OTD in 1843, around 4,500 “Rebecca” rioters gathered and attacked the Carmarthen workhouse in Wales, and set about destroying it. Many of the protests tended to follow a ritual, whereby a ringleader (‘Rebecca’) would stumble towards a gate like a blind, elderly woman. The ‘daughters’ would then clear the path with an almighty racket.

Country men disguised as women, the Rebecca Rioters rose up against the oppressive imposition of steep taxes at the toll … More

Born OTD in 1934, Gladstone ‘Gladdy’ Anderson. “Gladdy”, was a Jamaican pianist, keyboard player, and singer, who played a major part in the island’s musical history, playing a key role in defining the ska sound and the rocksteady beat, and playing on hundreds of recordings as a session musician, a solo artist, and as leader of Gladdy’s All Stars.

“..And I hear Gladdy Anderson who was on piano say, ‘this one rock steady, you know. This one a rock … More

Born OTD in 1936, British director of television & independent film, Ken Loach. Loach’s film Kes was voted the seventh greatest British film of the 20th century in a poll by the British Film Institute. Two of his films, The Wind That Shakes the Barley & I, Daniel Blake, received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, making him the ninth filmmaker to win the award twice. Loach, a social campaigner for most of his career, believes the current criteria for claiming benefits in the UK are “a Kafka-esque, Catch-22 situation designed to frustrate & humiliate the claimant to such an extent that they drop out of the system & stop pursuing their right to ask for support if necessary”

The Cinema of Ken Loach examines the connection between art and politics that distinguishes the work of this leading British … More

Born OTD in 1898, M. C. Escher. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist who made mathematically-inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. Despite wide popular interest, Escher was for long somewhat neglected in the art world, even in his native Netherlands. He was 70 before a retrospective exhibition was held. In the twenty-first century, he became more widely appreciated, with exhibitions across the world.

His lithograph Magic Mirror dates as far back as 1946. By taking such a title for the book, mathematician Bruno … More

Born OTD in 1928, Ernesto “Che” Guevara. As a young medical student, Guevara traveled throughout South America and was radicalized by the poverty, hunger and disease he witnessed. His burgeoning desire to help overturn what he saw as the capitalist exploitation of Latin America by the United States prompted his involvement in Guatemala’s social reforms under President Jacobo Árbenz, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow at the behest of the United Fruit Company solidified Guevara’s political ideology.

Since his murder over 50 years ago in Bolivia, Ernesto “Che” Guevara has become a universally known revolutionary icon and … More

OTD in 1381, The Peasants’ Revolt, also named Wat Tyler’s Rebellion began. The revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic & political tensions generated by the Black Death in the 1340s, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France during the Hundred Years’ War. A wide spectrum of rural society, including many local artisans & village officials, rose up in protest, burning court records & opening the local gaols. The rebels sought a reduction in taxation, an end to the system of unfree labour known as serfdom, & the removal of the King’s senior officials & law courts.

“The Peasants’ Revolt had figured in Cockney tradition from at Elizabethan times. It was frequently depicted in the outdoors theatre … More

Born OTD in 1926, American poet, philosopher and writer, Allen Ginsberg. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and the counterculture that soon followed. Ginsberg is best known for his poem “Howl”, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. In 1956, “Howl” was seized by San Francisco police and US Customs. In 1957, it attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it described heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state.

Visionary poet Allen Ginsberg was one of the most influential cultural and literary figures of the 20th century, his face … More

Born OTD in 1955, Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic and poet, Colm Tóibín. In Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know Colm Toibin turns his incisive gaze to three of Ireland’s greatest writers, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, and their earliest influences: their fathers. From Wilde’s doctor father, a brilliant statistician and amateur archaeologist, who was taken to court by an obsessed lover in a strange premonition of what would happen to his son; to Yeats’ father, an impoverished artist and brilliant letter-writer who could never finish apainting; to John Stanislus Joyce, a singer, drinker and story-teller, a man unwilling to provide for his large family, whom his son James memorialised in his work.

Colm Toibin illuminates not only the complex relationships between three of the greatest writers in the English language and their … More

Born OTD in 1814, one of the most influential figures of anarchism & one of the principal founders of the social anarchist tradition, Mikhail Bakunin. In 1868, Bakunin joined the Geneva section of the First International, in which he remained very active until he was expelled from the International by Karl Marx & his followers at the Hague Congress in 1872. Although Bakunin accepted elements of Marx’s class analysis & theories regarding capitalism, acknowledging “Marx’s genius”, he thought Marx’s analysis was one-sided, & that Marx’s methods would compromise the social revolution. More importantly, Bakunin criticized “authoritarian socialism” & the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat which he adamantly refused, saying: “If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself”

The spellbinding story of both the man and the theory, Bakunin chronicles one of the most notorious radicals in history, … More

Born OTD in 1830, Louise Michel. Louise was a teacher, poet and important figure in the Paris Commune. Following her penal transportation she embraced anarchism. When returning to France she emerged as an important French anarchist and went on speaking tours across Europe.

Set against the background of violence and state repression in a turbulent period of French history, The Red Virgin and … More