What did you say?
Georgi Dimitrov

“Communists who do nothing to enlighten the masses on the past of their people… voluntarily hand over to the fascist falsifiers all that is valuable in the historical past of the nation.” — 1935

- Georgi Dimitrov

Conversations on Communism

Posted on Nov 21, 2016 in Uncategorized
Conversations on Communism

This winter I have teamed up with Dr. Elinor Taylor who teaches English Literature at the University of Westminster to create a podcast series exploring British communism. Elinor has submitted a PhD thesis and written a book on the Popular Front Novel in Britain (forthcoming), so she knows a lot more about the field than I do — and has kindly agreed to be an advisor on the BNC project. The first idea and main focus of the series is to curate conversations between experts of various fields who might not otherwise meet, but who nevertheless share a common research interest within the broad realm of communism. The first of these unlikely conversations will be recorded in February 2017 and will feature Richard Seaford, Professor of Classics, and cultural historian, Dr. Ben Harker (Manchester). Their common interest happens to be one of the key “players” of my project, Prof. George D. Thomson.

static1-squarespaceWe’re looking forward to sharing this conversation with you. In fact, we were so anxious to get things going that we’ve already recorded two podcasts. The first, if you’re on Twitter, you may have already seen. I’ve been experimenting, you see, with different platforms for hosting the podcast and ended up posting our first conversation in November on YouTube and Soundcloud. It is an interview with Robert Lister (KCL) about Frank Walbank’s Marxist (?) Polybius. We sat with coffee on Russian textbooks for cushions outside the British Library. We were surrounded by this ring of stones, which I now know are not simply weird stones — as I call them in the podcast — but Anthony Gormley’s Planets (2002), although perhaps the two descriptions are not mutually exclusive. Robert is writing his PhD on the Ancient Historian Frank Walbank, who dedicated his working life to a three-volume commentary of Polybius. You can listen to, and in fact read, that podcast here:

Frank Walbank: Polybius and Communism

bob-leeson-and-meThe second interview we recorded a week ago in Westminster University, just off Oxford Street, in an office ringing with the voice of industry (there was construction going on). Thankfully the clangs and beeps only add local colour to the podcast — and you can make out perfectly our conversation with Colin Chambers (pictured with Bob Leeson). Not only a theatre historian and Professor of Performance and Screen Studies at Kingston University, Colin also served as Literary Editor of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Books Editor for the Morning Star. He graciously answered all our questions about his early radicalism, his active membership of the CPGB, and his experiences more widely as a cultural worker in London through the 70s and 80s. His path crossed many times with the communist writer and activist Jack Lindsay, who is another key player of the Brave New Classics project. Our conversation will come out in two parts (the first is already live).

You will very shortly be able to subscribe to the Conversations on Communism podcast on iTunes, and you can already follow us on Soundcloud. The plan is to produce one half-hour podcast each month — posting at the beginning of the month — with a gap for January. You can also, whenever you like, drop into the LISTEN section of this website and find the various podcasts and videos I’m making for this project. Beyond “Conversations…” I’m also collecting — in a more haphazard fashion — recordings of people reading translations of ancient Greek and Roman literature made by communists or fellow travellers in the 20th century. This project’s working title is “Left in Translation” — and you would make me extraordinarily happy if you would send me links to audio you’ve recorded of yourselves, or your friends, reading classical translations. It doesn’t have to be in English either. This website hopes to be a platform for international collaboration. Please get in touch, if you want to get involved.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-15-02-05We’ve already got some excellent Russian language translations of Catullus and Apuleius on the playlist. And Dr. Hanna Paulouskaya (Faculty of “Artes Liberales,” University of Warsaw – pictured left), has generously contributed features on the actor and director, Valentin Smyshlyayev, and the Belarusian musicologist and translator, Yulyan Dreyzin. Both of these will be up very soon!


  1. Connor Nolan
    April 20, 2017

    Hi, just wondering, what is the name of the song that you’s play at the start of every podcast? Great discussions btw, keep it up!

    • Henry Stead
      May 4, 2017

      Hi Connor, It’s an unnamed track by my mate Codeshift. h


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