Tuesday, 14 August 2018


It has only just struck me how much of the positive feedback for 'The Road to Corbyn' (TRC) has come from women. Let me illustrate the point with some instances.

First, an acknowledgement fleshed out. Pippa Stilwell was one of the four members of a Cornish reading group singled out in my Acknowledgements at the front of TRC. It is worth expanding on my debt to Pippa. She had read the manuscript of 'Deception' - the work that became TRC after I had added two chapters following the 2015 General Election and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party - and commented that 'The book is nicely written and one definitely gets the feeling of a Pilgrim's progress towards knowledge and a healthy distrust of the status quo'. The references were 'wonderfully comprehensive'. But she didn't feel that the lady Hope had been much help and she noted that 'Apart from Hope and Charity there are only two women in your book, both reduced to serving tea.'

Ouch! A thoroughly warranted rebuke - sometimes someone has to prise open your lids. Pippa continued:

'As we know that women have suffered hugely more than men under austerity, I wondered if you could introduce a page turning element by creating a female character, whom Pilgrim meets at crucial points in both their careers. She could be a single mother, public sector worker, made redundant, reduced to zero-hours cleaning, loses flat, rehoused outside her local area and networks - maybe starting a big campaign as in the New Era Housing campaign ….. so many stories in the last five years, and so many more to come.'

Read the published, final version of TRC, listen to my new improved Lady Hope - and you will understand my debt to Pippa. Being male carries its burdens, as Pilgrim himself found out. I was

Monday, 13 August 2018


This blog is different from any that I have published before. Here, instead of my words, are the reflections and insights of Richard Zaghari-Ratcliffe, as his wife copes with Day 862 of her captivity in an Iranian jail separated from her daughter. Do share if you are so inclined. This is such a painful slice of reality, made all the worse because of the awful part played by the British Foreign Secretary at the time, a man called Johnson. 

Day 862 #FreeNazanin – Evin University

Richard Ratcliffe
London, United Kingdom
12 Aug 2018 — 
A lot has happened: We have a new Foreign Secretary, with promise inherited, a new court case, and more British Iranians taken, on the margins of the news. From no stones unturned to more stone collecting.
It has also been a hot summer also in Iran – with tumult even inside the ward. There have been a number of new arrivals, including some famous ones. Some women were transferred away, resulting in a long hunger strike, and time in hospital.
But also there have been releases.
Releases have a bittersweet left-behind feeling – a jealous happiness. Ex-prisoners come to Evin the following visiting day to share sweets with the families going in. Each time Gabriella asks Nazanin confused: ‘Mummy, but

Wednesday, 8 August 2018


Robert Noonan only wrote one book in his lifetime and that under the pseudonym of Robert Tressell. He never lived long enough to see it published but make no mistake his work is a masterpiece. The version that I read last month uses the text in the Lawrence & Wishart edition of 1955 - it's the Wordsworth Classics edition of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (TRTP) with a Foreword by Tony Benn, first published in 2012. There is general agreement that this version is the best we have but it is important to know that the book which was first published in 1914, three years after the death of its author, was compiled from the pages of the hand-written manuscript in a different order from today's version and leaving out much detail. Bearing in mind some have argued that Labour's landslide victory in the General Election of 1945 was due in no small measure to the number of copies of TRTP read by WW2 servicemen during the war, it is remarkable how powerful the socialist message of the book was, even in a form less than Robert Noonan would have wanted.

In this blog-post, I would like to share some of the insights about the book's history that I now have thanks to reading Ian Hernon's admirable biography of Robert Noonan - Robert Tressell: A Life in Hell (2015). Hernon's Introduction conveys very well the impact of the book in its different versions on the British Labour movement. Listen to the opinions of these left-wing names:

  • Eric Heffer (MP) - 'It had a profound influence. For the first time it showed what the world of work was really like and how the workers were exploited. It influenced generations of socialists and trade unionists.'
  • Margaret Drabble (novelist) - 'The classic text of the Labour movement exposing the

Thursday, 2 August 2018


For starters, the background:

David Kelly (1944-2003)

David Kelly
David Christopher Kelly CMG was a Welsh scientist and authority on biological warfare, employed by the British Ministry of Defence, and formerly a weapons inspector with the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq. He came to public attention in July 2003 when an unauthorised discussion he had off the record with BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan about the UK Government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was cited by Gilligan and led to a major controversy. Kelly's name became known to the media as Gilligan's source and he was called to appear on 15 July before a parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee investigating the issues Gilligan had reported. Kelly was questioned aggressively about his actions. He was found dead two days later.

And so to Miles Goslett and his new book. 

Miles Goslett is an award-winning journalist. His book An Inconvenient Death: How the Establishment Covered up the David Kelly Affair was published in May this year. My judgement on the book is very positive. The reviewer in The Times - David Aaronovitch - was very negative. Indeed, so hostile that it seems legitimate to suggest that his review is a further ploy in an

Saturday, 21 July 2018


In the last few weeks, I have been indebted to Koser Saeed, a Labour party activist who has established an online news source called Spotlight Newspaper Public - here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/737462606444000/?multi_permalinks=889563267900599&notif_id=1532123084596195&notif_t=group_highlights.
Koser's aim is to disseminate the fruits of her experiences and readings as widely as possible to help her campaign to achieve democracy within the Labour movement, not least in her own location in the West Midlands. This blog-post is in support of Koser - and it also catalogues my search to understand what is happening within the Labour movement and why. 

I rejoined the Labour Party in 2015 almost as soon as Jeremy Corbyn (JC) was elected leader on the back of rule changes that in effect allowed ordinary members to determine who would lead the Party. The prospect of a socialist vision for 21st century Britain becoming a reality through the ballot box in a General Election was awesome. I had just completed the writing of 

Sunday, 15 July 2018


The Penzance Literary Festival Fringe invited me to give a talk that linked to their theme this year of 'Flight'. Since Jago Stone's life had been touched by this idea of 'flight' in a variety of ways, I did not hesitate in accepting their kind offer. The following blog-post gives my readers the chance to follow my thinking as I teased out how Jago's life had been a story of flight in my talk at the Redwing Gallery on Monday evening, July 9, 2018:

Jago Stone was born in 1928. He lived for 60 years, dying in 1988 - 30 years ago. There are ways in which he spent his whole life in flight. Let's explore first:


James Henry Galilee entered this world as a bastard, the standard legal and non-legal term used at that time to describe an illegitimate child. He remained one for 11 years, six years longer than he needed to. When his mother married Wilfred Leonard Stone in 1932, Jago now had a father and by the terms of the Legitimacy Act of 1926 the young boy was entitled to be registered as legitimate. The family did not get round to filling in the paperwork until Jago was aged 11.

Detail from 'The Maker of Sweet Smells' - Jago Stone - 1969

Jago's mother was 18 years old when he was conceived. Who his genetic father was, Jago never discovered. But his genetic grandmother certainly made a tangible impact on his life. Her daughter, Louisa, had brought shame on their respectable and aspiring Quaker household in the Birmingham suburb of Aldridge. Louisa was banished to a nursing home in Surrey to have her child, away from

Thursday, 12 July 2018


The post that follows first appeared - for the most part - as my July Mailchimp Newsletter. Some readers will have already seen it there, but many won't. Just out of interest, you might like to know that 34 subscribers so far have read the Newsletter this month. By comparison, a typical Jago - American Connection blog will have picked up around 250 views in the first three months. For those who are now familiar with this eighth American Connection I hope you enjoy it a second time - and for those who are coming to the story for the first time, I hope you share my sense of wonder at the ways and means of cyberspace detection. Here's the post: 


'The Residency at the Redwing Gallery in Penzance during June was very enjoyable for me and I hope interesting for the handfuls of people who attended the seven talks I gave. I have produced seven blog-posts in June to tell the stories of these Redwing gatherings in words and images.

If you know anyone you think might be interested in these mailings about 'Jago' do encourage them to follow the link to my website. Here it is:  www.robdonovan-author.co.uk/JagoStone-Biography.html

You can also use this page to access my Jago Stone blogs.

Copies of 'The Road to Corbyn' can be purchased at a discount using this link: www.robdonovan-author.co.uk/TheRoadToCorbyn.html.

Here are some details for Redwing:
1pm until 3pm
Opening Hours:
                       Monday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Tuesday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Wednesday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Thursday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Friday 10:30 am - 4:30 pm
                       Saturday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm

Looking back down the side-street to Market Jew Street

In the last couple of Newsletters, I have outlined my searches for a literary agent who could secure publication for 'Jago'. That activity still continues - but by now it is not difficult to read the runes. There are tens of thousands of authors out there chasing the dragon of mainstream publication and we are all 'commercial risks' until someone inside the system decides to take a chance. I expect to be 

Thursday, 5 July 2018


My friend, David Siggers, lives in London and has already been the subject of one of my blogs: 'MY FRIEND, DAVID SIGGERS' in November 2017 - press this link to read that story. He has also been the impetus behind a more recent blog-post: 'THE PRISON WISDOM OF JAGO STONE AND BARON GIDDENS' in April this year - press this link to read how David kick-started that story. I visited him at home in Willesden in May and we discussed the excitement and the novelty of creating a biography that is dependent in significant part on the contributions of other people, some known, some unknown. Here's a picture of David with family from around that time, a couple of months ago:

Auntie, Belinda, Aba, and David

David in April had discovered the Guardian letter that Jago had had published in 1975 and alerted me to that source in my self-styled Donovan detective agency. Now, as June gives way to July, David is back in awesome research form. He has been so good I have incorporated him into the agency as a full partner. We are now the Donovan-Siggers Detective Agency. Here is the story, but first another

Wednesday, 27 June 2018


Another handful of appreciative and interested attendees - and another enjoyable and stimulating experience for me. My talk today was on 'Drink in Victorian Norwich', the title of my doctoral thesis that was successfully completed in 2003 after seven years of part-time study at the University of East Anglia. As I explained to Wendy Radford, Al Britt and John Cynddylan - and Peter Fox and Roselyne Williams, the co-directors, listening as they carried on with Gallery work - it had been a working man's life journal that began my enterprise. That man was the great grand-father I never knew. He died a dozen years before I was born but he left his journal to his family and in the last years of my mum's life - around 1993 - she passed it on to me.

Left to right - John, me, Al, and Wendy - Photo credit to Peter Fox (John's Panama Hat is over one hundred years old!)

A man's life in thirty or so pages and as I read through the tales of Grandad E.F. Enston's life I realised how trusted he had been in his community. He was the keeper of funds at numbers of drinking places - lodges and pubs and clubs. He the manager of all the pennies his working-class chums had saved for the precious holidays and outings that brought some highlights into the tedium and harshness of workers' lives in Canterbury, Kent. We are not that far away, here in my imagination, a few miles from the Kentish coast in the 1910s and 1920s, from the Sussex coastal

Sunday, 24 June 2018


For my Redwing Residency, I arranged a programme of eight talks during June and today - Saturday 23 June - marks the seventh in the series. Last Tuesday's talk on 'Drink in Victorian Norwich' I chose not to give because the handful of people who had met with me that morning became involved with me in a discussion about the role of money in a capitalist global economy and how that affects the local area and our lives. It seemed more important to stay with that momentum and indeed some interesting developments may well follow. Expect a blog some time soon.

I will give my talk on 'Drink in Victorian Norwich' this coming Tuesday - 26 June - at Redwing. It will be the last in the series for June but I appear again on Monday evening, 9 July, for another Jago talk focusing on flight in his life as part of the Penzance Literary Festival Fringe.

My first five talks in June have all been followed by a blog-post and if you are not familiar with these do have a look at the links that take you back to these earlier June posts. My talk today was an update on the Jago story, examining the flow of detail about Jago's life that has continued to emerge from cyberspace in the months since completing the biography in early March. There will be additions to the text in the light of this new material.

Visual aids - it is a gallery talk

Back in May, I had posted a blog with the title: 'Jago Stone - The American Connection - Part 7 - that included both detail and images that had come my way across the Pond since March this year. Here is a link to take you to that blog.  

Since then, there has been more. If you opened the link, you will have read that Jenny Janzen and her husband have sixteen Jago paintings in their American home. Earlier this month, Jenny sent me

Monday, 18 June 2018


Last Saturday, two days ago on June 16, I gave my fifth Redwing talk to another handful of people who all shared my conviction that our system of schooling ill-serves the children in our society. We had a fruitful discussion afterwards. And in my Messenger webmail yesterday there was a note of apology for missing the talk from a now-retired teacher who shared a personal story that was both uplifting and angry-making.

Uplifting because this teacher shared and had practised the educational philosophy that I hold dear: teachers' expectations shape student performance and all children deserve respect.
Her words; her story:
'I got rid of the 'remedial' class … I took them into classes and integrated them. I made work they could do … It was hugely successful. Unfortunately, it was expensive. In my department I had teachers … yes, teachers, not teaching assistants, supporting children in classrooms.'

Angry-making because excellent practice was scrapped:
'What happened eventually and inevitably was cost. I battled but it was a losing game. I gave up and resigned.'

My form (registration group)  - 1X1 -  London comprehensive school - 1978. I remained their form tutor for their five years of compulsory attendance/education

This now-retired teacher had read my 10,000 word piece written in 1985 that I published on my website thirty months ago - see my link here - and wrote:
'I was a teacher in the 80s and get everything you write about. Oh the corridors! Did that remind me

Sunday, 17 June 2018


A wonderful training run today in the mizzle. I drive out to the Marazion car park and get my welcome from the guys who take the parking fees. They remember me from my preparations for the 2017 London Marathon and know that I am now preparing for the London Marathon in 2019. Their contribution is to smile benignly at the white-haired gentleman in his running gear behind the wheel of his slowing car and wave me through. "Just make sure that your parking fee goes to your charity!" I promise it will.

St Michael's Mount - a tourist attraction - and my Marazion car park is the main one the tourists use. My return journey each run ends with this view - except for today when the mizzle blotted out the usual sights. 

09:06 I touch my car and say au revoir, and head out for the coastal foot-path route to Penzance. Today, I am determined to run as far as the exit to the big Wharfside car park by the sea in Penzance - where this month I have been parking twice a week before my Redwing Gallery talks - and then turn round and run back without stopping. That's what I was doing back in 2017. When I tried to emulate this back in April two months ago, I soon knew I wouldn't be able to run continuously there and back. I decided to run on to the traffic lights just before Newlyn and got there in 56:30 minutes, stopped,

Wednesday, 13 June 2018


The focus for this talk - given on Tuesday morning, June 12 2018 - had come out of my experience of going to Waterstone's in Oxford and Truro and Felixstowe, on my travels, to see in person my book 'The Road to Corbyn' (TRC) for sale in the bookshop - only to discover that the staff were at first unsure whether I would find it on the fiction or non-fiction shelves. How do you classify such a cross-genre book? I loved the way Blackwell's in Oxford had solved the problem. They have a section of a whole floor devoted to Politics and within that section half a shelf devoted to the subject of 'Corbyn' and labelled as such. There were five titles on that half-shelf and each title was represented by multiple copies. There were three copies of TRC. And yes, I did buy one - as a gift for a friend, aka Alter Ego!

The author of TRC during his talk - June 12, 2018

Talking of friends, it was lovely to have a good handful of new friends in the audience for this talk - my 4th in the sequence of 8 during June. Returning for a second time, there was John Pestle who attended my first talk and Su Ormerod who attended my second talk - press here for the link to my blog that tells that story - and Peter Fox who has attended all to date, as has Roselyne Williams. Linda Camidge was also part of the group and you can read about Linda's contribution to the TRC story in my blog to accompany my third talk - just press here.   

I began my talk by praising the practice of virtue. The virtue of completing intended aims - our good intentions. Our lives can seem so rushed these days. There is so much to do - and so we find too often

Sunday, 10 June 2018


In my last two posts, I made specific mention of particular people in the audiences for the first two talks in my Residency on Saturday 2 June and Tuesday 5 June - and I do so again in this post to mark my third talk that focused on how 'The Road to Corbyn' (TRC) took off. Thank you most warmly to Brigid Benson for setting aside the morning to visit the Redwing Gallery and attend my talk. Brigid was in Penzance visiting her sister, Stella, who had given her a copy of TRC that she had bought at Redwing sometime last year I think.

JC campaigning during the 2017 General Election - the one the PM wishes she hadn't called

Brigid had known the younger Jeremy Corbyn as a friend and moved in that circle of socialist thought. She told a lovely story of attending a JC rally in Bristol I think shortly after his election as Party leader and Jeremy seeing and recognizing her - and moving towards her to sweep her off her

Thursday, 7 June 2018


The second of my Redwing talks was given on Tuesday - June 5 2018 - and this blog-post provides a summary of the content. There were a handful of people in the audience and I am very grateful to them for coming, listening and expressing their interest and enjoyment. If I may single out Su Ormerod in Tuesday's audience and John Pestle in Saturday's, both of them are part of a Penzance cultural scene that is as diverse as it is stimulating. Here are two links to help you discover more about Su who has set up a coaching enterprise and John who is one of the team organizing the Penzance Literary Festival. Press on their names for the links.

Rob and Su in the Redwing 

Blog-posts benefit from pictures so I took my Nikon Coolpix along and I am grateful to Roselyne for

Sunday, 3 June 2018


The Redwing Gallery began opening its doors at around 10.20 on Saturday morning and I was at hand with my Nikon Coolpix to capture some of these moments - and now I can share these images with you on this post today.

Redwing Gallery

The location of the Redwing Gallery lies between Market Jew Street, a main thoroughfare in

Saturday, 26 May 2018


The Redwing Gallery in Penzance is a side-street treasure. Here's a brief snapshot in words - with a couple of images:

REDWING is a unique volunteer-led not-for-profit art gallery and community hub with outsider art, vegan coffee shop, affordable artists' studios, exhibition, meeting and event space.
Redwing was founded by two Cornish artists: Peter Fox and Roselyne Williams in 2011.
The Redwing building houses two floors of exhibition, performance and rehearsal space, open access non-toxic printmaking and book arts facilities, affordable artist's studios, reference books and Cafe de Cuba vegan speciality coffee shop.                      
In addition to regular changing exhibitions, visitors can see work by artists Paul Broad, Lucy Brown, Marc Craig, Peter Fox, Rebecca Jazwinder-Leest,  John Sheehy, Alan Streets and more.

Redwing Gallery - 36 A Market Jew Street, Penzance - 01736 448402

Laura Wild: Grass Roots

an exhibition of work made between July 2015 and January 2017

Redwing Gallery Penzance • March 2-15

Grass Roots

Work made by Laura Wild

between July 2015 and January


Exhibition: Thursday,

March 2 to Wednesday,

March 15

Opening event: Saturday,

March 4th, 1pm until 3pm
Opening Hours:
                       Monday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Tuesday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Wednesday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Thursday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm
                       Friday 10:30 am - 4:30 pm
                       Saturday 10:30 am - 4.30 pm

The side-street view down to Market Jew Street:

Looking back down the side-street to Market Jew Street

Please have a look at our calendar page to see upcoming events at Redwing.

I accepted Peter and Roselyne's invitation to take up a Residency in June and have had fun in