We have moved…

Hello followers and friends!

Just a quick note to say that we have moved our blog to the Leeds Big Bookend website and you can read our future posts from there.

We hope it will be easier to stay on top of the festival’s activity through incorporating the blog within the main site. You will be able to sign up to become a follower with your email address soon, but in the mean time, please do follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest goings on!

Thank you for brilliant support of the Leeds Big Bookend festival through our blog, and see you on the other side!!

The Leeds Big Bookend team.

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The Leeds Police by Chris Nickson

Chris Nickson’s monthly instalment of Leeds history looks at the Leeds Police, a timely article in advance of his appearance at the Big Bookend festival, next Saturday 7th June. He will be appearing along with Frances Brody and Steve Mosby in our crime panel event, A Time for Crime at 12pm. Full details are on our website.

Chris Nickson

Chris Nickson

I write crime novels. That means I need not only a criminal, but also someone to detect and catch him. In the real world, that’s almost always going to be a policeman. My problem is that my books, set in Leeds in the 1730s, are in a time before there was a police force here. There was a Constable, but it was a ceremonial position. The real work – such as it was – was done by the night watch. I fudged history and made Richard Nottingham – the name of the man who really was Constable at the time – into a working copper.


But the reality is that a Leeds police force was more than a century away. It began on April 2, 1836, with a chief constable and 20 day police serving a population that then stood at 123,000. There had been those who’d come before, looking after the town, day patrols and night watch, but no real organisation existed until after the Municipal Corporation Act and the formation of the Watch Committee to look after law and order.

However, as well as the 20 day police, the night watch consisted of a superintendent, a chief inspector, 12 inspectors, and 71 night watchmen. Crime was definitely nocturnal.

The police were also in charge of fire-fighting, something that continued for many years. As the city grew, so did the number of policemen. By 1852 there were four police stations, and those grew over the years. The monstrosity at Millgarth, for instance, started life purpose-built as a police station in 1878. By the turn of the 20th century, it wasn’t uncommon to find police stations and libraries together – Sheepscar (now closed) was an example, as was Chapel Allerton, which also included room for a fire engine. The Library, at Woodhouse, was a library and police station for many years.

The force, inevitably, grew. From a total of 93 day and night staff at the beginning, by 1900 there were 500 serving officers, and in 1869, Leeds had been divided into four divisions for law enforcement.

The police – at least the constables – weren’t very well paid. Or, it seems, always well-behaved. Some of the punishments are fascinating reading. In 1880 PC 267 was fined five shilling for ‘tossing four glasses in the Albion hotel and assaulting another constable.’ 10 years later PC23 was fined 10 shillings for ‘taking two men to a brothel and concealing them when visited by his sergeant.’ A couple of years after that PC416 was put on uniform duty for ‘associating with a convicted prostitute and being found in a private box in the Grand Theatre in her company.’

The iconic police helmet, by the way, was introduced in the Leeds force in 1895. Prior to that they wore caps. And the first policewoman was appointed in 1918, the winner among 44 applicants for the position, officially known as women’s patrol leader.

There were, of course, so many other developments. Not only police cars (originally with bells, not sirens), but also the Panda car, the use of radios for communication. Always a change and moving forward.

And finally, an end. In 1974 the Leeds City Police, as they’d become known after we became a city, ceased to exist, absorbed into the much bigger West Yorkshire Constabulary as part of a regional administrative change.


Leeds City Police

Leeds City Police

Chris Nickson is a Leeds novelist and music journalist. Gods of Gold, a mystery set against the backdrop of the 1890 gas strike, will be published in August 2014. His Richard Nottingham series of mystery novels is set in Leeds in the 1730s.

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The Big Bookend Event Spotlight: Richard van Emden, WW1 and the Families Left Behind followed by the British Future Debate

Join Richard van Emden, Andrea Hetherington and the British Future panel to discuss WW1, the families left behind and can the Centenary of the First World War bring us together? This unique event will take place on Saturday 7th June, from 2pm at Leeds Central Library. For more information and tickets, go to the Big Bookend website

Richard van Emden

Richard van Emden

We will no doubt hear a great deal about the experience of the soldiers on the front line in this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War. But what about the families back at home? Bestselling author Richard van Emden (The Quick and The Dead, Tommy’s Ark, Meeting the Enemy) will talk about those left behind – wives, parents and children – and how the First World War changed their lives, and those of their descendants, for ever.

The Quick and The Dead is about the families of those who did not come back from the war. It is an examination of how they fared during the war years and in the immediate aftermath of peace, primarily through the eyes of the last survivors of that war – the children and the siblings of those who died. Of the generation above, the wives and parents, there are none left, although remarkably, at the time of writing this book, there was still one surviving fiancée of a soldier killed in action. Nevertheless, the thoughts and feelings of wives and parents are included, drawn from the few memoirs, diaries and letters left to posterity.

Yet this is not just about life on the home front. The experiences of families at home are set firmly within the context of the war overseas. The soldiers’ optimism and excitement, coupled with the trepidation they felt when they went off to war, the fear and anxiety they experienced at returning to action after a spell of leave – such emotions were as widespread as they were harrowing’.

The war hugely influenced the lives of the children of Britain, for good or ill, and it continues to do so for those few thousands of our citizens who can still recall that time. And in the sense that its influence must cascade down the generations, then we too are children of that war for, at least in part, it has made us what we are today.

Andrea Hetherington

Andrea Hetherington

Local historian and researcher Andrea Hetherington will bring a Leeds perspective to the story, presenting readings from original documents which illustrate the experiences of families close to home.

This event will then be followed by the British Future panel which will look at WW1 and its relevance to today. The panel will debate and discuss with you “What’s a centenary good for? Can the Centenary of the First World War bring us together?”

The British Future panel comprises;

Matthew Rhodes, Director of Strategy at the independent identity and integration think tank British Future. He previously served as an adviser to a senior minister in the last Government and is a qualified lawyer.

Jahan Mahmood, a former university lecturer who taught at the University of Birmingham from 2003 to 2009. His specialism is the British Indian Army, Muslim contribution 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.

Professor Alison Fell, Legacies of War Project Leader and Professor of French Cultural History at the University of Leeds. She is currently researching a monograph entitled Back to the Front: Women as Veterans in France and Britain, 1916-1933 and she is Principle Investigator on two AHRC-funded projects: ‘Discovering First World War and ‘Leeds Stories of the Great War’

Andrea Hetherington, community historian and independent researcher. She has a wealth of knowledge about the First World War and its impact on Leeds.


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The Big Bookend Event Spotlight: The Leeds Story Cycle

Community groups create a story cycle for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.

The Leeds Story Cycle

The Leeds Story Cycle

On Saturday 7th June, 7.30-9.30pm, the Leeds Story Cycle will be presented at a special event as part of  Big Bookend Festival. A mix of storytelling, spoken word, poetry and performance, the Leeds Story Cycle is created by six community groups from across the city. The event will be hosted by Leeds Church Institute, partners in the project.

What do you get when you put a group of young people, asylum seekers, students, retired church folk, writers and recovering addicts in the same room and ask them to tell a story about Leeds?

The Leeds Story Cycle is a collection of tales about six very different characters as they travel into the city centre on the day of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France. For the past two months, the Big Bookend Festival and the Leeds Church Institute have been working with six community groups to create a unique set of stories, which when performed together, create a snapshot of Leeds. The groups involved range from Meeting Point, which works with refugees and asylum seekers, to Escape Youth Theatre, which creates contemporary performance with young people, from Spacious Places, a non-residential programme for those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, to a group of retired folk from St Mary’s Church in Whitkirk.

‘The idea is to paint a picture of the diversity of Leeds,’ the project’s curator, author Daniel Ingram-Brown says. ‘As this big international sporting event turns the world’s attention to our city, we want to involve groups who often find their voices excluded. We want to give them the opportunity to say, “This is our Leeds”.’

An impressive group of Leeds writers are working with the groups to help create the stories. Poet and playwright Rommi Smith, author Chris Nickson, lyricist Testament, poet Jane Steele, playwright Lorna Poustie and theatre practitioners, Simon Brewis and Lynsey Jones are helping to craft the eclectic mix of stories that will make the Leeds Story Cycle.

For further information, or to book tickets, please visit www.bigbookend.co.uk or www.leedsstorycycle.org.uk  #LeedsStoryCycle.


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The Big Bookend Event Spotlight: Children’s Programme 2014

The Big Bookend's Children's Programme 2014

The Big Bookend’s Children’s Programme 2014

For Children’s Book Week 2014 (12th-18th May), the Leeds Big Bookend Festival announces its children’s programme. Designed to inspire children to read for fun, the festival is packed full of workshops, author events, storytelling and fun for all the family.
On the 7th and 8th June, the Leeds Church Institute (a city centre venue, opposite the Corn Exchange) is being transformed into a world of imagination and adventure. Children can take part in hands on workshops with their favourite authors, include Jason Beresford (The Fabulous Four Fish Fingers), Emma Barnes (Wild Thing – the naughtiest little sister ever), Kate Pankhurst (Mariella Mystery investigates the Curse of the Pampered Poodle), David Harmer (It Came from Outer Space) and Irene Lofthouse (Captain Redhand’s Adventures).

In the Big Bookend’s Storytelling Yurt, young explorers will be transported into the world of Felicity Fly (Christina Gabbitas), find themselves on an Arctic adventure with Art and Luca (Emma Buckee) and experience the oral folklore of Africa with Githanda Githae.

Children’s author and Big Bookend competition judge, Daniel Ingram-Brown says, “There’s so much creativity in Leeds. So many fantastic children’s authors are connected to the city. It’s great to be able to encourage the next generation, inspiring them with the idea that reading can be fun. The Leeds Big Bookend Festival is a wonderful opportunity to meet authors, hear them read, ask questions and create your own stories!”

With illustration competitions, a dressing up wardrobe, a graffiti artist and a ‘create your own adventure story’ island, Big Bookend’s children’s programme has something for everyone.

The Big Bookend, Leeds’ very own Rock Festival for Words, is back for a third year. Celebrating literature and creativity across Leeds, the festival has panel events, author talks, performances and live music from writers, poets, musicians and performers from Leeds and beyond.

Leeds Church Institute is one of the festival partners, along with Leeds Library and Information Services, Virtuoso Legal and Waterstones.

For further information, or to book tickets, please visit www.bigbookend.co.uk

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“Where is Chapeltown, and what does it do?” By Max Farrar

For this week’s blog we have a sneak peek of the work of Max Farrar, and his exploration of Chapeltown. Join Max for his talk “Where is Chapeltown, and what does it do?” on Saturday 7th June, 2.30pm at Leeds Central Library.

Max Farrar

Max Farrar

Chapeltown doesn’t appear on any map, old or current, in the place where you think it is.  I started trying to really understand Chapeltown in 1972.  By 1992 I began to think I might be able to write something. In 1999 I completed the PhD thesis I’d sort-of started in 1972. With an additional chapter it appeared as a book in 2002. It sunk like a stone.

My friend Caryl Phillips, the internationally renowned writer and Yale English Literature professor who grew up in Leeds, loved my book, and he offered to write an essay about it to the London Review of Books.  The LRB were always asking him to contribute, he told me. Don’t be silly, LRB said, why would anyone be interested in a little part of a northern city?

I’d lived in or near Chapeltown from 1970 to 1999.  I’d been fascinated from day one (as a Sociology undergraduate at Leeds University). The book offers a particular type of understanding, one that is flavoured both by my politics and the demands of a PhD thesis. By the early 1990s I needed a proper job and Leeds Poly was kind enough to take me on as a lecturer, so I thought I ought to get on with the PhD I’d dropped out of (at Leeds Uni) in 1974.

I asked Zygmunt Bauman, who remembered me as a drop-out, if he’d supervise the thesis. Don’t be silly, he said, PhDs aren’t the best way to think. He said he’d only begun to really think when he had retired from being a Professor of Sociology. But I felt the qualification might help me get a pension, so I went ahead.

The book offers a deeply historical account of how Chapeltown has been made, combined with a new way of thinking sociologically about ‘community’. It plays with the fact that there are no map references to Chapeltown (the nearest we get is the area we now think of as Chapel Allerton) in order to suggest that it is a social space infused with multiple meanings, imaginaries, people and relationships, forged by successive populations making their new lives.

Initially (1870-1920) that space was created by the emerging middle class of Leeds; then by the Eastern European Jewish refugees who were beginning to prosper (1920-60); then by the Christian Eastern Europeans escaping the Soviet yoke (1945); then by the Caribbean migrants fleeing post-Imperial penury (1960s); then by the South Asians also seeking work and security in the late 60s and 70s. Throughout the period of Commonwealth settlement, lots of white people lived there too, and they too played an important part in making the neighbourhood.

The Struggle for "Community" in a British Multi-Ethnic Inner City Area: Paradise in the Making, by Max Farrar (Llampeter and New York: The Edwin Mellen, 2002)

The Struggle for “Community” in a British Multi-Ethnic Inner City Area: Paradise in the Making, by Max Farrar (Llampeter and New York: The Edwin Mellen, 2002)

Its sociology of community argues that the realist account of community – based on geography, relationships and goals – only takes us a short way into understanding Chapeltown. It’s more useful to see Chapeltown as the location in which social movements, largely driven by people of African descent, have organised themselves in pursuit of a social imaginary they call ‘community’. ‘Community’, in my account, becomes a proxy for people’s yearning for social justice, equality, dignity, respect and warm, humane social relationships. The sub-title of the book is ‘Paradise in the Making’.

In my Big Bookend talk I’m going to push these thoughts a little further. What Chapeltown does, I’m going to suggest, is stand in for a much wider set of longings, and fears, and questions held by people of all national origins and classes across the whole of Leeds. For the people who actually live there, of course, their own longings, fears and questions are shaped by material reality – mainly, their low income – and I’ll try and say something about that too.

 You can book tickets for Max Farrar’s event at the Big Bookend festival hereRead more of his work at www.maxfarrar.org.uk


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The Big Bookend Event Spotlight: Q&A with Sufiya Ahmed and Amy Keen

Join Young Adult authors Sufiya Ahmed and Amy Keen on Saturday 7th June, 6.30pm, at Waterstones Leeds for Passions and Pressures: Young Women in FictionSufiya and Amy will be in conversation about their current writing projects, and the event will be chaired by Dr Helen Reid, the Director of the LCI. Expect a lively discussion and the opportunity to ask questions about Young Adult fiction, their fabulous books, and the life-changing situations their characters face.

This week, both Sufiya Ahmed and Amy Keen join us for a Q&A session to give a taster for their forthcoming event at the Leeds Big Bookend.


  • Did you intend to aim your books at young female readers? If so, what would you say is the message you want to your readers to take away from your work?

SufiyaI wanted to write a story about the awful practice of forced marriage which British born girls and boys are subjected to.  When I wrote the story I wanted to highlight the underlying reason behind forced marriage which is the patriarchal culture and the honour based system.

Of course the story focuses on a girl and the front cover is also very feminine, which can discourage boys from picking the book up. But I think the story of survival and hope can appeal to boys as well.

Interestingly I did a school visit last year in Rotherham where I found copies of my book covered in brown paper. The English teacher was very determined for the boys to read Secrets of the Henna GirlAfter the initial surprise, I was just glad the department was encouraging the boys.

In terms of the message, what I wanted to portray was a heroine who was brave and courageous and who stood up for herself. The message I think is one of hope. That no matter what a person goes through, if you stand up for yourself, there is always hope.


Embers, the first in the Scarlett Roth trilogy, published by Fisher King Publishing

Amy: I hadn’t set out to focus on female readers; I had the idea for the book without any real intention to that regard, but the genre and style of my books does tend to attract a higher proportion of young women.

I wanted readers to relate to Scarlett. She is, certainly at the beginning, a normal teenager, facing the kinds of challenges we can all remember as teens and I think as a young reader it can be powerful to think “that’s how I felt” about making friends, or meeting boys. That said, overall there is a stronger message that challenges come in all shapes and sizes but we have surprising strength within us to deal with them when it comes down to it… Obviously in Scarlett’s case these may be slightly out of the ordinary, but I want readers to make their own parallels.  


  • Do you think your books address similar themes that are arguably universal to the lives of young women, despite the dissimilarities of cultural setting and genre?

Sufiya: Yes, I think so. It’s about gender power. It’s about women being forced into acts or situations which they don’t want for themselves. To me it just fits into the wider social ill of bullying.

Amy: The books, as you mention, are clearly very different, but I think there are similarities to be drawn in terms of themes, yes. We are dealing with young women being subjected to the beliefs and views of others, pushed into scenarios that ultimately feel beyond their control and watching how they deal with it.  Young women, regardless of culture and the genre of these books are often written to the extreme; fiercely strong or fatally flawed. In Scarlett’s case, despite the supernatural element to my story, I wanted to create a character that walked the balance of moments of real fighting spirit and the natural predisposition we all have for moments of doubt.


  • How do you connect with your Young Adult readership? Do you think your role as a YA author differs from an Adult fiction author, and why?
Secrets of the Henna Girl, published by Puffin Books

Secrets of the Henna Girl, published by Puffin Books

Sufiya: I do a lot of school visits. I love doing them. I always wanted to be a writer but I never imagined how absolutely lonely it is to be a writer. That’s why I try to balance my week with a couple of school visits. I love meeting young people who have already read the book. I love their questions about forced marriage, patriarchal cultural practices, bullying and feminism.  I love that they question established practices from a moral point of view.

I also love inspiring young people to pick up the book in the first place through my author sessions. There’s no greater feeling than signing a copy for a boy pupil who is very curious about how  my heroine Zeba escapes a small rural isolated Pakistani village to come back home to England.

Of course, social media also plays a part. Twitter and Facebook galore.  Anyone can contact me.

The book readership has also crossed over to adult women. Forced marriage is a very topical issue in our country and women are fascinated and repulsed by the practice.  They also buy the book.  I think this shows that most readers, regardless of age,  just want a good story.  

Amy: I think my connection to readers stems from my own prolific fiction reading as a teen and then into young adulthood. I write the kind of books I like to read which is a major bonus! The advent of social media makes the lines between author and reader much more fluid and allows us to engage with our readers on a very real level. Outlets like Twitter provide us direct access to their thoughts and feelings, allowing us (if appropriate) to work this into our books.

I think there is a certain responsibility in YA writing to deliver a message or moral but, most importantly to do so without patronisation. I think writing strong characters but not over-writing to the point the reader feels spoon-fed is important. We have to credit young readers with the ability to draw some of the conclusions themselves. Young adults don’t want a book that screams ‘this was written for a younger audience’, they want a degree of complexity in dialogue and theme as much as an adult, even if the tone or language is slightly different.  


  • SufiyaSecrets of the Henna Girl is a work of fiction, but the issues you consider of forced marriage and Islamic cultural values are largely based on reality. How much research did you do in preparation for the novel, and is there any social comment intended?

I worked in the Houses of Parliament in my previous career and it was there that I discovered the issue. I came across women campaigners who were fighting for better protection and more awareness of the issue in the police force, the education system and social work.

I did a lot of listening to survival stories, and a lot of research with the Forced Marriage Unit (the government helpline set up for victims) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I wanted to make sure the story was as real as could be.  


  • Amy – The heroine of the Foresight series, Scarlett Roth, is a modern victim of the horrifying witch trials, dating back to Salem in the 1600s. Although your work is deeply rooted in paranormal and fantasy genres, to what extent does the trilogy explore the real, historic implications of the Witch Trials and compare the treatment of women in this period to modern day?

I read a lot about the original trials at the beginning and I base the story in this history but my idea was to focus on how this could be adapted for a contemporary setting. I hope I have dealt with the back story sensitively and where I have provided any detail, that I have done so in a way that duly satisfies the reader’s curiosity or even sparked it for them to research it further.

I think bringing the persecution to the modern day was easy, but it wasn’t supposed to only reflect treatment of women. The story was designed to address the way in which all types of people, regardless of gender (and other differences) can be persecuted for standing out in some way. Scarlett is targeted in quite a significant and distressing way and I hope her handling of the events is interesting, surprising and occasionally inspiring to readers.  


Sufiya Ahmed Sufiya Ahmed is the author of Secrets of the Henna Girl, published by Puffin Books. The book was launched on International Women’s Day at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London 2012. It has been translated into Arabic, Spanish and Polish. Secrets of the Henna Girl has been shortlisted for various awards and won both the ‘Published Writer of the Year’ at the Brit Writers Awards in 2012 and the Best Teenage Book at the Redbridge Children’s Book Award 2013.


Amy Keen Amy Keen is a Young Adult fiction author whose passion for the paranormal drove her to create a series which would deliver the kind of thrills, suspense and intrigue she grew up devouring. Amy’s current project is The Foresight Series – a trilogy that follows Scarlett Roth – a seemingly ordinary girl whose life takes a sudden twist into the sinister and macabre when she moves to Salem; home of the infamous Witch Trials of the 1600’s. Books one and two are out now and the final instalment is underway. The series is the answer to the question: What if the witch trials aren’t over; what if they have evolved?

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Holding the Line by Major Ric Cole

This article was first published in the Index on Censorship magazine.

News coverage has changed dramatically since World War I and how the military handles it has changed too. Major Ric Cole, a serving army officer, gives his perspective on how the relationship between the media and military works.

In 1914, news from the frontline took weeks, even months, to reach home. Or at least to reach those in power, who then decided what news was propagated to the general public and how. News was then disseminated across garden fences, in pubs and in churches. The death of a local lad was a bitter shock to those who knew him and his village and community grieved for him. Those names are still recorded on war memorials up and down the country.

During World War II, Alan Wicker and the teams from the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU) were recruited from film studios and travelled with combat units capturing their actions in North Africa and Italy, from Normandy to Paris and Berlin. These news reels played in cinemas across the country, informing the population and motivating them to support the war effort.

Times were different by the early 1970s after the tide of US public opinion turned against the war in Vietnam which had been playing out on TVs and in the papers for several years. It was the returning veterans who felt despised by those who believed the war was wrong and betrayed by a government keen to wash its hands of a failed campaign in a far-away land.

By 1991, the world had changed and the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation during Operation Desert Storm was the first conflict to be broadcast live. BBC and CNN reporters witnessed Tomahawk cruise missiles, fired from US warships far out in the Arabian Gulf, passing their hotel windows. The media, gathered in Saudi Arabia, were pooled to ensure that all outlets were given the same stories to broadcast and the US commander, General Norman Schwarzkopf gave regular and frequent press conferences, during which videos of precision strikes were played. This was a new kind of warfare, played out on televisions and radios across the world.

After 1991, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) looked long and hard at how better to conduct media operations, wondering how, and if, a military force could ensure that the stories in the world’s media accurately reflected its operational business.

In current UK MoD publications, media operations are defined as: “That line of activity developed to ensure timely, accurate and effective provision [through the media] of public information and implementation of public relations (PR) policy within the operational environment whilst maintaining Operational Security (OPSEC).”

First, the MoD established the Defence Media Operations Centre (DMOC). DMOC has two key roles; to train press officers at all levels and to deploy, at short notice, media teams to cover events involving the UK military.

Furthermore, the tradition of Wicker’s AFPU continues through the use of combat camera teams, which are deployed with battlefield units to capture full-motion high-definition video and still images of combat in situations where it would be too dangerous to embed a civilian journalist. This footage is then distributed to news outlets around the world to be used for free. But what about accusations that the footage is censored? Naturally, the military will not distribute footage and imagery that make the armed forces look unprofessional, but nothing is fabricated or deleted and everything is saved as part of the operational record, eventually ending up at the Imperial War Museum for archiving and in time, eventual disclosure to the public.

Secondly, the military recognised that by far the best way to get its message out is directly through trusted and respected media outlets. To facilitate this, the MoD Directorate of Media and Communications (DMC) runs a programme which embeds reporters with combat units. Everyone from smaller regional outlets including local newspapers, to national and international broadcasters such as the BBC, ITN and Sky News are all given the opportunity to travel to the front line. They are escorted, protected, fed, transported and accommodated and given access to soldiers and commanders.

Each news organisation and reporter signs The Green Book. This formal agreement outlines what the embedded journalist can expect from the military (a bed, food, transport and the same level of protection afforded to soldiers, which includes a helmet and body armour if necessary), and in return the military reserves the right to review any copy or other output for breaches of operational security (OPSEC).

OPSEC is not about censorship and gagging. It is a constant process which aims to ensure that essential elements of friendly (ie UK or coalition) information are protected. This denies the adversary any details of troop dispositions, capabilities or intentions and in doing so saves lives (possibly including the life of the embedded journalist).

Trusted journalists are given access to military planning and are allowed to sit in as orders are given to subordinate units. This provides journalists with a richer understanding of the operation, helps them understand what the military commander is attempting to achieve and places the journalist’s report in a wider context.

The digital revolution and rebirth of information warfare

Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa have highlighted the power of social media. As one Egyptian protester said, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.”

The UK MoD has engaged with this upsurge in social media and today most military units have a Facebook page. The MoD itself has thousands of followers on Twitter and all military personnel are issued guidelines for online behaviour, ensuring that the highest standards of behaviour are maintained.

Today, support for UK Armed Forces is as high as at any time in living memory. The general public have learned, unlike at the time of Vietnam, that it is possible to disagree with the war but still back the troops sent there to fight it on their behalf. Many of those soldiers, sailors and airmen are active on social media sites and some have an astonishing number of followers.

Twenty four hour news, mobile phones, citizen journalists, bloggers, Twitter and the internet are not going to go away and are now considered very much part of the modern battle space, just as war is very much part of the news agenda. The enemy, the civilian population and numerous other actors have always been present in war, but they all now have a voice and a global audience.

The discipline of information operations is now at the very heart of UK military doctrine. From the presence and appearance of a soldier on patrol engaging with local communities to the perception of the armed forces in the national and international media, the information shared and what is kept safe will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of any contemporary conflict involving UK and Western forces.

Terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and al Shabab understand this and seek to dominate the information environment, with the latter tweeting live as the assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, was conducted. This is the enemy now faced by UK forces and as such they must be prepared to fight for information, be first with the truth and, above all, have a much better understanding of their target audiences at home and abroad.

©Ric Cole

Major Ric Cole

Major Ric Cole

Major Ric Cole joined the UK Armed Forces in 1995. He served as a Royal Marine Commando and as an infantry officer in Northern Ireland for eight years and left the regular army in 2007.

As a reservist, Major Cole has served in Iraq (2008) and Afghanistan (2009) conducting media operations and spent two years as a senior analyst with the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

Currently assigned to the Joint Information Activities Group (JIAG), Major Cole conducts, advises on and teaches media operations and information operations. He is also an MoD social media mentor, providing guidance to service personnel online @ric_cole.

The Index on Censorship Magazine Big Debate: Censorship and Propaganda in Wartime: where do we draw the line, will take place as part of the Big Bookend festival on Saturday 7th June in Leeds.

Major Ric Cole, along with Index editor Rachael Jolley, Yorkshire Post journalist Chris Bond and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, Dr Chris Paterson will debate whether it is acceptable for governments and others to withhold information from the public during a conflict; is it always unreasonable to not tell the public the whole truth? Is propaganda sometimes necessary, for instance during WWII to encourage the USA to enter the war? Does propaganda or censorship matter? Why and when should we care?

To take part in this unique debate and for more information visit the Big Bookend website.


Index on Censorship - The War of the Words

Index on Censorship – The War of the Words

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The Strikes of the 80s

Chris Nickson’s monthly instalment of Leeds history considers the trade unions’ striking actions and the role of Tom Maguire in the 1880s events.

Mention strikes and the first image to spring to mind will probably be the miners at Orgreave in the 1980s. Those a little older might well recall the wave of industrial unrest that ran through the 1970s.

But in Leeds it was the 1880s that was the real beginning of labour flexing its muscles. There had been strikes going back to 1727, when carpet weavers struck for more money, and won.

Battle of Orgreave Photo credit: The Guardian

Battle of Orgreave
Photo credit: Don Mcphee/The Guardian

It was towards the end of the 1880s, though, that workers had begun to come together in unions. One of the first was the Jewish Workers’ Tailors Trading Society, formed in Leeds in 1876, and said to be the world’s first Jewish trade union. The Jewish tailors were largely immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia, fleeing the pogroms there. However, none of the big mills would hire them as inside workers. Even John Barran, a philanthropic soul who arranged the purchase of Roundhay Park for Leeds, would only employ them as outworkers. The tailors worked in sweatshops in the Leylands – where they also lived. They were immigrants, with little command of English, and they were exploited, working in terrible conditions for up to 17 hours a day. Their earnings? Just over a pound a week for men, and young girls took home 30p.

In 1885, the union joined with the pressers and machinists and managed to win a small reduction in hours from their employers. In 1888 they struck again, demanding more money and a 58-hour week. This time, though, they didn’t win, but there were more confrontations to come that would bring them concessions.

The following year saw pupils in schools going on strike. The movement began in Scotland, wanting less corporal punishment, a reduction in school hours and more. In Leeds, the first school to go out was Holy Rosary on Barrack Street, and others followed. There was no chance they’d win, of course, but it was indicative of the mood in Britain that they’d even try.

Also in 1889, building labourers, who had been organised into a union, went on strike, wanting shorter working hours and an increase in pay. One of the organisers was Tom Maguire, then still part of the Socialist League. He addressed meetings, including one at Vicar’s Croft (pretty much where the market now stands) that reportedly drew over 3,000 people. The workers did win an increase ofd (about 1p) in their hourly rate, and some small reduction in hours.

Maguire was also very active during the Gas Workers’ Strike of 1890. Leeds Corporation had taken over all the gas supplies in the town, and the Gas Committee saw a way to cut costs. Essentially, they planned to fire all their workers as the weather warmed, and rehire fewer at reduced rates. This prompted a strike by workers, and blacklegs were brought in. There was violence, the Riot Act was read, and cavalry had to escort the scabs to the gas works, where many promptly joined the strikers. It was settled in a few days, the Gas Committee forced to capitulate. It was a huge strike, with thousands involved, and the workers won.

There would be many more strikes to come, of course, but in this first real salvo for organised labour, they’d shown, in the words of Joe Hill’s song, “There Is Power In A Union.”

Chris Nickson

Chris Nickson, author of Gods of Gold, published August 2014

Chris Nickson is a Leeds novelist and music journalist. Gods of Gold,  a mystery set against the backdrop of the 1890 gas strike, will be published in August 2014. His Richard Nottingham series of mystery novels is set in Leeds in the 1730s. 

Chris will be appearing at The Leeds Big Bookend festival as part of a Crime Panel alongside Frances Brody and Steve Mosby on Saturday 7th June in Leeds Central Library, 12pm – 1.30pm. Tickets are just £3 and available here.

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World Book Night at Leeds City College

Wednesday 23rd April was a big day for celebrations. It was St George’s Day, Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and World Book Night .

World Book NightWere you one of the lucky people to benefit from a free book on World Book Night (WBN)?

When the Big Bookend applied to be an organisational giver for WBN way back last year, we hoped we would be successful but had no idea if we would be accepted.

Much to our delight we were and were awarded nearly 100 books to give out to our target audience of young people.

Our titles were Andy McNab, Today Everything Changes; Bernadine Evaristo, Hello Mum; John Grisham, Theodore Boon; Matt Haig, The Humans; John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas; We also had Adele Parks, Whatever It Takes and Dreda Say Mitchell, Geezer Girls from individual givers.

We approached the library at Leeds City College, Technology Campus which immediately agreed to partner with us and the rest is history. Our free book giveaway was a huge success. Within half an hour all our books had gone!

Students at Leeds City College. Photo by Steve Evans.

Students at Leeds City College. Photo by Steve Evans.

We managed to speak to a lot of young people about reading and what inspires them and encouraged more to try reading a book if it wasn’t something they usually did.

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to the young people we met, our hosts, Leeds City College and the generous folk at the Reading Agency who are the driving force behind World Book Night.


Photo by Steve Evans

Photo by Steve Evans

Young People's Programme

Young People’s Programme

As a follow up to our WBN giveaway, the Big Bookend has a fantastic programme of events for young people with music, authors, workshops, panel discussions and a review writing competition.

Our author events for the young people’s programme will take place at Waterstones, including the Big Bookend Launch Party on Friday 6th June, from 6.30pm, with live music from Lucy & Jo, and award winning author Martyn Bedford. On Saturday 7th June, from 6.30pm, we have Amy Keen and Sufiya Ahmed talking about Passions and Pressures: Young Women in Fiction.

There are two workshops both based at LCI. On Saturday, from 1pm, Aissa Gallie will be running a short story workshop which will focus on journeys of transformation through the written word. On Sunday afternoon, from 1pm, Sarah Benwell’s workshop will be finding new potential in old things. From images, characters, and formats to stories that you thought you knew, nothing will ever seem quite the same again.

We are really hoping that the young people we met on Wednesday will be inspired by the book they were given and then come along to our events in June. We look forward to seeing you at the Big Bookend festival. 

Beccy from the Bookend team. Photo by Steve Evans.

Beccy from the Bookend team. Photo by Steve Evans.



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