Culture & Learning

Overcoming isolation together

Autonomous social centres and infoshops not only provide information, guidance, and access to support, but also crucial opportunities for socialising in a self-organised, non-commercial setting. Within these spaces, political education is integral to community organising, enabling solidarity to grow and collective action to take root. As the traditional meeting spaces for the labour movement declined, radical social centres have presented alternative possibilities for working-class people to debate and foster a burgeoning political consciousness. At a time when the spread of COVID-19 mandates physical distancing and self-isolation, this virtual social centre and infoshop aims to meet some of those needs and to foster connections between people across all age groups, and from the cities to the countryside. Digital media allows for new forms of engagement and politicisation of which we have yet to take full advantage. Ideas for how to build a better world, together with a collective sense that change is possible, are forged in social interactions—from collective struggle to shared experiences of socialist culture. When a pandemic and its management under capitalism will cause more suffering among the already vulnerable in our society, it is important to carve out spaces where people can come together to share information, experiences, and ideas that can overcome our isolation. It is also crucial that spaces exist where voices are heard and lives valued equally without their being reduced to existing hierarchies or measures of economic productivity.

As the crisis unfolds, people will find themselves bored, tired, anxious, lonely, or otherwise in need of diverting distraction or thought-provoking stimulation, and they will be increasingly unable to meet their various social, intellectual, and creative needs through the usual course of their daily lives. Gathered here are a wide variety of cultural and educational resources to fill some of those gaps, some of which have been around for some time while others have sprung up as part of the upsurge in mutual aid initiatives.

Hopefully they will also provide an occasion to make new friends and find new spaces of communal activity. With this in mind, we are also working on a way to connect people who are alone in self-isolation or quarantine and would welcome some virtual company plus a regular virtual social. Feeling heard is very important at times of crisis and is a particular challenge at a time when successive UK governments have failed in various ways to be responsive and responsible to citizens.

Watch this space for news on a virtual social, online reading groups with Left Book Club, and more possibilities for virtual company if you’re self-isolating.

Film clubs and free film online

Virtual Cinema Club

Quarantine Film Club from Sheffield Transformed

Why Do Elephants Keep Developing?—series of documentaries on the Up the Elephant campaign

Radical Self-Quarantine—collectively-authored series of creative moving image projects; email to join

Rainbow Collective—documentary filmmaking for social change

Reading groups and free online materials

Marxist Lockdown

London Marxism Reading Group

Our Socialist Book Club

Left Book Club—online reading groups coming soon and guide to set up your own

Free ebooks from Haymarket Books

Free online study guides from Haymarket Books

Free quarantine ebooks from Verso

David Harvey’s Anti-Capitalist Chronicles podcast

Lewisham Deptford Young Labour political education programme reading list—more coming soon in the programme

Also consider supporting independent shops by buying books from Bookmarks or Freedom Press who are still processing and shipping online orders.

Multimedia materials

UBU repository—avant garde film, video, sound, visual poetry, conceptual writing, and more multimedia materials

PennSound audio archive—with a focus on poets reading their work

Berlin Philharmonic Digital Convert Hall—now free until 31 March

British Library Sounds—historical recordings of music, spoken word, and environmental sounds

World Sounds—soundscape recordings from around the world

Left and alternative media

Novara Media—independent left media platform with video, audio and written content

Tribune magazine—socialist magazine originally launched in 1937 and revived in 2018

Jacobin magazine—socialist journal based in the US with global content

Catalyst journal—theorising capital from the Global North and the Global South

Viewpoint magazine—international theoretical journal advocating communism from below

New Socialist journal

Notes from Below reportage and analysis workplace struggle through worker’s enquiry

Radical Philosophy journal

Verso blog—timely pieces from the leftwing publisher

Dissent magazine—American magazine of politics and ideas

Mood magazine—youth-oriented publication destigmatising mental health

n + 1 magazine—literature, culture, and politics

Soundings journal—contemporary culture and politics

New Left Review—theoretical journal on politics, economy, history, and aesthetics

Gal-dem zine—telling the stories of women and non-binary people of colour

Radical Philosophy journal—critical theory and philosophy

Roar magazine—grassroots perspectives from the frontlines of the global struggle for real democracy


Politics Theory Other—from Tribune Radio

Novara Media—all the greats including TyskySour

The Burner—back from 23 March during the pandemic on NovaraFM

Belabored—from Dissent Magazine

Know Your Enemy—from Dissent Magazine

The Dig—from Jacobin with an excellent episode on COVID-19 with Mike Davis

Mandatory Redistribution Party—radical left interviews and repartee

Weekly Economics Podcast—from the New Economics Foundation

IPPR podcast—from the progressive think thank

Talking Politics—with Cambridge pol prof David Runciman

Revolutionary Left Radio—American show with Communist philosophy, Proletarian history and critical theory

Political education

The World Transformed—launched in 2016 as a fringe festival attached to the Labour Party annual conference, TWT has provided an important space for communication between the left of the Labour party, extra-parliamentary, and community organisations and campaigns, growing from an annual four-day festival into a year round political education project. An important resource for the months ahead—follow on Twitter.

The World Transformed resource hub—with info on how to build your own political education programmes and more

The World Transformed library of recorded talks and discussions from TWT events

Bristol Transformed library of recorded talks and disucssions

John McDonnell’s seminar series Labour: A Socialist Future? 1. “Why ownership matters”; 2. “How do we democratise our society?”; 3. “Why Universal Basic Services”

Economist Ann Pettifor on the Green New Deal: 1. With Grace Blakeley at London Review Bookshop; 2. At LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Northern Discomfort pamphlet—by MPs Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery

Interview with Silvio Lorusso about his book Entreprecariat

Libcom—library of material from the radical workers movement

rs21 (revolutionary socialism in the 21st century)—political education resources, as well as news and comment

The Politics of COVID-19—multilingual collection of articles from The Syllabus

Brave New Words—podcast on campaigns messaging

LabourList articles

Autonomy—think tank focused on changing conditions of work

The New Economics Foundation (NEF)—think tank promoting economic, social, and environmental justice with its own podcast

Common Wealth—think tank focused on a democratic and sustainable economy

Common Weal—Scottish think tank with its own podcast

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)—wide-ranging progressive think thank with its own podcast

TUC (Trade Union Congress) education resources

Resources for parents and caregivers

Corona Virus Home School Support

School’s Out Schedule Pack

Plan C

Educational resources for all ages—collated by Abena Oppong-Asare MP

Primary maths resources—collated by a qualified teacher, Joe Hamms

Online nature and culture for all the family

Canal and River Trust virtual adventures

Chatterpack resources for all the family

Tate Collections online and other resources

Online collections from Parisian art museums

Virtual museum tours from around the world

Mental and physical health

Solstar boxing class

Self-isolating bird club

SCOPE online coffee lounge

Elefriends safe space to be heard

Hearts and Minds online peer support groups for 14–25 year olds—contact them to join

Depression UK pen friend scheme

Big White Wall online safe space

SANE emotional support

Corona Sanity guided meditation and other resources

Healthy mind app (free)

The Help Hub coming soon—looking for volunteer qualified therapists