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1 December 2021 Cath

Our Leeds co-operator senses history repeating itself

Does anyone else feel an increasing amount of history repeating?

A few months ago, in Brighton, I saw a gig poster for a triple bill of Eat Static, Banco de Gaia and Zion Train – had I fallen down a wormhole into 1995? I pinched myself.

But it is a fitting soundtrack for the year: just like 1995, there’s a Kill the Bill campaign to really bring back memories of the Freedom Network – past attempts to defend our freedoms against legislation increasing police powers, restricting…

1 December 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

A letter to Fibromyalgia

Dear Fibromyalgia,

You woke me up three times last night. When sleep finally came, my careful, conscious positioning of my body went out the window. And so, you woke me with pain. When I finally woke at an appropriate hour, you greeted me instantly; my constant, demanding companion. Over the night, carefully-maintained joints and muscles have stiffened, the previous day’s physiotherapy undone.

I feel like I haven’t slept – non-restorative sleep is typical with fibromyalgia.…

1 December 2021 Claire Poyner

Our columnist urges you to check your facts

You may be familiar with the children’s, or parlour, game where participants line up, or sit in a circle, and pass a message along. Somewhere along the line, the message becomes garbled and the amusement is in comparing the result with the original message.

The typical result was along the lines of: ‘send reinforcements, we’re going to advance’. This became ‘send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance’. That’s obviously more than 50 years old.

The name ‘Chinese Whispers’…

1 December 2021 Milan Rai

You may not know this, but there was a whole 14-paragraph section of the Glasgow agreement dealing with climate-related ‘loss and damage’.

The Guardian reported that this was ‘perhaps the most bitterly fought section of all’.

The phrase ‘loss and damage’ first appeared when the original UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was being drawn up in 1991.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) asked for an international insurance pool to be created to ‘…

1 October 2021 Benjamin Zephaniah

A poem by Benjamin Zephaniah

‘The peace garden is opposite the War Memorial,’
Said the old soldier.

‘We had to fight to make the peace
Back in the good old days.’

‘No, the War Memorial is opposite the peace garden,’
Said the old pacifist.

‘You’ve had so many wars to end all wars,
Still millions are dying from the wars you left behind.’

‘Look,’ said the old soldier.
‘You chickens stuck your peace garden
In front of our War Memorial to cause non-violent…

1 October 2021 Penny Stone

Penny Stone looks at some of the ways in which music is being used to fight climate change

Here in Scotland, a year later than expected, COP26 is nearly upon us. As the global climate emergency worsens before our very eyes, world leaders will gather to discuss their collective priorities and plan for action (or inaction).

While the pandemic has amplified the unequal access to this forum for those communities who are most affected, there are many challenges to the COP structure that I’m sure will be addressed by others.

But for grassroots climate activists, it’s…

1 October 2021 Ambrose Musiyiwa

Ambrose Musiyiwa meets the poet Catherine Okoronkwo

Recently, I interviewed the poet Catherine Okoronkwo, who is the advisor on racial justice to the bishop of Bristol, Vivienne Faull, helping to deliver on commitments made following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.

Okoronkwo, who was born to Nigerian parents and grew up in the Middle East, is currently vicar of All Saints and St Barnabas in Swindon.

Okoronkwo sees her father, who passed away recently, as one of…

1 October 2021 Cath

Our Leeds cooperator finds herself enjoying a clash of consciousnesses

The Zapatistas are coming!

Oh no they’re not! Oh yes they are!

Activists around Europe have been planning since January to receive touring Zapatistas, on a ‘Journey of Life’, a field survey of Europe, trying to understand our social and political context and to find accomplices.

The news that they might arrive in a week is apparently surprising.

A chance conversation, being in the right place at the right time, means I’m suddenly involved in trying to find…

1 October 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

A call for solidarity with ordinary Afghans

I don’t think I am in alone in watching in absolute horror as the rest of the world has abandoned Afghanistan to the Taliban. Our government, with many others, has betrayed their democracy, and abandoned them to a theocratic regime with a reputation for brutality, especially towards women and girls.

For the past 20 years our Afghan sisters have made great strides towards equality. They formed a national cricket team, competed in the Olympics and won awards for their scientific work.…

1 October 2021 Claire Poyner

Our columnist surveys some common statistical pitfalls

‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’

We don’t know who originally came up with this. It wasn’t Benjamin Disraeli though some attribute it to him. Wasn’t Mark Twain, either, though he did popularise it.

When I was an undergraduate, we were recommended to read Darrell Huff’s How to Lie with Statistics, which I still have a copy of (indeed, I still have most of my degree textbooks). It’s worth a read, although it’s very old, written in the…

1 October 2021 Milan Rai

Milan Rai pieces together the story of a crucial moment in the Cuban Missile Crisis

Nine years ago, we wrote about a Russian naval officer named Vasili Arkhipov who saved the world.

We’ve learned since then that the story of Arkhipov’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis was a little more complicated than we thought. Even so, it is clear that Arkhipov played a key role in preventing a confrontation at sea turning into global nuclear war.

On 27 October 1962, 12 US warships surrounded a submerged Soviet submarine, the B-59, a began dropping hand grenades…

1 October 2021 PN staff

During COP26, protest in Glasgow or where you live

The COP26 Coalition has called a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice for Saturday 6 November, halfway through the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow.

They are calling on people to either come to Glasgow for a national demonstration or to take action nearer to home.

There will be a People’s Summit for Climate Justice from 7 – 10 November.

The COP26 Coalition is a UK-based civil society coalition of groups and individuals mobilising around climate justice during…

1 August 2021 Milan Rai

Stop the spread of speedy, more lethal, vaccine-resistant variants

England is entering a dangerous period. British prime minister Boris Johnson is knowingly creating the perfect conditions to breed stronger variants of COVID-19 that can overcome the vaccine.

A group of experts warned in a letter to the medical journal, the Lancet on 7 July that the complete lifting of almost all COVID restrictions in England on 19 July was ‘dangerous and premature’.

One of the concerns of the expert group was the long-term health of the millions of…

1 August 2021 Penny Stone

Penny Stone goes in search of some English inspiration

Nearly everyone I talk to is feeling a bit weary just now. Weary with the pandemic and all that it means, weary with the chipping away of the welfare state and the lack of honest and compassionate human behaviour demonstrated in Westminster.

Weary with the upsurge of overt racism that Brexit has brought us and weary with fear and anger for the future of the planet and its people, flora and fauna.

It’s the same old stories: divide and conquer; keep the rich getting richer and…

1 August 2021 Ambrose Musiyiwa

Ambrose Musiyiwa reflects on the power of festivals

With some of my friends, for the past eight Decembers, I have been co-organising the week-long Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival. We believe that festivals and the arts have an important role to play in creating, maintaining and defending a culture of human rights.

Through its seven days of poetry, music, performances, film, art, talks and discussion, the festival creates a forum for engaging with human rights issues at home and abroad.

With the support of local…

1 August 2021 Cath

Our Leeds co-operator celebrates some of the joyous, proactive, determined and curious actions she's experienced recently

Today was weird. On whatever untrained basis, I ‘mediated’ two people from another housing co-op for six hours. A really overwhelming sentiment was the disappointment, disillusion and disengagement created by other people’s apathy.

It’s hard to hold a neutral space and encourage creative, open thinking when you’re hearing your own cynical and depressed thoughts repeated back to you.

So what I need now is to celebrate all the joyous, proactive, connected, determined, adventurous…

1 August 2021 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Our children can't continue to pay the price for Tory austerity, argues Rebecca Elson-Watkins

As I write this, BBC News is reporting the fatal stabbings of a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old in different parts of South London, within hours of each other. Another 15-year-old child has been arrested for one of the murders.

So far, 21 teenagers have been murdered in London in 2021.

As we ease out of lockdown, our old social problems are resurfacing with a vengeance.

Personally, I think the blame falls…

1 August 2021 Claire Poyner

Our columnist develops an interest in football ...

I’m not much into football, though I do live with a football ‘fan’ and it’s sometimes on TV when I am in the room.

I’m usually reading or playing a game on my phone. Sometimes I get the headphones on and watch something on the iPad.

Same goes for the cycling: Tour de France, etc.

I’ve never been sporty and it’s not something I generally take much interest in.

This latest England team, though.

I’ve taken a bit more interest in the matches (in between reading…

1 August 2021 Kathryn Southworth

A poem by Kathryn Southworth

Find your way to the roof of Gloucestershire,
beyond the handsome stone of Painswick,
past mellow Sheepscombe, pretty Miserden,
through avenues of beech and larch
to the back-of-beyond,
and you may stumble on a onetime white road,
on either side shacks and bungalows
dumped anyhow. 

This was The Colony.
And so it is still. 

Gathering all conditions of folk,
from university to able seamen,
and many women too,

1 August 2021 Cath

Climate campaigner who left a legacy of over half a million trees

For climate campaigners, Penny was best known for supergluing – she glued herself to the revolving doors of lastminute.com’s HQ as part of a Plane Stupid action, she glued herself to a shelf in Boots because of their accounting practices, and she famously glued herself to the gates of the Heathrow Climate Camp to stop the police entering the site, earning enormous gratitude and respect.

But this was really the tiny cherry on the enormous cake of her life’s work to mitigate climate…