Tom Robinson: Racism, Grassroots Music… and Getting Stuck into Twitter

“Is that Owen Jones?” whispers Tom Robinson with some excitement. We peek round the corner and can’t quite make up our minds. “Hang on a sec…” says Robinson and starts speaking a Tweet into his phone… … [Read more...]

Maggie Sawkins: Diaries, Unsent Letters Addiction

“He was sitting there with a big plastic bottle of white cider, with this heroin he was smoking and he had an axe on the floor. He had one eye and one ear, and I looked at him and said: ‘My daughter wants you to go or I’m going to call the police.’” Between fits of giggles Maggie Sawkins is sitting at her kitchen table telling us about the time she had to evict a drug dealer from her daughter’s house on Christmas day. Having spent over twenty years as the mother of a heroin addict, the award winning poet has recently documented and performed her experiences in the play, Zones of Avoidance. … [Read more...]

“Wilful Murder?” Clive Bloom on Thatcher’s Secret War…

“I wanted to write a political thriller,” to cover the factual story nobody else was covering, Clive Bloom tells Searchlight Magazine Arts over the phone from his home in London. Bloom is Emeritus Professor of English and American Studies at Middlesex University, author of numerous books, and is talking about his latest, Thatcher's Secret War: Subversion, Coercion, Secrecy and Government, 1974-1990. He describes a time when the actions of the Security Services in Northern Ireland was “underhand, illegal and transferred over to the mainland,” where the intelligence agencies answered to nobody, and where a series of events “came together violently in wilful murder” - perhaps even with the killing of Airey Neave -- escapee from Colditz and Conservative MP for Abingdon -- who died in a car bomb attack in 1979. … [Read more...]

Viewpoint: The Voice of Luke Concannon

The band Nizlopi may be best known for its hit single, JCB Song [YouTube video], but the duo behind the group, John Parker and Luke Concannon, are a serious musical outfit, influenced by poetry, trip hop, folk and an eclectic range of other styles. As Concannon tours his debut solo album, we caught up with him via Skype to learn more about his inner world, views on fame and belief in the Global Justice Movement. … [Read more...]

The Ordinary British Women Who Stand Up to UKIP

Searchlight Magazine Arts has long been impressed by the tenacity of Women Against UKIP.  This is by far and away the most active group on social media and its Facebook community has soared since it launched last April, with current “likes” standing at 17,226.  We catch up with the leaders of this community to learn more about how this group began… and why they decided to put so much time, effort and dedication into making a stand. … [Read more...]

Mark Farrelly Interview: Writer, Actor, Performer

We saw Mark Farrelly’s solo depiction of Patrick Hamilton in Silence of Snow, at the Old Red Lion theatre pub in north London, back in October and were hugely impressed. Few people would be able to write this piece, let alone perform it… and he managed both. And perhaps more laudable still, he even ran another one-man show, based on the life of Quentin Crisp, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, simultaneously. Searchlight Magazine Arts catches up with Mark Farrelly to discover his views on literature and the arts… and find why he loves those long dead underdogs so much. We missed Naked Hope, unfortunately, but you appeared to be running this and Silence of Snow – both intense one-man shows – fairly concurrently. How did you find this, especially as you’d never done a solo show before? … [Read more...]

Spoz Interview: Brummie Poet Laureate

Giovanni Esposito, more commonly known as Spoz, is much more down to earth than any preconceived image of a ‘poet’ you might have. Dressed in a vest and jeans and sporting a dark Mohican, he is an extremely friendly chap with a ready Brummie wit and constant stream of chatty opinion. This is partly because Spoz is a normal bloke, not some lofty artist. Back in 1980, aged 16, he started work at the Longbridge car plant in Northfields, south Birmingham; only when it closed down, in 2005, did he have a proper bash at what he really loved doing: making music and writing poetry. … [Read more...]

David Edgar Interview: The Arts & the Left

It’s around 5.30pm, the rest of the conference crowd has disappeared off to dinner and we’re sitting in a brightly lit common room with playwright David Edgar. We’ve come up to Northampton University for the 50th anniversary conference of Searchlight Magazine, the anti-fascist, anti-racist publication that Edgar first wrote for back in the 70s. The Birmingham born writer has just delivered his extremely cogent speech to a feisty bunch of academics, activists and entertainers and has been gracious enough to let us pounce on him for a quick chat. Having spent the last 40 years seamlessly straddling the balance between the arts and left wing political activism, we’re particularly interested in his take on the close relationship between the two. “When I started out in the theatre, which was a very lively exciting time: end of the 60s, early 70s, Vietnam war raging, battles between the unions and the Edward Heath Conservative government, the lights going out, three day week, all of … [Read more...]

Gerry Gable Interview: Meet The Searchlight Spymaster

On 17th May 1959 a 32-year old Antiguan carpenter, Kelso Cochrane, was making his way from Paddington General Hospital to his home in Notting Hill following a minor work accident. It was past midnight and when he hit the junction of Southam Street and Goldborne Road, he found himself surrounded by a group of white youths. This was an unprovoked attack which left him knifed to death, and like Stephen Lawrence, this event soon became synonymous with ongoing race relations in Britain. In the 55 years since his murder, the battlegrounds of racism, fascism and extremism have been in a constant state of flux. And during this time, one man and his organisation have consistently been on the front line of all of them. Today we’ve come to one of his many secret meeting places in central London for a rare interview. … [Read more...]

Geoffrey Seed Interview: Fact Becomes Fiction

“‘The common currency of both our professions is information. You want information. We want information. I can get you this, but I want the following things…’ what he wanted was information about my colleagues at Granada [TV].” It is a blistering hot day and we’re sitting in the café at the lofty Old Station House in Welshpool, sipping refreshing beverages whilst investigative journalist, turned novelist, Geoffrey Seed describes a life changing chat he had with a Special Branch officer back in the mid-1970s. Seed had been out drinking and getting close with his new Special Branch contact for a few weeks before the policeman finally asked Seed to spy on his workmates. “I was deeply, deeply, deeply offended by this,” says Seed with some feeling. “I felt dirty at this approach. I was deeply offended that anyone would think I’d do that sort of stuff. I walked out of that meeting… and I never saw the guy again.” … [Read more...]