The Faraway Tree
First published 1939
An only child, I grew up with very few books. I was given the occasional comic deemed suitable for small people, one of which was Sunny Stories, edited by Enid Blyton. This led me on to her books, and The Faraway Tree was the first I read. Salma Yaqoob, from Stop the War, says it was this book that taught her the power of fantasy. I have chosen it because, despite the often twee prose, Blyton knew how to tell a story. Three children discover an old dark tree. They climb it and find it reaches into a magical land, which changes each time they visit. The story opened my mind to the world of the imagination and I became an avid reader.
First published 1922
I used to escape at lunchtime from my primary school and lead a whole gang of kids to Heston library, where I discovered William, the eternal anarchist. It was during the war but we didn’t think much about bombs or even about the ‘Nasties’, as William called them. When I was evacuated to Nottingham, there was always William to ease my longing to return to the London of the doodlebugs. He lived with me through the war and still makes me chuckle quietly to myself when I am sad.
First published 1954
This is my favourite of the wonderful Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. It starts with a huge flood. With the waters rising, the Moomins see a house with the front door missing floating towards them. It is huge, and they jump on board. Gradually you become aware that the house is in fact a theatre and comes complete with Emma, a grumpy stage manager. It ends with a show, which the Moomins put on for the small animals thereabouts. All jaded actors and directors should read this book.
100 shorter poems
Publisher long forgotten
This was one of my father’s few books. Some inspired teacher must have given it to him and he could recite several of the poems by heart. Later I too had an inspired teacher, who used to write poems on sheets of cardboard, decorate them and lay them out in front of the class. Anyone who finished their work early could choose a poem, learn and recite it. I eventually married a poet, and sometimes think that my father’s little anthology and Miss Mizen’s clever reward system gave me the extraordinary gift of a lifetime of love and happiness.
Wings and the Child
First published 1913
Edith Nesbit was an extraordinary woman who wrote for children in a language they could understand at a time when most such writing had a conservative moral and political bias. Her belief in the power of the imagination, the way she talked of children as real people with their own identities, her sense of humour and her exciting stories all mark her out as a very special writer. This glorious, affirmative book is a reminder that the world is full of wonders.
Plats du jour
Primrose Boyd and Patience Gray
One day my French professor invited me for a meal at the Normandy Hotel. It was one of the best turns anyone ever did for me. I learnt the importance of eating properly. Later, when I began to cook myself, I tried to recreate the wonderful cassoulet and salade vert I so enjoyed that evening. And the book that seemed to have all the information and enthusiasm to help me with my culinary attempts, and has stayed with me since, is this little Penguin, so delightfully illustrated by David Gentleman.
Tynan on Theatre
Ken Tynan’s reviews made us leap out of bed on Sundays to get the Observer, and this book contains some of the most important writing about the transformation in British theatre, from Rattigan to Osborne. My late husband Adrian and I met in the office of the BBC’s Tempo arts programme when Ken was its editor; I was a researcher and Ken wanted Adrian to write a script. From then on Ken was a good friend and a loyal supporter. He commissioned Adrian to write Tyger, a play about Blake with music by Mike Westbrook that was done by the National Theatre. And he never hesitated to defend it from its very right-wing critics.
Who Killed Dylan Thomas?
Adrian Mitchell, Ralph Steadman
Ty Llen Publications
This is a lecture given by Adrian in Swansea when he was a happy Dylan Thomas Fellow for a month in1995. It is not a conventional lecture, more a collection of thoughts on poetry and a collage of poems and letters. Adrian sent the manuscript to Ralph Steadman to ask if he could use Ralph’s portrait of Dylan. Ralph sent it back having drawn all over the pages and it was subsequently printed in book form.
It describes the constant struggle to exist that eventually killed Dylan. At the end Adrian writes: ‘Artists can sometimes survive without public help. But do you want art to survive? Or do you want art to flourish?’
The actress and long-time activist Celia Hewitt (Mitchell) runs the Ripping Yarns second-hand bookshop in Highgate, north London, which specialises in children’s and illustrated books
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill