cover size 210 x 148 mm (A5) x 2

Memoirs				Ben Ainley 
Fish in the Grass			John Koziol
Them and Us			Mike Rowe
The Day Andreas Baader Died	Phil Boyd 
Reading About Life			Syd Jenkins 
Tea Break At Blakey's		Derek Lee 
The Truth Aboot the Waall		Jack Davitt 
Geordie Boy Bound			Keith Armstrong 
Geordie's Bonanza			Jack Davitt	
The Price of Coal			Bill Eburn
Whitechapel Spring			Charles Poulsen 
Talking to the Wall			Chris Darwin 
Cry Soweto			Arthur Clegg 
The Potty and the Puddin'		Vivien Leslie 
Impregnation			Vivien Leslie 
Chewing Point Four Letter Words	Ted Morrison 
Chewing Point Four Letter Words 	Roy McIlvern 
Culture for the Workers		Christopher Harris 
Good Old Albie			Jimmy McGovern 
The Nine O Clock Brew		Alf Horne
Going to Work			Jimmy Barnes 
A Poem for my Sister		Wendy Whitfield 
A Kind of Achievement		Andy Darlington 
Aunty Daisy			Celia Roberts 
The New United			Rick Gwilt
Editorial				Rick Gwilt
The Dear Departed			Bill Eburn


BEN AINLEY, founder and Editor of VOICES, died following a long illness, shortly after publication of our last issue. For a man who had devoted so much of himself to providing a means of expression for others, we felt that the most fitting tribute would be to let him speak in his own words. The two pieces which follow are taken from a 300-page autobiography written in 1969, during a breathing-space between Ben's retirement and his increasing involvement with Unity of Arts. Those readers who would like to subscribe to the publication of a limited edition of this autobiography should contact Sol Garson (28 Hathersage Road, Manchester, 13. Tel. 06 1-224 7728). The two extracts printed here offer some insight both into Ben's ideas on literature and society and into his own tenacity and fighting spirit. And perhaps this helps to explain, for those of us continuing his work, how such a small man could leave such a big hole to be filled.


I would like to look afresh at the years I have covered in this fragmentary survey of my lifetime. The squalor of Ancoats in my childhood was as real as my own love of its associations. Barefoot children walked the pavements, and many must have cried themselves to sleep many a time because they went to bed hungry. I never suffered hunger, but I have seen old men and women for whom life must have been a heartbreak unless they developed calloused minds. And if the Ancoats I knew has largely disappeared, there are still some ugly lumps in Manchester, dirty, rat-ridden bug-infested, damp with a squalor of surroundings which imparts a squalor to the minds and bodies that grow up there.

I saw last night a film version of How Green Was My Valley and heard that the film had collected a number of Academy awards. Many years ago I read Llewellyn's book but I remembered nothing of it, even when I saw the film.

The background of life in a Welsh valley, with its deeply moved miners, singing their heroic or comic hymns and songs, with majestic mountain scenery for their backcloth, and the slagheaps and the huts and cottages for their home, the backbreaking toil of getting coal with the periodic siren blasts that tell of tragedy striking in the mines-this is conveyed in the film, and one sees this aspect of the human scene in its background-luxury, refinement, the arts, good living at one end, and at the other, drinking, chapel-going, hard-headed lads driven from home by unemployment to seek jobs in far-off countries.

But the presentation of the film-and I pay tribute to its artistry-I was deeply moved by the small events that tug at human feelings-had a hollowness sometimes which hurt me. A parson, a priest of the Methodists who at one time says to the beautiful miner's daughter that he's dedicated to his work and therefore can't indulge himself with love and marriage, and on another that he won't marry her because it would drag her down to his own patched and penny-pinching level. The parson performs a touching miracle in the film-he brings a small boy paralysed by infirmity to walk literally by faith. The parson takes the side of the newly formed Trade Union of miners, but warns them not to reply to injustice by injustice. The injustice they have banded against remains at the end of the story. But the parson leaves the valley in a flurry of self-righteous anger because the people there have joined a character-assassination gossip-mongering directed against the pure girl whom he had himself been unwilling to marry, but who continued to love him through an unhappy marriage with the coal-owner's son, and her subsequent divorce from him.

The minister of the gospel, presented as a saint and self-sacrificing martyr to his work in the valley, goes out with a set speech in which he denounces hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, lack of faith in his community. It is true to say that their faults are his failure-but this is presented not as the truth, but only as a further indication of his saintly self-criticism.

It is films of this kind which really corrupt values, refusing to face honestly one of the many problems they present.

Hardly a year has gone by since I was born in 1901 without a war: tens of millions of people have been killed, and to the cannon and machine gun of my boyhood have been added atomic cannon, atomic bombs (dropped on Japanese towns), flame throwers, napalm, lazydog missiles, blockbuster bombs, chemical and biological weapons which will spread disease more widely than Jehovah's plagues on the wicked Egyptians of bible times. The sum of human misery, the streams of human tears, the throes of human agony, the swollen bellies of starved children, the distended flattened breasts of mothers aged by hunger and want, the bilarzia, scropula, typhoid, trachoma and a thousand tropical diseases-this today, is part of the reality and a large part of the reality of our world. Vietnam, Biafra, these are the latest of the consciously enacted crimes of our society.

There is enough tragedy in the human condition without the piling up of horror by men who sit in offices, over maps, a thousand or more miles away from where the blow will fall to decide to wipe out a city or blot out the growing crops of a thousand helpless villagers.

Is the world a better world than it was when I was a boy ? In spite of a whole spectrum of new modes of inflicting death and disease undreamed of in my childhood, I dare to assert that the world is a better world. Cruelty and cowardice, tyranny and injustice, tears and pain still exist, multiply. But there is more conscious revolt against it, less resigned misery, and men are learning to meet their tormentors upright instead of cringing to them.



It is a truism in the working-class movement which nobody, not even the Harold Wilsons and the Barbara Castles will deny, that the privileges the working-class enjoy, the right to organise in Trade Unions, the right to organise political parties, the right of free speech, the right to vote, compulsory education, national insurance, the national health service etc., were all won in successive struggles by the people -sometimes of course fierce, bitter, protracted, conscious struggles of the working-class.

When those freedoms therefore are displayed (often by the people from whose forbears they had to be wrested) as if they indicated the above-class character of our society, it is only necessary to point to the historic circumstances from which these freedoms have come about, to prevent any misconceptions from arising.

It is true that in Western Society too, the emancipation of women (not of course by any means a completed fact even in 1969) moved forward rapidly in the first thirty years of this century, and was won by a revolt largely of propertied women, and educated middle-class women against the degrading inequalities-of which the lack of the franchise was symbolic-they suffered and working-class women, and the Trade Union Movement came later into this fight. But the fight had to be fought.

Similarly with the artists. The fragmentation of art, the refusal of artists to accept as patrons the arms manufacturers, the international bankers, and the values of a society as wildly competitive and cutthroat as Capitalism, led us to a deep division generations ago between the artists and their cultured clientele (not always a wealthy clientele) and the Philistines of Matthew Arnold's definition, the people for art, like the caress of a woman, and the whisky and soda and agar, were the superadded refinements to be enjoyed after the heat of the day, and having nothing in common with that day except to bring it soporifically to a close.

The revolt against philistinism, the angry disgust of the artists against the nineteenth century patrons was a healthy revolt. It took the form of poking fun at the establishment, at ridiculing respectability, at discrediting the existing values-whether they were merely bourgeois, or dried up reminiscences of the values of an earlier age. The artists wield a tremendous power: but they are not necessarily informed with an ethic, an aesthetic. They are angry, disillusioned, and shocked with what is flabby in our society. Their response is negative and vitriolic: they are like the anarchist politicians of the day.

What should a socialist society say of western art? How-should it evaluate western art ? The negative revolt of the artists, the students, who want to lash out at the bourgeoisie, but in doing so want to lash out at all which is socially valuable in our society, has to be welcomed, for what it is, revolt-refusal to accept the rat-trap into which they are born, refusal to be bound by conventions which are manifestly out-of-date, refusal to worship mammon, success, the lies and the lying values of a corrupt age. So far we applaud and value revolt. But when it sours, when it rejects, not merely values of the bourgeois society, but all values, all social values, when it is ready to spit at humanity and despise it, when it glorifies a Nietzschean super-ego above all morality, above "the herd", unwilling to live in society and conform to, and contribute to a decent society, non-exploiting society, then it is not fit for society to accept. If a man preaches murder or the return to a slave society or the right of a sadist to inflict his bestialities on others, or the right of a robber to rob, then his preaching is openly to be rejected by society, and society has to work hard at his rehabilitation for he is a case for psychic treatment.

Now some (by no means all, by no means the greater part, possibly only a fringe element) modern art has these basically Fascist, basically backward-looking theses. And it is against these elements in Western art that we should be, and Socialist societies are in revolt.

Ben Ainley


That garden is like a bloody jungle
I think weed-killer might do the job

the grass will grow back 
even if you use a whole can 
the grass will grow back

For days 
the planes rained poison 
on the jungle 
bombs ploughed 
technology ate the leaves

The guerrilla was a fish 
in the sea of the jungle 
destroy the jungle 
and he would sprawl naked 
easy prey

For months it rained filth
and the trees died

But the guerrilla 
did not reel forth 
from the dying jungle 
he was in his real sea 
the people 
and the fish
swam over those who would catch them

And the grass grew back


JUNE 1957 

I was sat up in my bedroom sewing away at my denim jeans. The idea was to transform them from navvie's overalls into rocker's drainpipes.

It was about that time that I realised there were THEM and US. THEM were those who were satisfied with life, or, if not satisfied, would be with slight improvements. US, although I personally knew no other US but myself, were those who hated the whole stinking lot. Those out to destroy.

US to me were the Teddy Boys in the papers, who hurled half-bricks through shop windows.

I desperately wanted a Teddy Boy suit, but my parents would. never allow it. I had only just talked them into letting me wear denims. I had to point out to them that none of my mates were wearing short trousers anymore, and that the baggy things my dad wore were a thing of the past for most young people.

I read in the Manchester Evening News (that squalid rag of reaction) of a young lad in Court found guilty of burning down the place where he worked in Stockport. When the judge asked why he did it, before sentencing him, he replied 'I didn't like the place.' He got two years in borstal. He was my hero for ages.

I liked anyone the older people hated: Oswald Mosley, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Chaz Boon (The Biggest Teddy in our School).

I finished off the jeans. I squeezed into them and rushed off out to listen to the older lads swearing, and talking about sex, on the street corner.

The bigger lads would take the piss out of me, but I didn't mind. I cadged the dimps of their cigarettes off them, and sometimes when there were only one or two there, I would get a full ciggy off one of them.

Sometimes I tried to tell dirty jokes that I heard at school to them, but mostly I kept quiet, just soaking in their talk.

At school they used to back-chat teachers that my year were feared of. One of them, Billy Reilly, once stopped a prefect from caning me for being late back from dinner, by threatening to do him over outside school.

I was sure Billy was one of US, but I never dared ask him. 

Mike Rowe


The day Ulrike Meinhoff died
French gendarmes rifled shanty-town dwellings
And hauled off their inhabitants
Who were Greek
And Portuguese
And Italian
And Spanish
And Moroccan
Attending on the needs of the French economy
Until one day it was discovered that they were no longer required

And the leaders of the shanty-town dwellers of South Africa
In the fortified prison on Robben Island
And Sisulu
And Mbeki
And Sobukwe
And the rest
Languished a day in an eternity of penal servitude
And broke stone the purpose of which was to break minds

And at Brokdorf, German paramilitary police
Brought to bear on the heads of the comrades who had assembled there
The full weight of the State's might
And they were photographed
And tear gassed
And baton charged
And beaten
And arrested
Because they protested at the siting of a power station there.

According to the Nazis, the Jew was
Mental subnormal
Exterminator of the Aryan Race
And so was himself exterminated

According to the Western Powers, the Terrorist is
A small
Or South Moluccan
Or Zimbabwean
Or Latin American
Or Basque
Or some such

Who by means of intimidation and crude force
Took Vietnam from the French and Americans
Aden from the British
Angola from the Portuguese
And has resisted for more than fifty years in Ireland

A blind, irrational madman, killing for kicks
A mastermind, the Jackal, an arch-conspirator
A cheap and common criminal
A politically motivated fanatic
And to Jimmy Kruger is
A man or woman committing 'any act' in word or deed
From composing a speech
To 'obstructing the movement of any traffic'
That may be deemed prejudicial to the State

The day Jan-Carl Raspe died
In South Africa
Steve Biko had been laid to rest
And others
And teachers
And Churchmen
And the rest
Were banned
And restricted
And imprisoned
And denied a trial

In France immigrant workers were
And harassed
And intimidated
And beaten
And had visas stolen
And revoked
And were deported

The day Gudrun Ensslin died
Telegrams of congratulation were sent by
The American
And British
And French
And Dutch
Governments to their associates in Bonne

And telegrams of condolence were sent by
The American
And British
And French
And Dutch
Governments to the widow of a former Nazi

The day Andreas Baader died
The German working-class through
And parties
And opinion polls
Applauded the resolve and determination of Herr Schmidt and the Federal Government

The day Andreas Baader died 
I recalled 
The words of Lenin
Terror is a means of struggle used by the petit bourgeois 
bound to put the masses to sleep by making them believe 
that the arm of a hero can bring liberation

Phil Boyd

SYD JENKINS (Manchester) was for many members an active member of the ETU. His brother Mick was always the writer in the family, but since Syd's retirement he has been studying English at his local college of adult education. These recollections of his youth represent his first attempt at creative writing and, although Syd has been a reader of VOICES since it started, this piece only emerged through Common-word, originally as an anonymous piece of writing until the author was traced.


I had been working for about twelve months, as an apprentice electrician, when one Sunday morning, I was having a chat with my older brother about things in general, and I told him about a job I was going to, in the morning. He explained that he was just finishing a novel, which he thought would interest me, and that I should read it. It was an old trick of his, to get me reading books. In later years I discovered that to get people to read a particular book, he would say, "I have just finished or finishing read the book' giving the impression it was a marvellous book specially for you.

The following morning I reported for work. The spark I was working with was told that it was a big mansion being turned into a number of flats. He was given the plans and told to go there, weigh up the job and decide the type and amount of material needed for the job. He took me along with him, as I would have to get the stuff from the stores.

The place was a huge building with about twenty-four rooms, stables and yard, situated on open ground, called Kersal Moor, about three miles from Victoria Station. To get to it, you travel up Bury New Road which is a continuous climb for two miles and then turn left into Kersal Road. When we got there, the place was in a turmoil, bricks, mortar, wood, and paint, ladders, planks, everything under the sun was lying about. Inside the building, there were labourers knocking walls out, brickies putting walls in, joiners taking floors out, and other joiners putting floors in, plasterers plastering the new walls, labourers taking the old stuff out and bringing the new material in, the chargehand of each trade going around giving instructions, the noise and din was terrible. On top of all this was the general foreman creeping around trying to catch any of the men smoking or wasting their time. One of the labourers was building a fire in the yard, getting ready to brew up tea, in a huge cast-iron pot, and also to warm up any of the men's food. After assisting the spark to measure up the rooms for the material necessary for the job , as. he was having a smoke, I went roaming through the building, finally landing up in the attic, looking through a small window in the roof across the Moors.

For about five minutes my mind wandered. I imagined I was on Kinder Scout in Derbyshire, walking over the Moors with my friends, the wind blowing in my face. Suddenly I awoke to where I was, by hearing someone calling "Syd", realising that my mate had finished his smoke.

The remainder of the day was spent in marking out the work in different rooms, leaving about 4 pm as we were allowed travelling time back to the workshop. In the evening after tea, I asked my brother for the book. I will give it you later he said. About 10 pm I started reading the book called "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists". It was not long before I was completely absorbed in the story, mainly because I was involved in similar experiences at work.

The following morning I placed the book in my jacket pocket. It was a small paper-backed pocket-sized book. Arriving at work, I got the handcart out, placed a couple of the smaller trestles on to it, then a couple of planks, pair of steps, a portable vice, on a platform, tubing, cable and many other things needed on the job.

As we were going out of the yard, the foreman came over to us, and said to the spark

"You better go ahead and prepare the work while Syd takes the cart up". I looked at him - it meant I would have to push the cart up the hill for two miles on my own. I won't write about the sweat, aches and pains, the stops and rests I had on the way, suffice that I arrived on the job, just before lunch-time.

The men on the job had already decided that being the youngest on the job I should be the brew boy which was generally accepted on these types of job. Being dead tired and aching in every bone in my body, I told them where to go in workshop language and brewed my mate's and my own tea, then took it upstairs to the attic, having told my mate that I was going to have a rest.

After having my sandwiches and tea, I got my book out, and thought I would read for about half-an-hour. The book was an eye-opener, the scenes, actions and the attitudes of the foremen and men were very vividly pictured, particularly as I had, and was, experiencing it myself. It brought out most clearly the working lives of the people, the oppression and corruption of the system.

The plasterers competing, one against another, to get the particular wall finished first because they knew that at the end of the day one of them would be sacked, or the painters would try to get a good finish with only two coats of paint instead of four, because the foreman would take the paint of one coat for himself and tell the builder (BOSS) that "he" had managed to do the job with three coats of paint.

The joiners were also told to do the same thing, use the old wood taken out of the building, and would indent the amount for new wood. Suddenly whilst reading about the brew boy washing the tea can out, I realised where I was; looking through the window I could see the clock in the tower on the stands of the Manchester race course which was five minutes to four.

I put the book in my pocket, and dashed downstairs.

"Where the b.... 'ell have you been?" said my mate, and before I could answer him, he said, "The gaffer's here. I told him you have gone for cigarettes for me . Don't forget you've been for my smokes. I'll deal with you later".

I had been reading the book from 12 noon to 4 pm. When I got home for tea I did not put the book down till I had finished it.


At first the endless bike ride through the fog 
to punch the foundry clock at seven thirty; 
and there we mustered, shivering and spitting, 
stamping our feet like broken marionettes. 
Then we forgot the January cold, 
among the dirt and fumes and burning steel.

But, come eleven we returned to men, 
and that is when I best remember them:
Charlie the West Indian, all smiles and overalls; 
young Pete, the first and the last of the teddy boys 
and Joe, turned seventy if he was a day- 
face all seams and hands all knuckles- 
who squatted on an old five gallon drum, 
hugging a scalding mug and talking about Mons.

Derek Lee


It was built for the Romans, way back in the past;
They built it with stone, and they built it to last.
Quite a change for the locals from digging for coal
And it kept a large number of men off the dole.

It was the Emperor Hadrian who started it all
When he ordered the peasants to build him this waall.
Just what it was for there was neebody sure
And the reasons he gave were a little obscure.

"This waall," said the Emperor, rubbing his chin, 
"Is to stop aall the Picts and the Scots getting in; 
Aa'm used to the Geordies, Aa knaa aall their tricks, 
But Aa just cannit stomach the Scots and the Picts".

They started the Waall on the banks of the Tyne
And they tried very hard for to keep a strite line.
There were thoosands of Geordies with shovels and picks
And the rate for the job was eleven and six.

The stones for the Waall came by bogie and barrow;
They were cut from the quarries at Hebburn and Jarrow.
They floated them over the Tyne on a raft,
(Them owld fashioned Geordies could certainly graft).

They travelled to Byker with nivver a spell
But they stopped for a pint when they reached the "Bluebell".
Then on across meadow and valley and dyke 
With nivvor a murmur of trouble or stike.

Onwards they went, heading West all the time,
Still trying their best for to keep a strite line.
In summer they struggled through bracken and heather
And they plodged in the darts during inclement weather.

They laid the last stone on the second of June 
and Hadrian said, "Lads, Aa'm ower the moon, 
Aa would like you to knaa that Aa'm proud of you aall, 
And Aa thank you aall kindly for building me waall".

A big celebration was held at Carlisle;
They had a grand neet and they done it in style.
The picks and the shovels were aall put away
And the workers were given an extra week's pay.

The Picts and the Scots were a little bit vexed
And voices were raised and muscles were flexed.
But their yelling and shootin' did nee good at aall;
It takes more than taalkin' to get past a waail.

And that is the story, believe it or not,
Of how they defeated the Pict and the Scot;
How the Waall was constructed for one man's enjoyment
And the North-East was rescued from mass unemployment.

Jack Davitt


Lifting a glass;
lipping the rim that defined the narrowness 
of your boyhood,
the night before Belfast 
you drank yourself dry 
to soak up the uniform fear inside

Never ever had a chance.

Never even been
across your City to the East before; 
spent out your meagre force 
on games in the feudal West 
before the khaki money bound you 
South before Belfast.

Never had a chance.

Never touched 
the anger of a real gun; 
shot with your lips 
or with a kick against 
the slumped walls 
of an empty street.

Never had a chance.

Never marched 
except to school; 
trailed your slackened shoes
through the litter and the mingy fog 
to a cold assembly line.

Never ever had a chance.

Never really knew 
pure hate;
sprayed your revenge from a modest can 
or scratched a protest on a flash-car body; 
the kind you'd dreamt of on a screen.

Never had a chance

Never had the sense 
to really love;
mouthed a dull lust across the Bar
at naked calendars of dated women
or sank your teeth in a pillow.

Never had a chance. 

Lifting a gun;
limping along a street like your own, 
last night in Belfast
you died, dead scared, 
to hide this riddled ignorance in blood.

Never ever had a chance;
never, bloody well, had a chance.

Keith Armstrong

ERDES DUN PUBLICATIONS (10 Greenhaugh Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear NE25 9HF) have been responsible for much of the working-class writing to emerge from the North-East in recent years, under the editorship of Keith Armstrong. 

The poems here by Jack Davitt (alias Ripyard Cuddling) are taken from his booklet "Shipyard Muddling" in this series. Jack was born in 1924 in a Newcastle colliery village and works as a welder at Swan Hunter's Wallsend shipyard where he served his time. Until about 15 years ago he did not keep any of his poems, but then he began to duplicate them and circulate copies to his fellow-workers throughout the Tyne shipyards. 

ERDESDUN have recently launched a new series, STRONG WORDS, the first of which, "Hello, Are You Working", consists of memories of the 1930s in the North-East. Both the booklets mentioned are obtainable at 50p each (including postage).



Just off the coast at Seaton Sluice
A drilling rig struck orange juice
And all the locals clapped their hands
And queued with bottles on the sands.

An expert from the USA
Took samples of the juice away
And after scrutiny and test
Declared it was the very best.

From miles around reporters came,
The North-East coast was tasting fame,
They said ten million barrels lay
Between the "Sluice" and Whitley Bay.

A group of local leading lights,
Well versed in verbal brawls and fights,
Decided that the time had come
To pluck this unexpected plum.

They reasoned that, with Geordie backing,
Support for them would not be lacking;
They'd keep the juice and then demand
Home rule at once for Geordieland.

But, though their banner fluttered proud
And Geordie voices clamoured loud,
The government was not amused
And Geordie claims were all refused.

A million Geordies homeward trailed,
Their spirits low, their mission failed,
No traces of their former glee;
Home rule alas was not to be.

Defeated in their final fight,
And just when things had looked so bright
Their show of strength had been no use;
They had to share the orange juice.

But Geordie don't abandon hope;
You mustn't sit around and mope,
For better things may come to pass;
They're drilling now for North Sea Bass.

Jack Davitt

BILL EBURN (London VOICES Group) is a former boy-messenger, postman, 
civil servant and trade unionist, now retired. As a prisoner-of-war in the hands 
of the Japanese, he found himself put to work down a coal-mine.


We were quite at home 
in the mine, the descent 
no worse than a swift drop 
in an office block, the main artery 
an Underground Station;

but as arteries gave way 
to small and smaller veins 
of coal and stone picked out 
by the light of our helmets 
we crawled like maggots through 
the entrails of the earth.

Yet safe it seemed 
as though the giant 
was sleeping still 
until, on a black day, 
quite effortlessly, 
a prop toppled, a beam 
fell out of the ceiling 
and like a pack of cards 
thrown down in mute challenge, 
the rest followed. 



In our world there was nothing to show when the winter ended.
No grass. No trees.
These were things you saw on an outing.
The dark streets grew warmer,
The gutters dried earlier,
The horse-piled ordure put on a golden nimbus
As the sun poked dusty fingers into our ravines.
The vagrant cats grew earnest and mysterious
Stalking as if they carried important messages,
Bearing fresh wounds like heroes, neglecting dustbins
Filling the nights with songs of strange desires.
They alone saw the world spinning into the equinox
Grudgingly dragging Whitechapel around with it
As a cripple limps from his cellar into the sunlight,
Dragging his scabby foot.
Still there was nothing visible that changed.
No sign in the streets. Never a symbol of spring
In the small houses blinded by blistered shutters.
But one night at home you would see, from a crack under the ceiling, 
An elderly bug emerge, bloated and crusty, 
To gleam like a clouded ruby there in the gaslight
And ooze himself legless and delicate past the damp patches.

And then you would know it was spring in Old Montague Street.

Charles Poulsen


Hey, er listen ... listen. Do you mind if I talk to you, you don't mind do you. You see, someone said to me "If you talk to the wall you'll get more sense out of it, it won't answer back", so that's why I'm talking to you. When they said that to me, I thought, "I must do that. I'll find myself a nice little piece of wall and I'll talk to it. So I'm passing by here and I just happened to notice you, you looked very nice to talk to, I mean you're old and dirty, you're full of cracks and loose bricks, you know there's a lot of character about you. So you must have seen a lot of life passing by here in your lifetime. I bet you've had a few laughs hey. My dad passes by here sometimes so you must have seen him. He's a good laugh isn't he. He's what you call a streaker. He runs up and down this street chasing pigeons with nothing on. The pigeons are covered in feathers. He's the one with nothing on, and sometimes he goes down the Pier Head streaking.

How about that dog too, the one with big ears that looks as though it could fly backwards. You know the one, it walks around here in its bare feet and chases policemen. Does it cock its leg up against you ? No I shouldn't think it does. I can't see any streaks on the floor. You know those widdle marks the dogs leave. Ooh, look at this. You've been giving yourself a transplant, haven't you. You've got grass growing out of you just there. You're a bit vain aren't you doing yourself up like this to look nice at your age. You're nice without it. Mind you, having a second look at it, it does show you off a bit. Yes, grow a flower there as well and you'd really brighten this corner up. Kids, do you have much trouble with the kids climbing all over you? No I don't suppose you're really worried by them are you? I bet you feel like a grandad when they sit on top of you. Better than having those cats sitting up there at night crying their heads off. Look at this. You've got dandruff. Oh no, you haven't. It's the birds. The dirty buggers, they'll do it anywhere. Never mind, it'll be good for your grass. I bet you could tell a few stories about the vandals around here, especially the car thieves. I reckon the police should talk to you. You'd make their job easier.

Listen, do you hear the screech of car wheels. I'll bet that's a stolen car coming this way. There we are. I was right. Look at it swerving all over the place. They'll do some damage. It's coming right at us. It's it's. Get over that way you mad .... get over .... Quick get out of the way ... Oh no, you're mad. You're crackers. Come here you. Got you. You're not getting away from me after what you've just done. Killing a friend of mine. Yes you have. You knocked down that wall and that wall's a friend of mine    Yes you have. You knocked down that wall and that wall's a friend of mine ... I'm mad am I? Right well I'm giving you to the police and I'm going to take you to court personally

What for, for loss of companionship that's what for. Loss of social life that's what for and anything else I can think of in the meantime. With the likes of you around the streets it's no wonder that the likes of me is going round the bend, cracking up, losing our screws. I'm glad I got that off my chest.

Chris Darwin


She was black 
her breasts budding
kopjes tinged at the tips with red 
she was the springtime 
of the world


In London 
and New York 
in well-appointed buildings
round oblong tables 
discuss figures 
profit figures

Youth is a time 
to tackle obstacles 
to break 
the chains of servitude 
to reach
for life 
a fuller life.
She and her friends	
stretched out their hands 
to seize it


In London 
and New York 
every banker 
an avaricious tooth 
the oblong tables 
ever hungry mouths

They lined up 
young blacks
to demand rights 
she stood 
in the front 
the springtime 
of the world 


There are profits in South Africa 
at a price
The price is guns, force, murder 
the bankers
pay that price 
they pay that price 
and close their eyes 
when it comes 
to pulling the trigger

They marched 
demanding rights 
an education 
fit for humans 

she fell 
at the first burst 
of police firing


oozed away
into the earth

Surely there is a great cry going round the world

Arthur Clegg


Jean arrived to find her workbench framed in rubber-finger stools, each partly filled with water that stretched the end into a veined bulb. They bobbed slightly in the air-conditioned breeze and Jean regarded them with carefully planned resignation. There was an eruption of giggles from behind the bench and half a dozen grinning faces appeared over the top. "Today's the day, Jean. Hope your knickers are clean on !" one of the girls warned, and the others laughed, nodding their heads in anticipation. Jean smiled at her friends and ran one finger along the row of wobbling finger stools, making them jig about all the more. "It comes to us all", she said with affected patience, and then someone asked her if everything was ready for the wedding and they all fell to sharing Jean's excited plans.

All morning she was plagued with tricks. They sent her units wired backwards, obscene notes on job cards, posies made out of coloured leads and once, a fragile silver foil wedding slipper, all crinkled and reflecting the light in every angle so that it seemed to glitter as it appeared moving slowly towards her on the conveyor belt. The incongruous vision of the pretty tokens set beside the efficient starkness of the unit parts on the belt only warmed Jean as she lifted both work and playthings off the belt without a word. By lunchtime she had accumulated a seatful of messages and jokes and creations, something that the supervisor shook her head at and then helped load into Jean's basket. These things were sacred, protected from the usual rule about factory property. No bride's basket was ever checked at the gate for no gateman had ever been able to reach a bride through the busy rows of her handmaidens as they left.

When the lunchtime hooter went Jean's heart lurched wildly as she watched her friends walking towards her, excited and gabbling, their baskets carefully draped with scarves and coats. She could see in her mind the tins of talcum powder, the screws, the magic-markers, the ribbons and lipsticks that she knew were in the baskets. They took her arms, exchanged glances and then one said "Lunch first", and the pressure on Jean's arms fell back to that of companionship as they walked to the coffee bar to eat. She ate nothing, being safe with her rolling stomach, but chatted and laughed with them and at them, receiving and thanking the many shouted good wishes shouted across to her from people she knew around the factory. Some shouted ribald remarks and these Jean accepted with laughter and a real blush when the storemen began to join in with loud envy for the bridegroom. The coffee bar was festive and happily tense, waiting for Jean's friends to march her out and on to the floor. Jean watched the clock hand stutter over the minutes and when it was just ten past, she felt the arms upon her once more and was glad.

They marched in step, two beside, two behind, the rest in a stamping fan around her. Their feet attracted the attention of everyone sitting around the factory floor who rose and began to form a chanting crowd behind the formal party. "Jean's getting married Jean's getting wed ! Jean's got a man that she'll soon have in bed !" When they reached the entrance to the girls' toilet they turned her and the whole following crowd whooped with joy and funnelled into the small tiled washroom in a rush to get seated on the sinks and see better. Jean's other workmates were already there, theirs the privilege of performing the act upon her.

They laid her down gently, she did not struggle as they pulled her hair into tiny bunches all over her head and threaded ribbons around the quiffs. The others had her shoes off and were sticking paper hearts and bells all over them. She was dusted with three tins of talcum powder, every blot in the tins was tipped down her jumper and into her trousers and then patted gently to make the fine dust rise all round her. When they started to draw on her stomach she began to laugh, trying to see what they were writing and being ticked by the felt marker. They drew in red and black JEAN LOVES TOMMY once across her stomach and twice down her back, at which point the heat and closeness of so many people began to make her pull away. They only set to with greater zeal for it was good to catch a flying arm and trickle lipstick along its length, fine to sit on her feet while your friend looped coloured ribbons around her knees and thighs, great fun to hold her down while someone else delicately traced circles on her cheeks. Then they let her up and she recoiled from the sudden sight of herself, ghastly with the white talcum dust, in the mirror. There was a great cheer and then she was hauled away and sat in a plastic bucket mounted on a trolley and pulled at a run all around the factory floor accompanied by the washroom crowd, and everyone near breathless with laughter and dust. For a moment Jean saw the startled faces of two very new girls, their overalls with tell-tale fold marks still sharp, as they saw the pagan ritual. One of them had blanched as white as Jean herself and Jean made a note to find the girl later and explain. It must look so awful, she thought.

They tipped her out in front of a line of girls and she sat on the floor for a moment not caring for long lost dignity but only welcoming a chance to breathe for a moment. Then the line of girls parted and her foreman, outlined in his navy suit, was beaming at her somewhat painfully as he sought to shield the sight of the china dinner set from her at the same time as he beckoned towards her with one arm. She got up, embarrassed now, and walked, red with sudden shame towards him. Everyone fell silent and listened with prickling eyes to his speech. He recovered himself well and talked warmly to the apparition in front of him about how happy everyone was for a bride, and especially this one who we know so well, about how she was going to be missed, and there were happy sobs dropping into the flow of his speech now, and how with great pleasure, he wanted to present Jean with this small token of their esteem and good wishes. She cried with reaction, and everyone thought it was lovely. The dinner set was translucent, delicate and rose tinted and Jean was bruised and tired, loving them all and the hideous dinner set. She was surrounded with patting hands and a glut of warm wishes. A middle-aged woman said it was awful to treat a lassie like that and was howled down by the young handmaidens. A fifteen-year-old belt-feeder offered to pack the dinner set away for her and was swollen with importance when Jean said she could. The lunch hour ended with the wheezing hooter and Jean walked back to her bench for an afternoon's respite before the evening's dose. She sat down and reached for the first unit but it was a card that arrived. Printed in coloured felt tips it said: "Maisie did your afternoon target. Relax and think sex !" Their generosity staggered her. Maisie had been absent from three dinner hours. Maisie had done her afternoon work in three dinner hours. She left her bench and went to Maisie's. "You're a darling", she said and hugged her. Just the same she would have welcomed the time-passing routine of work and the afternoon was long and broken only by quick visits from people who had missed their chance to greet her before, and who arrived for a quick word and a smile and a wary eye out for the foreman. She did not wash her face or touch her hair. Either act she would have seen as an act of withdrawal. As it was, the sight of her dusty face and cork-screwed hair renewed the girls' laughter every time they looked at her and everyone that passed her pulled a sympathetic but approving face at her. It was as it always was.

Then it was ten minutes to finishing time and her handmaidens were rushing off, not very secretly, towards the supervisor's desk where they pulled out a large plastic bag and a basket that jingled. Jean, watching them, prepared the way for them by slipping her overall off and loosening her shoes. She tipped her belongings into her basket and tidied the screwdrivers and pencils on her bench. She was just straightening the last notebook when they arrived beside her, newly refreshed for the final ritual.

It had been a coat, the thing they drew out of the plastic bag. It was still coat shaped but whatever material it had once been was overlapped by crepe paper frills, silver foil slippers and bells, light long ribbons of red and deep blue, milk bottle tops strung in dozens and bangles of washers and bolts on wire. Out of the basket came the hat, a picture hat tied and tied again with more ribbons and frills, a row of milk bottle tops around the brim. The shoes had been sprayed silver and threaded with red ribbon. In the bottom of the basket sat the potty.

The potty was an insignia, always trimmed with the same strange and customary things even though few of the girls understood their significance as symbols. It was enough that they sensed its importance, and went on laying the bed of salt, propping the largest white meal pudding they could find into the gritty base, spraying a few copper coins around the pudding, adding the dummy tit and trimming the pot with coloured paper. Jean's pudding was a whopper, ten inches at least, but she smiled at the sight of it and could not find it obscene for she knew its purpose was celebration and not mockery. The pudding's forced tumescence was a promise and no-one raised an eyebrow at its superficial hint. Jean was dressed very quickly and stood quietly to receive the last hurried visitors and their good wishes as the other girls put on coats and shoes for the walk through the town. Maisie had the school bell and began to ring it the moment the party was out of the factory door. The others sang and shouted as they moved in a group up the road.

They walked Jean through the High Street, taking up the pavement and a bit of the road and the people shopping moved good naturedly out of their way and joined in the cheering. Cars slowed without tooting their horns once they saw what was blocking their path and drivers leaned out of windows to add their whoop of encouragement. Jean walked proudly, holding the ceremonial potty high under her breasts, grinning back at the laughing faces they passed, and her coat of many noises jingled and rustled as she moved. She caught a fleeting glimpse of one shocked face, a face above fur emerging from a bank but it disappeared behind her followers and there, at the next corner stood her sisters and more friends who greeted the party with a deafening chorus of football rattles and tin horns. They moved towards the bus station trailing a festival air behind them so that people began to smile at nothing in particular. The party commandeered the bus, infecting the other passengers with the strength of their gaiety and even the tired conductress managed a laugh as she whirred out the thirty-four tickets in a coil of beige paper that curled around her legs. They pinned the ticket roll like a toil onto Jean's bottom and sang their way through the three miles to her house. The conductress yelled "Good Luck, hen !" after Jean as she left the bus and they made their way up the street  

In the Three Kings, not three miles away, Tommy fidgetted in his seat. The sawdust in his groin was raising a rash, he knew, and it would be a few baths before it was all gone. They were on the fourth version of "The Wild Rover" and the table was like a collapsed chandelier with beer glasses in a finely balanced heap, kept up by the knees of those present. "Give a song, Billy !" someone cried, ''The one about the whore and the sauce bottle''. Billy sang 

Vivien Leslie


One of your seed is still in me
Granted an undetermined extension on its lifespan
Given correct development
Its fellow travellers are all dead and flushed away
Coffined in rainbow tissues
They met a watery death
Down the pan

This survivor makes me sick
Morning and night I vomit the truth of it
The dance it performs with the giant egg it inhabits
Nauseates me
I testify to life with every heave
My full womb and empty stomach


It's bandied around by the kids for a lark
It's put into practice as soon as it's dark
It's done every night by the rich and the poor
To do it is worse than to say it I'm sure


As Billy Connolly has observed, "swearing is nasty. Everybody hates it and everybody does it-for some obscure reason" Up till now, VOICES has had no definite policy on the subject of swear-words, although some strongly differing views clearly exist among our readers and contributors. It has even been suggested that the use of such words in VOICES represents a sort of "slumming" or "writing down to the working-class" so that the writers can pose as "working-class blokes" themselves. This particular criticism (made two or three issues back) surely depends on the extent to which the writers can be said to be working-class themselves. Anyway, we have taken up Sid Booth's suggestion of initiating a serious discussion on the subject, starting with the following two contributions which have been heavily censored (but only because of space). Replies of up to 500 words are invited. 

Obscene words, like obscene statements, are obscene because they refer directly to either sexual or excretory matters. It is this directness that is offensive rather than whether they may be out of context or whether they are used as terms of abuse. It is also true that in using such words out of context, as 'swear-words' or for emphasis, we reveal the fact that we feel that what the words refer to is obscene. This sense of the obsceneness of sexual and excretory matters is the motive-force behind both the recoil from and the use of obscene words.

D H Lawrence believed that this loathing sprang from a maladjustment in the social consciousness, and strove all his life to remedy it through his writings. His novel, 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', provides the most notorious example of Lawrence's approach, and about which he said:

I want with Lady C to make an adjustment in consciousness to the basic physical realities ... it is just the awful and truly unnecessary recoil from these things that I would like to break. It's a question of conscious acceptance and adjustment-only that.

This adjustment in public consciousness was to be brought about by writing about the 'basic physical realities' as though the taboo on doing so didn't exist. People would read this 'tender phallic' novel and the process of adjustment would begin. This of course didn't happen. People - or rather the censors - read the novel, were outraged and 'savagely suppressed' it. Editions were later printed, but all the official ones were expurgated. Thus the whole point of the novel was lost.

The weakness in Lawrence's shock tactics is simply that such an approach to obscenity is only feasible if people first understand that the roots of obscenity lie in a habitual way of seeing sexual matters and are willing to begin to make an adjustment. But not only in consciousness. The change has got to take into account an adjustment to the way in which the basic physical realities themselves are approached both at the individual level and socially. Such a change must begin from an understanding that obscenity lies in perception, in the way in which we see sexual and excretory matters. And when this understanding has begun, it is the willingness to make changes in laws and social and economic institutions which reinforce these ways of seeing that will ultimately banish obscenity and its twin, pornography, from our consciousness.

In the meanwhile, until debate is publicly under way, until in fact the way in which society as a whole perceives sexual and excretory matters begins to change, those writers whose job partly is to reflect the social consciousness must also continue to reflect its outward form. Which means that they must continue to show that both being shocked by and using obscene words proceed from a social consciousness which sees sexual and excretory matters as obscene.

Out of all this, certain questions arise. How should a writer deal with obscenity ? Should he act as censor and 'clean up' the language of his characters ? Or should he faithfully reproduce in fiction the obscene ?

Ted Morrison


I think the prose in VOICES, although good and varied in content, often lacks form and is too wordy. Much of the prose seems to be short stories and I suspect the authors have little regard for form and are solely concerned with content. (It may well be that there is no longer any objection to a story having a number of themes or additional ideas which do not help it along, or a rambling style.)

If you are writing verse, it forms and rhythms force you to be reasonably economical in words and to search for the most suitable ones for what you want to say. The short story does not force you to do this but is most effective if the writer disciplines himself to use only the most suitable words and only those ideas which will help the story to its conclusion without delay.

For me too a short story must work its way to a climax either in action or psychologically even if I do not appreciate all its subtleties. Some of the writing in VOICES which is written as short stories seems to have so little story line that I wonder if the content would have been better suited to another form of prose writing or even sometimes expanded into novel form.

About "bad language". I have no objection to it if it forms a necessary part of the story; if the story can't be properly told without it. But this is really only fitting it into the economy of words which I've been talking about. I have no strong feelings about it as such. Like repetition generally and unnecessary adjectives, it tends to be boring and, if used frequently enough, meaningless.

I am aware that in civilian life and outside work it seems to be used more frequently by both sexes, and if certain teenagers I know are speaking truthfully it is common in their families, nothing barred. If this is so, presumably we shall continue to have it in literature. It is presumably the "in thing" so we may mercifully be spared the boredom of it when something else replaces it.

You remember the piece in one issue (VOICES 3, also FIREWEED 8 Ed.) called "Nietzsche's Birthday" ? In this one character treats us to some crude obscenities. We've all met such people but in real life we usually know other and more admirable sides to their personalities, and these leaven the obscenity if it is distasteful. In the story however, we know nothing more about him and distaste becomes disgust, no doubt, for many readers. I think obscenity should be treated sparingly and again only as a necessary part of the story.

As sex becomes less and less secretive perhaps obscenity will become anachronistic-it may be already with the younger generation.

Roy McIlvern


The worker puts pen to paper
He writes of life today
Expresses workers' power
Solidarity, his words say.

The worker becomes an orator
He speaks of life today
Speaks of class struggle
Tells us to make them pay.

The worker becomes an actor
He acts Out life today
Acts plays of revolution
Scenes that show the way.

The worker becomes an artist
He paints about life today
Paints working-class people
Models our strength in clay.

The worker becomes a dancer
He dances life today
Dances the dance of victory
Creates the workers ballet.

The workers develop their class
They live the life of today
They develop their own culture
They now practice all they say.



In Greenside even the things that started off really frightenin' usually ended up dead funny: like when the owl fellers came out the ale house and some of them would start fightin' but they'd only push each other around as if they were scared of hurtin' each other and afterwards me and me mates would take them off, sort of take the piss out of them, saying things like, 'Who are you shovin' ?" and "Just you try it", to each other. Even when the women came out fightin' over the kids, and your stomach would go all cold and sick if it was your main, even then it could be a laugh: like when me main and Mrs Roach were shoutin' and some feller from the tennies came down with one of those megaphones and gave it to Roachie's main; well her and me main couldn't keep their faces straight then and though they tried to carry on, like, it was no good and they went inside and pissed themselves laughin'.

But here in Crosbie Heights It's not like that any more. Even those same fellers who everyone called shithouses, the ones who'd only shove each other, now they go chargin' into each other kickin' and buttin'. And the women too, those ones who used to come out every mornin' and sandstone the step and scrub the tiles and next door's too, well they just don't give two fucks any more and they just ram their bins into the chute no matter how blocked it is, and leave trails of beans and greasy gravy all down the wall.

Anyway, Albie and Tommy Taylor used to live in Greenside. Their family was the biggest in the street; there were millions of them; but Albie and Tommy were grown-ups like and they weren't 'arf big, about six feet tall and dead fat. They used to work on the buildin' but I always remember them laid off and just sittin' there, the two of them like, on the step. They'd 'ave the "Daily Herald" open at the racing page and if I walked past they'd start talkin' to me dead nice and ask who I was playin' for now and how much was it in the boys' pen these days and all that toffee. I knew what was coming like. Then they'd ask me where I was goin'-"Ciggies for me mam"-and then they'd get their packets out and scrape ten Woodies together and sell us them tuppence cheaper. They'd charge over to the bettin' shop and I'd see them about two hours later. They'd give me threepence and send me into Coxhills for loosies 'cos they didn't like goin' in themselves-for loosies like. They'd got skint y'see.

Well Albie and Tommy and all the Taylors moved into Canterbury Heights a few weeks after we went into Crosbie. They were on the ninth floor, same as us, and we could see across into their flat; they always left the light on.

After they moved in Albie just seemed to get bigger and fatter and everyone got to know him and like him and even the ones who didn't like him were scared of him. He used to take his old feller down to the Bent's House at the bottom of Willy 'Enny and Albie would just stand there at the bar makin' faces at people he knew and now and then he'd spit into his ale to fill it up a bit and everyone would laugh 'cos they all liked Albie. When he was really pissed he'd put his arm around his dad and say in a dead loud voice 'ow much he loved him and sometimes, if he'd had a touch on the horses, he'd buy all the owl women (they wore those black stringly shawls and just sat in the corner eyeing everyone up) a Guinness and they'd take it and talk about him through the froth on their little wispy beards. Even when he was skint Albie would still get his ale; he'd put the arm on someone goin' for a pee and the feller would look up at Albie and shrug his shoulders and make like he was skint too but Albie would just nod kind of impatiently and pull a face and the feller would always cough up. I used to love seem' Albie. He was probably the biggest tea-leaf around there, and he always knew where there was any gear goin', but I always felt safe when he was there-and happy too I suppose.

I used to feel like that with Tommy too but he didn't 'arf change after they moved into the Heights; he didn't get fatter like, just thinner and every time I saw him he was moanin' about somethin' or other: like the kids on top of the lift or the chute blocked up or old ma Hodgkin's alsatian which was always goin' for him across the landin'. He stopped knockin' around with Albie as much as he used to but even when he did you'd see them bump into a mate and Albie and this mate would start laughin' and jokin' but Tommy would just stand there fed up. Then Albie would get to feel a bit awkward and say 'tarra' to his mate and then they'd walk off, Albie talkin' away, his arms goin' fifty to the dozen, Tommy just mopin' along beside him, his hands in his pockets or behind his back and his eyes cast down on the ground.

Tommy killed himself a year after they moved into the Heights. It was June and we were all playin' out between the Heights; we were slidin' down this kind of paved hill on some old chrome trays and the noise was just bouncin' off the walls and all the owl women had been out shoutin' at us to 'f' off. I don't know who saw him first but in a few seconds everyone on the ground was quiet and lookin' up but I think there was a woman in Crosbie Heights shoutin' somethin' like "O Son, O Son". Tommy only seemed to wait till everyone was lookin'; then he bent his knees and jumped. At first he started to call out somethin' - I think he meant to shout "Timber" but he stopped at "Ti..." and the rest was just a kind of sob. It was probably the wind rushin' through him that stopped it but someone said afterwards that when you fall a long way all your guts are forced up to your throat so you can't scream; you just choke and you're dead before you hit the floor. Just like if you're in the lift and it breaks and falls, the top of the lift will crash against your head and kill you before you reach the bottom. It's no good thinkin' of jumpin' up and down in the lift and hopin' you're in the air when it touches. When Tommy was in the air he looked as though he was tryin' to land on his feet but he came down backwards and his head and shoulders hit the concrete first. It's funny to say this, like, but when he hit his head I thought of Easter eggs and the way they smash open when you drop them.

Some of me mates went to get Albie from the alehouse and the rest of us just milled around Tommy's body, watchin' the blood seepin' out and the flies already comin' down and flyin' away and buzzin' then comin' again; you kind of expected Tommy to move his hands and brush them away but nothing moved, just the flies. Some of me mates were gigglin' and whisperin' to each other about how wet his kecks were and had he shit himself as well on the way down.

Big and fat and surrounded by kids and his arms chug chuggin' away, and his face drippin' with sweat, Albie came up the square. He turned round the corner like he meant business but then the wind and the sight of Tommy lying there hit him and his legs began to wobble a bit. One hand went up to his throat and he put the other against the wall and kind of felt his way back around the corner. Then he put his back against the wall and just lolled there looking up at the sky, his hands on his throat sobbin' and half chokin'. We tried to get him to come and look at Tommy but he didn't budge, didn't say anythin', just slouched there lookin' up at the sky, out of the wind, away from his brother. This copper came then-only a young one-and old ma Hodgkins said it was touch and go who looked worse, the copper or poor Tommy. He tried to move us away, like they always do, but we kept comin' back and in the end the copper gave up, just looked at us all and said a few things to nobody in particular and looked at the flies roamin' around in the wind. "Tell them to buzz off", Roachie said and we all said that that was a good 'un  

Albie didn't go to the alehouse that night-as a Mark of Respect, someone said-but he was seen at the bottom of the Heights, painting something on the ground where Tommy landed. The next day we saw what it was he'd painted: a black figure of a man and next to it he'd written KILLED BY THE COUNCIL in big red letters. Albie gave out that if anybody touched it he'd touch them. It stayed like that for about a week but then someone must 'ave sneaked up to it in the night 'cos one morning there was a twelve inch cock and a pair of balls spray-painted on to it-in purple. Well after that some of the women started to call it "obscene"-you couldn't miss it like 'cos it was just outside the entrance-and they started sayin' that it should be moved but no one was going to move it, least of all their husbands 'cos they didn't want to be touched by Albie.

A few weeks later we were all playin' out, tryin' to set fire to the see-saw again, when this geezer in a suit went over to the picture. He sort of walked around it two or three times and then he wrote somethin' in his book and he wrinkled his nose up as he looked up and down the two Heights-like Important People always do. But then Albie's voice came boomin' out: "Just you try it, mate; that's all; just you try it" and Albie was leanin' over the balcony and shakin' his fist. The Important Person shut his book and put his pen in his inside pocket and straightened his tie as he looked up at Albie. Then he walked away.

Ma Hodgkins came down then and a few of the other women too. Someone said there was gonna be Hell to Pay and someone said there was gonna be 'Igh Ding Dong and someone else said she'd only come down to see what's what and wouldn't the sun be crackin' the flags if they weren't all cracked already. Me and me mates said there was gonna be Lumber. In about an hour the square was chocker-l'd never seen so many people there, apart from that day when we 'arf-inched the earth mover. But it was a good few hours till the fellers from the Council came.

Even when they did come it was a bit of a let-down like 'cos we were expectin' land rovers and black marias and everythin' and all we got was this battered old van clatterin' up the square and one feller wearin' glasses and another feller wearin' overalls and carryin' one of those yard scrubbers, a tin of scourin' powder and a bucket of dirty water. The feller in glasses didn't need to ask who Albie was; he just walked up to him and smiled and took him by the arm to one side and started talkin' quietly to him. I could hear words like "Sympathy" and "understand" and "predicament"-y'know those words they use. Albie stood there noddin' like he always did. Roachie said that one of those nods was gonna go right into four eyes face but I was reckonin' on him using the knee-on account of the glasses, see. All of a sudden the council feller sort of rolled his eyes to the man in overalls and made a face tellin' him to get started but all the time he kept chattin' up Albie with "sympathy" and "embarrassment" and all that. Old overalls dipped the scrubber into the dirty water. Some of it slopped out and started to seep into Albie's paintin'. Albie was standin' on its feet; he had his hands in his pockets and his pot belly was hangin' out. There was a button missin' at the bottom of his shirt so you could see his belly through it, all creased, and some of the hair was kind of spiralling through the gap as well. He just stood there and his big baggy eyes were wet and tears were slidin' down his sweaty face.

Everyone was quiet now and expectin' Albie to do somethin' but he was still just stood there, lookin' down at the grey scum that the water and the scourin' powder and the black paint made. At the end of the scum you could see a thin line of purple startin' to run into the grey and the whole lot was lappin' around Albie's shoes. Everyone was lookin' at good old Albie-Go 'ed, Albie; give it to 'im, mate- and then one by one we just kind of bowed our heads to look at the scum as Albie started to blubber over and over again, "'E was our kid, y'see, our kid", and the yard brush went scrub-scrub, scrub-scrub on the concrete.

Jimmy McGovern


Like chickens on a roost
Sat on tool boxes between the vices
Eating sandwiches from bread wrappers
Drinking tea fresh brewed in the mug
All aware that the bell that started and ended brew time
Knew no friends gave no favours
10 minutes every morning precisely allocated
Hot tea, sandwiches, soccer results, news headlines
Gulped down quickly.
But today Allan sang "Mammy" and did the soft shoe shuffle
His mates watched
The electric treatment hadn't worked
Now the tablets were working too well
Allan had gone over the top
The second bell rang and the foreman's office opened
The men slid from the benches as he walked nearer to them
But Allan, knees on the ground sang 'See Them Shuffling Along"
Grabbing the Foreman's overalls as he passed
"For Christ sake get off your arse"
He said, as he always said at this time of day
And as sullen mugs were washed
Papers folded in overall pockets
It was rumoured that the foreman didn't know his arse from his knee caps

Alf Horne


I drift into reality about six forty five
Then the alarm drills a hole in the head about 
half-an-hour wide
I kill it and lie there thinking
My little friend stirs a little
and pulls half the blankets onto her side
I think of the factory in all its drabness
Then I look at her, so soft and cosy
Like a lamb draped in her mother's fleece
I get up, make the tea, get dressed and scratch
As a thrush sings to a virgin sky
And the milkman says hallo
I get me bike out and try to tell myself honest I really try
That it's worth creaking off on that heap of scrap
And not going back to where it's all warm and cosy
But she's brighter than the manager
And not petty like the foreman
She's bonnier than the chargehand
And the timekeeper, let's forget about the timekeeper
But, by that time I'm nearly there.


She is small, my sister 
And fair of face and feature 
But always she looks straight ahead 
and rarely a smile to lift 
the corners of her mouth.

And yet one night when we were dancing 
to the music of her youth, 
and friends around us
drinking in her home, 
I saw behind her face 
Inside her 
So small she looked 
so dainty and delicate.
How she danced this tiny girl-child, 
and with what softness she caressed her dog 
as though it was of herself.

And at ease there in the massive armchair 
she looked to me for all the world 
a small child.
She opened up before me, 
and showed me inside to where her joy and 
laughter live,
and laughed and her eyes lit up, 
and how her face did play 
with joy.

I had never seen 
this tiny child beside me 
Such a softness 
inside that hard outside 
pressed on her by life.

She had said so many years before, 
my daddy does not want me any more, 
Well, if he won't play, 
then neither will I
And she locked away her games 
and threw away the key, 
for many years.
And she lived alone 
inside herself, 
and walked with one hand
on the warm arm of her consort, 
and never looked behind or aside, 
and trailed her childhood in the dust 
like fading robes behind her. 
Always he is there, like a guardian, 
her constant companion
in her otherwise aloneness.

Look inside yourself, sister, 
come outside
and play.

Wendy Whitfield


seemed to attract attention. 
Started on a small scale.
Two inches of column depth 
in the local newspaper edged 
in black rules, his age (15) 
in parenthesis after his name 
among those of his friends, 
neatly encapsulated under 
the heading 'Vandals Fined'. 
He didn't stop there though. 
Not much later he was 
one of the faces in the 
sullen crowd filmed for a 
local TV slot. He stood, 
slightly bewildered behind 
the spokesman who urged 
Government subsidy for 
Three years after that 
he died in Belfast, half-tone 
blood on half-tone uniform
-but it made the front 
page of the nationals 
and the lead story 
in at least one
of them. 
Made his 

Andy Darlington


When belts and pads are supplied 
Now that womanhood's arrived, 
"Wash your hands" says Aunty Daisy.

When the streptococci start to breed 
As the womb begins to bleed, 
"Wash your hands" says Aunty Daisy.

When monthly blues make you moan 
And the greatest need is to be alone, 
"Wash your hands" says Aunty Daisy.

When little brother starts to bleat 
About strange stains on the sheet, 
"Wash your hands" says Aunty Daisy.

When strangers start to gaze 
On shapes a bodice can't erase, 
"Wash your hands" says Aunty Daisy.

When the fingers start to explore 
The new curves more and more, 
"Wash your hands" says Aunty Daisy.

Only time passing makes you wise 
Now I can say to my surprise 
"Stuff you", Aunty Daisy.

Celia Roberts


The evening headlines read
Not Marx or Brezhnev or Carrillo
But McGarry indeed

Newcastle once again
Train threading past chimney pots
Picks the most unlikely way to cross the Tyne
Trying to work a flanker on the Scots

Twelve years ago, St James's Park
Peanut husks and Denis Law flying through the air
And bombs in Vietnam no doubt
Though at the time I neither knew nor cared

1965 and the US Marines
Firing their shells where the guerrilla wasn't
And at my end of the park David Herd
Thumping the ball where the goal wasn't

1977 and big centre-forwards
And B52s find it harder to score
Crowds getting restless on the terraces
And Uncle Sam has lost the war

Now there's concerts for Vietnam 
in Manchester Cathedral
And Cloughie and Jackie Charlton have 
joined the anti-fascist scene
And walking down the street I'm wondering 
"Is this it ?- 
"Is this the new United that Bill McGarry
means ?"




This title could be taken to mean that we don't know where we're going, which is both true and not true. VOICES has certain broad, but specific, aims which, apart from distinguishing it from other publications, help to give it continuity and direction. However, the extent to which we can fulfil these aims (ie where we are going in practice) will be determined ultimately by those actively involved-writers and readers, subscribers and sponsors, editors and critics, convenors of writers' workshops, people involved in production and distribution of the magazine. For all of us, a brief look at where VOICES has come from is probably both useful and necessary.

People have different ways of telling the same story. A more practical person than myself might have started with Ben Ainley's classes on "Literature and the Working-Class", held at New Cross Labour Club, Manchester, in the winter of 197 1-72; or perhaps with the first AGM of Unity of Arts Society, held in a condemned warehouse in Back George Street in the centre of Manchester in September 1969. On the other hand, I would be tempted to look back to the picture of Robert Tressell, dying of tuberculosis as he completes the task of writing "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists"; or to around the year 1950, when two young Communist artists, Sol Garson and Brian Ridgeway, would have been working together in Manchester's Unity Theatre. But I shall start with Resolution 42, brainchild of Arnold Wesker, adopted by the 1960 Trades Union Congress.

Resolution 42 read:

"Congress recognises the importance of the arts in the life of the community especially now when many unions are securing a shorter working week and greater leisure for their members. It notes that the trade union movement has participated to only a small extent in the direct promotion of films, plays, music, literature and other forms of expression including those of value to its beliefs and principles.

"Congress considers that much more could be done and accordingly requests the General Council to conduct a special examination and to make proposals to a future Congress to ensure a greater participation by the trade union movement in all cultural activities."

The years 1960-67 were the years of Centre 42, Wesker's ambitious project for a national cultural centre to serve the labour movement. Centre 42 was also the only concerted attempt to put Resolution 42 into practice. To Wesker, "the artist co-operating with the trade unionist could easily prove a meeting out of which is built the new tradition." On the face of it, Centre 42 died a failure, and its most obvious legacy was the Roundhouse, a monument to that failure. Wesker's book, "Fears of Fragmentation", records both the unsuccessful struggle and more importantly, the ideas behind it.

It was in this context that in 1967 Sol Garson (sculptor) and Brian Ridgeway (painter) decided to broaden out their plans for a studio. The fourth floor of the warehouse on Back George Street became a studio with keyholding membership, and a group centred on art classes developed into Manchester Unity of Arts Society under the guidance of its first chairman, Sid Booth, artist, active member of the AEU, and former International Brigader. By November 1969, Unity of Arts had called a conference at the AEU offices in Salford to discuss how Resolution 42 might be implemented "with the help of the labour, trade union, co-operative organisations in the area". One of the new recruits was writer Frank Parker who came along as delegate from the AEU District Committee and has remained Treasurer of Unity of Arts to the present day. In this period, Unity of Arts' biggest achievement was an art exhibition sponsored by the Bury District of the AEU. Its biggest failure was perhaps its inability to fulfil the offer of an exhibition at Congress House made by Vic Feather.

While Unity of Arts as a whole was suffering from organisational problems and loss of premises, Ben Ainley's literature classes were going from strength to strength. Ben (a retired teacher with 50 years of activity in the NUT and peace movement behind him) made it a central part of his classes to encourage workers to start writing for themselves. By early 1972, although the art and cinema groups were no longer meeting, and the plans for music and theatre sections had never materialised, the literature group were ready to go into print for the first time. Of the title, VOICES, Ben Ainley observed in his editorial:  "We felt that at this stage we had not achieved a single purpose; our writing was not yet a manifesto, or a call to action, but a series of individual utterances. Later perhaps a more unified and challenging character may emerge in future collections." This quality was perhaps reflected in the fact that not all the typists were on the same wavelength-and so VOICES 1 is made up of a mixture of quarto and foolscap sheets stapled together, at a price of l5p. The present editor started writing for VOICES soon after, having been introduced to Ben as a young building worker by union official John Madden.

VOICES grew slowly relying heavily on donations-and Ben Ainley's perseverance, bringing out five issues in the first three years. May 1975 marks the start of regularity: a smaller, neater A5 format; a price of 30p which we have managed to maintain until now; publication at quarterly intervals; and a sub-heading which remained for some eight issues: "Working-Class Poetry and Prose with a Socialist Appeal."

The problem with this motto was that it was open to a wide variety of interpretations (to judge by material received) that were not always too close to the aims of Unity of Arts (now reprinted on the inside cover of each VOICES). Much of the material was still too esoteric to be enjoyed, or even understood by the non-literary reader (to judge by criticism). There has been a growing awareness of the need to publish work which is a more faithful reflection of working-class experience and which is more accessible to a mass readership. This move away from the poetry of metaphysics and abstract ideas (to which VOICES has in any case always been less prone than other publications) has been made easier for us by the work of writers' workshops such as Commonword (Manchester), Scotland Road (Liverpool) and London VOICES group.

Now VOICES is in a stronger position than ever to challenge some of the most commonly held illusions about working-class writing: the idea that to appeal to a non-literary readership it is necessary to resort to the techniques of the "popular press"; the assumption that committed" writing has to be didactic or polemical-the moral fable or the hymn fervently reaffirming one's faith; the feeling that working-class writing is an area of inferiority where marks are awarded for "trying", or that it occasionally turns up something "good enough to go in 'Readers' Digest "'.

Quite simply, working-class writing is different, both in style and in content. Which is why our motto now reads simply, "working-class stories and poems". Someone asked me recently, "How do you decide who is a working-class writer? Do you use a means test ?" The answer is, "No", we read what they've written. We now have the basis of a broad, active editorial collective for the first time in VOICES history, so that decisions will hopefully not be too subjective.

At the same time, we have raised our print order from 1000 to 1500 copies and are now available to all progressive bookshops through the Publications Distribution Co-operative. But above all we would like to increase our sales to people who seldom go in these bookshops.

So if we are asking, "Where do we go from here ?" it is on the one hand from a position of strength that we do so. It is because we welcome the opinions of worker-writers and people in the labour, trade union and co-operative movement. But it is also because we want more practical involvement. We hope that by VOICES publishing work from the various writers' workshops, each will be helping the other. We hope that our contributors and supporters will take copies of VOICES (at a reduced price) to sell to their workmates and friends. We hope that trade unionists will take VOICES into their branches, district committees, trades councils and possibly get standing orders for VOICES. Even at the new price of 40p we are still dirt-cheap compared with other publications.

In the short term, then, we aim to provide a link between worker-writers and the organised trade union movement. In the slightly longer-term, by also developing links through Unity of Arts with people in other branches of the arts, perhaps we can help to reopen discussion on Resolution 42 within the labour movement.

Today, as I write, the prospects look mixed. On the one hand, the Labour Party has recently brought out a new policy document on the arts, among its aims "to make the arts available and relevant to all people". The Communist Party has organised two "People's Festivals" (in London and Manchester) which have brought together a wide range of progressive artists this year.

On the other hand, Conservative Party control of local government is already threatening community theatre groups. In Manchester, "NorthWest Spanner" have had their Arts Council grant cut off for what appear to be purely political reasons. In London's East End, it appears that "Wilton's Music Hall", which in the hands of the "Half Moon" group might have become a living community theatre, will now become a national theatre of music hall; instead of a theatre for today, we will have a glorified museum, a never-ending obituary to an age which is dead and gone (but which some would dearly like to bring back).

Today, the British film industry is dead. Ironically, it was the cinetechnicians union, ACTT, which proposed Resolution 42 to the TUC back in 1960. Which reminds me of something Arnold Wesker wrote in the Unity of Arts programme in 1969

"Nothing remains the same in this life for very long-you either grow or you rot-and this, I believe, is the challenge of being alive ... Some things in life carry on in their own natural way - the forest grows and dies, animals come and go, but other things need our attention. The crops need attention or they'll wither and produce nothing, a soup needs an occasional stir or it'll burn. Certain things need some agitation, enlivening, stirring-and this principle applies with equal force to the human spirit. The human spirit either thrives or disintegrates - it can't stand still ..."

As long as we fail in "stirring the human spirit", it means others are succeeding in crushing it.

Rick Gwilt

November 1977


Some said how good
he had been
to the deserving poor,
some said what a sod
he must have been
to leave all that
…….and more.