Smith, Erica

Smith, Erica

Erica Smith

1 August 2022Review

Ebury, 2022; 400pp; £20

Five women give first-hand accounts of four undercover police spies who targeted them between 1987 and 2010. It is gripping and sickening to learn the extent of abuse that these women – and others – experienced. The format of the book involves short, dated sections from each of the five women, so that their stories are woven together. This can be confusing at times but it keeps the reader’s focus on the progress of their grooming, gaslighting and ghosting – and on their partial victory…

1 August 2022Review

The Sentinel Publishing, 2021; 212pp; £9.99

Ted Parker was a working-class boy born in bomb-blasted Folkestone in 1942. His father was an army dispatch rider in the Second World War who died of Hodgkinson’s disease when Ted was eight. His mother was left to bring up two children alone and scraped a living as a cleaner in an army base.

When Ted was 13, she remarried and her new husband bought Ted his first guitar. Folk music and rock’n’roll remained important throughout Ted’s personal and political life. He did not do well at…

1 August 2022Review

Verso, 2021; 336pp; £20

‘1977 was the Queen’s 25th Jubilee, so we were subjected to doses of gush and drool in the media accompanied by her celebratory pink hat.… Labour was in power, but the new leader, James Callaghan, was more royal than the royals, and I was aware that a new right lurked among the Conservatives, deploying a rhetoric of freedom while backing the suppression of trade unions as well as gays.’

This quote is so topical I had to include it in the review, although it is one of the most…

1 December 2021Review

Imperial College London 2021; 30m; available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ8vRk0e_Hk

Roma communities were first recorded in the British Isles in 1505, and Irish travellers have been here for much longer. These nomadic communities have always been the subjects of suspicion, fear and abuse – arguably that is why they have continued to travel from place to place. 

This short documentary highlights the most recent threat to travelling communities from the Police Bill, which is currently going through parliament. If passed it will mean that the failure to leave an illegal…

1 October 2021Feature

Erica Smith reviews a new book from Four Corners

The eighth of Four Corners’ picture-rich ‘Irregulars’ publications celebrates the powerful heritage of banners produced for and at Greenham Common Peace Camp between late summer 1981 and when the camps were finally disbanded in 2000.

Banners made by one of the Peace Camp founders, Thalia Campbell, often with the help of her husband, Ian, her children, friends and others, are well-represented in this book. Thalia was one of the women on the inaugural march from Cardiff to Greenham…

4 July 2021Review

Unbound, 2019; 312pp; £10.99

A couple of years ago, I picked up a flyer promoting this (then forthcoming) book from Unbound. During lockdown, I finally tracked down a copy. You may wonder whether a book about wrestling deserves space in Peace News. I hope I will persuade you that it does.

The author was an awkward schoolgirl with no more than a passing interest in wrestling, who discovered the underground punk movement, Riot Grrrl and feminism. 

Wrestling seems an unlikely saviour, but at 21, as…

11 December 2020Review

Bedazzled Ink Publishing Company, 2020; 228 pp; £12.99

I’ve reviewed two other Greenham-related memoirs for PN: Juley Howard’s Righteous Anger (PN 2616 – 2617) and Charlie Kiss’s A New Man (PN 2636 – 2637). Both of those authors literally ‘grew up’ at Greenham Common – arriving there aged 16, soon after the camp formed in September 1981.

By contrast, Stephanie Davies grew up in an idyllic Hampshire village, and was in her early twenties before she decided to end a conventional heterosexual life and join…

9 December 2020Review

Myriad, 2019; 320pp; £17.99

This chunky 320-page graphic memoir is an absolute treasure trove of LGBTQ+ history.

Kate Charlesworth was born in 1950 and her autobiography reminds us how much has changed over the last seven decades. If anyone is looking for an introduction to queer history, this is the perfect place to start.

The artwork throughout the book is totally engaging. Charlesworth varies her drawing style to suit each ‘chapter’ of her life story and the different graphic techniques convey both the…

1 December 2019Review

Matador, 2017; 210pp; £13.99

The sub-title of this book condenses a complex life into a compact haiku.

The author was born in London in 1965 to a Colombian mother and a father with Hungarian heritage. Charlie Kiss is his real name, but when he was born, his birth certificate identified him as female. He lived as a lesbian until his early 30s when he realised that he was transgender. It took until 2007 for him to complete his transition.

The early part of Charlie’s life saw him growing up playing…

1 October 2019Review

Zed, 2019; 256pp; £20

This book was first published 25 years ago as Gay Pride to commemorate what was then the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. This edition has lost the word ‘Gay’ (embracing the wider range of contemporary ‘Pride’) and has gained some additional photographs.

Introductory texts by Peter Tatchell and Hilton Als have been added to essays by Allen Ginsberg and Jill Johnston.

In Tatchell’s foreword, he reminds us of the massive strides made in the last 50 years. ‘Back…

1 October 2018Review

Four Corners Books, 2018; 152pp; £12

In 1979, the trade unionist and communist Richard Scott founded Leeds Postcards, which he named after the city where he lived and worked. The first postcard, beautifully illustrated by Peter Smith, was sponsored by the occupational health and safety magazine, Hazards Bulletin and warned of the dangers posed by ‘visual display units’ – the name given to computer screens when they began to be used in the workplace. Forty years later, despite computers taking over our lives and social…

1 August 2018Review

Four Corners Books, 2018; 128pp; £10

In the summer of 1968, a young man named Sam Lord combined forces with Peter Dukes and Jean Lou Msika (a French Tunisian expelled from France because of his involvement in the May uprisings in Paris) to set up a low-cost/no-cost screenprint workshop in a damp basement on London’s Camden Road.

Over the next three years, the Poster Workshop printed thousands of revolutionary/protest posters from hundreds of designs. Peter Dukes kept a copy of every poster that was printed.

1 August 2018Review

OR Books, rev ed 2018; 388 pp; £10.99; ebook £7. Purchase online here

Alex Nunn’s engaging style makes Corbyn’s journey from jam-making backbencher to leader of the opposition seem both exciting and totally rational.

Last year, The Candidate won the Bread and Roses award for radical publishing. That first edition traced Corbyn’s rise up to the attempted coup by right-wing Labour MPs in mid-2016.

This new edition includes a 100-page(!) chapter covering last June’s snap general election and the incredible surge of support for…

1 August 2018Review

Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, Lodge Hill Lane, Ditchling, East Sussex BN6 8SP until 14 October (Tues – Sat: 10.30am–5pm; Sundays & bank holidays: 11am – 5pm; £6.50 / £5.50, under-16s free)


emergency use soft shoulder (1966). Photo: Josh White, courtesy Corite Art Centre, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft may seem an unlikely place to host an exhibition of 1960s Warhol-inspired socially-engaged prints from California, but these brightly-coloured, life-affirming texts by Corita Kent make for an exciting dialogue with artworks by members of the Roman Catholic local artistic community in the permanent collection.

In 1921,…

1 April 2018Review

FeedARead.com, 2017; 372pp; £8.99

This book is a singular account of a community of action which didn’t just witness history, but was instrumental in changing it: Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. 25 years on, life experiences can be forgotten, so I am grateful to Howard and Moulin for collecting these reminiscences for posterity.

Like the film Pulp Fiction, this book begins at the end – with an action in 1993 where 16 women climbed into the grounds of Buckingham Palace to condemn nuclear testing in the…