Northern Resisters

By Bernadette Hyland

In this collection, Bernadette Hyland looks at the role of radical women from the early 20th century through to the present day, and their role in shaping political movements and their own lives. Instead of merely commentating, she interviews a number of women to allow their own words to be heard.

The women interviewed are all activists, but they are not well known for their work. Bernadette says of her interviewees, “These women have been chosen by me because their stories have gone untold. They are not well known nationally... but they are women who have taken part in some of the most important campaigns, including the women’s movement, trade unionism, the peace movement, Ireland, Palestine, and campaigns against racism and fascism.”

And the women interviewed do come from a variety of backgrounds. There are women who were members of the Communist Party, various other socialist organisations including the Socialist Workers Party, and no mainstream political parties at all. What unites them is a desire for justice. In each interview, Bernadette tells the reader about each woman’s background, how they became involved in politics, and the campaigns they were involved in. Beyond trivia, she explains the motivations that lead to a life of activism.

Betty Tebbs, now 97, joined her trade union because when she started working in a factory at the age of 14, she noticed the boy working on a similar machine next to her was being paid more. Negotiations between the employer and her union led to a pay increase for women in the factory.

Given the great variety in backgrounds and political directions of those interviewed, it would be interesting to know where opinions diverge as well as converge. Movements do not just form with continual consensus, so further research could reveal where people disagree and where arguments lie. We have explanations here of people, for instance, leaving the Communist Party to join the Labour Party, but are often given no explanation why.

But the point of this book is not to deeply analyse political movements. Instead, it exists to inspire people to activity themselves. Each woman interviewed is asked what advice they give to young women today. As Bernadette herself says, “Their message is one of hope for the future, but not one dependent on expecting someone else to do the work.”

Given the ongoing savage cuts to jobs, services and attacks on trade union rights today, let’s hope the messages of these fighters will inspire more women, and men, to start to fight back today.

Chris Tavner

The book is available from maryquaile.wordpress.com.
Bernadette writes the lipsticksocialist.wordpress.com blog.

I'll Be Your Mirror

By Una Baines & Keith McDougall

All I needed to read was ‘Mark E Smith’ and ‘graphic novel’ before knowing I wanted to sample the upcoming offering by Una Baines and Keith McDougall. A memoir taking a look at Baines’ role in founding The Fall with Mark E Smith, I’ll Be Your Mirror is a black and white tribute to Manchester in the 70s.

I imagine the uninitiated couldn’t really care less about I’ll Be Your Mirror. The Fall and Mark E Smith have always had an odd way of turning their fans into obsessives while keeping those not interested forever distant. As Mark E Smith would probably tell you, they just don’t get it. It’s not surprising, then, that you could quite easily say the same about this graphic memoir.

Una Baines’ writing and Keith McDougall have done a good job of mixing word and image here, the piece really coming into its own during the LSD sequence. As stereotypical as they’ve become, I’ll Be Your Mirror does it well. Sadly, I can’t write much about the entire thing as the first issue of the memoir is only 24 pages long, but I will be investing time and money in the entire thing from here on in. It’s a must-have for any fan of The Fall.

I won’t bother ending on a recommendation, but I will say that I was annoyed when it ended with the classic comic book cliff-hanger of “To be continued…” For anyone into The Fall or anything Manchester, you’d be stupid not to search for it.

Jacob Ormrod

The book is available from keithmcdougall.com.
An alternative review appeared on our blog.