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TODAY’S column is a great big red salute to Morning Star arts editor Cliff Cocker, whose funeral was yesterday. He was a lovely, warm, witty Scouser and the best editor I have ever had. I couldn’t be at the ceremony because I have four gigs in the north-west this weekend but send huge solidarity and love to his family and friends and all who will be partying in his honour as he wished.
My main focus for my writing has always been my poetry and song lyrics, but I have been a freelance journalist for 40 years as well, writing for national newspapers and music publications as well as football papers and fanzines – and inevitably falling out with my editors because I rejected the strictures and structures imposed on me.
When I was asked to do a bi-monthly column for this newspaper some eight years ago I thought: this will be interesting, it needs a bit of livening up! I joined at a time of transition, not long before Ben Chacko became editor with a modernising brief.
When Cliff became my point of contact and arts editor – he was a lovely bloke but we rarely met, since I am rarely in London – I had the instinctive feeling that here was someone who was going to really transform the cultural focus of the paper, and so it proved. It has come on by leaps and bounds in the last few years, the poetry section especially, and Cliff, Michal and comrades deserve huge praise for that.
On a personal level, from day one, I cherish the fact that at the Star, for the first time in my life and in total contrast to my experiences with other publications, I could write exactly what I wanted without fear of censorship. (Ironic, eh, since the Star is stereotyped in the bourgeois media as “far left,” unworthy to be included in their newspaper review sections due to its unflinching support for progressive causes and, erm... lack of servile rubbish in its pages!)
I’m a loose cannon and always will be, no respecter of party line and editorial policy – but the ink I use is always red and Cliff understood that. The constant scorn I pour on Brexit is probably the most obvious example of where my lines and the paper’s don’t match, but my fearlessness was positively encouraged.
Cliff absolutely got what good journalism is about – radical social commentary unfettered by box-ticking ideology.
In a profession dominated by unelected billionaire press owners and largely populated by their brown-nosing sycophants, the Star is a beacon of light in an ocean of hamster sick, and Cliff was one of those who navigated the hamster sick with pride and panache. Rest In Power comrade.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m up north this week for the first time in two years, carefully finding my feet again on the live circuit. Preston New Continental Thursday, Leeds Fox and Newt Friday, Wigan Diggers’ Festival Saturday and Northwich Salty Dog Sunday afternoon.
Especially looking forward to the Diggers’ Festival, where my 2018 album Restoration Tragedy, about the revolutionary sects spawned by the English Revolution of 1649, finds its natural audience.
And then I drive home for a Monday morning date (wish me luck) with a camera which goes where no camera ever should. Annual bladder cancer flexible cystoscopy check up. Ow.
Take care everyone, give Cliff a great sendoff and good luck Michal and the rest of the culture club – we’ll remember him.
Restoration Tragedy: music for Levellers, Diggers and Ranters at https://soundcloud.com/barnstormer1649 also visit www.attilathestockbroker.com/merch.php
https://www.facebook.com/attilathestockbroker/ or @atilatstokbroka
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