Monday, May 23, 2016

Ken Loach PhD Acceptance Speech and Second Palme d'Or Award

In January 2015 Film-maker Ken Loach celebrated receiving an honorary degree from Liverpool Hope University by apologising to students for the way his generation wrecked the country - despite Merseyside workers’ best efforts to prevent it.

When asked of the message he will give to the young graduates today, he said: “I will say something about the fact that we owe them an apology. The world we left them is worse than the world we got given. They get to make the changes we didn’t make. It’s particularly appropriate in this city. The Liverpool dock workers fought a heroic fight for demand of work and proper secure jobs.”

He added: “We have let them down. Work is now insecure. They’ve got to change it.”

.... In May 2016 at Cannes Film Festival ....

Palme d’Or Goes to a Ken Loach Film at Cannes

British veteran director Ken Loach won his second Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival when "I, Daniel Blake", his latest social-realist drama, took the Best Picture award on Sunday.

Loach, 79, is one of only nine directors to have won the top prize at Cannes twice. Loach had won in 2006 with "The Wind That Shakes the Barley."

Addressing the Grand Theatre des Lumieres crowd in French, Loach said: "Thanks to the team, the writer (Paul Laverty), the producer (Rebecca O'Brien) and all the others.

"Thanks also to the workers of the Cannes Festival who make this event possible."

Loach remains just as passionate about social injustice as when his TV play "Cathy Come Home" shocked viewers 50 years ago with its depiction of a slide into homelessness.

Loach said he found it very strange to receive an award in such opulent surroundings given the miserable living conditions of the people who inspired his film.

“When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage,” Loach said. “We must say that another world is possible and necessary.”

Loach slammed swingeing welfare cuts across Europe as he accepted the prize.

"We are in the grip of a project of austerity driven by ideas that we call neo-liberalism that brought us to near catastrophe," he said.

"It has led to billions of people in serious hardship and many millions struggling from Greece in the east to Spain in the west … while this has brought a tiny few immense wealth."

"I, Daniel Blake", shows how Britain's social security system conspires to drive a downtrodden carpenter and a single mother of two into poverty in the northeastern city of Newcastle.

Critic Peter Bradshaw writes:

Ken Loach pick up his second Palme d’Or for I, Daniel Blake —a coldly angry indictment of food bank Britain, scripted by his longtime screenwriter Paul Laverty. It was the only film of the festival which moved me to tears; the heart-wrenching and frightening scene in the food bank itself has enormous power. This was a film of almost radical plainness, with a great performance from Dave Johns (as so often in the past, Loach has got great serious work from a comic — he has cast John Bishop and George Lopez in the past). Loach is, as I have written before, the John Bunyan of contemporary cinema. Or to use another comparison, he has directed a film which repudiates frills and nuances as firmly as a medieval mystery play. It may well be that his heartfelt idealism and Amish simplicity became a sort of Esperanto for the international jury. It was something they could all understand and endorse in each other’s company.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

May Day 2016: Barcaldine marks 125 years since shearers' strikes

May Day 2016: Barcaldine marks 125 years since shearers' strikes
By Ash Moore (ABC)
Posted Sun at 10:55am

Jaclyn Hine from Brisbane Descendent of Edward Hartnett Murphy dressed for re-enactment

Thousands of tourists have descended on the outback Queensland town of Barcaldine to mark 125 years since the famous shearers' strikes of 1891.

The town is widely regarded to be the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party, with many of the strike leaders going on to hold public office.

Jaclyn Hine is a descendent of one of the strike's leaders, her great-grandfather Edward Hartnett Murphy.

Ms Hine travelled more than 1,000 kilometres from Brisbane to Barcaldine for the annual Tree of Knowledge festival this weekend.

Although striking shearers may have been perceived as thuggish men, Ms Hine said that was not the case for her great-grandfather.

"I think it's important to remember that although a labourer, he had the potential for better things, which I don't think was ever realised in his life," Ms Hine said.

"He stood up for justice [and] equality — they were working for better wages and conditions for the men.

"It took a great toll on the family but he stood up to be counted and [I'm] very proud of that heritage."

Mr Murphy's friend and fellow strike leader, George Taylor, went on to serve in the West Australian Parliament as Speaker of the House and the world's first Labor Government was sworn into the Queensland Parliament on December 1, 1899.

Guns everywhere but no shots fired

Barcaldine strike camp police 1891
One of the organisers of the festival, Sharon Broughton, said shearers like Mr Murphy would have faced a perfect storm of poor working conditions and low pay.

Living in sweltering tin sheds, with dirt floors, bunk beds, and few windows, they started to think that maybe they should be paid more.

"The conditions were abysmal, they weren't treated very well," Ms Broughton said.

During the strike, labour was brought in from Victoria, where workers were desperate after the gold rush ended.

The shearers retaliated, Ms Broughton said, and there were some incidents where the train track was tampered with, or there were other bids to slow or stop the trains.

In the early part of 1891, pastoralists appealed to the Government for support and the Premier at the time, Sir Samuel Griffith, duly sent in police and military personnel to protect the "blacklegs" and "scabs" who were brought in to make sure sheep were still shorn.

Unionist prisoners released from prison after trumped up conspiracy charges
"[They sent] troops and artillery — there was even a Gatling gun," Ms Broughton said.

Despite both sides being armed, there was surprisingly little violence and no deaths that could be directly linked to conflict, Ms Broughton said.

"There were guns everywhere but it never happened so it was a very non-violent, in that sense, strike," she said.

"There was lots of jeering, yelling and pushing.

"There were some incidents where the people in the pubs locked themselves in because the unionists were marching up the street.

"But not a shot was fired."

Failed strikers turn to the ballot box

A Shearers' Union Camp in Barcaldine, 1891
Despite having a real passion for their cause, unfavourable weather conditions and a lack of funds to continue the strike meant that it ultimately fizzled out.

However, a political movement had begun and many of the leaders of the strikes went on to hold public office, despite most of the alleged conspirators having been sentenced to three years' imprisonment with hard labour on St Helena Island in Moreton Bay.

One of the ex-strikers became a Member of Parliament for Barcoo, which was the local electorate at that time.

Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor Rob Chandler said local shops, hotels and pubs would benefit from the influx of people for the annual Tree of Knowledge festival.

He said tourism was particularly important to the region during the current drought.

"At the moment, there's a lot of hurt out there in small business land and with our landholders," he said.