Individutopia – Joss Sheldon: A Review By Lisa Mulholland

Individutopia is a novel set in a neoliberal dystopia with Renee as the main character.

From the first page I knew I’d love this novel. I had a feeling that it would evoke emotion and re -awaken the radical in me.

And I was right because that is exactly what it did.

And it might just do the same for you;

Have you ever sat there and looked at what ‘society’ has become?

Ever wondered about the erosion of community?

Ever wondered how it all changed, where it all started?

Do you ever look around at people chained to their phones, not interacting with one another and think to yourself ‘where will this all end?’

I know I have. And if you have too, then this story is for you.

It creates a fictional future by combining features of the worst aspects of our present day with the building blocks of Thatchers vision of individualism and neoliberalism back in 1979.

With this, Joss Sheldon has created a neoliberal dystopian future.

It takes us on a journey that is so horribly unimaginable but scarily feels possible in some way.

It’s fiction. But it’s believable and it feels like a glimpse into the future.

When 1984 by George Orwell was released, I am pretty sure that most people at that time thought it was far fetched and could ‘never happen’. Yet here we are today with many features of the novel now part of our lives…. and then some!

I sympathised with the main character and the hopelessness of her situation. The way she is a slave to the system is portrayed so realistically.

While I lived through Renee’s plight, there were points where I felt compelled to shout “wake up and see what’s around you , break the mould, don’t be a slave to the system” but as I found myself willing Renee to do these things , I started to question myself too.

It struck a chord with me about living life to the fullest and I guarantee that if you read this it will with you too; because we are all Renee to some extent.

I did not want this story to end.

I grew attached to the main character. Her hopes, dreams and fears were easily identifiable.

It’s certainly thought provoking and it is one of those stories that will stay with me.

For me it was an epiphany in a book!

The book is on general release today. Read and enjoy this masterpiece and take a little bit of it away with you too.

Is this the modern day 1984? Read it and decide for yourself!

Lefty Scum Tour: A Review By Lucy Chapman

By Lucy Chapman

When the government are cutting funding to the arts; when schools are being strong-armed by the same government to cut arts subjects to save the ever-decreasing pennies; when arts education is being down-graded, valued less than other areas of study.  In a world where welfare cuts are creating hungry children cold grannies and suicidal young men; where equality amongst the sexes, classes, races, religion, sexualities, genders is having to be fought for rather than being the expected norm; How do the ‘Lefty Scum’ respond? With song and poetry and performance in pure defiance and it is glorious!

Lefty Scum, a night of ‘comedy, music and revolutionary socialism’ was as empowering as it was funny. 

The tour isn’t going to do much in terms of changing minds or convincing non-lefties as the only thing blue in the room were the jokes. 

But to feel for a couple of hours like I’m not on the fringe, that I’m not the biggest leftie in the room, to hear my political and social ideas (stuff like feeding hungry people being the right thing to do) not only validated but sung and shouted about in bloody brilliant style was exactly what I needed.

It was simultaneously comforting and jarring; I’m not alone in my anger and fear and we can and should shout about it.

For me it was Grace Petrie who completely stole my heart. 

She had me thankful of tena lady for a good 15 mins before knocking the wind out of me with “God Save The Hungry” without a moments notice.

I didn’t see it coming; I was too busy having a good time. The reality of quite how insulting it is to have people living in palaces whilst others look in bins for their dinner or how offensive it is to suggest that somebody’s sexuality makes them lesser able to be a valued parent (Farewell to Welfare) floored me.

Of course I knew all of this stuff already, I exhaust myself relentlessly trying to explain, persuade and convince others of these things in every interaction. But there is just so much to fight for and against! And sometimes we need to be re-grounded. And sometimes it takes a beer and a song and a shout to do it.

Jose Long was her usual charming, wonderful self only stronger than I’ve seen her before. A wonderful reminder that our anger doesn’t always have to look angry to be valid or powerful or beneficial or more importantly on a night like this – funny!

Jonny and the Baptists had the audience howling at the image (and sound) of revolutionary nationalised swans and I think I must be Jonny Donahoe’s long-lost sister because their song to his dad was undoubtedly written about my dad. Maybe he’s the nation’s dad and maybe that’s where the genius lies.

I had a bloody good laugh in York last night but I also felt inspired again, reinvigorated and impassioned. I wanted to come home and write again, better than I have before.

I wanted to get that research done for my local Constituency Labour Party that I’ve been avoiding.

I want to get more women involved after several previously unsuccessful attempts.

I want to shout from the rooftops and fight for my children, my sister’s children, for myself and the young people I work with. 

I want to fight for drama and arts and the poor and disabled. 

Defend those who are exploited or overlooked and work out how to give a voice to those with none. Except there’s no such thing as a voiceless person, only earless ones so let’s lay the blame at the right door to start with.

Thank you Josie and Grace and Jonny and the Baptists for reminding me about the passion and energy in my soul that I’m sometimes too tired and beaten to pay attention to. 

Thank you for making my sides ache. 

Thank you for demonstrating brilliantly the power of performance. 

Thank you for the canvassing and rallying and thank you, comrades, for standing with us to fight the good fight in the most wonderful way. 

Hats off my friends, hats off.

There are only two dates left now of the 10-date tour:

WED 08 NOV | LEEDS The Wardrobe

THU 09 NOV | LIVERPOOL Everyman Theatre

https://jonnyandthebaptists.co.uk/lefty-scum-tour/
But I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on what these guys are up to next!