Laurence Platt: a life very well lived in the cause of the working

THE 100 years of the Communist Party are full of stories of momentous struggles on a local, national and international level — and full of the inspirational lives of CP comrades … in their trade unions and communities, in workplaces, campaigns and daily struggles of working-class people to assert themselves and shape the world.

The CPB, as part of its centenary celebrations, looking back at its history and forwards to an equally demanding future, will be publishing a book of short biographies, Red Lives.

As a taster we publish here a contribution to it about Laurence Platt who died in January 2019 — and who contributed in so many ways to working class life, culture and struggle.

LAURENCE PLATT, born 1950, lived in the Nottingham area. The Midlands community played a big part in shaping him, but Laurence was also rooted in the world’s working class, and in its varied history and culture.

Internationalism was fundamental to him. His commitment to understanding and sharing the vibrant history of the working class was in no way “academic.”

Together they formed the essence of the man, and a life so varied — with the powerful imperative of class politics running through his 50 years of activism as a musician, historian, trade union leader and Communist Party cadre.

His love of English working-class music and tradition illustrated his politics, though Vaughan Williams’s Lark Ascending also moved him to tears.

The 1960s folk revival saw him grow as an accomplished musician with mastery of concertina and an instantly recognisable voice.

He performed throughout his life in clubs, pubs and folk festivals around the country — or just in mates’ homes and back yards with the same joy and verve, often with long-term close friend Sharon Clancy, whose first impression was “how he moved like a dancer … a beautiful man inside and out.”

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Whatever happened to the working-class heroes of British film?


John Lennon’s voice dripped with bitter irony when he sang that a working-class hero is something to be. In the years immediately preceding The Beatles’ peak, though, British filmgoers were familiar with such figures in a way they would never be again. The starting-gun was fired in 1959, as Richard Burton’s bedsit-dwelling, jazz-playing misanthrope stalked through the Derby of Look Back In Anger, and Laurence Harvey destroyed himself and his lover Simone Signoret by trying to crash across the class divide in Room at the Top.

A new wave of kitchen-sink realism then introduced a generation of charismatic working-class stars: Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Rita Tushingham in A Taste of Honey (1961), Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), and Richard Harris in This Sporting Life (1963).

A working-class actor or writer was certainly something to be then, in a prelude to the working-class, Beatles-led British music which lit up the world. Michael Caine and Terence Stamp became the more glamorous acting equivalents of that later, liberated surge. [ . . . ]

Read more: THE INDEPENDENT Whatever happened to the working-class heroes of British film? | The Independent