McMahon, M., & Simpson, W. – Freedom Through Football Book

Freedom Through Football coverDon’t be put off by the title, for this book is about much, much more than football (which, incidentally, is now just one of three sports currently played by the various club teams). The Cowfolk, as they are collectively known, are a community-based sports and social club from the heart of inner-city Bristol, who have helped redefine what’s possible when you get a group of amateur sportspeople, professional drunks, activists, misfits and ne’er-do-wells (alongside a few ordinary, decent, everyday folk such as your humble author) together.

The book charts the first 20 years of the club’s history from 1992 to the present day, warts and all. There are tales of dodging army check points in Chiapas during a visit to play teams in the Zapatista communities, taking part in cricket matches in Compton LA against ex-gangsters, heading to the West Bank and literally leaving their mark on the Israeli apartheid wall, and organising Alternative World Cups attended by people from as close as Bedminster to as far away as São Paulo (via Lithuania and the South African township of Diepkloof). There have been a few sad losses during the journey (and quite a few happy additions too), the occasional harsh word, partings of ways, fallouts, fall-ins, love affairs, babies and hangovers. But mostly, it’s about being a part of something that exemplifies everything that is good in human nature.

The book is 229 pages, nicely supplemented with plenty of images (many previously unseen) and extra info, with an additional 32 pages of colour pics (including a couple of that Banksy fellow hanging out with the Cowfolk in Chiapas and doing some rare hand-painted pieces in the villages).

I could be accused of a certain bias with this review, for this book is about my adopted family. And it’s true that the friendships and love I’ve found among this loopy bunch have enriched my life enormously. But I think these tales can be enjoyed, and and the ideals embraced, by anyone who believes that life can be different if we dare to be free.

Iron Column Records have a few copies for sale at cover price (£9.99), including FREE postage in the UK, with all proceeds going to anti-fascist causes.

VA – Terminal Decay LP / Artcore Fanzine #29

AKA ‘Artcore Vinyl Fanzine Volume Five’. Punk rock fixture ‘n’ fitting Welly is back with yet another broadside in his war against mediocrity in the zine scene. And he’s a veteran in every sense – this is issue #29 of the exceptional ‘Artcore‘, an organ that he’s been thrusting into the hands of grateful punks since 1986. But with the printed word becoming harder to sell to the internet masses, Welly’s risen to the challenge and occasionally produces a vinyl fanzine to bring something a bit different to the table. Like this one.

Artcore zineThe mag is as jam-packed as ever and, with Welly’s experienced eye, beautifully laid out. All of the bands on the album are covered within, some with full interviews and the rest with smaller info panels, there are a few dozen quick reviews (I wish I had the ability to be both that brief and informative), a couple of Wellian polemics (the one on ‘knowing your place’ is outstanding), a bit of ranting banter from a few mates, some history lessons (MDC and more German punk), interviews with a range of deviant types (the highlight for me has to be the one with Rob ‘The Baron’ Miller of Amebix), and all tail-ended by some lovely ’50s horror comic style artwork courtesy of Dirty Donny, who also gets to say a few words.

Crammed on to the large round thing that accompanies the mag (AKA ‘Terminal Decay’) are twenty tracks that showcase a load of new(ish) bands from across the punk spectrum who are taking punk forwards on their own terms (whilst respecting the traditions that preceded them). Like any comp, there will almost certainly be a track or two that don’t quite gel with your ears. It’s music, it’s a personal response, that’s what happens. But, to these ears, this one hits the spot far more often than not, and even the ‘worst’ of the tunes is alright.

Other great things about the comp are that the bands represent 12 countries between them, thirteen of the tracks are previously unreleased while, for two more, it’s their first vinyl outing. That’s proper old-school, when comp albums would be made up almost exclusively of new songs and / or unknown bands from all over the place.

Welly wants to keep this deal as analogue as possible, but has kindly agreed to let me upload the title track (as used in the above video). If you want to hear the rest of it (and you’d be bonkers not to), you’ll have to grab this quick.

OP’s opinion: Four half

Download ‘Terminal Decay‘ (FLAC) by Burning Sensation (on hiatus)
Visit Welly’s website
Buy from Iron Column Records

Culinary Anarchy!

Conscious Kitchen logoThe Conscious Kitchen
I found this blog via the rather excellent VegBlogs (another new blogroll addition that collects a fine set of vegan bloggers together in one handy place). It’s a cracking piece of work too, with Emilie (the author) showing just how exciting and flavoursome vegan food can, and should, be. Her blog is packed full of inspirational writing, clever ideas and stunning photographs that made me drool all over my keyboard.

The very first post I read was the author’s tale of the inspiration she’d found from getting her hands on a copy of ‘Soy Not Oi!’ (the closest thing you’ll ever find to a vegan punk bible) the best part of 20 years back, and then, just a couple of years ago, meeting up with J@ck, one of the original authors, and then, just for the hell of it, creating a celebratory 40th birthday meal for him using her battered (battered as in well-used, not dipped in batter) first edition of the book as the starting point and then, while chowing down on the (very tasty looking) end result, deciding to do a twentieth anniversary version. Like you do.

I always liked to cook when I was a kid, but I was quite a finicky eater. Once I’d left home, however, I had the freedom to really play in the kitchen, to try food in new ways (no more boiled-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life cabbage), to challenge my own tastebuds and capabilities (although I still can’t find a way to prepare aubergine that makes it any more attractive than eating a well-spiced slug), to cook how I wanted to cook, and things quickly changed. The fact that this independence also coincided with my move to veganism opened up a whole new world of epicurean pleasure, one that I’m still exploring to this day.

Soy Not Oi coverWhen I discovered ‘Soy Not Oi!’, it chimed perfectly with my by then well-developed approach. I didn’t always know what some of the ingredients were (especially the commercial pre-packaged stuff that pops up now and again), and cup measurements took a bit of getting used to – back then I didn’t have a clue what the volume of an American cup was, so had to guess and do a lot of experimenting to get things just right with some of the recipes, where exact quantities are necessary for things to turn out roughly as you’d expect them to (and not as some inedible swamp-like sludge or dry-as-a-nun’s-chuff lump). Now I’ve got some proper measuring cups, it ain’t half as difficult to get things right first time. But I learnt a lot of useful things without ’em (not least that a stick of margarine is about 4oz or 115g in the non-American world).

I bought five copies of the book back in the day, gave four away as birthday presents and kept one for myself. Like Emilie’s copy, mine too became so much more than a few dozen pages cranked out and stapled together by some young miscreants. It became an essential part of my life. The food is just one element. The attitude is far more important, striking a deep chord that still resonates in me all these years down the line.

Sadly, my original copy was lost in action somewhere along the line a few years back. Happily, AK Press have reprinted it and made it available for the next wave of culinarchists (UK readers can get it for a wallet-friendly £4 from Active Distro). My new(ish) copy is now back where it rightfully belongs, ready for action on my cookbook shelf and still getting the creative juices and saliva flowing.

J@ck and Emilie are looking for contributions to the anniversary edition and are “hoping to collect new recipes and non-recipes, jumping off points for diy explorations to fuel a new generation of vegan masterminds”. If you’d like to join in, email Emilie at

While you’re waiting for it to appear, do what I intend to do and check out Emilie’s blog on a regular basis. Your tastebuds will love you forever.

OP’s opinion for both: Five

Better Read Than Dead

PE55 coverThe other day I spotted what could well turn out to be the bargain of the year, an annual sub of £18 for six issues of Profane Existence (via Active Rebellion, their UK distributor). The last time I picked up a copy of this, it was still a newspaper. Now it’s a proper magazine with a glossy full-colour cover artfully containing the acid-free paper inside (for the collector obsessives amongst us).

As well as an insightful article on water and global politics, there are some great interviews (including one with The Fallout, a top bunch of Canuck antifascists), a couple of pages of tongue-tickling vegan winter warmer recipes, a few dozen column inches from the columnists, oodles of reviews and a bundle of classy punk rock graphics.

Not only that, but each issue comes with a free compilation CD – the latest edition (#55) has 26 tracks of finest political punk rock, from Anthrax (the original UK punkers, not the hairy metallers, natch) to Wolfbrigade. Being PE, it leans towards the crusty d-beat end of things (which suits me just fine), but there should be enough variety in the noise to put a smile on your face at some point. Highlight of the current one for this old punk is a a cover of ‘The Darkest Hour’ (originally by The Amebix, but -10 punk points if you didn’t know that already) by Garmonbozia.

Not only that, but PE are also going to be giving away one of their new releases free with each issue to subscribers. #55 comes with the Murder Disco Experience discography, which sells for a fiver plus postage on its own. The next couple will include noise from State Of The Union and Disgusting Lies.

So, for three quid, you get a top quality magazine packed with words worth shouting, two CDs crammed with cacophony, and a satisfying glow knowing that you’re helping the PE crew stay active.


OP’s opinion: Five

Download sample track – ‘Y.A.S.S.A.W. (Yet another Simple Song About War)’ by Murder Disco Experience (appears on both CDs)