Born OTD in 1903, English novelist and essayist, journalist and critic, Eric Arthur Blair, AKA George Orwell. George Orwell wrote, in his words, from ‘a desire to see things as they are’. This new collection of his journalism and other writings, including articles, essays, broadcasts, poems, book and film reviews from across his career, shows his unmatched genius for observing the world. Whether discussing Polish immigration or Scottish independence, railing against racism, defending the English language or holding an imaginary conversation with Jonathan Swift, these pieces reveal a clear-eyed, entertaining and eternally relevant chronicler of his age.

Edited with an introduction by Peter Davison ‘Orwell’s luminous gift was for seeing things, for noticing what others missed, took … More

Born OTD in 1947, African-American science fiction author, Octavia E. Butler. In 1995 the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. “Butler’s masterpiece and ground-breaking exploration of power and responsibility, for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. With an original foreword by Ayobami Adebayo. ‘[Her] evocative, often troubling, novels explore far-reaching issues of race, sex, power and, ultimately, what it means to be human.”

In 1976, Dana dreams of being a writer. In 1815, she is assumed a slave. When Dana first meets Rufus … More

Born OTD in 1944, English singer, songwriter and musician, Ray Davies. “It’s hardly a shock to learn that artists can be difficult, but over 40 years the Kinks have left a trail of wrecked hotel rooms, irate ex-wives and lovers and former bandmates driven to – and indeed over – the brink of a nervous breakdown. To pick one example from this biography of the band, on a US tour in 1987, the fractious Davies brothers set aside their usual differences in order to beat up the sound engineer. While peers such as Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney live like kings on the proceeds of long, mega-selling careers, the Kinks always managed to commit harakiri at the most commercially inopportune moment, despite having in Ray Davies a songwriter as good as any pop music has produced, as one listen to “Waterloo Sunset” will prove.”

The paperback edition of the bestselling biography. The Kinks are the quintessential British sixties band, revered for an incredible series … More

Born OTD in 1905, Jean-Paul Sartre. French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist & biographer. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism & phenomenology, & one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy & Marxism. His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, & literary studies, & continues to influence these disciplines. “June 1940 was the summer of defeat for the French soldiers, deserted by their officers, utterly demoralized, awaiting the Armistice. Day by day, hour by hour, Iron in the Soul unfolds what men thought & felt & did as France fell. Men who shrugged, men who ran, men who fought and tragic men like Mathieu, who had dedicated his life to finding personal freedom, now overwhelmed by remorse and bitterness, who must learn to kill.”

Iron in the Soul, the third volume of Sartre’s Roads to Freedom Trilogy, is a harrowing depiction of war and … More

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