Matthew Caygill – an appreciation



It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Matthew Caygill has died. He was 60 years old. It happened suddenly and has taken many of us some time to digest.

Matthew was a founder member of Leeds Taking Soundings in 2007. He played a leading role in our events and activities: from chairing meetings to booking rooms; from his lively contributions to discussions to collecting donations; and from organising film shows to writing our leaflets and applications for funding… and much, much more. He was also deeply involved in the Leeds-based Ford Maguire Society which holds discussions on political history.

Matthew was an active trade unionist at Leeds Beckett University where he taught history and cultural studies with great imagination and energy. His lectures (for example, on the Vietnam and its effects on the counter-culture in the West) were particularly popular with students.

Matthew was also a fully committed socialist. In recent years he was involved in Left Unity. He was politically passionate but reflective, eager to learn and ready to argue, and warm and witty. He had a wonderful sense of humour, a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile.

Matthew was incredibly active, attending numerous academic conferences and often presenting papers.

He was working on a PhD on the cultural politics of the 1960s and had a wealth of knowledge about the subject. Over the years, he had amassed a vast library stored both at work and in his cluttered home. There were books everywhere.

He was also a ‘culture vulture’, a lover of opera, the cinema and the theatre and very knowledgeable about them. He travelled the length and breadth of Britain, from large cities to seaside resorts, from visiting art galleries to tucking in at chip shops.

We have lost a good friend but we did have the good fortune of knowing him.

Barry, Dave, Franco, James, Max and Zoe

Leeds Taking Soundings steering committee

Matthew’s funeral is on Friday 5 August , 2016, at 11.40am, Lawnswood cemetery, Otley Rd, Leeds, LS16 6AH. 

Matthew Caygill can be seen on film here, talking about his research on the Dialectics of Liberation conference of 1967. This link also includes a fine obituary to Matthew published in Socialist Worker.

Simon Hall speaks about ‘1956: The World in Revolt’

Thursday, March 17th, 6PM in Broadcasting Place BPAG02 (Woodhouse Lane, opposite the Fenton)
1956 was one of the most remarkable years of the twentieth century – all across the globe, ordinary people spoke out, filled the streets and city squares, and took up arms in an attempt to win their freedom.
Popular uprisings in Poland and Hungary shook Moscow’s hold on its eastern European empire. Across the American South, and in South Africa, black people risked their livelihoods, and their lives, in the struggle to dismantle institutionalised white supremacy. France and Britain, already battling anti-colonial insurgencies in Algeria and Cyprus, faced the humiliation of Suez. Meanwhile, in Cuba, Fidel Castro and his band of rebels launched their audacious bid to overthrow a dictator. Faced with unprecedented challenges to their authority, those in power fought back, often ruthlessly, in a desperate bid to shore up their position. It was an epic contest, and one that transformed the post-war world.
Dr Simon Hall, is Head of School and Senior Lecturer in American History in the School of History at the University of Leeds. He is also the author of Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s (2005), American Patriotism, American Protest: Social Movements Since the Sixties (2010), and Rethinking the American Anti-War Movement (2012).

Generation Rent and the Housing Crisis

Following a great event with Quintin Bradley, Senior Lecturer in Housing Studies at Leeds Beckett University, last Thursday (October)

Quintin has agreed to share his slides from the talk, which can now be found here Generation Rent. & the Housing Crisis

A chronic under-supply of housing, and grossly inflated house prices, have condemned ‘generation rent’ to the endless insecurity of the private rented sector. A new assault on the provision of social housing coupled with the imposition of further benefit caps has created a swaggeringly unequal landscape with central areas of our cities rendered entirely unaffordable. But there are growing signs of popular protest in this country against the injustices of the broken housing market. A new wave of direct action from tenants in the private rented sector signals the resurgence of a movement for housing rights with rent control and new council housing among its demands. This talk will identify the key sites of conflict in government housing policy and discuss the possibilities and opportunities for this new resistance movement.

To join or not to join…



We at Taking Soundings have been debating the merits of joining the Labour Party as a supporter (for £3, or for free if you are part of an affiliated union) in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the upcoming leadership elections.

If you think it is a good idea, you can become a Labour Supporter for £3 here: until 10th August.

You can have your say by debating the pros and cons in the comments section below…

Readers Meeting on: Bullshit Jobs and Robots – The Future of Work

6pm – 7.30pm Monday 1st June at Broadcasting Place (opposite the Fenton pub), Leeds LS2 9EN.

The Taking Sounding Reader’s Meeting will discuss the implications of technological developments on the future of work. Are we on the brink of a technological transformation on the scale of the industrial revolution? If most of us are no longer required to work for our material needs to be met, what will we do? How will the spoils of industry be shared amongst the population if work is no longer a viable basis for distribution?

Articles by David Graeber: ‘The Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs’
And John Lanchester: The Robots are Coming’
…will be our starting point for open discussion.

Reclaim Modernity – launch on 11 Nov (in London, natch)

We received this from Compass and we thought you might want to check it out . . .

Political life can often feel pretty bleak for all the reasons you know and feel so well. And then something pops up and rekindles the flame of hope.This new Compass publication, Reclaim Modernity, by Mark Fisher and Jeremy Gilbert ignites a towering inferno of hope. It does so by calmly and clearly explaining that we are in a unique moment of history. The way the world is developing can be in tune with our values. We don’t have to fear modernity, or capitulate to it. It doesn’t have to be the acceleration of everything that’s bad about the present. It could actually be better.

Reclaim Modernity helps us understand why the bureaucratic state always had its limits and the free market was never going to be the antidote. Instead, we have to help co-create a democratic state. It may not be immediately obvious how to do that – but it’s the only way things will work for most of us, most of the time.

It is the best bit of big thinking anyone has published for some time. I can’t implore you enough to download here.

Reading it will lift the dark clouds.

Better still come and hear Mark and Jeremy, Hilary Wainwright, Neal Lawson and Angela McRobbie talk about it at the launch event with Red Pepper on Tuesday 11th November in the House of Commons. Click here to secure your place.

My best,

Zoe Williams

The politics of ‘anti-politics’: from Nigel Farage to Russell Brand (28 Oct)


The next Taking Soundings meeting is on Tuesday October 28th at 6PM in Broadcasting Place (opposite the Fenton), BPAG10.

Instead of our usual talk and discussion we are having a roundtable discussion on The Politics of Anti-Politics: From Nigel Farage to Russell Brand.

The idea of ‘anti-politics’ is now well-established. Sometimes it is presented as ‘apathy’, in which people are more interested in shopping and entertainment than they are in the content and direction of their societies and the political alternatives open to them.

More appropriately we might pose it as a disengagement from politics, due in part to the enclosed and self-seeking nature of mainstream politics, as summed up in the phrase ‘the political class’. To this can be added a media that fails to educate and reinforces our cynicism about politics. The response to this is then seen as a form of populism, frequently centred on grievances about the direction of modern society, and frequently with all the appearance of racism. The current wave of support for UKIP could thus be seen as a manifestation of this reactionary anti-politics.

But is this true? What does the galvanization of political life in Scotland around the referendum tell us?  We are going to explore the politics of anti-politics by reading and discussing first ‘The Myth of Anti-Politics’ by Anthony Painter, published recently by the policy network. You can link to this here:

There’s much more to be read about the idea. You are welcome to suggest your own ideas and readings.

See you: 6PM, Tuesday Oct 28th, Leeds Beckett University BPAG10.

No need to book, contact Matthew Caygill, for further information.

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