Festivals/ Events

Festivals/ Events (8)

This section contains previews, reviews etc. of arts and cultural festivals and similar special events.

People, Pits and Politics festival: arise!

People, Pits and Politics festival: arise!

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Assembly Rooms Theatre, 40 North Bailey, Durham

Friday 13th July, 8pm


An evening of poetry & song at the PPP festival

8 strong & varied working-class voices from the North East of England.

This event includes the launch of 'arise!', a new pamphlet-length poem by Paul Summers commissioned by Culture Matters for the Durham Miners' Gala.


Jane Burn Poet & illustrator, originally from South Yorkshire, now based in the North East.

Julie Hogg Poet, performer & teacher from Redcar.

Joan Johnston Poet, performer & tutor from Tyneside.

Paul Summers Northumbrian poet, performer & literary activist.

Rob Walton Writer, performer & teacher, originally from Scunthorpe, now lives in North Shields.

Andy Willoughby Poet, performer & literary activist from Middlesbrough now living in Durham.



Nev Clay A tender & lyrical observer of everyday pain & wonder, a fine wordsmith & legend of the local scene.

Bugman (Ryan Siddal) A post-punk pop troubadour, whose work moves effortlessly between well crafted rage & beautifully reported sensitivity, from dark urban narratives to the wryly comic.


CSM Art Degree Show 2018

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Show One: Art Degree Show 2018, 23 May - 27 May 2018

Opening times:

Wednesday to Friday: 12-8pm
Saturday to Sunday: 12-5pm.

Location: Central Saint Martins, 1 Granary Square, King's Cross, N1C 4AA. The show is free and open to the public, no need to book.

A Perfect Vacuum Empty Cell resized

A Perfect Vacuum (Empty Cell) by Alix Emery

Charles hoover and James hoover joined together with a Henry Hoover Flexible Hose Tube Pipe Hetty NVR200 Vacuum Cleaner Spare Part, cleaned rectangle
200 x 200 x 30cm

A Perfect Vacuum (Empty Cell) is a cleaned rectangle of the floor within a larger messy section of the floor site specific to the painting studios for the degree show. The negative space is equal dimensions to the standard size of a prison cell, continuing the research into abstract painting as a confinement.

A Fully Funded Pipedream 2

A Fully Funded Pipedream by Alix Emery

Bick slips, mortar, 4 used waste pipes, 4 elbows, 2 wall clips, 4 screws, written word, funnel, duct tape, saucepan without lid, hotplate, extension lead, white farmhouse loaf, broken brick slip
241 x 300 x 71cm

This is a nonsensical structure, where the steam from A Fully Funded Pipedream very slowly acts to dissolve the mortar in the brick wall, thus liberating the audience from its confines. This was inspired by a prison break method of dousing a brick wall in water and then soaking the moisture up with bread and reapplying the water repeatedly to the wall.

Meanwhile, what about socialism?

Meanwhile, what about socialism?

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Conrad Landin introduces the AV Festival in Newcastle. 

When the AV Festival lost its funding in the latest round of Arts Council awards, there was little outcry in the national press. The fact that the festival is defiantly not London focused — connecting as it does north-east England with art projects the world over — could well point us to why. But though the festival which opened last week could well be the last, it shows no signs of abating in its boldness, vibrancy and originality.

This year's AV is the second to be titled Meanwhile, What About Socialism? The first, staged two years ago, explored the history of industry and left-wing institutions and the festival's formidable director Rebecca Shatwell says that 2018’s programme is all about presenting “new work by artists and film-makers that consider the future.”

AV Lucy Parker Apologies 2016 film still. Courtesy the artist 2

Lucy Parker, Apologies, 2016, film still. Courtesy the artist

Its highlights include a new commission from New Delhi’s Raqs Media Collective, Provisions for Everybody, which follows the path of George Orwell from his Indian birthplace to the north of England, Catalonia and Burma. Lucy Parker’s video installation Apologies comes from extensive work with the Blacklist Support Group, a campaign well familiar to Morning Star readers. But rather than simply dwelling on the crimes of the past, it questions the worth of public apologies and examines the continued campaign for a public inquiry.

At Newcastle’s Mining Institute, Prabhakar Pachpute has connected England and India across mining landscapes, mechanics and trade unionism, while Jeamin Cha’s Twelve reimagines the work of South Korea’s clandestine minimum wage commission, bringing the limits of arbitration to the fore.

AV marx

Raoul Peck, The Young Karl Marx

In its opening weekend, the festival hosted the British premiere of Raoul Peck’s film The Young Karl Marx, which charts Marx and Engels’s collaboration up to the writing of the Communist Manifesto in 1848. It was followed by an enlightening post-screening discussion on the relevance of Marx’s writings today, which I took part in, with Shuddhabrata Sengupta of Raqs arguing that the film’s strongest message was “the communism of everyday life” through adopting a broader perspective than the classic biopic. Instead, it examines Marx’s collaboration with Engels and the influence of other intellectuals such as the anarchist Proudhon. Equally key, with a lot of welcome creative licence taken, is the supportive role played by Marx’s aristocratic wife Jenny and Engels’s working-class Irish partner Mary Burns. Both are shown to be fierce intellectual minds in their own right.

“It’s a network of people who argue, support each other, fight and fall in love,” Sengupta said. And he contended that the “lively maturity” of the film’s intellectual exchanges is something today’s left should be seeking to emulate.

I welcomed the British left’s renewed interest in ideas. Under new Labour, social democratic politics rejected debate and intellectualism while embracing the worst aspects of the academic world — technocratic management, think-tank wonkery and the fetishisation of selective aspects of the new. The new generation of left activists, freed from the shackles of cultish Trotskyite sects thanks to Labour’s transformation into a mass movement, is instead embracing political education.

In my new home town of Glasgow, Scottish Young Labour has set up a night school to train activists in the basics of theory and practice, while in Manchester the newly established Chorlton Socialist Club is attracting huge crowds for gigs and political discussions alike. At Sunday night’s screening, Newcastle city councillor Nigel Todd said that, as a veteran Labour activist, he welcomed the change in political culture. “The past 30 years have been like living in a coffin,” he said. Another audience member, a striking lecturer at Newcastle University, urged fellow viewers to join the picket lines and teach-ins this week.

Once again, the AV Festival was using the past to look to the future and using the ideas of far away to think about fault lines far closer to home. It’s a massive shame, though not surprising, that Britain’s arts establishment isn’t interested.

The AV festival runs until March 31, details: avfestival.co.uk. This article was first published in the Morning Star.

Combat au bout de la nuit

The arts can imagine alternatives: Chi Onwurah MP introduces the AV arts festival

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Chi Onwurah MP made the following address at the opening of the biannual AV Festival in Newcastle upon Tyne recently.

You know the mining institute is one of my favourite buildings in the city, built by engineers, enjoyed by everyone. But as I stand here with Rebecca opposite the picture gallery – all these paintings of men, well, they may be Geordie men but they are very like all the paintings of men which follow me around the houses of parliament. And it’s ironic that it should be two women championing the telling of our stories in the face of all these men! But I want to start by saying how great it is to be opening the the AV Festival – again!


As I said last time I was here, I was sorry to see the demise of the Tyneside Film Festival. It was a great reflection of the region, focusing as it did on politically engaged film making. But we still have the Tyneside Cinema, best cinema in the world, and I’m pleased that we still have such a wide range of quality cultural events like the AV Festival and the Newcastle International Film Festival which is launching later this month.

Not only do events like this benefit those lucky enough to call Newcastle home but they draw in visitors from all over the country and the world too. The AV Festival has been doing that work here for fifteen years and looking ahead at this year’s programme I hope you’re all as excited as I am.

Road to Wigan Pier

The theme for this year continues to be The Road to Wigan Pier – picking up where the last festival left off two years ago. As The Road to Wigan Pier is a two-part book, it is fitting that we are now returning to ‘Part Two’ of the Festival.

I first read the book when I was 12 or 13. When people ask how I got my political education, I say listening to my mum, reading George Orwell and growing up in the eighties. The first part of the book was about trying to convey the real lives, the very real poverty and struggle that ordinary working class people lived through every day, albeit through the eyes of an Old Etonian. The second half is a long political essay in which Orwell describes his middle-class upbringing and questions British attitudes towards socialism.

Two years ago during ‘Part One’ of the Festival, the context was very different. Labour’s bitter defeat of the 2015 election was still fresh in the memory, we were trailing in the polls, austerity was hegemonic, working people were suffering. And the Brexit referendum was looming. When Osborne wasn’t on TV smirking about the virtues of his zombie economics, it was Farage saying that UK needed to ‘take back control of our borders’. So in 2016 the question ‘what about socialism?’ could have been met with a shrug. ‘What about it?’

A broken economic model

In 2018 it still may not be question on everyone’s lips, but when even the Financial Times is asking if the country needs a socialist Chancellor, it is clear that a lot has changed. Since 2016 the country has voted to leave the European Union – a fact that I am sure passed none of you by. It makes me angry when commentators blame Brexit and its consequences – rising hate crime, paralysing economic uncertainty – on the Northern working class, those ‘left behind’ by globalisation. It’s especially ironic given that the ‘Brexit revolution’ was led by a Surrey stockbroker and an old Etonian.

But the vote for Brexit was driven in part by a broken economic model. And I believe it that it was a backlash against this model that led in part to Labour’s unexpected success at the last election. Our message won hearts and minds across the country, we gained 10 percentage points and over 30 MPs. Our party now has almost 600,000 members, and our youth wing has more members than the entire Conservative party.

Two years ago at this festival visual artists from Newcastle and beyond were able to shine a light on Britain’s injustices and provide – in Rebecca’s words – ‘historical foregrounding to the theme’, much as Orwell did in the first half of the Road to Wigan Pier. In 2018, I believe we’re now better equipped to do what Orwell did in the second half of his book – analyse, discuss, and imagine an alternative. To return to that question ‘What about socialism?’

Imagining the alternative

I’ve always admired the power of the arts to inspire and inform on a whole range of important issues, to respond viscerally to the important issues affecting our city, our country and our planet.
Art can illustrate – as I, Daniel Blake did so powerfully – the callousness of Tory welfare policies, the precariousness of modern work, the reality of poverty. But it can also inspire people, can help them to imagine and articulate alternatives to the world we live in.

Too often in recent years our future has been seen as something to be determined by investors, financial speculators, and Whitehall mandarins – not people on the streets of Newcastle. Festivals are an antidote to this. They are unique in the way they inspire interest and allow the power of contemporary culture to burst forth. This festival creates, captures and harnesses the energy of visual artists and visitors alike around a particular theme.

I am proud to call myself a socialist. In Newcastle we never stopped calling ourselves socialists, even if some of my comrades elsewhere in the Labour Party did. There is no shortage of issues that need socialism in today’s world. Be it the rise of foodbanks, the desperate plight of refugees, children in poverty – more than 50% of children in some wards in my constituency - the insecurity of modern life, the lack of diversity at the top and throughout many institutions and organisations. The fact remains that today, just as in Orwell’s time, for the disadvantaged, for the poor, for refugees, for those discriminated against and those without opportunity socialism remains the best and indeed the only recourse to achieve a society where everyone can reach their full potential.

My hope is that by the end of this festival, there will be more people in Newcastle and beyond who will join me and those of us here in calling themselves proud socialists too.

T-Junction International Poetry Festival, 25-29 April

T-Junction International Poetry Festival, 25-29 April

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Andy Croft introduces the biennial T-junction International Poetry Festival in Middlesbrough, 25-29 April

Two hundred and fifty years ago Middlesbrough-born James Cook sailed around the world on HMS Endeavour. It was an extraordinary voyage of scientific discovery, opening up the European imagination to undreamed of places and peoples under different stars.

In this anniversary year, T-junction is celebrating Teesside’s long international history by focussing on the poetry of travel and discovery, departure and arrival, emigration and immigration, longing and belonging. Every poem is an exploration, every departure is an arrival, every traveller is a stranger; we are all somebody’s neighbour.

Previous T-junction festivals have brought to the North-east poets from Cuba, Zimbabwe, Macedonia, France, Estonia, Serbia, Latvia, Pakistan, Bosnia, Finland, Palestine and Syria. This year’s festival line-up includes poets from Russia, Iraq, Poland, Botswana, Finland, France, Nigeria, Turkey, Peru, Iceland, the Punjab – and Teesside.

Poets include Michael Rosen, Lev Rubenstein, Aurélia Lassaque, Chawki Abdelamir, Bejan Matur, Gerður Kristný, Francis Combes, Keabonye Bareeng, Zoila Forss, Justyna Bargielska, Kalle Niinikangas, Eric Motswasele, Abdulkareem Kasid and Amarjit Chandan.

Running from 25-29 April, this year’s T-junction is a five-day poetry festival of readings, master-classes and book-launches. There will be debates about the poetry of travel, about the ‘Arab Winter’ and about the social responsibilities of poetry, as well as a marathon Urdu-Punjabi musha’ara. Meanwhile, festival poets are working in fifty local schools and colleges, helping students write poems for the festival anthology.

This year’s festival is going to be a celebration of Teesside’s international character: an international festival for a town with a long international history.

For more information contact Andy Croft at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., on 01642 813997 or hereT-Junction is supported by the Arts Council, Middlesbrough Council, Inpress, mima, Teesside University, Tees Valley Combined Authority, Inspire to Learn, Ek Zuban, Mudfog, Vane Women, Folklines, Glas, Apples and Snakes and Smokestack Books.


Burns Unbroke

Burns Unbroke

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Picture: Calum Colvin, Portrait after Archibald Skirving.

Burns Unbroke opens on 25 January 2018 at Summerhall in Edinburgh. This new, contemporary, multi-arts festival will celebrate the variety of artistic and performing practices currently on offer in Scotland, and beyond, through the prism offered by new interpretations of the life and work of Robert Burns. The inspiration for the title comes from the epigraph, which Burns marked as ‘anon’, printed at the beginning of his first poetry collection, the Kilmarnock edition, published in 1786.

The festival‘s innovative visual arts programme features over 30 visual artists and there will be newly commissioned work by four Scottish based artists. In addition, the programme of events includes an Alternative Burns Night, spoken word performances, children’s performances and a tailor made programme of music. Interdisciplinarity is at the heart of this project and new synergies will be offered to a diverse audience, providing a unique experience of contemporary interpretations of Scotland’s national bard.

An advisory panel has been appointed for Burns Unbroke: Gerry Carruthers (Francis Hutcheson Professor of Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow), Calum Colvin (Professor of Contemporary Art Practice, Dundee University), Pete Irvine (Founder of Unique Events) and Emma Nicolson (Director, Atlas Arts).

Burns Unbroke will take place at Summerhall where the visual art will be on display in 11 galleries for six weeks, from 25 January – 10 March 2018, with the majority of performance events focussed around the weekend of 26-28 January. The exhibitions will be open to the public, Tuesdays to Sundays, throughout the six weeks and entry is free.

Burns Unbroke is a partnership between Sheilagh Tennant of artruist and Summerhall, Edinburgh’s most exciting new centre for visual and performing arts, best known for its innovative Fringe programmes.

The prime aims of Burns Unbroke will be to highlight the continuing relevance of Burns’s words and the remarkable extent of his influence as well as attracting/inspiring new, younger audiences.

Burns Unbroke runs from 25 January to 10 March 2018 @Summerhall, Edinburgh. See https://www.artruist.com/

Fe Godwn Ni Eto! We Will Rise Again!

Fe Godwn Ni Eto! We Will Rise Again!

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Dw i’n Cymro pob dydd/ I’m a Welshman every day, says Mike Jenkins, outlining an atheist, socialist and republican take on St. David's Day, the annual celebration of the sixth century Welsh communist monk.

Ten years ago, on March 1st 2006, Mrs. Windsor opened the third Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay. The whole area was teeming with armed police and Special Branch. Machine-gunned troops were perched on rooftops to protect a monarch who epitomises British rule in Cymru : the ascendancy of wealth, privilege, and political power of an unelected Head of State.

I was doing a reading at the Glanfa (or foyer) of the Millennium Centre and began by commenting that Cardiff had been turned into a police state to accommodate the visit of a foreign monarch. Half the audience – expecting odes to Welsh cakes, rugby and male voice choirs – upped and walked out.

As an ardent atheist, socialist and republican, my attitude towards Dydd Gwyl Dewi (St. David’s Day) has always been ambiguous. Yes, I do relish a national day when we can express everything that’s great about Cymru. But no, I don’t want to laud a Christian saint and I loathe the way it’s been hi-jacked by the armed forces who parade through our capital city.

St. David's saintliness, for me, lies in his communist vision, as expressed in his Monastic Rule. The Rule forbids all forms of private property, and also exploitative and oppressive behaviour, not only between humans but between species: monks were obliged to pull ploughs rather than using animals.

I never wear a daff or eat a raw leek, I don’t worship at the shrine of namesakes Karl and Katherine, but prefer to praise our excellent and undervalued bands like The Joy Formidable and singer-songwriters such as Meic Stevens, who should be up there with Dylan and Cohen. Dw i’n Cymro pob dydd/ I’m a Welshman every day.
I love the way our festivals (Eisteddfodau) crown bards as queens or kings, yet live and thrive in a world of poetry which is far more about co-operation and support than competitions. I rile many Welsh nationalist romantics with a view of history which highlights the vital role of the working class, rather than King Llewelyn or Prince Glyndwr; workers who rose up in my home town of Merthyr in 1831, to raise the red flag for the first time in these Isles.

Dydd Gwyl Dewi is a time to celebrate our language and culture, but for me another festival – the Merthyr Rising one in June - will be so much closer to my ideals. Rock, poetry, theatre, debates and film all in one town, where I so much hope that…….
Fe Godwn Ni Eto! We Will Rise Again!