The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
Jarama Valley, the song inspired by one of the key battles of the Spanish civil war, gets another lease of life on a new CD marking the 75th anniversary of the conflict.
It features singer-songwriter Billy Bragg and actress Maxine Peake, with the Bard of Barking performing the Jarama anthem that has been sung by generations of anti-fascists ever since.
The Battle of Jarama south-east of Madrid claimed the lives of 150 members of the British Battalion of the International Brigades in February 1937 when General Franco's fascist forces tried unsuccessfully to surround the Spanish capital.
Written anonymously, it became the unofficial anthem of the British volunteers and has been sung by veterans and their supporters to this day at events to commemorate the legendary International Brigades.
Brigadista Reprise features Peake, backed by The Urban Roots dub ensemble, as she delivers the famous speech by Spanish Republican leader Dolores Ibarruri - La Pasionaria - at the farewell parade to the International Brigades in Barcelona on October 28 1938.
Specially produced for the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT), the artists have donated their talents for free and proceeds from the CD go towards the trust's work.
The IBMT keeps alive the memory of the 2,500 men and women who went to Spain from 1936-39 to join the International Brigades to help the Spanish republic as it tried to put down the military revolt launched by Franco with support from Hitler and Mussolini. The civil war is regarded by many historians as a prelude to the second world war.
As well as the Battle of Jarama, this year sees the 75th anniversaries of the battles of Brunete, Belchite and Teruel, in all of which the British Battalion took part.
And today marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most notorious crimes of the civil war, the bombing of the defenceless civilian population of Guernica by planes of Franco's German and Italian allies, the subject of Picasso's famous painting.
"The International Brigade volunteers were part of a generation of anti-fascists who stopped the Blackshirts at Cable Street and then fought Hitler, Mussolini and Franco on the battlefields of Spain," Billy Bragg says.
"While their own government was appeasing the fascist dictators, these brave volunteers knew that fascism had to be defeated and were prepared to die in order to do so. I'm proud to play my part in preserving their memory.
"They will continue to be an inspiration to all of us involved in anti-fascist campaigns today."
It was Peake's grandfather who first told her about the heroism and sacrifice of International Brigade volunteers.
"When I came to London in the 1990s I was lucky enough to meet some of them. They were wonderful men and women and still an inspiration to me," she explains.
"The words of La Pasionaria eloquently express everything that needs to be said about the International Brigades. I'm honoured to be able to recite her speech and help make sure that their example of international solidarity and anti-fascism is remembered today."
The Jarama Valley/Brigadista reprise CD is available exclusively from the IBMT and can be ordered for £5 plus £1.99 p&p from www.international-brigades.org.uk