Wednesday, 21 February 2018

THE DANGER TREE IN MANCHESTER

 Review of The Danger Tree at Manchester Library by Steve Watson
(Eastern Correspondent)


BILL Drummond is a former art student, musician with the KLF, one of two blokes who burned a £million quid on the Isle of Jura in 1994, and has steadfastly refused to explain why ever since.  

Bill has an affinity with the North, and has a long relationship with Liverpool having worked at the Everyman Theatre in the 1980s!   In one of his recent books on the nature of art he states that 'all galleries should charge at the point of entry.  And they should be proud to do so.  Because they should be putting on works that people are willing to pay to see.'

Drummond was back in Liverpool last year and several hundred people had paid £100 to attend a few of his events, one involved ripping pages out of a book, the other dressing up in yellow capes, wandering round Toxteth and finishing up by the docks watching a stack of pallets being burnt. Art at its best?

For those that 
a) didn’t have £100 to spend 
and b) if they had would have spent it elsewhere in Liverpool then a random stroll may have taken them into one of them deplorable free exhibitions or installations as they call them these days down near the Pierhead!  

The Danger Tree, with its promotional leaflet saying 'Free to Enter' was making its second visit to the City!   And the exhibition following a stint in Birmingham is now in Manchester. 
 

The Danger Tree is described as an augmented reality art exhibition by impressionist landscape painter Scarlett Raven, and digital artist story teller Marc Marot and within seconds of entering through the front door visitors find themselves somewhere between a shelled out French farm building and the No Mans Land of The Somme.   Just over a hundred years ago in the real life fields of carnage thousands of French, English and Commonwealth troops faced a barrage of shells to the point where on 1st July 2016 some 57,000 were killed, seriously wounded or missing to the point where their remains would never be found.  

The one place of shelter if you can call it that was a large gnarled tree capable of providing both a point of refuge and an easy target for enemy fire.  Earning itself its 'Danger Tree' name it became the spot where many soldiers from Canada fighting for the Commonwealth would depart this world and at this conjuncture stories diverge.  Some sources say the dead tree still remains others that its spot sports a replacement and there may well have been many different Danger Trees across the jagged landscape but regardless it remains a point of thought and respect. 
 
A good hour session in the exhibit (which I will remind you is free Mr. Drummond) and you may or may not be aware that art can sometimes be powerfully challenging and dragging you out of your comfort zone.  Such exhibitions can be very subjective but rather than a line of static paintings or objects the trick with the Danger Tree is the use of electric wizardry to transform the illusion of the bombed out farmhouse in a war zone into a place where the sheer horror of the Somme literally surrounds you.  Using something called Blipper technology which is best appreciated than understood visitors are given an Ipod which when scanned across Raven’s stunning landscapes bursts into sound and movement with the war poems of Sassoon, Owen and Brooke as well as contemporary poets and voiced by Christopher Ecclestone, Sean Bean and Sophie Okonedo.  Individual soundtracks and moving images make the words augmented reality into one hell (in every sense) of an experience. 
 
This isn’t art to visit and feel warm.  This is art where you come out into the day light and feel slightly humbled shaken and subdued, this is the reality of the Accrington Pals and other local battalions marching off to France and returning as just names on cenotaphs.  This isn’t highbrow art, no its shock tactics of a part of history in the anniversary of its final end.  Our fathers, grandfathers and more brought back to life for a short period by a skeletal tree amongst a field of poppies.

Take shelter beneath The Danger Tree if you will at Manchester Central Library’s Exhibition Hall (First floor) daily except Sunday until March 31st. Mon -Thurs 10.00am 6.00pm, Fri & Sat 9.00am to 4.00pm. 
 
And its free Mr Drummond! 
****** 

Councillor Quinn on the Carillion connection

 'Changing Dynamic[s]' in build trade!
NV Editor: The story below shows an interview last September between the leader of Tameside Council / chairman of Greater Manchester Pension Fund, and the Construction News journalist Charlie Schouten, in which Councillor Quinn argued for closer association between 'London-based businesses.....they like talking to people like us; they see an opportunity here,' and people like him.  And then tellingly he adds:  
'If they [companies like Carillion] can come into partnership with us, it de-risks it for them.'

******
LAST September Kieran Quinn, who died on Xmas Day, gave an interview to Construction News in which he related his ideas on the strategies of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund [GMPF] to the journalist Charles Schouten over lunch in the 19th century Midland Hotel. 

A former postal worker Mr Quinn, who holds down the job as GMPF chair with other tasks including the executive leader of Tameside Council and a place on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the scheme sums up his ambitions to make the fund a much more active player in not just in the local economy, but nationally, too.

Part of that, he said, is the shift in relationships between funders and contractors.
'We’ve started to have much more of a conversation with contractors because we want to take more direct holdings in projects,' he says.
'It also means that the relationship between contractor and funder becomes much more powerful.'

The GMPF fund, chaired last September by Quinn represents all 10 local authorities in the Greater Manchester area, has assets of over £21bn and includes more than 500 employers and over 350,000 members.   It was one of the key funders behind One St Peter’s Square after investing £10m in the scheme, which was completed by Carillion in 2014.  The scheme is typical of the office developments that have made Manchester so successful, not to mention so attractive to investors – although Mr Quinn declined to reveal what the fund’s return on the development is.


As Construction News sits down to talk to Mr Quinn in Manchester’s grand 19th century Midland Hotel, the venue seems slightly out-of-kilter with our discussion, particularly as the GMPF has helped to fund some of the projects in the last decade that have made the city one of the UK’s fastest growing.

The fund, which represents all 10 local authorities in the region, has assets of over £21bn and includes more than 500 employers and over 350,000 members

The Farmer Review – Modernise or Die – published roughly a year ago, argued for radical changes in the construction industry.

Among the most controversial of these – and one that has since been rejected by the government – was the introduction of a client charge to help fund areas like innovation and skills.
The idea that clients should help take the lead on areas such as training, innovation and skills alongside main contractors is hardly a new one, but the calls for closer collaboration are continuing; perhaps a reflection of the relatively slow progress being made.
But what if collaboration and best practice could start at an even earlier stage?
That’s precisely the argument that Kieran Quinn, chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, is trying to make.
Funders and financers typically take a back seat in projects; particularly when it comes to conversations with main contractors.
But as Mr Quinn argues – should that now be ripe for a change?

Changing the dynamic

As the journalist Charles Schouten of Construction News sat down, last September, to talk to Mr Quinn in Manchester’s grand 19th century Midland Hotel, he writes that the venue seems slightly out-of-kilter with our discussion, particularly as the GMPF has helped to fund some of the projects in the last decade that have made the city one of the UK’s fastest growing.
The fund, which represents all 10 local authorities in the region, has assets of over £21bn and includes more than 500 employers and over 350,000 members.
It was one of the key funders behind One St Peter’s Square (pictured, below) after investing £10m in the scheme, which was completed by Carillion in 2014. The scheme is typical of the office developments that have made Manchester so successful, not to mention so attractive to investors – although Mr Quinn declines to reveal what the fund’s return on the development is.
But for former postal worker Mr Quinn, who juggles his role as GMPF chair with others including the executive leader of Tameside Council and a place on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the scheme sums up his ambitions to make the fund a much more active player in not just the local economy, but nationally, too.
Part of that, he says, is changing the relationship between funders and contractors.
'We’ve started to have much more of a conversation with contractors because we want to take more direct holdings in projects,' he says.
“It also means that the relationship between contractor and funder becomes much more powerful.”
He uses the Airport City scheme – in which GMPF holds a 10 per cent stake alongside Manchester Airports Group and construction partners Carillion and Chinese firm BCEGI – as an example of the more traditional one-step-removed relationship between funders/contractors.
In that instance, he says, the fund has had “few direct conversations” with either Carillion or BCEGI due to its small holding in the project.
But that is now changing, and the new view is one of Mr Quinn’s fundamental aims for the pension fund.
'Our expectation now is to have a much more direct relationship with the contractor, or whoever is managing, overseeing and delivering the project,' he says.
'That’s not normally how pension funds would take things forward, but we’re now starting to change that; for example on two of our schemes, we have someone on the board, so we’re starting to change the dynamic.'

Fair contracts, fair payment

He adds that part of that approach is getting involved at a much earlier stage – so not just by having an influence over project funding, but also its tender documents.
“Pension funds like to have a stake when a project is completed, but they prefer not to have a stake when something is still in the ground. Again, we want to change that,” he says.
It’s not much of a surprise that social value and fair payment are two of Mr Quinn’s areas of interest here – after all, he has been active in the Communications Workers’ Union for more than 30 years. But he wants to make it a core part of the pension fund’s activities on future projects.
'A lot of councils have been focusing on social value for a while; as a pension fund we make significant investments, so why do we not say, as part of that relationship with contractors, that we expect the same sort of social value?' he says.
The fund is already putting this into practice, starting with One St Peter’s.
“As part of our discussions around One St Peter’s Square, we put social value [in the tender]; the number of apprentices, the number of local businesses, the geographic links to the centre,” he explains.
'All the things that you think would be commonplace in a council tender are now becoming commonplace in the pensions world, and we’re at the forefront of that.'
When CN points out that it’s not always easy to keep a lid on main contractors’ and subcontractors’ payment terms, he agrees that there is 'no magic wand', but argues that fair payment has to start at the top.
'It starts with strong auditing of our contracts,' he says.
'We shouldn’t hide away because ‘that’s just how [main contractors] work’; a lot of these financial mechanisms are a way to abuse the system.'
Part of this approach has now led to the fund exploring 28-day payment terms for all its projects, although Mr Quinn again admits that it may prove difficult to enforce – making the issue of contract auditing “all the more fundamental'.
'We know that we’ll sign [28-day payment] as part of our contract, but [main contractors] will subcontract out parts of the project and that’s where [those payment terms] start to get filtered out.
'Conversations on fair payment are absolutely relevant and we’re prepared to have them; it’s also exactly the right thing for the pension fund to get involved with.'
Again, he admits it may be 'beyond the reach and authority of a pension fund' to stop poor payment practices – that, he argues, should start at the very top with central government – but ensuring it is stamped out from any GMPF contract is his first step.
So what about the GMPF’s future pipeline?
On this, Mr Quinn gets straight to the point:  'There’s no conversation we’re not prepared to have'.
The fund has already restarted its stalled office scheme in the centre of Manchester, which it is aiming to get underway in 2019.
The GMPF is now looking to form a joint venture with a developer to bring forward the 55,025 sq ft Island Site development on John Dalton Street in Manchester city centre, after having purchased the three buildings on the site – Ridgefield, Old Colony House and Grange House – for an undisclosed sum in 2011.
He says that this scheme will be on a similar scale to One St Peter’s Square once complete, giving the city a major new landmark office development in the process.
On top of that, the Fund is 'actively seeking' more similar projects to invest in, particularly in Manchester, with more and more firms casting their eyes north for office space and investment.
'I’m having a lot of conversations with plenty of London-based businesses that want to come to Greater Manchester because they like talking to people like us; they see an opportunity here,' says Mr Quinn.
'If they can come into partnership with us, it de-risks it for them.'
And Mr Quinn doesn’t want to just limit the fund’s activities to the commercial world; its ambitions stretch into both infrastructure and housing.
For infrastructure investments, Mr Quinn again wants the fund to take a more active role, particularly with a £500m war chest to play with.
It has partnered with other institutions, including the London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA), to back a number of schemes. These include rail schemes in Norfolk, and large-scale wind farm project in Strathclyde where it is a 45 per cent equity holder, in a joint venture with the LPFA.
Alongside the LPFA, the GMPF has taken a £150m stake in SSE’s Clyde windfarm, which is one of the largest onshore ones in Europe.
Mr Quinn says that this high-profile investment is exactly what the GMPF should be aiming for.
'The UK pension world doesn’t need to play second fiddle to Canadian funds; we should have the ambition and drive ourselves to have direct conversations on investment,' he argues.
While he says infrastructure can be a 'marmite' subject for funds –  'either you love it and want it as an active part of your portfolio; or you hate it and don’t want anything to do with it, because it’s too complex, too costly, and the returns are unclear' – it forms a core part of GMPF’s ambitions.
That could even stretch to one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country: the TransPennine Tunnel.

Investing in infrastructure

Sealing the business case and getting the tunnel under way is one of Mr Quinn’s key ambitions, particularly with one of the proposed routes for the £6bn tunnel passing through his home territory of Tameside.
'You’re looking at linking six to eight million people together, so if anything, the argument for the tunnel has been under-played,' he says.
'If we’re really talking about releasing the potential of the North, and creating a link between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and beyond, then the tunnel has to play a part.
'Every economic assessment I’ve seen – admittedly drafts and guesstimates – have said that the economic benefits that will be released from that connectivity are huge, so we’ll continue to press its case.'
It’s here that Mr Quinn outlines the scale of GMPF’s ambition: 'if the circumstances were right, we could be an equity holder in the tunnel', he says.
'Even if we commit £500m, that’s under 1 per cent of our holdings – it’s not as if we’re raiding the piggy bank to get those funds.
'We’re keeping it well within the normal risk parameters of a pension fund, but it gives us a brand new opportunity to do things much more large scale, and much more direct.'
And while he admits investing in the tunnel in the near future might be unlikely, it shows that shifts in the way pension funds work is one of the changes that contractors will need to be aware – and take advantage of – when opportunities arise.
For Mr Quinn, it’s about not only helping Greater Manchester grow, but grow in the right way.
'One of my pleasures of acting as GMPF chairman is using workers’ money to invest in the city they work in,' he says, 'and there will be plenty more investment to come'

******

Monday, 19 February 2018

ANARCHY CAME TO MANCHESTER

 by Steve Watson (Eastern Correspondent)*
 
EACH generation carries those special dates with them as they age. Dancing in the street on VE day, Manchester Woolworths grand opening and a fairly obscure date of a concert held on 4th June 1976 with hardly anyone in the audience.

Anarchy came to Manchester, the Lesser Free Trade Hall to be precise, and apart from the Sex Pistols entertaining a sparse crowd the date has also gone down in legend because if you tot up all the people who claim to have been present on the night the floor would have collapsed under the weight. In fairness the follow up gig, same band same venue six weeks later on (20th July) was quite popular with more paying public, more spitting and bottles being lobbed at the band as a show of affection so its quite possible that many of those claiming to have been at the first gig were confusing the two or just making things up for affect.

One person who was most certainly at the first gig was one Mark E Smith who along with a smattering of others that were genuinely there went on to pick up cheap instruments from Johnny Roadhouse or Mazel Radio and by a combination of luck and hard work ended up in famous or almost famous bands.

Mark E Smith was a quintessential northerner in every sense of the word and apart from what amounts to an extended holiday in Edinburgh whilst he attempted to sort his head out he lived in Prestwich for all but the first six months of his life. While his contemporaries ‘bought’ out of the North or moved to Alderley Edge, Smith stayed put and as an adult trod the same streets that he played in decades earlier.

Leaving school at 16, following a stint in a meat processing factory Smith graduated to the Docks, then a hive of industry and employment now a mix of gentrification behind security fencing, plush shopping with the odd surviving bit of the past including kids throwing stones at cars. Whether Smith had read it or not isn’t known but he quit the docks to form The Fall from the Albert Camus novel, and then set about redefining the terms ‘abrasive, curmudgeon, irritating, shambolic and literary genius’ to name but a few!

Mark E Smith died on 24th January this year. For an admittedly limited number of people it was one of those shock moments filtering through on BBC News late at night. Not his actual demise as he’d looked closed to the grave exponentially over his final years more for the fact that this anti hero, argumentative Rottweiler with a unique wit was no longer able to reignite that spirit of the late 1970s with his drunken outbursts and spectacular stage presence. Described as ‘a strange kind of ant-matter national treasure’ Smith’s slurred lyrics were rarely printed on The Fall’s many albums, and even though their output followed the standard pop pattern of having maybe two or three catchy dance tunes on each offering then eight so so’s to fill up space you were drawn in just wondering what the hell he was on about and eventually obscure tracks became favourites.

A Fall gig became over 40 years something of an event to witness not for the music, but his on stage presence, would he turn up, would there be an on stage fight or would he wander off and perform vocals from the dressing room? It really was a lucky dip helped by a constantly changing line up (over 60 Fall members came and went over the years with the longest, bassist Steve Hanley quitting after putting up with Smith for nineteen years following a real fisticuffs scrum on stage in New York in 1998!
He hated London and seemingly most other places apart from North Manchester so he lived in Prestwich, shopped in Prestwich with the odd foray into Whitefield, and would insist that journalists from the music industry meet him in either his local The Woodthorpe Hotel or somewhere in the urban oasis of Manchester. Often drinking the journalist under the table at their expense! A not infrequent shopper in Whitefield’s very own Willy Wonka cake shop Slattery’s he was one of an elite group of musicians to purchase iced buns on Bury Old Road, a list that included Nico from the Velvet Underground and John Cooper Clarke, who likewise lived in Prestwich before sodding off to Colchester, various members of Elbow and more!

Described as a ‘a kind of northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly uncanny’, which sounds pretty heavy going and probably the better tribute came from Smiths ex wife, but one who put it much simpler on hearing of his death and said he was ‘defiantly Northern England’.

A drinker of Olympic standards as the band’s finances ebbed, and flowed his main problem as far as alcohol went was that he couldn’t afford it, but with a long list of hacks prepared to foot the bill as the band floundered Smith’s presence in print gave him the chance to keep things ticking over until he reinvented himself with another set of musicians ‘falling’ into the line up and reinvigorating The Fall brand! The last eight years of The Fall were a renaissance with sell out gigs, and a mix of all ages watching the spectacle, and proving the point that while Smith was the key the musicians deserved as much praise for their tight playing if not putting up with him!

Last appearing on stage in November confined to a wheelchair and looking as grim as he had for the past few years the only positive was that his days of kicking the drum kit over and twiddling with the amps had passed. His funeral was held last week at Blackley Crem or Crematorium as outsiders call it followed by a final knees up at The Woodthorpe near Heaton Park where if The Daily Mirror is to be believed bottles were thrown and beer generally thrown about at random. Other less reputable sources simply say it was fitting for Mark E Smith and all he embodied!

*  Watson is very much a hypocrite and sodded off from Manchester in 1991 first to Bedford and then Norwich.  He returns several times yearly to visit various Watsons around North Manchester and Oldham.  The Beatles played the Co-op Hall in Middleton, April 1963.  His 88 year old Auntie swears she was there!)

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Bill Christopher: A radical born on Bastille Day

From South Africa to West Yorkshire

Brian Bamford peruses the politics of the 1960s, 

as he talks to Joan Christopher about her husband, Bill

THE early 1960s was a time of great expectations in radical left-wing politics.  There had just been the Campaign to Boycott South African Goods, called by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.  The boycott attracted widespread support from students, trade unions and the Labour, Liberal and the then Communist Party.  The Anti-Apartheid Movement had begun as the Boycott Movement, set up in 1959 to persuade shoppers to boycott apartheid goods.

The Campaign to Boycott South African Goods had been preceded by another single issue social movement the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was founded in 1957 in the wake of widespread fear of nuclear conflict and the effects of nuclear tests.  In the early 1950s, Britain had become the third atomic power, after the USA and the USSR had recently tested an H-bomb.

 Joan and Bill Christopher on holiday in France
Politically this was the atmosphere of the early 1960s, especially in London where Bill and Joan Christopher were to be activist members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) for most of their adult lives.  However, there were unofficial strikes and industrial struggles going on at that time, and in 1960 Bill had left the I.L.P. to join the Worker's Party [1] formed by Brian Behan [2], when Brian and others had broken away from the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League in 1960.  The Worker’s Party later merged with the Syndicalist Worker’s Federation (SWF).

Later together with the Freedom Press anarcho-syndicalist carpenter Peter Turner, Bill Christopher was to become joint-secretary of the Industrial Sub-committee of Committee of 100 [3], that was a time of great conflict and activity during the national campaign against nuclear weapons and the Bomb.  It was to be out of this Committee of 100 London Industrial Sub-Committee that the industrially based National Rank & File Movement (N.R&F.M)[4], an organisation of militant trade unionists and shop-floor syndicalists, developed and was founded at a conference in London in January 1961.

An article in Freedom newspaper covering this National Rank & File founding conference, of which Bill Christopher was an active member,announced:
 
'This week-end there is to be held in London the first Conference of the newly-formed Rank and File Movement.  Much work has been put into the preparation of this conference by liaison committees; discussion meetings have been going on in London, resolutions and amendments have been drawn up, and it may well be that this event will be a significant one for militants among the industrial workers at least.' 
(FREEDOM: January 28, 1961)


Joan Christopher speaking to N.V. in Todmorden, West Yorkshire

  Introduction to the interview by Brian Bamford

These were the days before Spies for Peace and before my own trip to Spain in February 1963 on behalf of the young libertarians of F.I.J.L in France, before the arrest of Stuart Christie in Madrid in 1964, well before the student sit-ins at the L.S.E. in 1967 and before the French events in 1968 and the 'Donovan Report' into the trade unions .  Back then I and my then compañera, Joan Matthews, who were staying with the S.W.F. national secretary Ken Hawkes at his home on Parliament Hill, attended this London national rank and file conference of perhaps 200 workers and activists; we were both employed at that time at the same engineering firm in the North West. At this conference we were sat in front of the Freedom Press anarchists Colin Ward, Philip Sanson and his compañera.  It was the first time that I’d met people like

Bill Christopher, Brian Behan, Ken Weller of Solidarity, and Peter Turner of Freedom Press, with whom I became a close friend for the rest of his life.  

In a pamphlet authored by Bill Christopher entitled 'SMASH THE WAGE FREEZE!' (1960s), and published by the Syndicalist Worker's Federation, Bill wrote:

'It is obvious that today only a Labour Government would dare to implement a wage-freeze policy and arm it with heavy penalties for non-implementation...  The opening attack on workers' wages and conditions came with George Brown's Joint Statement of Intent on Productivity, Prices and Incomes.... shop stewards wishing to improve wages and / or conditions in their plant, are subject to the penalties of the Act.  The officials of their respective unions can also be penalised.'
 
The intention of the then Labour government here would be to discourage unofficial strikes, that is strikes not supported and financed by the trade unions: in the 1950s and early 1960s unofficial strikes represented about 90% of all the industrial action taking place.  Historically shop stewards were intended to be simply 'union card checkers', in the 1896 rule book of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, that later became A.U.E.W., this was stated to be the sole role of the steward.  Yet, after the Second World War the shop steward had become a key figure on the shop-floor.  Bill Christopher during his involvement with the S.W.F. and in his writings as an industrial editor on Freedom, was anxious to extend the responsibilities of the shop stewards as was the rest of us involved in the National Rank & File Movement.

*******

Political Journey - wartime South Africa to West Yorkshire



Bill Christopher in the North of England

Bill Christopher was born on Bastille Day in July 1924, and died in January 1993.

Brian Bamford's Joan Christopher interview on Bill Christopher:
Began April 2015 and was finally completed in July 2017.

Brian Bamford: When did you and Bill first move up to Todmorden?

Joan Christopher: We came here in July 1986. I was born an Essex girl in a town called Woodford in 1928, but my family moved to Walthamstow from around 1930.

Brian:  How did you find living up here?

Joan:  We didn't know how things were going to work out. Of course, we had been up to visit Aileen and Bob (daughter and son in-law) several times. But I soon learned to drive after coming up and I began to go to college to do A-level art. Some dear friends of ours Eric and Joan Preston (in the Independent Labour Party) lived in Leeds

Brian:  Has Todmorden changed much since you came?

Joan:  There has not been a great deal of change. There is more of a hint of tourism – a bit like (nearby) Hebden Bridge, and it's more gentrified now. We use to meet people who had not been out of Todmorden all their lives.

Brian:  How does life up here compare with London?

Joan:  Bill use to reminisce about about London. He didn't seem to settle down as much as me. For me I’ve liked living up here and I find ‘Tod.’ people very friendly – I like somewhere a bit rural and countryfied.

Brian:  How did you meet Bill?

Joan:  I use to work with Bill's sister, Jean; sewing. I started working when I was 14-years-old at a dress-making factory cutting, finishing and re-drawing from the pattern book on Hudson Street, Walthamstow for about 4 months.   I then worked at Cannels Ltd dress-making. It was through his sister Jean that I met Bill and we first went out at Xmas 1942. Jean use to say Bill only liked me because I liked playing monopoly.  He had asked me to go to the pictures a week before he went into the RAF.   Bill was a volunteer and didn’t wait to be called-up, nor was he influenced by his mates at the time into his decision to join up.   At that time he was at first doing air-training in St. Johns Wood.
Later he was based in South Africa training to be a navigator, and didn't come home until 1944. After that he was in the Army in India until 1947.
While he was in India during the troubles there; that is during the Bombay riots, I remember him saying that he shot into the air,.rather risk hitting anyone.
He didn't talk much about South Africa! It was the war that influenced his later political views as well as his later (post war) experience in India (in the Army).  When he went to the war he had been a Christian and as a boy he wanted to be a missionary in the Church of England. My Mum too had been a strong believer before she met my Dad.
After he left the Army, Bill (Christopher) went back to working in the print (industry) in the 1940s up to the 1970s.  He was an Imperial Father of Chapel (Works Convenor) at the Daily Mail in NATSOPA and Sogat. After he left school he worked flat-bed printing on 'The Queen' magazine, which was a glossy.  He was doing White Chapel preparation though his grandfather had been a copy-taker.   He left the Daily Mail, went on to Teacher’s Training College, and later began teaching in the early 1970s.  He taught at Leyton County High School for Boys.  Bill was a member of the NUT (National Union of Teachers).   Bill came into teaching as a mature student and ended up teaching sociology as part of his teacher’s training certificate.

Brian:  Why did you both come up North?

Joan:   In July 1985, he decided to retire, because Bill didn't have a degree and he assumed that he wouldn't get a job in a 6th form College or High School. He was 61 (Bill was born in July 1924). We already had a daughter living in Cornholme in Todmorden. Our daughter, Aileen, has lived in the North longer than down in London. She originally lived in Cornholme, Todmorden, but is now over the border in Burnley.
When we got here Bill studied for a Master's degree (entitled) 'The women's role in the factories in World War II'. An oral history involving (research) doing interviews with workers (who had) worked in the mills and factories in the Tod(morden) area (in the War). It was a dissertation for his MA (Master's Degree), and I typed it up for him on a Word. Processor. He started studying for a Phd shortly before he died.

Brian:  What do you reckon of today's politicians?

Joan:  You can see that I am a Labour supporter (a Labour Party poster is in the window). Both me and Bill voted Labour in the 1945 and 1951 general elections: although I haven't got a lot of faith in any of them. Because they make promises and then can't deliver. I look on Labour as being the lesser evil. I always vote, because people died to get the vote. The trouble is that big business has more control, although you do get the odd MP who does a good job.

Brian:  But you were both in the Independent Labour Party (ILP)?


Joan:  (The I.L.P. merged with the Labour Party in 1975) when the I.L.P. stopped being the Independent Labour Party and became the 'Independent Labour Publications'.
Bob Galliers (Bill's son-in-law) intervene here to say that Bill had always been a syndicalist or anarcho-syndicalist, and that they (Bill and Joan) had been raided by the police in 1963 after the revelations in the Spies for Peace documents.
Joan Christopher then continued:
In the mid-1960s Bill wrote and edited industrial and labour reports for the Freedom newspaper with Peter Turner, who was a carpenter in the building trade.
I wrote for Freedom (the anarchist weekly newspaper) a piece about that raid after the 'Spies for Peace' [5] incident at Aldermaston at Easter in 1964. (At that time this 'subversive' document was being widely circulated by anarchists, independent socialists and pacifists and) at a Conference of the I.L.P. in Yorkshire [probably Scarborough] everyone were asked to reproduce the 'Spies for Peace' leaflet.  (At that time) Eric Preston, Bill’s friend in the I.L.P., was being followed by the police as he moved 'Spies for Peace' leaflets and other materials from Leeds to London, but when he his copies in the Left Luggage, the police moved in and took them. The organisation 'Solidarity'* (nothing to do with the current Solidarity Federation) started the 'Spies for Peace' campaign. (Bob then intervened to say the journalist Natasha Walter published a book on the 'Spies for Peace'): (her father was, Nicolas Walter the well-known anarchist writer, and the only member of the 'Spies for Peace' to go public on this matter).
We also duplicated a rank and file newsletter the ‘Seaman’s Voice’ in Cumberland Road, and as I recall one of the seamen ended-up stapling his own finger, but he was still enough of a gentleman to avoid swearing in front of a woman, although I’m sure that he wanted to.
Bill unsuccessfully fought the Walthamstow parliamentary seat (at different times) for both the ILP and CND.. He was a member of the (anarcho-syndicalist) Syndicalist Worker's Federation (SWF) and produced both 'Worker's Voice' (then the paper of the Worker's Party) and 'World Labour News'. Earlier in 1959, we were both involved in the 'Worker's Party'* with Brian Behan* (the brother of the play-write Brendan Behan and musician Dominic), but Brian was very mercurial.
Bill rejoined the I.L.P. around 1980ish, and the 'Friends of the ILP' are now part of the Labour Party.

Brian:  What did you do in the Miner’s Strike?

Joan:  We supported the miners! 
We had an ‘I.L.P. Miner’s Support Group’ through which we channelled our support. We were awarded a Miner’s Lamp for our efforts. I’ve still got that lamp here at the bottom of the stairs.

Brian:   I believe that William Morris was born in Walthamstow?

Joan.:  Yes, in the 1930s the house were he was born was turned into a clinic, and when I was a kid, I attended the clinic for treatment in about 1935.

Brian:  Many of those anarchists and syndicalists in London in the 1960s, I remember as having a wide variety of other interests as well as politics. Over the years from the 1960s I often stayed in London on the Peabody Estate behind Chelsea Town Hall on Kings Road with Bill’s old mate, the joiner Peter Turner and his then wife Gladys, and we often would talk about you and Bill. Peter loved cinema, the arts and above all music. As I recall from talking to Peter, he Bill and Jack Stevenson were all very enthusiastic about Jazz – I think Jack and Bill had disputes over their tastes in Jazz?

Joan:  Yes, we all had a passion for Jazz! But at first I was into the Classics, and Bill was into Jazz. When we were living on Cumberland Road we made it open-plan, and, on Jack Stevenson’s advice bought a Pye Black Box. We liked Bruck, Mendelssohn, Mahler, and Oscar Peterson. But it was through Jack Stevenson we came to know the track by Jack Teagarden ‘Tribute to Sydney Bechet’ (Joan at this point started to hum the tune). ‘I want that played at my funeral’, she said.

Brian:  Did you know many other people at Freedom besides Pete Turner? People like Vernon Richards, Colin Ward and Philip Sanson?

Joan:    Indeed, we were close to quite a few people at Freedom Press, and would go over for lunch on the odd Sunday to Philip Sansom and his partner’s house. We knew Tom Cowan and his Italian wife Gabrella. He was in the building trade. We were also close to Ken Hawkes, a sports journalist on the Reynolds News and the anacho-syndicalist editor of World Labour News – the journal of the Syndicalist Worker’s Federation (SWF) in the 1960s. Brian Behan, the brother of the play-write Brendan Behan, was another good friend who we knew Brian was a bit eccentric, he lived in a pre-fab with his wife and use to wear bicycle clips, and we asked him about this he turned his pockets out and showed us the holes. The bike-clips were there to catch the coins in.  His wife later went into teaching.  Brian was a carpenter in the building trade who was blacklisted and ended-up at university. I’m still in touch with Dave Picket who took over the S.W.F., when Ken Hawkes, who lived on Parliament Hill in Hampstead, left to go to work for the BBC.


Brian:  Thank you for that Joan, and please express my thanks to Aileen and Bob for all their help in producing this short rendering of the life of Bill Christopher.
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[1] The Worker's Party was a breakaway from the Socialist Labour League in summer 1960.

[2] Brian Behan, the brother of the Irish play-write Brendan Behan, founded a short-lived 'Workers Party', which published Worker's Voice and was active in support of the Seaman's Strike.
In 1964, Behan wrote his first piece on his family life, With Breast Expanded. Forced to give up building work due to an arm injury, he moved to live on a boat in Shoreham-by-Sea and studied history and English at Sussex University. He then studied teaching, before in 1973 becoming a lecturer in media studies at the London College of Printing.[3] In 1972, he contested in a swearing match at the British Museum, to mark the republication of Robert Graves' Lars Porsena.[2]
[3] The Committee of 100 was set up after a difference in CND about the use of civil disobedience as a political weapon between Canon Collins and the philosopher Bertrand Russell,

[4] The National Rank & File Movement. Affiliates of SWF; the Worker’s Party; the ILP; Commonwealth; London Anarchists; Socialism Re-affirmed (publication Agitator - later Solidarity).
[5] The ‘Spies for Peace’ was a clandestine group of individuals including we now know the Freedom Press anarchist, Nicolas Walter, later admitted involvement: His Wikipeadia entry states: ‘Walter was a member of Spies for Peace, the only member to be publicly identified, only after his death. In March 1963, it broke into Regional Seat of Government No. 6
(RSG-6), copied documents relating to the Government's plans in the event of nuclear war and distributed 3,000 leaflets revealing their contents.’
In his book ‘Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow’ the historian David Goodway wrote:
The Spies for Peace were essentially this group (Solidarity), locating and entering the Regional Seat of Government (RSG) at Warren Pow, Berkshire, and circulating the pamphlet, Danger! Official Secret: RSG-6.
[6] ‘Solidarity' publication of the Socialism Re-affirmed Group edited by Christopher Pallis and Ken Weller, was originally entitled the 'The Agitator' until 1961.


Friday, 9 February 2018

Institutionalised Incompetence


By Les May

YOU may have noticed a bundle of documents dated 29 January 2018 fastened to a lamp post close to a patch of green space somewhere near you. You should have done, there were 207 of them.  They relate to a hearing to take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and are intended to serve notice of that hearing.

Now you might think that someone would have taken great care to make sure that everything was, as they say, ‘kosher’:  no mistakes, no slip ups! But you forget, this is Rochdale, incompetence is the order of the day. So it should not really come as much of a surprise to find that the covering letter, signed by no less a person than David Wilcock, Legal Director,  Governance and Workforce, manages to inform the reader that the hearing will be on Tuesday, 19th February. Now, God willing, there will be a 19th of February 2018, but sure as hell it won’t be a Tuesday.

But of course, being only the covering letter rather than the legal bit you are no doubt allowed to make a mistake, even if you do it 207 times.   But probe just a bit deeper into the legal stuff and you find a paragraph about another hearing for an interim injunction on 6th February to allow three clear days between the service of the notice and the date of the hearing.

I can say with complete certainty that the notice I read was put up on Monday 5th February, which by my reckoning does not even allow for one clear day before the hearing. In other words someone at Rochdale MBC did not do their job properly.

This is not the first time that I have come across a casual approach to meeting the legal niceties of giving notice to the public.   A planning application relating to land below Castleton did not appear until the final date upon which objections could be made.   A notice relating to an area near Castleton station was affixed to a lamp post on the wrong street and related to a completely different street than that named in the notice.   A temporary road closure order in the Marland area related to a different road altogether.  A lady who has far more knowledge than I of the treatment of parents who have offspring subject to child protection orders, recently described the approach in Rochdale as ‘slap dash’.  I discussed the problem of getting anyone at RMBC to take seriously the possibility of election fraud in a NV piece on 2nd May 2017.

I don’t expect councillors to check on every legal notice emanating from RMBC but I do expect that they will ensure that those charged with managing the legal affairs of the council meet both the letter and the spirit of the law.

It is long past the time when the Leader of the Council should be having a stiff word with the Chief Executive. Or perhaps neither of them really care.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Rochdale fire halts trains

OVER 100 fire fighters from across Greater Manchester are at the scene of a massive blaze at an industrial unit in Rochdale.
The fire broke out on Albert Royds Street just after 1.10am on Thursday morning and three homes close to the building have been evacuated.
The unit, measuring over 100 metres, is still fully involved in fire while Albert Royds Street remains closed and will do throughout the day. A nearby railway line is also closed and is affecting services between Todmorden and Rochdale.

A spokesperson from Northern Rail has said: "Due to the line-side fire between Rochdale and Todmorden it is unsafe to run trains along this route. There will therefore be no services between these stations until at least 09:00, disupting services between Manchester Victoria and Leeds.
"Train services from Leeds will terminate at Todmorden. Train services from Manchester Victoria will terminate at Rochdale."
Replacement shuttle services are being set up as follows:
  • Manchester Victoria-Rochdale in both directions – Half hourly shuttles
  • Leeds-Todmorden in both directions.
Replacement buses will also run between Rochdale and Todmorden.
Fire Crews are wearing breathing apparatus and tackling the fire with jets from above to put water on to the fire from height.
A large amount of smoke can be seen in the sky above Rochdale and local people are being advised to keep doors and windows closed. 
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Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Richard Blair speaks at Wigan town hall

by Andrew Nowell Email Published in Wigan Post on 5 Friday 02 February 2018

ichard Blair speaks at Wigan town hall Andrew Nowell Email Published: 14:15 Friday 02 February 2018

Read more at: https://www.wigantoday.net/news/george-orwell-s-son-visits-wigan-to-promote-new-musical-1-8997559
drew Nowell Email Published: 14:15 Friday 02 February 2018

Read more at: https://www.wigantoday.net/news/george-orwell-s-son-visits-wigan-to-promote-new-musical-1-8997559
drew Nowell Email Published: 14:15 Friday 02 February 2018

Read more at: https://www.wigantoday.net/news/george-orwell-s-son-visits-wigan-to-promote-new-musical-1-8997559
THE son of one the world's biggest literary stars came to Wigan yesterday as preparations for a new musical about the author’s local links hot up. Richard Blair, son of George Orwell, attended a civic reception at Wigan Town Hall as part of a day of promotion for Beyond Wigan Pier, a lavish show being penned by Ince musician Alan Gregory.  The show’s concert ADVERTISEMENT premiere in the main venue at The Edge is being crowd-funded, with

The show’s concert premiere in the main venue at The Edge is being crowd-funded, with supporters so far raising more than £4,500 of the £25,000 being sought.  Mr Blair and The Orwell Society have been staunch supporters of the project ever since Alan came up with the idea of a full-length theatrical spectacular, a scheme which had its kernel in a few songs he wrote for the 80th anniversary of 'The Road to Wigan Pier'.

The council has also thrown its backing behind the musical, which will be performed for the first time in April.  Local authority chief executive Donna Hall said: 'We were delighted to welcome Richard Blair to the town hall to recognise all of the hard work he has put into telling the story of Wigan’s rich history.

'This exciting Beyond Wigan Pier musical which will be written, produced and performed by Wiganers, is a chance for us to recognise the changing lives of local people and the positive future ahead for Wigan.' 
Alan, who is also a ballet pianist and co-founder of Pies, Pianos and Pirouettes which teaches dance to rugby league lads, has amassed an impressive cast with popular Wigan singer

Scott Chapman and the borough’s X-Factor star Olivia Garcia involved.  Love duet 'Look at Me' will be released as a single on Valentine’s Day to drum up further interest in the show.  It is hoped that the crowd-funding appeal will show there is enough public interest in the borough to persuade Arts Council England to invest ahead of a full theatre staging in 2020.  The team behind the musical also believes it will be the catalyst for further regeneration in Wigan and, perhaps fittingly, underline the contrast between the town in the 21st century and in Orwell’s day.

Alan said: 'This will create investment and jobs in the borough.  My grand plan is to get all the people of Wigan to buy into this.

'The arts are an excellent way to attract investment into an area. This will be created by Wiganers and will hopefully create a whole different way of looking at the town and its people.'

Other supporters of the musical include church movement Transforming Wigan and Scholes community centre Sunshine House.  The crowd-funding campaign is the only way to secure a ticket for the first concert performance at the home of Today’s Community Church, with other rewards on offer ranging from being mentioned as a supporter in the end credits to VIP packages.

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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

On Bro. Pritchard's Penchant for Mr. Carillion

Editor:  
The post below was sent to Northern Voices by 
Mr. Pearson, a member of  Unite Greater Manchester 
Community branch.
We understand that this branch has been under investigation
by the North West Region of Unite owing to a series of 
complants by members.  Until the regional authorities of
Unite have determined what problems exist in this branch,
if any, the editors of NV have no views on this matter, except 
to say that we support the freedom to publish.
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 by John Pearson
I THINK it is deplorable that Bro. Pritchard, the Chair of the Unite Greater Manchester Community branch should post such abusive material on the public internet.

He might have disliked the reference to the late Councillor Quinn in your article on the deep embedment that Carillion had in Tameside Council and the consequent repercussions in that borough of the firm's collapse.  A reasonable commentator would have complained at what you published but to call the publishers "lowlifes" is ad hominem excess at its extreme.

Not only is Bro. Pritchard's action deplorable but it is highly hypocritical since he and his supporters in the Unite Greater Manchester Community Branch officer's group have insisted upon, not only banning Bro. Chris McBride, for over a year now, from the branch's official Facebook group but they have also - unconstitutionally (per the decision of the Unite North West Regional Deputy Secretary, dated 18 January 2016) - removed Bro. McBride from his elected position as the branch's press and media Officer (Communications Liaison Officer) role.  Their primary charge against Bro. McBride was that he allegedly made ad hominem attacks on branch officers on social media.

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The Goalie and the Nazi

by Christopher Draper
CHANCES are you’ve never heard of Jack Kirby but he deserves public recognition as a bona fide Northern Hero.  The North was never short of footballers with scoring ability and popular appeal but Kirby had neither.Jack was a quiet, modest goalkeeper who in 1934 defied the concerted might of his Derby County Management, the British Government and his Nazi hosts and alone refused to salute fascism.
(insert amended Derby County Shield here)

Nazi Football
Hitler hated football but saw the game’s potential for showing off Nazi physical prowess.  When he assumed power in 1933 Germany was a weak footballing nation that hadn’t participated in the 1930 World Cup but Hitler was determined to remedy that.  The head of the German Football Association, Dr Otto Nerz, the man who brought Jack to Germany, shared Hitler’s view and not just on football. Nerz was a devoted member of the Nazi Party long before Hitler’s accession and was as determined as the Fuhrer to make the national team a model of Nazi success.  To this end he travelled extensively studying successful foreign teams, including periods 'living-in' with Aston Villa, Glasgow Rangers and Arsenal.
Nerz similarly shared the Fuhrer’s rabidly anti-semitic prejudices and subsequently detailed his struggles,  'Jews and their bondsmen continually made the lives of the leadership (of the football association) very difficult, particularly with regard to the issue of professional players. During the crisis before 1933, there was a great danger that football would also become Judaized. The major clubs were always deeply in debt and the creditors frequently were Jews.  The drive towards professional football was very strong and the state at that time could not give the leadership of the sport any support because the state itself was dependent on the Jews.'
With Hitler running the state and Nerz running the F.A., German football was swiftly 'cleansed' of racially unacceptable players and managers but this didn’t concern the English F.A .
New Best Friends
The leaders of English football admired Hitler’s commitment to the game and were keen to cooperate in raising Nazi Germany’s international profile.  Within a year of Hitler’s take-over Dr Otto Nerz had secured the agreement of the English FA for top team Derby County to tour Germany playing exhibition matches against a German FA XI.  The British Government and almost all elements of the English Establishment were delighted at this public demonstration of our two nations’ shared values.
In February 1934 Dr Otto Nerz announced details of the Derby County tour to the international press telling reprorters,  'They play very attractive football and their style of play is likely to make a big appeal to Germany.'  The tour awaited the English close season when Derby would play successive matches at Frankfurt, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Dortmund with the first kicking-off on 10 May.
Rams on Tour
Jack Kirby along with sixteen team mates and half-a dozen officials, including a photographer from the Derby Telegraph left Derby station late on Sunday evening, 6 May 1934.  Sailing from Dover at noon the following day the party didn’t finally arrive at their hotel until the early hours of Tuesday. Everyone was in good spirits although, as the Derby Telegraph reported from Frankfurt, everything hadn’t entirely gone to plan,  'The Derby County party arrived here this morning in very happy mood in spite of a lengthy hold-up at one a.m. at the German frontier.  We were requested to produce all moneys in our possession.  This is an innovation since Herr Hitler’s regime.  The same procedure takes place when the traveller leaves Germany.  The German authorities thus have a check on one’s purse, the motive being to make sure that travellers do not leave Germany with more money than they had in their possession on arriving in that country.'
As soon as were met at their Frankfurt hotel by Otto Nerz they experienced no further obstructions as he chaperoned them around Germany ensuring that everywhere they were enthusiastically received. Specially translated English language menus were provided at eating places, dedicated guides provided and relaxing river trips on the Rhine organised.
A Rum Do
By May 1934 German football had already been thoroughly Nazified with both teams expected to stand and deliver a formal 'Hitler salute' before kick-off.  The Derby County men weren’t keen to comply and made this clear to club officials well before the Frankfurt match, as George Collins much later recalled, 'We told the manager, George Jobey, that we didn’t want to do it.  He spoke with the directors, but they said that the British Ambassador insisted we must.  He said the Foreign Office were afraid of causing an international incident if we refused. It would be a snub to Hitler…'
Despite Herr Nerz’s cosseting the players were beginning to realise that they were pawns in a wider political game and the Germans were determined to win.  As the Telegraph reported, 'The German pivot was playing very unorthodox football…he repeatedly played the man instead of the ball…
Bowers was badly fouled and injured…he came around after about three minutes (although) still appeared dazed…Kirby was the next to receive an injury.'  Even the referee seemed to be under orders from Nerz, 'It is interesting to note that the second half lasted 55 minutes and Herr Otto Nerz had to send a message to the referee by a linesman to remind him that it was much past time.'
The jubilant Germans won 5-2 although the Telegraph reporter claimed, 'Even the German authorities doubted two of the side’s goals.'  What he didn’t report was the Derby team’s instructions to salute.(pic of Derby team giving Nazi salute – except Jack!)


The Quiet Man and the Nazi
Jack Kirby was a Derby man through and through. Born at Overdean in South Derbyshire in 1910 there were Kirby’s all over the area and for generations they’d worked down the pit. Jack’s grandad was a miner, his dad was a miner and he never forgot his roots,  When instructed to salute fascism Jack adamantly refused.  As the photo shows, whilst the rest of the team followed orders, defying 35,000 chanting German football supporters Jack Kirby stood his ground and kept his arms by his sides.  It was a gesture every bit as brave and powerful as the iconic Black Power salutes of the 1968 Olympics although in 1934 nobody mentioned it.  This picture, taken by the accompanying Derby Telegraph photographer wasn’t published in the paper, nor was the incident reported.  There was no protest from the Nazis, no apology from the British F.A. and simply no mention of Jack’s defiant gesture in any media outlet.  It was fake Non-News, a conspiracy to keep quiet about an astonishingly brave public act of opposition to Hitler. Only after Jack Kirby’s death in Derby in 1960 did his old team mate George Jobey reveal Jack’s astonishing bravery, 'We did what we were told. All except our goalkeeper, Jack Kirby'.
Jack died as he had lived, a quiet unassuming hero. Satisfyingly, his 1934 bete noire Dr Otto Nerz eventually received his come-uppance.  Much admired by fawning English sports reporters as the, 'virtual dictator of German Football,' in 1945 Nerz was captured by the invading Red Army. Identified as an irredeemable Nazi,  Dr Otto Nerz was interned in Sachsenhausen where he died of meningitis on 19 April 1949.
Christopher Draper (February 2018)

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Leaked ledgers confirm Carillion’s blacklisting

                                     sent to NV by Joe Bailey (Unite) 
FAILED construction giant Carillion was a major supporter of an illegal blacklisting outfit that targeted safety activists and trade union reps, leaked documents have confirmed.  The firm has been linked to blacklisting for years, with the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in 2013 publishing evidence about how Carillion liaised with the blacklisting agency, the Consulting Association, either directly or via its subsidiaries.  Six managers directly involved with the association were named in the document.  Subsequently, the GMB union estimated that from October 1999 to April 2004 Carillion checked at least 14,724 names against files illegally held by the covert blacklister. Invoices and sales book records, seized by the Information Commissioner’s Office during a raid in 2009, showed that Carillion paid £37,814.72 to the Consulting Association between 1999 and 2006.  This month the Canary obtained the Consulting Association’s entire set of ledgers, which confirmed Carillion’s routine payments for data from the Consulting Association files. Dave Smith, joint secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, said: “Carillion blacklisted me after I raised concerns about safety on their building sites; it ended up in the European Court of Human Rights. At the very same time the company were milking public sector contracts including in the NHS. Not another penny of taxpayers’ money should be given to these wretches. 
In May 2015, Carillion, together with several other construction companies, agreed on a payout of around £80m in compensation to almost 800 blacklisted workers.


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