Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Cutting Room Floor

From Spopen, the SPGB discussion list:

"This Sunday (14 October) the South Bank Show on ITV1 at 10.45pm will feature John Bird & John Fortune.

At the end of August we received the following email from one of the producers:

"I am working on a South Bank Show programme for ITV about the satirist John Bird who was a member of your party while still at school in around 1955. We interviewed John recently and he talked fondly of the party and its aims: "I was all in favour of that, still am actually". I am writing to ask if you have any leaflets, posters, manifestoes from that time which we could film to include in our programme to give an indication of the party. Many thanks"

He subsequently visited Head Office and was given back numbers, pamphlets and an election manifesto from the 1950s. It will interesting to see whether these will feature somewhere in the show and what John Bird has to say on the subject".

Bird was originally from Nottingham, and when I was a member of Central London Branch, I remember chatting a few times to a SPGB member who was in the Nottingham Branch in the fifties. (Neither of us mentioned John Bird.) The local branch built up quite a profile for itself in those days via the outdoor platform in Slab Square. Apparently, there was a Londoner in exile, Freddie James, who was a driving force in the area and was an incredibly effective public speaker. And there were other London SPGB members like Jim D'Arcy and Cyril May would go on *propaganda* tours to the Midlands in those days, and were able to help with the formation of branches and groups in the area.

The SPGB had a longstanding Branch in Birmingham - speaking on the outdoor platform in the Bull Ring in those days - and I think that the SPGB also had a branch or group in Coventry at the same time, but that may have had more to do with the fact that a number of former members of the Socialist Party of Ireland had emigrated to Britain in the fifties to work at the various car factories in the area.

Fingers crossed that Bird gives a namecheck to the SPGB on the show. (Bet it ends up on the cutting room floor.) Failing that, the CPGB's Mark Fischer turns up in the film to give a ninety second rundown on the history of the left and anti-establishment satire.

Who knows, it might even kickstart Melvyn Bragg doing a special on 'Comedy and the SPGB'. I'd like once and for all for the following two urban myths to be dealt with in that proposed programme:

  • Any truth in the rumour that a young Billy Connolly was seen hanging around the SPGB platform in Glasgow in the sixties listening to the corruscating wit of speakers who'd been served with the double-negative of being both members of the SPGB and the Partick Thistle Supporters Club.
  • And was there any truth in the rumour that when Harry Enfield was a student at York University, his supervising politics tutor, the late John Crump got him to write a dissertation on the SPGB?

    Bill said...

    Bird was in Cambridge Branch - he joined at Uni, I've seen his form F.

    Darren said...

    I thought he joined before he went up to Cambridge?

    Never knew the SPGB had a Branch in Cambridge. Cheers for the correction.

    Anonymous said...

    Cheeky bar steward. Partick Thistle is still a hot bed of sedition. Fan ownership is being pushed in favour of the current totalitarianism. OK maybe that's a bit strong but football is inclined to hyperbole.

    See my blog for details.