Tuesday 3rd February - 8pm tonight on 103.5 FM and streams live at www.sunnyg.com
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Robert Tressell’s classic socialist novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is set for a new lease of life on local radio tonight, says playwright MARTIN CHOMSKY
TODAY marks the 104th anniversary of the death of Robert Tressell, writer of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The fact that the book is still acutely relevant a century or so after its first publication is a searing indictment of capitalism and the imperialist mentality that underpins it.
To those who remember how the world worked pre-Margaret Thatcher, the newly heightened prescience of Robert Tressell’s words only serves to reinforce how much society has regressed. Which is why, in the prelude to the most vital general election since 1979, we’re faced with a rise in de facto fascism, from flag-toting stormtroopers and Hush Puppyed beer-swillers alike.
But then, as actor Ricky Tomlinson’s conversion from National Front supporter to Tressell aficionado testifies, enlightenment can be but a short step.
Deep within their souls everyone knows that the system is iniquitous at best and, at worst, perilously corrupt. But who’s to blame? The foreigners? The disabled? The work-shy?
Or the 1 per cent who, quite deliberately and with a cold, calculating shadowy presence, keep the masses subdued in poverty, anger and bewilderment?
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, instrumental in the spirit of 1945 that swept Winston Churchill from office and ushered in the welfare state, answers this question with razor-sharp clarity.
Ridiculed as a crank in his own lifetime, Bob Noonan — as Tressell was known to his work colleagues — is now quite rightly revered as a visionary. A house-painter by trade, his lyrical prose explains in graphic detail how the “sacred few” rule over the rest of us with rods of iron, robbing us of the fruits of our labour through “the great money trick.”
A century later, this sleight of hand has been honed, rehearsed and polished to such an extent that the working classes can barely see it coming — until it’s too late and they’re already buried in an avalanche of debt on zero-hours contracts.
Teeming with universal truths, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists continues to rile and inspire in equal measure. Hopefully, RTP Downsized: The Audio Play can help override the left-right paradigm that’s divided and conquered us for generations and replace it with a vigorous “right versus wrong” approach to governance. A system that doesn’t benefit everyone is injurious to us all.
For me, the greatest indication of the esteem in which Tressell’s work is held is the manner in which RTP Downsized came to fruition. When the mainstream media wouldn’t commission it and the funding bodies didn’t back it, a tenacious, typically Glaswegian DIY-or-die ethos kicked in, ensuring that it got made regardless.
And what transpired was the kind of radio drama you thought had been consigned to history. Last week the audiobook was serialised on local Glasgow radio station Sunny Govan radio with sponsorship from the Morning Star.
Tonight, it’s being broadcast from 8pm in its entirety on the same station. So gather round your laptops, PCs, iPad and radios, tune in and listen attentively. Bring in your family and your children, your neighbours and even your pets. This book will change their lives forever and they’ll never see the world in quite the same way again.
So sit back and enjoy the greatest story never told. With May 7 looming, let’s make sure we’re the most enlightened electorate in history.
More on the series on the RTP page at Sunny Govan: http://www.sunnyg.com/rtp.html