Born OTD in 1922, internationally known Trinidadian calypsonian, Lord ‘Kitch’ Kitchener. He toured Jamaica for six months in 1947-8 with Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore) and Lord Woodbine (Harold Philips) before they took passage on the Empire Windrush to England in 1948. Upon his arrival, Kitchener performed the specially-written song “London Is the Place for Me”, which he sang live on a report for Pathé News.

Combining factual biography with the imaginative structure and investment in the language of the novel, Anthony Joseph fully engages with … More

Over the last century the novel ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ has been credited with having more influence on the growth of the labour & trade union movement than Marx & Engels. Yet for a long time little was known about the author, a house-painter called ‘Robert Tressell.’ Ian Hernon has traced his life from Victorian Ireland & South Africa to Edwardian Hastings &, ultimately, Liverpool. It is the story of how arguably the greatest novel about the English working class sprang to life from Tressell’s bitter experience & first-hand observations. It is also the personal story of a workmate & single parent who was much-loved in life & venerated after his premature death before his masterpiece was published.

That masterpiece has particular resonance in today’s political climate of austerity and division. With a preface by Len McCluskey, General … More

Born OTD in 1957, English writer and lyricist, Nick Hornby. “Rob Fleming is a London record shop owner in his mid-thirties whose girlfriend, Laura, has just left him. At his record shop, called Championship Vinyl, Rob and his employees, Dick and Barry, spend their free moments discussing mix-tape aesthetics and constructing desert-island, “top-five” lists of anything that demonstrates their knowledge of music. “

Rob, recalling his five most memorable breakups, sets about getting in touch with the former girlfriends. Eventually, Rob’s re-examination of … More

Born OTD in 1889, English comic actor, filmmaker, & composer, Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin’s childhood in London was one of poverty & hardship, as his father was absent & his mother struggled financially, & he was sent to a workhouse twice before the age of nine. When he was 14, his mother was committed to a mental asylum. Chaplin began performing at an early age, touring music halls & later working as a stage actor & comedian.

Social commentary was a feature of Chaplin’s films from early in his career, as he portrayed the underdog in a … More

OTD in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. pens his Letter from Birmingham Jail while incarcerated in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting against segregation. ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ This landmark missive from one of the greatest activists in history calls for direct, non-violent resistance in the fight against racism, and reflects on the healing power of love.

The letter responded to several criticisms made by the “A Call for Unity” clergymen, who agreed that social injustices existed … More

Born OTD in 1939, Irish poet, playwright and translator, Seamus Heaney. The poems in Seamus Heaney’s collection The Spirit Level keep discovering the possibilities of ‘a new beginning’ in all kinds of subjects and circumstances. What is at stake, in poem after poem, is the chance of buoyancy and balance, physical, spiritual and political. Private memories, classical scenes, humble domestic objects – a whitewash brush, a sofa, a swing – are endowed with talismanic significance, while friends and relatives are invoked for their promise and steadfastness.

Throughout the collection, Heaney addresses his concerns, which inevitably include the political situation in his native Northern Ireland, in a … More

Born OTD in 1947, Neville O’Riley Livingston, AKA Bunny Wailer. Jamaican singer songwriter, percussionist and was an original member of The Wailing Wailers. “The sufferation singles of that time threw up some true classics: Horace Andy’s ‘Skylarking’ was about the perils of a hardcore, unemployed sub-working-class; The Maytals’ ‘Time Tough’, subtly juxtaposed slavery with current hardships; Bunny Wailer’s ‘Arab Oil Weapon’ pulled few punches…”

The first major account of the history of reggae, black music journalist Lloyd Bradley describes its origins and development in … More

Born OTD in 1955, American novelist, essayist and poet, Barbara Kingsolver. 2016 Vineland Meet Willa Knox, a woman who stands braced against an upended world that seems to hold no mercy for her shattered life & family – or the crumbling house that contains her. 1871 Vineland Thatcher Greenwood, the new science teacher, is a fervent advocate of the work of Charles Darwin, & he is keen to communicate his ideas to his students. But those in power in Thatcher’s small town have no desire for a new world order.

Thatcher and his teachings are not welcome. Both Willa and Thatcher resist the prevailing logic. Both are asked to pay … More

Born OTD in 1928, American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou’s seven volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents & resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration.

In this first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in … More

Born OTD in 1925, British pilot, politician, writer, & diarist, Tony Benn. Benn’s forward in Hastings’ much-loved writer, Robert Tressell’s novel, ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ reads: “..I have given this book to many, many people in the course of my life & all the recipents have been inspired by it as I have been. Every generation has to fight the same battles again and again, an every time it is the confidence of the campaigners that determines the speed of their success.”

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a classic representation of the impoverished and politically powerless underclass of British society in Edwardian … More