I USED to teach 10 and 11 year olds who were reluctant to leave their computers and read books. To encourage them, I started writing stories about children like them and read them chapters in class. I wanted to give them something they could identify with and they loved it. Harry Potter is written to an old-fashioned formula, like Billy Bunter and the Just William books. It's got the same old public schools and servants.
Black in the day: another story UK Black Tuesday 23 September, 8.30pm, Radio 2
WHAT WOULD popular music in Britain sound like if there had been no migration of people from the Caribbean? And what was it about the experiences of blacks in Britain that led them to create such vibrant and path-breaking sounds? In this series Courtney Pine interviews musicians, DJs, clubbers and promoters with some brilliant insights along the way.
"BBC PROGRAMMES are revoltingly coarse," said a Cambridge professor reviewing the BBC's modern retelling of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's raunchy stories have been popular since he wrote them in the late 13th century. The new tales feature actors like Dennis Waterman, James Nesbitt and Julie Walters. Don't be put off by school memories of Chaucer. This is a cut above the usual fare.
The Key is a major new drama about three generations of working class women in Glasgow. Their story reveals an inspiring history of political activism and working class militancy rarely seen on TV. Donna Franceschild wrote The Key. She spoke to Socialist Worker about why political drama is back in fashion.
THE ATKINS diet has been splashed all over newspapers and magazines recently, and has spawned a bestselling book.
WORKERS FROM three Tyneside shipyards walked out on strike on Friday of last week in an unofficial dispute over pay.
BEHIND THE scare stories in the press about asylum and immigration there is a real story to be told. It is the story of how, for centuries, people have been forced to move thousands of miles to escape persecution or find work.
Valerie Martin’s novel Property tells the story of a slave revolt on a sugar plantation in the US Deep South. Manon, the planter's wife, narrates it. Manon misses the excitement and culture of New Orleans, where she was brought up. More than anything she wants to be free of her boorish husband. She is appalled by his violence and sadistic cruelty and contrasts him with her father, who had a paternalistic attitude to his slaves. In the background there are rumours of slave rebellion.
In the new "reality" TV series Masters and Servants, two families take turns at being the masters and then the servants. In the first programme the posh Cheryl Allen Stevens and her husband showed themselves to be arrogant, disdainful and willing to humiliate those they thought beneath them.
Tony Saint Serpent's Tail £10
Heard of James Jameson? No? How about Joe Messina, heard of him? He's one of the white guys. Still nothing? Never mind. How about Joe White? No? Well, don't worry, I didn't know who they were either. Though I suspect a number of aficionados are already smiling and ready to name the dozen or so most significant musicians in popular music for the last 50 years.
WATCHING THE powerful new film Buffalo Soldiers reminded me of the time I worked at the Passport Office in London in the mid-1980s. Once or twice a month I had the job of opening up the Ministry of Defence internal mailbag. Inside were a number of passports that had to be deleted. They were the passports of dead British soldiers. A large number contained letters from army friends or commanding officers explaining their fate. Many were killed in the most horrific ways during military exercises. Others were a result of mundane accidents on military bases. I was always sad cutting off the corners of these passports and stamping them "Cancelled". The needless death of young soldiers is one
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry (£7.99)
Good Bye Lenin! Director: Wolfgang Becker
The Hour of Two Lights by Terry Hall and Mushtaq
Vive la Revolution by Mark Steel is a lively and witty history of the French Revolution. It is an accessible history which reclaims the 1789 revolution from the widely held idea that it was a period of terror, murder and mayhem. Steel celebrates the revolution as a time when masses of disenfranchised people played a part in radically changing the society in which they lived.
The film Etre et Avoir (To Be and To Have) should be required watching for all New Labour politicians. It might enlighten those who believe education can be reduced to a barracks regime of testing designed to fit young people for the needs of employers. Etre et Avoir follows in great detail the life of a real school in the French countryside. The school is tiny so there are children from four years old to ten in a single classroom.
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