Eighteen people were killed when soldiers charged the meeting at Saint Peter’s Fields, Manchester, on 16 August 1819. Elizabeth Gaunt tried to hide in a hackney coach. She was grabbed by special constables who beat her with their truncheons. Covered with blood, she was dragged to a house nearby and flung before the magistrates. She spent a day and a half in jail without food, before being remanded on a charge of high treason. She was eventually released without charge after eleven days, during which time she had miscarried.
When I began working at the Freie Universität Berlin last September, I put up on the door of my office a photo of Bernhard Trautmann, captioned with Lev Yashin’s remark: ‘There have only been two world-class goalkeepers. One was Lev Yashin, the other was the German boy who played in Manchester, Trautmann.’
Rough sleeping is up 169 per cent across the country since 2010, along with every other form of homelessness. The rate in Manchester is more than twice the national average. Among major English cities, it’s higher only in London and Bristol. The numbers of homeless people referred to temporary accommodation in Manchester rose 319 per cent between 2010 and 2017. It’s bizarre in these circumstances for Greater Manchester Police to downplay the crisis of homelessness by claiming that the genuinely homeless receive help, and those visible on the street are not really in need. ‘There is plenty of help for those willing to accept it,’ they say.
On the second Sunday in January every year there is a march to the Friedrichsfelde Cemetery in Berlin to commemorate Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.
The last time I was in South Africa, in 2015, I met with members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), an organisation of informally housed people, based mainly in Durban and the surrounding KwaZulu-Natal region. The group’s name means ‘Shack Dwellers’. I was added to their mailing list. In the last few months the tone of AbM’s updates has become increasingly urgent, as the violence of the state’s response to the movement seems to have intensified.
‘Ordinarily at this point I’d be looking at her,’ Will Mitchell told me as we approached the Cefas Endeavour, a research ship owned by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Acquaculture Science, a mile offshore the Cornish port of Fowey. ‘I’d be looking at the size of her, how she moves, where we’re going to board her. But I’ve worked this vessel before.’ It was a Wednesday lunchtime in July and the sky was overcast – a rare interruption in a week of fine sunshine – but the sea was almost flat.
Last season Raheem Sterling was a linchpin of the best club football team that England has seen in at least a decade. Manchester City smashed records, winning 100 points and scoring 106 goals, 18 of which came from Sterling (he assisted a further 11 of them). He is one of the best footballers of any nationality currently playing in this country. He is also the subject of a relentless campaign of abuse in the English media which deploys racist tropes about young black men in order to put him down.
Having finished my PhD, I’m looking for a job, checking the academic recruitment websites every few days and keeping an ear out for teaching assistant positions. Most jobs with a September start advertised this late in the year are part-time and fixed-term. A Russell Group university in London, for instance, has been looking for a lecturer in British Intellectual and Cultural History, who will be paid the equivalent of £40,000 a year. On a half-time contract over ten months, they'll get about £16,700: just enough for a single person to be able to afford to live in London, according to the Living Wage Foundation. They will probably be able to pick up some more work, but their chances of reaching a full-time entry-level lecturer's salary (£32,004, according to the nationally agreed pay scale) are slim. It's more likely that they will be forced to use most of their unpaid time to do the research on which their prospects of a future academic career hang. Problems of this kind in academic employment are not new. But another vacancy which recently closed appears to plumb new depths.
There’s a scene in Ewan MacColl’s autobiography in which his father, boozy after a weekend trip to Heaton Park, begins singing on the tram back to Salford:
The Jardin des Olieux is a small park just off the Boulevard Victor Hugo in Lille. Twenty-five or so homeless migrants have been camping there for a couple of months. Several of them are teenagers. Mamadé from Guinea, who is 16, told me that every morning they walk to a day centre near the train station for a meal, coffee and a wash. But they have nowhere to sleep except the park, and the police have taken away their mattresses. The French state in theory guarantees appropriate accommodation and support for unaccompanied migrant children, but there is an effective ‘presumption of majority’, according to a local lawyer, as well as long delays in the process which leave many on the streets for weeks.