On my radar: Bobby Gillespie’s cultural highlights

The Primal Scream singer on the massacre at Ballymurphy, being inspired by Bob Dylan, and the black power salute

The singer and musician Bobby Gillespie was born in Glasgow in 1962. He played drums in the Jesus and Mary Chain before forming his own band, Primal Scream, in 1982. Primal Scream have released 11 studio albums, including 1991’s Screamadelica, which won the inaugural Mercury prize. For their following album, they moved from acid house and psychedelia to blues and classic rock. The outtakes from those sessions, Give Out But Don’t Give Up: The Original Memphis Recordings, are out now on Sony.

1. TV

Massacre at Ballymurphy, Channel 4

Victims of the massacre at Ballymurphy
Victims of the massacre at Ballymurphy. Photograph: Paul McErlane Photograph: Paul McErlane/Paul McErlane (commissioned)

I never really watch television, but I was alerted to this by my friend. It’s a documentary about the killings of 11 working-class Catholics in Belfast in August 1971, by the 1st battalion, Parachute Regiment, who were involved in Bloody Sunday five months later. And it was covered up. They put out a communique saying that the paratroopers had fought a two-hour gun battle with 20 IRA activists, but there was no battle. It was fascinating TV, especially now with the whole issue of the Irish border.

2. Music

Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vol 13: Trouble No More 1979–1981

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan in 1980. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

These are live performances gathered from Bob Dylan’s gospel tours from the late 70s and early 80s when he converted to Christianity. At the time it was very controversial that this countercultural, anti-establishment hero had converted to Christianity; people were completely thrown by it. I find this period of Bob Dylan very inspiring – he was always surprising people, nobody could ever catch up with the guy. There are two tracks on there that I can’t stop listening to – Gotta Serve Somebody and Slow Train. They’re incredible – kind of apocalyptic gospel, existential blues.

3. Book

History of Violence by Édouard Louis

Édouard Louis
The French author Édouard Louis. Photograph: John Foley/Opale/Leemage Photograph: John Foley/Opale/Leemage

I came across Édouard Louis through his first book, The End of Eddy, a memoir about growing up in the north of France in real poverty. It sounded like the 1930s: you just don’t imagine that people are living like this in France now. In this new book he describes his rape, on Christmas Eve, by the son of an Algerian immigrant. It discusses race, class, gender, anger, violence, sexuality, racism, inequality. In the world of literature it’s unusual to hear working-class voices, just as it is in theatre and music these days, so it’s really important to have this voice.

4. Film

Black Power Salute (2008)

Tommie Smith (centre) and John Carlos (right) doing the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics
Tommie Smith (centre) and John Carlos (right) doing the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

This is the story of the 1968 Olympics, when two black Americans, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, won gold and bronze medals and did the black power salute on the podium. It’s about why they decided to do this and the repercussions on their lives and careers. My father had that photograph in our living room in Glasgow: I asked him about it and he explained racism in America to me. It was on at the BFI this month and it rings true today, with the NFL players going down on their knee to protest against Trump and his racist ideology. Fifty years, nothing has changed.

5. Talk

Here and Now: A Creative Vision for Europe

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.
The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Photograph: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

I was invited to speak at this event organised by the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, a group of people who want to unite progressive thinkers throughout Europe. You have the rise of populism, fascism, so the idea is to try to cross borders using cultural means and ideas. Yanis Varoufakis [the former Greek finance minister] – who is one of my heroes – also took part, as well as Srećko Horvat, Rosemary Bechler and Danae Stratou. There’s a culture war under way between those who use culture to divide by class, by race, by nation, and those who use it to connect. It was cool to have been involved in that.

6. Exhibition

The Lost Moment, Gallery of Photography, Dublin

A civil rights demonstration in Northern Ireland, 1968. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock
A civil rights demonstration in Northern Ireland, 1968. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Unfortunately, I couldn’t go for the opening, but I’m going to travel to Dublin for this exhibition. It’s about street protest and resistance in Northern Ireland during 1968, and the history of the civil rights movement. It’s been curated by Sean O’Hagan and there will be photographs, posters, banners, some audio and film. It was an anti-colonialist struggle: Catholic people in Northern Ireland didn’t have equal rights and that’s what the civil rights movement was about. I’d like to learn more about this – to know the roots of the struggle.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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