NO.1324 · 10 - 16 FEBRUARY 2020
£2.50 £1.25 of cover price goes to the vendor Please buy from badged vendors only
Michael Palin Road to recovery MAGGIE OLIVER
Child sex whistleblower
The house in arts
BIN1324_01 (cover).indd 1
10 - 16 FEBRUARY 2020 No. 1324
bigissuenorth.com @bigissuenorth bigissuenorth
Editor Kevin Gopal firstname.lastname@example.org 0161 831 5563 Deputy editor Antonia Charlesworth email@example.com 0161 831 5562 Proofreader Fiona Pymont Producer
Christian Lisseman firstname.lastname@example.org Art director and designer Mark Wheeler
Letters and social media
5 VENDOR SPOTLIGHT
Claire Lawton email@example.com 0161 831 5561
Nick in Sheffield
“I value each day now. I look out the window and I feel intense pleasure that I’m still alive.”
Hand ID; Burkina Faso Fundraising and communications Bronte Schiltz firstname.lastname@example.org 07580 878854 To subscribe or buy back issues email email@example.com. or visit our new online shop:
Mike Addelman; Roger Ratcliffe
10 MICHAEL PALIN He’s all heart
14 MAGGIE OLIVER
Seeking CSA justice
We are not responsible for unsolicited
19 PUNK’S NOT DEAD
artwork, articles or photos received. Reproduction in whole or part of the magazine prohibited without permission of the editor. Opinions expressed in Big Issue North are not necessarily those held by the magazine or organisation.
Among German vendors
What’s on near you
22 SEE HEAR
TV, on demand, albums, cinema Big Issue North is part of The Big Life group of social businesses and charities.
24 CENTRE STAGE Home truths
26 READING ROOM Printers Acorn Web Offset, Normanton Circulation: 11,542 (Jan-Dec 18)
Clare Beams Q&A
28 LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF Michael Cashman
Crossword and Sudoku 10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_03 (contents).indd 3
Write to us Letters, Big Issue North, Raven House, 113 Fairfield St, Manchester M12 6EL Email us firstname.lastname@example.org Comment on the website bigissuenorth.com Tweet us @bigissuenorth Like us on Facebook /bigissuenorth Please keep letters brief. We reserve the right to edit them for length. Include your full name, town or city and phone number.
VICTIMS OF RESTITUTION
Your recent article on the restitution of property to victims of the Holocaust was a really interesting read (issue 1322). The article focused on the difficulties faced by Jewish families in getting their property back after the Second World War and the fall of communism. There is clearly a changing attitude in Poland towards offering compensation
to families who lost property as a result of the political changes in the twentieth century. The only point I want to make is that restoring property is not a straightforward affair. There are hidden victims to restitution. In 2010 I witnessed a block of flats in Lodz, Poland, being returned to a family who had owned the property before 1939. Until 1990, the flats had been administered by the communist state. Following that, the state had backed away while the original owners were sought. The property was inhabited by numerous families who needed the low rents. They had made it their home.
The flats, having been restituted, was sold by the family to developers. They promptly increased the rent and stopped maintaining the building, making living there unaffordable for the inhabitants. This caused all those living in the property, some who had lived there for decades, to leave. They became homeless or took up much poorer quality housing. None of those who were forced to leave had done anything against the law in living there. They had simply made their homes in housing that had been made available by the communist state. Those I knew had invested heavily in the property, refurbishing it themselves and emotionally investing in the building and community. My point is that if restitution of property is carried out, the decades of history that have passed since the property was taken must not be overlooked. Those who have not broken the law must not become victims of restitution. Joe Barson, Stockport You can read a longer version of this letter in the Comment section of bigissuenorth.com
A PLACE I CALL HOME
I have longed for a place I can call home A place of my own A place with my own Front door and a roof A place I can lay My head down at night A place where I am Happy and settled Itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve Longed for for an age Something I never thought I would have at all But now at long last The time has come For me to have A place I call home A place of my own A place where I am Happy and settled at last This place I call home Big Issue North vendor Howard reads from his book of poems in his new home. Photo: Lee Brown.
Howard Newton Big Issue North vendor, Leeds
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_04 (contact).indd 4
ABOUT US Big Issue North is a business solution to a social problem. Vendors buy this magazine for £1.25 and sell it for £2.50, keeping the profit they make. Vendors also receive support from our Trust charity (visit justgiving.com/ bigissuenorth to donate). Vendors selling Big Issue North must abide by the code of conduct – a set of rules governing how they work. Visit bigissuenorth.com to find out more. If you have a comment about a vendor, please call your nearest main office: MANCHESTER 0161 831 5550 LIVERPOOL 0151 294 3013
‘I’ve just got a generator and I hope to get lights on soon’
LEEDS 0113 243 9027
NICK, SHEFFIELD CITY CENTRE
SHEFFIELD 0114 263 6064 FROM 10 YEARS AGO
Chris Addison was so well known from The Thick Of It and In The Loop 10 years ago that people forgot he made his name in standup comedy. He was returning to the live circuit with a show containing some unusually personal themes. Elsewhere in this issue from February 2010 we spoke to R&B superstar Mary J Blige about her work with vulnerable women, and Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey who had been arrested numerous times for opposing the plundering of the Niger Delta by oil companies and the Nigerian government.
How long have you sold the magazine for? I’ve been selling the magazine for about seven years or so. Doing it is hard. The amount of beggars is horrendous. They come and sit near your pitch and then you have no chance of selling the magazine. I think people see beggars and people who sell Big Issue North as the same thing and we need to tell them that it’s different. You live in a New Age Traveller community. Tell us about that. I have lived in this particular community for about six years or so now. We were evicted from our old site in Sheffield last year and we’re currently parked up on a temporary site near the River Don. We’re lucky that we haven’t had an eviction notice yet. The council started talking about it straight away. I don’t know where we are going to end up. My caravan’s a mess because I need to tidy up. I don’t have electric at the moment but I’ve just got a generator and I’m hoping to get lights on soon, so I’m not trying to see by candlelight. Why did you start travelling? I’ve been doing it on and off since the late 1980s. I was living in Hulme, in the Crescents. There were some good parties. And the same kind of people, hippies and punks, who are part of the new age travelling community. I started going to free festivals. And then I bought a truck for £500 and I lived in it. That’s how I got started. The floor of the cab was rotten and you could see the road through it. The coppers used to pull me over in it all the time. Do you have any plans for the future? I could do with some help getting back to
Read more Q&As in the Vendor Stories section of bigissuenorth.com
BIN1324_05 (vendor).indd 5
university. I’d like to do town planning. I know lots about trees and stuff. I used to inspect trees for a living and I’ve got a masters in forestry and a degree in land management. I would like to get a proper job again one day. What stops you moving into other work? Drugs. I lost a child when I was in my twenties. That caused the first drug problem. I got over that, got away from it, but then I got mixed up in gangs and I was nearly killed. I have been to rehab before. My parents got me in to one. I think they paid for me though they never said that they did. Rehab is there to reintroduce you to life, to give you confidence. If you talk to users and find out what has happened to them – the things that they have been through – those things knock the hell out of you. Rehab is also about structuring your life again. Get up and have breakfast. Get into a routine. But of course getting into a routine can be tediously boring to be honest. But that’s life: facing up to the things that you have to do. Tell us about your love for trees. Trees keep us alive. Around our current campsite there are a lot of birch trees. Did you know they used to use bark from birch trees to write on? Of course everyone is talking about tree planting now. They should get drones over moorlands and drop seeds over them in a massive way. Tell us about your dogs. I have two. One is seven and the other 12. Father Ted and Father Dougal. They are good friends and can’t be separated. They mean the world to me. INTERVIEW: CHRISTIAN LISSEMAN
10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
GIVE ABUSE RESEARCH A HAND Images of hands used to identify paedophiles Database pictures will help computers learn Researchers are developing ways to identify paedophiles from their hands – but need help from the public to take the work further. A multi-disciplinary team from Lancaster University is investigating what makes human hands unique but needs 5,000 citizen scientists to contribute to the first searchable database of their anatomy and variations.
The £2 million H-Unique project, funded by the European Research Council and in collaboration with Dundee University, will build on ground-breaking techniques pioneered by forensic anthropologist and academic lead Professor Dame Sue Black. Black, pro-vice chancellor at Lancaster, regularly produces reports which have been used in court to identify individuals from images of their hands in child abuse materials. A staggering 82 per cent of cases her team has worked on have ended up with a change of plea from the defendant. The citizen database is for research purposes only and will be
destroyed at the end of the project. But its existence will allow the team to develop an algorithm, which will mean abuse images will initially be sifted through by computers – speeding up the process and flagging up potential links between material on police databases. Black said: “The hand retains and displays many anatomical differences due to our genetics, development, environment or even accidents so each person’s hands are different. We want to know what people’s hands look like – their vein patterns, scars, callouses, freckles, creases and the lunules at the base of their fingernails. We want to get to the point of being able to train the computer to find the anatomical features that we can see. “We want to learn what proportion of people have a scar on their little left finger, for example, because when we are working on cases we’ll then be able to say this kind of scar is very unusual and give the figures. At the moment we just don’t know.” One benefit of training a computer to do some of this work would be efficiency. If detectives believed they had identified an offender, they could use the algorithm to trawl through police databases to find other images featuring the same hands. This
Professor Black’s work began while investigating war crimes in Kosovo
could link cases in different countries for the first time. Crucially, however, the use of artificial intelligence to carry out some of this work would also spare people having to spend hours looking at horrific images of abuse. Black said: “It would prevent people from having to trawl through all these horrendous images, which are really taxing emotionally. If a computer could identify that this is a hand and extract the anatomical features that we would look at, it could then compare them with a suspect and come out with a likelihood of a match. “A computer can never go into court, of course, so it would always be a person who would make the final decision about whether the computer has done the right thing or not. But to be able to trawl through so many more images than can be done by eye really would open up possibilities for the field.”
“Spared the trauma”
Black’s involvement in this area began by chance. A Met police officer who she had worked with in Kosovo, where she helped investigate war crimes, asked for help on a sex abuse case the force was struggling with, where all that could seen on a video was a hand and forearm. That led to more British cases, as well as work for the FBI, Europol and Interpol. Cases can be relatively straightforward – where there is just one image involved a report can be compiled within a day. The team provided analysis for the Reynard Sinaga case – the recently jailed Indonesian student who is believed to have raped around 200 drugged and unconscious men. Each frame of every video had to be looked through individually – an onerous undertaking that took months. At the initial stage the research team only examines the offending material, to judge whether there are
enough anatomical features to make a comparison. Once these have been marked up they look at the photos of the suspect provided by police. Black said: “In some cases it’s very obvious that we can exclude and say this is not the same person, and that is really valuable. It’s valuable for the police investigation to make sure they are not going up a blind alley but also hugely important for the person who may have been accused of committing this act when they hadn’t. “When you have similarities between the hands and no differences we can’t say with 100 per cent certainty that these are the same two people. All we can say is that the similarities have been formed in different ways – some are genetic, some are traumatic, some are developmental. It is the job of the court to decide if this person is represented in both sets of individuals. All the other circumstantial evidence forms the much larger picture of the case and our evidence fits into that. “There have been quite a few cases where people have changed their plea to guilty after seeing our report. We always assume that each case will go to court, but 82 per cent of the cases that we take on have eventually ended up with a change of plea. And that’s really powerful. “That saves time and money in the courtroom but it also means witnesses and victims and families are spared the trauma of having to go to court. But it’s equally important that the evidence does go into court and is subject to a robust examination because the science has to be able to stack up. This is about innocence or guilt. Our job is unbiased and it shouldn’t matter if we are retained by the prosecution or defence.” For more information see h-unique.lancaster.ac.uk CIARA LEEMING
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_06,07 (news).indd 6
attacks on civilians,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “At the same time, the Burkina Faso government should take stronger steps to protect vulnerable communities from harm and impartially investigate and appropriately prosecute those implicated in war crimes.” After militants killed 60 people in January and 20 on one day alone at the start of this month, in Lamdamol village in the northern province of Seno, Burkina’s parliament voted to arm civilians.
NEWS IN BRIEF TOWERING SHEFFIELD Sheffield City Council planners have given the go-ahead for a 38-storey tower that could become Yorkshire’s tallest building. If completed, the Rockingham Street building would be 5 metres taller than Leeds’ Bridgewater Place, currently the county’s highest. Concern was expressed about the small size of the proposed co-living apartments.
One of the poorest countries
Tents are set up to shelter displaced people in Pissila, Burkina Faso
African town’s refugee struggle Pressure builds as population trebles Two years ago, Pissila was a quiet farming town in Burkina Faso, unfamiliar with the violence that was stirring further north. Now an influx of displaced people has changed life dramatically for its 15,000 inhabitants. As deadly attacks on civilians by jihadist groups with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State have surged, 30,000 people have poured into the town seeking refuge, trebling the population, straining resources and leaving authorities struggling to cope. Much of the work of housing the newcomers has been shouldered by ordinary people, such has been the speed of the rise in violence in a once calm country. The chaos caused by homegrown insurgents has
coincided with a spillover of jihadist groups from Mali. Hundreds have died in attacks in Burkina over the past year – many of which have had an ethnic or religious bent – and large areas of the country are out of government control.
One million fled violence
Aid organisations and charities have rushed to help, and tents have been set up for the displaced in Pissila by an aid organisation called HELP, but many say it is not enough in a country where nearly one million have fled violence over the past year. “Almost all of the families in Pissila are hosting at least one displaced family. Some families have taken in around 80 people since refugees began arriving. So that is putting pressure on their way of life. It changes everything,” said prefect Simplice Traore. “The Islamist armed groups need to immediately end their
But resources are a challenge. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said that by the end of 2019, it had received just under 70 per cent of the funding it needed to address the situation in Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries. In Pissila lines snake outwards from the town’s central water well and from a food distribution centre set up by the UN’s World Food Programme. Residents’ houses are crammed with people, many of whom sleep dozens to a small room on thin mats among piles of emergency water or food supplies stacked against the walls. The unlucky ones sleep outside. Medical centres are full, said Traore, and the sick and elderly go untended, resting where they can out of the hot sun that sucks moisture from the parched surrounding farmland. There is no room for more children in the school and an estimated 2,000 children do not attend. Alphonse Sawadogo made the 15km journey to Pissila on foot on 17 January after an attack by gunmen on motorbikes forced him to flee his home village. “It is truly sad,” said the 52-year-old farmer. “They killed a youth. They set fire to the school. They arrived in a part of the village where houses were close to each other and started shooting.” VINCENT BADO COURTESY OF REUTERS/INSP.NGO
CONTROVERSIAL SIGNINGS Rugby league bosses want more control over “controversial signings” after Catalan Dragons recruited Israel Folau, sacked in Australia for homophobic remarks. Following crisis talks, the Super League recognised it could not prevent Folau’s move but voted unanimously to put in place measures to stop such transfers in the future to protect its “enviable track record” on diversity. HULL CHILDREN’S PLEDGE Hull City Council has announced immediate measures to improve children’s services after Ofsted inspectors last month said the experiences of children in care had “significantly declined”. Accepting Ofsted’s findings, the council leaders said all current cases would be reviewed, a new children’s services director would be appointed, and a further £4.4m earmarked for children’s services. RURAL HOUSING EVIDENCE North Yorkshire’s Rural Commission is calling for evidence on the issues of the affordability and availability of housing. Eight commissioners, chaired by the Dean of Ripon, will sit this month to hear from individuals and organisations on the challenges and opportunities surrounding housing. Email your views to RuralCommission@northyorks. gov.uk and find more info at bit. Got an event, campaign or story from your area? Call 0161 831 5563 or email email@example.com
10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_06,07 (news).indd 7
Why don’t we just... support the psychological needs of cancer patients? MIKE ADDELMAN My wife died last year from cancer after battling it for almost three years. The physical symptoms were so tough: pain, nausea, loss of mobility, and others too distressing to talk about here. But the suffering she endured from the moment she received her diagnosis, until she entered the hospice where she ended her days, was almost entirely down to the difficulty she had coming to terms with her disability. It was the deep depression and rampant anxiety that very quickly spiralled out of control that made her life – and the lives of those closest to her – so difficult. I laid out what she went through in a article I wrote for the Guardian in December, which drew a huge response from the public and clinicians. Parts of it inform this article. Sarah was unwilling to go outside – not even to sit in our lovely garden, not even to listen to the birds. She cried every day, sometimes all day. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t read a book, didn’t know what pleasure felt like. In the last year of her life, all she could do was sit silently on our settee, watching dreary daytime television. And yet, shamefully, she never saw a psychologist or a psychiatrist, she never had a serious mental health assessment. Yes, she was offered counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy by Macmillan Cancer Support, the hospital and our local NHS services. But the waiting lists could be months long, and the people who delivered the therapies were often inexperienced or just not knowledgeable enough about terminal illness. She would only get a few weeks of therapy, as if somehow her problems would magically go away, only for her to go straight back on the waiting list. Not that the sessions helped anyway. She’d leave a CBT session clutching
have made a different decision or had different options. I make no criticism of our dedicated and caring NHS clinical staff. They are not to blame for a health culture that has always been more interested in the physical than the psychological, though
In the last year of her life my wife was unwilling to go outside. She didn’t know what pleasure was leaflets she was supposed to go away and read – an impossible task for someone who was often too stressed to even look at a newspaper. “Go and do some gardening,” one of the sheets said: not a very sensitive thing to say to a disabled woman who loved gardening but would never be able to do that again. She was only offered antidepressants a year or so into her illness, but steadfastly refused to take them until she was admitted to a hospice. It was her choice, of course, though in the hands of an experienced psychiatrist she might 8
the result of that imbalance is often tragic, especially when it comes to people with terminal illness. When her physical symptoms were at their worst, she paradoxically suffered the least, and that I believe is because her psychological needs were finally – at least to an extent – addressed. It’s so sad that she never experienced anything remotely like that in the three long years that preceded her demise. We can only hope that there are doctors, nurses, scientists and politicians who feel strongly enough to put time and energy into finding ways
to help these most vulnerable of people, and make the suffering go away. The article touched a nerve and I have spoken to psych-oncologists up and down the country as well scientists, a politician, a charity, family and friends. And that has encouraged me to at least try to do something about it, and to convince our policy makers to sit up and take notice of the shameful neglect of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I hope to go to Parliament to encourage MPs to hold an enquiry, so that we can encourage scientists and funding bodies to devote time and cash to research new therapies that support the mental health of those with terminal illness, or evaluate existing ones. We need to understand how the NHS can effectively provide for the psychological needs of the dying and at least start to make the suffering go away. n Mike Addelman is a former journalist and now works as a communications professional in higher education
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_08,09 (now then).indd 8
Flippin’ ‘eck Scientists aren’t sure about regional accents but believe they have found the “first compelling evidence” that penguin small talk follows the same principles as human chat. Dr Livio Favaro, of the University of Torino, and her team found that frequently used words are briefer, while longer words are composed of extra but briefer syllables.
The number of passengers who threatened to leave a BA flight from London to New York after David Cameron’s bodyguard left a loaded gun in the toilet, according to one witness. The gun, believed to have been a 9mm Glock pistol, was discovered by a passenger who was threatened with removal by cabin crew after he became worked up, but his fellow passengers jumped to his defence and suggested Cameron, who was in first class, should be removed instead. The captain reportedly compromised by removing the gun instead.
A rare spot
Halifax man Ben Lilly thought he had found one of the fabled big cats of Yorkshire when he spotted what appeared to be a leopard on the A646 near Hebden Bridge. “I spun round where I could, turned round and drove back along,” Lilly said. “I got out cautiously, because I didn’t want something taking my face off, but as soon as I looked at it from the other angle I started laughing. I pulled up to a onesie. That explains the tail on it.”
What Labour MP Tracy Brabin tweeted along with a list of the names she was called online for wearing an off the shoulder dress in the House of Commons. “Sorry I don’t have time to reply to all of you commenting on this,” she wrote, “but I can confirm I’m not.... a slag, hungover, a tart, about to breastfeed, a slapper, drunk, just been banged over a wheelie bin. Who knew people could get so emotional over a shoulder...”
BIN1324_08,09 (now then).indd 9
HE HAS ISSUES These modern-day soap operas leave a dark stain, says Roger Ratcliffe The story so far: Coronation Street celebrates its 60th birthday this year and is still the nation’s favourite recreational drug, but by the time the Salford-based soap reaches that milestone in December its pre-eminence may well be eclipsed by Yorkshire’s Emmerdale. Meanwhile, it appears that fewer and fewer viewers care about who does what down East London way. Let me declare absolutely no interest in this storyline. I don’t watch soaps, although I admit to being hooked on Corrie until about 20 years ago. It was a habit I managed to kick only by spending weeks on end out of the country and coming back to stacks of VHS tapes that held no appeal in the middle of summer. But like many former addicts, with almost evangelical zeal I have turned against that which once enslaved me. This has been easy because these supposed chronicles of ordinary communities have become more and more preposterous. Also, I particularly resent the effect that soapwatching has on some people. For instance, I had a brief phone conversation with a friend a couple of months ago in which we failed to arrange a drink because the only nights I had free he was watching Corrie. My sister refuses to answer the phone whenever one of the nation’s top three soaps is being broadcast even when we have something important to discuss, and in the midst of last year’s Brexit crisis an acquaintance said: “Enough of that. Did you see last night’s Emmerdale?” But soaps don’t just have a social impact. The energy industry has to deal with a phenomenon called the “TV pickup”. This is a
huge spike in electricity demand when a popular programme ends and viewers leave their sofas en masse to put on the kettle. It normally amounts to a surge of 200-400 megawatts on the National Grid, which is about the entire full-burn capacity of a modern biomass power station. Big generating companies love to keep records of these spikes, and in the National Grid league table Coronation Street and EastEnders have accounted for eight of the all-time top 30 TV pickups. The latter soap was responsible for a near grid-crippling 2,290 megawatt spike – equivalent to one million kettles being simultaneously switched on – when Lisa admitted to shooting Phil Mitchell back in 2002. But back to Corrie v Emmers. Last year Emmerdale briefly took the ratings crown and is predicted to become the nation’s top soap in 2020. But this battle for viewers is clearly being fought with morally dubious stories that are transmitted before the 9pm watershed. Like I said, I don’t watch soaps now, but it’s hard to avoid their desperate attempts to increase ratings when they make newspaper headlines. The latest involved someone in Coronation Street setting fire to a house containing quadruplet babies and had chilling echoes of an arson tragedy, also in Salford, just 15 months ago, in which four children died. Leaving aside whether it’s something a hothead might try to copy, no real-life misery seems to be off limits for soaps. What was once a lovely tale of ordinary people creating magic, like Minnie Caldwell and Ena Sharples gossiping in the Rovers Return or Stan Ogden thinking he was allergic to alcohol, seems to be in danger of becoming dark and almost Hitchcockian. n
Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him on Twitter @Ratcliffe
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_10,11,13 (michael palin).indd 10
Travelling light Following heart surgery, Michael Palin is ready to renew his travels with even more enthusiasm. Sebastian Oake speaks to him about his recent trip to North Korea and the work that makes him most proud – helping stammering children These days Michael Palin is best known for his sideways observations of life in far-flung places, criss-crossing the world in search of warm stories of people and places. There are probably few countries he hasn’t visited, which perhaps explains why he chose the unusual destination of North Korea for his latest travel adventure. The trip made a big impression on him. “The capital, Pyongyang, was very ordered,” he recalls. “People were noticeably well disciplined and well behaved on the street – there was no shouting, arguing or anything like that. But there was this air of slightly menacing unreality. There were roads but few cars. There were streets with some cafés but we were not free to go there unless accompanied by minders. From very early in the morning, publicly broadcast music reverberated across the city. You wake up and hear these chords of patriotic music coming from somewhere – I was baffled by it at first. “I was expecting lots of military parades but on May Day we were taken to parkland where there was a funfair. It was a day off for workers and lots of families were there enjoying Korean barbecues. They offered us food and a glass or two of soju.” Soju is a distilled drink usually consumed neat with an alcohol content ranging from 16 per cent to an alarming 53 per cent. “By lunchtime everyone was having a high old time,” says Palin. “What they were like by the evening, God knows! “But although it wasn’t as militaristic as I had expected, the people were clearly indoctrinated. It was forbidden to criticise the leadership in any way. I suppose indoctrination was a way to give hope and inspiration to people in a plucky little country pitching itself against the rest of the world.”
North Korea Journal, the book recounting the visit, came out last September but a promotional tour had to be cancelled. In September Palin was admitted to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London for open heart surgery after getting increasingly breathless. “I was opened up by the same surgeon who’d done Alan Bennett earlier in the year – I met Alan in the waiting room,” Palin says. Although the operation was a success and he now feels much better, life and work had to be put on hold. “I was in hospital for one week, had immediate convalescence and was then told to take three months off and do nothing. “The trouble was, in order to do nothing you have to spend half the day telling people who contact you that you’re meant to be doing nothing. After that, you’ve not much time left to actually do nothing.” The experience has changed him. “I now feel aware that ageing isn’t just about getting older. It’s also about the body becoming prone to more difficulties. This episode has left me brutally aware that, say, 40 years ago not many people would have survived this sort of thing. “I value each day now. I look out the window and see things more. I feel intense pleasure that I’m still alive.” One other thing has helped him appreciate life too. His main Monty Python writing partner, Terry Jones, died recently from dementia. When Palin was presented with a Special Recognition Award at last month’s National Television Awards, he dedicated it to Jones. “Terry was my dear friend of 60 years. He taught me more about television than anyone else.” Palin will probably be most loved for his Monty Python years and the excursions into comedy acting that came after. Sheffield-born and the recipient of the Greatest Ever Yorkshireman 10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_10,11,13 (michael palin).indd 11
TRUST Help more vendors like Justin into safe accommodation
“Sleeping rough was horrendous. I have had a few teeth knocked out from people, and my dog Bumper had a tooth knocked out as well, just from people passing by who didn’t like us. It was impossible to find accommodation with a dog when we were homeless. In the end we managed to get into a B&B that took pets, which we paid for by selling the magazine.” Thankfully, Big Issue North staff were able to find Justin and Bumper a safe place to stay and someone to talk to and assist them if they ever needed support. Now, Justin is able to pay his rent and have time to focus on his personal progression through selling the magazine.
Support us to help more vendors like Justin off the street by making a donation to our charity Big Issue North Trust. I want to support the Big Issue North Trust to help vendors move on in their lives Please accept my donation of £5 £10 £20 £50
Name: Address Postcode: Telephone no.
I enclose a cheque made out to Big Issue in the North Trust Please contact me about making a standing order Please debit my credit / debit card with the above amount Card Number:
How to donate
Post: Please complete this form and return it to: Big Issue North Trust, 463 Stretford Road, Manchester, M16 9AB. Online: visit www.justgiving.com/ BigIssueNorth. Mobile: text BINORTH to 70201 to give £1, 70331 to give £3, 70970 to give £5 or 70191 to give £10.
Please sign here:
Telephone: Call 0161 848 2420 to donate by credit or debit card or to set up a standing order to donate regularly.
Gift Aid - Make Every £1 worth £1.28
Thank you for your donation
Issue no: (Switch)
Security code: (Last three numbers on the back of your card)
If you are a UK taxpayer and would like the Big Issue North Trust to reclaim the tax on all donations you have made as well as future donations, please tick here
You must pay at least as much UK income tax and/or capital gains tax (for the year of the donation) as the amount that will be claimed by us and any other charities and CASCs you donate to. Please remember to notify us if you no longer pay income tax (or capital gains tax).
The Big Issue North Trust is a registered charity (number 1056041)
When you donate to Big Issue North Trust, we’d love to keep in touch with you to tell you about the difference you’ve made to our vendors. If you’re happy for us to do this, please tick here.
Justin and Bumber Trust advert v3.indd 1
Monty Python in 1970. Previous page: in North Korea with farmer Kim Hyang Li. Pic: Nick Bonner
accolade, he has nevertheless, through his performances, not missed an opportunity to send up his northern roots. In Monty Python’s 2014 version of the well-known Four Yorkshiremen sketch, he brags about a life of grit and hardship. “You were lucky!” he tells his fellow Pythons. “We lived for three months in a rolled-up newspaper in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the newspaper, go to work down mill for 14 hours a day, week in, week out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our dad would thrash us to sleep wi’ ‘is belt!” Meanwhile, in a musical part of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life film, he plays a mill worker again, who, when the mill
access to marvellous countryside on the edge of the Peak District. There was this spot we used to call the Crags. I would often go out there on my bike. The scenery was like something out of a Western and you could pretend you were John Wayne!” He attended the private Birkdale Preparatory School in Sheffield before moving on to Shrewsbury School and then Brasenose College, Oxford. At university, as well as meeting Jones, he sealed his performing future by appearing in the Oxford Revue in 1964. More than 50 years later, he is now Sir Michael Palin, having been presented with a knighthood last June. It was, however, for his services to travel, culture
“I was opened up by the same surgeon who’d done Alan Bennett earlier in the year.” is closed down, decides to sell his 63 children for medical experiments to help pay the bills. And in one of the Ripping Yarns TV comedies, he is a die-hard fan of Barnstoneworth United, a small and failing Yorkshire football club, known for losing every game. Depending on which side of the Pennines you come from, you might think that one was just a little too close to the bone. Actually, Palin’s early life failed to match the misery he would later brag about to his fellow “Yorkshiremen” Pythons. “I had a very happy childhood and have fond memories of Sheffield. When I was growing up I had direct
and geography, rather than comedy. Perhaps that softened the blow for the other Pythons? Palin laughs. “Actually they were all very supportive and wrote me nice messages. I thought I’d get a lot more stick. Even John Cleese sent me a very nice, friendly reaction. Mind you, I don’t know what he might have said behind my back.” Palin also finds plenty of time to help others. Indeed, when asked what he is most proud of, he does not mention his travel books or his comedy career, nor even the Dead Parrot sketch. He does talk about his work supporting therapy for stammering children. Palin’s own father suffered from a bad stammer. Following
his role in A Fish Called Wanda, in which he played a character with a stammer, he gave his name to the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children, a specialist centre for speech and language therapy in London. “The centre is very successful and now has almost a dozen therapists. It’s incredibly moving to hear parents talk of how their child went to the centre and it ended up changing their life.” For more than 30 years he also had a long association with the Campaign for Better Transport. In his time with the organisation, some claimed his own extensive travelling was not compatible with its work. Others pointed out that he may well have been making his own valuable contribution to reducing longdistance travel because his books and programmes were perhaps able to satisfy our desire to learn about life in other parts of the world without the need to go there ourselves. Despite all the travelling, the charity work, the comedy, being an A-list celebrity and often being quoted as the ideal dinner party guest, Palin remains decidedly grounded. He lives in a fairly modest, albeit extended, North London town house that abuts the pavement and is overlooked by a tower block. He has done so for the past 52 years. He met his wife, Helen, when he was on a seaside holiday at the age of just 16. He is now 76. They have three children: Tom, Will and Rachel. “We’re a close family and we all get on,” says Palin. “We live within 20-30 minutes of each other.” Fresh out of recovery following his operation last autumn, Palin is now busy editing material for the fourth volume of his well received diaries, taking the story up to 2010. It is due out next year. And another travel documentary could be on the cards. “It will be a short journey, like the North Korea one. I want to go somewhere I haven’t been before and learn a lot that I didn’t know.” Palin is frequently asked where he would like to go next. He used to respond “Middlesbrough”, usually to great comic effect, although he insists “there is nothing wrong with the place” and it was just the fact that it really was one location he had not been to. But he recently did a show in the town, so is unable to use that line anymore. During his knighting ceremony when he was asked the familiar question by Prince William, he opted for Kazakhstan. That would make for an interesting programme but after Borat, they are likely to be wary of another English comedian. He might find the country harder to get into than even North Korea. n 10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_10,11,13 (michael palin).indd 13
THE LONELY JOURNEY TO J Maggie Oliver resigned as a police officer to speak out against the force’s refusal to properly investigate organised child sex abuse in Greater Manchester. Now an official report has highlighted the authorities’ failings, she feels further vindicated but, she tells Susan Griffin, action is needed to ensure justice for the victims
An independent report commissioned by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has publicly acknowledged the victims of a paedophile gang in Greater Manchester were let down by the police and local authorities, and as a result of the review, their cases will be newly investigated. It’s a bittersweet moment for Maggie Oliver, a former police detective for Greater Manchester Police (GMP) who resigned from her job in 2012 to speak out about the repeated failings by the police and authorities to protect victims of child sexual exploitation and bring the perpetrators to justice.
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_14,15,16,17 (maggie oliver).indd 14
Timeline of events 2003: Victoria Agoglia (pictured), 15, dies from an overdose. Months before her death, she’d disclosed details of abuse, but no formal action was taken to investigate.
2004: Mohammad Yaqoob is jailed for three-and-a-half years for injecting Agoglia with heroin. Operation Augusta is launched following her death to investigate child sexual exploitation across south Manchester. 2005: Dozens of potential victims and almost 100 offenders are identified but Operation Augusta is abruptly closed. Eight of the suspects go onto assault or rape other girls.
TO JUSTICE “The fact that pretty much everything I’ve said has been officially acknowledged as truthful is a big deal for me,” says Oliver, who raised four children before beginning her police career in her forties. “I’ve had the most horrific eight years of my life. There was no support, no desire to listen to me. It’s been a completely lonely journey where GMP did their very best to destroy me. I was [considered] a woman who became too emotionally involved. [It was] really shooting the messenger, when in fact they knew what I was saying was 100 per cent truthful.” Among the serious crimes she investigated were allegations of serious
2010: Operation Span is launched to investigate reported grooming gangs and the abuse of girls in Rochdale.
sexual assault on vulnerable white girls predominantly by men of Pakistani heritage in Greater Manchester. This was part of Operation Augusta, an investigation into grooming that was launched following the death of 15-yearold Victoria Agoglia in 2003 after she was injected with heroin by Mohammad Yaqoob, then 50, who was jailed for threeand-a-half years. The investigation identified dozens of potential victims and up to 97 suspected members of a grooming gang, a network of older men operating “in plain sight”, picking up girls, some as young as 12, from care and taking them to locations for “sex parties”. But despite the evidence, there were no charges and no convictions, and Operation Augusta was abruptly shut down in 2005 for “resource reasons”, with perpetrators free to roam the streets and reoffend.
2012: Nine men are convicted following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court for offences including rape and child sexual exploitation. Police detective Maggie Oliver, who has been involved in both operations, resigns from her job in order to speak out about the repeated failings by GMP and local authorities. 2017: The BBC drama Three Girls, about the Rochdale grooming scandal, and the documentary The Betrayed Girls, prompt a national outcry. Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, commissions an independent review. 2020: The review findings are published. It’s publicly acknowledged there was a repeated failure to protect children in Greater Manchester. A new investigation, Operation Green Jacket, now encompasses both Agoglia’s case and Operation Augusta.
10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_14,15,16,17 (maggie oliver).indd 15
‘This exploitation can no longer be tolerated’ Natalie Marrison, partner and head of abuse law at Ramsdens Solicitors and a panel member for the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, says: “The publication last month of the review into child sex exploitation in Greater Manchester may come as a shock to many but unfortunately it seems to be a resurfacing issue. “Although we can take a positive from the investigation now being conducted this only serves to highlight the severity of neglect that our vulnerable children have been subject to. Moving forward it is vital the local authorities, police and social services adapt their mindset and begin to view these individuals as the victims they are, rather than a problem. “Regular reviews need to be undertaken to ensure everything is being done to protect those vulnerable to exploitation. They must be provided with a safe environment to report any issues. I see too often children who, after authority intervention, are left in the same geographical location where they are vulnerable to exploitation. The cycle does not break. “It is especially important that the perpetrators and those in positions of trust who failed the individuals are held accountable to set a precedent. This exploitation can no longer be tolerated. “Greater Manchester Police and mayor Mr Burnham appear to be tackling the problem head on and are not shy in admitting the shortfalls of the organisations involved but there is still significant progress required. This shift in mindset not only needs to be instilled across the organisations involved, but also needs to be echoed up and down the country in order to reduce risk and support safeguarding.”
Oliver was asked to join Operation Span in 2010, primarily to gain the trust of two sisters at the centre of an investigation involving Asian men abusing girls in Rochdale, and only agreed with assurances from her superiors that Operation Augusta’s failings wouldn’t be repeated. Nine members of a paedophile grooming ring were jailed in 2012 as a result of the investigation, but Oliver felt the true extent of the abuse had not been revealed, nor had the failure to protect the victims, so resigned from her job in order to expose the flaws she’d witnessed. She appeared in The Betrayed Girls, the 2017 documentary about the child sex abuse revelations in Greater Manchester, which followed the acclaimed BBC drama Three Girls. Both projects highlighted how the victims had been mistreated, first by the gangs who groomed and raped them, and then by the authorities who deemed them an “underclass” and unworthy of protection. “I think the public acknowledge and recognise the child victims have been massively failed, so the authorities can no longer excuse their inaction by saying these children are making a lifestyle choice, or that they are child prostitutes, or that they are bad kids. They are not,”
“Pretty much my opening comments to them were that because of my journey to this point, I would hope for the best but I actually expected the worst, so I am absolutely blown away by the honesty of the report, because I never expected that.” The 145-page report An Assurance Review of Operation Augusta, published on 14 January, says there is much to be commended in Operation Augusta, but it did not address the issue it was set up for: to tackle the sexual exploitation of a number of children in the care system. Very few of the relevant perpetrators were brought to justice and neither were their activities disrupted. It also states that while Agoglia’s death was investigated at the time, allegations of longstanding sexual abuse that preceded her death have never been investigated and perpetrators not pursued. “I am very grateful, actually, to Andy Burnham for standing his ground in insisting this report is published because I do know for a year GMP were fighting to have the report watered down,” claims Oliver. In a statement on 15 January, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins responded to claims that GMP tried to stop the review being published. “Nothing could be
“There’s an arrogance amongst senior officers that they can do what they like without impunity.” says Oliver. “They are children. They need protecting and it is the duty of the police and the social services and the courts to protect them, and that is what they have failed to do for far too long.” Burnham commissioned the review in autumn 2017 (part two will look at Operation Span and part three, child sexual exploitation in Oldham) “to assure himself and the public that everything possible has been done to protect children today and in the future and prevent it from happening again”. “I actually feel the review was set up initially thinking I was a liar, and that possibly I was doing a lot of damage by telling lies about an investigation that there was no truth in. Possibly the intention was to prosecute me for misleading the public,” says Oliver, who spent hours talking to child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam CBE and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway, who compiled and wrote the report over two years. She admits that given her experience, she went into the process with low expectations.
further from the truth. Contrary to these reports, we have co-operated fully with the review team and acted with transparency and integrity throughout. At no time has there been any effort from us to prevent the publication of the report and any suggestion that states otherwise is categorically untrue.” But, notes Oliver: “This review is a review. There is no legal obligation for anybody to do anything as a result of this review. In fact, the review makes clear that some of the officers responsible for closing Operation Augusta had refused to even be interviewed by the inquiry team. It also makes it very clear that the decision to close Operation Augusta down was made at a gold command meeting, which means the highest officers within GMP. How convenient that the minutes, which would identify who made the decision, have been lost. So when they talk about honesty and transparency, that is not what I see. It’s not what they demonstrate.” The original investigation has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_14,15,16,17 (maggie oliver).indd 16
The nine jailed members of the Rochdale paedophile grooming ring and (right) Lesley Sharp as Maggie Oliver in the BBC drama Three Girls
Oliver says: “When senior officers are caught out having told lies, having been guilty of negligence, having been guilty of misconduct in a public office, when they are caught and it’s proved what they’ve done, we must now prosecute those people responsible. In my opinion, they must be stripped of their pension, they must be held to account. How can they be allowed to just walk away as though nothing has happened?” She adds: “There is an arrogance amongst senior officers that they can do what they want to do without impunity. If senior officers knew decisions they make today may result in action, maybe 10 years down the road, where they stand the chance of losing their pension, of being prosecuted, I firmly believe that’s when we’ll start seeing changes. “While I accept mistakes can be made, this was not a mistake. This was a deliberate intentional decision to bury a job they knew we had evidence to prosecute and that is made abundantly clear because as a result of this review, GMP has been forced to reopen Operation Augusta with the same victims and the same evidence we had and renamed it
Operation Green Jacket. But there was no desire to do that. The GMP has been dragged kicking and screaming to the point where they have no choice, and you can’t do that with every investigation without somebody like me who has never let this drop for 15 years.” In a statement issued on the day the review was published, Burnham referred
This month the first drop-in centre for survivors of this abuse will open in Rochdale as part of the Maggie Oliver Foundation. “I want to encourage and empower the girls. They can’t do anything about what they’ve been through, but they can use that pain and the failures they’ve been subjected to and move
“People at the top are still unprepared to allow officers to put the time into supporting victims.” to the “problematic institutional mindset” where “young, vulnerable girls are not seen as true victims, but as the problem”. His aim is to banish this “old mindset” for good, but there is a long way to go. “People talk the talk but what is needed is action,” says Oliver. “It needs investment, commitment, and time to encourage survivors and victims to talk about what has happened. There are not enough police officers, and the people at the top of the police are still unprepared to allow officers to put the time and care into supporting and encouraging victims when they do come forward.”
forward with their own lives and become successful,” she says. “My role is to continue to be the person who speaks about what I’m learning on this journey and push through the changes we need. I’ll fight to the end to hold those responsible to account in the criminal courts and I feel the pressure for that to happen is increasing.” n You can read our 2015 interview with Sarah Wilson, survivor of the Rotherham abuse ring, in the features section of bigissuenorth.com, at bit.ly/36X7gTF 10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_14,15,16,17 (maggie oliver).indd 17
CARTEL - WWW.THEGIGCARTEL.COM - 24 HOUR BOX OFFICE 0844 478 0898 - THE
Golem, Jörg, Deerk and Duddi (L to R) practice in the cellar of the cottage where Jörg and Golem live Photo: Mauricio Bustamante
Rock the house Old punks never die but these ones, part of a Hamburg street paper family, have seen hard times before the good ones rolled round again, says Lukas Gilbert “Yeah, there’s a bit inside of all of us that likes a bit of modelling,” laughs guitarist Jörg while posing with his bandmates for photographer Mauricio Bustamante. But it quickly becomes clear that these guys aren’t here for a modelling session. Ear-shattering chords resound through the rehearsal room in Berne. The band are called Unter Einsatz des Lebens (UEDL), which translates as Committed to Living, and they meet every Thursday to “really rock out”, as bassist and singer Golem puts it. With his long hair and his flamboyant clothes, the 52 year old looks just like you imagine a rock ’n’ roller should look. As well as Golem and Jörg, both Hinz&Kunzt vendors, we have Deerk (lead guitar and vocals) and Duddi (drums). And then there’s Joe, a recent addition to the set-up, and a friend of Golem’s. He helped to convert the cellar, which up to that point “had a kind of 1980s feel”, to something more “cultish,” with flashing LED lights embedded in the walls. He wants to record their songs as well.
The rehearsal room is in the cellar of a little cottage which Golem and Jörg have been renting for a few years from “the world’s best landlords”, who live next door. And they are the world’s best not just because they have no problem living next door to a band, but also because they rent to Jörg and Golem at all. Neither of them had a job for ages. They both had issues with alcohol and Golem also had a problem with hard drugs. Golem has even served time in jail for fare-dodging. He had no home, had slept at friends’ places for years, and neither he nor Jörg had been able to afford a place like this one. “But the owners wanted to do something good, so they got in touch with Hinz&Kunzt, who liaised with us, and now we live here,” says Jörg. Jörg and Golem first met in the early 1990s. Golem, a cleaner, was in business making and selling French “croque” snacks – his shop was called Croque ’n’ Roll. Jörg was a regular customer. They’ve been friends ever since, bound by a common passion for music.
At the beginning of the 2000s, Jörg started working for Hinz&Kunzt, at first as a facilities manager before he moved on to working as part of the distribution team. Golem started selling the magazine a few years later. Croque ’n’ Roll had gone bust, and Golem had been keeping his head above water by doing odd jobs. And since they have been living together, music is ever-present. “We couldn’t live without music,” says Jörg, who, at the age of 64, is the band’s oldest member. When Golem screams the words of the classic Johnny Thunders song Born to Lose, you know you are listening to someone who hasn’t exactly lived a straightforward life. But you can also tell that the person singing is full of passion. “Music has always kept me together, even when everything else was going wrong,” says Golem. But there had been times when things had got so bad that even he wasn’t able to make music. He had pawned his beloved guitars and basses to finance his drug habit. Now, being able to rehearse with his old mates gives structure to his life and means the world to him. “It’s just like the old days, when we used to hang out together. Amazing.” n Translated from German by Peter Bone. Courtesy of Hinz&Kunzt/INSP.ngo 10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_19 (punks).indd 19
CARTEL - WWW.THEGIGCARTEL.COM - 24 HOUR BOX OFFICE 0844 478 0898 - THE
SELECT THINGS TO DO NEXT WEEK Leeds
The Bear is a heart-warming, humorous tale based on Raymond Briggs’s much-loved storybook. It includes dazzling puppetry, unforgettable music, dreamy storytelling, and plenty of laughs. 18-22 Feb, Courtyard Theatre (leedsplayhouse.org.uk)
Photo: Ste Murray
Bill Kenwright’s production of The Sound of Music tours, telling the story of the true Austrian Von Trapp family singers. 18-22 Feb, Winter Gardens (wintergardensblackpool.co.uk)
Photo: Bill Brandt, Henry Moore
An exhibition from Bill Brant and Henry Moore explores the parallel and intersecting paths of the two great 20th century artists, including their depictions of northern towns and coal mining villages. Until 31 May, Hepworth Wakefield (hepworthwakefield. org)
CBBC Games Half Term includes free activities inspired by the TV channel’s online games, opportunities to learn from experts and play the latest games releases, including Danger Mouse, The Worst Witch and The Dumping Ground. 15-23 Feb, Science and Media Museum (scienceandmediamuseum.org. uk)
Photo: Kabilan Raviraj
Manchester and Berlin-based leftfield, bass, industrial and electronic label Failed Units showcases its sounds with Daniel Ruane and Carne, plus special guests Breakwave, from Liverpool, and Berlin-based Smog. 20 Feb, Soup Kitchen (soupkitchenmcr.co.uk)
Inua Ellams’s magical retelling of the much-loved story by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry follows The Little Prince as he travels across time and space seeking help to bring peace to his warring planet. 20-22 Feb, Z Arts (z-arts.org)
Following on from the release of their single Who’s Ur Girl? Liverpool trio The Mysterines play an eight-date UK tour with a pit stop in their hometown. 22 Feb, Arts Club (gigsandtours. com)
Award-winning young sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun premieres Arya, his new concerto for sitar and orchestra, with the Orchestra of Opera North. 23 Feb, Town Hall (operanorth.com)
10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_21 (select).indd 21
ON DEMAND TELEVISION
BBC Two, Tuesday 11 February, 9pm
UNCUT GEMS (Netflix) JOKER (DVD/Blu-ray/Digital) READY OR NOT (DVD/Blu-ray/Digital) MONOS (Curzon Home Cinema)
It’s almost a year to the day since Channel 4 broadcast a documentary called Skint Britain, which looked at people in Hartlepool trying to navigate the new Universal Credit benefits system. It was unflinching, making no attempt to varnish the harsh reality of people being pushed even further into poverty, punished for failing to find jobs that didn’t exist. Now here’s the BBC’s take on the same subject, airing somewhat conveniently after the general election and with Boris Johnson’s government wielding a mandate to continue faster and further down this controversial road. After the BBC’s rather pitiful performance in the run-up to the election, it’s hard not to approach this new series with one eye suspiciously trained on its editorial choices. The location for this week’s episode is Toxteth Job Centre, where staff are struggling to cope after two other local centres were closed down, forcing claimants from across the city to place extra demand on their services. Three such cases are followed: Sue, made redundant from her full-time job as a school cleaner at the age of 61; Zach, a picture of Scouse optimism in the face of adversity, pounding the pavements and dropping CVs in at every shop and industrial unit he can find; and Laryssa, a Czech-born resident of Liverpool since childhood, now eight months pregnant and caught up in the ludicrous system to find out if she’s allowed to claim anything at all. We also follow the staff, notably 28-year Job Centre veteran Jules, who describes himself as “one of Robin Hood’s men, working for the Sheriff of Nottingham”. It’s through his blunt honesty that the programme comes closest to making any lasting criticism of the Universal Credit system – he reveals that some of his co-workers are claiming the same benefit they’re testing others for – but even his story is edited in such a way to suggest that, ultimately, it’ll all be OK. It’s this weirdly upbeat tone that raises the eyebrow. Every downside is quickly balanced with a contrived positive and the overall message is that while the system is struggling, it’s a tough but fair bootstraps regime that pays off eventually. It falls short of being overt DWP propaganda but is close enough that anyone who feels the BBC has become a government mouthpiece will have plenty of reasons to justify their scepticism.
The work of Adam Sandler doesn’t often come critically acclaimed, least of all his slew of recent lowbrow movies for Netflix. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Uncut Gems is one of those. This is a superb paranoid drama, with Sandler impressing as Howard Ratner, a manic New York jeweller who takes on a crushing loan in order to place a bet, then must borrow more money to pay for that mistake – and on it goes, an avalanche of poor decisions and last-minute reprieves that will leave you as highly strung as its fast-talking main character. Judged purely as a character piece, it’s a rousing success. As a sly commentary on today’s quick-fix short-term approach to politics and the economy, it has a bite you won’t forget. Supervillain spin-off Joker would very much love to have that sort of energy and insight, but this origin story for Batman’s most notorious foe is a sophomoric and shallow exercise in contrived squalor and clumsy pastiche. Joaquin Phoenix does excellent work as Arthur Fleck, a downtrodden wretch afflicted with a condition that makes him laugh hysterically at inappropriate times. The story, sadly, simply heaps misery and degradation on him until he lives up to the destiny promised by the movie’s title. Heavily indebted to the urban grime of Scorsese’s early films, but with none of their verisimilitude, it’s ultimately an ugly experience where the climactic face-painted violence was always preordained. A far smarter use of violence can be found in Ready or Not, a canny black comedy in which a young woman (Samara Weaving) marries into a wealthy family only to find herself fighting for her life when their wedding night game involves hunting her for sport through their trickedout mansion. It’s an unapologetic sledgehammer satire on the US class system, for sure, but one with its own gleefully dark trajectory. Finally, Monos is one of the best foreign language films of recent years, following a group of child soldiers guarding a hostage on a remote Colombian mountain. Both intimate and epic in its scope, it’s a visually stunning piece of work that deserves favourable comparisons to Apocalypse Now, balancing blunt human reality against the surreal limits of the mind and the vast impassive majesty of the natural world. By turns cruel and cosmic, it’s a heartbreaking treat for the senses.
UNIVERSAL CREDIT: INSIDE THE WELFARE STATE
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_22,23 (reviews).indd 22
STATE OF INDEPENDENTS
MUSIC GREEN DAY
Father of All... (Reprise/Warner)
It’s almost 35 years since Green Day formed, although advanced middle age appears not to have blunted the trio’s edge. “Rock has lost its balls,” declares singer Billie Joe Armstrong in a statement accompanying the band’s 13th studio album. “I want Green Day to cut through the bullshit,” he says, citing the take no prisoners attitude of today’s hip-hop stars as a contemporary marker. Father of All... reflects that ambition by cramming a dizzying number of influences into 26 rapid-fire, fun-filled minutes. The longest of its 10 songs, the catchy I Was A Teenage Teenager, clocks in at three minutes 45 seconds. The shortest is Fire, Ready, Aim, which recalls noughties garage rock sensations The Hives and lasts under two minutes.
Sitting alongside them is the glam inspired Oh Yeah!, Motown-meets-rockabilly Stab You In The Heart, 1950s doo-wop sugar rush of Meet Me On The Roof and snarling Take The Money And Crawl. Graffitia delivers another left turn by marrying a Springsteen-esque verse with crunchy guitar chords and chanted chorus. Direct political commentary is almost entirely absent, but is not missed. In many ways, Father of All... sounds like the work of a band just starting out, making music for the sheer fun of it and raising a middle finger to anyone who objects. Pure Green Day, in other words. RICHARD SMIRKE
Described by Blossoms as “a pure celebration of love in all of its splendid and baffling guises,” Foolish Loving Spaces shows the Stockport band at their most exuberant and joyful. The chugging synthpop groove of If You Think This Is Real Life and hypercatchy Your Girlfriend set the gooey, playful tone. Frothier thrills follow with the discoflavoured Oh No (I Think I’m In Love), jangly Romance, Eh? and harmony-glazed My Swimming Brain, sounding like Tame Impala covering Abba. A wistful My Vacant Days and cheery 1970s-style The Keeper add to the album’s primary-coloured palette.
Six years after her global smash single All About That Bass, Meghan Trainor adopts a “throw a ton of muck against the wall, see what sticks” approach for her delayed third studio album. Bruno Mars-style funk, tear-stained gospel, straight-up pop, lilting country folk and feisty R&B are just a few of the genres on Treat Myself, few of which connect with any real power. Phoned-in guest appearances from Pussycat Dolls, Mike Sabbath and Nicki Minaj add little, while the record’s central message of finding acceptance and self-love feels like it’s been devised in a marketing boardroom.
“The West is dead,” declare HMLTD at the start of their debut album, three years after the London five-piece first received fawning reviews for their chaotic gigs. The same playful sense of genremeshing abandon is present here, although it appears far more disjointed on record than it does in the live arena. Still, several good songs shine through, notably the glam surf-punk rush of To The Door, sprawling Satan, Luella & I, and Franz Ferdinand-esque Where’s Joanna? Shades of PiL, Sparks, David Bowie and Depeche Mode can also be found amid the jumbled patchwork of ideas.
Foolish Loving Spaces
West of Eden
Strange sci-fi drama Little Joe (from 21 Feb, Home, Manchester and other cinemas) is about a plant breeder, Alice, who helps develop a new species of flower that seems to have a positive effect on people’s emptions. Against company policy, Alice takes one home as a gift for her son, but as the flower grows, so too does Alice’s suspicion that her new creation may not be harmless. Hyde Park Picture House closes its doors this month as work begins on essential repair and restoration work on the Grade II listed building. The cinema will continue screening films throughout 2020 however, with the launch of its On the Road film programme, with new independent films, documentaries and cult classics showing in venues across the city. One of the first of these is Buddies (25 Feb, 42 New Briggate, Leeds), which was the first feature-length drama about Aids when it was released in 1985. A 25-year old man volunteers to be a buddy to an Aids patient, and is assigned to a 32-year-old gay gardener who has been abandoned by his friends and lovers. Argentine romantic drama End of the Century (from 21 Feb, Showroom Workstation, Sheffield and other cinemas) spans two decades and is about two men who hook up for a casual sexual encounter before realising that they have met 20 years earlier, when they were both in the closet about their sexuality and too afraid to pursue a relationship. Documentary United Nation, Three Decades of Drum and Bass (23 Feb, Picturehouse at Fact, Liverpool) is an entertaining exposé of the origins of the electronic dance music genre. With exclusive archive footage and interviews with many people involved in the scene at the time, the film explores what it was like to be involved in the inception of a whole new musical movement, which still influences the clubs and the music of today. Silent movie The Man Who Laughs (22 Feb, Hull Independent Cinema) tells the story of a nobleman’s son who is kidnapped and orphaned by a wicked king, who carves a permanent, monstrous smile on his face. Finding shelter in a travelling carnival, the man falls in love with a blind girl – the one person who cannot be repulsed by his appearance. CHRISTIAN LISSEMAN
10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_22,23 (reviews).indd 23
Home is where the art is Dickens’ preoccupation with bricks and mortar was likely sparked by losing his own home as a boy, so it’s unsurprising that at a time of high levels of precarious housing novelists and artists continue to be inspired by it, writes Deborah Mulhearn Whether we live in one or not, it’s fair to say we are obsessed with houses. They are the staple of dinner-party conversations, and magazines and social media are dominated by images of the carefully curated homes of celebrities and actors. Perhaps this is why we are drawn to depictions of houses in all artforms. Writers, filmmakers and artists are adept at exploiting our fears and longings about what is fundamental to all of us – the notion of house and home. Fictional houses, starting with the ones in fairy tales and fables, can be as memorable as the characters who inhabit them, and sometimes more so. “The fascination about houses in books could be because we are compensating for what has become almost a prostitution of property, where the home is seen purely as a material 24
asset,” says writer Christina Hardyment, who discusses 20 emblematic houses, from Manderley and Wuthering Heights to Bleak House and Mansfield Park in her new book Novel Houses. But houses’ influence extends beyond the page. A sense of being on the threshold of momentous events is exploited in the 1992 production of JB Priestley’s classic play An Inspector Calls – still touring today with the same inventive set. Where novelists can evoke the atmosphere of a house with powerful description, a director has to rely on scant stage instructions. But imaginative design can continually reinvent the set and refresh the messages of the play. The action takes place in the dining room of a well-to-do family, but one that is hiding secrets,
protected by their wealth and grand house. A young woman has committed suicide and they are all implicated. But the 1992 production, directed by Stephen Daldry and designed by Ian MacNeil, inverts this so that the audience sees not an interior but the whole house, lit from within and also by a streetlamp, which becomes a kind of spotlight on each family member in turn. “We used film iconography, with elements of gothic dramas like Rebecca and Jane Eyre but also of noir and horror, so we could show the inspector approaching the door, lit by a porch light that’s somehow both welcoming and repellent,” says MacNeil. MacNeil consciously evoked the famous poster for the 1973 film of William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist. The priest standing outside the demonic house in the dark – lit by
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_24,25 (arts).indd 24
Left: Liam Brennan as Inspector Gould and cast in An Inspector Calls, London,2016. Photo: Alastair Muir/Shutterstock. Above: poster for The Exorcist. Right: House by the Railroad and the Bates Motel from Psycho
a streetlamp but also bathed in light from an upstairs window – represents change. He is about to enter the house but is also hesitating in very human trepidation. This poster in turn was inspired by The Empire of Light, a painting by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte, of a house shrouded in shadow and lit by a streetlamp, but where the sky above shows a bright cloud-dappled day. The houses painted by American artist Edward Hopper are not all moodily lit and isolated – some are sunlit and brightly coloured, or half and half like Magritte’s – but they are all intriguing as to the lives within and also their relationship to Depression-era America. Hopper’s 1925 House by the Railroad inspired the glowering gothic house in the Hitchcock film Psycho. Although the murder happens in the motel, it’s the spooky house on the hill that we remember. Even high-rise flats can offer scope for hauntings of sorts. The setting of Andrea Arnold’s 2006 film Red Road is a bleak high-rise tower block on a Glasgow estate, where the lift and foyer offer the only human interaction and the “ghosts” manifest themselves as images on CCTV monitors. External forces are both implicit and explicit in British artist Rachel Whiteread’s House, expressed in concrete from the carcass of a house awaiting demolition, which won the Turner Prize in 1993. It only lasted three months before it was itself demolished to make way for new homes in a rapidly gentrifying part of London. But her ideas of permanence, transitoriness and illusion were influential on other “house” artists. In 2004 visitors saw semi-detached, artist Michael Landy’s moving recreation of his father’s interwar house wedged into the
classical space of Tate Britain. The more playful 2013 installation, From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes by artist Alex Chinneck, was a house in Margate with its façade sliding into the front yard as if melting, its top storey exposed to the elements and to the passers-by in an almost indecent way. The brick walls and back yards of housing estates that feature in the contemporary paintings of Frank Laws also have this “rear window” quality. But these are working-class homes imbued with a romanticism and even reverence usually reserved for grand mansions and castles. Architectural detail and materials are rendered as meticulously as a portrait painter would hair and skin. “I do see the buildings as characters,” says Laws. “And one of the reasons for leaving out the human figure is to focus on the buildings themselves, but then also to make the viewer consider what goes on in and around them. I see my paintings as a question mark and not a full stop – the start of a conversation and not the end. “A lot of architecture is represented in painting but not often of the everyday, relatable kind. I’m trying to show the warmth of a home, and how they can hold a lot of personal memories, both good and bad, but also that these homes are standing in the face of change. I want to remind people of their original purpose and what is happening to social housing.” In the post-war housing landscape, among bombsites and the disruption of rebuilding, and the 21st century pressures of gentrification, it’s memories that are passed down rather than property. In a sense all these houses are haunted, by past and other lives. The ghosts can’t leave, and we can’t look away.
Blackpool A community theatre company is offering free acting opportunities for adults. The Electric Sunshine Project’s (TESP) Drop-In Drama sessions will be running weekly from Wed 26 Feb, 5-7pm, Studio 1, B&F College, Park Road. Participants will explore a range of dramabased activities in a fun, active and social way. The group will not be working towards a show and so you can drop in and out on a weekly basis. Email electricsunshineproject@gmail. com or see bit.ly/2SfGq40. Liverpool To coincide with the exhibition Matisse: Drawing with Scissors (preview on bigissuenorth.com), the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight is hosting a series of workshops. Matisse screen printing for adults on 16 Feb is hosted by artist Laura-Kate Draws. Participants will work in twos to create a Matisse-inspired design to be printed onto paper or a tote bag and taken home. Tickets are £25. There are additional free family-friendly workshops in gel printing and hanging mobilemaking on 20 Feb. Visit liverpoolmuseums. org.uk Wakefield Family Drawing in Paradise at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, is inspired by Saad Qureshi’s installation Something About Paradise. The free entry event on 22 Feb will be supported by an artist who will help participants to compose, capture and stretch their thinking to create drawings. Workshops take place hourly between 11am and 3pm and families can continue the day with the artistled Playful Sculpture Walk. Visit ysp.org or call 01924 832631. 10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_24,25 (arts).indd 25
READING ROOM Author Q&A: Clare Beams THE ILLNESS LESSON (Transworld, £14.99)
New England, 1871: famed philosopher Samuel Hood and his daughter Caroline have founded a progressive girls’ school named after the mysterious flock of red birds that has descended on the land. When the pupils begin developing strange symptoms like rashes, seizures, verbal tics and night wanderings, a physician is called in who insists he knows the best course of treatment – but it comes at a high cost to the girls and the school’s integrity. Tell us about the birds in the The Illness Lesson and what they represent. While I’m actually writing, I don’t tend to think about anything as deliberate and big-picture as symbolism; in the act of drafting I was mostly aware of the birds as a creepy but joyous piece of imagining. But I’ve come to feel that they’re thematically connected to the bodies of the schoolgirls in the novel. The founders of the Trilling Heart School intend for it to show the world what girls can do, but they haven’t really made much space for the actual selves of the girls involved: the birds are a sort of strange answer to the way the girls’ bodies have been erased, I think, just as the girls’ mysterious symptoms are. I see both the birds and the illness as wild flourishes of insistence. The Trilling Heart school is founded on the idea that education should be egalitarian among the sexes – radical thinking in 1871, but is there still inequality in education today? Oh, I think there’s inequality almost everywhere, once you’re looking for it – and now that I have daughters I feel even more attuned to it than I used to be. It seems to me that we still tell girls very different things about themselves than we tell boys, as we’re preparing them all to enter the world and find their places in it. I think girls often face this sort of unspoken admonishment not to take up too much space. The book is historical fiction which draws on elements of the supernatural. When writing the book were these two genres jarring or a natural fit? I’m a writer who’s often drawn to writing about both the past and the strange – I frequently inhabited this joint territory in my 2016 story collection We Show What We Have Learned, too. I don’t think I’m really considering the historical aspect and the supernatural one to be separate elements while I write; in fact I don’t think I’m necessarily thinking in terms of large questions like genre at all. I’m living much more on the level of the trees than the forest for many, many drafts, just trying to get the images and then the sentences and then the characters and then their story right. In the case of The Illness Lesson, the setting – a 19th-century New England school –and the red birds are the two elements that came first as I was imagining my way into the story. In my imagination, they always belonged together. The book provokes questions about women’s treatment by the medical establishment and how women’s ailments are perhaps still disbelieved and downplayed. What needs to happen to overcome medical gender bias? That’s a huge and important question! I won’t pretend I’m qualified to provide a real, actionable answer – but I do think a good start would be to treat women like authorities on their own bodies. To ask questions and really, truly listen to the answers. What research did you carry out into cases of mass hysteria and are there any particular ones that influenced you? I didn’t know that the girls would become ill when I first started writing, but once I figured out the girls’ bodies would need to rebel in this way, I found myself doing a fair bit of research on mass hysteria and on hysteria 26
in general. While there weren’t necessarily particular cases I used as models for the story, it does turn out that mass hysteria in schools has happened with some frequency through history, and I found learning about those cases – in which the power dynamics of the classroom are in a sense destabilised – fascinating. Dr Hawkins theorises that the girls’ illnesses may be influenced by the book they are all reading. If books do have the ability to influence people so profoundly, what impact would you hope The Illness Lesson could have? Books have had an enormous power over my own life; some of the books I love are as vivid to me as my own memories, and I think reading has enlarged and continues to enlarge my sense and understanding of the world. I certainly wouldn’t want something I wrote to change or shape anyone directly – that’s sort of a terrifying idea! – but I would love it if readers emerged from their time in these pages, their time living inside Caroline’s skin and life, and saw their own lives in a slightly different way. You teach creative writing. What is your number one lesson for your students and did you follow your own advice while writing this novel? One thing I always tell my students is that they need to be patient – with the work and with themselves. Good writing takes so much longer than we think it will, almost always. And on a craft level I always remind them that writing has power when it lives in the senses, when you’re making it real for the reader in that way. I did try to follow both pieces of advice when writing this novel. I tried never to veer too far into the abstract, especially in the strangest and darkest moments of the book. And I tried to let this book take the time it needed (seven years!) to become itself. ANTONIA CHARLESWORTH
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_26,27 (books).indd 26
OFF THE SHELF FINDING TRUTH IN MEMOIR LUCY FRY
Just what does it even mean to remain truthful in a work of memoir? Is it about being factual, or being sincere? And how do they differ, if at all? What’s more, do we, as humans, even know where imagination starts and memoir ends? The word “memoir” literally means a “recollection”, something most of us agree isn’t always 100 per cent factually accurate, yet we cannot write any memoir without some serious respect for truth. In all writing, but particularly memoir, our true experiences are often expressed – or enhanced – in how the content is organised, and this rarely involves remaining entirely faithful to chronology. Maggie O Farrell’s I Am I Am I Am (Tinder Press) is structured not chronologically but viscerally and anatomically, around different parts of the body, parts she injured during brushes with death. In Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (Vintage) the central organising principle of the book is love – for a particular man and a particular colour – and yet memories are shot at us in short, numbered snippets, recollections and thoughts from past and present, forcing readers to get a true sense of how it is to live with a splintered heart. Another poetic favourite of mine, Heart Berries (Bloomsbury) by Terese Marie Mailhot, is also extremely fractured, its point of view chopping and changing, in a way that feels entirely appropriate for the mental anguish that Mailhot expresses. In my memoir, Easier Ways To Say I Love You, I remain very interested in pursuing truth. I seek to find it most clearly not in the tangible, scientific facts but in the broad brush strokes of the work – the overall physical, mental and emotional experiences I relay and which I want the reader to taste and touch. I aim to achieve this by creating a sustained, authentic voice, and devoting myself to absolute emotional sincerity in every single sentence. The book is full of the kind of material most of us (including me, actually) would prefer to keep private, like drunkenness, sex and infidelity. But to dress the story up as fiction, though more comfortable for me, would have been to reduce the purpose and impact of my experiences, and so too their usefulness to the reader. As such, I have forced myself towards the reality of what happened and how I felt rather than what I’d prefer people to see. As Jeanette Winterson wrote in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, (Jonathan Cape): “There are two kinds of writing. The one you write and the one that writes you”. Mine was definitely the second and it has provided as much relief as it has anxiety. Winterson calls this kind of writing dangerous and, I agree, it probably is, but mostly because of the kind of power such truth telling can contain. Any writing that turns one’s suffering inside out and exposes it without collapsing into self-pity will pack a punch. That is why I say that good memoir writing should be far less about catharsis and far more about connection. If I can write about my messiest thoughts and feelings when I am writing then I can live more easily with them. Perhaps, I hope, I can also give my readers permission to accept theirs. Easier Ways To Say I Love You by Lucy Fry is published by Myriad (£8.99)
OFF THE SHELF TIME-TRAVELING SOULMATES PAULLINA SIMONS
During the first four years of working on my End of Forever saga, I deliberately did not read other writers’ time travel fiction. I didn’t want anything to confuse or discourage me, or inadvertently make me imitate others at the expense of my own sprawling story of a love that is stronger than death. Once the books were finished, I did read a few books in this wheelhouse. Some of them were extraordinary. Timeline by Michael Crichton (Arrow) is smart and propulsively readable. French science students travel back in time to fourteenth century France to rescue their professor, and then get trapped there. What follows are the adventures of these young people who have been told certain things about life in medieval France and now must discover the truth for themselves, all the while searching for a way to get back home. Timeline is told as only Crichton can tell it, mixing science, medicine, and humour with a lightning-fast narrative. In What the Wind Knows Amy Harmon always writes beautifully and eloquently. A woman grieving for her grandfather is thrown back in time to 1922 Ireland, where she must assume a new identity to survive and learn about her past to help her heal in the present. It is an emotional meditation on grief and a lyrical search for meaning in one’s own life. Richard Matheson’s Bid Time Return (Buccaneer Books) is a time travel love story between a modern man and a captivating actress from the nineteenth century. The novel was made into a wonderfully romantic film called Somewhere in Time. The book is slightly less romantic, and slower paced, but it offers a great perspective of the soul of a man who becomes obsessed first with nothing but a photograph, and then falls in love with the real woman. It’s a heartbreaking story of a doomed but perfect love. Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five (Vintage Classics) is one of the most powerful anti-war novels ever written. In it, Vonnegut uses time travel as a means, not as an end, and as a device to get across the other, more important things, he wants to tell the reader. Billy Pilgrim, the time traveling narrator, is unreliable, the timeline is non-linear, the plot zigzags wildly between present day and Pilgrim’s various wartime experiences, but in its sum, it’s an unforgettable story of how war traumatises soldiers and profoundly affects the people who come into contact with the damaged souls. Inexpressible Island, the last novel in the End of Forever Trilogy by Paullina Simmons, is out now (HarperCollins, £8.99) 10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_26,27 (books).indd 27
LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF MICHAEL CASHMAN Former MEP and actor, aged 69 At 16 years old, I was just starting out as a young adult on an acting career. I knew my own sexuality, I knew I was attracted to boys. I was really, really trying to find a place to belong. I came from the East End of London to the West End of London, this other world that I could hide myself in and fantasise in, a world of tiny gay clubs where the strongest drink you could get was a black coffee. People pushed pills towards you, and you ducked away from them. It was an incredibly confusing and brilliant time. And life threw some heavy punches sometimes, in places where I least expected them, like my school. But I was a smiler. I looked out with wide, wide eyes, smiling at the world in which I was living and which I didn’t really understand.
If you’d told me that I was going to campaign for gay rights I would have gone: no, you’ll end up in prison
The hard times I went through you can’t, as a young person, rationalise [Cashman suffered regular sexual abuse as a young boy]. In a way you can’t give them space because they would pull you down. Often when things happen to you, you find survival mechanisms and part of that is imagining that those things happened to somebody else and it’s not somebody you know and face daily. Young adults are really quite imaginative about how to deal with life throwing them a punch on the chin. I look back at my teenage self and I love him. I love his openness. I love his ability to laugh, his ability to throw himself into a world as alien as the world of show business. And I love him because he dared to try to find someone. And he did; at just over the age of 16, he found somebody eight years older than him. And this guy was stunning. He was the richest straight gay guy I ever met. He swept me off my feet. And due to my perseverance and determination we were together for nearly nine years. Then he tried to pretend I didn’t exist. But I love the young Michael for having the guts to commit to something, during the 1960s and 1970s when teenagers were pretty crazy – drugs were common currency, binges and all-night parties. Instead I opted for a love life. And it changed me because I think to be loved, and to love someone – it changes you for the rest of your life. The relationship with my mother was very close. I was her confidant at a very early age, and in some respects perhaps that took away a bit of my innocence. We all need someone to trust and she saw me as a repository of some of her secrets. She didn’t have to believe in Jesus Christ because she believed I walked on water. And she was fascinated by my life in show business. When I opened an avocado pear and put oil and vinegar in it, she looked at me and said: “Oh, you show business people, you do live strange lives!” I was a little glittering ball in her life and she couldn’t quite understand where the electricity to power it came from, or which way that light would turn, but she was mesmerised by it. My dad and I always had a difficult relationship because I wasn’t the man he wanted his son to be. I wasn’t at all athletic. I ran away from the football, I ran away from the horror of the communal cold showers on sports day. He was sceptical about my work. He liked the money it brought in, but he certainly didn’t like the fact that I was living in a world which, as he said, was filled with queers. If you told the teenage Michael how his life would turn out, he’d say: well, that’s not going to happen! Because when I was 16, it was still criminal not just to try to meet other gays but to have a consenting relationship. It wasn’t until I was getting into my 17th year that the law changed [and homosexuality] was partially decriminalised. So my 16-year-old self, thinking of going out there and leading the fight on gay rights [before he was a MEP and Labour peer, Cashman was a 28
founder member of LGBT rights charity Stonewall] – he would have been certified as ready to be locked up. If you’d told me that when the government brought in the first anti-lesbian and gay law in 100 years, I was going to campaign against it – the 16-year-old me would have covered his head and gone: no, no, Michael don’t do it, you’ll end up in prison. There were times when I was exhausted and I thought, I’m waiting for somebody else to speak up. But then the voice in your head says, you can’t, you have to speak up. I never once tired of challenging an injustice. I just sometimes questioned whether I had the talent to see it through. If you told the 16-year-old me that I would have ended up in politics – that again would have seemed unbelievable because I finished my education at the age of 12. I failed my 11-plus. I didn’t go to university. The first thing my dad did when I was born was put my name down so that I could follow him and become a docker in the East End. If I’d passed my 11-plus my journey would have been different. But it’s no use looking back. When I was given the opportunity to make a stand in a soap in front of millions of people twice a week [as Colin Russell in EastEnders, who in 1989 gave British soap operas their first gay kiss], that was incredible. It does surprise me that I took that step. But I look back and remember that 16-year-old in a holiday camp doing cabaret. There was a man drowning in the sea off the cliff and the entire ballroom left because they thought the man drowning had more entertainment value than my rendition of Al Jolson’s Mammy. But I kept singing. I had the guts and the chutzpah to stand up and tell jokes that weren’t funny, and sing songs that nobody wanted to listen to at such an early age – that shows I had the confidence to walk into the lion’s den, even though I couldn’t imagine what a lion would do to you. If I could have one last conversation with anybody, I would choose Paul [Cottingham, his partner of 31 years who died in 2014]. I would give every
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_29,29 (LTYMS).indd 28
We are recruiting for a number of roles within our businesses and charities.
s ay : n
SELF HELP QUALIFIED PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING PRACTITIONER, STOCKPORT QUALIFIED PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING PRACTITIONER, EASTERN CHESHIRE HIGH INTENSITY CBT THERAPIST Job descriptions, application forms and closing dates are available from thebiglifegroup.com click work for us.
single day for one moment with him. And that’s not flippant. I think about what that means, giving everything for that one moment. We would talk and I would apologise for a couple of things. But finally, at the end of the conversation, holding him in my arms. I would give up on everything else. That would be my one wish. When someone you love as much as I loved Paul dies they give you an amazing gift. They take away any fear of death. You realise that death makes sense to the dying. It’s those of us who live on afterwards who are confused by it. But to the dying, the moment when they decide not to breathe in again is the moment of amazing relief. Paul and I felt very lucky. When he had his diagnosis of the very rare cancer he said, we have to remember that some people leave home, having had a row, and expect to get home that night and apologise and make it all better. And they don’t ever come back. We know, we can prepare. I do think about death now, but I have no fear of it. I am a born-again atheist so I have no expectation, other than surprise. But when I look at the life I’ve led so far, to wish for more is pretty audacious. I think I’ve had an amazing amount of wonderful life. If I could go back and re-live any time in my life it would be when I was about seven years old, shivering with the cold on what they laughingly call the beach at Southend. It was mud. I still have a photo of that day. There I was, shivering, with a bucket and spade, my mum sat on a towel beside me and my brother, both of us so skinny. It was only for one day but it was our first holiday. I thought I was the luckiest boy in the world. Reproduced from The Big Issue UK (@bigissue) INTERVIEW: JANE GRAHAM
One of Them: From Albert Square to Parliament Square by Michael Cashman is published by Bloomsbury (£18.99). 10 - 16 FEBRUARY BIG ISSUE NORTH
BIN1324_28,29 (LTYMS).indd 29
SUPPLIED BY PANTHES
Complete the Sudoku puzzle so that each and every row, column and region contains the numbers one to nine once. The solution to the last Sudoku is shown on the right.
WHY WE ASK YOU TO BUY AND TAKE THE MAGAZINE
Big Issue North vendors are working, not begging. Vendors bought this magazine from us for £1.25 and sold it to you for £2.50, keeping the profit they made
Selling the magazine doesn’t just provide the people who sell it with an income, but also increases their self-esteem as they make an honest living selling a great product
We depend on our readers to buy and take the magazine since the money that is made from sales goes back into the costs of producing it
Visit bigissuenorth.com/buythemag to find out more
CRYPTIC CLUES: ACROSS
6. May the first be a fruit? (4) 7. Jack, say, and Queen, after scripture lessons with priest (6) 8. Finish putting on a scarf (4,2) 9. Shine steadily close to the g-ground (4) 10. Second stab said (5) 12. Strand in wardrobe, aching (5) 15. See birds back or sea bird forward (4) 17. Cover up Bach arrangement (6) 19. Sleep zone - so change (6) 20. Last Kinks’ song doesn’t start for Germinal creator (4)
CRYPTIC CLUES: DOWN
1. The French make contented sound, rising to swipe (6) 2. Cry of chimney cleaner, losing head (4) 3. Trod softly when salesman caught outside (5) 4. A river horse, reaching zenith (6) 5. Bulldoze root contents for nothing (4) 11. Horn from Malaysian city nerve cell (6) 13. Chromium and lead mixture is rocker (6) 14. Tweet not dear by the sound of it (5) 16. Sandwich found here? 18. Call Lightyear (4)
QUICK CLUES: ACROSS
6. Go out with (4) 7. Tool for removing slates (6) 8. Enclose parcel (4,2) 9. Radiance (4) 10. Radial support on wheel (5) 12. Seashore (5) 15. Bonxie (4) 17. Wheel trim (6) 19. Put device on standby (6) 20 French author, Emile (4)
QUICK CLUES: DOWN
1. Bash (6) 2. Express sorrow (4) 3. Moved stealthily (5) 4. Culmination, high point (6) 5. Null value (4) 11. Hooter (6) 13. Hold in arms (6) 14. Make noise like budgie (5) 16. English county (4) 18. Make noise like bee (4)
LAST WEEK’S SOLUTIONS
ACROSS: 1. Shock, 5. Ate, 7. Izard 8. Hotel, 9. Tyranny, 10. Misspelling 13. Fiancee, 15. Totem, 16. Colic 17. Hue, 18. Human DOWN: 1. Schism, 2. Outdistance 3. Kilt, 4. Laurel, 5. Ad infinitum 6. Easy, 11. Pickle, 12. Gammon 13. Fish, 14. Itch
BIG ISSUE NORTH 10 - 16 FEBRUARY
BIN1324_30 (xword).indd 30
in community solar
SHARE OFFER now OPEN Generate Clean Energy Tackle Climate Change 4% return INVEST FROM £50
From the award-winning Awel Co-op team
www.egni.coop · firstname.lastname@example.org · 01639 830870
â€œI was injured 10 years ago, and Help for Heroes are the only people still involved.â€? Simon, veteran Many very seriously injured veterans were told they would never walk again, never talk again and never live independently again. Every journey is different, but with the right help they can defy the odds.
If you or someone you know needs support, get in touch today. #NeverSayNever #TimeToTalk h4hweb.com/neversaynever3
Help for Heroes is a charity registered in England and Wales (1120920) and Scotland (SC044984)
BIN1323_02.indd 27 2019_0057 VSI Big_Issue_full_page_ad.indd 1
31/01/2020 11:30 30/01/2020 15:43:03
Following heart surgery, Michael Palin is ready to renew his travels with even more enthusiasm. Sebastian Oake speaks to him about his recen...
Published on Feb 10, 2020
Following heart surgery, Michael Palin is ready to renew his travels with even more enthusiasm. Sebastian Oake speaks to him about his recen...