York’s LGBT History: make your own rainbow plaque, 20th February

As part of York’s LBGT History Month, York’s Alternative History are hosting (for the second year)…

York’s LGBT History: make your own rainbow plaque
20th February, 1pm-5pm

There are over seventy blue plaques around York commemorating famous people or events.
To celebrate York LGBT History Month 2016, we invite you to create your own rainbow plaques to mark places of personal and political significance to LGBT history. Drop into Explore York between 1pm and 3pm to make your removable cardboard plaque. After 3pm, we’ll distribute them around the city. If you arrive after that time, we’ll leave contact details with Explore so you can find out how to join us en route.

Venue: Marriott Room, Explore York Libraries & Archives, Library Square, Museum Street, York YO1 7DS
Accessibility: Baby changing, Wheelchair access

Tickets: None required

Photos from last year’s event:

29.KinsManorDiscos

1.Preparingtheplaques

A Critical Perspective on WWI: York Alternative History Group Bring A New Series to the Screen

York-War-page

In collaboration with York Explore and with City Screen and with massive thanks to Gary Craig who has put the whole thing together, York Alternative History Group is co-organising a programme of films offering critical perspectives on World War One, one of a series of events acknowledging the centenary of the five years of the so-called ‘war to end all wars’.

The series asks how should we remember the First World War? Was it a just war against the militarism of Germany and its allies? A war between imperial powers fighting to extend their economic reach? An accident from which no combatant country was able to extricate itself? What we do know is that the outcomes were disastrous. Millions of dead, economies and nation states destroyed, a rewriting of the map of, in particular, Central and Eastern Europe (leading to the rise of fascism in German and Italy) and the Middle East (generating the turbulence and massive loss of life in, especially, Iraq, Syria and Palestine), and, of course, the Second World War, which extended the combat to become a truly global conflict. How do we remember the courage of those many who refused to participate?

YAH hopes to raise some of these questions through its events. This is an opportunity to challenge common perceptions and some myths, and discuss and debate other perspectives than those of government.

Accompanying most of the film screenings, York Explore will be displaying material including maps and photographs illustrating the impact that the war had on the residents of York, plus a brief talk to introduce the film and our wider programme of work. YAH hope to show films in future providing perspectives from some of the other major combatants (Germany, Turkey, Russia, USA).

A full list of the film screenings, with further details and booking arrangements are available in the City Screen Picture House brochures.

4 AUGUST – A NIGHT AT THE CINEMA 1914
A compilation of short films, illustrating the context of the time: what 1914 felt like in the UK).

7 SEPTEMBER – PATHS OF GLORY
Kubrick’s anti-war statement in which a group of French soldiers revolt against a suicidal mission and are pursued by their corrupt superiors who demand their punishment.

5 OCTOBER – WINGS
An action film about early aviators: a humanist exploration of the devastating results of war. Winner of the first ever Academy Award for Best Picture.

20 OCTOBER 5pm – LE GRANDE ILLUSION
Renoir’s first masterpiece is one of the greatest anti-war statements in cinema, a portrait of prisoners of war attempting to escape.

11 NOVEMBER (Armistice Day)
A special related film screening, further details to be announced shortly.

24 NOVEMBER 4.30pm – OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR This famous anti-war satire thinly veils the horror of the war in song and dance routines performed by pierrots who regularly tot up the dead on a scoreboard.

History Talk 30 April

CANCELLED.

History Talk with York Alternative History & York Social

Date:               Wednesday, 30 April 2014, at 7.30 pm

Venue:            Denham Room, Priory Street Centre

Speakers:       Pat and Martin Bashforth

Title:               Diverse Evill-Disposed Persons

Behind the modern, comfortable presentation of Cannon Hall Country House Museum lie tales of war, revolution, murder, migration, poverty, theft, injustice and the role of women in the social turbulence of 17th century Yorkshire. A04 - Title Page

Can we combine history research with contemporary art practice to represent the past in today’s landscape?

Do these ignored stories surrounding Cannon Hall have any relevance to life in the 21st century?

What chance does such an ‘alternative history’ have of being seen and heard?

Pat and Martin Bashforth will use a variety of media to explore and present their research into the past and present of Cannon Hall and its surrounding landscape and invite your answers to questions like these.

[Free entry on the door, with a collection]

York’s History From Below Workshop, 2nd November

York’s History From Below
Clements Hall History Days
2.15-3.45, Clements Hall, Art Room
Organized by York’s Alternative History

York has an official history. You can see it in our museum displays, on the plaques on the city¹s walls and in the Visit York advertising. This York is a place of Romans, Vikings and Railways, of benevolent Quaker employers, of lovely medieval streets and of chocolate and tea shops. But we know there are many other Yorks and many other histories.

To explore ‘York’s History From Below’ this workshop will ask three questions:

· Which histories does York remember? Does the ‘official history’ hold dangers for York as a city today?
· Which histories should we remember?
· How can we change York’s public histories? How might more plural sense of York’s history lead to a more inclusive and equal city today?

York’s Alternative History is a group of local people aiming to ‘put the politics’ in York’s histories and heritage. We are interested in radical histories of York and interested in the political implications of how York manages its ‘heritage’ today.

This workshop is also linked to the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project: How should decisions about heritage be
made?

Deconstructing the English in York

Trying to get to grips with the historical, social and psychological construction of any sort of identity is difficult enough: almost impossible in the case of that slippery customer ‘Englishness’. Nick Smith set us neatly on our way on 30 September at the Golden Ball with a useful tripartite approach. This was the second of the joint meetings with ‘York Social Ideas’ led by York Alternative History.

After a short survey of the way in which the EDL tries to construct their idea of what constitutes being English by referencing back to some strange misreading of events in the early medieval period, Nick went on to deconstruct the wider concept of identity formation. The main content of his talk was an explanation of how a version of what constitutes ‘English’ was created as part of moves by the rulers of Wessex to assert hegemony over the vast variety of different groups that then inhabited what became eventually defined geographically as England. It was created in cultural opposition to what was considered foreign and had to be fought or held at bay: the Welsh, the Vikings, and so on. No mean feat to go through all this in less than half an hour.

There followed a long and wide-ranging discussion lasting the best part of an hour, though in the nature of things it was hard to come to any other conclusion than that the whole idea of any ‘nationality’ continues to be elusive the closer you look. It seems to have to do with a felt need to assert difference, which may or may not be inclusive or exclusive or perfectly neutral, depending on the social and psychological factors behind the ‘need’. The role of the State and its ruling class has, historically, been a great deal more important in hardening the edges of national identities than any presumed cultural or linguistic factors. In the creation of these identities there seems to be a complex interaction between generally benign cultural differentials and the activities of specific interest groups (political, commercial, psychotic) seeking to use these for some other purpose.

Well done Nick for such a good introduction to the subject and well done to those who came along for their often profound contributions to the discussion. A very civilised, entertaining and illuminating evening!

Watch out for other York Social events on their website and keep track of York Alternative History’s ongoing efforts, as well as out next foray with York Social in about three months’ time.

Next YAH Open Meeting

There will be no open meeting during August. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday 25 September, so pencil it in your diaries and watch out for the notice.

Meanwhile, various things are being organised. On Monday, 30 September at the Golden Ball from 7.30 there will be the next joint meeting organised by York Alternative History and York Social. Nick Smith will be leading a discussion on ‘A History of Englishness’. It will look at how and why England was created as a kingdom/country; the political motivation, spin, propaganda and creation myths that established England and what it means to be English. He will link this to how nationalist groups use these ideas from the early Middle Ages. If you have been watching the recent series on TV about ‘King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons’, this will be a fascinating alternative view.

On 17 October, there will be an Anti-Slavery Film Evening. Put that date in your diary and watch out for more information.

Some time in the autumn, there will be a new initiative that will get us out into the public domain in a high profile way. We will be involved in a project that will critically engage the public in thinking about York and how ‘Heritage’ affects the city and its people. Watch this space for further announcements. This will give us the chance to challenge the ‘authorised heritage discourse’.

Two big things for autumn 2014. We are helping out with events to do with the commemorations of the ‘Great War’ that was supposed to end all wars and in fact laid the foundations for most of the ones ever since. On our own efforts we will also be doing something similar to only different from our Luddite event last January: we will be looking at the way Guy Fawkes has been characterised through ‘heritage’ and used by the activist movements in recent years.

Open Meeting Wednesday 24 July

The next open meeting of York’s Alternative History will be at the Golden Ball, Cromwell Road, York on Wednesday 24 July from 7 to 9 pm. You are all welcome!

During the past week, the Rowntree Foundation, the York Press and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, have each drawn attention to the poverty and hardship that underlies and, through high rents and low pay, underpins the superficial prosperity of the City. York continues its transition from a manufacturing centre to a twin-track economic structure in which a low-paid sector provides services to tourism, finance and a high-tech and academic elite. As factories close, cafes and restaurants seem to mushroom.

Much of this false economy, which includes the East Coast Main Line commuters attracted to live here while working in London, exploits a fanciful and skewed interpretation of York’s historic fabric. What is superficially entertaining and good to look at is foregrounded, while submerging and ignoring the ordinary people of York and their experience – not just in the past, but equally in the present and in formulating policies for the future.

Challenging this ‘chocolate-box’ version of York’s past is what YAH is all about. We campaign about history and heritage in parallel with other forms of social and cultural activism. How the past is presented is part of today’s social problems and the prevalent inequality. We are planning events for more than a year ahead and welcome new ideas to help us shape our agenda and make our small voice louder and more colourful. Help us plan this year how to challenge the way Guy Fawkes is presented and next year how the ‘Great War’ to end all wars is going to be commemorated. Help us devise a programme of public talks, events and interventions. See you on Wednesday!

General Ludd Embraces New Technology!

Those readers who followed our events in January to commemorate the execution of 17 Luddites at York Castle 200 years before, will remember Alan Brooke. He was one of our speakers during the afternoon discussion at the Guildhall and, dressed dapperly in early 19th century dress, added a splash of colour to our commemorative event at the Castle, along with his comrades. If you are alert to the mass media, you may have heard him eloquently represent the Luddite cause on Radio 4 (Looking for the Luddites) and on BBC TV (Nick Crane’s programme on Huddersfield in his Town series).

Now you can find more of his quietly authoritative words on the blogosphere. Check him out on ‘Underground Histories’ at http://undergroundhistories.wordpress.com – it’s well worth the visit.

Next Open Meeting: New Venue

The next open meeting of York’s Alternative History will be on Wednesday, 19 June at 7 pm at The Corner Pin, bottom end of Tanner Row, York. Please note the change of venue!!

There is lots to talk about – the latest developments in planning to counter-act the State’s ‘Great War Fest’ in 2014, ideas for the next pub discussion meeting following the successful one on the Suffragettes, what to do about the way Guy Fawkes is commemorated, how what we do links to present day activism, and some other great ways of challenging ‘Heritage York’ on behalf of the living! Everyone welcome. See you there.

2014 – The Commemoration to End All Wars?

By Jingo! For radical historians and anti-militarist activists, the official commemoration of the First World War in 2014 represents a huge challenge. Perhaps it is also a huge opportunity.

There is hardly a community or a family that does not have a connection to the First World War. They will not just be looking back to the past. They will be aware of the wars going on around us – the legacy of what was supposed to be ‘the war to end all wars’. The Government is already putting itself into a position to control the way in which it is ‘celebrated’, much as it has done since 1919 (read more of this below).

Opposition is already growing to the State’s official plans. An open letter and petition has been launched through the Stop the War Coalition. You can sign up your support at http://ww1.stopwar.org.uk/ . But you can do more than this to help.

All round the country, activists and radical historians are planning their own events to try to counter the inevitable jingoism. They have started an email discussion group to share ideas and plans. York Alternative History will be part of this movement of cultural resistance alongside other groups in the city.

Come to our next meeting and add your active support to what will be happening. Plans are already under way for a day school and for a series of films. More ideas are needed.

NEXT MEETING: Wednesday, 19 June, at 7 pm in THE CORNER PIN, Tanner Row, York.

 

WHAT WE ARE UP AGAINST

There is a massive disparity in terms of resources between officially sponsored events and those that radical and alternative groups will be able to muster. The Coalition Government has announced plans to arrange a long series of commemorations related to the First World War, starting in 2014, the centenary of its outbreak. They are replicating what was done in 1919, when the popular desire for Remembrance was hijacked by the State and the Church. They have already set aside some £55 million. The lion’s share of the cash (£35 million) has already gone to the Imperial War Museum for renovation work. More than £5 million is to be pumped into the school system to take maintained secondary school children to the ‘great battlefields’. The DCMS includes in its sums £15 million which actually comes from the Heritage Lottery Fund (see below).

The spend will not stop at £55 million, as none of this figure includes future events yet to be decided upon.

The DCMS has appointed a ‘prestigious centenary advisory board’ to oversee events yet to be planned. Of the 16 people so far nominated, there are only two historians, both right wing military specialists. There are five politicians, all right wing and/or with backgrounds in defence affairs, including another military historian. There are four representatives of the armed forces, all retired chiefs of staff. The Church is represented by the Dean of Salisbury, while ‘cultural’ influence is confined to two writers, Pat Barker and Sebastian Faulks, both authors of sentimentalised representations of the First World War, and the President of the National Library of Wales. Scotland is not represented – they have their own Five Year Plan.

Other powerful bodies will be adding their weight to these State sponsored events. Top of the list is the archaically titled Imperial War Museum, which is encouraging local community events and has its own dedicated website already in operation at http://www.1914.org/ . Numerous local projects have already joined in, alongside historical associations of one sort or another. Should we be a part of this, inside the tent as it were?

Funding for these projects is available through the Heritage Lottery Fund in blocks from £3k-£10k, £10k-£100k, and over £100k. They claim to have already issued over £12 million to related projects since April 2010. Much of the larger grants will be going to museums and other official bodies to fund their own projects. The HLF don’t say how much money they have in total for this aspect of their work, but the DCMS says it is ‘at least £15 million’, of which £6 million is specifically targeted at young people. Does this represent an opportunity for radical groups to test the waters as to whether or not we can access this type of resource?