New Songs and Stuff

Just a quick update on the musical side of life. Since publishing my last post here I’ve recorded three new songs – all covers, for a change. As usual, free to hear/download/pirate/destroy/share/generally defame.

The first I recorded for St Piran’s Day – the Cornish ‘national’ day – and the song is the Cornish anthem Trelawney (or Song of the Western Men). Gets the patriotic blood flowing. Not that I’m in to patriotism generally, but Cornwall is pretty great so I don’t really mind.

The next is a cover of Bob Dylan’s beautiful Song to Woody, an ode to Woody Guthrie, the early 19thC socialist folk hero of America. Hope I’ve done it justice. If not, well, soz.

Finally, another Guthrie-related tune, This Land is Your Land, written by the great man himself. I’ve tried to ‘angry’ it up a bit. The lyrics are brilliant, and still very relevent.

The new EP is coming along slowly and should be released with a launch gig over the next month or so, and I’ve got a gig lined up at the Sage in Gateshead on the 29th April, as well as a couple of other speculative gigs lined up. Everything’s up in the air with the end of my degree, but music is a nice distraction.

Anyway, that’s all, folks.

PS don’t forget to visit my SoundCloud page where all my stuff resides/goes to die – soundcloud.com/josiah-mortimer. I’m also, inevitably, on Facebook. Have a gander, and ‘like’ that shiz.


Latest Songs from Josiah Mortimer Acoustic

For the past few months I’ve been busy with uni work, writing, deciding what to do with my life after university, and recording my new EP with Rack Mount Records (a new little independent label based in York). I’ve continued to record from home though and have a few new tracks, two of them political and one of them just, you know, about life. (The new EP by the way may be coming in two parts over the next few months – keep your eyes peeled).

The latest is ‘The Ballad of a New Luddite’, a message to abandon the superficiality and technological-dependence of the modern age. I’m as guilty as the rest of us, but hopefully it still rings true.

Next is my first attempt at writing a vaguely amusing tune, called ‘No Laughing Matter’. The topic should be pretty obvious – namely the government’s outright privatisation agenda. Hope you like.

Finally, another call to arms – ‘Hell in a Handcart’. Rough recording, but you get the picture.

In terms of gigs, make sure to come to the launch party of Rack Mount Records on the 18th January. Should be a cracking night at Gibsons in York. I’ll also be holding a launch gig for my new EP when its out. Watch this space.

If you missed my last post about new songs, you can still view it here – wp.me/p1b7Z1-b3, and don’t forget to visit my SoundCloud page with all my stuff on to hear and download for free – soundcloud.com/josiah-mortimer. I’m also, inevitably, on Facebook. Have a gander/like.

Cornwall Council’s offensive newsletter: ‘pay your rent before it’s spent’

Something pretty disturbing and offensive came through the door of my parents’ council flat on Christmas eve. It was Cornwall Council’s seemingly innocuous winter housing newsletter to all council tenants in the county. Skimming through the pages I spotted this full-page message:

Cornwall Council tenant newsletterYep, this arrived on the doorstep on Christmas eve – a message not to spend money over the festive season and instead to send all your money to the Independent/Liberal Democrat-run Cornwall Council.

It was offensive on a number of levels – not just its timing but the implicit assumption that council tenants can’t handle their own money, that people’s poverty is self-induced and that social housing tenants are reckless with their spending – no doubt on fags, booze and Sky TV in the perspective of the political right.

Not only that, but after the obligatory information about help with payments, the second half of the message is dedicated to how many people they have tried to evict since April – 29, they inform us, as well as about a hundred legal cases sent to solicitors in recent months. They also tell us that the welfare ‘reforms’ are not a valid reason for underpaying rent – the bedroom tax is apparently not an impediment to making ends meet. At least not for Cornwall Council.

Scroll down and, after you’ve got past the stuff about how likely you are to be evicted if your rent payments slip at the end of the year, the council announce they will be ‘reviewing its current policy on rent setting’ – in non-council speak, hiking rents in 2014 by between £3 and £5 a week – a significant rise. But, in their logic, this also won’t be a valid reason for falling behind on your rent. Nope, raised rents, benefit cuts and the bedroom tax aren’t the cause of difficulties – instead Christmas spending is. Reckless tenant spending is the only true source of poverty.

On a side note, the whole page is also incredibly idiotic after the national scandal that was Hammersmith & Fulham council’s ‘Christmas card‘ to their tenants:

This made national headlines and fundamentally humiliated the council – and rightfully so.

I spoke to Alex Folkes, a Lib Dem member of the council administration, who said he would ‘look into it’ after the Christmas period. But if council tenants don’t get a break from the administration, neither should the administration get a break from tax-payers, especially after this offensive slap-in-the-face was delivered a day before Christmas. As if struggling families don’t have enough to worry about.

For some reason the Cornwall Council newsletter hasn’t created such a stir (yet). But it should, and can.

If you want to let the council know your thoughts, please write to comments@cornwall.gov.uk, cc’ing in housing@cornwall.gov.uk and customerservices@cornwall.gov.uk or call 0300 1234 100

You can also write to:

Cornwall Housing, Cornwall Council
County Hall
Treyew Road

In a ‘Digital Age’, Radical Media Must Adapt

Cross-posted from my article at Left Foot Forward

I’ve never really fitted the student stereotype. After a night out I have a habit of, not buying pizza or calling long-lost friends, but subscribing to left-wing magazines. In this I’m probably alone, sadly. Far from being natural hoarders of socialist publications, most young people nowadays probably come to progressive media – if they do at all – through a parent’s copy of the Guardian – or most likely, through the internet.

Outside of the ultra-hardcore politicos I know, it’s hard to think of any young people who buy a newspaper regularly. Yet millions of people do still buy them – the leftish Daily Mirror still shifts over a million copies daily, the Sun nearly 2.3 million, and the Daily Mail almost 1.8m, with the Star, Express, Times and Telegraph each hovering above the half-million mark (and much higher for their Sunday counterparts). The youthful, liberal sister-paper of the Independent, the i, continues to grow with nearly 300,000 daily readers. Print ain’t dead yet.

That’s just the traditional rags. Political magazines are holding up surprisingly well in this supposed age of mass migration to digital. Private Eye continues to mock the Establishment with over 220,000 sales a fortnight, with The Economist and The Week close behind.  Their websites, too, are thriving, with the Guardian edging towards five million readers a day – meaning its combined online and print readership makes it the largest quality daily. It’s is a mutual relationship – paper and web.

These publications’ established following and brand names give them a firm standing to lead the way in online content. That’s partly why the New Statesman is doing so well, hitting 1.84 million visitors in August and nearly four million page views. There’s no reason why an adequately crowd-funded socialist magazine couldn’t secure the triple boost the NS has – a wider readership, rising ad revenue and more interest in the print version.

But the real issue is the role of print. Why do we still ‘do’ it?

Well, there’s aesthetics. People like holding a magazine or paper. I hate staring at screens. As someone who spends my life on the internet, reading print is a welcome break. Print is mobile. You can buy it anywhere, take it anywhere and don’t have to worry about your battery running out. You can cut an article out, stick the front cover on your wall, pen in the crossword answers and hear the rustling of turning pages. You can pull out a poster or photo, stash away a memorable article, rip out half a sports page as a bookmark. I like hearing the thud of the New Internationalist landing on the doorstep, tearing off the packaging and sitting down with a brew in the garden without worrying about LCD glare.

My own party paper, Green World, would collapse were it not sent to every member in print. It is the core of the ‘rank and file’s relationship with the party – for some their only link with the national situation, a hold-able manifestation of their membership. Greens don’t do membership cards – the mag is our party card.

And print can be beautiful and crafted in a way that a website can’t – grab a copy of the stunningly-designed and recently launched Strike! magazine if you don’t believe me. Yep, I like print.

But it’s the physical nature of the physical form that makes it truly useful. Unlike a link, you can leave it on a train, give it to a stranger or friend, and hand it out for free at demos. It acts as a hands-on platform for organising. The Morning Star, in steadfastly remaining in print, sits on news-shelves alongside the capitalist rags, offering a visible alternative. Even if they don’t buy it, every day millions across the country see the Morning Star’s main headline. It might be the only radical few lines people read that week – potentially sowing the seeds of thought that, eventually, lead someone to get active. Red Pepper and the Morning Star have also acted as mouthpieces for the anti-austerity campaign and the People’s Assembly in recent months in ways no website could alone, as has Peace News for the environmentalist and pacifist movements.

That’s because print publications offer a cohesive whole. In a world where the end of ideology is frequently proclaimed, print media offers a means to present a rare coherent viewpoint. A unified whole, a worldview. Clicking onto forty different web articles in one sitting won’t give you that.

Between the paving stones that are the fading print media giants, new radical pioneers are emerging through the cracks. Strike! magazine is blossoming through offering ground-breaking alternative journalism in an astounding visual format – and an excellent social media-friendly website. Transition Free Press, after only a few issues, is getting out to national audiences in the way a standalone website couldn’t, after being crowd-funded online through BuzzBank. The Ecologist, after shutting down its print edition, soon returned to paper after it found web-only couldn’t cut it (and now lives on in Resurgence & Ecologist).

In the US, a plethora of left-wing magazines have leapt out of the vacuum into a vibrant print culture with Jacobin magazine, the New Inquiry and others using their sites as sharing and promotional tools.

The future of print, then, lies in dynamic relationship between the two formats. Print, and digital, far from being enemies, are both necessary for the survival of progressive media. And it’s through Facebook and Twitter that you can pull in my paper-averse demographic, and eventually, once they like what they’ve seen, move them into the physical edition. That’s shown most strongly through the revival of the feminist movement in the UK and the successful membership-driven launch of Feminist Times off the back of it.

Finally radical media platforms are embracing the web, reaching young new audiences while continuing to deliver the experience that only print can offer. Social media is a gateway.

The left is in a rut across Europe, and the old journalistic order is crumbling from the impact of scandals. But, paradoxically, these facts help us. We must innovate and experiment, combining print and digital in new ways. Out of the ashes of the ancien regime a new multi-media culture can rise. What have we got to lose?

Josiah Mortimer is an activist, writer and Politics student at the University of York. This article was a winner of the Ross Pritchard Memorial Fund’s 2013 Essay Competition, established to commemorate the life of one of the Graphical Paper & Media Union’s best known rank and file members, Ross Pritchard. The Trustees of the Fund annually invite entries to their essay competition, which in 2013 was on a subject dear to Ross’s heart: ‘In the light of changing technologies, what future is there for print as a medium of communication?

Young trade union members are earnestly invited to submit essays to the competition (not more than 1,000 words), but submissions from other trade union members are also welcomed. For more information email megan@gn.apc.org