• Journalism

    Farwell, The Maze

    The Maze is Closing For Good 19 April 19 words: Benedict Cooper (link to feature on LeftLion) Gaz and Steph Peacham have announced the closure of much-loved pub and venue The Maze. You have until the end of June to get your last orders in. Here’s the full story in their own words… Gaz Peacham can still remember the moment, to the beat, when he knew The Maze could be something really special. November 12 2007, Israeli funk band The Apples were just getting into their set, building up slowly, climactically, to one of those rare indescribable moments you get in live music; when the crowd and the venue and…

  • Comment,  Journalism

    “F**k’em”

    What used to be said, disdainfully, of Leave voters – ‘They were duped…they didn’t know what they were voting for.. things have changed etc.’ – has been reduced to a single sneer over the past few weeks: “Fuck’em” (that’s a direct quote). But isn’t turning over the referendum going to destroy millions of people’s faith in democracy? “Fuck’em.” Isn’t stopping Brexit a gift for the far-right? “Fuck’em. They shouldn’t have voted Leave.” But aren’t these the people who are going to be most hurt by no-deal? “Fuck’em. Serves them right.” Every day for the past 1000 days, there are those who have woken up refusing to accept the result of…

  • Journalism

    What we might have lost

    A fire at the Cattle Market in November wrecked four buildings and damaged several more. But it could have been worse. We went down to see what Notts would be missing if the whole thing had gone up..  www.leftlion.co.uk The blaze at the Cattle Market was so intense, and the flames so high, that looking out of the skylight in my flat on Forest Road, a hazy orange aurora hung behind the city centre, casting Nottingham in a strange, ominous backlight. If it hadn’t been for the direction of the wind, and the rapid response from the emergency services, we might well be ruminating on what we lost the night…

  • Journalism

    The People’s Vote movement is playing with far-right fire

        Take a placard calling for a ‘People’s Vote’, spin it around. You might well find the reverse bears another slogan: ‘Stop Brexit’. Keep spinning: Stop Brexit – People’s Vote – Stop Brexit – People’s Vote – Stop Brexit, until the two phrases blur into the political axiom of the day. Ostensibly – and perhaps practically, if it comes to it – they don’t mean the same thing at all. But assuming, as the post-referendum Remain camp confidently does, that a re-run vote does lead to Brexit being overturned, what then? Addled and vile as they are, the thugs caught on camera abusing Remain MP Anna Soubry outside Parliament…

  • Journalism

    The NHS whistleblower

    This article appeared in the Guardian Society section in October 2018. I was left to fight alone for NHS whistleblowing protection Blowing the whistle in the NHS is meant to be easy. Medical bodies such as the Department of Health and Social Care, the General Medical Council (GMC) and individual hospital trusts all encourage the practice – on paper. But when Chris Day, a junior intensive care doctor, raised numerous concerns about understaffing and safety at the intensive care unit of Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich, he found out all too quickly the toll it would take on his career. Day says he made a “protected disclosure” to hospital management…

  • Journalism

    The city’s ancient hill

    My piece for LeftLion magazine on the history of Canning Circus, Nottingham SIX ROADS meet at Canning Circus. From the north, three of the major highways into the city form a delta in the urban space between them; converging then splitting off, renamed, they ferry traffic and people down the hill out into the splintering, winding channels and streams of the city. To the south lies the city centre, to the west, the Park Estate and the Castle. To the north, Lenton, the university, Wollaton Park and Radford, and to the east a canopy of green trees shelters thousands of gravestones, sweeping all the way down to Waverley Street and…

  • Journalism

    Comment piece

    This comment piece appeared in the Times online at the end of July By nothing more than my increasingly hollow-feeling membership of a particular Labour Party constituency, I am now officially affiliated with one of the most contentious, offensive groups in left-wing politics. Actually it was very straight forward. An emergency motion was proposed, there was a show of eager upstretched hands, a prolonged round of applause, and that was it. We’re in. Nottingham East is officially affiliated with Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL). There was no mention that JVL has deeply and routinely offended Jewish party members ever since it was set up just under a year ago. When…

  • Journalism

    Rebel City! Nottingham’s radical activist history

    There was a day in the summer of 1985 when the two great political movements of the era converged in Nottingham. On the Forest Rec, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) staged a mass rally urging solidarity with striking miners, while over on Victoria Embankment, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) welcomed thousands to the Nottingham Peace Festival. The hardest part for the organisers was driving guest speakers between the two; some of the same speakers, maybe the same speeches. “We saw it as one cause,” says Ross Bradshaw, owner of radical Nottingham bookshop, Five Leaves, who was one of those fighting the traffic between the rallies. “It was all…

  • Features,  Journalism,  Politics

    Stories of the Streets

    This article initially appeared in the Guardian in July 2018. ‘Give a homeless person a camera and they will see the city in a different way’ “You’re worth nothing,” Colin’s stepfather used to tell him as a child. Even now, sleeping rough on the streets of Manchester, the words haunt him; as a child he started believing it himself, and is still racked with self-doubt. It’s easier not to think what demons might be plaguing a person sleeping rough. Much simpler to keep walking, pass them by: out of sight, out of mind. It’s the natural response, says Alex Greenhalgh, co-founder of social enterprise People of the Streets. “The norm…

  • Journalism

    I see the broken eggs, comrades..

    ..but where is this omelette you promised us? Swelled by that old intoxicant, victory, Labour big guns joined MPs and staffers on Tuesday to lift a glass to the party’s new general secretary – Corbyn candidate Jennie Formby. While inside the Two Chairmen pub, John McDonnell, Len McCluskey, James Schneider, Emily Thornberry et al sipped sweet success, and the seeing-off of Formby’s predecessor Iain McNicol, on the street in front of Labour HQ, Momentum, the party’s guerrilla wing, was also celebraring. “McNicol’s gone,” bellowed Jackie Walker and supporters, “now it’s time for the rest of them.” That shouldn’t take long – a flurry of resignations went in even before the…

  • Journalism

    Little John the Bare-knuckle Boxer

    When Pete Radford arrived backstage for the closing night of Romeo and Juliet, the first thing the director noticed was the state her actor was in. His lip was split in two from front to back; he had a shiner under his right eye, a graze under his left eye, his cheeks were still swollen and he bore the unmistakable pallor of a man who’s been in a scrap… “She wasn’t too impressed,” admits Pete. “She suggested I use some concealer.” There wasn’t a lot of concealer being handed out the last time I’d seen Pete, backstage at a very different venue on a very different night. The shabby dressing…

  • Journalism

    The Kurds are being left to twist in the wind

    Britain and the US have fought alongside the Kurds in Syria. Now they are leaving them to the mercy of a Turkish President vowed to “cleanse” them from their homes. The last time they were left in such peril, they were massacred in Kobane. This time the consequences could be even worse. With the first Turkish bodybags returning from Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest drive against the Kurdish people is officially underway. But the grand plan has Russian chess manoeuvres written all over it, and taking the fight wilfully to where the U.S. has troops could force a capitulation that leaves the Kurds well and truly stranded. Not that any…

  • Journalism

    The Labour Party is becoming a closed system of thought

    Preparing to run a blogging workshop for a group of media students in December, I was gifted a news story for us to get stuck into. Donald Trump had just retweeted those Britain First videos: a comment writer’s bread-and-butter. For potential angles for a piece, I told the group, the possibilities were endless: whether it was presidential behaviour to be tweeting anything at all, let alone the postings of a known far-right organisation; how social media was impacting political discourse; the pernicious right-wing agenda. And, I added, it posed the question, what the hell is going on this world where gay men are being thrown off rooftops by religious fascists?…

  • Journalism

    Corbyn visits Mansfield

    A comment piece I wrote for the New Statesman, covering Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. The visit came a few months after the party had lost the seat to the Conservatives for the first time in a century; Corbyn vowed to the crowd that Labour would win it back. newstatesman.com Brexit-voting Mansfield turned Tory in June – now Jeremy Corbyn believes Labour can win it back By Benedict Cooper Dig beneath the topsoil of the East Midlands, and you will find Labour, in all its layers. This unassuming region includes some of the most overt of Corbynsceptic MPs, as well as his most vociferous allies. It is…

  • Journalism,  News,  Politics

    Corbyn vows fightback

    When Jeremy Corbyn came to address a rally in Mansfield, I caught up with him and interviewed him for the Nottingham Post. It was the first time Corbyn had been in Mansfield since the Labour Party had lost the seat to the Tories – for the first time in a century. Corbyn promised the crowd that the seat would be won back. Jeremy Corbyn vows to win back Mansfield during rally Labour lost the seat for the first time in June Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the rally in Mansfield (Image: Nottingham Post) Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to fight to win back the Mansfield constituency by giving young people the hope…

  • Features,  Journalism,  Photography

    Ay up me Dutch!

    The fascinating story of the ‘twinning’ between one of Nottingham’s most famous boozers and a wonderful real ale pub in Amsterdam. I wrote it up for Nottingham cultural magazine Left Lion. leftlion.co.uk The Lincolnshire Poacher’s Brother From Another words: Benedict Cooper “Oh! You’re from Nottingham!” the smiling, bearded barman bellowed as he loomed over my table, the tang of some powerful herb tingling my nostrils. “I went to the Poacher last year!” Sitting in an alley on the edge of Amsterdam’s red-light district talking about the Lincolnshire Poacher has a surreal kick to it, especially when you’re getting passively stoned. We all know it’s one of Nottingham’s magic little corners:…

  • Comment

    The age of unreason

    Jon Snow has “no recollection” of screaming ‘Fuck the Tories!’ at Glastonbury this year. Neither does he remember adding a cheeky, ‘I’m supposed to be neutral’ to a breathlessly happy fan, who then tweeted it (and then deleted it). Maybe he doesn’t, maybe he does. Self-evidently it’s the sort of thing he might have said, otherwise he would have issued something more substantial than a good old fashioned non-denial-denial. I’m guessing being either quoted or misquoted as saying “Fuck Jeremy Corbyn!”, for example, might have elicited a slightly more strenuous response. But here’s my point. Imagine, just imagine, what would have happened if Laura Kuenssburg or Nick Robinson had been…

  • Comment,  Journalism,  News

    Mourning isn’t enough

    This comment piece appeared in the i newspaper in the wake of the Manchester attacks We should be angry about the Manchester attack How inevitable it is, that at times like this all the sordid clichés and false apprehensions come out. That if it weren’t for a “reckless foreign policy” the Salman Abedis of this world would wish only peace upon the West. That without an innately Islamophobic British population forcing disenfranchised young men into the arms of the radicalisers, the Salman Abedis would not exist. That love and unity alone will protect our children from people who see them as fair game for nail-bombs. ‘People like Salman Abedi don’t…