction, talking about and signing copies of their books. I saw David Rosenberg, for example, talking about his new book 'London's Rebel Footprints' (which I also bought), who has been leading walks on London's radical history since 2007.

Then there was James Dawson and Non Pratt, 2 writers of Young Adult (YA) fiction, who spoke about their books, including their latest books, and other YA authors (particularly the ones that they liked). Furthermore, they did it all in a really refreshing and upbeat way. I can certainly see why they are so popular with teenagers. They really related to people; to something basic in the human condition. A great way of introducing teenagers to the adult world and sex and love and all that.

Then I heard Derek Morris speak about the East End of London and about the variety of writers, artists, scientists and prosperous merchants that have arisen from it. He has written books on all of this.

Next there was Rosie Wilby, a comedian, a feminist and a lesbian talking about how she helped to run a feminist newspaper, Matrix, whilst she was at university. She used video clips, music and photo archives and she did it all with a great sense of humour, as well as with great style. It was truly delightful. And she was just so much her own person (as were James Dawson and Non Pratt).

Finally, we had Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, known as 'Nicci French' who write psychological thrillers together. What they had to say was also really fascinating.

And that was just what I saw on one day!

Altogether, it was a packed programme. There were also author such as Michael Rosen, Kate Thompson, Holly Bourne and Viv Albertine, to name but a few!

In addition, there was a Writeidea Hub with open mic slots, book signings and other special events.

The whole festival was free and there was also free tea and coffee and even some free food towards the end of the evening.

It was a truly wonderful event, I felt that I had a lot of affinity with the people at it, and I certainly intend to go again next year, all being well!

So, thanks very much Victor for telling me about it!

Here is another short write-up on the web about it all:

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Film 'Anonymous' - but essentially Edward de Vere not Shakespeare!

Edward de Vere

The Film ‘Anonymous’ – but essentially Edward De Vere not Shakespeare!

I have just watched an amazing film - ' Anonymous'.

It is a well-known fact of course, that there is a body of opinion that argues that Shakespeare did not write all those great plays. When I heard it, I basically dismissed it as just being ‘sour grapes’.

However, several months ago I read a brilliant book by Jonathan Black, called 'The Secret History of the World'  (published by Quercus, London, 1988) which just turned so many of what are thought of as conventional wisdoms and historical facts, on their head. And we did a little research into some of it, and some of what Black says is certainly right, such as the fact that many important people in history have been Freemasons and members of secret societies. 

One of the things that Black argued was that Shakespeare did not write all these plays by himself; but instead that he was probably assisted and inspired by Francis Bacon. Black said that Shakespeare did not have the right and necessary background to write all those plays; or at least, certainly not by himself.

This got me thinking, especially as, on a personal basis, I have always had certain issues with Shakespeare, if the truth be told, but that’s something of another story altogether and perhaps for another day…

Anyway, we got involved with watching 'The White Queen' and 'The Tudors' and all this lead us to return to this Shakespeare theme. Gregory Rikowski found what looked to be an amazing and insightful film on the web: 'Anonymous' starring Vanessa Redgrave and Derek Jacobi; directed by Roland Emmerich and written by John Orloff, 2011. We bought it and have just watched it. Amazing! It just turns many of the conventional wisdoms about Shakespeare on their head. Even the 'Daily Star' said it was 'Stunning' and gave it 8 out of 10 and the Radio Times gave it 4 stars.

The film is based on a book and the author decided to look at things the other way round. Rather than trying to get the evidence to fit Shakespeare and the plays together (the way it is normally done), focusing for example on Shakespeare’s grammar school education and how that classical education helped to equip him to write the plays, he asked questions such as - 'What type of person is likely to have written these plays?'; 'What type of background are they likely to have come from?' 'Where might they have lived?" etc. Now, this immediately struck a chord with me. Since writing my own novels I have come to see that this approach is the more correct one, rather than just thinking that novelists and playwrights create their stories and fantasies purely out of, or at least, mainly out of ‘thin air’. Rather, they get much of their material from life. Now, what in Shakespeare's life gave him the material to write these plays? Well, not very much really, it would seem. This is the message that the film conveys.

But I thought the film would focus on Francis Bacon, but no, there was not a whisper about him at all. Instead, in the film it is Edward de Vere who wrote all those plays, and sonnets. Now, if you think about it, it really had to be one person, I think, because of the similarity in style throughout (you know, as opposed to the theories that say they were written by several people). Perhaps, others could have changed them a bit here and there, to make them 'fit' Shakespeare, but essentially I think it had to be the work and inspiration of one person. Again, I came to this conclusion from my own writing journey.

Now, the film puts the case that Edward de Vere is the most likely candidate to be this one person, for a variety of reasons; and it is a very, very powerful argument indeed. De Vere had the right aristocratic background and would have had an education and background that was well versed in history in general, the history of the monarchs in particular, the classics, Latin etc. He was part of the nobility. A number of the plays are also set in Italy and de Vere lived there for 2 years, thus giving him plenty of material, but there is no evidence that Shakespeare ever lived in Italy at all. And on the other hand, wherever would Shakespeare have acquired all this vast knowledge from? It just does not add up.

There is also another point: How could one man – i.e. Shakespeare, possibly have achieved so much in one life-time? Basically, we are told that he was a playwright; a poet; an actor; a businessman; an entrepreneur (setting up the Globe Theatre etc); a promoter of plays; a family man etc. etc. Now, Mozart in contrast, for example, was a brilliant composer but was hopeless with money, and no good at all as a businessman. But apparently, Shakespeare had it all. Come on!

And on top of that he was no ordinary playwright either – no, he knew loads about history, about various monarchs, he was familiar with the Classics, Greek and Latin, he had a lot of legal knowledge etc. etc. However, did he acquire all of this knowledge? The considered wisdom is that Shakespeare acquired it from his grammar school education. But however could he achieve all of that from school? He did not go to university of course. Also, he had such inside knowledge on so many topics. And on top of all of that, the playwright knew and understood just so much about the human condition.

Whilst Shakespeare’s actual background tells a different story. His father was illiterate and his 2 daughters were illiterate. In the film Shakespeare could read but could not write.  Also, he did not spell his name as ‘Shakespeare’ and his signature itself looks somewhat suspect. However, I find it hard to believe that he could not write – that seems rather extreme. If he could read (which he would surely need to be able to do, as an actor), then surely he could write? But I reckon that his writing style was quite basic, and certainly nothing like the beautiful writing style in all of those brilliant plays. Derek Jacobi in the film said that no manuscripts of the plays has ever been found in Shakespeare’s name, and there was no mention of the plays in his will.

So, it all really does not add up. Are we having ‘the wool pulled over our eyes’? – it certainly looks like it.

Also, there are the Cecils'; the family that had tremendous power and influence over Elizabeth I; they were the Queen’s advisors. Now, apparently Robert Cecil was a hunchback. Richard III in Shakespeare’s play was a hunchback of course. When I first watched Shakespeare’s Richard III I believed the simple message and thought that Richard III was a truly terrible person, going around killing everyone so that he could succeed to the throne. Then, after watching ‘The White Queen’ and reading all those novels by Philippa Gregory around the War in the Roses period I was convinced that this was completely wrong. Rather that it was the Red Queen in the background who was obsessed about getting her son, Henry Tudor on the throne, and would stop at nothing in order to achieve that aim (and so various people died, including the 2 princes in the tower). Indeed, she had some similarities to Livia, Augustine’s wife in Roman times, who was obsessed about getting her son Tiberius to be Emperor and would stop at nothing in order to achieve that goal. Many people were poisoned. So, Phillipa Gregory shows that some women in history were very intelligent and had a lot of power and influence in the background, even if we do not like their actions! So, the Richard III play was not simply about Richard III at all; but rather it was trying to get people to see the Cecils' for the corrupt and power-mad people that they were. This was the message in the film anyway.

Also, after all Henry VIII’s dreadful behaviour someone probably wanted to expose the awful corruption that was going on around the monarchy and their advisors, so felt driven to write the plays – Edward de Vere was in the right place at the right time and had the motivation to be able to do this. But of course, he had to disguise himself, and could not have them in the public domain under his own name.

I think that society, today, is too much in awe of Shakespeare; he is almost seen to be a Demi-God. Look at the Globe Theatre, for example (wonderful though it is). Clearly, whoever wrote all those plays was incredibly gifted and understood the human condition so well, on top of everything else.  But that does not mean to say that he was also a very good businessman, a good actor etc. The whole thing is very unhealthy and it exposes lots about the problems of British society.

I think I will be able to engage with the plays somewhat better and easier in the future now, with hopefully a better and clearer idea about their underlying messages and where they were likely to be coming from. So, the film ‘Anonymous’ has done me a great favour, if only for this reason! I will look at it all with somewhat different eyes now. I reckon there are lots of hidden messages in the plays which we cannot see because we are not looking at things straight. I will gradually get to watch the plays again, but through a different lens and are likely to have some further insights.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Something Unspoken

I went to see 2 short plays by Tennessee Williams at the Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead a few days ago  - 'I Can't Imagine tomorrow' and 'Something Unspoken'. Wow - what an experience.

The theatre itself, above a pub, was something else. I have never seen anything like it before, and I doubt that there is anywhere else in London quite like it. It is small and intimate and felt rather like stepping back in time, into a glorified and very large front room. The decor was amazing and there were pictures on the walls, particularly showing the history of the theatre and times gone by. One could chose one's seat and there were an interesting variety of seats, some armchairs, sofas and upright chairs with cushions.

I love Tennessee Williams plays but had never heard of these 2 before, so that also intrigued me.

And 'Something Unspoken', in particular, dealt with such an important topic that I thought that I would blog it.

'Something Unspoken' dealt with lesbian themes at a time when the subject was very much taboo. Hence, the 2 females in the play - employer and employee felt that they had lesbian feelings for each other but no way could they express them overtly. Cornelia, the employer tried to confront what had been suppressed, saying that there seemed to be 'something unspoken' between them. She gives Grace 15 roses - one for each of their anniversaries as Grace has been working for Cornelia for 15 years. But Grace cannot bear to address the topic in this overt way; not surprising as she, being the employee is in the more vulnerable position. They are also continually being interrupted in their attempt to articulate their feelings by other sounds - in particular, the phone keeps ringing; there is also the music playing on the gramophone player. And of course, this is what happens in life - we are being continually interrupted.

I thought it was a fascinating and important play because not only was it bravely addressing the largely taboo topic of lesbianism at the time, but the basic idea about the difficulty of trying to express oneself on certain difficult topics, can also be widened far beyond the lesbian theme.

In fact, do not many of us sometimes engage with this way of conversing, in some way or other? We try to articulate some things, some topics that are very difficult to articulate (for various reasons, including the obvious one of society's prejudice) and find it near-on impossible. And so it becomes 'something unspoken' and we try to communicate it in ways other than the normal verbal means of communication between one another. In fact, this is one of the reasons that novels and plays are so powerful anyway. They allow us a form of expression that is not possible through non-fiction writing. I mean, many novels are based on autobiographies and the novelists' actual experiences. So the raw truth becomes somewhat disguised and becomes something that is in some way largely unspoken. Music is another alternative mode of expression; but of course that is largely even more camouflaged.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Forest Roots on 27th Nov 2015

FOREST ROOTS: Country, Folk, Blues and Beyond

Friday 27th November 2015, starts at 8.00pm sharp

Hot Strings Review

Free entry; raffle and whip round.

Martin Wheatley on guitar and ukulele

Mike Piggott on fiddle (see

Also, the Family Flats Band and 

Surprise Guests and Local Performers.

These will include:

Forest Voices (a Choir which I am a member of) and

Victor Rikowski

Venue:  The Forest Gate Hotel, 105 Godwin Road, Forest Gate, London, E7 OLW

Saturday, 31 October 2015



Labour Representation Committee (LRC)
Waltham Forest Branch
Wednesday 25th November, 7.00pm
St. Barnabas, Foster Hall
St. Barnabas Road
London, E17 8JZ

John McDonnell MP – The People’s Chancellor
Matt Wrack – Fire Brigades Union, General Secretary
Maria Exall – Communication Workers Union
Steve White – National Union of Teachers
Councillor Shabana Dhedhi – Labour Party, Forest Branch

Friday, 30 October 2015

Don't lose your Right to Vote in UK - get on Voters Register by 1st Dec 2015

Don’t lose your Right to Vote!

Get on the Voters Registration by 1st December 2015!

From 1st December 2015, all household members must register individually or face being removed from the Voters register.

Many could be disenfranchised - make sure you are not one of them!

Anyone who has not individually registered by 1 December 2015 will be removed from the register.

Originally, the deadline was December 2016 but the Tories have brought it forward by one year. This means, that potentially, for one thing, over one million voters could lose the chance to vote in next May's local elections. 

Until 2009, one person in each household completed the registration for every resident eligible to vote, but now all that has changed. Each person who is eligible to vote now has to do this individually.

So, make sure you do not lose your right and opportunity to vote - something that has been fought so hard for by activists in history.

Also, see the film 'Suffragette' to emphasise the point for women!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Forest Voices Choir

Come and Sing!

Every Thursday, 7.15pm - 8.45pm with

Forest Voices Choir


Join us for:

      Singing for Switching on of Christmas lights, opposite Forest Gate Station, at 5.30pm.

      Forest Gate Christmas Pub Crawl, Thurs 17th Dec, 7.00pm - 9.00pm (more details to follow

Friday, 16 October 2015

All Saints Chorus & Orchestra



The All Saints Chorus and Orchestra are celebrating their 20th anniversary concert season starting this year. Formed in 1994, the Chorus is a community choir. Membership is open to all and there are no auditions. The choir have a reputation for performing concerts of the highest standard in Newham, the area in which they rehearse and perform.
They have an extensive repertoire of music ranging from the 15th century to today. Included are the great works of composers such as Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, and Verdi. The chorus enjoys a good social life outside the rehearsal room and the annual weekend away provides the perfect opportunity to rehearse, socialise and relax.
The All Saints Orchestra is a mix of seasoned professional players featuring instrumentalists from many of the major London orchestras. Together with the Chorus and our dedicated group of acclaimed soloists they give a wide audience the chance to experience great music in the historic setting of West Ham Parish Church.

Next Event: West Ham Parish Church (All Saints), Church Street, E15 3HU
Saturday 21 November 2015
Vaughan Williams: Towards the Unknown Region, and Antiphon: Let All the World
Beethoven: Symphony No.7
Brahms: A German Requium

Margaret Feuvoir Soprano
Stephen Alder – Bass
All Saints Chorus
All Saints Orchestra
Jon Cullen – Conductor

Tickets: Adults £17; Concessions £10. On the door or in advance – Telephone: 07513 414665

‘Human Herbs’ – a song by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon:
Glenn Rikowski @ Academia: 
Ruth Rikowski @ Academia:
All that is Solid for Glenn Rikowski:

Monday, 5 October 2015

Back to the Future: Launching the Left Book Club


November 17th
Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London, WC1R 4RL

With: Ken Livingstone, Kevin Ovenden, Natalie Bennett, Kate Osamor MP and others
Suggested donations, £5, concessions £3
To book your place email:

The original Left Book Club was founded in 1936 as a means of promoting radical debate in Britain. It swiftly became a phenomenon, distributing over 2 million books and forming 1,200 reading and discussion groups across the country. It engaged in political activity, including solidarity work (e.g. with Spain), political agitation and much else. The LBC is considered a factor in the creation of the Welfare State and in Labour’s landslide election victory of 1945. It closed in 1948.

Today we face a similar crisis to that of the 1930s, with capitalism breeding inequality, suffering and violence around the world. As then, however, the global left remains mobilised and committed to the creation of a fairer society, free of the repression and austerity that has defined the modern era.

The re-launch of the Left Book Club will help us rise to the challenge posed by the global crisis. The LBC will publish four books a year covering a range of progressive traditions, perspectives and ideas focused on the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.

Our aim is for these books to form the basis of a wide network of reading circles, discussion groups and other educational and cultural activities relevant to constructing the conditions for progressive social change in the interests of working people.

Jeremy Corbyn:
The relaunch of the Left Book Club is a terrific and timely idea, and will give intellectual ballast to the wave of political change sweeping Britain and beyond, encouraging informed and compassionate debate.
The work will open minds and inspire. I have a large collection of Left Book Club publications collected by my parents and me.
I support the LBC wholeheartedly.

The Left Book Club:

Glenn Rikowski @ Academia: 
Ruth Rikowski @ Academia:

Monday, 7 September 2015

Discussion on the Education White Paper for England and Extensions of the Commodification Process in Libraries and Schools

Ruth Rikowski


This, rather long title, pertains to the only paper / article written by us (Ruth and Glenn Rikowski) jointly. It appeared in the winter 2005/06 edition of Information for Social Change, Issue 22. We were both mightily concerned with processes and policies relating to the commodification of public services at the time, with Ruth focusing on libraries and Glenn on schools in England.

Furthermore, at the time, both of us were interested in the international dimension to the commodification of public services. Specifically, we were concerned with the likely impact of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). This joint interest brought us together in a practical political sense too, when we became members of Attac London in 2000 and along with others organised a conference on the commodification of state services.

Of course, these topics have gained renewed importance with the current development of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Maybe the halting of significant advances in the WTO’s GATS process since Seattle 1999 in some way precipitated this development.

It is a shame that we have not written more together, and this is something that we aim to rectify in the future.

Meanwhile, this ‘Discussion’ piece can now be found at Academia:

For Ruth, it is at:

Glenn Rikowski’s papers and articles at Academia can be viewed at:

Ruth Rikowski’s papers and articles at Academia can be viewed at:

Ruth and Glenn Rikowski

September 2015
Glenn Rikowski

Power and Control and the Blue Map

(With some useful insights from Glenn Rikowski)

Thinking about power and control and the 'blue map'.

Now, much of the UK is Conservative blue of course.

The reasons for this are various, but the obvious, easy explanation is that those in the rich areas want to keep, and hopefully substantially increase their riches and their goodies. Also, that this rich, ruling class want to keep things the way that they are, to the extent that it benefits themselves. They have too much to lose to want a Labour sweep. This is the naïve, simplistic view but never-the-less it is an important one. However, this cannot adequately explain why masses of people vote Conservative; in particular, it certainly cannot adequately explain the working class Conservative vote. And without these votes, of course, it would be virtually impossible for the Conservatives to get into power and government.

Never-the-less, there is a blue map that covers the whole of the Cambridgeshire Fens and the rural Northamptonshire areas that does not quite fit neatly into this simple explanation anyway. Obviously, there are many other areas that afford other explanations, but for now I want to focus on the Cambridgeshire Fens and rural Northamptonshire areas, specifically.

It is about power and control; it is about divide and rule; it is about people playing psychological games with each other - mind games, which in turn, helps to keep people in their place. It is about trying to avoid madness; it is about trying to be ‘normal’. And so we have very few geniuses coming out of this area, and very few creative people.

Famous People born in the Cambridgeshire Fens and rural Northamptonshire areas (as opposed to Cambridge itself)

What famous people have there been in these areas (as opposed to the City of Cambridge itself, which of course is quite different)? Well, in reality, there are only a few! I will focus on four such people here:  Oliver Cromwell, John Clare, Henry Royce and H.E. Bates.

Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) was born in Huntingdon, then lived in St Ives (both in the Cambridgeshire Fens) but then later moved to London and Manchester and elsewhere. He attended Huntingdon Grammar School and was later elected Member of Parliament for Huntingdon in 1628 and for Cambridge in the Short (1640) and Long (1640-49) Parliaments. His family descended from the sister of Henry VIII’s minister, Thomas Cromwell. He later became a committed Puritan. Then, of course, as we know, he became the leader of the Parliamentarian side in the Civil War, and a Lieutenant General. He had no formal training in military tactics, but had an instinctive ability to lead and train his men. This is the only period in English history when the monarchy was well and truly threatened.

John Clare (1793 – 1864) was an English poet and the son of a farm labourer. He loved the English countryside and did not like to see it being spoilt and disrupted.  He is now often regarded as being one of the most important 19th century poets. He was born in Helpston, which is just 6 miles to the north of the city of Peterborough.  Clare was trying to avoid his parents’ eviction from their home, so he wrote some poems and sonnets and gave them to the local bookseller, Edward Drury. Drury sent them to his cousin John Taylor of the publishing firm Taylor & Hessey, and they published them. He became commonly known as “the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet”. He was torn between literary London and his home background.  He struggled, living amongst his neighbours, and even said, on one occasion:

“I live here among the ignorant like a lost man in fact I like one whom the rest seems careless of having anything to do with – they hardly dare talk in my company for fear I should mention them in my writings and I find more pleasure in wandering the fields than in musing among my silent neighbours who are insensible to everything but toiling and talking of it and that to no purpose.”

Very sadly, and unfortunately, it all got too much for him, and John Clare ended up in mental asylums – firstly in High Beach, Essex (where he started to claim, for example, that he was Lord Byron) and later in Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where he continued to write poetry, including possibly his most famous poem, I Am. He died in Northampton General Lunatic Asylum.

Henry Royce (1863 – 1933) was born in Alwalton, Peterborough.  He was an engineer and car designer who, with Charles Rolls, founded the Rolls-Royce company. In 1878 he started an apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway company at its Peterborough works and from there he started to build-up business sense, and entered into a partnership with Ernest Claremont in Manchester, which was called F. H. Royce and Co.  He then started focusing more on cars and subsequently manufactured his own. The first Rolls-Royce car was unveiled at the Paris Salon in 1904.  Royce was a hard worker.  In 1933, the first Bentley made by Rolls-Royce Ltd appeared.  He lived by the motto: “Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble.” He has a business suite named after him at the Peterborough Marriott Hotel (The Sir Henry Royce Suite), which is located in the Alwalton business park.

H.E. Bates (1905-1974) was born in Rushden, Northamptonshire. He was educated at Kettering Grammar School. He was a novelist, and many of his stories, particularly in his early works, were centred on his native rural Northamptonshire. His first novel was published when he was 20 years old. He was married in 1931 to a local Rushden girl, but then they moved to Kent. One of his most popular novels, The Darling Buds of May focused on the Larkin family which was inspired by a colourful character in Kent. The back cover on The Feast of July, published by Penguin in 1962, had this to say:

“This is H.E. Bates on familiar ground, and the reader cannot fail to be moved by the inarticulate pathos which he extracts from the lives and language of simple country folk.”

So, these figures were all very much something in their own right, but very much buck the general trend of the area. But also note that Cromwell, Royce and Bates all moved beyond the area, whereas Clare did not, but that Clare subsequently went mad. I think this, in itself, speaks volumes about the culture and the area. Ian Parker can enlighten us further here.

Ian Parker's brilliant book 'Revolution in Psychology: alienation to emancipation', published by Pluto Press, 2007, came to mind within this framework, and this helped me, particularly as I was entering a different state of consciousness. Reading Jonathan Black’s very insightful book The Secret History of the World (Quercus, London, 2007) a short while ago, helped me to understand what was happening to myself. Black talks about ‘altered states’ and asks:

“Could it be that it is not so much that genius is next to madness but that genius is next to the altered states brought on by esoteric training?” (p.336).

He suggests that:

“…higher knowledge of the world comes from altered states of consciousness” (p.334).

Also that:

History shows that the people who have worked on the very boundaries of human intelligence have reached this place in altered states” (p.334 – original emphasis).

The inspiration that inspired me to write this piece came from an altered state of mind that I found myself in that flowed from a recent event and some disconcerting experiences. This ‘altered state’ also led me to think once again about Ian Parker’s book.

So yes, let's have another look at that all-important book by Ian Parker.

As Parker says:

"Psychology is important not because it is true but because it is so useful to those in power." (p. 1)

Absolutely – power and control.

Dehumanising and Fragmenting

Ian Parker goes on to say that:

"Psychology is not only about individuals but it is also a way of theorising and managing social relationships. It does this by focusing on the individual and breaking up the individual into measurable components. The main problem is not that it does not work. The main problem is that it works so well because it confirms some of the most dehumanising practices that many people take for granted, practices that are a necessary part of the fabric of capitalist society." (p. 31-2)

Yes – divide and rule. Natter about this one; natter about that one. Criticise this one; criticise that one. Pick holes in this one; pick holes in that one. Why are they doing this? Why are they doing that? Why can’t they be more together? Why is this man going out with this woman? Why is this person not caring for this other person better? Why is this married woman going with another man? Why does this person not sweep their front better?  Why doesn’t that person not get a new car, a new TV, a new kitchen or some other fancy gadget? It dehumanises people; it fragments people; it alienates people from themselves and from each other.

The Female Issue
Then, of course, there is the female issue – well, that is even worse. If females don’t toe the line and be boring people doing the housework and talking about everyday things, then well – they might be witches, they might be mad people. Dangerous people; marginalise them; put them away; lock them up, if necessary. Can’t have intelligent women doing their own thing, thinking for themselves – far too dangerous. No, got to keep women in their place. The Stepford Wives scenario, and all that.

As Ian Parker says:

"Psychology merely repeats in a different key...the standard psychiatric images of women as closer to madness; femininity as such was historically seen as something more unstable, pathological and closer to nature, as can be seen in the classic nineteenth-century conceptions of 'hysteria'. Women cannot win within these theoretical coordinates, and the practice of psychiatry and psychology has ensured that 'normal femininity' is itself a trap which will serve to alienate the woman from herself at the very moment that she is supposed to be cured." (pp. 102-3)

Yes, alienating women from themselves; from their own sexuality. Philippa Gregory considers how women have been portrayed throughout history, particularly in the medieval period, emphasising the fact that women have been seen to be either angels or whores, and that neither extreme is right. In her book ‘The Women of the Cousins’ War’ (written with David Baldwin and Michael Jones), Simon and Schuster, 2011, she says:

“I believe that women are excluded from medieval history as historical characters because of the traditional view at the time of the nature of women, which was that women were innately incapable of major public acts: ‘The Church provided two models for women: Eve the temptress and Mary, the Mother of God; thus society viewed women as either pure and virginal or filled with the carnal lust of the deceitful Eve. In either case the culture stereotyped them.’ ” (p.19)

Also, that:

“Whether a woman is being regarded as Eve the temptress of Mary the Virgin, this is still to view her in relation to her sexual activity with men, and this is private activity, not a public or historical act. Women were not seen as having a public nature; they were often observed performing visible, significant and historical acts. When a woman broke this taboo and was clearly involved in public acts, the medieval historians of her time were forced to see her as a stereotype or – at the worst – hardly a woman at all. If she was neither Eve nor Mary, then she must be a man…Traditional historians do not look for energetic, effective women; and when they cannot blind themselves to the vibrant presence of such a woman, rather than amend their views of women, they define her instead as so exceptional as to be a pseudo-man.” (pp. 23-4)

So, women are angels, virgin-like and mother-types or whores and witches or pseudo-men. How can females possibly have another mode of being? Crazy! No wonder females struggle with their own sexuality, and with trying to figure out what it is really to be feminine, and to be properly in touch with their own sexuality and their own femininity, and with their own intelligence; and indeed, fundamentally to be at one with themselves. Instead, we have many females who in attempting to get out of this rut, just end up taking on male characteristics instead (Margaret Thatcher being an excellent example here). And female hysteria, with females desperately trying to find another (albeit unfortunately large inadequate) way of trying to express themselves: well, that is something else and is certainly often seen to be a threat to males!

Psychoanalysis working on workers in capitalist society

Ian Parker again:

"What psychoanalysis seems to offer is a way of accounting for the way that workers in capitalist society develop a 'fear of freedom' and fall in love with the very forms of oppression that grind them down. They thus not only accept their servitude but revel in their own 'slavery' and despise those who want to rebel against law and order. These psychoanalytic perspectives aim to understand and unravel the deepest roots of alienation." (p. 176)

Yes, indeed, so people accept their own state of servitude; indeed, they embrace it; they revel in it. They become their own oppressors. This is the point that Ian Parker is making. The capitalist state doesn’t have to do anything much – how convenient! But never-the-less the capitalist state works tirelessly to adapt individuals to capitalist life. People become frightened of freedom; they are scared of the idea of trying to find themselves and of aiming to be at one with their species being and to draw out and express their own creative energies in positive ways (see my previous blog, for example, about expressing our creative energies in positive ways in our homes: ‘Transforming Homes into Creative Places at’).

Indeed, some rebel against it. They reject and rebel against those who want to challenge any aspect of capitalist forms of law and order and they repel those who want to try to create a society that is better suited for themselves and their wants and needs. Instead, in their deep sub-conscious they are serving the wants and needs of the ruling class. But of course, they do not understand that. Instead, they think they are living in ways that benefits themselves, especially as many now have more material possessions. So, they think that this conformist approach has given them a better standard of living. But all that is more do with what happened after the 2nd World War – just watch Ken Loach’s great film ‘The Spirit of ‘45’ to understand more about all of that. Loach demonstrates how the post-Second World War Labour government gave working people the Welfare State in the fear that failure to do this might entail workers making socialist revolution. But now all of this is gradually being reversed and unravelled, and much of this trend started with Margaret Thatcher in the UK, of course. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, with the middle class being “squeezed” and the trend is continuing and strengthening as we continue to vote in Tory government after Tory government in the UK. Heavens!

Ian Parker continues:

"Psychoanalysis is an example of a practice of control that constitutes the very stuff which it represses; at the very moment that it shuts 'irrationality' out, it creates that irrationality as something that may then erupt at times of crisis, as if it were always already there. In this sense, psychoanalysis is rather like capitalism, for capitalism creates the very collective force that will be able to overthrow it." (p. 178)
So, in this way, we can certainly live in hope. In attempting to control and block out irrationality, capitalism can let it all in on another occasion and in another way. This is one of the many contradictions of capitalism, of course.

However, these Cambridgeshire Fens and rural Northamptonshire areas represent an oppressed people; people from peasant backgrounds that had to do the bidding of the rich farmers and land owners, up to the early 20th century. Many people became ill; many people died. And many of those that survived kept quiet and ‘knew their place’. Significant remnants of this culture are present today. Yet today, comparatively, they think they are in paradise. This is just an illusion. Now, many are servile and slaves in a different way. In some ways, it is in a more scary fashion, as it is not so transparent.

The Working Class Conservative Voter

I began this piece offering some simple explanation as to why people vote Conservative. But of course, it is much more complex than that. I examined voting patterns as part of my first degree actually, looking in particular, at why people vote Labour. And voting pattern behaviour is something that I have followed in the newspapers and on TV for many years. I have much understanding and knowledge of the academic arguments and explanations in regard to voting patterns and behaviour.  However, this piece arose out of an emotional situation (not an academic one), and an altered state that I found myself in following on from this situation, and I had to start somewhere.

But why do working class, ordinary people specifically then, vote Conservative? Well, when I first went to the Cambridgeshire Fens area in 1975, I thought it could be explained simply by the deferential vote.  Here, I was also drawing on my degree studies in regard to this topic, at the time. The people in that area not being very educated; not being very confident in many ways; and putting their hope and faith in people that have more cultured, educated backgrounds than they did. Also, putting their faith in people that had more money and more influence, and just being ‘more together’ people, and being more establishment figures etc. And I mean, after all, John Major was the Conservative MP for that area (Huntingdon and Huntingdonshire) as well, from 1979. He entered the House of Commons in 1979 and left in 2001.

But my recent exploration of this topic makes me realise that that was rather a naïve explanation for this conservatism, and perhaps, indeed, was too closely tied to neat and tidy academic explanations and arguments. So, it is all complex. Living, and breathing and feeling the real experience added another dimension for me. Well, it was the combination actually. I have visited the area many times since 1975 but without the intellectual take/outlook that I/we had on this latest visit and did not/could not stand back and see the situation quite clearly enough. Although we have certainly attempted to do this over the years, but it has not been easy. But this time we (and then I, as I made the decision to write this piece) combined the two in ways that we had never done before. Yes, this piece is very much a result of the process of combining academic and intellectual arguments and positions (and academic and intellectual arguments are not exactly the same thing either – but won’t go into that right now), along with a feel and indeed an embodiment of the local culture and the local folk. Yes, being with the local folk; talking to them; participating in experiences with them and encapsulating some of those experiences. Then, as I say, on return I entered into an altered state of consciousness, which was temporarily very scary and disturbing; well, terrifying in fact! In this highly charged altered state I thought again about Ian Parker’s book and it all suddenly became much clearer; I suddenly understood so much, and I just had to write this piece, in order to articulate it all. It is more disturbing but also sadder than I (and to some extent we) originally thought.

In fact, thinkers and creative folk from this area (and who remain in this area) could quite easily and conceivably go mad, as John Clare did, I feel sure. And others coming from that area who get an education (even if they move away), and become all-round more confident and educated people, are still likely to be told to ‘keep themselves in their place’, if and when they go back, and not to get big ideas ‘above their station’. They are encouraged to go back to being a simple village-type person. And then, if and when they are that, people in the villages seek to mess each other’s heads up. They do not support each other, but instead, doubt each other and make each other lose confidence, or worse. They cause divisions with and between each other – all of which really suits the ruling class, of course, because then these people become more unconfident and even more likely to be deferential voters and vote Conservative, in order to increase their confidence, and their need, as they see it, for a stable country/nation. All this does people’s heads in and keeps them in their place. We ourselves have to stand back, to make sure that we don’t get immersed in these games. But we now have the privilege of being able to look at it all from an educated, and safer, perspective.

So we have this vast area of Conservative blue in the UK which helps to ensure that power and control remains firmly in the hands of the ruling class. And sadly this is made possible by vast numbers of working class, ordinary people who vote Conservative in the Cambridgeshire Fens and rural Northamptonshire areas. These are ordinary, working class/lower middle class people, many of who are suppressed; a people that suppress each other; a people that are alienated from themselves and from each other. Also, a people who mess each other up (neighbours, friends, relations etc.), rather than giving each other proper support – or at the very least they aim to kill ambition in each other and/or try to stop each other from being at one their species being and with their creative side. So, they are not actually quite the simple, country folk that we might initially think they are. Yet, it is all very unfortunate, sad and tragic, and it is amazing that the mental health problem in the area is not higher than it is – but that, in itself, is part of the effectiveness of the power and control, I guess. So, these people help to keep each other in this state, and the ruling class do not even have to do all that much in reality – although the right-wing press and all that, is always there offering assistance and verification of its own position, of course! All of that, along with the deferential voter too! We are up against so much; but challenge it all we must. There is no other sensible and intelligent way forward.


Bates. H.E. The Feast of July, Penguin, Middlesex, 1962

Black, Jonathan The Secret History of the World, Quercus, London, 2007

Gregory, Philippa with Baldwin, David and Michael Jones, The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother, Simon and Schuster, London, 2011

Parker, Ian Revolution in Psychology: alienation to emancipation, Pluto Press, London, 2007