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Monday 24th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Left Field: The Memoir of
a Lifelong Activist
by David Wilson
(Unbound, £20)

SOMETIMES funny, often moving and occasionally tragic, Left Field is always lively and always interesting.

David Wilson had a relatively privileged upbringing and much of what he has achieved is no doubt lauded in liberal, humanitarian circles and many of his connections, particularly in the music world, are fairly mainstream.

But his own views are unapologetically socialist and have been since sixth-form days, while his ability to link together the worlds of life, art and politics in a way that is enthusiastic, informed and participatory is second to none.

Early travels, particularly in Latin America, see a young and adventurous man journeying out with a driving thirst for personal experience and social justice.

His notes on Yugoslavia, covering marriage into a communist family and reflections on what life was like there, warts and all, are both original and fair. Connections with that country, right through to its forcible dismemberment and the horrible succeeding consequences, demonstrate in a very personal and effective way all that has been lost.

Endearingly honest about his own shortcomings, the death of a child and breakdown of his marriage see Wilson in a fairly bleak place.

Yet, refusing to give up on the world and all that it has to offer, he continues to campaign against the Vietnamese war and the evils of apartheid.

The 1980s see him working for Lesbians and Gays support the Miners and in the ’90s he engaged in pioneering work in the arts with the young people of war-torn Yugoslavia.

As Bush and Blair get ready to launch their crazed crusade against Iraq, Wilson throws himself into building the initially relatively small and unimportant Stop the War Coalition.

Recently bumping into Jeremy Corbyn in his native Islington he is keen to point out that he remains as much a left-field man today as ever.

It’s a shame that this is such a comparatively brief book. Much more could have been said and the tendency to leap from one period to another doesn’t help. It’s a work which focuses on Wilson’s key campaigns and interests — often quite deservedly so. But perhaps a second, more detailed, edition would be in order?

Even so, one of my top recent reads.

Review by Steven Andrew